I am refusing to let this back pain rule my life. When I originally injured it ten years ago, the pain overwhelmed me and I was terrified that I would never get back to my previous level of activity. This time round I am better prepared for the ride and thankfully my pain has been easier to control. It was my mother-in-law’s birthday a few weeks ago and it was at a point that I was still maxed out on my pain killers and mostly housebound. I was determined not to be beaten by this fact and agreed to join them for a lunch outing to celebrate.
To avoid having me seated in a car for too long, the Boy chose a local venue called Hopscotch Bar which is a new addition on Angelo Street in South Perth. This beautifully decked out bar is located in an old supermarket that remained vacant for some time after a storm blew its roof off last winter. I was glad to see they opted for a more modern and social way of dining with a small menu of share plates.
My parents-in-law are always so accommodating and generally let me order for everybody so that I don’t miss out. I think the truth of it is they like being able to sit back, relax and not have to stress about trivial things like what to eat or drink. Neither of them have any food intolerances nor are they fussy so it is an easy job for me.
We started with the free range chicken wings which I was originally told were gluten free provided I didn’t eat the sauce so the waitress ordered the sauce to be served on the side. After placing our order she came back and informed me that the chef wanted to advise that the oil may be contaminated with gluten as he had fried food with a flour coating prior to cooking the wings. This level of knowledge about gluten inspired great confidence in me. It is such a relief to know the chef already understands the basics of cross contamination when it comes to feeding a Coeliac.
Many of the small plates were able to have gluten free crackers substituted for bread leaving us quite a few options to enjoy. The duck liver pâté was smooth, smearable and richly flavoured although the jar made it a little difficult to serve easily. I cannot say I’m a fan of the trend of serving food in jars. I always feel like it is a short cut way to serve things rather than making an effort to plate the food up.
One of the vegetarian dishes of quinoa tossed with kale, mushrooms and goats cheese was a more substantial size and reasonably priced. It appeared that they had run out of kale and substituted spinach instead. The mushrooms had a wonderful meatiness to them and I could have happily eaten this dish to myself. But then again I am a mushroom addict!
The jamon-wrapped salmon fillets were served on a bed of cauliflower purée and topped with grilled asparagus and microherbs. The crispy jamon gave a great textural contrast to the softly cooked fish and I was pleased to note the salmon was cooked to have a satisfying dark pink centre. I get cranky when my salmon is overcooked as I believe it ruins it.
Neither of the desserts on the menu were gluten free however the Earl Grey pannacotta could be easily adapted by the omission of the shortbread biscuit. It had the requisite wobbly movement and the hint of bergamot aromas were so uplifting.
The Boy ordered the chocolate pudding to share based purely on the addition of vanilla ice cream. Ice cream really is his weakness. The “Sailor Jerry” chocolate pudding was irrelevant to him and he left it for his parents to enjoy instead. He can be easily pleased sometimes. Sometimes I said! 😉
Angelo Street was in dire need of somewhere cool that took it beyond the realms of sandwich bars and brunch spots. I look forward to seeing how Hopscotch Bar fits into the scene and will definitely be returning.
Hopscotch Bar | 79 Angelo Street, South Perth WA | 0418 399 966 | Facebook
You don’t have to be a regular reader of this blog to know that I love my mushrooms. Back in 2012, my passion for this versatile fungi led to me being selected as one of the two official Mushroom Mania bloggers for WA alongside Cynthia from The Food Pornographer. I was only just a newbie blogger at the time and it was one of my first sponsored gigs. I threw my heart and soul into it to ensure that it was worthwhile for both me and the Australian Mushroom Growers Association. Since then I have continued to participate in Mushroom Mania on an annual basis with this year being my third year. For 2014, the AGMA went with a much less structured format than in previous years simply giving me a wad of prepaid VISA cards to use at my leisure provided that I ordered and photographed food with mushrooms.
In my usual extravagant style, I poo-pooed the idea of just going to a restaurant and eating one or two mushroom dishes and approached a couple of Perth’s top chefs to hit me up with a specifically designed Mushroom Mania degustation. I started off my journey at the new Highgate restaurant St Michael 6003 where we were taken on a journey of crackles and pops with a few surprises.
For my second part of this journey, I contacted Hadleigh Troy from Restaurant Amuse to see if he was keen to participate. Amusé is by far and by large the best fine dining restaurant in Perth and this is proven by their succession of accolades won year after year. There is a significant waiting list to get a table but believe me it is worth the wait. We have visited Amuse several times over the years however this was to be the first time since I started blogging. Despite there being many years between visits, I can always be assured that my dietary requirements are not only just catered for, but that they remember them without me having to remind them. The level of attention to detail and customer service is quite out of this world and every visit we have been made to feel like we are special, even when I wasn’t wielding a heavy camera.
Our evening began as is always the custom at Amusé with a few rounds of “snacks”; the first of which were paper thin crackers made from quinoa and some gluten free choux filled with ooey gooey Gruyère cheese fondue. I literally squealed with delight as the liquid cheese dribbled down my fingers.
The second snack looked very innocent but was a powerhouse of flavour; a slice of pickled radish topped with smoked crème fraiche and finished with salmon roe. A faint dusting of leek ash deepened the smoky flavours.
For our last round of snacks we received a bowl of tomato consommé. This little cup of goodness balanced flavours together precisely, with sago and pickled crab meat for texture and a couple of carefully added drops of toasted shell fish oil.
The consomme was finished with fresh lovage, chervil and wild garlic. Lovage has a mild bitter flavour similar to celery and coupled well with the gentle aniseed taste of the chervil.
Both the Boy and I come from families with big appetites. This is in part why the two of us first fell in love. Although I am a small framed person, I can knock back a surprisingly large amount of food and it takes a fair amount of eating to fill me up. I actually think I lack the fullness switch in my brain.
I can always be guaranteed to receive freshly baked gluten free bread at Amusé but even better still, unlike many degustations, it never stops at a single serve. The Bannister Downs house churned butter was whipped to a foamy light texture and I could have nearly eaten it on its own without any bread. Despite knowing we had another eight courses ahead of us, neither of us could turn down the offer for more bread and butter.
For the main courses, Hadleigh chose a different type of mushroom to be the hero ingredient for each dish. The first mushroom to star on the menu were ceps, or porcini mushrooms. These mushrooms are considered by some to be the king of mushrooms and are highly regarded for their meaty texture and nutty, creamy flavour.
A perfect spear of white asparagus from Bickley Valley was paired with crispy house made guanciale, an Italian cured meat made from pork jowl or cheek.
Swirled across the plate were added contrasting flavours from salty bottarga mayonnaise, creamy buttermilk dressing and a nutty flaxseed gomasio. The dish was finished with wafer thin cep milk skins.
Our second course brought more chirrups of delight from me as the enoki mushroom took centre stage. There is something about these adorable mushrooms that never fails to excite me and I have been known to add them at random to a variety of my dishes at home, sometimes inappropriately. Under a blanket of precisely positioned enoki heads was a smooth squid congee made with local Busselton squid. Luscious umami flavours from a mushroom dashi added in sumptuous depth to the dish.
We moved onto a more richly flavour mushroom for the next course using shiitake with chicken rice. I do love my chicken rice but this was a very cultured masterpiece quite unlike any chicken rice I have ever relished in Singapore and beyond. It was a structurally wonderful version with many elements to it to provide that level of wow factor that you can always expect at Amuse.
Roast vinegar chicken and a purée of shiitake were cooked over coals giving a slightly charred taste and served on a bed of traditional Japanese sushi rice. Our waiter served the dish with a chicken broth that was poured tableside.
The chicken was velvety smooth which markedly contrasted the added surprise of crunchy puffed buckwheat and amaranth, crispy nori wafers and a luscious creamy egg emulsion. It was challenge for the senses but in totally good way; with silky, crunchy, meaty and smooth textures all in one mouthful. As one of my colleagues at work loves to say; it was a “party in my mouth!”
It was going to be hard to impress me more than the chicken rice did and while the next dish was divine, it didn’t manage to take away the highlight of its incredible predecessor. Going for something a bit more leftfield, Hadleigh created a dish using lamb sweetbreads and braised morels mushrooms.
Morel mushrooms have a very rich, earthy flavour which went perfectly with the milder tasting, tender sweet breads. It was served on a parsley gremolata and topped with crunchy shoestring fries and crispy salt bush.
With the subdued lighting in the restaurant, the final main course was the hardest to photograph and tested the boundaries of my camera’s capabilities. A Butterfield beef short rib was served with a medley of roasted oyster, pickled shimeji and raw button mushrooms.
Dollops of broad bean puree and black garlic “BBQ” sauce decorated around the plate looking deceptively innocent. The subtle flavours of the bean purée made the polarised sensations of syrupy sweet black garlic BBQ sauce take the Boy’s tastebuds by surprise.
Our pre-dessert was titled cumquat, walnut and apricot. It was one of the few dishes in our degustation without mushrooms as an ingredient and took on the resemblance of one in appearance instead. A very cute gesture. Using cumquat curd and cumquat meringue with smooth walnut ice cream and apricot sorbet, this was the perfect pre-dessert to cleanse our tantalised palate ready for the finale.
Upon reading our menu earlier in the night, I cannot deny I was thoroughly impressed with the addition of mushrooms into the dessert. I was also a teeny bit sceptical. However, if anyone could pull off using mushrooms in a sweet dish, I knew it would be Hadleigh!
A smoked mushroom and chocolate mousse covered in ginger and Geraldton Wax granita was served with whipped blood orange and a ball of melt-in-your-mouth chocolate sorbet wrapped in thin layer of crisp white chocolate.
To add a final bit of zing to the dish some blood orange sherbet tumbled over the top like a cascade of snow. Neither of us uttered a single word as we devoured each mouthful in a blissful state of rare silence.
To end our night of wonderment, we were given hot cups of fresh mint tea infused with native pepper berries. After all the colours of overindulgence, the tea helped kick start our digestion and we both drifted off into the beginnings of a food coma. The tea was paired with some vanilla infused West Australian desert limes and a couple of passion fruit and white chocolate drops for a kick of sweetness.
I cannot believe we left it this long between visits to Amusé, this being our fourth visit since they opened eight years ago. After each and every visit the two of us have walked away from a faultless evening. The service is exquisitely polished with every dish unique and equally incredible. If you haven’t been yet, you are seriously missing out.Disclaimer: This amazing degustation was funded by the Australian Mushroom Growers Association as part of Mushroom Mania 2014. Full of fibre, flavour and containing many scientifically proven health properties, the mushroom is a food that should be on everyone’s weekly shopping list. We are fortunate enough in Australia to be able to source a wide variety of mushrooms to eat with each variety having its own individual flavour and texture. For more information head to the Power of Mushrooms website. Restaurant Amusé 64 Bronte Street, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9325 4900 | www.restaurantamuse.com.au
Since leaving the East coast as a fresh faced teenager to pursue a career in veterinary science, I quickly learnt to depend on only myself. While I already had an innate level of independence at that age, being separated from my parents by thousands of kilometres had a way of perfecting this skill. Nearly two decades have passed since then and I’m now at a point in my life now where I realise being fiercely self reliant isn’t always a good thing. Recognising that I need and am needed by my close family members seems much more relevant, especially given the distance that separates some of us. I haven’t lived in the same city as either of my parents since I departed long ago and can sometimes go for over twelve months before I cast eyes on their lovable faces. As we all get older, I am realising that I need to make more effort to spend quality time with each of them individually.
It has been years since Mum has come over to visit us in Perth and even longer since she came over with her other half, Jack. They both adore our South West region and requested that we take them down to “The Margaret’s River” as Mum loves to call it. No amount of convincing can get her to call it otherwise.
It is rare for us to be able to relax together so to celebrate this occasion I booked us in at Vasse Felix winery for a long lazy lunch. On our way to Vasse Felix we stopped off at Bettenay’s Margaret River Nougat Company.
Neither Mum nor Jack are big wine drinkers so the Boy and I tried to avoid boring them to pieces with winery after winery. Bettenay’s do have some wines on offer in addition to some luscious liqueurs and, of course, loads of nougat. Their nougat is all handcrafted with gorgeous flavours including cherry and coconut, and my favourite chocolate mint.
After each purchasing a bundle of nougat we headed off to one of Margaret River’s most popular caves; Lake Cave. It has been ages since the Boy and I have gone down into the caves yet every time we do we are reminded what a natural beauty it is.
Lake Cave has one of the only “suspended tables” in the world which weighs several tonnes and forms a breathtaking sight floating in the air casting its refection in the ripples of water below. This cave is one of the deepest in the region so be prepared to walk down and then back up a fair number of steep stairs. There are rest points along the way for those less fit and able.
There were enough stairs to work up anyone’s appetite and after the Caves we headed straight to Vasse Felix for lunch. It was a long weekend and I was grateful that I had pre-booked because every winery that we passed along the way looked packed with cars.
Vasse Felix have an à la carte menu or alternatively if you select dishes marked on the menu with a star you can enjoy three courses for a set price of $65.
There were a handful of gluten free options and one vegetarian dish for each course. Upon arrival our waitress brought out some fresh bread and cultured butter. There was no gluten free bread available so they kindly brought out some marinated olives for me to nibble on while my family hungrily feasted on the bread.
The marinated olives are sourced from a local olive farm called 34 Degrees South and were served warm. I loved how the olive flesh slithered off the pit easily and consequently I downed most of the bowl before I realised that I should probably share.
Mum and Jack both ordered the omelette for entrée. Cooked sous-vide with mirin, it was served with new season asparagus and locally foraged mushrooms. The egg was browned to a glowing caramel colour and garnished with chilli threads, tiny crumbles of popcorn and togarashi. Togarashi is a type of Japanese chilli pepper and thankfully it wasn’t too hot for my Mum’s palate. The omelette was a gluten free dish however to avoid all three of us having the same dish, I ordered the other gluten free option which was the quail.
I struggled somewhat get a good photo of my entrée due to the sun coming in at an angle on my deep bowled dish. Maybe I need to bring a reflector with me when I’m out dining? Is that too crazy? My quail breast was cooked sous-vide with a confit leg and served on a bed of quinoa, zucchini and olives. It was topped with what I first thought was shaved parmesan but soon found out was feta shaved in liquid nitrogen. It had an unexpected creaminess that dissolved on contact with my tongue. To enhance the delicateness of this light dish some caper puree added some punch into the flavours.
For his entrée, the Boy decided to pop his ramen cherry. Ramen hasn’t really taken off in Perth to the extent it has over in Sydney and therefore neither of us have tried it before. Using house made ramen noodles, this dish was given a South-west twist using Manjimup marron and local fresh water crustaceans. A soft gooey quail egg and some fried nori finished it off and as the aromas wafted to my side of the table I was so envious that I couldn’t even taste one mouthful. Damn you gluten!
For those of you who have yet to try Cone Bay barramundi, you really don’t know what you’re missing out on. These fish are farmed in unique environmental conditions in the north west of Australia that imparts a very clean, and sweet taste.
The fish came with a potato fondant and shards of translucent potato glass topped with luxurious drizzles of smoked oyster butter. It was nearly as good as truffle butter. Nearly I said! There was also a little bit of fructose naughtiness with locally foraged charred leeks and leek foam.
Mum and Jack both ordered the lamb shank for their main, such peas in a pod those two! The locally sourced lamb was cooked sous-vide over 48 hours making it uber-soft in texture however sadly it was served lukewarm. I offered to get the waitress to take it back to the kitchen but my Mum didn’t want to make a fuss. The lamb was accompanied with a black barley risotto and ratatouille made of smoked tomato petal, tomato fondue, picked red onion and eggplant purée.
Although the Boy predominantly will stick to his vegetarian diet at home, like me he can on occasions crave meat. Ordering himself the kangaroo loin today was one of these days.
The loin was served rare and was as lean can be without an ounce of detectable fat present. It was served with textures of beetroot, wattleseed crackers and oil made from dandelions foraged on the property.
Our mains were decent sized meals so after stuffing our faces with the addictive duck fat potatoes there was only a small amount of room left for dessert. We agreed to share a couple of petit fours plates between the four of us however the only gluten free element on the plate was the passionfruit macaron. There was only one macaron on each platter but the waitress was kind enough to put an extra one on there for me.
The Boy was absolutely smitten by the bite size ice cream sandwich made with cinnamon ice cream. Many of us food bloggers claim to have a second stomach for dessert and whilst I was reasonably full, one macaron was not going to cut it even if it was one of my favourite flavours.
Consequently I ordered the gluten free dessert option to share with the Boy. I love abstract desserts, plates of multiple elements that you can mix and match on your tastebuds at your leisure. Fluffy portions of cardamom chiffon cake and silky chocolate cremeaux were paired with Jerusalem artichoke ice cream. Passionfruit caramel and gel added a tart sweetness with chocolate soil and dehydrated mouse contrasting with velvety cocoa bitterness. Heavenly to say the least. My claims for being full surpassed me as I competed with the Boy for every spoonful.
The weekend went by all too quickly, time honestly does fly when you’re having fun. There is no one in the world that can make me laugh the way my Mum can and I realise that I need to stop running the rat race of life and take time out to giggle with her more often.Disclaimer: Despite Mum and Jack insisting on trying to pay for everything, the Boy and I managed to sneak in paying our own way for lunch. Blame it on that independent streak of mine. I want to thank Mum, Jack and my beloved for sharing such a wondrous weekend away. Our times together are always cherished xxxx Bettenay’s Margaret River Nougat Co Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Miamup Road, Cowaramup, WA 6284 | (08) 9755 5539 | www.margaretrivernougat.com.au Lake Cave Caves Road, Forest Grove WA 6284 | (08) 9757 7411 | www.margaretriver.com/operators/7706 Vasse Felix Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Caves Road, Margaret River WA 6284 | (08) 9756 5050 | www.vassefelix.com.au
We had packed our bags, dropped the fur-children off at the Vet Hospital for boarding, parked the car in the long-term car park at the airport and were finally ready to check-in for our flight to Exmouth. That was until we found out the bad news; we had missed our flight. I had muddled up our departure times with that of our original booking meaning our plane was well on its way to Exmouth without us. Angry with myself for such stupidity and frustrated that there was no further flights out that day, the last thing I wanted to do was to go home to an empty cat-less house.
The Boy could see I was close to tears and in a humble attempt at diffusing the situation he suggested we go somewhere for a late breakfast and unwind. I felt the need to get away from my familiar surroundings as everything homely reminded me of my mistake. After briefly consulting Urbanspoon on my phone I randomly chose for us to visit Ingredient Tree in Wembley.
The small café was nearly at full capacity with tables of families, couples and the odd loner busily working on their iPad. We seated ourselves at one of the communal tables near the window giving me plenty of natural light, a must for decent food photography!
Ingredient Tree serve Genovese Coffee which is a blend of high quality beans roasted with the aim to produce a one size fits all styled beverage that is suitable to drink both as an espresso as well as something more milky. I ordered my usual short macchiato and although it was a little wait for our coffees to arrive, it was a much welcomed shot of warmth to calm my frazzled nerves. We waited some time to place our orders to be followed by a reasonably longer wait for our meals. I figured that maybe they were not used to a busy Saturday morning however I did note one staff member spent most of his time chatting outside in the sun while customers waited.
The Boy ordered the salmon served with beetroot fritters, horseradish cream and two poached eggs. His fritters had lots of flavour however he felt their consistency didn’t live up to his expectations as they were a little wet and undercooked. He commented he felt the dish had a lot of potential but just wasn’t quite prepared right.
His poached eggs gave a half-sized eruption of yolk porn as some of his yolk had started to solidify. It was still enough of an ooze of goo to satisfy his poached egg cravings.
I ordered the quinoa patties made with quinoa, pumpkin and lentils. It was topped with wilted spinach, slow roasted tomatoes and two poached eggs. A couple of spoonfuls of house made capsicum relish were dolloped on the side for extra flavour. Like the Boy, I also thought my dish had a lot of potential however my quinoa patties were sloppy in texture turning to mush under my fork.
My stress of the morning made me forget to ask for omission of any onion. Lo and behold, I was out of luck for the day as the patties were filled with large chunks of onion. These chunks helped the patties to fall apart even more however this actually was a blessing in disguise as it meant it was easy for me to pick the onion pieces out. The relish added a lovely mustardy sweet flavour to the dish and I am certain if the patties were prepared more lovingly this dish would have been delightful.
It was definitely a morning for a two course breakfast. As you probably already know, most of my breakfast outings end in dessert. In fact most of any outing with me ends in dessert.
And what is the problem with that I ask?
After another delay waiting for service, we were informed that there were no more gluten free cakes or desserts remaining as they had sold out. Looking at the delicious counter of sweets I cannot deny I felt a flicker of anger again at myself…..why do I have to miss out? Damn you gluten!
Thankfully our waiter saved the day as in addition to their own home-baked goodies they stock some of the Rawsome raw desserts. He brought over their product list so I could find one that wasn’t too heavy on the fructose content. I chose the Love Bite slice which one of the items that is free of dates. A lot of types of dried fruit which can run total havoc with my fructose malabsorption so I really try to avoid them. The slice did however contain some agave nectar which also isn’t ideal for me but a small amount is tolerable once in a while.
The Boy chose the Choc Mint Slice which does contain dates so I left it for him to enjoy for himself. We are both big fans of raw desserts and while I know they are often quite high in calories, I love that I never feel any sugar “comedown” after eating them as all their ingredients are natural and unprocessed. Over to the side of the café is a shop section selling a collection of gourmet ingredients from both local and international producers. Of course after we finished eating our treats I couldn’t help myself and went over for a little browse where I found a variety of interesting gluten free products that found their way into my basket.
Ingredient Tree have a number of interesting options for breakfast and I am hoping that I just caught them on an off day. If our dishes were executed better, both would have certainly been worth returning back for. Maybe those sell-out gluten free cakes will bring me back for a second time.Chompchomp dined at Ingredient Tree on her own budget. The rest of her budget was blown in fees in order to be able to catch the next flight out to Exmouth. Ingredient Tree 87a Herdsman Parade, Wembley WA 6014 | (08) 9287 1100 | www.ingredienttree.com | Facebook Price $$ (Meals $13-21)
I have a tendency to brag about Perth’s balmy weather but the reality of it is that by having great weather for most of the year many of us Perthites are poorly acclimatised for any remote resemblance of winter. We are notorious for being winter whingers when the reality of it is our winters are comparatively short and mild and we really have nothing to complain about. The Boy and I have been sticking to our Raw Food Meatless Monday for over four weeks now and both of us are feeling vibrant and our skin is glowing. Or maybe that’s still some post wedding bliss?!
However waking up in the morning when it is still dark outside and the temperature is in the single digits drinking a cold smoothie isn’t that enjoyable, no matter how tasty and nutritious it is. So prompted by this cold snap, I decided this week our Raw Food breakfast would be a raw vegan red pepper soup instead; warmed in just minutes by using my blender on high speed which then gently heats the soup with friction.
- 1 cup roughly chopped red bell capsicum (approx. 1 medium pepper)
- ½ cup of cashew cream
- ½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
- ½ cup more diced red capsicum (reserve for garnish - do not blend)
- ½ tbsp. parsley
- Add ingredients (except for the garnish) into the blender on low speed until smooth, then blend on medium to high until warmed.
Adapted from www.therawtarian.com
Cucumber & Zucchini Noodles with Spicy Almond Sauce recipe has been moved. Click here for the recipe.
The Boy’s review of the Raw Vegan Red Pepper Soup & Cucumber & Zucchini Noodles with Spicy Almond Sauce:
With the “cold” of winter making its brief appearance in Perth these last couple of weeks Chomp decided that it was time to make a nice warm raw soup for breakfast rather than the usual cold smoothie. Her choice of a raw Red Capsicum Soup was spot on for a cold winter’s morning and was absolutely delicious without being too heavy or filling. Being only lightly warm it needs to be eaten quickly as it loses some of its appeal once it cools down to room temperature.
Our dinner that night was one of my favourite raw, vegan dishes – Raw Zucchini Noodles – which we first had at the Raw Kitchen in Fremantle last year. Chomp’s interpretation of the dish was a Cucumber & Zucchini Noodles with Spicy Almond Sauce and without a doubt it was a winner. There is something about Zucchini noodles that just really appeals to me and I actually prefer them over the real pasta. This dish was beautifully prepared with the almond sauce, pumpkin seeds and goji berries complementing the cucumber and zucchini perfectly.
Both of the dishes were fantastic this week and it is going to be a shame that it ends next week as I am quite enjoying having all these new, interesting meals cooked for me!
Over the next coming weeks I will be publishing some blender recipes that I have created with my OmniBlend. The concept is for each Monday to not only stick with Meatless Monday and eat only vegetarian but to take it to the next level and make it a Raw Food Meatless Monday. For the whole day we will only eat raw, vegan, gluten free, dairy free and fructose friendly.
One of the most frustrating things about being a business owner is losing a good staff member. What makes it even harder is when not only are you sad to see them leave the business but you know you will also miss them as a friend. As a final bid farewell to one of our valued team members we all made the trek to the Swan Valley on a sunny Sunday to The Cheese Barrel. There was a great turn out and we all made ourselves comfortable in the downstairs area on the abundance of couches and cushions.
Located next door to Olive Farm Wines just off Great Northern Highway, The Cheese Barrel has a tremendous menu of cheese from all around the world. They have themed cheese boards such as “Blue Lovers Paradise” or “Soft Cheese Sensation” or alternatively you can order a regional board from Australia, France, Spain or Italy. For those more specific with their cheesy needs individual cheeses can be purchased in 50 gram portions or larger.
My head nurse ordered the Tarago Shadows of Blue, a mild blue mould cheese made with cow’s milk from Gippsland, Victoria. This was one of my favourite cheeses of the day; rich and creamy with a slight tang. Despite the large 100gm serving, this cheese was one of the first to disappear. I even caught a few who proclaimed they don’t like blue cheese sneaking back sheepishly for seconds.
I will be travelling to Barcelona in eight weeks on conference so I thought I’d break away from my French roots and get myself into the flamenco mood. When it comes to cheese I am highly patriotic to my French ancestry however there are a number of Spanish cheeses I shamelessly hold very close to my heart. Or should I say mouth.
The first cheese on this platter was a semi-hard goat’s cheese Murcia Al Vino. This was quite unlike anything I have had before. It has a really creamy flavour yet its texture is elastic and almost buoyant. The rind is a rich plum colour due to being washed in wine giving an interesting fruity after-taste The second cheese on the platter is one I am all too familiar with and love very dearly; Manchego. This versatile semi-hard sheep cheese is one of my all-time favourites and has the distinctive sweet flavour typical of sheep’s cheese. I received gluten free crackers on the side however there was still bread on my platter. To avoid contamination I suggest they avoid mixing the two on the same platter.
Moving around to the second half of the cheese board were two cow’s milk cheeses. The Queso San Simon is a semi-hard smoked cheese from the north-west of Spain. The smoky flavours are quite subtle and delicate and it also has a surprisingly creamy texture for a semi-hard cheese. The blue cheese on the Spanish plate is the Queso Valdeon. I recall trying this for the first time at Clarke’s of North Beach last year with the in-laws. This time the Valdeon tasted like it needed to be left to come to room temperature for another half hour as the flavours were somewhat dulled. It was definitely overshadowed by the creamy deliciousness of the Tarago Shadows of Blue.
Not being familiar with any Olive Farm wines, I ordered an Olive Farm “Wine Flight” to accompany my cheese. Each wine was carefully matched to each cheese to enhance the experience. I’m not going to pretend I know how to describe wines and I’m sure the Olive Farm have done a better job on their tasting notes!
Some of the girls ordered the Soft Cheese Sensation board which was sadly also served a little too cold. It almost seemed like sacrilege to see heroes like La Buche D’Affinois and Brillat-Savarin served firm and erect with minimal shine in their centres. The pernickety side of me also noticed spelling errors on the menu, another minor oversight perhaps.
I am told the macarons were the bomb. They are imported from France, cost $2.20 each and are worth every cent. I totally regret not trying them. At this point our party started to disband with a few of us keen to carry on the festivities. Reluctant to continue drinking this far from home with my car I attempted to convince them all to head into the city but to no avail. Eventually they opted to remain in the valley and I headed home. Not wanting my day to end once I got home I persuaded the Boy to walk down to one of our locals The Balmoral pub to carry on drinking.
Walking down the Albany Highway rekindled my appetite and by the time we arrived at The Balmoral I was super hungry. There were only limited share dishes available gluten free so we shared two serves of the scallops served in the shell topped with chorizo and marinated red pepper. The scallops were fairly small but soft and tender however the chorizo was flavourless and fatty.
Trying to pace myself so I could fit in desert I ordered a light meal for dinner; the char-grilled quail salad. The plump bird was served juicy and pink. The bed of salad was scantly tossed with some occasional crisp prosciutto, warm potatoes and mixed greens. A little more of the flavoursome ingredients wouldn’t have gone astray in this dish.
The Boy has been trying to move away from eating red meat but the lure of a steak at a pub is hard work. This time round he came very close to ordering the Surf and Turf before once again stopping himself and choosing the warm lamb and quinoa salad. His salad arrived at the table piled high on his plate with a generous serving of shredded lamb, spinach, quinoa, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds feta, dried figs and a subtle hint of mint. The word salad never conjures up thought that the meal would be filing but thanks to the higher protein content of quinoa he was so full that he nearly talked me out of ordering dessert.
I said nearly. After a couple of months of carefully watching what I ate, now there is no holding me back! The white chocolate and bailey crème brûlée sounded like it would be the perfect way to end a long day of eating and drinking. Unfortunately it was a bit of a disappointment. It tasted very bland with no evidence of any white chocolate or baileys flavours at all. The vanilla ice cream was icy and super sweet.
The Boy defaulted back to his one of his favourites for dessert; the ice cream sundae. Those of you who know him well understand that ice cream is to him what chocolate is to me. His sundae looked like something out of the eighties, and was served with three dishes of sauces; dark chocolate, berry coulis and “butterscotch sauce”. The butterscotch sauce had an odd khaki green colour to it and tasted like molten treacle. It was meant to be topped with nuts and chocolate shavings but there was barely half stingy a teaspoon sprinkled on top. Not a recommended dish even for kids.
Overall the Balmoral is a great casual pub to pop in for a local drink with your mates. There are two courtyards outside and they always have a great vibe and it is the perfect place to enjoy a sun downer in summer. Their food is trying to lift its game above basic pub fare with a few hits and misses along the way.The Cheese Barrel
920 Great Northern Highway, Millendon, WA 6056 | (08) 9296 4539 | http://www.thecheesebarrel.com.au/Price: $ Food: 2.5/5 (astounding list available, but needs to be served at the right temperature) Service: 3/5 (quick, helpful) Ambience: 3/5 (overlooks a small patch of forested reserve) Drinks: 3/5 (only tried a few wines) Total: 11.5/20 The Balmoral Hotel 901 Albany Hwy, Victoria Park 6100 | (08) 9355 4533 | http://www.thebalmoral.com.au/ Price: $$$ (Entrees $7-23, Mains $22-35, accepts Entertainment Card) Food: 2.5/5 () Service: 2.5/5 (our waitress was lovely…but very forgetful) Ambience: 3/5 (casual pub vibe) Drinks: 3/5 (the essentials) Total: 11/20
I hadn’t seen my Bestie since our last outing together a few weeks ago when we went hunting for my wedding dress. Once we finally did manage to meet up, we had so much to catch up on that it was hard to know where to start. I was excited to hear all about her new yoga business venture that she was embarking upon. I have never seen her so inspired and passionate about something before and it makes me so happy that she has found her calling in life. Not everyone gets to experience such satisfaction.
Late last year during the whole post-Engagement party debacle we stopped in at The Sentinel for a couple of drinks while we were waiting for The George’s manager to get back to us with the whereabouts of my iPod. In sharp contrast to the abrupt, unfriendly service we had received only minutes before at The George; the Sentinel staff all greeted us cheerily as we entered. This jovial attitude left a lasting impression on our memories.
Recalling our previous experience, we decided to return back for a quick lunch in between errands in the city. The Sentinel is owned by Stephen Scaffidi who also owns the popular Bar One. Sentinel’s dining areas are stunning, sophisticated and oh so suave – I simply love all that dark polished wood and massively high ceilings. Initially when the restaurant first opened early 2011 they received a scathing review by The Australian’s veteran food critic John Lethlean. John scored them a measly 1 out of 5. Luckily for them since then it appears they have picked up their game receiving much better recent reports in local restaurant reviews and blog posts.
We bubbled in to the swanky restaurant chitty chatting away like only besties can. Over the moon to be having some quality “bestie-time” as we like to call it we were determined to make the most of this quick and impromptu catch up. I hadn’t called in advance to notify the chef of my allergies and so I was prepared to be given limited choices off their menu. To my surprise, our waiter and the kitchen worked together to provide us with a number of options to choose from and were not bothered at the potential nuisance of my requests.
As we waited for our food to arrive, our waiter brought to the table some complimentary, freshly toasted gluten free bread with whipped butter. This is not something that happens often and I was suitably impressed. As it was only a Monday afternoon, we both initially hesitated as we gazed over the wine list until we saw some champagne and from then on our rubber arms didn’t need any twisting. Glasses of Mumm champagne in hand we settled in quickly and managed to cover a lot of conversational ground in a short space of time, spanning from weddings to people management through to newsletter writing and coconut water! (Which by the way I am totally addicted to at the moment.)
Kate and I planned to share a few entrees together and seeing as I didn’t get the quinoa dish I wanted recently at Cullen Wines I was keen to try The Sentinel’s version. Kate has been a fan of quinoa for years and has been trying to convince me how awesome it is for some time. It was served with roasted beetroot and dollops of tangy smoked goat’s cheese perched on top of some pickled radish. I am starting to understand what she has been going on about – if prepared with the right foods it is a lovely treat. I did however struggle to taste the smoky notes of the goat’s cheese, they were too subtle.
We also ordered the marinated octopus served with julienned carrot and fennel with a fresh lemony chilli dressing. The octopus was lovely and soft without any chewiness. My only gripe was the serving size – way too small for something this tasty (and for the price I guess)!
For our third dish we chose the steak tartare. This is something I have enjoyed a number of times at Rockpool and been blown away every time with its buttery texture and gentle flavours. Recently the Boy and I have been part-time vegetarians so it actually felt a little odd if not a bit scary to eat this dish once again. To make matter less palatable the meat wasn’t quite as fresh as I would prefer if raw. The crisp and peppery watercress helped somewhat to disguise the tainted flavour of the meat.
The potato chips served with this dish were nothing like what we were expecting. I was anticipating some frites, something I consider a classic combination with steak tartare. Instead there were a neat stack of potato crisps. They were cut incredibly paper-thin to the point of being translucent but unfortunately they tasted like stale oil and not much else. This potentially amazing but simple dish was very poorly executed.
Overall our lunch was enjoyable but with a few hits and misses and I would be keen to go back to sample a greater selection of their food in order get a better idea on their overall quality. The service was friendly and efficient and I look optimistically to my next visit.
Like Me on Facebook!Sentinel Bar and Grill 111 St Georges Terrace, Perth 6000 | (08) 6103 0507 | http://www.sentinelbar.com.au/ Price: $$$$ (Entrees/snacks $4.50-21.50, Mains $26.5-45) Food: 2.5/5 (raw meat has got to be fresh) Service: 3.8/5 (brilliant and enthusiastic) Ambience: 4.5/5 (lovely warm décor, very swanky feel to it) Drinks: 4.5/5 (extensive and interesting wine list) Total: 15.3/20
It was our first morning at Chandeliers on Abbey and we woke up to nothing but the soft twitter of birds. The peace and quiet of the country coupled with an amazingly comfortable bed had allowed both of us to get the first uninterrupted night’s sleep since my evil gastro hit nearly a week ago. Although I still wasn’t quite 100%, I definitely felt much more revived, refreshed and ready to eat again. What perfect timing.
Our chalet had a fridge stocked with some fresh orange juice, milk, eggs and butter and a pantry stocked with tea and coffee. I had presumed there would be nothing for us to eat in the chalet for breakfast, so I brought some gluten-free bread, avocado and tomatoes from our fridge at home. These fresh provisions were combined for a quick and satisfying cooked breakfast and feeling energised off we set on a self-guided tour. I planned to stop in at a few old favourites mixed in with a couple of places we hadn’t visited before.
Our favourites included the picturesque Clairault Wines where I was delighted to see they had a special on their cases of Chardonnay – obviously I had to take advantage of this offer! The Boy was so sweet and without complaint was my skipper for the day. He knew what a horrid week I had and wanted me to enjoy myself too. So that he didn’t bore too much from winery upon winery, we stopped in at the Bootleg Brewery where he grabbed a mixed six-pack and some Pilsner to enjoy back at the chalet later.
No visit to Margaret River is complete without a stop at the Margaret River Chocolate Company. I get so excited at their tubs of free choc buds – they contain white, dark and milk buds. Kids line up at the tubs scooping out handfuls at a time (thankfully using the spoon not their bare hands!)
We bought a sample of their truffles to enjoy for the drive down to Xanadu for lunch but as we journeyed further south we drove past another much newer chocolatey venue called Gabriel Chocolate. I recall reading a review of this place on Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse and was intrigued to see how they compared to the mainstream MRCF.
Gabriel chocolate differs from many fine chocolatiers in that they import the actual cocoa beans (rather than chocolate) to make all their lovely treats. This basically means that they can make chocolate from beans that have been obtained from only one part of the world or even just one plantation. Just like wine made from the same grapes but grown in different regions, the flavour from cocoa beans can vary depending on the climate they are grown in and we both found it fascinating comparing different textures, aromas and taste that each region imparted to its beans.
Being the Easter weekend, Xanadu Wines was fully booked and as we arrived a number of less organised people were being turned away due to a lack of a reservation. All the staff were all so bubbly and welcoming, and within minutes of us being seated at our table the manager came over to acknowledge us and advised me he was fully aware of my allergy requirements. I was advised that most items off the menu could be easily adapted and we were introduced to our waiter for the afternoon.
Of course I ordered the mushroom entrée. My obsession with this vegetable continues. Served with soft butternut pumpkin and quinoa I felt like I was being so good to my body while still enjoying such wonderful flavours. This was my first time trying quinoa at a restaurant and I enjoyed the nutty texture. Prior to my gluten-free days I was a big fan of couscous and it is one of the things I miss (along with buttery croissants). I can see how this ancient grain could serve as a replacement to couscous in many of my old recipes!
The Boy ordered the Marsala prawns with curried lentils, carrot and yoghurt purée topped with a coconut dressing. A good indicator of the quality of his meal can always be measured by how quickly he devours it and trust me those prawns didn’t linger long on the plate!
As my stomach was still undersized from its usual capacity I stuck with ordering light meals and chose the fish of the day. It was a Gold band snapper fillet and the chef kindly adapted the sides to accommodate for my allergies. The fish flaked away gently under my fork and I was surprised at the size of the portion.
The Boy ordered the duck which came with zesty orange braised witlof and a fig salad. It was drizzled in sweet, sticky quince vinaigrette. The duck was tender and not overcooked or dry.
Despite feeling pretty full I was determined to have dessert. There were a number of gluten-free options available which was quite exciting. I chose the mandarin and almond cake with olive oil ice cream. It was so moist and was warmed slightly. As I scooped a mouthful of ice cream and cake simultaneously onto my spoon I delighted that the ice cream melted perfectly into my mouth and not on my plate.
The Boy wasn’t going to have any dessert as he was also feeling near capacity but I coaxed him into trying the poached pear on the fact that it came also with ice cream. His addiction to ice cream parallels mine for mushrooms. The caramel ice cream was nothing short of amazing and mixed in with the vanilla cream I had to stop myself from stealing all his dessert. I will definitely be back!
Like Me on Facebook!Xanadu Wines Boodjidup Road, Margaret River 6285 | (08) 9758 9500 | www.xanaduwines.com Price: $$$$ Accepts Entertainment Card (Entrees $18, Mains $36, 2 course special $49, 3 course special $65) Food: 4.8/5 (wonderful fresh, clean and locally sourced food)) Service: 5/5 (discreetly attentive, friendly, oozed great teamwork and positivity) Ambience: 3.5/5 (would have been better with a bit of a view) Drinks: 4/5 (we shared a bottle of the lively fruity Xanadu Sauvignon blanc Semillion 2011) Total: 17.3/20