It is no secret that this little blog has been on “sabbatical” and whilst I have continued to explore eating our city’s gluten free options, I haven’t had the gumption to write about it. Some may say this is a little selfish and I cannot deny I have been racked with guilt from neglecting this much loved creation. For those of you who know me, you will understand why. I have been somewhat preoccupied with the realisation of a long-term dream that is totally unrelated to food. I have pursued keenly for the past eight years of my life the ambition of opening the first cat-only hospital in Perth and finally this year after much hard work my dream has come true. Opening a hospital from scratch is no mean feat and consequently blogging had to take a back seat for fear of it becoming a chore rather than a hobby. Trust me, no one wants to read what I write when I’m bored, it’s total snoozeville.
This year Valentine’s Day fell on the day before our big opening and the Boy knew he had to do something to calm my rattling nerves. After heading into the hospital with me in the morning to put some final touches including hanging up the gorgeous cat art that I had bought over the years in my travels, we headed out to Jarrahdale to Millbrook Winery.
It is impossible not to fall in love with this winery, and within seconds of arriving I immediately felt my pulsing veins in my head relax, my breath deepen and my stress wash away. I was thankful that my obsession with organising had taken a back seat and that I had let the Boy choose our venue. We were warmly greeted and shown to a perfect table overlooking the water, with lots of beautiful natural light cascading onto us. After a run of stinking hot days in Perth we were blessed with a day of cool breezes and gentle sun.
Millbrook’s Valentine’s Day menu consisted of a three course menu with a glass of 2010 Blanc de Blanc sparkling for $99 per person. Whilst the Boy and I thought at first that there wouldn’t be enough food for our inflated appetites, I can guarantee the meal sizes are substantial. There were plenty of gluten free options and the kitchen and wait staff were very aware of avoiding cross contamination.
Staying true with it being a day to celebrate being a couple, we decided to order everything gluten free so we could share each other’s dishes. We even shared the matching wines as they were different for each dish. We have our cute moments and this was one of them. Our first dish of blood plums and duck hearts was so pretty it was a shame to deconstruct it to eat.
Utilising colourful seasonal vegetables and leaves from the vineyard’s own gardens, this dish was an abundance of sweet crunch and juicy heartiness, if you pardon the pun. I haven’t tried duck hearts before, and probably wouldn’t have ordered this dish if the Boy hadn’t wanted to. The hearts were a lot more gentle in flavour than I expected, and their texture was so soft and delicate.
Our second entrée also showcased some produce from the chef’s pride and joy country garden. Some flavourful preserved vegetables accompanied barbecued Fremantle octopus with house-made safflower mayonnaise. I am a bit particular about my octopus, if it is as tough as old boots I just can’t be bothered eating it. I figure there is no point eating food that uses more calories to eat it than it provides you. Suffice to say there was no food wastage with this dish and in fact when no one was looking the Boy would intermittently sweep his finger over the plate to get every last morsel of flavour before licking his finger clean. My mother would be horrified. I simply smiled.
For our two mains we shared the viognier braised rabbit risotto and the beef brisket. The risotto was creamy, with big chunks of tender local rabbit and topped with crispy pancetta and fine shavings of parmigiano reggiano.
Fears of being underfed quickly left us as we gazed across the full table packed with colourful greens, potatoes and our mains. The beef brisket was served with a bean salad, white anchovies and healthy dollop of mustard. I so rarely eat beef these days but again I was glad I followed the Boy’s wishes and ordered this dish. The meat was so lovingly prepared it fell apart with the most gentlest nudge of the fork.
As the Boy and I had our commonplace discussion of whether we would order cheese versus dessert for our final courses, we were given some fresh fruit as a simple and mouth watering palate cleanser. As I cannot tolerate watermelon due to the high fructose content, they were happy to offer me some beautiful grapes plucked from the vines.
We ended up ordering both cheese and dessert with the continuous plan of sharing each others dishes. The chef created a special gluten free dessert for us using beautiful, seasonal fresh and dried stone fruits with chocolate chunks and sorbet.
Our cheese course was just as decadent. The highlight of the plate was a round of vine-wrapped sheep cheese from Cambray Cheese. These local cheese makers are based in the south west in Nannup and make a selected range of artisans sheep cheese. I love the distinctive tang of cheese made with sheep milk, and it is lower in lactose meaning I have less of an aftermath!
A little heady and carefree from all the wine, I joined in with the Boy in a rare moment of mannerless enjoyment of food and simultaneously swept my own finger across the plate before licking my finger with a smirk on my face. If you can’t beat them, join them. After spending months and months of none stop talk about every tiny detail of the cat hospital, we both realised we had actually gone through the whole lunch without even mentioning it once! He had truly fulfilled my need to switch off and relax for just a short while. Or perhaps it was a need for us both! 😉
Chompchomp dined at Millbrook Winery at her (and the Boy’s) own expense. Millbrook Winery Old Chestnut Lane, Jarrahdale 6124 | (08) 9525 5796 | www.millbrookwinery.com.au Bookings recommended especially on weekends.
As years pass me by, I find myself gravitating more and more toward people with two of my common interests; cats and food. Aside from my family and loved ones, these are the two things in my life that really rock my world. I recently whizzed over to Melbourne for the weekend on official cat vet business and caught up with three other like-minded crazy cat people. After a long day of meetings, we were all very keen for a bite to eat and moved out of the board room and onto dinner. In preparation for hungry appetites, one of my colleagues had already organised a reservation at Saint Crispin in Collingwood. Run by a couple of Melbourne chefs Scott Pickett and Joe Grbac, these guys trained at the same Michelin starred London restaurant called The Square where they were inspired to create a menu that followed the seasons.
Within minutes of arriving at Saint Crispin, the four of us agreed on the tasting menu choosing the five courses for $100. A bargain by Perth price standards I have to say. To commence the gastronomic journey, our amuse bouche for the evening were cute fluffy green olive and cocoa nib Madeleines. They were served with a slightly sweet, smoked hay foam with dehydrated black olive grated on top.
Our first course was presented immaculately; a lightly seared chunk of yellowfin tuna still dark pink in the centre which dissolved on contact with my tongue. It was served with some anise braised fennel, mussels and poached calamari.
Perched on top of the tuna was a snap-crackle-and-pop squid ink and tapioca cracker. A carefully placed dollop of rocket emulsion added a subtle pepperiness to balance the flavours.
Fresh seasonal ingredients continued to feature heavily on the menu with our next dish focusing on new season asparagus. With some asparagus blanched and some shaved raw they were dressed in an asparagus gazpacho and served with an unusual roasted parmesan custard. The custard was as smooth as silk and contained flaked almonds for added crunch.
As each dish was as delicately perfect as the next, I could feel a sense of warm pride across the table. Some of them follow the blog and know very well that I enjoy eating damn fine food! Seeing me impressed and highly satisfied with our meal so far meant their delegated job of choosing a restaurant was a job well done.
Our third course was the Atlantic salmon served with a parsley risotto. The salmon was cooked sous-vide giving it a wondrous buttery texture. Fresh spring vegetables including zucchini, broad beans and peas mixed into the creamy risotto along with some fresh prawns.
Unlike many of my blogging foodie friends, I am not really a pork lover. Whilst I would never refuse food that I wasn’t allergic to, I would never actively chose to order pork for myself off the menu. Additionally I feel it needs to be jaw-droppingly amazing for me to enjoy it to any large degree.
For our fourth course, we were served a crispy pork jowl with miso marinated cubes of pork neck. Was this going to be a hit or a miss for this ambivalent pork eater? Well a winner it was, such to the point that I even offered to finish off the tooth-chipping crackling from my friend sitting next to me. I shared it with the others of course 😉
The pork accompanied an heirloom carrot salad with star anise and finished with a white soy and sesame gel. It was absolutely heavenly.
I didn’t want the magic to end but as each course was a reasonably substantial size for a tasting menu I was starting running out of room. Our dessert was the perfect finisher.
Smooth mango creamoux was served with small chunks of diced mango, caramelised milk crumble yoghurt pebbles and a scoop of jasmine ice cream. With all that mango, this was not exactly a fructose friendly dessert but I was prepared with glucose tablets that I chugged back on the drive back to Dad’s apartment. Some things are worth a belly ache for and this was one of them.
We ended the night with some house made passionfruit jubes. A little bit salty and a little bit sour, I wasn’t expecting such a flavour punch from these innocent little cubes.
Saint Crispin is a class act, following all the principles in modern dining that I love. Lots of small tasting dishes, fresh seasonal and local produce, and photogenic food presentation. To add to all this, the staff were relaxed and knowledgeable without any pretension. If only it wasn’t so far from Perth!Disclaimer: Despite Chompchomp carrying the flag for the cats of Australia, her own two feline fur-children are yet to earn their keep and help fund her valiant efforts to improve the health and welfare of cats. Consequently this meal was funded for by herself but she has been assured it is only a matter of time before the two lads start bringing home the cash. In fact, her youngest fur-son Eddie has already been attaining some cameo appearances on Channel 7! 😉
300 Smith Street, Collingwood VIC 3066 | (03) 9419 2202 | www.saintcrispin.com.au
Being a veterinarian makes me the only scientist in my direct family; my mother is a retired Jazz singer, my father is a fashion designer and even my sister will oil paint in her spare time. Whilst I do enjoy the freedom and creativity of the arts, my strongest loyalties will always lie with my furry patients and their owners.
This isn’t to say I don’t love and cherish my blog too and with Chompchomp turning three this month it has been so exciting to watch my readership steadily grow each year. I find it so touching to know that through my writing I can help others with food intolerances find the courage to dine out while still providing some entertainment to those who are not restricted in their diet. These days I find my inbox filling up with invitations and product trials at an alarmingly fast rate. Because of my long shifts and late hours, there are many events that I have to knock back and I need to ensure to only choose the ones that I think are relevant to me and my readers.
I recently attended the South Africa Roadshow held at the Burswood Convention Centre. South Africa has always been on my bucket list and I imagined this would be an event aimed at people in the travel media including journalists and bloggers. I soon found out that it was actually a night for travel agents to help them learn to pitch and sell different tours and resorts to their customers. Not really applicable to my blog at all.
While the Boy was keen to stay and enjoy all the free South African wine, I had come off the back of a long day with not much to eat and was hungry enough to eat my own arm. After asking the waitress three times if there was anything gluten free I quickly grew tired of waiting around for a reply and decided to leave. I had given the event organisers advance notice of my gluten free requirement but obviously this was to no avail.
Instead of returning home, the Boy agreed to stay for dinner but requested we go somewhere cheap. I have a history of blowing the budget at the Crown and with their flagship restaurants including Rockpool, Nobu and Bistro Guillaume it is an easy thing to do. I knew that their cheaper option Market & Co was in the Entertainment Book which would mean we would get a discount of up for $45 off our meal. I found a bunch of gluten free options on the menu with a few more dishes able to be adapted. We started with the salt and pepper cuttlefish with Asian coleslaw. It was fairly decent serve for the price, freshly fried and coated in thin gluten free batter. The coleslaw had seen better days and was not much more than a pile of tired looking cabbage.
The Boy ordered the lobster risotto. It was served on a bed of truffled corn purée and garnished with random blobs of salsa verde splashed across the plate like an accident. The risotto was laced with a generous amount of “lobster” meat which was really crayfish however this dish was somewhat ruined by the faint dishwater after-taste as if the rice had been cooked in a dirty pan.
I chose the grilled salmon which the chef adapted to be gluten free. It came with a shiitake mushroom risotto and an oddly placed squiggle of saffron beurre blanc on the side of the plate. Presentation was seemingly not the chef’s strong point for the evening but despite my dish’s appearance the mushroom risotto was creamy and tasted freshly made.
The only gluten free dessert option at Market & Co was a fruit salad which didn’t inspire me at all. Instead I managed to twist the Boy’s arm and convince him to head next door to Nobu for a night cap. On the walk over I reminded him of Nobu’s drop dead gorgeous gluten free chocolate fondant with its luscious eruption of gooey chocolate centre. I even dug up a photo on my phone to remind him.
I am pretty sure he wasn’t even listening to me, he just heard “green tea ice cream” and it was a done deal for him.
However after taking our seats at the bar in a brief moment of spontaneity, I ended up ordering us the other gluten free option on the menu; the salted caramel miso parfait. Topped with Tonka foam and white chocolate and garnished with caramelised popcorn, it appeared to me that my highly esteemed fondant had met its match.
The obvious solution to this conundrum is that now I am going to have to go back to Nobu again, order both the fondant AND the parfait and then compare them both to find out the real winner! 😉 I mean, chocolate fondant + salted caramel parfait + popcorn + champagne….does it actually get any better than that?Chompchomp was an invited guest of the South Africa Roadshow where she enjoyed a couple of glasses free wines and cheese. Sadly that was the extent of the freebies for the evening and the meal at Market & Co and Nobu was funded for by herself and the Boy. Not to worry as the Entertainment Card gave a neat little discount off the total bill making it a super cheap night. Market & Co Crown Promenade Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood WA 6100 | (08) 9362 7551 | www.crownperth.com.au/restaurants/casual/market-co/about www.noburestaurants.com/perth
Many of you know that my day job is totally unrelated to food. I am a vet, and this means a career of long hours, late nights and a roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows. Attaining a work life balance has always been a battle for me and the Boy plays a huge role in making me see the bigger picture. Whilst I would never neglect to care for a patient that needs me, to be at my best I need to stay fit and well rested otherwise, like many of my colleagues, I face burn out.
Depression is rife among veterinarians, in our profession we are four times more likely to attempt suicide than the average person. A frightening fact, yet, one that most people in our industry have had to face one way or another.
Having been together for nearly seventeen years, the Boy and I know each other too well and he can sniff out the beginnings of me getting close to my breaking point from miles out. As I reached the end of working nine consecutive long days he suggested we take time out from our weekend chores and plan a weekend long lunch.
Normally I am the one that will select where we eat out due to the ever hungry thirst for content this blog can create. Conversely, the Boy is not interested in hitting the hot spots but would rather take any opportunity for a drive into the countryside. He proposed we head back to the Bickley Valley so I promptly booked us a table at the Vineyard Kitchen located at Brookside Winery.
I recall visiting this beautiful winery during the Bickley Valley Harvest Festival however on that day they were fully booked and so we only got to taste and purchase their wines. Over a year had passed and I was very keen to return.
We started off at the cellar door where we were warmly greeted by the owners Peter and Fay Fels. Their smiles were so infectious that before we knew it we were working our way through tasting all of their wines. Our favourites were the 2012 Methode Champenoise and the 2012 ‘One Acre Reserve’ Cabernet Sauvignon.
There are a number of gluten free and vegetarian options on the restaurant menu with a strong focus on local produce some of which is grown on their property themselves. I started with the roast beetroot and goats cheese brulée.
A whole roasted beetroot had been cored in the centre, filled with goats cheese and served warm. There was a thin layer of crackable toffee over the top but it wasn’t overpoweringly sweet. It was an interesting dish and totally worked as a creative but hearty vegetarian entrée.
The Boy ordered the pan-fried sardines which were crumbed and served with a light salad. A random choice for him as although I love sardines, I cannot say I ever would have considered him to be a fan. Regardless of this he still enjoyed them but admitted it wasn’t really his thing.
For my main dish I ordered the twice cooked duck leg. The duck meat slithered of the bone without any encouragement and was served on a generous bed of creamy porcini and mascarpone risotto. The skin had a thin crispiness to it such that I temporarily cast away all my recent concerns about weight gain and ate the lot. You only live once right?
On our recent trip to Esperance the Boy fell in love with things wrapped in filo, sampling baked Camembert cheese and a fish and prawn curry both wrapped in this flaky treat. Upon seeing the slow cooked lamb shoulder parcel on the menu he caved into a rare moment of meat eating.
Unlike me, the Boy is a man of few words, and my best way at measuring a dish’s awesomeness factor is by the amount of head nods and moans. The lamb shoulder scored high in both of these important measurements!
As we ordered dessert I was told by our jovial waiter that the gluten free mixed berry clafoutis would be a twenty minute wait. This was actually a small blessing in disguise as I was nearly bursting at the seams with all the food we had eaten so far.
Clafoutis is one of those French desserts that makes me feel a little nostalgic for my ancestry and upbringing. Traditionally made with cherries, this dish works well with any slightly zingy, juicy fruit.
The Vineyard Kitchen’s clafoutis was worth the wait. The balance of tart and sweet flavours was executed perfectly with plump berries embedded in the thick, slightly wobbly baked almond batter. I get so excited when my gluten free dessert is interesting!
The Boy ordered the dark chocolate peanut butter pie with vanilla ice cream, presumably in part because it came with ice cream. Whilst the two of us have an enormous amount of compatibilities, one of our few differences is our palate for desserts. He can really take or leave them and will always be satisfied with a simple bowl of ice cream.
Having wanted to visit the Vineyard Kitchen for such a long time there was a risk that it wouldn’t live up to the hype I created in my mind. But despite the long wait to return back for lunch, it was impossible not to fall in love with this place. The quaint gardens, the warm welcome at the cellar door, the prompt and relaxed service and most importantly the award-winning wines accompanied with sumptuous food were all key ingredients in teleporting me from a state of frazzled burn out to total relaxation.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest of her husband, otherwise know as “The Boy” and was lucky enough to also score a case of wine from him to continue to drink once she arrived home. Vineyard Kitchen 5 Loaring Road, Bickley WA 6076 | (08) 6162 2070 | www.thevineyardkitchen.net.au
The Boy and I were struck down with the killer Flu of the Year this month and it completely knocked the stuffing out of us. Everything became a huge effort and suffice to say life wasn’t much fun. At the tail end of our sickness we decided to cheer ourselves up and head out to the Avon Valley for the Toodyay Food Festival. Toodyay is roughly an hour’s drive from our house and when we got about half way both of us became overwhelmingly tired and nauseous.
It took about five minutes of us whingeing to each other before we realised the insanity of what we were trying to do. Walking around a food festival when I could barely stand up followed by another hours drive home sounded more like torture than enjoyment. We agreed this idea was a little ambitious and turned the car back around. As we headed home I realised we had nothing in the fridge because I had originally anticipated we would be stuffing our faces at the festival. We took a detour through Belmont and landed at Sapore Espresso.
I was no stranger to the tasty creations of this humble café having followed them on social media for some time. I had yet to actually set foot in the venue however as I tend to be a bit overly loyal to my Vic Park stomping ground. I was to find that this was a poor judgement as Sapore definitely is a winner, even for a gluten intolerant like me.
Regrettably my flu-stomach wasn’t up for a coffee. Sapore serve Fiori coffee which I am quite partial to as it is a tasty brew however this may be a good reason to return and sample their breakfast menu at a later date 😉 We started off with a cleansing freshly made juice of orange, carrot and celery. I asked for added greens into mine in the grim hope it would fix all my ills. Whilst it didn’t cure me I definitely felt a small increment better.
There is no hiding my obsession with mushrooms. I am sure it is this high level of addiction that has earned me the role as one of the official bloggers for the Mushroom Mania promotions three years running. It is easy to write about something I love.
Sapore’s trio of sautéed mushrooms was filled with an abundance of enoki, King oyster and field mushrooms, just like I make at home but enhanced by the fact that I didn’t have to lift a finger to prepare it. I loved the fleshy texture of the King oysters with the near crunchiness of the enoki. Served with tangy goats cheese and drizzled in truffle oil I was certain THIS was the medicine I needed.
It was not a problem to make this dish gluten free and I appreciated that the chef recognised how small gluten free bread is and gave me three pieces instead of the expected two. A bargain really when you consider the price.
The Boy needed a similarly medicinal meal and ordered the heart-warming daily special; a creamy chicken risotto with mushrooms and mascarpone.
Whilst the Boy will rarely will eat meat, given how unwell he had been that week he felt he needed some protein to help him recover. It was the first decent meal we could hold down in days and it hit the spot right on the mark for both of us.
My regular readers will already know that I struggle to hold myself back from turning every meal into a multi-course bonanza. This time round however my delicate stomach submitted to the Boy’s pleas to restrain myself. I still needed to end on something sweet and the perfect way to do this was with a home-made macaron. Sapore change their macaron flavours regularly and the flavour of the day for our visit was salted caramel. It had excellent texture with a pronounced salty aftertaste. I wished I had room for more.
Sapore Espresso was something of a hidden gem to me. It is easy as a Vic Park resident to give preference to our local options and overlook those that are off the popular café strip but still nearby. This is definitely a place worth trekking over the train tracks for and I look forward to returning there to sample their breakfast.Chompchomp planned for this meal to be sponsored by the Australian Mushroom Growers Association as part of her role in the Mushroom Mania campaign however she did not come prepared with her pre-paid VISA cards. She ended up paying for the meal in full herself. A shame because it really was a mushroom feast, however not to worry. It has left more money in the Mushroom Mania kitty for her to fund not one but two mushroom degos! Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more details on these two incredible meals… Sapore Espresso Bar Opposite Belmont Forum, 275 Belmont Avenue, Belmont WA 6105 | 0410 572 066 | saporeespressobar.com.au
After spending a few days exploring the sunny town of Carnarvon, the Boy and I packed up our 4WD hire car and drove back to Exmouth. Exmouth is a four hour drive north from Carnarvon depending on your chosen route. In my usual manner I had pre-planned our trip to take us up the more direct route along the coastal road so we could stop in at beautiful Coral Bay. Unfortunately we were unlucky enough to have our Northwest trip coincide with some of the worst flooding the region has seen in years which meant that this coastal road was closed. Our alternate route took us further inland which added a little bit of extra time to our trip. Although I was a bit disappointed not getting to visit Coral Bay, I got to see some Outback Australian scenery that was totally new to me.
Plus there was the added entertainment of spotting random livestock and wildlife to photograph along the way…
Our Exmouth accommodation was at the 4.5 star Novotel Ningaloo which is the only resort located along the Sunrise Beach and is considered one of the most luxurious options to stay in town. Every hotel room and apartment are positioned to try and maximise views of the water with the ocean and marina both only meters away from our apartment’s doorstep.
We stayed in one of the two bedroom self-contained apartments which had a spacious open plan with the perfect layout for a family with two children. In addition to our type of lodgings, the resort also has two types of hotel rooms, one bedroom apartments and bungalows and their largest accommodation, the two story two bedroom bungalow directly overlooking the beach.
Our apartment had a comfortable King sized bed in the master room with twin beds located in the second bedroom. There was a pillow menu on offer however we didn’t notice this until late in the evening when there were minimal options left. Housekeeping advised us apologetically that our stay coincided with a full house and were given first priority on pillow options for the following morning. The bathroom opened out onto the bedroom with bi-folding doors and had a spa bath with separate shower. There were a variety of Accor branded amenities available.
The kitchen was equipped with most of the basic utensils that you would need for cooking including a stove, microwave, dishwasher and full sized fridge for storing all your leftovers. Despite having good intentions to cook up some local seafood to eat, we never even got around to boiling the kettle!
After spending the afternoon on the road in poor weather conditions neither of us had any desire to hit the town so we made a reservation at the resort’s restaurant Mantaray’s. Although this is the poshest resort in Exmouth, I was relieved to be greeted with a relaxed vibe without any luxury venue pretension.
We had been nibbling on gluten free snacks that I had bought in Carnarvon on the road trip so in a rare moment of restraint we ordered just one entrée to share along with a half a dozen oysters. The prawn cocktail entrée was made using local Exmouth prawns, fresh avocado, cos lettuce and seafood sauce. Whilst not being the most generous of serves for the price, each prawn was super fresh and we literally fought each other over the last one.
The Boy ordered the vegetarian fettuccini for his main course. There was no scrimping on the vegetables in this one with piles of snow peas, carrot, zucchini, rocket, tomatoes and fresh basil with a creamy lemon and pine nut sauce. It was the type of dish that makes him content with his choice of eating a vegetarian diet.
I ordered the local fish of the day, a pan fried snapper served on a bed of creamy pea risotto and pea purée. Crunchy wafers of crisp pancetta topped the dish and added a much needed contrast in textures. The fish was cooked tenderly and fell apart under my fork in delicate flaky chunks.
As I figured that the oysters didn’t counted as a meal I justified ordering dessert on the pretence we had only shared one entrée. I mean, oysters are just an amuse bouche aren’t they? I was thrilled to hear the gluten free dessert options offered were more than the usual standards like crème brûlée and flourless chocolate cake. I chose the raspberry mille-feuille; layers of sweet raspberry mousse and gluten free chocolate cake topped off with a paper thin layer of milk chocolate. It was all very decadent and smooth leaving me dreaming of eating it over and over for most of the following day.
The Boy’s ice cream addiction has come out of its dormancy with full force. These days I am struggling to convince him to order anything else for dessert unless it accompanies ice cream. I will admit this makes me a bit annoyed now that we can no longer share two gluten free desserts, but to be honest I also find it quite endearing. He is normally so easy going and just goes with the flow so to see him so obsessed with something is unusual.
For someone who loves her luxury accommodation, I didn’t think I would find anything of the sort up in the Northwest of Australia. I had prepared myself for motels with grim coloured furniture and postage stamp sized towels. I was more than pleasantly surprised at Novotel Ningaloo and after staying at fairly simple lodgings in Carnarvon it was a welcome relief. We would love to return to stay there next visit to Exmouth and hope our next trip accompanies some better weather!Chompchomp was an invited guest of the Novotel Ningaloo as part of her WA Signature Dish involvement. She was offered a heavily discounted industry rate to stay in the two bedroom apartment in exchange for providing Novotel with some professional photography services around the resort. Sods law meant that for the duration of her stay in Exmouth there were intermittent storms, grey skies and a lot of rain. Consequently her rushed photography taken during the rare snippets of sunshine were not exactly her greatest work. She humbly paid for her meal at Mantaray’s restaurant in full as this was not part of the deal. Novotel Ningaloo & Mantaray’s Bar Restaurant Madaffari Drive, Exmouth WA 6707 | (08) 9949 0000 | novotelningaloo.com.au
It was only about six weeks ago that the Boy took me down to Margaret River on a prescribed weekend of rest. We wined, dined and came back as fresh as daisies albeit slightly rounder in shape. It was a comparatively unplanned and impromptu trip which is quite out of character for me and I love that the Boy can have this sort of influence on me. I had barely finished writing up all my blog posts from the trip when it was time to head back for Gourmet Escape.
For my non-Western Australians readers; Gourmet Escape is a three day food and wine festival held in Margaret River in November each year. Famous chefs from around the world join along including Heston Blumenthal, Harold McGee, Rick Stein, Adriano Zumbo, Hadleigh Troy, Guillaume Brahimi, Matt Stone, Tetsuya Wakuda and Neil Perry to name a just few!
We had a full weekend planned with different events to attend on each day in addition to a two-day pass to the Gourmet Village. The Gourmet Village is held on the spacious grounds at Leeuwin Estate and the whole day is filled with activities, classes, shows and stalls offering wine and food from all around Western Australia. It was a wonderful way to showcase what a richly diverse State we live in and how lucky we are to have such a strong focus on quality produce.
Basic general admission tickets to the Village cost $38 per adult. We opted for premium tickets for $64 which also included 4 “GEMs”. GEMs are your village currency each costing $7 and most items to eat or drink cost one GEM. Despite buying some extra GEMS in advance we managed to guzzle our way through nearly 20 GEMS on the first day and had to buy more from one of the GEMs sellers that can be found walking through the crowd. There were also outlets in the Village selling GEMS but the queues for these were reasonably long.
The Classroom bar in North Perth set up their own Classroom Cocktail Club were you could buy their famous N2 espresso martinis for one GEM. For my review on this signature drink read my review here. The Boy missed out coming along to my cocktail Master class because he isn’t a blogger so we made a bee line as soon as we arrived to get him one to try!
One of my favourite dishes for the day was The Studio Bistro’s Butterfield beef fillet, cooked rare with a sumptuous dark sear on the surface, served with a melting dollop of decadent Café de Paris and some hand cut Royal Blue chips. I actually went back for seconds on day two! It definitely has inspired me to pay them a visit next time I’m in Yallingup. My other most enjoyable dish was the freshly shucked Pacific oysters at 34 Degrees Blue’s stall. These guys got slurped up in a flash before I even thought of snapping a picture. Oysters are best shucked right before serving as they taste completely different when served freshly shucked. I am glad we have our own oyster shucker extraordinaire in our family; namely my Dad!
Some of the presentations were of particular interest, the Boy and I loved Matt Stone’s demonstration on cooking with insects. The Boy is a great lover of eating these crunchy critters and he reminded me of the damage to the environment that farming my luscious, just devoured beef would have caused. I guarantee he would have been happier if there was a stall that he could have bought me a bag of crickets from!
The Southern Forest region is one that is lesser known to interstate and overseas tourists however it is also an area rich in world class produce, luscious forests and fine wines. This is the region in Western Australia where black truffles are grown commercially. The Southern Forests Food Council are committed to spreading awareness of the value of this region as a foodie’s mecca and were selling a variety of fresh and prepared produce including free samples of trufflicious risotto.
There were a number of gluten free options spotted around the Village and every time I saw something that I could eat I felt compelled to buy some. A little hedonistic I know and suffice to say I suffered for my overindulgence for several days afterwards!
As our second day in the Village drew to a close we had to decide how to spend our last three GEMs. We agreed on a cup of Matso’s Mango beer for the Boy, a glass of Snake + Herring ‘Corduroy’ Single Vineyard Karridale Chardonnay for me and a bowl to share of kimchi and vermicelli noodle salad topped with a couple of grilled Augusta whiting fillets courtesy of Cullen Wines. Cullen Winery are very focussed on sustainability and their impact on the environment, operating a biodynamic winery that is carbon neutral. Their restaurant specialises in using organic and local produce and is a must to visit if you are in the region. They have loads of vego and gluten free options. See my review for Cullen Wines here.
Gourmet Escape was a fabulous foodie weekend away and we hope to be able to attend for many years to come. We enjoyed a wonderful mix of satellite events along with visiting the Village although next year I think one day at the Village will suffice. This will leave more room in my stomach for attending one of the beach BBQs which I believe were incredible.
The Studio Bistro, Yallingup WA
Prevali Wines, 99 Mitchell Drive, Prevelly, WA 6285
Leeuwin Estate, Stevens Road, Margaret River, WA 6285
The Apple Daily Bar & Eating House, 125 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000
Ole Paella Catering
Cullen Wines, Lot 4323 Caves Road, Margaret River, WA 6284
Staff shortages are a quick way to destroy anyone’s social life. Recently at work we have been stretched thin on the ground turning my standard weekend roster of two-on-three-off into a full roster circuit of five weekends working. Joy. As the chance for my weekend time-out finally approached, I pre-emptively booked a dinner reservation for us at a local Italian restaurant L’Enoteca. The restaurant is a short skip and jump from our front door so all week in the lead up anticipation I envisaged strolling down hand in hand with the Boy to the Broken Hill Hotel for a few drinks then crossing over the road for a romantic meal.
When the weekend actually arrived, it was joined by a severe weather warning. Complete with dark ominous skies and whirling wind that vortexed around our house like a hurricane I could see the chances of us walking anywhere were doomed. Not willing to be beaten we rugged up and bundled into the car for our date night.
After a few rounds of drinks at the pub we were lucky enough to catch a break in the rain and power walked as best as one can with a broken toe down Albany Highway to L’Enoteca. The inside of the restaurant was cosy and warm and a welcome relief after the blustery walk. The menu was uncomplicated and clearly marked with both vegetarian and gluten free options. It made a nice change as it made ordering dishes so easy. As we perused the wine list we asked the waitress to bring out some marinated olives. Each olive was a soft little bomb of flavour with hints of citrus and the slight heat of some chilli. I prefer my olives soft; I don’t enjoy the harder ones as much.
The stuffed field mushrooms were the Boy’s choice and although this dish is something I often enjoy making for us at home it was by no means less satisfying eating it out in a restaurant. There is something oddly meaty about mushrooms when they prepared this way and I almost feel like I’m eating a bit of steak. Weird I know. L’Enoteca’s mushrooms were flavoured with fresh parsley and basil and were thick, juicy and surprisingly filling.
Since my trip to Barcelona, I remain on a quest to find myself octopus in Perth which tastes as good as the dishes I ate in all those late night tapas bars. Although this octopus was very tasty it just didn’t have that plump soft texture that I’m aspiring for and it was a touch on the chewy side.
Risotto is a dish I rarely have the time or patience to make at home. Maybe one day when I eventually get myself a Thermomix my world will change but until then I find it hard to justify standing in front of my stove stirring for what feels like an eternity.
Our waitress came to our table and placed a huge bowl of creamy duck risotto in front of me and my lusting for Spanish octopus quickly faded back to the distant corners of my mind. The thickly sliced duck breast was cooked to a buttery soft texture and rich nutty tones from the porcini mushrooms added beautiful depth and substance.
Our night was like a re-run of one of our Mushroom Mania meals. Not only was our shared entrée a mushroom dish but both of our mains were a mix of hearty mushroom goodness too. There was certainly no complaints from either of us! The Boy ordered the handmade chestnut tagliatelle with a creamy mushroom ragu and generous shavings of truffled pecorino (Moliterno tartufo). Each ribbon of soft pasta coated itself beautiful in the rich chestnut puree and buried amongst this was a variety of slippery soft mushrooms and whole roasted chestnuts . The Boy commented that the truffle aroma from the cheese was very subtle and being a truffle addict he would have preferred a touch more pungency.
We had a teeny bit of room left to share one more dish. I would like to have tried some of their cheeses which I noted were all proudly Italian. There was one cheese in particular that sparked my attention; the Moliterno tartufo that the Boy had grated over his pasta. This is a type of truffle infused pecorino cheese. But recalling the Boy isn’t really into his cheese, I considerately selected a dessert for us to share instead. Such a good wife I am! Suffice to say we were pretty chuffed with our selection. The pannacotta had perfect form and cemented my deduction that L”Enoteca know their Italian cuisine. Delizioso!L’Enoteca 249 Albany Highway, Victoria Park WA 6100 | (08) 9472 5881 | www.lenoteca.com.au Price: $$$ Food: 4/5 (classic Italian favourites made with obvious passion and love) Service: 4/5 (friendly & knowledgeable about their menu) Ambience: 3.5/5 (a bit noisy, subdued lighting, quite romantic) Drinks: 3.5/5 (good selection of predominately Italian wines) Total: 15/20
I have lived in the Vic Park area for nearly twenty years and have loved watching the neighbourhood develop and grow. It is a great place to live for numerous reasons but in my humble opinion one of the biggest selling factors is the variety of restaurants and cafes sitting right on our doorstep. I’m certain we nearly have the “A to Z” of international cuisine and so we never seem to run out of options. One of our regular haunts in the past has been The Precinct; a casual but funky eatery only a short fifteen minute stroll from our front door. The past few months my life has been exceedingly complicated and stressful and so when my Bestie proposed to me to catch up with another mutual close friend of ours Shannon I leaped at the opportunity to be able to switch off and relax. To make things even easier for me, Shannon was more than happy to travel over to our stompin’ ground and let us go local. Getting a booking at the last-minute on a Friday night can be tricky and after several phone calls to different restaurants I was starting to think we were out of luck. Finally we had success and managed to secure a table at the Precinct, seeing as we hadn’t been there for a several months we were happy to return.
As we sat down to order I cringed at the fact that our table had such a constellation of specific dietary requirements; one of us was gluten free, fructose friendly (me), one was a vegetarian (the Boy) and finally there was a gluten free vegetarian (my Bestie). As we seemingly pounded our friendly waitress with 101 questions she proved to be totally unflappable and remained generously accommodating despite having to do a couple of round trips to the kitchen to check on ingredient details for us.
I have a tendency to get a bit obsessed with certain food and popcorn is one of those. I have been known to devour a whole packet in one sitting and have loved that it has featured on the bar snack menu at The Precinct for some time. Theirs is strongly flavoured with rosemary and lemon pepper making it extremely addictive. To feed my addiction further, it is sold in take home bags enabling me to grab a roadie on my way out.
It is not often that fritters are gluten free but these were also vegan meaning we could all eat them. No animal was harmed in the making of these little crispy balls. Despite not containing any cheese or meat that would ordinarily make these delicious, the fritters were flavoursome with a crackly thin crumb and a piping hot soft centre.
It is unusual for me to have a small appetite and I guess this may be a reflection of the turmoil and stress in my life over recent weeks. Consequently I was happy to see the portion size for the Tasmanian salmon was fairly small. Accompanied by a fennel salad, confit tomatoes and a blob of rocket pesto it was just the light meal my wobbly stomach needed however in more jovial times I may have been left feeling a bit peckish. I prefer my salmon to be slightly rare and was dismayed to see this chunk was cooked all the way through. I consoled myself with the fact that at least the skin was brittle thin and crunchy.
Shannon has recently undergone a very successful diet and life style change that has enabled her to improve both her health and well-being immensely. Being so well behaved with her eating habits for so long she decided to treat herself and ordered herself the pork belly. The crackling was snippety snap hard and browned to a delicious honey colour. The flesh was somewhat tender but I think the portion size was a bit overwhelmingly large for someone who has been eating an abundance of healthiness of late. It was served with a potato puree and a pea, mint, apple and cabbage salad.
Earlier on this year I subjected the Boy to a six week Raw Food experiment. Instead of our usual vegetarian Meatless Monday, I turned it into a raw food and vegan version. I called it “The Raw Food Meatless Monday Man Challenge”! Some of my dishes included raw noodles and every time I made them his eyes would light up with glee. He was elated to see that vegetable spaghetti featured on The Precinct’s menu for the evening. Julienned zucchini and carrot sat atop thick wedges of pumpkin with raisins tossed through for more sweetness. I had to fight him for a mouthful to taste.
The Bestie is also vegetarian and ordered the baked mushroom risotto with truffle oil. To add some greenery to her choice she also ordered some green beans.
Not wanting to end the evening with a savoury taste in our mouths, us girls agreed to share a gluten free brownie complete with ice cream. Whilst the brownie was gluten free, the ice cream was unfortunately not meaning Shannon got to enjoy the scoop all to herself. Our waiter ensured it was served separate from the brownie to avoid any contamination. It was a big wedge of a brownie and was more than ample for the three of us to share. I did find it a bit dry and wished I could enjoy some ice cream to wash it down.
The Boy ordered the ice cream sandwich. These are made in house and I love how they mark The Precinct logo on the top. It reminds me of years long gone by where they were one of my favourite after dinner treats. I used to walk down to our local deli with our flat mate and we would buy an ice cream each for ourselves and one for the Boy who always stayed at home. And if it wasn’t an ice cream sandwich, it was a hazelnut roll. Happy days!
The Precinct remains one of my favourite locals on the Vic Park strip. Their service is always bubbly and energetic, their wine list is interesting, and although their food won’t blow your mind it is still creative, fresh and ever changing. They are happy to accommodate for all the tricky dietary needs; be it vego, vegan, fructose friendly or gluten free.The Precinct 834 Albany Highway, East Victoria Park 6101 | (08) 9355 2880 | www.theprecinctvicpark.com.au/ Price: $$ (Entrees/snacks $7-19, Mains $22-29) Food: 3/5 (simple, interesting and fresh) Service: 3.5/5 (these guys are always so enthusiastic) Ambience: 3.5/5 (good to find somewhere without fluoro lights on the Vic Park strip) Drinks: 4.5/5 (great list, lots of European choices of wines and beers) Total: 14.5/20
I know, I know; I whinge about the winter chilliness a bit too much. You see, I’m not normally that much of a whinger unless I’m sick or I’m cold. However during winter I am generally both of those things more often than I am not. This is why I am so thankful for the wondrous fungus Tuber melanosporum, or more commonly known as the black truffle. Its short season coincides with the deepest part of winter here in Perth and is becoming a key element to my winter survival strategy.
Being right in the height of the truffle season I had already gone a bit giddy with my annual winter addiction at our truffled dinner at Divido and then even further at Clarke’s. Although I knew the Mundaring Truffle Festival was only a few days away, I figured why not bury myself even deeper into truffle glory and enjoy it to its fullest!
Darlington Estate had kindly extended the invitation on Twitter to Perth bloggers to create a foodie table on their opening night of their Truffle Degustation. I was joined by fellow bloggers Strawberry Thief, Red Hot Spatula and Perth Food Journal. Being relatively new to the blogging scene it was wonderful to be able to put faces to the blogs that I read each week. Better still I knew that I would be dining with like-minded people who consider constantly photographing their food is a normal way of life.
Darlington Estate is one of the oldest wineries in the Perth Hills, and over the years they have won many awards both for their wines and for their restaurant. The vineyard is set on steep terraced slopes surrounded by bushland and is supposed to offer lovely views from the restaurant. Having only dined here at night, I have missed out on this part of the experience….poor me, I will have to come back again sometime! It can be hard work being a foodie!
Prior to commencing I was informed that the chef was well aware of my allergies and that all the dishes were able to be served to me relatively unadulterated except for the truffle brioche. I was assured that the chef would come up with something else for me for this course. To get us in the mood out came our amuse bouche; a seared scallop wrapped in prosciutto on a bed of cauliflower purée with salmon roe and truffle. This was a beautiful blend of flavours and balanced nicely although my scallop was ever so slightly overcooked.
I cursed my wretched gluten intolerance as I watched everyone sink their teeth into the soft and buttery brioche. The truffle flecked butter spread creamily over it like velvet and was definitely a hit.
Just as my jealousy started to heighten our waiter came over with my special gluten free replacement dish; a very generous sized bowl of truffle parsnip chips. They were crisp and perfectly seasoned and I had to fight off the Boy from trying to steal a few from me (which he did actually successfully manage twice before I gave him a cold steel look….”don’t steal MY truffles!”).
Each dish that came out was so beautifully presented and the scallops were no exception. Again my scallops were cooked just slightly past that soft delicate point of perfection. There was a hint of firmer chewiness but certainly not enough to be a significant detriment to the dish. The cauliflower purée and barigoule potatoes gave a hearty more wintery depth to this light dish making it a gorgeous entrée to kick off this cold night with.
The braised Linley Valley pork cheek was also plated beautifully, if only I had better light for my photos to do this dish justice. The meat was tender soft and the subtle sweetness of the truffled almond purée was delightful. The jus was nearly good enough to lick the plate for.
The duck was most definitely my favourite dish of the evening. The meat was richly flavoursome and simply fell apart under my fork. The truffled gruyere oozed through the meaty flavoured wild mushroom risotto forming fabulous strings of cheesiness joining every forkful.
The palate cleanser was very refreshing with the delicate flavours of lychee and rosewater with just a hint of truffliciousness in the backdrop.
Pannacotta is on my list of favourite desserts of all time. This coffee and truffle version did not disappoint. It held perfect shape on the plate and was delicate and silky smooth. The adorable little fluffy truffle passionfruit marshmallow gave the dish a twist of originality.
Unfortunately for me there were no gluten free crackers available for the cheese course. Not that this ever stops me, I am more than happy to eat brie sans crackers! Especially if it’s been truffled! The brie was soft and creamy and served at just the right temperature to allow the flavours to develop.
The petit fours consisted of the cutest little miniature toffee apples. I have never really been into toffee apples myself and personally I would have preferred something chocolaty but if you are indeed a fan, these candied morsels would have been right up your alley. The apple inside was cooked until it was soft and the toffee was hardened to a thin crisp shell.
For a degustation meal I was impressed with our serving sizes and considering the added truffle in every single dish I also thought the full ticket price of $110 (excluding drinks) was extremely good value. The service was attentive and friendly and we look forward to returning to the hills to visit Darlington Estate again.
This blog post is the second in my series for this year’s Mushroom Mania. The month kicked off in full force commencing with my visit to the picturesque Millbrook Winery where we wined and dined until we nearly exploded. We even managed to successfully forage some wild field mushrooms from their stunning property. From there my madness for mushrooms continued and I posted my first recipe detailing how I cooked up these freshly picked delights. Don’t forget you can also go a little mushroom mad as there are over 2000 participating restaurants all over Australia serving up a variety of mushroom themed recipes. You can even win a $150 dinner voucher; see the end of this post for more.
I cannot deny that for once in a blue moon neither one of us were up for a night out. The Boy had been struggling to shake off a flu that had lingered all week. He had resultantly dosed himself up on cold and flu which only served to give him a few hours of relief each time. I had managed to only catch a very mild bout of his illness presumably because I had already been sick several times this year. However I had inadvertently poisoned myself with some gluten the night prior at the Good Food and Wine Show. One hour before we were to leave the house my whole face randomly broke out in large welts and my eyes puffed up like those of a gold fish. Not the makings for an attractive couple really, were we?
Refusing to be beaten, I prayed for dim lighting as the Boy chowed down on more cold and flu and out we headed to Divido in Mount Hawthorn. The restaurant glowed with subdued soft lighting and although I knew the quality of my photos were going to suffer a little, I was much relieved to be able to hide under its cloak of poor visibility.
On the weekend Divido offer an option of either degustation for $95 or a three course meal for $80. Neither of us felt like we had the room for a full dego so we opted to extend the three courses to four as an in-between compromise. Better still, this enabled me to select three wonderful mushroom dishes to enjoy! While we waited our waiter brought some handmade sourdough with olive oil and balsamic to our table. It smelt absolutely amazing! Being unable to eat normal bread for many years now, I’m not ashamed to at least enjoy its smell. The Boy gave me funny looks as I picked up a soft piece of bread and deeply inhaled its glorious aroma. Surely he must be used to my antics by now?
My first entrée was the beef carpaccio. I was crossing my fingers I wouldn’t get the same overly lemony acidic version I received at Villa D’Este recently. Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed; soft elegantly thin slices of dark red beef were complimented with richly flavoured porcini mushrooms and topped with the freshest greenest rocket I have seen for a while. Shavings of parmesan polished this dish off to perfection.
The Boy ordered the baked Cloudy Bay clams. This was served in its clay pot and contained some interesting combinations of flavours with tomato, okra and fennel seeds. It had a garlic breadcrumb crust adding in a crunchier texture to the softer elements underneath.
I realise I have already made most of you drool over my fabulous mushroom risotto at Millbrook Winery last week, however I couldn’t go past ordering it again this time round after our waiter informed me it contained some Manjimup black truffle. The inside of a truffle always amuses me as recall our pathology wet lab classes back in Vet School. The intricate patterning of the black truffle reminds me somewhat of the cross-section of a brain.
Luckily for me these thoughts have absolutely no effect on my appetite, it takes a lot more than that to put me off my food as many of my work companions can tell you! The rice wasn’t gluggy whatsoever and maintained its “al dente” texture while still having that creaminess of a good risotto. I was delighted at the generosity of shavings of truffle despite this only being an entrée serve. The earthy flavours of the truffles lingered long on my palate and I was so pleased there would be more to come in my choice of main.
The Boy was obviously in the mood for some seafood and ordered the pansotti with prawns, local blue swimmer crab and mussels for his next dish. Pansotti are a type of triangular-shaped ravioli and these were filled with the Greek purée skordalia. The poor guy had such a blocked nose he was unable to tell me what sort of skordalia was inside the soft folds of fresh pasta, but traditionally it is usually made from garlic, potatoes and some vinegar.
My main meal was the fish of the day, and gazing across the room I could see I wasn’t the only one who thought it sounded good. A fresh flaky fillet of locally caught Pink Snapper was baked inside baking paper, a style the Italians like to call “al Cartoccio”. Cooking al Cartoccio helps to maintain the dish’s moisture and preserves the intensity of its natural flavours. Inside my paper package was a multitude of mushrooms including porcini, field, shitake, enoki and button mushrooms. They each had their own degree of potency in taste and texture. Of course the highlight was more (yes more) shaving of black truffle.
The Boys’ main dish of wood roasted duck was served with buckwheat polenta and a porcini sauce with mustard fruits and spring onions. The duck was moist and tender, falling off the bone easily and I had to beg him for a small mouthful to taste. I’m not sure if his taste buds were a little dulled by his flu because he wasn’t as wowed by this dish as I would have expected given its mouth-watering appearance. My single taste of it was divine so I going to consider that he just may not have been able to sense all the flavours properly through his snuffles and sickness. Poor love.
For sides we ordered the spiced pumpkin with chick peas, mint and almonds. This dish was surprisingly moreish and despite our bursting waistlines we managed to finish it all off. The chickpeas tasted really fresh not quite like any I have tasted before, and the Moroccan style spices coated each piece of pumpkin perfectly.
At this point, we really didn’t have much room left for more food. To be honest, in hindsight we really should have stuck to one entrée each not two! Why do we always order too much food? After a brief gaze over the dessert menu, I couldn’t really see anything that was obviously gluten free so I asked our waitress for some advice. She went off to have a chat to the chef and soon returned to let me know that although nothing on their menu was gluten free, the chef was happy to make a gluten free alternative called zabaione especially for me. I was told that the chef has done this many times before for gluten free customers. I really love chefs with this can-do attitude!
After a short wait, out comes the most gorgeous looking dessert for me to enjoy. For once my dessert was the envy of all instead of the other way round! Zabaione is a dairy free, gluten free Italian egg custard made from egg yolks, sugar and Moscato. It was accompanied by strawberry compote, scoops of soft icy sorbet and topped with some pistachios. Heaven! Give me zabaione any day!
Although the Boy’s walnut torta looked pretty good, but I can’t deny I felt it appeared a little lacklustre in comparison to my deliciousness! It came with a scoop of cardamom ice cream and was drizzled in sticky Muscat compote. He was way too full to finish it off but made a pretty good effort considering how unwell he was. He had barely eaten anything the past few days so I was happy to see him eat a good hearty meal. Fingers crossed this is the last of the winter ailments and we can both get back on track for some healthiness again.
This restaurant was reviewed as part of Mushroom Mania month which is happening all across Australia during July 2012. There are over 2000 participating restaurants including many all over Western Australia. The website also has some delicious mushroom recipes so make sure you check it out.
You don’t have to be a blogger to win either! Just write a short review on a mushroom dish you enjoyed during the Mushroom Mania Month of July and you could win a $150 Best Restaurants of Australia Gift Card.
Click here for details.
Chompchomp dined at Divido with compliments of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association.Divido 170 Scarborough Beach Rd, Mount Hawthorn 6016 | (08) 9443 7373 | www.divido.com.au Price: $$$ (Three courses $85, Degustation $95 or $140 with matched wines) Food: 4.5/5 (flexible chef, hearty Italian dishes with a modern flair) Service: 4/5 (occasionally a bit disjointed but very knowledgeable and friendly) Ambience: 4/5 (cosy, inviting and relaxing) Drinks: 4.5/5 (lots of champagne to choose from. Very happy with this!) Total: 17/20
Many of you may recall my ongoing obsession with mushrooms. I eat them nearly every day and they are definitely up there as one of my most favourite foods. Even better still they are so good for you! So logically I was so excited to be selected as one of eleven bloggers from around Australia to take part in Mushroom Mania! For the whole month of July, over 2000 restaurants, cafes, bistros and clubs around the country will be involved in serving up wonderful mushroom dishes for us all to enjoy. You can download the App on your iPhone for a locality guide of participating businesses.
Millbrook Winery has been one of those stunning locations that I have longed to visit for quite some time. It is located on Chestnut Farm in the picturesque Jarrahdale area about fifty minutes south of Perth. The property spans over 300 acres and is nestled in amongst gently sloping valleys bordering along the National Park whilst boasting breathtaking views across the countryside. The Winery is owned the Fogarty Wine Group who also own Deep Woods Estate in Margaret River, Smithbrook in Pemberton and Lake’s Folly in the Hunter Valley. Millbrook utilise grapes from their own small vineyards in addition to grapes from their vineyards in the cooler climates south of the State.
The winery has a tasting room and cellar door where you can sample their wines at no cost. The Boy and I ensured to arrive a little early so we could squeeze in some tasting. Their range included some interesting wines and while I won’t confess to being an expert in describing them I did walk away with a few purchases! Better still they offer a membership discount of 20% if you join up before you buy.
The restaurant is located upstairs giving nearly 180 degrees views across the brilliant landscape and I can only imagine how much more gorgeous it would be sitting out on their decking area in the warmer summer months. Being a crisp winter’s day we didn’t get to experience this and stayed inside where it was cosy and warm.
Head chef Guy Jeffreys focuses his menu on using all the freshly grown produce from the large property which includes 150 year old orchards growing citrus, stone fruit, figs, quince and apples, and an acre sized garden filled with over 100 varieties of heirloom vegetables. Herbs, free-range eggs, wild mushrooms, olives and honey are also sourced from the estate. While waiting for our meals we were brought out some complementary house made sour dough with marmalade. Although the menu has a wide range of gluten free dishes available, the bread wasn’t so I dipped my fingers in the marmalade a couple of times to taste its home-grown deliciousness straight up while the Boy devoured the soft bread.
We ordered a selection of entrées to share and couldn’t fault any one of them. The braised lamb’s tongue with quail eggs was richly flavoured and contained curious little stems of salty plant called wild samphire. We were told the chef foraged for this unusual but powerfully flavoured plant along the banks of the Swan in Bassendean. It is also termed “sea asparagus”.
Not that I’m a chef by any stretch of the imagination, but I do appreciate that octopus can be one of those things that without appropriate care in the kitchen can turn into a rubbery chewy disaster. Not this time round; our octopus was so juicy and soft that even the thin tentacles were tender. It was served with some of Rosa’s popular chorizo from Spanish Flavours in Wembley. We fell in love with this well-known locally made delight when at Amphoras Bar recently and you can be sure to see it feature on menus of a variety of restaurants all over Perth including Cantina 663. The octopus was also served with some pickled potato and smoked paprika.
I order the salad as our third entrée because we didn’t really need a third dish so I justified ordering it by choosing something light. Freshly picked vegetables from the farm’s garden included roasted and raw heirloom carrot and radish. Some tangy goat’s cheese was slivered on top and the salad was dressed with a light, sweet pomegranate dressing and some fresh mint leaves.
For my main I could not go past the mushroom risotto. It contained a wonderful combination of both farmed and foraged mushrooms including porcini and button mushrooms, Slippery Jacks from the neighbouring forest and meaty Field mushrooms from the adjacent orchard. To add to the amazing mushroom intensity, the Arborio rice was pre-soaked in a stock containing some Manjimup truffles and the risotto was served with generous drizzles of white truffle oil. Very decadent and definitely not low in calories but packed full of mushroom goodness! I kept convincing myself of all the wondrous health properties of mushrooms I was gaining and chose to overlook the addition of less nutrient rich oils and cheese!
I have recently eaten rabbit a few times both at the epic Largesse dinner and at Villa D’Este and each time the Boy has eyed off my dishes while suffering from a bit of dish envy. He decided to take things in his own hands and order himself the Baldivis rabbit pasta. Soft folds of hand cut pasta were perfectly coated with a thick tomato sauce and scattered with a generous serving of cotechino (a type of Italian sausage) and flavourful pieces of soft rabbit. To accompany we also order the mashed potato with truffle oil and a garden salad. Yes, more truffle oil…..well it IS truffle season after all!
The Boy and I were both so fascinated that nearly all the produce use in the kitchen was foraged or farmed on the property. The Boy prompted me to ask our attentive waitress if there would be any chance we could have a wander around the property to find our own wild mushrooms. I could barely contain my excitement when this was met with a “yes” and we were taken to a part of the property where a number of fist sized meaty field mushroom were popping up out of the lush grass. We were permitted to harvest ourselves a few which they packaged up for us to take home and eat. I began imagining how delicious they would be roasted in the oven with balsamic……see my recipe here.
After our successful mushroom hunt, we returned to the warmth of the restaurant to squeeze in a final dessert course. I was thankful that I had run to the gym for a workout that morning otherwise all my bride dieting would have gone completely out the window! The pannacotta was perfectly formed and served with little cubes of flourless orange cake, Campari sorbet and some surprisingly sweet almost caramelised orange peel.
The Boy’s ice cream was house churned with three flavours; vanilla bean, raspberry and Cajeta. The Cajeta flavour was his favourite and is traditionally made from simmering goat’s milk and sugar until it thickens like condensed milk. It tastes a bit like caramel but isn’t too overpoweringly sweet.
We were lucky enough to kindly get a tour of the property after our meal by the manager Jeremy. He was a wealth of knowledge and proudly showed us through their enormous garden filled with radishes, fennel, broccoli and other winter vegetables. He informed us that they try to be as environmentally sustainable as possible including practices such as recycling water from a natural spring that runs through the property.
We even got to duck into the chicken coop for a little pat, they were so tame and friendly and didn’t seem to mind my incessant photo taking. In fact one of them looked like she enjoyed her fifteen minutes of fame!
After all the recent stress we have both had over the past few weeks, our beautiful little outing together proved to be just what we needed. We drove back to the city in comfortable silence content with full bellies and lungs full of fresh country air.
This restaurant was reviewed as part of Mushroom Mania month which is happening all across Australia during July 2012. There are over 2000 participating restaurants including many all over Western Australia. The website also contains some delicious mushroom recipes so make sure you check it out.
You don’t have to be a blogger to win either! Just write a short review on a mushroom dish you enjoyed during the Mushroom Mania Month of July and you could win a $150 Best Restaurants of Australia Gift Card.
Click here for details.
Chompchomp dined at Millbrook Winery with compliments of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association.Millbrook Winery Old Chestnut Lane, Jarrahdale 6124 | (08) 9525 5796 | www.millbrookwinery.com.au Bookings recommended especially on weekends. Price: $$$$ (Entrees $19-22, Mains $36-45) Food: 4.5/5 (nothing beats fresh produce, excellent range GF options) Service: 5/5 (faultless, friendly, knowledgeable) Ambience: 4/5 (restaurant overlooks, lake, forest and vine yards) Drinks: 4/5 (wine license only) Total: 17.5/20
I really need to start looking for a wedding dress! Or at least I need to start to have some sort of vision on what I am looking for! It all seems like a bit of an overwhelming task to begin so thankfully my bridesmaid Amber took the lead and knowing my style she kindly booked an appointment for me with Donna Tobin. The task of co-ordinating all three of us (Kate, Amber and I) proved more difficult than we thought as on the day each of us ran late for our own individual reasons. This resulted in us arriving nearly 45 minutes late for our appointment. We sheepishly entered the old bungalow style house in Subiaco apologising profusely all hot and sticky from the rush.
After browsing through her collection I chose four different styles to try on and in nearly a blink of an eye our time was up! I had officially entered this weird world of bridal and was starting to really enjoy myself! We walked away with some valuable ideas on things to look for in our next dress expedition and chatted excitedly about them as we headed down to Rokeby Road in search of a thirst quencher!
After a short few steps we arrived out the front of Bistro Felix – a familiar favourite of mine. I have dined here a number of times and always been impressed with whole package – great service, food and prices. They have a “petit lunch” menu which you can enjoy two courses for $40 or three courses for $45 including a glass of house wine. Excellent value right in the heart of Subiaco! We relaxed into the bistro feel of the place while we cooled our parched throats with some buttery sparkling wine (which I cannot recall the name!).
The Boy and I have recently been on a bit of a vegan detox which has left me craving fish, fish and more fish. Consequently I went a bit overboard and ordered fish for both my entrée and my main. Very unconventional but so satisfying! The home cured gravlax was tender and slightly sweet however could have done with a touch more creamy sauce gribiche.
Amber ordered the “wild game” terrine which was made from pork and had pistachios speckled through it. It was topped with some port and apple chutney and served with some toasted brioche. It looked so meaty and she was very happy with her choice.
Kate decided to go vegetarian and ordered the buffalo mozzarella salad with artichoke, sun-dried tomato and aubergine. Her dish was beautifully balanced and she was delighted to note that every component of her salad was served at the perfect cool temperature with no pockets of tepid food to mar any of the flavours.
My main was so simple but executed perfectly, two fillets of garfish with a lightly dressed salad and some fresh lemon. It complemented my entrée just how I wanted it to and I was left satisfied with my fish fix.
Amber had the wild mushroom risotto which was packed full of meaty mushrooms of all types and topped with shaving of parmesan. I was very envious of this dish!
Kate had the Toulouse sausage which is a traditional pork sausage from the South-western part of France. Her meal was a decent size with a fat juicy pork sausage sitting atop of some creamy Paris mash. It was garnished with a colourful array of flowers that she shared around for all of us to nibble on for fun.
Of course I had to order the mushroom sides. As many of your dear readers will know I have a strong affinity for mushrooms and seeing as I couldn’t have the risotto this was the next best thing! They were served in the cutest little Scanpan pot and were so succulent. Hidden in the pot amongst the mushrooms were also some little gems of whole roasted garlic cloves which oozed out their pasty contents into the pan giving even more flavour!
The girls had the chocolate and caramel tart which was so decadent and rich. Both of them struggled to finish their dessert after their decent sized mains. I ordered the crème brûlée (which I had NO trouble eating by the way!). After my previous lumpy experience of this dish at Celyta’s where instead of caramelising the surface they poured blobs of toffee on top, this was a wonderful and much more traditional reprieve to my taste buds. Always a favourite, I will look forward to continuing to return to Bistro Felix for more long lazy lunches in the future.Bistro Felix 118-120 Rokeby Road, Subiaco 6008 | (08) 9388 3077 | www.bistrofelix.com.au Price: $$$$ (Petit lunch menu 2/3 courses $40/$45, Dinner entrees $22-26, Mains $37-41) Food: 4.8/5 (excellent value, would go back just for the mushrooms!) Service: 4/5 (fairly attentive, occasionally needed prompting for topping up our wine) Ambience: 3.7/5 (great bistro vibe – love the artwork on the walls) Drinks: 4/5 (big wine list – lots of options) Total: 16.5/20
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I simply love the concept of wine bars. Imagine a relaxing atmosphere without all the hype and pretention of a formal dining establishment, then add in a well thought out wine list plus some quality food and there you have it….the perfect relaxing quiet night out. Establishments such as Must Wine Bar have mastered this idea to perfection – providing awesome food and service in the best locations and venues. I know I can go to Must on any night of the week and be guaranteed a reliably fabulous night without disappointment. I really wanted to add Clarence’s Bar to my list of wine bar favourites in Perth, especially in light of the recent poor experience we had at Five Bar. In fact I really wanted to love it so much that at the start of our evening there I found myself almost starting to make excuses for all their shortcomings before the Chompchomp voice inside me screamed back “NO! Don’t do it!”
The night was a glut of mistakes and delays to the point that it became quite a comical conversation topic for the evening. As per usual I had notified the kitchen well in advance of my no gluten and no onion requirements. My sister also suffers from fructose malabsorption and I wanted to ensure that she could enjoy her time eating out in Perth as much as she does in her foodie hometown of Melbourne.
The night began with us being seated in one of their booths. The design of these booths was quite curious and I’m not sure what unusually proportioned people they had in mind to sit in them. They are meant to sit four people in them however realistically only four miniature people could successfully squeeze in and still be able to raise their arms up to eat their meals. I felt so sorry for the boy as he really struggled to actually fit into the booth at all – he is a strong, broad shouldered man and stands at 6 feet 3 inches tall – certainly not a small person by anyone’s definition. The poor love shuffled and wriggled in his failed attempts at getting comfortable. Fortunately my sister, Mum and I have all have quite small frames so we managed to crowd in tightly around him. But the bizarreness of the booths did not stop there. The table is set as an oddly high level and the seats are very low – giving one the impression the table is like a bib. It actually came up to the top of our chest. Coupled with being jammed in like sardines it did not make for easy eating.
Our waitress was very well prepared to go through their menu with us and she knew all the dishes on the menu thoroughly. She proceeded to read it out dish by dish, informing us that nearly every dish contained either gluten or onion. There were a small handful of dishes that she explained the onion (or gluten) could be omitted by leaving out particular key ingredients such as the accompanying sauce or base. I get frustrated when this happens – I feel like I’m punished because of my allergies with a more bland or tasteless version of a potentially great dish just because the chef won’t offer substitutions. It’s easy enough to leave an ingredient out – but a talented and creative chef can offer alternatives to ensure the dish flavours remain. This is why I always notify the venue in advance to give the chef time to think and plan.
For entree I ordered one of the few dishes that could be served unaltered which was the barbecued squid. Unfortunately it had been barbecued a tad too long and although I don’t mind a little chargrilled flavour, squid does not do well once it ventures into the well-done and chewy side. I felt the dish had so much potential if cooked correctly as the chermoula spices were uplifting however there is no coming back from tough tentacles.
My mum ordered the seared scallops served on a creative cauliflower brulee with shavings of pork crackle. The feeling of lost potential came through even more strongly with this dish as it was served meagrely lukewarm and on a cold plate. It left us with that sinking feeling of knowing we missed out of something amazing due to oversight and poor timing.
Following along the cold dish vibe, the boy’s soup was similarly served at a tepid temperature and I was unable to get any positive comment out of him about this dish. Unlike pasta, no matter how great a soup is, if it’s meant to be hot, it is rarely enjoyable cold. His bowl for the soup was also cold leaving us thinking someone must have forgotten to turn the heat lamps and plate warmers on.
Our dishes came out at haphazard times, so by the time I had finished my cold tough squid; my sister had only just received her order of the gnocchi. On inspection they looked like the familiar soft and fluffy pillows you would expect, however on tasting the dish my sister questioned to us whether the peas contained in the dish tasted frozen. Upon tasting a few of them I had to agree; there was no burst of flavour as I squeezed the pea between my teeth and they left a distinctive floury after-taste in my mouth. Thank goodness the company was great because the food was heading down a one way street to nowhere! To add to the errors of the evening, as we were sipping on our second glass of Chardonnay, I started wondering to myself why it tasted sweet. Had all this mishmash of tasting and scrutinising everyone’s meals confused my palate? Surely not! Then my sister piped up: “This doesn’t taste like the Chardonnay we ordered! I think they have given us the wrong wine!” We called our waitress over, informed her of our cold meals and asked about our strange tasting wine. Off she quickly went to go and check with the bar staff from which she returned promptly with fresh glasses of Chardonnay in hand.
It was at this point in time, we desperately started wishing that sight of me taking photos of our dishes coupled with our polite complaints would ensure that the remainder of night would proceed with minimal more mistakes. Our hopes were in vain as the next agglomeration of errors proceeded to pan out. Our next round of meals were brought out at staggered times and once again on stone cold plates. At the beginning of the night when she went through the menu in detail with us, she stipulated we couldn’t eat one of the side dishes of chickpeas because it had onion in it, so obviously we didn’t ordered this. Instead we chose the green beans and some parmesan fries for our side dishes plus we each ordered a second entrée for our main dish.
Despite having a whole discussion with her about the chickpeas unsuitability for us, lo and behold some chickpeas get placed on our table. We had to send these back only to have them replaced with a dish of undercooked, tough woody beans that were barely edible. After some considerable wait, some of our meals followed along with the serve of fries. All the fries were cold, yes cold fries. Now honestly, cold fries amount to nothing but grossness. There is no excuse for that surely.
Lucky for me for my second course I had ordered the house cured venison, a dish that was meant to be served cold! It was the only dish that deserved any praise for the night. The sweet beetroot sauce nearly got licked off my plate and softened the saltiness of the cured venison.
The boy ordered the risotto which was of course served on a cold plate. It was at this point we called the waitress over once again and questioned her whether they had heat lamps in the kitchen. She commented to us that they do. We then delved further to explain to her that unfortunately all of our meals were served to us lukewarm. She interjected this feedback by remarking to us that my dish was meant to be served cold, and then proceeded to gloss over the fact that the remainder of the table’s dishes were not. She appeared to only listen to what she wanted to hear. After my comment that the flavours of our dishes had so much potential if only they were served at the correct temperature, she latched onto this feedback as positive and as she cleared the table she nodded her head saying: “Oh well, that’s good, as long as the flavours were delicious!” Huh? It was hard to know if she was being serious with such a ridiculous response!
Over all it was a meal that could have been amazing. The thought that was put behind the creation of the menu was inspiring but the execution was a complete failure. Was the chef just having a bad day? I’m not sure I want to find out and next time I’ll just head over the road to Must where I know I will walk away content.Price: $$$ (Entrée $19-23, Mains $23-38) Food: 4/10 Service: 4/10 Venue: 2.5/5 (for the insane booths) Total = 10.5/25 Clarence’s Bar 566 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley, WA 6050 | (08) 9228 9474 | clarences.com.au