This year’s Gourmet Escape was the hottest on record with temperatures soaring to 35°C on the Sunday. Fortunately the heat had no effect on the crowd levels and by the late morning the Gourmet Village was teeming with life. I was lucky enough to score front row seats to the first show on the main stage; the WA Signature Dish Final 2015 Cook-off.
For those of you who haven’t been following my coverage of WA Signature Dish this year, it is an annual cooking competition for amateur chefs that promotes Western Australia’s beautiful and abundant local produce.
Entrants must create a recipe that best represents our “State on a plate” using one or more of the “hero ingredients” from either the Gascoyne, Kimberley, Swan Valley & Surrounds or Peel regions.
I returned in an official capacity for 2015 to support the Gascoyne region and was so happy to see Jerolina Rankin progress to become the regional finalist. I met the lovely Jerolina last year on our trip up to the Gascoyne for the semi-finals and her passion and love for the region is endless.
I was told by insider sources that the judge’s votes were a very close call with all dishes being of an excellent standard, successfully showcasing the wonderful produce of their respective regions.
Of course there can only ever be one winner and it was music to my ears to hear the announcement that the winner for the WA Signature Dish 2015 is Jerolina with her Gascoyne seafood broth with Shark Bay wild prawns. Woo hoo!! Congratulations Jerolina and the Gascoyne producers!
After the excitement of the cook off, we headed over to the Buy West Eat Best stall to try some of the dishes ourselves. Sadly Jerolina’s dish had already sold out so we didn’t get to try it. Instead we ordered the dishes from the Kimberley and blogger Matt Cook’s dish from Perth.
We enjoyed both of the dishes and appreciated how hard the judges must have found picking a winner.
Historically my approach to attending the Gourmet Village has been to methodically visit every stall holder due to my well-known affliction with FOMO. It would be torture to see someone’s photo later that night on Instagram of a dish I didn’t get to eat! 😮
But due to a recent heavy burden of work related stress I have been a bit off my game leaving me with minimal tolerance to stand in the direct sun. Consequently the Boy and I used a more targeted approach to a couple of gluten free friendly stalls individually taking turns to line up in the sun while the other reserved a patch of shade.
Both dishes at the Bib & Tucker stall were gluten free friendly and it was hard to pick a favourite as they were both prepared and presented well. The charcoal roasted Blackwood Valley lamb shoulder was melt-in-your-mouth tender and was served with a dollop of charred eggplant purée, a dukkah crisp and pomegranate seeds.
The other Bib & Tucker dish was a pair of raw tuna tostadas; diced tuna served on a crisp tortilla with fresh avocado, green apple, radish and lime.
At the Genuinely Southern Forest stall they were promoting all the wonderful produce of the region. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointment that they didn’t participate in the WA Signature Dish competition this year as their region has so much to offer. The gluten free option on their menu was smooth avocado, lime and cream mousse topped with candied macadamia crumble and a coulis made from rustleberries, boysenberries and raspberries.
We made one more stop for a dish at Voyager Estate before heading upstairs to the air-conditioned Platinum Lounge. Their ocean trout tataki was heavenly, the fish was so silky and soft. It was served on a bed of Japanese mushrooms, pickled vegetables, edamame beans and miso soil.
I was close to overheating by this point, which is odd for me as I usually tolerate the heat well. I put it down to my recent feeling of burn out. I thanked our lucky stars I had purchased tickets to access the Audi Leeuwin Platinum Lounge. We both entered the air-conditioned bliss with a simultaneous sigh of bliss.
The Platinum Lounge costs $230 per person, and in addition to access into a cool sanctuary you have unlimited food provided in addition to two glasses of Leeuwin wine. The food was set out in various stations positioned around the upstairs venue, nearly all of which were totally gluten free. Of course the first place we hit up was the oyster bar. An endless serve of oysters, what more do I have to say? I think we nearly ate our tickets worth in oysters alone.
The paella was filled with seafood and had a pleasant hit of spice which of course the Boy wasn’t too pleased about. He has delicate taste buds. I had cooled down under the blasting air con and was more than happy to polish off his spicy serve for him.
The charcuterie was also entirely gluten free and the chef had gluten free crackers on offer however the crackers were placed on the bread platter and thus likely to be contaminated with bread crumbs.
The cheese platter station was much savvier and the waiter kept the normal crackers and gluten free ones separate from each other. Seeing as I had already blown my dairy allowance out for the weekend I decided to push the boat out and share a serve of each with the Boy. There were four cheeses offered; Tarago River Jensen’s Red, a washed rind cow’s milk cheese from Victoria; Cantal Entre-Deux, an aged French cheese made from raw cow’s milk; Queso de Murcia Al Vino, a semi-hard goat’s cheese from Spain and some Stilton, a classic blue cheese from Nottinghamshire, England.
By this point we were well and truly stuffed. We sat back contentedly and contemplated the long drive home as the chef lit up a BBQ and started cooked seafood. And yes, it was all gluten free. I pondered for a millisecond whether we fit any more food in before lining up for more food with my new found fellow Coeliac from Lunch with my bestie blog.
I am so pleased that the WA Signature Dish competition has progressed to making it to the main stage at such a key foodie event. We are blessed to live in a State with such varied climates across the regions giving us an abundance of fresh produce that must leave other States envious. Once again I wish a massive congratulations to Jerolina and Chef Pete Manifis for winning and look forward to covering the competition again next year.
Chompchomp was the official blogger for the Gascoyne region for WA Signature Dish. She paid for access into the Audi Platinum Lounge in full.
I love being part of unique dining experiences. I find the excitement of the unknown combined with the knowledge that it is a once off event makes the evening feel so special. Alphabet Soup Dining is a Perth-based pop-up restaurant run by chef Melissa Palinkas who is also the Executive Chef and part owner of Young George in East Fremantle. Melissa started Alphabet Soup because she wanted to offer a quirky degustation style meal where she could let her creativity run free. She holds a dinner event once monthly in locations all around Perth and has popped up in places like Milk’d in Maylands, Cutlery Draw in Manning, Frisk! Small Bar and 399 Bar in Northbridge and most recently at Canton Lounge in the City.
I have wanted to attend an Alphabet Soup dinner for some time so when I saw that chef Melissa was holding a truffle themed dinner this was my immediate cue to book us in. I can never say no to truffle. Before booking I checked that the event could cater for gluten free and was happily assured that it wouldn’t be a problem.
The Alphabet Soup events are based around a six course meal and the menus are published online just a few days before the event. After being seated for the evening, we received a couple of rounds of “snacks” that were not on the menu as a surprise. Our first treat was a reverse crayfish truffle sushi roll using locally caught Mindarie cray. The cray meat was tender and sweet having been cooked sous vide with truffle in the bag to infuse a strong flavour.
Our second surprise snack was a basket of miso lamb ribs, also cooked sous vide in a bag with truffle. The meat slid off the bones easily and the Boy and I sat speechless, both far too busy for words as we sucked and slurped each rib until it was clean.
Our next dish was a little theatrical; sake cured ocean trout with truffle with a yuzu and coconut salad. The portions of ocean trout were suspended on a miniature hanging line with pint-size pegs. Super cute.
The trout was matched with a pomelo mojito, made with Havana 7, pink grapefruit, lime and crème de menthe. It was an interesting experience having a meal matched with not just wines, but also a collection of cocktails.
Who said eating gluten free meant you had to miss out? My truffle chicken karage was made using tapioca flour and tasted just like the real thing. Two crispy morsels were accompanied by some truffled Japanese mustard aioli topped with black sesames. This was finger licking good chicken that left no grease on my hands, my only gripe was that I was left wanting more.
My fried chicken yearning was quickly forgotten upon the arrival of the next dish; broken truffle sticky rice with a 62 degree egg. It is hard not to fall madly in love with the magical combination of slow cooked eggs and truffle, and thankfully there are a number of chefs in Perth that have caught onto this simple decadence.
It is guaranteed that this combination will never fail to make me swoon, those flavours are perfectly married in heaven. Poised with my camera in hand, my predictable squeal of delight emitted when the Boy cut into his yolk was met with his usual eye roll. I may be a little over the top with my love for yolk porn, especially after a few cocktails.
For our next dish, we enjoyed a pork and truffle dumpling served in a richly flavoured dashi broth with fresh shiitake mushrooms. To finish the dish, shavings of fresh Manjimup truffle cascaded on the surface adding a stronger hit of truffiliciousness.
I was to learn that the element of surprise is the norm for the Alphabet Soup dinners. Our next course was yet another secret item that was not found on the menu. I really love surprise dishes! A super tender, baby carrot was cooked in truffle dashi before being grilled and then served with an XO sauce ash.
Our final main course was the seared duck breast, cooked Chinese BBQ style with truffle mushrooms, edamame and of course, fresh truffle.
The duck breast was crispy thin on the outside yet remained tender pink and buttery moist on the inside.
To freshen up our palates ready for dessert, we were given a bite sized spoonful of mandarin and yuzu jelly. It was uplifting and refreshing, combining perfectly with my jazzed up G&T made with Bombay Sapphire, lemon and jasmine tea.
Our dessert brought me back to my childhood when Mum and I would go to the Adelaide Central Markets to do our weekly food shopping. My reward for being the good daughter who would come along and help her mother would always be some sort of treat we shared before going home. Most weeks we would end up walking over to Adelaide’s Chinatown precinct and finding something delicious. These were the days I was oblivious to the fact gluten was killing me, and in my ignorance I would eagerly look forward to the times we would get ourselves a steam pork bun.
For our final course with Alphabet Soup, the Chef made a special batch of gluten free truffle and pear steam buns just for me. The buns were made using potato, corn flour and rice flour giving an authentic doughy, but fluffy texture. We were given truffle honey and Anglaise sauce to drizzle lavishly over our buns. It was a perfect way to end our evening.
We both thoroughly enjoyed our evening out with Alphabet Soup and will be watching out for her next event. There was all the right elements of entertainment, quirkiness and originality that I had hoped for with some extra surprises to boot. Chef Mel effortlessly catered for my dietary needs without making me feel like I missed out on any of the degustation experience. Thanks Melissa!
Alphabet Soup | www.alphabetsoupdining.com
Canton Bar | 532 Hay Street, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9325 8887 | www.cantonbar.com.au
The Boy is the youngest in a family of three boys. His oldest brother still lives in Perth, but his other brother is a nuclear physicist who lives in Boston. His brother has lived in the US for over ten years and sadly is unlikely to ever return to Australia permanently. Every couple of years, his brother tries to return back to Perth with his lovely American wife to spend time with the family. Because American employees don’t receive as much annual leave as we do in Australia, they both struggle to get time off work and will save up their leave for a few years before being able to visit us.
This year was their first family visit to see us in over three years which was made even more special as it was also the first trip since the birth of their adorable daughter Noelle. The Boy and I had been busting to meet our little niece ever since she was born, especially after having to cancel our planned 2014 USA trip where we were going to go and stay with them in Boston.
To maximise quality time with his brother’s family, the Boy and his brother organised a family mini-break in Margaret River staying at the secluded Merribrook Retreat. While I already knew my brother-in-law enjoyed fine wine, I had never spent enough time with him to know if he was a foodie like us. You can imagine my pure delight when I discovered that both him and his wife were super keen to join us on a degustation for lunch while down south. I booked us in at Studio Bistro in Yallingup.
I notified the chef in advance of my dietary requirements and they were more than happy to accommodate for me. Studio Bistro’s degustation offers six courses for $95 or $135 with matched wines. We had already been wine tasting at a number of vineyards earlier in the morning and were in the mood for a bit of fun so we all chose the matched wines.
We started off with an amuse bouche of exquisitely fresh steak tartare made with succulent, tender Cape Grim grass-fed beef. The steak tartare was served with an emulsion containing a subtle kick of tabasco.
Our first course was an asparagus gazpacho served with a thick blue cheese cream that was poured table side. I love interactive dishes, they always make for more interesting photography provided I’m quick enough!
The aromatic butteriness of the blue cheese cream made this one of those dishes that leaves you wanting to lick the bowl at the end. Crispy jamon iberico added wonderful textural contrasts to the dish.
Our next course sent me further spiraling into a state of heavenly bliss. Many of my regular readers will know how I am totally obsessed with slow cooked eggs. I would actually be happy to eat a degustation with them included in every course. My chunks of slow cooked silky salmon were arranged around a slow cooked free range hen’s egg and drizzled in syrupy teriyaki.
My hen’s egg was picture perfect with a nearly translucent egg white and ooey gooey yolk porn centre. The salmon was topped with rice crisps that were made from scratch in house. The chef explained to me that to make them he boils the rice until all starch come out and then rolls the rice out between sheets of baking paper. He then dehydrates these sheets of squished rice at 50 degrees for 17 hours before being fried to serve. The rice crisps were puffy and light, dissolving like prawn crackers on my tongue.
Our next dish was made using local, free range pork from Big Red Pork. Unlike many intensive pig farms, Big Red pigs are raised in family groups in a more natural environment of paddocks filled with woodlands, creek lines and pasture. This allows the pigs to forage for food like in the wild. Their natural diet gives the meat a darker colour when compared to intensive, less humanely farmed pork.
The pork was served in two ways; a cube of twice cooked pork belly paired with a soft mound of pork cheek and a generous amount of garlic confit and vanilla dressing.
I loved how not only does Studio Bistro focus strongly on using locally farmed and grown Western Australian produce, but that they also ensure to source their meat from organic free range farms where the animals live humanely and are ethically farmed.
Our final main course consisted of a delicately soft portion of slow cooked organic Blackwood Valley lamb rump served with a yellow curry whip and fried sweetbreads. Fresh cooked peas and shavings of coconut gave this dish an interesting fusion of flavours. The rump came accompanied by a lamb gyoza, which meant I couldn’t eat it due to the dumpling pastry. However the chef must have pre-empted my disappointment in advance and kindly plated some of the dumpling filling onto my dish so I didn’t feel like I missed out at all.
The degustation dessert wasn’t gluten free so I chose to have the cheese course instead. There were three cheeses on the platter; Manchego, Heysen Blue and Wensleydale which were served with gluten free crackers, quince paste, walnuts and some fruit. Manchego is a hard Spanish cheese that is made from sheep’s milk and is one of my most favourite cheeses of all time. Heysen Blue is a mild, fruity blue cheese that is made in the Adelaide Hills with cow’s milk. Wensleydale is a classic, crumbly cows from Yorkshire in the UK.
As our lunch drew to an end, we were joined by the Boy’s parents and of course our gorgeous little niece. Upon seeing my little niece, I was surprisingly satisfied that I had eaten enough for the day and left the rest of the adults sitting at the table to join my niece in the gardens. Fueled by a number of glasses of wine I proceeded to leap about and dance with her to music on my iPhone before eventually we both tumbled on the grass puffed out and giggling madly. Such fun times, it is hard when distance separates you from those you love but hopefully we can get over to visit them in Boston soon.
7 Marrinup Drive, Yallingup, WA | (08) 9756 6164 | www.thestudiobistro.com.au
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
A few years ago researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that people inherit their work ethic, or if it’s the case a lack of one, from their fathers not their mothers. This means that those who grow up with a hard-working, career focused dad will likely grow up to have similar attitudes. I am very grateful to have received Dad’s career orientated genes and it makes me so happy to see him proud of my achievements. There is however a slight downside to being so dedicated to our respective jobs, simply never having enough time in the day or in fact days in the week. It is far too easy to let the work-life balance slip off kilter and both Dad and I suffer from this.
Consequently it can be hard to pin down Dad and Tess for a weekend, especially as they live in Melbourne, but when we offered for their Christmas gift the lure of a full weekend eating truffles it was too good for them to refuse. We wanted to show them the full Truffle Kerfuffle experience so although it was a lot of eating I booked tickets for the Hunt and Harvest Dinner on the Friday, the Southern Forests Food Bowl Lunch on the Saturday and finally ending with Sophie Zalokar’s Truffle dinner at Foragers on the Saturday night. We booked our accommodation at one of Sophie’s beautiful chalets on the Foragers property in Pemberton.
Truffle Kerfuffle, or TK as it is known affectionately by the locals, kicked off in style on the Friday night with the Gala Opening Hunt and Harvest dinner. I loved observing the wide range in interpretation of the evening’s dress code; with some guests donning full satin evening gowns while others were dressed for comfort in jeans and sneakers. Upon arrival we were handed a welcome cocktail to sip as we found our way to our pre-allocated tables.
For last year’s TK, I planned ahead and had organised to be seated near decent lighting for the dinner event so that my photography didn’t suffer. This year I totally forgot and my heart sunk a little when I glanced over and saw that our arranged seats were situated in one of the darkest parts of the marquee.
The Hunt and Harvest Dinner consisted of five courses matched with local wines with each course prepared by one of the weekend’s celebrity chefs. All the chefs remained very focused on utilising the local produce in the Southern Forest region, not just black truffles. As we eagerly waited for our first course, our waitress came over to the table with a big grin on her face. “The chef just whipped up a surprise dish for you all; it’s a truffle croquette!” Everyone reached in excitedly to sample the crispy delights, but alas I missed out because of course they weren’t gluten free. The Boy happily snuffled up my croquette for me.
The first official course was made by Matthew Evans from the TV series Gourmet Farmer. Matthew is a chef that shares TK’s food philosophy of eating local and seasonal. He prepared a smooth textured brandade using locally caught Redfin perch, potatoes and of course plenty of Manjimup truffle.
The second dish was by far the best of the night and yet sadly one that I failed to capture on camera. Pata Negra’s David Coomer is somewhat of a truffle expert and was one of the first Perth chefs to twig onto the bright idea of growing his own truffles. David’s marron dish was close to orgasmic and for that moment all four of us stopped talking mid-conversation to focus attentively on sucking and slurping every single last morsel of flavour from our marron shells. The marron flesh was cooked to the millisecond of perfection and was literally drowning in a decadent brown butter truffle vinaigrette topped with grated truffle. What astounded me the most with this dish was that David somehow managed to ooze aromatic truffiliciousness into every mouthful; even the enclosed meat in the marron’s legs and claws tasted like truffle. It was heaven.
As the four of us glowed in the aftermath of marron ecstasy, Dad voiced his sympathy for the chef whose dish followed next as he imagined even a wonderful dish would be bland in comparison to that marron. Scott Bridger from Bib & Tucker and May Street Larder created his dish using local buckwheat and seasonal Jerusalem artichokes, topped with milk curd, fresh apple, sprouted buckwheat, wood sorrel and truffle.
I am guessing that he included some other gluten flours to be able to make the dough so fluffy, and thus my gluten free adapted version was made using a thin buckwheat crêpe. After indulging on copious rich truffle butter from the marron, I actually welcomed the lighter flavours.
Chef Kenny McHardy recently moved up to Perth from Albany and soon will be opening his new restaurant Manuka Woodfire Kitchen in Fremantle. He opted for a more hearty styled dish of a pork pithivier which is sort of a French equivalent of a meat pie but with a fluffy puff pastry. It was served with heirloom pumpkin and some local Tangletoe organic cider made at Mountford Wines in Pemberton.
Fluffy textures in gluten free pastry is a hard creation to prepare and Chef Kenny made the wise decision to not to ruin the dish with a lackluster gluten free pastry alternative. Instead, I received two buttery soft pork rillettes for my gluten free alternative. As many of my readers may recall, pork is not generally my first protein choice. But offer me pork lavished with luscious truffle and I can easily be swayed!
To finish off the evening, we enjoyed dessert made by Sophie Budd from Taste Budds Cooking Studio. Sophie bravely chose to made her dish truffle-less and used another culinary delicacy locally grown in the Southern Forests region; native finger limes. She prepared a smooth lemon souffle and topped it with adorable little pearls of Pemberton finger lime. I love how this fruit has been marketed as “citrus caviar”, it is such an appealing concept.
We commenced our next morning at the Truffle & Wine Co to go on a truffle hunt. My stepmum Tess is a huge animal lover like I am, with a particular weakness for Labradors. We got to meet the truffle dog Scrappy, a black Lab whose gentle nature and large brown eyes won everyone’s hearts especially Tess’s.
Not only is Scrappy trained to detect where truffles are growing under the ground, but she can also determine which truffles are ripe and therefore ready for harvest while leaving the immature truffles to continue to grow.
Using specific head gestures Scrappy was able to indicate to her trainer if there was more than one truffle in a single location and if they were growing together in a cluster or spaced a distance apart. Such a clever dog!
After a few cuddles with Scrappy, we returned to Fonty’s pool just in time for the Southern Forests Food Bowl Lunch. It was going to be a big day of non-stop eating so I had skipped breakfast in preparation and was ready with a very healthy appetite.
In a similar fashion to the dinner, our lunch was focused around showcasing some of the Southern Forest’s wonderful local produce with the black truffle taking centre stage. Each course was matched with local regional wines.
Our entree was prepared by Aaron Carr, the Executive Chef at Vasse Felix in Margaret River who was awarded 2015 Chef of the Year in the WA Good Food Guide. Using the locally farmed Blue Ridge marron, he paired it with sweet pear, cauliflower and truffle.
For the main course Chef Luke Burgess slow cooked some finger licking beef short ribs. The short ribs were served shared style in the centre table with each guest receiving their own plate of smoked quince and kohl rabi salad to pair with the tender beef.
The meal was rounded off nicely with dessert by Tom Randolph from No. 4 Blake Street. Savoury and sweet flavours were married with a truffle and Jerusalem artichoke custard topped with chocolate consommé and shards of salted chocolate.
After Saturday’s lunch we opted to head home from TK early as I was still suffering from my stupid back injury and needed some time out with my feet up to ease the pain. We had the Foragers Truffle Kerfuffle Seasonal Dinner that evening and I wanted to be able to last the distance. Foragers Field Kitchen holds sell-out seasonal dinners most Saturday nights which consist of a set menu served in a shared style. They have a BYO license.
Sophie Zalokar is a passionate advocate for the Southern Forest region and sources quality local produce to use in her kitchen as much as possible. Her cooking style is best described as authentic country cooking and nearly everything she prepares is made from scratch. For our first course, we started with a white bean and parmesan soup topped with truffle cream and fresh chervil. It was a crisp, cold night out and this shot of warmth was just what I needed.
For our second course we enjoyed some wood-roasted Jerusalem artichokes and sprout hearts. I haven’t tried them wood roasted before, it seems to be more popular to served them pureed rather than whole. They have a distinct but subtle sweetness to them which I have since learnt is due to the fructose content, something to note if you have fructose malabsoprtion. Toasted buckwheat and hazelnuts added a wonderful textural element to the dish. Some labna, or fresh yoghurt cheese, was made from Bannister Downs milk and of course everything was lavished with plenty of fresh truffle.
Whilst I’m certainly not a chef, it seems to me that rabbit can be a very temperamental meat to prepare. I often find it to be dry and tough unless it is served in some sort of slow cooked stew. Forager’s cider braised rabbit was none of those things and was so delicately tender and moist. It was served with celeriac cream, porcini juice, fresh truffle and Brussels sprout leaves.
I was thankful that our dessert was lovely and light as we had been solidly eating for most of the day. The smooth honey custard sat gently in my overly full belly and the persimmon and pumpkin seed salad was a refreshing way to finish a perfect meal.
We were yet to explore much of the Truffle Kerfuffle Farmers Market so we headed back on the Sunday morning as fresh as daisies to check it out.
There was an abundance of local food and wine to try with a smaller selection of hot food stalls to purchase more substantial meals. What sparked the Boy’s attention the most were the truffle inoculated trees available for sale and although we don’t have a property in Manjimup he showed great interest in getting one. Dad being the always generous man stopped in at the stall and bought one for his only son-in-law.
After the previous day’s feasting we were happy for a light lunch and while Dad and Tess wandered the Market tasting wines the Boy and I sat on the grass and ate some heartwarming market food. We had filled our bags with purchases of local produce to bring home including fresh truffles, local potatoes and an enormous spaghetti squash.
That evening back in our chalet, we had the most simple but exquisite meal of mashed potato with truffle butter and fresh truffle. It was as heavenly as all the other dishes we devoured over the three days, except of course for David Coomer’s marron. Now THAT was a one in a lifetime moment. It is always sad moment when TK is over, but the four of us are already counting down the days until next year’s truffle feasting. It looks like it might be an annual event for Dad and Tess too now!
Truffle Kerfuffle is held on the last weekend of June every year at Fonty’s Pool in Manjimup. Refer to their website www.trufflekerfuffle.com.au for more details
Disclaimer: Chompchomp purchased the tickets to the Hunt and Harvest dinner, Food Bowl lunch, Truffle Hunts and Winter Seasonal Dinner at Foragers at her own expense. She was grateful to receive a media pack with free passes, wine glasses and transportation to events for all her family from Offshoot Creative.
Pata Negra | 26 Stirling Highway, Nedlands WA 6009 | (08) 9389 5517 | www.patanegra.com.au
Bib & Tucker |18 Leighton Beach Boulevard, North Fremantle WA 6159 | (08) 9433 2147 | www.bibandtucker.net.au
May Street Larder | Shop 23, 155 Canning Highway, East Fremantle WA 6158 | www.maystreetlarder.com.au
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen | Shop 6/7,128-134 High Street, Fremantle, Western Australia 6160 | Facebook
Sophie Budd, Taste Budds Cooking Studio
Vasse Felix | Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Caves Road, Margaret River WA 6284 | (08) 9756 5050 | www.vassefelix.com.au
No 4 | 4 Blake St, North Perth, 6006 WA | (08) 9444 6678 | www.no4blakestreet.com.au
Foragers | Lot 1 Roberts Road, Pemberton WAZ 6260 | (08) 9776 1580 | www.foragers.com.au
Colonial Brewing | Osmington Road, Margaret River WA 6285 | (08) 9758 8177 | www.colonialbrewingco.com.au
Kent Street Deli | Unit 3/1 Kent Road, Rockingham WA 6168 | (08) 9528 5335 | www.kentstreetdeli.com.au
Lady Marmalade | Donnybrook, WA | 0417 415 073 | Facebook
At the very tail end of my annual leave I received a spontaneous call from one of my dearest friends and business partner Chris to join her on a lunch date. She was freed of the responsibility of her little offspring for the afternoon and wanted to make the most of it. She wasn’t fussy where we went and let me choose the venue. With so many new bars popping up around town it is hard to keep up despite being a food blogger. One bar that has sparked my interest is Shadow Wine Bar located in the new Alex Hotel. Moving away from the current trend of tight spaces and walk-ins, Shadow Wine Bar fills a large space with dramatic black and white interiors, massively high ceilings and an industrial warehouse-gone-chic feel.
I tend to avoid making an early judgement on the fluidity of service for new venues like this, not only are the staff new but everything is new and everyone deserves time to land on their feet. So I excused our waiter’s error in telling me all the pasta dishes were gluten free along with a dish with a rye crumb. It was even easier to forgive him quickly when the rest of our service was accompanied with smiles and attentiveness.
We started with the potato crisp topped with fresh crab and a lemon aioli. These morsels were a mouthful of flavour however the potato didn’t hold up to the weight of its toppings and became a little soggy in the middle.
The pan-fried haloumi was a squeaky treat matched beautifully with slightly sweet, slightly sour pink grapefruit and peppery fresh watercress. A simple collection of ingredients that balanced elegantly.
The veal carpaccio was the winner of the day. Nearly translucent slices of veal were marbled with spider thin strands of white fat and tore apart like tissue paper across the plate. Truffle mustard drizzled generously on top gave a subtle hint of truffiliciousness.
Shadow Bar’s crispy pork jowl is a must for pork lovers. The crackling was browned to a tooth-chipping, crunchable texture while the underlying unctuous goodness melted in the mouth without any lingering aftertaste.
A meal with Chris is never complete without sweets. In fact, over nearly two decades of friendship I cannot recall ever eating with her and not ingesting something saccariferous. Not that I am complaining because I am no different. After a round of giggles from us both trying to pronounce “tart tartin” properly in French, Chris ordered the pear tart tartin. It was served with tonka bean ice cream which had a similar flavour to vanilla with a hint of caramel.
The only gluten free dessert option was the poached rhubarb served with a scoop of mascarpone and shards of meringue. Whilst my dessert certainly looked the part, I found its flavours to be underwhelming with the creaminess and tartness unbalanced due to a distinct lack of sweetness. It almost felt like there was a missing ingredient.
Our lunch experience at Shadow Wine Bar left me undecided on my opinion so the following day I brought the Boy back there for lunch for a second chance. Our waitress was much more clued on about what was gluten free and sailed me through the menu without hesitation. Sadly only a handful of the small plates could be adapted and despite being a hotel there was no gluten free bread available.
We started with the jamon iberico which was served with fresh bread on the side for the Boy and some very tasty pickles. Like the carpaccio, the meat was high quality and similarly soft and flavourful.
The fish of the day was two fillets of pan-fried King George Whiting with a puttanesca sauce made with olives, eggplant, zucchini and capsicum. I picked out the fructose loaded onions easily. As the Boy devoured his share he wondered why I had any reservations about this venue as he had only experienced winning dishes.
Our next dish was the braised lamb neck ragu and this cemented his positive opinion on Shadow. Served on a bed of soft polenta, the lamb was delicately textured, moist and rich and we both savoured each mouthful.
In contrast to Chris, the Boy doesn’t have a sweet tooth except for his weakness for ice cream. I was happy to settle for some cheese instead especially as I had seen two of my favourites of all time on the menu; namely Manchego and Brillat Savarin. These are two very different cheeses but are both ground-shakingly amazing. The cheeses were served at the perfect temperature to maximise their flavour but sadly there were no gluten free crackers or bread to accompany. I am hoping this is just one small oversight that they plan to resolve.
I am glad I returned back to Shadow Wine Bar as I can now appreciate it has oodles of potential. Housed in an impressive space, with a short to the point menu and serving wines by the glass or carafe Shadow Wine Bar proves that our little city Perth is finally growing up. I am hoping that they will progress to becoming a little more gluten free friendly so that people like me can enjoy more of their European styled menu.
Shadow Wine Bar
214 William Street, Northbridge WA | (08) 6430 4010 | www.shadowwinebar.com.au
There were many things that I discovered about Tasmania on our first trip; their weather is unpredictable, their folk are super friendly, their landscape is breathtaking and their food is more than just good, it is brilliant. We were hard pressed to find somewhere that wasn’t fabulous and what I loved most of all was their locally farmed oysters. I became a crazed fool insisting on eating oysters at every opportunity and I struggled to go for more than a a day without fulfilling my addiction.
We were house-siting in the North Hobart area which is a just a stone’s throw away from the CBD. This conveniently allowed me to hit up some of the best places in town without much effort. One cold midweek evening I knocked off for the day from my locum job at the Hobart Cat Clinic and joined the Boy for a brisk walk into town to the Westend Pumphouse. The Pumphouse is a relatively new venue that recently debuted in The Financial Review’s Top Restaurants of Australia.
The restaurant is housed in an impressive open plan industrial space with massive high ceilings, exposed wooden roof beams and a crackling hot open fire in the centre. Our waiter helped us negotiate the wine list to settle on a luscious bottle of local red while he talked us through their menu. Most of their menu focuses on using locally sourced produce which of course won my heart in a second. We started with some natural local oysters,. Plump, creamy and slightly sweet I still have wistful dreams about these beauties.
The octopus was also locally caught and was served charred with Pink eye potatoes, tangy bitter lemon puree and dried olives. This was such a refreshing dish and it matched well with the succulent oysters.
Pumphouse offer a number of small and large share plates including some mouth-watering slow cooked meat options. I saw posted up on the chalkboard near the bar that you can pre-order whole roasted pig served with all the trimmings for $45 per person for groups of nine or more.
Neither of us are really great pork eaters and we happily we settled for the dry aged sirloin; a massive 1.4 kilograms of beef cooked on the bone for maximum flavour and then chopped up into bite sized pieces for more elegant eating. Each cube of tender beef was lavishly drizzled in a toothsome, rich white anchovy sauce. In an attempt to balance out this high protein feast, we also received a small serve of local Pink eye potatoes tossed in cultured butter. It was the perfect nourishment for the unexpected cold windy weather.
Despite feeling like we had nearly eaten half a cow, it was not exactly a surprise we still managed to find room for dessert. The gluten free option was an adapted version of their molasses parfait and was served with smoked apple and blueberries.
Along with oysters, local blueberries became another Hobart daily addiction for me meaning the added novelty of smoked blueberries made this dessert quite interesting. Because my stomach doesn’t tolerate high fructose apple I spent a fair few minutes trying to unsuccessfully separate the apple from the blueberries before giving in and letting the Boy eat the rest of the fruit while I tucked into the silky parfait. 😉
Westend Pumphouse is a funky, modern eatery with a casual vibe serving simple local produce. I could have easily seen myself relaxing many a Sunday session there if I was a Hobart resident. They offer a changing menu and have a dynamic team that obviously love what they do, and do it well.
Westend Pumphouse 105 Murray Street, Hobart TAS | (03) 6234 7339 | www.pumphouse.com.au
I recently traveled to Tasmania on a two-week working holiday to help out at a colleague’s cat-only veterinary clinic. The Australia Day long weekend was conveniently embedded in the middle of my trip and so the Boy flew over on the Friday to join me. I was getting paid holiday pay from my work in addition to my locum wage from the cat clinic so I decided to splurge and booked us two nights accommodation at the luxury resort Saffire Freycinet on the east coast of Tasmania.
Saffire Freycinet is a two and a half hour drive north of Hobart through some very picturesque landscapes. The road is windy and undulating making it slow going but is enjoyable to do at a leisurely pace. The Freycinet peninsula is a stunning part of Tasmania with much of this area now turned into a National Park to preserve its natural beauty. The landscape is made of massive eroded mountains of granite known as The Hazards, Mt Graham and Mt Freycinet. These mountains are thought to be over 400 million years old and are home to many native wildlife creatures.
The climate is some of the mildest in Tasmania with temperatures often much warmer than the rest of the island. We left the torrential rain, wind and cold temperatures behind us in Hobart to enjoy some much needed sunshine and clear skies.
Saffire offer all-inclusive rates at their ultra-private location where we found our every whim catered for. We originally booked a Luxury Suite but were upgraded on arrival to a Signature Suite which contained all the features of the Luxury Suites but with the addition of a larger living space, a relaxing deck lounge and a bathroom overlooking Great Oyster Bay.
It is a wise plan to arrive at Saffire with an empty stomach as all the meals are included; expect a three course breakfast and lunch followed by a seven course degustation for dinner every day. Yes, you heard me, a dego every day. It was hard going. 😉
Lunch and breakfast is served in Palate restaurant which offers stunning views of the Hazards. It was such a treat to head there early for dinner and watch the sun slowly set over the mountains.
The menu for each evening’s degustation is changed daily with the chef focusing strongly on using local and seasonal produce.
A bottomless minibar and alcoholic beverages from a selected list also came at no extra charge. I swear we both gained a number of kilograms in our three day stay. My dietary requirements were very well attended to right down to the lovely touch of gluten free afternoon tea being delivered to our room each day.
The staff form a very well-polished team as the number of guests at the resort is quite small allowing for very individualised and personal treatment to everyone. It is easy to see they all really loved their jobs and there wasn’t a single staff member who didn’t gush over their love for the region.
There are a number of activities to do at the resort with many of them inclusive at no extra charge; such as archery, escorted hikes, oyster farm tours and more. There are also a number of signature experiences, however these came at an additional cost.
One evening we chose to go on the signature Sunset Cruise on one of Saffire’s own boats. Our captain negotiated us through a few rough seas to find us a quiet cove where he cracked out the Tasmanian sparkling wine to share around along with oysters and smoked salmon. He also had a pre-packed separate collection of gluten free snacks for me to enjoy.
Our favourite activity was the oyster farm tour. The Boy and I donned some funky waders and walked out into the water to see up close how oysters are grown.
Our guide showed us expertly how to shuck an oyster and then proceeded to shuck a bunch of them plucked straight from the sea. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!
For those wanting to burn off some of your increased calorie intake, there are numerous hikes to do either escorted or alone through the mountains.
Saffire also have an open-range Tasmanian Devil enclosure where we got to see the resident group of devils feed and interact with other.
These devils originally formed part of a breeding colony and have since retired to live out their days in the luxury of Saffire’s massive natural enclosure.
It was a sad moment checking out of our room at Saffire as this is a place that I never wanted to leave. Every single moment felt like total luxury although I dare say we ate way too much food!
Our Saffire package included daily breakfast, lunch and dinner, a very well stocked complimentary mini bar and a selection of alcoholic beverages. Our room had free Wi-Fi internet access and we were given a credit of $150 for the Spa. Our luxury suite cost $1800 per night, and we were upgraded to a Signature suite $2100 at no cost.
Saffire Freycinet | 2352 Coles Bay Road, Coles Bay, Tasmania 7215 | www.saffire-freycinet.com.au
This week is the final week for Eat Drink Perth festivities and for my last official EDP hurrah I attended the “South of France” dinner at Blackbird Restaurant in East Perth. Blackbird is a quaint little place tucked away in the corner nook of Claisebrook Cove facing out onto the water. Their focus is on serving traditional rustic European dishes and they have an interesting wine list with a collection of both local and International wines.
The South of France Dinner includes a three course meal accompanied by a bottle of French wine to share for the very reasonable price of $55 per person. I notified the kitchen staff in advance of my gluten free dietary needs and found then to be more than happy to accommodate.
Our entrée consisted of a share plate with three traditional Southern French dishes; a mushroom truffle dip with fresh baguette, pissaladière and salad Nicoise. I am always so grateful that there are many restaurants in Perth that now offer gluten free bread. I accept that these offerings will often be stodgy and, well, gluten free-ish but beggars can’t be choosers they say! I’m just happy to be considered. However for this evening, to my delight, our waiter served our entrée plate accompanied with some gluten free baguette!
Crunchy on the outside, and soft and light on the inside, it actually tasted like real baguette! With Perth’s truffle season creeping up close, I am getting to desperate levels of anticipation for a three month truffle binge. Just a single smear of truffilicious dip on my gluten free baguette was enough to make my eyes beam wide and I started to bounce up and down in my seat with excitement like a child.
Pissaladière is a bit like a French alternative to pizza that is often served in bakeries in Nice on the southern coast of France. It consists of a thick dough topped with caramelised onions, olives, garlic and anchovies. My pissaladiere was adapted by replacing the base with gluten free baguette. Containing caramelised onion meant that this wasn’t exactly a fructose friendly morsel, but sometimes I find it hard to say no to such deliciousness. Although I knew I was going to suffer a bit from onion bloating later on, I temporarily cast aside my worries and got lost in the moment enjoying my gluten free treat.
The final dish on the share plate was a salad Nicoise with green beans, cherry tomatoes, boiled egg, chat potatoes and tuna aioli. The tuna aioli was creamy, rich and packed a powerful flavour kick to the more gentle fresh ingredients.
For the main course there was a choice of two dishes which were also designed to share. The options were either Coq au vin Blanc with Provençale rice, or, Bouillabaisse. My stepmum makes a killer version of both these dishes so it was a hard call to pick which one to order. After some careful deliberation we chose the bouillabaisse.
It was a wise choice. Chunky fillets of Red Emperor were cooked to a flaky perfection and joined cockles and prawns to bath in a bright and heart-warming broth. There was a slight chill in the night air and each mouthful of soup helped warm my bones.
Our dessert required only a slight adaptation to be gluten free with the standard dish consisting of little bite size tart aux pomme, or apple tarts with some fresh stone fruits and brandy cream. The chef made me a gluten free tart by fashioning a shell using a chunk of walnut cake.
Our midweek South of France dinner was one that we arrived with no expectations and walked away more than contented and satisfied.
Growing up with a patriotic French-born father resulted in French cuisine forming a considerable part of my childhood. My Dad grew up in the south of France and so food from this region is something I was taught to know well from a young age. Getting to enjoy some of these classic dishes at Blackbird brought back fond memories of my younger years and it was definitely a weeknight worth leaving the house for.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp’s meal was paid for by the City of Perth as part of her official blogging duties for Eat Drink Perth 2015.
10 Eastbrook Terrace, overlooking Claisebrook Lake, East Perth, WA 6004 | (08) 9225 7880 | blackbirdrestaurant.com.au
East Drink Perth Offer South of France Dinner: $55 per person for two people, three course with a bottle of French wine
It is my dream to be a cat vet, not just any ordinary vet, but one that just deals with cats. So when a locum job came up at the Hobart Cat Clinic I jumped at the opportunity. Not only would I get a fortnight of feline exclusivity, but I would get to visit one of the most beautiful parts of our country; Tasmania. For the first week I was solo as the Boy was only flying over for the second week. As is often the case when I’m on my own, I find myself gravitating toward food as my comfort. To my delight I found out that Hobart loves night markets too.
Hobart Twilight Markets runs fortnightly from October through to March every year in the coastal suburb of Sandy Bay. Fortunately for me this was directly on route home from work and so I thought I would just drop in and check it out. Along with most of Hobart it seemed. Parking was a challenge and after driving around for nearly half an hour I manage to find a somewhat legal park on a verge.
Finding gluten free options wasn’t exactly easy as there were large queues at every food stall and I had to line up just to be able to ask as there weren’t any indications made on their chalkboard menus. Needless to say what I did try was worth the wait. Hobart Oyster House’s freshly shucked oysters were out of this world and came in a number of size options. A simple dash of Tabasco and a squeeze of lemon and I was in heaven.
After slurping my way through a half dozen oysters, I checked out what the Vietnamese stall from Chikko Café had to offer. They were serving a number of fresh Banh Mi which were selling like hot cakes in addition to some prawn rice paper rolls. They were happy to serve my rolls without the hoisin sauce and replaced it with a gluten free sweet chilli sauce instead.
The vegetarian stall Makan Lagi had a number of international dishes available including some gluten free inari filled with vegetarian contents.
My favourite snack of the evening was Pav-Lova’s amazing single serve Pavlovas. All gluten free friendly with flavours like brown sugar and lime, lemon and coconut and espresso it was very hard to choose which one to try. Times like these I really miss the Boy as I know his presence means I can order two! I eventually settled for the brown sugar and lime.
It had all the right elements of pavlova textures, an air-light crisp shell with a centre of softer mallow. The crystallised lime gave a mouthwatering tang to cut through all the sweetness. I didn’t think I would finish it all, but before I knew it the whole pav was gone.
Satisfied with a full belly I found my way back to the car to return to my house sit companion, Ozi the Cornish Rex. He is such a lovely old man who loves the simple things in life, sunshine, cuddles and smoked salmon 😉
Hobart Twilight Markets | Facebook
17 Sandy Beach Road, Sandy Bay, Tasmania 7005
Every second Friday from 4 pm to 8 pm, October to March.
The IGA Taste Great Southern festival is held every year in February through to March in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. It is a celebration of all the wonderful food culture from this beautiful part of our State with over 70 individual events being held across the region.
Taste Great Southern is a food and wine festival with something to suit all types of foodies ranging from elaborate degustation dinners, beach BBQs, cooking demonstrations by famous chefs and farmers markets. There is even an Oyster Festival. Yes, an entire festival dedicated to oysters.
I recently attended the Perth launch for Taste Great Southern held at The Terrace Hotel. I was approached prior to the event with the job offer of being the official photographer for the night. The whole concept of being a paid photographer surprised me as I consider myself anything but a pro.
I arrived at the Terrace Hotel as early as possible to enable me to set up some shots before the guest arrived and to get a feel for the venue. Unfortunately, thanks to the sun my debut as a paid photographer was not an easy task. Lighting can be a photographer’s best friend or it can be their worst enemy and in this case light was no means my friend. From the beginning to the very end of the event, the sun bore down at blinding angles making the job of taking beautiful photos much more difficult than I had anticipated.
When the guests arrived, the hotel staff began to bring out a number of exquisite bite sized morsels made using fresh Great Southern produce.
As everyone started to fill up on the canapes, Chefs Pete Manifis, Don Hancey and Kenny McHardy began to cook up a storm.
Whilst I enjoyed being a professional for one night, I have realised that I still have a lot to learn and by the end of the job I was thoroughly exhausted. Unlike all attending guests including the Boy, I didn’t have much of a chance to eat over as I was too busy running about trying to get the best shots.
The Boy suggested we go and sit inside in The Terrace’s restaurant and share something more substantial before heading home. Famished and weary it was an offer I could hardly refuse. The hotel staff were very accommodating with my dietary requirement guiding me through a number of options suitable off their menu. As I looked around the dimly lit restaurant I chuckled to myself, I had gone from one photography nightmare to another. First too much bright light, and now nearly none at all!
We haven’t eaten any oysters that can even remotely compare to the amazing ones we ate on our travels last month to Tasmania. In fact the last batch I bought hoe for us to eat were very close to being putrid. Nevertheless we decided to take a punt and order half a dozen. Thankfully, these were deliciously slurpalicious and fresh.
Neither of us felt like a full main course so we shared a plate of seared scallops served with blood orange and baby carrot purée and grapefruit beurre blanc.
We also ordered the Black Angus sashimi was served with pickled daikon radish, ponzu dressing, wasabi mayonnaise and kale crisps. The meat was slightly sweet and tender and melted on contact with my tongue.
For dessert we shared the passionfruit parfait with strawberries and meringue. The parfait was a bit icy in texture and lacked any of the creaminess that a parfait should have. Whilst I did enjoyed the tang of the passionfruit I would have preferred the parfait to have a smoother consistency.
The Taste Great Southern food and wine festival runs from the 19th of February until the 29th of March this year across the Great Southern Region. There is a comprehensive event list available on their website.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest of the Taste Great Southern launch and was paid to take the photographs for the night.
The Terrace Hotel
237 St Georges Tce, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9214 4444 | www.terracehotelperth.com.au
Not everyone marries their best friend and I am so grateful that I was blessed with the opportunity to be one of those lucky ones. Whilst our life is by no means perfect, for the major things we are invariably on the same page. Where we want to live. Our love for animals. Our passion for fine food. Particular black truffles and chocolate. Our core values. And, our love for staying at luxury lodges and hotels! 😉
For our Christmas present to each other we chose to forgo buying each other materialistic stuff, I mean who really needs stuff? We both work and play hard, sometimes too much so, such that our best gift to each other is just spending quality time together. I was once again reminded that I married my soul mate when he agreed without hesitation to go stay at the Lake House in Daylesford for a couple of nights squeezed in between our family Christmas in Melbourne and a friend’s wedding on New Year.
We booked a Luxury Package for two nights in a waterfront suite. Our package included breakfast and dinner for both nights and some spa treatments to enjoy together.
Our room overlooked the lagoon and the shores of Lake Daylesford and facilitated complete relaxation with a very comfortable king sized bed, sofa and armchairs. There were a pair of sunbeds out on our deck however the weather was scorching hot and no sane person would have basked in that heat.
There was a bottle of chilled complimentary champagne ready for us on arrival. The minibar was stocked with a small number of locally sourced drinks and nibbles, Salus Spa’s own sparkling mineral water and a Nespresso coffee machine. Unlike some of the Luxury Lodges of Australia, the minibar was not included as part of our stay. Considering the price was comparative with other Lodges, it would have been a nice touch if it was.
The bathroom was spacious with a dual shower, double spa bath and heated bathroom floors. There was a modest sized flat screen television, an iPod docking station to play our tunes and free in room Wi-Fi access.
Every evening between 6 pm to 8.30 pm cocktails are served in the Argyle Library along with some complementary canapés. I was hoping that the canapés would keep coming for as long as we ordered drinks however we quickly learnt that you get one round of delicious canapés and then that is it.
I am guessing they expect you to move through into the restaurant at that point. Nobody ever seems to understand that our appetites are not those of normal people!
After enjoying a round of nibbles and a few more rounds of Campari spritzers, we headed out for a walk around the Lake before returning to our suite for dinner. There are two Lakes to walk around each taking less than half an hour on a shaded and pretty path.
Our package included an in-room supper for two on the first evening with two glasses of house wine. We weren’t expecting such a feast to arrive and this seemed to make up for the feeling of wanting more of those canapés earlier on.
Everything was adapted to be gluten free including gluten free bread and crackers. There was creamy pea soup, an antipasto platter, a cheese platter and plate of fresh fruit.
Breakfast is included for both mornings of our stay and consisted of a continental buffet in addition to a choice of a main dish from their a la carte menu.
The buffet had an array of freshly baked pastries, sliced meats and cheeses with a few gluten free and vegetarian options.
For my main dish I ordered the house baked beans with goats cheese, wilted spinach and poached eggs on gluten free toast.
The beans had wonderful depth of flavour but sadly the gluten free toast let the dish down being quite tasteless and crumbly in texture.
We had minimal plans for our weekend, in fact I was hoping to do very little other than relax but as is always the case with us we cannot help but do a little exploring. The Daylesford Sunday Market operates each Sunday from 8 am to 3 pm and contains a wide range of stalls selling all sorts of antique bric-a-brac, locally grown produce, clothing and crafts. We already had suitcase filled with loot from Christmas so I made do with purchasing a refreshing beetroot, carrot and ginger juice. Oh, and I bought a book about cats
We also visited Lavandula, a Swiss Italian lavender farm. It was a melting 40 degrees Celsius and we lingered only long enough to smell the fragrant flowers, scull a lavender lemonade in the shade and then retreat back to our air-conditioned car.
For our second evening at Lake House, our package included an eight course degustation with matched wines in the restaurant. We started the evening off again in the Library with some canapés before taking a seat by one of the large windows to watch the reflections of the setting sun across the Lake.
Our degustation took us on a journey using local seasonal food some of which is harvested from their own gardens. This is a restaurant that has repeatedly earned two hats and as our dishes started to roll out I began to see why.
Our amuse bouche consisted of a mouthful of veal tartare and mojama which is a salt cured tuna. This was served with some bonito aioli on a nori crisp so light it dissolved on the tongue like a wafer.
Our second course of spanner crab and white fish sashimi had a Nobu-esque twist with the addition of jalapenos and an elegant dollop of green gazpacho. Some tapioca pearls on the side added another element of texture.
The next course was a pasta dish which meant I received something different in replacement. The Boy’s pasta was a bug agnolotti, which are similar to ravioli. It was served with house made kimchi butter emulsion and crisp shallots.
My gluten free alternative was some mixed tempura served with the kimchi. I was so chuffed that they could do the tempura gluten free as this is so commonly off the menu for me. It was crispy and light and the kimchi had a decent kick to it.
The next dish was inspired by Chef Alla’s Russian heritage and we were told that a variation of this dish is always on the menu. Smoked eel is considered a delicacy and features in many Russian dishes.
The eel was sourced from the Victoria based Skipton eel factory. Wrapped in pancetta the smoked eel was paired with some locally grown organic beets and served alongside a toothsome mustard crème fraiche. This was one of my favourite dishes of the evening.
The next dish was some addictive little morsels of tempura quail wrapped in nori.
They were accompanied by dollops of umeboshi puree, coriander puree, wasabi mayonnaise and the cutest coriander flowers.
Our final main dish was locally sourced pasture fed beef; cooked carefully and slowly such that it had the consistency of melting butter. The hearty flavours of the beef had an added surprise of some chilli and togarashi for an interesting kick.
Pre-dessert consisted of a platter named “Playtime”. This consisted of a number of little palate cleansers including a strawberry compote with white chocolate sorbet and strawberry granita, a “plum shot” and blackcurrant marshmallow lollipops.
For our final course, the Boy and I had different dishes as mine had to be adapted to be gluten free. The Boy’s “Summer Ramble” was a garden of gorgeous components and I was gutted there was no more natural light for a stunning photo. His dish had pistachio sponge, almond praline, almond milk pannacotta, honey ice cream, almond tuille chocolate bark berries AND honey comb….all on one plate. It looked heavenly and despite all the different elements it didn’t taste over complicated or flamboyant.
I could have nearly developed a case of food envy if it wasn’t for my rich peanut butter parfait. It was topped with sesame ganache, peanut praline and sesame ice cream. A perfectly balanced blob of lemon curd added a hint of acidity and a black sesame tuille gave it some crunch and texture.
We had such a relaxing stay at Lake House in Daylesford giving the perfect amount of “us” time that we needed together. Having stayed in a number of Luxury Lodges around Australia now, I would have liked to have seen a bit more luxury in our rooms to justify the room price and feel that in these sort of “never want to leave” styled lodges a complementary minibar can encourage you to really enjoy your accommodation more.
We found the Spa to be of a high quality and actually went back for a second massage in the couple’s room. The restaurant is well deserved of its Good Food Guide Hats and is worth a visit even without a stay in the Lodge. Their wine list is enough to impress my father which is saying something and I heart how they focus on local and seasonal produce.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp and the Boy paid in full for a Lake House Luxury Package for $1200/night. This package included two night accommodation in a Waterfront Suite, light supper for the first evening and a degustation with matched wine on the second night, a full breakfast each morning and a massage and facial at Salus Spa.
4 King Street, Daylesford, Victoria 3460 | www.lakehouse.com.au
Some people choose to mix their work life with their personal life and others prefer to keep them totally separate. I imagine that it would be easy to separate the two if you didn’t hold any passion or joy in your working hours. For me, I tend to submerge myself in my career, sometimes to the level of obsession, such that it is impossible to not develop friendships with both my colleagues and my clients. Occasionally I manage to combine both careers in one, connecting all the dots by creating a friendship with a client from the vet hospital that also happens to read my blog. Conversation runs very freely when you can talk to me about the two things I love the most…..food…..and cats!
Of course the logical thing to do when you have succeeded in finding this trifecta of friendship is to spend quality time to eat together. So, after a few false starts due to busy schedules, we managed to tally up a night to head out with my friends-clients-fellow crazy cat ladies to Cocos Restaurant in South Perth. Being a closet crazy cat man the Boy was happy to join us for dinner for a night of cat talk. Surprisingly despite Cocos being something of a Perth icon I had never eaten at there and welcomed the suggestion.
Cocos Restaurant overlooks the Swan River to gaze onto the expanding Perth City skyline. That is, mind you, if you can secure a table riverside. It is a deceptively large restaurant packed full of tables and wasn’t exactly the fine dining location that I had pictured in my mind. Our table was tucked away at the back of the restaurant with naught but a glimpse of the city lights. The menu showcased a lot of local WA produce with marron and Dhufish featuring alongside Cone Bay barramundi. I was informed by our waitress that there are a number of gluten free options.
I started with the duo of salmon; two types of cured salmon plated out generously and served with a citrus, fennel and herb salad. The outer layer of salmon was cured in beetroot and ginger which imparted a sumptuous red hue to the fish and the inner layer was cured with vodka and Pernod. Some of the fish pieces were a little dry on the edges like they had been prolongedly exposed to air however each mouthful still left a clean aftertaste on the palate without any stale fish odour.
The Boy was feeling peckish and ordered the duck risotto for a more substantial entrée. Soft pinkish strips of pan seared duck breast topped a creamy orange and thyme risotto. The citrusy flavours made this a lighter style of risotto perfect for a first course. One of our friends ordered the beef Carpaccio served with baby capers, chilli, truffle oil and manchego crisps and it was the hugest serve of beef Carpaccio I have ever seen. It was not an entrée for the light-hearted and she kindly offered much of her dish to share as she couldn’t finish it!
For main I chose the Geraldton Dhufish. I realise that eating fish for both entrée and main is a little one sided and maybe narrow minded but there are some days that I just really feel like seafood and figure that I need to listen to my body! The Dhufish fillet was ever so slightly overcooked leaving part of the fillet a little dry. It was served with a tossed salad of Swiss chard and roasted beets.
The Boy ordered the beef fillet on a parsnip and onion puree with a red wine jus. His meat was cooked precisely to order rare and sliced effortless like butter.
One of our friends ordered the saffron linguini pasta with sautéed Moreton Bay Bug tails. It had a bit of a kick to it with added chilli.
My gluten free dessert option was the vanilla pannacotta which was served in an hour shaped glass so I couldn’t test the jiggle factor. There were a lot of contrasting textures to add interest to this dish with strawberry jelly, fresh strawberries, crisp meringue and strawberry ice cream. Happy with this option indeed.
Also ordered at the table was the Bombe Alaska which sadly it wasn’t gluten free so I didn’t get to taste it. It consisted of a chunk of sticky date pudding and homemade honey macadamia ice cream encased in swirls of meringue in a puddle of addictive butterscotch sauce. I cannot deny I was a bit jealous!
It was no surprise the Boy ordered himself the selected homemade ice creams and sorbets although he was a bit perturbed by the “hair” on top of his dessert. He loves to proclaim that he is not a fan of Persian fairy floss yet he always seems to eat it when it’s on his plate so I’m guessing it wasn’t too bad!
Disclaimer: Chompchomp has no shame in admitting that she is a crazy cat lady, additionally that she loves hanging out with crazy cat ladies, that she is married to a crazy cat man and, basically, that cats rock her world. Here’s a picture of her dinner companion’s adorable boy Ralph to cement this statement. A very handsome lad indeed.
Coco’s Riverside Bar and Restaurant
85 The South Perth Esplanade, South Perth WAZ 6151 | (08) 9474 3030 | http://www.westvalley.com.au/
For some reason over the last couple of years I have become accident-prone. Don’t be alarmed, there has been no major incidents, but more of a succession of annoying injuries that have prevented me from running which in turn makes me very grumpy. To name a few, there has been a handful of broken ribs, multiple occasions of recurrently broken toes, countless bumps to the head, plantar fasciitis and most recently during our Melbourne trip, a torn quadriceps. It has got to the stage that I get more of an eye roll than any sympathy from the Boy because seriously…it is never ending and according to him somewhat preventable.
For my most recent injury it was a case of me being overambitious, which again the Boy believes is a common occurrence. My stepmum invited me out on a run with her one morning. As we walked out the door my father was chanting out retorts that she doesn’t really run suggesting I was in for an easy outing.
Eighteen rounds of interval training at a flat out sprint later I was left out of breath with a stitch and sweating profusely. My stepmum had barely worked up a sweat and had to slow down so I could keep up the pace.
Two days later, still stiff and sore the Boy and I hit the shops to do some clothes shopping. It is a rare event that the both of us are in the mood to shop and this day our minds were perfectly in sync. Winning. Just as we were getting into the swing of things with a number of bags in hand, I crouched down to pick up a pair of jeans and felt something in the front of my leg go “twang!”. Sharp bolts of pain radiated up my leg and I struggled to pull myself up.
And thus our shopping expedition ended. Within minutes a very focal hard area of swelling and bruising came up on the front of my leg and I was unable to extend my leg out. Yup, I tore a quad. Awesome.
As my eyes watered with pain the Boy tried to distract me from my injury with offers of a lunch date instead. We were minutes shuffle from Supernormal on Flinders Lane so I plucked up my courage and hobbled along gritting my teeth. Supernormal serve Modern Asian share plates, with a lot of Chinese influenced dishes as a result of the Head Chef’s time spent in Hong Kong.
As we were seated we were given some complementary pumpkin seeds to nibble on while the waiter went through the gluten free options for me. I was finding it very hard to concentrate with pain shooting up and down my leg and not knowing whether I should sit or stand I kept shuffling about at our table with an unattractive grimace on my face. To buy us some time the Boy ordered some pickled vegetables and oysters to start along with a strong hit of gin for me. I downed a couple of pain killers in one gulp and waited for my pain to subside.
As the gin coursed its way through my veins, my pain gave way to discomfort allowing me to sit back on my bar stool and knock back some Sydney Rock and Pacific oysters. I could take my focus away from my torn muscle and concentrate on the menu enough to select a couple of larger dishes to share. We started with the silken tofu with marinated eggplant and coriander after being advised it was gluten free. It wasn’t until the waitress actually brought the cooked dish to our table that she then paused and exclaimed “Oh! This isn’t gluten free!” and whisked it away quickly. I wish I hadn’t got to smell and see the dish because it looked amazing and I really felt like I had missed out. Boo hoo to gluten.
I had heard many good things about Supernormal’s lobster rolls so you can imagine my joy when our apologetic waitress told me they could do a gluten free version of this dish using a lettuce leaf cup instead of the brioche bun. The Boy ordered the standard version which although small for the price did get a number of exclamations and groans of pleasure out of the man.
Whilst not getting to enjoy the texture and flavour on the brioche bun, I was hardly missing out with the sang chow bow styles lettuce cups. The lobster was sweet, fresh and all the colours of delicious. For a brief moment there I could almost forget I was a cripple again. Food has a wonderful way of making things better in the short term.
I will definitely be returning for a few more rounds of these next trip to Melbourne hopefully without any injuries to distract me!
180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIA 3000 | (03) 9650 8688 | www.supernormal.net.au
Growing up in a small family unit means that when it breaks apart, the blow is a harder one to deal with. Having less people for the impact to disperse energy leaves each individual with a harder knock. This Christmas we travelled back to Melbourne to spend time with my family however the logistics of who sees who and when became even more complicated than ever before. My sister and I non-amicably parted ways in the lead up to my wedding, not my choice, and although time has passed the wounds still remain fresh for us both. To further complicate the issue, my parents are divorced which means we would normally spend Christmas with them each individually, dining with Dad on Christmas Eve and with Mum on Christmas Day.
Being estranged from my sister meant this usual arrangement would not be possible. Consequently, the plan was for the Boy and I to have Mum’s company for Christmas Eve whilst my sister spent time with our father, and then we would swap over for Christmas Day.
We organised to have Mum for the full day so I could maximise our time together, starting with a beautiful lunch booked at Stokehouse City. Being only minutes walk from where we staying it was the perfect location.
We both arrived laden with bulky gifts and beaming Christmas cheer smiles. I have laboured too long over the sadness of our family situation and am actively trying to move forward and embrace what moments I have with a positive mind.
Mum and the Boy started with the seared Harvey Bay scallops for entrée. This was an interesting mix of flavours with cauliflower purée, strawberries, macadamias and crisp pancetta.
I chose the steak tartare served with pickled shimeji mushrooms, horseradish and mascarpone. Plump, super sweet ruby grapes and wafery potato crisps garnished the dish. The beef was freshly diced and had a very clean aftertaste. This was a modern take of a classic done exceptionally well.
For our main course both Mum and I chose the John Dory fillet. I knew there was going to be some hard core feasting over the next few days and figured starting off eating light would be a kind way to ease my gut into it. The fish was tossed with peppery watercress, toasted almonds and local mussels and served on a bed of richly flavoured Romesco sauce.
The Boy ordered the O’Connor’s pasture fed beef tenderloin served perfectly rare to order and topped with a cascade of smashed roasted potatoes and herbs.
Feeling brief pangs of sadness that I wouldn’t be joining Mum for our traditional lunch at Vue de Monde the following day, I decided to push the boat out and managed to coerce her into ordering both cheese and desserts. I know, I know. I said I would stop this habit as I have put on too much weight this year but then isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
For dessert, we ordered the two gluten free options and shared them amongst the three of us. The lemon and raspberry Eton mess was like a garden of deliciousness with tumbles of fresh berries, champagne jelly and buttermilk ice cream. I nearly regretted electing to share as I savoured every mouthful.
Our second choice was “The Bombe”, Stokehouse’s take on a Bombe Alaska. It made a stunning sight although my drunken photography didn’t really do it justice. Sadly the toasted meringue tasted a bit too gluey and not very fresh. The meringue layered over a centre layer of strawberry sorbet and a white chocolate parfait base.
With full bellies and fuelled with champagne we exchanged our gifts before gathering them all up and walking over to the cinema to see a movie of Mum’s choice. It was late when the movie finished but knowing we wouldn’t get to see each other the following day none of us wanted this day to end. To finish the evening we travelled up to the Atrium Bar on level 35 at the Sofitel to enjoy a few nightcaps before finally bidding farewell and turning it in.
The following day was Christmas Day. Back in the day when I spent this with my sister, it would often be a day of extremes and drama; certainly not all bad but definitely not all good. Some people just don’t cope well under pressure and invariably I would end up bring the scapegoat for most of the day’s hiccups and problems.
Although it was sad and out of place to not be with Mum, this new way of doing Christmas Day was such a relaxed and chilled affair that it almost didn’t feel real.
We ate all day as one always does on Christmas; feasting on roasted goose, baked ham and the most addictive duck fat potatoes. But all this was done without a single element of drama.
Our hosts for the day were my Stepmum’s sister and her husband. My Stepmum’s sister is a master in the kitchen as well as also being the author of the blog Cioccolata Bella.
Everything was made from scratch using local seasonal produce where ever possible, much of it just from her backyard veggie patch.
There was even some gluten free mince pies and plum pudding for me to enjoy. In fact, another guest was Coeliac so there weren’t just token gluten free options, everyone was very mindful of avoiding contamination in the kitchen.
Reflecting back in the peace of mid-January, I appreciate that our return home for Christmas wasn’t what I am used to in years gone by yet despite this change I still got to spend quality time with those I love. And that is the most important thing.
7 Alfred Place, Melbourne, VIC 3000 | (03) 9525 5555 | stokehouse.com.au/city
Gourmet Escape is a three day food and wine festival held each year in the Margaret River wine region. It has become a yearly favourite for locals and a huge drawcard for people interstate and internationally. Last year the festival clashed with some dates we had booked for a close friend’s birthday celebration in Lombok, so I thought we were only going to be able to make it down for the Friday. My usual plan of attack when attending a food festival is a crazed I-must-eat-all-the-things caper. I hate the thought that I might miss out on something delicious and end up booking back to back events like a lunatic. This approach often comes at a significant cost and thus our budget for these weekends is usually quite substantial.
When it dawned upon me that I only had a single day for Gourmet Escape, I thought I would push the boat out and chose one of the most expensive events: The International Cabernet Tasting at Cape Mentelle with James Halliday as a guest speaker and matched food by highly acclaimed chefs Jacques Reymond and Hadleigh Troy.
I should have known that it is impossible to try and plan your social life six months in advance. As it drew closer to the month of Gourmet Escape our travel plans fell through and subsequently the whole weekend opened up for us. One door closed and another door opened. I preceded to book a flurry of events and are yet to look at the damage it made on my credit card. I even bought tickets to a Fervor degustation for the evening after the Cabernet Celebration! This proved to be a learning lesson that I can no longer do two big food events in one day.
I have never been to an official wine tasting event before and whilst I am very experienced at drinking wine, I am a total amateur when it comes to tasting and describing wines. Cape Mentelle’s International Cabernet tasting is an event that has been running for over thirty years and at each event they select international wines from vintages from a specific year.
There were twenty wines selected for blind tasting from the vintage 2011. Cameron Murphy, the Estate Director at Cape Mentelle advised us that 2011 was a challenging year for many wine growing regions around the world resulting in some top labels not releasing a Cabernet or requesting that their wines were not to be included in the line-up for this event.
The wines were divided into three “brackets” and after tasting each bracket, we would congregate outside under the vines and listen to some top wine critics from around the country analyse and give their opinions. It was a very serious affair and once the tasting got under way the only noise I could hear were clinks of glasses hitting together and the occasional slurp from professional tasters spotted around the room.
We were given note books and pencils to take our own notes and with the ban on talking this gave me an opportunity to actually think about what I was tasting from each glass.
It took a couple of hours to get through the three brackets of wine accompanied by the wine critic’s discussions by which point I was desperate for something to eat. There was some plain bread and pear slices available to cleanse the palate between each bracket which I obviously couldn’t eat. After the tasting were completed, the list of wines were revealed for us to see. It was a proud moment to see that most of the critic’s best wine choices were from local WA wineries. Where the world had a bad vintage, our state seemed to come out with flying colours. Go WA!
Wines in order of tasting:
- Ridge Montebello (Napa Valley, USA)
- Woodlands (Margaret River, Australia)
- Houghton ‘Jack Mann’ (Frankland River, Australia)
- Mount Mary (Yarra Valley, Australia)
- Château Pichon – Longueville Baron, (Paulliac, Bordeaux)
- Domaine A (Tasmania, Australia)
- Sassicaia (Bolgheri, Italy)
- Wendouree (Claire, Australia)
- Spottswoode (Napa Valley, USA)
- Cloudburst (Margaret River, Australia)
- Cape Mentelle (Margaret River, Australia)
- Hentley Farm von Kasper Cabernet (Barossa, Australia)
- Château Palmer (Margaux, Bordeaux)
- Moss Wood (Margaret River, Australia)
- Cullen ‘Diana Madeline’ (Margaret River, Australia)
- Château Haut Brion (Graves, Bordeaux)
- Xanadu ‘Stevens Road’ (Margaret River, Australia)
- Far Niente (Napa Valley, USA)
- Château Léoville-Las Cases (Saint-Julien, Bordeaux)
- Ornellaia (Bolgheri, Italy)
With the formalities of the event over, we relaxed outside under the trees. There was free flowing Verve on pour coupled with some canapés to get us into the mood before lunch. For those first few brief minutes there was no gluten free option on offer and I watched the Boy devour his obscenely amazing smelling marron roll to himself. I was so hungry I nearly had shoestrings of saliva dripping down my face. Working my way through twenty wines has a way of doing that to my appetite! Thankfully I wasn’t kept waiting long and my own gluten free adapted marron roll made its way out of the kitchen before the Boy even had a chance to finish his.
The most popular canapé served was by far the Arkady lamb breast. Hardly an elegant morsel to eat at the best of times, I was lucky not to be wearing most of what I ate. Or maybe that was just the drool. After skipping breakfast followed by downing all those wines, I am assuring you I ate quite a few of these babies! 😉
After multiple rounds of lamb and marron, we made our way down onto the lawn where a beautiful white marquee was erected for lunch. We had live entertainment and the atmosphere was relaxed and jovial compared to the intense concentration and silence during the tastings.
Our first course was a velvety textured, slow cooked ocean trout served with a tomato and basil dressing, lemon celeriac remoulade and spiced marinated cucumber. After a morning of heavy reds, it was a nice interlude to lighten up the palate. The trout was matched with Cape Mentelle Wallcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2012.
For the main course we received a tender Butterfield beef short rib alongside some charred carrots and pine nut cream. To pair with this dish all twenty of the 2011 Cabernets that we tasted earlier were brought out and poured liberally until the late afternoon. I appreciated why this event cost so much as they were very generous with the serves.
We ended our incredible day with a cheese board containing some of my favourite French cheeses; Marcel Petite Gruyere de Comte, Fourme d’Ambert and Jouvence Brie Fermier. I was even given gluten free crackers on the side which was thoughtful of the chefs.
The Cape Mentelle International Cabernet Tasting was an incredibly unique experience and something quite unlike anything I have done before. It is a long day of drinking with the event starting at 10am and running into the late afternoon. It attracted both serious wine buffs and amateurs like me and had a non-pretentious and relaxed vibe…provided you do not talk during the tasting (note to self).
Disclaimer: Chompchomp paid in full for her ticket to the Gourmet Escape International Cabernet Celebration 2014. And, for those enquiring….no, she did not fall on her head at this event. She did however discover that Jacques Reymond is her father’s dopplerganger and consequently filled by Cabernet she MAY have waltzed over to the famous chef with the Boy armed with a photo of her father on her phone to enlighten Jacques of this fact. Suffice to say Jacques had swilled his own substantial quantity of Cabernet that afternoon and was left somewhat confused by our excitement. She will let you decided for yourselves.
It is no secret that I love my local The Precinct in Vic Park. We are regulars almost every week and they seem to successfully predict what we want to drink and almost read our minds on what we want to eat too. I love their passion and enthusiasm; every wine and every dish has its own story. You can imagine my excitement when I heard that this awesome team had plans to open a second venue. Managing to secure the old Jus Burgers site in Northbridge I waited patiently for the restaurant to open, hoping them all the success that they deserve. Their new bar is called No Mafia.
Focusing on southern Italian cuisine with handpicked Italian and local wines, the food bypasses serving stodgy pastas and bread in favour of fresh and nearly entirely gluten free share plates. Executive Chef Sam McKinven has created a menu that left me wanting to return in a hurry.
One thing I love about The Precinct is that I never have to think about what to drink, I can trust that their selection with match my food choices beautifully; I was soon to find that No Mafia is no different.
I started with a white peach blini, using local seasonal fruit from Gingin and topped with Prosecco for that Italian twist. It was hard to stop at one but the Boy insisted on sharing some wine for our meal.
As I tried to resist the urge to gulp my refreshing beverage down, our first plate of a serve of some Prosciutto di Parma arrived. The Proscuitto di Parma is imported by Princi Butchers direct from Italy and had a soft, creamy texture and a hint of sweet saltiness. The Boy paired it with some Bread in Common loaf but unfortunately there was not a gluten free bread alternative.
Our next dish was the swordfish crudo; think of this as an Italian version of sashimi. The swordfish is fished out locally off the western coast near Rottnest Island ensuring extreme freshness and a delicate texture. The sword fish was served with Colatura, an Italian fish sauce. This revered sauce is made by layering anchovies with salt in wooden barrels. This causes the fish to release liquid which becomes mixed with salt and collected underneath. The end result is paler coloured and lighter flavoured than standard Asian fish sauce.
The beef carpaccio is priced on a per person basis. Using 100 day grain fed beef each strip loin was hand trimmed and beaten to achieve a perfectly thin portion. The luscious marbling made this a delight to photograph and imparted a gorgeously rich flavour. To add a dash of umami each slice of beef was rolled around sautéed pickled enoki mushrooms.
I needed to fit in a vegetarian dish to dilute out all this protein and was recommended the eggplant parmigiana. As with all of No Mafia’s dishes, there was no heaviness or glugginess and it was surprisingly light and fresh.
Our last savoury dish was the seared yellow fin tuna once again made with locally caught WA fish. Some bottarga, an Italian imported sundried mullet roe added a touch more depth and “fishy goodness”. A crunchy bright side of greens using broccoli and beach banana balanced this nicely.
Ordering both cheese and dessert used to be something we would occasionally do as a treat but in recent times has become more of a regular occurrence. It is one of our many overindulgent habits of 2014 that is going to have to stop in 2015 before we become morbidly obese. Given January was yet to tick over, we ordered a serve of baked ricotta to share. Subtle and slightly sweet it made the perfect pre-dessert choice.
We had worked our way through a lot of food and had to call upon the miracle of our second stomach for dessert. ;-).
Zabaglione is a simple but satisfying Italian dessert made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet wine. It was served with fresh strawberries and shavings of chocolate. Being naturally gluten free this is a dish I could have many more of!
There is always a great level of satisfaction when you see those that deserve success achieve their goals. I am not alone in my loyalties to the No Mafia team as they have recently got a round of positive mentions in the Gourmet Traveler and the West Australian. They accept walk-ins and bookings can be made online on their website.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was not an invited guest and paid for her meal at No Mafia in full.
Revolving restaurants hit widespread popularity back in the seventies and I even remember as a child growing up in the eighties the whole concept still sounded super modern and space aged. These days many of them around the world have closed after bearing badges of being labelled tourist traps with high prices and poor quality food.
C Restaurant is Perth’s only revolving restaurant and is situated up on level 33 of the St Martins Tower in the heart of the CBD. Our first visit to this restaurant was many moons ago back when it was called Hilite 33 for one of my very first dates with the Boy.
Back in those days the BankWest building was the only tall skyscraper in the city and it never ceases to amaze me how much our city has grown. Whilst the Boy and I have fond memories of our earlier meals dining there in the late nineties, we eventually stopped going as we found their attention to detail and quality of food started to decline.
I recently received an invitation to return to C Restaurant to try their new Spring menu. I was initially reluctant to accept this offer given our last few meals there but then I reminded myself that that was indeed some time ago.
Unlike the much higher priced weekend menu, C Restaurant’s mid-week menu offers a four course meal for the relatively bargain price of $99. There were a number of options available including vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options. How often do you see a dedicated vegan menu in a fine dining venue?
For those who have never seen Perth from the heights of one of our sky scrapers, a visit to C Restaurant is justified by just the view alone. Over a ninety minute period you will get a full 360 degree view of our beautiful city. I recommend to come for an early dinner so you can see one rotation with daylight and one with the night lights.
To my relief and somewhat surprise the food at C was more than just good. It was enough of a reason to visit even without the view. Each dish was plated with a number of different components with the Boy’s Wagyu and my lamb both being done “two ways” with a number of different sauces spotted around the plate.
This technique always risks appearing over complicated if the flavours are not balanced well but the chef pulled it off. Better still a lot of the menu focused on utilising some brilliant West Australian produce including my favourite dish for the night, a delicate soft marron with pillows of velvety scallops and an organic citrus quinoa salad.
Toward the end of the night in a true Martine moment I managed to drop my phone on top of my chestnut meringue before managing to take a reasonable photo.
For a split second the perfectionist in me was tempted to send it back in order to get a better shot before my logic took over. Suffice to say, smashed meringue tastes just as good as intact versions.
The Boy was happy to follow my specific request to order himself the chocolate fondant for his dessert. Whilst I cannot get to enjoy the taste of such a treat due to all that evil gluten, just being able to watch him cut into its centre and squeal as the molten chocolate oozes out was enough to excite me.
I think the concept of a revolving restaurant has won back some ground with me; whilst there were a number of tourists dining around us there wasn’t a vibe of this restaurant being exclusive designed for such a market. We found the service to be attentive without being obtrusive, and the food was more than a pleasant surprise.Disclaimer: Chompchomp was a guest of C Restaurant receiving the offer of a meal with one beverage for her and the Boy free of charge. My opinion are my own and I have not embellished or enhanced the story. And yes, I did actually drop my iPhone onto my dessert and snap it in half. C Restaurant Level 33, 44 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9220 8333 | crestaurant.com.au
I have always had a very keen interest to try Malaysian cuisine but the fear of accidentally eating gluten has frightened me off. I learnt this the hard way on our trip to Kuala Lumpur earlier this year where I was quite restricted in what I could eat and despite being very careful I ended up getting sick from eating something with gluten in it.
Many moons ago I perused RIA Malay Kitchen’s menu online and found that they are one of the rare Asian restaurants in Perth that not only can accommodate for gluten free but have dishes specifically marked on their menu. Consequently I have wanted to visit this Leederville restaurant for quite some time. Knowing in advance what I can eat makes life so much easier, for those with food allergies you learn quickly that doing your research prior to choosing a restaurant is so important.
RIA have recently renovated and expanded their popular restaurant with a revamped menu including old favourites alongside some new additions. Chef Jon Hizola’s style is based on authentic home style Malaysian cooking and with RIA being an allergy friendly venue, they were keen to invite me come along and try some of their dishes.
The word “ria” can be translated from Malay to mean happy or jolly and I could see that the staff working both front of house and in the kitchen seemed to apply this to their daily work. We were greeted with warm smiles and although my booking was late in the afternoon at a strange time of day to eat there were still a number of customers dotted about the restaurant.
RIA offers still or sparking water free of charge which I thought was a lovely touch but I was in the mood for something a bit more exciting. They have a small cocktail menu with some interesting options. I started off with the mandarin sour; slightly sweet with a hint of sour this was the type of beverage I could down way too easily while sitting by the pool on a hot summer’s day.
The menu doesn’t just cater for those with gluten sensitivity but also has options for dairy free and nut free meals. It felt like such a luxury to be able to just choose dishes straight off a menu without my waitress having to go to and fro from the kitchen. As an extra precaution, I always ask for it to be written on our order slip that I’m coeliac just to reinforce to the chef to avoid cross contamination.
We started with a couple of small plates off the entrée menu; the lotus chips and the crispy prawns. Both were served with a mild spicy homemade mayo. The Boy hadn’t tried lotus root chips before and crunched through them nearly as quickly as he would a packet of corn chips. Along with ice cream, corn chips is another one of the Boy’s weaknesses.
The prawns were one of my favourite dishes and were so flavoursome. Cooked in a gluten free batter with a thin crispy outside and crunchy middle, you could taste the freshness of these critters. They were topped with some fried garlic and chilli which added another punch of flavour. You wouldn’t want to be on a first date after eating these!
It was hard to just choose two curries for us to share as there were quite a few gluten free options. I toyed with the idea of ordering three which the Boy also thought was a good idea but our waitress raised her eyebrows at us and explained that we would want to be extremely hungry! I settled for just two but ordered some pilau rice to help mop up all the sauces.
My first choice was the seafood tamarind. I fell in love with tamarind in my travels through Thailand, the tangy flavours always go so well with delicate seafood. It was a generous serve and the seafood was super fresh with the fish fillets so tender they tumbled apart under my fork.
For our second curry I chose the Nyonya chicken curry as I wanted to try something authentic. RIA uses a traditional recipe that has been handed down from the Chef’s mother for generations. The curry is gently spiced with turmeric, chilli and cinnamon and then cooked with coconut milk.
Now I am not of Malaysian descent so I can never confess to being an expert on Nyonya cuisine, but I have certainly eaten a lot of curries and I know what makes a beautiful curry and what makes one fall short. A good curry to my western tastebuds, is one that has an individual and defined flavour with wonderful layers of complexity from the careful addition of spices, coupled with slow judicious cooking. Too many times have I been out for curry, ordered a bunch and they all just taste the same!
Our Nyonya curry had all the makings of a brilliant curry such that we polished off the lot despite feeling uncomfortably full by the half way mark. In hindsight, we really did eat too much (again) and that is saying something as we both have bottomless pits for stomachs.
Dessert was a childhood favourite of mine, sago pudding or, sago melaka. My mum used to make this for us when we were kids and I always loved the sensation of squishing the little tiny soft pearls of sago between my teeth. Our saga melaka was served with fresh apple which is not fructose friendly so I let the Boy eat the fruit off the top before we tucked in together.
For someone who is gluten free, I usually don’t even consider dining in Asian restaurants as the chance of a suitable meal can be near on impossible. The only exceptions I have found is Vietnamese, Thai and Indian cuisines as they do not use soy sauce or much wheat flour. The discovery that Ria Malay Kitchen is so accommodating for those on a gluten free diet is quite a liberating find and I will definitely be returning.Disclaimer: Chompchomp was a guest of Ria Malay Kitchen however my views and opinions are my own. Ria Malay Kitchen 106 Oxford Street, Leederville WA 6007 | (08) 9328 2998 | riamalaykitchen.com.au
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