Unlike me, the Boy is lucky enough to have his parents living in the same city as we do. This is a luxury I have missed out enjoying on since my late teens and I cannot deny I am a little bit jealous. While I know both Mum and Dad are a quick phone call away, it would be wonderful to be able to just drop in and say hi, or pop out for a casual lunch together. The Boy doesn’t tend to organise regular catch ups with his family and sometimes it takes a special occasion to be able to bring us all together. With his parents celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year, we all agreed to meet in the Swan Valley for lunch. As per usual the booking was left up to me so I chose RiverBank Estate in Caversham.
The Boy and I arrived a bit early, it is easy to forget how close this part of the Valley is to the city. It only took us twenty minutes to get there from our house in Vic Park. There aren’t many cities around the world that boast being this close to a vineyard region! We ordered some bread and Lescure butter while we waited for his family to arrive. The Boy’s dinner roll was so shiny it glimmered in the sun. My gluten free bread was also quite a treat; it was toasted in a sandwich press giving it a satisfying crunchy exterior yet the inside of the bread still remained soft.
There were a number of dishes on the menu that were either gluten free or able to be adapted. The chefs at RiverBank make all their meals fresh to order so changing or altering ingredients to accommodate for dietary requirements was not an issue for them. The Boy and I started with sharing two entrées together.
The house cured salmon was prepared using high quality fish topped with horseradish cream and beetroot jelly. The salmon had a luscious melt in the mouth texture without leaving any strong fishy aftertaste.
Our second entrée was the seared scallops served on a bed of roasted sweet potato and garlic purée. It was topped with some shards of crispy pancetta. The scallops were much more substantial sized than those I had recently with my Dad in Melbourne and left a wonderful creamy texture on the palate.
Both my mother-in-law and I ordered the fish of the day; a Gold Band snapper served with a summery celeriac and caper coleslaw. Our plates were an array of colour garnished with vibrant spring flowers that were nearly too pretty to eat.
The snapper was topped with a Japanese squid salad along with a spoonful of fresh Moreton Bay bug salsa. After all my recent excessive overeating this dish was just the perfect, light meal that I was looking for.
My father in law and sister both ordered the pork belly which I didn’t get a chance to grab a photo of but they were both very happy with their choices. The Boy and his brother both ordered the more hearty braised duck leg which was served with a polenta and rabbit terrine and sautéed wild mushrooms. This dish was also gluten free which allowed me to have a little nibble.
The duck was slightly overcooked making some of the meat a little dry. There was plenty of juiciness from the rich mushrooms to balance this out to a degree. The Boy also felt the polenta was a little bland in flavour.
The Boy’s family are big eaters and so I made sure to order some sides to make sure that they were all full by the end of the afternoon. Our waitress advised me that their chips cannot be guaranteed gluten free as the deep fryer may contain traces of gluten. However the duck fat potatoes were fried in the pan making them gluten free. I couldn’t help but reach over and grab a couple before they all vanished.
For our desserts the most popular dish across the table was the soft meringue which luckily was also the gluten free dessert option on the menu. It was served with poached pear slices, bright pink raspberry sorbet and Persian fairy floss, or “hair” as the Boy likes to call it. The meringue was fluffy, squishy and delicious all in one mouthful. A winner all around the table.
The Boy being his usual self opted for feeding his addiction and ordered a selection of ice cream and sorbet. No surprises there! It is hard not to please him with a bowl of ice cream and there were certainly no complaints.
RiverBank Estate proved to be the perfect spot for us to meet up with my in-laws for Sunday lunch. The meals were big enough to feed their Dutch appetites and the atmosphere was relaxed enough for us to while away the afternoon laughing and enjoying each other’s company. I look forward to finding another family occasion to bring them back!Disclaimer: As much as Chompchomp and the Boy would loved to be wealthy enough to say “lunch is on us” sadly they are still waiting to win first division lotto and hope that this will be happening in the near future. It’s only a matter of time really. Instead they opted to use their Entertainment card for a discount off the total bill. RiverBank Estate 126 Hamersley Road, Caversham WA 6055 | (08) 9377 1805 | riverbankestate.com.au
Geographical separation has never had any impact on the bond I have with my best friend, Kate. Through the course of our fifteen years of Bestie-hood we have only lived in the same city for about half this time. We are not that good at regularly calling each other on the phone, in fact we are both shockers, yet within seconds of hearing each other’s voice we immediately lapse into our crazy way of talking that no one else on this Earth can ever seem to replicate. It’s actually like our own language. We have a way of bringing out the best in each other and I know that if anyone can turn my frown upside-down it will most definitely be Kate.
Twelve months ago Kate returned to her home-town of Esperance to complete her yoga teacher training with the aim to open her own yoga studio specialising in kid’s yoga. I envisaged this to be a slow process and was so surprised and excited to hear that less than a year after she moved away her studio was ready to be opened. I am so proud of her determination to make this long-term dream a reality and upon hearing the brilliant news I promptly booked some last minute flights to zip down and spend the weekend with her.
We booked accommodation at the Esperance Island View apartments which is located on the Esplanade and is only a short walk to the shops and restaurants. Our two bedroom apartment had two storeys with a large kitchen and living area, and most importantly excellent heating. This is something I have learnt to appreciate after our recent stay in Pemberton for Truffle Kerfuffle at an unnamed chalet location that had no heating other than a pot belly stove!
For our first night together we walked down to the Pier Hotel, a massive pub with separate bistro and bar areas, a cocktail lounge and the only night club in town. We sat down in the toasty bistro area by the open fire and made ourselves quite cosy.
The bistro menu has gluten free items clearly marked on the menu and most of the salad bar was also gluten free. Our waitress was kind enough to double check everything for me which was a thoughtful gesture. We each started off with a serve of drunken oysters. Served three ways, the oysters were surprisingly fresh and salty.
My favourite oyster of the three was the tequila shot which was served with a generous splash of tomato juice. The Jack Daniels Kilpatrick oyster was everyone’s least favourite. I found the bacon to be dry and flavourless with a barely discernible taste of bourbon. Not such a bad thing as I don’t particularly like bourbon.
My choice for main course was the Thai style barramundi, a grilled barra fillet cooked in curry sauce with basil, chilli and coconut cream. It is normally served with a pistachio and capsicum couscous but the gluten free option offers chips or mash as a replacement. Whilst it was quite an unsightly dish, the fish was cooked beautifully and the curry sauce was not overpowering. It would have been better paired with some steamed rice instead of mash.
With a day and a half to explore, we saw only a brief snippet of Esperance and its surrounds yet what I did see left me blown away by this remote town’s rugged beauty. Imagine long stretches of beaches with the whitest sand in Australia where the water is so vividly blue it almost doesn’t look real. It was breathtaking. One of the most special moments we shared was seeing a mother whale and her calf in the bay at Hellfire beach. Every time a tail fin would gracefully plunge out of the water both of us couldn’t hold back emitting loud sighs of amazement. I regretted not bringing my zoom lens with me!
Being in the middle of winter, Esperance’s weather can be unpredictable and can turn from clear blue skies to thundering storms quicker than I expected. After walking the Rotary Lookout circuit walk on Wireless Hill, we stopped to catch our breath in a little gazebo and watched a storm coming in over the coast for just long enough to avoid getting wet. Once the rain hit, we journeyed back into town for an afternoon snack at Taylors Beach café before popping into see her parents.
Taylors Beach café is situated overlooking the Bay of Isles and has been a local icon for many years. They have live music on Sunday afternoons and are open seven days. We only wanted a light snack to go with our drinks as we were heading out for dinner later that evening.
We started off with some French bubbles which is something of a tradition for the two of us. We have been known to spend ridiculous amounts of money that we don’t really have on bottles of exquisite French champagne so I figured we needed to keep on with our tradition to some degree; even if Grandin isn’t strictly Champagne it is French! 😉
Taylors have a small bites menu however unfortunately I was sternly informed that there was only one dish that could be served gluten free; the grilled scallops. There were six scallops served in the shell lightly grilled and seasoned with garlic and olive oil.
I made the error of eating some of the garnish in the middle of the dish which left a mouldy flavour in my mouth, ruining any further enjoyment of the scallops. The Boy and Kate took heed and avoided eating any greens meaning their scallop experience was much more enjoyable.
Fuelled with the warmth of a round of drinks, we visited her parents for a brief lesson on clipping cat’s claws. Betty Lois and Doris are ex-farm cats who are affectionately known collectively as The Girls. They were on their best behaviour which made for short work of my vet consult allowing us to celebrate with another round of drinks before heading out on the town to the Loose Goose for dinner.
The Loose Goose is one of the fine dining options in town and offers set dinner prices of $45.50 for one course, $57.50 for two courses and $67.50 for three courses. This price includes complimentary herb or garlic bread and a side salad or vegetables with the main meals. They did not have any gluten free bread on offer.
In our usual celebratory mode, we all chose to enjoy three courses. It is not often that we get to dine out together and the logical approach was to make the most of it. The Boy’s starter was a thick slab of Camembert cheese wrapped in puff pastry and baked until golden brown. A rather inelegant blob of mild chilli plum sauce accompanied the cheese adding a touch of fruity sweetness. This wasn’t a type of dish I ever expected him to order, in fact I cannot recall the last time I saw him order ANYTHING in puff pastry. However if his moans of delight were anything to go by, I can see he will likely order this again given the chance!
Kate ordered the sweet potato salad served warm with marinated mushrooms, French cream cheese, cherry tomatoes and julienned snow peas. It was a vegetarian’s feast and I couldn’t help myself from reaching across and nabbing a slice of soft creamy sweet potato.
I ordered the half dozen fresh natural oysters which I was hoping were obtained locally from WA but unfortunately I was told they were imported from South Australia. Regardless of the greater distance they travelled to reach my plate each oyster gave me a mouthful of fresh seawater without any unpleasant fishy after-taste.
The Boy was on a roll with this pastry fetish as his main course was also wrapped in puff pastry. His dish was titled “real barramundi” and consisted of a thick fillet of barramundi cooked with prawns and garlic butter and then wrapped in pastry.
His fish came with a potato gallete and more lashings of creamy garlic sauce. No vampires came near us that night!
Kate wasn’t too impressed with the main dish choices as she is not really much of a meat eater so she requested for the chilli squid entrée to be served as a main size. Our waitress was more than happy to oblige. Her chilli squid was served in a Greek style cooked with tomato, capsicum and a hint of chilli. It was topped with some crumbled feta and black olives. She paired it with brilliant emerald green choc-mint cocktail made with Crème de Cacao, Crème de Menthe and Midori. We downed a few of those together that night!
I ordered the special of the day; the King Snapper Tom Yum. Having travelled a reasonable amount in Thailand, this clear, sweet and sour soup is one of my Thai favourites and I was counting on flashbacks of our time in the tropical sunshine. I certainly wasn’t expecting the dish I received which was more like a red fish curry than a Tom Yum. The sauce was a more modern interpretation made using coconut cream and was served with rice, like a curry. After my initial surprise, I actually didn’t mind it at all. For a curry, it was richly flavoured with all the layering of tastes that a well-made Thai dish should have. The fish was softly cooked and flaked apart gracefully and I was close to licking the bowl clean by the end.
As we arrived at dessert time, I was grateful for having a second stomach as I was totally stuffed. Whenever the three of us are out together, Kate and I will often try and guess what the Boy will order. He will then try to meet our suggestions with an air of total mystery and nonchalance. We are renowned for usually getting it right and simultaneously chanted that he would choose the Death by Chocolate. After a few minutes of playing coy and pretending we were completely wrong our waitress came up to take our order and lo and behold; he orders the Death by Chocolate. It was a rich doorstop-sized block of chocolate cake served warm and drizzled with oozing chocolicious ganache.
Both of us girls ordered the dessert special; the Loose Goose chocolate pot. Despite asking for gluten free, mine was initially served with some chocolate biscuit crumbled on top. Thankfully the Boy pointed this out to me before I had finished taking my photos and I avoided getting gluten poisoning.
Our waitress was extremely apologetic and promptly swapped it over for me. The chocolate pot was a huge serve of which neither of us needed to finish it all. Of course we both did polish off the lot which made our dancing attempts later on at the Pier nightclub not exactly easy!
The following morning we gathered ourselves together for a refreshing coastal walk. There is a walking track along most of the town’s coastline with gentle undulating hills and some of the most breathtaking views of the beaches. If I hadn’t binged so much the night before it would have made a fabulous running track to burn off those excess calories.
Sadly our weekend had nearly drawn to an end so before we headed back to the airport, Kate took us for a drive to Monjingup Lake Nature Reserve. She is a master at pleasing everyone and given I had already had a fulfilling foodie weekend, she wanted to take us somewhere that she knew the Boy would love.
The reserve has a well maintained boardwalk which takes you right out onto the lake giving gorgeous views of the reflections of the trees on the water.
There was an abundance of bird life that the Boy spotted with great ease; wildlife watching is something of a talent of his and he takes great pleasure in being the first to spot any signs of life. Once again I regretted not travelling with the appropriate camera lens!
While the Boy wandered off ahead in search of birds and frogs, my Bestie and I took our time to treasure our last hour together.
Whilst it had been a whirlwind trip this is something the two of us have grown accustomed to over the years. Previously we would both end up being shattered by the end of our rushed catch up due to our desperate attempts at making the most of our time by indulging in all the excesses.
Nearly decades later, our best-friendship has reached a point where we know we have each other for support no matter where we live and what we are doing. Our times together are becoming much more cherished and the influence of her yoga practice on living a healthy life is having a positive impact on both of us. It is a beautiful point in our lives to be.
Despite being all “zen” about my best friend living so far away, as I watched her leave us at the Esperance airport, I shed more than just a few tears. 😥To the bestest bestie; we had such a fabulous weekend with you in your hometown of Esperance. Let’s hope the time until we meet again is short. Whaa-toot!
Chompchomp travelled to Esperance on her own budget purely just to be with her bestie. She is confident that no one in town knew of her blog’s existence and was happy to be completely incognito. Pier Hotel The Esplanade, Esperance Western Australia 6450 | (08) 9071 1777 | www.pierhotelesperance.net.au www.taylorsbeachcafe.com.au loosegooseesperance.com.au
After spending a few days exploring the sunny town of Carnarvon, the Boy and I packed up our 4WD hire car and drove back to Exmouth. Exmouth is a four hour drive north from Carnarvon depending on your chosen route. In my usual manner I had pre-planned our trip to take us up the more direct route along the coastal road so we could stop in at beautiful Coral Bay. Unfortunately we were unlucky enough to have our Northwest trip coincide with some of the worst flooding the region has seen in years which meant that this coastal road was closed. Our alternate route took us further inland which added a little bit of extra time to our trip. Although I was a bit disappointed not getting to visit Coral Bay, I got to see some Outback Australian scenery that was totally new to me.
Plus there was the added entertainment of spotting random livestock and wildlife to photograph along the way…
Our Exmouth accommodation was at the 4.5 star Novotel Ningaloo which is the only resort located along the Sunrise Beach and is considered one of the most luxurious options to stay in town. Every hotel room and apartment are positioned to try and maximise views of the water with the ocean and marina both only meters away from our apartment’s doorstep.
We stayed in one of the two bedroom self-contained apartments which had a spacious open plan with the perfect layout for a family with two children. In addition to our type of lodgings, the resort also has two types of hotel rooms, one bedroom apartments and bungalows and their largest accommodation, the two story two bedroom bungalow directly overlooking the beach.
Our apartment had a comfortable King sized bed in the master room with twin beds located in the second bedroom. There was a pillow menu on offer however we didn’t notice this until late in the evening when there were minimal options left. Housekeeping advised us apologetically that our stay coincided with a full house and were given first priority on pillow options for the following morning. The bathroom opened out onto the bedroom with bi-folding doors and had a spa bath with separate shower. There were a variety of Accor branded amenities available.
The kitchen was equipped with most of the basic utensils that you would need for cooking including a stove, microwave, dishwasher and full sized fridge for storing all your leftovers. Despite having good intentions to cook up some local seafood to eat, we never even got around to boiling the kettle!
After spending the afternoon on the road in poor weather conditions neither of us had any desire to hit the town so we made a reservation at the resort’s restaurant Mantaray’s. Although this is the poshest resort in Exmouth, I was relieved to be greeted with a relaxed vibe without any luxury venue pretension.
We had been nibbling on gluten free snacks that I had bought in Carnarvon on the road trip so in a rare moment of restraint we ordered just one entrée to share along with a half a dozen oysters. The prawn cocktail entrée was made using local Exmouth prawns, fresh avocado, cos lettuce and seafood sauce. Whilst not being the most generous of serves for the price, each prawn was super fresh and we literally fought each other over the last one.
The Boy ordered the vegetarian fettuccini for his main course. There was no scrimping on the vegetables in this one with piles of snow peas, carrot, zucchini, rocket, tomatoes and fresh basil with a creamy lemon and pine nut sauce. It was the type of dish that makes him content with his choice of eating a vegetarian diet.
I ordered the local fish of the day, a pan fried snapper served on a bed of creamy pea risotto and pea purée. Crunchy wafers of crisp pancetta topped the dish and added a much needed contrast in textures. The fish was cooked tenderly and fell apart under my fork in delicate flaky chunks.
As I figured that the oysters didn’t counted as a meal I justified ordering dessert on the pretence we had only shared one entrée. I mean, oysters are just an amuse bouche aren’t they? I was thrilled to hear the gluten free dessert options offered were more than the usual standards like crème brûlée and flourless chocolate cake. I chose the raspberry mille-feuille; layers of sweet raspberry mousse and gluten free chocolate cake topped off with a paper thin layer of milk chocolate. It was all very decadent and smooth leaving me dreaming of eating it over and over for most of the following day.
The Boy’s ice cream addiction has come out of its dormancy with full force. These days I am struggling to convince him to order anything else for dessert unless it accompanies ice cream. I will admit this makes me a bit annoyed now that we can no longer share two gluten free desserts, but to be honest I also find it quite endearing. He is normally so easy going and just goes with the flow so to see him so obsessed with something is unusual.
For someone who loves her luxury accommodation, I didn’t think I would find anything of the sort up in the Northwest of Australia. I had prepared myself for motels with grim coloured furniture and postage stamp sized towels. I was more than pleasantly surprised at Novotel Ningaloo and after staying at fairly simple lodgings in Carnarvon it was a welcome relief. We would love to return to stay there next visit to Exmouth and hope our next trip accompanies some better weather!Chompchomp was an invited guest of the Novotel Ningaloo as part of her WA Signature Dish involvement. She was offered a heavily discounted industry rate to stay in the two bedroom apartment in exchange for providing Novotel with some professional photography services around the resort. Sods law meant that for the duration of her stay in Exmouth there were intermittent storms, grey skies and a lot of rain. Consequently her rushed photography taken during the rare snippets of sunshine were not exactly her greatest work. She humbly paid for her meal at Mantaray’s restaurant in full as this was not part of the deal. Novotel Ningaloo & Mantaray’s Bar Restaurant Madaffari Drive, Exmouth WA 6707 | (08) 9949 0000 | novotelningaloo.com.au
Enjoying gluten free Italian cuisine in a restaurant is a rare luxury for me. Whilst it is easy to make gluten free pasta dishes at home, the number of Italian restaurants that can accommodate us are few and far between. Nearly three years ago, my gastroenterologist insisted I return to eating gluten for nearly seven torturous weeks in order to take the necessary biopsies for Coeliac disease testing. It was a hard slog with every day becoming an effort as the “poison” of gluten decayed my health.
In a pathetic attempt at maintaining a glass half full attitude, I decided to make the most of this time and eat all the gluteny foods that I had been missing for years. I consumed copious amounts of pasta, croissants, donuts and real bread for the duration of my gluten challenge. The fine dining Italian restaurant Modo Mio had only just opened at the Crown and so off I headed with the Boy to eat fresh pasta and bread while I still could. Just a side note, for those who choose to click on the link and read this old post of mine; please be warned! It is one of my very first posts I published back when I was on the steepest part of this blogging learning curve. I find it somewhat cringeworthy to read but remind myself that everyone has to start somewhere.
Years later I was approached by Crown Perth to return to Modo Mio for a subsidised return visit. I was interested to see how this fine dining establishment could handle a gluten free customer such as myself and so I gratefully accepted the invitation.
It had been a mad working weekend filled with emergencies and drama so the thought of sitting in an ambient restaurant with my favourite person sounded like the perfect recipe to unwind. We were warmly greeted and shown to our table which oddly happened to be exactly the same table we sat at back in October 2011. A weird coincidence indeed!
Our waitress for the evening came over to introduce herself and answer any questions regarding the menu. She knew all the dishes in depth and proceeded to talk me through each one advising what was gluten free or how they could be adapted. I was pleasantly surprised that despite being a cuisine I thought wasn’t very gluten free friendly I had an abundance of options. There was even gluten free bread AND pasta available.
We started with the trio of salmon entree. I could immediately see Modo Mio have lifted their game since they opened a few years ago. Our dish was beautifully presented with each component as fresh as the next. In the centre of the plate was a mound of soft salmon tartare tossed with citrus, cucumber and sour cream. Each mouthful disappeared in a second with subtle salty flavours accentuated by the occasional burst of a salmon roe egg.
At the far end of the dish sat two silky smooth rolls of salmon perched on cucumber discs and filled with sour cream. One was topped with fresh dill and the other with crunchy poppy seeds. The Boy knows how much I love the sensation of poppy seeds splitting between my teeth and so he allowed me take that one as he reached for the other.
The final component of the salmon trio was not the easiest portion to share. A hard-boiled egg was filled with more of the satiny smoked salmon and topped with a decadent spoonful of Oscietra caviar. We carefully halved the portion to ensure we each got an equal amount of the decadent topping. Not a bad mouthful of luxury for the price!
We had specifically planned to share just one entrée so we could also have a plate of pasta before we hit main course. I mean, how can I NOT order pasta when she offered me a gluten free version? Our waitress had recommended that the best dish on the menu to have with the gluten free penne was the “spaghetti ai fruitti di mare” or, seafood pasta.
Gluten free pasta can be temperamental to cook however I noted ours was exquisitely “al dente”. Each tube was liberally coated in richly flavoured chilli tomato sauce and buried deep in the dish was a generous serving of mussels, cockles, fish, squid and octopus.
Abandoning all cares that I needed to leave some room for both our main and dessert, I tucked into the pasta greedily like a child with an ice cream on a hot day. This was an uncommon treat that I wanted to enjoy to the maximum.
For my main dish I ordered the “doppio barramundi”, or double barramundi. This dish originally comes with Parma ham saccottini which are little parcels of pasta filled with Parma ham, and therefore it needed to be adapted to be gluten free. The chef kindly replaced the saccottini with some buttery greens and roasted cherry tomatoes.
Each of the two fillets of barramundi were clean tasting without any of the muddy aftertaste that this fish can sometime have. The dish was simply finished with a thick sage and caper butter sauce.
The Boy also ordered fish for his main choosing the seared snapper. A thick chunk of crispy skinned snapper on a bed of the smoothest mash was topped with a flavoursome eggplant caponata. A couple of portions of crumbed calamari, roasted cherry tomatoes and a light drizzle of saffron aioli finished the dish.
I wasn’t anticipating such generously sized main meals as I’m accustomed to most fine dining establishments serving smaller portions. Consequently I ordered one side dish for us; the fresh made mashed potato with sautéed button mushrooms. Although I knew the Boy had already mash in his dish, I wanted some I could enjoy without any gluten contamination. Plus, who can go past sautéed mushrooms? Not me.
Many of you may have heard me mention about the Boy’s love of ice cream. It is an addiction that spans back for as long as I have known him. He waxes and wanes with his ice cream intake in a similar all-or-nothing fashion like I do with chocolate. Modo Mio’s ice cream trio of amarena cherry marble, vanilla and Nutella did not disappoint my beloved ice cream connoisseur.
I opted for one of my favourite traditional Italian desserts; a pannacotta. It was perfectly formed with an exquisite ability to jiggle about without losing its shape despite my repeated attempts as I wobbled my plate about the table. It passed my test and I knew I made the right choice.
It was served in a cherry and rhubarb consommé giving alternating sweet and tart flavours. We went silent as we tucked into our final dish for the evening. All you could hear was the repeated chink of our spoons against our plates as we scooped up each mouthful, both wistfully off in our own private thoughts of decadent dessertland.
I love returning to a restaurant and seeing how they have grown and developed, especially when it is for the better. Whilst there wasn’t anything overtly negative with our first visit to Modo Mio, we did experience slow, inattentive service and our meal lacked any wow factor.
In total contrast, our most recent visit we were very impressed with the quality of the food and the attentive, knowledgeable service. We also found Modo Mio’s prices quite reasonable considering its location in the Crown complex. We will look forward to returning again in the future.Chompchomp dined as a guest of Crown Perth. She was offered a meal of the value of $150 however in her usual gluttonous state she couldn’t hold herself back and ordered a further $100 worth of food and drink. She was more than happy to pay the remaining balance of their meal herself. She was in no way obliged to write a favourable review and did not let the wait staff know the purpose of her visit. Modo Mio Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood WA 6100 | (08) 9362 7551 | www.crownperth.com.au/restaurants/premium/modo-mio/about Price: $$$$ Entrees $25-33, Pasta $27-34, Mains $31-51
I recently travelled up to the Northwest corner of Western Australia as the official blogger for the Gascoyne regional final in the inaugural WA Signature Dish competition. Having never visited this part of Australia before, I wanted to obtain a clear insight into its food industry in order to understand why they call themselves the “food bowl” of our State. The Boy and I flew in via Exmouth, collected ourselves a rental 4WD from the airport and drove straight to Carnarvon in the pouring rain to be ready to start early the next morning.
The competition event was held at One Mile Restaurant which is housed in the new Interpretive Centre facing out onto the historical One Mile Jetty in the Heritage Precinct. Whilst this ancient but well preserved jetty was constructed back in 1897, the accompanying restaurant was only built recently and hadn’t even officially opened! Their kitchen was so shiny and new creating a perfect work area for our four contestants to create their signature dishes. The fabulous four finalists for the Gascoyne region are Jerolina, Amy, Paul and Gayle. They all live in Carnarvon and show an obvious love for their home town and its amazingly vibrant produce.
The contestants weren’t scheduled to hit the stoves until mid-morning which gave Channel Seven’s Today Tonight camera team plenty of time to get loads of footage including getting individual interviews with each of them. Also joining the team was professional photographer Anton from Simply Designed, whose talent, skills and awesome equipment reminded me what a complete amateur I am with my little camera!
As each contestant was scuttled away for their private interviews, it gave me the chance to have a good chat with those remaining behind and learn more about what it is like living in Carnarvon and more importantly to plug them for suggestions on where to eat locally.
I was surprised and somewhat saddened to learn that despite being a town surrounded by an abundance of amazing fruit and vegetable plantations in addition to having access to some of the freshest seafood, many of the local eateries preferred to obtain cheaper imported ingredients in order to save on costs. Hopefully with highly publicized and well-run events like WA Signature Dish, it will help promote using local produce and this food culture will start to change. Certainly if the passion and enthusiasm of these four locals was anything to go by, it won’t be long before this happens.
Once all the contestant’s interviews were completed it was time for them to don their aprons and get down to business. Before officially commencing the cook-off, the region’s mentor chef Peter Manifis from InContro wished the contestants the best of luck before gesturing them into the kitchen.
Although the four in the kitchen were far too busy to stop and eat, the rest of us were getting pretty peckish. To our delight the newly appointed chef for One Mile Restaurant had kindly prepared a huge spread of food for us to snack on while we anxiously waited to see what the first dish would be. Our lunch included fresh sushi rolls, pumpkin soup, rice paper rolls, scones and a colourful fruit platter. When I chatted to the chef to find out what was gluten free, I was excited to hear she was a huge supporter in using her local produce and plans to promote this in her new restaurant once it opens.
Each contestant received their signature dish ingredients packed neatly in a crate and seeing them all go through each one was like watching kids at Christmas. Jerolina’s signature dish was a whole grilled Snapper served with Dabu dabu and coconut corn. Dabu dabu is a type of hot sauce found in Manado cuisine from Indonesia.
Her signature dish was the first one to be presented to the judges and she certainly set the bar high for her fellow finalists. The fish was so delicate and moist with a rich, spicy flavour from the Dabu dabu sauce. The chargrilled corn also had a hint of spice which balanced elegantly with the sweet coconut flavours.
Those of you who know me well, you will be familiar with my “flying hands of fury”. It is a term used by my friends to describe my ever-moving and highly expressive hand movements. Well, actually they are sometimes more like arm movements.
Within minutes of meeting Amy I concluded we must have been separated at birth because she also sported a similarly fantastic pair of flying hands of fury. Being such an energetic and vibrant person I was excited to see what creative and crazy dish she would create. Her signature dish was a stunning carpaccio of kangaroo fillet served on a bed of Oriental lentils with pickled beetroot. It was plated immaculately and I found it hard to believe she had no chef training.
As I am allergic to kangaroo meat, unfortunately I didn’t try this dish. Roo causes me to develop a rather unusual anaphylactic like response where my throat swells up and I struggle to breathe. Kind of like what I imagine a nut allergy to be. But to roo! It’s not pleasant. I was informed by those who ate the carpaccio that the meat was uber-tender and matched well with the creamy lentils and sweet beetroot.
Gayle runs the front of house for Pickles Point Seafood & Boatyard in Carnarvon. Pickles Point are renowned for providing the local Carnarvon residents with some of the freshest Shark Bay seafood so it was logical that this would be the main feature of her signature dish.
She cooked a freshly cut fillet of Shark Bay Pink Snapper topped with butterflied Tiger prawns and served on a sweet potato mash with lime and mayonnaise. I looked over at the judge’s faces and I could see they were struggling to choose a winner. It was going to be such a hard call to make as every dish was outstanding.
The lovely, smiling Paul was the lucky last competitor to serve up his signature dish to the judging panel. This didn’t appear to frazzle him whatsoever and he looked so zen and calm as he prepared his dish. I wish cooking had that effect on me!
His dish was titled the “Gascoyne seafood tasting plate”. It comprised of four equally outstanding components each showcasing a outstanding number of key hero ingredients from the Gascoyne region; King prawns with salsa verde, citrus cured snapper, pan fried Pink snapper with lime mayonnaise and pickled vegetables; and snapper tartare with basil drizzle.
Narrowing it down to just one winner was going to be very hard and I didn’t envy the judges having to make this decision. The winner of each regional final will go on to battle it out for the title of WA Signature Dish on WA Day in June. The other three regional finalists are from the areas of Southern Forests, Great Southern and Perth. In order to help prepare the contestants for the big finale, each regional winner will receive intense one-on-one training from their mentor chef. I can see the Peter has a strong competitive streak in him so we couldn’t have asked for a more motivated chef to train our finalist!
As the crowd gathered around to wait for the announcement of the winner I could feel the excitement and tension in the air. The judges had used a points system to score each dish, assessing its flavour, presentation and originality but also on its ability to proudly showcase the produce from the Gascoyne region. Before they declared the winner, we were informed that it was an extremely close call with the top two contestants so close they nearly came in at a tie.
And the winner of the WA Signature Dish Gascoyne regional is……..Paul Kelly with his stunning Gascoyne seafood tasting plate. A huge congratulations to you Paul and also a big well done to Jerolina, Amy and Gayle for creating such amazing and individual signature dishes. Hopefully we may all meet again next year? 😉
Chompchomp is the official blogger for the Gascoyne region for WA Signature Dish competition run by Buy West Eat Best.
My mother and I share many personality qualities and when we spend time together it often feels like there is an overlap of our mother-daughter relationship with that of two best friends. When we are together we laugh a lot, often and easily, sometimes to the point of tears at things that others may not perceive as being quite that funny. Back when I was still at school, she was the “cool” mum that everyone else wanted as their mum. Now decades later we are separated by thousands of kilometres meaning our times spent with each other are more precious than ever before. Earlier this year the Boy and I headed back to Adelaide to visit her for a short weekender break. Mum is as much of a foodie as I am and so she organised to take us on a day trip into the McLaren Vale wine region. McLaren Vale is a short 45 minute drive from Adelaide’s city centre and is easy to visit on a day trip.
With my stepdad at the wheel we spent the day cruising from winery to winery carefully choosing just enough wine to fit into our luggage home. Our first stop was Hardy’s Tintara, a picturesque old winery bought by Hardy’s founder Thomas Hardy in 1876. Many of the old historical buildings still remain. The cellar door staff were welcoming and friendly insisting we work our way through as many of their wines as possible. There was no charge for tasting.
We spent a lot longer than we realised at Tintara chatting to the lovely staff and sipping away on a variety of their luscious reds. By the time we all jumped in the car I felt a bit light headed and keen for a bite to eat. Mum had booked us a table at The Currant Shed as she already knew they were gluten free friendly.
The Currant Shed are very focused on using local produce and being situated on the Fleurieu Peninsula they have an abundance of choice available. Their head chef prides himself on cultivating close relationships with the food producers and our waitress proudly explained to us that they make everything in house from scratch. The pickled octopus is one of their specialities and it was so tender soft you almost wouldn’t believe it was octopus.
The menu has a number of creative dishes many of which are suitable for dietary requirements including gluten free and vegetarian options. The Boy and I shared the vegetarian entrée which was a selection of baby beetroots with whipped goat’s curd, toasted pepitas and pumpkin oil.
Such a simple array of colourful ingredients decorated our plate elegantly and every mouthful was a burst of flavours and soft textures.
We had already all gone out to Bar 9 for a late breakfast so after eating our pretty entrées none of us were exceedingly hungry. Mum and my stepdad wanted to share a main so our waitress recommended that they order the smoked kangaroo loin as it was a reasonable sized serve to divide between two people. It was served with a rye pilaf, green strawberries and a pepper berry reduction. Being accustomed to Perth restaurant prices I was astonished at what a generous serve it was for just $33.
The Boy was ecstatic when he saw his vegetarian plate of amazingness arrive. Using locally sourced, seasonal vegetables such as zucchini and capsicums his plate was as beautiful as our entrée. Who said vegetarian food was boring?
On his plate were cheesy wedges of zucchini parmigiana, orzo stuffed peppers with feta and fresh tomatoes filled with black rice and peas. Scattered about his plate lay a multitude of fresh herbs, caperberries and edible flowers.
I ordered the fish of the day; two chunks of crispy skinned snapper with a macadamia nut crust in a tomato sugo broth with Goolwa cockles and thick cut chunks of pumpkin. The tomato sugo was a little watery and not as flavoursome as I would have preferred but with the saltiness of the cockles and lemony acidity of the caperberries the dish was still balanced well.
Sadly despite The Currant Shed having a very delightful looking dessert menu none of us had the room left in our bellies to squeeze in any sweets. Rolling onward and outward we piled back into the car to hit one more winery. We arrived at D’arenberg where we learnt the meaning of the wonderful word cenosilicaphobic: “the fear of an empty glass”. This is certainly something I suffer from at time to time.
The cellar door is situated overlooking the rolling hills of McLaren Vale and would have been another pretty spot to stop for lunch. Their restaurant d’Arrys Verandah is a little more formal compared to The Currant Shed and offers a full degustation menu. I noted they are also gluten free friendly and glimpses of the food heading out to the tables definitely looked like they were worth returning for.
After a few more wine tastings and a stroll around D’Arenberg’s grassy grounds we were nearly ready to head back home. It was late in the afternoon so unfortunately for us the first two venues that we dropped into for some dessert had already closed their kitchen. After nearly giving up, we found a gourmet café called Blessed Cheese that was still open in the town centre.
They had a couple of gluten free cake options and a massive selection of cheese and other local gourmet goods. We chose the gluten free sticky toffee muffin to share which was served warm with a caramel sauce drizzled over the top. It was not my usual type of dessert these days but it successfully satisfied my sweet tooth.
With the car boot clinking with a variety of bottles of wines that I had bought for our collection, I left the Vale knowing that I made the most of my trip. Thank goodness we scored a business class upgrade for our flight home otherwise our wallets would be burned with excess luggage charges!Hardy’s Tintara 202 Main Road, McLaren Vale SA 5171 | (08) 8329 4124 | hardyswines.com/au/wines/ranges/tintara D’Arenberg Osborn Road, McLaren Vale SA 5171 | (08) 8329 4848 | www.darenberg.com.au www.currantshed.com.au www.blessedcheese.com.au
It was bucketing down with rain and the wind cut through me like ice. This is not exactly the best weather to be walking through the city in search of a bite to eat. The Boy and I had just been dropped off at the Wellington Bus Station by Loris from Taste Bud Tours after an afternoon Speed Grazing in the Swan Valley. I had adamantly put my foot down refusing to return home and cook dinner. It was too enjoyable a day to return to the humdrum just yet. But we were a little peckish so I suggested we pop across the road to Jamie’s Italian for some pucker tucker before catching a cab. We were loaded up with bags of loot that we had bought along the way and desperate for a quick solution we both agreed this sounded like an easy option.
Our wise plans were to prove nothing short of stupid as it turned out that our impromptu dinner happened to coincide with the New Directions concert held at the Perth Arena only a minutes’ walk from the restaurant. Unbeknownst to us nearly every single parent of the 14,000+ teenage concert goers ALSO chose to eat at Jamie’s Italian while they waited for the three hour concert to finish. To add insult to injury these possibly clueless parents were either not educated in the Jamie way of high table turnover, or more likely they didn’t really care, and thus once completing their meals they were happy to just sit and occupy their table for a bit longer.
And they sat.
Meanwhile at the bar overlooking the restaurant floor, it was bursting at the seams with hungry customers waiting for a table. I noticed a number people casting intense glares at the well-fed diners seated below in hope this would prompt them to feel guilty, get up and move back to the bar to give up their table. I’m surprised there wasn’t a mutiny!
I have to say for the first hour I was still a bit full from our Speed Grazing and was happy to snack slowly whilst taking in the whole atmosphere. My absolute favourite of the bar snacks was the crispy fried polenta chips with fresh rosemary and finely grated parmesan. These are most definitely worth the hype. Obnoxiously crispy on the outside with a soft fluffy centre I could have easily downed several rounds of these if I could have made my way back to the bar more easily to place another order.
It’s a big call to call your olives the World’s Best olives but Jamie in his over confident manner is obviously happy to do so. Large, firm green olives and black olive tapenade were served on ice with paper-thin, crispy “music bread” which was not gluten free. Olives are a very individual taste and personally I wouldn’t go so far as to call these the World’s best as the flesh was a little hard. I like my olives to fall off the pip like slow cooked meat falls off a bone.
The sweet mini chilli peppers were stuffed with whipped ricotta, mint & lemon and were soft and delicate providing a good textural contrast to our super crunchy polenta chips. Our bar experience would have been greatly improved if our waiter brought us some serviettes and cutlery to the table with our food order. There may have been some available at the bar but as we were packed in like sardines I didn’t bother to check.
After what turned out to be a two and a half hour wait I was escorted to our table along with a very disgruntled husband. He had to start work early the next day, it was nearly nine o’clock and we were only just getting seated. We were originally told it would be about an hour and a half wait and had no idea that it actually would mean nearly double that! I felt terrible because I was the one that had pushed him into dining here, after our long day he would have been happy with some local take out and a night snuggled up on the couch.
Trying to make light of the situation I persuaded him to forget temporarily the busy day ahead of him as we had undergone such a long haul to get this table and we needed to make the most of it! I ordered the pan-fried whole pink snapper with olives, garlic, wine, capers, parsley & the “sweetest baby plum tomatoes”. The wonder about fresh seafood is that you really need very little effort to make it a delicious meal. Cooked on the bone the snapper had so much flavour but I did need to eat it slowly so as not to choke on a fish-bone.
The Boy had a fillet of baked King Salmon served with whipped lemony artisanal ricotta, balsamic roasted winter vegetables and a zesty crunchy salad. He was understandably far too hungry to go into details of listing adjectives to describe his dish but he did comment that all the ingredients seemed extremely fresh.
We ordered a couple of nicely priced side dishes to boot. The “Humble Green Salad” contained thick, bright chunks of cos lettuce with a lemon, mustard, crushed pink peppercorns & mint yoghurt dressing and topped with a variety of mixed seeds. It tasted like it had come straight from the garden.
The Boy and I are mad for roasted pumpkin and my tired eyes nearly missed seeing it on the sides menu. Thankfully the Boy was on the ball and ensured we ordered a serve. It was layered with chunks of roasted beetroot and garlic cloves and tossed with chilli, roasted nuts & seeds. Whilst this dish in its simplicity will never fail to excite me; my bench mark for hitting the wow factor is Rockpool’s Pumpkin with burnt butter and garlic yoghurt. Jamie’s pumpkin was good, but it was not THAT good.
The tension across the table from our overly excessive wait for a table had dissipated. I love how good food can fix nearly everything. For dessert I really didn’t think I could squeeze much more in so I opted for the poached Winter fruits with vanilla frozen yoghurt and smashed honeycomb. While being thankful my choice was light and easy to eat I couldn’t help eyeing off all the more elaborate desserts brought to our surrounding tables. I guessing I will have to come back with a more empty stomach next time. If the Boy lets me!Jamie’s Italian The Mitchell Building, 140 William Street, Perth, WA 6000 | (08) 9363 8600 | www.jamieoliver.com/italian/australia/perth Price: $$ (Entrees/Small bites $9-16, Mains $17-34) Food: 4/5 (simple, wholesome goodness, certainly nothing fancy but hits the sweet spot) Service: 2.5/5 (although the table service was brilliant, please don’t tell customers it’s a 90 minute wait when it is actually 2 & 1/2 hours) Ambience: 4/5 (noisy, energetic and vibrant) Drinks: 3/5 (very Italian focused) Total: 13.5/20
Having only just celebrated my first blogiversary last month, I consider myself somewhat of a newcomer to Perth’s food blogger ranks. What has truly amazed me and touched my heart profoundly is the strong sense of community amongst fellow bloggers. Despite my inexperience, I have been graciously greeted with open arms not just by other fresh(wo)men like myself, but by those with popular, well-established and recognised blogs. It certainly does make a fresh change from the comparatively serious and introverted veterinary world.
Four bloggers from Perth including yours truly were selected to attend the third annual Eat.Drink.Blog conference this year in Adelaide. In preparation for our highly anticipated weekend away, we met up during the week prior for dinner to talk “blogger’s stuff” and of course to eat!
After a few restaurant options were toyed around, we ended up agreeing on West End Deli in West Perth. Snuggled in the residential end of West Perth, West End Deli is a quaint little bistro owned by a husband and wife duo; Justin and Christine Peters. I had been here once several years ago and confess my previous experience back then wasn’t very memorable. I vaguely recall the kitchen appearing to have strong reluctance to adapt any dishes for me and that we waited well over 45 minutes for our breakfast meals only for them to forget our coffees. Twice. Having said that, this was quite some time ago and I know one should try to avoid forming a strong judgement from just one experience.
It’s incredible how the same dining room, with all the same interiors, can change its whole persona at night. The casual, sunlit café I remember from previously had magically transformed into a sombre, intimate and classy bistro. It wasn’t long before we all arrived and with glasses of wine in hand we relaxed into the vibe. Some unexpected amuse bouche were brought to our table; a crisp homemade wonton piped with creamy herb and goats cheese and sprinkled with black sesame seeds.
Being unable to eat the wonton, a plump little ball of pear filled with the cheese was offered to me as a replacement. Not wanting to seem ungrateful or fussy, I quickly chowed down on a glucose tablet before I slipped my juicy treat into my mouth. Being such a small amount of pear, it is easy to counteract the fructose with a small dose of glucose. For times like these, I carry these tablets everywhere with me.
Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse started with the potato and pickled sardine terrine topped with a curl of crème fraîche and a poached yabby tail.
Michelle from Foodie Cravings was initially reluctant to order herself an entrée as we had already earmarked a couple of dishes on the dessert menu and she sensibly wanted to pace herself. The ricotta gnocchi managed to twist her rubber arm when the waitress informed her it would be no trouble to omit the candied olives and replace with an alternate ingredient. The gnocchi were light, mini sized pillows, tossed in fresh sage and garlic and tumbled over a thick smear of pesto sauce.
I chose the slow cooked egg for entrée as my obsession with these gelatinous beauties continues. Perched on a nest of crumbled bacon it was accompanied a pea mash flavoured with white anchovies and lashings of truffle oil. Weblike shavings of Reggiano cheese were sprinkled on top. I struggled to do this dish justice with my photography in the flickering candle light however suffice to say my palate was rewarded. This breakfast-esque spin on bacon and eggs was a winner.
Moni from Gastromony chose the elegantly plated charred octopus. Coated with a thin chermoula crust it came with pear and walnut salad and a smear of blood orange. Kudos to her assistance with taking a photo for me as my go-go gadget arms couldn’t reach across the table without losing some degree of decorum. I still get a little embarrassed and feel awkward taking photos of people’s meals as deep in my heart I feel like a novice.
Ideas of pork belly and spatchcock failed to get past the consideration stages for any of us and we all opted for the snapper for mains. The fish was seared to a butter smooth consistency and balanced precariously over some prawns and mussels. A thin saffron coloured broth gave a subtle perfumey bitterness to sharpen the softer flavours of this dish. Tarry coloured squid ink brandade was blobbed on top and gave a pleasant piquant aftertaste. Brandade is French sauce made from an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil.
The girls all ordered the potted cheesecake for dessert. It was served in the same adorable little pots that I saw Rochelle Adonis’s salted caramel mousse recently. Apparently she imports them from France. What was much more curious about this dish was that next to the pot laid an innocent little tube labelled “Squeeze Me” containing salted dulche de leche.
Curiouser and curiouser.
I wondered if my new found friends would slowly start shrinking in their seats to become miniature pint-sized versions of their former selves. Thankfully the only surprise to follow was the unexpected layer of popping candy on top of the cheesecake. No one had any trouble finishing off their desserts which is always a good sign.
I was informed by our waitress that none of their desserts on the menu were gluten free however in complete contrast to my experience at West End Deli many moons ago, the chef kindly rose to the occasion and wasn’t going to let me miss out by any means. I was offered a honey vanilla parfait served with a caramelised warm banana. Grateful for their efforts once more, I didn’t bother going through the finer details that fructose malabsorbers cannot have honey. I presumed the amount would indeed be small anyway so I sneakily crunched on another couple of glucose tablets. My parfait was a little icy and hard for my liking but this was made up for by the dulcet banana.
I have to be honest; my recent experience at West End Deli has turned my opinion around for the better. They were accommodating for our varied requests and their service was discrete yet warm and welcoming. As we left the kitchen staff bid us all farewell from the open plan kitchen; a nice touch. I think I am going to have to give their breaky another try.West End Deli 95 Carr Street, West Perth, WA 6005 | (08) 9328 3605 | www.westenddeli.net.au Price: $$$ ($25-35 per meal, BYO) Food: 7.5/10 (flexible with requests, small menu executed well) Service: 4/5 (attentive without being obtrusive, warm and friendly) Ambience: 4/5 (very dark ambiance, would be romantic for couples) Drinks: Unable to assess as BYO. Total: 15.5/20