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.
Being a Mushroom Mania blogger, I feel like a proud ambassador for the mighty mushroom and consequently it was no surprise to me when I received an invitation to attend the Australian Mushroom Grower Association’s Celebration Dinner as part of their “Mushrooms Support Pink” campaign. This campaign is aimed at helping raise awareness for breast cancer during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
We were treated to a four course meal with mushrooms featuring in every dish to show off what a versatile and flavoursome food they are.
Over the course of the evening, we were encouraged to enter a raffle to help raise money for cancer research with a number of small pink prizes to go around. The Boy managed to win himself a pink whisk!
You don’t have to be a regular reader of this blog to know that I love my mushrooms. Back in 2012, my passion for this versatile fungi led to me being selected as one of the two official Mushroom Mania bloggers for WA alongside Cynthia from The Food Pornographer. I was only just a newbie blogger at the time and it was one of my first sponsored gigs. I threw my heart and soul into it to ensure that it was worthwhile for both me and the Australian Mushroom Growers Association. Since then I have continued to participate in Mushroom Mania on an annual basis with this year being my third year. For 2014, the AGMA went with a much less structured format than in previous years simply giving me a wad of prepaid VISA cards to use at my leisure provided that I ordered and photographed food with mushrooms.
Being the only food blogger in the family means the decision on where to go for dinner is invariably left up to me. I am by no means complaining about this allocated role however it does mean that my choices are often somewhat biased towards what I want to eat. For the Boy’s birthday this year, I wanted to make sure it was somewhere HE wanted to go. Upon his request I gave him a short list of choices and left him to do his own research. His first choice was Chefz Table however at the last minute they called to inform us that the restaurant was unexpectantly closing for the weekend. With only two days to find somewhere to book, I was worried we would be stuck with nowhere to go but fortunately managed to grab a table at the Boy’s second choice the Wild Duck in Nedlands.
Being gluten free and having a mostly vegetarian husband, Korean restaurants are not usually our type of thing. From my experience it is a type of cuisine that tends to use marinades containing gluten and will also have a lot of meat based dishes. At the beginning of the year I was invited to visit The Gaya in Applecross where I was amazed at the number of gluten free options on their menu. I got so excited I nearly ordered everything and struggled to sleep that night as I had eaten way too much. It was a fabulous night out with the food exceeding our expectations in both its presentation and taste. We both agreed we should make plans to return but never actually got around to doing it. Six months later Gaya’s Head Chef Leo invited me to return back to his restaurant to try a few of his new dishes.
Something many of you may not know about me is that I am a quarter Chinese. My grandfather Wun on Tong immigrated from the Canton province in China to New Zealand in the 1930’s to flee the changes in government. He met my Irish grandmother in Auckland; they married and had a family of three children with my mum being the youngest. As is sometimes the way, their marriage unfortunately wasn’t meant to be and she left the children to be raised by their loving but hard working father. Sadly I never got to meet my grandfather as he passed away before I was born but my mum has very fond memories of him and has shown me some gorgeous photos of him. He was quite a handsome man!
Only a few weeks ago the Boy and I shared a very memorable lunch at Dear Friends and it was easily one of the best meals we have had in Perth for some time. I love their philosophy of focusing on local and seasonal produce with much of their ingredients being sourced directly from local farmers or foraged from the wild surrounds. On our way home that day we both decided to book in at their city restaurant Co-op Dining, East Perth to celebrate our six month wedding anniversary.
I am still nursing a broken toe therefore my ability to go running has come grinding to a complete halt. We enjoy eating out a lot and I am totally devastated that I can no longer burn it all off on the tarmac. Honestly, it won’t be long before I’m the size of a small house. In a vain attempt to mitigate the anticipated caloric excesses for our dinner we agreed to walk, or in my case shuffle, from our house to Co-op Dining. I sighed in disappointment that I cannot wear high heels, sulkily chucked a pair of flats in my LV bag and headed off in my flip-flops.
My first experience of Red Hot Spatula’s cooking was at the Clandestine Cake Club last year. Yvonne made these amazing gluten free Asian cakes called Kuihs that were steamed cakes made with rice flour, green bean flour and tapioca flour. I greedily ate a number of them that day before I physically had to stop myself from over eating my welcome. In fact I loved them so much that a few short weeks later I ordered a batch of my own to be delivered to work to share with my colleagues.
Since then Yvonne and I have crossed paths at many foodie events, markets and degustation evenings and I have grown to appreciate her passion and drive for success. Her business has grown from strength to strength and it is so inspiring to see someone reap the rewards from so much hard work.
One of our best wedding presents that we received was a gift voucher for a degustation at Dear Friends Restaurant in Caversham. Dear Friends is owned and run by Welshman Kiren Mainwaring and his Canadian wife Kelli. My first introduction to this team’s talent was at the final Largesse dinner held at Petit Mort last year. For this charity event he created a spectacular and beautiful dish of air dried ham, Swan Valley yolk, ajo blanch and foraged herbs. Since this evening I have longed to make the trip to their restaurant in the Swan Valley to be wowed by his creations once again.
Part Two: Our Phuket Wedding Villa at Andara Resort
After a few short and very hectic days staying at the stunning Andara Resort in one of their Pool Residences we finished off our last-minute Phuket wedding planning just in time for our wedding guests to start to arrive. This moment signalled our “moving day” where we were to move into the villa of our dreams. This would be the place where we would say our vows, become husband and wife and spend our first days as Mr and Mrs together. Eeeeek! So exciting!
Andara’s villas are situated up high on the mountain side overlooking the Andaman Sea. Each villa has its own full-time staff including a private chef. The villas are kept in an immaculate state and no matter where I took photos from various points around our enormous lodgings; I could never completely capture its incredible emotion and beauty. After an initial scare where our original choice of villa was alleged to have water damage, we managed with some persuasion to negotiate getting a larger but just as beautiful villa replacement.
Although I would prefer to experience the summer heat over the winter chills any day there is one major highlight of the winter months: the truffle season. From the very beginning of the truffle season I start searching for events, dinners and menus that feature this delicacy and have been known to get a bit obsessed. We don’t often buy voucher meals as I rarely find them to be good value but I couldn’t resist when I spotted a Groupon for a five course truffle degustation for two for only $129 at Friends Restaurant at the Hyatt.
When I called up to make a booking I found that there were very few options available for voucher holders as we couldn’t book on weekends or book when there was any theatre playing. Despite calling to make our booking shortly after purchasing the voucher, I was informed rather abruptly that there were only a couple of nights available. I enquired if my meal could be adapted to be gluten free and was told there would be no problem with this it would just mean I received a different dessert.
I am fortunate enough to work on the doorstep of the Swan Valley. This means that it is relatively easy to have some office meetings out and about and over the years we have developed a few favourites. Taylor’s Art and Coffee House has been one of those locations mainly due to their excellent coffee and interesting range of gluten free cakes. Their coffee is sourced from a small local company called Dark Star who roast their own imported beans on site in Northbridge. It is a full flavoured coffee that is perfect for an espresso or short mac, just how I like it.
Choosing a venue to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday was left up to me and with some winter sunshine on the forecast I suggested a trip to the valley. The Boy’s family appreciate eating big hearty meals in a casual relaxed dining atmosphere so I knew Taylor’s Art and Coffee House would fit the bill perfectly. No pretension or tiny plates of food.
I have a tendency to brag about Perth’s balmy weather but the reality of it is that by having great weather for most of the year many of us Perthites are poorly acclimatised for any remote resemblance of winter. We are notorious for being winter whingers when the reality of it is our winters are comparatively short and mild and we really have nothing to complain about. The Boy and I have been sticking to our Raw Food Meatless Monday for over four weeks now and both of us are feeling vibrant and our skin is glowing. Or maybe that’s still some post wedding bliss?!
However waking up in the morning when it is still dark outside and the temperature is in the single digits drinking a cold smoothie isn’t that enjoyable, no matter how tasty and nutritious it is. So prompted by this cold snap, I decided this week our Raw Food breakfast would be a raw vegan red pepper soup instead; warmed in just minutes by using my blender on high speed which then gently heats the soup with friction.
They say it takes us on average around 21-28 days to form a habit. The Boy and I are only entering into the beginning of Week Three of our Raw and Meatless Mondays and I am finding that our vegetarianism stretches to encompass most of the week. Last night we ordered some take out from our local Thai restaurant Little Ying and the Boy insisted that I only order vegetarian dishes. He has embraced this new approach to eating with much more gusto than I anticipated. I ordered some Tom Yum Goong for us and I even saw him scoop out the prawns and plop them into my bowl.
With memories of Thailand still fresh in my mind I was inspired to create this highly addictive green smoothie for our Monday morning breakfast.
Over the past few years, the Boy and I have made a natural progression to eating a more vegetarian based diet. Whilst not completely giving up eating meat all together, our intake has been dramatically reduced such that our initial goal of a Meatless Monday has now extended into several days a week.
Our reasons for vegetarianism are twofold.
Our first reason comes back to being compassionate human beings. Can we truly justify the way we farm production animals? Housed in completely unnatural environments with cramped stocking densities and fed highly processed foods such as pellets and other animal proteins? Worst still, how can we know that every animal that is slaughtered for our consumption didn’t suffer in the process? Many of you may have seen Animals Australia’s shocking footage of our live export cattle in Indonesia abattoirs last year. We were all left outraged and distraught at the horrific treatment of these innocent beasts. But these events are by no means isolated and happen all around the world every day. While I understand that sometimes brutal death is a part of life in the natural world, I am certain a lion hunting a gazelle in Africa doesn’t stop to consider her prey’s welfare before she kills it. But unlike these majestic big cats, we humans choose to slaughter animals to eat on a much larger scale than is necessary for our own survival.
The Boy and I initially got into juicing back in late 2011 as a result of watching Joe Cross’s documentary Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. This period marked the beginning of a long overdue quest for finding better health by dramatically increasing our vegetable and fruit intake. We have slowly gravitated away from eating meat as the predominant ingredient in our meals to it being a small component if at all. The Boy bought us the latest whizz-bang juicer and was so enthusiastic with his juicing that he managed to burn the first one out in just a week. He stuck to his guns however and returned to the shops to get a replacement juicer. Over the following nine months he lost over 20 kg in body weight. He was well on his way to become a picture of health and this was all just in time for our wedding.
The exciting event of the wedding of a close friend brought us back to the lovely city of Singapore for the first time in over ten years. It was to be my first experience of a Chinese wedding banquet and was to be held at Szechuan Court, Fairmont Hotel, Singapore. I felt so privileged to receive an invite and prepared myself right from the outset that for that one night I was just going to have to eat gluten. Avoiding gluten in a Chinese banquet of any occasion is literally impossible due to the ubiquitous use of soy sauce. I knew that if I was to eat the banquet regardless of the gluten I was going to suffer for it the next day however I figured it would be worth it.
After landing in Singapore on the overnight flight from Perth I was accompanied by the Boy and one of my business partners Woki to attend a friend’s wedding at the Fairmont Hotel. Not willing to be discouraged by our lack of sleep we refused to waste our free day and spent most of it exploring the city. We conveniently ended our self-guided tour at Ku De Ta which is situated on the 57th level of one of the three Marina Bay Sands (MBS) towers. Sipping our drinks we watched a blanket of dark ominous clouds slowly envelop the city from our viewpoint on high and by the time the tropical storm reached us we were all seriously hungry. We headed back downstairs in search of some food.
It was our last night in Bali and although we had both enjoyed ourselves thoroughly we couldn’t help but feel that we had preferred our recent trips to Thailand. The over commercialised vibe along with the abundance of Australian tourists made our holiday in Bali feel a little bit like we hadn’t actually left Australia. Not that this was necessarily a bad thing, but I do love the experience of being in another country. I guess we shouldn’t really try to compare the two and regardless of their differences I am still looking forward to returning to Bali; perhaps next time we might get a bit off the beaten track.
I simply love the concept of wine bars. Imagine a relaxing atmosphere without all the hype and pretention of a formal dining establishment, then add in a well thought out wine list plus some quality food and there you have it….the perfect relaxing quiet night out. Establishments such as Must Wine Bar have mastered this idea to perfection – providing awesome food and service in the best locations and venues. I know I can go to Must on any night of the week and be guaranteed a reliably fabulous night without disappointment. I really wanted to add Clarence’s Bar to my list of wine bar favourites in Perth, especially in light of the recent poor experience we had at Five Bar. In fact I really wanted to love it so much that at the start of our evening there I found myself almost starting to make excuses for all their shortcomings before the Chompchomp voice inside me screamed back “NO! Don’t do it!”