The WA Signature Dish is an annual cooking competition that promotes Western Australia’s beautiful and abundant local produce. The competition is open to amateur cooks who 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.
This year’s competition at the WA Signature Dish Semi-Final was fierce. The cook off was held earlier this month in Perth and was a nail-biting morning for everyone. Following with Perth’s latest food trend, a number of the dishes showed the creative use of Australian native plants. There are so many interesting flavours hidden out there in the outback and I love seeing how chefs use these unique flavours.
The winning finalist for the Gascoyne region is Jerolina Rankin. Jerolina participated last year and narrowly missed the place in the finals. This year she returns to the competition with her Gascoyne seafood broth with Shark Bay wild prawns.
The finalist for the Kimberley region is Arylene Westlake-Jennings with Cone Bay barramundi and green mango and mizuna salad.
Talented local Perth food blogger Matt Cook is carrying the flag for the Swan Valley and surrounds with his dish; lemon-myrtle marron laksa-inspired curry.
Finally, Rachel Hartshorn is representing the Peel region with her dish of Harvey Beef eye fillet, bush tomato, native thyme and pepperberry with red wine jus.
The four finalists now must spend the next few months working alongside their dedicated Mentor Chefs in order to perfect their dish for the Grand Finale. The Mentor Chefs this year are Chris Taylor (Fraser’s) for the Kimberley, Peter Manifis (InContro) for the Gascoyne, Kiren Mainwaring (Co-op Dining) for Swan Valley & Surrounds and Jason Hutchen (Redmanna Waterfront Restaurant) for Peel.
The WA Signature Dish Grand Finale takes place at the Gourmet Escape festival on the 22nd of November. A 60 minute live cook-off will be held on stage and each finalist will present their dish for judging to Chefs Guillaume Brahimi and Shane Osborn and restaurant critic Matt Preston to select the 2015 winner.
It will be a great relief to many that this year, each of the four finalist’s dishes will be available to buy this year at Gourmet Escape. Chef Peter Manifis plans to prepare about 6000 of the finalist’s dishes at the WA Signature Dish pop-up restaurant. Festival punters will be able to vote on their favourite dish for the People’s Choice award which will be announced at the cook-off finale.
For more details visit www.wasignaturedish.com.au
Please note photo credits with thanks to Peter Maloney, Department of Agriculture and Food WA. I was afflicted by a bad gastro and couldn’t attend the semi-finals.
Mandoon Estate have been producing boutique wines in the Swan Valley since 2010, and this year marks the opening of their incredible restaurant and beer garden. To celebrate this achievement, last week they held an invitation only Grand Opening launch party to introduce Perthites to this new kid on the block.
The venue is huge with a classy fine dining restaurant offering a degustation menu, a large beer hall facing out onto the vineyards serving shared tapas styled food, a casual beer garden where you can purchase “picnics” from the deli, private dining rooms, function rooms and more.
It is quite unlike anything in the Valley and sets a new standard for the region. Within minutes of our arrival I was already imagining the next event I could plan here! 😉
For the launch party, guests were treated to a number of bite size samples from the kitchen including plum coated slow roasted pork and the most tender Buffalo wings that slid off the bone in one gulp.
The service staff were very friendly and knowledgeable about the food that they were serving. After requesting what I could eat that was gluten free, one kind waitress came back minutes later with a plate of gluten free starters just for me.
Dotted around the vast venue were also some food stations. Our favourite was the sashimi and oyster bar which was set up inside the beer hall. Over the course of the evening the Boy nearly ate his whole body weight in sashimi and amidst a few groans was feeling a little overindulged for our drive homeward later that night.
Over in the beer garden were more food stations. The Peking Duck station was popular enough to accrue a queue of hungry guests however it was sadly not gluten free. I loved the colourful dessert station and was mesmerised by the chef torching the brulée as quickly as they were being whisked away by guests.
Mandoon Estate is a very impressive venue and would be a wonderful place to hire out for a large function or wedding party. I am hoping to return soon to check out their degustation menu which at a glance looked very focused on local produce from the region. Stay tuned for more….Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest of Mandoon Estate and would like to extend her appreciation for the invitation. Mandoon Estate 10 Harris Road, Caversham, WA 6055 | (08) 6279 0500 | www.mandoonestate.com.au
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
The Swan Valley have recently been awarded the accolade of becoming Australia’s first Humane Food Region. Earlier last month I attended their launch party held at Sandalford Winery where I learnt all about this RSPCA driven initiative.
The Humane Food movement is aimed giving recognition to businesses that are dedicated to improving the lives of food production animals to allow them to live a more natural and a happy life. To become involved businesses must undergo an accreditation process and those that meet the high standards set by the RSPCA are identified on the Choose Wisely website.
Entwined in the Valley was the first official public event hosted in the Valley since it was declared a Humane Food Region. It was an elaborate evening of seven stunning courses matched with individually selected wines held on the grounds of Houghton Winery.
The indulgent degustation was prepared by Masterchef judge George Calombaris and one of my favourite Perth-based chefs Kiren Mainwaring. The world-famous Ch’ng Poh Tiong was our smiling sommelier for the evening. With Anna Gare as the MC, she successfully managed to maintain lively banter with the chefs and sommelier on stage and kept the feel of the night humorous and light hearted.
Lucky for me the majority of the dishes were already gluten free and therefore required minimal if any adaptations. Our evening started with canapés to share around the table; some Mt Barker humane farmed chicken liver parfait served on a crisp onion skin with pickled celery, and West Australian wild prawn crackers topped with fresh prawn meat and fennel.
Our first entrée was a decadently soft slab of bark smoked West Australian Rainbow Trout with wattle seed and the tiniest shavings of white chocolate. White chocolate with trout you say? Well, as strange as the combination sounds it definitely worked. The chocolate particles were so small that they dissolved on contact with my tongue leaving a subtlety sweet after-taste. I MAY have run my finger across my empty plate a couple of times to smear up the last chocolate fragments but there is no proof I actually did this at such a premium event.
For those of you familiar with Kiren’s amazing repertoire of dishes, you will know his slow cooked eggs are out of this world. The second entrée reminded me of one of his creations that we loved at the Farmer’s Long Table lunch at Truffle Kerfuffle.
A silky smooth cylinder of slow cooked hen’s yolk was served with shards of savoury meringue, cauliflower purée, green olive and shaved Moorish pistachios.
The first main dish was George’s dish. A buttery soft confit duck leg topped with germinated lentils and drizzled with a spiced plum purée. A single sake compressed cucumber added some Japanese styled acidity and tang to the dish. The germinated lentils gave an interesting crunchy element without being too bitter. The sprouting process also has the added benefit of raising the nutrient level of these legumes making this dish somewhat healthy! 😉
The second main course was a slow cooked kangaroo tail with Jerusalem artichoke crisps and purée, fresh apple and crisp salt bush. I was a bit nervous to eat this dish as I have a history of reacting to kangaroo where the back of my throat becomes puffy and swollen almost like a mild anaphylactic reaction. Last time I ate kangaroo was over ten years ago and long before I was diagnosed with my all my food intolerances. I have avoided eating it since reacting three times in a row. I have always wondered whether it was something else in the dish each time or I was actually allergic to just the roo itself.
The Boy suggested I try a small mouthful and wait ten minutes or so to see if I still had a problem with it. I bravely tried a mouthful and within minutes developed only a slight scratching at the back of my throat. Nowhere near the severe reaction that I had many moons ago. I cautiously ate a few more mouthfuls before surrendering my plate to the Boy to finish it off.
Having survived my re-entry into the kangaroo eating world without the need to reach for an Epipen, I was very excited to tuck into the selection of artisan cheese from the Cheese Barrel complete with gluten free crackers for me to enjoy.
The final dish was one of Kiren’s dessert masterpieces, once again gluten free and as always totally addictive. A moist thick cut slice of chocolate and beetroot cake was literally engulfed in a sour cream mousse with some chocolate sorbet hidden inside the mousse. Thin slivers of fresh beetroot that I nearly mistook for rose petals decorated the dish with a splash of bright colour.
As I nearly slipped into a food coma, I had to remind myself that I had a full day of work the next day and wished I hadn’t enjoyed quite so much of the free flowing wine! Lucky for me I can survive for a short time on little sleep and whilst I cannot say the next day was easy I can guarantee it was all worth it! If Entwined in the Valley is anything to go by, I look forward to the next Humane Region food event!Chompchomp was a guest of the City of Swan at Entwined in the Valley. As paid tickets to this event were very popular there was no offer of a plus one so Chomp was happy to fork out her dosh for another ticket so that the Boy could accompany her. Houghton Winery (note the food for this meal was not prepared by Houghton’s) 148 Dale Road, Middle Swan, WA 6056 | (08) 9274 9543 | www.houghton-wines.com.au/our-cafe Dear Friends and Co op Dining 2/11 Regal Place, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9221 0404 | www.co-opdining.com.au
Australia has just announced the inception of its very first Humane Food Region. Being a patriotic Western Australian I was so proud to learn that this region was the Swan Valley. The Humane Food movement is an initiative from the RSPCA to recognise businesses that are committed to using food that can be defined as animal welfare friendly. This means more than just labelling products as cage free eggs and free range pork. It translates to these animals being able to have a better quality of life and respects their need to be able to live in an environment that is more natural for them.
Whilst the obvious solution to avoid these animal’s potential suffering is to switch to eating a vegan diet, it is not realistic to expect the entire general population to make this paradigm shift. The Humane Food movement aims at achieving the highest animal welfare standards possible in these industries in order to ensure that these innocent creatures are treated kindly and live a happier life without fear and stress.
The RSPCA have a very stringent process to be accredited as a Humane Food producer and lists all of their accredited businesses on the Choose Wisely website.
Currently there are 30 restaurants in the Swan Valley region that have signed up with the City of Swan to support the Humane Food region program and this list is growing in number each week.
I was invited to attend the Humane Region launch party at Sandalford Estate last week. The evening was catered for by Sandalford with plenty of gluten free options for me to nibble on.
After a warm welcome from TV personality Verity James, we received a lovely speech from Lynne Bradshaw who is the president of RSPCA WA. Her passion for animal welfare spans back for decades and she has worked for the RSPCA for over ten years.
After the speeches were finished we got under way with the evening’s entertainment; the cook off! Six of the region’s top chefs agreed to participate using only humanely sourced produce.
Kiren Mainwairing from Dear Friends and Coop Dining cooked a slow cooked duck egg with steamed bio-dynamic vegetables, sun choke chips and fennel pollen.
Slow cooked eggs are one of Kiren’s signature dishes and I am sure you have heard me rave on about them in the past as they are out of this world. With a delicately translucent egg white and perfectly molten yolk we stood around to watch the judging panel croon over every mouthful.
Mike Price from Sittella Winery made a stunning dish of poached higher welfare chicken breast with avocado and a creamy tarragon sauce. This was topped with a sautéed Moreton Bay bug tail. Using the rest of the chicken, Mike made a compressed chicken leg terrine and topped it with wafer thin crispy skin, fried liver and baby carrots.
This dish was considerably more substantial in size and I could see that the judges each trying to pace themselves so they wouldn’t be stuffed at the end! This dish was entirely gluten free and Mike was kind enough to hand a whole dish over to me to enjoy. I promptly ran off into the crowd with a beaming smile looking for the Boy to share it with.
The lovely smiling Caroline Taylor from Taylor’s Art and Coffee House made her very popular Italian eggs. She illustrated beautifully that you don’t have to use elaborate cooking techniques and loads of ingredients to make a dish that everyone will enjoy especially if Don Hancey’s beaming smile was anything to go by!
Her Italian eggs are made with whipping cream, chorizo, Danish feta and button mushrooms. Also being a gluten free dish she kindly gave me a portion to try. It was the perfect balance of flavours and has inspired me to return back to Taylor’s to have my own full serve to myself.
Manu Fillaudeau from Fillaudeau’s Restaurant prepared smoked Linley Valley free range pork ribs shredded with cabbage stew, turned carrots and potatoes. His dish was also gluten free however before I could steal a mouthful the judges had torn their soft bread rolls apart and dunked it in the richly coloured stew. I didn’t want to risk any gluten contamination so I consoled myself by nabbing a singular potato.
Fiona Lamont from Lamont’s made a very simple but incredibly flavoursome dish of parmesan chicken tenderloins with roast tomatoes, avocado and spinach. I was feeling very well kept as she also put aside a little gluten free portion without any crumb so I could try it too. The chicken was as tender as butter literally melting in my mouth.
The final dish was made by Dean Williams from Sandalford Wines. He created San Choy Bau using Linley Valley Pork accompanied by prawn eggs rolls. This dish was not gluten free so I didn’t get to have a nibble but would be easy to adapt using gluten free soy and Hoi sin sauces.
This wasn’t an event designed to be competitive so there was no winner to announce. I am sure the panel members were pleased with this fact as it would have been hard to choose. I loved how each dish reflected the chef’s individuality across a wide range of cuisine styles. Looks like the Boy and I have a few more places in the Valley to add to our wish list!Chompchomp was an invited guest of the City of Swan. Dear Friends is currently closed. Kiren’s other restaurant is Co Op Dining (read my reviews for Dear Friends and Co-op Dining) 2/11 Regal Place, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9221 0404 | www.co-opdining.com.au/ Sittella Winery 100 Barrett Street, Herne Hill WA 6056 | (08) 9296 2600 | www.sittella.com.au Taylor’s Art & Coffee House (read my review) 510 Great Northern Highway, Middle Swan WA 6056 | 0447 441 223 | www.taylorscafe.com.au
Fillaudeau’s Restaurant Located in Pinelli Wines, 30 Bennett Street, Caversham WA 6055 | (08) 9377 7733 | www.fillaudeaus.com.au Lamont’s Swan Valley 85 Bisdee Road, Millendon WA 6056 | (08) 9296 4485 | www.lamonts.com.au/venues/swan-valley Sandalford Estate Winery 3210 West Swan Road, Caversham WA 6055 | (08) 9755 6213 | www.sandalford.com
In order to operate as a successful veterinary hospital, good teamwork is absolutely essential. No single individual is more important than any other and each one of our staff members, from our receptionists to our nurses through to our vets, all have key roles in caring for our patients and their humans. To help further develop our teamwork skills, every year our business puts on a Team Building Day. It is always a day of fun and adventure ending with prizes, food and lots of laughter. Our most recent day involved an Amazing Race-styled car rally across the Northern suburbs of Perth with volunteers help enlisted from husbands and wives to man all the check points. We climbed rock faces, cuddled koalas and collected a variety of trinkets and tokens to end the day at our Practice Manager’s beach shack in Ledge Point.
Now despite my retorts to the contrary, I will secretly admit to you that I have a strong competitive streak. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to be placed in a team with a well-balanced group; a similarly competitive perfectionist with strong attention to detail, an exuberantly positive life enthusiast that randomly sings at every opportunity and a very pregnant peace-keeper that is easily one of the kindest hearted people I know. We named ourselves the “Innovation Commandos” and kitted ourselves out complete with toy guns and camouflage armbands. The four of us raced around together to each checkpoint and by the end of the day not only had we successfully completed every task and arrived in good time, we also had a theme song. To our further excitement and joy at the end of the Awards Ceremony, our team was announced as the winning team. Woot!!
Other than fame and glory, our winning prize was a voucher for dinner at the Rose & Crown Hotel in Guildford. The following months after the Team Building Day we repeatedly attempted to arrange a night where we were all free however this proved to be more difficult than herding cats.
Have you ever tried to do that?
At the very end of the voucher period we finally managed to coordinate a night where three of us could attend dinner and the fourth would join us at the end for dessert. It turned out to be a beautiful night but unfortunately they put us on a table inside where it was relatively dark and quiet. All the better to make noise I say!
The Rose & Crown are gluten free friendly and have a menu specifically for us to choose from. For entrees we opted to share the ploughman’s plate and a serve of seared scallops. Our waitress initially offered to serve the plate with gluten free bread but shortly afterward returned to apologise that they had run out.
The Ploughman’s plate had a collection of tasty morsels including potted salmon, cured meats, a thick chunk of cheddar cheese, a wedge of chicken and pistachio terrine and pickled vegetables. I asked for the wafers and crusty French baguette to be served on the side however they were placed on the same platter. I still managed to negotiate my way around the offending items and enjoy part of the platter.
The seared scallops were served on chunks of warm chorizo and a bed of cauliflower purée. Whilst small in size, each scallop was plump and juicy. The cauliflower puree lacked the strong, fairly distinct taste that is usual to this vegetable making it lusciously smooth and creamy.
One of our team members was yet to arrive at the restaurant meaning there was an extra scallop. As I looked up to see the Boy enviously eyeing them off and there was just no way we could leave him suffering. When he thought no one was looking I caught him sneaking a quick finger over onto my plate to swipe an extra smear of the purée. I overlooked this action and pretended it never happened so he could enjoy more of its deliciousness with me.
The Boy chose the crispy skinned salmon for his main dish which was served with soba noodles, an Asian herb salad, capsicum relish and tom yum jelly. It was at the upper end of his tolerance for spiciness as he is not a big fan of chilli. The salmon had a lovely darker reddish tint in the centre and flaked apart easily.
Our jovial singing team member chose the twice-cooked pork belly for her main choice. Within minutes of serving her the dish our waitress returned to collect it as was plated incorrectly missing the potato, rosemary and leek galette. After a quick visit back to the kitchen her plate came back complete.
The pork belly was as tender as the Boy’s salmon and knowing it was one of the gluten free options I was also tempted to steal a mouthful to try. It was topped with a rich Pedro Ximénez glaze to add sweetness to those wonderful porky flavours and I wasn’t surprised to hear she enjoyed every mouthful.
Before I had time to obsess over the pork too much my steak arrived. Since the Boy has converted to eating a plant-based diet, beef has become an occasional treat for me. The Rose & Crown offer a few different cuts of steak to choose from. I chose the 250-gram Kilcoy eye fillet served with the potato galette and café de Paris butter. It was a shame they didn’t source the beef from somewhere more locally as we have a lot of premium beef producers in WA. Nevertheless my fillet was buttery soft and I could literally cut it with a bread knife.
My fellow perfectionist chose the roasted lamb rack for her main. We all wowed and cooed as her plate came out piled high with food. It nearly looked like it was enough to feed two! Her tender lamb cutlets were served with carrots, stringless beans, confit potatoes, babaganoush and chimichurri.
As we enjoyed our last mouthfuls of main course we agreed how full we felt and were nearly bursting at the seams. Just when I became convinced there was no way we couldn’t eat anymore, we received a text message from our absent and previously pregnant team member to say she was on her way complete with husband in tow. I sighed and was grateful I wore a fat dress because this boat was obviously going to be pushed out real hard! This was to be a rare moment of baby-free time for the new mum. Having checked out the menu online she asked us to pre-order her a “nannie” for dessert. Not quite knowing whether this was a slip of her subconscious thought or just a predictive text error none of us quite knew what sort of dessert this was and so we opted to wait for her to join us and clarify.
It turned out that she actually meant the message to say to order the banoffee dessert and it was not a bizarre call for some parental help at home! We all had a chuckle and perused over the menu for our own choices. Her iced banoffee terrine came with drizzled caramel syrup and double cream.
Hyperactive people have a way of doing crazy things and despite being both late and a weeknight, our in-house vocalist ordered herself the Affrogato. Freshly brewed espresso coffee, vanilla ice-cream and a shot of Baileys Irish cream all served individually is in my humble opinion the only way to serve this treat and I wished I could handle my coffee in the evening so I could have joined in the fun.
Being quite full I was hoping to share a dessert with the Boy but he had other plans and unsurprisingly ordered himself a sizable bowl of gelato. Ice creams and gelato have always been his weakness and as his loving wife, who am I to interfere with that? There were a number of flavours to choose from and he selected chocolate and strawberry. It was topped with chunks of home-made honeycomb.
A popular dessert choice at our table was the lemon curd meringue. Served with a velvety scoop of raspberry sorbet and berry coulis this had all the right elements of tang and sweet.
My gluten free dessert was the once famous Chocolate Nemesis, which is a hybrid of part cake, part mousse chocolate indulgence that resembled a replica of Mount Doom from Mordor. I was confronted by a towering mound of silky rich chocolate with contrasting colours of lime crème fraiche and blackberry plum liquor compote dripping down its sides. I can guarantee this dish tasted a hell of a lot better than it looked! In fact, it was nothing short of amazing. Chocolate Nemesis you are not my enemy, you are my hero!
The Rose & Crown is a beautiful old hotel that has been renovated to maintain its character and charm. Their food is casual enough to still be considered pub food but with a touch more finesse and effort than you would expect. The courtyard is worth a visit in summer and is a great place to while your Sunday afternoons away with a glass of Chardonnay in hand.Rose & Crown 105 Swan Street, Guildford WA 6055 | (08) 9347 8100 | www.rosecrown.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $14-23, Mains $33-48) Food: 3.5/5 (reasonable for pub food with many GF choices) Service: 3/5 (friendly but a little scattered) Ambience: 3/5 (depends where you sit, courtyard recommended in summer, main dining room in winter) Drinks: 3/5 (small wine list focusing on Australian wines) Total: 12.5/20
Last year I entered a Facebook competition for a food magazine that will remain unnamed and in a nail-biting, head-to head battle with my blogging friend Carly from Perth Munchkin we both tied in first place. We each won a voucher for two for “Speed Grazing” in the Swan Valley with Taste Bud Tours. As often is the case, time got the better of me and before I knew it a whole year had flown by and our voucher was nigh on its expiration date. I contacted Loris the sole operator from Taste Bud Tours to book our day out before it was too late. But what developed was very odd indeed, it turns out that my voucher was in fact a counterfeit that was never officially issued! It turns out there were a number of dubious vouchers that were handed around the magazine’s office for competition prizes and staff rewards. What a scandal!
Loris offered me a two-for-one deal as replacement for my dodgy voucher in a gesture of goodwill. I will never say no to a day in the Valley and despite the stormy forecast the Boy agreed to come along as my plus one. Loris’s concept of Speed Grazing is quite an original one and as a result she has consistently been awarded the number 1 ranking on TripAdvisor for Perth Activities for several years running. She keeps her tour group numbers small to ensure a personalised approach and visits nine different locations during each half day tour. She provides a coach pick up from either Wellington Street, Perth City or from Guildford.
We chose an afternoon tour and headed into the city a smidge earlier for a mac-attack. Not in any way related to the famous yellow double arches; a “mac-attack” is a termed coined by my now sadly estranged sister for those times when you just have to have to get your hands on a macaron. Paired with my usual short macchiato you could consider my version a double mac attack. We stopped in at Jean Pierre Sancho where I may have accidentally bought two macarons; my old time fav the salted macaron and my newest obsession passionfruit.
The Boy opted for a buttery, flaky toasted croissant but in his partially slumbered state he ordered a ham and cheese croissant instead of a vegetarian option. As we both sat on the couches soaking up what little sunshine there was that day he had to resort to prying open his crispy croissant to remove the offending slices of ham whilst trying not to accidentally tear it in half. After our mid-morning treat we strolled down to Wellington Street to join the rest of the tour group as the storm clouds gathered in a huddled grey mass in the sky; this weather is most unusual for Perth this time of year. On our way out to the Valley in the pouring rain, Loris shared with us some history of Perth and the Swan Valley region. The area has been producing wine for over 150 years and is the oldest wine region in Western Australia. Being so close to the Perth CBD and spanning over a relatively small area means it is much easier to visit a number of venues in a short space of time making Speed Grazing an easy task.
Our first stop on the tour was at Yahava Koffee Works. We were treated to a series of hot coffee tastings from their extensive range and then ended the experience on a sugar high with a cup of their “Ice Koffee”. This is a syrupy liquid made from a rich blend of Yahava’s Indian Tiger Mountain coffee, Indian chocory and some natural spices. I could easily imagine this sticky treat poured over a big bowl of vanilla and choc chip ice cream.
Our next stop was the Margaret River Chocolate Factory. Now I don’t want to sound like a naysayer as I am a dedicated lover of all things chocolate however in recent years I have come to appreciate the bean to bar concept of chocolate production. This is the signature ethos of companies like Bahen & Co, Gabriel and Melbourne based Matale. Without meaning to sound like a snob, I confess that by comparison to these quality small scale producers I find The Margaret River Chocolate Factory a touch over commercialised. That being said I also have great respect for this WA business in becoming such a massively successful company. Whilst their chocolate is not exactly cheap, it is very creamy and smooth and we couldn’t stop ourselves from purchasing a couple of truffles.
Our stop number three was at Cape Lavender, another business that also has a location down in Margaret River. I had informed Loris earlier in the week that I required gluten free food and she advised me that Cape Lavender would have some gluten free scones made especially for me.
Alas upon our arrival I was told that this wasn’t the case and so I had to settle for my glass of Lavender coloured Howling Wolves SixPointSix Cabernato 2013 instead. Quite an unusual little drop; they recommended serving this plonk as a cocktail in a tall glass over ice accompanied with a wedge fresh lime and a sprig of mint. I bought a bottle of it for drinking later so I could give this cocktail a whirl at home.
After our group demolished the plate of mini-scones we all shuffled next door to Mago Coffee. Mago is a family owned business and they have been roasting their own blends of coffee in the Swan Valley since the late 60s. Mago imports raw coffee beans from Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Kenya and Ethiopia in addition to a few other “secret locations”. I had already reached my maximum caffeine limit for the day so I didn’t get to try their brew but we did taste some of their freshly roasted nuts and bought a giant size bag of roasted hazelnuts still slightly warm.
Our next stop was the familiar Jarrah Ridge Winery. The Boy and I have been here a number of times with both my parents on separate occasions and I am a big fan of both their olives and their wines. As we arrived the manager served us little tasting dishes of their marinated olives and WA cheeses for us to nibble on as we worked our way through all the wines on offer. In a repeat of our previous visits, we walked away with two large vacuum packed bags of olives in hand along with a decent chinking of wine bottles.
Being a sufferer of fructose malabsorption our next stop at The House of Honey wasn’t really the place for me but for those that do not have to restrict their fructose this place is worth a visit. Proudly using only pure, unpasteurised and unadulterated varietal honeys there is a wide range of honey products on offer. There is also an active hive with a Perspex backing to allow viewing of the bees in action. I can now understand where the saying “busy bee” comes from because not a single bee in that hive stopped for a rest.
It was getting into the later part of the afternoon and all the food and wine tasting was beginning to make me feel sleepy. As we entered Mondos Nougat my eyes were drawn like a magnet to the macarons. Yes, I have a problem. We were given a sample of the nougat to taste but ended up buying another couple of squares to enjoy with our macarons.
Our second last stop was a farmer’s market stall selling a variety of fresh local produce ranging from strawberries to miniature herb plants. Unfortunately it was timed simultaneously with a torrential downpour meaning that no sooner had we all exited the minibus to peruse their offerings, we all very quickly came running back to the bus for shelter.
Our final stop was at the Iron Bark Brewery where Loris had called ahead for us with the tour group’s orders for pizzas. The Boy and I ordered a vegetarian gluten free pizza to share between the two of us which is not included in the price of the tour. On arrival we were given a voucher to get either a free beer tasting or a discount on a full serve of beer or wine. The price for a small pizza was $17.50 and the large was $23.50 with a $2 supplement for gluten free.
When our pizzas arrived we were puzzled to see that our small pizza was in fact just a regular sized pizza cut in half. As we looked up and down the table we saw that another tour guest had received our other half. What we found even more perplexing was that they wanted to charge us $17 for the half pizza! Erm I think not! A $34 vegetarian pizza! When we were at the counter ready to pay I suggested to our waitress that we should really only pay for half the price of a full gluten free pizza. The other tour guest that had eaten the other half could pay for remainder. I was given a look of contempt but after consulting with her frowning manager they both begrudgingly agreed. Oh dear.
Taste Bud Tours was a fabulous way to sample the wide variety of wine and produce available in the Swan Valley. I love how Loris sticks to Western Australian companies and she is a passionate and knowledgable advocate of the region. I can highly recommend her tours to anyone who wants to join a tour that is just a bit different from the norm and more personal.Taste Bud Tours | www.tastebudtours.com.au Jean Pierre Sancho 878 Hay Street, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 6181 1904 | www.jpsancho.com.au Yahava Koffee Works 4752 West Swan Road, West Swan WA 6055 | (08) 9250 8599 | www.yahava.com.au Margaret River Chocolate Factory 5123 West Swan Road, West Swan WA 6055 | (08) 9250 1588 | www.chocolatefactory.com.au Cape Lavender 6 Cranleigh Street, West Swan WA 6055 | (08) 9250 7711 | www.lavenderonline.com.au Mago Coffee Lot 6, Cranleigh St, West Swan WA 6055 | (08) 9274 5871 | www.mago.com.au Jarrah Ridge Winery 651 Great Northern Highway, Swan Valley, Herne Hill WA 6056 | (08) 9296 6337 | www.jarrahridge.com The House of Honey & The Sticky Spoon Café 867 Great Northern Hwy, Herne Hill WA 6056 | (08) 9296 3635 | www.thehouseofhoney.com.au Mondo Nougat & Moorish Nuts 640 Great Northern Hwy, Herne Hill, WA 6056 | (08) 9296 0111 | www.mondonougat.com.au Iron Bark Brewery 55 Benara Road, Caversham WA 6055 | (08) 9377 4400 | ironbarkbrewery.com.au
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.
Dear Friends is located on the rural flat lands of the Swan Valley and has featured in the Gourmet Traveller’s Restaurant Guide and the Good Food Guide year after year. Chef Kiren focuses on utilising the variety of local and seasonal produce from the region sourcing directly from local farmers or foraged from the wild surrounds. The entrance to the restaurant is quaint and understated, bordering on old fashioned. For our seven course degustation I chose to have the matched wines and for each course sommelier Kelli took time to explain to me the origin of each wine and why she chose it.
The Boy and I now each have our own individual dietary requirements; obviously I’m still gluten free and fructose friendly but more recently the Boy is a vegetarian. I can see how some kitchens would baulk at having the two of us as their customers. Upon arrival we were immediately made to feel relaxed and at ease as our dietary requirements presented the Dear Friends team with no problems. More importantly each of our dishes were not just ones with alterations and deletions but were carefully planned; plated with elegance and originality.
Our first course consisted of some “tasters”; call them modern day amuse bouche if you like. There were super cheesy Manchego tacos containing some house made fresh cheese, crispy lupin chips topped with eggplant and Saratoga chips with balsamic vinegar. Despite being proud of both my father’s French heritage and all the cheeses that come from this fabulous country I have to confess Spanish Manchego is by far one of my favourite cheeses. It has such a distinctive flavour and the tacos made me reminiscent of my recent over indulgence in Barcelona.
My next course was a Welsh styled watercress soup. Watercress is supposed to aid with the digestion and this soup certainly did sit wonderfully warm in my stomach. The soft flaky blue swimmer crab contrasted with the strong pepperiness from the watercress leaving a fresh crisp taste on the palate.
My third course was the same as the Boy’s as it was a vegetarian dish. Who on Earth said vegetarian food was boring? Silky cubes of home-made soy tofu and locally grown Swan Valley field and oyster mushrooms sat upon a richly flavoured bed of smoky tomato puree. Some crunchy parsnip chips provided an interesting change in texture. This dish threatened to turn any meat eater into a vegetarian!
My next course of West Australian cuttlefish was served with tender tips of new season asparagus, Muchea grown Japanese turnips and shavings of fennel. I was intrigued by these turnips having never eaten them before as they were nearly as sweet as the fennel and as soft like potato. As I made my way through each of the generous wine matches I was glad this dish featured early in the meal. I tend to be a bit of a messy eater; which can worsen the more wine I drink. I could see the potential for me making a complete spectacle of myself and ending up with black ink purée everywhere.
As much as I am very respectful and proud of the Boy in his strong decision to become a vegetarian, I am yet to join him 100% and for my next course I could sense his disapproval at me eating animal flesh. I can console myself that Dear Friends source their organic free range pork from Margaret River Big Red Pork. Big Red’s pigs are kept in small family groups and run free range in the creek lines, grass lands and woodlands of their farm. They are fed on a natural diet of grasses, legumes, grains and grubs which gives the meat a characteristic dark colour. The Kassler pork loin was cured using a German technique which involves smoking and ripening the meat in brine for about 7-10 days. It was served with yellow squash and pickled cucumber. The cucumber gave some lovely sweetened acidity to the saltiness of the meat.
There was no missing out for the Boy as his next vegetarian course looked just as mouth-watering as mine. A near-translucent slow cooked egg sat nestled in amongst a variety of freshly foraged vegetables and herbs. As he cut into the egg, the yolk burst into life engulfing everything on his plate. Regrettably I missed the opportunity to take a picture of this egg porn moment as I was far too engrossed enjoying my cured pork.
My final main course was undoubtedly one of the highlights. Over the years I have worked my way through eating a variety of slow cooked meats but this was my first opportunity to enjoy a lamb cutlet prepared in this way. It was just as delicately soft as you could ever imagine. To complete the decadence it was finished with a bone marrow jus. Oh heaven! I was grateful for the lack of pretension and stuffiness as I just couldn’t help myself picking up the chop with my fingers and nibbling every last tasty morsel off the bone, not something I could get away with at every fine dining establishment. My Mum would shudder at the thought!
The Boy’s final main dish was a thick Glamorgan sausage served with Brussel sprouts, celeriac and broccoli. Glamorgan sausage is a traditional Welsh vegetarian sausage made with cheese, leek, potato, cabbage, herbs and breadcrumbs. A fermented Chenin hollandaise sauce was drizzled luxuriously over everything on his plate.
It was now time to veer away from all these amazing savoury courses and enjoy some sweets. Our pre-dessert teaser consisted of two medallions of macadamia and white chocolate chiboust which is basically pastry cream lightened with egg white meringue. Light and airy, each portion of chiboust dissolved with a “poof” on the tongue. Dollops of kumquat curd and glazed kumquats gave a tart element to the dish along with the nutty sweetness of shavings of locally grown macadamias. The Boy also received a paper thin peppercorn tuille.
Our dessert was quite possibly one of the most stunning carrot cakes I have ever seen. Made with purple carrots it was scattered in soft crumbles around a scoop of carrot ice-cream and decorated with honey comb, marshmallows, fresh blueberries and cute little sour grass flowers. As my belly expanded over the top of my pants it was hard to believe our magical afternoon was nearly over.
However as many of you will know, it doesn’t matter how full I am I can always fit in cheese. The cheese course at Dear Friends is an optional extra but if you have the gumption to squeeze it in I can highly recommend it. Our three cheeses were Ubriaco al Vino Rosso, an Italian hard cheese from Northern Italy, a West Australian brie from Dellendale in Denmark and Colsten Bassett Shropshire Blue, a lesser known blue from the same cheese makers as the famous English Blue Stilton. Kelli continued to be far too generous and offered me not one but two different wine matches to go with our cheese; thank goodness I wasn’t driving!
The concept of enjoying a coffee after a degustation is always so appealing. However most of our dego experiences are in the evening so unless I want to lay wide awake in bed all night I tend to end up drinking tea instead. I look on in envy at those that can drink coffee after dinner and then fall blissfully asleep. Being a lunch time meal I was in luck this time round as the time to sleep was still a long way off. Knowing this was a rare opportunity I made sure I savoured every last drop.
It is easy to see why Dear Friends has maintained their position as one of Perth’s top restaurants for a number of years. Sommelier Kelli provides charming and faultless service whilst each dish clearly shows Kiren’s passion and love for his craft. A definite thumbs up from both of us; and as we walked away we were already planning our visit to their East Perth digs Co-Op Dining.Dear Friends Restaurant 100 Benara Road, Caversham WA 6055 | (08) 9279 2815 | www.dearfriends.com.au Price: $$$$ ($115 for a 7 course degustation, $70 for matched wine) Food: 5/5 (each dish was filled with wonderment despite our different dietary requirements) Service: 5/5 (charming, knowledgeable and with a humble sense of well-deserved pride) Ambience: 4/5 (you do feel like you are in the country) Drinks: 4.5/5 (seamless matching of wines) Total: 18.5/20
Although I’m not really a baby person it is hard not to get excited when a close friend falls pregnant. One of our long-term vets is nearly at the end of her first pregnancy and she is one of those gentle, nurturing types that just seems to be born to be a mother. The joys of anticipation for the approaching arrival were very infectious amongst us women at work, so in a rather unconventional styled baby shower we all gathered together at Feral Brewing Company for a Sunday lunch to celebrate. It was the first sunny day in weeks and it was heavenly to be able to enjoy some country sunshine.
Quite a number of people at our table chose to order the pork belly. The pork was twice cooked and served on a bed of creamed cauliflower and “crinkled” courgettes. To balance the flavours with some sweetness the dish was topped with a sticky rum & apple relish. I was fortunate enough to sit next to the expecting mum’s husband who ordered the pork belly but curiously doesn’t like crackling. It wasn’t hard to find volunteers on the table including myself that were willing to take said crackling off his hands. Aren’t we kind folk? The artery blocking crackling had a satisfying crunch that was loud enough to be heard on the other side of the table.
The Feral Brewing Company offers good value in the valley; I was impressed with the size of the meals in relation to the price. The plump grain fed Porterhouse steak was a decent 300 gm cut and came with paprika potatoes, buttered broccolini and a juicy feta stuffed field mushroom.
I needed to preserve a bit of room in my stomach as we were heading out for dinner later that evening so I opted for the charcuterie meat board for something light. Creamy Persian feta, grilled Spanish chorizo, thinly shaved prosciutto and some roasted beef sirloin were served along with some locally pickled vegetables. The platter normally comes with crusty bread but I asked for it to be served gluten free. Some crackers arrived with it but I wasn’t sure whether they were gluten free or not so I left them. I wasn’t that bothered otherwise I would have asked. The chorizo was juicy and succulent and was my favourite component of this dish.
My platter was designed to share but everyone had their own full plates to contend with resulting in little luck sharing it around. My head nurse sitting next to me helped marginally to make a dent on the proviso and I helped her with her trio of dips. The dips of the days included spicy Moroccan dhal, creamy spring onion and “funky mushroom”. I smeared some of the dhal on my pickled vegetables as a bread substitute. It had a reasonable kicked to it and went well with the pickle!
Our adorable cupcakes for the day were designed and made by Cooks Cakes. Each cupcake had a gorgeous baby themed decoration and the cakes were a mix of flavours; red velvet, chocolate and vanilla. Alas none were gluten free this time round.
Feral Brewing Company offers a very casual atmosphere nestled in the heart of the Swan Valley with hearty grub and a great range of craft beers. Not being able to drink most beer due to gluten intolerance I cannot tell you much about their hand-crafted beers, but they are currently title holders for the Australian International Beer Awards “Best Medium Australian Brewery”. Their food is simple pub styled food priced reasonably well with modest portion sizes.Feral Brewing Company 152 Haddrill Road, Baskerville WA 6056 | (08) 9296 4657 | www.feralbrewing.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrée$8.50-12, Mains $23-38 Food: 3.5/5 (simple, fresh, hearty meals) Service: 3/5 (friendly, drinks service a little slow) Ambience: 3.5/5 (country sunshine, rolling hills and vineyards) Drinks: 3/5 (I need the Boy to review the beers but I couldn’t convince him to come to a baby shower) Total: 13/20
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.
Having never been here before on a weekend I was surprised to see the place was packed inside and out. Although the winter sun was shining brightly there was little warmth coming from its golden rays so we made ourselves comfortable inside under the heaters.
There were a few winter coughs and snuffles around the table so we all treated ourselves to a bowl of hot soup of the day to warm our bellies and sooth our throats. Unfortunately a few of the bowls that were brought to our table were lukewarm and had to be sent back to the kitchen to be reheated. The smooth and creamy corn soup provided excellent value at just $9 for a small bowl however I did think the one thin slice of accompanying gluten free bread was a bit on the stingy side. On previous occasions I have received a couple of slices with my soup, I’m not sure if they were on bread rations that day and were running out?
For my main I ordered the vegetarian frittata made with eggplant, fire roasted capsicum, basil, spinach and feta. It came with a massive side serve of salad containing sweet potato, pine nuts and fresh greens. The serving size was enormous and I starting wishing I didn’t order the soup as well. I guess I didn’t really need that extra piece of toast with my soup after all! The frittata could have done with a touch more seasoning and was very slightly burnt on the bottom. The huge salad was very filling even for my over-sized stomach and it was a struggle to finish it. Once again I felt this was value for money.
The Boy ordered the vegan burger. It contained a falafel patty with cashew cheese, beetroot relish and fire roasted capsicum. He was very disappointed with his choice and barely ate any of it. He said the bread was too hard and tasted almost stale; the burger patty was very soft and crumbled apart too easily and the relish was far too spicy for his liking. What a shame because it looked really tasty.
My mother in law ordered the mushroom tart with caramelised garlic, chevre and salmon. I didn’t really get a lot of adjectives from her describing its taste but I do know she enjoyed it and had no complaints.
My sister-in-law ordered the chermoula chicken salad. I have had this salad on a couple of occasions and once again the serving size is more than ample and will leave you contentedly full. Pieces of chermoula marinated chicken were served with a high mound of roasted sweet potato, beetroot, chickpeas, spinach, spiced yoghurt and a garlic walnut crumble. The flavours all work nicely together with a lovely balance of textures and a slight spicy kick.
One of the main reasons I came back to Taylor’s was that I knew they had a few gluten free options for dessert. However by the time I had eaten my soup, my huge plate of salad and my frittata I was bursting at the seams. When we were ordering our lunch earlier I spied a pile of rich cubes of gluten free chocolate brownies in the cake cabinet and was sure that between the Boy and I we could polish one off. Unbeknownst to me my young nephew had also decided that HE wanted a brownie too. When we returned back to the counter to order our coffee and cakes, the mound of brownies had been reduced to a mere single square! I figured that must be a signal to me to stop being greedy and let him order it for himself, not without stealing a few mouthfuls though! It was moist and very chocolatey, there would have been no way I could have eaten one to myself after all the food I had already chowed down.
I still haven’t quite made up my mind about Taylor’s Art and Coffee House; whilst their coffees and cakes are worth a visit the execution in the kitchen didn’t seem to handle the busyness of weekend brunch. I haven’t had such problems during my mid-week visits and I can assure you I will still return.Taylor’s Art and Coffee House 510 Great Northern Highway, Middle Swan 6056 | 0447 441 223 | http://www.taylorscafe.com.au/ Price: $$ Food: 2.5/5 (awesome coffee & cakes but lukewarm soup and inedible vegan burger) Service: 3/5 (slow service but friendly enough, the barista is a character who shows passion & enthusiasm) Ambience: 3/5 (quaint, relaxed country feel) Drinks: 4/5 (the coffee won me over) Total: 12.5/20
One of the most frustrating things about being a business owner is losing a good staff member. What makes it even harder is when not only are you sad to see them leave the business but you know you will also miss them as a friend. As a final bid farewell to one of our valued team members we all made the trek to the Swan Valley on a sunny Sunday to The Cheese Barrel. There was a great turn out and we all made ourselves comfortable in the downstairs area on the abundance of couches and cushions.
Located next door to Olive Farm Wines just off Great Northern Highway, The Cheese Barrel has a tremendous menu of cheese from all around the world. They have themed cheese boards such as “Blue Lovers Paradise” or “Soft Cheese Sensation” or alternatively you can order a regional board from Australia, France, Spain or Italy. For those more specific with their cheesy needs individual cheeses can be purchased in 50 gram portions or larger.
My head nurse ordered the Tarago Shadows of Blue, a mild blue mould cheese made with cow’s milk from Gippsland, Victoria. This was one of my favourite cheeses of the day; rich and creamy with a slight tang. Despite the large 100gm serving, this cheese was one of the first to disappear. I even caught a few who proclaimed they don’t like blue cheese sneaking back sheepishly for seconds.
I will be travelling to Barcelona in eight weeks on conference so I thought I’d break away from my French roots and get myself into the flamenco mood. When it comes to cheese I am highly patriotic to my French ancestry however there are a number of Spanish cheeses I shamelessly hold very close to my heart. Or should I say mouth.
The first cheese on this platter was a semi-hard goat’s cheese Murcia Al Vino. This was quite unlike anything I have had before. It has a really creamy flavour yet its texture is elastic and almost buoyant. The rind is a rich plum colour due to being washed in wine giving an interesting fruity after-taste The second cheese on the platter is one I am all too familiar with and love very dearly; Manchego. This versatile semi-hard sheep cheese is one of my all-time favourites and has the distinctive sweet flavour typical of sheep’s cheese. I received gluten free crackers on the side however there was still bread on my platter. To avoid contamination I suggest they avoid mixing the two on the same platter.
Moving around to the second half of the cheese board were two cow’s milk cheeses. The Queso San Simon is a semi-hard smoked cheese from the north-west of Spain. The smoky flavours are quite subtle and delicate and it also has a surprisingly creamy texture for a semi-hard cheese. The blue cheese on the Spanish plate is the Queso Valdeon. I recall trying this for the first time at Clarke’s of North Beach last year with the in-laws. This time the Valdeon tasted like it needed to be left to come to room temperature for another half hour as the flavours were somewhat dulled. It was definitely overshadowed by the creamy deliciousness of the Tarago Shadows of Blue.
Not being familiar with any Olive Farm wines, I ordered an Olive Farm “Wine Flight” to accompany my cheese. Each wine was carefully matched to each cheese to enhance the experience. I’m not going to pretend I know how to describe wines and I’m sure the Olive Farm have done a better job on their tasting notes!
Some of the girls ordered the Soft Cheese Sensation board which was sadly also served a little too cold. It almost seemed like sacrilege to see heroes like La Buche D’Affinois and Brillat-Savarin served firm and erect with minimal shine in their centres. The pernickety side of me also noticed spelling errors on the menu, another minor oversight perhaps.
I am told the macarons were the bomb. They are imported from France, cost $2.20 each and are worth every cent. I totally regret not trying them. At this point our party started to disband with a few of us keen to carry on the festivities. Reluctant to continue drinking this far from home with my car I attempted to convince them all to head into the city but to no avail. Eventually they opted to remain in the valley and I headed home. Not wanting my day to end once I got home I persuaded the Boy to walk down to one of our locals The Balmoral pub to carry on drinking.
Walking down the Albany Highway rekindled my appetite and by the time we arrived at The Balmoral I was super hungry. There were only limited share dishes available gluten free so we shared two serves of the scallops served in the shell topped with chorizo and marinated red pepper. The scallops were fairly small but soft and tender however the chorizo was flavourless and fatty.
Trying to pace myself so I could fit in desert I ordered a light meal for dinner; the char-grilled quail salad. The plump bird was served juicy and pink. The bed of salad was scantly tossed with some occasional crisp prosciutto, warm potatoes and mixed greens. A little more of the flavoursome ingredients wouldn’t have gone astray in this dish.
The Boy has been trying to move away from eating red meat but the lure of a steak at a pub is hard work. This time round he came very close to ordering the Surf and Turf before once again stopping himself and choosing the warm lamb and quinoa salad. His salad arrived at the table piled high on his plate with a generous serving of shredded lamb, spinach, quinoa, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds feta, dried figs and a subtle hint of mint. The word salad never conjures up thought that the meal would be filing but thanks to the higher protein content of quinoa he was so full that he nearly talked me out of ordering dessert.
I said nearly. After a couple of months of carefully watching what I ate, now there is no holding me back! The white chocolate and bailey crème brûlée sounded like it would be the perfect way to end a long day of eating and drinking. Unfortunately it was a bit of a disappointment. It tasted very bland with no evidence of any white chocolate or baileys flavours at all. The vanilla ice cream was icy and super sweet.
The Boy defaulted back to his one of his favourites for dessert; the ice cream sundae. Those of you who know him well understand that ice cream is to him what chocolate is to me. His sundae looked like something out of the eighties, and was served with three dishes of sauces; dark chocolate, berry coulis and “butterscotch sauce”. The butterscotch sauce had an odd khaki green colour to it and tasted like molten treacle. It was meant to be topped with nuts and chocolate shavings but there was barely half stingy a teaspoon sprinkled on top. Not a recommended dish even for kids.
Overall the Balmoral is a great casual pub to pop in for a local drink with your mates. There are two courtyards outside and they always have a great vibe and it is the perfect place to enjoy a sun downer in summer. Their food is trying to lift its game above basic pub fare with a few hits and misses along the way.The Cheese Barrel
920 Great Northern Highway, Millendon, WA 6056 | (08) 9296 4539 | http://www.thecheesebarrel.com.au/Price: $ Food: 2.5/5 (astounding list available, but needs to be served at the right temperature) Service: 3/5 (quick, helpful) Ambience: 3/5 (overlooks a small patch of forested reserve) Drinks: 3/5 (only tried a few wines) Total: 11.5/20 The Balmoral Hotel 901 Albany Hwy, Victoria Park 6100 | (08) 9355 4533 | http://www.thebalmoral.com.au/ Price: $$$ (Entrees $7-23, Mains $22-35, accepts Entertainment Card) Food: 2.5/5 () Service: 2.5/5 (our waitress was lovely…but very forgetful) Ambience: 3/5 (casual pub vibe) Drinks: 3/5 (the essentials) Total: 11/20