I love being part of unique dining experiences. I find the excitement of the unknown combined with the knowledge that it is a once off event makes the evening feel so special. Alphabet Soup Dining is a Perth-based pop-up restaurant run by chef Melissa Palinkas who is also the Executive Chef and part owner of Young George in East Fremantle. Melissa started Alphabet Soup because she wanted to offer a quirky degustation style meal where she could let her creativity run free. She holds a dinner event once monthly in locations all around Perth and has popped up in places like Milk’d in Maylands, Cutlery Draw in Manning, Frisk! Small Bar and 399 Bar in Northbridge and most recently at Canton Lounge in the City.
I have wanted to attend an Alphabet Soup dinner for some time so when I saw that chef Melissa was holding a truffle themed dinner this was my immediate cue to book us in. I can never say no to truffle. Before booking I checked that the event could cater for gluten free and was happily assured that it wouldn’t be a problem.
The Alphabet Soup events are based around a six course meal and the menus are published online just a few days before the event. After being seated for the evening, we received a couple of rounds of “snacks” that were not on the menu as a surprise. Our first treat was a reverse crayfish truffle sushi roll using locally caught Mindarie cray. The cray meat was tender and sweet having been cooked sous vide with truffle in the bag to infuse a strong flavour.
Our second surprise snack was a basket of miso lamb ribs, also cooked sous vide in a bag with truffle. The meat slid off the bones easily and the Boy and I sat speechless, both far too busy for words as we sucked and slurped each rib until it was clean.
Our next dish was a little theatrical; sake cured ocean trout with truffle with a yuzu and coconut salad. The portions of ocean trout were suspended on a miniature hanging line with pint-size pegs. Super cute.
The trout was matched with a pomelo mojito, made with Havana 7, pink grapefruit, lime and crème de menthe. It was an interesting experience having a meal matched with not just wines, but also a collection of cocktails.
Who said eating gluten free meant you had to miss out? My truffle chicken karage was made using tapioca flour and tasted just like the real thing. Two crispy morsels were accompanied by some truffled Japanese mustard aioli topped with black sesames. This was finger licking good chicken that left no grease on my hands, my only gripe was that I was left wanting more.
My fried chicken yearning was quickly forgotten upon the arrival of the next dish; broken truffle sticky rice with a 62 degree egg. It is hard not to fall madly in love with the magical combination of slow cooked eggs and truffle, and thankfully there are a number of chefs in Perth that have caught onto this simple decadence.
It is guaranteed that this combination will never fail to make me swoon, those flavours are perfectly married in heaven. Poised with my camera in hand, my predictable squeal of delight emitted when the Boy cut into his yolk was met with his usual eye roll. I may be a little over the top with my love for yolk porn, especially after a few cocktails.
For our next dish, we enjoyed a pork and truffle dumpling served in a richly flavoured dashi broth with fresh shiitake mushrooms. To finish the dish, shavings of fresh Manjimup truffle cascaded on the surface adding a stronger hit of truffiliciousness.
I was to learn that the element of surprise is the norm for the Alphabet Soup dinners. Our next course was yet another secret item that was not found on the menu. I really love surprise dishes! A super tender, baby carrot was cooked in truffle dashi before being grilled and then served with an XO sauce ash.
Our final main course was the seared duck breast, cooked Chinese BBQ style with truffle mushrooms, edamame and of course, fresh truffle.
The duck breast was crispy thin on the outside yet remained tender pink and buttery moist on the inside.
To freshen up our palates ready for dessert, we were given a bite sized spoonful of mandarin and yuzu jelly. It was uplifting and refreshing, combining perfectly with my jazzed up G&T made with Bombay Sapphire, lemon and jasmine tea.
Our dessert brought me back to my childhood when Mum and I would go to the Adelaide Central Markets to do our weekly food shopping. My reward for being the good daughter who would come along and help her mother would always be some sort of treat we shared before going home. Most weeks we would end up walking over to Adelaide’s Chinatown precinct and finding something delicious. These were the days I was oblivious to the fact gluten was killing me, and in my ignorance I would eagerly look forward to the times we would get ourselves a steam pork bun.
For our final course with Alphabet Soup, the Chef made a special batch of gluten free truffle and pear steam buns just for me. The buns were made using potato, corn flour and rice flour giving an authentic doughy, but fluffy texture. We were given truffle honey and Anglaise sauce to drizzle lavishly over our buns. It was a perfect way to end our evening.
We both thoroughly enjoyed our evening out with Alphabet Soup and will be watching out for her next event. There was all the right elements of entertainment, quirkiness and originality that I had hoped for with some extra surprises to boot. Chef Mel effortlessly catered for my dietary needs without making me feel like I missed out on any of the degustation experience. Thanks Melissa!
Alphabet Soup | www.alphabetsoupdining.com
Canton Bar | 532 Hay Street, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9325 8887 | www.cantonbar.com.au
A few years ago researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that people inherit their work ethic, or if it’s the case a lack of one, from their fathers not their mothers. This means that those who grow up with a hard-working, career focused dad will likely grow up to have similar attitudes. I am very grateful to have received Dad’s career orientated genes and it makes me so happy to see him proud of my achievements. There is however a slight downside to being so dedicated to our respective jobs, simply never having enough time in the day or in fact days in the week. It is far too easy to let the work-life balance slip off kilter and both Dad and I suffer from this.
Consequently it can be hard to pin down Dad and Tess for a weekend, especially as they live in Melbourne, but when we offered for their Christmas gift the lure of a full weekend eating truffles it was too good for them to refuse. We wanted to show them the full Truffle Kerfuffle experience so although it was a lot of eating I booked tickets for the Hunt and Harvest Dinner on the Friday, the Southern Forests Food Bowl Lunch on the Saturday and finally ending with Sophie Zalokar’s Truffle dinner at Foragers on the Saturday night. We booked our accommodation at one of Sophie’s beautiful chalets on the Foragers property in Pemberton.
Truffle Kerfuffle, or TK as it is known affectionately by the locals, kicked off in style on the Friday night with the Gala Opening Hunt and Harvest dinner. I loved observing the wide range in interpretation of the evening’s dress code; with some guests donning full satin evening gowns while others were dressed for comfort in jeans and sneakers. Upon arrival we were handed a welcome cocktail to sip as we found our way to our pre-allocated tables.
For last year’s TK, I planned ahead and had organised to be seated near decent lighting for the dinner event so that my photography didn’t suffer. This year I totally forgot and my heart sunk a little when I glanced over and saw that our arranged seats were situated in one of the darkest parts of the marquee.
The Hunt and Harvest Dinner consisted of five courses matched with local wines with each course prepared by one of the weekend’s celebrity chefs. All the chefs remained very focused on utilising the local produce in the Southern Forest region, not just black truffles. As we eagerly waited for our first course, our waitress came over to the table with a big grin on her face. “The chef just whipped up a surprise dish for you all; it’s a truffle croquette!” Everyone reached in excitedly to sample the crispy delights, but alas I missed out because of course they weren’t gluten free. The Boy happily snuffled up my croquette for me.
The first official course was made by Matthew Evans from the TV series Gourmet Farmer. Matthew is a chef that shares TK’s food philosophy of eating local and seasonal. He prepared a smooth textured brandade using locally caught Redfin perch, potatoes and of course plenty of Manjimup truffle.
The second dish was by far the best of the night and yet sadly one that I failed to capture on camera. Pata Negra’s David Coomer is somewhat of a truffle expert and was one of the first Perth chefs to twig onto the bright idea of growing his own truffles. David’s marron dish was close to orgasmic and for that moment all four of us stopped talking mid-conversation to focus attentively on sucking and slurping every single last morsel of flavour from our marron shells. The marron flesh was cooked to the millisecond of perfection and was literally drowning in a decadent brown butter truffle vinaigrette topped with grated truffle. What astounded me the most with this dish was that David somehow managed to ooze aromatic truffiliciousness into every mouthful; even the enclosed meat in the marron’s legs and claws tasted like truffle. It was heaven.
As the four of us glowed in the aftermath of marron ecstasy, Dad voiced his sympathy for the chef whose dish followed next as he imagined even a wonderful dish would be bland in comparison to that marron. Scott Bridger from Bib & Tucker and May Street Larder created his dish using local buckwheat and seasonal Jerusalem artichokes, topped with milk curd, fresh apple, sprouted buckwheat, wood sorrel and truffle.
I am guessing that he included some other gluten flours to be able to make the dough so fluffy, and thus my gluten free adapted version was made using a thin buckwheat crêpe. After indulging on copious rich truffle butter from the marron, I actually welcomed the lighter flavours.
Chef Kenny McHardy recently moved up to Perth from Albany and soon will be opening his new restaurant Manuka Woodfire Kitchen in Fremantle. He opted for a more hearty styled dish of a pork pithivier which is sort of a French equivalent of a meat pie but with a fluffy puff pastry. It was served with heirloom pumpkin and some local Tangletoe organic cider made at Mountford Wines in Pemberton.
Fluffy textures in gluten free pastry is a hard creation to prepare and Chef Kenny made the wise decision to not to ruin the dish with a lackluster gluten free pastry alternative. Instead, I received two buttery soft pork rillettes for my gluten free alternative. As many of my readers may recall, pork is not generally my first protein choice. But offer me pork lavished with luscious truffle and I can easily be swayed!
To finish off the evening, we enjoyed dessert made by Sophie Budd from Taste Budds Cooking Studio. Sophie bravely chose to made her dish truffle-less and used another culinary delicacy locally grown in the Southern Forests region; native finger limes. She prepared a smooth lemon souffle and topped it with adorable little pearls of Pemberton finger lime. I love how this fruit has been marketed as “citrus caviar”, it is such an appealing concept.
We commenced our next morning at the Truffle & Wine Co to go on a truffle hunt. My stepmum Tess is a huge animal lover like I am, with a particular weakness for Labradors. We got to meet the truffle dog Scrappy, a black Lab whose gentle nature and large brown eyes won everyone’s hearts especially Tess’s.
Not only is Scrappy trained to detect where truffles are growing under the ground, but she can also determine which truffles are ripe and therefore ready for harvest while leaving the immature truffles to continue to grow.
Using specific head gestures Scrappy was able to indicate to her trainer if there was more than one truffle in a single location and if they were growing together in a cluster or spaced a distance apart. Such a clever dog!
After a few cuddles with Scrappy, we returned to Fonty’s pool just in time for the Southern Forests Food Bowl Lunch. It was going to be a big day of non-stop eating so I had skipped breakfast in preparation and was ready with a very healthy appetite.
In a similar fashion to the dinner, our lunch was focused around showcasing some of the Southern Forest’s wonderful local produce with the black truffle taking centre stage. Each course was matched with local regional wines.
Our entree was prepared by Aaron Carr, the Executive Chef at Vasse Felix in Margaret River who was awarded 2015 Chef of the Year in the WA Good Food Guide. Using the locally farmed Blue Ridge marron, he paired it with sweet pear, cauliflower and truffle.
For the main course Chef Luke Burgess slow cooked some finger licking beef short ribs. The short ribs were served shared style in the centre table with each guest receiving their own plate of smoked quince and kohl rabi salad to pair with the tender beef.
The meal was rounded off nicely with dessert by Tom Randolph from No. 4 Blake Street. Savoury and sweet flavours were married with a truffle and Jerusalem artichoke custard topped with chocolate consommé and shards of salted chocolate.
After Saturday’s lunch we opted to head home from TK early as I was still suffering from my stupid back injury and needed some time out with my feet up to ease the pain. We had the Foragers Truffle Kerfuffle Seasonal Dinner that evening and I wanted to be able to last the distance. Foragers Field Kitchen holds sell-out seasonal dinners most Saturday nights which consist of a set menu served in a shared style. They have a BYO license.
Sophie Zalokar is a passionate advocate for the Southern Forest region and sources quality local produce to use in her kitchen as much as possible. Her cooking style is best described as authentic country cooking and nearly everything she prepares is made from scratch. For our first course, we started with a white bean and parmesan soup topped with truffle cream and fresh chervil. It was a crisp, cold night out and this shot of warmth was just what I needed.
For our second course we enjoyed some wood-roasted Jerusalem artichokes and sprout hearts. I haven’t tried them wood roasted before, it seems to be more popular to served them pureed rather than whole. They have a distinct but subtle sweetness to them which I have since learnt is due to the fructose content, something to note if you have fructose malabsoprtion. Toasted buckwheat and hazelnuts added a wonderful textural element to the dish. Some labna, or fresh yoghurt cheese, was made from Bannister Downs milk and of course everything was lavished with plenty of fresh truffle.
Whilst I’m certainly not a chef, it seems to me that rabbit can be a very temperamental meat to prepare. I often find it to be dry and tough unless it is served in some sort of slow cooked stew. Forager’s cider braised rabbit was none of those things and was so delicately tender and moist. It was served with celeriac cream, porcini juice, fresh truffle and Brussels sprout leaves.
I was thankful that our dessert was lovely and light as we had been solidly eating for most of the day. The smooth honey custard sat gently in my overly full belly and the persimmon and pumpkin seed salad was a refreshing way to finish a perfect meal.
We were yet to explore much of the Truffle Kerfuffle Farmers Market so we headed back on the Sunday morning as fresh as daisies to check it out.
There was an abundance of local food and wine to try with a smaller selection of hot food stalls to purchase more substantial meals. What sparked the Boy’s attention the most were the truffle inoculated trees available for sale and although we don’t have a property in Manjimup he showed great interest in getting one. Dad being the always generous man stopped in at the stall and bought one for his only son-in-law.
After the previous day’s feasting we were happy for a light lunch and while Dad and Tess wandered the Market tasting wines the Boy and I sat on the grass and ate some heartwarming market food. We had filled our bags with purchases of local produce to bring home including fresh truffles, local potatoes and an enormous spaghetti squash.
That evening back in our chalet, we had the most simple but exquisite meal of mashed potato with truffle butter and fresh truffle. It was as heavenly as all the other dishes we devoured over the three days, except of course for David Coomer’s marron. Now THAT was a one in a lifetime moment. It is always sad moment when TK is over, but the four of us are already counting down the days until next year’s truffle feasting. It looks like it might be an annual event for Dad and Tess too now!
Truffle Kerfuffle is held on the last weekend of June every year at Fonty’s Pool in Manjimup. Refer to their website www.trufflekerfuffle.com.au for more details
Disclaimer: Chompchomp purchased the tickets to the Hunt and Harvest dinner, Food Bowl lunch, Truffle Hunts and Winter Seasonal Dinner at Foragers at her own expense. She was grateful to receive a media pack with free passes, wine glasses and transportation to events for all her family from Offshoot Creative.
Pata Negra | 26 Stirling Highway, Nedlands WA 6009 | (08) 9389 5517 | www.patanegra.com.au
Bib & Tucker |18 Leighton Beach Boulevard, North Fremantle WA 6159 | (08) 9433 2147 | www.bibandtucker.net.au
May Street Larder | Shop 23, 155 Canning Highway, East Fremantle WA 6158 | www.maystreetlarder.com.au
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen | Shop 6/7,128-134 High Street, Fremantle, Western Australia 6160 | Facebook
Sophie Budd, Taste Budds Cooking Studio
Vasse Felix | Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Caves Road, Margaret River WA 6284 | (08) 9756 5050 | www.vassefelix.com.au
No 4 | 4 Blake St, North Perth, 6006 WA | (08) 9444 6678 | www.no4blakestreet.com.au
Foragers | Lot 1 Roberts Road, Pemberton WAZ 6260 | (08) 9776 1580 | www.foragers.com.au
Colonial Brewing | Osmington Road, Margaret River WA 6285 | (08) 9758 8177 | www.colonialbrewingco.com.au
Kent Street Deli | Unit 3/1 Kent Road, Rockingham WA 6168 | (08) 9528 5335 | www.kentstreetdeli.com.au
Lady Marmalade | Donnybrook, WA | 0417 415 073 | Facebook
Recovery from a disc injury can be a roller-coaster ride of good days and bad days. After an optimistic fortnight of steady improvement, I was faced with a horrid day of crippling pain and depression. I forced myself through the morning’s torture in the hope that it would ease as the day progressed but the short drive to work was enough to push me over the edge. I am normally an energetic and bubbly person and I hate that I’m reduced to a crumpled heap on the floor of our staff room. To add to the pain, I feel racked with the guilt of leaving my colleagues with all my work for the afternoon. I battled through a couple of consults before pathetically limping back to my car for the dreaded drive home. Pain has a way of warping your perspective on life and I can sense how short tempered and grumpy I am but with every moment hurting I cannot stop myself.
Upon arriving home I drugged and heat-packed the hell out of that wretched spine of mine before laying back in bed with a glass wine in hand. Before long I was smothered in cats and started to appreciate that tommorow would be a brand new day. With new-found gratitude I reminded myself to be thankful I still have many wonderful things in my life; I have my sanity, my internal health, a loving husband and two of the most handsome cats in the world.
One of my treasured winter creature comforts in Perth is our locally grown fresh black truffles. I go absolutely bonkers for these little black fungi and our winter is filled with back to back truffle dinner events. This season has already kicked off and yet I’m in no good shape to sit down for a lazy degustation. So, in an act of kindness the Boy suggested that instead of going to the truffle, get the truffle brought to me. My first creation of the season is this luscious creamy truffle cauliflower soup. This is a vegan cauliflower soup that is also gluten free and dairy free, and rich in flavour and umami deliciousness.
- 1 clove garlic
- 30 grams Nuttelex or preferred dairy free, vegan spread
- 1 tablespoon vegetable stock concentrate (from Thermomix EDC, if you are not using a Thermomix, use 1 stock cube. Ensure it is onion and gluten free)
- 40 grams fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 40 grams raw blanched almonds, soaked for 1-2 hours and drained
- 250 grams cauliflower, roughly chopped
- 200 grams potato, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon savoury yeast
- 600 grams filtered water, room temperature
- 10-20 grams of fresh black truffle, depending on preference
- salt and pepper to taste
- 100 grams cauliflower florets, broken into small florets
- ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sliced almonds
- 10 grams fresh black truffle
- Preheat oven to 200C.
- Toss 100 grams of small cauliflower florets in olive oil season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 20-25 mins until browned. Reserve for garnishing the soup
- Place garlic clove in the mixing bowl and chop for 5 sec | Speed 5 MC. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.
- Add 30 grams Nuttelex and saute for 2 mins | 100C | Speed 1.
- Add vegetable stock concentrate, potato, shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower, drained almonds, savoury yeast, water and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 20 min | 100C | Speed 1. Put the simmer basket on top instead of the MC
- Blend for 1 minute | Speed 9, gradually increasing from Speed 1-9 until a smooth consistency is achieved.
- Shave 10-20 grams of fresh truffle into the mixing bowl ensuring to leave enough to garnish. Mix for 20 seconds | Speed 3.
- Serve immediately and garnish with roasted cauliflower, sliced almonds and fresh black truffle
- Finely chop garlic clove. Saute with 30 grams Nuttelex in a medium sized saucepan on medium heat.
- Add vegetable stock concentrate, potato, shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower, drained almonds, savoury yeast and water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15-20 min or until vegetables are soft . Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Blend using a stick blender until a smooth consistency is achieved.
- Shave 10-20 grams of fresh truffle into the mixing bowl ensuring to leave enough to garnish. Stir to mix through
- Serve immediately and garnish with roasted cauliflower, sliced almonds and fresh black truffle
At the very tail end of my annual leave I received a spontaneous call from one of my dearest friends and business partner Chris to join her on a lunch date. She was freed of the responsibility of her little offspring for the afternoon and wanted to make the most of it. She wasn’t fussy where we went and let me choose the venue. With so many new bars popping up around town it is hard to keep up despite being a food blogger. One bar that has sparked my interest is Shadow Wine Bar located in the new Alex Hotel. Moving away from the current trend of tight spaces and walk-ins, Shadow Wine Bar fills a large space with dramatic black and white interiors, massively high ceilings and an industrial warehouse-gone-chic feel.
I tend to avoid making an early judgement on the fluidity of service for new venues like this, not only are the staff new but everything is new and everyone deserves time to land on their feet. So I excused our waiter’s error in telling me all the pasta dishes were gluten free along with a dish with a rye crumb. It was even easier to forgive him quickly when the rest of our service was accompanied with smiles and attentiveness.
We started with the potato crisp topped with fresh crab and a lemon aioli. These morsels were a mouthful of flavour however the potato didn’t hold up to the weight of its toppings and became a little soggy in the middle.
The pan-fried haloumi was a squeaky treat matched beautifully with slightly sweet, slightly sour pink grapefruit and peppery fresh watercress. A simple collection of ingredients that balanced elegantly.
The veal carpaccio was the winner of the day. Nearly translucent slices of veal were marbled with spider thin strands of white fat and tore apart like tissue paper across the plate. Truffle mustard drizzled generously on top gave a subtle hint of truffiliciousness.
Shadow Bar’s crispy pork jowl is a must for pork lovers. The crackling was browned to a tooth-chipping, crunchable texture while the underlying unctuous goodness melted in the mouth without any lingering aftertaste.
A meal with Chris is never complete without sweets. In fact, over nearly two decades of friendship I cannot recall ever eating with her and not ingesting something saccariferous. Not that I am complaining because I am no different. After a round of giggles from us both trying to pronounce “tart tartin” properly in French, Chris ordered the pear tart tartin. It was served with tonka bean ice cream which had a similar flavour to vanilla with a hint of caramel.
The only gluten free dessert option was the poached rhubarb served with a scoop of mascarpone and shards of meringue. Whilst my dessert certainly looked the part, I found its flavours to be underwhelming with the creaminess and tartness unbalanced due to a distinct lack of sweetness. It almost felt like there was a missing ingredient.
Our lunch experience at Shadow Wine Bar left me undecided on my opinion so the following day I brought the Boy back there for lunch for a second chance. Our waitress was much more clued on about what was gluten free and sailed me through the menu without hesitation. Sadly only a handful of the small plates could be adapted and despite being a hotel there was no gluten free bread available.
We started with the jamon iberico which was served with fresh bread on the side for the Boy and some very tasty pickles. Like the carpaccio, the meat was high quality and similarly soft and flavourful.
The fish of the day was two fillets of pan-fried King George Whiting with a puttanesca sauce made with olives, eggplant, zucchini and capsicum. I picked out the fructose loaded onions easily. As the Boy devoured his share he wondered why I had any reservations about this venue as he had only experienced winning dishes.
Our next dish was the braised lamb neck ragu and this cemented his positive opinion on Shadow. Served on a bed of soft polenta, the lamb was delicately textured, moist and rich and we both savoured each mouthful.
In contrast to Chris, the Boy doesn’t have a sweet tooth except for his weakness for ice cream. I was happy to settle for some cheese instead especially as I had seen two of my favourites of all time on the menu; namely Manchego and Brillat Savarin. These are two very different cheeses but are both ground-shakingly amazing. The cheeses were served at the perfect temperature to maximise their flavour but sadly there were no gluten free crackers or bread to accompany. I am hoping this is just one small oversight that they plan to resolve.
I am glad I returned back to Shadow Wine Bar as I can now appreciate it has oodles of potential. Housed in an impressive space, with a short to the point menu and serving wines by the glass or carafe Shadow Wine Bar proves that our little city Perth is finally growing up. I am hoping that they will progress to becoming a little more gluten free friendly so that people like me can enjoy more of their European styled menu.
Shadow Wine Bar
214 William Street, Northbridge WA | (08) 6430 4010 | www.shadowwinebar.com.au
Excitement is mounting as the truffle season is about to kick off for the winter. This year West Australia is in for a bumper crop as our conditions have been close to perfect for maximum yield and quality. For those of you who have yet to fall in love with this mysterious black “fruit of a fungus” you are truly missing out. For gourmands around the globe it is highly sought after and has earned the name “black gold” due to it high price. This high value is enhanced by the fact it grows very seasonally and has a short shelf life due to losing its aroma and flavour very quickly.
Every year there is an annual food and wine festival called Truffle Kerfuffle that is held in Manjimup, in the heart of the Southern Forests truffle growing region in WA. The three day festival allows national and international tourists to live it up for a weekend of luxurious truffle excesses. This year’s festival will run over the last weekend of June from the 26th to the 28th of June and tickets to the events are selling out quick.
Many of our state’s top chefs will be attending the event helping promote what an incredible region the Southern Forests has become, not just for their truffles, but for other sought after produce including chestnuts, buckwheat, finger limes, marron, cherries, cheeses and fine wines.
In the lead up to Truffle Kerfuffle I recently attended a preview event truffle masterclass with Chef Kiren Mainwaring from Co-Op Dining. Kiren and I share similar passions when it comes to food and wherever possible he sources his ingredients locally and seasonally. He has always taken such individualised care for my dietary needs, even at big events where it must be such a hassle to make one dish to order.
Being a small group we were taken behind the scenes into the kitchen of Co-Op Dining to get a true chef’s table experience. Not a bad way to spend my rainy Wednesday afternoon indeed!
Kiren talked us through a couple of methods that can be used to preserve truffles as their potency starts to diminish significantly after just four days. Having said that, working in the kitchen of a fine dining establishment means that he is spoilt with the luxury of not needing to preserve his truffles and uses them fresh for the duration of the season.
For those that have dined at Co-op, I imagine you would have already gone goo-goo gaa-gaa over Kiren’s slow cooked egg yolk. He cooks the yolk at 55°C for 45 minutes to yield a yolk that is technically cooked but with the consistency as if it is raw. It makes for a perfect blogger’s yolk porn shot which even in the tight constraints of someone else’s’ kitchen, I simply couldn’t resist.
The yolk snuggled on a bed of broccoli puree surrounded by crispy puffed basmati and buckwheat. This gave the ultimate play on textures with the egg’s creamy silkiness contrasting with the crunchy grains. Generous shavings of fresh black truffle gave this dish an extra depth that rocketed it into absolute heaven.
Our second dish showcased more ingredients from the Southern Forests region that are also seasonal to this time of year. Pemberton grown Jerusalem artichokes formed the base of the dish featuring both as a puree, and also cubed and fried in smoked pork fat for that added oomph of umami flavour. Roast chestnuts signal the beginning of winter for me and added a wondrous nutty element to this dish.
It was finished off with shaved parmesan, crisp onion skins and grated fresh truffle. For this dish Kiren grated the truffle finely as he wanted the truffle flavour to evenly disperse throughout the dish.
It is only three weeks to go until Truffle Kerfuffle and this year I am so excited to be taking my Dad and stepmum along with us. Living in Melbourne, they have never explored outside of Perth and I am nervously proud of what we are soon to show them. They are both well-travelled foodies who have spent much of their careers as fashion designers hitting up the hottest places in the trendiest cities around the world. Hopefully I can impress them!
Truffle Kerfuffle runs from the 26th to the 28th of June 2015. Tickets for the festival and associated events can be purchased from their website at www.trufflekerfuffle.com.au
Check out my comprehensive post from last year’s TK at www.chompchomp.com.au/2014/07/southern-forests-truffle-kerfuffle-truffle-festival-2014
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest of Truffle Kerfuffle and Offshoot Creative
This week is the final week for Eat Drink Perth festivities and for my last official EDP hurrah I attended the “South of France” dinner at Blackbird Restaurant in East Perth. Blackbird is a quaint little place tucked away in the corner nook of Claisebrook Cove facing out onto the water. Their focus is on serving traditional rustic European dishes and they have an interesting wine list with a collection of both local and International wines.
The South of France Dinner includes a three course meal accompanied by a bottle of French wine to share for the very reasonable price of $55 per person. I notified the kitchen staff in advance of my gluten free dietary needs and found then to be more than happy to accommodate.
Our entrée consisted of a share plate with three traditional Southern French dishes; a mushroom truffle dip with fresh baguette, pissaladière and salad Nicoise. I am always so grateful that there are many restaurants in Perth that now offer gluten free bread. I accept that these offerings will often be stodgy and, well, gluten free-ish but beggars can’t be choosers they say! I’m just happy to be considered. However for this evening, to my delight, our waiter served our entrée plate accompanied with some gluten free baguette!
Crunchy on the outside, and soft and light on the inside, it actually tasted like real baguette! With Perth’s truffle season creeping up close, I am getting to desperate levels of anticipation for a three month truffle binge. Just a single smear of truffilicious dip on my gluten free baguette was enough to make my eyes beam wide and I started to bounce up and down in my seat with excitement like a child.
Pissaladière is a bit like a French alternative to pizza that is often served in bakeries in Nice on the southern coast of France. It consists of a thick dough topped with caramelised onions, olives, garlic and anchovies. My pissaladiere was adapted by replacing the base with gluten free baguette. Containing caramelised onion meant that this wasn’t exactly a fructose friendly morsel, but sometimes I find it hard to say no to such deliciousness. Although I knew I was going to suffer a bit from onion bloating later on, I temporarily cast aside my worries and got lost in the moment enjoying my gluten free treat.
The final dish on the share plate was a salad Nicoise with green beans, cherry tomatoes, boiled egg, chat potatoes and tuna aioli. The tuna aioli was creamy, rich and packed a powerful flavour kick to the more gentle fresh ingredients.
For the main course there was a choice of two dishes which were also designed to share. The options were either Coq au vin Blanc with Provençale rice, or, Bouillabaisse. My stepmum makes a killer version of both these dishes so it was a hard call to pick which one to order. After some careful deliberation we chose the bouillabaisse.
It was a wise choice. Chunky fillets of Red Emperor were cooked to a flaky perfection and joined cockles and prawns to bath in a bright and heart-warming broth. There was a slight chill in the night air and each mouthful of soup helped warm my bones.
Our dessert required only a slight adaptation to be gluten free with the standard dish consisting of little bite size tart aux pomme, or apple tarts with some fresh stone fruits and brandy cream. The chef made me a gluten free tart by fashioning a shell using a chunk of walnut cake.
Our midweek South of France dinner was one that we arrived with no expectations and walked away more than contented and satisfied.
Growing up with a patriotic French-born father resulted in French cuisine forming a considerable part of my childhood. My Dad grew up in the south of France and so food from this region is something I was taught to know well from a young age. Getting to enjoy some of these classic dishes at Blackbird brought back fond memories of my younger years and it was definitely a weeknight worth leaving the house for.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp’s meal was paid for by the City of Perth as part of her official blogging duties for Eat Drink Perth 2015.
10 Eastbrook Terrace, overlooking Claisebrook Lake, East Perth, WA 6004 | (08) 9225 7880 | blackbirdrestaurant.com.au
East Drink Perth Offer South of France Dinner: $55 per person for two people, three course with a bottle of French wine
There has been much buzz around the recent opening of the new restaurant St Michael 6003 in Highgate. Scott O’Sullivan from Red Cabbage and Todd Stuart from Petite Mort have paired together to open this suave new joint located in Jackson’s old digs on Beaufort Street. Former Red Cabbage sous chef Adam Sayles has taken the reins to produce something intriguingly refined, modern and creative. This individuality has not gone unnoticed by high-profile foodies with St Michael recently starring in the weekly Hot Plates feature on the Gourmet Traveller website.
Last year for the Mushroom Mania campaign, one of my sponsored meals was a mushroom degustation at Red Cabbage and this year I was hopeful that their brand new sister restaurant would be willing to do something similar. I was very appreciative that Chef Adam was happy to come on board and create a couple of mushroom dishes for us to enjoy.
St Michael offers small share plates in addition to a more elaborate seven course tasting menu. After gazing slowly over their menu I turned to the Boy to see what he wanted eat for the evening; did he want to share a few dishes or would he prefer to go the whole hog and order the dego?
Without hesitating he replied “Well, the dego of course!” I love that we are so like-minded with our food obsessions! A match made in heaven <3
We started off with the salt and vinegar crackers which had been made so fresh that they still crackled and popped loudly as they sat on our table. Made from pork skin they bubbled on my tongue like prawn crackers creating that deliciously tingling sensation. So much fun.
Our starting course consisted of thin slices of house made corn beef prepared using 300 day grain fed Ranger Valley beef flank. The corn beef accompanied some air dried bresaola and fermented vegetables.
This dish left a surprisingly light, cleansing feeling on the palate and was an uplifting way to start a degustation. The beef had luscious marbling giving it a melt in the mouth, buttery texture.
Our next dish starred our hero ingredient; the mushroom. Tender soft Manjimup marron pieces were charred lightly and plated like a magical garden with pickled white shimeji mushrooms along with delicately peppery turnips and nasturtium flowers.
I had just enough time to grab a quick capture of this gorgeous dish before our waiter gently poured a flavoursome shiitake dashi made with mirin and organic gluten free tamari.
The dashi added a rich layer of unami that harmonised and enhanced the flavours of the marron and mushrooms elegantly. I could feel the nourishing warmth radiating right through me to the tips of my fingers. For a brief moment there was silence across the table as the Boy and I slurped up every last millilitre of the Japanese broth.
The quail breast was pressed between thin slices of Serrano ham and served lightly charred with honey roasted carrots and carrot purée. The quail had a lovely silken velvety texture, I have never eaten quail that delicately tender before.
My final main course was the lamb shoulder made using locally sourced WA lamb from Karagullen. This dish also featured our hero ingredient for the evening containing plump, meaty oyster mushrooms nestled in with dollops of goats curd.
To top it all off my dish was garnished with generous shavings of fresh Manjimup truffle. Truffle mania dies hard with this girl, and I couldn’t hold back my squeals of delight.
The cheese course was served with similar style and flair to those we have enjoyed at Red Cabbage. Forget about your standard cheese platter with wedges of cheese, crackers and quince. This dish was as interesting as its predecessors. Creamy chunks of Cashel blue cheese accompanied some pear sorbet, roast celeriac and white chocolate ganache. The dish was garnished with salted walnuts and cubes of compressed pear.
Our dessert was simply titled “yoghurt sorbet” and was quite the exquisite surprise, totally addictive and texturally satisfying. Amid the single scoop of lightly tangy sorbet were multiple droplets of fruit and herbs frozen in liquid nitrogen. As soon as each particle hit my mouth they would start to dissolve giving me alternate bursts of vibrant flavour including strawberry, pear, peach, orange, mango, passionfruit, parsley, mint and basil. It was mind-blowing.
This dessert excited me so much that I wasn’t ready for our meal to end but alas we had already eaten out way through our seven courses. I sheepishly asked our waiter if I could possibly have another round of something sweet. Maybe some petit fours to go with my tea?
He happily obliged and we were given a bowl of curious asymmetrical blocks of peanut butter, salted caramel and chocolate. They were also frozen in liquid nitrogen and looked like they would be hard to bite into as they were still covered in an icy mist. Looks can be deceiving and with each bite, I discovered the inside of these chunks still remained wondrously soft and velvety.
There is no doubt I will be returning to St Michael as they offer something quite different to their surrounding competitors. They allow diners to enjoy a touch of high end fine dining without having to commit to a whole degustation or experience the formality and pomp.Mushroom Mania campaign. Chompchomp has been delighted to be part of this campaign for three years running as she is a huge advocate for all things mushroom. She would also like to thank all the team from St Michael for coming on board with creating a mushroom themed degustation. St Michael 6003 483 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | (08) 9328 1177 | Facebook Price: Small bites $8-18, Mains $15-30, 7 course tasting menu $89
When I find something I love, I complete submerge myself into a level of addiction that often needs to be controlled by an external party, usually the Boy. Or sometimes it is controlled by the increasing numbers on my bathroom scales. Nevertheless, over the years I have come to accept that this is part of my personality and provided I have someone to check me into line when I get too carried away, it is a quick way to brighten up my day. Some of my obsessions are long lasting and others come and go like fashion so I thought I would share with you my top five gluten free indulgences for Winter 2014.
1. Manjimup Black truffles
I am not a fan of winter, I really feel the cold and spend a large portion of this time of year huddled in front of a heater reluctant to move. However there is one highlight of winter which is the truffle season. For the duration of the three month truffle season our household goes truffle mad; chasing degustations, festivals and buying any fresh truffled product we can get our hands on. My fridge will be continuously stocked with truffle butter, truffle mustard, and truffle aioli and sometimes even some real fresh black truffle. One of my favourite ready made products is the truffle aioli made by the Truffle and Wine Company. It is knee-staggeringly truffilicious and fortunately I can purchase it throughout winter from a local Vic Park store called Nosh Gourmet.
2. Hot Pot Popcorn
Popcorn would have to come in at a close number two for this winter. It’s somewhat healthy, naturally gluten free and incredibly moreish. But when you add the fact that Hot Pot’s popcorn is popped locally in Perth and is not mass produced, it ticks even more boxes for me. Hot Pot Popcorn have a number of addictable flavours with their Peri peri popcorn being one of their most popular. I am a slightly sweet, slightly salty fan but I recently tried their cinnamon flavour and it was tha bomb! It’s available at the Manning Farmers Market and a few independent grocers, head to their website for more information.
3. Pana Chocolate Sour Cherry + Vanilla
Chocolate has been a staple food for me since I could walk but more recently I have seriously got into eating raw chocolate and prefer it to the more mainstream stuff. The problem with this is that most raw chocolate is sweetened with agave syrup. Now whilst this is gluten free, agave is about 90% fructose and whenever I eat significant quantities my gut becomes very unhappy. Pana Chocolate is a Melbourne based company that makes handmade raw chocolate using all natural ingredients. One of their flavours; the Sour Cherry and Vanilla 60% cacao is made without added agave and uses coconut nectar as a sweetener instead. Totally fructose friendly, woot!
4. Au Naturale juices
After initially trialling a three day juice cleanse complementary of Au Naturale Juice back in February this year, juice cleansing has become a monthly routine for me. I never thought I would be able to survive for three days without eating solids as I am the type of person who is already planning what to eat for dinner in the morning as I’m eating my breakfast. Food spends a large part of its time taking up my subconscious thoughts and I imagined I would be one of the LAST people to be up for a juice cleanse. Let alone repeating one every month! Yet now, each month I look forward to the energy it injects into me and the “rest” that I give my overworked digestive system seems to do wonders for my allergies, skin and gut health. I have continued to stick with using Au Naturale for my cleanses as the company’s owner Jac is always happy to adapt her juices individually to be more fructose friendly. Her cleanses are all-inclusive with everything you need and you can also include extra options such as herbal teas, miso paste, flavoured broths and nut milks.
5. Warm Spiced Rice pudding from the Tapas Man at the Vic Park Farmers Market
I cannot describe how happy I am that we now have our very own Farmer’s Market in Vic Park. My progression to become someone who takes eating seasonally and locally as a way of life has become so much easier. The Boy and I look forward to a market stall breakfast each week, come rain or shine, and enjoy that we can plan our week’s meals based on whatever looks good at the fresh produce stalls. The Boy will alternate between a number of the different food vendors each week and has worked his way around many of the options trying vegetarian Banh Mi’s from Baguette Me Not, Mexican baked eggs from That Little Mexican Place and Perfect Poffertje’s Dutch pancakes. In contrast I have been very repetitive with my breakfast choice. Call it my final addiction for winter; my breakfast every week is the Tapas Man’s warm spiced pudding with poached fruits and toasted almonds. Once you have tried it you will struggle to order anything else. Unfortunately they are not at the markets every week so check their Facebook page before you get your hopes up!Chompchomp did not receive any payment or gifts in lieu of this post and it is written purely because she wanted to share her obsessions with her readers. Chompchomp accepts no responsibility for any subsequent addiction that may develop in any of her readers in the aftermath from reading this post. She advises that the purchase of any of the above mentioned products is done at the individual’s risk.
My friends and family will tell you that I have always been an enthusiastic and excitable person. My facial features and hands rarely remain expressionless and I often suffer from a lack of volume control. There are some things in my life that can further amplify these personality traits and I have a tendency to obsess over them. To name a few. Cats. Raw chocolate. Popcorn. Running. Mushrooms. Slow cooked eggs. And black truffles. My black truffle addiction gains force each year as I seek out bigger and better truffle experiences.
For those not in the know I am not referring to a type of chocolate. Black truffles are weird looking balls of fungus that grow underground on the roots of oak and hazelnut trees. They are a highly sought after delicacy and sell for thousands of dollars per kilo. Truffles only grow for a very limited season over wintertime and do not hold a very long shelve life.
The Southern Forests region in Western Australia has proven to be the prime location to grow this “black gold” with 80% of the Southern hemisphere’s black truffle coming from this small but highly productive region. To celebrate the truffle season each year, there is a three day truffle festival held called Truffle Kerfuffle which is dedicated to showcasing the abundance of produce from the Southern Forests region with the black truffle being on centre stage.
This year I journeyed down to Manjimup for the full weekend to get the entire truffle experience. Our first evening celebrations kicked off with the sell-out Hunt and Harvest dinner. This was a luxurious affair of six courses and matched wines with every dish enhanced extravagantly with lavish servings of fresh, aromatic truffle. At each table setting we were even given a 20 gram fresh truffle to take home.
Whilst the truffle remained the shining star of the show, each course also utilised some of the best produce this region has to offer including marron, rainbow trout and crunchy sweet apples.
It was hard to pick a highlight for the evening but for me it was Philipe Mouchel’s Manjimup Hampshire Grass fed beef. The beef was prepared two ways; a tender soft roasted strip loin with rich, braised short ribs. It was served on a bed of Southern Forest celeriac purée with a red wine sauce and of course shavings of black truffle.
The cheese course was spectacular in appearance with each platter topped with giant sized shards of gluten free whey lavosh. Hidden under the lavosh sat rolls of Bannister Downs curd which had been delicately wrapped in paper thin slices of truffle. It was a night of excess and was well worth the expense.
The next day I woke up nursing a sizey hangover but the anticipation of more truffle feasting to come it made things seem a lot easier to get going. I certainly didn’t want to miss out on anything so we headed back to Fonty’s Pool early in the day for the festival part of the weekend celebrations. We started with a naughty breakfast of truffled popcorn from the Taste of Balingup stall.
Freshly popped corn tossed in truffle butter and topped with grated truffle? Oh my! It was out of this world. I have to confess to you that with the Boy’s help I may have eaten at least half a dozen serves over the course of the weekend. And I could have easily eaten more.
The Farmer’s market was filled with a number of stalls selling produce from the Southern Forest region with a strong focus on truffle. There were a great variety of gourmet hot food stalls too which led me to the compulsion to try as much dishes as I humanly could. Thankfully most of the stalls had a gluten free option so I didn’t miss out on much!
Whilst the truffle popcorn was obviously my favourite, some other addictive bites included the marron and truffle stuffed potatoes, Kent Street Deli’s fall apart beef cheeks with truffle mash and Pata Negra’s lusciously smooth pate. I was impressed that David Coomer’s wife was kind enough to bring gluten free crackers to the festival to accompany the pate for those Coeliacs in need!
Running at half hour intervals throughout the two days were truffle hunts held on one of the surrounding truffle farms. The hunt is conducted a short bus ride away from the festival and it is the best way to learn more about this interesting industry.
As black truffles grow underground they are not that easy to find. In Manjimup, truffle farmers spend time training their dogs to be able to sniff out the treasure without damaging it. We got to meet Latte the truffle dog, a very placid and patient boy who liked to live his life in the slow lane.
Latte would carefully walk under the oak trees to smell where the truffles lay and when he found one he would gently paw at the ground once or twice then look expectantly at his owner for a treat. After half an hour or so, he had helped his owner find a small bag full of walnut sized truffles. An impressive haul when you consider they sell on the retail market for over $2000.
Whilst the main group were busy watch Latte at work, I noticed the Boy was lingering back from the crowd looking somewhat suspicious. As I glanced back to see what he was up to I saw him flick a clod of moss off the ground with his foot and his face lit up with surprise.
I toddled over to see what he found and saw an enormous black shadow laying underneath the red dirt and bright green moss. It was a giant sized truffle that outsized all of the truffle dog’s truffles by far! Looks like the Boy has found his new calling. My truffle snuffling husband. I married well. As I sadly handed over the weighty specimen to its rightful owner I secretly hoped he would exchange one of the smaller golf ball sized truffles as payment but alas all he offered was one of Latte’s liver treats. Erm, no thankyou!
After our truffle hunt we met up with my dear friend Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse for a Masterclass with Hadleigh Troy from Restaurant Amuse and Paul Wyman from Colonial Brewery. They teamed together to show us that food and drink matching isn’t just for wine but can easily be done with craft beers.
Unfortunately for me, Colonial cannot produce any gluten free beers but Hadleigh was thoughtful enough to source some locally produced gluten beers for me from Billabong Brewery. It was a joy to watch two masters at their craft talk so passionately about their industries and it reminded me that it is important to always follow your dream.
Hadleigh created a two course journey matched with three rounds of Colonial beers. Whilst I didn’t get to try Colonial brew, the Boy is quite the beer expert and was happy to inform me they got his fussy tick of approval. He enjoyed their complexity in flavour and was inspired to make sure we visit their brewery next time we are in Margaret River.
For our third and final festival day, I had booked tickets for the Southern Forests Farmers Long Table lunch. This was a much more casual affair than the higher profile Hunt and Harvest dinner which made a nice contrast in experiences.
Our table was adorned with an abundance of locally sourced fresh produce including potatoes, kale and silver beet. The lunch pulled on the talents of three amazing WA chefs; Kiren Mainwaring from Co-op Dining, Joel Valvasori from Lalla Rookh and Sophie Budd from Taste Budds Cooking Studio.
Every ingredient used in the three course lunch excluding staples such as sugar, flour and salt were sourced from the Southern Forest region. Kiren’s dish included one of his signature elements; a slow cooked egg. This was paired with a savoury meringue, cauliflower puree, shaved cauliflower and of course, fresh truffle. It was a wondrous play on textures with a layer of subtle sweetness coming from the gelatinous yolk and the air-puff crisp meringue.
There was a brief interlude before main course for local potato growers Carlo and Bob Pessotto to talk to us about the diverse range of potatoes available in Australia. We were served two potatoes; a Kipfler and a Laura. They were roasted and served with a spoonful of molten butter drizzled on top. They wanted to use this as a way to highlight that there can be such a range in flavour and texture between the different potato varieties and encouraged us to try experimenting with eating more types.
Joel’s dish of ricotta gnocchi, lamb and mushroom ragu and fresh truffle effectively silenced the table for minutes as everyone was too busy tucking into its deliciousness. It was just what the cold winter weather commanded and was the perfect way to warm our heart and soul.
He adapted my dish to be gluten free by replacing the gnocchi with thick, creamy polenta. The polenta partially soaked up all the richly flavoured juices from the ragu meaning there was no missing out for this gluten free girl.
Sophie’s dessert utilised the vibrant coloured local Pink Lady apples topping a hazelnut and frangipani tart on a short crust pastry with clotted cream and shavings of truffle.
My gluten free version omitted the pastry and my apple doubled in sized in comparison to everyone else’s. Many of you know that apples are not ideal for a fructose malabsorber however I was prepared to tough it out after slugging some glucose tablets down my throat. Glucose can help with absorption of fructose to an extent. If only there was a pill to reverse the effect of eating gluten how much easier would life be? As the lunch came to a close, we were offered to help ourselves to the produce on the table. I plopped a number of those tasty local potatoes in our bag with the plans to devour them for dinner at our chalet that evening.
Our basic chalet back in Pemberton didn’t have an oven in its kitchen but it did have a pot belly stove. Upon our return from the festival that afternoon, it didn’t take the Boy long to get the fire roaring. I smothered the potatoes in some truffle butter that we bought earlier that day, wrapped them in foil and poked them deep into the hot coals.
What was I saying about the simple things in life? After a weekend of eating decadently with lunches and dinners prepared by famous chefs, it was such pleasure going back to basics. Once our hot potatoes were cooked, I added more spoonfuls of truffle butter and cheekily grated fresh truffle on top. That was our dinner for the evening. It was the perfect way to end a perfect weekend.Truffle Kerfuffle truffle festival 2014 prices: General entry Weekend Pass – Adult $30, Child $15 Hunt & Harvest Dinner $220 including wine Truffle Hunt $40 Masterclasses ranged from $65-145. My Masterclass cost $85 Farmers Long Table Lunch $125 In addition to all her dietary issues, Chompchomp also suffers from a serious condition called FOMO, or Fear-of-missing-out. Consequently she had no desire to wait and see what events she may or may not receive invitations to via her blog and promptly booked her TK weekend for full price on the first day the tickets were released. And it was worth every cent. Trustee Bar InContro Grossi Restaurants Millbrook Winery Taste of Balingup Kent Street Deli Pata Negra Restaurant Amuse Co-op Dining Lalla Rookh
Eat Drink Perth is celebrating its 10th year and their launch party The First Feast was held at Brookfield Place last Monday. The event attracted all the who’s who of the food industry as seven of the star venues from around Brookfield Place took the guests on a culinary journey complete with signature cocktails, entertainment and substantial amounts of food. As one of the team of four official bloggers for Eat Drink Perth I joined the festivities for a night of fun.
The evening commenced outdoors under the stars with pre-dinner cocktails served by Bar Lafayette and Choo Choo’s. A gorgeous Perth based swing band called the Darling Buds of May churned out some hip-swinging tunes under the eerie blue lighting whilst the mixologists at the bar vigorously shook, muddled and stirred up some of the prettiest cocktails in town.
It was hard to know what our amuse bouche actually looked like under the deep blue hue of the lights but it certainly packed a bomb of flavour. It was created by the guest of honour Matt Golinski using a number of ingredients that are Western Australian grown. Bite sized spoonfuls of soft spanner crab mixed with crushed macadamia, ginger and coconut were piled neatly on a betel leaf and topped with pearls of finger lime. The heart-shaped leaf made it easy to roll up and eat somewhat delicately even for someone as uncoordinated as myself.
After a few rounds of Moscow Mule cocktails we were all ushered into the foyer of Brookfield Place to what I can only describe as the longest long table I have ever seen. Seating 250 guests it spanned from one side of the vast foyer to the other. Our tables were already set with our entrées which were created by Sushia Izakaya; a Japanese restaurant who pride themselves on using fresh produce to prepare dishes that are a fusion of traditional and modern Japanese flavours.
The majority of the table received the Hamachi carpaccio of Kingfish sashimi in an Asian styled pesto with yuzu soy and wafu gelée. I was told that whilst the fish was very soft it tasted like it had been plated a little too soon in advance and had consequently been sitting at the table for some time before we were seated.
As I gazed up and down the longest long table I noticed that for once I wasn’t the only one with food allergies and there was in fact three of us in a row with alternate dishes to the Kingfish. My gluten free option of pork belly was served cold and each cube of meat had a near gelatinous texture that melted on contact with my tongue. It was topped with a ginger salsa and came with a mound of pickled daikon. I love my Japanese pickles and was overjoyed at the size of my heap on the plate.
Queen of Bad Timing’s Kristy cannot eat capsicum and so she was served gyu tataki, or seared beef. It was served with garlic chips, chives, momiji orosh, scallions and ponzu sauce.
Michelle from Foodie Cravings needed something cooked as she has a little Junior Burger Boy in the oven. Whilst the staff didn’t get the memo of her pregnancy dietary requirements in advance the kitchen were super quick on their feet to whip her up some gyu kushiyaki, or beef skewers. Marinated in kinolo teriyaki sauce each morsel looked exquisitely soft. Gazing over at her plate I had a brief moment of carnivorous food envy and she tweaked each piece off the skewer and devoured it.
The mains were provided by The Trustee Bar and Bistro as a shared style of dining with the dishes being placed in the centre of the table. I was somewhat surprised that for such a high profile event the mains were not plated individually however shared dining does make the night more social and interactive by encouraging strangers to share stories.
All the mains and sides were gluten free allowing me to try them all. The Cone Bay barramundi was by far my favourite, obviously in part due to the addition of truffle but also because it was such a quality piece of fish cooked faultlessly.
The cheese platter created by The Heritage came in a variety of forms to suit everyone’s dietary requirements. The standard option consisted of some crumbled Papillon Roquefort with Roquefort foam, cabernet poached pear and a thyme salted doughnut. For my gluten free version the doughnut was omitted.
Being pregnant, Foodie Cravings cannot eat soft cheese she received a wedge of Swiss Gruyère instead of the blue cheese.
The “Whisky and Cigars” dessert was created by Print Hall. The jar of crème caramel embodied all the rich honey flavours of Lochen Ora whisky leaving subtle lingering hints of spice of the palate. The chocolate cigar wasn’t gluten free however I was told it had very distinct smoky tobacco flavours and was an acquired taste that not all enjoyed. I cannot deny it makes me happy to know my gluten free component was the best part! 😉
Being a Monday evening many of us were holding ourselves back on our alcohol consumption knowing that we would have to drag ourselves out of bed to go work the following day. However as glasses of Bobeche’s famous Iced Tea were brought to the table I resigned myself to the fact that I would wake up in the morning to find myself in Struggletown. Made with Ketel One Vodka, Tanqueray gin, Pampero Blanco Rum, Cherry Heering, sweet spice tea, fresh lemon and lemonade this was one Long Island Iced Tea too good to pass on. It was also one that made me grateful I didn’t drive that night! Whilst the Tea wasn’t served in their signature tea cups being a small bar I can imagine they are unlikely to own 250 cups to be able to use on that single evening!Chompchomp was invited to The First Feast as a guest and will be one of the official four bloggers for the Eat Drink Perth Festival 2014. For the whole month of April there will be events, activities and discounts on food and beverages all across the city. Check out the Eat Drink Perth website for all the latest news.
I consider myself a Perth girl and love our city in so many ways but I wasn’t actually born here. I was born in Manly and my moved to Adelaide in my childhood years. I went on to spend most of my teenage years in Adelaide before moving to the other side of Australia on my own at the impressionable age of seventeen. Whilst my loyalties will always lie with Perth, I cannot deny that Adelaide holds a very sweet place in my heart and returning feels like coming home despite leaving so many years ago. One of the big attractions to return to Adelaide for is my Mum. Mum and I have always been best friends and being physically separated by thousands of kilometres makes our times together even more precious. After letting all the madness of Christmas die down, the Boy and I made a weekender trip to see her for the first time since our wedding. Being a total foodie herself, Mum had planned a busy weekend of feasting starting off with a hearty breakfast at a gorgeous restaurant called Bar 9.
As I looked at the forecast back home in Perth where it was predicted to hit 42°C I was thankful to be away for the weekend as Adelaide was blessed with the most perfect weather. Bar 9 was packed full and we had to wait around fifteen minutes for a table. It was bustling, noisy and full of life which is just the way I like to start my morning but I could see both the Boy and my step dad cringe a little at the decibels.
Bar 9 take their coffee quite seriously and purchase 5 Senses coffee roasted to order and then blended and aged on site. My short macchiato was richly flavoured with a complexity I wasn’t expecting and ending on a smooth aftertaste with hints of caramel. I was truly impressed by the quality of their coffee.
The menus were hidden inside Golden Books like they are back home at Mrs S and my menu was coincidentally inside one called “I love you, Mommy!”. Bless.
For a slim, tiny framed person my Mum can put away a decent amount of food despite retorts to the contrary. Sound familiar at all? I guess what they say about the apple falling from the tree has some merit. Mum ordered the charred asparagus spears on toast with poached eggs, slivered almonds and finely grated grana prado.
The Boy didn’t hold back and went straight for the ultimate decadence; creamy truffled mushroom ragu. Rich, meaty mushrooms were stewed into tender slippery morsels and drizzled with truffled honey.
My stepdad looked on with mild bemusement as I stopped the Boy mid-way through slicing into his poached eggs to catch the wonderful moment on camera. Being much more accustomed to such moments my Mum chuckled at my strangeness and explained to him what it was all about.
I ordered the house cured ocean trout with some initial regrets as I looked over at the Boys truffiliciousness. My jealousy was short lived as my dish provided more than just satisfaction from hunger relief. The gluten free bread came in small post-stamp sized pieces but this was made up for by providing three pieces. Each piece was adorned with vibrantly coloured trout which was as soft as velvet on the tongue.
My dish didn’t come with any eggs so not wanting to miss out I ordered one poached egg on the side. Once again I got the privilege off seeing it gently pop before oozing out golden perfection. Don’t you love how those simple things in life can often be some of the best?
You always know that the food is good when everyone across the table suddenly goes silent and for a brief few minutes we all sat in comfortable silence enjoying our breakfasts. Fueled and ready for a big day we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant, into the car and headed off for a day in the McLaren Vale wine region.Bar 9 96 Glen Osmond Road, Parkside SA 5063 | (08) 8373 1108 | bar9.com.au/wp Price: $$ (Breakfast $11-18) Food: 4/5 (polished breakfast grub with a slightly fancier twist) Service: 3.5/5 (quippy and quick) Ambience: 3/5 (noisy and action packed) Drinks: 4.5/5 (go even just for the coffee) Total: 15/20
My father-in-law’s birthday falls between Christmas and New Year’s Day making it an occasion that is usually celebrated in a very relaxed style at their home. This year we were unable to attend the family gathering and proposed to take them out for lunch instead with just the four of us. Predictably for the time of year in Perth, the weather was absolutely glorious so I convinced everyone to head to the coast and meet at Il Lido Italian Canteen in Cottesloe.
The beach in Cottesloe is something to be proud of and in my humble opinion has to be one of the prettiest beaches in our state. The sky was as blue as the clear waters below it and the white expanses of sand were splashed with bright colours of beach towels and bikini clad sunbakers. There are people around the world who pay to go on holiday to be able visit locations like this and here we have it on our back door step. You cannot help but love Perth.
Il Lido is built in a 1935 heritage building and back in the 1940’s this site housed Lido Cabaret, which was the old-time equivalent to our modern day nightclub. Much of the interior has been kept intact with decorative high ceilings and windows facing out onto the beach. Il Lido has been on my ever growing wishlist of places to eat for some time having already been to both of their sister restaurants Duende and Gordon Street Garage a number of times.
Most of the small plates were already gluten free or were easily adaptable so we started off with a number of them to share before moving onto something more substantial. I have always been a huge lover of oysters as many of you may have noticed. Despite having tried them prepared countless different ways, until recently my favourite style has be “au natural”. That was until I tried Lalla Rookh’s incredible freshly shucked oysters with cucumber chilli granita. The combination of fresh saltiness and sweet iciness ending in a gentle spicy kick was more than just intriguing.
So when I saw something that sounded very similar on Il Lido’s menu I got quite excited. I should have however ordered them with no expectations because these oysters came with just a teeny dollop of melted sorbet not a shell full like I was expecting. Although the oysters were delightfully fresh, having such a small amount of sorbet made them lacklustre by comparison.
It must have been the day for carpaccio because I found myself unable to decide between the tuna and the beef. My solution was to simply order one of each. The tuna carpaccio was a complete hit. The dish was literally as pretty as a picture; chewy pieces of candied chilli, torn fresh orange and olives were scattered on top of thinly sliced fish. Each piece of tuna dissolved on the tongue leaving a surprisingly complex array of flavours on the palate.
The beef carpaccio was just as tender and was served with generous shavings of truffle sottocenere cheese along with lavish smears of horseradish cream. Each mouthful was as soft as silk and resulted in a brief period of silence across the table while we all gustated in pleasure.
I mean, who can say no to truffle cheese?
Our last starter of scallops had to be slightly adapted to be gluten free by omission of the “crumbs”. Plump scallops were hidden under piles of freshly tossed beans and greens. Whilst not the biggest scallops in town, each mouthful was browned to a warm caramel colour yet remained juicy and soft.
My father-in-law ordered himself the lamb cutlets for his celebratory birthday meal. The two meaty lamb chops came with light salad of fresh figs, spinach, basil, goats cheese and pine nuts all tossed enthusiastically to coat each component in tangy, creamy cheesiness.
My mother-in-law opted for a lighter meal, choosing the poached chicken salad with peaches, prosciutto, almonds and goats cheese. Her plate was piled high and ended up being a bigger serve than she had anticipated. I love how each of their salads came with a mix of seasonal fresh fruit and goats cheese, such a lovely combination to have on a hot summers day.
The Boy ordered the beetroot and goats cheese crespelle. Crespelle are the Italian equivalent of crepes, can be served as a savoury or sweet dish and are usually made using small sized pancakes folded with a sauce filling. By the time I had taken shots of his parent’s meals he was starting to get impatient giving me not much more than a millisecond to capture its vibrant colours.
I was in the same boat as my MIL and craved a light and healthy salad. I always eat way too much over Christmas and by the time New Year’s approaches I’m actually ready for a break! I chose the hickory smoked salmon with avocado, green beans and a yoghurt dressing. My helping was also generous with all the ingredients tumbled together evenly. I hate salads where the key ingredients are just dumped on top of the greens; everything needs to be tossed through!
My husband’s family are usually big eaters especially the men. It’s those long Dutch legs that need that extra filling up! I didn’t anticipate our big servings and ordered a couple of sides; crisp potato skins with paprika salt, aioli and a rocket, pear and parmesan salad. The potato skins are worth returning back for. Slightly spicy, super crunchy with just a hint of soft potato flesh these little numbers didn’t last long.
There were a couple of dessert choices that were gluten free including the pineapple upside down cake and the flourless chocolate cake. Having four mouths to feed on the table allowed me to order one of each knowing anything I couldn’t eat would still get eaten.
The pineapple cake was very moist and accompanied some poached pineapple and extra virgin olive oil ice cream that is made in house. The extra virgin flavour in the ice cream was not too over powering to be unpleasant and gave a pleasant fruity end to the tongue.
The Boy gobbled up a substantial part of his cake before I could get a fork in edgewise which generally is a good sign coming from someone who claims to not like desserts. The tall disc of cake came in a puddle of chocolate sauce and honeycomb pieces with honeycomb ice cream. I had a couple of mouthfuls and thought it was a little dry for my liking.
As both the Boy and I tend to work long hours, it isn’t often that we get to spoil either of our parents and it was totally worth it to see the beaming faces at the end of it all. To help all the food excesses digest we took a relaxing stroll along the coastline together and longed for the day to never end.
Il Lido was even better than we expected given our excellent experiences at Duende and variable meals at Gordon Street Garage. They have successfully emulated a casual beach side vibe yet serve stunning Italian “peasant” food that left the in-laws very impressed. I can guarantee we will be back.Il Lido Italian Canteen 88 Marine Parade, Cottesloe, WA 6011 | (08) 9286 1111 | illido.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $14-20, Mains $28-42) Food: 4.5/5 (focuses on simple Italian dishes with local, seasonal produce) Service: 4/5 (helpful with allergy choices, accommodating with alterations, full of smiles) Ambience: 3.5/5 (noisy but that is part of the atmosphere, indoor and outdoor options) Drinks: 4/5 (comprehensive wine list with many interesting Italian and Aussie options to suit all prices) Total: 16/20
Gourmet Escape is a three-day food and wine festival held in Margaret River in November each year. It attracts foodies from all around the country and the world in order to feast on the finest this region has to offer. The core part of the festival is centred on the Gourmet Village which is held on the spacious grounds at Leeuwin Estate. I have written a full account of our experience at the Gourmet Village here.
Throughout the indulgent weekend there are also a number of satellite events held featuring world-famous chefs and offering experiences such as long table lunches, luxurious dinners and even pop up beach barbecues. These events sell out in a flash and for those who are keen, be sure to get yourselves on the pre-sale lists to avoid missing out. The day that all the key tickets were released for sale I was working a full day with a busy schedule so I left all our purchasing up to the Boy. One of our many compatibilities is our love for food so I trusted he would make some good decisions. His choices included two of the Food For Thought Sessions held at the picturesque Voyager Estate grounds.
Our first session was with the amazing duo of Heston Blumenthal and Harold Mc Gee titled “The Science of Cooking”. It was a glorious day with clear blue skies and as we walked onto the brilliant green grounds the wafting aromas of freshly brewed coffee teased our senses. It wasn’t before long we both had one in hand; a short mac for me and a latte for the Boy.
But in all honesty coffee schmofy; who needs coffee when you can have a freshly shaken grape juice cocktail? I knocked back my macchiato in a flash so that I could graciously accept our next round of beverage! With glass in hand we entered into the elegant, chandelier decorated marquee and found our way to our table.
Our waitress made a careful effort to identify the people with pre-notified dietary requirements on our table including the Boy’s vegetarian request and my gluten free. My morning tea included three components. The first morsel was called Spring in a Jar and contained thick avocado cream cheese with miniature vegetables and olive powder.
The second portion on my plate was a slice of delicately tender Margaret River Wagyu sirloin with oyster mushrooms and a horseradish emulsion. The original version of this was served on a crostini which they replaced with a gluten free rice cracker for me. The final component was an egg omelette rolled up with wakame seaweed and sweet Shark Bay Blue Swimmer crab meat.
For the Boy’s vegetarian option the Wagyu was omitted and he was given a larger serve of oyster mushroom with the horse radish emulsion and his wakame egg roll omitted the crab meat.
It was entertaining listening to Heston and Harold talk, I believe they are close personal friends and have both in turn inspired each other’s careers. Whilst Heston was charming and humorous, I found Harold’s scientific approach to understanding the techniques used for cooking very interesting and he has motivated me to return to reading his enormously thick book “McGee on Food & Cooking” that I own at home on the shelf.
Desserts weren’t served until the talk had well and truly finished and by this point many attendees had to whisk away to attend their next foodie event. A perfect cube of Bahen & Co chocolate gateaux was just enough for about two mouthfuls and was adapted to be gluten free for me by omission of the ganache topping. I’m glad we had the time to stick around as this decadent treat literally melted in the mouth.
Our second Food for Thought session on the following day was with Miles Irving, Alex Atala and Matt Wilkinson and was titled “The Call of the Wild – Insects, weeds and the food of the future”. It was no surprise to me that the Boy chose us a session about eating bugs. Remember his insect devouring obsession in Thailand? He ate them at every opportunity that he could find.
This session was better organised than the previous day with both coffees and cocktails in abundance and the service even more polished and attentive. The food and drinks were created by the kitchen team from Morries Anytime. On arrival we were offered glasses of “Billy’s Punch” to accompany cubes of apple liquor soaked canapés. I had planned ahead for any inadvertent fructose exposure and brought some glucose tablets in my handbag. I downed a few before helping myself to some boozy apple delights. The punch was made with a generous amount of Aperol, some Voyager bubbles, sparkling grape juice, home-made rhubarb syrup and fresh orange and strawberry and was far too drinkable for the early morning. I was appreciative of the much larger serving compared to the day before and if it wasn’t before twelve I could have easier had another.
The wait staff team were much more on the ball and shortly after being seated platters of food were brought to the tables. I was informed that I was able to eat the pork and parsley terrine topped with spiced plum chutney as it was gluten free. The mini burgers containing Notting Hill marron and truffle were not suitable and we were told to hold out as our replacements were on their way.
For my replacement the bun was exchanged for toasted gluten free bread. My resulting sandwich was stuffed full of marron and truffle flavour. What a decadent way to start the day!
The Boy sunk his teeth into his vegetarian option before I even had a chance to photograph it and then tried to recreate it in its untouched state by swizzling it round on his plate so I couldn’t see the chomp marks. I never thought I’d hear the day that he would moan in pleasure over a vego burger but this haloumi slider did the trick.
The talk did somewhat digress away from discussing the potentially unpalatable sounding specifics of eating insects and weeds and onto its more worldly implications in providing more sustainable locally grown seasonal produce. We were made to think about not only what foods we choose to eat, but how that food is produced and what potential impact its production has had on the world around us.
Our desserts were discretely served in the latter half of the talk allowing all attendees to enjoy it for this session. The Boy received Bahen & Co chocolate fudge with salted caramel popcorn.
For my gluten free version the fudge was replaced with a scoop of caramel ice cream and topped with the salted caramel popcorn and fresh strawberries.
I found both sessions very informative and interesting and am keen to attend them again next year. The food served each day was very locally orientated, of high quality and was able to be adapted for food allergies provided notice was given in advance. The amount of food was enough for a light morning tea leaving enough room to attend another event in the afternoon or evening without feeling stuffed to the brim.
The 2013 Gourmet Escape Food for Thought sessions cost $100 per person including food and drinks.Voyager Estate 41 Stevens Road, Margaret River WA 6285 | (08) 9757 6354 | www.voyagerestate.com.au/the-estate/the-restaurant
It was only about six weeks ago that the Boy took me down to Margaret River on a prescribed weekend of rest. We wined, dined and came back as fresh as daisies albeit slightly rounder in shape. It was a comparatively unplanned and impromptu trip which is quite out of character for me and I love that the Boy can have this sort of influence on me. I had barely finished writing up all my blog posts from the trip when it was time to head back for Gourmet Escape.
For my non-Western Australians readers; Gourmet Escape is a three day food and wine festival held in Margaret River in November each year. Famous chefs from around the world join along including Heston Blumenthal, Harold McGee, Rick Stein, Adriano Zumbo, Hadleigh Troy, Guillaume Brahimi, Matt Stone, Tetsuya Wakuda and Neil Perry to name a just few!
We had a full weekend planned with different events to attend on each day in addition to a two-day pass to the Gourmet Village. The Gourmet Village is held on the spacious grounds at Leeuwin Estate and the whole day is filled with activities, classes, shows and stalls offering wine and food from all around Western Australia. It was a wonderful way to showcase what a richly diverse State we live in and how lucky we are to have such a strong focus on quality produce.
Basic general admission tickets to the Village cost $38 per adult. We opted for premium tickets for $64 which also included 4 “GEMs”. GEMs are your village currency each costing $7 and most items to eat or drink cost one GEM. Despite buying some extra GEMS in advance we managed to guzzle our way through nearly 20 GEMS on the first day and had to buy more from one of the GEMs sellers that can be found walking through the crowd. There were also outlets in the Village selling GEMS but the queues for these were reasonably long.
The Classroom bar in North Perth set up their own Classroom Cocktail Club were you could buy their famous N2 espresso martinis for one GEM. For my review on this signature drink read my review here. The Boy missed out coming along to my cocktail Master class because he isn’t a blogger so we made a bee line as soon as we arrived to get him one to try!
One of my favourite dishes for the day was The Studio Bistro’s Butterfield beef fillet, cooked rare with a sumptuous dark sear on the surface, served with a melting dollop of decadent Café de Paris and some hand cut Royal Blue chips. I actually went back for seconds on day two! It definitely has inspired me to pay them a visit next time I’m in Yallingup. My other most enjoyable dish was the freshly shucked Pacific oysters at 34 Degrees Blue’s stall. These guys got slurped up in a flash before I even thought of snapping a picture. Oysters are best shucked right before serving as they taste completely different when served freshly shucked. I am glad we have our own oyster shucker extraordinaire in our family; namely my Dad!
Some of the presentations were of particular interest, the Boy and I loved Matt Stone’s demonstration on cooking with insects. The Boy is a great lover of eating these crunchy critters and he reminded me of the damage to the environment that farming my luscious, just devoured beef would have caused. I guarantee he would have been happier if there was a stall that he could have bought me a bag of crickets from!
The Southern Forest region is one that is lesser known to interstate and overseas tourists however it is also an area rich in world class produce, luscious forests and fine wines. This is the region in Western Australia where black truffles are grown commercially. The Southern Forests Food Council are committed to spreading awareness of the value of this region as a foodie’s mecca and were selling a variety of fresh and prepared produce including free samples of trufflicious risotto.
There were a number of gluten free options spotted around the Village and every time I saw something that I could eat I felt compelled to buy some. A little hedonistic I know and suffice to say I suffered for my overindulgence for several days afterwards!
As our second day in the Village drew to a close we had to decide how to spend our last three GEMs. We agreed on a cup of Matso’s Mango beer for the Boy, a glass of Snake + Herring ‘Corduroy’ Single Vineyard Karridale Chardonnay for me and a bowl to share of kimchi and vermicelli noodle salad topped with a couple of grilled Augusta whiting fillets courtesy of Cullen Wines. Cullen Winery are very focussed on sustainability and their impact on the environment, operating a biodynamic winery that is carbon neutral. Their restaurant specialises in using organic and local produce and is a must to visit if you are in the region. They have loads of vego and gluten free options. See my review for Cullen Wines here.
Gourmet Escape was a fabulous foodie weekend away and we hope to be able to attend for many years to come. We enjoyed a wonderful mix of satellite events along with visiting the Village although next year I think one day at the Village will suffice. This will leave more room in my stomach for attending one of the beach BBQs which I believe were incredible.
The Studio Bistro, Yallingup WA
Prevali Wines, 99 Mitchell Drive, Prevelly, WA 6285
Leeuwin Estate, Stevens Road, Margaret River, WA 6285
The Apple Daily Bar & Eating House, 125 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000
Ole Paella Catering
Cullen Wines, Lot 4323 Caves Road, Margaret River, WA 6284
Staff shortages are a quick way to destroy anyone’s social life. Recently at work we have been stretched thin on the ground turning my standard weekend roster of two-on-three-off into a full roster circuit of five weekends working. Joy. As the chance for my weekend time-out finally approached, I pre-emptively booked a dinner reservation for us at a local Italian restaurant L’Enoteca. The restaurant is a short skip and jump from our front door so all week in the lead up anticipation I envisaged strolling down hand in hand with the Boy to the Broken Hill Hotel for a few drinks then crossing over the road for a romantic meal.
When the weekend actually arrived, it was joined by a severe weather warning. Complete with dark ominous skies and whirling wind that vortexed around our house like a hurricane I could see the chances of us walking anywhere were doomed. Not willing to be beaten we rugged up and bundled into the car for our date night.
After a few rounds of drinks at the pub we were lucky enough to catch a break in the rain and power walked as best as one can with a broken toe down Albany Highway to L’Enoteca. The inside of the restaurant was cosy and warm and a welcome relief after the blustery walk. The menu was uncomplicated and clearly marked with both vegetarian and gluten free options. It made a nice change as it made ordering dishes so easy. As we perused the wine list we asked the waitress to bring out some marinated olives. Each olive was a soft little bomb of flavour with hints of citrus and the slight heat of some chilli. I prefer my olives soft; I don’t enjoy the harder ones as much.
The stuffed field mushrooms were the Boy’s choice and although this dish is something I often enjoy making for us at home it was by no means less satisfying eating it out in a restaurant. There is something oddly meaty about mushrooms when they prepared this way and I almost feel like I’m eating a bit of steak. Weird I know. L’Enoteca’s mushrooms were flavoured with fresh parsley and basil and were thick, juicy and surprisingly filling.
Since my trip to Barcelona, I remain on a quest to find myself octopus in Perth which tastes as good as the dishes I ate in all those late night tapas bars. Although this octopus was very tasty it just didn’t have that plump soft texture that I’m aspiring for and it was a touch on the chewy side.
Risotto is a dish I rarely have the time or patience to make at home. Maybe one day when I eventually get myself a Thermomix my world will change but until then I find it hard to justify standing in front of my stove stirring for what feels like an eternity.
Our waitress came to our table and placed a huge bowl of creamy duck risotto in front of me and my lusting for Spanish octopus quickly faded back to the distant corners of my mind. The thickly sliced duck breast was cooked to a buttery soft texture and rich nutty tones from the porcini mushrooms added beautiful depth and substance.
Our night was like a re-run of one of our Mushroom Mania meals. Not only was our shared entrée a mushroom dish but both of our mains were a mix of hearty mushroom goodness too. There was certainly no complaints from either of us! The Boy ordered the handmade chestnut tagliatelle with a creamy mushroom ragu and generous shavings of truffled pecorino (Moliterno tartufo). Each ribbon of soft pasta coated itself beautiful in the rich chestnut puree and buried amongst this was a variety of slippery soft mushrooms and whole roasted chestnuts . The Boy commented that the truffle aroma from the cheese was very subtle and being a truffle addict he would have preferred a touch more pungency.
We had a teeny bit of room left to share one more dish. I would like to have tried some of their cheeses which I noted were all proudly Italian. There was one cheese in particular that sparked my attention; the Moliterno tartufo that the Boy had grated over his pasta. This is a type of truffle infused pecorino cheese. But recalling the Boy isn’t really into his cheese, I considerately selected a dessert for us to share instead. Such a good wife I am! Suffice to say we were pretty chuffed with our selection. The pannacotta had perfect form and cemented my deduction that L”Enoteca know their Italian cuisine. Delizioso!L’Enoteca 249 Albany Highway, Victoria Park WA 6100 | (08) 9472 5881 | www.lenoteca.com.au Price: $$$ Food: 4/5 (classic Italian favourites made with obvious passion and love) Service: 4/5 (friendly & knowledgeable about their menu) Ambience: 3.5/5 (a bit noisy, subdued lighting, quite romantic) Drinks: 3.5/5 (good selection of predominately Italian wines) Total: 15/20
I have lived in the Vic Park area for nearly twenty years and have loved watching the neighbourhood develop and grow. It is a great place to live for numerous reasons but in my humble opinion one of the biggest selling factors is the variety of restaurants and cafes sitting right on our doorstep. I’m certain we nearly have the “A to Z” of international cuisine and so we never seem to run out of options. One of our regular haunts in the past has been The Precinct; a casual but funky eatery only a short fifteen minute stroll from our front door. The past few months my life has been exceedingly complicated and stressful and so when my Bestie proposed to me to catch up with another mutual close friend of ours Shannon I leaped at the opportunity to be able to switch off and relax. To make things even easier for me, Shannon was more than happy to travel over to our stompin’ ground and let us go local. Getting a booking at the last-minute on a Friday night can be tricky and after several phone calls to different restaurants I was starting to think we were out of luck. Finally we had success and managed to secure a table at the Precinct, seeing as we hadn’t been there for a several months we were happy to return.
As we sat down to order I cringed at the fact that our table had such a constellation of specific dietary requirements; one of us was gluten free, fructose friendly (me), one was a vegetarian (the Boy) and finally there was a gluten free vegetarian (my Bestie). As we seemingly pounded our friendly waitress with 101 questions she proved to be totally unflappable and remained generously accommodating despite having to do a couple of round trips to the kitchen to check on ingredient details for us.
I have a tendency to get a bit obsessed with certain food and popcorn is one of those. I have been known to devour a whole packet in one sitting and have loved that it has featured on the bar snack menu at The Precinct for some time. Theirs is strongly flavoured with rosemary and lemon pepper making it extremely addictive. To feed my addiction further, it is sold in take home bags enabling me to grab a roadie on my way out.
It is not often that fritters are gluten free but these were also vegan meaning we could all eat them. No animal was harmed in the making of these little crispy balls. Despite not containing any cheese or meat that would ordinarily make these delicious, the fritters were flavoursome with a crackly thin crumb and a piping hot soft centre.
It is unusual for me to have a small appetite and I guess this may be a reflection of the turmoil and stress in my life over recent weeks. Consequently I was happy to see the portion size for the Tasmanian salmon was fairly small. Accompanied by a fennel salad, confit tomatoes and a blob of rocket pesto it was just the light meal my wobbly stomach needed however in more jovial times I may have been left feeling a bit peckish. I prefer my salmon to be slightly rare and was dismayed to see this chunk was cooked all the way through. I consoled myself with the fact that at least the skin was brittle thin and crunchy.
Shannon has recently undergone a very successful diet and life style change that has enabled her to improve both her health and well-being immensely. Being so well behaved with her eating habits for so long she decided to treat herself and ordered herself the pork belly. The crackling was snippety snap hard and browned to a delicious honey colour. The flesh was somewhat tender but I think the portion size was a bit overwhelmingly large for someone who has been eating an abundance of healthiness of late. It was served with a potato puree and a pea, mint, apple and cabbage salad.
Earlier on this year I subjected the Boy to a six week Raw Food experiment. Instead of our usual vegetarian Meatless Monday, I turned it into a raw food and vegan version. I called it “The Raw Food Meatless Monday Man Challenge”! Some of my dishes included raw noodles and every time I made them his eyes would light up with glee. He was elated to see that vegetable spaghetti featured on The Precinct’s menu for the evening. Julienned zucchini and carrot sat atop thick wedges of pumpkin with raisins tossed through for more sweetness. I had to fight him for a mouthful to taste.
The Bestie is also vegetarian and ordered the baked mushroom risotto with truffle oil. To add some greenery to her choice she also ordered some green beans.
Not wanting to end the evening with a savoury taste in our mouths, us girls agreed to share a gluten free brownie complete with ice cream. Whilst the brownie was gluten free, the ice cream was unfortunately not meaning Shannon got to enjoy the scoop all to herself. Our waiter ensured it was served separate from the brownie to avoid any contamination. It was a big wedge of a brownie and was more than ample for the three of us to share. I did find it a bit dry and wished I could enjoy some ice cream to wash it down.
The Boy ordered the ice cream sandwich. These are made in house and I love how they mark The Precinct logo on the top. It reminds me of years long gone by where they were one of my favourite after dinner treats. I used to walk down to our local deli with our flat mate and we would buy an ice cream each for ourselves and one for the Boy who always stayed at home. And if it wasn’t an ice cream sandwich, it was a hazelnut roll. Happy days!
The Precinct remains one of my favourite locals on the Vic Park strip. Their service is always bubbly and energetic, their wine list is interesting, and although their food won’t blow your mind it is still creative, fresh and ever changing. They are happy to accommodate for all the tricky dietary needs; be it vego, vegan, fructose friendly or gluten free.The Precinct 834 Albany Highway, East Victoria Park 6101 | (08) 9355 2880 | www.theprecinctvicpark.com.au/ Price: $$ (Entrees/snacks $7-19, Mains $22-29) Food: 3/5 (simple, interesting and fresh) Service: 3.5/5 (these guys are always so enthusiastic) Ambience: 3.5/5 (good to find somewhere without fluoro lights on the Vic Park strip) Drinks: 4.5/5 (great list, lots of European choices of wines and beers) Total: 14.5/20
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.
The interior of the restaurant is in serious need of updating with the carpet reminiscent of the seventies and a dusty looking faux tree in the centre of the restaurant lit up with fairy lights. The walls were adorned with Awards from a similar yesteryear with most of them at least a decade old.
Within minutes of being seated, the Boy was offered a selection of breads and our waitress offered some gluten free bread for me. I thought this was a good start to the evening and didn’t expect somewhere old fashioned like this to have gluten free bread available. Our vegetable soup arrived promptly afterwards and although it was indeed creamy, there was not much grated truffle to be seen. I squinted at black specks at the bottom of my bowl and figured they must have been it. I nibbled on one and found there was no familiar truffle after taste.
Our entrée of citrus cured Tasmanian salmon was served with pickled black truffle and carrot, Dijonnaise and a blue swimmer crab and mascarpone salad. The Boy commented that the style of plating was a little on the old fashioned side but in defence the ingredients were all fresh. I struggled to taste any truffle flavour in this dish either.
This evening occurred shortly before the Boy’s recent conversion to vegetarianism and it may very well go down on record as one of the last beef dishes he ever ate. Buttery soft beef cheeks had been braised to a delicate tenderness and again the dish was plated with utmost nineties styled precision. The accompanying truffle mash had an obvious truffle aroma and as he started to tuck into his I was keen to see what my gluten free alternative was.
Alas I was soon to be disappointed. Bear in mind I had specifically chosen this meal as a truffle degustation and I didn’t think I would be expecting too much to want truffle with each course. Instead for my main I received a relatively overcooked piece of fish, I think it was snapper but I cannot recall precisely, which was served with pesto beans. I eyed off the Boy’s dish enviously as he savoured every mouthful.
Our cheese course was a wedge of truffled brie served with a fig terrine, crackers, caramelised nuts and a couple of celery sticks. Yes, you heard right. Celery sticks. Am I crazy for thinking this was a bit weird? I asked our waitress if she thought it was strange and she looked at me like I was the crazy one.
My cheese course came with a muffin of gluten free bread as a replacement for the crackers. Whilst the cheese was not served at room temperature and remained a little too firm, the truffle centre finally gave me the taste of truffle I had been waiting the whole meal for.
As if my envy for the Boy’s succulent beef cheeks wasn’t anguish enough for me, out came his dessert; a shining glossy chocolate and banana mousse cake with honey comb crumbles and strawberry coulis. Scooped at the end of his plate was a neat ball of truffle ice cream. More truffles. I knew I was going to miss out again. Sigh.
My crème brûlée was by no means anything to complain about. Except it had no truffle. The crispy top layer was millimetres thin and cracked rewardingly with gentle pressure from my spoon to reveal smooth creaminess beneath.
We found the service at Friends to be highly efficient border-lining on serious with each waitress whizzing around the dining room floor with exact precision. Each course with its matched wine was timed like a well-played Tetris game never leaving us hungry, waiting or thirsty. If you enjoy old school fine dining then this is the place for you.Friends Restaurant 20 Terrace Road, Hyatt Centre, East Perth WA 6004 | 08 9221 0885 | http://www.friendsrestaurant.com.au/ Price: $$$$ (Truffle Tasting menu normally $125 per person, 10 course degustation $155) Food: 3/5 (Highs: beef cheeks and chocolate mousse cake. Lows: overcooked fish) Service: 4.5/5 (faultless but serious) Ambience: 2/5 (dining room in desperate need of a zoozsh) Drinks: 3.5/5 (good selection of matches, I particularly enjoyed the Zema Estate Coonawarra Cab Sauv 2009) Total: 13/20
Some of you may think I’m a bit insane throwing myself head first into the Mushroom Mania celebrations every year but I can assure you I am not the only one. In addition to a number of bloggers from around the country, there are many local chefs and food producers that join in the mushroomy celebrations. Last week I introduced you to Cris from Perth City Farm who is totally mad for his mushrooms, nurturing them carefully from spores to fruit with tenderness and loving care. And it shows; his mushrooms are packed full of flavour and were so meaty I swear they nearly tasted like chicken. For the second post in my Mushroom Mania series this year, I wanted to take it beyond just eating one or two mushrooms dishes. I wanted to find a talented chef who was willing to make me a whole mushroom themed degustation. I approached Chef Scott O’Sullivan from the award-winning Red Cabbage Food and Wine in South Perth to see if he was keen. It turns out that he and his wife are big mushroom fans and he jumped at the opportunity to join in the fun!
On arrival we were greeted warmly by Hazel O’Sullivan and shown to our table where our own personal mushroom menus were laid out ready for us. As my eyes gazed over each delicious looking course I knew we were in for a special treat. To start us off for the night, thickly sliced and toasted gluten free sour dough with olives and truffled honey were brought to the table. There was also some fresh brioche for the boy to eat that wasn’t gluten free. The sour dough was soft with a lovely slightly sour after taste and it soaked up the truffled honey thirstily.
The truffle honey was, as I’m sure any of you who have tried it before, totally exquisite and was further enhanced by the addition of some fragrant fresh thyme. I was glad I brought my glucose tablets to counter act the fructose content in the honey so I could enjoy it liberally with minimal consequences. To be honest…even if I had forgotten those glucose tablets, I would have happily endured the suffering anyway. The honey was THAT good.
Our second course arrived under a large glass dome filled with smoke. I love theatrics when I’m out dining; it makes the whole experience so much more of a show and brings some of the magic that happens in the kitchen out to us at the table.
The richly earthy flavours of fresh smoked shiitake and chanterelle mushrooms were the ideal amuse bouche for the commencement of this mushroom journey. The gluten free croutons were crunchy without being overly hard and left a sumptuous lingering buttery flavour in my mouth.
Our next course of duck lasagne and seared scallops were a creative play on textures. Pig’s ear mushrooms were dehydrated to dry them out and then deep fried so that they had the consistency of potato crisps. Combined with the velvety soft scallops and duck this was truly a wondrous dish. Being truffle season here in Western Australia, I was so pleased to see these fabulous fungi made a recurrent feature across our evening meal with some truffle jus drizzled romantically over this dish. Sorry you don’t get a visual on this one folks!
I love it when food is synonymous with art and as our evening progressed I began to understand that Chef Scott shares a similar passion. Each dish was presented in a precise and methodical manner with every component so carefully planned and prepared. The marron and salmon pastrami matched well with the stronger flavours of the shimeji and shiitake mushrooms. There were crisp fried nuggets of sunchoke, dollops of carrot purée and mushroom ketchup along with lashings of sticky sweet soy caramel.
Most excitingly, my truffle obsession was fuelled furthermore with generous shavings of fresh Manjimup truffle falling across my plate like millionaire’s snowflakes.
Like many, I am a macaron addict. These little morsels are as good a pick-me-up for me as a block of chocolate and the very thought of eating them always makes me all girlie and excitable. Over the years I have tried all sorts of macaron flavours as they are such a versatile little treat with the incredible capacity to contain a wide variety of flavours. However I have never eaten a MUSHROOM macaron before so I was so impressed with this course. A gorgeous little cep mushroom macaron sat perched on a parsnip stalk laying on bed of olive and white chocolate snow with a scoop of parsnip ice cream. Too cute!
For our final main course those distinctly flavoured little chanterelle mushrooms featured alongside succulent venison and creamy cubes of foie gras. On a bed of celeriac puree and scattered with pistachios and fresh cherries, the sweet and sour aspects of this dish complemented the venison magically. Buried in amongst all the treasure was a cherry “bomb”. Cherry puree and cherry vinegar encased in a thin film made from a seaweed gelling agent exploded with a POW in my mouth releasing so much flavour my eyes nearly watered. Incredible!
Our next course is one of my favourite parts of a degustation; the cheese course. This cheese course was like no other I have tried before. Expecting some slivers of cheese, crackers and slices of fruit I fascinated to see that Chef Scott put just as much creative thought into this course as he had the rest of the meal. A smear of subtly sweet pumpkin puree was sprinkled with crumbled Irish Cashel Blue cheese and Lancashire cheddar. Instead of some comparatively boring slices of pear there was a scoop of soft pear sorbet.
As our degustation started to draw to a close I reflected back on what we had eaten so far and was surprised with the modest size of dishes. This is a degustation for the hungry; they are quite generous with portion sizes considering we had nine courses to get through yet I wasn’t feeling excessively overindulged. I was chuffed to see that two of the nine courses were desserts and I recall the desserts at Red Cabbage being very memorable. Our first dessert course was called apple, quince and rhubarb. This relatively messy looking dish interestingly gave a different sensation with each mouthful by alternating with textures, temperatures, sweetness, creaminess and tarty sourness.
You cannot go wrong serving me a dessert that is based on chocolate. It is (one) of my true Achilles heels and I struggle to avoid binging on it if it is in the cupboard at home. For our final course in this evening of excellence we were served a soft cube of chocolate mousse surrounded by chocolate and coffee “rocks” and accompanied a velvety scoop of brown butter ice cream. This was such a wonderful way to end our evening.
The service to our table for the whole night was absolutely seamless with Hazel providing me with some excellent wine matching recommendations. Having visited Red Cabbage a number of times some year ago, I was impressed to see how this restaurant has grown and matured to have their own signature style of artistic food that I expect from other top venues in Perth such as Restaurant Amuse. Their passion for quality and service shines through and we both look forward to returning again in the near future.This restaurant was reviewed as part of Mushroom Mania month which is happening all across Australia during July 2013. Head to the Power of Mushrooms website for loads of mouth-watering mushroom recipes plus if you write your own review on a mushroom dish you could win one of 40 $100 restaurant vouchers! Disclosure: Chompchomp dined at Perth City Farm with compliments of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association. Red Cabbage Food + Wine 49/15 Labouchere Road, South Perth WA 6151 | (08) 9367 5744 | http://redcabbagefoodandwine.com.au/
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.
Back on the ground floor foyer, we were served by a small framed, elegant woman who kindly took great trouble to ring around a few restaurants in the complex in search of a table. She managed to secure us a booking at Guy Savoy, one of the “celebrity restaurants” at the Casino. The only time available was just an hour away yet there we stood all wind-swept, sweaty and in no way presentable for fine dining.
Jumping in a cab the Boy, Woki and I made a mad dash to return to our hotel but as we crawled inch by inch through peak hour traffic I started to feel the tension among us rising. By this point, the monsoonal downpour was in full force and I could barely see the road in front of us. Jumping out of the cab to proceed on foot was completely out of the question!
Upon our return to Fairmont Hotel we quickly raced upstairs dripping wet to our rooms. With my heart pounding in excitement I flurried about spraying my hair with a ton of hair products and my face with a lathering of makeup. After the finishing touch of a smear of bright red lipstick I prayed my transformation into something more elegant was successful.
However, our building anticipation was not to end there. It almost felt like fate was against us as we ended up taking the wrong train, got off on the wrong station and then took a full circle route on foot of the entire MBS complex before we could actually find the restaurant. Let me tell you, it is not well signposted and MBS is huge!
A little flustered and nauseatingly hungry we were seated at our table ready for the fun to begin. Our meal was kick-started by a few adorable bite size canapés.
The gluten eaters received a pint-sized foie gras club sandwich and similarly Lilliputian cube of parmesan waffle.
My gluten free canapés included a spoonful of miniature cubes of beetroot sprinkled with black truffle on a herb purée and some finely grated apple with baby celery leaves on an almond crumble.
As we allowed these flavours to entertain our palate, our waiter wheels out an old polished wood trolley with a whole leg of Joselito’s Ibérico de Bellota Jamón. Ibérico jamón is a type of ham made from black Iberian pigs that are kept free range on pasture and oak groves where they feast on a diet of acorns, grass, herbs and roots. Joselito’s Ibérico jamón is world famous for being the best ham in world and wholesale prices start at around $600 for a small leg and can get well over $3000-4000 for an aged leg. They pride themselves on raising “happy pigs” and believe this is a major factor in their meat quality.
The waiter carved in front of us about a dozen slices straight off the bone. Dark purple in colour and with multiple thread-like veins of white fat coursing through the meat; the wafer thin slivers of ham nearly dissolved on contact with my tongue. Eating Joselito jamón is quite an unforgettable foodie’s experience and I highly recommend that you try it yourself if you ever have the chance.
The unusual pretzel shaped bread was unfortunately not gluten free and as there wasn’t any gluten free bread option I had to satisfy myself by just having a brief sniff of its fresh doughy aroma. I cannot deny it is always a little disappointing when I visit fine dining institutions such as this and a gluten free bread option is overlooked. Not that I really needed bread given the enormous meal we were about to enjoy!
Our Amuse Bouche was a chilled Vichyssoise-styled soup made from leek, potatoes and cream. The addition of fennel gave a slightly sweet and refreshing after-taste. Curiously hidden under the small mug of thick soup contained two little half spheres of fennel and leek “royale”, basically a smooth lime green custard topped with minuscule little micro herbs and pea sized blobs of herb purée. With the subtle sweetness of the fennel in the soup still lingering, this little dollop served to extend and enhance the ambrosial experience with utmost precision.
Both the Boy and Woki ordered the “crab with multi-coloured beetroot variations” for their entrée. The concept of this dish was to “marry land and sea”. The blood red and lemon yellow shavings of roasted beets were curled into cone like flowers. Each little beet “flower” was filled with a foamy light beetroot blancmange followed by delicate portions of the cooked Australian Spanner crab meat. Savoury shortbread crumble and flecks of beetroot crisps sprinkled over the dish to add more complexity.
Alongside the salad was served a warm golden beetroot tartlet containing hints of cardamom and orange. The pastry collapsed in the mouth like fairy floss. It lay on top of a wafer thin square of transparent paper that looked a bit like cellophane. We were informed this was salt paper and was entirely edible. Despite the tart being the accompaniment, both the boy and our companion agreed it was the star of the two components.
This photo of my entrée is not my own and is courtesy of the restaurant. My mosaic of poulard, foie gras and artichoke was by far and by large the highlight of the evening yet for some strange reason it completely bypassed me to take a photo. Like a bizarre form of savoury layer cake, thick door stop-sized slices of young fattened poulard, wedges of soft foie gras and similar textured artichoke sat relatively unimpressively on my plate. They were accompanied by two precisely equal sized blobs of black truffle vinaigrette. The appearance of this dish does in no way make one’s mouth water; which is perhaps why my photography was overlooked. However just one mouthful of these three simple ingredients with a conservative smear of the vinaigrette and you will change your mind forever. This dish was absolutely mind-blowing; the rich buttery elegance showed true respect for the ingredients with no need for embellishment.
As we waited for our mains to arrive out came a little prequel, some sort of intermission entertainment I guess; named the Chestnut Royale. Now I am quite partial to chestnuts, yet I rarely see them feature on the menus in Australia. They always conjure up memories of walking down the streets of Paris where street vendors roast them everywhere in the winter. This innocent looking dish was quite a taste sensation. A perfectly formed dome of smooth chestnut custard sat swimming in a light bed of chestnut milk. Carefully placed on top a milk glazed chestnut glistened under the dim lighting garnished with tiny little pygmy sized celery leaves and chestnut chips.
Woki thoroughly enjoyed his “Shoulder of Australian Wagyu in two preparations”. By using an oyster blade steak or “paleron” as it is called by the French, the meat contained wondrous marbling and flavour. The first portion was braised in a red wine jus topped with baby carrots and a black pepper mignonette. The second portion of beef was purely just seared and garnished with dollops of wasabi. Both portions of beef sliced like butter at room temperature as good Wagyu should.
The accompanying side dish of potato Maxim’s and bitter greens was comparatively lacklustre and did not wow Woki at all.
I ordered the pan seared duck breast with eggplant “gianduja” sauce and “au poivre”. I was informed by our waiter that in order to achieve the creamy pate-like texture of the meat the duck breast was seared, then cooked sous vide, and then finally seared again. On my plate balanced so carefully like a stack of cards were thin slivers of eggplant served with gianduja chocolate sauce. The sauce tasted a little reminiscent of Nutella due to its high hazelnut content. Tiny little purple delight flowers scattered amongst the eggplant giving a splash of colour and bitter flavour. The duck was richly flavoured and buttery tender and left me wanting more.
My side dish was potato tagliatelle; thin ribbon like curls of deep fried potato. This was the only dish I ate that I felt was a little lacking. Perhaps some seasoning would have improved this element however even if that were the case it felt a little mismatched to the fabulous duck dish.
The Boy ordered the “Saddle, rack and shoulder of lamb; Land and Sea”. Unfortunately for him, after being left relatively unimpressed with his entrée choice his main didn’t manage to suitably wow him either. The main part of his dish contained a roasted rack of lamb placed on an almond and hazelnut praline. The saddle of lamb was stuffed with bamboo clams and pan roasted. Next to the lamb I recognised some emerald-green samphire on his plate; something we were introduced to during our beautiful lunch at Millbrook Winery last year where the chef forages it from the banks of the Swan River.
The second part to his dish was his favourite. The shoulder of the lamb was braised and wrapped in thinly sliced potatoes and topped with sprinklings of purple potato crisps. I recall the waiter mentioned that this component contained melted onions so I didn’t get to taste it! This dish was apparently seasoned in the bamboo clam jus.
By this point in time in the night I was starting to receive a number of subtly concerned looks from the Boy and knew he was worried as to how much this meal was going to cost us. He is never been one to be a killjoy by any means and during our near fifteen years together we have shared some highly priced memorable meals together. But he is also a sensible man, and he knew all too well that just coming over to Singapore alone was breaking the budget so close to our wedding, so enjoying a four figure fine dining experience was definitely going to break the bank. A smart move from me at this would have been to proclaim total fullness and call it a night.
And then out came the cheese trolley. And all my sensibility went out the window. My thoughts of finances, savings and budgets temporarily felt incredibly less important. Our dinner companion Woki was no help either. Being a father to two little ones means he rarely gets to experience such incredible culinary excellence and wanted to make the most of our evening. After a long consideration we settled for three cheeses: the curious looking Mimolette, Fourme d’Ambert and most dear to my heart Saint Marcellin; a cheese produced by my late uncle Jeannot’s factory in the Alps of France.
The Fourme d’Ambert is a very mild blue cheese that is considered to be one of France’s oldest cheeses dating back to Roman times. It is a semi-hard cheese made with cow’s milk and has a luscious creamy texture and leaves a slightly sweet earthy mushroom after-taste.
The Mimolette had such a curious appearance that it was our wild card choice for the evening. The cheese looked like a cross between a rock melon and a dusty cannonball. It was a hard round ball with a pocked dimpled surface. I later learnt that the dimpled appearance is actually due to the activity of surface mites that burrow their way through the surface rind which in turn allows the cheese to breathe and mature. From the heart of this bizarre rock, our waiter scooped out some bright orange brittle cheese. It tasted quite unexpectedly sweet and caramelised, and felt like you were eating a hybrid of fudge and cheese, but in a good way.
Our portion of the Saint Marcellin cheese regrettably wasn’t warmed to room temperature and thus failed to relax into that sexy goo I have enjoyed many times before. I was very disappointed because for a number of years I have been talking up about this cheese to Woki. It is not easy to come by in Australia and this was his first time trying it.
For some reason the next two following pre-dessert dishes managed once again to escape my camera. I think I was a little distracted by my growing concern as the impending bill. Our first pre-dessert was so delectable that Woki jokingly exclaimed to the waiter that it was “no good” and that we all requested another one. His sarcasm was lost on our waitress and with a worried look she scuttled away to get us another serve.
We were too full to order a dessert but were tempted by the trolley of “petit fours”-styled mini-serves of ice cream, sorbet and biscuits and each tried a little portion for ourselves.
Just when we thought the near theatrical dining experience was over, as I sipped on my peppermint tea an Earl Grey Sorbet was delivered to our table for a final palate cleanse. Served on top of a black pepper crème anglaise the subtle flavours of the bergamot from the tea left a very refreshing end to our wondrous meal. Suffice to say, the Boy was right; we are still paying back our share of the meal to Woki!Guy Savoy The Shoppes, Atrium 2 L2-01, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956 | +65 6688 8513 | www.guysavoy.com Price: $$$$$ Food: 4.7/5 (my choices were nearly faultless but there were some hits & misses at my table) Service: 5/5 (very knowledgeable and attentive with a noticeable lack of any pretension) Ambience: 3.5/5 (a little formal and stuffy but some fabulous views) Drinks: 4/5 (very extensive wine list but a considerable mark up on bottle prices) Total: 17.2/20
Things are definitely on the onwards and upwards for foodies living here in Perth. This past year has seen a plethora of high quality dining establishments open their doors and it is certainly something to be proud of. We are fortunate enough to live only five minutes’ drive away from the Crown Metropol (formerly known as the Burswood Casino) where internationally famous chefs Neil Perry, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa and Guillaume Brahimi all have flagship restaurants residing there. Now it is never too hard to have a fancy meal out.
I made an initial reservation for the two of us at Bistro Guillaume during their opening week however this had to be postponed as I had forgotten we had already made plans to go out with some friends to Duende. After managing to secure a table on another weekend, the Boy informed me that I had booked on the same night as his High School Reunion and would have to cancel once again. By this point I am sure the reservation desk had red flagged me as an annoying customer! Third time lucky, we successfully synced our busy schedules and locked in date night.
It was the first time we had been back to the Casino since their massive renovations and its fresh new face lift has successfully dragged it out of the eighties into current times! We walked past Linneys on our way to The Merrywell for some pre-dinner drinks and like an insect attracted to bright light I couldn’t help but feel the powerful drag towards their sparkling boutique. Linneys designed my engagement ring and seeing as we needed to start looking at wedding rings soon I figured now was as good a time as any to begin.
As we browsed all their beautiful pieces, the store assistant kindly offered to clean my ring for me as this is a complimentary service offered to all owners of Linneys jewellery. Only minutes later “my precious” returned to me all glimmering and twinkling like it had never been worn! I was left torn between amazement at its shining beauty and shame on how dirty it had become! I need to visit Linneys more often!
Upon arrival to Bistro Guillaume we were shown to our booth which was perfectly located right in front of the kitchen. It was like having a television with an action movie playing for us to watch while we chatted away and ate our meal. I was further impressed when some complimentary gluten free bread was brought to our table. For once I wasn’t going to have to sit and watch the Boy eat his bread as I was too busy enjoying my own!
We commenced with the escargot en persillade, served the classic way my father used to make for us when we were young. Melted butter, herbs especially parsley and loads and loads of garlic formed a little pool in which each slippery morsel sat submerged. Beneath the overwhelming garlickyness I could still detect their subtle earthy flavour. Like calamari, if overcooked escargot becomes rubbery and inedible, these were cooked perfectly.
I love all oysters and have been known to make a complete glutton of myself if allowed. Following in the footsteps of my father, I could easily eat several dozen au natural in one sitting provided they are fresh. One of my favourite types of oyster is the Sydney Rock; this species of oyster are smaller, have a more intense and distinct flavour than Pacific Oysters and apparently take 2-3 times longer to reach maturity. Knowing that I have a tendency to order too much food, the boy managed to intercept me attempting to order a full dozen in addition to our two entrees and convinced me of a compromise of a half dozen to share. Each mouthful was as fresh as the sea leaving that lingering sweet, creamy aftertaste.
The recent heartbreaking news earlier this year on the horrific treatment of our cows in Bali slaughterhouses has struck very deep to both of our hearts. As a result our red meat intake has reduced dramatically and now I try to source our produce only from organic farms that are passionate about animal welfare. However seeing steak tartar on the menu, neither of us could resist, it’s up there with Sydney Rock oysters in awesomeness. I took some consolation that it was made with Dandaragan organic beef. For those not convinced about raw, finely diced beef you seriously have to give this a try. The meat was exceedingly fresh and literally dissolved in your mouth leaving no unpleasant meaty aftertaste. The serve was particularly huge and I would have preferred a few more of the crunchy potato crisps to scoop up all the deliciousness.
The venison tenderloin was out of this world. The rich nearly berry-like flavours of the venison melted beautifully into the beetroot sauce and this really was a match made in heaven. In my eagerness to devour it I accidentally splashed ruby red sauce about in a very unladylike fashion and was thankful to be wearing a dark coloured dress! I want to return to Bistro just to order this again.
The boy ordered the veal sweetbreads with a fricassee of mushroom and truffle. The soft creamy pillows of glands were a little too fatty for him but this was circumvented somewhat by the hearty and flavoursome sauce. There was a wide variety of mushrooms in his dish and you could clearly see the fairly generous servings of truffle buried in there.
Although I realise I am supposed to be limiting my calorie intake with our wedding day looming close, this is very difficult to achieve when you are approached by a handsome man with a thick French accent bearing a plate of cheeses. I confess I got a little lost on his cheese journey and may have accidentally ordered more than we really needed. Are you that surprised? I ordered Mont D’or, a soft but rich, washed rind cows cheese that just glooped onto the board; Roquefort, a well-loved blue sheep cheese; Sainte Maure, a classic raw soft goat cheese that we recently had at Duende; Caprin, a hard goat cheese with a distinct nutty taste that I often enjoy when visiting my dad; and Pyengana, an aged Tasmania cheddar.
As you can see, we had no trouble finding room for any of these cheese masterpieces. They were served at the perfect temperature and were even accompanied by toasted gluten free bread.
I have heard many great things about Bistro Guillaume’s desserts however unfortunately for me the majority of them are not gluten free. My only option other than the sorbet was the very un-French mini Pavlova with passionfruit cream and mango sorbet. I am a little on the pedantic side when it comes to my Pavlova’s texture; in a similar vein to a macaron, there needs to be an external crunch, and spongy middle and a gooey centre. This version exhibited a little too much crunch and not enough moist bounciness inside.
Bearing in mind the Boy is not a big desserts person, I was super jealous to hear he thought the profiteroles were the bomb. As our waiter poured thick molten chocolate sauce over the perfectly formed balls I figured if there was ever the temptation to poison myself with gluten then this was it. He took no hesitation informing me the pastry was crackling crisp on the outside and flaky light on the inside. Despite wanting a taste so desperately I resisted and was very thankful the following day.
Coming from a French background I may be a little biased in stating French cuisine is one of the best in the world and Guillaume has managed to capture its simple elegance without overindulgence. Fresh local ingredients, traditional recipes and impeccable service…..Bravo!Bistro Guillaume Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood | (08) 9362 7551 | www.bistroguillaumeperth.com.au Price: $$$$ (Entrees $18-28, Mains $30-45) Food: 4.8/5 (would have given a five if it wasn’t for the pav) Service: 5/5 (highly attentive without being in your face) Ambience: 4.5/5 (relaxed, comfortable bistro vibe) Drinks: 4/5 (lots of French options!) Total: 18.3/20