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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Dispersed throughout my eleven year friendship with my Bestie there has been prolonged times of separation where we have lived in different cities, states and even on different continents. In true testament to our strong connection to each other, distance has only ever served to make the heart grow fonder. In the past when our times together were limited, our catch ups would often tend toward the excesses and we both have a number of scars and hilarious but foggy memories to remind us.
In more recent times, we are lucky enough to finally both be settled down in the same city. No longer do we have to schedule our fun times to those infrequent occasions when our paths cross as we only live a short drive away from each other. Impromptu brunches and sleep overs can now be a regular occurrence. After an exciting morning a few weeks ago at Elixir Coffee, we made last minute plans to meet up for brunch before work.
“The most beautiful discovery that true friends can make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” Elizabeth Foley
As a child I attended a school in Adelaide that started from pre-primary right through to Year 12. As a result there were a handful of us students who graduated from high school after spending 13 full years of schooling together. To add to that amazingness, a reasonable proportion of us who lived locally also went to the same kindergarten meaning we have known each other since we were only 4 years old!
I had planned to take a year off from study after matriculation therefore I felt no urgency to say goodbye to my lifelong friends at our valedictory dinner. To my shock my university deferral request was declined at the thirteenth hour and I had just a mere weeks’ notice to pack up my life and move to the other side of Australia where I knew nobody.
I know, I know; I whinge about the winter chilliness a bit too much. You see, I’m not normally that much of a whinger unless I’m sick or I’m cold. However during winter I am generally both of those things more often than I am not. This is why I am so thankful for the wondrous fungus Tuber melanosporum, or more commonly known as the black truffle. Its short season coincides with the deepest part of winter here in Perth and is becoming a key element to my winter survival strategy.
Being right in the height of the truffle season I had already gone a bit giddy with my annual winter addiction at our truffled dinner at Divido and then even further at Clarke’s. Although I knew the Mundaring Truffle Festival was only a few days away, I figured why not bury myself even deeper into truffle glory and enjoy it to its fullest!
My soon to be parents-in-law are always complaining that they never get to spend enough time with us. Both the Boy and I have pretty hectic careers, so when we do actually have a bit of spare time, we want to spend it out and about enjoying good food and company. So when Christmas approached us last year, instead of buying his parents a gift, we offered to take them out to a fancy meal all expenses paid.
Just as we managed to lock in a weekend for our dinner, we were blessed with our brand new little niece who was born on the other side of the world in Texas! The Boy’s parents jumped on the first plane out to the States and didn’t return back for three months! We were all so envious of them as they got to meet her and we cannot wait to eventually get over there ourselves.
I have been literally dying to take the Boy with me to The Imp in Victoria Park for so long but every time we plan to go there it is so packed full of customers that there is no free table available for us. Having been there several times myself I knew he would love it. It’s always buzzing and alive with atmosphere and the staff are all funky, vibrant and friendly. We had completed our usual Sunday walk around the river together accompanied by my new toy; my first DLSR camera which I have nicknamed “Gordon”. I had been busy happy snapping away at the gorgeous scenery and felt that all too familiar reminder what an awesome city we live in.
Weekend work is part and parcel to many people’s careers including mine and unfortunately this sometimes does result in being unable to attend weekend festivals and other events. The Mundaring Truffle Festival has been one of those missed events for me for several years running so when I realised this time round I had the Sunday rostered off, I jumped at the opportunity to book us tickets. I also bought us entry into one of the ticketed events called “The Truffle and the Riesling”.
Unlike last year where I heard the weather was absolutely atrocious resulting in much of the Festival becoming flooded, this year we couldn’t have asked for anything better. With the sun shining gloriously in a clear blue sky the morning chill dissipated quickly under the warming rays of sunshine. It feels like we are nearly into Spring!
This blog post is the second in my series for this year’s Mushroom Mania. The month kicked off in full force commencing with my visit to the picturesque Millbrook Winery where we wined and dined until we nearly exploded. We even managed to successfully forage some wild field mushrooms from their stunning property. From there my madness for mushrooms continued and I posted my first recipe detailing how I cooked up these freshly picked delights. Don’t forget you can also go a little mushroom mad as there are over 2000 participating restaurants all over Australia serving up a variety of mushroom themed recipes. You can even win a $150 dinner voucher; see the end of this post for more.