Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Eating in Perth. Part I

I've had 4 days in Perth, or "Perff" as it was affectionately known by S-bo and I yesterday in honour of Australia Day, and only 2 to go. I received some great advice from Abstract Gourmet and Beyond Beeton about great places to try and I've also been shadowing Claire's November 08 trip (from Melbourne Gastronome) perhaps a little too closely. From Cottesloe fish & chips to the dingo flour sign and Fremantle markets. However despite that, I haven't actually been doing too much eating out. Kicking back instead at our friend's house enjoying wine, home-cooked meals and good company.

However there are a few highlights so far...

Friday night saw us land and head straight for a pre-wedding get-together at The Vic, a pub conveniently located next to the accomodation of most wedding guests. I really enjoyed kicking back in their beer garden drinking Redback beer, especially with slices of lemon. Unfortunately the pizza we ordered doesn't deserve mention, something tells me it's more a boozy, good-time pub rather than a top place for meals.

"The Vic"

We didn't stay too long as Lovely and the Doctor, our generous accomodation providers, had us booked in early Saturday morning to accompany them on a Swan Valley Wine Tour. Having decided Margaret River was a little far for this trip, we were eager to boat our way up the Swan and be picked up and ferried around the wineries by bus. In the past I've been sceptical of wine tours by bus, fearing that you only get taken to large, commercial wineries with a bunch of uni students or American tourists. However this was a great day out. Joining the boat in downtown Perth, with it's airline-style seating (complete with tray tables) we glided up the river, tasting some not-bad table wine courtesy of a couple of large commercial wineries. It was very pleasant and I was most impressed by the lovely Swan River.

Garbin Estate

Somewhere along the line we were greeted by Abi and we left boat for bus to visit 4 wineries, a brewery, a nougat company and a chocolate factory. Phew. We drank a lot of Chenin Blanc, Verdelho & Viognier from Garbin Estate, Jane Brook Estate, Jarrah Ridge and Edgecombe Brothers.

Edgecombe Brothers

At Jane Brook Estate the champenoise style of wine making was explained and I must confess that I didn't realise the huge difference between champenoise and other sparklings. We then had lunch (included) consisting of cold meats, salad, olives, bread & dips. The platter was beautifully presented with extremely fresh ingredients however we could have managed something a little more substantial with so much wine tasting.

Jarrah Ridge presented the best value wines, with their clean, crisp Chenin Blanc & Classic White selections for only $12 a bottle. Definitely our pick of the day for quality too as we also enjoyed their Reserve Shiraz & Shiraz Viognier.

The rest of the afternoon passed quickly. A super brief stop at Mondo Nougat stimulated our appetite for sweetness and it was on to the Margaret River Chocolate Factory, a branch located in the Swan Valley to capture more of the Perth market than is possible down south. Another whirlwind stop really, but don't forget to check our their sacks of chocolate buttons down the end of the counter for free tastings of their dark, milk and white chocolate.

Chaos at Margaret River Chocolate Factory

And finally the brewery consisting of beer and German Sausage (strangely accompanied by corn chips). Not much on our trip to Little Creatures (more to come...)

Feeling slightly tipsy with very full stomachs we headed back to Cottesloe where the boys enjoyed a dip. Incase we needed more alcohol we strolled up to The Cott for a beer, watching our first WA sunset over the water. The plan was to have Cottesloe fish and chips but we were feeling so unhealthy that we found ourselves ordering grilled snapper and salad from a burger joint who's name I don't remember. Four sleepy bodies then polished off our meal back at home with a bottle of Jarrah Ridge Chenin Blanc & the Australian Open. Zzzz......

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The disaster that nearly was

After indulging over the Christmas break I’ve developed a bit of an afternoon sweet tooth. (I swear I didn’t have it before, those mid-afternoon chocolate bars were more a compulsion to spend than eat, promise.)

To satisfy this craving and to cook something nice for S-bo, instead of taunting him with yummy creations, only to take them to work morning teas, I decided to make a Mango and Coconut Cake (pictured) last week. Would you believe I still have a folder full of uncooked recipe clippings, after all that effort in 2007. This clipping is so old that I can’t even remember where it came from, all I know is it’s on the back of my faithful and popular Caramel Mudcake recipe.

So has it made the cut and gone into my permanent recipe collection? You betcha. I chose the cake because, apart from begging to be cooked for a very long time, it seemed appropriate for this time of year, with the summery flavours of mango and coconut. The cream cheese icing takes on the personality of yoghurt, and could even do with a little more mango nectar, while the coconut gives the cake a great crunchy texture.

So where is the disaster? You might be asking this question due to this posts title, but if you’re familiar with my baking style you’d probably be asking it anyway. The cake is missing an egg! I realised this about 2 minutes after the cake went into the oven. If I used particularly large, good quality eggs then I might not have panicked so much. However the eggs had been floating around the fridge since before Christmas and appeared to come from a 7-eleven or similar, not well known for free range, quality produce I’m sure. No offence to 7-eleven if I’m incorrect as this is my preferred place of purchase when I’m in a blind panic, half way through baking late on a Sunday evening, only to find no eggs in the fridge. Back to the present disaster though…

Two minutes into the oven (the cake, not me) and I’m wandering whether I can pull the cake out and stir in a beaten egg. I opted for no. Instead I wrung my hands for the entire 85 minutes, expecting to be rewarded with a strangely textured cake. Fortunately my 3 piddly eggs must have been sufficient, as the cake turned out fine.

Phew, I’ve made it through my 2nd post AND survived a baking disaster. This is definitely rebirth by fire. Email me if you would like the recipe.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Recipes Out My Ears

After a very long stint of nothingness I think it’s time to write again. Why? Because I like it. A swag of recipe books for Christmas will be enough to keep me busy, so why not throw in writing on top. I’ve already joked to S-bo that I need to go part time to ensure I can cook all these wonderful new ideas.

My haul included a subscription to ABC’s delicious. magazine, which in itself would be enough to keep me busy all year. However it comes complete with Valli Little’s new book Faking It. Top that up with Fast Food, a great little book which I always seemed to have on the shelf thanks to generous housemates. When S-bo moved in I lost access and have since been craving the salt & pepper chicken recipe within. Chinese Five Spice here I come! Completing the new collection, from my brother in London, is a hefty copy of Gordon Ramsay’s Sunday Lunch with bonus DVD, which I have yet to watch.

That’s not to mention the books Mum received which I’m sure I’ll borrow at some point: Two of Donna Hay’s Simple Essentials collection, “Fruit” and “Pasta, Rice & Noodles” (some great sushi ideas I’ve got my eye on).

This very lucky little cook can also add some beautiful homewares and handy kitchen gadgets to the Christmas bounty. S-bo and I both walked away from the Christmas tree with a chopping board and water jug each. Luckily all are sufficiently different to a) avoid the store return and b) have their own special place in our kitchen and on our table. A handheld beater will also make cooking easier. After the demise of my mixer last year I had saved enough money to buy something flash (ie a Kitchenaid) however the size of our kitchen means the money is still sitting in my bank account and will remain there until we have a larger kitchen. I thought I could make do with my food processor, and I did remarkably well considering my penchant for kitchen disasters, however beating egg whites just didn’t work.

And last but not least is the bbq cover. Late last year S-bo and I moved from the apartment to a small house so we could enjoy all things alfresco, with the bbq being high on the list. Unfortunately our super small bbq is a little hard to clean. There’s nothing like having to clean the bbq before you cook on it to send you scurrying back to the indoor frying pan. I flew home at Christmas armed with a raft of ideas to make my own bbq cover. As happens with all my home-time holiday projects, my mother had visions of being left to complete an impossibly ridiculous project on her own while I scurried back to the city. So she went out and bought me one. Thanks Mum ad Dad.

To begin writing again at this point in the year is a tough task to set myself as I have a very busy January ahead. Mum and Dad are staying at the moment, part of their annual Australian Open pilgrimage. Then Friday Sam and I are off to Perth for 6 days. We have a wedding to go to and lots of friends to catch up with, but I’m sure we’ll have some time to visit Perth’s “must eat” venues…let me know if you have any favourites.