a winter’s end ft. maxwell + williams

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I’ve gotten really behind on this blog space. Like, months behind. Life has forged ahead in a barrage of late nights, early mornings, frozen dinners and lukewarm coffees consumed in a weak attempt to maintain sanity.

I’ve missed comments, questions and emails. I’ve been dismally sporadic on social media. Let’s just say that my time and energy for this space have recently dissipated (as have my normal working hours and pimple-free complexion) and I’m hoping that things will get better soon.

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Anyway, in the midst of the busyness (a couple of months ago) the kind folks at Maxwell & Williams sent me a few of their products to style in a winter shoot. Think: mulled wine, clustered candles, warm light and layered textiles with natural timber.

I was so excited. I bought a fruity Shiraz to mull with star anise, cloves and heady citrus. I started planning for colour contrasts against rich acacia wood. But despite the best of intentions, most of winter ran away from me (sans the energy required for a candlelit dinner party) and late June became mid-July. Eventually, grand ideas gave way and I improvised. Blogger life, right?

So, in absence of an official shoot, I’m sending images your way of these gorgeous products in a less formal manner. Instead of candles and rich spices, you’ve got sunlight and Mexican food. A little representative of the change of seasons, really.

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Heading up this post is the Little Jungle Terrarium Orbit (top, 13cm, $29.95). Something I never thought I’d feature in my kitchen (sooo #hipsterhome) but it’s rather adorable in its shiny roundness. I’ve filled mine with soft green herbs, mulch and organic earth (not a plastic deer in sight) and the concept has worked beautifully. I’m happy to say that three weeks on, the herbs are growing steadily in their glistening new home, with new tendrils of thyme curling towards the windowsill. Happiness*.

*click away if you’re after a more traditional DIY on how to fill the perfect terrarium

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sampleinstaSecond to be featured is the gorgeous Artisan Long Board (55 x 20.1 x 1.8cm, $49.95, above) which is begging to be used as a centrepiece for entertaining. I’ve used it as a backdrop for a casual Mexican flat-lay (or mis en place, if you will) but I’m already planning a dinner party where it will be laden with beet dip, spelt seeded crackers, leafy Dutch carrots and a wedge of piquant blue cheese.

The quality acacia wood adds instant warmth to a table setting. In a couple of months, I’m sure you’ll be able to play spot-the-long-board on this ‘ol blog. It’s already a firm favourite.

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So. Big thanks to Maxwell & Williams inspiring this post with warm timber, rope and glass. And, as always, thanks to those of you who read this blog and engage with content. I do hope that I’ll have some new recipes up for you soon.

In the meantime, you’ll find plenty of deliciousness (including the recipe for my black bean tacos, above) in my recipe index.

Disclaimer: the Little Jungle Terrarium Orbit and Artisan Long Board featured in this post were supplied by Maxwell & Williams. No monetary compensation was received and as always, all views expressed are my own. #yourstyleyourway

jamie oliver + ministry of food perth launch

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In culinary terms, I pretty much grew up with Jamie Oliver. My first memories of Jamie and his ‘brand’ were as a child of sixteen, when his first television show (The Naked Chef, circa 1999) appeared on Australian television screens. On first impressions, I thought he was rather young and… well, incessantly energetic. Too young to be teaching me culinary skills, anyway (I was raised on Rick Stein and no-nonsense ‘Saint‘ Delia).

However, despite his use of the word ‘pukka’ (which apparently he even finds annoying) I eventually came to like the lad from country Essex. His shaggy hair and honest approach to cooking was both warm and approachable and over time, he won both my heart and a great portion of my bookshelf.

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It seems I wasn’t the only one. Fast-forward to 2016 and it would be fair to say that Jamie Oliver is a global household name. His ‘brand’ adorns everything from basil pesto to Tefal frypans but somehow he’s managed to maintain both his ‘cheeky’ demeanour and a strong sense of personal integrity.

One could argue that the latter is inextricably linked to his ‘social activism’ which began in 2002 with the establishment of Jamie’s Kitchen (a chef apprenticeship program for disadvantaged youths which later transformed into the Fifteen Apprentice Program). Soon afterwards, he established the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation which now oversees (non-profit community programs) Jamie’s Ministry of Food, a Kitchen Garden Project and the accompanying Food Revolution Campaign. He was most recently seen in the media doing a spontaneous ‘sugar tax dance‘ after the British Government declared its levy on the soft drinks industry this Wednesday.

Cheeky, but authentic. It works. It’s very Jamie.

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So let’s talk about Jamie’s Ministry of Food. Since it’s inception in 2008 (in Rotherham, South Yorkshire) these community-led kitchen centres have attracted thousands of participants per year, all of whom have signed up for 7-10 weeks of practical food education, budgeting tips and Jamie’s own home-cooking shortcuts. Over the past eight years, the program has expanded to four locations across the United Kingdom and, since 2011, three centres in suburban Australia (under Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia).

That brings me to the point of today’s post: the establishment of Jamie’s cooking school in my home state of Western Australia. Since the first Australian centre was established in Ipswich, Queensland, the program has expanded to include three more fixed-location cooking centres alongside fully-equipped mobile kitchens in Queensland and, as of last week, Western Australia.

It’s an exciting progression for a state in which 66.6% of adults are overweight or obese with only one in every ten Western Australian residents eating their recommended daily serves of fruit and vegetables. There has been recent media emphasis on the prediction that this generation of Australian teenagers may be the first to die at a younger age than their parents (Dr Lyn Roberts, National Heart Foundation of Australia). A frightening thought, indeed.

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The Western Australian mobile kitchen program is a partnership between Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia,  The Good Foundation and Edith Cowan University (ECU) with sponsorship through Woolworths Australia and The Good Guys. I was privileged to attend the media launch last Wednesday with a recorded message from ‘the big man himself’ (watch it below) alongside introductions from Elise Bennetts (Acting Chief Executive Officer, Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia and The Good Foundation) and Professor Steve Chapman (CBE, Vice-Chancellor of ECU).

The event was held in and around the working mobile kitchen, with canapés and drinks provided by the Ministry of Food’s qualified Food Trainers. In typical Jamie style, presentation was fresh, healthy and rustic, served off simple wooden boards with warm enthusiasm.

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In contrast to previously established Ministry of Food centres, the Western Australian program will operate alongside ECU’s School of Health Science (nutrition and dietetics) with internship and research opportunities for students and staff. The kitchen classroom will initially be situated at ECU’s Joondalup campus (for the next fourteen weeks) before shifting to other ECU campuses in Mount Lawley and Western Australia’s South West (additional locations to be announced).

With adequate consultation, there also plans for specific work with rural Aboriginal communities, focusing on diet-related disease and improved health outcomes.

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From Tuesday 29th March 2016, the Western Australian Mobile Kitchen program is set to run two series of seven week cooking courses, comprising of one 90-minute cooking class per week. Each class can take up to 12 participants aged over 12 years (the oldest participant so far being a ’96 year old widower’ from Eastern Australia).

Program coordinator Marie Fitzpatrick states that each class will focus on using Jamie’s own recipes and techniques, with emphasis on ‘simplicity’ and ‘transferable skills to take back home’. As per other suburban centres, the Western Australian program will incorporate emphasis on specific community demographics, family budgets and entrenched ‘fears’ of cooking from scratch.  Basic principles will be covered (such as ‘how to boil an egg’) using everyday, cheap ingredients (eggs, chicken, rice and tinned beans) and common kitchen implements (domestic-sized pots, ovens and kitchen prep areas). All classes aim to incorporate simple skills and food knowledge that will ’empower’ individuals and local communities.

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According to comprehensive studies by Deakin University and the University of Melbourne, Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia has already made a positive impact in Eastern Australia. Participant evaluations report strong evidence of increased confidence in key skill areas required for cooking and daily food preparation, with increased cooking confidence and daily vegetable consumption (increase by 0.52 serves).

Behavioural changes were sustained for at least six months after conclusion of the cooking course, with flow-on benefits such as increased frequency of communal eating (families eating together) and reduction in takeaway meal consumption.

Pretty good for a ‘cheeky’ Chef and his team, methinks.

paperNow, I’ve read a fair amount of critique surrounding the Ministry of Food, most of which labels Jamie a ‘hypocrite‘ who doesn’t understand poverty. Whilst I’m the first to admit that Jamie Oliver’s cooking school can’t solve every nutritional or social problem (but heck, what can?) he’s started a practical community dialogue about cooking and general health, and that’s got to be a good thing.

Furthermore, even academics concede that Jamie’s ‘brand identity’ has in itself provided an ‘edge’ to his social projects that most other food and nutrition programs don’t have: corporate sponsorship, public accountability and actual community enthusiasm (the last point being of utmost importance). He seems genuinely committed (to the point of personal exhaustion), his manifesto rings true and his local team in Perth appear both impassioned and aware of local issues.

So that said, I’m excited to see the impact of Jamie’s Ministry of Food in Western Australian communities, families and suburban kitchens. It’ll be pukka, you’ll see.

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Jamie’s Ministry of Food Mobile Kitchen

The Western Australian Mobile Kitchen will be running two initial seven week courses which include one 90-minute class per week. Classes will run six days per week, including weeknights.

First release: Tuesday 29th March – Monday 16th May 2016

Second release: Tuesday 17th May –  Monday 4th July 2016.

Location: Edith Cowan University – Joondalup Campus
Car park 14, between building 21 & 22
Access from Deakin Rd via Lakeside Drive
Joondalup, WA 6027

Book here.

brookwood estate, margaret river

glasseslogoblIt’s rather late on a quiet suburban Friday. The air is cool, clean and lingering, reddening my skin as fingers tap on plastic keys in the half-light. Today was the sixth official day of the Australian winter, cold but bright. A woollen blanket lies perched upon my lap, cushioning the weight of a softly humming laptop.

As I type, sleep gently beckons my tired eyes. I resist in stubborn audacity, scanning images of panko-crumbed oysters, syrupy Shiraz and dappled gold upon sprawling autumn vines. Click, adjust, save. Admire for a while. It’s photographic evidence of the blissful weekend-that-was and I love every pixel.

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If you’re a regular reader of the Mess, you’d be well aware of my endless love affair with Western Australia’s breathtaking south west food and wine region. I’ve written about it at least four times (in South West Rambling, The Mess Guide to: Margaret River, Summer to Autumn and Buttermilk Corn Fritters) whilst also referencing south west produce in countless recipe posts.

So, it may be no surprise that my husband and I took the recent ‘Western Australia Day‘ weekend as another excuse to visit the south west; or more specifically, the Margaret River wine region. Three days of rolling green pastures, log fires, locally farmed food and boutique wine was too good to miss.

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Let’s rewind to last Saturday morning. Aaron and I packed our bags, tumbled into our battered sedan and drove two hours south to the coastal town of Bunbury. We ate dinner (steak sandwiches and calamari at the waterside Mash brewery), slept (in our car. No, I am not joking), bought coffee (from McDonalds; it was actually passable) and then continued our drive to the Margaret River region.

Now, one of the most wonderful things about the south west is that no matter how many times you’ve visited, there’s always something else to explore – whether it be pristine beaches, national parks, wineries or surfing breaks. Trust me, I’ve been countless times and it was only last weekend that I discovered the rambling country road that led to Brookwood Estate.

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Brookwood is a family owned and run vineyard that was established in 1996 by Trevor and Lyn Mann (pictured above). The couple experienced their first harvest around 1999 after three years of nurturing ten thousand Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines across a six hectare property. They have since been working alongside their daughter, Bronnlea Cahill (now head winemaker) to create a unique and delicious range of wines featuring one hundred percent estate-grown fruit that has been processed, blended and bottled on-site.

Brookwood has since developed into a biologically balanced, thriving boutique vineyard that produces around 5000 cases of wine (each with 12 bottles) per year. Initially serving platters and tasting plates, the winery has since established a thriving restaurant and cafe that serves lunch and snacks from 11.00am – 5.00pm daily.

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Aaron and I were fortunate enough to visit Brookwood last Sunday afternoon, the first official day of Australian winter. That morning, light rain had fallen across the south west in a glistening blanket, the earth smelt fresh, green and nourished.

Upon arriving at Brookwood, the scene was ridiculously beautiful. Fresh raindrops clung to the russet vines like sparkling jewels; the grass was bright and saturated with colour. We spent a few minutes snapping photographs, clambering from vine to wine before the scent of food beckoned. We obeyed, making our way towards the tin and timber-clad winery restaurant.

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It was here that we met our affable host for the afternoon, Lucy. She swiftly ushered us to our table and provided a brief overview of the restaurant menu and its focus on local produce.

With a warm smile, she left us to peruse our lunch options whilst fetching one half of the vineyard’s management team, Lyn Mann.

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brookwoodmenuOnce again, if you’re a regular reader of the Mess you’d be aware that I follow a simple locavore policy when it comes to both food and wine. Where possible, I believe in purchasing fresh, local, organic, biodynamic, sustainable and ethically produced products with minimal food miles, environmental impact and wastage.

To my delight, Brookwood follows this same philosophy with a particular emphasis upon clean production, recycling and viticulture that follows organic principles. That’s a big A+ in foodie terms.

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Let me (or Lyn, in actual fact) explain a little further. Brookwood voluntarily recycles all of its glass, cardboard and paper refuse whilst throwing kitchen waste to their hungry family of chooks (chickens, for the non-Aussies out there). Residual grape skins and seeds are used in organic compost whilst the kitchen’s used cooking oil is recycled as bio-diesel to drive the machinery that maintains their 6 hectare property.

Upon tasting some of Brookwood’s wines (with their fantastically knowledgeable cellar door man and assistant winemaker, Greg) I was also pleased to discover that the vineyard uses unbleached, naturally matte cardboard and ‘green glass’ for all elements of packaging. This reduces the winery’s carbon footprint by at least 30%.

Lyn’s husband Trevor explains: “The customers are interested in what’s inside the bottle, not the packaging”. That’s a big thumbs up from me. If only more wineries thought the same.

greg pour After finishing our tasting, Aaron and I ordered two glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.00 per glass) before settling down to await our pre-ordered lunch (Lyn cleverly suggests that customers order their lunch before visiting the cellar door for a wine tasting; that way you pick an appropriate wine for your meal and limit wait time at the table). The wine was richly pigmented, medium-bodied and aromatic with vine fruit, bay leaf and spice – characteristic of the Margaret River region. With a soft finish, it was altogether delicious.

As both of us are fans of small plates, we picked the following items from the tapas menu:

  • Panko-crumbed Albany oysters with avocado salsa and lime – $3.50 each
  • Seared Esperance scallops with pickled radish, apple and citrus – $4.00 each
  • Estate-made dukkah with extra virgin olive oil and local Turkish bread (from Kappadokia Turkish bakery in Margaret River) – $7.00
  • Field mushrooms with chevre and garlic chives – $8.00
  • Chorizo with pickled apple – $8.00
  • Broccolini with salted caramel macadamias and crispy pancetta – $9.00

The first items to arrive were the panko-crumbed oysters and scallops, both perched steadily in their shells upon piles of coarse rock salt. We ordered one of each per person and I must say, after rambling about the property for one hour we devoured them hungrily.

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Of the two seafood items, the oysters were the definite standout. Both Aaron and I adored the contrast between the soft avocado salsa and the crisp, golden-fried panko crumbs. Beneath the crunchy exterior, the oyster flesh was fresh, slightly salty and delicious. I’m not a huge oyster fan but with these, I was completely sold.

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Our second plate of seafood, the Esperance scallops, were also delicious. Slightly caramelised, soft and juicy. I did find that the delicate flesh was slightly overwhelmed by the acidity of the pickled vegetables, however that was easily remedied by ‘adjustment of ratios’ on the fork.

Next to arrive was a plate of estate-made dukkah, olive oil and Turkish bread. I was rather excited to try the ‘house blend’ which Lyn advised was available for purchase via That Margaret River Stuff (online or at the cellar door). The fresh bread was served warm, generously piled upon the plate.

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Upon first bite, I could already tell that the bread was beautifully chewy and authentic. We eagerly dunked it into the pot of local extra virgin olive oil before generously dipping into the toasty house-made dukkah. Unfortunately, that was where things went just a little bit wrong.

Now, let me explain something: both Aaron and I are used to eating either homemade or Providore dukkah, both of which lend themselves towards a generous dip, slather or enthusiastic sprinkle. The estate-made dukkah at Brookwood is entirely different and my rather ‘generous’ dip resulted in a mouthful of salt, ground coriander and cumin which needed to be drowned by a large gulp of cold water.

However, when used sparingly I did enjoy the mixture of spices, sesame seeds and local toasted macadamia nuts. The olive oil was fruity, glossy and altogether delicious.

dukkahevoobl2After finishing our bread, the chorizo and mushrooms arrived with a side of vibrant green broccolini. I was intrigued to see clusters of what resembled praline in the vegetable dish; after checking the menu I remembered the reference to ‘salted caramel macadamias’ which I couldn’t wait to try.

broccolinibroccoliniforkAfter crunching my way through a few forkfuls, I was absolutely sold on the balance of sweet and savoury. The buttery crunch of macadamias worked brilliantly with the sweet toffee, salty prosciutto and fresh green vegetables. There was a soft undertone of organic stock and I’d love to attempt the entire combination at home one day. Kudos to Chef Aven (who apparently met Lyn and Trevor by chance during an industry event. We’re pretty lucky that he did).

The salty, rich chorizo was beautifully balanced by delicate slices of accompanying pickled apple whilst the mushrooms were meaty and flavoursome. The creamy chevre was a delicious accompaniment, enlivened by scattered green garlic chives.

chorizo mushrooms1mushroomscuAfter draining our wine glasses, we sat for a few minutes before deciding to share one of Chef Aven’s sweet offerings, the white chocolate semifreddo with toasted coconut and chocolate soil ($9.00).

I do think that the pictures speak for themselves.

dessert dessertside dessert2I’m not an expert on semifreddo by any means, but this one was a little firmer than I expected. More like ice cream which had been pulled straight from the freezer than a mousse-like consistency. It was nevertheless delicious, with notes of both toasted coconut and soft vanilla.

The interior of the frozen dome housed the ‘truffle’ part of the dessert, a coconut and wafer ball with a milk cream and almond interior that resembled a Ferrero Raffaello (on second thoughts I am 98% sure that it was a Raffaello, which is by no means disappointing, however I was in some respects hoping that the truffle component would be homemade).

The fresh berries, delicate herbs and chocolate granules were a beautiful accompaniment to the entire dish and we were left feeling rather blessed and satisfied.

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Rather than proceeding on to of offers coffee or tea, we headed back to the cellar door to pick up a bottle of estate red to take back to Perth. After another chat with both Greg and Trevor, we left with a bottle of Brookwood 2012 Shiraz Cabernet ($26.00). I’m looking forward to drinking it over the winter months with some beautifully warming food.

Before we exited the cellar door, Trevor also advised that a very special barrel of Shiraz (‘Mann Up’, below left) is planned for bottling in July or August this year. Its release date is currently unknown but I am rather excited.

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All in all, both Aaron and I were entirely impressed by the quality and value-for-money of the food and wine on offer at Brookwood. Living in a state plagued by exorbitant restaurant pricing, I was in awe of what Chef Aven was producing for prices that don’t break the bank.

Brookwood is definitely a destination in itself, not a stop-off on a boozy wine tour. Next time you’re heading to Margaret River, call in a lunch booking and enjoy some genuine south west food, wine and warm hospitality.

Disclaimer: Laura and Aaron attended Brookwood Estate Winery and Restaurant as invited guests; the prices above are included for your information (however the take-home wine was purchased with our own hard cash). No compensation was received for this post and all opinions are our own.

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Brookwood Estate Winery and Restaurant

430 Treeton Road, Cowaramup (near Margaret River), Western Australia 6284

(08) 9755 5604

Open 7 days, 11.00am – 5.00pm (lunch until 3.00pm)

bread in common, fremantle

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Over the past few weeks, I seem to have embraced my uncoordinated, klutzy alter ego. It’s been a painful experience, and… well, let’s just say that I’m hoping it’s a phase.

For example, exactly thirteen hours ago I arrived at my local church, hazy and bleary eyed from the week-that-was. Whilst setting up some microphones (I sing as part of the music team every three weeks), I managed to drop a heavy wooden lectern on my foot. Yes, a lectern. I’m not even going to attempt an explanation, but let’s just say that it hurt. Possibly like childbirth or appendicitis, but as I’ve had neither I can’t compare (I promise to revise this statement postpartum if my opinion changes). Straight afterwards, I felt very, very stupid.

Luckily, I managed to hobble around wincing for the next five hours with only one person questioning my uncharacteristic slow gait. After the service ended, I removed my shoe to inspect some swollen, purple toes. I have no idea if there’s a fracture but hey, it’s Sunday. I can readdress that question tomorrow.

Speaking of questions, you’re probably wondering what on earth this introduction has to do with a restaurant review. Well, let’s just say that another klutzy incident occurred on the same day that I visited Bread in Common. It involved my head and a suspended boat rudder attached to a sculpture on Fremantle Dock. See the picture below? Well, the incident occurred about five minutes after it was taken (in other news, do you think I look like a horse? I thought so). And again, I felt very, very stupid.

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The only good thing about my semi-concussion was the fact that it occurred straight after a rather satisfying breakfast at the above-named restaurant on Pakenham Street. Amidst the throbbing pain, plates of soft eggs and chewy sourdough swam before my eyes like small roadrunners around the Wile E Coyote. Okay, so that’s a slight embellishment, but… well, the breakfast stayed down. And it was good. That’s success, in my opinion.

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Our visit to Bread in Common took place on a quiet Friday morning. Being a public holiday, we expected large crowds by 10:30am but thankfully, the late opening time (of 10:00am) seemed to have averted a portion of the breakfast crowd. As our visit had been months in the planning, it was a great pleasure to actually sit down within the stripped-back, converted warehouse space. Our coffee orders were taken immediately and we were left to peruse the ‘brunch and dinner’ menu.

Bread in Common is the brainchild of Nic Trimboli (whom Perthians might recognise as the restauranteur behind Gordon Street Garage, Duende and Balthazar) and his partner, baker Gotthard Bauer (from the famous Yallingup Woodfired Bakery that I’ve raved about here and here). As the name might suggest, this place is all about communal tables, generosity and arguably the best woodfired bread this side of Yallingup. At $2 per person, nonetheless.

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Being a creature of habit, I immediately scanned the menu for smashed avocado on toast. Instead, I found share plates, house-churned butter, savoury spreads, toasted sandwiches and mouse traps (uh, it turns out that these are little pieces of toasted bread spread with Vegemite and cheese).

Needless to say, momentary disappointment melted into to excitement over the prospect of eating scrambled organic eggs with dukkah ($14), mixed mushrooms with toasted macadamias, thyme and bitter greens ($15), smoked zucchini spread ($3.50) and garlic sausage. Did I forget something? Oh, and bread. Beautiful, organic loaves baked with small-batch milled local wheat-belt flour.

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Soon after placing our food orders, the coffees mercifully arrived. I had reasonable expectations, seeing as Bread in Common uses Mano a Mano specialty coffee which is roasted in small batches at its sister restaurant, Gordon Street Garage.

Strangely, both Aaron and I found the coffee to be well-made but largely lacklustre. I sipped thoughtfully for at least ten minutes before deciding that it bore no resemblance to the signature blend at Gordon Street. Why? I have no idea. There was no bitterness, no body, just… milk. Brown milk. Rather disappointing.

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Thankfully, redemption was found in a plate of warm bread with our chosen dips: smoked zucchini and garlicky sausage. Despite our two bread selection (common loaf and wholemeal sourdough) bearing only one half-piece of the wholemeal sourdough (that’s 16%, people), we ate it appreciatively, generously slathered in the accompanying spreads.

breadIf I had to pick a favourite food item from the day, it’d probably be the smoked zucchini spread with toasted black sesame seeds. It was beautifully creamy with hints of woodsmoke and toasted nuts… absolutely delicious. I could’ve eaten just smoked zucchini spread on toast and been rather happy (but of course, I didn’t).

Our next two dishes, mixed mushrooms and scrambled eggs with dukkah on toast, arrived together. My first thought was that servings were both rustic and rather generous. Thumbs up in my book. The eggs were soft and creamy, pale golden against lightly toasted sourdough. The smattering of toasted dukkah was rather delicious with the delicate eggs and bitter fresh rocket (arugula).

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The mushrooms. Oh, the mushrooms. Juicy and caramelized with perfect amounts of acidity. The wilted greens added some wonderful bitterness and colour contrast whilst the toasted macadamias were buttery, crunchy and delicious. If I wasn’t stuffed to the brim, I would’ve mopped up the mushroom juices with more perfectly chewy sourdough. It was that good.

mushroomsBut no. After polishing off the last mushroom, Aaron and I were both in a blissful state of brunch satisfaction. We sat quietly, mesmerized by an apron-clad baker transferring loaves of dusty sourdough onto a wheeled trolley. Perfectly slow-fermented sourdough loaves, golden and crusty, spattered with organic flour.

These loaves are available for wholesale purchase or for hungry customers to take-home from the bakery. I would’ve done just that if not for the fear of devouring the entire loaf in the car. Or at home, slathered in organic butter and sea salt with an accompanying glass of red.

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In hindsight, it might have been tangible comfort for my head injury. Butter and carbohydrate therapy? I’m sure that’s been documented in a medical journal somewhere.

Or my foot injury. In fact, maybe I should hobble there now…

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Bread in Common

43 Pakenham Street, Fremantle WA 6160

(08) 9336 1032

Sun – Thurs: 10am – 10pm

Friday – Saturday: 10am – late

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mary street bakery, highgate

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I’m a little late to the hype that surrounds the Mary Street Bakery. Since it replaced the now-defunct Soto Espresso on the Beaufort Street cafe strip in mid-2013, it’s proved to be hugely popular with locals and visitors alike.

We visited for breakfast on a sunny Wednesday morning in the middle of the Easter/Anzac Day holiday period. Walking towards the Bakery’s prominent pink neon sign, it was immediately apparent that the venue was bustling. Luckily, we snagged a recently-vacated table near the front window, softly illuminated by the mid-morning sun.

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Despite the demands of many customers, service was prompt and courteous. A staff member was quick to clear the table, taking our coffee orders before leaving us to quietly peruse the menu.

Something that immediately impressed was the Bakery’s commitment to using locally sourced, quality Western Australian produce such as stone-milled Eden Valley Biodynamic Flour from Dumbleyung, small-batch roasted Pound Coffee from Justin and Irene in O’Connor and Margaret River Free-Range Eggs from Jan and Kim Harwood’s farm in the beautiful south-west.

It’s a beautiful embodiment of the locavore policy, though I’d expect nothing less from a business owned by the creative minds behind Cantina 663, El Publico and ACE Pizza (full credit to them for their innovation, amazing food and general commitment to the local community).

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coffeeAfter toying over options such as baked eggs and custard-filled doughnuts, we finally agreed on boiled eggs with buttered soldiers and corn relish ($11), poached seasonal fruits with coconut yoghurt and granola ($13) and wholegrain porridge with fresh banana, toasted pepitas and honey ($14).

Whilst waiting for our food to arrive, Aaron ventured up to the bakery counter whilst my mother and I guessed the weight of a giant staghorn mounted above our table (that thing was big). The room’s soft conversational hum provided a soothing soundtrack as we sipped upon mellow, creamy coffee from Pound.

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Our food arrived in a timely fashion, elegantly presented and reasonably portioned. I was immediately absorbed by the vibrant hue of my poached fruit with thick, creamy coconut yoghurt. The rhubarb was a little on the crunchy, fibrous side but I was otherwise satisfied by the mix of grains, toasted nuts and soft, subtly sweet fruit. The mint leaves were both a colourful and refreshing touch.

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The soft-boiled eggs arrived slightly on the firmer side, possibly due to the demands of the holiday period. However, the bright free-range yolks were a wonderful accompaniment to crisp fingers of the Bakery’s organic stone ground bread and good French butter. My mother particularly enjoyed the dollop of house-made corn relish and flaked sea salt.

porridgeThe last dish that we sampled was the Bakery’s soft, creamy oat porridge with banana, freeze-dried raspberries, toasted pepitas and a drizzle of honey.

Unfortunately for Aaron, embedded in the creamy deliciousness were fragments of a particular food nemesis: banana chips. Now, speaking personally, I have nothing against crisp pieces of banana that have been dried in coconut oil. But for Aaron? Hatred would be an appropriate word. After some fleeting annoyance, he amiably scraped out the undeclared offenders before enjoying the rest of his rather beautiful porridge and fresh, sweet banana.

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As you may expect, the bakery items at Mary Street are rather exceptional. If you’re after the full experience, grab something to-go from their beautiful range of organic loaves, filled fresh doughnuts, pastries, meat pies and tarts (take a look at their Instagram feed for some samples). They also sell their house-made gluten free granola in 500g bags.

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All in all, Mary Street Bakery is an earthy, well-designed venue that caters for takeaway work lunches, relaxing Saturday brunch and afternoon tea with friends. Its friendly adaptability will likely make it a welcome fixture on the Beaufort Street strip for years to come.

signls

Mary Street Bakery

507 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003

0499 509 300

Open: Mon – Sun, 7am – 4pm

 

bib & tucker, north fremantle

boardwalkI love breakfast. It’s probably my favourite meal of the day, to the point where I often lie awake at night thinking about what I’ll eat in the morning. Steel cut oats, seeded toast with lemon-drenched avocado, crunchy macadamia muesli, fresh crumpets with Lescure butter and raw organic honey… I love it all. I’m one of those people who could very easy eat brinner every night of the week. But then again, where would that leave tacos and braised pork belly? Oh, the dilemmas!

A few months ago, a friend of mine mentioned a little cafe in North Fremantle called Bib & Tucker. Described as the ‘next best thing in breakfast’, I naturally wanted to visit… mostly as a comparison to my favourite breakfast destination of the moment, Harvest Espresso in Victoria Park (a place that actually solves my pork belly dilemma. They serve it for breakfast. Really).

signage

We arrived mid-morning last Saturday. The sky was pale blue, slightly overcast, with thick clouds wafting like a scattered blanket. By the time we pried open the front doors, sweat started to bead on our foreheads in a sticky sheen.

Luckily, we were ushered to an outside table where the reliable Fremantle Doctor was blowing. Cool, salty air gently lapped at our skin as we perused the breakfast menu.

menu

There’s something beautifully balanced about Bib & Tucker. Old favourites such as pancakes, eggs and crispy bacon sit snugly alongside redemptive kale, green lentils, chia seeds and almond milk. If would be fair to say that as a patron, you can be as virtuous or indulgent as you want to be. My favourite kind of place.

coffeebandt hatAfter ordering our coffees, we selected three dishes from the breakfast menu: fig chia pudding ($15), smashed avocado on cornbread ($19) and house-smoked ocean trout tartare ($24). Despite various criticisms on Urbanspoon about the ‘terrible service’ at Bib & Tucker, we met a wonderful brunette waitress who delivered our food within 15 short minutes. Nothing wrong with that.

As for the food? Well, it’s safe to say that we were three happy campers on this Saturday morning. Everything that arrived was fresh, generous, beautifully presented and suitably nourishing. My selection was (typically) chunky seasoned avocado atop thick, toasted cornbread with fresh greens, quinoa and vibrant chive oil. Aaron chose (typically) the smoked ocean trout, which was deliciously salty, soft and delicate against robust fried capers, fresh asparagus, croutons and lemon mascarpone.

oceantrout2 chiaavo

My lovely mother (atypically) selected the chia pudding, mostly out of ‘curiosity’. The dish arrived in a mason jar crowned with fresh wedges of fragrant fig, pomegranate arils and toasted almonds.

For a woman who habitually chooses ‘eggs any way with toast’ (a.k.a poached eggs with wholemeal bread), she enjoyed the breakfast variation. The chia seeds carried a slight creaminess from the organic almond milk, beautifully complimented by the sweet figs, acidic pomegranate and toasted nuts.

chiabandt insideoutside

From scanning the crowd, it would be fair to say that Bib & Tucker is a beautiful embodiment of the Fremantle subculture: eclectic, relaxed, slightly hippy (as opposed to hipster; these guys were growing kale in loamy soil far before the first hipster discovered plaid) artistic and entirely wonderful. As an ‘artsy’ type myself, I felt right at home.

It’s a place to contemplate, breathe and feel nourished within 100 metres of the Indian Ocean. A place I definitely want to revisit. Soon.

beach docks

Bib & Tucker

18 Leighton Beach Blvd, North Fremantle WA 6159

(08) 9433 2147

Coffee: Tues – Sun, 6am – 4pm

Breakfast: Tues – Sun, 7am – 11am

Lunch: Tues – Sun, 12pm – 3pm

Dinner: Wed – Sun, 6pm – 9pm

bill’s bar and bites, leederville

table

I’ve always held divided opinions about the Leederville Hotel. Built in 1897, the structure has always been an established landmark in the town’s entertainment precinct. However, over the past five years its ‘Seedy Leedy’ reputation had largely eliminated any desire I had to walk through the building’s beautifully molded door frames.

All of this changed last week, when I attended a ‘long table dinner’ within the freshly renovated interior of the Hotel’s new pop-up establishment, Bill’s Bar and Bites. After tentatively stepping over the threshold, I was immediately impressed by the beautifully relaxed aesthetic. Warm exposed brick sat comfortably beside pared-back plaster, greenery and timber furnishings, effortlessly harnessing the charm of old-meets-new.

billsoutside

Venue manager Dwight Alexander is an affable gentleman who immediately makes you feel welcome in what has become his ‘second home’. He describes the menu at Bill’s in three words: ‘perfect for sharing’. Upon tucking into a plate of salumi, jamon serrano, crumbly fourme d’ambert, pickled stone fruit and green olives, I would definitely agree.

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sangriaAward-Winning Executive Chef Damien Young (previously of The Butterworth Bar and Kitchen) and his tattooed right-hand man, Jeremy, have created a beautiful selection of quality shareable eats that range between $4 and $15.

We started with the above mentioned charceuterie plate and some duck and manchego cigars ($5 each with piquant green tomato chutney), all of which were perfectly accompanied by a dry glass of Fino and plentiful sweet Sangria ($27 for 750ml). These were followed by my favourite dish of the night, pink snapper ceviche. Soft slivers of sweet white snapper were perfectly complimented by creamy avocado, flecks of chilli and soft green herbs in a gentle blanket of acidity. I could’ve eaten an entire serving and left feeling satisfied. It was that good.

table2

But no, I didn’t leave. Instead, I tucked into tender slow-roasted lamb shoulder accompanied by house-pickled vegetables, warm jalapenos, soft goats curd and fresh green herbs. This was followed by slow-roasted, Baharat-spiced chicken with fennel and yoghurt, warm Moreton Bay bugs (accompanied by my favourite green of the moment, salty samphire cooked in burnt butter) and a tumble of roasted radishes with slippery Tuscan kale.

lamb

As I ate, I sipped on a delicious Spanish red, Felix Solis ‘Castillo De Albai’ Tempranillo ($10 glass, $44 bottle). Speaking of beverages, Bill’s prides itself on its $15 house cocktails and an eclectic mix of hops that start at $4.50 for an Emu Export before progressing through to a pleasing range of delicious craft beers.

Emu Export. I haven’t drunk from the red can since my bonfire days as a thirteen year old in the sticks of suburbia. I might have to revisit those days of happy abandon (with a side of Fremantle sardines).

menu

Our meal finished with Bill’s ‘dessert of the day’, sweet poached pears in anise syrup, fresh oozy figs and creamy mascarpone. Whilst slathering the goodness over sweet honey-toasted brioche, discussion naturally progressed towards the future of this beautiful pop-up bar.

cutlery

Hotel general manager Jason Antczak presently states that the Bill’s concept is time-limited to nine months, after which the entire Leederville Hotel site is set to be further developed.

Whilst the creative team behind the present Bill’s incarnation (including Perth creative Cale Mason and interior designers Project BLAK) are sure to come up with something equally impressive, I have to say that I’ve already become slightly attached to the warm, inviting goodness that is Bill’s Bar and Bites. I’m certain that this new addition to the Leederville strip will soon become a favourite of many.

window

Thanks to Georgia Moore, Damien Young, Dwight Alexander and Jason Antczak for your generous hospitality during the long table dinner. *See Bill’s full menu here.

Bill’s Bar and Bites

Open 7 nights, 4pm – late

742 Newcastle St, Leederville WA

(08) 9202 8222

must winebar. cool for cats summer series

glass

There’s something quintessential about cocktails and summer. Not that cocktail drinking can’t be a winter activity, but… well, as soon as the barometer starts rising, I’m craving the closest booze over ice.

Not just any booze… something deliciously refreshing, distinct but light, naturally infused with citrus, mint, herbs or berries. Something like the Ginuary from Must Winebar‘s Cool for Cats summer menu.

Cool for Cats is a promotion being run by chef and owner Russell Blaikie and his talented team at Must Winebar for the entire month of January. To help patrons ‘cool down’ from the scorching summer temperatures, the bar is offering a new short menu of bar snacks, gin-based cocktails and sangria from 4-7pm each day, with wines and Champagne being sold at bottle-shop prices.

sign menu

I first sampled the delights of Cool for Cats on Monday 6th December 2014 as a guest of Russell Blaikie and his creative team. It was a scorching day; 40 degrees C to be exact. After cooling down with some water, we sampled the entire range of Cool for Cats promotional cocktails, delicious bar snacks and sangria whilst chatting to Russell and his head barman, Marz.

About ten minutes into the evening, I berated myself for forgetting my camera. A semi-exclusive invitation, an event launch, Perth food personalities… the camera wielding should have come automatically. But, well… no. Between my day job, recipe development and everything else, I guess I’m still adjusting to the ‘public foodie’ thing. Very slowly.

restaurant

Cue Thursday evening, 9th December 2014. I sent my husband a message on my way home from work, proposing the idea of a visit to Must for both blogging and comparison purposes. Blogging in the respect that I needed some decent photographs for Monday’s event post. Comparison in regards to, well… comparison.

In short, I wanted to see whether the ‘average patron’ would get the same impeccable food, cocktails and service as we received during the launch party. Aaron was agreeable, mostly due to my raving reviews of Marz’s delicious ‘smoked negroni’ cocktail from Monday night.

bar

We arrived just before six pm. The bar was reasonably quiet; a few patrons sat sipping slowly from a pitcher of iced sangria. We scanned the room, settling on seats at the centre bar.

After a quick glance at the menu, I realized that there was no smoked negroni. And no Marz (see * below). However, after a chat with the barman (he explained that he could make me a regular negroni but not a smoked one) I ordered a Prince Harry (whisky, lime, bitters and vanilla sugar, from the regular cocktail menu) and a seasonal Ginuary (Sipsmith London gin, elderflower liqueur, apple, bitters and ginger beer, from the Cool for Cats summer menu).

Our food choices were a spicy prawn gazpacho shot ($5) and the ‘Must’ fish and frites ($19).

bar2

stools2The fish arrived promptly; four crisp pieces of whiting accompanied by thick homemade tartare and an enamel cup of golden frites. We grazed happily whilst awaiting our drinks and I’m pleased to say that the dish was exactly as I remembered it from Monday. The moist, delicate fish was lightly coated in a crispy batter, perfectly portioned for dunking into the thick, piquant tartare.

The frites were thin, crisp and lightly salted. Aaron and I fought each other for the last three.

fish chip

Our drinks arrived half-way through the cup of frites.I had sampled the Ginuary on Monday so I knew exactly what to expect: an easy-drinking, delicately floral cocktail with notes of elderflower, ginger and juniper. It arrived tall, with plenty of ice and a fresh mint garnish.

Aaron’s Prince Harry was presented in a vanilla-sugar-rimmed Martini glass. It was delicious, with dominant whisky notes (from the Monkey Shoulder whisky and Lochan Ora whisky liqueur) and a bitter finish that was beautifully softened by the sugar rim. I’m not entirely sure why it was called a Prince Harry, but… well, it was orange. And perfectly delicious.

glassrimmenu2For some reason, our gazpacho shot was momentarily forgotten; an attentive waiter chased it up after taking our second round of cocktail orders. It arrived soon afterwards, a proud prawn protruding from a chive-garnished shot glass of vivid red.

It was delicious; fresh, plump and beautifully spiced. However, the presentation definitely fell below that of Monday’s launch party with Russell Blaikie. It took me three photographs to get something that didn’t resemble a dismembered finger in a bloodied glass. Here’s the result:

prawngaz

Compare this shot to Bryton Taylor’s snap of Monday night’s offering. Just a small difference in presentation, but… well, we do ‘eat with our eyes’. Rest assured, both versions were equally gorgeous in the eating.

Bryton also has some delicious snaps of Rusty’s Ribs ($19), Russell Blaikie’s own recipe based on the (in)famous ribs from Naughty Nuri’s in Ubud, Bali. On Monday, the pork ribs were succulent, sticky and fall-off-the-bone wonderful, accompanied by a refreshing pickled vegetable salad.

We didn’t order this dish on Thursday, however I’d definitely recommend it if you’re visiting Must during the Cool for Cats summer season. It’s meat perfection, Bali style. So, so good.

finAaron’s second cocktail was Purple Print, bourbon with Creme de Mure (blackcurrant liqueur), cranberry, blueberry jam and mint.

This cocktail arrived with a dollop of blueberry jam on shaved ice, which immediately screamed ‘overly sweet’ to me; however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was perfectly balanced with bourbon heat and acidic cranberry.

purple restaurant2

I ended with a glass of smooth Spanish Tempranillo, the name of which evades me, whilst occasionally stealing blueberries from Aaron’s Purple Print. We chatted happily, watching a trickle of dinner patrons slowly fill the seated dining area. By 7.30pm, we drained our glasses and settled the bill.

After two visits to Must’s Cool for Cats summer cocktail series, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a classy summer sundowner along the hallowed Beaufort Street strip. Chef/owner Russell Blaikie, head chef Andre Mahe and head barman Marz have created a beautiful collection of memorable drinks and snacks that have a deliciously light, casual feel. They’re perfect for scoffing after a hard day at work or for sharing with friends.

bottles

Thanks to Russell Blaikie, Sipsmith Independent Spirits and the Must team for a memorable introduction to the Cool for Cats summer cocktail series.

*Update from 13/01/2014: I’ve received information from Must that the smoked negroni is now on the Cool for Cats menu! It’s got delicious Sipsmith gin, Campari, Pedro Ximenez Lustau sherry and aromatic bitters, all smoked over aromatic orange woodchips before being served over an ice sphere. Perthians, get there. Now!

Must Winebar

Open 7 Days, 12 noon – 12 midnight (*Cool for Cats 4-7pm daily in the bar)

519 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA

(08) 9328 8255

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