bread in common, fremantle

restaurant

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.

horse

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.

kitchen2

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.

drinksguy2

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.

roof

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.

coffee

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).

eggs

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.

breadrack

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…

kitchenbreadrack2

Bread in Common

43 Pakenham Street, Fremantle WA 6160

(08) 9336 1032

Sun – Thurs: 10am – 10pm

Friday – Saturday: 10am – late

globes

Advertisements

EAT. DRINK. BLOG. the classroom cocktail and cuisine masterclass

glasses

There’s something surreptitiously naughty about drinking an espresso martini whilst sitting cross-legged on the floor of a room that resembles your school library.

Whether this was an intended effect of The Classroom‘s education-themed decor, I’m not sure. Either way, I felt fleetingly like the coolest kid in the class whilst attending the Eat Drink Blog Cocktail and Cuisine Masterclass on Sunday 10th November 2013.

barwindow

The Classroom is a small bar situated on Charles Street in North Perth that specialises in ‘cocktail gastronomy’ or cocktail and food matching. Established in 2012 by chef Daniel Sterpini and his business partner Adam Keanes, The Classroom has since gone from strength to strength, winning the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) ‘ Mixology and Cocktail Menu of the Year’ in 2012 and ‘Best WA Cocktail Bar’ in 2013.

The team behind The Classroom describe the inspiration for their small bar to be ‘fun and education’… taking patrons back to the days when ‘learning was fun’. Upon entering the premises, it’s immediately obvious that they’ve executed their concept well: contact covered menus litter the front bar whilst neon backpacks hang joyously above the front entrance. Spirits sit snugly within a wall of modified lockers, right near to a pin-board of pencil drawings.

It’s school, the way it wasn’t supposed to be.

classroombags backroom

After acquainting ourselves with the surroundings, our ‘class’ was introduced to teacher number one: Andrew Bennett, The Classroom’s bar manager and resident mixologist. Andrew amiably introduced himself before leading us through a mysterious secret door from the ‘classroom’ into the ‘school library’ where he demonstrated the science behind one of the bar’s most popular cocktails: LN2 Espresso Martini ($22).

andrewNow, before you balk at the price, let me give you the rundown on this little concoction: one pure Darkstar espresso shot, shaken and strained with The Classroom’s secret espresso mix (apparently this has notes of vanilla bean, pure coffee and Pedro Ximénez) topped with mascarpone sherry foam and liquid nitrogen (LN2/-196 degrees C turning the drink into a delicious iced concoction) before being dusted with shaved couverture chocolate. As Andrew explains, it’s like the best parts of espresso, tiramisu and cappuccino in one deliciously boozy, science-dusted hit.

I was seriously impressed (even if he did forget his safety glasses whilst pouring the LN2). preparing liquidnitro2cocktail

Whilst the bar staff formed a production line to complete our class cocktails, we were introduced to The Classroom’s teacher number two: head chef Daniel Sterpini.

Daniel explained his very complex, gastronomically-matched dessert to us in the most ‘teacherly’ of ways: kneeling on the floor (my quick snap gave him an unfortunate magic hand; he was regrettably being bombarded by cameras whilst explaining the dessert elements).

dandessertDaniel’s dessert, the Asteroid Rocher, was apparently inspired by an affogato combined with a Ferrero Rocher chocolate. Upon tasting the dish, I could understand his train of thought.

The smooth nougat ice cream and rich coffee ganache contrasted beautifully against the crunch of homemade honeycomb and pop rocks, just like the textural qualities of a Ferrero chocolate. Pistachio dirt, crystallised violets and blueberries added an earthy, fresh element, rounding out the floral complexity of the smooth coffee ganache.

Surprisingly, the smoky, smooth roasted banana mousse was my favourite element of the dish; smooth, complex and light, with a perfect balance of roasted caramel. When eaten alongside sips of the LN2 martini, the sweet, smooth smokiness contrasted beautifully against the bitter, robust elements of the coffee in a happy revelation.

dessert dessertaerial

For a brief moment, I entirely understood the unique drive behind Dan, Adam and Andrew’s ‘cocktail gastronomy’. It’s an endless, complex and multifaceted journey into the science of food and drink; the building blocks of taste, texture, visual presentation and aroma.

Witnessing the passion behind their product was inspiring.

liquidnitrogen

dan

I drove home in a state of quiet, deliberate contemplation. Whilst I’m not entirely sold on the idea of matching cocktails to each course (partly due to my obsession with South Australian shiraz), I’m interested in furthering my ‘education’ in cocktail mixology and food matching over the summer months… starting with a ‘Moroccan Affair’ (house-made rhubarb cordial and Tanqueray gin with extra deliciousness).

glasssilhouette

The Eat Drink Blog: Cocktail and Cuisine Masterclass was hosted and sponsored by The Classroom bar, Unit 1/356 Charles Street, North Perth WA 6006. Thanks to Andrew Bennett, Daniel Sterpini and The Classroom team for their patience, time and generosity. This blog post is a non-sponsored reflection of my personal experience at this event. Thanks again to the Eat Drink Blog committee for their hard work in organizing this masterclass.

EAT. DRINK. BLOG. conference, perth 2013

edbsign

Last weekend, I was privileged to attend the fourth annual Eat Drink Blog conference at Perth City Farm in East Perth, Western Australia. Spanning an entire Saturday and half of Sunday, the conference included nine learning modules, a fully sponsored Saturday night pop-up dinner and three half-day elective masterclasses, all of which required huge amounts of pre-event organisation.

So, before I write about anything else, I want to say a huge thank you to the dedicated, ever-smiling committee who organised this generous event for Australian bloggers. None of this would have happened without you.

bags

Saturday 09/11/2013: EAT DRINK BLOG Conference

Perth City Farm is a lush, green oasis situated by the scattered grey landscape of Health Department buildings on Royal Street in East Perth. Built on the remnants of a former scrap metal yard, it now incorporates a sprawling community garden, urban farm and organic cafe, the latter of which stocks organic artisan bread from Loafers.

On Saturday mornings from 8am – 12 noon, the Farm plays host to a market full of small-batch cheeses, organic fruit and vegetables, free range eggs, biodynamic meats, homemade soaps and unrefined honey. Keen crowds mingle with passionate growers and producers in a happy dance, often to live bands or acoustic guitar.

rooster2

Upon arriving at the Farm, I immediately felt lifted by the smell of fresh apples and citrus bathed in soft morning sun. As I wove my way through groups of sticky children to the rear function room (a.k.a timber shed), I spotted a few people snapping photos of crusty bread with DSLR cameras. Bloggers? Quite possibly.

No, probably.

sign

The shed entrance was bordered by smiling fruit vendors who seemed slightly amused by the trickle of camera-wielding food bloggers who soon disappeared within. As I descended the stairs to register, I was greeted by the smile of an amiable volunteer. Lanyard, check. Program, check. My feet gravitated towards the steam rising from the 5 Senses coffee machine.

The first two meters of conference space were cluttered with slightly apprehensive, disquieted individuals who were assumedly attending a blogging conference for the first time. Their expressions mimicked the butterfly ramming the wall of my gut – excited, in a trapped kind of way.

As a fledgling blogger of eighteen months, I was completely unaccustomed to seeing groups of food bloggers (and their cameras) in a single confined space. Glazed pastries from Jean Pierre Sancho, Australian pears and ice-packed yoghurt from West n’Fresh were surrounded by a wall of bloggers searching for the best camera angles. I took some quick snaps before continuing my quest for coffee.

yoghurt pears

My coffee order was scrawled onto a paper cup by one of the deluged-but-smiling baristas at the 5 Senses coffee area. The air in the shed was hot due to external humidity and incessant sunshine, only slighty offset by oscillating fans.

I waited in the crowd, checking each appearing cup for the inked version of my name. Thankfully, the order was completed just before the official conference ‘welcome’ began. I squirreled myself, coffee cup in hand, into a nearby seat between Andrea from Noshbites and Jamie from Gourmet Male.

I sat, sipping thoughtfully as the beautiful Ai-Ling from Blue Apocalypse introduced the program for the day. Unfortunately, I remember very little apart from the toasty, rich, delicately floral coffee in that paper cup. Coffee can do that to you (thank goodness for paper programs).

coffee

The rest of the day was a haze of learning modules, panel discussions, food breaks and practical demonstrations including an interactive coffee workshop from Charles Stewart and Jeremy Hulsdunk (barista and customer services manager at 5 Senses Coffee/Perth Australian Barista Academy) and a breakdown on mobile blogging and social networking issues by Thang Ngo (blogger and food writer at Noodlies, see his presentation and the results of his conference survey here).

The official program is available here, incorporating relevant topics such as working with media and Public Relations, ‘sponsored posts’, ethical and legal issues within the world of copyright, blogging and photography. The speakers were dynamic, varied and utterly enthusiastic (despite the heat and huge amounts of sleep-inducing food) including:

  • Adam Roberts – cookbook author, food writer and United States blogger at Amateur Gourmet
  • Ed Charles – internet consultant, journalist and blogger at Tomato
  • Jeremy Hulsdank – above mentioned barista and customer services manager at 5 Senses Coffee/Perth Australian Barista Academy
  • Russell Blaikie – head chef and manager of MUST Wine Bar in Mount Lawley and Muster bar and grill in Margaret River
  • Michael Tucak – arts lawyer from Creative Legal
  • Cynthia Chew – food writer and blogger from The Food Pornographer
  • Phil Lees – social media manager and food writer from The Last Appetite
  • Max Brearley – freelance journalist and blogger at Pub Diaries
  • Emma Galloway – cookbook author, ex-chef and blogger at My Darling Lemon Thyme
  • Sophie Budd – chef at Taste Budds caterers and cooking school
  • Anthony Georgeoff – editor of Spice magazine, blogger at Manthatcooks
  • Simon Park – photographer and blogger at The Heart of Food
  • Thang Ngo – above mentioned food writer, commentator and blogger at Noodlies
  • Paul Kilmurray – founder of Urban Locavore (project involving WA artisan producers, delivering fresh produce to your door)
  • Kiren Mainwaring – head chef from the incredible Co-Op Dining restaurant in East Perth

If you’d like to peruse some of the very worthy write-ups from other attendees of the event, please follow the media link here. There are also some incredible photo diaries such as Rachi’s snapshots on Le Bon Vivant.

I’d also like to echo the common thanks expressed by attendees to the incredibly generous food sponsors including the team at European Foods (the primary event sponsors) who created an incredible continental lunch spread with freshly-shaved jamon, Scotch eggs with truffle aioli, cheeses, antipasti, Baci chocolates and San Pellegrino drinks. Brownes dairy sponsored the venue whilst also providing creamy milk for coffees throughout the day (thanks again to the tireless baristas at 5 Senses coffee). Morning and afternoon tea cakes, tarts and other treats were provided by Littlesweet baking and Red Hot Spatula catering. We were well and truly spoiled.

littlesweetAfter the conclusion of the official program, we had just under two hours for drinks at the nearby Royal on the Waterfront before heading back to the venue for a Pop-up Twilight Market dinner. Thanks to Matt at Inspired Food, Jemima from Feed Your Soul, Perth, Jamie at Gourmet Male and Dianne at Travelletto for the ciders, laughs and perfect company. Two hours has never gone so quickly.

buttys

Saturday 09/11/2013: POP-UP Dinner

The air had cooled considerably by the time we made our way back to the urban farmstead. Shadows fell on the pavement in dappled forms as dry leaves crackled underfoot.

We wove our way through the front gates into the main courtyard of the farm, where food bloggers congregated around plastic tables. They sipped from mint-tinged cups of Jax Coco and crunched on crisp-fried empanadas from Marcelita’s Colombian foods. Music hummed in the background, setting a merry rhythm as vendors assembled their wares.

galafrey hall Matt, Jemima and I decided to share plates in an effort to sample everything in one giant hit (we were slightly unrealistic, as we were still defeated by Butty’s burger van).

Our first stop was Jax Coco for incredible coconut water cocktails followed by a glass of 2010 Tempranillo Shiraz from Mount Barker-based Galafrey wines. The latter was delicious; peppery and fruit driven, a perfect accompaniment to chewy, hand-stretched Old Lira pizza and succulent pork and potato empanadas from Marcelitas.

empanadasAfter crunching our way through an empanada each, we visited Bangkok Jump Street for crispy pork crackling salad and Pad Thai. The combination of flavours and textures in the salad was incredible; soft herbs and dressed greens with crunchy crackling and cubes of tender pork. Great food made even better by the friendly vendors serving it.

jumpstreetIn reflection, my very favourite food truck was the Jumplings dumpling van. Juicy, soft Japanese-style duck dumplings in ponzu sauce with chilli and coriander? My version of dumpling heaven. I’d encourage you to check their facebook page often so that you can stalk them every day of the week. On hot days, they also wear Chux wipes as sweatbands. I like.

jumplings

I failed to get a picture of the Delish Ice artisan ice-pops van, but I can assure you that those girls know how to make a delicious popsicle. I tried their wonderful passionfruit, mint and lime (as they had run out of the very unique basil and elderflower with gin syrup).

The popsicle was ice-cold, tropical and refreshing, like the best parts of a fruity mojito on a hot summer’s day, as was an ice-cold gin and tonic with West Winds uniquely Australian Sabre gin (unfortunately they had run out of Cutlass, instilled with coriander and bush tomato… I’m on the hunt to buy myself a bottle).

By the end of the evening, we were full of heart, mind and stomach, ready for sleep before the next day’s elective adventures began. Thanks again to the Eat Drink Blog Committee and all of the sponsors for an unforgettable foodie experience. I can’t wait for next year.

*Click here for my experience at Sunday 10/11/2013: Cocktail and Cuisine Masterclass at The Classroom

aaron. an appreciation post

Az2

A couple of months ago, the beautiful Amanda from i am baker posted a recipe for a classic vanilla cheesecake with a double-thick graham cracker crust. But it wasn’t just any cheesecake recipe, it was her husband’s favourite… right down to the extra-thick, buttery crust.

The aim of this post wasn’t just to share her husband’s favourite cheesecake recipe. It was the first of a series of ‘Appreciation Posts’ written by bloggers across the globe, the aim of which was to say ‘thank you’ to our long-suffering partners for their support, love and (endless) patience as we’ve embarked upon our food blogging journeys. A worthy cause indeed.

potsedited

bandroom

Now, if you read the list of existing ‘Appreciation Posts’ in Amanda’s original publication, you’ll realize that I’m a little behind in publishing my own. The main reason for this is the fact that I wanted my own appreciation post to tie in with our second wedding anniversary, the date of which is next Tuesday: 12th November 2013. Sentimental, yes. But hey, that’s me.

So without further ado, let me introduce you to my ridiculously handsome love, Aaron:

mylove

He’s my husband, best friend, encourager and creative partner. He’s been there through the highest and lowest points of my life, gently encouraging, challenging and supporting me as required.

Aaron kindly agreed to answer the set of routine questions posed in the ‘Appreciation Post’ series. His responses are as follows (with a few of my italicized notes in brackets):

1. What are the best and worst things about being married to a food blogger?

The obvious answer is that you get to eat incredibly well. But I also like seeing Laura have a passion for something that motivates her to learn and improve. And it’s great that she enjoys cooking for others. I get to have my good friends come over, have an amazing feast, then play a game of Settlers. I think that Kings didn’t live so well. Maybe the worst thing is going to the shops with her and watching her take 5 minutes to choose between identical loaves of bread.

3. Out of the props that Laura uses, what’s your favourite?

I’m a big fan of natural materials. Anything made of wood… Or things that are old and worn. I like our chopping board (Aaron made this for me out of a piece of discarded Jarrah. He polished it with organic beeswax and it’s become one of my very favourite things).

4. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve seen her do for a blog post?

Honestly, the weirdest thing for me is that she will intentionally get up an hour earlier every morning before work to write posts or respond to messages. I would choose sleep every time.

5. What’s your favourite recipe of Laura’s (not necessarily on the blog)?

Laura makes the most amazing salads. But my favourite is always crispy skinned salmon with some asparagus and roast potatoes*.

bottlesedited

6. If you had your own blog, what would it be called?

I have the beginnings of one on my website, MonsterBot.net. But if it was a food blog, it would probably be called ‘Steak is Good Enough’.

7. Do you have a favourite blog?

I constantly go back to boingboing.net. It’s a site with a number of contributors who write about a lot of different things. Some geeky, some arty, some political. It’s interesting.

8. How do you cope with the constant photo-taking/social media/blog world craziness?

Haaa, I love it because when Laura is working on her blog, I get to go play (PC) games.

9. Who does the dishes?

Laura used to insist on doing them because “…[she] made the mess”. I used to insist on doing them because Laura’s the one that cooks everything. Now it’s whoever gets to them first. Laura does more than me though.

10. What do you do for your day job and what are your favourite hobbies?

I used to be a bricklayer, which I am still sometimes involved in. Every now and then I go to a local film studio to work on an animation they’re doing. I spend most of my time working on a design and illustration business. As far as hobbies go, I love visiting cafes with friends, reading sci-fi/fantasy, playing games, watching movies and going to the gym or for a run. In summer, the beach and late-night volleyball are the go. Then there is art, travel and music… finding a good bar or chill out spot down some forgotten alleyway in the city. Car trips down south, nice wine. There is so much to do! I believe strongly that work-time is not time that’s written-off. In fact, it’s a privilege and something to be thankful for (even when work is sometimes horrible). But the best of life is in the in-between bits.

paperdaisies

So, that’s a very short introduction to the amazing man on the other side of the messy table (or more frequently, the couch). If you’d like to get to know him a little more, he’ll be sporadically blogging over at MonsterBot (where you can also see his evolving illustration and design work).

To Aaron: thanks my love, for two years of marriage. Thanks for being the strong but gentle, inspiring, loving and God-fearing man that you are. Thanks for putting up with my quirks, weaknesses, inadequacies and flaws… you’re constantly helping me to grow and to become a better version of myself. Thanks for believing in me, even when I succumb to doubt. I love you endlessly and I always will.

Laura & Aaronblog

Concluding photograph courtesy of Lance Chicote @ Lanceshotme creative photography. Other photographs by myself and Aaron during various walks around Perth city.

*I intended for this post to be accompanied by a recipe for crispy skinned salmon with asparagus and smoked roast potatoes (Aaron’s favourite) but an exceptionally busy week has defeated me. I hope to post the recipe some time in the next fortnight with a link back to this post.

south west rambling

sheep!

A couple of weeks ago, my husband booked a surprise trip to the tiny town of Quinninup to celebrate my thirtieth birthday. We stayed in an old raised timber cottage surrounded by karri forest on the banks of the aptly-named Karri River.

It was beautiful; the kind of place that provides an immediate sense of calm. Mismatched furniture sat proudly upon floorboards and a handmade woven rug in the tiny living room. As the sun was absorbed by inky blackness, Aaron set to work placing rough-cut logs, kindling and newspaper into an old pot belly stove. Flames became fire, fire became warmth. Perfect remedy to the encroaching south west chill.

cottage cows

Despite it being springtime, the nights were cold and quiet throughout the entirety of our stay. Perfect for red wine, warm blankets and filling meals eaten fireside. We spent lazy days in the small towns of the south west, exploring vineyards, caves, abandoned logging trains and open patches of forest. It was blissful, in every sense of the word (*the cow second to the right has the best cowlick I’ve ever seen).

farm

rail rustThough I’m not intending this post to be another Mess Guide (like my previous Margaret River and Melbourne posts) I thought I’d include a few snapshots, links and travel tips from our stay; mostly for those who are interested in exploring more of Western Australia’s south west.

Despite dozens of trips over the years, it’s still one of my favourite places to go for a holiday. I mean that; wine country, fresh air, organic food and plenty of open space to walk, breathe, stop and… just exist. When I think of recuperation, I think of the south west. I’m blessed that it’s only three hours from my hometown.  trainbitgreendoorOn our second day in Quinninup, we took a drive to the nearby town of Pemberton. In a patch of karri forest, we discovered winding pathways, tiny creatures and hand-etched trees.

Approximately 500 metres from the road, there was also a timber hut constructed from fallen tree bark, branches and vines. It looked reasonably old, but remarkably intact. An adjacent fallen tree propped up half of the hut with its momentous stability. The whole structure conveyed a sense of history, creativity and ‘story’ that will forever be unknown to us; a sharp contrast to the growing scrawls of history on this karri tree:lovetree

aaronontreehouse

Our journey brought us to a winding unsealed road in search of organic sourdough from Yallingup Woodfired Bread. Aaron had visited this bakery during a previous trip to the south west but largely forgot where it was; after some navigational adjustments, our car pulled up beside a hand-painted concrete sign:

bakerysign

The bakery uses an honor system for payment: choose your bread and drop your pennies in an earthenware bowl. It’s trust and simplicity, country style. The way life used to be.

breadhonorbakery breadeditedThat evening, we ate bread by the fireplace, each chunk dipped into local Mount of Olives extra virgin olive oil and toasty Providore dukkah. Each mouthful was washed down with a new favourite wine from Stella Bella vineyard, the 2009 Serie Luminosa Cabernet Sauvignon: deep, dark vine-ripened fruits, mellow oak and fine tannins with a lingering finish.

Snuggled under blankets, we watched three episodes of the largely unappreciated Firefly (which we’d brought from home; I’d still barrack for a continuation of this series) before drifting off to sleep. twigs

Our second day in the south west was mostly spent touring vineyards and caves, with a breakfast stop at the Margaret River Bakery (regular readers will know that I adore that place).

As the sun dropped in the sky, we stopped in at the ‘Pemby Pub’, also known as the Best Western Pemberton Hotel. We drank beer by the open fire before feasting on gnocchi, calamari, chips and coleslaw with tinned baby beetroot.

The timber furniture and emerald carpet oozed old-style country hospitality, accentuated by a request from the bar staff that we ‘chuck another log on the fire’. I loved everything, even their unidentifiable red sauce (Aaron’s guess was barbecue, mine was sweet chilli mixed with plum). Everything tastes better in the country air.

stools pubpembypub

The last two days of our trip were spent in a beach shack in Augusta where we were joined by our good friend Paul. We took a road trip to Dunsborough beach and spent an hour exploring the sand dunes, rocks and sea foam.

The south west has some of the most beautiful, unadulterated beaches in the world. No fancy cafes, water fountains or throngs of sun-baking teens. Just air, sea, sand and windswept grass with an occasional fisherman by the coastline.

sandsunset landlubbers grassscene gorgeous grassy

Our remaining time was spent seeking out boutique vineyards, jetties and cafes that Paul hadn’t tried yet. We also took advantage of our beach shack’s positioning by the Hardy Inlet, where moss covered jetties gave way to sea bird nests, tranquil lookouts and pelicans on rocks.

jetty timberrrr pelicans

With Paul’s help, we found Pierro vineyard, nestled in an idyllic patch of lush garden. The boys tasted premium Chardonnay whilst I explored an old country farmhouse, a rambling vegetable garden and knobbly vines. I’m a little obsessed with ochre, rust and crumbling aged timber.

vinebalcony

pierrodoor

fruit

We also stopped in at the Berry Farm Cottage Cafe for boysenberry pie, scones and bird watching. This was my first sighting of an Western Australian blue wren. Fascinatingly delicate and vibrant.

berryfarmstudy boysenberrypie2 boysenberrypie bluewren

Our last night in the south west was spent at Russell Blaikie’s Muster Bar and Grill. We dined on snapper, eye fillet, dukkah-baked pumpkin and pork belly with two bottles of earthy Shiraz.

It was a beautiful celebration of the week-that-was; a week of little responsibility, ambrosial calm, luscious greenery, perfect simplicity. Sometimes I wonder why we city dwellers have made life so unnecessarily complicated. I’ve renewed my wish for a house in the country someday, surrounded by an organic vegetable garden, dairy cows and scratching chickens.

In the meantime, it’s back to the hamster wheel. I’m due at work in thirty minutes and I’m still in my pyjamas. Until next time.

happy blogiversary to me

blogiversary

It’s hard to believe that it’s been one year and three days since I published my first recipe post on WordPress.com. On 21st May 2012, my recipe for Frangipane Tart with Rhubarb Pomegranate Compote and Pistachio Crumble was launched into cyberspace with photography (including editing) by my husband, Aaron and food styling, recipe prep and text by yours truly. It attracted six comments; 50% were responses from me and 30% were from friends and family. The last comment arrived much later, written by Azita from Fig and Quince. I believe we were discussing uses for pomegranates after Azita posted a delicious recipe series on this unique fruit, including instructions to make homemade Roe’beh Anâr (Pomegranate molasses). And that was it. We were blogging friends… which later turned into blogging sisters. I love how the medium of blogging crosses cultural boundaries, language barriers, distances and time zones seamlessly. In the past year, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of communicating with amazing cooks, writers and photographers around the world. I’ve learned much, shared much and enjoyed every minute.

So, as this post commemorates the one-year-mark of my blogging career (if you can call it that!), I’m going to share a few growth points that have happened in the home (and brain) of Laura over the past twelve months. Here goes:

  • I’ve learned how to use Photoshop. Believe it or not, I had absolutely no idea about this miraculous program when my first post was launched one year ago. I never had any use for it (as I’m normally quite happy with my photographs) and to be honest, I only knew it existed through media reports of celebrity photos being ‘airbrushed’. However, in order to format, adjust and montage shots for publication, I had to learn. My teacher? The very patient, talented and loving Aaron (I think I learned fast). Since about post three, I’ve been photographing, editing and layering all of my own shots for every post. I’m pretty happy with my progress!
  • I’ve bought more kitchenware. Not sure if this is a positive or not, but I’ve become a little obsessed with obtaining small ramekins, vintage knives, shiny plates and bottles for food styling purposes. I’ve visited more charity stores (‘op-shops’ or ‘thrift stores’, depending upon where you’re from) in the past year than the previous ten years combined. It’s been huge amounts of fun.
  • I’ve absorbed about 2% of the world’s knowledge of HTML. HyperText Markup Language is freaking hard. Thank goodness WordPress does most of the hard work for us. With the assistance of HTML Dog and WordPress tutorials, I have learned a tiny bit though. A miniscule drop in the huge, complex HTML ocean. I’m hoping to learn more with time and persistence so that I can actually revamp this site and make it a little more customized. But, for now… I’ll refrain from further torturing my brain (ah, poetry!).
  • I’ve increased my nutritional knowledge. Through researching information for each post, I’ve actually learned a lot more about the nutritional qualities of many ingredients, including alternative flours, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds. It’s been hugely beneficial to our dietary intake; we now eat about 80% fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds (with the remaining 20% including meat, dairy, sugar and other carbohydrates). I can read your thoughts. Yes, I bake a lot of sweet goods! I do eat some of it, but the rest is gratefully shared… either at work, home or elsewhere.

lgrassdrinkmont

  • I’m gifted with superfluous garden and fridge products wherever I go. I mentioned this in my post for Indian Lime Pickle, but one of the benefits (and drawbacks) of being a food blogger is that people give you perishables. Lots of perishables. So far I’ve received homegrown limes, lemons, tomatoes, apples, a few red peppers, guavas, chillies, courgettes and bags of herbs. All fantastic (I actually get excited when I receive gifts like these; the ‘recipe development section’ of my brain goes haywire). I’ve also received half-finished bags of spinach, jars of half-finished pickles, limp supermarket herbs, Kraft String Cheese (Cheestiks, for Australians) that expired in 1996 (actually, this was really cool. They’d turned completely black and hard, and smelt like feet) and leftover bits of cheese. Sometimes cool, sometimes, uh… not. But, in saying this: any representatives of corporations or companies, if you want to give me stuff, I say YES. Especially if you work for the Hendricks gin factory. Please.
  • I feel like I have so much more to learn. The world of blogging is rich, multifaceted, humbling and inspiring. I read (or see, in terms of photography or art) so many people’s work and feel humbled at the level of skill, work and passion that’s gone into each and every post. I love the fact that I can learn pretty much anything I want to by clicking through to a particular blogger’s site. It’s amazing. It inspires me to become a better version of myself, both personally and in terms of blogging itself.

I intended to include my response to some recent awards I’ve been blessed with as part of this post, but… well, my verbal diarrhoea has flared up again. I’ll leave the awards post til next time.

I’m also working on a soon-to-be-completed recipe for sourdough, but you know what? My lovingly fed sourdough starter-baby (I named it ‘Glop’) died in the first Winter cold snap a couple of weeks ago. It now resembles a sad, thick jar of grey goop with a layer of liquid floating on the top. I mourned the loss of my starter with the beautiful Brydie from Cityhippyfarmgirl (my original sourdough teacher) and she’s offered to send me a carefully-packed portion of hers on Monday. I am certain that the bloggers are some of the best, most beautiful and generous people in the world. All of you remind me of that. Every single day.

kaleleafmontage-1

To end this post: a little story about last night’s dinner experience.

A few days ago, I purchased a large handful of chestnuts from my local farmer’s market. I’ve been eating chestnuts since I was a little girl; usually roasted at Christmastime, on an open fire at my grandparent’s house near the river Thames (in England). The smell, the crackle of the splitting skins, the beautiful, warm fragrant meat… every part of eating chestnuts revisits the six-year-old me. A time of fun, presents and minimal responsibility.

So, anyway; I squirreled this bag of chestnuts home, my breath fogging the cold air with puffs of excitement. They were stored in the fridge for two days before I fired up my oven to ‘roast’ them, in absence of an open fireplace. While the chestnuts roasted, I prepared a roast beetroot, fresh mint, goats cheese and walnut salad with lemon-infused oil. I heard a sound like gunfire… a clear, loud bang… and a rattle on the side of our old gas oven. Uh oh.

The oven door opened. The chestnuts were sizzling and fragrant, their shells cracking in the wafting heat. Tiny bits of exploded chestnut clung to the interior surface of the oven like soft white shrapnel. I lifted the tray out of the oven carefully and placed it on the cool hob.

Bang. I screamed. My face, hair and the tiled splash-back were peppered with tiny pieces of hot white chestnut. What an idiot. I placed a tea towel over the tray of chestnuts, annoyed at myself, before turning around. Another nut exploded behind me. It wasn’t restrained by the limp tea towel and sent more chestnut meat flying around the kitchen. I looked at my poor beetroot salad, which was now dusted with a fine white powder. No, not cocaine. Exploded chestnut.

About two minutes later, the chestnuts stopped sizzling and I breathed a sigh of relief. I went to the bathroom and started removing exploded chestnut from my hair, eyelashes, skin, cleavage (sorry to the male readers, but it’s true!) and nostrils. There’s a lot of meat in one tiny chestnut. I then cleaned the fine film of exploded chestnut off every surface in my kitchen. It covered a radius of about three metres. Once dry, exploded chestnut is quite hard to scrub off tiles.

I am now officially scared of roasted chestnuts. But, they were exceedingly tasty.

By the way, treatment for PCED (post-chestnut explosion disorder) included watching this video. It helped (watch it, amigos).

The end.

laurasun*thanks for sharing this blogging year with me!

love and other drugs

It’s a warm Saturday afternoon, and I’m sitting on the sofa listening to the dull roar of traffic on the highway. An intoxicating breeze is blowing through the door; warm, not hot, but pleasant enough to induce a sense of sleep. A sigh escapes which then becomes a yawn. My eyelids press shut and a watery, fatigue-induced tear trickles down my face.

Blink. It’s only 3:09pm. Much too early for sleep… well, unless you’re over sixty-five, but for me that’s a whole lifetime away. So, why the yawn? Well, it’s partly accumulated exhaustion from the week-that-was, for as per usual, I did far too much. I also woke up unusually early for a Saturday, 7:15am to be exact. By 8:30am my tired being was shivering in a cool room surrounded by hundreds of flower buckets, eagerly scrawling botanical names into a black notebook. No, I’m not getting married (that was so last year) and I’m not an event planner. However, if you did guess along those lines, you’d be partly right. In exactly three weeks, two lovely friends of mine are getting married and I’m excited to say that I’ve been blessed with the privilege of managing their flowers.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t exactly (nor remotely) have formal training in this area. I did, however, create a full range of impromptu bouquets, boutonnieres, posies and table settings for a beautiful wedding that took place around this time last year. Yep, I’ll humbly say that it was my own… a decision that was rashly made to save money. Strangely enough, I’ve been getting floristry requests ever since. Quite amusing really.

Anyway, back to this morning. By 10:30am I was sitting at a wonky mosaic table with the beautiful bride-to-be, the maid of honour and a pressed tin cup full of sugar at Boucla Kafenion. Over breakfast (I had a creamy bittersweet mocha followed by herby, caramelised mushrooms atop walnut toast, adorned with soft, lemony feta) we continued to plan, reminisce and laugh until our plates were empty and our hearts were full (yeah, it’s corny but true). I returned home to give my husband a kiss before baking a tin full of 70% dark cocoa, cherry and almond brownies.

Densely rich, they’re little squares of brownie heaven topped with Cherry Ripe, marshmallows, dessicated coconut, melted 70% organic dark chocolate and toasted almonds. I got the basic concept from here but used my own brownie recipe (minus walnuts) and an individual take on rocky road topping.

In case you’re wondering, there’s no exact recipe in today’s post. Apart from the brownies, I’ve done plenty of cooking over the past couple of weeks but in the midst of family gatherings, roast dinners and tapas nights there’s been no time to sit down and work out measurements and cooking times.

It’s a little frustrating in terms of the progress of my blog (or lack thereof!) but I can also honestly say that I love the fact that my food is consumed even faster than it’s made. When I look around the table at contented smiles, the only remnants being sticky hands and streaked plates, I’m a happy woman. It’s an investment of my energy and love, one plate at a time.

So, it’s a couple of hours til tonight’s hen’s night, which leaves me just enough time to stare over the balcony into the mottled greenness of the remaining afternoon. It’s making me contemplative… mostly about how I felt at this time last year, when it was just over three weeks til my own wedding. I was a flutter of nerves and excitement, steadied by the confirmation of love that I felt in my heart. Aaron was, and is, everything that I could have prayed for in a man. I feel blessed every time wake in the morning to see his ruffled hair and sleepy eyes, his skin imprinted with lines from his pillow. I’m thankful for the opportunity to love him, knowing that he loves me back in spite of my (multiple) flaws.

But that’s enough soppiness for one day. I promise that my next post will be full of recipe goodness… possibly the start of a Summer salad series (which may cause excitement for some of my friends who have christened me the ‘Salad Queen’). I’ll leave you with a list of some of the food that I’ve cooked over the past few weeks… if you’d like me to include any of the recipes in future posts, leave me a comment below. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Recent Mess:

  • Herbed roast pork with crackling, apple & rhubarb sauce and wine gravy
  • Paprika potatoes with lemon-infused sour cream
  • Moroccan-spiced carrots with tahini yoghurt dressing and pistachios
  • Roasted beetroot dip with yoghurt, cashews and cumin
  • Dukkah crusted lamb with thick tzatsiki
  • Orange, lavender & cinnamon-spiced pavlova with vanilla bean cream, strawberry & rhubarb preserve and fresh mint
  • Quinoa salad with beetroot, goat’s feta and mint
  • Balsamic roasted field mushrooms with bacon jam, pine nuts and feta
  • Green apple and walnut salad with herbs and lemon dressing
  • Oven-roasted, spiced chickpeas with sweet potato and parsley
  • Rum and raisin brownies
  • Oat crumble slice with cinnamon & blueberries
  • Paprika chicken with cacciatore sausage, zucchini, red wine and olives
  • Grilled asparagus with lemon oil, parmesan and lemon zest
  • Eye fillet steak with bacon and mushrooms, borlotti bean & lemon puree, Parmesan toasts and parsley salad
  • Strawberry, apple, orange and ginger Sangria
  • Gin cocktails with star anise, clove & cardamom infused orange syrup and fresh rosemary over ice

Extra note: the beautiful curry paste above was a present from a generous friend who lovingly made it from scratch. For a long time I’ve been intending to create a post with it as the centre, but in the midst of everything else it has not as yet happened. Thanks Sara for your thoughtfulness, generosity and friendship. Watch this space.

With The Grains

Whole Grains, Words and Wanderings by Quelcy

Cashew Kitchen

vibrant food. quiet soul. wild at heart.

Brooklyn Homemaker

modern classic recipes, story telling, and a little bit of history. Oh yeah, and schnauzers.

better than a bought one

as homemade should be

Chompchomp

Perth Food Blog | Restaurant Reviews | Food & Travel Blog | Gluten Free

The Veggy Side Of Me

Deliciousy Green...