A Tasty Month

I can’t believe April is almost over. It’s been such a hectic month, and it’s just flown by. But it’s been an enjoyable busyness, and I certainly preferred it over the languishing nothingness that seemed to define March.

One of the things I most enjoyed about this month was eating out in my home city. I love the ever expanding food scene in Perth. There are new places opening up all the time, which makes it nigh on impossible to get through all the cafes I’ve got on my ‘to-eat-at’ list. Add to this, it was school holidays, plus the weather has been absolutely glorious!

Seriously, autumn has been better than summer this year, with endless days of clear, blue skies and sunny afternoons. Daytime temperatures have been warmer than usual, while the mornings and evenings are crisp enough for cosy jumpers, but not bitingly cold. It’s simply divine, and the perfect weather for exploring and being outdoors.

In the lead-up to Easter, I cut out eating biscuits, chocolate, cakes and ice-cream, so I was definitely craving some sweet treats.  Consequently, I think I consumed more sugar in the week following Easter than I did in the month preceding it.

One meal which stands out from my recent foodie forays is the apple pie French toast which I ordered for breakfast at Jack & Jill, which is located in Kalamunda, a suburb in Perth’s hills. It was absolutely heavenly. The brioche toast was lathered with the most divine creme patisserie I’ve ever tasted- it felt like eating a cloud. (Or what I imagine eating a cloud would feel like!) The dish was complemented by apple and brandy butter, while a sprinkling of oat crumble provided some crunch, and pieces of rhubarb gave a touch of tang to this delectable dessert-style breakfast.

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I also had a decadent breakfast with my friend, Suz, at Little h. When we were in Kangaroo Island for our hike earlier in the month, I told Suz that this newly opened cafe was serving up red velvet pancakes, which led to many indulgent daydreams while eating yet another packet of beef jerky for dinner.

It was an exciting moment when we entered the sleek, modern cafe in Duncraig last Sunday and the waiter confirmed the pancakes were still available. The order was placed and before long, a plate of three ruby red pancakes with thick swirls of cream cheese frosting was placed in front of both of us. A dream was finally realised, though the pancakes were so rich that we almost felt as though we had to go on another hike to burn off the calories!

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As well as these delicious breakfasts, I’ve also enjoyed two outings to the family-and-furbaby friendly cafe, Slate; used up an $80 gift voucher at Shadow Wine Bar in Northbridge; tucked into a delightful pear and gorgonzola pizza at Comet Pizza, before polishing off a classic taiyaki ice-cream at neighbouring Whisk; eaten the most scrumptious choc-orange doughnuts for ‘lunch’ at my favourite restaurant, The Hummus Club (and got their amazing brownie to take away); celebrated a friend’s 30th with a high tea at Madhatter’s on Milston and chilled out with friends at Mandoon Estate on Anzac Day.

My sweet tooth has definitely been indulged this month, but there’s room for one more treat before April is out. Tomorrow, my brother and I are heading to Cafe 2TwentyFour in Belmont to try their brand new Raffaello milkshake. I can’t wait!

Rainbow in a Bowl

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My favourite meal to go out for is breakfast, which has come as a bit of a surprise given that I spent many, many years skipping it. There’s a couple of reasons why I finally started giving this meal the love it deserves. When I cut back from full time teaching to relief work, I had a lot more time on my hands. Suddenly, I could take my time with preparing and cooking breakfast. Most of all, though, I could now enjoy breakfast. When I worked full time, I was too preoccupied about making sure I was organised for all my lessons that day, meaning breakfast was a rushed affair, if, indeed, I ate anything at all- more often than not, an extra twenty minutes of sleep would win out.

The other reason for my newfound appreciation is the transformation that breakfast dishes started experiencing in cafes around Perth a couple of years ago. All of a sudden, there were a lot more options for the first meal of the day than toast, or bacon and eggs. Not that I have anything against traditional breakfast fare, but it was so interesting to see cafes getting creative with the flavour combinations they used to wake up your palate. Plates were now popping with fresh and colourful ingredients, presented so prettily that you’d feel slightly guilty about ruining a piece of (edible) art. Instagram was suddenly brimming with tantalising images of the best new breakfasts, which allowed you to feast with your eyes before having to make the difficult decision of which one to try first.

I’m not a morning person, but I found myself becoming strangely motivated to wake up early, and driving to suburbs which I would never usually be bothered venturing out to for a meal. Not only did some of the breakfasts inspire my own cooking at home, they got my day off to a great start because I felt like I was fuelling my body with nutritious food. Well, except for the cinnamon churros cup with bacon brittle shards. And the salted caramel pancakes with bananas, pecans and marscarpone. One time, breakfast may even have consisted of a Golden Gaytime milkshake, with the whole ice-cream in the glass. Ok, so maybe I don’t always go for the healthy options, but they’re satisfying all the same.

The reinvention of the breakfast game in Perth is showing no signs of slowing down, but in recent times, I’ve been on a stricter budget and have had to cut back on my a.m. outings. (If there’s one thing to note, these fancy breakfasts don’t come cheap!) However, when one of my uni friends suggested we catch up for breakfast today, as she was on mid-term break from school, I happily agreed. She suggested we catch up at a Northbridge cafe called Flora & Fauna, which suited me just fine as I’d been meaning to try it for ages.

My memories of Northbridge are mostly from my early 20s, when it used to be the place to go out clubbing with friends. Walking down Aberdeen Street at 9am on a Friday, the area looked very different from what I remembered, not to mention all the clubs I used to frequent were now sporting names I did not recognise. A sure sign that I’m getting old! It was the nicest surprise to turn down a lane and find the chic, vintage themed space from which Flora & Fauna operates. The kitchen itself is tiny, so tables are scattered outdoors in a courtyard.

The vibe of the cafe space is in complete contrast to the club that’s just around the corner. It instantly felt like the perfect place to get creative. As I waited for my friend and perused what food was on offer, I realised I could very easily spend the whole day here, working my way through the menu, because every single item sounded scrumptious. I settled upon the goji berry muesli, which came with seasonal fruits and yoghurt, while my friend eventually opted for smashed pumpkin on sourdough.

My stomach did a happy dance as a bountiful bowl of goodness was placed before me. In it was every colour of the rainbow, represented by a carefully arranged display of strawberries, watermelon, oranges, rockmelon, apples, kiwifruit, blueberries, passionfruit, and more. All the fruit was fresh and juicy, and the perfect accompaniment to crunchy muesli and creamy yoghurt. It took me ages to finish the generous serve, but no way was I leaving anything uneaten. This was a satiating breakfast to be savoured.

Nutritious and delicious- you can’t ask for a better way to start your day than that!

Fat Thursday

One of the things I love about my Polish heritage is all the traditions associated with it. My Polish background has always been a huge part of my identity, even though I can’t speak the language fluently- as a result, I often feel that I can’t celebrate my love for Poland with Polish family or friends to the extent that I would like.

Traditions are an important part of any culture, and I think they become extra special when you don’t actually live in the country where they are celebrated. They serve as a link, a connection, a way of remembering your roots, and where you come from- if such matters are important to you. For example, I doubt my brothers would be able to describe many Polish traditions- it’s just not an aspect of life that is of much interest to them. Even my dad, who was born in Poland, doesn’t go out of his way to celebrate them.

Thankfully, my mum is a great source of knowledge about Polish traditions, and I have always loved listening to her recount stories and memories of celebrating these traditions with her family in rural Poland. To me, these stories are absolute magic. I often feel nostalgic for events that I didn’t actually experience myself, as well as sorrow for the fact that we’ll never be able to replicate them here the way Mum describes in her past.

Funnily enough, the tradition of Tłusty Czwartek is one that Mum never really waxed lyrical about, so I was largely unfamiliar with it until a couple of years ago. This is both a good and bad thing- good, because it’s fun to still discover ‘new’ traditions in your late 20s, but also bad, because it means I’ve missed out on two decades worth of this tradition. And let’s just say, Tłusty Czwartek is not a tradition you want to miss out on.

What exactly is Tłusty Czwartek, I hear you ask? Well, it basically translates to ‘Fat Thursday’, and this is because it’s a Thursday pretty much designated for eating doughnuts. Yes, you read that correctly. Reason 102 why being Polish is awesome! The tradition stems from the upcoming season of Lent, which always begins six days after Tłusty Czwartek. Essentially, we pig out on pastries, particularly pączki (the Polish name for the jam doughnuts that are consumed on the day) before, theoretically, observing a fast period over the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Considering I’ve been having a Fat Week since I got back from Sri Lanka, I think it will be a good thing for me to give up sweets for the next seven weeks.

In the meantime, it was time to dine on some delicious doughnuts. Given my recent forays into cooking traditional Polish food, I decided Tłusty Czwartek provided the perfect reason to have a go at making my first ever pączki. After all, I’d experienced success with my attempts at making pierogi (Polish dumplings) and makowiec (poppy-seed cake) in the past couple of months. In fact, my Polish grandmother had been highly complimentary of both, and when Babcia says your food is good, then you wear that praise like a badge of honour. I envisioned rocking up to her house and proudly presenting her with a plate of palatable pączki.

Let’s just say, I was not third time lucky with my Polish cooking. It’s not that they were inedible, but, much like the failed Sri Lankan feast for my dad’s birthday, I just didn’t want to look at the final product. Here’s how pączki are meant to look:

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And here’s how my pączki turned out:

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I think John, my brother, described them best when he said they looked like mutations. Mum (who had warned me that the dough did not seem quite right) was very kind in her assessment that they resembled little monsters. I just settled for the obvious- they were deformed doughnuts. Granted, the tendril-like claws which formed where the dry dough started opening up in the frying process were satisfyingly crispy, but they also made these purported Polish pastries look more like Chinese moneybags.

In times like these, Polish tradition suggests there’s not much else you can do but join everyone else in having a good laugh at yourself. And perhaps have a shot of vodka to drown the pain associated with such a spectacular failure. Safe to say, there was no special food delivery for Babcia this time. It’s quite possible she would’ve disowned me.

Sweet Simplicity

I headed down to the beach this evening, in the hope of catching a nice sunset. It’s my favourite time of day, and sunsets by the beach in summer can be absolute magic. Sadly, my camera has not had much of a beachside workout this summer, as Perth has been seriously lacking in dramatic evening skyscapes.

I had a bit of time to spare when I arrived at Hillarys, my go-to beach destination, so I decided to get some food first. Ice-cream is totally acceptable for dinner, right? Well, this ice-cream bowl definitely lived up to its promise of delivering a serve of sweet berry blissfulness. There’s no denying that strawberries and summertime were totally made for each other.

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When I made it down to the beach, the day had already quietly faded. This is what the majority of our sunsets have looked like this summer. Where in previous years there have been rainbow clouds marching boldly across the heavens to announce the day’s end, this year, the days seem to be disappearing with no fuss or fanfare. Just a final flicker of light before a faint glow illuminates the hazy horizon, until, that too, vanishes from view.

I love my grand sunsets but I also appreciate the quiet ones. They’re much like our everyday lives- seemingly unremarkable from one day to the next, but always unique, and full of beauty if we care to look. A gentle reminder of the beauty in simplicity.

I also find that quiet sunsets have a sense of timelessness about them. All the colourful sunsets I have photographed stand out resolutely in my memory and take me back to a specific time. Quiet sunsets, so oft repeated over the years, are nothing more than vague recollections in comparison, like a blurred memory of a forgotten dream, or a word that’s on the tip of your tongue. You can’t recall the details but you can feel their lingering presence.

And sometimes, this feeling is all we need. The details are irrelevant. I don’t want to remember the specifics of being 17, but to be reminded of the freedom that I felt all those summers ago, when driving down to the beach first became an expression of finally being an adult, young and carefree, well, that is a gift to be treasured indeed. It’s for this reason, this link to days long surrendered to the passing of time, that I am grateful for the quiet sunsets, and look forward to many more in the summers still to come.

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Hummus Me Up!

dscn2353Let me introduce you to some divine dishes of goodness from The Hummus Club, a recent addition to the restaurant scene in my home city of Perth devoted to serving up delicious Middle Eastern cuisine.

Tonight marked my third visit in a month so it’s safe to say I’m quite a fan. I was all ready to order when the waitress came around to ask if my mum and I needed help with the menu. Might as well get straight to business!

One of the things that won me over on my first visit was the cocktail I had. I am not a gin drinker at all but the combination of gin, almond, ginger beer and orange blossom which constituted ‘A Day in Beirut’ piqued my interest enough to try it. Didn’t that turn out to be the best decision I ever made! It’s the most textured cocktail I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking- an enthralling mix of smoky sweetness which keeps me coming back for more.

There are four hummus dishes you can choose from- plain hummus or hummus with beef, chicken or mushroom, all served with pita. I’d tried the beef and the chicken on my previous visits, and chose the beef again this time. An accompaniment of crunchy pita crisps and popping pomegranates add another layer of enjoyment to an already delectable dish.

The rest of the menu is made up of a range of share plates. Previously, I’ve tried the zaatar fried chicken, lamb kefta, beef kibbeh and batata. Having the batata again was a given- I mean, who can go past crunchy potatoes- but this time I opted to try the falafels, which were zhuzhed up with tahini, pickles and coriander.

All in all, it was a top-notch meal that left both Mum and I feeling as though we may need to be escorted out of the restaurant in a wheelbarrow. Sadly, there was no room for dessert but I’m consoled with the knowledge that I’ll be visiting a fourth time to try the brownie and doughnuts.

There was definitely need for a walk though. We decided to go down to the Esplanade and take a sunset stroll along the Swan River. We kept walking until we hit Elizabeth Quay, a development project undertaken by the West Australian government at the start of the decade in a bid to spice up the Perth waterfront. Despite the quay officially being opened at the end of January last year, I had not ventured out to visit it until today.

It was a very pleasant walk which not only eased our sensation of being seriously stuffed but also reminded me that there’s a lot to explore in my own city. I look forward to returning to photograph Elizabeth Quay- after another serve of hummus, of course!

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My Top 10 Travel Memories of 2016: #10

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Number 10: Eating a pack of Zumbo macarons for lunch

There’s something you should probably know about me. I love food. I love eating food, I love cooking food, I love looking at pictures of food, I love reading about food. I think you get the point!

One of my favourite things about travelling is experiencing the food and seeing how it influences cultures around the world. After all, pretty much anywhere you go, you can safely bet on food bringing people together.

At the beginning of June, my youngest brother and I visited Sydney for five days, specifically to sample some of the sweet treats at a number of cafes and dessert bars which we do not have in our hometown of Perth.

My favourite foodie memory of this trip was the macaron lunch we had on our first day. On the streets, it was a rather dreary afternoon. Not so at the Zumbo store in the Queen Victoria Building, where every colour of the rainbow was represented by a range of decadent desserts, tempting us from behind the display cabinet.

We bought a 12 pack of assorted macarons and took them back to our hotel, where we cut the macarons in half so that we could both try every flavour. Since we could not remember all the flavours we’d purchased, we had great fun guessing and making up our own descriptions for some of the less obvious flavours (chicken sushi / Chinese takeaway perhaps?), as well as rating the yumminess of each macaron. Each bite was savoured and our taste buds were certainly well treated.

In a year filled with some pretty epic experiences, I treasure the simplicity of chilling out with my bro and sharing a sugary lunch sitting on the floor of our hotel room. We’re classy like that.