January 26, 2015

She Eats by The Seashore

Swoosh! That's the onomatopoeic representation of how rapidly the last couple of weeks have passed and I now come to the day where I finally board that flight to New York City. When I, on the spur of the moment, booked my ticket way back in May 2014 I knew I had many months ahead of me before I would revisit one of my favourite cities in the world and now my bags are packed and my online check-in is complete. Just before midnight on this Australia Day my plane will make its way off the tarmac and into the skies and a lengthy twenty eight or so hours later, I'll have gone from a blistering summer to streets covered in snow. I can only hope that the 'New York Edit' I have put together from my wardrobe is enough to sustain me through the days of minus-something temperatures.

So herewith is my last post before I leave. I have a number of fun little projects planned while I am away and of course, you can armchair travel with me via Instagram and Facebook. I'll be posting here on the blog as often I can, but please do forgive me if I'm tardy on the blogging as The City is quite intoxicating and when presented with the option of getting lost in its draw or sitting in front of my laptop, it will win out every time.


For now, I'm still here and bringing you my review of Rustico Tapas in Rockingham. Meeting my friend for dinner on a Friday night we wanted a location in between both of our homes. She now lives in Mandurah with Rockingham being the midway point and Urbanspoon came to the rescue as I knew nothing of the foodie options in Rockingham. Having not been to Rockingham since I was a child (I know! How embarrassing for me!) other than visiting the hospital for a business meeting, dinner at Rustico was a pleasant surprise. It was a stunning evening and with a location set just off the foreshore, I was glad to have arrived slightly early so that I could take in the sunset over the water. The upcoming six course Long Table Lunch on the Beach is sponsored in part by Rustico and the setting on the beautiful beach couldn't be a nicer place to enjoy a lazy summer lunch.


As for dinner that Friday night. The menu at Rustico offers a six course degustation option which is an ideal way to sample a number of their tapas dishes. With so many yummy sounding dishes this was the only way for us to approach dinner. After much deliberation we settled on starting with the chicken liver pate (y'all know I loves da liver) followed by the scallops. We had the obligatory vegetable serve with the wild mushrooms before heading back into carnivore land with the free range pork belly and braised beef cheeks. Dessert was a choice between the chocolate fondant or the baked delice (for a $8 surcharge), and for us that was a no brainer. Chocolate trumps cheese all day, everyday.


My friend is not the liver connoisseur I am and hadn't eaten much pate and approached it with some caution. I assured her that the rich and creamy paste was absolutely delightful smeared on one of the crispy megasize croutons with a schmear of port jelly for good measure. When it comes to food I never lie and this became apparent after she took her first helping of the pate. The serving size of the pate is so very generous and indulgent to share between two people and the only thing that made me stop was the knowledge of five further courses to come.


The scallops were served on pear puree with specks of candied jamon. Jamon, along with prosciutto, is such a delightful partner to scallops. Almost like a fancy canape version of surf 'n' turf. The soft and tender texture of the scallops were contrasted with the crispness of the candied jamon and that combination of sweet and salty worked, as it often does.


Our mushrooms came smothered in a cream based sauce flavoured with sherry, which imparted a very sweet flavour. Though at first taste it seemed a little too sweet, it ended up being very moreish and difficult to resist smothering a little bit more of the saucy mushrooms onto the toasted sour dough.


Cubes of free range pork belly came up next. Sitting on apple puree, the glossy tops of the pork belly had a trickle of a sticky Pedro Ximenez reduction. The fat to meat ratio was excellent, with the right amounts of both to make for a satisfying mouthful. The only let down was that the skin was not at crispy as it could have been. It toed the uncomfortably chewy line of being somewhat crisped up but just not enough to make eating the skin the complete pleasure that it should be.


It was a difficult decision deciding between the petit mignons or braised beef cheeks for the fifth course but we decided to follow up the pork with a more slow cooked meat. Of course, the meat flaked away beautifully and with the red wine jus and mushrooms, it was like a tapas version of beef bourguignon.


Sharing dessert would normally be a problem for me, but at this stage our bellies were reaching their maximum capacity. The warm chocolate fondant came with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and it was with bated breath that I broke through the exterior of the fondant. A river of chocolate came flowing out and was hastily scooped up with our spoons. Though small in size, this dessert was just enough to finish off the meal on a high note. It was enough to satisfy our sweet tooth and was more than just a little taste but not so much that we stuffed to breaking point.


Although it took a little longer than we expected for our first course, the remaining courses came out with good timing. We were not rushed at all and the intervals between each course was enough to allow the previous dish sufficient time to settle without being too lengthy a delay.

There is an option to pair the degustation menu with wines and if your party is made up of four people, you get to order each dish rather than having to choose between the options. Sometimes the most delightful experiences come from the unexpected and this is certainly true of Rustico. Not knowing much of the dining options in Rockingham, I thoroughly enjoyed dinner that night and would certainly make the almost ninety minute round trip again.

Rústico Tapas & Bar on Urbanspoon

January 15, 2015

The Nu Nu

Holidays are a time of glory. Summer holidays especially so. If only time could be spun back to the days of being in school and the delight of enjoying an almost complete summer free of schedules and all obligations on your time other than long days spent at the beach, in the pool or running under sprinklers. A diet of frozen ice blocks, flavoured and vividly coloured, that paint your tongue and make fingers sticky. Flaky skin that seems to take up residence right on the tip of your nose and the centre of your forehead. Nights with the scent of smokey charcoal and sometimes burnt meat hanging heavy in the still warm air. 


Those two-and-a-bit months worth of carefree days may not be a fixture in this adult life but during the one or two weeks surrounding Christmas and the new year, life adopts a gentler pace. For me that means no work, no meetings, no deadlines. I'm woken up by the sun that streams in through the small slit between my window sill and blinds, or when the morning gets too unbearably hot to continue lying in my bed without getting up to turn on the air conditioning. My days are mostly empty pages, my only commitments being the beach and leisurely catch ups with friends. It's during these days I get to enjoy weekday brunches and lunches at cafés and restaurants I've been longing to tick off my never ending list. And for one particular restaurant, my visit has been a long time coming. 


There once was on Bulwer Street, a restaurant by the name of Nahm Thai. I'd heard people speak highly of the menu and the food. The breakfast was amazing, I was told. I simply had to try it for myself. Then away Nahm Thai went and in its place was Nunam. Like a chrysalis to a butterfly, all that was good about Nahm Thai evolved into making something great in Nunam. The same love and same passion combined with new tastes.


For the final weekday of my holidays I knew I had to make that tick against Nunam and it had to be for its famed breakfast. I knew already of some of their breakfast dishes and came intending to order their sticky black rice. The description of the dish made my taste buds tingle. That morning my taste buds had other ideas and told me savoury was the order of the day. Breaking the fast with my friend Kelly from Beauty Bites, we took in the impressive fit out and styling of the venue. Exposed brick and gleaming bare wood floors. Funky light fittings and pops of bright colour. This is how you do industrial chic. 


If you're coming to Nunam you have to do it right and order one of their Asian flavoured dishes. You are doing yourself a disservice if you don't. With such a unique breakfast menu, don't come here wanting to eat your standard poached eggs with buttered toast. Son-in-law eggs. Congee. Sticky black rice. Lap cheong. Roam to a place slightly beyond the Perth inner city and let the food take you away.


Though dismayed that my senses had disobeyed me and taken me off my planned route of sticky black rice, I found contentment in ordering the son-in-law eggs. Kelly went for the traditional Asian comfort food dish of congee, though I had a feeling it would be quite unlike the congee of any traditions.


The curiously named son-in-law eggs is a very simple dish but made so much better by the caramelization and crunch to the outside of the eggs which comes from deep frying the egg quickly. It's absolutely perfect when you combine that crunchy exterior with a soft gooey yolk. Usually made with a boiled egg, Nunam serves theirs up as two poached eggs, still receiving the deep fry treatment, atop a crispy coconut rice cake. Wedges of grilled watermelon and some plump seared scallops add to the party, garnished with sliced chilli, fried onion and coriander leaves.


Yes, the yolks oozed soft and gooey. Yes, the egg was crunchy the outside. The sweetness of the watermelon matched with the sweetness of the scallops, and a little bit of everything together was the way to do it. I had only a minor dislike of this dish and that was the underside of my rice cake seemed to  have spent just a little too long cooking as it was quite hard rather than being happily crunchy and I thought the sauce dressing of the dish was a little on the salty side. It tasted to me as though it was made using fish sauce and fish sauce can be quite salty and for me, the sauce was slightly unbalanced with the saltiness being the overriding flavour. 


Kelly's congee came out and was finished at the table with a dollop of hollandaise sauce and crispy bacon pieces. Floating in the congee were very silky looking 63 degree eggs. The colour of the dish was a gorgeous sunshine yellow. Congee is not something I particularly enjoy and for me, this would never have been a choice. I did try a spoon of it though as I was curious how their congee would taste and how it may deviate from the often bland congees that follow a more traditional recipe. To look at, it's definitely a more soupy variety of congee than I am used to seeing in addition to the sunny hue that it's wearing. Taste wise, the soup is flavourful though not overly rich which I think is ideal for a breakfast congee. I'm sure the yolks of the 63 degree eggs and the creamy hollandaise sauce added a further dimension to the soup however I tried it prior to it all being mixed together.


If I was disappointed to see the end of my holidays, this breakfast at Nunam certainly lifted my spirits. The menu is creative and imaginative and is actually executed well. It's not just a mixture of different ingredients and techniques just for the sake of doing so, but done to deliver a dish that is attractive to your mind, your eyes and your stomach. I will be returning to stake my claim on the sticky black rice.


Nunam (Nahm Thai) on Urbanspoon

January 11, 2015

All That Glitters

All that glitters ain't always gold. Don't say it like that's a bad thing. Sure, all that bling bling and icey-ice is nice to have but comes with a price tag that isn't always so pretty. One of the easiest ways to accessorize an outfit and switch up your look is with jewellery and I have no qualms in filling up my jewellery box with gorgeous rocks and baubles of the faux variety.


Glance your eyes around your local shopping centre or the various shopping precincts in Perth and you're bound to see at least a couple retail stores serving up a similar offering of on-trend accessories and jewellery pieces. Shop Joey is a newly launched online boutique looking to give something a little different to what you've been used to seeing. Another great startup coming out of this city, Shop Joey is the realization of the childhood dream of its creative director and Perth local, Jessica. Having always wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry since childhood, Jessica wants Shop Joey to be a boutique that helps women redefine their look through their accessories.


I attended Shop Joey's media preview in late 2014 and was shown a beautifully styled selection of some of the pieces personally selected by the Shop Joey team. Beyond just being a retailer, Shop Joey considers themselves to be a jewellery curator with every piece they offer selected and handpicked with their customers in mind.


Their opening collection is inspired by the modern woman who has a desire to be on-trend whilst retaining her own unique sense of style. The pieces in this collection are intended to be versatile enough be the perfect complement to her outfits regardless of the occasion she is dressing for.


It's this desire to allow the Shop Joey woman to embrace and express her personal style that Shop Joey is focused heavily on. Rather than primarily concerning themselves with what is trending, Shop Joey believes the distinction between them and other retailers is that they look to beyond what's currently trending and instead considers their customers to be their greatest source of inspiration. Engaging with their customers via social media and getting to know them and their personal style provides the inspiration they look to when it comes to curating their collections.


Shop Joey's online boutique is now live with a vast selection of affordable pieces of beauty. My pick of their collection is the Time Keepers bracelet, seen below. Pay a visit the online boutique and I'm sure you'll find a favourite of your own.

January 05, 2015

So Parfait

People often deduce that because I am someone who adores food I must also be a whiz in the kitchen. I can see how the two would go hand in hand, like a squeeze of lemon over a dish of hot off the grill chorizo or butter with, well anything. That assumption would be incorrect though. I avoid cooking as much as I possibly can to the extent that friends have questioned if I ever eat at home. Yes I do, but when I must cook for my survival I want something quick and easy so it's often a bunch of various vegetables and fish or meat protein thrown into the oven while I busy myself doing something more interesting. This isn't to say I can't cook. I can, and I can do it fairly well. I just don't want to. 


The holiday season is one exception to my avoidance of the kitchen. Having a number of days free to do as I please, I don't mind spending more time than usual in the kitchen. Friends of mine are aware of this and know that during the Christmas and New Year period I will no doubt present myself at their parties armed with something I've cooked up myself. 


I have a tradition of making a tiramisu for New Year's Eve celebrations. I wanted to set myself a new challenge this year. Actually last year. It's 2015 now! I promised friends that I would bring duck liver parfait to one of our Christmas dinner parties. My friends and I are just crazy for duck liver parfait so I had set myself a very high bar to clear. 


After viewing a few recipes, I appropriated bits and pieces from various sources. Some were quite involved with many ingredients, others were very basic. I made one to my liking somewhere in the middle. The end result?


Delicious. Very rich and creamy whilst still maintaining a slight mineral flavour of the duck livers. I was chuffed. My friends were impressed. We shoved it into our mouths on crisp breads accompanied with quince paste. It was a good day. Parfait, in fact. Recipe is below so you can make it for yourself. 

Ingredients
A pack of duck liver. I purchased a 500 gram pack from Mondo Meats. You could use chicken liver if you cannot find duck. 
2 or 3 golden shallots. 
3 gloves of garlic. 
250 gram pack of unsalted butter. Choose a good quality butter.
Half to one cup of good quality cream. 
A handful of thyme sprigs.
Verjuice. I used Maggie Beer as it was the easiest to find. 
Salt and pepper to taste.  


Peel the shallots and thinly slice. Finely chop the peeled garlic gloves and separate the thyme from its stalk. 


Cut about that much of your butter and gently cook the shallots, garlic and thyme in the butter. Use a low heat so it doesn't get too dark. You want it all to get nice and soft.

Remove from heat once done and put aside. 


Trim your livers if needed but it should mostly come good to go. Cook it in the same pan using about the same amount of butter for a few minutes only. By now you should have gone through almost half of your butter. 

I like to cook it until it gets a nice colour and then turn over for the same to happen on the other side. I would say about 2 minutes each side. Remove from heat once done. 


Don't clean out the pan you have used! Deglaze it with a good slosh of the verjuice, scraping the pan to remove all the yummy bits. 

Turn off the heat at this point and put it all into a food processor - the onion and shallot mix, the livers and pour in the verjuice. 


Start whizzing the life out of it. Process until smooth. I stop every now and then to combine with a spoon and then start again to ensure it's evenly processed. 


You want to get the mixture as smooth as possible. Once you get to this point add the remaining butter and season to taste. I used truffle salt instead of regular salt just to give an extra bit of flavour to the parfait. 

Process again until smooth and then start to add the cream in small amounts. Start with a quarter cup and then assess its consistency. You don't want to add too much that it's too runny but it shouldn't be one solid mass either. I used half a cup of cream in total. 


At this point, the mixture should be pretty smooth so processing it now is just to work the cream through. 

Once done, work the mixture through a siege into your containers. This will remove the lumps and make it delightfully smooth. 

I filled two 250mL glass jars. Just to be fancy, I decorated with a crack of black pepper and a thyme sprig. 

Refrigerate for at least a few hours, and eat it within a week. 

December 31, 2014

A Beautiful Mess. In Retrospect.

The thirty-first day of December, two thousand and fourteen. The last day of this year. Where did it go and what did I do with the time? Sometimes it feels as though time moves so fast. That one moment we are in the early days of a new year and then in the next moment, we are closer to the end than we are to the beginning. My days kept flipping over at a dizzying speed yet, at the same time, there are moments during this year that seem as though I lived them a lifetime ago. 


Yesterday I posted a photo to Instagram, captioning it "A Beautiful Mess", and after doing so I felt that if anything could capture what this year was to me, that one phrase said it all. At times, yes things were a mess and on a couple of occasions so was I, but with the clarity of hindsight and the ability to put so many things into perspective now, it was an overwhelmingly positive year. It was my beautiful mess. Life isn't always the proverbial bed of roses and this year, the bouquets were in abundance but there's always the tricky thorns to navigate.


Rewinding the clock to this time last year, I couldn't have predicted what 2014 would have in store for me. The highs and the lows. The losses and the lessons.  The opportunities and experiences that left me pinching myself wondering if it was real and actually happening to me.


This was the year I turned thirty. I felt this to represent crossing the threshold into real adulthood. Sure, I have taken on almost all the responsibilities that come with being an adult since my late teens, but for me, there was something about leaving my twenties that really made me think that if I ever doubted it before, I was now unequivocally an adult. And with that, there were certain aspects of my life that just weren't going to cut it anymore. Personally, professionally, socially. Making those difficult decisions is like removing a bandaid. You mull over it for so long but after doing it, you wonder why you didn't do it sooner. 


Most difficult for me is ending this year with less people than I started out with, whether by circumstance or by choice. However it happens, ending friendships and 'unknowing' a person is possibly one of the bitterest pills to ever have to swallow. 


Through all of this, the sun never failed to let me know that it would always pierce through even the heaviest of clouds. I couldn't be more grateful and appreciative for the support of those closest to me, in both my losses and my victories. I'm also overwhelmed by the support and following I have received here on the blog. I love reading all your emails and comments and that you take the time out of your day to stop by is genuinely heartwarming. 


With so many opportunities received this year, it's almost difficult to believe some of the things I have done. Hitting the catwalk for Telstra Perth Fashion Festival's Restyle is an experience I doubt I will ever forget. Working with FORM and meeting so many of the artists I personally admire and respect has been a thrill and I look forward to collaborating with FORM further in the new year. Getting to know some of the most wonderful and creative people in Perth has also been a privilege.

The highlights have most certainly outweighed the low points, and in fact I have to be thankful for some of the more difficult times. I leave this year feeling that I've learnt so much, particularly about myself. Admittedly, I am a very hard headed person. Sometimes I resist the things that I know are best for me and it may have taken awhile, but everything that I was meant to learn this year have slowly seeped in.


Moving into 2015, there are big plans on the horizon. I'll soon find myself back in New York, one of my favourite places on this earth. In fact, it only just dawned upon me that this is the only year in a long time that I've not travelled anywhere. I had to think long and hard if I were not mistaken but sure enough, I've not left Perth at all this year. While in New York, I'm working on a couple of projects and happy to be spending my time there with my awesomely talented friend Shu, whose talents produced all but two of the photos in this post. Upon returning, I'll be preparing to move into the house that I spent most part of this year searching for. I believe in things happening when and as they should, and purchasing this particular house was quite serendipitous considering the circumstances. It's gorgeous and exactly what I wanted.

Most importantly, I'm happy at the place I have found myself and move into the new year knowing that I have done a lot, lived a lot and learnt a lot. Though I may not be happy with all that has happened during the way, or how I have handled it all, it's all had its purpose in bringing me to this day where I can look back on this year with a smile and ready to welcome 2015 with optimism, excitement, open arms and a chilled glass of champagne.
Oyster & Pearl. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.