Bellingen Community Markets

The Bellingen Community Market is one of the largest regional markets in Australia and held on the third Saturday of every month at the Bellingen Sports Oval off Church St.  A gold coin donation to the local Rotary Club will gain you entry and from there, be prepared for a sensory overload.

Everything and anything is for sale at the Bellingen Community Markets.  From copper pots to chainsaws, to sculptures, hand made clothing, fairy floss, fake sunglasses, polished stones, beautiful wooden boards and trivets, pet supplies, home made condiments, hand crafted skin care, interior soft furnishing, junk jewellery, knitting supplies and everything in between.

Here is my photo essay of the colourful and eclectic Bellingen Community Markets:

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Need a box? They even sell boxes at the Bellingen Markets

Local fresh produce, relishes, fine art and craft, antiques, plants, pottery, hats, bric’n’brac, new and second hand clothing, books, bags, toys, jewellery, gemstones, music, candles, soaps, beauty and alternative products, pamper yourself to an outdoor massage or take a sneak peak at destiny with astrology and tarot.

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Just two ingredients in this peanut butter – roasted peanuts and salt. The peanuts are ground when still warm after roasting – and it’s good, so, so good

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This stall is called ‘Shelf Respect’ – love that!

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It’s the perfect place to play, shop, eat, drink and be happy. With a smorgasbord of multi‐cultural culinary delights, tantalise your taste‐buds with delicious Italian wood‐fired pizza, German goods, Indian dishes, Mexican meals, healthy wraps, pastas, Buffalo products, Moroccan food, Asian cuisine, seafood, traditional sausage sangas, bacon and eggs rolls, pancakes, scrumptious homemade cakes, sweets, donuts and chocolates, gelato and sorbet, ice‐cream, ice treats, juices, smoothies, espresso coffee and boutique ale.

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Lift one side and you have two trivets for your table. Clever design made with beautiful local wood

 

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There’s entertainment for young and old alike at the Bellingen Community Markets

I hope you’ve enjoyed my photo essay of the Bellingen Community Markets.

FACT FILE

Bellingen Community Markets
Church St Bellingen Football Oval, Bellingen, New South Wales
Held: Third Saturday of every month

What to cook when there’s nothing in the house – Pasta!

I love pasta. Not because I’m Italian, but because it’s my go-to dinner when there’s nothing in the fridge.

In our fridge there’s always a chorizo, and in our pantry is always pasta, canned tomatoes, and chickpeas.

Barilla sent me a sample parcel to try, but I already had a box of casarecce – a Sicilian short twisted pasta that was in the gift bags at the opening night of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival last year. This pasta is great because the sauce gets trapped in the twists.Barilla Casarecce pasta

For a fab midweek dinner, try this simple pasta dish:

Pasta with chorizo and chick peas

Chop 1 onion and 1 clove garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add a whole chopped chorizo and cook for about 3-4 mins until it starts to brown. Add a drained and rinsed can of chick peas, or two cans if you want a chunkier sauce. I like the organic ones. Cook for a minute, stirring. Deglaze the pan with a glass of red wine and reduce to half. Should only take 6-7 mins. Add a can of crushed tomatoes and stir. Season with salt and pepper. You can add some chilli if you like just before adding the wine. Taste and check seasoning.Chorizo & Chickpea sauce

Meanwhile, cook pasta following cooking guide on box. For the casarecce, 9 mins in salted boiling water.

Off the heat, add half the sauce to the drained pasta and a few glugs of olive oil and stir to coat the pasta.

Serve and top with extra sauce. Too with cracked pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese (not the packet stuff from the supermarket please!)

Buon apetito!

Chorizo and chickpeas casarecce pasta, with a side of roast pumpkin

Chorizo and chickpeas casarecce pasta, with a side of roast pumpkin

Verdict:

This dish takes about 30 minutes to prepare and the chickpeas take on the flavours of the rich tomato sauce and spicy chorizo. It’s a quick and easy tasty pasta dish to prepare – and if like me you often have chorizo in the fridge, just in case, then this dish is a great one to keep up your sleeve. A pantry winner.

 

Aravina Estate: Tony Howell’s new kitchen

I gladly accepted an invitation to dine at Aravina Estate in Margaret River, keen to try the food of one of my favourite chefs in his new kitchen. Aravina’s new executive chef Tony Howell made a name for himself winning a legion of fans and numerous awards overs 15 years at Cape Lodge, listed in Condé Nast’s 2012 Gold List and named Best Boutique Hotel in Australia.

The Grounds:

From the moment I arrived, I knew I’d be impressed with Aravina Estate. A red Ferrari in the car park, a cute wooden walkway leading to lush lawns lined with eucalyptus, pretty gardens with two dams beyond, vistas of the vineyard, and a magnificent cellar door and restaurant that would not look out of place in the Hamptoms or on the set of hit television show ‘Revenge’. Outside white wooden railings surround a large alfresco terrace dining area that takes advantage of the stunning view. The beautiful grounds have hosted many weddings, including that of winery owner Steve Tobin just a couple of weeks ago.Aravina Estate15

Families will love lunching at Aravina. Eat in peace while your kids run around climbing, swinging and playing.

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From the terrace, parents can easily keep one eye on the fenced children’s playground that would be the envy of many local councils I’m sure.

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My favourite part, the kitchen garden. Executive Chef Tony Howell was almost frothing at the mouth as he talked about the massive ten-bed garden growing seasonable produce including all manner of herbs, several types of lettuce, zucchini, cucumber, beetroot, chilli, capsicum and much more. More fruit trees have also been planted.Aravina Estate21

“That’s the great thing about working here, [owner] Steve [Tobin] is open to suggestions and when I said I’d love a kitchen garden, he made it happen. Check it out!” Tony said.

“Everything in the salmon dish, except the salmon, comes from this garden, freshly picked just hours before it is served.”

Inside:

Walking in, the classy white interior, large windows letting in an abundance of light, high ceilings, lantern-style light fittings, Italian tiled floor and French inspired decor is chic, elegant, and inviting.

Indoor dining

Indoor dining

The wine tasting counter takes centre stage, as it should.  Towards the back of the building is an opulent private dining room, perfect for a party of ten.

Private dining or wine tasting room

Private dining or wine tasting room

Shelves containing cookbooks, vases, photo frames, table ware, kitchen accessories and ornaments are gorgeously displayed around the wine tasting area and also in shop floor area beyond.Aravina_shop1

The restaurant and cafe is beautiful. White linen, fresh flowers, elegant glass ware, and quality cutlery and crockery instantly set the tone for the dining experience to come.

The surprise:

Enter the building, walk past the wine tasting area, past the cafe, through the stunning gift and home ware shop and you’ll find yourself in a sports car gallery. High school memories  raced through my head as I clocked a yellow S/LR 5000 Torana, a 1972 Valient Charger, and 1973 GT Ford Falcon.

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There’s also vintage Citroen, Aston Martin, and a Daytona Ferrari as well as several of sexy modern Italian makes. The rev-head in me was squealing with delight. Who would’ve thought a posh-looking winery would appeal to car lovers or those of us that keep our inner bogan suppressed?

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The wine:

Wine maker Jodie Opie joined Aravina in 2011 after gaining experience at Lenton Brae and Voyager Estate. I liked all the wines, having said that, tasting wine is so subjective.

The vintage sparkling was light and clean. The Vermintino, and Italian varietal, was clean with an acidic finish. My palate has gone off Sauvingnon Blanc Semillon in recent years, but I really enjoyed the citrus and fresh qualities of Aravina’s. The Chardonnay was my favourite.  

Of the reds, I was delighted to see an Italian varietal Nebbiolo on offer. The tannins were tight but with time it will open up to be a beautiful wine to enjoy with winter Italian dishes. The Cabernet Merlot was easy drinking, the Cabernet Sauvignon left a beautiful plummy taste in my mouth, and I really enjoyed the Shiraz Tempranillo blend. Aravina Estate23

“We’ve planted a special varietal of Tempranillo and Malbec – it’s good to have different varietals on offer, as well as the classic ones the region is known for. It makes us different to the other wineries,” Jodie said.

James Halliday named Aravina Estate as “one of the ten best new wineries” in the 2014 Australian Wine Companion.  The wines have also won a multitude of medals at wine shows across Australia.

The food:

I put my diet on hold and threw my gluten-free ways out the window when whipped truffle butter accompanied freshly baked bread arrived at the table. We shared a number of dishes so we could try as many things as we could possibly fit in.  Aravina Estate06

The pork terrine, mustard fruits, pickled walnuts and persian feta was fantastic. The terrine on its own was rich, but perfect when mixed with the mustard fruits and the phenomenal pickled walnuts.

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The seared Esperance scallops avocado tian, tomato and chorizo crumb were delicate, and cooked perfectly. Everything married beautifully.

Aravina Estate08The special of the day, ricotta stuffed zucchini flower and house smoked salmon – it was divine.

Aravina Estate07King fish sashimi, asian omelette and ginger jelly was sensational. The asian flavours were perfectly balanced, it was fresh, light, and I could eat that dish every day and not tire of it. It didn’t look as pretty as some other dishes, that look like art in comparison, but taste-wise, it was perfect in every sense.

Aravina Estate11Smoked goats cheese. Who smokes goat cheese? Chef Tony Howell, that’s who. And it was nothing short of amazing. I’m told he uses local off cut jarrah wood chips, not oak ones that are used in the wine marking process, to smoke things in-house. Teamed with beetroot carpaccio, sous vide celery, orange and some crunchy brioche, this dish is visually stunning. The smoked goats cheese was so delicious, this wins dish of the day for originality and presentation.

Aravina Estate17The Shark Bay king prawn, compressed pineapple, green papaya, herbs and won ton was crunchy, fresh, and perfect for a hot summer’s day. The Asian flavours were beautifully balanced with the sweetness of the pineapple. It felt healthy to eat.

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Time for a refreshing mouth cleanser. Lemon sorbet with lemon and lime sherbet and citrus peel.Aravina Estate16

Feeling absolutely full after sharing the above, we just had one main dish, steamed duck yellow curry, crispy skin, fried peanuts, pickled chilli and herb salad. It looked beautiful on the plate, and smelled fantastic too. One of my lovely dining companions, Sandra, loved this dish – for her, it was the dish of the day. For me, it was too spicy and hot for my chilli-intolerant palate. I don’t mind a bit of heat, but I’m a weakling in that department.

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How pretty is this dessert? Compressed watermelon, coconut sorbet, herb syrup, lychee foam, seasonal fruit and sesame crisp. Every element was fantastic and it was beautiful and light. The perfect ending to a decedant lunch.

Functions:

Aravina Estate just completed a new function room that can seat 160 comfortably. It features a bar at one end, crystal chandeliers, Italian travertine tiles, cathedral ceilings, and large bi-fold doors so the room can incorporate the outdoor terrace. Off the function room, past the guest toilets, is a bridal suite, complete with a lounge area, dressing area, and bathroom with plenty of mirrors and bench space for the all important hair and make up touch ups.  It’s a stunning space.

Verdict:

Add Aravina Estate to your Margaret River itinerary. Not only are there award winning wines to taste and buy, but you can shop, kids can play, you can wander amongst the vines, admire the vegetable garden, and best of all, have a meal you won’t forget.

Tony Howell is producing food as good as he ever has. Despite the increase in covers, the food comes from the same quality local suppliers, is treated with the same respect and attention to detail is evident in every dish. Do yourself a favour and book in now.

My score: 9.5/10 (just lost half a mark because the curry was too hot for my palate)

Disclosure: Dianne Bortoletto was a guest of Aravina Estate and all reviews are based on merit.

FACT FILE

Aravina Estate
61 Thornton Road, Yallingup WA 6282
Tel: 08 9235 4600

The Cellar Door and Cafe are open everyday 10am-5pm and the restaurant is open for lunch everyday 11.30am-3pm. Bookings recommended.

Aravina Estate Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Free Burgers in Cottesloe Friday

Grill’d will celebrate the opening of their newest restaurant in Cottesloe this weekend by offering unlimited free burgers to all guests on Friday 14 March from 5-9pm.

There are 30 different Grill’d burgers on the menu including 100% grass fed, free range beef and lamb, lean chicken trimmed of all fat or vegetarian burgers.

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Wash your burger down with a selection of local craft beers, ciders and wine.

Sculpture by the Sea is on at Cottesloe Beach the moment, so before or after a free burger, wander through the sculpture park.

What a great free night out! Cottesloe is the place to be this Friday to get your weekend started.

FACT FILE

Free burgers Friday 14 March, 5-9pm
Grill’d Cottesloe, 6 Napoleon Street, Cottesloe

Rocky Horror Show, Crown Perth

Guest post by Kylee Symes

Richard O’Brien’s, Rock n Roll Musical interpretation of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at The Crown Theatre in Perth is a condensed version of the original, a sort of highlight package that was light on the horror.

The sci-fi cult classic overflowed with lashings of drag-tastic clichés, delivered with plenty a smirk and giggle. The casual, relaxed performances of the talented and collectively very attractive cast encouraged audience interaction and the costume-party atmosphere.

The simple cartoonish sets gave the production a kind of pantomime feel. The bedroom scenes in particular were given a new unique angle, and were the source of some great belly-laugh-out-loud moments.

Craig McLachlan was simply fantastic, bringing both star and ‘old-pro’ qualities to the role with joy and ease.

 

Kylee Symes with a couple of eager audience members

Kylee Symes with a couple of eager audience members

Costuming met all bawdy expectations, but I couldn’t help but feel the opportunity to go completely over the top might have been missed. Had an actual drag queen been included in the hair and makeup team perhaps that element of fierce drag authenticity could have been added.

There was no lack of authenticity in the amazing efforts of the opening night crowd! The outrageous and raunchy outfits worn by members of the eager audience would have been difficult for any ensemble to compete with.

The enthusiasm and energy of the opening night audience, created an atmosphere and electricity often only found at theatre sport or improv nights. It was a fabulous night out.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is now 40 years old and so much fun I can imagine it will still be playing for another 40 years, but, I can’t help thinking, if Brad & Janet did have a mobile phone on that fateful cold and rainy late October evening in 1974, they would never have found themselves at the doorstep of that castle, filled with those characters, holding that Annual Transylvanian Convention……

Kylee Symes is an aspiring writer, voracious reader, mum of two and guest blogger.

FACT FILE

Rocky Horror Show
From February 14 to March 9
Crown Theatre, Burswood, Perth
Tickets available, visit here for more info

Beach wine festival – Sunset Wine

Sunset Wine on The Esplanade at Scarborough Beach, Perth held its inaugural event on the weekend (Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd February) from 3pm until 7.30pm.

When I arrived on Sunday, the crowd was big enough to be buzzing, but still felt intimate. Some people were relaxing on the cushions enjoying a tipple or a bite to eat, others were dancing with their kids in front of the band, and many were engaged with winery owners as they enjoyed tastings. The number of families there surprised me – loads of them with small kids. It was really nice to see. I think Sundays attract the family crowd.

There were about 30 stall holders all up including wineries from lesser known wine growing areas, such as Nannup, Pemberton, and Harvey. It was great to see some more new stands (to me) such as the Bare Crush Fruit Icicles, Miss Tartufo ice creams, and The Alchemists.

Talisman - one of my favourite Riesling producers

Talisman – one of my favourite Riesling producers

I was delighted to see Talisman Wines. They produce one of my favourite Rieslings – the 2013 is just $20 per bottle, while the more complex and toasty 2009 just $24. Both bargains. Purchase made.

Moroccon food stall Shak Shuka

Moroccan food stall Shak Shuka

Julie, Mark and daughter Jess from Fifth Estate Wines

The Maloneys: Julie, Mark and daughter Jess from Fifth Estate Wines

A foodie and wino friend tipped me off and told me to visit Fifth Estate Wines. I was impressed not only with the friendliness of the family behind the winery, but the quality and price of their Tempranillo, which was just $15. It was not tart or dry like some Tempranillos. It was smooth and very quaffable. I’ll be buying some of that next winter. Located in Harvey, the Moloneys have been producing wine since 2005. Julie Moloney was only too happy to chat when I asked her about Sunset Wine and what she thought of the event.

“It was a lovely event and the crowd has been really well behaved,” Julie said. “Sales by the glass were good, particularly yesterday [Saturday] and for an inaugural event, I thought it was great.”

Simply Paella

Simply Paella

The folk from Azure Ice cream in Fremantle have their own funky food truck

The folk from Azure Ice cream in Fremantle have their own funky food truck

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Nannup Ridge winery stand

Nannup Ridge winery stand

The wines offered by Nannup Ridge Estate were also delightful. Their Chardonnay won me over. Subtle oak on the nose as a result of just 25 per cent of the fruit going into oak barrels during the wine making process. It was smooth, a little buttery that gave it a whole of mouth feel as I sipped it. The finish was clean. More purchases made.

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The band creating some great vibes

The band creating some great vibes

Mark your diary for next February folks. This is likely to be an annual event. With a relaxed atmosphere, family friendliness, good wines available for tasting and purchasing that you probably won’t find in the bottle shops, and enough food stalls to tempt everyone, you won’t want to miss Sunset Wine next year.

FACT FILE

Sunset Wine
1-2 February, 2014 from 3pm until 7.30pm
The Esplanade, Scarbourgh Beach, Perth Western Australia
Sunset Wine Facebook page

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Disclosure: CMS Events, the organisers of Sunset Wine, gave me two tickets to attend Sunset Wine. Ssssh, don’t tell them, but I would’ve gone anyway. I enjoyed Unwined – a wine festival in Subiaco also by CMS Events

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The best restaurant in the world! Mum and Dad’s place

Mum’s cooking is always the best. Just about every son or daughter will say the same thing. But my Mum’s cooking is really something else. She has the ability to toss a few things together and make an absolutely stunning dish that any restaurant would be proud to include on its menu. I’m not boasting, it’s the plain truth!  This skill can be slightly annoying because mum, aka Gina, cooks with instinct and as such, doesn’t always remember exactly how she made a certain dish!

I had a hankering for ‘pasta e fagioli’ when I last saw my parents and asked mum (nicely) if she could cook it for me. There were some slight protests because she didn’t have the time to soak the beans overnight, which meant she would have to use canned beans which she said are not quite as good. I didn’t care about that. I just really felt like it.

So like a good Italian mamma, she made do with what she had and cooked a nourishing, heart-warming, absolutely delicious meal of ‘pasta e fagioli’ – which means pasta and beans. Italian peasant food at its best.

It is not quite the traditional Italian recipe, but when it tasted as good as it did, it hardly mattered.  The pancetta gave it a smokey rich meatiness. The four can bean mix was not traditional, but the chick peas added a different texture and the kidney beans were thick and creamy.  It wasn’t quite a soup consistency, more of a stew.

Pasta e fagioli

Pasta e fagioli

Recipe:  Pasta e Fagioli

Ingredients:

  • 350g dried borlotti beans
  • tbl spoon olive oil
  • 1 onion,chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 300g pancetta (piece), chopped in cubes
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 fresh chilli
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • small handful chopped basil and parsley
  • 1 cup stock (beef, chicken or vegetable is okay. I prefer chicken).
  • 150g dried small pasta (macaroni, fiselli, etc)
  • Salt, Pepper

Soak borlotti beans overnight, drain. Fry chopped onion, garlic, fresh chilli, rosemary & chopped pancetta in a little olive oil. Add a couple of ripe chopped tomatoes. Cook these down and add beans, mash some of them, a little stock and chopped parsley and basil. Cook all until flavours are well blended. Meanwhile, cook the pasta following the packet instructions, but cook it for two minutes less so it is almost cooked. Lastly add almost cooked pasta and season. Cook further few mins and adjusted seasoning.  Serve it hot or warm. Delizioso!

Good on you mum! Thank you xx

It was so good that the recipe was published in Italianicious magazine

Mum's pasta e fagioli recipe printed in Italianicious magazine

Mum’s pasta e fagioli recipe printed in Italianicious magazine

p.s. Dad knows his way around the kitchen too and cooks the world’s best chilli crab and can shuck oysters like pro. That’s another post, for another time. x

InContro, South Perth – review

Could InContro be a candidate for my new favourite restaurant in Perth?

This beautiful South Perth restaurant offers not only superb food, but uninterrupted sublime  city views across the Swan River.  The views are hard to beat.

Inside the restaurant at the view of the city beyond

The setting has an air of sophistication, the waiters are well versed, some donning French accents, and the napery, glassware and cutlery are what one would expect in a fine dining restaurants.  It’s all lovely.

It not just about the views though is it? It’s about the food.  InContro, which means “meeting” in Italian, offers first class Mediterranean style cuisine.  You can dine on the ‘piccolo’ menu – much like tasting plates or Italian tapas, the regular menu, or mix it up like we did and choose from both.

As one comes to expect when dining at a fantastic restaurant in Perth, it ain’t cheap.  No sir.  But for a special occasion, it is seriously worth splashing out for a food experience at InContro.

Leo, Katie, Matthew and John

Our family was celebrating a special occasion, Zorba‘s mother’s 70th birthday.  She is as fit as a fiddle and enjoys nothing more than sharing a meal with her family. Dining with us was Zorba’s sister Marnie and her triplet boys, Leo, John and Matthew, who are seven years old.  There is never any hesitation taking the boys out for dinner with us because they are nearly always well behaved in restaurants and thanks to their Greek and Italian heritage, they love food and eat everything!

Pizza Margherita

As most seven year olds are starving by 5pm, you can imagine how famished the boys were at 6.30pm. We ordered a couple of fresh pizzas for them straight away.  It was enjoyed by Masters Seven with gusto!

Entree was a selection from the piccolo menu; zucchini flowers stuffed with salmon mousse, Rottnest scallops and king fish carpaccio.  It was presented beautifully on a tiered  tray. I could not fault anything, simply beautifully cooked, delicious flavours, and the perfect way to start dinner. The zucchini flowers were my favourite – crispy on the outside, smooth mousse on the inside. YUM! I could have eaten a whole plate of those!

Zucchini flowers

How good do these dishes look?!  Are you hungry yet?

Rottnest Scallops

For main course, we decided to choose our own.  I couldn’t go past the Turkish Sticky Black Angus Short Rib ($45).  Marnie had Linley Valley Pork Belly Vanilla Pear Pomegranate ($36), Zorba and Katie both had Duck Confit Cauliflower Puree Quince Salad ($38).

Turkish Sticky Black Angus Short Rib

My beef rib was nothing short of sensational. Slightly sweet, oh-so sticky, rich with smoky undertones, and the meat was so tender, sliding away from the bone with just the gentlest nudge from my fork.  I have never had a beef rib as good as this one – and that’s a big call.   Whilst expensive, it was a decent sized serve which is just as well or I would not have shared any of it!  The boys all agreed that it was the dish of the night.

Marnie loved her pork and really enjoyed the pomegranate salad.  Katie and Zorba seemed to thoroughly enjoy their mains as well.  To accompanying mains, we had Albany asparagus and shaved fennel pear with candied walnut salad.

Finalmente!  Dessert time.  The seven year old nephews were chomping at the bit waiting for dessert, especially once they heard that fairy floss was a feature.

We all had the Eaton Mess with Fairy Floss and ordered some desserts from the piccolo menu to share. A two-course dessert – now that’s my style of eating!

Eaton mess with floss

The wine list was fairly extensive, but on the high end of pricey.  We shared a bottle of bubbles, a prosecco, to start ($70) and then went for one of the cheapest shiraz blends on the menu on advice from the waitress. I love my red wine but didn’t want to spend upwards of $90 for a decent drop. The waitress’ recommendation was perfect.  The 2010 Sons of Eden shiraz blend ($65) was a beautiful smooth easy drinking red.

The only other time I have been to InContro was for a friend’s wedding late last year.  For a function, it was the best food I’ve ever had. I was excited to finally be going back there again.  And it didn’t disappoint.

It would be hard to imagine anyone being disappointed dining at InContro. It is first class in every sense and really worth splashing out for for a special occasion.  Impressive and highly recommended.

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FACT FILE

InContro
79 South Perth Esplanade, South Perth WA 6151
Tel. 08 9474 5566

Open Lunch and Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday

InContro on Urbanspoon

Food Wine Sleep

Tiramisu for Susie’s Birthday

Sister Susie preferred to go out on Thursday night, the night before her actual birthday for a celebration dinner.

Zorba and I had tried to book into L’Arco Del Cappuccini – allegedly one of the best restaurants in Taormina – without success.  So we booked into the restaurant next door, Tiramisui, where we had enjoyed a beautiful meal a couple of days before.

The whole family came out to dinner – Master Sam 3, Miss Indi 5, Susie, my bro in law Ben, Mum Gina, Dad Walter, and husband Zorba.

A grumpy niece with her pasta and tomato sauce

Dad with his hot mussels

We did what we always do when having dinner with the kids in Italy, order for them first.  Sam wanted pizza and Indi wanted her standard, pasta with tomato sauce.  Both kids did well and had very simply yet tasty dinners.

To be fair, the kids were really good going out to dinner most of the time and they were good this night for the first 90 minutes.  Then they got bored and fidgety.  That’s when the kid-rescuer gets fired up, the portable DVD player featuring this week’s favourite animated feature, Robin Hood.  Man, those kids must have watched Robin Hood 17 times in two weeks!

Zorba and I had talked up our lovely dinner at Tiramisu somewhat, so everyone’s expectations were high.  Nonetheless, we all had lovely antipasti and mains.  I opted for marinated scampi followed by fresh pasta with porcini mushrooms.  Both were beautiful, but the scampi was particularly light, fresh and delicate.  I didn’t want to share it because it was so good…but I did!

Marinated scampi

Zorba loved his starter of octopus cooked in balsamic.  His main of linguine with sea urchin was not to my liking – sea urchin has a very fishy seaweedy almost flavour to me, but Zorba loved it.

Ben opted for the traditional Sicilian pasta dish of tagliatelle norma – with eggplant and breadcrumbs, followed by a mixed seafood grill.

Mum’s bruschetta with eggplant was really delicious. For mains, she just had a plate of grilled vegetables and shared Dad’s pizza of grilled vegetables and balsamic (no cheese!).  Dad has hot mussels to start and he loved those!

Bruschetta with melanzane – eggplant

We were all feeling pretty full, however, it was Susie’s birthday dinner so when she slipped away to the ladies room, I asked the waiter if he had a piece of cake that he could bring out for her and passed him a packed of birthday candles.  The waiter recommended some tiramisu – I concurred. That sounded good!

When Susie returned to the table and started talking about finding a gelato for dessert, along came her birthday cake tiramisu – and wow – it was HUGE!  It fed all eight of us!

Happy Birthday Susie!

The tiramisu was so gorgeously light and unbelievably tasty. The tiramisu I make is also delicious, but it is a lot heavier than this one.  I could have kept eating that until I burst. It was gorgeous!

Nephew Sam even liked it!  I spoon fed it to him while he was on automatic pilot watching Robin Hood on the portable DVD player.  Watching Sam go through a caffeine high on the way home from the restaurant was something else. It was the kid was charged with super duper everready batteries. He kept running and jumping and running and jumping. This did not calm down when we got home either.  Running in the villa, jumping on couches, up and down stairs!  Not surprising really.  It took him about an hour to wind down and get to sleep.

It was a lovely family dinner out.  Happy Birthday Susie!

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FACT FILE

Tiramisu Restaurant
Via Cappuccini 1, Taormina
Tel: +39 (0)942 24803

 

 

Umbrian antics

As we prepare to leave our Umbrian palace, Laguscello, we will all be doing so with fond, fond memories.  My top memories are:

  • Getting ridiculously lost trying to find the villa, despite having written instructions, verbal instructions from a local 2km away, and two GPS’s between the two cars.
  • Forgetting where we parked our car in Orvieto and the ordeal of trudging up and down the steaming hot cobbles streets trying to find it. If only we had walked up hill an extra 3 minutes, we would have found it and saved ourselves about two hours.

    Walter frustrated at not being able to find our parked car in Orvieto

  • Trying to find where to buy wood for the pizza oven.  Four different attempts to find the place with written directions proved fruitless.  We accidentally drove past it on our way to Assisi and we not able to find it again until it was our last day. I know, we’re hopeless!
  • The amazingly delicious simple dinners cooked on the coal BBQ at the villa and sitting around the big table in the garden sharing a meal together.
  • The stunning villa itself and the gorgeous views from every room.  It’s secluded, beautiful, so spacious.

    Laguscello

  • Zorba and I getting locked in our room – oh, I haven’t told you about this one.  We locked the door on our bedroom on our second night to prevent the niece and nephew waking us up at 5am, only to find the lock had jammed and we were trapped inside. Nothing could free us.  We were rescued the handyman neighbour in the next house who broke in with a crow bar.
  • Seeing fields and fields of bright yellow sunflowers in Umbria amongst rolling hills of wheat borders by pencil pines, and how they looked blurry when Zorba was driving at warp 9 speed along the A1.
  • The impressive and imposing vista of driving past Orvieto perched on top of the hill with its Duomo creating a striking skyline.

    Orvieto

  • Shopping for food with mum and dad and watching them be excited and amazed at the produce and the prices.
  • Tartufo or truffles and Cinghale! Wild boar salami is amazing.
  • Obviously, hanging out with my family and spending lots and lots and lots and lots of quality time together in the villa, in the car, in Orvieto, in Assisi… ;)

Ciao ciao Umbria.  Next stop Taormina in Sicilia. Bring on the seaside chic x