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.

Aravina Estate05

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?

Aravina Estate03

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

Swings Taphouse & Kitchen

Duck liver parfait

Duck liver parfait

Swings Taphouse & Kitchen, Margaret River’s newest bar and restaurant, is serving up good honest food made with fresh local produce. Dishes are designed to be shared and the menu is categorised into light, plates, pizzas, sides, sweets and cheese. There’s a good choice of dishes and the prices are very reasonable.

The corner location on the main road in Margaret River town is about three hours drive south of Perth, and worth the drive – for those familiar with Margs it’s where Winos used to be. It’s casual but not slack. The service is fantastic and the food and wine gets the thumbs up.

The fit out is original with tables in the back area set under old-school Hills Hoists clotheslines suspended from the ceiling to double as light fittings.  The front bar is a great place to sit and chat, and the veranda that overlooks the street is a very pleasant place to sit under its covering of vines.

Cool interior fit out complete with good ol'Aussie Hills Hoist clothes line light fitting

Cool interior fit out complete with good ol’Aussie Hills Hoist clothes line light fitting

The duck liver parfait ($13) was silky smooth, rich and creamy and came with delicious wood-fired bread and some pickled veg called picadilli. It was hard not to wolf it all down at once.

Owned by Swings & Roundabouts winery that’s nearby on Caves Road, Swings Taphouse & Kitchen offers the same legendary wood-fired pizzas that the winery has become famous for.

I had to try the pizza and opted for the traditional margarita ($20) – my favourite. If the kitchen can get that right, then it’s always a winner. Swings’ version is good, but if I’m being picky (and nearly always am) for my palate it needed a bit of salt and probably could’ve done with another half-minute in the oven to really crisp up the base. That’s my only criticism of the food served at Swings. Everything else was bang on.

Wood-fired margarita pizza

Wood-fired margarita pizza

The King Fish ceviche with chilli, lime, avocado and coconut ($16) was fresh, colourful, light, beautifully seasoned and delicious to eat. Like a mouthful of summertime, if you could eat summer. The Swings Chardonnay ($7 glass) went down a treat with the ceviche.

King fish ceviche

King fish ceviche

The bright and bubbly pint-sized manager Annie really made my visit to Swings memorable. She answered all my questions, suggested dishes to try, and explained their tap wine. Yes, wine on tap. Read about their wine on tap delivered through ‘sight glass fonts’ – a world first in my previous post. If you’re not hungry, just go and try their wines – they are worthy.

There’s also a selection of ‘guest backyards’ wines, cocktails and beers, and the menu is simple and rustic, designed for sharing, and with an emphasis on fresh, local and sustainable produce.

FACT FILE

Swings Taphouse & Kitchen
85 Bussell Highway, Margaret River, WA
Tel: 08 9758 7155
swings.com.au

Open from 10am daily, Swings Taphouse & Kitchen serves brunch, ‘brinks’, lunch and dinner
Swings Taphouse on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: Dianne Bortoletto was a guest of Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association and Swings Taphouse & Kitchen

World first in Margaret River – Swings Taphouse

Rosé wine on tap (and 30l keg in the fridge)

Rosé wine on tap (and 30l keg in the fridge)

In a world first, Swings Taphouse, Margaret River’s newest bar and restaurant, offers wine on tap delivered through ‘sight glass fonts’. That means customers can see the wine before it is poured. Wine buffs judge the colour of a wine as one criteria, and now every-day drinkers at Swings Taphouse can too, before committing to a glass or carafe.

Swings Taphouse & Kitchen is owned by the nearby Swings & Roundabouts winery on Caves Road, Margaret River, about a three-hour drive south of Perth, Western Australia. The wine offered on tap are the wines designed to ‘drink now’. These include Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Chardonnay, Rosé, Shiraz, and Cabernet Merlot. Swings & Roundabout wines are served by the glass $7, half carafe $15 or carafe $28.  Reasonable prices.

The wine is pushed through the tap with nitrogen, much the same as beer is with carbon dioxide. I asked Swings Taphouse & Kitchen manager, bubbly Annie Murphy, if the nitrogen compromises the taste of the wine.

“No, not at all. We had wine writer Ray Jordon in here a couple of weeks ago doing a tasting, and he was impressed – he said he could not tell the difference between tap poured and bottled wine,” Annie said.

In my own tasting, I thoroughly enjoyed my glass of chardonnay and was wishing I could sit there all day to sample every tap wine on offer.  The food is pretty good too – you can read about that in my next post.

What I love about it is that you can start with a glass of white and move on to a half or full carafe of red. It’s like drinking wine in Italy, ordering the house red or white, except at Swings, you can choose your varietal.

30 litre keg where the tap wine is stored

30 litre keg full of wine ready for tap-pouring

“We keep the wine in 30 litre kegs – the red wine is in a fridge set at 15 degrees, and the white wine is in the cool room with the beer kegs set at two or three degrees,” Annie said.

“When we make the wine at Swings & Roundabouts, we put some in bottles, and some into kegs for tap-pouring here. It is environmentally friendly because we use less bottles, labels, cartons, caps and the rest.”

Tap white wines with the see through fronts and carafes

Tap white wines with the see through fronts and carafes

There’s also a selection of ‘guest backyards’ wines, cocktails and beers, and the menu is simple and rustic, designed for sharing, and with an emphasis on fresh, local and sustainable produce. Read about the food in my next post.

FACT FILE

Swings Taphouse & Kitchen
85 Bussell Highway, Margaret River, WA
Tel: 08 9758 7155
swings.com.au

Open from 10am daily, the venue serves brunch, ‘brinks’, lunch and dinner

Disclosure: Dianne Bortoletto was a guest of Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association and Swings Taphouse & Kitchen

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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Margaret River Gourmet Escape

Margaret River Gourmet Escape is like no other food festival I’ve been to. To start with, the main Gourmet Village is set on the beautiful grounds of Leeuwin Estate. A line of tall timber karri and marri trees on either side of the long road past vineyards and pastures greet guests like a red carpet leading to the stone built cellar door. The pretty native bush garden attracts birds and bees and the lush expansive green lawn is crying out for well-dressed picnickers to throw out a rug and relax with a glass of wine. It’s that sort of place.

During the weekend of the Gourmet Escape, Leeuwen Estate is transformed into a food and wine lover’s playground.  In one weekend, 45 of the biggest names in international and Australian food and wine that included three in the world’s top 50, eight Michelin stars and over 20 Chefs Hats. The list of exhibitors is longer than an eight year old’s Christmas wish list, and the number of stages and pavilions would rival that of Splendour in the Grass or the Big Day Out. The stars of Gourmet Escape, Heston Blumenthal, Alex Atala, Rick Stein, Shane Osborn, and Adriano Zumbo just to name a few, are the rock stars of the food and wine world.Main stage and stalls

Rows of marquee stalls offering samples of this, tastings of that, information or just a friendly chat, shot off from the main stage that was catering for thousands with live camera feeds and a big screen. Demonstrations were not limited to the main stage; they also took place in a number of kitchens and appliance pop up showrooms across the grounds. Margaret River’s best eateries had tasting dishes on offer that cost 1 GEM, the currency of the day. 1 GEM equals $7. Many of Margaret River’s 130 odd wineries were offering tastings or glasses of wine for 1 or 2 GEMS, depending on the wine. The Gourmet Village was buzzing with activity but the vibe was relaxed with everybody out to have a good day.

Feeling a little foggy after too much good food and wine the night before at the Gourmet Beach BBQ at Castle Rock Beach cooked by George Colombaris and Luke Dale-Roberts, my first taste stop had to be coffee at Dimattina. The Western Australian coffee roasters import their beans from all over the world including Brazil, Colombia, Honduras and Sumatra. They had a mini roaster on site that took between nine and 13 minutes to roast the green beans.  Caffeine hit the spot nicely.

As a Gourmet Escape seasoned veteran – well, I went to the inaugural event last year – I went straight to the Gourmet Traveller Wine theatre as soon as we arrived to book into a wine education tasting session. I liked the look of the chardonnay tasting and paid 1 GEM to reserve my place at 3pm. The panel of prominent Margaret River wine makers commented and shared their thoughts as we tasted five different but palatable chardonnays from Juniper Estate, Leeuwin Estate Art Series (crowd favourite), Flametree, Xanadu (wine maker Glenn Goodall is a finalist in the Gourmet Traveller Wine winemaker of the year awards), and Vasse Felix.Image

I tried the Swedish Rekonderlig apple cider, only because my husband had gone off with my wine tasting glass so I had to have something that came in bottle or plastic cup, as the case was. I’m not a cider fan, but on a hot day, the Rekonderlig cider was cold, refreshing and thankfully not sickly-sweet. I’m now a cider convert.

I had to have the Mount Barker chicken liver parfait with Manjimup truffles, chardonnay jelly served with crusty Jean-Pierre Sancho baguette from Muster Bar and Grill.  The pate was rich, smooth and creamy.  The Goanna Gallery and Bush Café’s beer braised ox cheek bun with truffle mustard was a hit and needed the pickled cabbage on top to cut through the richness of the meat.  Weaving between happy patrons, I was impressed with the variety of stall holders; oysters from South Australia, chocolate artisans and chocolate makers, bakers, macaroon specialists, gelati stall, green tea, organic coffee, kitchen gadgets, truffles, imported cheese, local cheese, organic butchers, farmers, cook books galore, healthy juices and treats, and cocktail making classes.

Muster Chicken Liver Parfair

Muster Chicken Liver Parfair

The Margaret River Gourmet Escape is much more than wine and food sampling over two days at Leeuwin Estate. There were 28 satellite events held across the region from long table winery lunches, to beach BBQs, to dinner with Heston Blumenthal, as well as educational sessions with chefs at the cutting edge of food trends.

I’ll be back next year. What’s not to love when the best of Margaret River is all in one place? And what a beautiful place it is.

FACT FILE

Margaret River Gourmet Escape
22-24 November 2013
Annual event held in the Margaret River region each November
Tickets start from $38

This story was also published on Escape Lounge

What does adventure mean to me?

What does adventure mean to me? It means discovering something new, challenging myself out of my comfort zone, taking calculated risks, trying new foods, and learning about a new place and its culture.

What does adventure mean to me?

In Bolivia, I rode a mountain bike down the world’s most dangerous road, known as Death Road, connecting La Paz to Coroico. Take a look at us jumping with joy to still be alive during the 64km downhill ride. The sheer drop from the single lane pot-holed gravel road was hundreds of metres, straight down, with no barrier protection. One unlucky skid and it could have been all over. Frightening? Absolutely terrifying. Exhilarating? You bet. To ride through the scenery that started at 4700 metres above sea level surrounded by glaciers and ice-whipping wind and finished 1200 metres above sea level amid humid lush tropical rain forests was simply spectacular.

Adventure also means getting away from it all, as the red-earthed dirt road in the Gascoyne, central Western Australia, depicts. Or taking a boat trip in Vietnam to visit a remote outdoor coconut candy factory to sample their wares.

Food is also an adventure – wherever and whenever possible, I eat like the locals. I have found myself buying tomatoes, cheese and bread to make myself a panini from a market in Palermo, enjoying a bowl of steaming Pho Bo from a street food stall in Hanoi, and sitting in a cosy pub in Edinburgh tucking into a hearty meal.

What does adventure mean to you?

FACT FILE:

Southern Cross Travel Insurance is running a competition for bloggers to win $2000 towards their next adventure and other great prizes. Competition closes 30 November.  More details can be found here

The Challenge

As the entry conditions clearly state, I challenge two other bloggers to share with us what adventure means to them:

The Skinny Perth & Eat Meets West. I know these two bloggers have plenty of adventure stories they could share – and they both have great blogs if you want to check them out ;)

 

South Pacific – show review

Guest post by Kylee Symes

It was with a little trepidation I accepted tickets to South Pacific, as I have never been a Blue Heeler, Sea Patroller or fan of Lisa McCune in general. All second thoughts disappeared the moment our car key was handed to the valet at the impressively reinvented Burswood Crown in Perth. The air of excitement and the smiling, buzzing opening night crowd gathered in the foyer, a positive precursor for the performance ahead.

South Pacific is an American classic, set on two islands in The South Pacific during World War II, anti-racism sentiments in the second act adding depth and dimension to the narrative.

Kylee Symes at the opening night of South Pacific in Perth

Kylee Symes at the opening night of South Pacific in Perth

The depth and simplistic detail of the set, paired with the innovative lighting design, reflected beautiful Polynesian sunsets capturing the mood and moment of each scene. The backlit sky is almost a character in itself.

South Pacific is spectacular and Lisa is a highlight, totally owning her role as Nellie. Lisa’s Arkansas accent is authentic and fun, her performance joyfully fluid, transition between speech and song seamless.  Opening scenes filled with buff, bare chested sailors bouncing about the stage, an enticing entrée for the captivating energy on set to follow.

The Perth Symphony Orchestra delivered the legendary Rodgers & Hammerstein score with mesmerising perfection, the orchestral beauty and familiarity of songs like ‘Wash That Man Outa My Hair’ and ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ almost rendered the vocals irrelevant.

Teddy Tahu Rhodes’ (Emile) booming baritone lead was a little distracting and whilst his French accent was not convincing, his operatic expertise saved his performance. His imposing stature also worked to accentuate Lisa’s petite, nimble performance.

Christine Anu as Bloody Mary was fabulous, the brilliant costume complete with decaying dentures rendering the stunning star unrecognisable. Blake Bowden’s impressive performance as Lt Cable matched his physique, his superb shoulders and ripped torso bought to life by more skilled use of lighting design – a joy to watch.

I thoroughly enjoyed South Pacific, I only wish I got the memo about the streamers to throw on stage during the end ovation…. After enviously looking under my chair in case I missed my allocation on first glance, I made do with old-fashioned applause.

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

FACT FILE

South Pacific – Starring Lisa McCune and Teddy Tahu Rhodes
http://southpacificmusical.com.au/
The Crown Theatre – Bolton Ave, Burswood WA 6100
PERTH SEASON: from 10th November for a strictly limited four-week season.
Tickets from $74.90*

I hope you liked Kylee’s first guest post. Feedback encouraged either in the comments below, or on Travelletto’s Facebook page

 

Ace Pizza review – is this Perth’s best pizza?

Finally I made it to Ace Pizza in Perth’s inner city suburb, Highgate,. It’s run by the same people that run Cantina 663, a favourite of mine. There has been a lot of hype around Ace Pizza, many touting it as the best pizza in Perth.

Aperol spritz

Aperol spritz

Finding the entrance can be tricky – it’s not at the front of the building, but down the alley on the side. Walking in, the huge floor to ceiling wooden framed windows and a neon pizza sign hanging above a dark mural on the wall an make an impact.  The place is buzzing and it’s barely 6.30pm.  Cosy circular booths flank on wall, high tables and with swivel chairs flank the other wall and there are tables running both sides down a middle partition. The high ceiling  is patterned with large decorative domes and the place it lit with stage lights.

The service is snappy with friendly Gen Y’s efficiently taking our drinks order – and even waited patiently while we debated if we’d ever seen Peroni beer in a can before. Apparently, Ace Pizza is the only place in Perth that has Peroni by the can. I ordered an Aperol Spritz, my favourite Italian aperitif. It was fine, topped with too much soda (should really be just a dash – like the way the Italians make it), and I would have preferred more Aperol. Normally the taste of an Aperol Spritz evokes memories of Rome, but this one didn’t.

The menu is small with some traditional pizzas like the Margherita, although Ace Pizza calls their’s “the o.p” ($17) – I’m not sure why. We ordered that, a Pig Town with pepperoni, pancetta, pecorino, onion, mozzarella and san marzano tomato ($24), and the Lincoln Lady with hot salami, anchovies, olives, mozzarella, and san marzano tomato ($20) – ssshh, don’t tell anyone but we ordered it without without the hot salami. Our waitress told us they don’t normally permit topping changes and checked with the kitchen before accepting our order.

Margherita aka "the o.p" at Ace Pizza

Margherita aka “the o.p” at Ace Pizza

My theory is that you judge a good pizza place by their Margherita.  Ace Pizza’s version is quite good, but it could have done with another minute in the wood-fired oven. The thin base wasn’t crisp enough in the centre making each slice flop when held. The topping was good – the tomato sauce was well seasoned, the cheese was used sparingly which I think is best (or the pizza gets too sloppy), and fresh basil leaves added after cooking.

It’s not as good as Neighborhood Pizza‘s Margherita, which I maintain to be the best pizza place in Perth. Neighborhood Pizza’s wood fired oven consistently cooks  thin and crisp base and they make a  rich tomato sauce that is packed full of flavour, like it has been cooked down for hours.

Pig Town pizza

Pig Town pizza

The Pig Town pizza wasn’t for me only because the pepperoni was too spicy for my mild palate. The crust was thin, crisp on the outer edge, same well-seasoned tomato base sauce, and thankfully, well cooked red onions.

Lincoln Lady pizza

Lincoln Lady pizza

The Lincoln Lady pizza crust was like the other two, crisp on the edge and a bit droopy in the centre. Anchovies packed a salty punch along with the olives. Overall, the Margherita was the best pizza we ordered.

Tiramisu donut

Tiramisu donut

Tiramisu donut

Tiramisu donut

For dessert, I had to try the tiramisu donut ($5), which sounded like a dream. The reality was nothing like the dream, and nothing like a tiramisu. Really, they should call it something else because a tiramisu paints a picture of soft sponge layers, strong coffee laced with liqueur, and sweet creamy mascarpone. What I got was what looked like jam donut, topped with crunchy shards of sugar, and filled with a chocolatey ice-cream with crushed nuts, which oozed out and was described by one of my dining companions as looking like bird poo.

It was a cold dessert and between three of us, we left half of it to be taken away by the waitress. Perhaps the bird poo comment put us all off. It was not memorable in a good way, not as light and pillowy as other jam donuts I’ve had. I was full from pizza and it wasn’t good enough for me to force myself to eat it.

Two other desserts feature on the menu: nemesis choc cake ($11) and ace soft serve ($7).

VERDICT

The atmosphere at Ace Pizza is great, albeit quite loud so hard to hear each other speak.  The service is good, the prices are very reasonable, and the pizza is okay, pretty good even. Out of ten, I’d give Ace Pizza a score of 7.5.

FACT FILE

Ace Pizza
448 Beaufort St, Highgate
Tel 0499 448 000

http://www.acepizza.com.au

Open 7 days from 5.30pm til late

Ace Pizza on Urbanspoon

Margaret River named amongst world’s friendliest places

Margaret River has been named one of the world’s Top 10 friendliest places, according to a readers’ choice survey by acclaimed travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler.

It comes as no surprise to me – every single time I go to Margaret River, I fall more in love with it. One day I’ll live there or at least have a house there so I can spend more time there. It is one of my favourite places on the planet. There is a sense of calmness that washes over me every time I drive through the bushland that flanks Caves Road; it’s like stress instantaneiously leaves my body.

One of only two Australian destinations to make the Top 10 list, Margaret River – which has also been named Best Town in Australia by readers of Australian Traveller for the past two years – tied for sixth place and was praised for its stunning vineyards and beaches.

A Conde Nast Traveler spokesperson said, “It’s no wonder this small town, just south of Perth on Australia’s west coast, ranked high in the friendliest category: It’s known for excellent vineyards and plenty of surfing; who wouldn’t be happy? Our readers also praised the town’s ambience and restaurants.”

Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association CEO Simon Ambrose was delighted with the achievement and said he couldn’t agree more that Margaret River was a truly friendly place.

Photo credit: margaretriver.com

Photo credit: margaretriver.com

“Margaret River is certainly a relaxed, laid-back place, the locals are cheerful and helpful – there are always smiles on people’s faces around here,” said Mr Ambrose.

“To wake up each day in Margaret River is what people might refer to as ‘living the dream’ – which explains why it’s full of such friendly people! Margaret River is just a happy, beautiful place to live – and that sentiment really rubs off on the people who visit.”

The only other Australian destination to make the list was Hobart, which was named in second place, beaten to the top spot by the “Island of Magic”, Florianopolis in Brazil.

The survey also uncovered the world’s most unfriendly cities, with Newark, New Jersey voted the worst. For the full list of the Top 10 friendliest and unfriendliest places, click here.

My two favourite things: Chocolate and Wine

Thanks to the Margaret River Discovery Co. for this post.

Those who love fine chocolate and fine wine find key points of similarity. Both are made from fruit (the cocoa nibs from which chocolate is made are the seeds of the fruit of the cocoa tree, and fruit was eaten by early Americans long before they discovered how to make chocolate beverage from the seeds). The flavour and aroma yielded by both cacao pod and grape are a function of not only their rootstock, but of their soil, climate, and the weather conditions affecting any single harvest.

Both are made from a blend of beans or grapes, each with distinct flavour profiles; and when the product is made from a blend, it adds to the complexity of tastes.Bahen&Co02

The good news for those who love them both is that wine and chocolate complement each other. What might sound at first like an unlikely marriage is quite a harmonious one—with a bit of pre-marital counselling. As with foods, there are many kinds of chocolate preparations with different flavour profiles; so no one wine is a universal match. While that creates a challenge to find the perfect suitor for a box of assorted bonbons; it also makes it fun to seek your favourite pairings, and test on an ongoing basis which combinations you prefer.

In general, semisweet and bittersweet chocolates go best with stronger red wines while milk and white chocolates paired better with lighter reds and sweeter white wines. The perfect pairing balances sweetness, fruitiness, and acidity—and your own flavour preferences, of course.

The cocoa butter in the chocolate mellows out the tannins and astringency; and fine dark chocolate (semisweet and bittersweet) has enough complexity to hold its own with most reds.Bahen&Co1

Some say it can’t be done, pairing wine with chocolate, but if you have the right wine to complement the right chocolate it can be a match made in heaven! Whether you are pairing a delicate white chocolate or a lively dark chocolate with wine, there are a few pairing tips to keep in mind.

Rule #1, keep in mind that pairing wine and chocolate is not a straightforward pairing. It can take a bit of experimenting to find the best wine and chocolate combinations. Remember your palate impressions may be very different from those you are tasting and testing with. Try to keep the wine sweeter than the chocolate; otherwise the two can really clash raising up bitter notes instead of the smooth synergy of a well-paired union.

For example, a bittersweet chocolate tends to pair well with an intense, in-your-face California Zinfandel or even a tannin-driven Cabernet Sauvignon. The darker the chocolate the more tannins it will display. However when you pair this darker chocolate up with a wine that has stout tannins, the chocolate will often overshadow or cancel out the wine’s tannins on the palate and allow more fruit to show through.Bahen&Co06

As part of the Margaret River Best of the Best Wine Tour you will experience Bahen & Co House Blend with Cape Mentelle current release Cabernet Sauvignon .

Bahen & Co. founder, Josh Bahen, has a decade of experience in the making of fine wine and a wine-makers attention to craftsmanship. Together with his wife Jacq they operate the chocolate making facility from a family operated farm in Margaret River.

Here’s what Josh has to say about the match with the House Blend 70%:

A selection of single plantation cacao stone ground to produce a complex chocolate in a distinct house style. All of the beans we use in our chocolate are sourced directly from farmers we work with.

Blend Breakdown:

  • 45% Brazil – Heirloom Forestaro Variety – A very strong & chocolatey bean. High in tannin.
  • 45% Madagascar – This plantation is a mixture of both Criollo & Trinitario Variety – Very fruity, citrus & raison. Low in tannin.
  • 10% Papua New Guinea – Heirloom Trinitario Variety – fruit driven – raspberry – Low in tannin.

Pairings:
High quality wines pair very well with high quality/high cocoa content chocolates. As a general rule – the more powerful the wine, the more powerful the chocolate.

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon – The House Blend goes really well this varietal.CapeMentelle1

Procedure:
Take a piece of the chocolate, begin to taste and allow the chocolate flavour to develop in the mouth. Once the chocolate has been swallowed, the wine can be tasted. The House Blend has some interesting berry fruity notes combined with roasted, earthen & chocolate flavours. The fruit/berry notes from the Cabernet gape together with the more savoury notes from the oak generally combine exceptionally well with this chocolate.MRDCo1

The Margaret River Discovery Co has just announced wine and chocolate tastings included in their Margaret River Best of the Best Wine Tour. Featuring chocolate from Bahen and Co. Chocolate matched with Cape Mentelle’s iconic Cabernet Sauvignon.

Travelletto addition:

The special thing to note is that there are just two ingredients in Bahen  & Co Chocolate:  cacoa (70%) and sugar (30%).  They use traditional methods to make chocolate, which is what makes it so good – and good for you.  Josh Bahen said, “Eating good dark chocolate regularly reduces body mass by five per cent.” So, where can I buy some? See below for more.

Bahen & Co is set to expand. It is no surprise – they have a fantastic product and admirable work ethos.  Watch this space.

FACT FILE

Margaret River Discovery Co runs wine and soft adventure tours in a luxury Range Rover 4WD:  Sean Blocksridge discover@margaretriverdiscovery.com.au or 0439 910 064 for more.

Buy Bahen & Co Chocolate from any good gourmet retailer or online direct.