Eating Swan Valley, Bushtucker, Makin’ Nougat, Lunch at Houghton Wines and Kanga Bangas on the Beach

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Today was a day so filled with food and information about food I’m not sure what’s more likely to burst: my belly or my brain. Before I take you along on my first Perth adventure, here’s something I learned from my new Australian friends: Australians like to abbreviate words to make them easier to say. So they wouldn’t call me Adam here, they’d call me “Ads.” A fireman is a “firey,” a relative is a “relly,” breakfast is “brekky.” Got it? So let’s get started on this posty.

This morning, I zipped across the street and had my 2nd flat white of the trip at a corporate looking place called The Coffee Club (I’d had a better place recommended to me, but didn’t have time to go there). Still: this hit the spot.

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When I got back to my hotel, there in the lobby was Rich Keam, the official Taste Master for Western Australia. He won a contest with over 600,000 entrants that entitled him to travel and blog all about Western Australia for 6 months. He’s doing a bang-up job: check out the site here.

Outside, the Speed Grazing Taste Bus was waiting for us to take us to Swan Valley:

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Swan Valley is a wine-growing region with an assortment of other artisinal food destinations. Our driver, Kitty, did a great job of touring us around. First, though, we picked up Corey from Experience Perth who helped organize all of the things we’ll be doing this week. Then it was off to Swan Valley where we first stopped at Yahava for a coffee demo.

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I won’t go into great detail, but beans were roasted on the premises:

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And we could really taste the difference. Also: I really dug this coffee table made from an old espresso machine.

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Then we went to a lavender place (Cape Lavender) where we ate lavender scones with lavender jam:

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Luckily, I was wearing a lavender shirt so I fit right in:

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(And that’s lavender wine I’m holding too. As someone who’s pretty anti-lavender-in-food-because-I-think-it-makes-food-taste-like-soap, I actually enjoyed all this quite a bit.)

Next door at Mago Coffee, I got a kick out of trying Dukkha for the first time–a potent spice mix made with nuts:

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But the real highlight of the morning was our visit to the Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery. All of the art there was made locally by the Aborigines:

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We were hosted by Dale who presented us with Bushtucker: food native to Australia eaten by its original inhabitants. Here’s some of that on the table.

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That meaty looking stuff is Kangaroo brawn–yup, I ate kangaroo for the first time today (I actually ate it THREE times)–and it’s not bad stuff. It most reminded me of venison.

Dale had us try bush tomatoes:

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Which are also called “desert raisins.” They are to cherry tomatoes what raisins are to grapes; dry, concentrated versions of the things they were before. You have to suck on them to bring them to life and once they come alive they’re tomatoey and tart.

We also ate sandalwood kernels which tasted a lot like almonds:

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Here are some books on the subject:

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For dessert, there was Quandong cooked with peach shnapps and some cream:

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Quandong, I learned, is a bit like an apricot and eating this it reminded me more of a kumquat. Really floral, tart and bright.

Oh and here’s Dale with all of the food:

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And here’s an emu that we fed outside:

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They’re aggressive little fellas. Actually, not so little.

At Oggie’s ice cream cafe…

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I was socially pressured into eating TWO SCOOPS of mascarpone roasted fig ice cream on a cone:

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Blame Oggie.

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Who, like most of Australia, was tuned into the Melbourne Cup today in the back—it’s a horserace that’s watched in Australia like the Superbowl is in America.

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Next, it was the House of Honey:

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Where these nice people told us all about bees.

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And we saw bees:

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Then it was off to Windy Creek Wines where I took the picture you see at the top of this post. Here’s Rich in his “Best Jobs in the World” shirt and Corey next to him:

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After drinking many different wines in a very short period of time, it was off to Mondo Nougat to make nougat.

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Here’s what nougat looks like:

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How is it made? Egg whites are stirred in a giant vat with honey and glucose. Then you work that mixture and fold in nuts and fruit. That’s Andreas, our host, in the foreground and in the background, his dad:

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And here’s the nougat I was making in progress:

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I was rather wimpy about flattening it out–they ultimately put my through a flattening machine–but Rich did his all by hand. You can see he’s very proud:

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Our last stop in the Swan Valley was another winery, Houghton Wines, where this very unattractive person poured us another whole flight:

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After getting even more tipsy, we ate lunch in the back. Here’s a big seafood platter that we shared:

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And here’s one with meat (that beef on the lower right is called “silverside” and it’s cooked in ginger beer):

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That’s Sasha (who joined us for this part of the tour) and Corey:

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Sasha’s wearing a hat because of the horse race today, sort of like Americans do with the Kentucky Derby.

The winery’s cat, interestingly, survived an almost deadly snakebite from a Dugite snake. Luckily, the owners got him to the vet on time.

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Hence this sign:

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Well, if you got this far you can imagine how full and tired I was after all this. I had about 20 minutes at my hotel to work up my appetite again and then it was off to the beach, where we met the other organizers of this trip and the Eat Drink Blog committee. I enjoyed my Little Creatures Pale Ale:

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Here’s Corey lighting up the BBQ:

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(In Australia, the BBQ is really just a flat top…no grill.)

And here’s something you’d never see in America, but that was a real kick to see here: Kanga Bangas (aka: Kangaroo Sausage).

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Here they are on the grill:

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Here’s a lovely platter of meat and cheese from Super IGA, a local store:

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And here, finally, is Matt of Abstract Gourmet (the guy who brought me out here, we finally met tonight!) and his beautiful family–wife, child, mother-in-law.

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Matt brought more kangaroo to cook, and lamb.

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As the sun set over the beach…

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All of the food bloggers began dishing up their food. Note-to-self: if you’re ever invited to a food blog event in the future, have the food bloggers cook for you. This stuff was astonishingly good.

That’s Ai-Ling of Food Endeavors of the Blue Apocalypse throwing her marinated shrimp on the barbie:

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And that’s a very Australian BBQ spread–kangaroo, shrimp, Kanga Bangas:

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Here’s a nice, refreshing salad by Chris of BonViveur:

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Incredible homemade bread by David of Food Blarg:

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A gorgeous pavlova by Bri of Eat Meets West:

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And, what was possibly the best thing I ate all day, Panna Cotta Lamingtons, also by Ai-Ling. The recipe’s on her blog.

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That’s sponge cake, soaked in panna cotta, dipped in chocolate and coated in coconut. As full as I was, I ate every last bite.

And that, my friends, was my first full day in Perth. If the rest of the week is like this, my plane won’t lift off the ground when I leave next week…which maybe was the plan all along: THEY DON’T WANT ME TO LEAVE.

Sincerely,
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