Let me tell you about Cory Gale. When Eat Drink Blog (the Australian food blog conference) decided they wanted me to be their featured speaker this year in Perth they partnered up with Cory Gale of Experience Perth to help plan my trip. All of these adventures I’ve been sharing with you so far have been dreamed up by Cory and what’s made them all so lovely–even the ones I was dreading (helicopter, speed boat)–has been Cory’s genuine enthusiasm for his city. He loves Perth and, even more, he loves sharing his love for Perth with other people. Here he is at breakfast sharing his enthusiasm for a mushroom omelet with truffles.
Breakfast, on this particular day (Thursday, to be precise) was at Sayers Food in a charming little neighborhood called Leederville. Up until this point, most of the stuff we’d done in Perth was the mandatory stuff–sort of like seeing the Statue of Liberty on your first trip to New York–so we’d done Rottnest Island, which I’m so glad we saw, but hadn’t really gone into any small neighborhoods to see how the locals live. That’s why I was so happy when we arrived in Leederville because it felt like the kind of place I’d frequent if I lived in Perth.
Sayers Food is a breakfast spot with a sterling reputation. As soon as you walk in, you can see why: check out these cakes.
I knew we were in for something good. And to prove it, Cory went and ordered some muffins and coffee. The flat white came in a nice little mug:
As for the muffins, they tasted as good as they look (savory cheese muffin on the right, blueberry muffin on the left):
Here’s a pic to show the vibe of the place:
It was hip but not overly hipster, which is becoming a derogatory word these days. Studying the menu, I vacillated (SAT word!) between coriander and cumin bean tagine and the maple cumin sweet potato, ricotta and pine nut crepe. I settled on the latter which, shockingly, came served on toast:
That’s not for the faint of carbs with potatoes wrapped in a crepe served on bread. I enjoyed all the flavors though I think the eggs and spinach, served as a side, could’ve been integrated better. (When I cut into the eggs, the yolks mixed with the spinachy water at the bottom and created an offensive-looking green yellow mess.)
Not feeling caffeinated enough, I ordered myself a cappuccino and made a surprising discovery: in Australia, if you order a cappuccino it comes covered in cocoa powder (I thought I’d been given the wrong drink).
After breakfast, Cory dropped me back at my hotel and I had some time to write the post you read last. Then I took the elevator to the lobby and walked about 20 minutes down the street to a restaurant called Print Hall where we were going to learn how to shuck oysters.
When I saw that on the itinerary, I was dubious. Did I really need to come all the way to Australia to learn how to shuck oysters? Apparently, I did because here at Print Hall I met a man who knows more about oysters than any other human I’ve ever encountered. His name’s Jerry Fraser and he’s an oyster wizard.
It even says his name in neon over the bar:
Jerry is such a marvelous teacher and our time with him was so valuable, I’m going to turn that into a separate post (including video) so look for that soon. (I would’ve done it sooner, but my hotel’s slow wifi made uploading the video impossible). In the meantime, follow him on Twitter and check out the oysters he shucked for us here.
Joining us for this part of the trip was another Best Jobs in the World winner, Cameron Ernst who’s Virgin Airlines’ High Flyer (Rich Keam, who you’ve met earlier, is the Taste Master). Why did I feel like we should all have been wearing capes?
After the incredible oyster-shucking lesson, we were escorted into the restaurant proper where we each ordered one course for lunch (this was so we could sample Print Hall’s food before carrying on with our day). After placing our order, we were presented with this fascinating dip of feta cheese, sour cream, mascarpone cheese, bread crumbs and olives with a puffy cracker in which to scoop it up.
I had a beautiful glass of Australian Chardonnay, some of the best in the world apparently.
Then my lunch arrived, shrimp in a Carbonara sauce with slices of ham.
Perhaps I made a mistake in choosing something so paltry but I wasn’t really hungry after my triple-carb breakfast. Cory chose more industriously with his duck:
And Rich and Cameron both scored with their fish and squid (I really like that presentation).
The staff gifted us with a salad and I was surprised to find it composed of iceberg lettuce, the lowest lettuce on the American totem pole.
But that salad made a convincing case for it, with sesame seeds and an Asian dressing. With a gift of a little pastry filled with something lemony, we were sent off.
What happened next was, for me, one of the best parts of this whole trip to Perth. I didn’t really know what to expect when Cory said we’d be going on an indigenous tour of King’s Park. Then we met our tour guide, Greg Nannup, whose family has been introducing outsiders to this land for generations.
Greg’s disposition was really striking. In the calmest way possible, Greg shared a treasure trove of information about aboriginal history, the customs and rituals and the ways that his people have interacted with the land. The park itself was striking, especially at this time of day.
It’s difficult to share all of the information Greg shared with us because there was so much of it. He showed us a tree that produced a peppermint leaf so strong it’ll make you sick if you make a potent tea out of it; but rubbed on your chest, it can help treat a cold. He pointed out two camouflaged owls in a tree. (Can you find them?)
He taught us how to make fire by rubbing a piece of wood into a hole in another piece of wood.
The trick is to put all your energy into pushing down, not twisting it back and forth. And to have a piece of charcoal or a grain of sand in there to create friction. It really works.
The highlight for me was when he asked us to sit down so he could do some storytelling. He shared the creation myth of his people, something I’d never heard before, and I was really moved by the beauty of it. It involves, at the beginning, a period known as The Dreaming when everything on earth hadn’t been actualized yet, everything only existed in its dream state. If you ever get the chance to come to Western Australia, specifically to Perth, it’s worth it to go on Greg’s tour just for this story alone.
After saying goodbye to Greg, we went back to our hotels and made a plan to meet later that night for Two Feet and a Heartbeat, a tour of Perth’s best new bars. My favorite bar of the night was in an old Chinese restaurant called Canton.
We had a beer there, then another beer (and pizza) at Wolf Lane then, finally, punch at a secret bar down an alley that looks like this, only I forget the name.
The next day, we were up bright and early for a trip to Fremantle. Next to the train station is a cactus sculpture that, apparently, has its own Twitter account.
The train ride was actually quite nice, with a view of the ocean as we approached Fremantle (aka: Freo).
Our first stop was Fremantle Prison which I can say, easily, is the most bleak place I’ve ever been.
Our tour guide did an expert job of conveying the horror of the place.
Inmates were placed two to a cell and the cells had no toilet, only a bucket. That fact is the reason the prison closed in 1991, because the prison had become so unsanitary.
Never mind that it was also the site of legal whippings (with a cat o’ nine tails) and many hangings, done here in this room.
Hard to shake something like that off once you see it; you can actually feel the miserable history like a physical presence as you walk around the place. It was with great relief, then, that we left the prison and made our way to the Fremantle Markets.
To say that this is a happier place than the prison would be a profound–almost perverse–understatement.
On a Friday, this place was positively packed with people and vendors and, also, a Koala bear (you’ll see later).
A very nice representative from the market took us from stall to stall to meet the vendors and it was a real treat. This mother and son sell eggs and chicken sausages.
When we asked about her “Double Yolkers”…
…she let me crack one open to prove it’s not false advertising.
How does she know which eggs have double yolks? Something to do with the size in relation to the thousands of other eggs she goes through. I asked her to explain it twice and I’m still not sure, I just think she’s a double yolk psychic.
This nice couple sells award-winning red capsicum and chili jam (in Australia, they call peppers Capsicum):
Indeed, it was quite good.
The Sausage King made us an incredible sausage sample with homemade aioli, farmer’s market lettuce, ketchup, mustard and grilled peppers (I mean capsicum) and onions.
That was pretty killer and so was the work of this man selling arepas.
In fact, his arepa made with fresh corn was one of the best things I’ve eaten this whole trip, the fresh corn flavor made it so sweet and seasonal (it’s summer here, remember) and the green sauce gave it real pep.
At this point, I was feeling pretty full and we were scheduled to eat fish n’ chips after, but the food kept on coming. Ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.
Terrific cheese served by the ladies you see at the top of the post. Crepes wrapped around fruit:
Maybe the best bratwurst I’ve ever tasted:
And, finally, paella (I asked for the charred bits at the bottom because that’s the good stuff).
As we left the market, there was a crowd gathered around a koala that was there for picture-taking. I felt bad for the little guy, he didn’t seem too happy to be in an indoor market.
After that, it was off to historic Cicerello’s which has been in Fremantle since 1903.
The owner was a feisty guy who took us in the back to show us how they break down the fish.
After filleting it in front of us, the fish was battered, dropped in the deep-fryer and brought out to the table with “chips” (in quotes, because in America they’re fries).
Then we walked around the restaurant, and saw this statue of ACDC frontman Bon Scott who was apparently from Perth.
Finally, we ended our Fremantle day at Little Creatures, a beer hall that’s a lot more than just a beer hall, it’s a cultural hub–with a host dressed in drag, all kinds of quirky characters (the mustaches are not to be believed) and lots of comfortable places for sitting and drinking.
(Do you see the guy photobombing my picture above? Funny!)
The beer is really good stuff, strong and bitter and bracing.
Here I am with Rich and Cameron drinking it:
It’s a shame Cory’s not in that picture because after Little Creatures, we rode the ferry back to Perth and said our big goodbyes because, at that moment, I was done with Perth Tourism and all set to speak at the blogger conference the next day. But if you’ve been following all of these Perth posts, you don’t need me to tell you what a brilliant job Cory did showing me around his beloved city.
I’ll confess that Perth was never a place I thought to visit before I received the invitation, but now that I’ve seen it through Cory’s eyes, I’m so glad I came.