The Food Junkie

Taste, texture & tales. Inside the mind of a chef.

Personal blog of The Food Junkie, Rebecca Clark. Discover stories of taste, texture and tales inside the mind of a chef that's travelled the globe in search of her next food hit. Bec sports a private cook book collection to rival the British Library and Harvard and shares her cooking wisdom with practical tips and humour. She's co-owner of Fish D'vine and The Rum Bar in Airlie Beach, Australia. An iconic award winning restaurant in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.

A Food Junkie’s ‘MKR’ tour of Airlie Beach

What do you do when you have former contestants from Channel 7’s MKR in town?

If you’re the Food Junkie you take them on a tour of the Whitsundays food scene of course!

With so many standout restaurants to choose from it was hard to whittle an itinerary for Carly and Tresne down to just seven spots, so ultimately I picked a cross-section of venues that would showcase our diversity. 

Thanks to Tourism Whitsundays and with my trusty sidekick ‘Dr Rum’ by my side (to ensure we also reviewed the cocktail scene), we set off on a food adventure that would exceed all expectations. 

I hope you enjoy this virtual foodie tour as much as we enjoyed the live one.

I’d invite everyone who reads this blog to visit our Whitsunday restaurants and sample their delights. 

Fat Frog Beach Café - Coral Esplanade, Cannonvale Beach

I chose the Fat Frog Beach Café as the place to start our day because it’s definitely a local hot spot. 

It’s a funky café offering beautiful fresh, alternative breakfasts.

I’m not a huge egg and bacon girl so the menu is perfect, just like the location on Cannonvale Beach. 

It’s a hidden gem and a little bit of the Melbourne and Sydney scene but without the traffic and the city hustle and bustle. 

On the menu…

Our group sampled:

The Green Frog – pea, broadbean and mint fritter, with poached eggs, grilled haloumi, labne, sourdough and a side of spicy Spanish beans.  

Brekkie Panacotta – honey and yoghurt panacotta, seasonal fruit compote, house made granola and toasted almonds. 

The Fat Frog’s signature ‘Rainbow Cake’.

The verdict… 

The panacotta was nice and light and passed the ‘wobble test’ for Instagram videos!

Dr Rum scored it an 11 out of 10 – the level of sweetness for a breakfast – or for any time of day really, was perfect. 

Carly and Tresne were especially impressed with the atmosphere, the friendly staff, the Campos coffee, and the fact there is even a dog menu for your furry friends.

 

Sorrento Restaurant & Bar - Abell Point Marina, North Village

When I think of Sorrento I think of the location.

It’s probably one of the restaurants that’s closest to the water in Airlie Beach as well as overlooking Abell Point Marina.

It’s a lovely place to be at the end of a day – the sunsets are just amazing and you can watch the twinkling lights on the water as all the boats come in.  

With all the foot traffic on the bicentennial boardwalk it’s also a great place for people watching and it’s quite social. 

Sorrento is kid-friendly through to grandma-friendly (which is important in a holiday destination) and the menu is just as diverse. 

On the menu…

Our group sampled:

Blue Island Ice Tea cocktails – a twist on your traditional iced tea, with vodka, tequila, cointreau and bacardi, matched with lemon juice and lemonade and topped off with blue curacao. 

Mixed dozen freshly shucked pacific oysters – a combination of natural, mignonette, brie and garlic butter, pancetta Kilpatrick, Bloody Mary and Italian herbs and parmesan. 

Chilli and garlic prawn pizza – garlic and pesto base, prawns, salami, parmesan cheese, chilli and cherry tomatoes, topped with rocket leaves, herb olive oil and aioli.

Pollo pizza – house made barbeque sauce, chicken tenderloins, bacon, wild mushrooms, onion and spinach. 

The verdict… 

Mediterranean cuisine is one of my favourites so I loved the food.

The cocktail was a big hit with Carly and of course Dr Rum!

Carly and Tresne loved the boats in the background, and the pizzas made a lasting impression – in fact Carly said it was the best pizza she’d ever eaten by far. 

Sorrento pizza bases are hard to beat, because like the pasta they’re freshly made in-house.  

 

Anchor Bar  - Golden Orchid Drive, Airlie Beach 

Anchor Bar has always been a favourite haunt of mine. 

There are so many restaurants with amazing views in Airlie Beach, but being high on the hill this one’s got that ‘top-of-the-world’ feel. 

Because it also has a pool it’s a great place for the sun bunnies.

You can come for lunch and a swim – and on Sundays there’s live music too. 

Josh and Leah who run the Anchor Bar are very much part of the community so the place has that friendly, fun vibe.

The style of food is quite contemporary, with lots of grazing plates and share platters, and as Dr Rum tells me quite often, “they’ve got a pretty decent rum collection”. 

On the menu…

Our group sampled:

Not Your Grandma’s Rose, Woman Go Mango and Passionfruit Caprioska cocktails. 

Anchor Bar tasting platter consisting of: smoky BBQ ribs; chicken wings served in house-made Anchor Bar hot sauce; salt and pepper calamari; steamed New Zealand green-lipped mussels in creamy garlic and white wine sauce; three cheese and mushroom arancini; sweet potato chips and a side salad. 

The verdict… 

As a chef and ‘food junkie’ I love the cultural aspect of food, where there’s plates spread out on the table for everyone to dig in. 

Carly and Tresne really got that experience at Anchor Bar. 

They loved the shared nature of the food and the “Sunday Session” atmosphere. 

The variety of food was a big plus too – not to mention the view.

 

Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill – Freedom Shores Resort

Although it’s a little distance from town what I’m drawn to about Northerlies is the view back to Airlie Beach. 

It’s also the attention to detail that’s appealing.

The nautical-themed building is fantastic, the grounds are immaculate and the place literally spills onto the beach. 

There’s nothing quite like sitting with a drink in your hand and your feet in the sand and there’s nowhere else in Airlie Beach where you can do that. 

With the sports on the lawn Northerlies is very family friendly; the adults can sit back and relax while the kids wear themselves out – but it’s also a notch up in terms of décor and design. 

Northerlies is a true destination restaurant and another tick in the box for diversity on the Whitsunday food scene. 

The food is a Whitsunday twist on a seafood and steak house and it’s always good quality produce. 

On the menu…

Our group sampled: 

Strawberry daiquiri’s  

Northerlies chilled seafood platter including Whitsunday wild prawns, fresh oysters, bugs, salmon sashimi, condiments and Alaskan king crab legs. 

The verdict… 

Our celebrity guests were pretty impressed with the food, the presentation and the location. 

Carly said if she lived in the Whitsundays she’d hang out at Northerlies every day.

The seafood platter definitely had the ‘wow factor’ and it was enhanced by the tropical beach-side setting. 

 

Hemingway’s  - Abell Point Marina, South Village

Being one of our Whitsunday mainland’s two ‘Chef Hat’ restaurants, Hemingway’s shines in terms of quality and presentation.

To me this is a place where the chef is more than the star of the show and the artistry in the food is amazing. 

It’s also the sort of place that makes me feel like I’m on holiday even though I live here.  

When you sit there looking over the marina (and at the odd superyacht) you could be anywhere in the world, but best of all it’s in our backyard.  

On the menu…

Our group sampled: 

Elderflower cocktail – London dry gin, strawberry, elderflower liquor, rosemary, tonic

Jalapeno Margarita – Don Julio Reposada Tequila, Cointreau, Agave, grapefruit, jalapeno, lime, tajin

Lychee Martini – Absolut Vanilla, Paraiso, lychee, apple, lemon

Smoky Rum – Dark Rum, Angostura Bitters, burnt orange, Agave

Ocean trout, cured in Sake with raspberries, mandarin, Yuzu, and a honeydew consommé.  

Chargrilled lamb backstrap pressed in a house-made coffee dukkah, with four textures of beetroot, goats cheese espuma, caramelised grapes and dehydrated ants from Perth.  

Aphrodisiac desert – a deconstructed ginger parfait cheesecake with rhubarb gel swirl, rhubarb and ginger compote, amaretti biscuit crumble and house made lychee sorbet.  

The verdict… 

Wow! 

I think I’ve got to quote Tresne when she said the food presentation and balance of flavours were fantastic. 

If we eat with our eyes this was a feast for the senses. 

Even the drinks were perfect – Dr Rum couldn’t have been happier with his genuinely smoking rum cocktail – another 11 out of 10. 

 

Walter’s Lounge – Port of Airlie

I was really looking forward to taking Carly and Tresne to Walter’s Lounge. 

I think the whole Port of Airlie complex is fantastic.

It’s a relatively new addition to the town and the food at Walter’s is exquisite. 

This is a place that is definitely putting Airlie Beach on the food map as the second of our two Australian Good Food Guide Chef Hat restaurants. 

It’s a place to come and spoil yourself for that lovely meal out – which not enough people do. 

On the menu…

Our group sampled: 

‘Calamari’: bonito, curry, Yuzu, cucumber, nori rice, radish, fish skin.

Eggplant: mozzarella whip, smoked eggplant pureé, fresh basil, spiced cashews,  hummus foam. 

Pork Jowl: master stock, pomegranate glaze, coconut, toasted caraway macadamias, fresh pineapple. 

Cookies & Cream: ice-cream, house made oreo, salted caramel, cookie dough, raspberries, vanilla bavarois. 

‘Apple crumble’: stewed apricots, cinnamon foam, almond meal crumble, almond meal panacotta, almond chutney. 

‘Beverley’: (named after chef Rob’s grandmother) - deconstructed pavlova. 

The verdict… 

There’s a lot of passion in this kitchen and it shows. 

Carly and Tresne absolutely loved Walter’s and were impressed by the fact there are stories behind each dish.

We all agreed this was another real destination restaurant, destined to attract foodie fans from all over the world. 

 

Fish D’vine & The Rum Bar, Airlie Beach

For what started off as two chefs and one boozo, Fish D’vine and The Rum Bar have become an institution in Airlie Beach.  

People say, “why seafood and rum?” and I say, “look what’s in the area”. 

We’ve got these amazing waterways filled with seafood and our valleys are carpeted with sugarcane. 

We’re all about local produce – the majority of our seafood is sourced within a 200km radius.

And as Dr Rum says, to have a world-recognised bar in Airlie Beach really helps make this a beverage destination too. 

A visit to Fish D’Vine and The Rum Bar is one of the things you might like to tick off the list while you’re here – and you can add rum tasting and cooking classes to that. 

On the menu…

Our group sampled: 

Mai Tai’s (Trader Vic’s original best!) – fresh lime juice, Jamaican rum, orgeat, orange curacao. 

Blueberry Mojitos – the classic we hijacked and called our own – Angostura Reserva rum, fresh limes, mint, sugar, soda and blueberries. 

Squeaky in a Tiki – Rum Bar’s own Tiki punch on Caribbean rum, served in a Tiki, with fireworks! 

Thai chilli mud crab - wok tossed in our famous Thai curry sauce. 

Tempura battered local tiger prawns with Asian slaw and drizzled with soy and orange ponzu sauce.

Crispy skinned coral trout drizzled with sweet soy, ginger and chilli sauce, accompanied with Asian greens. 

Surf and turf of chargrilled 320g thick cut Angus sirloin, served with chargrilled tiger prawns, a brandy and garlic cream sauce, garlic and thyme roasted potatoes and grilled zucchini. 

Singapore black pepper crab, wok tossed in a spicy black pepper and butter sauce.

Seafood Indulgence platter of: smoked salmon, local bugs, prawns, Coffin Bay oysters, calamari, local battered fish, mud crab, spanner crab and grilled scallops. 

The verdict… 

Since it’s my restaurant I’ll hand over to Carly and Tresne for this one: 

“The seafood here is absolutely delicious and Bec’s wealth of knowledge really makes a difference to the end result. I love the fact they use and source local seafood and they know exactly how to cook it to get the most out of the flavours.” – Tresne Middleton

 “The Rum Bar is not for the feint hearted! But Dr Rum has so many tips about rum and its history we learned a lot and I wasn’t expecting that. I didn’t think I was a rum drinker but the cocktails were delicious. I think anyone who comes to Airlie Beach has to come to the Rum Bar. “ – Carly Saunders 

 

That’s a wrap!

It was a pleasure to show Carly and Tresne the food highlights of the place Dr Rum and I are lucky enough to call home, and I’d like to thank Tourism Whitsundays for the opportunity to do that. 

As another restaurateur I also feel quite honoured that all of these restaurant owners have allowed me to go to their venues and talk about their food. 

This was never about one restaurant being better than another. 

You need diversity and you need everyone working together to put us on the map. 

My dream is to see the Whitsundays featured regularly in publications like Gourmet Traveller and Delicious, and just generally up in lights in food media. 

We’ve all got such great individual characters and passions, and for me to see us unite for that goal would be an amazing next step. 

For the people who come here to sample our food, we’re a slice of paradise and we’ve got a lot of restaurants that showcase that in different forms. 

Here in the Whitsundays everybody’s desires are catered for in one way or another. 

So what are you waiting for?

Book that table now, and tell them the Food Junkie sent you!

I wouldn’t call it beaten just whipped up a little.

Hitting the road traveling must be my favourite way to explore, hunt and gather. To have the opportunity to take to the road with your house attached, complete with kitchen, is total freedom.

Farmers markets, artisan shops and delis, it is the oyster of foodie travel.

So, to the highways we hit.  To new experiences we go, who knows where the road will take us and what culinarily delights we shall find. There may be one slight glitch though? Just saying the word BBQ, let alone camping, with my half Dutch/ English man can generally result in rain and yes this has been the outcome. For the Australian terrain this is absolutely fantastic, if not so much for us! To see the grass turning greener and growing by the second, the creeks and rivers flowing, the wildlife and farm animals revelling in the crystal, nourishing drops from the sky and the sheer smell of rain, enlightening the rain forest experiences. For all of this we are truly grateful

The problem being is, we all know too well, rain and camping aren’t the best of friends. We do now know that the camper trailer is completely waterproof and extremely comfortable. We have also   been lucky enough to find some extraordinary restaurants and cafes allowing us, at times, to escape the rain. All in all, an amazing road trip BUT, couples, camping and rain can eventually lead to tension and we couldn’t let that happen. After a long discussion, a wise a decision was made to find some self-catering accommodation for a few nights. With heavy rain on the forecast, best decision any couple could make really. We certainly weren’t being beaten, like a thick batter, more whipped up light like a meringue.

Well what a light whipped up around the edges, silky, pristine meringue delight we found.

For a chef and fellow foodie traveller, a place to call home couldn’t be more suited. Perched in the Byron Bay hinterland is an old school, Old Possum Creek school to be exact. Closed in 1963 and some years later turned into a café. Now is has been renovated into the most gorgeous couple’s retreat with the café commercial kitchen still attached. Pure Food Junkie pleasure.  Beautifully decorated, attention to detail and a superb setting. All this with a commercial kitchen for our own pleasure. The delight of the old mixers, sour dough bread baskets and baking trays, the old pasta machine, are all to me beautiful pieces of art. It all adds to the beauty of this amazing property. A commercial kitchen, a place where I have spent more of my living hours than anywhere else, it feels so homely.

Back on the road and hopefully a clearing in the skies. The memories, foodie delights and feelings of this place will stay with me forever. Especially the cheeky guilty feelings of kitchen escapades with hair not tied back and slippers on.

   A commercial kitchen, true “Home sweet home”.

 

Pineapple aioli. Yet another wonderful taste of Queensland summer.

Yes, I have admitted that spelling and grammar is not my strong point, I did think though, writing recipes was. Well my excuse is we all make mistakes and in my market to table cooking class my recipe and fact sheets certainly proved this. So I would like to apologise for the big boo boo in the pineapple aioli recipe. Please discard and here is the correct recipe. Enjoy.

The tropical fruits of Queensland just have so much to over. Covering an array of sweet and savory dishes, even a meal in themselves. So many ideas to explore. Here is my take on a tropical aioli, so vibrant and packed with flavour, its uses are absolutely endless. Have a play whilst they are so ripe and in season.

Pineapple aioli

This is fantastic as a potato, or coleslaw salad dressing as it’s a bit runnier than your average aioli. One of my favourite is to generously coat roasted potatoes or chips in a blend of smoked paprika and smoked Cyprus salt, then have this aioli as a dipping sauce on the side, heaven. Smokey potato pineapple goodness. Today we apply the same seasoning to chicken. Also works on pork, prawns and fish. You can change pineapple to mango, not one too ripe. Add some curry powder or some fresh mint or chives. So many ways to play with a base mayonnaise. Explore!

Best to read the whole recipe before you start so the order makes sense.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium size onion (1 cup roughly chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 tbsp. fresh turmeric
  • ½ tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 cup finely diced fresh pineapple

Mayonnaise

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon spoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup sunflower oil

Method

  1. Place fresh finely diced pineapple in a sieve to drain or place on kitchen towel. Remove as much juice as possible. draining in the fridge, covered,  overnight works a treat. Set aside.
  2. Roughly chop onion and slice garlic. Sautee in olive oil till transparent. Add turmeric, stir and allow to cool.
  3. Now to make the mayonnaise. Place the egg yolks, mirin, rice wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper in deep jug or deep bowl. Using a stick blender or beater or hand whisk slowly add the sunflower oil. A food processor works really well too.  Continue to mix and add the oil till all combined.
  4. Place the cooked and cooled onion and turmeric mix and mayonnaise in a food processor or blender and blend till paste like. If mayonnaise has been made in a food processor just add the cooled onion and turmeric mix.
  5. Place mayonnaise in a bowl. Stir the well-drained pineapple in to the mayonnaise and ready to go. The turmeric colour with intensify as time goes on. Gloves when handling turmeric is a good idea.
  6. It’s also really delicious without the pineapple.
  7. Check seasoning.
  8. Makes approx. 2 cups

Note

If the emulsion of the oil with the other ingredient’s splits, stop straight away. In a separate bowl place another egg yolk, ½ tsp mustard, ½ mirin and ½ teaspoon of rice wine vinegar. Slowly and whisking very well add the split mix slowly to recombine. If the end flavor is really intense add a bit more oil, very, very slowly and continue to whisk at all times. Any other problems, ask me.

 

Taste of Queensland

Taste of Queensland Mango cheesecake

As promised, here is the mango cheesecake that I made at the Great Australian Bites festival, cooking demonstration on Australia day. Its a delicious, light, taste of Queensland summer.

Mango madness.

Ingredients
Base
100g Anzac cookies
50g macadamia nuts
50g desiccated coconut
1/4 cup coconut oil

Filling
2x 250g block Philadelphia cream cheese
300ml thicken cream
2 cup diced fresh mango
1-2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 cup caster sugar
2tsp powered gelatine
4tbsp boiling water
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Method
Line a 23cm spring form tin base with plastic glad wrap.
Place broken Anzac cookies, coconut, macadamia nuts and coconut oil in a food processor and blend to combine. Place the biscuit mix into the plastic lined cake tin and press into the base. Using your hand press till flat and right up to the sides, completely cover the round base. This recipe only gives a case crust, if you want to go up the sides of the tin double the base mix. Place in the fridge to set.
In the meantime in a deep mixing bowl place the cream cheese, breaking into bits as you go, thickened cream, 1 tbsp lime juice, (you can add more at the end, just taste the mix to check your required sweetness) and caster sugar. Place on low speed  and start to mix the filling. Add 1 cup of the chopped mango, vanilla bean paste and beat till well combined. You may have a few small lumps, don’t stress.
Dissolve the gelatine in boiling water and through a fine sieve add to the mix whilst still mixing. Place the other cup of diced mango evenly into the base of the cake tin and pour over the cream cheese mix.
Refrigerate till set, 3-4 hours, overnight if you can wait that long perfect.


Tips
I like to make 1 1/2 quantities of the biscuit bake and make a centre circle on the top of the cheesecake (see pic’s) and finish with slices of mango.
Other fruits can be used strawberries, peaches, pineapple, cantaloupe, blue berries and the list goes on.
Play around with the biscuit base, try different cookies, chocolate chips and other nuts. Just do a fridge test with a small amount of the base mix to check it sets, different ingredients may need a bit more coconut oil to set.

It's all in our own backyard.

Wherever I roam, from a city, to a foreign country or a drive in the countryside, the search for foodie experiences never leaves me. The hunting through farmers markets, supermarkets, road side stalls and artisan county food outlets is truly a favourite hobby and I wish to see them all. Always prepared to try anything and I usually do, this infatuation has lead me to many culinary experiences and bucket list ticks. Problem is, the list never ends, it just keeps growing. So many amazing chefs, producers and passionate foodies out there, the culinary global world just keeps giving.

This ever-growing foodie array has also been on a whirlwind spiral in my own back yard. After a recent trip overseas, this epiphany became ever so true. Traveling around Australia I am always blown away. Inspired and delighted to see that our offerings are as good and often better. The produce in our own Whitsunday back yard is now punching well above its weight.

Arriving in this amazing paradise around 16 years ago, the food scene unless you hit the oceans and waterways didn’t really do it for me. The old Island traders offered some foreign goodies but otherwise Bilo supermarket was the only place. Great for basics but not really my kinda hunting ground. During these times, my holidays and travels were hunting escapades to gather all that wasn’t on offer at home. Every time, the last minute trying to shove as much possible into the suitcase and then generally paying for excess luggage as my need for these amazing ingredients was, well just to…needy.

                                                        Wow how things have changed.

Today we have pretty much all that one could desire, right here, in our own back yard. Amazing butcher, who goes the extra step. Seafood suppliers who source out the best with an ever-changing range. Local fruit and vegetables supplier who is always buying and supporting the local growers and bringing in new delights to tickle my fancy. The east Asian countries being very well represented with the local markets and speciality stores. The fantastic Great Australian food festival, held here every year. Pop up food trucks with ever so tasty delights. Local farmers changing  there crops with the food trends. Oh, my how we have grown.

                                                        For this I wish to say thank you.

Thank you for making the Whitsundays a place I can truly call home and be proud of our ever-evolving foodie scene. The new and existing restaurants showcasing their chef’s talents and giving us more options to try. Our amazing Saturday foreshore market, just forever giving.

The cooking classes I’ve been holding for over a year now, I hope will help to put us on that culinary map and the joy they give me is, well priceless. 

Yes, the Whitsunday’s offers so many options to tick off those bucket list boxes, let's show the world they can add something else to their list.

                                                 Visiting a truly amazing foodie destination 

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