Saturday, 25 February 2012

Bluewaters, Cottesloe

Coogee to Cottesloe, 13.1 km. 1hr 30min, 8.8 km/h

Westy paddles in like a pro. Unlike his paddling companion...
Organising one-way paddles is a shitfight. You need even numbers, and everyone needs to bring their car and everyone needs to paddle the whole way. We've learnt this through many previous attempts with an odd number of paddlers, yet we still have the same issue time and time again.

So late last night when those strict criteria weren't met, and all sorts of angst was being created, I threw my toys out of the cot and cancelled the paddle. Only to call Westy shortly afterwards and put it back on for the two of us who were keen to do the whole thing and had a car available each. Deadset, I really am turning into a grumpy old man as my month of abstinence/beer celibacy nears its end and the dreaded Manflu sets in. Mrs Blue rightly said that she would be calling the Tantrum Police, who, like the Noise Police, occasionally call by the house via surreptitious use of the intercom when the tin lids are out of control.

This morning's paddle coincided with the annual Rottnest Shark Feeding...errr..Swim. There were shedloads of boats, kayaks, skis and a brace of nutcases who think that swimming 19km to Rottnest Island is an enjoyable Saturday activity. Seriously - that's why there's a ferry you bunch of tightarses! It was a pretty awesome spectacle as they moved off from the beach, and we lingered for a minute after shuffling the boats onto one car just long enough to take it in.

The wounded antelope at the back of the pack was looking nervous...

When we put in a Coogee (that's KOO-JEE for my East Coast mates, and doesn't sound anything like the Sydney beachside suburb that I used to live in) the wind was a very light Sou'-easter and the water as flat as Julia's approval rating. We'd only been out for about 15 minutes when we were surrounded by a large pod of dolphins just outside the Port Coogee canals. It was pretty awesome I must say. 

There was only really one topic of conversation going on - the complete debacle formerly known as the Australian Labor Party. I have to admit, I have been giggling like a schoolgirl at the self-destruction of this bunch of retards and every day has been making me laugh longer and harder.  My favorite has been the Muppets poster right...but seriously, shouldn't this embarrassment to Australia end by the GG dissolving both houses and having a general election? Windsor, Wilkie and Oakeshott - start familiarising yourselves with Centrelink. Just ask Julia or Kevin where it is...

We were making a good pace by then, clocking a steady 9.5km/h by the trusty Garmin and kept it up until we passed the river mouth, having ridden a light swell most of the way and rested for a sum total of 8 seconds. The idea was to follow the shore close-in to the beach, but up until the river mouth washing machine it have been mirror-flat so we had paddled a direct line for North Mole, way off shore most of the way.

Once we rounded North Mole the washing machine stopped but we slowed with the distance to 8.5km/h. Unlike my outing to the Rockingham grain terminal last Tuesday where the ticker ramped up to 180 beats per minute for near on 15 minutes, I managed to avoid the defibrillator being paddled over with a steady 140 bpm pace.

I always enjoy the Port Beach to Beach St groyne part of a paddle up this way. It's spectacular. The fact that there was is nice swelling taking us in to the groyne made it even better. What didn't make it better was absolutely fluffing the run in on the wave  and painfully getting dumped by a wave the little tacker could have ridden. And, as they say, there is nothing worse than a pain in the Groyne.

Which reminds me of something I heard on the radio yesterday. Female radio presenter has a segment asking listeners to give her an idea of how bad being hit in the Jatz crackers is. 'Like childbirth', one male listener says, only to be lambasted by the next two female listeners, because apparently NOTHING is worse than childbirth. After some to-ing and fro-ing including a comparison of having a shipping container dropped on your arm and wriggling the stump around for a bit, it comes to a finale. 'Nothing?', says the final (male) listener, 'then why do women want more than one child and why don't I know a single male who wants to be kicked in the nuts again?'. Well said, that man.

Bluewaters, 110 Marine Pde, Cottesloe, (08) 9385 3130,

I confess. I like Bluewaters. We've been here for breakfast a couple of times and the scenery, both inside and out, is tops. The menu has a couple of interesting items, they do table service and don't mind splitting the bill. They have paintings for sale that normal humans would buy. The waitstaff are attentive and friendly.

Miss Piggy was shy.
So Bluewaters it was. The sky was becoming overcast as we took an outside table, and the waitress pounced like Susan Boyle on a Krispy Kreme. Coffee was upon us like the barista (that's wankish for 'coffee maker') had known we were coming. A little too milky and lukewarm, I thought but gladly drank it anyway. We ordered, and just as quick as the coffee had appeared, so did our breakfast. Westy had gone the Pancakes with Banana, Bacon and Maple Syrup ($17.50) and I went the Scrambled Eggs with Crab and Chilli on Ciabatta ($18.50). As I surveyed Westys choice I was immediately struck with breakfast envy, but then we both realised that there was something crucially awry with his stack-of-three pancakes - the amount of bacon was inversely proportional to the impressive pancakes! And at $7 for a side of bacon that we guessed would be as slim pickings as what was on the plate, the halo over this dish quickly dissipated. Westy though his breakfast very nice but seriously Bluewaters - don't skimp on Miss Piggy. It's not smart and it's not clever. The maple syrup appeared in short supply as well - Manu would not be pleased. On the plus side, the pancakes looked fluffy and thick. And, as I said, there were three.

I've got crabs. Honestly, I can explain...
My Scrambled Eggs with Crab and Chilli was pretty good. I liked the flavour combo, the ciabatta was nicely toasted, and as far as crustaceans go I am a lazy diner. Any time I can have crab or lobster without cracking it and painstakingly scooping out the little meat there is, I'm happy. The eggs were creamy but again, lukewarm. How could it have come out so quickly, but with the eggs lukewarm? Well, I think there is only one answer to that. The amount was just right though, and I did enjoy my breakfast.

I would really like to come here for a long swilly lunch one day. When I am drinking again. In 5 days. Perhaps Mrs Blue won't have to call the Tantrum Police the night before a paddle then...

Bluewaters, Cottesloe - 6.5/10. An extra point when more porcine product appears in a serving! Bluewaters Cottesloe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Little Stove, Bicton

Pt Walter to the Bridges and back (again), 11.25km, 1hr 24 min, 8km/h

It was a good week. I had been sent out into the field for a few days to do some market research by the Head Silverback to determine whether or not our biscuits were the ugliest of them all - and came back with the satisfying result that we, without a doubt, have the most authentic gorilla-like faces that imprint the dough. The were some corkers, particularly in Albany, but really, when it came down to the crunch, nothing beats the face-smashers of Gorilla Biscuits Pty Ltd for a hideous snack experience.

I didn't get back from the roadtrip until late Friday night and the forecast was for crappy weather on Saturday, but undeterred and in spite of a simultaneous 'lets-blow-it-off-tomorrow' thought that we all had, Westy and I decided to go the default option and paddle from Pt Walter again, regardless of the expected 20 knot headwind that we would have to battle into.

Frodo Baggins joined the paddle briefly
The reality couldn't have been more different. Slightly overcast but dead calm with a slight flooding tide. The boats went in and instantly both Westy and I felt like we were, as he put it, paddling through mud. It was surprisingly hard going until we got to the bridges, where the tidal stream then gave us a boost for the return leg.

 I wanted to get a photo of myself out paddling, so handed the camera over to Westy who produced an absolute pearler - I might have to get that one blown up and hung at work. Check it out below - it's a pretty good likeness.
A good likeness.

The paddle was pretty uneventful all up, and we stopped for a good look at the mansion in Bicton that my forthcoming Powerball win will buy me before finishing up - again fanging for a feed and a brew.

The Little Stove, 97/103 Harris Street  Bicton WA 6157, (08) 9319 9811,

Flogged from Google images...
The epitome of laziness is going to the nearest cafe to the entry/exit point. That would be the extortionately expensive Pt Walter Cafe (and yes, it will be reviewed soon; the savings plan has been going for a while now), but I had noticed a sign on Pt Walter Road pointing to a henceforth-unknown cafe. This made it the second closest and therefore absolved us from the laziness label.

I have to say though, the first impressions were good. Two brown leather armchairs framed the entrance and there was a healthy crowd, mostly thirty-somethings. A couple of pooches also came for brekky which always gets two thumbs up from me.

A quick scan of the menu was enough to leave the impression that The Little Stove certainly caters to the Bicton Yummy Mummy set, with lots of yoghurty, muesli, fruity choices but not much in the way of fifteen varieties of fried pig as we always look for. It wasn't much of a decision to go for the Big Stove ($18) big breakfast and the mega coffee ($6.50). If you are choking back at the thought of $6.50 for a coffee as I would normally, let me clarify that it is a pint glass. 

The Big Stove came out with eggs to order, in my case scrambled and Westys case poached, bacon, two slices of toast, homemade beans and mushies. My scrambled eggs were creamy, and the bacon plentiful. The beans were tasty, as were the mushies, but in the end they were just a distraction from the main event. The brown toast was thickly sliced and delicious with the butter, eggs and bacon on top. The coffee was pretty good, served at the correct temperature i.e. hot, but not so that the roof of my mouth becomes the skin on the coffee, but for a flat white it was probably a little too milky and more like a latte. The Little Stove offers three varieties including Arabica and a Dark Roast. 

I must have been pretty hungry because my plate was empty before I remembered to take a photo!
Sorry. There is no "before" shot.

I liked the Little Stove experience, from the menus printed on grid paper that you would have in a school folder to the prompt, friendly, male-customer-encouraging service. For a bloke though, and particularly one who has just earned a hearty breakfast, the brekky menu was a bit of a disappointment. No Eggs Benny, for starters. Limited choices of pig. Yoghurt has no place being served on a Saturday morning - unless it is drizzled over a porcine product for some obscure reason. I did note a pile of wine glasses though. Perhaps after the 29th...

The Little Stove - Very good service, good fair, limited menu selections. 6/10 Little Stove on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Cafe Lumos, White Gum Valley

Pt Walter to the Bridges, 12.8km, 1 hour 36 min, 8km/h average

'Twas a great morning for a paddle - a gentle Nor'westerly wind and slack water throughout. The car park was as empty as the river. Travis was missing in action, having probably not received the late-night text from me to gee up the paddle, so Westy, M4P and I slid the boats into the water just before 7 am. We hadn't done the Pt Walter paddle in quite a while so it was good to be there again.

The afternoon before had also been spent at the river with Mrs Blue and the little bluelings having a great time with a bunch of our friends, who were finishing off the week with a couple of ice-cold pigs ears and a bottle or two of Passion Pop. Unfortunately I am taking my annual month off the P155 at the moment. I have a month on the wagon every year to prove to myself that I'm not a raging alcoholic, and I choose February because it's the shortest month. I feel a bit cheated this year being a leap year and all, and may have to switch to the method a friend of mine uses - the lunar month. Everyone was a bit worried as to whether or not I'd be OK to drive after three Passionas in the first hour and one every hour after that, but despite the obvious sugar high we made it home OK, if not a little quicker than usual and with an unexplained glowstick chain around my neck. If you haven't spent a Friday arvo down by the river, give yourself an uppercut then get on down there.

But I digress. The pace was pretty sedate until I took a sidetrip right inshore at Bicton whilst M4P and Westy took a direct route across the reach into East Fremantle. Looking up from my trip into Blueworld they were a bloody long way away so I spent the next 10 minutes putting in the big ones trying to catch them, much like I do every time I paddle with Westy these days. Graciously they waited for the fat bloke at the East Fremantle Yacht Club, and I finally dragged my arse back to the pack long enough to take a few quick photos as we rounded the bend past Zephyrs. 

"Is that guy waving at us?"
It was here that we were being waved at by a bloke on the shoreline. Waving back, we continued, but he persistently kept waving. Acknowledging the international sign of distress we pulled in to find out that the bloke had been at Pt Walter and had seen one of us drop a phone. Being a Good Aussie Bloke (GAB) he surmised that we'd have to go past Zephyrs and followed us down there to give it back.  It's not often that random acts of kindness occur these days, so GAB, if you're reading this, two thumbs up and if you see us again, we'll shout you a carton.

So it turns out the ladies of the house have taken up something called Zumba (apparently it's pronounced 'Zoom-bah' rather than my feeble attempt that rhymed with Rumba). In fact Mrs B was kind enough to explain to me what a 'shimmy' was as we drove home last night. Dangerous stuff, that. I almost drove off the road. Apparently the instructor is a 40 yo mother-of-one with the toned body of a 20 yo pole dancer. OK, so I made that last bit up, but that is a blokes prerogative. I have promised to come down and witness this hedonistic devil-summoning dance class at some stage, with my fellow paddlers and a carton of coldies in tow. This was not received well, not even when I promised to shimmy my way in with my wet Speedos, straight from a paddle!

The rest of the trip was uneventful and paddling in toward the Matilda Bay Brewery on the return trip took us well out of the wind and provided a bit of variation on the normal trip. As we pulled in back at Pt Walter after a minor grounding on the large inshore rock, we were all looking forward to breakfast at one of M4Ps local haunts.

Cafe Lumos, 1/16 Minilya Avenue  White Gum Valley WA 6162, (08) 9335 5332

That's the owner. The Red Sea parted as we arrived.
Firstly, don't park in the 10 minute parking zone outside the convenience store next to Lumos. We didn't, and indeed had to park on the verge some way away, but the shop owner was livid enough to ring the bastard parkies who sensing blood turned up immediately. UnAustralian, I say.

I'd heard about Cafe Lumos in the local rag, where their lunchtime menu had been reviewed, and had mentioned this to M4P. Mrs M4P patronises Lumos regularly, so we thought we'd give it a crack for breakfast. 

Through habit we ordered at the counter, but Cafe Lumos has efficient table service as we found out with a post-breakfast second coffee. One of the things that really took me was seeing the owner picking herbs from the pots out the front to put into the dishes - nothing groundbreaking but something I thought was pretty cool nevertheless.

The standard of your average suburban local cafe has gone through the roof in my humble opinion, and this is a good example of how a little bit of effort can reap rewards. When we got there it was packed to bursting, with all the tables set up outside and spilling over to the front of the furniture shop next door. Luckily, as I walked in, a bench table right out front cleared just like Moses parting the sea. Or it could have been that I just stank after the paddle. Regardless, we got a good table. 

The menu is spoilt for choice - there are some dead set corkers on there including French Toast with bacon, banana and maple syrup (my mouth is watering as I write this). But I couldn't go past the Rosti Benedict ($19) - poached eggs on thick bacon, atop potato rosti and drizzled with Hollandaise sauce. M4P thought the same, but Westy went the Corn Fritter Special ($19) - two massive corn fritters with poached eggs and bacon sandwiched in between and sour cream on the side. Substituting Hollandaise for the sour cream was no problem.

Rosti Benedict. No. 1 with a bullet.
Cafe Lumos Rosti Benedict - go to the top of the Eggs Benny index. The potato rosti was brilliant - the fried strands of potato seasoned perfectly and sticking together in a thin cake. The eggs came out just the way I like them - medium well and not forming a yellow lake when broken, and the bacon was thick and supple. The coffee  - a mug of flat white ($4.30) for me - came out with a creamy top and, although a little weak, wasn't bad and was definitely the right drinking temperature. With just a little higher concentration of coffee in the cup it would have been excellent, but I'm just being picky now. The second coffee, a regular, rather than a mug, was perfect.

Corn Fritter stack. Bigger than your head.
Westy was equally pleased with his choice which, when it came out, was bigger than his head. We have a saying - never eat anything bigger than your head and Westy declared that he had too much food so half a corn fritter came winging my way (excellent!). Fair dinkum - it was beautiful, and I think deserves a permanent place on an already-good menu.

The staff at Lumos were friendly and efficient. The owner came over to take an order and say g'day and the waitresses were pleasant - in manner and appearance - but not intrusive.

Cafe Lumos, in its leafy Minilya St setting has just rocketed right up to the top of the list with the Hungry Paddlers. If only it was on the river...but I suppose then we'd never get a table. Just be careful where you park...

Three Thumbs Up - 9/10. And we'll be back. Lots.

Cafe Lumos on Urbanspoon
*** As an addendum to the Bastard Parkies theme,  I got fined $85 tonight whilst parked outside NIB stadium, thus confirming my theory that all Parkies are illegitimate.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Canning River Cafe, Wilson

Canning River, Thornlie to Applecross via Bull Creek, 20.6km, 2 hours 37 minutes.

Entry point - Ilford Place, Thornlie
The sea, she was angry that day.

Or so we thought after a quick scan of With Travis and M4P missing in action, Westy and I decided that it was a good morning to hunt the white whale - breaking the 20km mark.  Having looked at Urban Paddler's website we decided to replicate his Canning River run, from Thornlie to Deepwater Point, and customise it to crack the 20km.

After a bit of car shuffling at Deepwater Point, we trekked off down the Leach Highway to parts unknown, putting in at the end of the cul-de-sac at Ilford Place, Thornlie. Firstly I would recommend that those who own flash carbon fibre or composite boats completely ignore this start point. Secondly I would recommend that any future paddlers from here consider taking a hedge trimmer, machete and shotgun. It was a great place to paddle from but we were dodging and weaving through all sorts of spider webs, trip wires, poison darts and big, rolling rocks like something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark before we found any sort of open water about 3km in. The going was very slow and the growth so thick at one stage I was sure that I saw a Leyland Brother (obviously the one that is still alive!) and the Bush Tucker Man...

Once we got over the tree stumps, man-traps and the like, the river was spectacular. In fact it was so placid and quiet that it took us nearly six kilometres of paddling before we saw our first confirmed fellow-human. The sound of our bow-waves was pretty much all we could hear.

Kent St Weir - This is not a slippery dip for skis...
Before we knew it, we were at the Kent St Weir. Having never been there before, we had talked of just powering straight over it, thinking it might be one of those slippery-dip type weirs that we could slide right down, but luckily common sense prevailed because it was a sheer drop with a lot of concrete at the bottom of some very shallow water. The cafe on the Canning River, near the weir and imaginatively name the err...Canning River Cafe was generating alluring smells of coffee and fried pig and had recently put out $18 breakfast-for-two vouchers on, and Mrs Blue had urged me to get one. Stupidly, I didn't, so naturally we decided to go there after the paddle so we could pay full price.

Warsaw (there's lots of Poles)
We settled into our stride after porting the boats around the weir, focusing on our (lack of) paddling technique. It was good to think of something else besides the disastrous week at the Gorilla Biscuit Factory, where the African Savannah Cookie (ASC) section had been thrown into chaos because of a complete failure of the Elephant Proboscis Unit (EPU) - a machine that gradually lengthens employees noses into elephant trunks for biscuit image authenticity. Unfortunately the failure of this device had quite the effect on company morale, with the natural disappointment that we couldn't produce our entire range of gob-smackingly ugly biscuits.

It wasn't long before we got to the Riverton and Shelley Bridges and began to see more signs of life on the river, including a chap who had put a new exhaust on his V8 Commodore that made it sound uncannily like a Datsun 200B, and make him look like a good candidate for erectile enhancement.

As we rounded the bend into familiar parts of the river around Rossmoyne the wind finally gave us a bit of assistance, but we were completely stuffed as we neared Bull Creek, with 16km showing on the trusty GPS. It was quite obvious that we were going to be short of the 20km trip, so it was necessary to prolong the agony by going right up Bull Creek to add a bit of distance. 

"You were in a 4G inverted dive with a Finn Endorfinn?"
Past the Mount Henry Bridge was when we saw our tax dollars at work. I'm all for schools getting federal funding, but if it is supporting $15000-per-term St Smithers Exclusive Private Rich Gentlemans Finishing School so Reggie Huntingdon-Smythe-Smythe can row a brand-spanking new carbon fibre 8s scull, then screw it. And the river was covered in them, all being yelled at by a bloke in a boat with a megaphone who had completely missed the idea that it's the megaphone that amplifies your voice, and there is no need to actually scream into it.

The definition of heartbreak isn't arriving at your destination when you are still 1km short of your goal and completely rooted, but isn't far off it. What was worse was the thought of going up to the Canning Bridge and then having to turn back into a 20kt headwind, but we did it anyway, almost falling off the boats as we pulled back in at Deepwater Point. We made it - and just like Captain Ahab we had caught the 20km white whale and this time it didn't look like me in budgie smugglers.

Canning River Cafe, Cnr Kent St and Queens Park Road, Wilson, WA 6107, (08)93584884

"A cafe. It's on the Canning River. What should we call it? Hmmm, something catchy..."
 It's pretty well known that I'm as tight as a fish's bum. I'm not quite so bad that I wouldn't shout if a shark bit me (which is Un-Australian), but I don't like paying full price if I can help it, so when this place looked and smelt great as we paddled past it I almost refused to come here out of principle, having stupidly not bought the Spreets voucher.

And what a mistake that would have been.

Attached to some sort of eco centre (wasn't the Canning River full of raw sewage poo-kayaks not so long ago??) and situated on a park right next to the Kent St Weir, this place - although a little out of the way - is, in a word, tops. Offering tables as well as a counter-top seating overlooking the river, this cafe has it all. The menu has enough variations on the standard to make it interesting without being over the top, the prices are reasonable, the view excellent and the staff friendly and helpful - they even look you in the eye when they talk to you (personal favorite)!

So having paddled for nearly 3 hours, Westy and I were beyond hungry. I could have chewed the bum out of a low-flying duck (quack!). The Canning River Cafe doesn't take cards - except err... in the ATM right next to the till, which threw me a bit but only long enough for both of us to order a Big Breakfast ($19) and coffees.

As we sat down we thought that this would be a great place to bring the tin lids, what with a playground, the weir, ducks, and the Castledare Railway just down the road. In fact, if I wasn't on the wagon for the month of February (a yearly ritual to prove that I am not a raging alcoholic - If you're going to do it, I recommend the shortest month) I reckon I would have staying here for a swilly lunch as well.

There were plenty of skis and kayaks coming up the river to the weir, including a chap on a pedal-powered Hobie kayak with a sailing rig. I assumed that he mustn't actually have had any arms to require that level of laziness.

The coffees and brekky came out pretty quickly. The Big Breakfast came out with scrambled eggs, tons of bacon, a sausage, fried tomatoes, mushrooms, a potato cake (no, not a scallop or a hash brown - it was more a type of fried mashed potato and was very tasty) and two very large and thick slices of toast. There was also quite a selection of communal help-yourself sauces available. 
My scrambled eggs - Westy had poached - were cooked perfectly. They were aerated at all, had a nice amount of butter mixed in, and were bloody good. I always like to pile my bacon onto buttered toast and put the scrambled egg on top, and the bacon was cooked just right to be able to do this. There was no stringy bits, rind or knuckles and it was cut nice and thickly. In fact the whole breakfast was outstanding, and really hit the spot with a couple of hungry paddlers. We liked the package so much that we had to stay for another brew.

Canning River Cafe - Two thumbs up and 8.5/10. Canning River Cafe on Urbanspoon

P.S. Tip for blokes considering buying frilly knickers for their wife's birthday - DO NOT mention to her friends or anyone connected to her friends that you did your research by googling "redhead lingerie". It won't end well, even if the research was 'thorough'.