I didn't photograph all of my food during the trip, but I did get some good snaps during my last week in Melbourne. If there's one good thing about being in a big city, it's that you can find all sorts of food.
One of the days while Al was at work, I moseyed over to Spud Bar
for lunch. There are lots of locations around Melbourne, and there are two in Western Australia (I'm not sure if those locations are near Perth). Here, everything revolves around the potato, and everything comes out fast. However, you won't find your potato deep-fried in oil like so many fast food places. Instead, you can choose from dozens of healthy toppings and menu options. You can also sub a sweet potato if you desire.
I ordered the Tuna Melt, which was shredded cheese (but not an excessive amount), tuna with spring onions, corn and egg mayo, shredded cabbage, carrot, peas, and tzatziki sauce over a baked potato. I didn't know how these flavor combinations would go together, but I really enjoyed it. The cheese wasn't overpowering, so it didn't compete with the tastes of the tzatziki and the tuna. I was also full before I even finished half of it.
The front windows to the restaurant were removed since the weather was so nice, so I sat at the bench along the front and felt just like I was sitting outside. I also enjoyed my book.
A few days later, I walked to the edge of the city to meet Al for a drink after work. We went to Riverland
, which is my favorite pub in Melbourne. They have a huge beer garden that looks out onto the Yarra River, and it is always packed with people with good weather. There were no chairs for the two of us, so we sat on a bench.
After that, we took a tram closer to his area so that we could eat dinner. I told him that I saw some hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurants that looked really good around there, so we chose one of those called Ecco
. As I suspected, it was perfectly Italian. They asked us if we wanted sparkling water or still water (they will always ask you that in Italy), the decor was very simple (just like a restaurant in Italy), and the pizzas were just as authentic as any good pizza you could eat over there.
I ordered a wood-fired white pizza called Bresaola e Miele Tartufato, which had fresh mozzarella cheese, bresaola (cured beef), grana padano (a hard cheese similar to parmesan), arugula, and truffled honey. It was one of the best pizzas I've ever had. The combination of the truffled honey and cheese could have been enough to make me go back for this every night. Also, like most thin-crust Italian pizzas, you can eat the entire plate without feeling stuffed.
Al got a basic margherita pizza with prosciutto. He also finished everything that he ordered without feeling too full. We felt the way that we should feel: satisfied.
The next morning, we took a day trip to the Mornington Peninsula
so that we could visit the T'Gallant Winery
for lunch. It took us a little over an hour to get there from Melbourne.
I was so excited to get there and have a relaxing lunch with Al while looking out onto the vineyards, but I soon learned that that was impossible. T'Gallant has a cellar door, but their main attraction is their restaurant that caters to people of all ages. As soon as we got there, we were dodging small children, strollers, swarms of family gatherings, and a lot of hungry people waiting in line to order their food. Unfortunately, it was not the idea I had for an afternoon at a winery.
We couldn't find anywhere for the two of us to sit outside, so we sat in a depressing dining room off to the side of the kitchen. While Al held our seat, I went to order our food. I waited in line for twenty minutes, and I quickly learned that I wasn't able to stand anywhere without being in somebody's way. I couldn't begin to count how many times I was asked to move. It was extremely irritating, but I was eventually able to get to the front of the line and order.
Al and I split a large pizza. Half was zucchini with pine nuts and arugula (mine) and the other half was a margherita (Al's). The food was good, but I still can't say it was worth the aggravation (nor was it as good as the pizza from the night before).
We visited the cellar door for a quick wine tasting after lunch. I enjoyed the wine (and also bought two bottles with a 50% discount thanks to Al), but the person pouring our wine didn't talk to us at all or give us much attention. He was busy talking to another couple, and it didn't seem like he wanted us there. That was a bit of a bummer.
I wish that it could have been a better experience. I would have liked it a lot more if it wasn't so touristy. I loved, however, that their wines have Shakespearean names such as Romeo and Juliet. Their labels were gorgeous, but I think I'd rather to go a retailer than have to go back there again. Maybe it was just a bad day to go there.
Afterwards, we drove to Arthur's Seat
, which is a hill that overlooks the ocean. We walked out to the popular lookout point. It was very pretty, although it would have been better if there were not so many trees in the way. Luckily, we ended up seeing some perfect views of the ocean on the way down the hill.
That's all for Melbourne recaps!
I laugh when I think about how much these Australia posts will contrast with my snow post
, but that's usually what happens when you travel to opposite ends of the earth when temperatures are at their most extreme. It's snowing here, and I just battled weather in Adelaide and Victoria
that got up to nearly 41 degrees (105.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
Let's go back there, shall we?
One of my favorite parts about going back to Australia after not being there for a while is that I forget how funny Australians can be. For instance, where in the United States can you find a lingerie shop called The Booby Trap Warehouse
? Across the Pacific and down south a bit, you can find one in Adelaide, Australia. I bought several bras from there. True story.
When we were driving back and forth between Melbourne and Adelaide (and to our New Years Eve destination), I found another reason why Australians are funny. I saw their country road signs.
Do you get it? Don't drive like a W-anchor
Isn't that a great way to grab your attention when you're thinking about speeding down the road and tailgating and weaving around the cars like a complete wanker? I sure think so.
If you're a super-American like my mom and really don't understand the billboard at all because you've never heard the word "wanker" before (or don't watch enough Hugh Grant movies), then I can tell you that the word basically means "jerk". There are other meanings, so look here
if you're in the mood for educating yourself in the art of British slang.
As I mentioned before, we had some very hot days in Adelaide. We spent a lot of time relaxing since that weather can make you pretty lethargic, but we got out of the house too. There were Christmas gifts to exchange, a few friends who were actually in town to meet, bras to buy at the Booby Trap, and beaches far as the eye could see.
I'm not sure if you know this about Adelaide, but they have outstanding beaches. During one of our afternoons, we drove over to Henley Beach. Glenelg is the most popular city beach, but we avoided it since we knew it would be impossible to find parking and space to even walk around on a day like this.
We walked over to Henley Square for lunch, and I got a real Greek salad. "Real" Greek salads have all of the essentials of any other Greek salad, but it's not mixed in with lettuce. There are also huge chunks of cheese, which made this girl very happy.
Later on, I met my friend Megan (read her blog Story Book Love Affair
- it's all about books, and she's a fantastic writer!) at Lemongrass Bistro
on Rundle Street (the most fun street in Adelaide). I've always wanted to eat here while I was living in Adelaide, but I never got the chance. The one time that we made reservations, I got sick a few hours before dinner.
Lemongrass has outstanding Thai food. You can order all different sorts of noodle dishes, but I was intrigued with the menu option that allows you to pick your combination of sauce, vegetable, and protein. I chose the Lemongrass (bottom left), which included mushrooms, capsicum (red pepper) and other spicy veggies. I chose the tofu as my protein, and I was not disappointed.
Megan ordered the Char-Grilled Chicken (bottom right), which was garlic, herbs, sweet chili sauce, chicken, and vegetables. We both loved what we ordered.
We packed up our bags the next day and drove to Port Vincent for New Years Eve. Instead of trying to explain where it is, I drew you a map (below). Port Vincent is the pink bubble, and Adelaide is on the other side of the water. The only way that you can get there is to drive around, so it took us about 2.5 hours to get there.
The land that juts out there and slightly resembles a boot is called the Yorke Peninsula. A lot of people who live in Adelaide also own homes there. It's an ideal place for fishing, snorkeling, diving or surfing.
Just for fun, I also "drew" you a map of Australia. The red bubble shows Adelaide, and you can just make out the Yorke Peninsula next to it.
Before I recap Port Vincent, I really want to stress the fact that you can't live in Adelaide without knowing several people with a "holiday shack". So many people own homes in the city, but they will also own a house somewhere else, such as Kangaroo Island, the Yorke Peninsula, Hindmarsh Island, the Limestone Coast, the Fleurieu Peninsula, or the Riverlands.
People often call them "shacks", because they are never as nice as their homes in the city. They may be in their Adelaide homes for 11 months and one week out of the year, but as soon as Christmas rolls around, the city empties out with everybody going to their holiday homes. These homes also have the capacity to sleep armies of people, because they often have bunk rooms. Those who don't get a bed can still sleep there; they just sleep outside in a tent or a swag
Days are spent on the beach, curled up with a book, or watching ten hours of cricket. Nights are spent with delicious dinners made on the barbie and a few bottles of wine. This is the time to relax and enjoy time with your family and your friends. You may have to share one bathroom with 17 other people and wake up to mosquitoes biting your face, but it doesn't matter. All in all, I really admire this post-Christmas tradition that can never happen in the United States of America.
This was exactly like our time in Port Vincent, except the house our friends rented was a NICE shack.
We spent a lot of time at the beach. Our friend Bonnie rented the house, but she and her sister Cat also have a family home there with a boat. I went on the boat, although I never ended up going water skiing. I definitely should have!
After beach time was beer time and nail-painting time. By the way, you can't see in this picture, but our tent was set up on the deck around the corner. Yes, we slept in a tent for two nights.
Boys got their nails painted, too.
We had steak on the barbie.
Duncan's homemade potato salad.
It doesn't get more Australian than this!
The next day included more beach, lots of time reading, and watching people jump off the dock (I stole this picture from Lara- thank you!).
Then the girls went home to pretty themselves (this house had TWO bathrooms, fortunately), and New Years Eve officially started. Bonnie and Cat's family came by to see the house, and they brought a few appetizers in addition to our own. There was a ton of food.
There was plenty of beer, wine, and cocktails.
My favorite appetizer was smoked salmon on a baguette with capers. YUM!
Oh yes, I also enjoyed the brie very much.
I didn't have one of these, but I'm pretty sure these were appetizers of the Asian variety.
They brought their dog, too.
He got LOTS of attention!
Of course, there was more barbecuing.
Duncan and Claire!
The meat! Sausages and lamb (I think it was lamb).
Lara and I were in meatless moods, so we ate lots of potato and salad.
We also got a visit from the neighborhood dog. He came up to the house a whole bunch of times and attempted to persuade us in a game of fetch.
He usually won at least one of us over. How can you say no to a face like that?
He has owners, but they let him run around during the day and play with the neighbors.
Soon, the sun went down and the dancing began. I was up there once they broke out the Backstreet Boys.
We had a delicious pavlova for dessert with fresh berries.
There were sparklers.
We all had a wonderful time.
Including the blokes.
We drove back to Adelaide the day after that, and then we went back to Melbourne early the following morning. It was an exceptionally warm seven-hour drive, so I was very happy when we made it back to Al's apartment.
I just realized that I have no recollection of mentioning that Alastair moved to Melbourne last year after visiting me in Chicago. I'm sure you would have figured that out by now, but I feel pretty silly for not bringing that up. I have the tendency to just suppose that I already told people things, so I am very sorry if I forgot!
Try, try again applies to two things I have done in the past 24 hours: yum cha and Mt Lofty. I mentioned last week that yum cha
wasn't overwhelmingly good to me, but I went along with the group yesterday and gave it another go.
Some of the food was similar to last week, but we got a lot more steamed plates this time. I decided that my favorite dish was the fried calamari. I KNOW I said that I didn't want the fried food, but I really do love it.
Besides that, there were a lot of steamed dumplings with prawns (the prawn and chive dumplings dipped in soy sauce were my favorite) and some delicious scallop-noodle roll thing that I could not possibly begin to describe. I should have taken a photo.
Instead of fried ice cream this time, I ordered lotus seed buns with most of the group. They are little doughy balls that look like they haven't been cooked, although they have. They are super soft and filled with lotus seed paste. The best I can describe the taste of the paste is like a sweet peanut butter. Honestly, I love these things. They are light and fluffy, and I really can't see them being loaded with calories. All in all, I really can't see the lunch as a whole being loaded with calories. Of course, the fried food is an exception.
That's the lotus seed paste in the middle. Don't diss it until you try it. My coworker who brought us all to yum cha said that she hated them until she tried it for her third time. Now, she's hooked. I liked it the first time I tried it! A few of us felt the same way.
, the restaurant we went to, has some great decor. You will never doubt that you are in a Chinese restaurant. One thing I have to say, though, is that you can't go there expecting good service. Both times, they messed up our orders and took a long time to bring us things that we asked for. Go for the food and ambiance; don't go for the service.
So what's the verdict on yum cha? I liked it a lot. It's fun to go with a group of people, and you can leave feeling like you had a pleasantly healthy meal (just stick to the steamed stuff!). I was also in a better mood this time. I'm glad that I gave it another chance.
My coworker Manish was playing around with my camera when I got back, and he got a photo of me at my desk. That's me at work! My desk gets messy during the day, but I always organize it before I leave. Also, do you see that little white ball next to me?
It's a lotus seed bun. It was left over at the end of the meal, and I couldn't let this cute little dough ball sit there and watch all of his friends get eaten just so that he can get thrown out. So, I took him with me. He still sitting in my fridge! I wonder how it will taste if I microwave and then eat it....
After work, Al and I went straight to his parents' house for dinner. His brother Nick joined us. We ordered pizza, and then Penny put out a wonderful dessert spread. We left the house with a few mini Toblerones, half a wedge of brie and three pieces of home made fudge.
Remember what I said about try, try again? We gave Mt Lofty another try today. It didn't (completely)kill us last week, but I did tell you guys that I was super sore for a few days after! Regardless, we went this morning.
We parked right outside of the Waterfall Gully car park. You can see the waterfall as soon as you walk in. It's so pretty! Actually, everything is pretty over there. The changing leaves are quite the eye candy.
We did it! Honestly, it wasn't even that bad going up this time. It was still hard, but we powered straight through (minus one little stretching break). It went by so much faster than last week. I was surprised when we suddenly turned the corner and saw the side of the cafe on the top of the hill. I was sure that we had longer to go! Including our break, we made it up there in 48 minutes.
Today was my third time walking from Waterfall Gully to the top of Mt Lofty. Here was last week:
This was my first time climbing to the top. It was May 2009. I had just moved to Australia. I really struggled up that time!
When we got home, I iced my legs since I got a painful shin splint on my left leg walking/running down. I then heated up my veggie chili
from Thursday night. It tasted even better this time, because all of the flavors soaked in.
I also had a piece of Penny's fudge. I had to restrain myself from eating more.
Now, I have to clean up. This is our clean laundry hanging up to dry.
And these are all of the clean clothes that need to be put away. My GOSH!!! I think my grandma Arlene would have a heart attack if she saw this.
I still have to shower (I know, I'm gross) and then eventually get ready for a birthday celebration tonight. There will be a lot of people I don't know, so I need to put on my friendly face (and try not to be socially awkward).
I got admitted to Flinders University in Adelaide! That means that I can take a chemistry course there. Although this is very exciting that everything is working out so far, I have a lot of thinking to do. As an international student (I have a partner visa
but still am not a permanent resident), the fees are ridic! One class costs me as much as it would cost me at a private university in the US (and the US dollar is now WEAKER than Australia's!!). Plus, I'd have to find a part-time job so that I can help Al pay the bills. I'd be struggling a lot more with money. Unfortunately, my only other option is to go home and live with my parents. It would be fine, and it would save me a lot of moola. I just have to decide between struggling financially or being away from my fiance for a year. NO BIG DEAL!!!!
Well, we'll figure it out. Feel free to give me a shout-out if you have any advice or inspirational quotes or funny websites. All are appreciated.
Before I came back to Adelaide, my mom treated me to a no-chip (or shellac) manicure. It involves four coats of special polish (one base, two color, one top coat) and putting your hand under a UV light for a couple of seconds after every coat. You don't have to keep your hands under a dryer; they are dry and ready to go after the last coat. My nails were perfect and shiny and would not chip!
This is what they looked like the day after I got the manicure.
This is what they look like more than three weeks later.
I have small nick on my pointer finger, but that's pretty much it. My polish is still as pink and shiny as the day I came home from the salon.
I was supposed to take it off after two weeks, but this is ME we're talking about. I never take care of my nails. I'd rather bite them off than file them or paint them myself. I'll probably get around to peeling the polish off this week, since I hear that you can peel it off! How fun! It's much more exciting than nail polish remover.
Now, backtracking to yesterday, I went to the O'Connell Street Bakery
in North Adelaide to place an order for a morning tea for work tomorrow morning (mini quiches and banana cake...yum). I bought a vegetarian wrap for lunch with olives, sundried tomatoes, feta, onion, carrot, alfalfa, lettuce and capsicum (red peppers).
It was a huge-ass wrap, but it was so tasty and filling. I might grab one tomorrow morning on my way to work.
We then cleaned the entire apartment from top to bottom. Our friend Shona came over to see our place, and then we all walked to Outback Jacks
for dinner. Al and I went there recently
, and we had a great meal. I ordered a hamburger with grilled onions and fries on the side along with a tasty James Squire brew. It was all really good, although the bun looks really unappetizing in that photo. I swear, it was good. Al and Shona also liked their dinners a lot. So far, Outback Jacks has been good to us.
Today, the family went to Aunt Susie and Uncle Andy's brand new house in the Adelaide Hills. We went there last year for Mother's Day, and it was basically a vacant lot with a few walls up. This year, it was complete!
Their house is not easy to find. I can't imagine trying to tell a taxi driver how to pick me up there. In fact, I think it's impossible. It involves taking a few turns off the highway, taking another u-turn and then driving into a ditch that turns into a dirt road and goes under a bridge and driving up a steep trail (you can't really call it a road) that finally leads to their house. It's very well-hidden.
Despite being hard to find, their house is amazing! It is nestled into a rock with floor-to-ceiling windows, so you get spectacular views of the nature around you. There is also a lot of natural light in the place, and everything is brand new.
They have a few human neighbors around them, but most of the creatures that live around them are furry and love to climb trees!
This little koala was sleeping all afternoon with his head buried in the tree. After gorging myself with food and drink for a good four hours, he finally woke up and showed me his face.
There's Uncle Andy with a glass of red and a brick in his hand. Andy, were you planning on knocking the koala out of the tree?
I certainly hope not!
Annnd with that said, happy Mothers Day to all of the beautiful mothers out there!
Have a wonderful day, and remember to not throw bricks at animals in trees!
After sitting in Friday afternoon traffic, a brief gym session and then browsing shops in Rundle Mall with Al after work yesterday, I really didn't feel like cooking a serious dinner. I was ready to whip up a lentil and vegetable curry, but it seemed too complicated for me after 8 pm on a Friday night. I decided instead to make my easy dinner: cous cous!
I wanted feta cheese in my cous cous. I have a habit of taking a fork and eating some plain feta before I add it to anything else. I eat it like chocolate. I also like it just as much as chocolate.
I poured myself a glass of Wolfblass savignon blanc.
Cous cous is my go-to easy dish, because it takes about three minutes to make. For one serving, I pour half a cup of water into a small pot with a little extra virgin olive oil and boil it. I then move it off the heat and pour in half a cup of dry cous cous. I let it sit for a minute or two with the lid on, and then it's done.
I mix it up with a fork.
I then add whatever mix-ins I want. Yesterday, I wanted something very simple. I threw in some crumbled feta and sprinkled on Garlic Gold Sea Salt Nuggets
. I also mixed in a spoonful of nonfat Greek yogurt for some extra flavor and creaminess.
My dinner was light and fluffy and slightly salty. I wouldn't eat it every night, but it was just what I wanted last night.
Cous cous, by the way, has zero fat and is a good source of protein. It doesn't have as much vitamins and fiber as whole grains, which explains why I wouldn't want to eat it every day. It's still convenient, easy and tasty when you add the right things in.
How unbelievably delicious does this gnocchi look, by the way?
We ordered Fasta Pasta
last weekend, and I ordered the Gnocchi alla Rosetta (gnocchi with bolognese sause, mozzarella cheese and a little cream). It was probably the best gnocchi I have ever ordered from a restaurant. I wanted to eat the whole thing at once, but I would have thrown up all over my couch. I was good, and I saved half for lunch the next day.
Look at all that oil. Mmmmmm. Unfortunately, that's another dish I can't eat every day. Out of the two, though, cous cous wins the healthy contest.
It's early on a Saturday morning, and it's time for me to start my day!
Yesterday after we finished some home shoppin' at Ikea, I nearly jumped out of the car to get a picture of the excitement going on outside of the church. I tried to make the photo super big (it looks very blurry if I try to crop it), but you can probably make out the horses and the enormous crowd of people behind it. There were bells going and a gorgeous bride and several photographers. It was quite exhilarating. There was a little girl standing on the balcony above me who was clearly much more electrified than me, though.
Later on, we decided to go on a date for dinner. We have an Entertainment Book
(=AMAZING!!! Get one and you will save so much money), and there are numbers of coupons for restaurants around us. We finally decided on Outback Jacks
, because they have a huge menu (and Alastair wanted to find out why their chicken parmi was $23 as opposed to normal chicki parmies which are more like $17-18).
We expected the experience to be so-so. It's a chain restaurant with a tacky name, so I didn't think that I would get any mind-blowing food. I was anticipating a dinner with too-large portions, mediocre food and screaming kids running around the dining room.
I wasn't surprised to be greeted by a crocodile on the way in (please only look at the croc and not my awkward hand placement on my leg). There were also fake crocs dangling from the ceiling.
We sat down and ordered our beverages. I got the house savignon blanc, and Al ordered a beer on tap. After we got our drinks, our server told us that we had to go to the front to order our food. I'm used to doing that at pubs, but I thought it was strange that we had a server take our drinks but not food orders. It was also a proper restaurant; not a pub. In the end, though, it wasn't a big deal.
It wasn't a big deal, because the food blew us away! I ordered the Atlantic salmon with bearnaise sauce, and it was just fantastic. Al got a chicken parmi. He ate it so fast that he didn't offer to let me try it or take a picture. He said it was the best parmi he ever had in his life, and he would go back to Outback Jacks in a second just to get it. Apparently, it was the quality of the chicken that made it so expensive and delicious. Many places pound their chicken patties too thin to appear larger on the plate or use chicken that isn't good quality. This, I guess, was perfect. Two great meals! Thank you, Outback Jacks!
We also picked up ice cream at Dairy Bell
on our walk home. The ice cream was fantastic, but I was really surprised when they told me that they don't give out samples. I thought that was a bit stingy, given that almost all places let you try the ice cream before buying it. Either way, it was worth the money.
When we got home, we collapsed on the couch and watched the Adelaide Crows beat the Hawthorn Hawks. GO CROWS!
Now, here are our home fixins that we did over the weekend! We got a table runner and chair cushions from Ikea. I finally pulled out our rug to put under the table, and I put out the place mats. The eating area looks so much better!
Now that we moved the rug, I have a little area of the family room to put my home exercise equipment.
We also bought more storage from Ikea. Now, we don't have to put everything on the kitchen bench/counter.
Today, we finally bought a new welcome mat from Bunnings Warehouse. The one that the old tenants left was gross.
We also bought patio furniture! The whole thing cost us $50. Bargain! We can now take in the nice views while sitting outside.
You only have to look beyond the tables and chairs to see what our next project is.
We have a few small tress, but we'll probably find some cheap grass. Mondo grass
seems like a reasonable option. Even when we move out, I'm sure the tenants will like having that over lots of dirt.
I also want to introduce you to my new garden friends. Al bought them a few weeks ago to keep me happy and also to keep Chippity Hippity
company. I haven't named them yet, but suggestions are welcome!
I am now snacking on a Picnic Bar
from a bag that I bought to bring home for the fam and friends. I guess I'll have to replace them before I go. For the record, it's hard to avoid those when they're in the house!
If you didn't read yesterday's post
, make sure that you do so that you know what I'm talking about.
Continuing on, we celebrated the 80th birthday of this woman (below) for the second time on Sunday afternoon.
**The photo below is from Christmas, not the past weekend**
On Sunday right before noon, the family bused out to McLaren Vale for a fancy lunch at Chapel Hill Winery
. MaLaren Vale is a wine region that is 40 minutes from the city. I've driven through the area, but I've never actually been to a winery there until a few days ago.
It was a perfect day.
We had the dining room all to ourselves, and the view of the winery was brilliant.
We stood outside on the terrace and took some photos before returning inside to taste some wines.
At McLaren Vale, the vines sprawl out to the sea. You can see the water if you look carefully.
We could have spent the afternoon outside (and gotten sunburned), but we were also excited about the lunch. I love any meal that includes personalized menus.
I started with a glass of pinot grigio during "cocktail hour", but I switched to a rose once we sat down. The wine was called "il Vescovo Sangiovese Rose", and I will jump on ordering anything with "sangiovese" in the name. I first fell in love with the variety while I was studying abroad in Italy. I hardly ever see it in Australia, so I was so excited when they offered it to me. I also may have brought a bottle home with me...
I was with a fun bunch. Below is Gramps, Auntie Fel and cousin Jack.
Hamish, Ayzsa, cousin Alice
Uncle Nick, Anna, Uncle Chris (and Uncle Tim in the corner)
Of course, there were speeches. We did a toast at the beginning of the meal. Later on, before dessert, we all went around the table and said something we loved about Grumpy. We had a lot of fun with that.
The food, as we expected, was fit for a king. Course one (as described on the menu): a salmon, potato, dill and caper tart.
Actually, the first thing on the menu was focaccia with olive oil and dukka (spices), but I forgot to take a photo. It tasted like it just came out of the oven, and it was sooooo good. No bread is better than warm bread.
Here is the tart after I dissected it. It tasted like fancy mashed potatoes mixed with cooked salmon in a light pastry. I loved it, and I almost cleared my plate. One of my favorite parts of the dish was the caviar (the orange balls). I know a lot of people are afraid of this delicacy, but I really enjoy eating it. I love how it pops when you bite down (I know I just grossed people out).
Course two: 5hr slow cooked beef cheek with grilled eggplant, rocket and buttered mushrooms. I took this photo after I added salad and roasted potatoes to my plate.
This dish really makes me want to buy a slow cooker. The flavors soaked in perfectly to the beef. I wish there were more mushrooms on the plate, because they tasted wonderful with the sauce. The wines below are NOT all mine, by the way. I do admit that I had a separate glass of red wine to go with the meat dish (I think it was a merlot). I think Andy just wanted to add more decoration to my picture.
Course three: Indian doughnut and fresh peach, with a lime and toasted almond ice cream.
I'm delighted that Grumpy chose this dish, because it wasn't something that we assumed would be on the menu. Cake would have been wonderful, but we would have expected it. The doughnut hole didn't taste like it was fried. It was moist and cakey with beautiful spices and a hint of rosewater. It came together beautifully with the ice cream and the peaches.
We concluded the meal with plenty of coffee, tea and Devil's Tawny (port). There is a good chance that I escaped with a bottle of this as well. A very good chance.
We didn't forget to take a group photo on the way out.
We took the bus back to the city and unloaded at Penny and Jamie's house. Some of us didn't want to return to reality yet, so the fun continued in the back yard.
But alas, it was a Sunday night. The majority of us had to get up very early the next day, so we couldn't continue with the party forever.
Three cheers to a wonderful time! Hip-hip-hooray!
Grumpy is celebrating her final party tonight with another group of her friends, and then the 80th festivities come to an end. I'm sad that it's all over, but it does make me hope that I can party the same way when I'm 80. Guys, I'm already looking forward to Grumpy's 90th birthday celebrations!
Where have I been for four days? On a blog hiatus? Usually, when I'm away for a few days, it means I'm out having fun. But I always miss my blogging! I need to learn to have fun AND blog at the same time.
The soon-to-be Mr. and I had a great weekend. Highlights include:
- my first massage (I went to the Divine Wellness and Beauty in North Adelaide- thanks to a wonderful Christmas gift from a client). It was a sixty-minute full-body aromatherapy massage. I also got my eyebrows shaped. I could get used to this special treatment
- finding great deals at Harbourtown. I came home with four shopping bags
- three showers in one day. On Saturday, I took one after my run, another after I came home post-massage covered in oil and another when I still smelled like oil and needed to wash my hair
- going to the movies with Al. We saw "No Strings Attached". Good movie.
- getting Indian food at 10 pm after the movie
- eating a lot of chocolate (FRUCHOCS!!!) in the movie (and having no appetite for that Indian food)
- celebrating Valentine's Day one day early
Guess what we did? We picked strawberries! We drove up to Hahndorf
in the hills. I've always wanted to go there, but I never had the chance. It was a German settlement in the 1800s, and it still has its ethnic flair.
While driving up the main road, I saw a Ferrari that said "broke" on the license plate. I thought it was amusing, so I took a picture. I wish the photo turned out better.
That should be better.
We drove to Beerenberg Farm
on the edge of town. It was just as cute as I imagined.
Beerenberg sells heaps of different jams, honeys and sauces. You can buy their products all over Adelaide.
We paid $3 each at the front. That got us a wristband and two plastic baskets for our strawberries. We crossed the street and then walked a little more.
I think non-ripe strawberries look interesting.
Does this make anybody want a strawberry?
We easily filled two of these. All together, the strawberries cost us about $20 ($9/kilo). We liked it so much better than going to the grocery stores, because all of the strawberries you pick are good ones. You don't have to worry about getting moldy ones in your basket.
After the farm, we walked around the town.
I want to move here.
We ate lunch at The Haus.
If you go to Hahndorf, I strongly recommend it. I ordered roasted pumpkin and feta pizza with pine nuts, baby spinach, pesto and rocket. It was one of the best pizzas I have ever had in my life. Unfortunately, my half-sun-half-shade lighting didn't help with the photo.
Al ordered a pie from the specials list. He liked it a lot.
I took half of my pizza home and ate it for lunch today with some strawberries. Yum!
We had some other exciting adventures yesterday, including drinking a mammoth-sized iced coffee with Penny and Jamie and seeing our first Fringe show of the season. I'll tell you all about the Adelaide Fringe Festival when we get more time! I also have to remember to blog about iced coffee in Australia, because it makes me laugh every time that I order one.
I hope I'll have time to blog a lot this week, because we're moving tomorrow! We have to cross our fingers that we have our internet and electricity hooked up ASAP. I'm getting so excited. I'm also looking forward to my day off of work on Wednesday.
Have a wonderful Valentine's Day!
What do I need for improvement?
- I need to use my real camera instead of my iPhone camera.
- I have to be more comfortable taking photos of food dishes and with people. Often, when I go out to dinner, I don't want to draw attention to myself by photographing all of my food. I know that other bloggers have this issue when they first start out, but I need to get better about that. It won't happen overnight, but I think it could be a work in progress.
- I need a new camera. I also need to get a new laptop. Those things also will not happen overnight. Both of these things cost a lot of money.
With that said, I did manage to snap one photo of my dinner at Guacho's
from Saturday night. As expected, I used my iPhone. Not surprisingly, the photo turned out terrible.
Don't let the bad photo fool you, though! This dish was divine. Guacho's is an Argentinian steakhouse, and you can't get a steak there under 350 grams. Basically, you can't get anything other than a monster portion. I wanted to try some of this meat that everybody in Adelaide raves about, but I knew that I couldn't come close to finishing a real steak. Instead, I ordered the Pinchitos:
Skewers of yearling beef, zucchini and Spanish onion with a saffron, sundried olive and roasted capsicum couscous
Yum. My friend Claire and I got the same dish, and we both could only finish one of our skewers. We should have shared, right? I'm not much of a red meat eater, but I'll have it every once in a while (living with Penny and Jamie, I eat it almost every night). I prefer chicken or a nice fish such as salmon over red meat, but I knew that I had to get Guacho's specialty. I would have preferred to have my meat a little more well done (I'm learning), but I still enjoyed it very much. I'd definitely order it again. If I had someone to share it with, that would be a bonus! The couscous was also great on the side, but Claire and I agreed that it was too salty. I make couscous all the time, but I never put salt in it. Oh well.
As for the boys, Al and his friend Duncan ordered steaks. They cleared everything on their plate, and they ate our second skewers. I guess the food was worth feeling violently full afterwards. Thank you to Guacho's and to Al's previous employers!
In other news, I hear that parts of the US (including Chicago) are facing some terrible blizzards. Queensland is also bracing for some wild weather. This time, it's a cyclone. How incredibly sad. As if Australia- Queensland especially -needs to be hit with any more storms.
Well, all of you stay safe! Don't go out if you don't have to.
Of course, if you need to get out of the bad weather, come to Adelaide! It's beautiful here.
It's already midway through January, so WHY am I still blogging about my Christmas/New Years holiday? Will somebody slap me? Well, get ready to buckle down and sit in your chair at your computer until your bum goes numb and your eyes glaze over in their sockets, because I'm doing all of Sydney in ONE POST! That's right. I'm not stopping. I'm going straight through.
New Years Eve
On the morning of December 31, we left my beloved Melbourne to embark on a pleasant Qantas flight (they always are) to Sydney. We were in the air for less than an hour, but they still took the time to serve us cereal and a hot bread roll (the cereal was actually gross, but I forgive Qantas for all error).
We then jumped into a big taxi that took us to our hotel: the Intercontinental. This is where Oprah stayed, so we knew it had to be good. We didn't get a suite, but we did get a spectacular view.
After we checked in, most of us got a much tastier breakfast at Pancakes on the Rocks
. I didn't take any pictures, but let's just say that they have a lot of pancakes there. I go there every time that I go to Sydney. Afterwards, I took a much-needed nap on the biggest and most comfortable pillows I have ever sunken my head into. After that, Al and I walked around to see if we could find a styrofoam cooler and a hearty supply of beer for the evening's festivities. We came back empty-handed and soaking of sweat. It was very
hot out there. At least we had wine. More on that later.
Look at our views!
Helllloooo Royal Botanic Gardens and Sydney Harbour (I took this photo on the last day, when it was much more overcast)!
After our afternoon alcohol hunt, we prettied ourselves up for dinner. We ate dinner at Etch
in the lobby of our hotel. It's a fancy-schmancy restaurant, and I was worried when I saw the menu in advance and could only understand about five words on it. There was no need, however. Our five-course meal was one of the best I ever had in my life!
To start, we had pickled baby heirloom vegetables, Edith's Ash and grape gel. Are you starting to see why I was confused? The vegetables were a combination of tomatoes and carrots, and they were beautifully placed on the plate. They actually delicately peeled the bottom and sides of the skin on one of the small tomatoes and flipped it up inside-out on the top so that it looked like a flower. You can kind of see it in the left corner. The green and red dots are different sauces, so there were lots of tasty varieties. There was also a soft cheese (I'm not sure what it was, but it tasted like brie), so I was very pleased. I cleared my plate and then ate the rest of Al's veggies.
I guess I forgot to photograph the second course. It was the only one that I didn't finish. It was pork belly, scallops, pea and truffle. It tasted warm and buttery, but not in a bad way. I devoured my scallops, but I could only eat so much of the pork belly. I know that it was perfectly done, but I just can't eat pork belly. I don't like the taste of it.. Jon and Al had to fight over the remains.
The third dish was a Wagyu sirloin, kromesky, sarladaise potato and red wine vinegar juis (it's funny how my spell check on here is going crazy. I guess it doesn't know any of these words either). This was divine. I wouldn't have shared this with anybody. I used to never eat steak, but now I'll have small bites of it every once in a while. This seemed to melt in my mouth and made me wanting more with every bite. The sauces were also great for dipping. The meat in the middle was breaded and lightly fried. That was also perfect. So were the potatoes. I could have easily had a second helping of that plate.
The fourth dish was a cola cloud with raspberry sorbet and vanilla creme fraiche. It was unlike anything I've ever had before for dessert, and I loved it. The 'cola cloud' is that brown puffy thing that you see. It tasted like frothy Coca Cola, but so much better. They placed the sorbet on top of it and raspberries in the front. This was all on top of a thick vanilla ribbon that was edible but indescribable. I was very satisfied by this point, and I was even more pleased to know that there was another dessert dish on its way.
The final dish was a cherry and coconut parfait with macerated cherries and cocoa bean tuile. Does this look like your normal parfait? It looks more like a tiny and edible checker board that happens to be pink. I think the cocoa bean tuile was the white ball on the right. The brown runner through the plate is actually some sort of chocolate that stuck very well to the plate, although you could sort of eat it once we ate all of the food. Believe me, we all tried.
We also had some drinks with dinner. We left feeling full, but not too full. I actually felt depressed when I left, because I did't know the next time I would be able to get food that good! Thank you, Etch! You made all of us happy. Really, if you can make my dad clean both of his dessert plates (and he never eats dessert), then you have done well!
After dinner, we headed upstairs to change into more comfortable clothes and grab what little booze we had for the fireworks. You see, although we were allowed to bring alcohol into our area, we couldn't bring anything in a glass bottle (hence why we searched long and hard without success for beer cans). They also threatened to confiscate our booze if we brought too much in with us, so we really didn't have that much. My parents bought two bottles of wine that they transferred to plastic water bottles, and Jon brought some of those teeny tiny plastic whiskey bottles. Unfortunately, they didn't sell any alcohol there. I usually wouldn't care about all of these alcohol rules, but I always celebrate my night with some champagne.
On our walk over, I caught a very blurry picture of police on horseback patrolling the area outside of the Royal Botanic Gardens. There were hoards of people. We were lucky to have gotten tickets in advance, because people without tickets literally camped out the night before to get a decent spot and view of the fireworks.
So many of the streets in the city were blocked off to motor traffic.
I can't stress how wonderful it was to have tickets. We whisked right through security and were guided to our viewing area in the Botanic Gardens. We could see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge almost perfectly.
It was just starting to get dark by the time we laid out our blankets and pulled out the wine. Oh yeah, there were definitely people who brought in champagne in glass bottles and gallons of booze. Too bad we followed the rules.
Once it got dark, we saw the 9pm fireworks display. This was for families with young kids and earlier bedtimes. It was nice, but it was nothing compared to the display three hours later. From 9:10 until 12, we sat around (after running out of alcohol about 15 minutes after arriving). Since I had wine at dinner, I was exhausted and even cranky. We had nothing to do (I forgot my cards), but it was still well worth the wait.
I, of course, couldn't get any pictures that remotely resembled a firework in the sky. I tried again and again to get a good photo, but I finally decided that it was more important that I try to enjoy myself. I put the camera away. The fireworks lit up the entirety of Sydney Harbour. There were sparks flying off the bridge and illuminating the sky. There were all kinds of fun shapes and variations. It was impossible to pull my eyes away.
It was well worth every penny for a good view. All in all, sobriety and all, it was the perfect night. We planned to go out to some pubs afterwards, but everything was packed with people. We were also exhausted. I was thrilled to wake up on January 1st feeling refreshed and NOT hung over!
New Years Day
New Years Day was spectacular. We woke up to watch the London fireworks live (the time difference still shocks me). It was a hot and sunny day outside, so Jon, Al and I lathered ourselves up with sunscreen and headed over to Manly Beach. Of course, you can't just walk there from Sydney's Central Business District.
Manly Beach is a famous Sydney beach, although it's not quite as popular as Bondi. This is appealing to many people, because you won't always be competing for towel space during the summer months. I've already been to Bondi twice, so we decided to try something new.
Manly is on the far opposite side of Sydney Harbour, so the best way to get there is by ferry. We were less than a five minute walk from Circular Quay (I LOVED our location), so it was very easy for us to get there. We missed the first ferry, so we had to wait about 30 minutes to catch the next one. We were first in line, so we got our choices of spots. We decided to stand outside on the front of the boat. We wanted the best views.
Here we are, leaving the ferry dock!
Can you believe that people use this mode of transport to get to work every day in Sydney?
I snapped a photo of our hotel. It's the second building in the from the left. You can almost make out the "Intercontinental" letters on it.
Hello, beautiful! Really, it never gets old.
This view never get old, either :)
There are so many boats in Sydney Harbour. I wouldn't mind taking my boat out there every day.
We got surreal views without any heads in the way. I'm glad that we stood where we did.
I took a lot of pictures of the Harbour. Probably too many. There are many more than I posted. A woman eventually asked me to move over so that she could get some photos without my head in the way. Luckily, she didn't stay there very long.
This is where the Harbour opens up into the sea. It was also surreal.
A very short while after that, we arrived at our destination. Hello, sunny Manly! All together, our ride took about 25 minutes. That is, once it left the dock.
Lovely beach, yes?
Even though I was covered with sunscreen and kept reapplying, my back still turned bright red. It hurt for a couple of days.
We had to walk through the town to get from the ferry to the beach. There were so many adorable shops and places to eat. I was especially amused by this 'drinking station'. It's just for people to fill up their water bottles. They had a lot of those on the promenade.
After I realized that I had a burned back, Al and I left Jon at the beach in search of somewhere to sit in the shade. We walked back to the ferry dock, where there were tons of places to eat and sit around. We settled on the Bavarian Bier Cafe.
I sipped on a glass of savignon blanc (probably the only thing that was under $10, and it was gross) while we stared at this view. Not bad,right?
We caught the ferry home as soon as Jon came back from the beach. We met our parents for dinner in Darling Harbour, and then we went on our own little bar crawl. We had fun, but luckily not too much fun. I was lucky to have a hangover-free vacation!
The Last Day :(
The last day of our holidays was sad, but we still made it fun. My mom decided to leave all of the pictures until then (I guess we didn't have time to do them earlier, anyway).
The picturesque Royal Botanic Gardens
We were hungry around 2:30 pm (Al and I still hadn't had anything to eat), so the family followed us to Wagamama
in Darling Harbour. I first discovered this place in London in 2009, and I never looked back. Terrible service, but great food!
I don't look happy in the photo, but I was enjoying my noodles and mojito very much.
Jon and my dad went to the aquarium (I've already been there twice, and my mom and Al have been there once, so we skipped it), and the rest of us went back to the hotel to relax. Then, we got ready for our final dinner.
Here is my dad sitting in the lounge in the lobby of the Intercontinental that night. It was so beautiful. I'm not sure why we didn't take more photos. There was a gorgeous old-fashioned elevator just to to left of him.
We had our last meal at East Bank
in Circular Quay. It was my second time there, and I was not disappointed. It was raining and slightly cold (for us), so we decided to eat indoors instead of taking in the Harbour views. On the way to dinner, I posed with my hood. If you know me well, then you know I don't like getting my hair wet!
There is the lovely Harbour Bridge with some light display underneath. When Oprah was here, it was a giant red "O"!
Delicious mussles with the best tomato sauce I've ever eaten in my life! I was eating it right out of the bowl. Table manners are overrated.
Jon and Jen!
Jon, Barb, Jen!
NOOOO! I don't want this to be over! I've had so much fun recapping all of this. If I was a more consistent blogger, I would have blogged almost every day of vacation. As a result, I would have taken and posted more pictures and memories. I still think I did an okay job. I guess it's time for me to go back to my every-day blogging. It may not be as exciting, but it's all me!
In other worlds, I can't believe that Brazil and southeast Asia are also having terrible flooding. It's so bad here, but people are getting by day by day. The water has now spread to New South Wales and Victoria. Look at this
from last week (this is from Queensland).
The amount of support for the flood victims is remarkable. There are volunteers from all over the place helping clean up. I heard that there were 90 buses in Brisbane picking up volunteers and taking them around, and those buses kept emptying out and filling up with more people. It's all very inspiring.
Okay, good night friends! I hope your eyes are still in your sockets!