Tag Archives: Australia

Sunrise

This is a picture of sunrise from the balcony of the apartments in Cronulla we’re temporarily calling home. So far, it’s my favorite part of our stay here – and something I never appreciated before, given that 6 am was once an ungodly hour, a time no civilized person should have to experience. Student life is luxurious, no? But I like my new discovery, and my newly set schedule, free of night shifts and weekend calls and all that my last job entailed.

Moving is still stressful, and our lack of any luck in the apartment hunt has prolonged this stress and made us wonder if we could possibly have a decent job and credit history and still end up homeless. This is probably an exaggeration, and I suspect it’ll only be a matter of time and application, but it has made it difficult to find out much about our new home beyond the sheer volume of legalese involved in renting anything in this country. I have NEVER read so much paperwork in my life, and I find it hilarious that I need more references to apply for an apartment lease than I needed to get a job here, or obtain a visa. You can get in, but you will struggle to establish yourself as a real person with a house and a car and 100 points of identification.

Some of the good things: I really like the Inner West of Sydney, with its eclectic neighborhoods and sheer diversity. This doesn’t exist in the suburb we’re currently staying in – Cronulla is more of a tiny beach town that got engulfed by suburban sprawl. I love that good, cheap Indian food is everywhere, that the beach is every bit as good as you would imagine from all the touristy advertisements for Australia, and that work colleagues and friendly and laid back and not afraid of poking fun at each other. And I’m excited about the possibility of making a home here. I only wish it would happen a bit faster.  I guess this is a good way to learn to be patient.

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Perth & Margaret River

Yes, I realize, I promised this post a week ago. I apologize. I’ve been entirely too wrapped up in *what to do with my life* (now that I don’t have a job lined up for next year for the first time in my adult life) to think about things like posts and food and, oh, the little things that I really should be paying more attention to.  Like gorgeous beaches, sun (when it happens!), berry picking, and the massive stack of vacation pictures I finally put up on my flickr page.  This first one is from Little Creatures, in Fremantle, which is one of the best places I can think of to have a beer by the sea and dream about living anywhere warmer than CT.  As long as you don’t want a stout, of course, but Australia isn’t really the place for stout anyway.

Perth itself looks like this:

It’s a small city, but it has the most amazing park right near the city center with preserved Bushland and all sorts of gorgeous places to while away the day.

Kings Park aside, Perth was just a good chance to catch up James’s family and go shopping for passionfruit tea and delicious jam donuts and all sorts of other good stuff at the Fremantle Markets and this greek spice market whose name I can’t recall at the moment.  This was good in its own right, but I wanted to see something new, so we ended up heading down to Margaret River for a few days.  We stayed near Yallingup, which is a tiny town a bit north of Margaret River, with cheap campsites and views like this:

It’s nice seeing the sun set over the water again.  There’s also a pretty awesome cave nearby:

It is one of a few sandstone caves in the region, and it was worth a trip, even if we did have trouble getting pretty pictures. We headed down toward Margaret River, as well, to check out the Karri forest (pictures do not capture how awesome this was):

They’re as tall as redwoods, almost, except they all seem to reach the same height, so you feel like you’re under this light, open canopy of green.  It’s the kind of place you’d expect to find fairies if you happened to be five years old and less cynical than I am.

In Margaret River, we stopped for lunch at the Margaret River Bakery, which was cheap and awesome.  I had a burger with the works,

which was something like AU$7 with the chips.  Beetroot, fried egg, and grilled onions were all involved in this masterpiece, and while I was skeptical at first, there is a reason burgers in Australia come with this particular combination.  The beetroot and onion were a sweet counterpart to the savory grilled beef and fried egg, and despite my misgivings, I ended up liking it.  James had a AU$4 pie, chips, and gravy special:

This was proper Aussie tucker, as James would say if he happened to be feeling homesick and in the midst of making pie.  Yes, gravy and chips are brilliant together, if slightly indulgent.

Now, Margaret River is probably not known for its bakery, however delicious our lunch happened to be.  It IS known for wineries and food producers, which happen to be all over the region, which you can go check out if you have a car and an adventurous stomach.  We didn’t do much wine tasting (I was driving — on the wrong side of the road! And James doesn’t drink.)  but we did check out some local cheese producers, a chocolate factory, and an olive oil producer or two.   Olio Bello was my favorite one, I think.  They had new olive oil they had just pressed that week, which was green, fresh, spicy, and tasty. We picked up a bottle to bring back with us, and had to restrain ourselves from buying more.  The liquid ban in airports is cumbersome.  We also checked out The Berry Farm, which makes jams, berry-infused ports and wines, and this incredible sparkling strawberry wine that I seriously would have bought if we could have brought it back.  We also stopped for a coffee on their grounds, since we ran into a guy that said they made “incredible cappucinos”  on our way into the tasting room.  He was right, though the setting might have helped the experience.

Most of the wineries have cafes and restaurants on their property, and this was no exception. I’d say go for lunch and a glass of strawberry wine and just hang out for a little while in the sun, if you have the chance.  If we hadn’t already been eating almost continuously all day, we might have done just that.

It was a different sort of vacation.  You have to understand that you will be driving everywhere, stopping for free food at random little farms and shops all over the place, and spending more money than you really planned on spending.  This wasn’t a bad thing at all, and we balanced it with plenty of beach walks, which I sorely miss here.  (The Long Island sound is just not the same!)  I think I need to look for a job somewhere warmer.

So that’s finally Western Australia, more than a month after our return.  Maybe I’ll even get back to posting about our garden (which is growing like mad), that awesome strawberry rhubarb tart with the easiest crust ever that I made ages ago, or berry picking in CT. You’ll have to wait and see…

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Matteo’s on Brunswick Street

I didn’t plan on writing this one up, so here’s the sole picture, in all it’s cell phone-quality glory:

Thanks for sending it along, PG.  You’re looking at tempura-wrapped squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese from Matteo’s, in Melbourne’s North Fitzroy neighborhood, which I had as a starter (or entree, as they called the first course).  Yes, it tasted gorgeous, as deep-fried squash blossoms tend to do.  The watermelon and veg balanced the richness of the tempura batter quite nicely, which I would say the restaurant tended to do very well as a whole.

The food at Matteo’s is probably best described as Australian-Asian fusion.  It’s not cheap, but if you’re looking for a nice place to eat in North Fitzroy, it’s worth checking out.  There’s a tasting menu, an a la carte menu (which I ordered from), or, if you’re there for lunch, a two course + wine fixed price lunch deal for $35.

For the main course, I ended up having a decadent mushroom tart with a brioche crust, topped with a poached quail egg, spinach, cherry tomatoes, and a shitake mushroom sauce.  Now, I love mushrooms, so this dish may not be for everyone, but if mushrooms are your thing, you will love the creamy, mushroomy tart filling.  It paired really nicely with the Tasmanian Pinot J picked out for the main course.  Everyone else was pretty happy with their mains, minus those who got the duck.  The duck itself was good, but the Japanese omelet side was a bit on the greasy side, which may be why this particular option has since been taken off the menu.

So, to sum it up: I’d recommend this place if you’re looking to spend some money on a nice meal in Melbourne. The food was excellent and fine dining atmosphere wasn’t uncomfortably posh, which is always a good thing when you’re traveling with someone who refuses to admit he owns a single pair of long pants.

And with that, I’ve finished my report of Melbourne, mostly because we didn’t do much there this trip. We only had a couple of days, and we’ve both been there before, so there wasn’t anything too exciting to write about.  I will say you should check out the Melbourne Museum if you have a chance, because live spider exhibits are the most awesome thing you will ever find in a museum.  One of the first supercomputers is there, too, which I never get tired of checking out. I mean, seriously, memory made of vacuum tubes? How could that not be cool??

Yes, I am a total geek sometimes.

Next, I’ll post on Perth and Margaret River, though it may take me a little while … I’m at a summer school during the next couple of weeks and am learning lots, so the blog is sort of on the back burner for the moment.

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An update (finally)

Yummy beet tzatziki in Canberra.

Yummy beet "tzatziki" in Canberra.

No, I am not yet organized enough to give you markets in Paris or adventures in Germany. In fact, I’m still stuck in Australia here, mostly because the backlog of pictures is so large that it’s going to take me all week to get things sorted for you all. If you must, visit my flickr page on Cologne, where I haven’t yet gotten around to commenting. At the moment, I want to tell you about this awesome, simple dip that I discovered at a Turkish restaurant in Australia. I have no clue what it’s called, but it’s basically yogurt, salt, garlic, a bit of pepper, and beets, grated and mixed in. It’s a fluorescent purple, looks totally inedible, and is probably the best thing I found in my final week in Canberra. It’s definitely something I’m going to try to make when I get home.  Is it just something that has come out of Australia’s seeming devotion to beets, or have other people had this before? Why have I missed out on this beautiful concoction for so long??

I think I’m getting a little carried away.

Next post, I promise to tell you about this:

This is the life. Too bad this is the worst koelsh I had on the whole trip.

This is the life. Too bad this is the worst koelsh I had on the whole trip.

Among other things, of course!

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Filed under Australia, Europe, stories, travel

Goodbye, Canberra

From Telstra Tower

From Telstra Tower

Finally, I’m packed and off to the next adventure. Tomorrow? Germany awaits, as does James, who arrives just as I do. It’ll be good to see him again, after early phonecalls snuck in before work, a 14 hour time difference, and more work than I have quite yet managed to wrap my head around. It’s been a great experience — character building stuff (or something), as some might say. I say simply that I’ll miss the early morning chill on the funnily artificial yet pleasant lake on morning runs, riding out to the bush in 30 seconds flat, and feeling quite small in a sky so grand compared to the one I grew up with.  I have been lucky to work with some awesome people, have learned a hell of a lot, and have realized that I actually do miss home. This is a good thing; I’m lucky to have a home worth returning to.

Anyway, I’ll have to save a full report for later … I still have proceedings to write, and a flight to catch tomorrow. I’m flying Qantas — cross your fingers for me. 😛

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It’s madness, I tell you

Night shift vision. Photobooth is so much fun, especially at 2 am.

Night shift vision. Photobooth is so much fun, especially at 2 am.

You know when you’ve been up for so long and yet somehow asleep that everything sort of blurs into this funny, multicolored haze? That’s when I think Apple decided on its Photobooth filters, because they just seem so appropriate in the middle of a nightshift. Especially the distorted ones.

This week has been nuts so far, and it isn’t over yet. I have spent more time in the control room pictured above than any human being should, and you know what? I’m not the only one. In fact, I feel like a total slacker, despite working harder that I have in a very long time. But regardless, some bizarre combination of the Liz Phair coming from the speakers and the background electronics hum (and the fact that I’m running things here — no accelerator operator for me) is making me feel a little rebellious. Just a bit.

So what, pray tell, am I going to do about it? Well …

Having your own little jar of vegemite is practically an entry requirement.

Having your own little jar of vegemite is practically a requirement.

Heh… This and a Cadbury chocolate bar might help pass the night a bit more quickly. (You try staying up all night for two nights in a row and see what you crave. Of course, I have a notorious sweet tooth, but that’s another story entirely.)

At this stage, you either agree with me wholeheartedly or think I’m completely insane, as I’ve just suggested consuming a black, tar-like, salty substance known as Vegemite to pass the time a bit more quickly. But I tell you, people, B vitamins are beautiful, and this particular condiment is pretty much swimming with them. And it reminds me of grilled cheese sandwiches with beer, which can’t be a bad thing. I tend to pair it with cheese on toast, or, if I’m craving that sweet savory experience, Milk Arrowroots, butter, and vegemite are pretty much perfect. Milk Arrowroots, which are packaged, entirely unspecial biscuits from Arnott’s, taste kind of like animal crackers, and are big enough to actually spread butter on, for the record. They are pretty damn good — even if you’re trapped caring for a sick boyfriend Sydney with nothing else for dinner.

It’s funny, because I would never buy packaged cookies (ahem — biscuits) at home. And you know what? It’s not all that surprising, if only because you don’t find high fructose corn syrup in everything you touch. The ingredient list actually makes sense more often than not. It’s kind of refreshing.

Anyway. I am rambling, as I’m sure you’ve discovered by now. I will say that if you’re looking for something more substantial to get you through the night, curry noodle soup is pretty good at four AM, as well. It’s dead simple to make, too.

Authentic curry for all your fake exotic food needs.

"Authentic" curry for all your fake exotic food needs.

Start with homemade chicken stock (Or in this case, “Real Stock”, by Campbell’s, which I find hilarious — especially since it makes your food taste exactly like canned Campbell’s soup), a packet of fresh udon noodles, a bit of coconut milk, some curry powder, sliced up onions, garlic, and bok choy, mushrooms, a bell pepper, some thai basil, sliced bacon (very optional), and, if you can find it, a kaffir lime leaf or two. No recipe — just cook the bacon, veggies (start with onion and garlic first, then bacon and mushies, then bok choy) in a stew pot with a bit of oil until soft, throw in the stock, lime leaves, and coconut milk, season with curry powder and salt to taste, bring to a simmer, and then add in the noodles. Once the noodles are ready, garnish with some thai basil, and you’re good to go.  (For the record, I also threw some cilantro on top, which is what you see in the picture above).

This is so not something I would make at home, but hey, I have a spice basket there. Here, I have to improvise.

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Getting lost in Canberra

Parliament, from the rear (aka, what you see if you get lost on your way up)

Parliament, from the rear (aka, what you see if you get lost on your way up)

If I had a sense of direction, I wouldn’t stumble upon Asian lions guarding the rear end of the Australian Parliament house, ready to pounce upon diplomats intent on a secret smoke break. But then again, I wouldn’t feel like I was going to be hauled in by the Federal Police, for wandering into somewhere I really shouldn’t be. I forget sometimes that I’m in Australia, where they seem to be a little less uptight about that sort of thing. I mean, you can walk on the roof of the Parliament House here, provided the grass isn’t frosty. There aren’t even guards with funny black earpieces and formidable eyeglasses to avoid.

Yes, Parliament and my lab have something in common. Somehow I think this execution was a little more successful, despite a few leaks in the glass roof.

Yes, Parliament and my lab have something in common. Somehow I think this execution was a little more successful, despite a few leaks in the glass roof.

Yes, I had my first tourist experience in Canberra. I had a little tour (there are more pictures on flickr, of the inside of the building), and I also walked to the National Museum and had a look. This is where I ran into this guy:

This guy knows how to live.

This guy knows how to live.

He seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself. It was a gorgeous day, so I don’t blame him. The Museum was actually pretty awesome, and free. The building was impressive, in a very modern, “I intend to be an important piece of architecture” sort of way:

Imposing. But free!

Imposing. But free!

That’s Canberra for you, though. The whole city is relatively new, and is full of man-made monuments symbolizing all sorts of things. It also happens to be huge, despite its relatively small population. I walked to the National Museum and Parliament house, and it took me about 5 hours to get through both of them by foot. It’s definitely a collection of suburbs, spread out and designed for automobile transport. So it’ll take me a while to see everything. After all that walking, I really wanted food. Lots of it, fast. So I did a warm salad, with bits and pieces from the fridge.

Apples and bacon are actually a perfect pair.

Apples and bacon are actually a perfect pair.

I threw free range bacon, mushrooms, pecans, apples, bok choy, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, a bit of sugar, lemon juice, and salt and pepper in a pan (add the bok choy last), cooked it until everything was nice and soft, and threw it over some mesclun greens. It was just the thing after a long walk — sweet and savory and warm (it’s winter here, remember). And with the blue brie, fresh bread, and fig jam with fennel, it was a nice way to end a rather long day.

Oh yah — I almost forgot:

I could only afford this if I consider that I almost bought a $20 bottle of vino cotto instead.

I can only afford this if I consider that I almost bought a $20 bottle of vino cotto instead.

That was pretty good, too.

Tomorrow? Well, there’s work, and dinner at a collaborator’s house, for which I’m making truffles. And the experiment. Of course. But I bought a book on Canberra. Hopefully I’ll find something a bit more interesting food-wise to share. I know it’ll involve a bus or two, or perhaps a bike rental. The supermarkets around here have been rather mundane, so I’ll have to try a bit harder to find some of the more interesting ingredients I was hoping to try. Not that I’m complaining.

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