Sunday, March 9, 2008

An American Tourist in the Adelaide Hills

Le Cordon Bleu organized an excursion for my class to visit the Adelaide Hills. Only a 20 or 30 minute drive from the city, the Hills are a playground for oenophiles, foodies, and nature lovers alike, with plenty of vineyards and olive groves, quaint little villages and towns with great shops and restaurants, and a number of wildlife and conservation parks.

We began the day at the Mount Lofty summit look out. It was a cold and foggy morning so the view wasn’t spectacular, but apparently on a clear day you can see all the way to the ocean. Here’s me freezing my butt off.

Our next stop was a tourist’s (my) dream! We headed deep into the bush (or what I consider the bush, anyway) to Cleland Wildlife Park, where I proceeded to converse with a multitude of native species in their native tongue.

First, I snuck up on the kangaroos.

Cari: G’day mates!

Roo 1: Eh mate, bring that tucker over here, I haven’t had brekky yet.

Cari: Crikey mate, you’re a dinky-di boomer.

Roo 2: You smell bad.

Cari: At least I didn't leave stinking slobbery drool all over your hand.

Roo 3: How dare you come into my bush and insult me!
Cari: Ok, ok, I'm sorry - truce?

Roo 3: I guess. Let's shake on it.

Cari: (cautiously) So, my dad says youse are crazy ropable and like to engage in bouts of boxing, human evisceration, etcetera. Is that true?

Roo 4: Why don’t you come closer and find out?

Cari: Ah, no thanks.

Roo 4: Fair dinkum mate, that is a right old walkabout you're goin' on! Is it time to blow the froth of a couplea cold ones... Strewth, ya flamin Gallah! Hooroo!

After that insightful conversation, I braved my way through the bush, avoiding the bunyips and dropbears, to look for signs of koalas.My bushwalking skills must be legendary, since without much difficulty I spotted a koala chillaxing on a stump. Cari: (with typical unnatural enthusiasm) Oh my gosh, you cute little cuddly wuddly softy poo! I finally found you!Koala: (through a eucalyptus-induced daze) What? Huh? Oh, um, please leave me be, I’d really just like to continue getting a buzz from my early lunch of eucalyptus leaves, thanks.

Cari: Look at the camera, koalie, oh dear you are just so snuggly and soft! What a little ripper!

Koala: (in an increasingly serious tone) Ok you bogan, it’s time for my 20-hour nap now, you hoon. Can someone please help me out here?

Cari: (being dragged from the site by a park ranger) Bye bye my little fuzzy friend! Bye! See you soon! Kisses and hugs! Bye!

While finding my way out of the bush, I stumbled upon the Tasmanian devils.

Cari: Crikey, you look like you had too much caffeine this morning.


Cari: Ok, ok, don’t crack a mental, I was just trying to be friendly, geez you’re a stroppy feller.

Tazzy: (incomprehensibly spitting) &%!!!*$@!!

Moving on, I found the emu hangout. They were very clique-ish and didn’t have much to say, so I got a quick photo and was on my way.

Next on the itinerary was a visit to Hahndorf. My first impression was that it seems like an Australian visited Germany 150 years ago, fell in love with a town there, disassembled it, put it on a boat, and re-assembled it back in South Australia. We ate lunch at a buffet that included sausages, sauerkraut and potatoes, alongside curry and rice, chicken nuggets and fries, samosas, spaghetti and pavlova, but there were many authentic German activities occurring, such as men wearing criss-crossed suspenders and silly hats:Tourists pretending to intimidatingly hold huge beer steins:And buxom blonde folk riding around on hay carts in period garb with baskets full of colored eggs:My decidedly non-German colleagues and I took a group shot. I do have some German blood from my mother’s side, but with a name like Sánchez, and a penchant for tequila and refried beans, who do you think would believe me?Our next and last activity was a tasting at the scenic Bird in Hand winery. The grapevines were framed by a backdrop of lush rolling hills.And our visit was just before harvest time, so the vines were heavy with grapes.(No, I’m not pregnant, although I just realized that this shirt would lead one to believe so. Looks like I’m not wearing that one again.)

This was the setting for a tasting of a variety of Bird in Hand’s wines, namely a sparkling pinot noir, a rose, a semillon sauvignon blanc, a chardonnay, and a shiraz (which this area is known for). With all this wine in my belly, I enjoyed a peaceful nap on the bus ride back to Adelaide.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Adelaide makes the grade

My first full week in Adelaide was full of settling in and orientation activities with my colleagues and classmates. University of Adelaide has an historic, green, peaceful campus along Adelaide’s North Terrace.
The Uni is bordered by the River Torrens - a beaut!

My apartment is in a super location, near the Central Market, Chinatown, and one of the major “eat” streets in Adelaide. I went on a tour of the Central Market with my classmates, given by Mark Gleeson of Providore.

The market really seems to be the beating heart of the city. It was founded in 1869, is the largest fresh produce market in the Southern Hemisphere, and holds a key place in Adelaide’s history and culture. For example, one of the cafés and coffee shops, Lucia’s, introduced Italian food and coffee to South Australia. Aside from getting the inside scoop on some of the best producers and vendors represented in the Central Market, we learned how in general markets are breathing cultural institutions that must adapt as its customers change their preferences. The Central Market has been able to adapt throughout its long history and currently seems to be at a crucial point in its evolution. Because the Market has been marketed as a major tourist attraction in Adelaide, the number of visitors coming through its doors has increased to 1.4 million each month. When tourists visit, they have a different agenda from local customers and don’t tend to purchase much or develop relationships with vendors or producers. It is key for the government – and also for the market – to understand this change in landscape in order to preserve the market’s culture and allow it to thrive into the future.

That being said, let me show you some of the fun things I learned (and ate).

Mark invited us to sample some boutique olive oils outside his shop, Providore (which reputedly makes the best lamington in Australia).

I learned how to properly conduct an olive oil tasting and the general characteristics found in a great oil (what a surprising peppery tickle at the back of the throat!). I was also introduced to a substance called dukkah, a mixture of ground hazelnuts, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cumin, salt and pepper that has apparently recently experienced ubiquity in the Australian restaurant scene. It can be used to crust meats before roasting them, or to sprinkle on a salad, or in our case, to complement bread and olive oil as an entrée to a meal. I hadn’t seen this in the U.S. and wonder if it might be the next big foodie fad in America!

We visited shops specializing in pastries... and charcuterie…

and sampled Russian beef and rice piroshki.

The Smelly Cheese Shop offered us some creamy local goat’s cheese, we crunched on apples picked fresh from the orchard in the morning (it’s autumn here, remember), and we sampled the freshest oysters and tuna sashimi.

Can you believe all of this is under one roof, just a block away from my apartment?! I’m still getting used to the idea! Here’s a view of the Market area, as seen from my roof deck:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Welcome to Adelaide

Here's what the sky looks like every day in Adelaide.
I was warmly welcomed at the Adelaide airport by ML&A, introduced to me through my friend Mary. Their house is incredibly lovely, one of the oldest in Adelaide. They were extremely hospitable and allowed me to tag along to an event at the South Australian Museum to celebrate the donation of a set of aboriginal artifacts. They then took me to a spectacular Chinese restaurant, Citi Zen, where I had my first taste of smoked tea duck and was introduced to South Australian wines via a Pike’s Reisling. This Reisling wasn’t nearly as sweet as those I’d drank in the States and I was very pleasantly surprised.

The next day I explored the city and began to put together my new life here. Dinner was a real treat! ML&A pulled together a South Australian feast for me and two very interesting marine biologists out of San Diego who were also staying with them. On the menu: South Australian prawn cakes, roast lamb, potatoes, rocket (arugula) salad, and date fritters with cinnamon and yoghurt cake. A very memorable meal indeed. Also stand out were A’s wine choices and I must say I felt quite spoiled by the whole ordeal. We drank a 1982 Medoc from Chateau Potensac and a 1981 Penfolds Cabernet-Shiraz, both dusty from their years in the cellar. I couldn’t decide which I preferred, but I did notice that the Potensac continued to improve after it was opened. Both were a delight.

ML shared her dessert recipes with me - you should definitely make these tonight.

Date Fritters with Cinnamon and Yoghurt Cake

Recipes courtesy Ali Seedsman

1 ½ tsp dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 ½ cups luke warm water
1 ½ cups plain flour
Vegetable oil
24 pitted fresh dates
½ cup flour
½ tsp cinnamon mixed with ½ cup sugar

Dissolve the yeast with the sugar in ½ teacup water. Allow it to stand in a warm placed for 10 minutes, until it starts to bubble. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add remaining water, and beat until smooth. Leave covered in a warm place for 1 hour. The batter will be soft and quite liquid, bubbly and elastic.

Heat a generous inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Toss the dates lightly in the flour, then drop them into the batter. Pull them out one by one and fry, 6 or so at a time, turning after approximately 2 minutes, and fry on the other side until they are golden a crispy. Drain on paper town and toss in the cinnamon sugar mix. Serve warm with yoghurt cake and warm honey.

Yoghurt and Brown Sugar Cake

**This recipe needs to be made a minimum of 2 days ahead

1 tub Greek-style yoghurt
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
Honey, warmed

Line a 4 cup sieve with cheesecloth. Place the sieve in a mixing bowl. Tip 1/3 of the yoghurt into the sieve and smooth out. Sprinkle ½ of the sugar evenly over the top. Pour over another 1/3 of the yoghurt and repeat with sugar. Pour over the remaining yoghurt and smooth out. Cover with the flaps of cheesecloth and then with plastic. Place a light weight on top and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 days. Pour out any whey that collects in the bowl.

To serve, unwrap the cake and carefully place a serving plate on top. Invert, then remove the sieve and cheesecloth. Serve small slices with the date fritter, or fresh figs, and warmed honey.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hello, Sydney

Let me just start with a visual. Here’s what I left in Ohio.Here’s what welcomed me in sunny Sydney.Need I write more?

Actually that was a rhetorical question so I’d like to give you some of the highlights of my first trip to Sydney. After lugging my life-in-a-luggage from the airport to Phil’s place, he took me on a tour of his uni, University of New South Wales.

There’s the bell - recess time!

We then moseyed on down to Coogee Beach, one of the eastern beaches of the city, which is about a 20 minute walk from Phil’s apartment.

It was pretty, so I stopped and enjoyed the view.

Lipe knows that if I don’t eat every two or three hours I get really mean, so he thought ahead and had a neighborhood Thai restaurant in mind. The place was called Thai-riffic, and it was… great! I had grilled barramundi topped with a papaya salad.

And Lipe had prawns and veggies in a coconut curry sauce. A great intro to my life in Oz as a gastronome.

I was surprised I was able to keep my eyes open that long, so after dinner I promptly retired so I would be fresh for the following day.

And what a day it was! We hit many highlights of downtown Sydney, starting with the amazing Botanic Gardens.

Leading us to the Opera House.

This building is way bigger in person than it looks in photos.

Next on the itinerary was a ferry trip to Manly Beach. What a super name for a beach! There were plenty of guys jogging in Speedos on Manly Beach but they didn’t seem too Manly, if you know what I mean. Now I know men in every other country in the world except the US (excluding Miami and some random 80 year old men on Cape Cod) deem it perfectly acceptable to proudly wear wet spandex bikini bottoms in public and I generally consider myself an open minded citizen of the world. But come on, guys, put on some trunks, please. I apologize for not having any close up photos but if you're interested you can check out the Santa Speedo Run that happens each year in Boston (I have obviously chosen to skip this event). Here’s a PG shot of Manly Beach.

Phil and I parked ourselves on a roof deck on the beach and ate mussels and fries and drank ourselves a few James Squires. I’m genuinely impressed with this beer. It was founded by Australia’s first brewer (a convict!) in 1806, and the beer remains true to its original formula.

We had a good walk on the beach and returned to Sydney on the ferry. Half the fun of the Manly trip was the ferry views of the city and particularly of the Opera House. See for yourself:

After disembarking, we putzed around The Rocks, the site of Sydney’s first European settlement. Apparently this used to be where swashbuckling ne’er do wells lived in squalor, sloshing through open sewers and getting sloshed in the pubs. There’s still some sloshing of the latter variety happening here but it’s generally a neat place to explore.

This part of town offered more great views of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

If you look closely, you can see the lunatics who paid more than $200 to risk their lives climbing the Harbour Bridge. Um, no thank you.

I wish I remembered what was so funny? Maybe I'm laughing at you silly suckers still stuck in Northern hemisphere winter.

After The Rocks we returned to Phil’s ‘hood and had a comforting Italian dinner, then I fell to sleep before my head hit the pillow.

Day three was similarly stimulating. Our first and awesomest stop was to the Sydney Fish Market. Oh dear me, I love that place. !! Love it love it love it.

My eyes were as big as Sr. Alfonsino!

I went photo crazy so I’ll only post a few here, but you get the picture – it was a market with lots and lots of dead fishies for sale. I learned a ton as there were some exotic species here, and everything was perfectly fresh and ready to swim into my belly. According to the market’s website, it’s the largest in the Southern hemisphere and the world’s second largest in terms of variety outside Tokyo.

If you can't trust the sashimi here, you can't trust the sashimi anywhere.

Phil also enjoyed the bustling market scene.

I was so overwhelmed after the fish market that I needed a break, so we stopped in Darling Harbour and I enjoyed a bubbly.

We then walked through Chinatown and the Spanish Quarter of the city. The Spanish Quarter was HUGE. There were at least TWO restaurants serving Spanish-ish food! We had a difficult time choosing where to eat but finally chose the place claiming to serve Asturian food (from the north of Spain). Not sure if that was completely accurate but the waiter did speak the King’s Spanish (you know, with the thilly lithp) so it felt totally authentic. We decided on a typical spread of chorizo a la plancha, gambas al ajillo, pan tomate, and patatas bravas and were thus full and felices.

My last day in Sydney was spent in Phil’s part of town again. After his final bell rang at school, we conquered the Cliff Walk along the eastern beaches, from Coogee to the infamous Bondi. The path is well trodden and affords some spectacular scenery, such as


Sorry Bondi, not impressed. I’d rather live on Tamarama.

And that concluded my first trip to Sydney! The following morning Phil put me in a taxi and shipped me off to my new home, Adelaide…