Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Oz Holidays and Goodbyes

Golly these last few months seem like a blur! Tomorrow I leave Oz for Switzerland. Summer to winter, shorts to scarves, seafood to sausages. It’ll be quite a change. I thought for my last Oz post I’d give you all a glimpse of what they call the Silly Season here, aka, the holiday season in the Southern Hemisphere. And, yes, it is a bit silly, I must say. Silly in a good (and slightly giggly) way.

For me, the holiday season starts with Halloween. You may remember from my Halloween post that I’m a wee bit more obsessed with Halloween than most, so I was anxious to celebrate everybody’s favorite fright night with my pal Jackie and her fam. You see, they live on the one street in Adelaide that has trick-or-treating so Jackie decided to go all out and invite some of the neighbors and friends over for her own little spook fest. My costume was an Eeeevil Bride but it was hard to act evil when the roses were in their glorious prime on the front yard terrace! Definitely looking more super duper excited than evil here.

However, the spiders and rats crawling all over my dress did scare the bajesus out of me.

Maya was a little angel princess (like always).

Isabella dressed up as a too-cool-for-school tweenie and her friend G as an angel.

Trick-or-treating in Oz is just as much fun for the kids as it is for the adults! We all had a glass of wine and Bob topped us up as we paraded up and down the street.

“I detect strong notes of fairy floss, and a hint of floral.”

So, for being in a country that doesn’t celebrate Halloween, boy I sure did have a silly night! Not to mention the best darned chicken-in-the Weber ever. Jackie has discovered and mastered the otherworldly secrets of brining.

Also on the list of Holidays Cari Loves That Are Not Celebrated in Oz is, of course, THANKSGIVING. My second favorite holiday (or is it my first?). And even though we couldn’t pull off a deep-fried chicken here (don’t think we could find the necessary equipment), Jackie found something unique to this land – a three-legged turkey!

That made us VERY excited.

Maya was excited about my stuffing seasoning drop biscuits…

And the turkey legs.

I was very thankful for my Aussie family.

And they were thankful for my pies. They definitely felt the Thanksgiving vibe come dessert time. Pumpkin pecan pie with whiskey butter sauce and a punkin spice pie that Jackie had been requesting all year.

Hope it was worth the wait!!!

Since the seasons are switched here, Christmastime is summertime and summertime is Christmastime. Apparently not many people decorate their houses with at least one Christmas tree per room like my ma and pa (a couple years ago they had six full size Christmas trees and at least five more smaller trees), and the sun doesn’t set until 8:30ish so it would be kinda pointless to decorate the outside with bajillions of lights like some people in the U.S., so it just doesn’t really feel like Christmas here. But I did spot a beautifully decorated tree in a winery in the Adelaide Hills – photo opp!

And my flat mate Madi showed me a kick butt Christmas display in Hindmarsh. It had many Christmas-y things like the characters from the Wizard of Oz, a water-spewing whale, and a volcano. Awesome.

For my Christmas present, Jackie took me to Chloe’s, a fancy pants restaurant in an Adelaide mansion. We, along with her friend Kate, laughed our butts off all night and had a jolly old time! The food was very good, and although Kate’s poached salmon starter and duck main were the clear winners of the night, my Aussie-themed selections hit the spot. After a cauliflower and truffle oil soup shooter with a parmesan sourdough roll to start us off, I tucked into my Kangaroo Island marron with pan-fried potato terrine, crispy duck-skin salad and jus gras. The marron was like an itty bitty lobster.

We then had a palate cleansing cucumber and tarragon sorbet followed by my main of lamb two ways, a fillet and a rack with a mushroom cream tart, whipped goat cheese, and a lonely roasted tomato. Aussie lamb really is the best, and this was cooked to a perfect medium.

Dessert was more laughs and a bottle of “monty” (to the Aussies) or amontillado (to the Spaniards). Cheers to an awesome night, girls!

Christmas Day Phil and I chilled and got takeaway roast chicken. I know, I know, not very Cari-like and certainly not very gourmet but we had planned on doing dinner with a friend and unexpected circumstances got in the way of our attending. And the charcoal chicken place was the only thing open in the ‘hood, so we didn’t have much choice. Thankfully we had a few gifts to open and had bought a pomegranate the day before, pomegranates being something of a Potter Christmas tradition, so we played Celtic Christmas carols, curled up, watched some movies, and enjoyed our seventh Christmas together (and our third one abroad). Happy Crissy, mates!

I guess the holiday season is really a shopping nightmare everywhere, but I’d never seen anything like the post-Christmas sales here in Sydney. Jeez oh man! People love spending money! MUST CONSUME. We made it downtown to pick up some last minute things before we leave for Switzerland and were gobsmacked by the crowds and pushy old ladies in the department stores. Hey, watch those elbows, lady! Oh, wait, you’re a seal, I think, unless you’re a dolphin, and you might be a man, and your elbows are cushy and comfy so I forgive you.

Since this is my last post from Oz, I better briefly tell you about the best times I’ve had over these past few months.

Every visit I’ve had to the Singhs counts as a best time I’ve had, but one very memorable night was when Bob fired up the wood oven in the backyard and we had a true outdoor feast – one of the last dinners we would all have together, as Amy left to go back to Peru soon thereafter.

Now can any of you honestly tell me a better method of cooking than the wood oven? Think long and hard, and I bet you can’t come up with something that produces smoky flavors, crisp crusts, and juicy and/or melty interiors quite like the good ole wood oven. Heck, you could put a Twinkie in the wood oven and it would taste good.

Just look at that, mmmmm-mm!! A fillet of beef and rosemary taters.

Ms. Megastar displays the lamb chops and sausages before they’re added to the magic cooking dome…

And amuses me with a cheeky Adam and Eve story after she’s devoured the chop. Wait, did I use the word cheeky correctly? I still don’t really get that word. But Meagan’s joke was really funny.

Things got serious though when my plate was full. WOWWWWWWW! Barbecue pork ribs, fillet of beef, lamb chops, herb-roasted tomatoes, rosemary roasted potatoes, slow-simmered mushrooms, watermelon-mint-feta salad, sweet potatoes topped with Persian feta and spices, coleslaw and sausages. Now, when I said feast, I really meant it!!!

Jackie, really girlfriend, you outdid yourself once again. Thanks to Assistant Bob on the wood oven, this was one for the books.

After dinner we settled in and snuggled doggies,

roasted marshmallows,

and got funky to some Latin beats – with Amy obviously leading the way, shaking her booty and twirlin’ around like only those Latinas can.

Another memorable meal was a special backyard lunch at the Simpsons’ beautiful home to celebrate a number of events, including Phil and my engagement.

The wine was as always spectacular as ML’s son James Erskine was awarded Australia’s sommelier of the year in 2008, another of our causes for celebration.

And ML created a fantastic menu, starting with olive and orange bruschettas and moving on to a loaded plate of sweet pea lasagna, cold chicken, eggplant rounds topped with a tomato salsa, potatoes, spinach salad with flowers from their backyard, melon wrapped in prosciutto, and poached salmon with dill and crème fraiche. It really was the perfect menu for a hot afternoon!

To top it all off, she ended with oyster shooters, a creamy bisque-like soup with a plump oyster hiding in the bottom. What a treat.

And yet another EXTREME OZ activity was when Madi taught me how to make lamingtons. Australia doesn’t have a cuisine of its own per se, unless you count Mod Oz but I think it’s mildly ridiculous and could go on about it for too long and my thoughts would probably make people mad. BUT, they do have pavlova (even though it might have originated in New Zealand, shhhh), bush tucker, and LAMINGTONS. So, one of my last nights in my Adelaide home my flatmate Madi decided to share with me her grandma’s super secret lamington recipe! The lamington is a cake cut into squares, dipped into chocolate sauce and covered with coconut flakes, although I’ve seen many variations on this…

We started by baking a basic white pound cake.

Madi then cut it into eight squares and trusted me with dipping half of the batch into chocolate sauce…

Before coating the squares in fine coconut flakes.

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it (and someone’s gotta lick their fingers afterward, too – bummer!).

Look at that! Lovely lamingtons.

Madi said they were especially good lamingtons at that and that they put her grandma’s to shame, even though we used the same exact recipe that her grandma has used for over 50 years. (tehe) The proper way to eat a lamington is with a cuppa black tea with milk, so we hid out in Madi’s super secret hideaway room and gave ourselves a lamington coma. Thanks for an awesome night, Madi.

Okay crap this is the longest post in the history of blog posts but I gotta get it all in! Real quick – my new buddy Bec knew that I didn’t have a car in Adelaide so she took me on my last weekend in town to the Hills for a spectacular day of eating and wine drinking… yes, Bec and I have a lot in common.

In between eating fish and chips...

and wine tasting…

we did manage to catch a clear view of Adelaide to the sea from Mount Lofty…

and walk the Heisen Trail – in HEELS!!! Bec, you’re crazy dude, that can’t be comfy!

Last thing – I promise! – is the trip that Phil and I took to the Sydney Zoo. The ferry ride to the zoo is itself a worthwhile activity, offering panoramic views of the city skyline.

We saw monkeys…

And ostriches…

Killer seals and crazy humans…

And giraffes who have the best view in the whole city and probably don’t appreciate it.

What a view…

What a day.

Oh, Australia. I’m gonna miss you…

But most of all, I’m gonna miss my BFFs. Love you guys, and thanks for making this such an amazing, unforgettable, life-changing year.


Anonymous said...

Aw, this reminds me of when I left Australia! What a great, food-filled post, Cari, even if it was longer than the Bible. Welcome to Switzerland! I can't wait to see some more posts from Europe!

MEGalomaniac said...

Great post Cari! You managed to fit in a whole load of activities. Was very entertaining to read!

Anonymous said...

Wow! what an idea ! What a concept ! Beautiful .. Amazing …


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