Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Things I'll miss about Australia Pt 4

I'm telling you the Opera house pictures never get old for me. I'm not sure what it is but everytime I run across one of these I have a smile on my face. Home stretch here folks. These are the last of the pictures that highlight the things I'll miss about living in Sydney. I'm sure there's stuff I've left out. It's been 4 months now since our return and I'll confess that I miss it more and more. It was such a different life. Anyhow onwards and upwards. Apols (that's what they say there) in advance for jumping around but I went on a sweep for the last pictures I might have missed, so it's all over the place.

Ok this is going to sound really really stupid. But that plastic box pictured above is a standard "take away" box. In other words if you order take out or ask for a box to take stuff home (beware some places don't let you) you will get your food in a container like the one above. Sometimes it's black on the bottom, sometimes it's twice the volume (deeper but same lid size) but for the most part it's always that container. Why is this awesome? Here's why: 1) it's re-useable/recyclable , 2) dishwasher safe, 3)microwaveable. 4)EVERY LID fits on EVERY OTHER box. The exception is the soup bowl type which is a similar bowl with a lid that is likewise more or less universal. BAM tupperware solved. Bam Bento Boxes solved. One more observation here, is that this little box is enough food for lunch. It won't fit "American" sized portions of food or lunch, but no restaurant in Australia serves the generous portions we're use to in the US.

I never acquired the taste of Vegemite however Australians seem to really love the stuff. Here's a picture of our cupboard at work, full of Vegemite (the shelves above had Vegemite too)! It's got this weird mushroom taste to it. Ever quarter I would get some toast smear on butter and the thinnest veneer of Vegemite to see if it had grown on me. Nope.. As a parting gift my team gave me a custom jar with my name on it and sent me an extra tube of the stuff as a care package they mailed to me. I miss those folks.

Favorite quick authentic chinese take out? Once again in world square: "Taste of Shanghai". Din Tai Fung still my favorite, but for the budget real deal Chinese food it was a goto.

Daiso, it's a japanese dollar store. I managed to snap a picture of it. I realize they have Daiso in the US (just not here in Austin) but they had like 7 in Sydney.  Basically it was a dollar (well $2.87) store with the best kitchen gadgets and stationary even minor tools.

Bao Dao located in Chatswood (one of several predominantly Asian suburbs) serves some of the best Taiwanese food. My wife asked me to replicate several of the dishes.

One of the things I missed the most while over in Sydney was American BBQ. What they call BBQ in Australia is what we call grilling. There's no low and slow meats, however we did have Jazz city BBQ in Surry Hills, which was run by a guy from Michigan. His beef ribs were phenomenal (that giant "fred flinstone" rib on the right). It was quite unfortunate that he closed the location. There was frequently a line out of the door so I'm not sure what happened.

We made a lot of great friends while in Sydney and we'll miss them all. Especially this little guy, Milton is his name. He is our neighbor's dog and we baby sat him occasionally. He always loved coming to visit since I would give him bits of salami I had in the fridge.

Speaking of our awesome neighbors/friends: They introduced us to Baccomatto Osteria in Surry Hills. Our favorite Italian place the menu changes quite often and they have daily specials written up on their chalk board. We went to this place a lot.

Momofuku was one of our best dining experiences in Sydney. It's located in "the Star" casino. I know there are David Chang restaurants in the US but we haven't tried them. This is definitely a must try for food lovers. It's an open kitchen and they you get to watch everything like a well choreographed dance.

The Australian Museum of Natural Science right off William street and park street (next to hyde park) is Australia's oldest museum. As my friend said, it's definitely an old school museum with dinosaur bones and all that  but worth a look.

As I said before they really get into Lunar new year. Always very festive.

Dragon. Since it was the year of the Dragon our first year there.

Long Grain restaurant in Surry hills was a favorite for the above "egg net" thai salad dish. The rest of the menu is quite good as well.

I never encountered a Turkish Gozleme until I visited Sydney, but they are everywhere here. It's something like a tex-mex Quesadilla that is stuffed with a variety of toppings and pan toasted but the "tortilla" is a thinly rolled out dough that is very crispy and flaky similar to a Chinese breakfast biscuit. I'm very partial to the eggs, Turkish sausage and feta from these guys up in "the Rocks" on Saturdays.

While you're in Sydney go see an Opera. We didn't go into the opera house to see a show but we should have. Instead we did go see this great outdoor opera. The sets were elaborate and they did a wonderful job with acoustics despite the open air location.

Vivid Sydney is a time of year that the whole city is lit up in lights. It's a neat way to take in the night sights and get out.

View of Vivid Sydney from Darlingharbour. Yes as always fireworks.

Cafe Paci has been a "pop up" restaurant for quite some time now (does it still count as a popup?). When we went it was a 13 course meal. A bit pricey but very interesting food. I also like the fact that they named the popup after what was left of the sign of the previous restaurant. (Cafe Pacifico).

The Royal Botanical Gardens. This is a picture of the "governor's castle". As I mentioned in previous posts, there are lots of great big parks in the city, it's a great perk to have in such a big city. The Botanical Gardens are very nice, great place for a picnic and there's lots to explore.

There are a *lot* of sushi train or conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Sydney. Most of them are pretty meh and if you compare to say Uchi, Uchiko, or Soto here in Austin you'll be pretty disappointed. But if you need a quick sushi fix with a very reasonable price it's a good option. Our favorite was Umi sushi down by Haymarket. (there are multiple branches but this is one of their main ones). They have a pretty good variety of rolls and fish. The plates are color coded for plate prices.

Here's a video of the chef making tamoyaki. It was hypnotizing and delicious.

The Royal Randwick race course. Unfortunately I did not get to see a race here, but it was pretty cool to see it while it was completely empty. There's a pretty large national obsession with horse racing here. The Melbourne cup actually is basically a national holiday since everyone is off that day. I suppose it's pretty exciting but the race is over in 3-4 mins. I watched it and asked my friends, "so was that it? there's not more?"

We favor the East Phoenix but another great Dim Sum place Haymarket/Chinatown is the Marigold restaurant. As my cousin put it, "yup it's legit, good food and full of waiters that are rude to you". Truthfully the staff can be a bit pushy but it's all about efficiency here, you don't wait very long before the carts swarm you and your table is full of food.

Ok this place is closed but I'm putting it up here because it was awesome. Lu Wei is a braised Taiwanese street food, basically you go around pick your ingredients and they braise it in this giant cauldron of soup filled with spices. Great for the winter. My wife was super excited when this opened and there were lines of people for a while but it didn't quite make it. There's lots better in Taiwan of course but this was the only thing like it in all of Sydney and the surrounding suburbs.

Mr Crackling. They sell you whole sheets of fresh pork crackling. There's not much else to say than that really.

I realize this picture is a repeat. Sydney puts up a lot of food festivals, but our favorite is the Sydney Noodle night market. Lots and lots of food very festive best part it was right down the street at Hyde park every year.

This is not the best picture of the tower but it's the best I could find. Pretty much every big city has a tower these days, but I really enjoyed visiting the Westfield tower, it was a nice view of all of Sydney and quite peaceful. Every visitor we had taken there seemed to enjoy it.

Seriously, who has birds this color? beautiful! Much better than the grackles and pigeons we have here at home.

QVB. The Queen Victoria Building, a place of high end shopping some hidden treasures for food a great hobby store and has an awesome 4 story christmas tree running up the middle decked out in Swarovski crystals. A night they don't close the building until late but all the shops are closed (it has an access to the train station) it's a great place to take a picture, it has an old school architecture and during the holidays the lights are pretty neat.

Jacaranda tree. This tree is a transplant from South America apparently but they are everywhere. For several weeks during the year whole areas are this purple color.

I don't know why, but bottarga di muggine  (the italian name) is a delicacy that is highly prized in Chinese cuisine, but I have found it very popular in Italian, Greek, Spanish and Portuguese cuisine. It's a cured egg roe sac of a black mullet. (the Italian do Tuna as well) easily found in lots of places around the world but not in the US. Anyhow I brought like 7 home if necessary I'll go back and get more :)

One of my friends would occasionally get us all together and take us to his favorite middle eastern restaurants. (he's moving to Austin, so I can't wait to see what he thinks of some of the local stuff here) Anyhow, I'll miss our outings and dinner talks.

There is an often missed gem that you should go see. On the south east pylon of the Sydney harbor bridge there is a museum where you can go all the way to the top of the pylon and learn about the building of the bridge and get a magnificent view of the harbor. The door way is very non-descript but it's worth a hike up to see, you get to it on the street level not the "bridge walk" where you go over the bridge.  It's one of those things that even the locals don't seem to know about. When I told my coworkers about it the reply was, "oh? there's a museum up there? I've seen people go up there but never been myself".

Pilu at freshwater (beach). We had brunch there. Sardianian food very yummy. This was the roast piglet which is *the* dish people get. I wish there were more of it.

Cockatoos, they are everywhere. Cute but noisy.

They let me rent a boat out in BarrenJoey. Lots to do in the Palm Beach area.

I talked about St Mary's cathedral. You really need to go in and take a look. It's a beautiful church.

I know I've talked about the opera house but you should take a tour. The inside is as magnificent as the outside.

And there are so many more theatres and rooms than the three big auditoriums. The place goes levels deep and hosts a lots of smaller performances in various room tucked under the main platform that the main auditoriums sit on top of. Above is one of the smaller theaters where they do some TV productions. There are 1000 (!!!!) rooms in the Sydney Opera house!

(I'm about to cause an argument. )Our favorite fish and chips place was Doyles at Watson's bay.  It's kinda classier than their other establishments, but the fish was done really well here and there's lots of fish and preparations to choose from.

I did get to see a local Rugby game. It was a hoot. Something about being will get you cheering for the team, even if you know nothing about the game or how it's scored. Fortunately I had a friend to help me out there. (Thanks Woody!)

More bridge and harbor. This is from the west side of the bridge from Dawes point. Less folks visit that part but there are some nice restaurants near there.

Well start with the harbor and you end with the harbor. I'm sure there's a bunch of stuff I've missed, but these were definitely the minimum highlights. Two years flashes by really quickly and there's a lot to miss about my temporary home, if you go I hope you visit some of these places just make sure you take some time there, it's a long way to go and you might as well see everything while you're there!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Things I'll miss about Australia Pt 3

I'm back in the US writing these final retrospective posts summarizing the highlights of my stay in Australia. Looking back at the photos, we managed to pack in some great memories and make some awesome friends. I'll confess there's a tug at the heart strings as I look at these pictures.  The above shot is a picture from our 8th floor swimming pool area. The park below is hyde park which I walk through to get to work daily.

Here's another shot from a building we *almost* decided to live in. (I was advised it was a party house and not to bother, I'm happy with our final selection).

One of the nice benefits of living right by Hyde Park was that it was often a staging area for a lot of parades. Above is the "Mardi Gras" parade which is actually the Pride parade. This was confusing as it wasn't anywhere near Mardi Gras but the costumes and signs gave a big hint.

One of the many unusual animals that are part of city life in Sydney. This is a picture of what they call a Possum. They look like giant squirrels and are a lot cuter than the ones we have in the US. You often see them scavenging in the trash cans around the park

Right near hyde park on my daily walk to work was St. Mary's Cathedral. This isn't the usual front shot of the church, but I happened by and there was a great rainbow that crossed over it so I took a shot. The inside is pretty amazing as well. It was part of my walking tour of Sydney that would take visitors.

I know there's a lot of jumping around here, it's kind of like the stories of Merlyn (Merlin) where he lives time backwards. So these posts are a bit like that I suppose since we are winding back the clock to the first things we visited. OK, on with the tour. If you hit Pyrmont Bridge/Darling Harbour area they have a great Maritime museum and parked right next to it are a few boats from the clipper ship era. For a small donation (we gave 5 AUD each) you get to walk through the ships and see the ships that would ship coal from the UK to Australia. It's hard to believe people sailed on these things for months at a time.

On the south end of Darling Harbour area is a Chinese Garden of Friendship. It's an interesting shot of a traditional imperial garden surrounded by high rises. From the outside it looks a bit janky but once inside it's quite nice! Great place to visit and have some tea and mooncakes. It was only $6 (AUD) to get in.

Also in Darling Harbour is the aquarium. It claims to be the only place to see a Dugong (a cousin of the North American Manatee). It was cute, nom nom noming away at the lettuce.

Nurse Shark

Walking back towards Chinatown, there is a restaurant that always seems to have a line: Mamak which features Malaysian food. They have a window up front where you can watch the guy making roti. The roti was quite good. I'm not sure I'd stand in line for it (we caught them just as they opened one day and got in quickly. They are located on Goulburn street right before you get to the Chinatown gates.

I talked a little about China town but it was certainly nice to live in a place that had an actual China town. Every Friday night there would be a night market with plenty of food and goods.

The market had a stall where someone was making traditional Dragon beard candy. Hand pulled into fine sugar threads with a peanut center.

I would say the anchor of Chinatown is Market City located at the end of Haymarket. Below you have Paddy's market. Open daily, it features a fresh vegetables, butcher and seafood market.

On the same level is stall after stall of "knock off" goods. Pretty much anything you need from fake bags to clothes and sun glasses.

Including my favorite: "loz blocks", basically mini lego blocks produced in china that didn't seem to care about character licensing. I acquired a large collection to feed my lego habit since transporting them home doesn't present the problem lego blocks do.

We did get to go to Melbourne a couple of times and we thoroughly enjoyed our experiences. Since we've been hitting the various towers in cities we figured it was worth hitting the Eureka Skydeck.

Here's a shot of the view. Melbourne is a neat place. I typically make the analogy of Sydney is much like Los Angeles as Melbourne is like San Francisco. Melbourne is much more well known for their cafes, culture and more gloomy weather.

incidentally, you can find Australia's highest post office box in the Skydeck

One of our favorite restaurants we visited was Movida Next Door. These are actually pictures of Movida Sydney, we were pretty bummed that it closed down. If you get a chance either Movida or Movida Next door are great tapas restaurants that you should check out.

Melbourne also had a nice zoo to visit. Here are some Lemurs sunning themselves. It was really weird they all started opening themselves up and sitting around looking very inappropriate. I mean come on who sits like that?


Fuzzy headed chickens called Silkies.

South Bank is a popular tourist destination. Lots of food and restaurants.

Australians (particularly Melbournites) are well known for their love of coffee. Australia was once a large tea drinking culture (and still are) but when the Italian immigrants landed the Ozzies went nuts over coffee, especially their "Flat white" somewhere in between a latte and a cappuccino.  I have not had a good flat white since I've been back (several places have tried). The "drip" or "filter" coffee here is not quite the same anymore.

Ok technically it's not Australia but we did a couple of hops over to New Zealand. Ultimately we did hit a cruise around New Zealand but that's another post.  NZ (N Zed as everyone calls it) is probably the only country easily accessible to Australia. We did visit a few places around the region but the others take 8 hours to get to (Japan, Singapore) or 5 hours (Fiji).  The country is BEAUTIFUL! worth a visit if you're in the area.

They have the closest Little fat Sheep Hot pot restaurant in ANZ. Turns out Sydney had a lot of hot pot restaurants but Little Fat Sheep has been our favorite since we first visited them in Houston.

Of course no visit to NZ is complete without a trip to the Hobbiton movie set. Pretty neat visit. They had folks constantly watering the land to keep it lush and green. I will warn you ahead of time "SPOILER ALERT:" you can't really go into any of the hobbit holes. They're just facades. A few open into umbrella closets for visitors. Bilbo's house actually went back 3 yards from the door. OK enough about NZ, there's plenty of time for that later. Back to Sydney

As I said, Sydney is more like LA in that there's tons of beaches and folks are very outdoors focused. Here's Manly beach. It's north of the bridge and just about as popular as Bondi Beach.

while we're on the north of the bridge, Luna park is a popular attraction. It's an old boardwalk amusement park built in 1935. Of course it's nothing in comparison to today's amusement parks, but it's kept it's nostalgic feel with old school rides like bumper cars, house of mirrors and ferris wheels. It also features that crazy creepy face which you enter through it's mouth. It's the stuff of nightmares.

Next door is probably our favorite restaurant in Sydney. Aqua, it overlooks the old Sydney Olympic Pool (which is in active use). The food was amazing, my favorite was the Uni pasta. It's too bad their menu rotates frequently otherwise I'd say "you must go have it".

As I posted before we did go to the Blue mountains a few times. There's a lot of hiking to be done (I was clearly not in my fittest condition, as I huffed and puffed my way up and down the trails), but there's lots to do including rappelling down a waterfall.

In nearby Katoomba you can dine at what claims to be the oldest cafe in Australia. The Parragon. I'm not sure if these old school registers were still in use but a lot of the cafe is.

And we had afternoon tea at the nearby Carrington Hotel. It was quite a "vintage" hotel. We were the first ones at tea which made it a bit creepy. It seemed like a scene from the Shining. It got better after there were more people.

Holy cow there's still a lot of photos left. Well I guess this is where I'll stop for now. One final post to come!