Category Archives: Travel

Australia Someday

A FREE TRIP to Australia?

Now, this is something I want to share with friends and family ASAP. Friends and family in the United States that is, as this Tourism Australia Contest is just for lucky Americans.

Visiting the Great Ocean Road, Australia“I’ll get to Australia Someday and see the Great Ocean Road!”… It’s something I used to say often, along with, “I’ll get to Singapore someday” (to eat chicken rice at a gritty Hawker Center), or “Leningrad someday” (to practice the Russian I’ve been learning for 30 years).

Travel is the thing I save up for most in life (yes, even more than dining out). The cost of traveling abroad is the thing I measure all pending purchases against. If I’m pining for a new pair of $250 boots I think, “that’s a quarter of a ticket to Tokyo.”

Virgin Australia L.A. to Melbourne (via Sydney)My “Australia Someday” came last September, when Tourism Australia invited me to a Melbourne Food and Wine Festival preview

A highlight of my Oz visit came even before I arrived, when Australian Chef Luke Mangan (the airline executive chef) had me upgraded on my Virgin Australia flight from Los Angeles. 

Experiencing Australia, eating (and drinking) Australia was an absolute dream come true. Photos of my trip (with many more to come) are posted here on Flickr.

How can you visit Australia this year? Here’s the scoop (via Tourism Australia):

Virgin Australia, Delta Air Lines and Tourism Australia have teamed up to encourage Americans to visit Australia now.

Head on over to AustraliaSomeday.com and take a visual journey through videos and pictures related to each of the 52 experiences. These act as clues that hint to where in Australia the experience is enjoyed.

Place a “pin” on the map of Australia at the location and – if you get it right – be entered to win that “Someday” trip. You can enter each of the weeklong experiences for 52 different chances to win an Australian holiday.

KOALA!Each trip comes complete with a week’s hotel, roundtrip airfare for two and the featured Australian experience.

Note: The “Australia Someday” competition ends April 21, 2014 so get going!

Tourism Australia

Virgin Australia

Australia Someday

Delta Airlines

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel

SXSW Austin Eats

Last year I was invited by Samsung to check out the food scene during South By Southwest (SXSW),  the yearly film, music and interactive conference in Austin, Texas.

There were so many incredible bites, including the BEST BRISKET I have ever tasted (photos below), and a pop-up food trailer park called SouthBites that made it easy to find some tasty surprises too. SouthBites will be up and running again at this year’s 2014 SXSW beginning March 7. Check out the details here. 

Franklin BBQ, Austin
If you haven’t been before, Franklin BBQ should be your first stop. Order the brisket.

I asked for the FATTY parts of the brisket. Franklin BBQ, Austin
Brisket… Glorious Brisket. I asked for the fatty part and it was life-changing!

Franklin BBQ, Austin
There will be a line at Franklin BBQ. It’s worth it. I arrived three hours before opening and was still about tenth in line. Thankfully someone across the street was renting chairs. About an hour before opening someone came around with beer for sale. Yes, beer for breakfast!

The MAN, Aaron Franklin.
The MAN, Arron Franklin.

Tipsy Texan Sandwich at Franklin BBQ, Austin
Tipsy Texan Sandwich with chopped beef, sausage, slaw, onions, pickles.

Brisket & Sausage at Franklin BBQ, Austin
The sausage is good too… but it really is ALL ABOUT THE BRISKET.

Franklin BBQ, Austin
“Sold Out”. I saw a few tears when the sign was posted. So full from my meat fest, I walked to the end of the line and gave my extra brisket to the last man standing. He smiled.

Do plan your schedule accordingly as Franklin BBQ is open Tuesday–Sunday and CLOSED on Mondays. Hours: 11am–sold out (just open for lunch). Watch Bourdain eat at Franklin hereMore Franklin BBQ photos.

Ramen Tatsu-ya (Austin, Texas)
Ramen Tatsu-ya is Austin’s first authentic Japanese ramen shop opened by chefs/DJs, Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto. Get there EARLY as well as there are usually lines out the door. Lunch Hours are Tues-Fri, 11am-2pm (Sat+Sun, 12pm-3pm), Dinner Hours are Tues-Sun, 5pm-10pm.

How good is it? Bon Appetit named them one of their Top 50 Restaurants! “A strip mall may not be the first place you might think to look for one of the country’s best new restaurants, but you’ll be glad you did when you stumble upon this Japanese gem. The dining room’s bright red chairs and red-accented lamps set a fun, energetic vibe, but it’s the steaming bowls of ramen with hunks of pork belly that cause fans to line up outside the door.”

#1 Tonkotsu Original at Ramen Tatsu-ya
Ramen Tatsu-ya’s #1 Tonkotsu Original: Creamy pork noodle soup with chashu, ajitama egg, wood ear mushroom and scallions. More Ramen Tatsu-ya photos

Barley Swine, Austin
Hankering for a more higher end (yet still casual) meal? Then head to Bryce Gilmore’s Barley Swine.

Crispy Trotter, Grilled Pig Face (Barley Swine)
I dined solo at the bar and started with the Crispy Trotter, Grilled Pig Face, Loin, Beans, Sauerkraut.

Hen Egg, Popcorn, Fermented Goats Milk (Barley Swine)
Soft Hen Egg, Popcorn, Fermented Goats Milk, Celery, Dill. No wonder GQ included Barley Swine on their 2012 Top 10 Restaurant list. More Barley Swine photos.

Veracruz in Austin, Texas
Veracruz All Natural is a food trailer located at 1704 E Cesar Chavez.

Migas with eggs, tortilla chips, avocado, cheese.
HANGOVER HEAVEN. Migas with eggs, tortilla chips, avocado, cheese at Veracruz.

Breakfast Migas at Veracruz in Austin, Texas
Two please. (Travel Maxie watching over my breakfast of champions). More Veracruz photos.

East Side King
Unfortunately I didn’t get to eat at Qui last year (I don’t think it was open yet!) but the awesome SouthBites food truck lot was curated by chef Paul Qui.

East Side King (a rare moment with NO LINES)
Fortunately I got to try Paul Qui’s food via his food truck, East Side King, at SouthBites.

Kara-age Kimchee Yakisoba
East Side King’s Kara-age Kimchee Yakisoba egg noodle, fried chicken kara-age, cabbage, cilantro, sesame, spicy mayo.

ESK Pork Belly Slider
ESK Pork Belly Slider: Pork Belly, Pickles, Cilantro on a Sweet Roll by East Side King.

Deep Fried WAGYU Weiner w Bacon Relish
I don’t see Foreign & Domestic on the #SouthBites food truck list this year, but their Deep Fried WAGYU Weiner w Bacon Relish was killer.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Waffle w Ancho Chile Honey
Scheduled to be at #SouthBites again is the comfort-food-on-wheels Waffle Bus. Definitely go for the Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Waffle w Ancho Chile Honey.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Also returning to SouthBites is Ohio’s Jeni’s Ice Cream. My favorite was their Salted Caramel Ice Cream.

Bushmill's Irish Honey Ice Cream at Coolhaus Austin
Follow CoolHaus Austin on twitter for SXSW locations. Their Bushmill’s Irish Honey Ice Cream is to DIE for.

Hey Cupcake! SXSW 2013
Hey Cupcake gets my vote for the CUTEST FOOD TRUCK ever!

Michael Jackson Chocolate Cupcake w Cream Cheese
Michael Jackson Chocolate Cupcake w Cream Cheese by Hey Cupcake.

Many thanks to Samsung for this fun and delicious experience! All my photos were taken on a Galaxy Note II.

All my Austin food photos

Franklin BBQ website

Ramen Tatsu-ya website

Barley Swine website

Veracruz on FaceBook

East Side King website

Waffle Bus website

Jeni’s Ice Cream website

Cool Haus Austin website

Hey Cupcake website

About SouthBites

SXSW SouthBites Food Trailer Park by Austin 360

Note: SouthBites is located at 604 Driskill St – Southeast corner of Cesar Chavez & Red River and is open to all SXSW Registrants & the general public.

Leave a comment

Filed under Eating Out, Travel

AUSTRALIA – Jo Bites Oz, Part 3

Jet lag. I’d like to say I don’t suffer from it, and as an experienced traveller I could simply shake it off and reset my body clock when I arrive in a different time zone. But it seems like the older I get (I’m 50 this year), the harder it is to recover from lack of sleep.

In the past I’ve tried melatonin and prescription sleeping pills, even dozing off for hours on a long, international flight, but I’m still exhausted upon arrival. The last thing I want to do is waste time catching up on sleep when I’m in a new city (or country).

When I’m fighting jet lag, a good attitude helps. Plus I always get a rush of adrenaline when I begin a new adventure. And coffee… lots and lots of extraordinary coffee.

Australia Part 3: Melbourne Coffee and Café Culture Tour
Not many cities take their coffee as seriously as Melbourne does.  Since the first espresso machines landed in the 50’s, the city’s reverence for the coffee bean has continued to prosper.  The third wave coffee movement has taken hold, with a number of cafes serving cold press, siphon, filter and clover methods, with locally roasted beans.  Today, it is difficult to turn a corner in the city centre without enjoying the aroma of fresh brews. (Tourism Australia)

 

Along the Yarra River, Melbourne
Our Melbourne Coffee and Cafe tour was organized by Walk Melbourne, with our group meeting near our hotel on the Yarra River. We spent almost three hours walking around, tasting coffee, eating lunch and also exploring Melbourne’s lane ways with Hidden Secret Tours.

Alice Nivens Cafe, Melbourne, Australia
First stop, Alice Nivens Cafe located on Flinders street. Owner Janet Wong named the café after Tim Burton’s white rabbit, Nivens, and brings her love of baking, liquids and fantasy alive in this small inviting space.

Alice Nivens Cafe, Melbourne, Australia
Peeking into Alice Nivens.

Alice Nivens cafe, Melbourne
Pastries at Alice Nivens.

Alice Nivens cafe, Melbourne
Janet Wong, the charming owner of Alice Nivens Cafe.

Alice Nivens cafe, Melbourne
Alice Nivens Cafe.

Alice Nivens Cafe, Melbourne, Australia
Alice Nivens Cafe.

Alice Nivens cafe, Melbourne
Wall art at Alice Nivens.

Alice Nivens cafe, Melbourne
I tried Los Planes (El Savador) coffee at Alice Nivens Cafe. It tasted floral with hints of sweet candied citrus, pomegranate and cocoa.

Alice Nivens Cafe, Melbourne, Australia
Alice Nivens Cafe.

Walk Melbourne Tour
Dukes Coffee Roasters on Flinders Lane. Dukes features a dedicated filter bar and is made largely using reclaimed and recycled construction materials. A percentage of annual sales from the coffee house is pledged to environmental causes.

Walk Melbourne Tour
Dukes is very serious about coffee. I felt like I was in a coffee test lab!

Walk Melbourne Tour
Brother Buba Budan (on Little Bourke Street)  is named after the world’s first coffee smuggler. BBB uses some of the best coffee in Australia, roasted by Melbourne’s own famous coffee smuggler, Mark Dundon.

Brother Baba Budan in Melbourne, Australia
At Brother Buba Budan I tried Finca La Soledad (Guatamala) with notes of nectarine, toffee and mandarin.

Walk Melbourne Tour
After several cups of coffee, my new pal (fellow writer Nyree McFarlane) and I grabbed a quick Dinkum pie to soak up all the glorious caffeine.

Dinkum Pies is located in one of Melbourne’s magical hidden laneways, Block Place (off the Block Arcade.) For over forty years, they’ve been making traditional meat pies, pasties and other Australian goodies.

Walk Melbourne Tour
Steak Curry & Rice Pie.

Walk Melbourne Tour
More touring, then brunch at Silo by Joost, Melbourne’s first ‘zero-waste’ café.

Walk Melbourne Tour
Near the kitchen of Silo by Joost.

Walk Melbourne Tour
Spring Vegetables, Hens Egg, Olive Brine, Buttermilk at Joost.

Walk Melbourne Tour
Jerusalem Artichoke, Cumin and Yogurt Soup at Joost.

Walk Melbourne Tour
More walking in beautiful Melbourne.

SheBeen in Melbourne, Australia
We past Shebeen cafe after eating brunch. I would’ve loved have gone back but I just didn’t have the time. From the website: We donate 100% of our profits, and your choice at the bar determines where they end up. Here’s how it works… Every beer, wine, cider and margarita sale sends funds back to that drink’s country of origin. We’ve made sure your money ends up in the right pockets by scouring the globe to find some of the smartest organisations tackling poverty in the developing world.

Walk Melbourne Tour
Beautiful old tram. Melbourne’s first electric tram began operation on 14 October 1889 between Box Hill and Doncaster. The service was abandoned less than seven years later and it took until October 1906 for another electric service to begin. (Yarra Trams)

Walk Melbourne Tour
Touring lanes and arcades.

Hosier Lane, Melbourne
Melbourne street art. Hosier Lane is the iconic street art laneway in between Flinders St and Collins St.

Hosier Lane, Melbourne
Ganesh on Hosier Lane.

Bar Americano 20 Presgrave Pl, Melbourne, VIC
Bar Americano, “situated in a laneway, off another laneway” in Melbourne. My favorite photo of the day.

Many thanks to  Tourism AustraliaTourism VictoriaMelbourne Food and Wine.
Melbourne Part TWO here.
Melbourne Part ONE here.

Walk Melbourne
www.walkmelbourne.com.au

Hidden Secret Tours
www.hiddensecretstours.com

Alice Nivens
www.alicenivenscafe.com

Dukes
www.dukescoffee.com.au

Brother Buba Budan
On FaceBook

Dinkum Pies
On FaceBook

Silo by Joost
www.byjoost.com/silo/

2 Comments

Filed under Travel

AUSTRALIA – Jo Bites Oz, Part Two

Part Two: Atlantic Restaurant – Melbourne, Australia

Part ONE of my Australia adventure here.

This year, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (MFWF) will celebrate all things water. As noted on the official website, “In 2014 we honour water; soaking, dousing, steaming and fishing our way through a veritable ocean of information from sous vide to sustainability, from the Amazon to the Arctic.”

If you missed my last post, in September I was invited by Tourism Australia to preview some of the festival restaurants, in and around Melbourne. MFWF programs begin on February 28th and run through March 16th. Click here for details.

The Atlantic Restaurant, MelbourneMy first night in Melbourne I attended a dinner at Chef Donovan Cooke’s Atlantic Restaurant, an “ocean to plate” concept that fits in perfectly with the upcoming festival’s water theme. After an early-morning arrival from Los Angeles, plus an afternoon exploring Sichuan food (aka getting lost) in Chinatown… I was ready for an elegant, fine-dining experience.

Yorkshire-born Donovan Cooke has quite a distinguished culinary pedigree, honing his skills under the likes of Marco Pierre White and Michel Roux.

From the Atlantic website:
“He has worked at The Savoy Hotel and the Waterside Inn in London and La Cote St Jacques in Roigny, France. Donovan was Head Chef at the age of 23 at Harvey’s. Donovan came to Melbourne in 1996 where he was co-creator of the influential Est Est Est in 1997. Luxe was next was awarded The Age Good Food Guide three hats in its first year. Ondine followed and it was awarded Best New Restaurant in 2002. From 2004, Donovan was chef de cuisine at Derby Restaurant and Bar at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. In 2005, he was recognized as Honorary Commander, La Commanderie des Cordon bleus de France for outstanding culinary achievements.”

In 2010, Donovan returned to Melbourne to become Executive Chef and partner of The Atlantic. The restaurant theme is inspired by the “hustle and bustle of the fish markets of years gone by, in New York and Chicago.” It’s a beautiful, waterfront location, set on the banks of the Yarra River.

Melbourne Food & Wine describes Donovan as “Intense, earnest and knowledgeable, Donovan Cooke has a reputation for his uncompromising approach to impeccable seafood and the best way to handle it. His Michelin pedigree is undeniable; his skill and technique, faultless.”

And yes, he’s also been on MasterChef Australia!

For this MFWF preview dinner, Chef Scott Pickett (Estelle Bar & Kitchen) was also manning the stoves along with Donovan Cooke. Pickett also has an impressive cooking background, winning Two Chef Hats in the Age Good Food Guide.

Photos – Dinner at The Atlantic Restaurant (9/8/13)

The Atlantic Restaurant, Melbourne
The Atlantic on the banks of the Yarra River.

The Atlantic Restaurant, Melbourne
“Ocean to Plate”. Seafood on display, like a fish market!

The Den (at the Atlantic Restaurant) Melbourne
Cocktails before dinner at the The Den, downstairs from the restaurant. (This photo from Atlantic website)

The Atlantic Restaurant, Melbourne
Wagyu Bresaola, Quail yolk, Heritage Cauliflower by Chef Scott Pickett. You can’t see the quail egg in this photo, but this was such a gorgeous dish. The crunchy chips added a great texture.

The Atlantic Restaurant, Melbourne
Truffled “Chicken Wings”, Hand-Rolled Macaroni, Broccoli Crumbs by Chef Scott Pickett. Pure comfort food. De-boned wings made into sausages. More please.

The Atlantic Restaurant, Melbourne
Olive Oil Confit Ora King Salmon, Spring Vegetables, Diamond Clams, Artichoke Essence, Confit Tomatoes, Soft Herb Emulsion by Chef Donovan Cooke. PERFECTION. He has spent TWO DECADES refining this salmon dish. A fact that’s even posted on his twitter profile.

The Atlantic Restaurant, Melbourne
I had the absolute pleasure of dining (and drinking) next to Coldstream Hills Winemaker, Andrew Fleming. He explained each pairing and made the evening so much fun!
Wine: Coldstream Hills Chardonnay Notes of grapefruit and stone fruit and a creamy mouthfeel.

The Atlantic Restaurant, Melbourne
Wine: Seppelt Chalambar Shiraz  Black fruits with subtle hints of pepper.

The Atlantic Restaurant, Melbourne
Just getting started.

The Atlantic Restaurant, Melbourne
Kitchen Tour (Chef Donovan Cooke at right)

The Atlantic Restaurant, Melbourne
Chef Donovan Cooke (and his tasting spoons)

The Atlantic Restaurant, Melbourne
Hanging out on the line…

The Atlantic Restaurant, Melbourne
Mixed Berry Cheesecake Trifle: Raspberry cheesecake foam, cream cheese ice cream, vanilla cookies, strawberry jelly, berry marmalade by Pastry Chef Rhiannon Voros. Such a shame I only had room for one bite.

The Atlantic Restaurant, Melbourne
More sweets! Nougat, Valrhona White Chocolate, Pistachio Nuts, Cranberries by Pastry Chef Rhiannon Voros. Loved the pistachio.

The Atlantic Restaurant, Melbourne
Scott Pickett (left) and Donovan Cooke. Bad Ass Chefs.

Note: Donovan Cooke will be appearing at the MFWF 2014 Langham Melbourne MasterClass. Info and Tickets

The Atlantic Restaurant
Crown Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006
Tel: +61 3 9698 8888
www.theatlantic.com.au

Follow Donovan Cooke on Twitter, FaceBook

Scott Pickett’s Estelle Bar and Kitchen
243 High St, Northcote VIC 3070, Australia
+61 3 9489 4609
www.estellebarkitchen.com.au

Follow Scott Picket on Twitter

Melbourne, Day 1Many thanks to Melbourne Food and WineTourism AustraliaTourism Victoria

If you’re on Instagram, I posted photos every day while in Australia. Just search for #JoBitesOz

Check back soon for more Australia!

Part ONE

Part THREE

Leave a comment

Filed under Eating Out, Travel

AUSTRALIA – Jo Bites Oz, Part One

Part One: Melbourne Food & Wine Preview, Flight to Oz (upgrade!), Searching for fire (Sichuan-style) in Chinatown.

Twenty-five years ago, I pretty much travelled non-stop for both work and pleasure. My ex-husband (we split in ’93) was a pilot for United Express and we took great advantage of free passes with its parent company, United Airlines. Back then (pre-9/11 of course) we had a stack of blank tickets and wrote in any, international (or domestic) destination.

Not only did we fly for free on United  (always on standby), but other major airlines honored the tickets as well. Yearly vacations to Europe (usually the Greek Islands), the U.K. and Japan were peppered in with work expeditions to Africa and the Arctic. My job as a field assistant to an award-winning nature photographer took me from safari tents in Tanzania to polar bear camps near Nunavut, Canada. Yeah, I know… I got PAID for that.

These days I don’t travel abroad too much, at least not as much as I used to. Once a year I visit my dad and step-mum in Scotland, and usually stop off to see friends in London. My husband Peter travels for work on occasion, and although we don’t have children, we DO have a house full of loving dogs.

My limited globetrotting is a separation-anxiety issue. Mostly mine, but the dogs suffer from it too. I hate leaving all of our dogs (currently we have Woody, Ziggy and Maxie), but it’s especially hard being away from my “baby” Maxie. He sleeps next to me every night, so when I travel… it simply has to be worth leaving him.

When Tourism Australia contacted me last summer, inviting me on a ten-day (all-expenses-paid) trip to be a “corOZpondant” (OZ + correspondent, get it?), I thought, “Well okay… THIS IS WORTH IT.”

MelbourneFoodAndWineLogoThe ten-day adventure began with previews of the 2014 Melbourne Food and Wine chefs and restaurants, which runs February 28 to March 16.

If you live near Melbourne or are planning a trip to Australia, you still have plenty of time to get tickets. This year, the Festival will celebrate all things water, with special events like MasterClasses led by international chefs including Christopher Kostow from Meadowood in Napa Valley. 

- Good Food Australia has a nice roundup of the upcoming event here.
– Melbourne Food and Wine video here.

In addition to the food and wine preview, I also got to browse local markets, wineries and coffee shops, travel the spectacular Great Ocean Road, and spent an afternoon on a beautiful farm with Dolores the truffle pig!

My Australia wine education continued with a short flight to Adelaide, South Australia to attend the Savour Wine Forum. Before flying home I attended a dinner in the Barossa Valley and shared wine with the legendary Maggie Beer.

NOTE: This is just PART ONE of my Australia adventure. I’ll be posting details and photos of the entire trip here on the blog, so please check back again soon!

Australia – Jo Bites Oz, Part One

My introduction to the generosity of Australia (and it’s people) actually began BEFORE I left Los Angeles. Whenever I travel, I’m especially organized and start packing weeks before the departure date. Guidebook? Check. Passport? Check. “Travel Maxie”. Check. Neck pillow for uncomfortable economy seat? Check. Healthy snack (usually almonds) to eat instead of crappy, airline junk? Check. Sleeping mask, for when your seatmate insists on leaving his reading light on the entire flight? Check!

After arriving several hours early at LAX (Los Angeles Airport), I walked around the terminal preparing myself for fourteen hours in a cramped, economy seat. While I waited to board the Virgin Australia flight to Melbourne (via Sydney), I logged on to Twitter to pass the time. There, a direct message was posted from Aussie chef Luke Mangan. We were introduced online via a mutual friend, and I was hoping to meet him while in Oz, but my trip did not include any time (except the plane change) in Sydney.

Luke asked if I had already checked in for the flight. I replied that in fact I had checked in two hours earlier. He quickly messaged me back and told me to check with customer service because he had me upgraded. It turns out that Luke Mangan was (and still is) Virgin Australia’s official chef.

As boarding announcements began, I ran up to the counter and asked the gate agent if she could check on my seat, which was printed 49G on the boarding card. She asked me why and I explained that a friend might have had me upgraded. With a tilt of her head, and an “in your dreams” rise of her eyebrow; the agent grabbed my back-of-the-plane boarding card and entered my name.

There was a pause, a blank stare, then a forced smile and, “you’ve got SOME friend at the airline” comment before printing out the new boarding card. Seat 1H… that meant I got to turn LEFT when I entered the plane… a rarity for me. Excited, I quickly photographed the two tickets before boarding the plane.

Neck pillow? Not needed. Healthy snack? Untouched. Sleeping mask? The down duvet covered my head just fine. What a way to arrive in Oz!

Photos – Travel to Oz and Day 1 in Melbourne (9/7/13)

Virgin Australia L.A. to Melbourne (via Sydney)
Travel Maxie warming up my upgraded seat on Virgin Australia.

Virgin Australia L.A. to Melbourne (via Sydney)
Chef Luke Mangan’s Menu, International Business from L.A. to Australia

Untitled
Delicious, rich mushroom soup with porcini and tarragon. Pure comfort.

Barramundi fillet w bok choy, ginger soy by Chef Luke Mangan
Barramundi fillet w bok choy, ginger soy. How did they get the skin so crispy in the air? So good!

Muenster cheddar, Chatelain camembert, Fourme d'Ambert blue
Cheese course: Muenster cheddar, Chatelain camembert, Fourme d’Ambert blue. Cheese over dessert anytime.

Virgin Australia L.A. to Melbourne (via Sydney)
Scotch w a movie. Love the Sydney Opera House salt and pepper shakers on Virgin Australia. I did NOT steal them, but I thought about it!

Virgin Australia L.A. to Melbourne (via Sydney)
The FULL BAR!

Virgin Australia L.A. to Melbourne (via Sydney)
See? Stocked!

Virgin Australia L.A. to Melbourne (via Sydney)
In case of turbulence… “Sit on the floor and hold on to bar stools”

Virgin Australia L.A. to Melbourne (via Sydney)
Ready for bed? The lovely air hostess reclined the seat (fully), fitted a pad over the seat, then offered a sleep suit or duvet. HEAVEN.

Along the Yarra River, Melbourne
Arriving in Melbourne, the Yarra River

View from Crown Metropol Hotel, Melbourne Australia
View from my room at the Crown Metropol Hotel. No time for Jet lag!

Crown Metropol Hotel, Melbourne Australia
The bed in my room looked inviting… but I actually SLEPT on the plane! Time to explore…

Chinatown, Melbourne
I jumped in a cab, headed to Chinatown and began searching for Dainty Sichuan restaurant. I first learned about it on an episode of Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and Jonathan Gold also suggested I eat there. Using my phone GPS I found the address posted on the Travel Channel website, but no luck. 

Fact: Chinatown Melbourne is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world, dating back to the gold rush days of the 1850s.

Searching for Dainty Sichuan in Melbourne's Chinatown
Dainty Sichuan had MOVED and the current occupants (another Sichuan restaurant) had absolutely no desire to help me. I couldn’t blame them. How many other Bourdain fans had come knocking with dissapointment?

Searching for Dainty Sichuan in Melbourne's Chinatown.
I tried searching for the new address on my phone, but several addresses popped up and suddenly I was very confused AND jet lagged. So, I turned to my friend Twitter and asked if anyone knew where the original Dainty Sichuan had moved… and yes… a response in minutes!

Dainty Sichuan, recommended by Jonathan Gold (and Bourdain)
Now situated upstairs in a mall, the address for Dainty Sichuan is Level 1, 2A Cambridge Street, Box Hill, Victoria. Tel +61 3 9041 4318

Chongqing Chili Sichuan Chicken at Dainty Sichuan, Melbourne
There were SO many dishes I wanted to try, but since I was by myself I went for the Chongqing Chili Sichuan Chicken. “As seen on Travel Channel”, the server noted! Incredibly spicy, I was suddenly OVER my jet lag.

Chinatown, Melbourne
I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring and photographing Melbourne’s delightful ChinaTown.

Pool at Crown Metropol Hotel, Melbourne Australia
Back to the hotel for a refreshing swim before heading to dinner.

Part 2

Many thanks to  Tourism Australia, Tourism Victoria, Melbourne Food and Wine… and Luke Mangan of course!

If you’re on Instagram, I posted photos every day while in Australia. Just search for #JoBitesOz

2 Comments

Filed under Eating Out, Travel

On Being Thankful.

As most Americans prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow,  I’ll be arriving in London en route to visit my dad in Bridge of Weir, Scotland.

Of course he and my stepmum don’t usually celebrate turkey day, but we’ll gather in their village kitchen and cook a Scottish/American feast together. I know, for sure, there will be some sort of turkey and glorious HAGGIS BALLS (equal parts stuffing & haggis mixed together) that I love to make year round.

In Bridge of Weir, Scotland with my dad 2002For a food fanatic like myself, Thanksgiving is absolutely the best time of the year. Not just because of all the tasty bites, but also a time to exhale, be grateful and reach out to family and friends.

Back in April, my mother passed away and I had to fly to Miyako Jima (near Okinawa, Japan) to take care of her funeral and estate.

The trip was absolutely dreadful (except for a few delicious moments) but it would have been worse if we hadn’t reconciled the year earlier.

My mom and I hadn’t spoken for over ten years, until two years ago when a friend of mine, over lunch at Jitlada (my favorite Thai restaurant), demanded I call my mother. If it weren’t for my friend, I’d never have found peace and comfort of knowing my mother a bit better. She had retired from the business I abhorred (more later), and was just a funny, old lady I chatted and laughed with long-distance.

My dad and I were also estranged for many years (international divorce and spending ten years in a children’s group home can do that), and it took decades for us to want to be in each other’s lives again.

Although it wasn’t always easy (I used to hold on to anger)… IT WAS definitely WORTH IT. I fly back to Scotland to visit him once a year now, and I’m so grateful for every moment together.

If there’s someone in your life you’ve been waiting to call or visit, please stop and JUST DO IT.

Life is short. There’s always time to heat up the leftovers tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving. Love, Jo

Leave a comment

Filed under Family Stories, Travel

Australia!

A short clip of my final day in the Barossa Valley, Australia…  with “Travel Maxie” of course.
I had such an incredible visit. Photos and full blog post soon…

Travel Maxie Barossa Valley(click for instagram)

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel

Down Under

Travel Maxie and I are headed to Australia for a food and wine tour of Melbourne and Adelaide!

We’d love for you to follow our adventures over on twitter and instagram. This is our first visit to Oz, so of course we’ll be posting LOTS of food and travel photos using hashtags #JoBitesOz and #corOZpondent!

Headed Down Under!

Many thanks to Tourism Australia for this incredible opportunity!

AustraliaLogo1

(Real Maxie isn’t so thrilled, but I know Peter will be taking good care of him, Woody and Zig while I’m abroad!)

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel

Hawaii Food & Food Festival!

The Hawaii Food & Wine Festival is by far one of the best food events I’ve ever attended. Not only did I get to enjoy Hawaii’s best cuisine (prepared by world-renowened chefs), but I also got to soak up some major island culture (surfing, art, local joints!) as well.

If you’re a food lover planning a trip to Hawaii in September (2013), check out all the festival has to offer here. And do NOT miss the Saturday morning farmer’s market at Kapiolani Community College! (Links & Details Below)

Photos below from the 2012 Hawaii Food & Wine Festival:

Enter the MODERN Dragon: Morimoto & Friends (9/6/12):
In Chinese Astrology, 2012 is the year of the Dragon – the most powerful and auspicious of the 12 animal signs, bringing high energy and prosperity.  Led by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, “Enter the MODERN Dragon” showcased foods prepared by twelve of the most esteemed international chefs from Asia and the Pacific.

Oahu 2012
Walking into the event at the Modern.

Oahu 2012
Chef Roy Choi.

Oahu 2012
Roy Choi’s Chubby Pork Belly Squares.

Oahu 2012
Looking down from upper level.

Oahu 2012
Butterfish with Spicy Radish by Sang Yoon.

Oahu 2012
Ginza Sour Cocktail

Oahu 2012
Upper level

Oahu 2012
Chef Ming Tsai

Oahu 2012
With the one and only Iron Chef Morimoto!!!

Oahu 2012
Chef Morimoto’s Shrimp Taco.

Oahu 2012
Dragon pool at night. Note: I was born in 1964, Year of the Dragon. Fit right in!

Oahu 2012
Ming and Morimoto at the “Mix with the Masters” event. Food demos, talks and lunch! (9/7/12)

Oahu 2012
Morimoto’s beautiful sashimi display.

Oahu 2012
Chef Charles Phan (Slanted Door, San Francisco) brought a pho noodle bar.

Oahu 2012
Chef Josiah Citrin’s Kona Abalone, Grilled Cucumber and Sweet Onion & Squid Ink Puree ~ Sea Asparagus, Thai Basil and Chilled Cucumber Broth. From Farm to Table: A Makahiki Festival  (9/8/12)

Ono Kine Malama Farm Berkshire Pork by Chef Ed Kenney
Ono Kine Malama Farm Berkshire Pork by Chef Ed Kenney

Oahu 2012
Beautiful evening for the Makahiki Festival!

Oahu 2012
Dinner at Miso and Ale was a terrific finale to my Honolulu visit! My favorite bite was the braised short rib w Okinawa purple potato!

A few places NOT to miss on your visit to Honolulu:
Rainbow Drive-in for a classic “Plate Lunch”. And yes, it comes with BOTH white rice AND macaroni salad!

Feel like experiencing local culture? Have dinner at Side Street Inn, and definitely order the Pan-Fried Island Pork Chops!

KCC Farmer’s Market. Eat lunch and buy treats to bring back home.

Surfing lessons… by Honolulu Firefighters!

Need a quick bite before surfing? Spam Musubi! Fort Ruger Market, Oahu

Photos from the opening night Rum Fire party here

Honolulu’s Art Scene 2012

All photos from Hawaii Food and Wine Festival 2012

2013 Hawaii Food and Wine Festival is September 1-8!

Oahu 2012

Many thanks to the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau www.gohawaii.com, Oahu Visitors Bureau www.visit-oahu.com, and Hawaii Food & Wine Festival www.hawaiifoodandwinefestival.com for inviting and hosting me on this trip.

1 Comment

Filed under Eating Out, Food Events (festivals, classes, etc.), Hot Chefs, Travel

Hawaii: Waikiki, Rum Fire & Art

In early September I was invited to the “Hot & Hip Honolulu” press trip on Oahu, which included tickets to the 2nd Annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival. It wasn’t my first visit to the islands, but it was definitely the most interesting by far.

In the past, my Hawaii visits consisted mostly of lazy beach-time with my nephews, or Mai Tai sunsets with Peter. This time around I got to spend five days not only tasting the best of Oahu’s cuisine, but also experiencing the beautiful art and culture of the island. I didn’t even KNOW Honolulu had an art museum!

Since I have so many photos to share, I’ve decided to write several blog posts about the tour. This first post includes photos of my island arrival, food porn from the welcome party, and a day exploring Honolulu’s lively art scene. Please check back soon for much more!

Oahu 2012
Checking into the Waikiki Parc Hotel. PARADISE. I didn’t want to leave the room!

Oahu 2012
Room 1503, Waikiki Parc Hotel.

Oahu 2012
I didn’t eat on the plane, so was thrilled to see a plate of fruit & cheese in my hotel room. Thanks again Rebecca, Darlene, Nathan and Kelley!

Oahu 2012
Waikiki Park’s poolside gym. NEEDED it!

Oahu 2012
Of course I brought “Travel Maxie”. He makes me miss Maxie just a little bit less when I’m away from home.

Oahu 2012
View of Diamond Head from Rum Fire, Sheraton Waikiki. A beautiful first evening meeting event hosts and fellow writer/photographers.

Oahu 2012
At Rum Fire, Grilled Kona Lobster w Anchovy & Marrow Butter from Azure Chef de Cuisine Jon Matsubara.

Oahu 2012
At Rum Fire, Twice Cooked Australian Wagyu, Mung Bean Puree, Hamakua Tomato, Waipoli Fern Shoot Salad by Kai Market’s Chef Darren Demaya.

Oahu 2012
At Rum Fire, Hamakua Vine Ripened Tomatoes, Roast Baby Beets by Sheraton Waikiki’s Executive Chef Daniel Delbrel.

Oahu 2012
At Rum Fire, Hawaii Food & Wine Festival co-founder Chef Roy Yamaguchi greets the crowd.

Oahu 2012
Spicy Rim Cocktail!

Oahu 2012 (with Lee Anne Wong)
Party time! With the fabulous Lee Anne Wong at Rum Fire.

Spam Fried Rice for breakfast!
Day two began with Spam Fried Rice at Waikiki Parc’s Breakfast Buffet (made me so happy!)

Oahu 2012
We started the morning with a private tour of philanthropist and heiress Doris Duke’s beachfront home. The 14,000 square foot estate was built in 1937 and is officially called “Shangri La, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Arts”. For nearly 60 years, Duke collected artifacts for Shangri La, ultimately forming a collection of about 2,500 objects, the majority of which were made in the Islamic world. Read Doris Duke’s biography here. (Above, our guide Carol Khewhok standing in the entry courtyard).

Oahu 2012
Shangri La has a remarkable collection of Islamic art and is considered one of Hawaii’s most architecturally significant homes. I loved this tile entry into the garden. We weren’t allowed to photograph the interior so I’ve added links below.

Oahu 2012
Looking into the living room through the spectacular, glass WALL elevator which was installed in 1938. Yes, it still works!

Oahu 2012
Ocean-front garden seating. I stood there fantasizing about throwing the perfect cocktail party! The living room is behind the tree at right.

Oahu 2012
View of the ocean and Diamond Head from living room.

Oahu 2012
Pool  (with view of Diamond Head) and Playhouse, which served as Doris Duke’s guesthouse. The Playhouse was modeled on the Chihil Sutun, a royal pavilion built in 1647 in Isfahan, Iran. It consists of three rooms: two guest bedrooms and a large living room with a small kitchenette.

Photos of the interior are available on the official website. You can tour the entire property here.

Some of my favorite rooms:
The Syrian Room is Doris Duke’s interpretation of the qa’a (Arabic: hall), a reception room found in Syrian homes of the late Ottoman period (in Syria: 1516-1918).

The Damascus Room is a highlight of the Islamic art collection assembled by Doris Duke and one of two Syrian interiors preserved at Shangri La. Its acquisition dates to September 1953, when she placed an order for “1 Old Damascus Room made of old painted panels of wood” with Asfar & Sarkis, an antiquities firm based in both Damascus and Beirut.

The Dining Room/Lanai originally had a Hawaiian theme, but in 1960′s Doris Duke completely remodeled the room adding a large mosaic tile panel, Egyptian cloth panels and an Ottoman-style fireplace.

View of Shangri La from the ocean.

NOTE: If you’re planning to be in New York before mid-February, the Museum of Arts and Design is presenting “Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art” through February 17th, 2013.

I learned so much about Islamic art, tiles and textiles during just this one visit. If you love history, art or architecture, a visit to Shangri La is a MUST.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Exhibitions featuring Tattoos and Boardshorts? Only in Hawaii!

About “Tattoo Honolulu” (from the website)

Tattooing is art. After decades of being viewed as a mark of the marginal, tattoos have gone mainstream and are winning over the art establishment—including the Honolulu Museum of Art. The lines between ink on skin and paint on canvas or pencil on paper have been blurred with tattoo artists reaching the skill level of other artists. Now the Honolulu Museum of Art breaks new ground with an exhibition focusing on Hawai‘i’s high quality of tattoo art—and how it sprouted from the islands’ mix of cultures rich with tattoo traditions.

The museum is in the unique position to draw upon its world-class collection to place contemporary tattooing within an art historical context. By linking the past—through works such as 19th-century prints by Jacques Arago depicting tattooed Hawaiians—with the present, the museum hopes to expand cultural awareness not only about the art of the tattoo, but also the rich cultural traditions it is based on.

Oahu 2012
“Chinese Dragon on Megan Wong” by Billy Whitney. Photographed by Shuzo Uemoto. Photographed with permission from Honolulu Museum of Art. Did you spot Hello Kitty?

Oahu 2012
“Full Back on Anthony Alameda” Tattoo by Lucky Olelo. Photographed by Shuzo Uemoto. Photographed with permission from Honolulu Museum of Art.

Oahu 2012
Tattoo designs by Joe Leiber. Photographed with permission from Honolulu Museum of Art.

Oahu 2012
Part of the Tattoo Gun collection. Photographed with permission from Honolulu Museum of Art.

Oahu 2012
Lucky Olelo, one of the talented tattoo artists joined us for lunch at the Museum of Art Cafe.

About “Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit” (from the website)

Hawai‘i’s unofficial uniform is the boardshort—a perfect fit for the birthplace of surfing. Boardshorts in Hawai‘i were initially created as custom-made surf trunks by tailors at popular venues such as the H. Miura Store in Hale‘iwa, Take’s in Waikīkī, or M. Nii’s in Mākaha during the 1950s. These early boardshorts were first designed for fit and comfort, maximized for the ultimate wave-riding experience. Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit, chronicles the fascinating evolution of a single, simple garment that today is a symbol of extreme sports and a counterculture lifestyle.

Oahu 2012
Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit. Photographed with permission from Honolulu Museum of Art.

Oahu 2012
I would have bought ten pairs of these SPAM shorts! Photographed with permission from Honolulu Museum of Art.

Note: Both the Tattoo and Boardshorts exhibits run through January 13, 2013.

A few favorites from the 19th Century Collection.

Oahu 2012
Kamehameha III (left) and Nahi’ena’ena (Sister of Kamehameha III). Photographed with permission from Honolulu Museum of Art.

Oahu 2012
Whistler’s Arrangement in Black, No. 5 (Lady Meux). Photographed with permission from Honolulu Museum of Art.

Below from the Asian Art Collection:

Oahu 2012
Seated Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Guanyin). 11th century Chinese Northern Song dynasty (960–1127) Shanxi province.  Photographed with permission from Honolulu Museum of Art.

Oahu 2012
For scale.  Photographed with permission from Honolulu Museum of Art.

Oahu 2012
The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle. I LOVE tiny bottles.
Photographed with permission from Honolulu Museum of Art.

Oahu 2012
Snuff Bottles close-up. Photographed with permission from Honolulu Museum of Art.

Oahu 2012
Shibata Zeshin, traveler’s writing case with landscape and plovers. Photographed with permission from Honolulu Museum of Art.  Many thanks to Museum Director, Stephan F. Jost and Deputy Director, Allison Wong.Please visit the museum website for current and upcoming exhibitions.

More photos from Honolulu’s Art Scene

All photos from Oahu 2012

Waikiki Parc Hotel

Rum Fire

Roy Yamaguchi (follow him on twitter)

Shangri La / More about Carol Khewhok

Honolulu Museum of Art

This trip was generously provided by the Oahu Visitor’s Bureau  / Hawai‘i Visitors and Convention Bureau.  Many thanks to Rebecca Pang (Account Supervisor, Travel & Tourism, McNeil Wilson Communications), Nathan Kam, Stephanie Killion, Darlene Morikawa, Lindsay Chambers and their staff members!

Current and upcoming Hawaii events:
Kona Coffee Cultural Festival (Hawaii, the Big Island) – Nov. 3-11, 2012 - http://www.konacoffeefest.com/

Wailea Wine & Food Festival (Maui) – Dec. 6-9, 2012 - http://waileawineandfoodfestival.com/

6 Comments

Filed under Food Events (festivals, classes, etc.), Travel