Category Archives: Travel

American Airlines New 1st Class Menu

Last week American Airlines (AA) invited me to an exclusive menu tasting in Texas. They have new, seasonal food and wine menus rolling out in July for selected Domestic and Transcontinental First Class Flights, as well as new snacks in their Flagship Lounges

Beef Filet, Lobster Mac & Cheese (domestic 1st class)The event took place at LSG Sky Chefs in Irving which is near the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport (AA HQ). Along with media were several of the airlines most loyal frequent flyers, who were on hand to share their input. The fun kicked off with a round of champagne as we listened to airline executives talk about improvements for the AA passenger experience.

I was surprised to see a familiar face as we began tasting food. Celebrity Chef Sam Choy was there showcasing his new transcontinental menu, which included spicy crab, steamed sea bass and wagyu meatloaf (photos below). AA wine consultant Ken Chase entertained all with his spirited presentation, and noted how important it is for wines to compliment the regions where AA travels (Malbec in Argentina for example), and that it also exposes passengers to new wines as well. His pro tip: To stay hydrated while flying, drink three glasses of water per one glass of wine.

I travel often, and when I visit my folks in Scotland I usually fly economy. American Airlines is a partner to British Airways, so at least one of my flights (either to or from London) are on AA. If I get the chance for an upgrade (it happens!), it’ll be interesting to experience it all with a new point of view. The majority of the dishes I tasted were fantastic and I’d happily order them in a restaurant. Only one seemed overly salty, which is normal (in food prep) when serving at 30,000 feet since “taste buds and sense of smell are the first thing to go”. I did mention it and was told they are still working on adjustments. 

As the only L.A.-based writer invited, I was asked to simply share the experience on social media, which I did on twitter, instagram and facebook. The new American Airlines campaign is called #GoingForGreat, and my main takeaway from the afternoon was a truly sincere effort by the AA team.


American Airlines 1st Class Tasting

Peruvian Causa (S. America Flagship Lounge Snack)
Peruvian Causa with west coast Dungeness crab, ahi amarillo, basil and cilantro oil (South America Flagship Lounge Snack)

Mac & Cheese Fritter (N. America Flagship Lounge Snack)
Mac & Cheese Fritters (North America Flagship Lounge Snack)

Edamame Hummus (transcontinental 1st class)
Edamame Hummus w toasted garlic baguettes by Chef Sam Choy (Transcontinental 1st class)

Steamed Sea Bass (transcontinental 1st class)
Steamed Sea Bass with soy glaze and ginger cilantro pesto rice by Chef Sam Choy (Transcontinental 1st class)

Spicy Crab (transcontinental 1st class)
Spicy Crab w sushi rice, avocado and wasabi aioli by Chef Sam Choy (Transcontinental 1st class)

Wagyu Meatloaf (transcontinental 1st class)
Wagyu Meatloaf with sriracha ketchup, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and candied onions by Chef Sam Choy (Transcontinental 1st class)

Lentil Chili, Polenta Cake (domestic 1st class)
Vegetarian option: Lentil Chili, Polenta Cake (Domestic 1st class)

Shrimp & Grits (domestic 1st class)
Shrimp & Grits (Domestic 1st class)

Beef Filet, Lobster Mac & Cheese (domestic 1st class)
Beef Filet, Lobster Mac & Cheese (Domestic 1st class)

Beef Filet, Lobster Mac & Cheese (domestic 1st class)
This paired so well with the Malbec (Domestic 1st class)

Salted Caramel Ice Cream (domestic 1st class)
Salted Caramel Ice Cream (Domestic 1st class)

American Airlines 1st Class Tasting
Wine tasting

American Airlines 1st Class Tasting
American Airlines Wine Consultant Ken Chase

Chef Sam Choy!
Chef Sam Choy! We totally bonded over our love for Okinawa (my birthplace).

Thank you for having me American Airlines!

Event date was June 22, 2015. All photos here.

Round trip flights from Los Angeles to Dallas were provided by American Airlines.

I met some really nice folks at the event, including Benet Wilson and Jeanne Hoffman. Read Benet’s recap of the event Airways News. Jeanne blogs at Le Chic Geek.


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The Franklin Barbecue Cookbook

Brisket. It’s all about Aaron Franklin’s brisket for me. Like most who trek to Franklin BBQ in Austin, tasting his beef was a life-changing experience. You can’t imagine, while you’re waiting in line for hours in the hot Texas heat, that it could possibly be worth it. It was.

Wish I lived in Austin. Brisket at Franklin BBQ… simply the BEST.

Last week Aaron Franklin was here in L.A. with his good buddy (and my friend), Adam Perry Lang. Adam (aka APL, who is so sweet and humble) hates that I call them “BBQ Gods”,  but darn it… they ARE.

The one-day popup was held on April 10th, downtown at Nick’s Cafe. Along with Franklin’s heavenly brisket, APL served Niman Ranch pork shoulder. Both were, as expected, phenomenal.

Franklin is currently promoting his new book, “Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto” and at some point I’m going to attempt to make his brisket at home. Peter’s been doing a lot of cooking on our Big Green Eggs, so this is sure to be a joint project. Check out Aaron’s appearance on Jimmy Kimmel here.

Franklin BBQ in L.A.
MEAT FEST with Adam Perry Lang and Aaron Franklin (wearing the hat) at Nick’s Cafe.

Franklin BBQ in L.A.
The Franklin Barbecue Cookbook

Franklin BBQ in L.A.

If you don’t have it yet, definitely check out Adam Perry Lang’s Serious Barbecue CookBook

Watch BBQ with Franklin video clips here

Franklin BBQ 

Obsessed with food? Follow @MyLastBite on twitter and instagram. Let’s eat!

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The Daniel O’Connell – Adelaide (South Australia)

One of the best things about traveling (in my humble opinion) is discovering the unexpected. Even though I’m one of those ridiculously organized people who plan out each day before departing (my husband hates this), as an avid traveler, I do appreciate the joys of an occasional, itinerary mishap.

Ox Heart, Oyster, Caper, Cornichons at The Daniel O'Connell, Adelaide AustraliaA cancelled flight could mean an unplanned excursion to an archeological site in Greece. A wrong turn on a remote Japanese island could lead to a fabulous, hidden izayaka. Even something as simple as an unscheduled, free evening abroad could turn out to be an absolute EPIC experience.

Last September, enroute from Melbourne to Adelaide (start to my Australia trip here), I was informed that after checking into the hotel, I’d be on my own for dinner. I’d had an exhilerating week covering a media preview of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, a non-stop schedule of restaurants, wine events and lectures, so I almost opted to tuck into my hotel bed and catch up on sleep.

Instead, I caffeinated and sent out a tweet to friends on Twitter, “Where should I eat in #Adelaide tonight”?

Social media is a terrific tool for travelers, especially solo travelers. I’ve asked friends online for help with directions, shoe repair suggestions and even reached out when I’ve felt a bit homesick.

I got a few, quick responses to my Adelaide tweet, but the one that intrigued me the most was from Sydney, Australian chef @darrenmfc. He tweeted back, “check out @PhilWhitmarsh @PubAndDining“.

After a bit of research, my heart started racing. @PubAndDining aka The Daniel O’Connell, was quite the “nose to tail” restaurant, a la Fergus Henderson’s St. John, which is my favorite spot in London.

From The Daniel O’Connell website:

“Nose to Tail” is both a menu style and philosophy for us at the Daniel O’Connell. Traditionally it is a term used to describe whole beast dining where both the primary and the secondary cuts of a beast are utilised in the dining experience.

Believing that it is responsible and sustainable for us to use all that is fresh and available at any given time we take a more holistic approach and adopt a “no waste” philosophy to all that we do.

About the chefs via FaceBook:

The Two Chefs

Head Chef, Aaron Gillespie, started off his career in Adelaide pubs, at the age of 16. Now after stints at The Manse, The Science Exchange and Grace the Establishment, Aaron is excited to get behind the stoves of The Daniel O’Connell to continue to build his reputation by creating an iconic dining destination.

Joining him is Sous Chef Phil Whitmarsh, a loveable rogue, who was trained in some of the most notable kitchens of London and Paris, experiencing what it takes to earn Michelin hats. Phil is now home in Adelaide, and after a stint as Head Chef at Lochiel House, he brings his unique blend of global understanding and passion for the local produce available to him to The Daniel O’Connell.

The Daniel O’Connell was first licensed in 1850 as the Commercial Inn. The current building was built in 1881 at the same time as the many of the other buildings that were proudly situated in North Adelaide’s “High Street” by the town planners. The hotel changed its name from the North Adelaide Hotel to the Daniel O’Connell at the time of a refurbishment in the late 1990s and proudly maintains the Irish connection of North Adelaide’s heritage.

PHOTOS: My EPIC Meal at The Daniel O’Connell

Ox Heart, Oyster, Caper, Cornichons at The Daniel O'Connell, Adelaide Australia
“Dead Romance” Ox Heart, Oyster, Caper, Cornichons

Tartar of salmon belly w puffed wild rice at The Daniel O'Connell, Adelaide Australia
Tartar of Salmon Belly with Puffed Wild Rice

Pig Head torchon, gribiche, quince, leaves at The Daniel O'Connell, Adelaide Australia
Pig Head Torchon, Gribiche, Quince, Leaves

Morels, Egg (hidden), Asparagus at The Daniel O'Connell, Adelaide Australia
Morels, Egg (hidden), Asparagus

Ox Tongue: Fresh, fermented #kohlrabi & horseradish at The Daniel O'Connell, Adelaide Australia
Ox Tongue: Fresh, Fermented Kohlrabi & horseradish (additional photo)

Blood Orange Soufflé, Malt Chocolate parfait at The Daniel O'Connell, Adelaide Australia
Blood Orange Soufflé, Malt Chocolate parfait

The Daniel O'Connell, Adelaide Australia
BadAss (and super talented) Chefs Phil Whitmarsh and Aaron Gillespie.

A few wines I tried at The Daniel O'Connell, Adelaide Australia
Wine (and Scotch!) paired beautifully by Cameron Frost.

Thanks you so much for the suggestion Darren!

Fergus Henderson & Phil WhitmarshAbove Tasting Menu from September 14, 2013

The Daniel O’Connell Pub
165 Tynte Street, North Adelaide,
South Australia 5006

Follow the Daniel O’Connell on twitter

Follow Aaron Gillespie on twitter

Follow Phil Whitmarsh on twitter


Fergus Henderson visited the Daniel O’Connel Pub in May 2014. Photo by John Krüger (used with permission).

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Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker

I LOVED meeting Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker! What a force...Last September, when I was on assignment in Australia, I didn’t get the chance to eat at Alla Wolf-Tasker’s revered Lake House Restaurant in Victoria.

To be perfectly honest, until my eye-opening visit, I didn’t know much about the culinary scene Down Under.

Lake House (celebrating 30 years!) is about a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, situated on the shores of Lake Daylesford in Victoria’s spa country. From what I’ve seen in these photos, the property (which covers 6 acres) looks spectacular, and it’s now on my travel “bucket list”.

From the restaurant website:

Alla Wolf-Tasker is credited with the establishment and growth of Daylesford and surrounds as a premier food and wine destination. Over three decades of honing Lake House into the mecca for foodie travellers that it is, she has fostered a network of excellent local suppliers and in the process succeeded in putting Daylesford on the culinary map.

Lake House boasts one of Australia’s most highly awarded restaurants and a New York Wine Spectator award winning wine list and cellar of some 10,000 bottles. The menu offers modern Australian cuisine paying homage to the region’s excellent seasonal produce. Local and seasonal may be a marketing mantra nowadays, but the ‘sense of place’ philosophy that imbues all of Lake House has operated here from day one.

In November I was invited by Tourism Australia to attend a dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in New York. The theme was “Evenings Afar: Australia” and Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker was center stage. This was my first visit to Beard House, and I was thrilled to be included on the guest list.

My first bite of Chef Alla’s food? Kangaroo tartare of course! The entire meal was stunning and included an exceptional pork dish I still think about today.

Meeting the chef was a thrill as well and we often engage via social media. If you love food AND travel, do follow her at @WolfInKitchen.

Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker at Beard House 11/22/13


Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker's dinner at Beard House, NYC
A few drinks in the back garden before dinner…

Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker's dinner at Beard House, NYC
I almost tripped over this life-size sculpture in the back garden… This must be HIS head, right?

Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker's dinner at Beard House, NYC
Kangaroo Tartar with Pepper Berries and Bush Tomatoes, Beet Crostini before heading upstairs to dinner (the only decent food photo I captured).

Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker's dinner at Beard House, NYC
We drank heaps of gorgeous wine (listed below), provided by Wine Australia.

At this point, the lights were dimmed for dinner service and there was no way I could adequately capture Chef Alla’s beautiful food with my iPhone camera. To be blunt, my photos were crap. Thankfully the chef’s team sent me some lovely images taken in the bright Beard House kitchen. See complete menu below.

Smoked Eel with Pancetta, Beet Rémoulade and Horseradish
Smoked Eel with Pancetta, Beet Rémoulade and Horseradish (Photo provided by James Beard House and Tourism Australia)

Butter-Poached Pheasant with Foraged Mushrooms and Black Truffles
Butter-Poached Pheasant with Foraged Mushrooms and Black Truffles (Photo provided by James Beard House and Tourism Australia)

Pork Croustillant with Choucroute Garnie
Pork Croustillant with Choucroute Garnie (Photo provided by James Beard House and Tourism Australia)

Brioche French Toast with Goat Cheese and Local Pears
Brioche French Toast with Goat Cheese and Local Pears (Photo provided by James Beard House and Tourism Australia)

Late Harvest Apples with Caramel, Buttermilk, Honey and Oatmeal
Late Harvest Apples with Caramel, Buttermilk, Honey and Oatmeal (Photo provided by James Beard House and Tourism Australia)

Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker's dinner at Beard House, NYC
I snapped this Beard portrait quickly on my way to the loo… James Beard’s LOO.
The table I dined at can be seen in this Beard House library virtual tour (near left bookcase).

Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker's dinner at Beard House, NYC
A quick peek in the Beard House kitchen. Tight quarters… check out the floor plan here.

Australian Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker and her crew
Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker (center) with her hard-working crew in the Beard House kitchen  (Photo provided by James Beard House and Tourism Australia)

Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker's dinner at Beard House, NYC
Beard House kitchen equipment… touched by so many world-class chefs, past and present.

Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker’s Beard House Menu

Chestnut–Armagnac Velouté
Kangaroo Tartare with Pepper Berries and Bush Tomatoes
Endive with Fresh Curds and Grain–Seed Praline
Wine: NV Plunkett Fowles Stone Dwellers Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir

Freshwater Trout with Buckwheat Vinaigrette and Fennel
Wine: Plunkett Fowles, Ladies Who Shoot their Lunch, Riesling 2012

Smoked Eel with Pancetta, Beet Rémoulade, and Horseradish
Wine: Heggies Chardonnay Eden Valley 2011

Pork Croustillant with Choucroute Garnie
Wine: Giant Steps Pinot Noir 2012

Butter-Poached Pheasant with Foraged Mushrooms and Black Truffles
Wine: D’Arenberg Derelict Vineyard Grenache 2009

Brioche French Toast with Goat Cheese and Local Pears
Late Harvest Apples with Caramel, Buttermilk, Honey, and Oatmeal
Wine: Yalumba Museum Reserve Tawny Barossa Dessert Wine

Learn more about Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker:
“How Alla Wolf-Tasker’s Lake House has lasted 30 years in the tough restaurant game” by Michael Bailey

James Beard Foundation
167 W 12th St.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 675-4984
website   twitter

Lake House
King Street Daylesford 3460 Victoria, Australia
+61 (03) 5348 3329
website   twitter

The Lake House Cooking School

Follow Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker on twitter

How Chefs are invited to cook at Beard House

Meal and Travel generously paid for by Tourism Australia. 

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Dreams Come True

This is my favorite photo from a recent trip to Scotland.

Mar Hall, Scotland

My niece Kindal and nephew Chace (twins) had never met their grandfather (my dad) OR traveled overseas. He lives in Bridge of Weir, Scotland (near Glasgow) and I’d dreamt about taking them for years. After much saving and planning, we finally made the trip a few weeks ago, right after their high school graduation in Glendora, CA.

The photo was taken at the spectacular Mar Hall, where Dad plays piano every Sunday.

I’m currently editing over 7,500 photos and video from our recent UK trip, but wanted to share this special moment now.

Dreams do come true, and I am so damn grateful.

Cheers, Jo

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ATTICA Restaurant, Melbourne

Chef Ben Shewry’s Attica Restaurant in Melbourne, is the ONLY Australian restaurant in S. Pellegrino 2014 World’s 50 Best list. Located in Ripponlea (a suburb of Melbourne) the restaurant has won several other awards including Age Good Food Guide’s Restaurant Of The Year and Chef Of The Year.

Attica in Melbourne, AustraliaTo be honest, I hadn’t heard about the restaurant until Jonathan Gold (Pulitzer-Prize winning L.A. Times food critic) emailed me, writing, “if you’re going to Melbourne, you MUST eat at Attica. Dainty Sichuan in Chinatown is worth a visit too.”

On my first day in Melbourne (invited by Tourism Australia), I headed straight to Chinatown, finding myself lost in narrow alleys and laneways, but eventually tucked into Dainty Sichuan’s numbing Chongqing Chili Sichuan Chicken. But finding a coveted reservation at Attica, ranked (at that time) 21st in THE WORLD? … Not a chance.

Until I started begging. Politely begging mind you, but still, it was shameless begging. Anytime a representative from the tourism board asked if there was anything I needed, I would mention Attica. I also noted that I would happily pay for this tall order myself, and even offered to rearrange my travel schedule (on my own dime) in case a reservation became available while I was Down Under.

When the great Jonathan Gold says I MUST eat at a restaurant… I simply MUST.

As luck would have it, Nyree Mcfarlane, a writer from New Zealand (where Chef Ben Shewry grew up) also requested a visit to Attica and joining forces (more begging), a few days later… WE WERE IN.

Jo Bites Oz, Part Five – An Extraordinary Meal at Attica

Born and raised in rural North Taranaki on the rugged west coast of the North Island, New Zealand, Ben believes that food can have a deeper meaning than just another item to consume; it can be evocative, emotional and thought provoking, appealing to all of the senses. Of course the key to all this is that it tastes of the purity of its ingredients and is something delicious to eat.

For inspiration, he often draws from his childhood; from the volcano, rivers, ocean, and native bush that make up Taranaki, as well as his current Australian surroundings. (Attica Website)

"Leaves From Our Garden", Attica
“Leaves From Our Garden”. Spicy Ruby Red Steak Mustard Leaf dipped in the Fermented Corn Juice topped with Alpine Pepper and Forest Anise.

Fermented Corn Juice
Closeup of the Fermented Corn Juice topped with Alpine Pepper and Forest Anise.

Hand-Churned Jersey Cow Butter
Hand-Churned Jersey Cow Butter w Salt Flakes (Whipped Olive Oil in background), served with wattle seed sourdough rye (no photo).

Whipped Olive Oil
Whipped Olive Oil topped w Black Sea Salt.

The Walnut
The Walnut dish is brought to the table.

The Walnut
Inside The Walnut (Biodynamic walnut) is a walnut purée with shavings of pine mushrooms and rosemary flowers.

Pickled Jerusalem Artichoke
Pickled Jerusalem Artichoke (turmeric, honey & cider).

"Lance Wiffin Watches His Mussels"
“Lance Wiffin Watches His Mussels”: Sea Bounty Blue-Lip Mussels Flash-fried in Rye Crumb and Sea Succulents with hand-painted portrait (on mussel shell) of Lance Wiffin. About Sea Bounty’s Lance Wiffen.

Steamed Crab & Sorrel, Wild & Cultivated
Steamed Crab wrapped in Sorrel, Wild & Cultivated.

Marron, Kale, Sauce of Onions & Pork Fat
Sauce of Onions & Pork Fat being poured over the Marron & Kale.

Marron, Kale, Sauce of Onions & Pork Fat
Closeup: Marron, Kale, Sauce of Onions & Pork Fat.

"A Simple Dish of Potato Cooked In The Earth It Was Grown" at Attica
“A Simple Dish of Potato Cooked In The Earth It Was Grown” with smoked goat curd, coconut husk ash, salt bush, ground coffee.

Just a potato right? No. This was one heck of a potato and all these months later, I still can’t stop thinking about it. Watch a video of the chef making it here. It will help you understand why it’s such a special dish. I also love what Adam Sachs wrote about it (and Ben Shewry) for Bon Appetit:

Today is his day off, and we’re up early to “lay a hangi” in a friend’s yard. A hangi, for the uninitiated, is a New Zealand Maori ritual in which vast amounts of food are buried over searingly hot rocks in the ground and steamed to perfection in that slow cooker called Planet Earth.

Waiting for the bonfire to die down, I ask him about something I’d eaten at Attica the night before. On the menu, it’s listed as A Simple Dish of Potato Cooked in the Earth It Was Grown.

Chang (David Chang), who recently tweeted that Shewry’s potato in dirt was one of the best things he’d eaten last year, tried to describe why. “It’s hard to explain, but Attica’s a very personal dining experience,” he told me. “When I eat there I feel like I’m eating what Australian food should taste like.”

The dish is a hangi in miniature and essential Shewry: a humble potato, buried in dirt and shrouded in personal narrative. (Read the full article)

Cucumbers, Holy Flax, Sauce of Burnet at Attica
The dinner continued with Cucumbers, Holy Flax, Sauce of Burnet.

King George Whiting In Paperback
King George Whiting with Butter & Lemon Myrtle In Paperback

Flinders Island Wallaby, Scorched Macadamia, Ground Berry
Flinders Island Wallaby (tasted like venison to me), Scorched Macadamia, Ground Berry.

"Plight of the Bees" at Attica
WOW. “Plight of the Bees” dessert (New Zealand honey) arrived in a beehive box made of Tasmanian oak. One for each of us.

"Plight of the Bees" at Attica
Opening the lid to “Plight of the Bees”. Two types of New Zealand honey combined with meringue, frozen lemon, wild thyme. The honey comb pattern was created with freeze-dried apple on top of the thin layer of pumpkin.

"Plight of the Bees" at Attica
Digging in… “Plight of the Bees”. Again, WOW.

Native fruits of Australia
Native fruits of Australia (Plums, Muntries, Riberries, Lime, Quandongs) with Sheep’s Milk Yoghurt & Native Currant Shaved Ice.

Vinegar Ice Cream at Attica
Apple Vinegar Ice Cream with Candied Oats.

The Pukeko's Egg by Chef Ben Shewry, Attica in Melbourne, Australia
Along with our Attica menu, we each received a copy of Ben Shewry’s artwork. On the back he explained why he is inspired by the Pukeko:
“The New Zealand Pukeko is quite a character and has often provided my family with first class entertainment… Like me, Pukeko are often seen foraging for food beside roadside ditches, but unlike me they had been forced to adapt because their natural habit, the swamplands, have almost disappeared with human proliferation.”

The Pukeko's Egg
The Pukeko’s Egg: Hand-painted, Chocolate & Salted Caramel Eggs.

Attica in Melbourne, Australia
Tourism Australia and Tourism Victoria went above and beyond to make this meal happen. Many thanks to Madeleine Blake (above left) for organizing the phenomenal evening for myself and Nyree McFarlane.

Read Nyree’s fantastic piece on Ben Shewry here.

Read more about Ben Shewry on Bon Appetit.

Marshmallows in the garden with Chef Ben Shewry! Attica in Melbourne, Australia (Nyree Mcfarlane and Madeleine Blake)How to Get a Reservation at Attica in Melbourne, Australia by Eater

74 Glen Eira Road
Ripponlea, VIC 3185
Bookings: +61 3 9530 0111

This meal was paid for by Tourism Victoria.

Jo Bites Oz, Part One



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Gladioli Restaurant – Jo Bites Oz, Part Four

For the past few months I’ve been sharing photos from my wonderful trip to Australia here on the blog. Previous “Jo Bites Oz” posts include a Virgin Australia surprise upgrade (part 1), spectacular salmon in Melbourne (part 2) and a caffeinated Coffee and Café Culture Tour (part 3).

As a guest of Tourism Australia, most of my time was spent in Melbourne (with fellow writers and journalists) previewing the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, which was held in February and March.

An excursion to the Bellarine Peninsula included a beautiful lunch at Gladioli Restaurant, in the sleepy township of Inverleigh. It’s only an hour’s drive from Melbourne (just 20 minutes west of Geelong) and definitely worth experiencing if you’re planning a trip Down Under.

Chef Matt Dempsey’s food at Gladioli is described as “modern Australian” with a “focus on local produce”. He began cooking at seventeen and his lengthy work experience includes a stint at Heston Blumenthal’s renowned Fat Duck in Bray, England. Numerous awards include best new regional restaurant in the 2013 The Age Good Food Guide.

Jo Bites Oz, Part 4
PHOTOS from lunch (5-course tasting menu) at Gladioli Restaurant

Gladioli Restaurant
Gladioli Entrance

Watermelon w Beetroot jelly, chèvre mousse, chicken cracker at Gladioli Restaurant
Watermelon with Beetroot Jelly, Chèvre Mousse, Chicken Cracker

Carrots, Raisin, Olive Oil, Chestnut at Gladioli Restaurant
Carrots, Raisin, Olive Oil Powder, Chestnut

Prawn, Mussel, Radish, Miso, Green Tea at Gladioli Restaurant
Prawn, Mussel, Radish, Miso, Green Tea

Pork, Horseradish, Pear, Mustard at Gladioli Restaurant
Pork, Horseradish, Pear, Mustard

Chickpea Croquettes w Radish and Lentils at Gladioli Restaurant
Chickpea Croquettes with Radish and Lentils

Pumpkin Filo at Gladioli Restaurant
Pumpkin Filo

Apple, Scones, Cream at Gladioli Restaurant
Apple, Scones, Cream

Farrside by Far Pinot Noir (2011) at Gladioli Restaurant
Farrside by Far Pinot Noir (2011) at Gladioli Restaurant

Gladioli Restaurant
Strolling through the beautiful back garden

Gladioli Restaurant

14 High Street
Inverleigh VIC 3321
Tel: +61 3 5265 1111

Follow the chef on twitter @MattDempseyChef

Gladioli on twitter

Gladioli on FaceBook

All my Gladioli photos on flickr

Read about Chef Dempey’s Tulip restaurant here.

Dining date: 9/11/13 (the meal was gratis).

Many thanks to Melbourne Food and WineTourism AustraliaTourism Victoria

Jo Bites Oz: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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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 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

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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.

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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

Hidden Secret Tours

Alice Nivens


Brother Buba Budan
On FaceBook

Dinkum Pies
On FaceBook

Silo by Joost


Filed under Travel