Best Brekky Spot in Sydney: my research so far

Sydney, AUS It all started one wintery Sunday in Florence. We had an invitation to one of the well-known expat restaurants in town to enjoy their famous Sunday brunch. It was a company thing actually, our little travel agency had been running the brunch for years and to be honest, the promotion wasn’t go too well that particular semester and as it was being put on by our boss, what better way to get the word out than invite all of the favorite tour guides along. As I watched the beautifully bulbous glass filled with red tomato-y goodness arriving to my table and tasted the first sip of the deliciously spicy Bloody Mary, I was hooked. Of course, I won’t even speak of the hashbrowns. Some secrets are meant to be kept. Our Sunday meetings at that little restaurant became a tradition and brunch became an obsession. I may or may not have even waited in a three-hour line to try the famous eggs benedict and french toast platter at Mama’s on Washington Square in San Fran. So what does that mean for Sydney? I welcome a new challenge willingly. It started with a couple of morning stops at the local cafe which sits on our street corner but from there, recommendation after recommendation means that I have been able to try some of the best places in Sydney. My work is far from over here but I wanted to share with you some of my favorites. Cafe Ish: This was a recommendation from the lovely Heather as one of her favorite breakfast stops in the city and it did not disappoint. Christine and I chose this as our meeting spot on one of her sporadic weekend ventures to Sydney and we vowed to both try something delicious, no matter the price! After a bit of debate I opted for the fabulous crab omelette, a recommendation from Heather, which included tempura crab and avocado. As someone who is typically not a fan of omelets, it was fabulous. The cuisine at Cafe Ish is classified as Australian/Japanese fusion and that is exactly what it is. This little Surry Hills spot reminded me what I love so much about the creativity of Australian chefs. The coffee was phenomenal as well! Cafe Ish is located at 82 Campbell St., Surry Hills. Cafe Giulia: This was a random hint from a former Chippo resident.…

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Sydney and Craft Beer; they do co-exist!

Sydney Craft Beer Week. What a gem. Thank god for Twitter otherwise I would have been left alone perishing in thoughts that craft beer simply didn’t exist in Australia. Sure, the commercial beer of Oz is great (and we are not talking Fosters here) but it’s not Craft Beer the way I know it. Another instance of me wasting time by browsing the #Sydney hashtag on Twitter meant that I discovered that not only does craft beer exist in Sydney, there was a whole week devoted to it coming up in October! I began my research and browsed events. Knowing I would have Saturdays off from work I booked in a Comedy and Craft Beer show as a surprise gift to Lorenzo. He loves stand-up and we both love good beer. So that seemed like a perfect way to spend our Saturday night. A few weeks later I wanted to be sure I booked in at least one other event, so I continued browsing events and discovered that the same day, October 29th, there was an event at Hart’s Pub called Brunch with the Brewer’s. I was sold. Beer and Brunch? This must be some kind of heaven. Lorenzo and I arrived at Hart’s Pub nearly a half hour early in anticipation of our beer filled brunch. And when we arrived we were greeted by one of the coolest little pubs I’ve seen in Sydney to date. For its small size, Hart’s offers a huge variety of craft beers, tasting paddles and, according to FourSquare, great food as well! We waited patiently as we watched one of the final games of the World Series (and American sports! Seriously, this pub is a winner). When it was time for the brunch we headed upstairs and took a seat. Let the food and beer flow! Each table was given full bottles and glasses of beer to taste along with and in between courses. Most tastings consist of just a couple of sips of each brew, so we were given a real treat. Naturally, I enjoyed the first beer that was set in front of me. The “Welcome Beer” was a Pale Ale from the Rocks Brewing Company. Little did I know the vast array of flavors that were about to hit me. First course was char-grilled sourdough bread and spicy chorizo sausages. I like sausage. Chorizo is even better. But beer that perfectly…

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Tasting San Francisco: Off the Grid

Off the Grid Event San Francisco

Anyone who lives in the United States at the moment is most likely aware of the food truck craze that is sweeping the nation. Having just come from Europe where food carts and stalls are normal only for certain food groups (i.e. sandwiches and pastries), I was extremely excited (and maybe a little scared) to get in on the action. Over the summer I read an article in Sunset Magazine comparing Seattle and Portland. Among other things, they spent some time discussing food trucks and Portland was the clear winner. Portland is one of the food truck capitols of the country with a reported 80 or more trucks in the downtown area alone. The article intrigued my taste buds and it was time for me to try some tasty street food. I didn’t make it to Portland for the street food, I did however, get to appreciate some of the best food trucks in San Francisco while I was in town. My good friend, Spencer, is somewhat of a connossieur when it comes to eating tasty treats sold out of the side of a cart (read Spencer’s food truck articles here and here). And we knew that San Francisco’s weekly Off the Grid event would be the perfect meeting place. Lorenzo and I stood just outside the door as we watched the parking lot of Fort Mason swarm with hungry locals on this particularly cold Friday night in August. We looked inside in an attempt to scope out what we would go for first, but little did we know that Spencer had this whole thing down to a science. When he discovered that we were open to anything, Spencer steered us in the direction of some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever had in my life. The Taco Guys not only pump out some of the tastiest street tacos I’ve had to date, but they actually manage to be beyond friendly behind the counter while their truck is being bombarded by hungry customers from all sides. In an attempt to save room and sample as many different foods as possible we each ordered one of their fish tacos and decided to try out their spice-ade as a nice companion to the meal. These guys do not disappoint. The flavors of the batter-fried fish were perfectly complimented with the simple ingredients and the spicy lemonade was just the kick I needed.…

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Coffee Spots of San Francisco: The Three Contenders

Blue Bottle Coffee San Francisco, CA

I didn’t plan on acting as a coffee connoisseur while in San Francisco, the job was just kind of handed to me. Before I get too into myself though, I have to admit that I only sampled three places but have added to the list a popular NorCal addition of whom I’ve tested in my beloved Seattle. San Francisco is a place of known diversity, by all means when it comes to population, food and drink you are likely to find what you are looking for. I even found a popular Italian chocolate bar in a random liquor store! That’s beside the point though. On a particularly long day, Lorenzo and I were making our rounds in The Mission District of San Fran and as we boarded the bus that would take us to Golden Gate Park and my dear friend Victoria, the exhaustion flooded over us. When Victoria’s car pulled up alongside the bus stop, just outside Golden Gate Park, I relayed the message of exhaustion in my utter refusal to get out of the car to view anything not direly worth it. The park is beautiful and I would have loved giving it my full attention but I just couldn’t bear the thought of subjecting my little feet to more walking in the biting wind. After a short drive and some direction on the better aspects of the park (buffalo in the middle of a city anyone?), Victoria knew just the antidote for my laziness. As we turned corner after corner in this shockingly grid-like city I began to recognize the shops spreading along the sidewalk. We were back in The Mission! Victoria had a very specific coffee shop in mind to take me. It was called Philz Coffee. Philz Coffee I sat in front of the menu board for ages as I carefully read through each and every single world of each brew as a means to discover what I was looking for. Victoria made a few suggestions and I finally settled on a small cup of Tesora, the Italian word for Treasure and knowing the Italians love of their coffee, I thought it must be good. The barista behind the counter graciously took my order and asked me the most simple question: sweet, medium or not-so-sweet? None of this one sugar, two sugar, red sugar, blue sugar business! What a fantastic way to order a coffee! Once…

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I Could Have Had a Heart Attack!

It’s the truth, for a few minutes it felt like I might. Porto was our last stop in Portugal, we didn’t expect to love it as much as we did. The one thing that I knew about Porto besides its reputation for making some of the best port wine around, was that they had a very special treat in store for us. Something of such epic proportions, it was beyond the confines of our imagination. The Francesinha. As we rode the bus up the highway heading north, I was reading through my Rough Guide to Portugal, trying desperately to make up for all the time I wasted doing absolutely no research, when I came across it. This famous ‘sandwich’ (as they like to refer to it) is unlike anything you’ve tasted, even in the heart of America’s fast food belt. Made of two thick slices of bread stuffed to the brim with all types of meats and covered in a very special sauce made with two of my favorite ingredients; cheese and beer. If you can’t picture this, it’s a heart attack waiting to happen. You can’t pass it up if you are town! Taking my guide book under my arm as if it were a bible, I marked down on the map where we would find the ‘Best Francesinha in town’ at Verso em Pedra and that’s exactly where we went. There is a little story behind this creation. It is said that French immigrant, Daniel da Silva, was returning to Portugal after some time away and wanted to import a little piece of home. He did his best to adapt the croque-monsieur into something his Portuguese friends would enjoy by adding in local ingredients and inspiration. The name francesinha means “Little Frenchie” in Portuguese but this monster-sized meal is anything but. Lorenzo and I stupidly misjudged our own abilities, ordering up one traditional francesinha each plus an order of fries (to share) and a carafe of red wine… also to share. Can I say ooffphh on this blog? Our treats came with a tiny red chili pepper as garnish as a hint to the spice that lies within, which was just enough for me! I did my best to make it through this brick of a meal but it beat me shamefully. Finishing off the last glass of wine I felt a dark cloud come over me. I…

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Enjoying Italy to the Last Drop

tortelli di cinghiale sagra

The days are winding down, fast. We officially have one week left in Italy. In one week we’ll be in the Big Apple, we’ll be enjoying Thai food and Central Park. But I have to put those thoughts aside for a while. As my time in Italy comes to an end, I am doing my best to enjoy it, reminding myself that it is undetermined when I’ll be back here again. Sure, it’s proving to be a bit difficult; I’m so excited to be home, I want to see my family and I want some spicy food! But this week it’s time to take a step back and just enjoy La dolcezza di non fare niente. That is the sweetness of doing nothing, which is a favorite phrase to describe the Italians fondness of their lifestyle. The only problem is that I’m doing far from nothing. I mentioned in my updated About section that the one thing that I want to do before I leave Italy is take a Vespa ride through the Tuscany hills. I am planning on doing that the day before we leave. Lorenzo, of course, is worried that I’ll injure myself beyond repair and the whole trip will be cancelled. But he doesn’t seem to realize that I’m a competent human being that has the ability to learn something new. I also have travel insurance. I have been planning something new every evening, I want to re-visit all of my favorite bars and aperitivos places. I’m doing my best to eat as much Italian food as possible, one feat that I’m actually not doing well at since the days are now crawling near ninety degrees and nothing sounds worse than a steaming bowl of pasta. But I’m trying. Cheap wine is a blessing here, especially as we’re soon to head to Australia, the land of outrageously priced alcohol (seriously guys, what gives?). Besides, where else can I pay €7 for a glass of my choice of alcohol and two plates of appetizers? Not in the U.S., and not in Australia. La Sagra di Cinghiale Last weekend we had the ultimate Italian experience. Some of my friends mentioned that there were some great Sagras in the coming weeks and we knew that we wanted to get to a few! A Sagra is a celebration of local food. Generally, they take place in small towns in the hills…

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What I’m most looking forward to back in the U.S.A

I remember writing this piece for yTravelBlog about living an expat life in Italy. At the end I finished it off with; If you wanted all the comforts of home, you should have stayed home! I’ll admit, sometimes easy is nice. I know that I currently live in the land of delicious food, but believe it or not there are times I just want something else. Here are some of the things that I am looking forward to eating, seeing and doing when we land back in the U. S. of A. on June 2. Eating. Mexican Food and Cheeseburgers. Creative Commons credit: adpowers I love food. Too much, actually. Don’t think I haven’t noticed those pasta pounds. Trust me, I know they’re there. I am looking forward to being able to go to a new place for dinner every night and order something completely different. I’m looking forward to freshly made tortilla chips and guacamole made with ripe avocados. I can’t wait to drink a margarita as big as my head. You can shoot me for saying it, especially since the best pizza is right here but I am craving some good old greasy bar pizza. Mostly I want a 2am order of a large pepperoni and olive and cheesy bread from A Pizza Mart (to share of course…). That’s the local bar/late-night pizza joint near my Uni. Good Old American Pastimes. Like going to the lake and watching a game from the beer garden. Some of our best college memories were spent on my friend JJ’s boat out on Lake Washington. I know that those are memories of the past, meant to be cherished right where I left them. But the lake is waiting for more good times to be had. There are lakes in Italy, but they use them differently. I think that my Italian needs to be introduced to the American use of the lake. Extreme tubing, wakeboarding, drinking and riding around in boats all day. I’m not a huge sports fan, let’s be honest with each other here. I have a sense of hometown pride for my pathetically ranking teams; the Huskies and the Mariners. I’ll never fail to enjoy going to a game though. Sure there is drinking involved and yes I do still know whose family has the best Husky tailgates (you know who you are… Jackie). The wafting smells of garlicky goodness…

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I am like soo not THAT girl!

I have been thinking about the inspiration for this post for a long time, in different forms for the last year, really. Then Lauren (Lauren’s Road Less Traveled) wrote this post on how her eating habits have changed living in England, and I thought that I should share my thoughts on the subject. Even before ever stepping foot on Italian soil, I knew what the stereotype was of Italian women. Beautiful. More than that, skinny, with big boobs and soulful brown eyes. Those last two things I can’t really do much about but the one that gets me after living here is the skinny bit. How are these people skinny? Never in my life has it been acceptable (as a women) to eat more than three slices of pizza in one sitting, if you want to be seen as fit. I’m talking about the teenage/young adult years here. Ordering pizza at 2am after the frat parties was only okay if you had at least two other people to share it with and usually still didn’t volunteer the information. Of course, these standards are created through the belief that the silence of frat boys meant that all of us were too fat and in response there is a race to become super-models. Back to Italy. My first real Italian meal here was at the staff Christmas party for Lorenzo’s work. After kindly translating the menu for me, Lorenzo then started listing off all the choices for pizzas we could order. I had just placed my pasta order and was about to begin on the freshly placed antipasti. Lorenzo wanted a pizza too. When I refused he offered to split one with me. Still confused, I said no thanks. He then offered to split it with his mom and I both. I had only one slice because I couldn’t fathom the thought of eating appetizers, pasta and pizza. What was he thinking? Since then, I’ve learned that there is no sharing pizza in this house, unless it’s the trade a slice for tasting purposes. Yes it’s true, in Italy everyone is encouraged to eat their own pizza. All of it. They also make multi-dish meals with antipasti, pasta, meat and/or veggies, dessert and drinks! It’s pretty normal to have this large of a meal quite often in fact. And to think, the Italians are skinnier than Americans in the scheme of it…

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Local Lowdown: La Vecchia Bettola

It’s about time that I start something new on my blog, and I hope this speaks of more to come, but for me it’s all about baby steps at the moment. I have lived here in Florence long enough to know some of the local hotspots, where the Italians hang and the locales frequented by foreigners. So, I want to start a series to highlight some of my favorites, who they are fitting for and why. Plus, I hope that in the effort to further research the information, I’ll get my lazy ass out and about a bit more! The honorary first post of the series goes to a little Osteria Toscana found just down the road from my house. Lorenzo took me to this place when I first arrived; when I didn’t speak a word of Italian (okay maybe one word), and didn’t know a melanzane from an eggplant. He ordered something for me, and it was placed in front of me. Having just arrived and dealing with jetleg, a tiny bit of homesickness and some other issues, I couldn’t really enjoy it and pushed it away after two bites. Months later, as Lorenzo and I were searching for somewhere to go on a Friday night I suggested that we try again, in hopes we could clear up the bad memories. La Bettola is a typical Tuscan Osteria and is set up as such. Inside you’ll find long tables and backless stools sat side by side, so if you decide to step in, leave your personal space issues at the door. It’s usually packed, just as we found it on this particular Friday night and you are seated shoulder to shoulder so you can get to know your neighbor quite well, if you understand their language that is. We have now been to this comfortable little restaurant three times and each time we have find ourselves surrounded by a myriad of languages. In such a typically Tuscan place, where the waiters hardly speak English, I am delighted to see that travelers have ventured outside the circle of famous piazzas and found this gem. I have ordered the same dish every single time I have been there. I know that doesn’t allow me room to say a lot about the variety and tastiness of the different dishes but I love this dish so much that it has won the title of…

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Italian Sagra

I know that sometimes I might sound like a whiner on my blog, complaining about how I’m lonely or I don’t speak the language. It’s true, I need to learn the language!! But on the bright side, I’m really not lonely anymore. I remind myself at these times how lucky I am to be in this situation, and I don’t mean living abroad (I always knew I was lucky for that). I mean that I live abroad and that I live with a local. That I can be surrounded by locals and see the local traditions. That I have a chance to see the all of the beaches of Tuscany, the bars on the seaside, the Sagra… Sunday was the big one. The one we had all been waiting for. We headed to our friends’ Tommasso and Georgette’s house around 11am and then stopped for a hitchhiker (aka our friend Gianna) and were off to the unknown town of Sagginale high in the Tuscan hills. The Sagra is a festival of food. They occur in many towns throughout Tuscany (Italy?) and each celebrate a specific food item or two. Our Sagra of choice was… Bistecca Fiorentina (would you expect anything else?) and Tortelli. Each of us ordered a Primi Piatti of Tortelli with the town specialty salsiccia (sausage) and Gianna got a Ragu instead. Then it was time for the big guns. Out comes the monstrous and beautiful Bistecca. Here you see Gianna holding it in all of it’s infant-sized glory. AMAZING! In Florence, the specialty is to just barely cook the steak. It’s a very rare steak but it’s very delicious as well. Simply seasoned, hardly cooked and quickly devoured. We had two small baskets of french fries to accompany it, then finished to meal with a dessert and a coffee. My preconceived notion of a Sagra was a festival full of chattering and loud Italians (sorry I still can’t seem to drop this stereotype) eating all together at a giant table with frenzied waiters delivering food non-stop. Has anyone ever been to the state fair? It was more like that. We walked in and found that we all felt quite at home! Yes, there were big tables but no one was imposing on your conversation (as can happen at some busy restaurants) and the waiters were just kids and adults alike dressed in t-shirts and jeans. We sat…

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