Tag Archives: Foodie Roads

The one about Vegemite, an Aussie icon

I had planned for today’s post to be all about how “spring had sprung” here in Perth, but alas, it appears the weather gods had other plans. My idea to take loads of pictures of the blooming flowers, sunny beaches, and cute spring-y outfits was thwarted starting Saturday morning when some miserable winds, rain, and clouds blew through Perth (and are still doing so, actually). Bummer! Stay tuned on that front, folks…

So we’ll move up my thoughts on an Australian icon, Vegemite. The unappetizing paste is a beloved Aussie spread, used like butter or jam, typically on toast/a sandwich. Australian kids are Vegemite kids, as evidenced by the picture below (coupled with countless ads) – Vegemite and fairy bread (white bread slathered with butter, topped with sprinkles) – yikes!

“My First Vegemite” (Via Sydney Morning Herald)

Vegemite is a wholly Australian product, developed by Cyril P. Callister (an Australian chemist and food technologist (?)) in 1922 in good ole’ Melbourne; he used the British-created Marmite as a jumping off point. Who knew there were multiple, global brewer’s yeast spreads? That brings me to what Vegemite is comprised of: leftover brewer’s yeast extract (and some other vegetable and spice additives). If I could describe the taste/smell of it, I’d say it’s a bit like soy sauce, but thicker – bread-ier, if that makes sense…

How to Eat Vegemite (Via bondi2bayou.wordpress.com)

Surprisingly, Vegemite is very high in B vitamins and very low in fat. That being said, it’s super salty (high in sodium). Now, I love some salty foods, but I’ll tell you what: Vegemite is an extreme!

You’ll find Vegemite at pretty much every cafe, coffee, or breakfast spot in Australia. And I think you’d be hard pressed to find an Australian kitchen that doesn’t have it in its pantry (in fact when we moved into our house here in Perth, one of the supplied sundries was the lovely yellow jar of the stuff). Unfortunately, because Vegemite isn’t gluten free, I can’t usually indulge – shucks! 😉

Check out this cute video of some American children trying Vegemite for the first time. Hilarious! Though I think you’d find plenty of Aussie kids who would disagree with these reactions. Until next time…

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The one explaining Dabbawala

No no, dabbawala isnt an Aussie slang word. Dabbawala refers to a delivery person in India – picking up hot lunches from the homes/kitchens of a worker/employee in the late morning and then transporting and delivering said lunchbox to an office, and finally returns the empty lunchbox back to the customer’s home in the afternoon.  Here’s a good visual:

Dabbawala delivery system in Mumbai (via MyDestination)

So what prompted this post, you may ask? Well, I went to see the foreign film, The Lunchbox, earlier today – a sweet, Indian film about the unlikely romance that blossoms as a result of a dabbawala delivery mix up (which as you’ll learn, isn’t all that common.) I won’t spoil the ending or the plot for you; however, if you get the chance, see the movie – so cute! Even if the character in the center of the picture below looks a tad creepy…

The Lunchbox movie poster (via Wikipedia)

Back to the dabbawalas.

This delivery system works so well in India (primarily Mumbai) because office workers in India prefer to eat home-cooked lunches, coupled with the fact that many Indian women (wives, mothers, daughters, sisters) work from the home and can utilize the dabbawala’s service.

The dabbawalas are impressive, yall! I did a bit of research after the movie, and they kept the service up during floods, monsoons, even the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai – there are currently over 5,000 dabbawalas working tirelessly in Mumbai delivering over 200,000 lunch boxes each day!

Love this b&w shot of a dabbawala – so cheery! (via Jwritings.com)

Indeed, the system is so impressive (and fascinating) that professors from Harvard Business School wrote a case study on the process – a quote from a report from NBC News:

So deeply imprinted that the dabbawalas rarely, if ever, make a mistake. Their delivery system has been awarded a six sigma level of efficiency. That means they make around one mistake in every six million deliveries. 

“A hundred things can go wrong along the way — tiffins delivered to the wrong destination, tiffins lost, tiffins broken — but they rarely do,” said Sawant. “Our motto is ‘error is horror.’”

Their delivery system has garnered international fame as a highly specialized trade, attracting Prince Charles and Richard Branson and warranting a case-study at Harvard Business School, visits from global delivery giant FedEx, and a series of documentaries.

Intriguing, right?? If it’s good enough for HBS, Prince Charles, FedEx, and Richard Branson, I’m sold 😉 Not to mention the tiffins (or their snazzy lunchbox containers) are super practical for warmed food – I love the 4-5 stacked compartments!

An example of a tiffin used in the dabbawala delivery service

Umm borderline obsessed with this colorful tiffin! (via Women’s Day)

So I’ll leave yall with a video I found in my googling – it made me cry (pretty easy feat in my case, but I guarantee that even if you’re not a crier – *cough Barr cough* – you’ll smile huge in the last minute or so): the dabbawalas make about the equivalent of $5(USD) a month, working rain or shine – and always on time at that! I love punctuality (*cough Barr cough*) 😉 The Indian head bobble is also prevalent in this clip – love!

Want to read more on the dabbawalas? Here are some of my favorite links that I came across:

Add this to my ever growing list of reasons why I want to visit India. 🙂 Until next time…

 

The one with {culinary} adventures in Adelaide: Restaurant Orana

We get a lot of the same television shows as the United States here in Australia, but there are some shows that are uniquely Aussie. Case in point, one of my personal faves, Masterchef Australia. Yall – I am 100% OBSESSED with this show. I love cooking and reality shows (duh), and bring on the Australian accents, and I’m sold.

Masterchef Australia judges

Premise: home cooks (no professional chefs/caterers allowed) compete (four episodes a week!) in various culinary challenges. I love that they’re all “ordinary” people with jobs that are outside the food industry – students, moms, insurance salesmen, etc. And these peeps are TALENTED. And I also think I really love that despite it being a competition, they’re all so nice to one another – very supportive and helpful in challenges and stuff – I love the United States, but you rarely find that in our cutthroat reality television competitions/shows. Those sweet Aussies!

Anyway, I was watching the show right after booking my flight to Adelaide and a guest chef was brought in – Jock Zonfrillo, [ruggedly handsome] chef at Restaurant Orana right in Adelaide! After hearing him discuss his restaurant in the city I was to visit, I quickly booked Ashlie and I in for a reservation one night.

Jock Zonfrillo

Jock Zonfrillo

I dont know what I was really expecting – I figured it would be a nice meal, but when I got a phone call from the restaurant the day before confirming the reservation and asking if there were any allergy restrictions (as it was a set menu), I realized that we were in for something more than originally anticipated. I let them know of my Celiac, and for having a set menu, the woman from Orana could not have been nicer – not to mention we ended up adding Jenny and her partner to the reservation the day of, and the kind accommodation continued!

So we arrived at Orana for our 6:30 reservation and were literally the first ones in the restaurant, not that there were many tables to start with – maybe four tables; I’d say the eatery fit no more than twenty-five diners. It became packed QUICKLY though. And I won’t drone on too much longer about it (mostly because I didnt take any pictures of the food/interiors – bad blogger Abby – and what’s a post without lots of fun pics?!), but I’ll leave yall with our menu.

Restaurant Orana's dinner menu from June 24, 2014

Restaurant Orana’s dinner menu from June 24, 2014

It tasted and looked every bit as delicious, confusing, unique, fresh, and local as it sounds. Basically, Orana has full time “foragers” (no, I’m not joking) to find herbs, greens, seeds, etc from the environs in the area surrounding Adelaide. Same with the meats, cheeses, fish/shellfish, dairy. Truly a farm/land to table experience. And before you think that we’re piggles with this huge menu, I’ve gotta say that each course was just a little bite or two, and while I was definitely satisfied, I wasn’t disgustingly full. Now if you’re in Adelaide and after something a little less “fine dining”, downstairs from Orana is their sister restaurant, Street ADL – more “street food”, but still utilizing those same fresh, native ingredients.

Street ADL – via RundleStreet.com.au

This was a true dining and culinary experience – I’m so glad we caught Jock on Masterchef and made those reservations! And as you’ll see later in our trip, Ashlie and I had yet another Masterchef “close call” in the Barossa – what can I say? We’re unabashed groupies! 🙂

Via SA Weekend – Jock Zonfrillo with some native ingredient (saltbush, I believe)

And now a big virtual hug and firework to all my American readers out there – Happy Independence Day! For some reason, I am super homesick today thinking of my family and friends enjoying BBQ, sparklers, beach/mountain time, and a long weekend of fun – enjoy!!! We Blantons will be celebrating the 4th in spirit! 🙂 Until next time….

Listening to this jam on repeat (and getting a bit teary especially at the Blue Ridge Mountains part, I’ll admit it!):

 

Guest Restaurant Review on FooDiva: Don Alfonso 1890

Another day, another restaurant review! 🙂 Check out my second review for FooDiva’s fab site about my trip to Don Alfonso 1890, a hot new Italian eatery at the Shangri-La hotel in Dubai, near DIFC. A true Italian experience: yay or nay? Find out on FooDiva – buon appetito!

Mozzarella souffle: To. Die. For.

The Don Alfonso mozzarella souffle: To. Die. For.

Guest Restaurant Review on FooDiva: Social by Heinz Beck

I mentioned a few weeks back that I met with a local celebrity here in Dubai, and the secret is now revealed! Samantha Wood (wholly deserving of the “local celeb” status!) of FooDiva.net, an amazing food blog covering (impartial) restaurant reviews, food features, chef interviews, and culinary travel experiences, was seeking a few guest writers to cover some of the restaurant reviews – it seems like every week there is a new eatery opening here in Dubai, so there is no shortage of material! I emailed Samantha of my interest and  the next thing I knew, Barr and I were enjoying a meal at Social by Heinz Beck. Head on over to FooDiva to check out my review by clicking here. And if you’re local to Dubai, dont miss out on this fab restaurant! Until next time…

Raspberries 1.0, Chef Heinz Beck's signature dessert - and well worth every caloric bite!

Raspberries 1.0, Chef Heinz Beck’s signature dessert – and well worth every caloric bite!

Nashville Bachelorette Adventures, continued…

Nashville has so much to offer and we took full advantage! After a traditional Southern brunch (thank you all that is good for grits, sweet potato fries, sweet tea, and BBQ with biscuits) at Puckett’s Grocery in downtown. I know I say it a lot, but nom nom nom!!!

 

Exploring downtown

Exploring downtown

We needed to burn off some of the friend green beans (this is a real thing), and whoa! I had planned a bike tour for our little bachelorette and co. I use Trip Advisor religiously, and Green Fleet Bicycle Shop and Tours had stellar reviews – signed, sealed, delivered! This was absolutely one of the weekend highlights; I booked a private tour for our group of seven, and thankfully we had great weather (I’ve become a bit of a cold weather wimp, so I was most concerned in the days leading up to this outdoorsy excursion). I won’t go into too much of a lengthy review (you can of course read my “official” Trip Advisor review, if you’re so inclined 😉 ), but our guides, the bikes, and the route was above and beyond what I had hoped for!

Gals on the Green Fleet Bike Tour of Nashville

Gals on the Green Fleet Bike Tour of Nashville – safety first from Ashley! 

Isnt she the cutest bachelorette you ever did see?

Isnt she the cutest bachelorette you ever did see?

Well after our bike tour, we were ready to rage! Cue the cocktails, cheesy costume jewelry, and in our case, honky tonk bars 🙂 We had a late dinner reservations at Merchant’s (run, dont walk to this eatery if youre ever in Nashville – but seriously, def make a reservation – theyre packed), so we started the night off strong with a visit to Robert’s Western World, where the bride to be was serenaded by an amazing country band – it was a sight to behold:

Get it!

Get it!

Obligatory cowboy boot koozie

Obligatory cowboy boot koozie

From there, we hopped along the various honky tonk spots in downtown, enjoying the live music, good weather, and celebratory beverages. The fact that several of the group had early morning flights coupled with the slight issue that is was daylight savings that night (spring forward – lost that hour – whoops!) didnt deter us – it was a great evening! Enjoy some of the pictures of the night and cheers to Sarah Craig!

photo 95 IMG_1616 photo 94 photo 21

I know we’re all SO excited to celebrate again in May – toot toot! Until next time…

 

Bachelorette (Hen Party!) in Nashville

By the time I touched down in Nashville, Tennessee (home of country music, for those of you not aware), my days in the states were numbered, but the celebrating was far from over. Sarah Craig ties the knot in May (!), and as her matron of honor, the fun of planning a bachelorette weekend (hen party…am I using that correctly, British friends?) was on my shoulders. I love love love planning this kind of stuff – getting the details together and setting forth some fun activities is part of it, sure, but celebrating one of my dearest friends with all (most) of her dearest friends was the real special part 🙂

Sarah Craig and I donning some festive, celebratory wear at one of the honky tonk bars in Nashville (couldnt tell you which one by this point)

Sarah Craig and I donning some festive, celebratory wear at one of the honky tonk bars in Nashville (couldnt tell you which one by this point)

So first things first: why Nashville? Well, we knew that weather over the weekend we settled upon was going to be potentially cold (ahem polar vortex), so anything too beachy was kind of out of the question. Alongside that consideration, most of the bridesmaids and girlfriends live on the east coast, so being conscious of flying time for working/studying girls, as well as budgetary elements, we decided Nashville would be a good place! Not to mention, many of us either hadnt been before or it had been a brief visit – and there is plenty to do and see – and if it’s good enough for Rayna and Juliette, it was good enough for us 😉

For anyone out there planning a bachelor/bachelorette party in Nashville, let me tell you, you are not alone. There had to be no less like 20 other parties raging on that weekend in Nashville, so you will be in good company!

I booked us at the Sheraton downtown so we could be close to all the action of the honky tonk bars and restaurants we wanted to try out. Luckily, there are plenty of cute areas in Nashville, including the Vanderbilt area and the Gulch.

Sarah Craig and I arrived a day early to get acclimated and catch up one on one as email, What’s App, and FaceTime dont always cut it #expatproblems We grabbed dinner at Husk, an eatery we had also tried out when we were in Charleston, South Carolina last spring – what can I say? We’re consistent. And the food is that good – that Thursday night we didnt have any reservations and the place was packed, but luckily they served the full menu at the bar (alongside a very unique wine and cocktail list).

The other reason I arrived a tad early for the weekend was to get my goodies that I had ordered from my sister in law – she and her mother run two adorable shops in Memphis, Tennesse: RSVP and RSVP Baby. Fear not! Even though I wouldnt be making a trip to Memphis (though I would have loved to), Curry was kind enough to send her designs to Nashville. I told her I wanted a citrus color theme and a few “girly” touches; that was all she needed, and she went and designed some fab paper items for our girls weekend. I may be a bit biased of course, but I’ve placed a number of orders from RSVP and have always been overly pleased by the customer service, creativity, price, and end products. Here’s a peak at the cups and kraft boxes/labels (they matched the invites) she made up:

photo 25

Fun, arent they? RSVP also created the invites and a banner that we hung in the room. Loved all the items, as usual!

Many of the girls had arrived by mid afternoon, so we decided to walk over to Pinewood Social for lunch. Sarah Craig had read about it in Southern Living (one of the best bars of the south), and we werent disappointed! The kitchen was about to close when we walked up, but they were kind enough to still serve us a quick bite. This was a really neat spot: the food and cocktails aside, there was a bowling alley and a cozy little area where plenty of people were enjoying coffees and working on their laptops. It was a very eclectic and festive atmosphere. We enjoyed a quick lunch (and drinks!), and headed back to the hotel to congregate and rest up for the night ahead. I’ll fill yall in on our bike tour, meals, and evening out tomorrow. Happy Hump Day and until next time…

Pinewood Social

Pinewood Social

Los Angeles, Part II

So much packed into 3 days (and 2 posts!)

:) :)

🙂 🙂

For lunch one day in LA, Allison and I tried out Hinoki and the Bird – I had read about this Century City eatery on one of my favorite blogs, Oh Joy!, and knew that if it was good enough for Joy, I wanted to try it as well 🙂 So try it we did! Both Allison and I have some dietary restrictions so after having checked out the menu online, we were game (plenty for us allergy prone folk to nosh upon!)

Hinoki and the Bird is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the streets, but was PACKED when we rolled up for our lunchtime reservation. It’s right across the street from CAA (Ari Gold, anyone?), so I’m certain it was packed with plenty of lunching agents! Anywoo, we opted for some fresh mocktails to start us off as we enjoyed the lovely late winter afternoon at our outside table.

Interiors of Hinoki and the Bird

Interiors of Hinoki and the Bird

Delish mocktails

Delish mocktails: Cucumber Jade and Grapefruit Rickey

For our lunch, we gamely decided to split the grilled mix mushrooms – then Allison opted for the BBQ jidori chicken accompanied by a green papaya salad, while I ordered the coconut-curried mussels, sausage, and cauliflower. Nom nom nom!!

The mushrooms and my mussels topped with greens

The mushrooms and my mussels topped with greens

BBQ jidori chicken and papaya salad

BBQ jidori chicken and papaya salad

photo 82

Hinoki and the Bird infuses traditional Thai and Japanese delights with a fun, modern twist (whether it be a unique spice or an unexpected side item). Further, the ingredients are incredibly fresh (the mussels were incredibly tender and the mushrooms so earthy); indeed, although our portions were fairly generous, we walked away from the restaurant feeling light and satisfied. It was definitely a “treat” kind of lunch, but one I would absolutely advise you to test out for yourself should you find yourself in LA!

Following our lunch, we headed to the Getty Museum (for all the time I’ve spent in LA – even an entire summer – I had never been to the Getty – the shame!) for an exhibit on Queen Victoria. I had mentioned that I was reading a biography of the monarch, so the timing was great! The exhibit centered around Queen Victoria’s passion and support for photography throughout her reign – many of the photographs were generously lent to the museum by Queen Elizabeth herself! Quite a thrill for me because, if you know me, you know that I love all things British royal family.

The exhibit aside, the Getty offered some fabulous views of the city:

Los Angeles as seen from the Getty Museum

Los Angeles as seen from the Getty Museum

I left on the red eye from LA to Nashville, Tennessee later that night, bummed to leave, but feeling so blessed to have such good friends to host me. Thanks Mike and Allison – yall are the best 🙂 The departure wasnt all sad…because I was then on my way to a bachelorette party! More to come, yall! Until next time…

AD Birthday for AB

On our wedding day, I felt sick to my stomach. No, I wasnt nervous about who I was marrying, if it would rain (okay, I was a little worried it would rain), nor was it cold feet: I just really dont enjoy being the sole center of attention. Following the ceremony, I was just fine – it was just the thought of walking down the aisle, all eyes on me that freaked me out. The same anxiety kind of comes with my birthday. Don’t get me wrong, of course I love celebrating and hearing from those I love (this year more than ever!), but the idea of the attention being on me is very daunting! I’m a weirdo, right? Oh well.

Well, in the aforementioned event of our wedding, I definitely made the right choice as my husband was the best ever on my 27th birthday! 🙂 He planned such a fabulous weekend in Abu Dhabi, leaving no stoned unturned – not to mention the hotel was immaculate! We hit the road to Abu Dhabi (“AD”) after the work day was done (an easy hour drive), heading to the St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort (those Starwood points do pay off!) Here are some initial shots:

Would you look at that turquoise water!?

Would you look at that turquoise water!?

View from the balcony in our room

View from the balcony in our room

Saadiyat Island is being tapped as Abu Dhabi’s cultural center, with a Louvre and Guggenheim museum both under construction on the island. There are also commercial and residential buildings in place and under development as well, and I’ve got to say, it is a little paradise in Abu Dhabi!

DSC_0662

We arrived at the hotel just in time for cocktail hour, but first dropped by the room to freshen up, and lo and behold, the room’s butler was already on the ball, having decorated the room with balloons, signs, flowers and cupcakes (gluten free, of course!) That husband of mine – such a planner! 🙂

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

The service was beyond fabulous at the hotel – I can’t rave about it enough. That brings us to the food 🙂 We had a celebratory cocktail at the Manhattan Lounge (did you know that the original St Regis hotel in NYC invented the Bloody Mary cocktail? Each St Regis has its own signature Bloody Mary, in fact!) in the hotel before our dinner reservation at Koi (on the island, adjacent to the hotel).

Cheers!

Cheers!

Koi: the food was out of this world. The rolls were delicious, the lobster tacos were unreal delicious, full of lush cuts of lobster – in fact, all the dishes were chock full of the fresh fish, and each bite better than the next. I’ll admit that we were a tad disappointed with the service at Koi; we felt that the food and drinks were a bit rushed – we didnt have time to enjoy even a sip of our drinks before the food was upon us – a bummer as we would have preferred a more leisurely meal whilst on vacation, but c’est la vie! We had a no cell phone rule at dinner, so unfortunately no shots of the food this time around.

DSC_0639 DSC_0645 DSC_0636On Friday, we decided to flashback to our honeymoon and do exactly NOTHING – and we loved it! (In actuality, the Captain of Industry did churn out some emails poolside), but with scenery like this, who can complain?

Where we posted up for most of the day!

Where we posted up for most of the day!

Saturday were our individual personal days – golf for him, spa for moi! The spa was lovely, and Barr deemed the Saadiyat course one of the most beautiful he had ever played.

DSC_0655 DSC_0638 DSC_0652 DSC_0658Not to shabby, eh? Next time, I want to play the course as well! The St Regis at Saadiyat was one of the best hotels I have had the privilege to stay – no stone was left unturned.

All in all, it was such a spectacular birthday week: so chill, beautiful, and lovely – Barr put a lot of thought into the weekend, and I couldnt have felt more blessed by his love or by the influx of emails, Facebook messages, and texts I got over the weekend. It makes me miss everyone even more! 🙂 Here’s to my 27th year – toot toot. Until next time…

Pantry Cafe

I know, I know…radio silence, again. Last week was a bit hectic between some meetings with the All 4 Down Syndrome group, an interview with a local celebrity (I can’t disclose all the details yet, but hopefully soon!), and the week culminated in my 27th (!) birthday and a trip to Abu Dhabi to celebrate 🙂  All in all, a fab way to start February…a month that will continue to pick up steam…and I cant wait!

The relaxed interior of the Pantry Cafe in Al Wasl Square

The relaxed interior of the Pantry Cafe in Al Wasl Square

So I’ll rewind a week or so to a great lunch I had last week when I visited Safa Park; I finally tried out Pantry Cafe in Al Wasl Square, just adjacent to the park. Like Comptoir 102, this was another great lunch spot. The ambience was exceedingly relaxed, with lots of natural light spilling in from the primarily glass building, overlooking the busy street and park nearby. There were only a handful of patrons eating inside the day I stopped by, all of whom we’re enjoying a leisurely lunch, coffee, and presumably, a bit of work.

Next time, I'll be stopping by for their breakfast!

Next time, I’ll be stopping by for their breakfast!

The front page of the festive (and extensive) menu

The front page of the festive (and extensive) menu

In addition to the extensive menu (breakfast, all day dining, coffee, drinks and sweets), the Pantry Cafe also boasts a fabulous selection of takeaway items in the deli counter – I’ll definitely be returning to bring home a macaron or 2…ahh who are we kidding…definitely 5 (I’ll share, I swear!)

Back to this meal. I was feeling a bit vegetable deficient and for some reason was craving mushrooms, so I opted for the Paprika and Rosemary Chicken Salad with a side of the sauteed mushrooms, as well as a skinny latte for a mid afternoon caffeine fix. The coffee was served promptly and festively, I might add:

My lovely latte...was feeling the birthday love

My lovely latte…was feeling the birthday love

I enjoyed one of the Hello! magazines from the rack while I waited for the main event, and was not disappointed with the generous salad (mixed lettuce, tender chicken strips, asparagus, tomatoes, kidney beans, and  peppers) and extra yummy sauteed mushrooms (served simply, and topped with a bit of grated cheese)…nom nom nom:

photo 5 photo 3Following my meal (I unfortunately couldnt make it through more than half of each dish – guess my eyes were too big for my stomach!), I perused the cookware and unique food items that the cafe offered, reminiscent of a smaller Dean & Deluca. The only downside to this spot I can mention would be the service – it was a tad subpar, particularly given that I went at a very slow time of day; I had to flag someone down several times to get the bill.

That being said, I’ll definitely be back to Pantry Cafe, as I find myself in that area of town more and more, and there were many items that I wanted to try on the menu, service notwithstanding. And now that I’m hungry (again) after posting these pictures and writing about food, I’m going to try to recreate the salad above (though it inevitably wont compare!) Until next time…

My little place mat which outlines some of the food tenants of the cafe

My little place mat which outlines some of the food tenants of the cafe