Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Let's get ready to Rundle!

You know you live in a conservative city when the council erects giant bollards to stop office workers playing chicken across four lanes of peak-hour traffic.  And yet that's exactly what Adelaide has done in Grenfell Street, as I discovered this morning.

I can clearly remember the early days of my working life, channeling my mad Frogger skills to make it across the street from my office, to the pub/cafe/shops.  We travelled in packs back then - presumably figuring that even if just one of us made it to the pub, the journey would have been worth it.  And it was on that road that I learned that chivalry was dead in the ass - none of my male colleagues would ever proactively use their bodies as shields to block traffic from careening into me.  Jerks.  But it was the way of life back then.  The softer, pudgier office worker of this new generation has been denied the white-knuckle lunchtime dash, and instead is forced to use the (wait for it) pedestrian crossings.  Eeek, the horror!

But I complied with Adelaide's road rules and wandered across the lights with Rockin' this morning, to enjoy a couple of strong and tasty coffees at Pepper's Espresso Bar in Regent Arcade.  I'm still annoyed they shut the ancient cinema in this Arcade, but I remember participating in the closing celebrations and watching a digital restoration of "The Seven Year Itch" there with my aunt.  But I digress.  The catch-up with Rockin' was great and I got to reminisce about my old office stomping grounds, and play a bit of "where are they now?" about colleagues from the past.  God Bless Rockin' for keeping her fingers firmly on the pulse.

I then dashed through the Rundle Mall shops and bought the Cellini purse I'd been looking for since I got home (red and leather - two of my favourite things!).  I can't find a picture online to show you, but trust me that it's gorgeous.  Then I went into Peter Alexander to try and find some pyjamas to take back with me.  I was  very disappointed to realise that the cute, frilly nightgowns looked frightful on me.  Even sucking my stomach in was a waste of time (and tricky to maintain during sleepy time).  So I turned my attention to full pyjamas instead.  Many of the latest PJ pants had elastic around the ankles.  The embryonic shop assistant tried to help by telling me, "oh they are HAREEEEEEM pants".  No.  Just, no.  Needless to say I inched out of the store, wondering who would think of the children.

In the depths of my despair I was ever so fortunate to rendez-vous at The Mall's Balls with Don't-call-me-Chef, my Chicago chum whose culinary expertise is truly impressive.  We had a delicious lunch and a great catch-up at Al Fresco in the east end of Rundle Street.  I used to go here way back in the day, but it was really only good for gelati and coffee.  Now the restaurant boasts an extensive Italian menu and a delicious wine list; both of which I sampled today.  The Lobethal Road shiraz we shared was particularly good.

To continue the fine tradition of days spent stuffing my face, I was grateful for a few hours' rest at home before tackling a hot and spicy laksa at the gorgeous Danny's Thai Bistro on the Norwood Parade.  Sharing a tasty meal with two of my favourite fellas on the planet was such a treat - and what's not to love about spicy, flavourful laksa washed down with crisp and ice-cold Singha beers?!  Blissful.

Forsaking the hareem pant pyjamas for a pair of winter flannelette ones, I'm grateful for the peppermint tea at home and a semi-early night before tackling another busy day of catch-ups and yet more eating.  When I was leaving New York I joked about having to join Weight Watchers upon my return.  Somehow that throw-away comment doesn't seem quite so funny now...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Bottomless Pit

You know what woke me up this morning?  My stomach rumbled.  This beggars belief, as all I have been doing for the past 48 hours is eating.  And yet there it was, a low but insistent rumbling, urging me to get out of bed and find coffee and food, pronto.  Naturally I obeyed.

Yesterday was Family BBQ Day and you've got to love those.  Plus the persistent rain we've had over this past week gave way to a stunning day.  The sun was shining but there was a bit of a chill in the air, but still good enough for us to mill around outside and graze on delicious antipasto platters and silly conversation.  In a way the family had come together to celebrate my visit home but it also doubled as the official commemoration of my aunt's half-century on this planet.  Like me, my aunt was in denial about her birthday but we made a fuss of her anyway.  Gifts a-plenty and a delicious sausage sizzle fired up by J-Train (my cousin, and he of the recent visit to New York fame).  The pavlova for dessert was super delicious too.  And the big surprises of the day was my cousin A-Train who had come down from Brisbane for the celebration, and K&K who made the drive over from Whyalla to visit us.  It was great to have all the family together.  And even though G-Man arrived late and had lost his soccer game, at least he scored the only goal of the match.  Most excellent.

I was on my best behaviour yesterday too, restricting myself to a couple of glasses of bubbly, ingested quite late in the afternoon, and I think this restraint helped fend off the food coma.  At least until the evening when we had hot chips & dim sims from the famous Blue & White cafe at North Adelaide.  Another South Aussie food icon ticked off the list.  

With a full belly after a family-filled day, I crawled onto the couch and wrapped myself in a blanket.  I was trampled by the puppy dog until she found a comfortable spot on top of me, and we both fell sound asleep.  I woke up at 2am to Justin Bieber banging on about the benefits of Proactiv, so I decided it was time to go to bed.  Puppy seemed equally content.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Baby gherkins, kangaroo, and not-so-high rollers

Baby sister and G-Man took their bridal party to dinner last night, as an early celebration for their first wedding anniversary.  I am still unclear why WE were the ones getting spoiled rotten, but I'm not one to question too much when a delicious meal is on offer.

We arrived early for our reservation in a private room at Barton's Restaurant, part of the beautiful and historic Caledonian Hotel at North Adelaide.  Me, Baby Sister, G-Man, and his brother elbowed up to the main bar for a couple of cleansing ales before the rest of the party arrived.  Ahh Crown Lager, how I had missed you.

Choosing what to have for dinner was a no-brainer for me.  My eyes zeroed in on the delicious kangaroo fillet with bush chutney.  I KNOW.  Amazing.  And I shared an antipasto platter with Baby Sister, remarking on the genius appearance of the cornichon (uh, that's baby gherkins, to you and me).

Our main meals took FOREVER to come out and G-Man was already crafting his scathing review.  When my roo arrived, I was not disappointed and quickly forgot the long wait.  I know, I'm so fickle.  Poor G-Man was not too impressed with his Bay Bugs pasta (and the scathing review got longer and longer), but I got the impression that everyone else was happy with their meals.  The empty plates were testament to that.  Beers, wines, and conversation flowed easily for hours.

After the meal and the goodbyes, we jumped back into Baby Sister's car and drove to a popular Adelaide club called Zhivago.  I only know the club is popular because G-Man's brother and cousin go there and they would know.  Plus there were two lines of patrons outside, which tells you something I think.  Anyway the club's website tells me that Zhivago first opened in 2003.  The fact that I only just heard about the place last night tells you something about how cool I am (NOT).  Totally out of my depth.  But in an effort to look cool, we actually lined up for a while outside the club, me moaning loudly about having sore feet and being about 1,000 years older than all the other patrons.  Nobody was paying much attention.  The line inched forward at a dead snail's pace, I kept rolling my eyeballs, and finally G-Man and Baby Sister had had enough and were happy to admit defeat.

We left G-Man's brother and cousin lining up and me, G-Man and Baby Sister did the skedaddle across the street to the Adelaide Casino.  When did the place get so popular?  I was pretty disoriented in there - all the renovations and glitzy lights made it impossible for me to get my bearings.  It was like being at Hogwarts - escalators going sideways, and loads of people in all manner of dress and undress.  And the crowd in the dancefloor/bar last night!  Crazy.  Admittedly, it wasn't exactly the creme de la creme of society by that time of night, but I will concede that what the crowd lacked in teeth, they more than made up for in enthusiastic dancing!  The people-watching was excellent.  I was fortified by vodka at this point, and I decided to rest on the velvet lounges to stop my sore feet killing me any more.  Baby Sister tried to inspire G-Man into a dance-off with her, but he was not to be moved.  So she rocked out around him instead.  It was great.

When KFC drive-through was closed on the way home, we called into McDonald's for some delicious chicken nuggets that restored me somewhat.  I think I collapsed into bed at 3am, which is totally out of character for me.  But the night was so much fun, the time just sped by.  I just hope Baby Sister and G-Man enjoyed their first anniversary celebration as much as I did.

Chow Chow

So I've been home for a week already and I am not really sure where the days have gone.  Jetlag certainly kicked my butt for the first few days, and being back in my own bed really helped knock me out.

Last night me & baby sister went to J&D's house for what proved to be an AMAZING home-cooked meal.  All three courses, and the sparkling and still wines that accompanied them, combined beautifully to make a truly delicious dinner across the board.  Entree was pan-seared scallops on a bed of fresh, crunchy asparagus with a drizzle of lime mayo on top.  Main course was pistachio-crusted rack of lamb with roasted potatoes and the best green beans I think I've ever had.  But the piece de resistance was clearly the dessert - a delicious Snickers treat, of a chewy and almost creamy meringue-like base, drizzled with vanilla, with chocolate ganache/mousse, home-made peanut caramel and a delicious piece of chocolate across the top.  Each layer was sweet, salty, and SO delicious.  I also thought it was inspired to have a D'Arenberg white sparkling dessert wine alongside.  I know the red Stump Jump well, but I'd never seen their sticky sparkling white before, much less tried it, and I thought it was great.  Not too bubbly, and not too sweet - it just complemented our meal beautifully.  Cue the crash-landing in bed and deep, undisturbed slumber.

Early this morning I went to a cafe at Mawson Lakes with J&G, where we met up with some friends for breakfast.  All it takes to make me happy these days is a full cafe breakfast of strong coffee, sourdough bread, crispy bacon and poached eggs, and I am totally content.  When did I get so easy to please?!  And more than that, how the hell did I fit all that in after last night's amazing spread?  Crikey. How lovely to just sit and relax with some good people, great food, and tasty coffee.  I held back and didn't lick my plate clean, but I was certainly tempted.

We called in afterwards and visited Granny, which was really nice.  Especially so as she had been out to purchase some sparkling wine for the occasion.   She chugged her glass back (so THAT'S where I get that from!), and declared it to her satisfaction.  And for once she didn't say I looked puffy, or that I needed to stop putting on weight.  It was a very lovely visit for sure.  Maybe we should encourage glasses of champagne for every meeting from now on?!

Whether it was the food, sparkling, or drizzly weather outside, by the time we left Granny's I was starting to fade.  But we had one more stop to make - this time to Bunnings.  Ahh the Australian hardware store.  Is there any place like it on a weekend?  And Bunnings is just crazy - rows upon rows of tools and lumber and paintbrushes and any manner of thing that you never knew you needed for DIY projects.  We found what we needed and I followed my nose to the Para Hills Netball Club sausage sizzle in the carpark.  Despite the sheer amount of gluttony I'd demonstrated in the past 24 hours, I still found room for a sausage and onions with Masterfoods sweet chillli sauce.  OH.  HELL. YEAH.

We're one year on from baby sister's wedding (already?!) and the bridal party is getting together tonight for an anniversary dinner.  Somehow I will find more room in my ever-expanding guts for tasty local food and wine.  Report to follow - about the food I mean, not my guts.  As you were.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Great Southern Land

The flight upgrade was always going to be a long shot, really.  I didn't have the frequent flyer points to upgrade myself, so any chance of a berth in business class was always going to depend on the kindness of strangers.  And hey, it was my choice to fly overseas on my birthday (in an effort to deny the very occurrence) so I could hardly milk the birthday for the sake of the upgrade, right?  And yet part of me still wanted to try.  The idea of lying down for the whole flight had loads of appeal.  Ugh it was a line call.

As it turned out, Australia's national airline staff at JFK apparently hate their jobs and their lives, and they are quite sour-pussed women all round, so I wasn't getting any love there.  In fact, the girls were seriously power-tripping the day I flew home.  They declared my suitcase 3kg over the limit and told me I had to repack it.  No "HEAVY" sticker would be affixed to my luggage - there was simply no option but to repack it.  So I could have 2 suitcases worth 23kg each, but not one suitcase at 26kg.  So airline tripper #1 throws a cheap-ass stripey plastic bag at me and tells me to syphon about 3kg of my clothes into it.  I was seriously put out, and she knew it.  But I had a plane to catch and I had to oblige.

And so it was that two hours before my flight home, I was on my hands and knees at the JFK business class counter, trying to discretely repack 3kg of clothes into some ridiculous zippered bag.  A beefy airline staffer came out of nowhere and tried to fling open the lid of my suitcase, thinking that would make it easier to repack.  I was already suffering serious indignity and how dare he think I wanted the contents of my luggage visible to everyone.  So I snapped at him that I was fine and he should seriously just back off and leave me alone.

Any chance of an upgrade for good behaviour fizzled to nothing.  Truth be told, I surprised they didn't re-assign my seats back near the toilets or worse, by the screaming kids.  Despite my disintegrating mood and attitude towards humankind, I was buoyed by the promise of the airport lounge and the free alcohol therein.  Frequent flyer status is still good for some things.

Having hurled my lighter suitcase and second-class second bag onto the luggage carousel, the pencil-skirted airline staffer checked my belongings quickly.  She was as keen to get rid of me as I was to leave.  I shot her some serious stink-eye and headed through security.  Do you know that this whole way home, the only airport person who even acknowledged my upcoming birthday was the passport security lady at JFK?  Crazy.  JFK lady quietly wished me well, and had the good sense to agree with me that a birthday spent at 37,000 feet and straddling the international date line probably didn't count anyway.  A kindred spirit!

The airport lounge was busy but the white wine was cold, and the pretzels crunchy.  The world was ever-so-slowly righting itself.  Pretty soon I was boarding the plane for LA.  I was hemmed into my window seat by two very large, very old women.  No chance of getting out to pee.  I conjured thoughts of deserts.  A couple of movies and a bottle of red later, and we arrived once again in the only Diet Coke-free airport I've ever known.  LAX is a shithole, no matter which way you slice it.  Thank heavens I only had to stopover for a couple of hours.

Before long we were back onboard and headed for Sydney.  I was again squished by the window, but this time my travelling companions were a young couple returning from a 60 day road trip from New York to San Francisco.  We chatted amicably until dinner arrived.  I devoured my meal, passed out, and woke up at breakfast time.  I spent my birthday unconscious.  It was awesome.

Sydney airport greeted me with a super-strong coffee (bliss) and a hot and greasy bacon sandwich (ditto).  When I got sick of screaming kids, I retreated to the airport lounge and wondered why nobody has opened up a salon to give you a quick hair wash and blow-dry in between flights.  Someone could make a bucket of money doing that, don't you think?  And if someone was there to put a fresh coat of make-up on your shattered face, so much the better.

Adelaide hasn't changed a bit and I wouldn't have it any other way.  The new airport carpark is a bit fancy and so far a mystery to all the motorists who can't seem to find a) their cars; or b) the exits.  But once we were on the road it was all good.

Seeing Annie-bot the puppy dog was wonderful and I was so relieved she still remembers me.

The first couple of days back home have passed by in wine-and-jetlag-fuelled narcolepsy, punctuated by brief catch-ups with family and friends.

Tucking into Cheezels, but pacing myself until the meat pies, Coopers, and pasties come out.  Dinner last night at the super-tasty Panacea and yet more Aussie wines, sparkling and otherwise.  It has been a hedonistic yet slothful couple of days.