Tag Archives: Food

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Life in Sydney

Sunrise in Perth.

Morning, Perth!

A few weeks back, I returned to Australia. My flights took me to Perth, a whole side of my vast nation I had not travelled to before. I stayed long enough to transfer to the domestic terminal, send a few emails and board the plane. A few hours later, I spied Mum waiting for me at the baggage carousel.

G'day Sydney!

G’day Sydney!

Now, I’m back in my childhood home, but in a different room. Gone are the deep turquoise walls, replaced by a soft shade of grey. It’s my favourite colour right now and makes it feel like a whole new room. The art I had collected prior to moving overseas is hanging, framed, on the walls: pictures of ballerinas, Melbourne trams, and photo of one of my favourite horses (and winner of the 2001 Golden Slipper), Ha Ha. A collection of my favourite travel books are stacked on my desk to inspire me to keep doing what I love. On my bedside table, a thunder egg and piece of pink-coloured quartz perched atop Frankie, a (new-to-me) magazine aimed at inner city female hipsters. Whilst I don’t quite fit into that category, I took a punt on it because it looked interesting.

I place an emphasis on keeping my space tidy, clean. The bed is always made, the clothes in their place. It’s livable and inviting. Such a contrast to the way my room used to be!

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The doona cover is white with navy cross-hatched polka dots. Six pillows of alternating stripes and dots. A thick, soft navy throw graces the end of the bed. The set up is luxurious, a far cry from the accommodations we had in Asia. I feel so calm, so relaxed in this room. As someone who can’t stand going to bed, having such a luxe set up has been revolutionary. I now want to slide under the covers and lay my head down. This is something I am really looking forward to recreating when I return to the Bay Area.

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Since arriving, I have not ventured too far from my family’s home in southern Sydney. Staying put usually makes me antsy, but I’ve enjoyed adjusting to the slower pace of life in the suburbs. It’s so quiet. Parts of the area haven’t changed, and others are completely different. Overall, the feeling is one of familiarity, like my favourite PJs.

I’ve been into the city only a handful of times since returning a few weeks back: to meet up with one of my best friends from SF (who was visiting her family in Sydney), for an interview, and to enroll back at Uni. I’m taking a few classes online this year, and we’ll see where it leads. Classes start next week. I look forward to learning new things and stretching my brain again.

Watching the planes land from the cafeteria at Ikea.

Watching the planes land from the cafeteria at Ikea, where I picked up a nifty little desk.

But along with getting to experience the Australian summer, I’ve been so blessed to be absorbed back into the lives of my friends and family. And it’s such an exciting time! New engagements, news of new babies to arrive this year, hens parties, weddings, new romances. Life in Sydney continues, but I feel as though it’s open wide enough to let me in for a just a little while before I head back to San Francisco.

It makes my heart sing to know they’re doing well, and that after more than six years of me not physically participating in their lives, they are still keen to include me. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to experience the joys of life with them.

Family BBQs

Family BBQs.

A cuppa and a chat.

A cuppa and a chat.

The obligatory penis straws at the Hens Party.

The obligatory penis straws at the Hens Party.

One of the best parts about being home have been the impromptu moments: the spur-of-the-moment coffee dates and lunch plans with friends, feeling growing bellies, the shared experience of watching Louis Theroux documentaries with my sister, the honest chats with my brother as we prepare dinner, meeting the fascinating neighbours of my Dad’s aunt, chilling on the verandah with my parents after work, the invites to birthday celebrations, and time spent walking the dog.

All of these things, and more, have brought me joy since returning, spending time back home in Sydney. I’m taking it easy and appreciating the love and support I have here.

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Fresh, handmade rotee from a street vendor in Chiang Mai.

Snapshot: Culinary Adventures in Chiang Mai

Here’s a quick snapshot of what our meals have looked like since we set down our packs in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand:

We wake up late here in Chiang Mai. Our main meal of the day is breakfast, and that usually happens anywhere between 2 and 4pm. For the first meal of the day, I start it with a cuppa tea, the American with coffee. We like to eat eggs on toast, or croissants with fruit, or a bowl of fruit, yoghurt and muesli.

Chiang Mai food 2

Dinner has tended to be something Thai or Indian, somewhere within the Old Town. I have a favourite Indian place that makes a spicy dum aloo (potato curry) with garlic naan.

My favourite restaurant is the Bam Boo Cafe on Ratvithi Road: I love the vibe, the food and the liveliness. The hostess, Thom, is a dead-set riot. She has one of those infectious personalities and loves connecting people. She’s fascinating to watch when in full-flight. I love their vegetable fried rice, and usually pair it with a mango and lime fruit shake. Occasionally, we’ll stop by one of the street vendors making rotees for dessert — banana pancakes with chocolate sauce and a touch of condensed milk on top. Yum!

Chiang Mai food

Food here is pretty cheap, but it can be a gamble — you never really know what you’re going to get. The other day, a lady forgot our order so she just made it up. True story. For those who want hard numbers, this should give you an idea:

  • Fruit shakes – 35 Baht (US$1.15)
  • Vegetable fried rice  – 50 Baht ($1.66)
  • Pad Thai – 50 Baht ($1.66)
  • Banana pancake with chocolate sauce and condensed milk – 20 Baht ($0.66)
  • Dum aloo – 60 Baht ($2)
  • Garlic naan – 40 Baht ($1.33)
  • White rice – 10 Baht ($0.33)
  • Paddle Pop ice cream – 8 Baht ($0.26)
  • Caffè latte – 50 Baht ($1.66)
  • Small baguette – 10 Baht ($0.33)
  • Chang beer – 40 Baht ($1.33)
  • Large pot of tea – 50 Baht ($1.66)
  • Small bottle of Coke Zero – 17 Baht ($0.56)

I just read a post today by Nomadic Matt called 30 coffeehouses to visit in Chiang Mai, that I stumbled upon on Twitter. Looks like I’m going to develop quite the caffeine habit as I make the rounds!

Fresh, handmade rotee from a street vendor in Chiang Mai.

Fresh, handmade rotee from a street vendor in Chiang Mai.

Post #80: Where to Find Aussie Food in the Bay Area.

Post #80: Where to Find Aussie Food in the Bay Area

Post #80: Where to Find Aussie Food in the Bay Area.

When you’re an expat, you end up craving the oddest things. And these things are usually the items that you cannot run down to the store and purchase. It requires a lot of forethought and coordination. My latest craving was for beetroot and fairy bread. Funny thing is that it’s not necessarily about consuming the item itself that stems the homesickness, it’s the connection to the past, to what is familiar and missed.

Fairy Bread

[Source: I Ate Brisbane]

After a conversation the other day with a fellow expat, I realised that I have become a relative expert on where to find Aussie (and Antipodean food) in the Bay Area. I feel that this info should really be shared with my fellow expats and locals who have international tastes, so here’s my favourite places to find the staples I adore from my ‘original’ home:

1. Australia Fair

Australia Fair is one of my favourite shops to buy sweets from, and it helps they’re only a stones-throw from my place. They sell Uggs, Drizabones and Blunnies, but they also have a selection of sweet and savory favourites from the homeland.

What’s great at Australia Fair:

  • Cherry Ripes, Flakes and Fry’s Turkish Delight ($2.50 each)
  • Uggs/Blunnies/Drizabone can come in handy for those times you need a nice ‘homegrown’ gift for friends and colleagues, but don’t have time to arrange for your Mum to send something over

Details:

1017 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94109.

2. Cost Plus World Market

Cost Plus World Market has the cheapest price hands down for Vegemite in the Bay Area. I like to get mine from the location right by the ferry in Jack London Square in Oakland. They also carry some other British/Antipodean favourites and have a great selection of interesting wine, beer and cider. A ‘happy place’ for any homesick antipodean!

Vegemite: one of the few ways I can cure homesickness. But who on earth spreads it on that thick?

[Source: Cost Plus World Market]

What’s great at Cost Plus World Market:

  • Vegemite: A smallish jar (about 220g) runs at $9
  • Marmite: A smallish jar is $6
  • Twinings English Breakfast Tea (loose 200g or 100 tea bags) : $10
  • Darrell Lea Strawberry Licorice: $3.29
  • Buderim Ginger Marmalade: $4
  • Tim Tams: $4
  • Other items of note: PG Tips, Barry’s Tea, HP Sauce, Branston Pickle, Walkers Shortbread, Cadbury Chocolate Digestives, Hobnobs, Bundaberg Ginger Beer, Patak’s Curry Sauces, Heinz Baked Beans, English Clotted Cream, Horlicks, Arnott’s Crowns.

Details:

101 Clay Street Oakland, CA 94607 (right near the Alameda-Oakland-SF ferry at Jack London Square).

2552 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA 94133 (Fisherman’s Wharf area).

My favourite tea

[Source: Cost Plus World Market]

3. SF Chinatown

This is the only entry that is a little vague, because there are a bunch of Chinese grocery stores that carry Aussie staples in Chinatown. My favourite of all of these stores is Khong Guan at the intersection of Stockton and Broadway. It’s more spacious and logically arranged than some of the other stores I’ve been to, and they have a great selection of products. Plus the cute little lady behind the counter thinks my Cantonese pronunciation is very good — golf clap for me!

The Chinese love their Milo and Ovaltine!

What’s great in Chinatown:

  • Large tins of Milo (1.5kg): $11
  • Small tins of Milo (440g): $3.25
  • Other items of note: Horlicks, Ovaltine, Ribena, Kopiko coffee flavoured lollies, Curry Sauce, Japanese Soba Noodles, Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce, Ferrero Rocher, Moon Cakes.

Details:

Khong Guan, 1308-1310 Stockton (at Broadway), San Francisco, CA 94133

Wing Scene, 898 Stockton (at Clay), San Francisco, CA 94108

Khong Guan Grocery is the best place to pick up Milo in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

4. AussieProducts.com

Not having a car, I have not made it down to San Jose proper to take a peek at the Aussie Shop, but I’ve sent my expat mates down there with a shopping list for me. Apparently they have closed their physical storefront on Stevens Creek Boulevard, but they still sell everything online.

Sometimes, all you need to do is buy some overpriced Vita-Weets, slather them in butter and Vegemite, and make worms!

Thank you internets! Vita-Weet worms!

[Source: Domesblissity]

What’s great about AussieProducts.com:

  • Twisties: $4.95
  • Vitaweets: $6.95
  • Capilano Honey (340g) : $12.95
  • Tea: they have a selection of the great Aussie teas including Dilmah, Bushell’s, Lanchoo
  • Other items of note: Fantales, Aeroguard, Chicken Salt, Cottee’s Cordial, Pavlova Magic eggs, Burger Rings, Summer Rolls,  Barbecue Shapes, Jaffas, Saos, Minties, Musk Sticks, Licorice Allsorts, Weet Bix, and Butter Menthols.

Details:

AussieProducts.com

Australian beetroot kicks American beets.

5. Safeway

When I first moved to the US, my care packages from my family were always choc full of Tim Tams. In recent times, Safeway (the equivalent of Woollies) has started carrying Pepperidge Farm Tim Tams with the slogan “Australia’s favourite cookie”. The word ‘biscuit’ doesn’t have the same translation here, but the term cookie just doesn’t quite fit…  Tim Tam Slams still rule, however.

What’s great about Safeway:

  • Tim Tams are about $4 a pack
  • They have some REALLY cheap booze. I have scored 1.5L of vodka for around $10 a few times before. You’re welcome, Australia.

Details:

145 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

The Tim Tam Slam: our equivalent of Smores. Kinda. But not.

[Source: Valentia]

6. BevMo!

BevMo is short for Beverages and More, but most folks round these here parts call it BevMo. It’s cheap grog, and gets even better when they have their twice yearly 5c sale: buy one bottle for the stickered price, get a second for 5c. You can’t beat that!

What’s great about BevMo!:

  • Bundaberg Ginger Beer $7
  • Coopers Pale Ale $11
  • Jacob’s Creek Moscato $9

Details:

1301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94109

525 Embarcadero, Oakland, CA 94607

Bundy Ginger Beer

6. Friends

It helps to build up a network of expats in the city you live in because there’s always family/friends/people coming and going. It makes a lot of sense on numerous levels, but none more so when all of the expat women request your friend’s dad to bring a whole pile of tampons when he comes to visit! Good times.

What are the items that you have missed most from your original home?

Post #78: Eat Good, Feel Better, Do Best.

Post #78: Eat Good, Feel Better, Do Best

Post #78: Eat Good, Feel Better, Do Best.

There’s so much to say, and yet the words are not so easy to come by of late. I am trying to find my mojo again, and I hope you understand. Sometimes, I just try too hard. Maybe less is more for me right now. Or I should take one of the Mental Pod’s surveys and try to locate it again…

So I stepped away from the computer for a few hours to spend the afternoon with the Canadian, enjoying great conversation and food. The usual. She’s the right amount of engaging and supportive and I really enjoy our girls days out. Today, we focused our eating efforts on the Inner Sunset.

Healthy food, healthy you! SF Natural Grocery keeping it real.

We both had a hankering for breakfast for lunch, so we hit up a greasy spoon along the main drag. I was so hungry, I don’t even remember looking away from my plate of eggs and pancakes until I was finished! I’m all class.

No tea, only coffee at the greasy spoon. Inner Sunset, SF.

Loving the light.

Chinese donuts. The shared vice of the Canadian and her Aussie sidekick. At the Eastern Bakery, in Chinatown, SF.

Sadly, we were too busy catching up to take many photos. But we finished up back in Chinatown for the doughy goodness of a Chinese Donut and a stroll through Loehmann’s.

Post #48: Pancakes.

Post #48: Pancakes

 

Post #48: Pancakes.


I am writing an Annual Report. And at the moment, it sometimes feels as though I’m not even present in my own life, but I’m achieving things, so it all evens out. Happy days!

I eat pretty poorly when I am flat chat, so thank christ for Food Dates with the Canadian! Otherwise all of the pictures below would feature pancakes and poppy-seed bagels.

So here’s my week in food:

When I can’t decide what to make for dinner (or I just can’t be arsed), I opt for pancakes. Currently, we’re on a Krusteaz Blueberry craze. And they taste so much better when you add food coloring. If I had my way, I’d eat breakfast for all my meals. And, yes, I am six years old.

Version 1: Green Blueberry Pancakes.

They just taste better.

Version 2: Pink Blueberry Pancakes

And yes, Mum. I’m taking my vitamins!

Tasty Wasabi Tofu Curry with a side of black rice from my new local, the Unicorn. If I were all about using ridonkulous words, ‘amazeballs’ would be my word of choice for this dish. But I am not, and I don’t. So it’s just damn tasty. YUM!

The Unicorn is my new favourite place…

Last weekend, the Canadian and I enjoyed a culinary walkabout in the Inner Richmond. Did you know the area is actually named for Richmond in Melbourne? True story.

Rainbow Salad at Burma Superstar. Inner Richmond, SF.


Burma Superstar was pretty good. The Tofu Tower was really tasty, the Rainbow Salad was good, and the tofu curry left much to be desired.

Tofu Tower: two thumbs up.

Just down the road, we stumbled upon an amazing bakery: Schubert’s. Before we had even walked through the door, we’d gotten the low down from an exiting customer on his ‘to die for’ list. By the time we left, we were doing the same.

Cranberry and Almond Coffee Cake, Schubert’s Bakery. Inner Richmond, SF.

So. What’s in your belly?
***

Welcome to the forty-eighth post of the Great Writing Challenge of 2012.
Five days a week for six months, I will be given a topic to write about. The stipulation: it must be 250 words (or more), and positive in tone. If you would like to suggest topics for me to write about, please email me at TheRebeccaProject [at] gmail [dot] com.

Post #45: I Love Trader Joe's!

Post #45: I Love Trader Joe’s!

Post #45: I Love Trader Joe’s!


Where the American and I live in San Francisco, it’s much easier to buy a Coach handbag than it is to buy groceries. And in most of the cities we have lived in, we’ve lived downtown. Buying groceries was never a problem, because there were plenty of supermarkets in the downtown area to supply the urban crowd. Even in provincial Ireland. But that’s not the case in San Francisco, and is the biggest drawback to living where we do.

Trader Joe's!

Trader Joe’s!

[Source: Trader Joe’s]

Most of our shopping is done at the local Walgreen’s or independent markets/corner shops. We have a mini-Safeway about a mile down the hill, and had a ridiculously expensive independent supermarket about ten blocks away up the hill until recently. Cala Foods closed for good over the New Year period, and in June, Trader Joe’s will be opening up in its place. HURRAH!

In the hierarchy of local supermarkets in the Bay Area, I’d rate Trader Joe’s well above average. Some say it’s very yuppie, but it’s no Whole Foods. Shopping at Whole Foods is a beautiful, insanely expensive but quintessential Northern California experience. Much like this:

Some say there are two types of people in the world: those who prefer Trader Joe’s, and those who don’t. I fall into the former, and I love Trader Joe’s with a fiery passion. And no, I’m not being paid for this.

The company has a sense of humour:
They use a bell to communicate instead of a PA system.
They change their labels according to the nationality of food they’re selling: for example, tortillas sport the Trader Jose label, edamame have the Trader Joe-San one, and french soaps are Trader Jacques.

The staff at Trader Joe’s are encouraged to show their personality, so it’s not unusual to see staff singing to themselves as they restock the shelves. They wear Hawaiian shirts and jeans, and are easy-going and friendly. But not that crazy American-fake-friendly. It seems real and makes a world of difference to my experience.

What the average Trader Joe's store looks like

What the average Trader Joe’s store looks like

[Source: Wikipedia]

But I’m certainly not the first to profess my love for the supermarket chain. Trader Joe’s Fan is a hub for those like me to explore and share the recipes and the like, there’s a Flikr group, ‘Trader Joe’s Love!‘, for pics of anything TJ related, and one bloke loves Trader Joe’s so much that he wrote a song about them.

So here’s eight reasons why I love Trader Joe’s:

  1. They have great quality, healthy food at reasonable prices.
  2. They are committed to offering a broad range of organic food, and to never sell anything made with genetically modified produce.
  3. They have exclusive lines: you can only buy Trader Joe’s food at Trader Joe’s stores.
  4. They sell good wine for $2. That’s right: $2! Some of the Two Buck Chuck varieties have won medals and they sell for TWO DOLLARS. The Australians will understand why this is significant.
  5. They really cater to vegetarians, and offer plenty of products that I can eat. Plus, they carry a bunch of things that are you can’t find at regular supermarkets like Safeway, like couscous, quinoa and polenta.
  6. The stores a much smaller than your average Safeway. They’re easy to navigate and well-lit.
  7. They have a permanent sample station in every store, offering samples of fresh coffee and food. It’s a real highlight.
  8. I love their selection of frozen fruit and joghurt. We make some of the most righteous fruit shakes outside of Thailand with three ingredients.
    Charles Shaw: Two Buck Chuck.

    Charles Shaw: Two Buck Chuck.

    [Source: Colorado Daily]

Do you love Trader Joe’s, too? Or something similar?

You can read more about the man behind Trader Joe’s here, and more about the store here

***

Welcome to the forty-fifth post of the Great Writing Challenge of 2012.
Five days a week for six months, I will be given a topic to write about. The stipulation: it must be 250 words (or more), and positive in tone.
If you would like to suggest topics for me to write about, please email me at TheRebeccaProject [at] gmail [dot] com.