If you’ve followed my blog from the beginning, you know how important food was to my time in Australia. Wait, scratch that. If you’ve ever read a post of mine, chances are you know how significant a part food played in the last year of my life.
I’ve always loved baking, thinking about nutrition, and watching the occasional season of Top Chef. When I learned I was sensitive to both gluten and dairy five years ago, I had to pay even more attention to what I ate and how I baked.
Before leaving for Australia, I decided that eating well would be a financial priority. By “well” I didn’t mean fancy, upscale places, but eating heathfully and with some variety. This was one girl who wasn’t going to live on instant meals, pasta, and noodles for months on end — and my gluten sensitivity wouldn’t have allowed it anyway (not that I don’t cheat and have some from time to time). It helps that I don’t really drink and that I love walking — more money in the food budget!
While eating and discussing food makes me happy, just thinking about it does too. And as I thought back on the foodie adventures I experienced in Australia, I couldn’t help but want to share the journey, along with a few resources that helped me find good eats in Oz.
It all started with the Good Food & Wine Show. The show travels to some of the capital cities over the course of several months, and I attended in Melbourne on week two of my trip. On top of the fee for the show ticket, I also paid to participate in the Lindt Chocolate Masterclass — we tasted nine varieties of Lindt chocolate in the 1-hour session and took a fantastic goody bag home. By the time I’d left the show, I’d filled up on enough samples to take care of lunch!
A few weeks later, I met Brooke for the first time at the Aroma Festival in Sydney. The festival showcases coffee, tea, chocolate, and spices from around the world. What’s not to love?! The festival date for this year is only a few weeks away — Sunday, July 31. My foodie friend Ms. Gourmantic wrote about her experiences at the festival last year if you want to learn more!
A few weeks after I met Brooke, we embarked on a 2.5 week road trip starting in tropical north Queensland and heading south to her home base of Sydney (which also became mine at the end of the trip). In Queensland, we visited wineries, coffee plantations, Humpy Nut World, and more. Yes, there was a placed called Humpy Nut World. We loved eating and drinking our way through Queensland.
When I returned to Sydney after the road trip, I quickly found a flat and job in the city’s Inner West suburbs. I began working for an organic grocery store (hello healthy meals!) at the same time my inner foodie came out to play (hello macarons, cafes, and Asian cuisine!).
From the first bite of my first macaron, I was hooked. A month later, I officially decided to embark on a “No Macaron Left Behind” mission — an attempt to sample as many flavors of Adriano Zumbo macarons as possible.
Sadly, woman cannot live on macarons alone, and with friends and family coming to visit, I wanted to find some new, fun places to eat. Where to begin was my big question…in a city with so many cafes, restaurants, and sweet shops, how could I ensure we started on a high note?
A few online searches introduced me to the websites that would help guide many a food adventure in Sydney and around the country:
— Urbanspoon introduced me to several places that would become favorites in Sydney. Search results can be narrowed by suburb, price, type of cuisine, etc. In addition to glancing at menus and taking note of brief reviews, I found the most value in reading posts from food bloggers, who described, photographed, and reviewed meals. I had a better idea of how an item on the menu translated to the plate. Often, I went to a restaurant to try an item (or two or three…) I’d read about on a food blog.
— Eatability is similar to Urbanspoon but didn’t seem to be as widely used. From time to time, I’d read the reviews of a restaurant on both sites to see if different menu options had been highlighted. I’m such a nerd doing homework on what I’m going to eat O:-)
— A simple online search for a restaurant/cafe in Oz often yields food blog posts on the first page. I poured over these posts! I loved reading the words of people who probably loved food even more than me, and of course the food-porn photography drew me in. The first food blog post I remember reading was Billy’s review of House Thai northeast street food (oh yeah, Billy’s on the current season of Masterchef Australia — #teambilly). When my parents visited, I took them to House and loved it. If you want to check out some of Sydney’s food blogs, one blogger put a list together. While I read reviews from quite a few bloggers and followed a reasonable handful on Twitter, I have to give two in particular a little shout out! After Simon of the heart of food and I met for dinner one evening, we became fast friends. He introduced me to so many fantastic savory and sweet eats in Sydney, offered photography tips (go check out his blog — he’s my fave food photographer amongst the food bloggers I know), helped nuture my emerging foodie side, and above all, is someone I am happy to call a friend. Second, while I never got to meet her (though we came *this* close), Perth-based, The Food Pornographer always makes me hungry after reading her posts and tweets.
With an appreciation of and love for food that was stronger than ever before, the Crave International Food Festival came at the perfect time! The month-long celebration of food from around the world made October a very fun and busy time (If you have any doubts, just read the first few paragraphs of this post…). Wouldn’t it be fantastic if I could afford to fly back to Oz this October for the festival, stick around for Macaron Day in early November, and fly home in time for Thanksgiving?!
I enjoyed eating (hello, I have a tag called Tight Pants, No Money), but sometimes you have to take a break and watch other people eat! Perhaps more than I love watching Top Chef in the US, I truly enjoy(ed) watching Masterchef Australia and Junior Masterchef. The 8-12 year olds on the Junior program cooked CIRCLES around anything I’ve ever done. The contestants and judges on the adult series are loads of fun to watch and incredibly talented.
Whether I was watching TV, working at a health food store, sharing a meal with new friends, introducing visitors to fun eats, or reading food blogs, food served as a focal point in the year-long Australian adventure.
I gained a few pounds throughout the journey O:-), but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I shared connections with Aussies, expats, and family through food. I experienced Aussie culture through a food lens. Looking back, I’m pleasantly surprised at the role food played in shaping the year. This post is a way for me to celebrate its significance!
Simon captures me enjoying gelato
Oh yeah — I still have four or five posts to write about food in Oz, so I’m not finished yet