The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Australian Wrapup – Thoughts on planning your trip.

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on April 12, 2010

Harbour.tif Well, we hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our trip to Australia.  From the Great Barrier Reef, to Coffee World, to a Stonegrille on Jervis Bay, to the Great Ocean Road, we had a great time, and we hope you enjoyed reading about it.

But what we really hope is that you’ll find yourself planning a trip to Australia soon.  I don’t know what, exactly, I expected in Australia, but I know that I wasn’t disappointed.  In so many ways, it’s really not any different from being here in the States.  The mountains looks like mountains, so naturally familiar.  And yet, something about them is so foreign and exotic, with the yellowish tint of the gum tree leaves, or roving cattle in the valleys. 

 

IMG_3477The same is true for the night sky.  You look up, and it’s just a bunch of stars, brilliant and bright.  But somehow, even if you’re not an astronomer, you just sense that something’s different. 

“Where’s the North Star?  And what’s all this other stuff?” 

“Oh, that’s the Southern Cross.” 

“Really?” 

It’s just amazing how similar, and yet wonderfully new and different everything is.  So we hope you find yourself insatiably longing to go see what Australia has to offer, and we promise you won’t be disappointed. 

We’re putting this post together to give you a feel for what it cost us to go, and how we went about planning it.  This week, we’ll have another post on what we would do differently, and how we would cut some significant costs to the trip, were we to do it all again. 

As a little background, going to Australia has been on my list of things to do for a LONG time.  Aside from the fabulous adventure I knew the trip would be, I had the familial obligation to go see my brother, who has lived there for almost 10 years.  I couldn’t help but feel guilty that everyone else in the family had managed to go see him, and I hadn’t.  I had been budgeting, even when I was single, to save up money, miles, and vacation time to put together a three-week trip.  Once I got married, suddenly the budget wasn’t enough, I didn’t think I could ever fly that many miles or save enough money, and now two people had to put together the vacation time.  On the flip side, I knew I’d have a partner to go experience the continent, instead of wandering like some kind of drover in the Bush.

The first thing I would say about anyone trying to plan a trip would be to determine what you want to do.  We would be flattered if you started with our blog and Where We’ve Been as a start, but to be honest, there are wonderful resources online and great travel books available on all that Australia has to offer.  We also worked with a company called GoWay.com on everything.  Our agent, Emma, was fantastic in customizing our itinerary to our personal needs, including the fact that I had family in the area, and we would be providing our own transportation to and from the Australia.  For the record, we’re not being paid by GoWay Travel for the plug (if only!).  From our fickle beginnings of trying to figure out what to see and what season to go (we were originally considering September ‘09 to go), to our final itinerary, and including a last-minute change in hotel accommodations (the hotel was under renovation, so we were moved to another local hotel), she was taking care of us.  So, with sincere appreciation for all the help, thanks, Emma!

You might consider that you would benefit from a travel agent.  In many cases, we shy from agents because we simply feel like we can plan the trip as effectively ourselves, without the overhead of an agent.  Certainly, with domestic destinations, that’s generally true.  If you’re willing to research your destination, the internet provides a wealth of information on most anywhere in the U.S.  However, when researching overseas destinations, we’ve found it all to be a little harder.  What are the visa requirements?  Are ATMs generally available?  Do people there even know what travelers cheques are?  Do I need an international driver’s license?  These are all things a good agent can help you with. 

For Australia, we had additional concerns like:  What are the speed limits generally like?  How far can you generally drive in one day (i.e. do the highways support “interstate” travel?  Or is it all dirt roads, like in the movies?)?  Are hotels generally available in every town?  What are good places to see along the way; less-talked-about, but still great sites?  Once again, a good agent can help you with these things. 

There is the other “sock full of cash” travel method.  You figure out how to get there, and bring a bankroll to support the lifestyle you anticipate living, and figure the rest out once you get there.  This method thrives on spontaneity, and I can’t say that I’m not a bit jealous of anyone that can travel this way to someplace new.  Being a planner, I imagine getting there, not having enough to get to see the sights I really want to see, and eventually being stranded in the Bush, on my way from one small town to the next.  Indeed, we saw several backpackers, and even our waitress at Romano’s on Hamilton Island had traveled this way.  She was working at the restaurant to earn enough money to return to Saskatchewan. 

As I said, we opted for a fully-planned trip, complete with GoWay’s support.  When I initially put together an estimate for how much we should save, I estimated $10,000.  To be clear, and perhaps a bit obvious, that’s a lot of money.  That’s a LOT of money.  The Wife did her best to keep her eyes in her head when I suggested it, but then I started talking about all the expenses.

Item Approx Cost (USD) Qty Total
Transportation      
Transpac Flight $1500/person 2 $3000
Intra-Continental $1000/person 2 $2000
Hotel rooms $100/night 20 $2000
Meals* $40/day/person 40 $1600
Souvenirs $500 1 $400
    Total $9000
Incidentals 10% 1 $900
    TOTAL $9900

 

Now, I know it looks unreasonable, but I want to remind you of two things: 

a.) It’s a long way to go.  As you can see, I estimated $5000 for transportation, alone.  Just getting there is expensive, but there’s no way around it.  Australia isn’t getting any closer. 

b.) It’s a long way to go.  I know this is the first as the last point, but not really.  Between the time difference, the distance traveled, etc. you need to make the trip worthwhile.  You can’t “do” Australia in a weekend.  After three weeks, we were only able to see the East Coast, really.  You lose almost two days in transit from the East Coast, for heaven’s sake!  By planning ahead and budgeting, though, you can maximize your time on the ground, seeing and doing and enjoying, and ultimately save money by not having to return. 

To rationalize my estimate, take a look.

Transportation – Getting there -  Flights across the Pacific are expensive and long.  There’s just no way around it.  You can find some great deals if you really look, and you’re willing to fly in the off season (our summer, their winter).  Air New Zealand had some great deals on flights through Auckland, but the dates never matched up for us.  We were pretty well boxed into March, though.  When traveling, flexibiltiy=cost savings.  We were not flexible, though.  We had the move and a wedding in May, and we didn’t want to go during the peak of summer (sounded hot to us).  We also didn’t really care to go during the winter, because we weren’t sure how much would shut down for the off-seasons.  In hindsight, an escape to somewhere cold during the peak of the Nevada desert summer sounds wonderful… perhaps we should have reconsidered.  =)   
In the end, we were under this number.  We helped our costs by departing out of Las Vegas while househunting, and the Global Financial Crisis (GFC as the Aussies refer to it) has helped depress these international fares, so we saved about $500 off this estimate.

 

IMG_3247Transportation – Getting around – It’s a big country.  I hate to keep harping on this, but it’s just one of those things.  We drove over 2300 miles while we were there, and never saw the Outback or the Indian Ocean.  Imagine trying to “get around” the U.S. in 3 weeks and see a selection of all the major sites – Golden Gate Bridge, Rocky Mountains, Grand Canyon, DisneyWorld, Manhattan, and the National Mall.  Notice that I left out some big ones like Sedona, Chicago, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Niagara Falls, and the east coast beaches.  Getting around I figured between rental cars, a flight or two on Qantas (the primary Austalian airline), and a train ride, AND public transportation, $1000/person was fair. 
In the end, this was about right, but a little high on my prediction.  A month in a rental car, plus all the tolls around major cities, $50 in gas every travel day (yup, gas is $1.30 AUD/liter –PER LITER, like Europe – or about $4.60/gallon USD), our train ride to Brisbane, and our flight from Cairns to Melbourne… it all adds up. 

 

IMG_7367Hotel rooms – We really wanted spend a lot of time SEEING Australia, and not just Sydney and Melbourne, so it was really hard to tell how much hotel rooms were going to be outside of urban areas.  I couldn’t really name any resorts or tourist destinations in Australia outside of the Great Barrier Reef or Uluru when we started planning, so I just plucked the number out of the air. 
This turned out to be about right, too, though, although I predicted a little high.  One thing to keep in mind is I “upgraded” our accommodations on Hamilton Island to “first class.”  Hamilton Island, also, is a very expensive place to stay, so these rooms really were a splurge, but they were fantastic.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a hotel room quite that fantastic, when the whole picture was considered (location, view, quality, seclusion, service, amenities, etc.)  All the rest of our hotels were 3 – 3.5-stars.  We were remarkably pleased with the quality of all our hotels, to the point of surprise.  We expected Holiday Inn-type quality, and we felt like we were, at a minimum, a half-step above that everywhere we stayed.   
Also, my brother said that hotels booked from inside Australia (.com.au IP addresses), are generally far cheaper than rates offered to interinational rates.  I don’t know if this is true or not, but this might be another place that working through an agent like GoWay, who has a sizable office in Downtown Sydney, might pay off.  There’s no doubt in my mind that we benefited from corporate purchasing power on our hotel rooms.
One more note, here.  I did not check the prices of the hotels prior to booking.  I knew how much we wanted to spend, told Emma what we were looking for, and compared the total (non-itemized) quote against the budget.  It all fell in line, so we booked it. The itemized quote was available upon request, which I requested when we got home, just because I wanted to see what it all looked like (and I wanted to know so I could write this entry more effectively).  In hindsight, I still think we got a deal.

 

IMG_2165Meals – This was another hard one to determine.  I had no idea how much food cost, or how available it would be.  So I figured, if we ate at the hotel, or a local cafe for breakfast, had a reasonable lunch every other day, and a nice meal out 3 times a week, when combined with the conversion rate, $40/person might be reasonable. 
As it turns out, this was probably the one place that my calculations were wildly off.  Anything consumable in Australia, we thought, was very expensive; 1 liter of water was $3 in most places.  We paid $8 for a 2L in one place.  Nothing was under $1.  I think the $1 menu at McDonald’s was actually $1.99.  It wasn’t uncommon for breakfast to end up just under $20, and a lunch-type meal (sandwiches, beer – beer being cheaper than soda in some cases – and a side) to be as much as $50 AUD.  It was hard to have any kind of reasonable breakfast (coffee and toast) for under $8/person.  Things were just expensive. 

 

IMG_5844Souveniers and incidentals – You know you’re going to spend money on SOMETHING.  Things for friends, a hat, a boomerang, a didgeridoo, SOMETHING.  The tours all cost something to go on.
We bought a GPS for $170 AUD, which was one of the best investments we made.  We left it for my brother when we departed.  We could have bought maps on our GPS here, but they were just about as expensive as buying a new one there.  Since ours is a couple years old, we figured that one in Australia would probably have spoken streets, a better interface, better battery, etc. etc. etc.  Incidentally, the TomTom Start that we bought there clearly had some more sophisticated software than the Garmin we have here at home, but I still strongly believe that GPS interfaces have a long way to come before they are really user-friendly.
We also bought a wireless data card to keep up with the blog.  Internet access was between $10-$30 in every hotel we went to, per computer.  That’s a minimum $20/day for internet for 20 days, that’s $400!  And some places charged by the kilobyte, which really drives the cost up when you’re uploading (and downloading) pictures.  The $170 data card (with pre-paid plan) gave us both internet access at every hotel except Gipsy Point (which didn’t have any mobile reception), we were able to save some significant money.
This one is perhaps more difficult to track than the other costs, because so many of the fees get wrapped up in other costs.  Tours might be included in an entrance fee, or a hotel bill.  A lot of the costs are small, and get paid in cash, and we forgot to keep the receipts.  Some things I would include here, like buying books to read on the plane, or a new cosi were expended far before the trip, and I might have missed some.  Certainly, going on the SkyRail was in here, along with the XXXX Brewery, and the Bundaberg Barrel.  I’m pretty sure, though, that we overshot this one.  We did a lot of free things, too. 

So, we had a fabulous time, and spent a lot of money on our trip.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.  Would we do it again?  No, actually.  We have seen enough that we would feel comfortable doing several things differently to enhance the value of our trip.  I’ll follow this post up with another discussing things we agreed would be money-saving, and value-enhancing for a trip to Australia.  Tune back in to see!

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Guest Blogger – Brother Jeff on Australian Beers

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on April 5, 2010

So, after my blog on Australian beers, my brother left a VERY lengthy comment regarding Australian beers, which I thought would make a post all by itself.  In fact, I got the idea from the comment.  Here it is.  I have made some corrections at the bottom, but it does include an interesting tidbit about how “rounds” works at bars in Australia.
Begin original comment:
1) I can’t believe you didn’t ask me to write this post for you. I’m insulted (no not really)
2) Coopers is a (the) beer from South Australia. As XXXX is Queenland’s beer, Toohey’s is NSW’s beer, VB is Victoria’s beer, Cascade is Tasmania’s beer and Swan is West Australia’s beer (which you missed out on). Read about their long history here:
3) The misconception that Australia’s beers are “stronger” is truly that. It derives however from the fact that they are larger. Yes Bud has a content at 5% and VB has a content at 4.6% (used to be 4.9%), but VB comes (all beers in Australia actually) in 13 oz cans/bottles (375 ml).
4) “Otherwise, the rest were golden pilsners and ales” isn’t actually right. Australian beers are 75% lagers and 25% bitters.
Lager is a type of beer that is brewed using bottom-fermenting yeast at lower temperatures and for longer durations than those typically used to brew ales. Where bitter is used it indicates a pale ale of lower alcohol content brewed in a less hop-focused style than typical American pale ales.
You might find this interesting (most Australian’s don’t know this either) but Carlton, Crown, Fosters (yes it is still made in Australia), VB and MB (Melbourne Bitter) are all brewed in the same vat. Since lager uses bottom-fermenting yeast, the difference between these vastly differently priced beers is based on aging and where in the vertical column of the vat they were pulled from.
Victoria Bitter (VB) is actually a lager as is Melbourne Bitter.
From Wiki:
Victoria Bitter, or VB, is an Australian beer. It has the highest market share of all beer sold in Australia, both on tap and packaged. Victoria Bitter is brewed by Carlton & United Beverages, a subsidiary of Foster’s Group, brewers of Fosters Lager.
VB is Australia’s highest selling beer and has been for more than 20 years. It sells twice as much as any other full strength beer and is the only Australian beer brand that is in the top 3 sellers in every state. VB is Australia’s only billion dollar retail beer brand and sells the equivalent of one slab every second.
Despite its name, it is technically a fairly standard commercial lager rather than a bitter, although perhaps slightly more bitter than many. Originally available at a strength of 4.9% ABV, Victoria Bitter is now sold at an ABV of 4.6% (which is equal to virtually every other major Australian lager) and the price stayed the same when most other beers increased.”
5) Some fun Australian trivia:
Marcus Clark said of Australians and few will argue that “They are not a nation of snobs like the English or of extravagant boasters like the Americans or of reckless profligates like the French, they are simply a nation of drunkards.”
Just as the man who first led a federated Australia was an alcoholic, it is also quite fitting that Bob Hawke, the Prime Minister who changed Australia’s national anthem from God save the Queen, was also renowned for his fondness for grog. So renowned in fact that he was immortalised in the Guinness Book of Records for sculling 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds.
6) In my first week here I remember a guy I never met before asking me if he could buy me a beer and I gave him a look that said “hey pal, I don’t play on that team”. You see I had no knowledge of the Australian Shout. I think it should be mentioned here because this ritual is the unspoken law of every pub in Australia.
The etiquette of a round (shout)
In tribal societies in which gift giving is economically important, there may be exchange of gift giving of identical (or useless) gifts which serve to maintain the relationship between donors. In Australia, the ritual of the shout, known virtually to all adult members of society has some parrallel functions. It symbolise entry to a group (and, for that matter, makes pointed an exclusion). It binds a group together.
* No dragging the chain- It is a well understood obligation that slower drinkers in a shout must attempt to keep pace with the faster members of a shout.
* Immediacy – Never accept a beer if you do not intend to shout on that evening. Shouting “next time” is not acceptable no matter how much interest is involved.
* Reciprocal – Even worse than the previous rule is accepting beers from the drinking party and then just buying one for yourself when it is your turn.
* Consistency – Changing drinks on people during a shout is considered poor form. I.e., shouting everyone VBs then asking for a “boutique” beer on the return leg.
* Accountability – Knocking over someone else’s beer will only be tolerated if there is a full replacement on the table. In some mining communities, the spilling of ones beer requires the guilty party to receive a punch in the arm from all other members of the party which could be up to 60 people.
* Egalitarian – No matter how much money is earned by each of the party members, or where their money came from, the same shouting rules apply.
* Free will – The order of the round is determined by each individual volunteering that it is his/her shout. Fellow members should never have to remind an individual of their obligations to the group. They will only do so in the event of a breach.
* Abstaining – From time to time an individual may wish to stop getting drunk. Ideally, they should wait till the completion of every group member’s rounds before abstaining from future rounds. If it is essential that they abstain mid-round, they should request a non-alcoholic beverage. This ensures that the first volunteer is not punished for putting their hand up first. It ensures group equality and it also ensures that the person buying the next round does not feel like a bludger by being remiss in their obligations.
* Gender neutral- Should a women be given a drink that has been purchased in the course of buying a round, she is subsequently part of the round. All the previous rules thus apply. A round can consist of only two people.

End original comment.

To that end I have only a couple comments.

2.)  I wish I had the opportunity to have a Swan.  I could have then hit all the regional beers.

4.)  A pilsner is a golden lager (for you 75% lagers), and a bitter is an amber-to-golden ale. (for your 25%).  I stand by my original comment.

6.)  It seems to me that shouting with 60 people is an invitation for a very sick evening, a VERY sick morning, and a very heavy bar tab.

Thanks for the post, bro!  Appreciate all the thought you put into it!

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Australian Beer – A World Apart from America’s Craft Brewing

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on April 3, 2010

Foster’s beer has so successfully been marketed in the United States, that if one mimics the commercial to a beer-drinking friend, in an appropriately-poor Australian accent, “Foster’s,” inevitably the friend will mindlessly regurgitate, “Australian for beer.”  But it’s not Australian for beer.  As I commented in an earlier post, my brother challenged me to find a Foster’s during our time in Australia.  While I didn’t exactly make a mission out of finding a Foster’s, we did find plenty of beer-serving establishments throughout our Australian journey, including four of Australia’s territories.  At no time did we see Foster’s as an option for beer.  Clearly, it has been well-crafted marketing, and not quintessentiality that has made “Foster’s – Australian for beer,” for many Americans.

I was surprised that I truly couldn’t find Foster’s in Australia.  I was not surprised, however, that more and different beers would be available during our trip.  While we were planning the trip, I was excited about visiting my brother, seeing kangaroos and koalas, relaxing on the Whitsunday Islands, and enjoying local beers.

Indeed, I was not disappointed in the quantity of new beers while I was there.  I tried to have a different beer every time I had the opportunity.  Here’s the list I can remember:

Victoria Bitter (VB)
James Squires
Resch’s
Blue Tongue
Carlton Mid
Crown Lager
Cooper’s (which I believe is actually British)
XXXX Gold
XXXX Bitter
XXXX Summer
XXXX Porter
Hahn Premium
Hahn Premium Light
Cascade Premium
Cascade Premium Light
Toohey’s New
Toohey’s Black Ale

No, I wasn’t disappointed in the number of beers I could enjoy.  I was, however, disappointed in the diversity of the beers I could enjoy.  All the beers are remarkably similar in so many respects.  Most all of them were light in color.  The darkest beers I could find were the James Squires (about the only “boutique” beer I found, equivalent to American “craft” beer), VB, and Toohey’s Black Ale.  Even the VB has only a hint of real color, bordering on amber.  Otherwise, the rest were golden pilsners and ales.  Almost all of them were light, crisp, with moderate body.  There is no real indication of any experimentation with extra ingredients outside of water, grains, hops, and yeast, with the exception of sugar cane, which XXXX said they use to keep the beer light and crisp in the northern, tropical region.  Most of the hops, also, seemed to be mild German hops, so the strong, floral scent I would hope for in a pilsner was often missing.

The uniformity of the beer actually lead to a new nomenclature for beer there.  In the United States, if you get a “light” beer, it typically means you’re getting a golden-colored beer.  If you order a “lite” beer, it means you’re getting a low-calorie beer.  In Australia, “light” beer indicates neither of these attributes.

Australians are reasonably adamant that their beers are “stronger” than beers in other countries.  While it’s true that a traditional VB is going to have between 4.5%-5% alcohol by volume, this is hardly stronger than any craft brew in the United States (or mass-marketed craft clones), and honestly, isn’t stronger than most ice beers brewed by the major beer companies.  In fact, the last several years has seen “extreme” brewing take off as a fad among craft and microbrewers, bringing alcohol content levels to 7% or more percent, and occasionally getting up over 15% abv.

No, Australian beer isn’t “stronger,” generally, than American beer.  At least, not 21st Century American beer.  It is, however, true that Australians are sensitive to the effects of alcohol, and hence produce beers that include less alcohol than “standard” beer.  Beer comes in three strengths; full-strength, mid-strength, and light.  Here is where Australian “light” beer falls.

On my last planned day in Sydney, I ordered a Cascade at the pub.  The bartender looked at me and said, “You realize that’s a light beer, right?”  This was not my first Cascade, and I wanted to comment to her, “No lighter than all the rest of the beer here.”  I immediately remembered that she was indicating, nay WARNING me, that the beer was not full strength, and probably had an alcohol content of something like 2.5%.

I wouldn’t say that the beer in Australia was bad, for the record.  It simply lacked the tremendous diversity which we enjoy in the U.S.  The beers I had were almost universally light, crisp, thirst-quenching beers.  I wouldn’t necessarily slander one over another, but I am very excited to return to the U.S. and enjoy a nice, rich Sam Adams Boston Lager, or a Red Oak, or a hoppy Sweetwater 420.

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Harbour Kitchen & Bar

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on April 2, 2010

When planning our whirlwind vacation to Australia, I realized that we would be in Sydney around the time of Foodbuzz’s March 24, 24, 24 (check out foodbuzz.com if you’re not familiar with it).  The Husband and I thought that dining in Australia might be competitive for this competition so we searched for interesting and unique restaurants and menus to submit for our idea.  We found that the Harbour Kitchen & Bar at the Park Hyatt at Sydney Harbour had a fantastic degustation menu with the option of Australian wine pairing.  We submitted our idea, but unfortunately didn’t get selected.  However, we had already made a reservation just in case and decided we couldn’t pass up the opportunity and took the Husband’s brother out for his birthday instead.

After enjoying the weekend markets at the Rocks on what was supposed to be our last day in Australia, the Husband and I headed to the hotel and got dressed up for the first time in weeks 🙂 The Husband’s brother met us there and we walked the few blocks down to the water to the Park Hyatt.  We entered the lobby and were shown the direction to the restaurant.

IMG_2341 Our reservation was for 6:30pm, I believe when the restaurant opened for the dinner, so it was generally empty when we arrived.  As the night went on, the restaurant was full!

IMG_2343

The restaurant’s main wall was all glass and overlooked the harbour and opera house.  We were seated directly next to the window and had a wonderful view. IMG_2344

IMG_2345 Harbour Kitchen’s menu offered a variety of options to choose from, but the three of us had our eyes and stomachs set on the Degustation Menu plus wine pairings.  The waiter left our menu propped up on the table so we could refer to it if we forgot what we were tasting 🙂

IMG_2346

While waiting for our wine and courses, we were brought individual rolls and butter.  I enjoyed the view behind my roll 😉

IMG_2350 Although we were doing the wine pairings, we decided to start with a bottle of wine to enjoy throughout the meal.  The Husband chose the 2006 Yering Station Chardonnay from Yarra Valley, Victoria.  He knows how much I love chardonnays and since we didn’t get a chance to get to the wineries in Yarra Valley, this would be a substitute till we could get back.  It was light yet flavorful and a perfect match throughout our meal.IMG_2351

Up first, we had the Lightly grilled tuna with green beans, olives, and crisp potato.  The plate seemed to be dressed with a mayo (or something similar) and some oil and there was also an egg (quail?) and some greens garnishing the dish.  The flavors melded well together and we enjoyed the different textures of the various ingredients. IMG_2352 It was paired with the 2009 Charles Melton “Rose of Virginia,” a Shiraz Grenache from Barossa Valley, South Australia.  During our visit to Hunter Valley, I learned that I really like the Grenache grape, particularly in a Rose, and this one was no different.  It went very well with this first course and we were looking forward to the other three.

IMG_2354The sommelier Nicolas Deradin was incredibly informative and friendly.  With each course, he brought us out our matching wine and explained to us the different flavors of the wine as well as additional information regarding how they matched the food and the wineries themselves.  We asked a handful of questions throughout the evening and he answered each one for us.  I attempted to take some notes and share those here where I can.

The second course of the degustation menu was Toasted fregola cooked as risotto with Western Australian yabbies and puffed pork.  (Typing that up, I realized that I have no idea what a yabbie is.  According to a quick Google search, it’s an Australian fresh water crustacean.  Fregola is a pasta similar to couscous.)  This dish was much larger than a lot of tasting menu courses.  It was savory and flavorful.  We could taste the toasted flavor like a risotto (as described).

IMG_2357 This dish was matched with the 2007 Stonier Reserve Chardonnay from Mornington Peninsula, Victoria (the one on the left).  Since we were enjoying a bottle of chardonnay as well, it was a fun opportunity to try the two.  Nicolas advised us that this wine is oaked with some French oak and some New oak.  We could certainly taste the difference between the two chardonnays (the other one is unoaked).

IMG_2358 Our third course was Free range chicken with celeriac cream, pumpkin, and carrot.  The chicken was very tender.  This was the Husband’s favorite course 🙂 The picture didn’t do it justice!

IMG_2360The wine pairing with this course was the 2008 La Linea Tempranillo from Adelaide Hills, South Australia.  This wine was juicy with plum and licorice flavors.

IMG_2362 A quick break here in the food and wine porn… the night of this meal, March 27th, was the celebration of Earth Hour.  The restaurant was adorned with candlelight in anticipation of their participation in Earth Hour at 8:30pm.  As the sun went down, my picture quality was limited with my photography skills.  We enjoyed a couple photo though while it was still light enough in the restaurant 🙂  Earth Hour did afford us a wonderful view of the Harbour and Opera House as the lights slowly dimmed to a nearly-imperceptible  glow, adding further to the backdrop of our fantastic meal.  As the lights were off, I didn’t get any pictures.IMG_2363

Our fourth and final course was the Vanilla creme brulee with rosemary sorbet and strawberries.  This was my favorite creme brulee ever! The rosemary sorbet and strawberries went so well with it.  It was a great final taste to this meal.

IMG_2364

Our final wine pairing of the night was the 2009 Mr. Riggs “Sticky End” Late Harvest Viognier from McLaren Vale, South Australia.  Its name says it all.  As a dessert wine, it was very sweet and sticky.  If you like dessert wines, you would likely enjoy this one. IMG_2366

To end the meal, I had a pot of tea while the boys had long black coffees.  We were also served chocolate truffles. IMG_2367 Overall, this meal exceeded our expectations.  We were very happy that we decided to go with both the degustation menu and the wine pairings.  This restaurant can be quite expensive but is great for a special occasion.  The atmosphere, service, food, and view are all wonderful.  Although we were disappointed to not be selected for Foodbuzz’s March 24, 24, 24, we wouldn’t have found this restaurant without the research done for our proposal and we are glad for that.

(This is the last of our food and travel posts for our vacation to Australia.  If you missed any posts, be sure to check our “Where We’ve Been” tab above to check out other restaurants, hotels, and cities throughout eastern Australia!)

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