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bitter suite (brisbane)

You like food and beer?
bitter suite, new farm

You’ll probably like Bitter Suite in New Farm, Brisbane. There are a handful of great options for dining & beering in Brisbane, and Bitter Suite is right up there with the best. I’m pretty much all about food when I travel — food and environs, rather than doing touristy things.

I was recommended Bitter Suite by my beer-loving housemate back home, so headed down on one particularly warm (but lovely!) night. I was staying in New Farm so it was a nice walk around the block; it’s also well-located, being near Merthyr shopping centre, so you can get a bus to the area easily.

We shared a couple of plates for a light dinner — the bread & dips ($12) and the Peking duck pancakes ($16).

We also shared two tasting paddles (I think these were around $15 each) of all the beers on tap, plus the cider. The staff at Bitter Suite are awesome, the food is tasty, and the beer is cold. There’s really no reason not to go.

Bitter Suite

75 Welsby St, New Farm QLD 2004

(07) 3254 4426

web: http://www.bittersuite.com.au/

twitter: https://twitter.com/bittersuitebris

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beer authority (new york city)

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STOP THE PRESS.

I have found the best bar in Manhattan.

Well, okay. Maybe not the best. This is a city with more bars than anyone could even count. You know how there are enough catholic churches in Rome that you could go to a different one each day for three years? I feel like in New York, it’s the same for bars. And don’t even get me started on how many places there are to eat. I feel like all day, every day I am being bombarded with food options.

I’ve already gained 50 kilograms. (Not really. I don’t weigh myself, and even if I did 50kg is a lot, but you know.)

Now is probably the time to confess something before I carry on with my story.

See this gigantic bag of peanut butter M&Ms?

mnms

We don’t get these at home. There are a few places that sell them — specialty stores that import candy (when in Rome, call it as the Americans do) from the States. They’re always expensive and stale. So, obviously, the first thing I did when I arrived and got my bearings was to buy this huge bag of PB M&Ms.

I ate them all in, like, 36 hours.

I pretty much never want to see a peanut butter M&M ever again in my entire life, but oh my god, they were so good. I have chronic jet lag right now, so these babies saw me through a couple of semi-sleepless nights. (Although saying that, I’m sure that the immense amounts of sugar I’ve been consuming have not been helping re: my inability to sleep.)

Now that I have the embarrassing chocolate confession out of the way, it’s on with the show.

I took it super easy yesterday. With a ton of work to catch up on (I work remotely), blog posts to do (didn’t happen), photos to transfer onto a hard drive, and tiredness bordering on exhaustion, I decided that I couldn’t really be bothered facing the day. However, it got to 6pm and I felt the need to do something. I also needed to buy a new phone cable; the difference in voltages between Australia and America is driving me bonkers as it takes about a thousand years for my phone to charge to 25%. Also, this happened:

phone cable

I figure I’m about three days away from not having a working phone charger at all.

So I set off into the streets of Manhattan to find somewhere to buy a phone cable. And to be brave, because part of solo travel is that you have to do things by yourself at some point. My first solo venture overseas was in 2007 when I was just 22 years old, and I think I’m much more scared this time around than I was then!

I stumbled upon Beer Authority on my epic walk back from Union Square the other day. Looking up the menu online, it seemed to have a good beer list (the most important thing!) so I headed back there last night, completely and utterly terrified of going into a New York bar on my own.

In reality, I had no reason at all to be scared, of course. The bartender Tony — a Dubliner with an extreme case of awesomeness — made me feel right at home, talking beer, travel, and introducing me to some of the regulars.

beer authority

I stayed in the little ground-floor bar, but there is a bigger bar upstairs — they’ve got 100 craft beers on tap! — and a rooftop terrace. It’s dark, dingy, plays UFC on the TV (a sport that, I discovered, is illegal in NYC!), and has a weird crowd, but it was really fantastic and a great introduction to the city, and re-introduction to Going It Alone when travelling. (Apparently the food is phenomenal too, but I didn’t eat there.)

So, my first New York bar experience is done and dusted. I survived, and even had a really great night. I topped it off by eating an obscene amount of pizza on the way home that, yes, I am paying for today.

Note to self: just because all the food is there, doesn’t mean you need to eat it.

Today my family arrives from various places (Washington & Singapore) for Christmas, so I’m moving hotels and then going on an epic walk to fulfil a long-time dream: visiting a Trader Joe’s supermarket. Seriously. You don’t read food blogs for a decade without falling in love with the idea of TJ’s and Whole Foods (which I first visited in London in 2007 and again earlier this week, dropping a casual $70 on god-knows-what and remembering that they don’t call it Whole Paycheck for nothing!).

Time to pack and say goodbye to this view:

holiday inn view

New York, man. This city.

(Incidentally, I didn’t get my phone cable.)

Don’t just take my word for it:

More beer? Check out my brew reviews!

Beer Authority

300 West 40th Street (across from Port Authority)

New York, NY 10018

Email: info@beerauthoritynyc.com

Tel: 212 510 8415

Fax: 212 510 8481

Twitter: @BeerAuthNY

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lady flatiron (new york city)

I’m not one for tourist attractions.

I don’t take photos of myself in front of Famous Things or go out of my way to have ‘bucket list’-style experiences.

I find much of it too kitschy and tacky. I don’t like being around mobs of people all doing the same thing; the same photos, the same poses, the same shitty restaurants selling shitty, overpriced food to none-the-wiser tourists. There’s nothing wrong with being into Seeing The Sights and Ticking The Boxes, but it’s not for me. I was walking behind an Australian family this morning who were dead-keen on visiting the Disney store in Times Square. Why? They weren’t a young family; the “kids” were probably late teens or early 20s. Dad was wearing a Yankees cap. Mum & daughters were wearing matching puffer jackets. I half expected the kids to be on leashes so they didn’t get lost. I also don’t like Disney movies (or anything fun, according to many of my friends) so perhaps that explains my confusion over the obsession with visiting the Disney store.

(Incidentally, I walked through Times Square to get to where I was going and discovered that if you wear headphones, the amount of people harassing you to take their city tour or buy their passes to x show or y exhibit drops to pretty much nil. Something to keep in mind if you’re anything like me and hate being cajoled into buying/doing things/are jaded enough to think you’re better than everyone, haha.)

I love travelling for other reasons: because I love looking at people going about their life in different places, because the buildings and the cityscapes are same-same-but-different, or because they’re so vastly different to that with which I am familiar that I can’t help but be fascinated. I love travelling because the world is beautiful and ugly at the same time and because, as people, we are really all the same.

New York has been at the top of my travel to-do list for about a decade. Before that it was London. However, after having been to London six times across three European holidays in the past 13 years, it’s no longer somewhere that excites me. There’s something dully familiar about London these days.

New York has remained elusive. I don’t know why I haven’t made it back before now; in fact, I haven’t been to the United States since 1991. True story. 22 years. I wish I could show you a then vs now photo; I’ll have to get my mum to send me some when she gets home from this trip so that when I go to San Francisco next year I can recreate some images of me as a six year old vs me at a 29 year old.

Anyway. New York, New York. I let myself believe the hype. I thought of New York as the antithesis to little ol’ Perth, isolated and self conscious on the edge of the planet. It seemed daunting and spectacular and unreal. It was, in my mind, full of people and places and experiences unparalleled anywhere else on Earth.

Now that I’m finally here, I think that might just be true.

One of the main reasons I’ve wanted to come to New York for so long is the architecture. I am obsessed with old skyscrapers, to the extent that I spend an inordinate amount of time researching them and watching documentaries about them. I’m so amazed by the way that these immense structures were built before the development of modern technology.

My favourite has long been the Flatiron Building. Ever since seeing it in a movie as a child, and being inexplicably freaked out by its narrow structure, I have been obsessed with the Flatiron.

This morning, I laid eyes on her for the first time. Rather by accident, I turned a corner and looked up from my phone to see her skinny front-end bearing down on me.

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Simply spectacular.

Do you love the Flatiron Building? What’s your favuorite skyscraper? (Is that a crazy question?) Leave a comment if you wish!

 

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scratch bar (brisbane)

 

My housemate/best friend/all-round awesome guy back in Perth is a total beer geek, and over the past couple of years his love for the good stuff has rubbed off on me. This week while visiting friends in Brisbane, I found myself armed with a specially-prepared Google Map of the best beer pubs in Brisbane. I didn’t manage to make it to all of them as I only had a couple of days, but at the top of the list was Scratch Bar, aka The Scratch, which I checked out yesterday.

Scratch Bar, Brisbane

Scratch Bar, Brisbane

The bar is located in a weird part of town (Milton) — close to the city and well-serviced by public transport, but still in an area that feels somewhat corporate. If you happen to be from Perth and reading this, I guess you could think of Milton as being somewhat like the office-end of Osborne Park (such as Main Street) or even parts of West Perth. 

Either way, Scratch Bar didn’t feel out of place here as Park Rd is lined with bars, restaurants, and cafes, all catering to a range of budgets and tastes. On that note, as Scratch Bar doesn’t serve food, you’re encouraged to pick up something from a nearby eatery — kebabs, salads, wraps, Thai, and so on — and bring it into the bar. My best friend and I got what were probably the best fish & chips either of us had eaten in a very long time .

The bar has an extensive and impressive menu of bottled brews to choose from, but I had to go for something freshly-poured from the tap. Perth has a chronic lack of good draught beers, so even though Scratch Bar only offered five selections on tap, they were all beers I’d either never tried or only tried from a bottle in the past.

20131217_135251Draught beers @ Scratch Bar

The bar tender was happy for us to try each of the beers before choosing. I was originally going for the Nogne-O but ended up with the Bacchus Brewing Co.‘s Bo Jingles — an intense but dangerously drinkable chocolate-cherry imperial oatmeal stout.

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Be still, my beating heart! The first thing you notice about the Bo Jingles is the rich, shiraz-y aroma, owing to the fact that it has been aged in wine barrels. I was surprised to learn that Bacchus come out of Queensland — pleasantly surprised, but surprised nonetheless. I wholeheartedly recommend this beer if you come across it.

Bacchus Brewing Co.’s Bo Jingles on Untappd

 

Bacchus Brewing Co. on Facebook/Twitter

My friend opted for this honey, quince and apple mead by South Australian cidery Lobo. At almost 10% it’s a steep tipple, but tastes like festive heaven. As she said, “it’s everything I want in a dessert, in a bottle”.

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Lobo on Facebook 

If you like cheese with your beer, Scratch Bar can help out with that, too.

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Scratch Bar. Get yourself into it.

The Scratch on Facebook/Twitter

 

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ellie’s guest house (brisbane)

I have started off my travels with three days in Brisbane. Here, I’m mainly visiting — my best friend moved to the city a few weeks ago, and my oldest friend (whom I met almost 27 years ago!) has lived here for a couple of years. I came to see her last year.

In the name of not impinging too much upon the privacy or sanity of either friend, I elected to stay somewhere on my own. This tends to work better for me, as I’m working from the road so I need plenty of alone-time to stay up to date on work. I’m also a very slooowww traveller, generally, and don’t want my friends to feel as though they’ve got to entertain me all the time. Quite honestly, I prefer not to be all go-go-go when it comes to travel; I like lots of time to read books, potter around online, wander around whatever area I’m staying in, and sleep. So much sleep.

I am staying at Ellie’s Guest House in New Farm. It’s a great little place! The location cannot be faulted, nor can the cost.

elliesbrisbane2

Pros

  • New Farm is close to the city and the river, and well-serviced by public transport.
  • The staff are lovely and accommodating; they will go out of their way to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable.
  • Private rooms are affordable; I’m paying $65 a night for a single-bed with a kitchenette (inc. sink, crockery/cutlery/glassware, kettle, microwave), fan, opening windows, and wardrobe. There is also a small desk in the room, but you’ll want to sit out on the verandah to work/research/browse/Skype.
  • Expansive gardens and aforementioned verandah with many chairs and tables.
  • Free, relatively fast WiFi (fine for browsing, Skyping, and — in my case — working remotely).
  • Shared kitchen for bigger cooking projects.

Cons

  • I haven’t checked the ground floor, but on the first floor just one shower and two toilets service eleven bedrooms. (There are also a handful of bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms.) If you haven’t stayed in hostels, this might bother you. If you have, you know the deal. I’m not concerned by it; my mornings aren’t rushed so I just shower when it becomes available. They are kept clean.
  • Some of the bedrooms open onto or close to the communal kitchen. However, I can’t see this being a problem; the most people I’ve seen in the kitchen at one time yet is four, and they weren’t super loud.
  • The reception is not 24 hours. Make sure you call or email ahead to let them know what time you’re arriving, lest you be caught out (especially if you’re arriving early in the morning or late at night! Reception has been untended since I arrived home at 4.30pm today, for example).

You can book a room at Ellie’s via hostelbookers. The site requires a 10% deposit up-front, with the balance paid in cash upon arrival.

Where do you stay when you’re visiting Brisbane? Let me know via the comments and I’ll try check it out! 

Ellie’s Guest House on Facebook

 

 

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breadtop (brisbane)

Bread. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.

I first discovered BreadTalk on one of my many trips to Singapore during my youth. My sister and I quickly became obsessed with the puffy, doughy little parcels of goodness.

Pork floss (rousong) is an odd thing: marinated meat that is dried and then shredded. According to Wikipedia,

Rousong is made by stewing cuts of pork in a sweetened soy sauce mixture until individual muscle fibres can be easily teased apart with a fork. This happens when the collagen that holds the muscle fibers of the meat together has been converted into gelatin. The teased-apart meat is then strained and dried in the oven. After a light drying, the meat is mashed and beaten while being dry cooked in a large wok until it is nearly completely dry.

Okay then.

As a kid and teenager I avoided pork floss, partly because it sounded weird (whaaaat, pork floss like fairy floss? Exactly like it, as it turns out) and partly because I was a vegetarian until I was 23. It sounds like one of those things you just don’t want to eat, but it’s actually, as one blogger said, “perfectly edible – subtly sweet, delightfully salty and, yes, even a little porky“.

Sadly, we don’t have BreadTalk in Australia, but there are some near-enough substitutes, including smaller independent bakeries and larger franchises.

BreadTop (sound familiar?) is pretty similar to BreakTalk, from the products down to the logo. There are locations across much of Australia, but none in Perth. So, whenever I’m somewhere that has BreadTop — Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane — I have to get a BreadTop… or three.

Today’s haul:

1. The ever trusty sausage bun (in this case, double sausage bun!)

2. The also ever-trusty tuna pie.

3. The not-very-good pork floss bun with corn.

I haven’t gotten the names 100% correct here, but you get the idea. The sausage bun is an ol’ faithful style that is hard to mess up. The tuna buns are always delicious. The final one, however, with the pork floss and the corn was not really my kinda thing (despite rather liking pork floss generally). The buns are only small, but as you can see are quite oily so not for the faint of heart or stomach.

Choosing a BreadTop/BreadTalk product is always a bit of a gamble, but you usually end up with something good. I always go for the savoury options as I am not much of a sweet tooth when it comes to baked goods.

Leftovers will be nibbled over the coming days for breakfast. All up (+ a diet coke) this cost me $10.60.

What’s your favourite regional snack when you’re on vacation? Feel free to let me know in the comments!

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planning (online)

Let’s get real for a moment: Travelling is awesome. Planning to travel? Not always so awesome.

This will be an ongoing series bringing you some of the best resources for planning your travel.

travel planning : super fun & super stressful

I started planning my first overseas adventure when I was still in high school, at the tender age of just 16. I didn’t end up taking that particular trip until I was 22, although I had originally planned to leave the summer after I finished school. Back in the day, the immense amount of information available on websites and forums made travel planning easy, exciting, and just a little bit daunting! The thing is, in 2000, there was barely anything available online… at least when you compare it to today. This was a time before blogs and social media, people!

The world has changed immensely in the past thirteen (count ‘em!) years, but strangely enough some of the oldest resources are still amongst the best. Here’s my list of the mustn’t-miss travel communities.

lonely planet’s thorntree

No doubt, opinions on this one will be mixed. Let me tell it to you straight: there are so many holier-than-thou jerks populating this long-established forum. Don’t even think about creating a new thread if you haven’t fully exhausted your search options first! If you dare to do so, someone will jump right on your ass and tell you off for it in the most snooty manner possible. 

However, the Thorntree is still around because it’s just really damn excellent. The FAQ stickies in each section are particularly useful when researching a destination, and an excellent place to start your reading. It’s suffered a bit over the past year as a result of numerous issues, but will hopefully one day soon be returned to its former glory at the top of the travel food chain.

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leaving paradise (perth)

This is where I live.

sorrento beach

sorrento beach – perth, western australia

I know that I’m exceptionally lucky. People travel thousands of kilometres from home to see beaches like the one I’ve got on my doorstep.

It almost feels silly at times to leave paradise, especially given my propensity to seek out beautiful beaches elsewhere in the world.

At least I always know I’ve got somewhere beautiful to come home to.

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food and travel

Travel is awesome.

Food is awesome.

Food and travel? Getting the chance to eat wonderful dishes whilst seeing the world? Sign me up!

noodles in hanoi

hanoi street food

What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten on your travels?

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desert & dust (nasca)

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