Eating the city: New York City, USA

In a city as big as New York and a stomach that can only physically expand so much, it’s impossible to eat everything. So, in order to save precious gut real estate for the good stuff, let me run you down the goodies you need to save space for when you visit.

 

1. Walnut chocolate chip cookie from Levain Bakery
Multiple locations
https://www.levainbakery.com

Not particularly cheap at USD$4.00 but they’re the size of grapefruit, FULL of melty chocolatey and nutty goodness, and can you really put a price on happiness? If you want to eat in, get there early or prepare to wait around – it’s a tiny space, so it fills up and the line ends up out the door pretty fast!
Read more here

 

2. Patrami & mustard on rye from Katz’s Deli
205 E Houston St
https://www.katzsdelicatessen.com

This is one of the classics of NYC, and there’s a good reason for that. Family run for several generations, they’ve served everyone from Harry & Sally to NYC Mayor de Blasio and Senator Bernie Sanders (I know that because they were sitting at the table next to us a few weeks ago!). And if the USD$22.00 price tag puts you off a little, remember how much you’d pay for that much meat at a BBQ place – just because its between bread doesn’t mean you’re not getting your money’s worth!
Read more here

 

3. Brisket and burnt ends from Mighty Quinn’s BBQ
Multiple locations
http://www.mightyquinnsbbq.com

Tender, juicy meat with soft, melty fat… and those perfect burnt pieces off the ends to finish it all off. Heaven! These guys know how to make meat perfect, and don’t forget some mac & cheese on the side. Prices vary depending on your order, but it’s good value for money for such high quality.
Read more here

 

4. Any and all of the pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds, Brooklyn
439 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn
http://www.birdsblack.com

Brooklyn’s amazing, but even if it wasn’t, it’d still be worth going to just to get your pie fix from these guys. They have a sweet little pie shop on a street corner, with a chalkboard hanging over the counter announcing the day’s offerings (around USD$6.00 per slice), and REAL tea and coffee to go with it!
Read more here

 

5. A salmon & cream cheese bagel from Russ & Daughters
179 E Houston St
https://www.russanddaughters.com

This is the bagel dreams are made of, in whatever combination you decide on. I can’t go past the scallion cream cheese, and while it’s damn near impossible to narrow down the fish, I’d strongly recommend the cured Scottish salmon and the smoked sable. Prices vary depending on your fish, but they’re kind enough to slice off a bit for you to taste before you commit.
Read more here

 

6. Hot dogs from Papaya King or Nathan’s Famous
Papaya King: 179 E 86th St
http://www.papayaking.com

Nathan’s Famous: Coney Island or at a Bulls game at the United Center
https://nathansfamous.com

Two NYC stalwarts, two great dogs. From Papaya King you’ll be wanting the two hot dogs with sauerkraut & mustard and a papaya drink combo. I wasn’t sold on the papaya juice drink with a hot dog, but its actually a weirdly good combination! And at Nathan’s, you just want a dog with a little ketchup and mustard. Amazing!
Read more here and here

 

7. Tea and scones at Alice’s Tea Cup
Multiple locations
https://alicesteacup.com

I’m a big fan of Alice, so I was stoked to find this wasnt a completely tacky themed cafe. They do breakfast and lunch, too, but I was there for tea and sweets. You can get a large pot (6 cups) of tea with two scones of your choice (they have a rotating selection daily) for USD$20.00, and they’ve cleverly switched to a tip-included-in-the-price system to make things even easier. Selecting you tea is the hard part, with dozens to choose from – I like the Mauritius black tea with a hint of vanilla, and of course their signature Alice’s tea; you can also purchase any tea from their menu to take home!
Read more here

 

8. Deli sandwich near Sunset Park, Brooklyn
5th Avenue between Green-Wood Cemetery and Sunset Park

It doesn’t really matter where you get it from or what’s in it, the whole walk up 5th Avenue to Sunset Park is lined with these little delis. It’s a bit of a climb to the top of the park, so grab some sandwiches on fresh bread piled high with just-sliced deli meats for a picnic in a spot that overlooks the Manhattan skyline.

 

9. Noodles and dim sum in Chinatown

Let’s be honest; where there’s a Chinatown, there’s good food. And New York’s is no different. Get yourself over there and just start walking. It’s just like being in Asia, which means the menus are often difficult to decipher, and there are more options than you’ll know what to do with. And, it’s cheap. Enjoy!

 

10. New York Cheesecake from Eileen’s Special Cheesecake
17 Cleveland Place
https://www.eileenscheesecake.com

Because how can you possibly go to New York without trying the namesake cheesecake?! You can get a little personal one for yourself (USD$5.00), or a nice big one to share (or, for yourself, no judgement), and in all sorts of flavours as well as the original.
Read more here

 

11. Crack pie & birthday truffles from Momofuku Milk Bar
Multiple locations
http://milkbarstore.com/main/

We live in a time where sugar’s been proven to be more addictive than crack anyway, so may as well skip the drugs and go right for the sweet stuff! The pie is basically pure butter and sugar, and the truffles are sugar with sprinkles, but they taste so damn good you just can’t help yourself!
Read more here

 

12. Bomboloni from Sullivan Street Bakery
533 W 57th Street
http://www.sullivanstreetbakery.com

Soft, airy, pillowy balls of dough, fried to golden perfection and filed with silky smooth custard. Off you go.
Read more here

 

13. A bit of everything from the Chelsea Market
75 9th Avenue
http://chelseamarket.com

There’s a whole basement full of food here, from vegan sushi to Aussie sausage rolls, herbal teas to artisan pastries, pizza slices to microbrew beer. If you can’t find something here you like, there’s something wrong with you!
Read more here

 

14. Gyro platter from The Halal Guys
Multiple locations
https://thehalalguys.com

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and a gap in the market for halal food in NYC led to one of the city’s greatest creations in the Halal Guys. The meat (served street side from a cart) is probably better than any you’ve had in a restaurant, and starting at around USD$8.00 for a platter, you won’t even need dinner later!
Read more here

 

15. Burgers! Fancy ones from Five Napkins, simple ones from Shake Shack.
Five Napkins: multiple locations
https://5napkinburger.com

Shake Shack: multiple locations
https://www.shakeshack.com

I’m a real burger lover, and my two NYC favourites fall on both ends of the spectrum. For something a bit fancier, try the Original 5 Napkin with gruyere and caramelised onions (around USD$17.00), and for a quick and cheap option, get yourself a ShackBurger for just USD$6.00. Both amazing. Just get both.
Read more here and here

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Top 10 Things To Do in Washington, D.C.

1. Walk through Arlington National Cemetery

 http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/
Where? Arlington, Virginia
Why go? To call over 600 acres of tombs an overwhelming experience would be a disrespectful understatement. I wasn’t at all prepared for the enormity of it, or the impact seeing all of those tombs would have on me. It wasn’t easy to walk through, but I felt it was a necessary walk, not just for me but for everyone; in order to continue to justify war and hatred and taking of lives, I think everyone should take a walk through here
How long will you need? We spent around 2 hours here.
Cost? Free.
Read more:
– Arlington National Cemetery

 

2. Eat and shop your way through the Eastern Market

http://easternmarket-dc.org/
Where? 225 7th St SE, Washington, DC
Why go? The market itself left a lot to be desired on the day we visited, with very few stalls open, but the food section was pumping! Places like Market Lunch were full of people, and sitting at the big communal table with locals and my giant plate of pancakes was a brilliant way to start a day of exploring!
How long will you need? With the market not offering a lot, we were there for about an hour to enjoy some serious breaky and people watching.
Cost? My “short stack” of blueberry buckwheat pancakes with toasted pecans cost around USD$5.00. I use the term “short stack” very loosely, because the serving was so big I couldn’t finish it, even with husband’s help.
Read more:
– Eat here: Market Lunch at the Eastern Market

 

3. Take time to reflect at the Holocaust Museum

 https://www.ushmm.org/
Where? 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, DC
Why go? I’ve had a strong sense of horror, curiosity, intrigue and admiration for the victim’s of Hitler’s war of terror ever since reading Anne Frank’s Diary and Elie Wiesel’s “Night” in high school. The more I read from survivors, the more it digs into my soul, so I felt a strong pull to visit the Holocaust Museum. I moved through in in quiet reverence, took only one photo (above) in order to remember it, and left in silent tears. Again, if we are living in an age where our leaders condemn war, this is something that must be experienced, regardless of how painful that is.
How long will you need? We were in there for around 2 hours.
Cost? Free.

 

4. Indulge your inner bookworm at the Library of Congress

 https://www.loc.gov/
Where? 101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC
Why go? This is an experience for both book and architecture lovers. The building will leave you speechless if you take the time to look at the little details, and the collection of books is mind-blowing.
How long will you need? We were there for an hour or so – I could have stayed all day!
Cost? Free! How wonderful is this city of free education?!
Read more:
From my travel journal: Washington, D.C., 2015

 

5. Make yourself at home at Ben’s Chili Bowl

 http://benschilibowl.com/
Where? 1213 U St NW, Washington, DC
Why go? The dogs were fantastic, more of a sausage than a frank, absolutely delicious. The chili was great too, a little bit of a kick, heaps of flavour, and plenty of it. What was even better was the gentleman pictured above in the bottom left corner; he came over to our table to say hi, welcome to Ben’s, and asked how the meal was; not only did he stay for a chat and a photo, he introduced us to the lovely lady in the photo top right, one of the owners and family members of Ben. The food was good, but the people were better!
How long will you need? We weren’t planning to stay long, but ended up there for just under an hour, chatting to our new friends 🙂
Cost? USD$5.95 for the classic jumbo chili dog.
Read more:
– Eat here: Ben’s Chili Bowl, Washington, D.C., USA

 

6. Wonder through Georgetown

Why go? After the intensity of the museums and monuments, it’s kinda nice to just get away and take a stroll and look at the beautiful buildings that reside in Georgetown…
How long will you need? We were wondering around for an hour or two.
Cost? Free.

 

7. Take a quiet timeout at the Reflecting Pool

http://www.nationalmall.org/explore-national-mall/monuments-memorials/lincoln-memorial-reflecting-pool
Where? National Mall
Why go? The day we visited was cold and rainy, and I was getting a bit overwhelmed by it all. By the time we reached the reflecting pool, I needed to pause, and there couldn’t be a more beautiful spot in the city to do that. Watching the ripples across the water and the reflection of the trees above, it was the perfect place to stop and consider how far we’d come by that point in our trip. And when I finally looked up, I found I wasn’t the only one taking a time out 🙂
How long will you need? I took about half an hour (under my umbrella!).
Cost? Free!

 

8. Let your inner dorky child run wild at the National Air & Space Museum

https://airandspace.si.edu/visit
Where? 600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC
Why go? I’m actually a bit of an aviation and space nerd, so when husband suggested a stop in at this museum, I was stoked! There is SO much to see in here, and quite a few interactive stations – perfect for when it’s really raining and you need a break. Or for when your kids are starting to drive you up the wall and you to distract them!
How long will you need? At least a few hours.
Cost? Free! How great is that?!

 

9. People watch at Washington Harbor

https://www.thewashingtonharbour.com/
Where? 3000 & 3050 K Street NW, Washington, DC
Why go? This was sunset on the harbor after a long and emotionally taxing afternoon in Arlington. There weren’t many people out, being the middle of winter; a few joggers and dog walkers, and us. We sat down, watched a few planes soar overhead, and let the experiences of the day wash over us.
How long will you need? An hour or two, depending on how much is going on.
Cost? Another freebie!

 

10. Get into the greatest food combo the city has to offer, fried chicken and donuts

Where? My personal favourites were Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken (1308 G Street NW, Washington, DC) and GBD Fried Chicken & Doughnuts (which is sadly now closed).
Why go? Fried dough. Fried chicken. I had no idea it as a thing to throw them together. Now I don’t know why it took me so long to discover it! Astro’s chicken was so tender and juicy on the inside and ridiculously crispy inside, and their doughnuts were some of the best I’ve had.
How long will you need? How fast can you eat?!
Cost? Doughnuts cost around USD$3.00 each, and the big 8 piece chicken box will set you back around USD$20.00 (Tip – we didn’t get through the 8 pieces. The services are WAY bigger than those you get in Australia!)
Read more:
– Eat here: Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, Washington, D.C., USA
Eat here: GBD Fried Chicken & Doughnuts, Washington, D.C. (donuts)

My favourite New Orleans eats

Our New Orleans themed Christmas tree is up again this year. One if my lovely work colleagues has just come back from New Orleans, regaling me with tales of snow white beignets and bowls of gumbo. AND one of my best friends (@jessicavee, fellow food lover and adventurer) has just let me know that she’ll be making her way to that same magical city in a few months. I promised her a highlights reel of food to eat, so Jess, this post is for you!
1. Central Grocery
The food: a quarter of a muffuletta
The memory: our first feed in New Orleans was at Central Grocery, a beautiful, old deli that brought me right back to the days of visiting old Italian delis with Nonna. No frills, no fuss, no nonsense, just a damn good sandwich. We ordered half a muffuletta, but a quarter between us would have sufficed; they’re the size of hubcaps!
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2. Cafe du Monde
The food: beignets!!!
The memory: this place is open 24/7, so you be damn sure we took advantage of that. They were afternoon tea the day we arrived. They were delivered in a paper bag by my husband who snuck out early one morning so he could get them back in time for me to wake up to and enjoy breakfast in bed. They were a midnight snack the night before we flew out, that last bag of beignets I’d have for God only knows how long (I even have a photo of me clutching that bag like the crown jewels). They’re the taste of New Orleans. Just don’t wear black when you eat them…
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3. Coop’s Place
The food: fried chicken and gumbo
The memory: the strongest memory was feeling so at home in Coop’s. It wasn’t because I regularly hang out in dive bar-like restaurants, or because I eat lots of fried chicken at home. It was just a fun, relaxed place where no one gave a crap that you were a tourist. Just sit down, shut up, order and eat! And eat we did!
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4. Domilise’s
The food: fried shrimp po-boy (the roast beef was pretty good, too)
The memory: it was a long walk (via donuts, which I would do all over again) and more than worth it. Domilise’s is a city stalwart and for damn good reason. Their po-boys are some of the best in New Orleans, and so is the establishment – it felt just like sitting in your favourite aunt’s kitchen, being well looked after 🙂
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5. The Joint
The food: combo platter with brisket, pulled pork & ribs
The memory: another long walk from the French Quarter through some questionable back streets at dusk. May not have been the smartest idea to go on foot, but the food was totally worth it! Sitting out in the courtyard at The Joint with music pumping, drinks flowing, and good times rolling, it was a real good night in New Orleans!
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6. Johnny’s Po-Boys
The food: surf & turf po-boy
The memory: we’d seen on a few “what are the best po-boys in New Orleans?” Google searches that Johnny’s were the best option within the French Quarter. We squished in, on two counter seats, and demolished an incredible surf and turf po-boy, on perfectly soft bread, smothered in gravy…
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My favourite Chicago eats

I had fun mentally re-eating all the good stuff I had in New York… let’s do it again!

This week, I’m going back to Chicago. Initially, I only agreed to add it to the itinerary because husband wanted to go; I really didn’t know much anything about the city, other than it’s home to the Chicago Bulls, and as children of the 90s/the Jordan era who both grew up playing basketball, that’s obviously our NBA team of choice. Other than that, it was a bit of a blank city for me.

After spending almost a week there over Christmas, though, my opinion changed completely; I loved that city. I can’t tell you why, either – it was just one of those places that felt good to be in. Beautiful buildings, the gorgeous river than runs through it, friendly people, and amazing food. The food scene reminded me a lot of Melbourne, actually, which may be one of the big reasons I loved it so much! We ate a lot in that week, and it was hard to narrow it down to the favourites, but here they are….

 

1. Do-Rite Donuts (donuts)
The food: A traditional buttermilk glaze
IMG_4961
The memory: Ohh I loved this place! Our first day in Chicago, it was cold like I couldn’t believe, and it was Christmas Eve! We were on our way to the Christkindl Christmas Market, and noticed a giant donut pointing the way to a cute little store. We grabbed a donut and some hot tea, pulled up our hoods and sat out the front in the cold to take it all in… a kindly old man sitting on the table next to us struck up a friendly conversation, and it was the most wonderful welcome to any city we’ve ever had!
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2. Au Cheval (diner, burgers)
The food: The Au Cheval cheeseburger with a fried egg; same thing everyone else was ordering!
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The memory: The wind was like little frosty daggers this day, and after a morning of sight-seeing, we couldn’t have been happier to get into Au Cheval and escape the cold! After much pre-trip Googling, Au Cheval’s fried egg cheeseburger seemed to be the must-try burger for Chicago, and it didn’t disappoint. We were lucky enough to get a seat at the counter where we watched the most well-oiled machine out together the most spectacular looking (and smelling) food for the Saturday lunch crowd; it was mesmerising, and really made us think of Chicago as a proper food city.
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3. Portillo’s (hot dogs)
The food: A Chicago dog. Obviously.
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The memory: Another day of walking and walking and more walking, we finally found ourselves in the neighourhood of a Portillo’s, and it was finally Chicago Dog time. I remember sitting on the second level of the restaurant watching over all of the happy people and families with their tables of dogs and fries, and thinking how lucky we were to have made it all the way across the world to enjoy something as simple as a hot dog, which so many people would completely take for granted!
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4. Billy Goat Tavern (burgers)
The food: Double cheezborger. No fries, CHEEPS! No Pepsi, COKE!
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The memory: This was another exciting one – we love watching travel shows, especially the ones that are food heavy. And on all of the travel shows about Chicago and food, the Billy Goat Tavern shows itself. We sat there in the crowded sub-street level diner with our burgers re-hashing the Bulls game we’d been to the night before, and talking about how long ago it felt that we were sitting on the couch watching this place on TV wondering if we’d ever actually get there…
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5. Lou Malnati’s (deep dish pizza)
The food: The Malnati Chicago Classic – sausage, cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce. Simple.
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The memory: I know that “real” Chicagoans don’t do deep dish pizza, but to enjoy it, you just need to not think of it as pizza. It’s a quiche pizza hybrid. A quizza, if you will. This was one of the deep thoughts that was discussed over dinner, sitting at a high bench table, finally out of the -15°C cold. Sometimes we just act like kids…
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6. Rubi’s Tacos (street food – tacos)
The food: Pork tacos – amazing!!!
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The memory: Market and street food are two of my favourite things, and when we came across Rubi’s with a massive line, we figured we should probably join it – I remembered reading somewhere they did the best tacos. When we realised no one in the line was speaking English and there was no real menu, we figured a) we were definitely in the right place for breakfast and b) it was lucky I knew how to order pork tacos in Spanish. Sitting among the crowd, we stood out like green elephants, and really enjoyed feeling so out of place – that’s what travel is all about!
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7. Doughnut Vault (donuts)
The food: A vanilla glazed raised and a buttermilk old fashioned
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The memory: A tiny little place with the delicious smell of fried dough in the air and nowhere to sit – it felt just like being back in Melbourne! Another freezing day, we got there nice and early, grabbed our donuts and enjoyed them outside – I remember my butt being freezing against the cold concrete sidewalk we were sitting on, my fingers being sticky as all hell, and the two of us giggling like we were two kids who’d stolen a piece of birthday cake. Good times in Chicago! 🙂
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Eat here: Gellibrand Cafe, Melbourne (brunch/cafe)

Gellibrand Cafe
16 Gellibrand Cres, Reservoir
https://web.facebook.com/gellibrandcafe/?fref=nf&_rdr

They’ve been open less than a month, and I managed 2 visits in less than 24 hours – I think I’ve found my new local! Tucked away in a little suburban pocket of Reservoir, it’s not the kind of place that’s going to get crazy foot traffic, so they’re going to have to rely pretty heavily on good word of mouth. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem…

The space itself is beautiful – it’s modern and minimalist looking, but the little touches like the Globo posters behind the counter give it a bit of a throwback to the past and makes it feel more homely.

Our first visit was last Saturday afternoon; they close at 4pm, but we thought we’d try to sneak in a quick coffee/tea date around 3pm on our way out. It’s incredibly how many places get narky when you roll in an hour before closing on a Saturday afternoon, so we braced ourselves for an icy reception. Which was completely unnecessary; we were welcomed with smiles and open arms. Massive points there, because another similar cafe in the area is quite the opposite when you arrive within 90 minutes of closing time.

We asked for tea, coffee and donuts, and while we sat waiting for them, we picked up on seriously happy vibes. The staff were laughing and joking around with each other, they were happy to chat with us instead of ignoring us, and it felt more and more like hanging out at a friend’s or extended family member’ place rather than a shiny new cafe.

Oh, and they stock Doughboys Doughnuts, which makes me very happy, because I love them!! Husband loved his coffee, my tea was hot and brewed just right, and the doughnuts were magic. Salted caramel that was properly salty and sugary, and a gorgeous little key lime number filled with lime curd and a toasted meringue hat. Perfect afternoon tea. Also, as the clock ticked closer to 4pm, more big points for not starting to turn off light and clean around our feet – sorry our timing was crap, guys, but thank you for not making us feel like a total inconvenience!! We decided then and there that we’d return for breakfast the next morning.

And so we did. Sunday morning rolled around, and we turned back up to Gellibrand again. A pretty simple menu with plenty of options to keep everyone happy, husband went straight for the smashed avo with chilli on toast, with a poached egg and bacon on the side. He’s fussy with anything that claims to have chilli in it (his tolerance levels are bordering on unnatural), so he was a pretty happy camper when his avocado came out with actual pieces of chilli mashed through it. He was even happier when he opened his egg up and found it all molten lava yolk (he’s has some sub-par over poached eggs lately). He also commended the amount of bacon.

I was hovering over the porridge, until I caught a glimpse of the specials board. There is something oddly satisfying about being able to order pancakes and ice cream for breakfast, for a few reasons:
1. When you’re a kid and you want pancakes and ice cream for breakfast, your parents laugh at you and give you cereal and fruit instead. As an adult, if you want ice cream for breakfast, you can.
2. When you’re a highly disordered eater, any time you can override the mechanism that tells you to order eggs and vegetables for breakfast and not to finish the toast, that’s a big win.

And it was a bloody good decision – they were proper, home made pancakes, not the perfect round cookie-cutter ones. They were full of blueberries, plenty of salted caramel toasted almonds, more blueberries and top, and that ice cream was the perfect side. I don’t often order pancakes because they’re such a special treat meal to me, and I don’t want to waste a special treat breaky on crappy pancakes, but these were exactly what I felt like – hope they make their way back onto the specials board again!

I’m feeling really fortunate to be living out in the northern suburbs these days; back when I was a kid, Preston and Reservoir weren’t the nicest areas. Now, as the suburbs next in line for gentrification after Northcote and Thornbury, they’re starting to become prime locations. I just hope that the new places opening up keep the friendly neighbourhood attitudes and a few little throwbacks to the past, like Gellibrand have. See you again soon, guys 🙂

 

Gellibrand Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday morning in Collingwood. And, Eat here: Donut Shop Donuts & Coffee, Melbourne

Guys, I’m so excited… it’s Friday, which means it’s almost time for OKTOBERFEST!!!! If you’ve been playing along for a while, you might remember last year’s backyard Oktoberfest, complete with pretzels and mustard, cookies and beer, and most essential of all, good friends to enjoy the night with! We had so much fun, we decided to do it again over the weekend, which you’ll no doubt hear all about in a few days…

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But before the good times roll, we had to venture out last weekend for a few more supplies with which to complete the man cave’s transition to beer hall; we ended up in my favourite ‘hood, the Fitzroy/Collingwood district that I love oh so much. After leaving the car off Smith St and grabbing a quick cuppa at Harry Monty Flavour, we walked up to Gertrude St so I could pick up some of my favourite ETS English Breakfast tea from Aunt Maggie’s on Gertrude St, and, filled with nostalgia, we decided to keep walking.

See, husband and I went to university just behind Gertrude St, at ACU. That’s where we met. That’s where we studied. That’s where we earned our degrees. That’s even where we had some of our wedding photos taken! That area was our home away from home for three years, and it was nothing like it is today! We walked slowly up towards Brunswick St, thinking back to our uni days, marveling at how much nicer, fancier, cleaner it is now compared to our residency back around 2005; the broken bottles, angry homeless drunks, dirty graffiti and smashed store front windows have been replaced with detailed street art, one-off local designer scarves and shiny new hipster eateries. “Imagine if it had been like this when we were studying here,” he said to me. “Yeah… we’d have been getting fat off fried chicken and donuts instead of watching drug raids* and dodging the angry guy with the long neck in the brown paper bag!”

* Yes, there were a lot of drug raids around there when we were at uni. I personally saw two, one of which came complete with two fully armoured police squads carrying battering rams. Great excuse to miss another boring nutrition lecture.

 

Good and bad, it’s a suburb that’ll always feel like home to me…


As it usually does in a city as abundant in offerings as Melbourne, our wanderings led us to good food, this time in the form of donuts.

Donut Shop Donuts & Coffee
130 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
https://instagram.com/donutshopfitzroy/

Since Big Lou‘s left the area earlier this year, there’s been a need for a new donutery. Donut Shop stepped up to the plate, opening only a few weeks ago, and they’re doing beautiful things with dough…

Like most other donut shops I’ve visited (both here and in America, actually), it’s only a little space with a few seats inside. They do, as promised, donuts and coffee, along with a few other beverages like the PB milkshake and a matcha latte. But we were just there for the donuts, and it’s Friday morning, so let’s cut to the chase.

There are some pretty good looking donuts to choose from, but we were instantly for the pina colada brulee (pineapple + coconut = sunshiney happiness) and the matcha white chocolate (since coming home from Japan with a whole lot of matcha cookies, husband’s now just as obsessed with matcha treats as me, which, seeing as we usually share, means I can order them now when we go out!).

Pina colada brulee up first – the most amazing crackle and crunch when I cut it in half, so top marks for the brulee side, and an extra point for it not being bitter. The coconut pineapple custard inside was some of the best stuff I’ve ever eaten – it was unbelievable silky, full of flavor without tasting fake, and I’d have happily eaten a full tub of a stuff with a spoon, fructose intolerance be damned! Also, really loved the cherry and grilled pineapple on top – cute touches that only added to the taste.

The matcha white chocolate was possibly even better, if you can believe that – again, creamy smooth filling, with the most incredible matcha flavor. The crumbles on top were SO GOOD, nice to have a bit of crunchiness with the super smooth filling. I could have done with a little more white chocolate (because I’m a pig), but other than that, it was faultless.

And it wasn’t just the fillings; the dough itself was textbook light, fluffy, amazing. I’m really glad food this good wasn’t around while we were studying; with these guys, Archie’s All Day, Belle’s, De Clieu and so many more amazing places now calling Gertrude St home, we’d have possibly been the most obese exercise science graduates ever…

But right now, I’m going to let you guys plan your visit (they’re open all weekend) while I get myself to work, and then head home to bake what feels like another 5000 pretzels for this weekend’s Oktoberfest…  : D

Donut Shop Donuts & Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melbourne’s north side food truck parks: The Food Truck Park Preston -VS- Welcome To Thornbury

These things are popping up like… actually I can’t think of a clean, PG rated, appropriate analogy here. Suffice to say that seven years after Roy Choi and his little Korean taco truck, Kogi, started the food truck craze half way around the world, it is still well and truly going strong in Melbourne, which has fast established it’s reputation as one of the great hipster meccas of the world. And with hipsters comes good food. Sometimes pretentious crap, sure, but for the most part it’s pretty bloody good.

Before the food truck/street food thing caught fire, it was the fancy restaurants that drew the foodie crowds. The Mamasitas and Chin Chins and Fondas, which charged big money for intricate, well thought out, delicious, albeit little dishes, and played off the 2 hour wait for a table as a badge of honour. Those days are just about over, though, with the crowds no longer wanting to wait ages for tiny, elegant dishes; the tide is really turning to the out-of-a-truck street food thing. And ironically (because we all know that the basis of the hipster movement is to do “ironic things ironically” – thank you Anthony Bourdain for the clarification), the lines for this stuff (formerly pleb food) are now epic, too! The great paradox, for me, is that a lot of these people (I’m now referring to the yuppies, not the hipsters) waiting in line for their $12 “Vietnamese sandwich” whilst necking their craft beer probably wouldn’t even think about touching a $1 banh mi made with sans rubber gloves and tongs, and served off the back of a motorbike on the streets of Hanoi… but, I digress.

All of my cynicism aside, with the often excessive amount of rules and restrictions put in place by the local councils (because let’s be honest guys; they’re more about making money than keeping us safe from food poisoning!), this is as close as we’re ever going to get to a “street food culture” in Melbourne, so I’ll take it! Also, the fresh, clean astro-turf and gorgeous, modern touches like the wooden benches and seats are a little nicer than sitting on a plastic crate in a dirty gutter next to rapidly passing traffic. And I absolutely love the idea of a food truck park – it’s so nice and convenient to have it all in the one place!

We’ve been living in the heart of the Northern suburbs for just on two years now (WHAT?! TWO YEARS ALREADY?!?! Wow…), and our timing couldn’t have been better because it is well and truly becoming Melbourne’s suburban food and culture centre. Case in point – one of the main streets within walking distance to our house boasts a Japanese convenience store, a few Indian restaurants, a Halal butcher, a Lebanese bakery, a new-style hipster cafe, an Italian deli, and a good old fashioned Aussie fish and chip shop. All within no more than a kilometre of each other. So when not one, but two food truck parks opened only 3.5km away from each other, and both within a stone’s throw of our place, we were a bit excited!

 

First up in the red corner, we’ve got:
The Food Truck Park
518 High St, Preston
http://www.thefoodtruckpark.com.au/
https://www.facebook.com/thefoodtruckpark

Operated by: The Australian Mobile Food Vendors Group.
These guys are also the team behind the Coburg Drive-In Food Truck Festivals and the Richmond Food Truck Park, as well as numerous pop ups.

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday
12:00 – 2:30pm lunch session
5:30 – 9:30pm dinner session

Great to visit at:
Dinner time – it’s beautifully lit up at night, and big enough that the crowds aren’t too big a problem if you get there not long after opening time.

Vibe: Relaxed, comfortable, like hanging out in a good mate’s backyard with people sitting on the floor when table space runs out, kids running around having a good time. Very chilled out and welcoming.

Food on offer:
Ever changing rotation which you can check on their Facebook page, but some of the trucks that have made an appearance over the last few weeks include:
– Dos Diablos
– Smokin’ Barry’s BBQ
– The Dude Food Man
– Happy Camper Pizza
– Greek Street Food
– The Brulee Cart
– Nuoc Mama
Billy Van Creamy & Manny’s Donut Café, who joined powers to help me create this monster when I visited on opening weekend (a fresh, warm donutella from Manny’s with some of Billy’s peanut butter gelato… and also some of their salted caramel gelato. Because ¿por qué no los dos?)

The Food Truck Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Billy Van Creamy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Next up, in the blue corner:
Welcome To Thornbury
520 High St, Northcote
http://welcometothornbury.com/

Operated by: Maleik Edwards and the team behind Melbourne favourites like Mr Burger, Homeslice and Fancy Hanks.

Opening hours:
Monday – Thursday from 5pm – 9pm
Friday – Sunday from 12pm – 10pm

Great to visit at:
Mid week dinner or a sunny weekend lunch session – but arrive right on opening time because this place gets PACKED! Unless you’re arriving mid afternoon and waiting it out until dinner time, chances of getting a seat for an evening feed are not great.

Vibe: The fancier, trendier sibling of Preston’s park – younger, well dressed crowd, table or nothing (floor sitting didn’t seem to acceptable), fewer children and the ones that were there were sitting quietly at the tables. All very shiny, new and modern, little details all well thought out and beautifully presented. More similar to the friend’s house that you feel obliged to take your shoes off before entering.

Food on offer:
Again, rotating roster available on their website, including
– Mr Burger (duh)
– Mamma Van
– Dos Diablos
– Dude Food Man
– White Guy Cooks Thai
– Greek Street Food
– Gorilla Grill
– Ghost Kitchen, who make THE MOST MAGNIFICENT popcorn chicken you’ve even had the pleasure of stuffing your face with:

Ghost Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

And don’t miss the area on your way in, where Doughboys are hidden away. Because if you miss out on their doughy magic (like the Peanut Buster), your visit was close to pointless.

Doughboys Doughnuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Welcome to Thornbury Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
So, who wins the food truck park war of the Northern suburbs? YOU DO! They’re both fantastic, both very different atmospheres, and both with a lot of the same trucks rotating through. They’re both going to be popular fixtures as Melbourne starts warming up with a group of mates and a few plates of delicious food to share – and now that we’re officially a month into spring and weather is starting to get it’s act together, that’s your weekend sorted, my friends!

On that note, I’ve got a crazy busy work day ahead, after which I’m gonna load my bags into the car, and enjoy a bit of a long weekend mini road trip with the guy I’m celebrating a 5 year wedding anniversary with this weekend 🙂 See you guys back in a few days (possibly for a post-Grand Final day food truck park chill out session)!