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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Eat here: Universal Restaurant, Melbourne (Italian)

Universal Restaurant
139 – 141 Lygon St, Carlton
http://www.universalrestaurant.com.au/alacarte.html

TGIF! After a few long weekends in a row, it was tough facing a full week at work this week. Harder still to be the only one in my team doing so and keeping the ship afloat solo while the others are still on holidays. But I made it, and if you have too, now’s probably the time to start thinking about how to unwind. I find pizza with friends is usually a good way to do that.

Being a proper Melbournian Italian, I spent a lot of Sundays lunching along Lygon Street with my parents and grandparents. The best places aren’t the fancy pants gourmet ones, they’re the stalwarts and the stayers, the ones that have been around since I was a kid and continue to operate today. The pizza plus the memories plus the soul of the place is what makes it good, not the amount of high-brow ingredients on the menu. My favourites are places like Papa Ginos, Il Gambero, Mercadante, Cafe Corretto, La Spaghettata, Cafe Cavalino and the like. So when we booked a table at one of those favourites for a NYE dinner with some friends and arrived only to be seated outside in Melbourne’s searing 39 degree (Celsius) heat, we decided to take a punt on something off the list where we could be seated inside with air conditioning. Enter Universal.

It’s a big space with great air conditioning, prompt and friendly service, and a diverse menu. Our friends started on the bruschetta with fresh tomato, feta and homemade pesto on a pizza base, and husband and I went with the Dal Terra (from the land) antipasto platter – basically, heaven for me. prosciutto and sorpressata, marinated Mt Zero olives and artichoke hearts, mozzarella-stuffed arancini, a mini loaf of super-soft bread and a dish of ricotta doused in more of that homemade pesto. Lactose intolerance be damned, that was AMAZING!! All of my favourites on the one platter (with a very generously sized glass of wine by my side), I was already swimming in happy, woggy memories…

Next up were the mains. Mostly pizzas, because they looked awesome on everyone else’s plates. Our friends had that monster you can see in the top left corner, The Lot without olives I think it was, and the smaller one next to it, the I Am Angus – tomato, cheese, grilled beef strips, roasted red capsicum, onion, jalapeños & a drizzle of garlic mayo. Nice.

We went with an AJ’s  pizza without mushroom (tomato, cheese, olives, prosciutto & rocket) and a serve of the calamari. Don’t know why, but I felt like calamari and was hoping I hadn’t made a silly mistake, because looking around, I didn’t see anyone else with seafood. Worries unfounded – they were easily the most tender calamari either of us had ever had. And the pile of fried goodness seemed to be everlasting; no matter how many we ate, the mountain didn’t seem to get much smaller!

We had every intention of ordering dessert when we arrived, much to the amusement of our waitress who told us she’d be impressed if we even got through dinner, and she was right. Pizza was piled into a take away box as we hung our heads with shame and rolled out the front door. Not being one of the “old” places, I was a little hesitant to start off with , but couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by the end of the meal. The prices were incredibly reasonable considering the enormous serving sizes, and the quality didn’t suffer at all with the quantity.  Universal is now officially added to my “favourites” list for Lygon St, and we’ll without a doubt be heading back for another antipasto platter and bottle of wine!

 

Universal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

If there are any other Melbournians out there, please feel free to share your Lygon Street favourites, too – new suggestions are never a bad idea!

Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Warburton

A few months ago, I took a little timeout weekend away for myself in Warburton. I absolutely love it there – it is SO peaceful and quiet, it’s beautiful and just so easy to wind down and feel calm. I went back a few weeks later with husband, because a day trip seemed a good idea to pass a weekend, and I really wanted to show him the incredible Californian Redwood forest. But it rained. A lot. We both really wanted to go back to this beautiful teeny tiny town, and finally an opportunity presented itself – Melbourne, being the sport mad city it is, decided only a few weeks ago to call a public holiday the day before AFL Grand Final Day. If you’re not an Aussie, taking the day off work before a footy game probably won’t make a whole lot of sense to you, but this state also takes a public holiday in honour of a 3 minute horse race, so, you know…

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Anyway, this year that public holiday Friday happened to fall on our 5 year wedding anniversary. We decided to take advantage of the time off together, and after I finished work on Thursday, we drove up to Warburton for a  night away 🙂 We both desperately needed it, and it was so nice to spend a bit of down time together away from our normal lives, particularly before I head off to Japan next week (NEXT WEEK?! ARGH!! I NEED TO PACK!!). I enjoyed putting together the part 1 and part 2 Beechworth mini-guides, so I thought I’d put together another one for this beautiful little pocket of Victoria that doesn’t get nearly enough visitors – here’s how to spend a weekend in Warburton!

 

Distance from Melbourne CBD:
Just under an hour and a half in the car from Melbourne’s CBD will have you in Warburton – easy!

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Stay here:
Alpine Retreat Hotel
3340 Warburton Hwy, Warburton
http://www.alpineretreat.com.au/accommodation.htm

This is going to depend how princessy you’re feeling, but for an absolute maximum of AUD$105 per night, you can’t really go past the Alpine Retreat Hotel, AKA the pub! Rooms start from $80 per night, and if you ask for a room with a view, you’re going to be away from the noise of the pub at night and have the most gorgeous view over the river in the morning. Added bonus – should you feel like a drink, the pub is just downstairs! 

Eat here:

Little Joe
3416 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
https://www.facebook.com/warburtonlittlejoe
IMG_2107Visit for: Some of the best wood fire pizza going around. And those marinated olives…

Little Joe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

RiverView Cafe & Wine Bar
3373 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
http://www.theriverview.com.au/
IMG_2120Visit for: Friendly service, a gorgeous view of the river from the back terrace, simple but delicious food, breakfast in particular – for something simple, the muesli with fruit compote, yoghurt and milk is delicious, and if you wanna treat yourself a little more, the bacon and eggs are some of the best you’ll ever have!

RiverView Cafe & Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

The Patchwork Tea House
3305 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
http://thepatchworkteahouse.com/

Visit for: the most heavenly scones, blackberry jam and the rhubarb cream tea. Wow..

The Patchwork Tea House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

The Warburton Bakery
3415 Warburton Hwy, Warburton
http://www.warburtonbakery.com.au/
IMG_2135Visit for: The absolute best sausage rolls in Australia. Dead set.

The Warburton Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Shop here:

The Old Tea Shop
3393 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
http://www.theoldteashop.com.au/
IMG_9691Visit for: Quite possibly the most impressive range of tea I’ve ever seen. Highly recommend the Macadamia tea, the Caramel Rooibos, and the Sticky Toffee… so much deliciousness! Also a great idea to tuck into some baked-to-order gluten free gem scones. Because they’re magical, caeliac or not.

The Old Tea Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

What-Nots
3395 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
IMG_2132Visit for: The most perfect array of vintage what-nots. Not junk, genuine, collectors items and the most gorgeous little bits and pieces you’ll want to take home with you.

 

What to see and do:

Californian Redwoods
Cement Creek Rd, Warburton, Victoria
IMG_2154I’ve written about the Redwoods before from a previous visit this year, but the stunningly silent forest is full of almost 1500 giant Californian Redwoods. It’s one of the truly most beautiful and peaceful places I’ve ever had the honour of spending time in, and it’s somewhere I know I’m going to visit over and over again now for the rest of my life 🙂

Mount Donna Buang
Address
http://parkweb.vic.gov.au
IMG_2093At 1250m above sea level, this beautiful location turns into a gorgeous snowfield in winter. Outside of snow season, you can (and should) climb the 21m tall summit tower for the most incredible views out over the Yarra Valley, the Dandenong and Cathedral Ranges, Mount Baw Baw and The Alps.

Enjoy the Warburton River Walk
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Pass by the suspension bridges and just enjoy a bit of time down by the river. Highly recommend grabbing a bite to eat from the bakery and taking your brown paper bag of sausage roll and pie down to one of the benches. Enjoy lunch and walk it off with the most beautiful views!

Eat here: Sookie La La, Melbourne (cafe)

Sookie La La
593 High St, Northcote
http://www.sookielaladiner.com.au/

In their own words, Sookie La La is a “diner style café serving sundaes, shakes, delicious Wide Open Road coffee, bagels, waffles and New York deli style sandwiches.” Sounds pretty good, huh?! This is one of those places I’ve driven past a million times, always noticed the big, simple black & white DINER sign hanging over the sidewalk, and still somehow never stopped. Until last weekend, when I decided it was finally time to get past the front window see what it was all about. I called upon one of my best friends for some girl time and delicious food, and we were not disappointed.

This cute-as-pie little eatery has everything you’d want and expect from a diner; cosy booths lining the far wall, a picture perfect little bar/counter, bright yellow and red condiment bottles on the table, and some seriously friendly but sassy staff to make you feel right at home.

They’ve made a name for themselves in the sandwich game, but the specials board was calling E’s name – she went with the cheeseburger and fries. Amazing, and she said she highly recommends trying one if it manages to stay on the specials board. She also had the most gorgeous picture perfect classic chocolate milk shake (they also have some more exotic stuff like the maple peanut butter, lemon slice, snickers and cherry ripe) complete with red & white stripey swirled straw. It even had the frothy bubbles on top. I so wish I liked milkshakes…

I heard the Cuban calling my name, because a) it seemed the most low FODMAP friendly and b) it just sounded bloody delicious, what with the ham and roast pork and swiss cheese and pickles… and fries, obviously. They were kind enough to make it with gluten free bread, too, and I think may be the first place I’ve ever been to who didn’t charge me more for my bodily intolerances! They were also more than happy to give me the honey mustard mayo on the side (on a side note, I decided to test things out and put a little on my sandwich. Didn’t end real well later on that afternoon. Fructose is definitely not my friend..), which was refreshing not to be sighed at like I was some weirdo health freak who was happy to have a meaty sandwich and fries, but didn’t want to have the fattening condiment – I swear I’m not like that!!!

The sandwich was delicious – chock full of meat, the pickles were unreal, even the GF bread was really good! And those fries… every single one was golden crunchy perfection. Not a single soggy chippy in there. Happy days.

 

I thought I was done after that, but miss E decided a sundae was in order, so we were with the most FODMAP friendly looking one – a coconut sorbet sundae with toasted coconut and chocolate sauce and some perfectly sweet and acidic berry sauce business on top. THAT’S how sundaes should be done. Big thank you to the server who suggested that we’d be total softies if we finished up  our lady date without dessert – it was the deliciously perfect end to the meal and totally worth the slight stomach ache later on!! That coconut sorbet was phenomenal!

I also caught sight of a seriously sexy dessert display on our way out, and am already pretty keen on another visit for a smoked salon bagel and some pie…

It’s no wonder the hipsters are flocking to the Northern suburbs in zombie hoards right now – with food like this in quiet little Thornbury, you’d be mental to go anywhere else! Oh, and they’re open until 9pm tonight… and back in business at 8am tomorrow… go on, you know you want to 😉

 

Sookie La La Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Beechworth part 1 (where to stay, eat & shop)

It’s a bit of a catch-22 when you finally realise that you’ve found what you want to do with your life, but it’s not something you can do so easily; I know I want to travel, but I can’t exactly drop what I’m doing and pack my bags and live on the road indefinitely. That costs money, and I need to work to earn enough of it to hit the road again! That said, just because I can’t give my passport a workout every month, doesn’t mean I can’t still explore and take adventures and appreciate what I’ve got in my own backyard; I am SO lucky to live in Melbourne, where , within a few hours, I can be at the beach, on snowy mountains, or in beautiful forests. Victoria is an incredible unique place, where we literally have it all – we just need to get in the car and actually look for it!

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So, over the next few months, I’m going to start to practice what I preach, and cultivate a little more adventure at home as well as abroad – why the hell not?! I’m going to start taking more mini-breaks, more weekends or even just days away, more road trips and local adventures, because “adventure” shouldn’t just be reserved for “vacations.” Living authentically, for me, means have adventures every day, and that’s something I can control.  And on that note, without further ado, let me take you to stop #1: Beechworth 🙂

Distance from Melbourne CBD:
It’ll only take around 3 hours to drive to Beechworth from the CBD – depending on which direction you’re coming from, just get yourself onto the Hume Freeway, and keep going until you hit Beechworth! It’s a really, really easy drive!

 

Stay here:
Beechworth on Bridge

38 Bridge Rd, Beechworth
http://www.beechworthonbridge.com.au/

I came across Beechworth on Bridge through a quick Trip Advisor search for accommodation in Beechworth. Being that the race was on, a lot of accommodation was booked early, and this was one that looked nice, but was still reasonably priced. We had two nights accommodation (Saturday and Sunday) for only $250, and it was a hundred times nicer that I could have possibly expected! Brenda runs a tight ship, and is one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting on my travels 🙂 She welcomed us with a big smile and open arms, and made us feel right at home from the moment we walked through the front door. She gave us menus for breakfast (complimentary and home cooked), invited us to help ourselves to the enormous DVD collection should we need a relaxing evening in instead of heading out, and was happy to help us with anything else we may have needed. She walked us over to our gorgeously appointed room, and it honestly felt just like home (only, a little bit nicer!) – it was the perfect place to spend the weekend!

Features:
* In-ground, solar heated pool
* Rooms have new HD/LCD tvs
* New super quiet Fujitsu AC Split Systems
* Kitchenette with fridge, toaster, microwave, crockery and cutlery
* Tea, coffee, fresh milk and bikkies
* Expresso Coffee Machines
* Electric Blankets and cosy doonas
* Triple sheeted beds to ensure maximum cleanliness with NO recycled bedcovers
* Hair dryers, irons, ironing boards and fresh towels and high quality toiletries
* Beautiful gardens with BBQs on site

Inclusions:
* Complimentary breakfast which you can choose from the a-la-carte menu
* Free WiFi
* Complimentary DVD hire
* Free car parking
* Guest laundry is available at no additional cost

Oh, and Brenda makes some AMAZING pancakes!!! Highly recommend these!

 

Eat here:

Bridge Road Brewers
Old Coach House 50 Ford St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://bridgeroadbrewers.com.au/

Visit for: the beer (apparently) and the pizza. They cater really well for gluten free (gluten free pizza bases, which are actually really good, as well as GF beer and cider), and be sure to check out the specials board, which is where we found the pork knuckle – absolutely phenomenally good!! Really friendly service, gorgeous set up, just be sure to make a reservation because they get super busy!

IMG_1134-1Click to add a blog post for Bridge Road Brewers on Zomato

 

Moments & Memories Tea Room
34 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.moments-memories-tearoom.com.au/

Visit for: The devonshire tea with an insane amount of teas to choose from to go with it. Yes, it’s pink and frilly and girly and just SO pink. Not at all my style, but don’t be fooled; the service is as sweet and sassy as you’ll find in town, and the scones are good enough to brave the bright pink interior for! With around 60 different teas to choose from (and yes, you can take them home with you if you like them enough!), it’s a little tough to select just the one to go with your scones (again, gluten free particularly well catered for with a gluten free Devonshire Tea option also on offer, which I also sampled, and can very much vouch for!), but I ended up going with the Devonshire Cream tea – top choice, and I bought a bag to take home with me! You can also find a gorgeous selection of award winning jams and preserves, tea cups and saucers, cook books and other little tea-related trinkets that are waiting to be taken home, too. Perfect way to spend a winter afternoon 🙂

 

Beechworth Bakery
27 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthbakery.com.au/

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Visit for: A sausage roll and a pie – I like the steak pie and husband like the chicken and leek, but let’s be honest – they’re all good!! The sweets are also amazing, with the beesting being (a sweet, “melt-in-your-mouth” dough bun filled with apricot jam and creamy custard, and topped with toffeed almonds – delicious!) their most popular export, and for good reason! I’m also a huge fan of the flourless orange almond cake, and the snickerdoodles (custard filled pastry tart, topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries) – and don’t forget a bottomless cup of tea to go with these treats! This bakery is the original and the best; we used to travel to Bright most years to spend the Easter holidays when we were kids, and I have the best memories of stopping in here for lunch at the bakery on the way to Bright! While they’ve now expanded to locations in Albury, Bendigo, Healesville, Ballarat & Echuca, this one is the original, and still the best 🙂 Don’t be put off by the long lines – they move pretty fast.

Click to add a blog post for Beechworth Bakery on Zomato

 

The Beechworth Sweet Co.
7 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthsweetco.com.au/

IMG_7114Visit for: the home made fudge and other home made chocolate and lollies. They’re all delicious – it’s kind of impossible to choose, but the salted caramel fudge is a good place to start! This is another place I have very fond childhood memories of, with many holidays spent eating my weight in musks and chocolate drops from this place 🙂 Their hand made fudge is pretty popular, and they have heaps of amazing flavours to choose from, as well as some pretty delicious peanut brittle. They’ve also got fantastic individual chocolates like the ones below – a little more pricey, but worth it for a special treat!

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Shop here:

Beechworth Honey
31 Ford St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthhoney.com.au/

No doubt you’ve seen this stuff sold in your local supermarket – where better to buy it from that straight from the source?! If you like your honey, this is a must-visit shop in Beechworth, where you can stock up on all things honey; from hand creams and soaps, to honey mead and multiple ranges of honey (everything from the classic original stuff to some fancier orange blossom or creamy honey, fig and ginger), it’s all there.

 

 

Quercus Community Bookshop
Cnr Ford & Church Sts, Beechworth, Victoria

A little heaven of used books, with some very friendly and knowledgeable service to boot 🙂 This is the place to go if you want to browse and/or talk books, with a massive range with new arrivals popping in all the time. If there’s something you’re after and can’t find, just ask – help is at hand and ready to go! With prices starting at only $1.00, you’re bound to walk away with at least a few books.

 

 

Beechworth Antiques
17 Loch St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.indigoshire.vic.gov.au/Services/Business_Directory/Beechworth_Antiques

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There are a few little antique shops in town, but this one was particularly beautiful – heads up though, they are genuine antiques and as such, the prices are more for serious shoppers and collectors. There are a few cheaper treasures in there, though, and definitely well worth a look around.

 

 

So, there’s part 1 of my guide to a weekend Beechworth visit, hope you’re enjoying your virtual break so far and have maybe seen something to motivate you to email Brenda and book a room for a weekend away of your own! I’ll be back later in the week with part 2 (what to see and do while you’re there), so I hope you’ll be back for that 🙂 In the mean time, back to reality and back to work for me this morning, already looking forward to the next adventure!

Treat yourself Tuesday – tacos of Isla Mujeres, Mexico!

Over sized sombreros.
Colourful ponchos.
Beautiful beaches.
Multiple cocktails.
And delicious tacos.

Would I be right to assume that some, if not all of the above come to mind when we think about Mexico? I’m going to focus on that last list item today, because
a) it’s cold in Melbourne and I’m dreaming about sitting in the sunshine in Mexico right now with tacos, and so are some of you judging from how much love last week’s Colours of Isla Mujeres post/Instagram shot got,
b) I’m a huge advocate for experiencing a new place properly by getting involved in street food culture when travelling,
c) gallivanting around a little Mexican island on a golf buggy taking in the sights and hunting for tacos was a new and very fun experience that I highly recommend, and
d) what better way to treat yourself than with tacos?! So, as part of the OUR GROWING EDGE monthly link up party (see bottom of the post for more info!), here are three of the best taco stands worth hitting up on Isla Mujeres!

 

1. Poc Chuc
Av. Juarez con Abasolo

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2015/01/img_6313.jpgThis place was great because they gave you the option to eat in if you didn’t want to grab your tacos and run. We visited twice during our recent visit a few months ago in January, and the photos above were our favourites – the chicken empanadas up top, and the chorizo tacos below. It makes me a little sick to think that we’re paying something like AUD$5.00 or $6.00 PER TACO in Melbourne, when the chorizo tacos here only cost the equivalent of AUD$1.25 each. Yup. And they were much, much better than the expensive hipster ones…

 

2. El Burrito Feliz Tacos y Tortas
Calle Abasolo #5 Col. Centro

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These were probably close to my favourite tacos – this little lady was firing them out like a one woman restaurant. She was really something to see! She also spoke not a single word of English, so luckily my Spanish was good enough to order “dos tacos carnita por favor,” and they were incredible. We found her tucked away on a street not far from Playa Norte Beach, but if you don’t stumble upon her, just ask your friendly hotel staff if they know where to locate her!

 

3. Las Comadras
Av. Miguel Hidalgo

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Another amazing spot, with the added bonus of having the taco stand set up in a shop front, with a few stools and tables scattered around if you’re lucky enough to snag one! Chicken and chorizo tacos, for which we paid about AUD$1.00 each, and were absolute perfection – the tortillas were grilled up to order, filled with your chosen protein, and handed over for you to top with lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream, chilli and herbs. They also have a brother restaurant, Compadres, next door, should you want a slightly more upmarket dining experience; but with tacos this good at that price though, I couldn’t imagine why you’d want to!

 

 

This post is part of the our growing edge monthly link up party over at Bunnyeatsdesign, which aims to inspire bloggers to not only try but also discover new things 🙂 This month’s theme is “treat yourself” and is hosted by Caroline from Shrinking Single, who does delicious recipes for one – mainly skinny with a pinch of chocolate 😉
our growing edge

A crash course in FODMAPs & cook this: poached egg in polenta & sugo

So, it’s been a frustrating year thus far, trying to work out what’s causing my stomach to hate me so much. After recently undergoing some blood tests and hydrogen breath tests, turns out we can confirm now that I’m not coeliac (although large amounts of gluten don’t really agree with me),  but I am lactose and fructose intolerant, which is apparently why my stomach has been hating me so much. Great. So what does that mean? A super exciting low FODMAP diet for the next few weeks, after which we try to reintroduce some of the stuff that’s currently a no-go. I won’t bore you with the details (Google “low FODMAPs” for more detailed info), but basically FODMAPs are molecules found in a lot of common foods we eat that aren’t digested properly, and then cause nasty digestive issues.  FODMAP stands for:
Fermentable
Oligosaccharides (eg. Fructans and Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS))
Disaccharides (eg. Lactose)
Monosaccharides (eg. excess Fructose)
and
Polyols (eg. Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Xylitol and Isomalt)

Great, but what the hell does that mean in real life? Basically, foods containing those guys are not my friend for the next few weeks. Not a whole lot of Ben & Jerry’s style shenanigans over the next few weeks, then…

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The OK to eat list includes:
GRAINS – gluten free everything – bread, pasta, flour etc, quinoa, rice, rice noodles, tapioca, corn thins, popcorn (yay!), oats (double yay!), polenta
VEGGIES – among a few others, red capsicums, bok choy, carrots, cucumber, zucchini, eggplant, ginger, tomato, lettuce, olives, parsnip, potato, spinach, the green tops of spring onions only
FRUITS – kiwi fruit, strawberries, oranges, pineapples, blueberries, rockmelon, limes, lemons, mandarins, passionfruit
DAIRY – lactose free milk and yoghurt (Liddell’s for me!), coconut milk, feta, mozzarella, Swiss, parmesan, brie, camembert cheeses
PROTEIN – chicken, beef, lamb, pork, fish, eggs, unprocessed meats
NUTS/SEEDS – anything but cashews and almonds really, in very small amounts (10 nuts or less)
OTHER – pure maple syrup, pure sugar/sucrose, dark chocolate (Lindt 85% for me!), raw cacao, salt/pepper, most oils, peanut butter, unsweetened coconut, herbs like cumin, paprika, coriander, basil, thyme, chives, parsley, rosemary, Nuttelex spread, small amounts of soy, fish and oyster sauces, some mayo/mustard (providing they don’t have any onion or garlic in the ingredients), tea (THANK GOD!), Massell stock cubes made without onion/garlic (SO happy I found these!)

Basically, not a heap of sauces/condiments/packaged stuff where the nasties are hidden – more plainly prepared stuff like grilled prawns (minus the garlic butter, unfortunately!), rice and simple steamed veggies. I’d be way happier in Thailand or Vietnam for the next 8 weeks, actually…

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The not OK to eat list includes:
GRAINS – Gluten – regular bread and pasta, cous cous, barley, and pretty much all pre-packaged cakes, biscuits, crackers, pastries etc.
VEGGIES – garlic, onion, broccoli, cabbage, snow peas, mushrooms, cauliflower, celery, fennel, leeks
FRUITS – apples, pears, stone fruits, tinned fruit, concentrated fruit juices, dried fruits
DAIRY – cow’s milk, lactose products, buttermilk, ice cream, custard, cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, sour cream
PROTEIN – sausages/processed meats (often have fructose products such as honey used in them, so check the ingredients!), all beans (kidney beans, black beans, etc), chickpeas, lentils, soy beans
NUTS/SEEDS – cashews, pistachios, large amounts of any other nuts/seeds
OTHER – honey, milk chocolate, molasses, regular stock cubes, relish, cocoa powder, teas that have fennel, dandelion or chamomile in them,  and anything that includes fructose, isomalt, high fructose corn syrup, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol and sugar free drinks and sweets that have polyols (ingredients typically ending in -yol) in them…. how the hell I’m going to study nutritional labels for all this crap is beyond me…

Grey areas:
– Soy and almond milk are the ones that’ll impact me most – almonds and soy beans are technically on the NOT OK section for the low FODMAP diet, but I’m figuring a little soy milk in my tea will still be better that regular milk! Otherwise I’ll stick with Zymil milk I think. Tofu is another one on the maybe/maybe not list, for the same reason.
– In terms of veggies, broccoli, avocado, sweet potato, pumpkin and corn – small serves of a half cup or less are thought to maybe be ok, but no conclusive evidence is available at this stage either way.

Without going into too much detail, it’s not a life sentence; generally after 8 – 10 weeks of this, you’re encouraged to start re-introducing some of those FODMAPs, group by group, to see if you can include them into your diet again 🙂 What that means here is that you won’t be seeing a heap of my standard delicious naughty food on here (I’m not saying I may not have the occasional slip up – I’ll do my best but I am only human!), but instead some more gluten free, lactose free, fructose free, FODMAP friendly options for a few weeks! And I have no intention of eating chicken and rice every day for the next 2 months, so we’ll see how creative this can get!

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ANYWAY, enough of the education component of this post (I didn’t want to get into it too much, but I also didn’t want you guys to be wondering why there wasn’t a new burger every week on here!), let’s get to the food – gooey, runny yolked poached egg in a polenta and chunky sugo nest. Winter time comfort food. The perfect meal to end the week. Which I really, really needed last night after only 3 hours sleep Saturday night.

The polenta and sugo were pretty simple – I make them both pretty often. But, surprisingly, I’ve never done poached eggs before! How is this possible?! I have no idea! It really only just hit me when I vetoed frying the egg and couldn’t be bothered waiting long enough to do the baked egg thing. I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a try,  and happily, it was no where near as difficult or scary as I thought it’d be!

So here’s your gluten free, lactose free, fructose free, low FODMAP, tummy friendly, blah blah blah winter warmer dinner of poached egg/s, polenta and sugo…

Ingredients (for 2):
Sugo:
– garlic infused olive oil
– 2 rashers bacon, diced
– 1 red capsicum, diced
– 2 heaped tbsp pitted, sliced black olives
– 3 ripe tomatoes, diced
– 1 cup plain tomato pasta sauce
– salt, pepper and dried basil
– 2 handfuls baby spinach leaves, torn

Polenta:
– 2 cups water with a sprinkle of salt
– ½ cup polenta/fine semolina
– 1 tbsp Nuttelex spread (or just regular butter if you’re not low FODMAPing)
– 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Eggs:
– as many eggs as you want
– pot of water
– 1 tbsp vinegar

Method:
1. Get the sugo started first – heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the bacon. Once the bacon starts to get a little colour, add the capsicum and cook over high heat until the capsicum starts to soften.

2. Next, add the olives, tomato, pasta sauce and as much salt, pepper and basil as you like to the pot. Simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Then mix the spinach through until it wilts and shrinks. You can set the sauce aside and re-heat it if need be just before serving.

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3. Get your pot of water and the little bit of vinegar for the eggs on the boil next – it needs to be a roaring, rolling boil before you even think about throwing those eggs in there. Crack as many eggs as you want into separate, small dishes and set them aside.

4. Finally, get the pot of water for the polenta on medium heat – bring it almost to the boil, turn the heat down and slowly add the polenta, whisking as you add it (if you dump it all in at once, it’ll be a lumpy mess). Once all the polenta is in, keep the heat on low and whisk continuously for 5-10 minutes, until you’re happy with the consistency – if it’s too thin for you, keep whisking over low heat to thicken it up, and if it’s too thick add a little more water. Add in the butter and cheese, whisk through, and again leave it to the side to re-heat if you need to before serving.

5. Now, those eggs. Water’s on a strong rolling boil, give it a stir with a spoon to create a little whirlpool in the centre, and slowly and carefully slide in the first egg. Set a timer for 2 minutes, try not to panic like I did at the messy trail of egg white that’s probably floating around in there (I don’t know how, but egg magic will bring it all together in the end), and remove your egg with a slotted spoon just before the timer hits the 2 minute mark – rest it on a paper towel-covered plate until you’re ready for it. Keep poaching your remaining eggs, one at a time.

6. Assembly is easy – polenta into the bowl first, lots of sugo next, and plonk your egg on top. Hopefully you saved a little parmesan to top it with, too! Enjoy 🙂

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And if there are any more low FODMAPers out there reading this, I’d LOVE to hear from you guys – let me know how you’re going with it all, any favourite dishes you have, any helpful tips and what not!