And I Can Cook, Too

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

July 19, 2007

I Fought the Law

It was my last night in Adelaide before departing for my Hawaii/New Jersey vacation, and my classmates wanted to say goodbye. We met at bar First, where comfy couches and lovely fireplaces made it possible to drink without freezing. We were on our second or fourth bottle of Tasmanian Riesling when several tall, broad, reasonably attractive men sat down on our couches. After the round of introductions (complete with the “what I’m doing in Australia” conversation), we asked them about themselves. They told us they were cops. Naturally I didn’t believe them. Unmoved by their foolish assertions that they were in fact off-duty cops, I determined that a test was in order. “If you’re really cops,” I said haughtily, ‘you’ll know how to frisk me.”

It’s the closest I’ve ever come to being arrested.

Monday, July 30, 2007

July 18, 2007

Party Like a Rock Star

It was Adelaide’s “Carnival of Concepts” week, during which time experts in all kinds of fields flock to the city for four days of seminars, debates, and “talking withs.” Food topics included “Survival of the Fittest, Richest, or Thinnest,” “Before You Eat,” “Why We Eat What We Eat,” “Going for Growth – Fuel for Obesity,” and the ever inspiring “After the Binge, the Apocalypse.” Featured in these talks was a notable food scholar, whom I’ll just call “Shenene” on account of how she’s the head of a certain degree program that is the only one of it’s kind.

The day after the carnival our class was privileged to have a private tutorial with Shenene. Or so we thought. Seemingly friendly and well humored in front of an audience, up close and personal Shenene was a bitch. After talking up herself and her program, she opened the floor for questions. Not a single student was able to get one in without interruption. Luanne started. “We all know that obesity is a huge problem, and I wonder if you feel that the research…” “What do you mean research?” Shenene demanded, “You’ll have to be more clear. Research can mean anything, I don’t understand you. The students in my program express themselves clearly.” Three or four such instances later and Q&A time was over. Shenene then asked us to offer up our dissertation topics. Jennifer went first – her topic was the history of Girl Scout cookies and their cultural impact in America. Shenene’s response: “Girl Scout cookies are disgusting.” Oddly, no one else's topic was declared. The tutorial ended with Shenene informing us that our degrees were essentially useless, her graduates were getting excellent work, but that we needn’t bother applying because the program was a) too competitive, b) too expensive, and c) too good for us.

Naturally we were thrilled to learn that Shenene would be joining us on that afternoon’s field trip.

The Mclaren Vale Cheese and Wine Trail is a lovely way to enjoy some delightful pairings of regional products. You pick up a hamper from Blessed Cheese, and spend the afternoon tooling around with valley, stopping pre-determined wineries for your tasting. After announcing that she had no idea she was expected on this trip and that she didn’t approve of alcohol, Shenene boarded the bus. Our first stop was Shingleback, and Brie with an un-wooded Chardonnay. Disaster – should have been a Sauvignon Blanc. (I know, I hate Chardonnay, but everyone agreed with me.) Shenene, however, started to lighten up. Although she also didn’t like the pairing, she voiced appreciation for the beautiful environment. Second stop, Primiwirra and a Shiraz Rose with marinated feta. Again, not the best pairing, but Shenene was now waxing poetic about the loveliness of the trail concept. Third stop, Hoffman’s and Tempanrillo with Cheddar. The pairings were getting better, and Shenene was now behind the bar inquiring as to the nature of every single bottle. Last stop, Wirra Wirra, blue cheese, and Cabernet. I preferred their Clearskin blend, but Shenene was having the time of her life. We were sitting at the table, enjoying our food, when she asked me what we were all doing after the trip. “We’re coming to your hotel and trashing your room.” I told her. She laughed so hard she started to fall off her chair. Straightening herself, she took me by the arm and stood us up. “I want to get drunk with you!” She declared. “That can be arranged.” I replied. “I should have spent my day hanging out with you instead of these other people!” she loudly continued. “Yes you should have!” I told her. “If you’re ever in (insert city here), you have to look me up!” “Be careful, I’ll show up!” I tossed back. “I want you to!” she shouted. “Well give me your card!” By this time we had drawn a crowd, and my entire class watched in amazement as the famous Shenene invited me to call her anytime.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

July 12, 2007

Gung Haggis Fat Choy!

There are many people in the world who think there is nothing more disgusting than a haggis. Those people are wrong. For truly disgusting cuisine, we must look to the west coast of North America, where every January 25th, thousands of people celebrate a combination of Robert Burns Night and Chinese New Year: Gung Haggis Fat Choy.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy was founded in 1998 by a Chinese-Canadian College student who thought it would be really really funny to dress up in a kilt and eat some haggis. He was right; it was. Since Toddish McWong’s original party hundreds of Chinese-Scots (who knew?) have taken up the cause, turning GHFC into a full-fledged festival. A CBC (some sort of weird Canadian TV channel or something) broadcast in 2002 further boosted the popularity of the event, and soon Mr. McWong was staging the event all along the west coast. But back to the food…

Gung Haggis Fat Choy 2007 featured the following: a haggis dim sum buffet, including items such as deep fried haggis won tons, haggis haw-gow (shrimp dumplings), haggis su-mei (pork dumplings), and haggis lettuce wraps. Yumorama.

It can't always be about the hot dogs.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

July 8, 2007

Hot Diggity!

In my current class, Gastronomy and Tourism, I’m required to give a presentation on an unusual culinary tourist event. I’m presenting the history of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. That’s right, I’m in grad school, studying wieners. Eat your hot dog out.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

June 29-July 1, 2007

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad
Part Deaux
(Or, hey sugar, take a drive on the wild side)

Not about to let me live down riding the Riesling Trail sans Riesling, my friend Lucy announced that she and I would hit the Clare Valley for the weekend and taste all the damn Riesling we could get our hands on. As a further measure of knocking all lame follower instincts out of my system she also mandated that I was going to be the driver. My worries that I didn’t know how to drive on the “wrong” side of the road went unpittied. “Fuck it.” Lucy told me, “you’ll be fine.” We picked up the rental car across the street from the Adelaide Central Rail Station (and Casino) and were off. Lucy got us out of the city and onto the wider country roads before pulling over and instructing me to take the wheel. “Now remember,” she said, getting into the passenger seat, “hug the left.” An absolutely uneventful hour later (okok there was one questionable left turn but hey there wasn’t any oncoming traffic…Lucy’s only comment: “Other left darling.”) and we were back in the beautiful Clare. Where it was raining cats and dogs. After checking into Gumnut Cottage (two bedrooms each with queen size beds, wood burning fire place, full kitchen – no hot tub but what can you do for $65 a night?) we were off to inspect the trail. The trail was a mud bath, and after debating just how seriously we wanted exercise and acknowledging that each of us had brought only one pair of pants, we admitted defeat. We would taste by car, and hope the weather cleared by the next day. We consulted the trail map, and were off. Our first stop was Tim Gump, where the Riesling was ok, the Shiraz a bit better, and the kitchen in need of a chef. Second stop: Skillagalee Winery and Café, where a wonderful old woman wearing lots of turquois poured georgous sparkling wine and sang to us about the “looovely fooood on the meeeenuuuuu.” Over seared scallops in a mustard Riesling sauce and penne with grilled chicken and sun-dried tomatoes, Lucy and I plotted a strategic course of action: we would drive along the main road through the Clare stopping at the wineries on our right, then turn around and drive back, stopping at the wineries on our right again. Stops worth mentioning: Annie’s Lane, whose Late Harvest Riesling was served a the Queens 80th birthday party, Neagle’s Rock whose 2005 Merlot Rose was to die for, and Seven Hills whose wine guy was tall, dark, and Scottish. After a lovely day of tasting (and those of you who think driving on the wrong side of the road gets easier the more wine you ‘taste’ give yourself ten bonus points) we made our way back to the cottage. We’d just pulled in to the driveway when we saw it: the sobriety checkpoint. Nervously I got out of the car. The ping-pong table stood in the middle of the game room that had been closed when we arrived, but was now open and waiting for me to prove that my motor skills were not seriously impaired. “Now” said Lucy, “You have to show me that you’re sober by returning the ball ten times, then you can have wine with dinner.” It took the better part of an hour, but that evening I enjoyed a Neagle's 2005 Cabernet Shiraz.

When we woke the next morning to rain pounding on the roof, we didn’t bother inspecting the trail.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

June 27, 2007

Field Trippin’

Our class went on a trip to the Adelaide Hills, home of yet more lovely wineries but more notably home of Tumbeela Native Bush Foods, one of the areas only suppliers of native foodstuffs. As we sipped lemon and licorice myrtle tea, the proprietor told us the history of his business. He’d been living in the hills for many years, enjoying hippie life on the land, when in a organically enhanced haze it occurred to him that he could grow bush tucker foods and market them to South Australian restaurants and shops. Because nothing that he wanted to grow is actually native to South Australia, he imported seedlings from all over the country and for the first several years repeatedly lost most of his crop. At last, in a moment of clarity, he realized that he needed to learn a little something about farming. He spent several more years (and more money, although he was vague about its origins) and now runs a profitable, if not exactly thriving business. And I’m pretty sure he’s still a hippie. After the tour we chowed down on lemon myrtle and wattleseed ice creams. He told us he always keeps these on hand for when he has the munchies.

This is a Banksia Bush. The cone part contains little edible seeds, and is filled with a sugary syrup that you can suck out for quick energy. That would make you a bush-sucker, which is just fun to say.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

June 23, 2007

Survival of the Fittest

When training for a strenuous athletic event, knowing the weather conditions and keeping yourself well-hydrated are the keys to success.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

June 18, 2007


My next class - Gastronomy and Tourism, began today, and our guest lecturer was a representative from the South Australia Food & Wine Tourism Council. Oops, did I say "food and wine"? What I meant was the South Australia WINE and Food Tourism Council. Turns out, the wine makers in South Australia are so convinced the the food in South Australia supports the wine and not the other way around that they united and refused to participate with the tourism council unless they were guaranteed that the word 'wine' came before 'food' in all tourism materials. I wonder if I've got something in the fridge that would nicely compliment a 2003 Richard Hamilton Old Vine Grenache?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

July 16-30, 2007

Ye of so Little Faith

Seemingly alarmed by my recent burst of non-alcohol related athletic activity my friend Kim has questioned my ability to compete in Marathon du Medoc. I've got two words for you, Kim:


Friday, June 15, 2007

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

Undaunted by our “no penguin” experience in Victor Harbor, Di and I decided to go where we would not have to depend on wildlife for a wild life. We loaded the car back up and were off for the scenic Clare Valley and its famous Riesling Trail. The Riesling Trail is a 50K roundtrip biking path dotted with over 30 wineries, all featuring the prized wine of the region, Riesling. We arrived in Clare, and after turning down a lovely two bedroom cottage right on the trail complete with two queen beds, wood burning stove, and spa bath for $65 per night in favor of the Clare Valley Lodge several kilometers off the path complete with dingy bedspreads, cramped showers, and fuzzy television for $85 a night, we were off to rent our bikes. Moments later we were off on the trail and an afternoon of fresh air, pleasant exercise, and periodic tastings. Or so I thought. After ½ hour or so of row after row of grapes and rolling pastureland, I started to develop a thirst. I stopped at the next winery I came to and waited for Di, who was just slightly behind me on the trail. “Should we stop here?” I asked. “No,” Di responded, “I’d like to bike a little more.” Fair enough, I thought, and resumed pedaling. We made our way through sheep farms and patches of gum trees, and I determined that it was clearly time for a stop. After passing several unremarkable wineries, I came to one that was originally operated by Jesuits and featured, in addition to the cellar door, a small museum and church tour. “How about this one?” I asked when Di caught up. “No,” she said, “let’s just keep going.” Along we went, spying blue and yellow parrots and a few hopping creatures who were less surprised to see me than I was to see them. We were well passed the halfway point when I spied Annie’s Lane, a well-known label in these parts, looming on the horizon. I made my way to the gate and waited for Di. “No.” she said, “We’ll have Riesling with our dinner. I just want to stay on the bike.” On our way back to the bike hire I didn’t bother asking. With dinner (a trio of Kangaroo, Emu, and Venison medallions in a stunningly sour quandong sauce), I ordered a Mclaren Vale Shiraz.

We may be the first people in history to ride the Riesling Trail and completely omit the Riesling.