Monday, November 26, 2012

Melbourne has soul

Whilst Sydney has the weather and the beaches, Melbourne has depth. Melbourne has soul.

A wholesome, well-rounded and rich city. Neighborhoods that bubble with personality (Fitzroy, Carlton, St. Kilda…); Restaurants that make you want to become a restauranteur; Bars that make you feel as though you’re starring in a Sex and the City episode and some of the most pristine city parks you have ever seen (Royal Botanical, Albert Park…).

Albert Park
It is not for no reason that Melbourne has been voted one of the most liveable cities for several years in a row, taking the crown once again in 2012 according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

What is this secret ingredient that makes Melbourne rate so highly, year after year?  I may not have the formula right but will take a stab at verbalising what makes Melbourne special for me.

The city lives and breathes 24 hours a day. This may or may not be a result of the infamous Melbourne coffee, which pumps the veins of the city day in, day out. These barrista skills not only make coffee-lovers fall in love; they even make non-coffee drinkers gradually convert. It is a buzzing scene. If you don’t already, you’ll learn to love it ;) Coffees are an art and a science in this city. No place rivals Melbourne in this world. I’m serious. No place does.

With a café culture like no other, you will find endless instagram-worthy shots in every corner and every nook of this city. Second-hand shopping is hip and precious boutique shops are abundant. Whether you love the classy, the hipster or the grunge, on Australian terms, this city is as good as it gets for shopping…and clearly ‘Australian terms’ are pretty high, if one of their cities makes it number 1 in the world two years in a row…

Friends of Mine, Richmond

If shopping is not your thing, get on your bike and cycle the massive bay or sun-bake on one of Melbourne’s many beaches. Row on the Yarra River or run around Albert Park and ‘the Tan track’ (Botanical Gardens). Try out one of the many yoga studios, SUP on the bay waters, or kite surf when it is windy…the list goes on. This city will have your heart pumping in more ways than one. Whatever the weather decides to do, people are up and at it. It is a lifestyle and believe me, you will get sucked in. It is a good thing…trust me!

Botanical Gardens

Food markets (Prahran, Queen Victoria, South Melbourne) are bustling not just on weekends but on every day of the week. Choose to get the freshest produce around or, if you’re feeling lazy (which coincidentally, I seem to A LOT these days!), head out and taste Melbourne’s infinite restaurant list – most being hidden treasures, very hard to imitate or ever replicate. The Mmmmms… and Ahhhhhhs… that go around, together with the clinging of knives, forks and wine glasses…it is a constant gourmet orchestra, every single night of the week.

It is impossible to ever be bored, or on the previous note – ever go HUNGRY - in this city.

South Melbourne Markets
Three Bags Full, Abbotsford

Trams have the right away in this city and neighborhoods like Carlton make you believe you have been zipped to Italy with the blink of an eye. “Prego!”…”Grazie”…with hands up in the air…’Wait!? I thought I was in Australia!?’ European touches are everywhere, blended in subtly, adding to the richness and culture that makes this place so unique.

Flinders Street Station, CBD

YES, Melbourne may have 4 seasons in one day. Deal with it! Embrace it! All Melbournians do and rather than always moan about weather or make it the subject of conversation, they accept it and don’t let it hold them back. An impeccable taste for food, a knowledge for the arts and culture, a love for life.

What a C.I.T.Y!

Veggie Bar, Fitzroy
Below will be an ever-growing list of yummies (growing at least for the next few months whilst I am still here!)

Long Grain, CBD – Sexy cocktails and TDF Thai food.
Cumulus, CBD – Absolutely amazing in every possible way. 
Sake, South Melbourne – Japanese. No need to say more.
La Svolta, Brighton – True Italian pizzas.
Veggie Bar, Fitzroy – For Veggo’s or non-Veggo’s, this place is simple ridiculously tasty and COOL.
Maha, CBD – Recommended
Movida, CBD – Recommended
European, CBD – Recommended
Mamasita, CBD - Recommended
Chin Chin, CBD - Chinese fusion - yum!
Sake, Southbank - Japanese gourmet
I Love Pho, Victoria Street - Awesome Vietnamese Pho Soup
Mekong, Swanston St, CBD - Vietnamese
Cookie, CBD - Thai food. Recommended.

Friends of Mine, Richmond – Popular for a reason.
Café Gaia, South Yarra – Whether its pancakes or poached eggs, you may be walking out of there saying, those were the best EVER!
Three Bags Full, Abbotsford – A place you sorta just want to stay at, and never leave.
Café Sweethearts, South Melbourne - Pancakes
Pinch of Salt – Recommended
Lawson Grove Shop, South Yarra – Recommended
Outpost, South Yarra – Recommended
Hellenic Republic, Brunswick East – Recommended

Melbourne areas and their famous, must-go streets:
St. Kilda – Acland Street
South Yarra – Chapel Street and the Royal Botanical Gardens
Fitzroy – Brunswick, Gertrude & Smith Streets for Op shops, hipster, grunge, bars and
Carlton – Italian Gelato, Paninis and everything Italian
East Brunswick
CBD – Lanes, alleyways and simply everywhere! Buzzes every day of the week.
South Melbourne – Check out South Melbourne Markets and Union Yoga for an awesome Yoga class.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Byron Bay. Where the sun touches first.

Looking for a place where life automatically slows down? A place that makes you want to walk barefoot and let the days pass not according to the tick of your watch, but rather to the rhythm of the ocean tides.

Welcome to Byron Bay, a North Shore – like personality with a dash of glamour.

Health food stores, arts & crafts markets, longboard riding, pastel-coloured cruiser bicycles, yoga studios, organic food cafes, beads and batiks. People living in this coastal town are aware of how good they have it. This satisfaction with life reflects a positivity and ease, which can be seen throughout Byron Bay, making it truly welcoming and warm.

So whether a backpacker looking to crack that goon, a honeymooner in for a romantic escape or traveling in wealth and glamour, Byron Bay suits all and does not judge. It allows you to relax and re-energize…at your own pace.

Although one of the most beautiful spots on this vast continent, Byron Bay is humble, petite and will always be a true gem for all those reasons and more.

Eat & Drink:
  • Twisted Sista – Have a mega muffin or just pick from their epic food selection at their counter.
  • Conscious Café – Vegan, tastefully decorated and HEALTHY.
  • Kinoko Sushi - Amazing sushi rolls and stunning Japanese salads. Yum.
  • The Beach Hotel – Prime location and a must for when in Byron Bay. Day or night, you will never be alone at this famous drinking hole.
  • The Italian – Right beside the Beach Hotel. Have one of their glamorous and tasty cocktails underneath their twinkling fairylights.
  • Harvest Café – This place alone makes it worthwhile to hire a car and drive out to Newry Bar for an unforgettable foodie experience. It attracts foodies from across the country, which says enough. It is a must.

  • Longboard, picnic, sunbathe or just relax at Wategos Beach
  • Do the Lighthouse walk and once at the top, don’t forget to walk to the side that overlooks the long, white-sanded Tallows beach. Your eyes will twinkle with joy.
  • Check out the monthly Byron Bay Markets for a huge selection of eclectic treats and goodies.
  • If you’re not in town long enough to catch the monthly markets, you can always grab fresh produce, juices and baked goods at the weekly food markets. Thursday mornings in Byron Bay and Friday mornings in nearby Mullumbimby.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Snickerdoodle Bread

The Snickerdoodle. Who can ignore that name? A type of cookie rolled in cinnamon sugar, which you will come across everywhere in the States. They are characterized by their cracked surface – they are crisp on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. A yummy treat.

And the coolest fact about these cookies? Some claim that snickerdoodles are German in origin, and that the name is a corruption of the German word Schneckennudeln (lit. ‘snail noodles), cinnamon dusted sweet rolls which are common in Germany.

So why turn Snickerdoodle cookies into Sickerdoodle Bread? Because it tastes amazing! The cinnamon taste and dense, yet moist texture, makes this a lovely treat for breakfast, brunch or any occasion really!

Snickerdoodle Bread

   2 1/2 cups flour
   1 tsp. baking powder
   1/2 tsp. salt
   2 tsp. cinnamon
   1 cup butter softened
   2 cups sugar
   3 eggs
   1 tsp. vanilla
   3/4 cup sour cream
   1 pkg. Hershey's cinnamon chips (I used chocolate chips, which worked well!)
   3 TB sugar
   3 tsp. cinnamon

1.  Cream butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon until fluffy. Add eggs and mix well.
2.  Add vanilla and sour cream and mix well.
3.  Mix flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Add to wet ingredients and mix until all combined.
4.  Add cinnamon chips and stir into batter. Set aside.
5.  Spoon batter into 4 mini loaf pans until about 2/3 full.
6.  Mix 3 T. sugar and 3 t. cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle over the batter in each loaf pan.
7.  Bake at 350 for 35-38 minutes. Let cool before removing from pan.

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