I was recently invited by Rachel (aka CreamyMiddles) to accompany her on an all expenses paid weekend away in Canberra – yes please! This is all part of a great marketing concept known as The Human Brochure - they invited 500 humans to come and experience Canberra first hand and then spread the word online (using the hashtag #humanbrochure) about all the great things we get up to.
We set off Friday afternoon and began our drive to Canberra. Bad traffic meant we arrived late, missing the bus to our welcome meeting, gah!
Fortunately the guys at Human Brochure had a backup plan and we were swiftly driven to the War Memorial in time for the welcome speech.
We were led on a tour around the War Memorial, the stained glass window inside the tomb of the unknown soldier was gorgeous.
And they had laid out a DAMN good dessert spread, I was in heaven!!
Then it was time to return to our hotel and properly explore it. East Hotel, is a 4.5 Star hotel pitched as a “contemporary design and lifestyle experience”. It’s pretty freaking amazing, from the modern artwork on the walls to the retro-styled furniture (and our room was larger than my apartment!)
The East Hotel’s mustard chair proved very popular with everyone who saw it and I spent a lot of time Instagramming in it!
Design quotes in the foyer
We were up early (for a Saturday!) and off to our first stop… Parliament House! The moody clouds provided a perfect backdrop.
Rachel and I were approved for security clearance! Phew.
I loved the ceiling inside Parliament House.
And there were beautiful courtyards…
And we were lucky enough to be allowed into our Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s office!
And then I stared at the flag pole… I think I prefer it from this angle.
Food time! Hooray! We had lunch at Two Before Ten, a fabulous cafe with great design.
Lunch was delicious and included great coffee, duck rillettes with figs, trout with brioche, tomato and ricotta salad, fresh baked grisini and a fennel salad.
We met Hank the Coffee Roaster and his human Sam gave us a talk on roasting coffee beans (which smells like popcorn to my untrained nose).
In the afternoon we headed off to the National Gallery of Australia. This “floating” ball was amazing.
What are we here to see? Toulouse-Lautrec ofcourse! Lautrec had a thing about painting redheads and prostitutes.. and in those days only prostitutes wore red lipstick. As a (faux) redhead who happened to be wearing red lipstick at the time, I was bought to the front of the group by our guide and declared that Lautrec “would have chased you through the streets of Paris to paint you”. Cheers.
Rachel viewing one of his works.
I bought a poster of my favourite work of his.
We headed off to the Sculpture Garden for champagne (as you do) and I was taken away by this amazing installation by Indonesian artist Dadang Christanto. It certainly had a bit of an Antony Gormley feel to it.
This fog sculpture by Fujiko Nakaya was another favourite of mine.
What time is it? It’s dinner time! We were off to Italian restaurant Mezzalira. My favourite was the ricotta, pumpkin and leek tortellini with burnt sage butter, delicious!
Next up was beetroot risotto, stinging nettle and caprino (cheese) – also very tasty and I will be trying to make this at home. I love bright pink risotto!
And our main, rare salt crusted Rangers Valley beef with cannelloni bean, roast beetroot, tarragon and horseradish. I’m usually a bit funny about eating meat so pink (I was vegetarian for 10 years after all!) but this was perfectly done.
And finally, cannoli with ricotta, rum and chocolate, pistachio and cherries.
I arrived back to my hotel and squealed with delight as they had left us another gift, this arvo it was wine, and that night it was salted caramels! Hands down the best salted caramel I’ve ever had.
Quite a few of us were nursing hangovers of varying degrees the next day (curse you matched wines) but we fortunately had a very pleasant morning – they gave us picnic blankets and breakfast boxes and we picnicked in the gardens of Old Parliament House.
We also sat for a group photo on the steps of Old Parliament House and there was a paparazzi shoot off!
That afternoon we headed off to the Old Bus Depot Markets, an amazing weekly market full of delicious produce and showcasing the wares of emerging designers.
I got *very* excited by these handmade cupcake stands from vintage crockery! I bought the mint green one on the far left :)
Our final stop on our whirlwind tour of Canberra was the Canberra Glassworks. We each got to design and make our own glass tile which was loads of fun! Here I am, concentrating very hard on my tile.
And here I am looking like a complete dweeb in my gumboots and safety glasses. Also samples of the coloured glass I used and my tile ready for the kiln (I will upload a picture of the finished tile when it has been posted to me!)
And we finished off the day with an amazing exhibition by glass artist Kirstie Rea. Beautiful!
An amazing weekend and huge thanks to the guys at Human Brochure. I had such great fun participating in all the activities you organised and had a great time promoting Canberra! Now I can say more than “Canberra has nice bike paths” next time I get asked :)
I’ve been seeing some amazing travel videos springing up on Vimeo lately and have been bookmarking each to share them with you. They sure are giving me itchy feet to explore the world again! I’m excited my new camera has HD video – I am looking forward to creating travel and food videos in the near future. Enjoy!
Disclosure: This high tea was provided by Groupon for my review
I love high tea and always jump at the chance to try out a new place around Sydney. The guys at Groupon offered me the chance to try out one of their current restaurants that were being offered and when I received an email advising me of a high tea at Bistro Fax at the Radisson Blu, I couldn’t wait. This particular deal was $79 for two with a bottle of French sparkling rose and was worth $175.
The Groupon process was pain free and after acquiring the deal, the voucher was emailed straight to my inbox. I then emailed the Radisson to book in my high tea and received an almost instant reply to my request and we were good to go.
We arrived at the Radisson on a rainy afternoon, the perfect weather to cozy up on the couch and eat and drink as much as possible. I presented my Groupon voucher to the hostess and we were shown to our table.
We ordered our hot beverages, a (rather average) Vittoria cappuccino for my friend and Twinings English Breakfast for me.
Our three tiers of treats is soon brought to our table and the waiter rushes off without so much as a hint of what we have to eat, let alone plates or cutlery. We spend the next 5 minutes fervently trying to get the attention of any of the waiters, finally flagging down another waitress who brings us cutlery and plates and talks us through the tiers upon request.
On the bottom layer is a selection of cucumber dill sandwichs, salmon toast with cream cheese, dill and capers, rare roast beef and horse radish sandwiches and curry chicken puffs. The standout was definitely the curry puffs, full of flavour and the right amount of spice.
Tier 2 consisted of a selection of plain and fruit scones, with cream and jam. The scones were lovely, the perfect texture and not too dry.
Saving the best to last, we attack the top dessert tier. My favourite was the key lemon tart with its rich and tart filling, closely followed by the strawberry Swiss roll (I’m a sucker for anything with strawberries and cream!) The passion fruit jelly pots were very tasty but unfortunately the jelly wasn’t set properly. I only managed a mouthful of both the seasonal fruit and custard tart and the chocolate walnut brownies with double cream – by this stage I was stuffed!
We noticed other tables having their wine topped up regularly, however we were left to our own devices. Overall we had a lovely afternoon enjoying wine, tea and delicious treats at a heavily discounted price – I just hope Bistro Fax makes significant improvements to their service.
This time of year is often stressful for a lot of us, not only does the financial and emotional pressure often take its toll (don’t you love those family fights?), travelling during this period can be a complete nightmare! Fortunately for me I am staying put this year, my family is coming from QLD and as far as Norway to celebrate and I don’t have to brave those terrible airport queues or holiday traffic disasters!
I love a good infographic, and this one by CarInsurance.org sums up our sense of duty during the festive season to visit our loved ones and families – with 91% of us travelling by car (ugh). Stay safe on the roads, try not to scream at Grandma and eat LOTS of ham.
Here is Part 2 of my eating in Vietnam photo-log. This covers from Hoi An up to Hanoi, via Halong Bay.
I was awoken at 4am in Hoi An to go on a sunrise bike ride. I was initially a bit shakey and nearly rode a woman off a bridge into the river. Oops! I managed to make it to the fish market in one piece, and there is nothing better than starting your day off with the stench of fish :)
My bike riding skillz were rewarded with a delicious Vietnamese coffee – hot and strong espresso with a generous layer of sweetened condensed milk at the bottom. Heaven!
A home cooked breakfast by a local consisting of a spring roll, spicy noodles, sliced pork, peanuts, coriander and a wee quail’s egg.
More bike riding in the heat had me running for cover mid-morning and in need of a refreshing and caffeinated drink. This is iced Vietnamese coffee and I drank it at least once every day in Vietnam. It’s delicious and refreshing and my go-to drink this summer (although I fear having a tube of condensed milk in the fridge will be very dangerous).
This coconut tart from The Cargo Club was so delicious I actually ate it for morning tea everyday I was in Hoi An. Oops!
Bánh xèo, a crispy pancake which is a speciality of Hoi An.
Bánh mì!! I swear I could live on these. This one consisted of crunchy pork, pickled veges, coriander and lots of chili!
A visit to the Central Market in Hoi An was a whirlwind of colour and smell.
Ummm “green things”. Any ideas??
Fish fish everywhere!
On our overnight junk boat trip on Halong Bay we had the most beautifully presented dishes – I almost felt bad eating each work of art!
Freshly caught crabs
Look at the beautiful border of vegetables on this calamari dish! Gorgeous.
The prawns came out adorning the most beautifully hand carved vegetable centrepiece. We were given a demonstration the next morning and I took step-by-step photos – will post them soon.
The bird was carved from a radish, and the flowers from a chili and cucumber.
This beautiful flower was carved from a carrot.
This fishnet was also carved from a carrot!
A lady selling fruit in Hanoi
Fried dough! This is served everywhere on the streets of Hanoi in a variety of flavours and textures.
And a final meal in Vietnam of caramelised pork and veges – delicious!
I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of what I ate on my Vietnam trip, I’m hungry!
I have slowly started trawling through the 1000+ photos I took in Vietnam and will be sharing more with you soon. Turns out I took so many photos of food in Vietnam I will have to do this post in 2 parts – Vietnam is a foodie paradise after all!
Fresh tropical fruit is in abundance and regularly served after meals. Here is a plate of rambutans I snacked on.
Little bananas being sold from a street cart in Ho Chi Minh
Dragon fruit at a local market in Ho Chi Minh
Meals were simple and small in rural areas. This was my lunch enroute to the Mekong Delta and I was starving within an hour!
I sampled some snake wine in the Mekong. It is produced by infusing whole snakes in rice wine and tastes, um, snakey.
Delicious homemade springrolls from my homestay host.
I came across these ladies sorting fruit in a village in the Mekong Delta. They kept giggling and staring at me and my translator informed me they thought I looked like a doll and they liked my nose. Also, would I like to spend my life working with them, sorting fruit? I politely declined.
On a side note, everyone squats here. They must have thighs on steal! I only had to use a squat toilet once and 30 seconds in the position had me whimpering.
I visited a candy factory in the Mekong where they produced all sorts of Vietnamese treats. First they demonstrated splitting the coconut and extracting it’s milk. This would then be used in a coconut caramel.
Rice was cooked over a high heat in what looked like a giant wok until puffed.
The puffed rice was then mixed with a flavouring (coconut caramel or savoury) and pressed out flat onto a board to cut up.
The ladies then wrapped up the puffed rice squares for sale.
Finished treats ready to be sampled. Delicious!
I also watched a lady making rice paper wraps, a fiddly process that she made look effortless.
I ate stir fried Morning Glory with nearly every meal – so fresh and delicious!
You can’t visit Vietnam without many bowls of delicious Pho.
Wandering through local markets in any Vietnamese city is always fascinating. Here we have all the garlic and onions you could ever want.
Dried starfish. I am not sure if they eat these, but can’t help but think they would make a pretty (albeit stinky) Christmas tree ornament.
The markets are often an assault on the senses, particularly when you hate the smell of fish. Let alone dried prawns that have been sitting in the sun all day.
Pufferfish! Another addition to my fishy Christmas tree?
I stumbled upon a delicious looking feast at a temple, perhaps this is laid out for the monks?
At a fishing village near Nha Trang I saw a darling little girl frying quail eggs in a mini pan. Heart melted.
And as we took the boat back to Nha Trang we were presented with a great spread to feast on full of spring rolls, freshly caught seafood and veges.
I hope you enjoyed some of these Vietnamese foodie highlights, stay tuned for part 2 !
I often get asked by friends and family for my tips on nabbing a cheap fare. Sometimes you get rewarded for planning ahead and careful organisation, other times you just get lucky and manage to grab an awesome fare! Regardless, these ideas will help make securing a cheap deal much easier.
♥ Book early
Take advantage of earlybird sale fares by booking your flights as far out as possible. By planning ahead and booking early you can make some serious savings, particularly if you are travelling close to Christmas or during school holidays.
♥ Be flexible with your flight dates
Flexibility with your dates of travel is the key to finding cheap flights. The more flexible you are with your travel dates, the more you can take advantage of cheap flights when they go on sale. But don’t worry, you can still get a great deal if your dates are more restrictive – it just takes a little more work!
♥ Fly with lesser known airlines
Consider flying lesser known or emerging airlines such as Etihad, Vietnam Airlines or China Southern. This also gives you a good opportunity to enjoy a stopover in another country along the way.
♥ Sign up to airline newsletters
Airline newsletters are a great way to find out about early-bird specials and the latest sale fares to the most popular international and domestic destinations.
♥ Follow airlines on social media
Like airlines on Facebook and follow them on Twitter – they sometimes offer exclusive sales to fans and followers.
♥ Fly outside of peak travel periods
Research your chosen destinations’ peak and off-peak times and try and plan around major holidays. Ticket prices are set according to demand, so the cheapest tickets can be found on the days with the least demand. Consider flying mid-week to get a cheaper fare.
♥ Consider alternate airports
Expand your search to include secondary airports. Small budget airlines often don’t fly to major airports, but to nearby secondary ones. Those budget airlines are often much cheaper than the bigger ones. Also consider avoiding large international airports such as London and start your Europe trip in Frankfurt or Amsterdam to avoid the high airport taxes.
Several food bloggers and I (Tara, Sophie, Mel, Christine and Megan) were in Adelaide prior to the start of EDB and decided we needed to trial one of Adelaide’s many dessert bars. After a quick scour through Urbanspoon a few days prior, we settled on the newly opened Astonish Patisserie.
We were warmly welcomed and led to a table where we promptly buried our noses into the delicious sounding menu. We finally decided on the Chocolate Magma Cake, Pavlova, Panna Fire, Half-Cooked Cheese Cake and macarons (all for research purposes of course!)
Half Cooked Cheesecake $15.00
This was a delicious combination of biscuit crumbs, fruit and “half cooked cheesecake” which was almost like a creme brulee. I probably stole more than my fair share of this!
A deconstructed pavlova consisting of meringue, cream, strawberries and mint. Light and heavenly! I think I will be making a similar dessert to this a lot over summer.
Chocolate Magma Cake $14.00
This cake featured Belgium chocolate soft cake with a side vanilla chantilly and blue berries. It oozed oh so sexily when cut into but I felt it was a little dry on the inside. Needs more ooze!
Macarons, assorted flavours
Well they looked pretty but I can’t eat them. Hmf.
Pana Fire – $18.00
There was a lot of drama surrounding this dessert with the bombe alaska lit at the table. This dessert featured vanilla pana cotta, rhubarb jelly, pistachio bombe alaska and brandy snap. There were a lot of contrasting flavours going on here which I found a little overwhelming, however I loved the pana cotta and the brandy snap!
We had a wonderful afternoon with great company and delicious treats. I really hope this dessert bar trend spreads to Sydney soon.
I am back now from an amazing and exhausting long weekend in Adelaide for the Eat Drink Blog Conference. I am yet to go through my photos on my DSLR yet (I still haven’t even gone through my Vietnam ones… *cough*) but for now you can check out some highlights courtesy of Instagram.
I stayed with my friend Alex for the first night and I was provided with a hooded English flag onesie to sleep in – the height of fashion!
Knowing I had a weekend chock full of eating ahead I went for a healthy lunch on Friday at Galaxy which featured a delicious eggplant and potato filo and generous helpings of salad.
I then met up with a group of bloggers at Astonish Patisserie and we feasted on a variety of amazing desserts including a half-baked cheesecake, chocolate fondant, macarons and pavlova. It was all delicious!
I waddled to meet a friend at Botanic Bar for a cocktail (loved it) before meeting my other friends at Est Pizzeria - the pizza was delicious but the star of the meal was the wood fired gnocci. Oh my goodness.
I was so full I could barely breathe but that didn’t stop us from going to Chocolate Bean for dessert! Look at the array of gorgeous treats! And they also had an amazing gingerbread hot chocolate but I could only manage a sip, I was on struggle street.
We first had a tour of the Adelaide Central Market. I was dying of jealousy, why don’t we have something like this in central Sydney? Come on guys!
We hopped on buses, some off to the Barossa and my group was off to McLaren Vale! It was a gorgeous day.
We visited the D’Arenberg winery and did a wine blending class! I don’t usually drink red so I fear my “special blend” may be hideous. Regardless, I have lugged it home and am forcing my Dad to drink it.
My favourite part of blending was that we got to play with dry ice!!
And then we got to drink bubbles! My favourite.
Then it was back to the hotel for a quick outfit change and off to the Hilton for an amazing dinner. The menu was insane! I loved pretty much everything except the ginger snow cones, which confused me.
We were up early again for Day 2 and were greeted with a delicious array of pastries from Red Door Bakery
We did a food styling class with Fiona Roberts which was fun. I need more props!
Then we went downstairs to the markets again, where they had opened for us on a Sunday to serve us a VERY special lunch. I ate so much amazing bread, butter, cheese and cured meats.
There was a delicious chocolate fountain by Providore and MORE dry ice! Yes!
After a few more talks it was suddenly afternoon tea time and despite being completely stuffed I managed to sneak in a few cupcakes and cake pops from The Cupcake Table!
What an amazing and filling weekend. I had so much fun, learned a lot, met loads of new people and I cannot wait to return to Adelaide again soon. Thank you Tourism South Australia!
Hello everyone I am home! I had a wonderful time in Vietnam and took over 1000 photos (!!) Whilst I sort through those, I will share with you some Instagram snaps I took to give you a little taste of my trip. Highlights included:
♥ Floating down the Mekong delta in a rickety boat, wearing a silly hat.
♥ Meeting far too many snakes in the Mekong Delta, and then drinking SNAKE WINE
♥ Waking up with a Vietnamese family in the middle of the Mekong. I was surprisingly perky considering I slept huddled under a mosquito net, praying that no geckos would fall on me. Meeting this darling old lady who owned the house was a great experience.
♥ Travelled back to Ho Chi Minh City by yet another boat, drank a coconut
♥ Ate delicious pho at Pho 2000 (Bill Clinton ate there once, as demonstrated by the countless photos lining the walls)
♥ I explored the Viet Cong tunnels and booby traps in Cu Chi (very claustrophobic). Back in HCM I finished my dinner and looked in the kitchen to see a kitty lounging on the prep bench (health and safety?!) But it was ok cause I got to play with him and he combed my hair with his claws. His name was Tommy.
♥ Had a fantastic time at the Nha Trang mud baths!
♥ Nha Trang beach was eerily beautiful
♥ Stayed in a gorgeous hotel in Hoi An and thoroughly enjoyed the pool (it was so hot!!)
♥ Woke up at 4.30 to go sunrise bike riding, fortunately there was a strong black Vietnamese coffee with a thick layer of sweetened condensed milk waiting for me at the end.
♥ Ate amazing food in Hoi An, tried betel nut and then wielded a knife at cooking class
♥ Fell in love with a stray, hungry kitten in The Forbidden City in Hue. Probably got cat rabies.
♥ Explored the grounds of Tu Duc’s Tomb
♥ Was disappointed to find out my hotel in Hue did not allow Liza Minnelli-esque prostitutes.
♥ Had a perfect example of why Hue is considered the rainiest city in Vietnam. The storm rolled in as we cruised down the Perfume River and soon enough our scenic boat ride wasn’t so scenic anymore.
♥ Returned to our hotel to find out entire street flooded!! Oh dear…
♥ Boarded our private junk boat for an overnight trip on the spectacular Halong Bay. I briefly enjoyed the sun deck before hiding in the shade.
♥ HALONG BAY IS AMAZING
♥ I stole the captain’s hat
♥ And then watched the sunset
♥ Our chef onboard the boat created the most beautiful vegetable sculptures. He demonstrated how to make the lotus out of a radish and a fishnet out of a carrot. A bit beyond my knife skills I’m afraid!
♥ Loved the hustle and bustle of Hanoi
♥ Said goodbye to Vietnam and hello to Hong Kong for a few days. First stop, the Michelin-starred Din Tai Fung for truffle dumplings!
♥ Tried an amazing cocktail featuring earl grey caviar and foam, and took in lovely views before flying home.
What an amazing trip! I am terrified to look at my credit card bill…
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