Whenever Christina and I look for stories, we generally always try to create that mix of travel, food, culture, venues and lifestyle.
I think we’ve hit the bullseye with this one.
This Edition also has a lot of firsts for us. Our first (extended) visit to Wollongong, our first vegan yum cha, our first time to Hurstville and my first cosmetic facial treatment.
We hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx
We’re pretty excited today – we’ve got a lunch date! This is Bodhi, a yum cha restaurant in the park behind the St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney.
It’s a beautiful spot right in Cook and Philip Park, and really unique – not just because there aren’t many (or any?) other yum cha al fresco places in Sydney.
Everything they serve here is vegan!
And here’s our lunch date: on the left is Jarrod and Brooke from the brilliant Nip of Courage – a company championing the art of Australian craft spirits.
Behind the camera is Kathleen, founder, architect and general genius of the brand.
Next to me is the excellent Josh Walker from Timboon Distillery in Victoria. His craft whisky is absolutely delicious. You can read more about his Port Expression Single Malt in our review on the Nip of Courage site here.
In fact Bodhi has a bottle behind the bar if you want to try some.
It’s great to see everyone, but the food at Bodhi really has distracted us all from our reunion.
We settle in for a sustained eating frenzy, sampling so many of the dishes brought round to us by the lovely staff here.
This is radish cake, also called daikon cake, turnip cake and – in Singapore – carrot cake.
As we’ll learn later in the week, this is a traditional dish for the Lunar New Year, but I’ll seriously eat this any time of day, month or season. It’s delicious. None of the names it’s known by really do it justice.
Many of the dishes here you’d expect to find on the vegetarian menu of a yum cha restaurant, but these prawn gao ji are a real surprise.
We’re really not sure these aren’t vegan, but the staff all assure us they are. They really do have the taste and texture of actual seafood, and they’re delicious too.
Before we all depart, Kathleen orders a quick dram of Josh’s newest addition to Timboon Distillery’s armoury: the Timboon Smoky 1881.
Josh has cleverly layered a level of peat to his whisky that adds a beautiful savoury character and lengthens the flavour.
I think our seperate expressions speak volumes: ever modest, Josh is quietly pleased, and I’m just in heaven.
Today, I’m being pampered by the good people of HydraFacial. It’s a therapeutic system that hydrates, nourishes and resurfaces the skin on your face, temporarily opening and irrigating pores .
Because it does so much at once, a full HydraFacial treatment only takes half an hour!
I’m laid out in my treatment chair while my therapist Peter applies the HydraFacial tool with its patented Vortex-Fusion action and MD HydroPeel tip to my face.
This ‘pen’ has three elements to it.
At its tip, there are holes within a spiral channel which pump serums, acids and nutrients into the skin. There’s also a vacuum that sucks everything – including dead skin and impurities – away from the dermis.
Finally, the edges of the tip are graded to gently exfoliate your skin as the pen moves over your face.
Those four bottles in the machine represent the different stages of the treatment, which delivers things like glycolic, hyaluronic and salicylic acids, peptides, antioxidants and exfoliants deep into the skin.
You can see the system explained and at work here in HydraFacial’s video.
It’s not necessarily a comfortable experience, but it’s in no way traumatic either. I leave feeling completely rejuvenated. My skin looks and feels smooth, clean and so nourished, and the best thing about it is it’s so quick.
The only problem: my face now feels several years younger than the rest of me!
This evening, we’re very excited to be going to a pre-screening of a new Aussie movie.
Long Story Short is a romantic comedy set by the beaches of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.
Taking inspiration from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Teddy (Rafe Spall) has a curse thrust upon him the morning after his wedding that causes him to leap forward a year every few minutes.
As he speeds through his life, Teddy glimpses the ruin caused by his stuttering habit of wasting time and opportunities.
I’m not usually a fan of the romcom, but this one – a tale of failure, epiphany and redemption (and of course love) – is clever, entertaining and really well-performed.
Don’t miss this one. And remember to bring a tissue. Not many dry eyes leaving the cinema as the credits roll here.
Inspired by our friend Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella, I’ve taken myself to Rozelle to check out the work of Sir Reuben. You can see Lorraine’s Instagram post that set me on this mission here.
I’ve got to say, I’m very impressed with this sandwich. It’s been too long since my last reuben and this bad boy is definitely the way I wanted to get back on the horse!
This is just their classic reuben sandwich but the menu has loads of other options, including a fantastic looking schnitzel sandwich and a pork roll on Turkish bread too. Check out the Not Quite Nigella review of Mr Reuben to see what I’m talking about.
Their coffee is great too by the way.
We’re in Wollongong this weekend! Amazingly, this is the first time we’ve been here for any length of time and you know what? We’re pleasantly surprised.
Our friends have just moved up here from Melbourne and they’re having a birthday party for their sons. It’s the perfect excuse for us to come down and have a look around.
First stop: our friends take us to a new brewery that’s just opened nearby. In fact, this place is so new, it hasn’t got any beer yet… well, not its own beer.
The menu of the Dusty Lizard Brewing Co is still replete with some fantastic Aussie brews worth trying.
The brewery’s namesake – a magnificent little bearded dragon called Dustin – comes out every now and again too. The owner had to get a small zoo licence to be able to have him here!
The licence is for 1-30 animals. Wonder what the other 29 will be.
Anyway, I’m really looking forward to them getting their own beers on tap though. Watch this space closely. I reckon it’s going to be brilliant.
We make our way down to the water (it’s terrible but I didn’t even realise that Wollongong’s city centre was so close to the beach!) and are welcomed to this scene.
Wollongong’s harbour beach feels more like somewhere in Cornwall to me – the rocky harbour wall, the pretty little lighthouse and the calm seas. Lovely.
Even more lovely is the feat that our friend’s mum, who’s Lebanese, brings along. She’s made my favourites (which is important because today is really all about me!): sfeeha – Lebanese empanadas, kibbeh (Lebanese meatloaf) and her special omelette.
She’s also fried up some Lebanese breads into a kind of bark, which is brilliant and worryingly moreish.
Love these little cupcakes for the kids too. I’m not allowed any though. But that’s ok. There’s plenty of kibbeh.
The park in front of the harbour beach is the perfect little spot for our birthday party. It’s good to hang out with these guys and celebrate with them. I’ve got a feeling we’ll be in Wollongong a lot more.
Today we’re joining a walking food tour of Hurstville to explore the wealth of East Asian food available in this southern Sydney suburb.
The tour is with Taste Cultural Food Tours, a charity and social enterprise established to build connections across cultures through food.
All revenue is invested into the community you visit or the Taste Tours Guide Training Program, aimed at young people, new migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
Taste Cultural Food Tours has a number of suburbs around Sydney to explore through food.
Our tour coincides with the Lunar New Year, so our guide Patrick has tailored the tour to show us more of the culture of behind this important date in the calendar.
We won’t be disclosing any venues of the tour here, as that’s the job (and surprise) of Taste Cultural Food Tours. But here are some of the things we try on our route.
These delicious dumplings are a northern Chinese style, denoted by the much thicker skins and use of lamb for the filling. These dumplings are traditionally part of the new year celebrations and are a staple on the table.
They represent an historic moment when a lord of a northern Chinese village prescribed dumplings secretly filled with special herbs to cure villagers’ frostbite.
It magically worked, so now dumplings resemble ears – and silver ingots for a good measure of prosperity.
Also traditional for the Lunar New Year is radish cake (which we also ate at Bodhi I mentioned earlier). This dense, chewy crispy-edged cake is made from daikon radish and served with a delicious chilli soy sauce.
I could eat this all day.
Our excellent guide Patrick brings us these exquisite egg custard tarts, also a traditional sweet at the Lunar New Year feast.
These sumptuous snacks are made with layer upon layer of thin-rolled flaky pastry and filled with eggy custard – you can only really eat one of these, but you want to munch on more.
I give chicken feet a go for the very first time and am pleasantly surprised. Much less bony and cartilaginous than I was expecting, and the sauce is excellent.
In the Lunar New Year traditions, it’s popular to eat the whole chicken with an emphasis on the head and feet, which symbolises unity.
In the same restaurant, we’re presented with this strange-looking thing. It’s a walnut bao – unique to this restaurant and specially made for Lunar New Year.
Boa come in many shapes and forms, sometimes quite plain and boring. But this one, shaped like a walnut and coloured with ground walnut too, is quite the opposite.
As you bite into the soft squishy dumpling, you discover a rich, gooey sweet filling – it’s creamy walnut syrup. This is like eating the best Ferrero Rocher you’ve ever had!
It’s been a fascinating tour that’s showcased some real food gems hiding in plain sight. We’ve tried food we’d never normally even think about ordering, and have grown a deeper understanding of what happens in and around Lunar New Year.
Thank you Patrick and the Taste team!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition. See you again soon.
Jim & Christina xx