Monday, July 31, 2006

Glacier Pizza

Creamed corn on pizza. It sounds gross, but it was glorious with spinach, feta and chicken on a thick, but crispy crust.

The Hokey Pokey

I thought it was a brand, but it turns out Hokey Pokey is an ice cream flavor here in NZ (pronounced En-Zed). Four of us went through a 2 L container last night. I mean, the New York Times quoted an expert just this week who said the only way to prevent ice crystals from forming is to never leave a container of ice cream unfinished. I fully endorse the line of thinking.

But what is the Hokey Pokey, besides a silly little dance? Vanilla ice cream studded with caramel covered toffee chips. Great mouthfeel and flavorful too! I'm quite a fan of the super creamy, yet airy ice cream that dominates the market here. Not much superpremium ice cream to be found in Oz or NZ, but their mainstream stuff is mighty fine.

Another new ice cream discovery - served with kiwi, apples and granola. Almost too healthy for me, but it added a nice crunch to the mix.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Food So Good You Wish You Were Drunk

Yes, that's right. Christchurch has amazing drunk food. In my case, it was the "I arrived at midnight without dinner food." The sign said Fish and Chips, but they also served donuts, burgers, hot dogs, and a variety of other seafood (mostly fried). Walking through Cathedral Square to this fine establishment, a man played a reedy pipe and two girls did their interpretive dance. It was 1AM. I gave them $3 and they tossed a basket of chips into the vat of bubbling oil, with a piece of fish too for good measure. I carried my newspaper wrapped bundle back to the hostel where I collapsed onto a couch and dug in.

The problem with arriving at midnight is that I missed town's birthday celebration where they made a 150m carrot cake...

Fast Food Continued

Greymouth was surprisingly quiet considering it's the endpoint for a beautiful train ride across the South Island and the largest city on the West Coast (pop.13000). That meant our only convenient choice for a late afternoon lunch was McDonald's. For the record, soft serve cones are 50 cents here. I tried the Chick'n McCheese - a fried chicken patty with cheese. Pretty good. And being such a small town, McDonald's also had internet terminals.

Christchurch is like California

In Oz it's called Hungry Jack's. In New Zealand it's back to Burger King. I feel like I'm home again.

There's the Big Mac Index - a price comparison of Big Macs around the world. J introduced me to her McDonald's ice cream index. In Brisbane it was 50 cents. And then we walked into Hungry Jack's and found cones for 30 cents. Of course, we had to do a comparison (taste, not price!). She conducted her tastings over two days while I did mine over two hours. We concluded the 20 cents extra was worth it. The ice cream was not a cloying vanilla flavour(!) and the cone was fresh (though still disturbingly orange-hued).

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cereal Serial

I first came across Weetabix in Perth a few years back. I distinctly remember pouring milk over two flat wheaty biscuits and quite enjoying the whole endeavor. It was an eating experience that evolved with each bite, from crunchy to progressive mushiness. And then I forgot all about the weird cereal until I crossed paths with it in London, and loved it so much that I brought a box home with me.

If you asked what these fine biscuits taste like, my first thought would be cardboard, but seeing as I've not actually eaten any paper products of late, that would be inaccurate. Let's go with toasted oatmeal - basically bland. And yet it's curiously distinct. The US version, which is imported from Canada, just isn't the same as the original. And so I've been starting most of my days here with this not-exotic, but very much missed cereal.

Being a fan of local products, I had to try the Aussie version - Vita Brits. The corners are squared off and the biscuits more densely packed than their British cousin. I had two and felt like I couldn't eat for a week. Winner: Weetabix.

Total aside, but for those who prefer a little sweet with their cardboard, the Honey-crunch Weetabix variety are excellent.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Scandal in the Land of Arnott?

First off, a correction. I've been eating a packet of Tim Tams a week, not a box. When I made the box declaration to my co-workers, they stared at me like I was about to drop dead. And I see why, considering a box of Tim Tams contains something like 30 packets, so we're talking about nearly 300 biscuits. Cross-cultural difficulties. But I digress.

Swan tipped me off to some obscure trivia about Tim Tams. That a packet of Original Tim Tams contains ten biscuits, which is one more than you'd find in a packet of another flavor, even though the packets are of the same size and shape. Strange, yes. But I can accept that the Originals are sleeker than their flavored counterparts and can thus be squished into the packets in tens.

More mysterious though, is the rumor that despite the Caramel packets announcing they contain nine biscuits, there are only eight to be found within. I have yet to verify this mystery, but rest assured that I will upon my return to Oz. I was tempted to drop by the store today, but even I consider it bad form to tear through a packet of Tim Tams in a two days, which is all that's left between me and the land of many sheep. Baaaah.

Cookie Karma

I unsuccessfully attempted to chase down wattleseed at the shops this evening. Thursday is late night shopping here, meaning things close at 9PM rather than the usual 6PM. Made my way to the beautiful food court at David Jones - think of the Harrods food court, but on a slightly smaller, more modern scale (and sadly without the tea bar). CW had written me about wattleseed - ground up acacia seeds originally used by Australian Aborigines. Described variously as smokey, chocolaty, and almost coffee flavored, the most recent trend appears to mixing it in with flour when preparing a variety of baked goods. No luck finding wattleseed itself, but I did happen upon wattleseed anzac biscuits which were crisp and highly enjoyable. What I noticed most was a pleasing caramel note followed by a smokey finish.

And now that I sit here reading recipes for anzac biscuits, I'm pretty convinced that those are what the wonderful woman living next door to my grandparents spoiled me with as a kid. It drove me crazy that I'd never asked and that she'd moved away last time I visited. Time for some kitchen play...

everything but the...

Sly spoiled everyone the other night and made us a gigantic bowl of guacamole from scratch. We polished it off with two bags of chips. And it made me realize just how much I miss Mexican food.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Friend Food

I enjoy fried food, but I'm not a rabid fan, which is why I found it so puzzling that during my first weeks here, I managed to eat something fried just about every day. They do boiling grease really well here. A sampling of my new "bring on the heart attack" diet.

KFC popcorn chicken - I'm a sucker for marketing and completely embarrassed to admit that minutes after a commercial for this fine product aired on TV, I paid a visit to the neighborhood KFC. That I was able to drag Mork along made me feel better, because at least that made two of us who succumbed to a really bad commercial. Red Rooster (the local version) is on my list of places to try, but they don't have commercials.

Banana Fritters - I should have been tipped off to the fried component since the menu said "fritter", but apparently I was already comatose from the fried fish and noodle dish I'd already ingested. Happily, a side of vanilla panna cotta and a tablespoonful of caramel enabled me able to pass off the dessert as "oh, but I wanted to try the panna cotta, not fried fruit."

Fish and Chips - By far the best I've had was at the Sydney Fish Market, where they fry-to-order. The batter was ethereal and the seasoned salt on the chips made ketchup obsolete. I suppose this is as good a time as any to send a shout out to the potatoes here. They just taste better. Not so starchy would be my guess. And yes, I did just compliment a potato.

Finally, I don't think it's a coincidence that FRIED is only a letter off from FRIEND. Most times that I attempt to write fried (which is admittedly not often), I end up talking about my "friend chicken" or other such nonsense. Here's to my new friend, fried

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Is it a bad sign that when it started to rain as I walked down the street with my cup of ice cream, my first thought was to protect the ice cream from getting wet?

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Seven Slamming Flavors (and one that can't be slammed)

I finally tried all the flavors! Time for a review...

Original - It's lucky for me that I can actually get my hands on these in the States, because the Original Tim Tam remains my favorite. And they can also be purchased individually wrapped which makes Tim Tams on the go a reality. I love simplicity. These are simply delicious.

Double Coat - I thought the Original had the perfect biscuit-to-chocolate coat ratio, but somehow Double Coat works too. They're a bit bulky for slamming, but really good as a snack. Or breakfast.

Chewy Caramel - These are tops for slamming. The caramel melts into a gooey mess, but isn't that why we have napkins?

Creamy Truffle Temptation - The biscuit part of these are more chocolaty than the Original which is not a bad thing. In fact, it's good.

Black Forest Fantasy - A cheap way to turn a latte into a flavored mocha.

Dark Chocolate - I usually favor dark over milk chocolate, so it was with great disappointment that I sampled these and noted an icky aftertaste. Call me picky.

Latte - Though I adore coffee, I find these too sweet. My first Tim Tam was a Latte, but I doubt I'll revisit these anytime soon.

Tim Tam Balls - These don't deserve to be called Tim Tams. They're round and can't be slammed. End story.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I Have Chocolate on my Eyelids

Five hours, five cappuccinos, two turkish coffees, a shot of chocolate and three slams. The coffee festival was spectacular.

I'm sad to say that I missed the latte art championship, but I console myself that I was instead sipping wonderful roasts and careening around The Rocks with my eating buddies on a hot winter day.

Coffee in Australia tends towards espresso-based drinks. Drip coffee is rare and drinks are strong. It took me a few days to get the hang of ordering here since the coffee lingo is descriptive in a colorfully unhelpful way. A short black is an espresso. A long black is espresso and water. A flat white is coffee with steamed milk. And then there are lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos and mochas.

I devoted my day to comparative cappuccinos. At a dollar a cup, the lines were long, but the product didn't disappoint. A fair-trade roast won my vote - hot frothy milk (not skim) and a dark, but not burnt espresso. Piazza D'Oro also got my attention with chocolate shots so thick that a skin formed on top. Trying to hang onto my coffee and chocolate while reaching for a sample of cranberry macadamia nougat was almost more than I could handle, but I'm happy to report no spillage.

And then we slammed. Penguin, Jem and I rounded out our Tim Tam tasting by ripping into a package of Black Forest Fantasy, part of the scandalously named "Dangerous Liaisons" series of biscuits. It gave my coffee a nice cherry kick, but we agreed that Caramel still ranks first for slams.

Things I learned about slamming today. (1) Don't try to slam with a cappuccino if there's still foam on top. It doesn't work. (2) Don't laugh while slamming. Concentration is key, because it only takes a second for the cookie to crumble, which mine did, causing more laughter, panic, and somehow, chocolate all over my face.

I'll be working on my slamming technique. I've got a share pack of 20 Tim Tams and a week left in Sydney...

The Slamming Aftermath

Chocolate Stops

Penguin says "If you listen carefully you can hear me getting fatter."

Penguin, Jem, Sly and I hit up Paddington Market today for some last minute souvenir shopping, but not before we detoured to William's Chocolate on what else, William Street. Mango Penguins, Orange Koalas and Chocolate Dolphins were a great afternoon snack. We followed that up with a visit to Delicaseys and sampled the latte chocolate (dark chocolate with flecks of ground espresso beans) and quite possibly the best hazelnut chocolate clusters I've ever had. Roasted to a dark caramel color, the hazelnuts snapped in crunchy, flavorful manner, and though the bag said we had 16 days in which to finish our treats, we finished them in 16 minutes. And then we discovered Chilli Bark. At first taste it was merely a very smooth dark chocolate. And then the slow burn began...

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Crisp Report

Lis is conducting a Pringles survey, and being a diligent researcher, I paid a visit to the neighborhood Coles today. I'm no chip (or rather, crisp) expert, but none of the flavors struck me as unusual or particularly Aussie. Original, Sour Cream & Onion, Salt & Vinegar, and Tomato & Mozzarella.

However, J spotted a bizarre flavor when were were in Alice Springs a few weeks back. I'm sad to say I didn't try them, and for the life of me, I can't find them anywhere else. Who knew exotic crisps only lived in the most remote of places...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sydney Fish Market

When I got to the meeting place there was no one in sight. It was 7:03 AM. I guess no one likes waiting around in the cold when there's a fish auction in full swing. Three minutes late and no one I asked had any idea where the tour had gone. I was beyond disappointed. No behind the scenes tour of the second largest fish market in the world. I decided to console myself with a croissant.

Just as I was paying, one of the fish buyers I'd chatted up ran towards me, "I think the tour is upstairs. Follow me." Yes!

The market went electronic in 1999, replacing live auctioneers with an electronic system broadcast upon large screens. The auction clock begins with the highest price and continues to drop with each passing second until someone successfully purchases the crate(s) up for sale. About 200 buyers sat in the grandstand keying their bids into touchpads, and though it's technically a silent auction, the floor was far from silent. It appeared that everyone was in constant motion. Someone picking up his purchases and checking out. A forklift moving a pallet of mud crabs. Random shouting. With nearly 3000 crates of fish auctioned in three hours each morning, it's no surprise hardly anyone was sitting.

But what did learn about fish? Mullet is more than a hairstyle. Barramundi (my favorite in fish and chips) comes in a variety of sizes and goes by "barra." Swordfish are enormous and far larger than I'd imagined. Leatherjackets are almost always sold without their heads because they're bony and heavy. Bream inspired a discussion of rigor mortis and the freshness of fish. Mud crabs are pretty feisty. Yellowfin tuna get their name from a beautiful (and hidden) yellow dorsal fin. Snapper can be very, very red. Dory is a cute little fish, but not blue like the one in Finding Nemo. Flathead are unsurprisingly, flat-headed.

After sloshing around the sea-scented warehouse for over an hour, the tour came to an end. I was still clutching the croissant. It was buttery, flaky, no longer warm, but delightful with my coffee.

And then sashimi. At 9:00 AM. Tuna is so delicious.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mushy Peas

The genius in mushy peas is that they mash boiled peas with copious amounts of salt, creating a delicious (though not necessarily beautiful) heap of green mush. Piled on top of a meat pie alongside a scoop of mashed potatoes (with a sprinkle of gravy for good measure), you've got yourself Hannah's Tiger - easy to scarf down in all of its starchy goodness.

Hannah's Pies in Sydney is not so much a shop as it is a counter where people stand around inhaling pies. Not glamorous, but totally delicious.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Not the Cheesiest

The thing about the Oz edition of Kraft's Mac & Cheese is that the powder isn't as orange as the US version. The finished product looked almost normal, as if we'd used real cheese of a pale white variety. And the taste was more sugar, less salt. Sometimes only boxed stuff will do, but next time I'm buying a different box.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Fashion Statement

I'd heard so much about the Monarch Cake Shop's plum cake that I knew a visit was compulsory, but when I got there, the chocolate kugelhopf winked at me. Imagine my joy when I discovered they sell cake slices by weight! In a show of unusual restraint, I limited myself to only moderately ridiculous slices of each. First I tucked into the plum slice - moist vanilla cake studded with poached plums - divine. Then I devoured the chocolate slice which was less satisfying. I call it my two-course lunch. Several hours later, after I'd traipsed around most of Melbourne, I met up with Georgia, whose words of greeting were "is that chocolate on your chin?"

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Oz is a Great Brekkie Sort of Place

I walked into the Galleon Cafe to find flyers, newspapers, and mismatched dishes on the tables announcing a purposeful chaos. I'd had my eye on the cafe since my very first day in St. Kilda when I spotted a mean plate of waffles topped with berries and cream. I thought I'd made up my mind.

Plunked myself down at the counter and ordered a coffee. I was just about to order waffles when the parade of eggs commenced. Scrambled, fried, poached, and looking generally very yummy. The eventual winner - sweet potato fritters held together by a hint of feta, crispy on the outside, chewy shavings of sweet potato inside, topped with spinach and a poached egg.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

How I Ate Breakfast Twice

Breakfast # 1 was with Angie and Mork at a local place. Poached egg and toast, tomatoes and spinach. I even sampled a hot blackcurrant, which tastes like liquefied jam. Then I wandered off to do some sightseeing.

I soon found myself in cafe surrounded by yummies. I ordered my coffee and pointed at a beautiful (and smallish) egg tart, thinking it would make a nice snack. And then it arrived. An entire platter. Egg tart, bread, salad. What's a girl to do, but eat?

When in Hobart, check out Cafe Toulouse for a lovely:

Friday, July 14, 2006


Angie, Mork and I ate a fine supper at Mures Seafood in Hobart, Tasmania - highly recommended if you find yourself in the neighborhood. For a reasonable price, you can sample all sorts of nice things, which in my case included a bowl of smoked seafood chowder, fried scallops, chips, and a scoop of ice cream. We staggered our way back to the hostel.

Me: I have to go to sleep.
Angie: Yeah, I'm tired too.
Me: No, I mean I'm hungry, so I have to go to sleep.

This line of reasoning makes perfect sense to me. Angie and Mork just laughed and laughed and laughed until I couldn't fall asleep. Which of course means I got more hungry

Monday, July 10, 2006

Time for a Tim Tam (or Four) is My New Motto

The Classics remain my favorite, but that doesn't mean I haven't tried the Caramel, Dark Chocolate and Latte varieties. I'm averaging a box a week, but let's be honest, at nine cookies per box, that's just over one a day. And if it's Tim Tam Slam time, all bets are off.

And what, pray tell, is the Tim Tam Slam? It's a multitasking cookie. First a cookie, then a straw, all deliciousness. Wikipedia has the how to.

No More Lies

When I was a kid, we always played the same name game. State your name and something you like beginning with the same letter. I lied. Earth is alright, but Elephants? Time to come clean.

My name is Erica. E is for Eating.