Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

conveyor belt sushi

Went to one of those conveyor belt sushi places on Saturday for lunch. It's a bit like playing russian roulette...there's no way of telling just how long some of those plates of raw fish might have been sitting on that conveyor belt, gently incubating enteric bacteria. The strategy, I guess, is to target the fresh stuff as they get added to the table. Still...nothing wrong with living a little dangerously from time to time. After all, I figured, I'd still have Sunday to recuperate from any potential food poisoning episode.... Fotunately, none eventuated.

Friday, September 26, 2008

European adventure

Less than two weeks to go before my work trip to Finland and Sweden. I've now decided to spend a weekend in Helsinki after the conference to catch up with friends, and to visit some museums and design stores. I'll then be catching the overnight ferry between Helsinki and Stockholm. My Swedish colleague promised to take me sightseeing when I arrive. Then, it's an evening train ride to Gothenburg for work before making the journey back to Oz.

I've actually never been to Sweden before and am especially looking forward to the Swedish part of the visit. I'm even contemplating the thought of sampling fermented herring, surströmming, a northern Swedish delicacy. The fish are fermented for several months in brine and then canned. Evidently, the smell is so bad that the dish is best consumed outdoors. Opening the can itself of also sounds like a potential safety hazard...due to the fermentation process, considerable pressure builds up inside and to avoid being squirted with fermented fish juice, it's customary to open the can under water (in a bucket). I guess the bucket will also be handy if I react adversely to the taste of the fish.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shopping, babies and hang overs

Took a train ride on Saturday morning with Nate to Yarraville for a walk. Nice little village with some good cafes near the train station. Had a blue berry muffin (my favourite) and then caught the train back into the city, where we caught up with a friend of mine who had just arrived from Europe (and will be based here in Melbourne for at least the next two years). Having lived out of a suitcase for the last 15 months, T had travelled light and desperately needed some new clothes. Mind you, I've never seen him wearing anything other than black jeans and black shirts which made for a very easy shopping experience (though we did convince him to branch out and buy a grey shirt too).

Went to visit some other friends in Northcote in the afternoon to check out their new baby. I also promised them some fish for their pond (see last post). So...armed with gift for baby and a bag of live fish, I journey by tram to Woz's place and spent the afternoon sipping tea and pulling funny faces at the baby who seemed rather perplexed by my shaved head. Meanwhile, Nate trudged off to a birthday party where he proceeded to party just a little bit too hard...He suffered a massive hang over the next day and had to go to work. I was not very sympathetic....I spent a relaxing day doing domestic chores around the house and then headed off to Prahran in the arvo where I sampled THE best smoothie ever...mmm...mango.

Friday night peking duck

I was obviously feeling ambitious on Friday afternoon when I suggested to a couple of colleagues that they should pop round to my place for Peking duck.

"Already have the pancakes", I said. "I'll just go and get the roast duck."

Two problems...Didn't factor in (1) leaving work late and (2) being caught up in hail storm which delayed the trains. And seeing as I had a bucket of live fish with me (don't ask), I had to head off home first before going to Chinatown to get the ducks. Anyhoo...managed to eventually get back to my apartment, offload the bucket of fish and then hopped onto the tram to get back into the city.

At 6.30pm, as I got off the tram at Flinders Street, I realised that there was no way in hell that I was going to get the ducks and be back home in time to prepare it. No problem. I postponed the dinner by half an hour. This gave me just enough time (to the nearest second) to pick up the various condiments I needed from the asian grocery shop (which was packed!) and to pick up two roast ducks from my favourite chinese BBQ place.

Got home, dropped groceries all over the kitchen bench and got straight into deboning the duck (no...I didn't masticate the bones). Of course the guests arrived on time; damn those scandinavians and their punctuality (why can't they be more like Germans?). Made guests entertain themselves while I completed the deboning, chopping, assembly process and by 8.45pm we were chowing down on the ducks. Guests left satiated around 11pm.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reality TV...

Nate and I headed off to South Yarra last night for dinner with a bunch of his work colleagues. The circumstances surrounding the dinner was somewhat unusual....we were going there to make the restaurant look busy for a reality TV show called The Chopping Block. The premise of the program is that two restaurant battle it out for the chance to win a cash prize (and a whole lot of publicity). The show films both restaurants before and after a 24 hour marathon makeover to revamp the venue and the menu. We were there for the 'before' filming. The restaurant was closed to the public and everybody had to sign a release, consenting to a whole list of demands (e.g. being filmed and/or secretly recorded with hidden cameras and microphones). Nate's work colleagues were very nice. I wouldn't class them as adventurous eaters though (half of the group required forks and spoons). We ended up ordering what I would call 'aussie chinese'...dim sims, spring rolls, beef and black bean, honey prawns, lemon chicken and sizzling beef. These are the kinds of stuff I haven't touched since I was a kid. The filming wasn't too intrusive (for us at least)...mostly because the cameramen avoided our table as if we were a bunch of lepers (choosing, instead, to film the pretty people downstairs). Food came out very slowly ... but I guess the program would want something negative to capture on film so that the restaurant can show improvement. I'm not sure the delays were the kitchen's fault since there was a lot of cameras and filming going on.

Monday, September 15, 2008

the broken marble

Bought a marble statue last week. It smashed into three pieces on the weekend (a combination of uneven carpeting and slight breeze from an open window). Managed to piece it back together with superglue. I now have it sitting on the kitchen bench top. Hopefully it's more stable there.

When it comes to smashing works of art, it seems I am in good company. Here are my top three:

1. 17th century chinese porcelain vase smashed at the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge by a museum visitor when he tripped on his shoelace.

2. The National Gallery of Australia's 1500 BCE ambum stone damaged as a result of a fall.

3. Casino mogul Steve Wynn pokes hole in the canvas of his Picasso painting with his elbow. He had paid $48.4 million for the painting at auction.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The sushi binge

Just finished dinner with a friend last night in the city when I happen to go past a sushi shop in the Target Centre. I guess it was that time of night when they start to heavily discount the sushi before they close the store. So...even though I had just polished off a huge bowl of noodles, I bought myself 4 sushi rolls for $5! Yes...$5. Was tempted to get 8 rolls for $8 but that would've been obscene.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Red Pepper

Went out for dinner at Red Pepper last night with a Venezuelan, a Finn and a Swede. Red Pepper is a popular indian restaurant located two doors up from Green Pepper (another indian restaurant). I often wonder if the two restaurants are actually owned by the same people (or whether its a blatant case of one trying to capitalize on the popularity of the other). If I ever opened up an indian restaurant on Bourke Street, I'd call it Yellow Pepper.

The restaurant was packed with indians. A good sign. Walked up to the counter, perused the menu and then ordered the most inauthentic item on the menu...the chicken tikka masala (CTM). CTM is one of my favourite dishes but it is very much the 'honey prawn' of indian cuisine. The origins of the dish is unknown but some rekon it originated in the UK, where it's hailed a national dish. CTM is so popular, in fact, that it accounts for one out of every seven curries sold there. The others in my group went for more authentic dishes. The Swede ordered a curry goat which looked remarkably similar to the curry lamb ordered by the Venezuelan. The Finn asked for the hottest item on the menu, a chicken vindaloo. All were satisfied.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The kylie debacle

After all the trouble that went into securing the tix for the second Kylie concert, it turns out that two of my friends wont be able to go because it clashed with their prearranged holiday to Hawaii.

Fridge update...

I killed the fridge. Well...actually, my colleague killed it when he hacked at the freezer compartment with a bread knife and let out all the refrigerant. So...not communal fridge and bad earth karma for releasing CFCs into the atmosphere and depleting the ozone layer (it was a very old fridge). Spoke to our resources manager about getting a new fridge. She wasn't terribly enthusiastic. Apparently it is low on the priority list.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Got those tix...

It took two well-coordinated people with their mobiles (one on the net in hospital and the other in a queue at Exhibition Street) to secure my ticket to the Kylie concert. The first concert for Mel evidently sold in record time and Nate had to wait in line for the second lot. 20 December is marked with an X.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The fridge

I took the brave step to clean out the communal office fridge in the tearoom last night. I tossed out all the items that had grown legs, sprouted hair or otherwise started to speak in foreign tongue. Mummified and petrified items were sent to the museum, and I tossed all 'use by' items that had long exceeded their use by dates (e.g. October 2007). Had a colleague help me chisel out some of the ice that had accumulated in the freezer to stop the tea room from flooding overnight (as a bonus...we found the remains of what might have been a woolly mammoth).

This morning, I mopped up a reddish coloured soup from the bottom of the crisper and retrieved a most unfortunate pear that had transformed itself from a solid into a liquid and had managed to seep through the grills on the fridge shelf onto the next shelf below. I tried not to wretch.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A day in Sydney...

Woke up at an obscene hour of the morning yesterday to get to the airport for our flight into Sydney. Arrived around 8ish and took a taxi to Newtown to meet up with one of Nate's friends who is a tattoo artist. He just opened up his own business in Newtown and is, himself, completely covered in ink. He was telling us about a fantastic vietnamese restaurant near his work that does the most amazing fresh spring rolls. He took his folks there recently and - completely out of the blue - the restautant owner turns to the tattooist's father and says "your son looks like a junkie but he is a nice boy".

Afterwards, Nate and I headed to Newtown station to get into the city. Here, as we were trying to figure out the train timetable and ticketting system of Sydney's Cityrail network, I suddenly realised that Melbourne public transport may not be the worst in Australia after all (but don't tell Connex). A fellow commuter was quick to point out (when she realised we were tourists) that the Sydney locals call it "Shittyrail".

Arrived in the city and headed up to Surry Hills for a wander before returning back into the city to meet another friend at the Chifley Plaza for lunch. On the way, we were stopped in our tracks by the most amazing floral displays at the shopfront of the city's David Jones store along Elizabeth Street. After a few photos, we made our way to the Plaza for lunch. Ended up having freshly prepared sushi in a food court...Sydney sushi leave Melbourne's for dead).

The buddha exhibit at the Art Gallery of NSW was fantastic. The gallery itself, however, was undergoing some major refurbishment and looked like a giant construction site. Strangely, the facade of the sandstone building was graffitied in chalk. I think it was an artistic statement (since the graffiti was repeated in marker pen on the windows inside the gallery). I wouldn't class it as street art (which I can appreciate)...these seemed more like badly executed random doodles.

The next stop was the tropical house at the Botanic gardens which had a very nice display of orchids and carnivorous plants. Although we both sweltered inside the glass house, we soon realised (after we had left) that it was much better than the rain outside. Nate and I made our way to Circular Quay to join the other tourists at the Opera House (I felt like such a dag) before acatching a train to Town Hall. From there I convinced Nate that he should have scones and began telling him about the most amazing scones I had ever eaten at a cafe at the QVB. Unfortunately, I took him to the wrong cafe (alarm bells should have been ringing when I noticed that the menu offered japanese fusion food which did not sit with my memory of the last time I had visited the actual cafe). Still, there were scones on offer and I was satiated.

Dinner was at Kingsleys on King Street with my cousins but had to stop in at the Apple store on the way to the restaurant. What can I say? The shop was amazing. After a short stint playing with the gadgets, dinner beckoned and we left. Ordered a wagyu steak at the restaurant to see what all the fuss was about. Quickly realised that the fuss was probably because wagyu is deliciously tender and very, very tasty.

Got to the airport for the last flight back to Melbourne. Never seen Sydney airport so desserted before. Got home at 12.30 and was out of it the moment my head touched the pillow.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Those inappropriate, inadvertent messages...

Our boss just forwarded a confidential email to the entire department. Ooops.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Scandinavia 2008

Only a month or so before my trip to Finland and Sweden. Can't wait. A Finnish colleague (and dear friend) has already promised to take me from the airport to a summer cottage for a few days to relax before my conference. No doubt there will be lots of time spent in the forest picking mushrooms (the edible varieties) and I think I'm even up for a skinny dip in a lake (or two) and maybe a stint in a sauna. After the conference, I'm being flown over to Sweden to be an 'opponent' in a thesis defence. The host has offered to take me to Svensk Tenn in Stockholm so I can get my nordic design fix before going to Gotenberg for the actual defence. Yay!

The woman with the beard

Was coming home on Friday and sat opposite a woman on the train who felt the compulsion to pluck the stubles on her chin whilst on public transport. What's with that?