New York to San Francisco
Sat 31st Oct, 2009 - by
A tale of two cities...
So I got a bit slack posting stories of intrigue and adventure from my
time in the US. It gets hard to find the time to write when you're always
on the move. But as I am currently stationary, sitting in yet another airport
terminal waiting to board a plane to Las Vegas have a little time on my
Since my last post I've travelled back across the country to the West Coast, but
prior to that spent a few days in Boston. Boston in steeped in history, a lot of
which was lost on me, but they do have a lot of pretty buildings to look at. Also
universities, and being such a massive nerd I found myself in Harvard one afternoon.
Which was all planned because the restaurant we had booked (EVOO) was only
a short distance from campus.
I'm not sure how best to describe the cuisine of EVOO (which nominally stands for
Extra Virgin Olive Oil). If it was in Australia I'd use the familiar catch-all of
Modern Australian, so here I guess I'd go for Modern American. Compared to the places
we'd been eating out in New York, it was a decidedly more low key affair, a bit more
relaxed, as is probably to be expected. But they did food well, and service too, although
one of the wines (a French chardonnay) tasted fine, but had a nose reminiscent of an unwashed
As I'm typing this, Sarah is making a few "suggestions" that I may like to consider
posting about. Number one: bagels.
Why don't we get bagels in Australia? I mean, we do, but we don't have cafes that serve
exclusively bagels. This place actually had an awesome bagel slicer/flinging machine that
interested me more than the bagels themselves, but Sarah assures me they were indeed "awesome".
Especially with lox - which is some form of pink fish paste. I wouldn't have thought
that was breakfast material, but there you are.
Sarah also insists I talk about Mexican food. Another thing we don't get much of back home.
There are many chains here of cheap Mexican takeout, with burritos as big as your head. And
heavy too, they make for a pretty satisfying lunch on the go.
We flew out of New York (after catching the train from Boston) back to LA for a 36 hour
stop over. We lunched at Duke's Grill. A restaurant we had first visited in Hawaii when
we stopped in for a drink at Duke's on Waikiki beach when we were on honeymoon. Sarah
didn't have her ID with her at the time, and so we never actually got that drink. Now,
ten months later, we have finally made amends. The food wasn't bad either, fish tacos are
nicer than you might imagine, and waffle fries are extremely tasty. The setting on the Malibu
beachfront was quite picturesque as well, with the odd dolphin making an appearance.
Once out of LA we headed North to San Francisco. San Fran actually has a pretty good reputation
in terms of its food. Also for hills. Lots of hills. A word of advice for anyone who travels here:
book a hotel at the bottom of the hill. That way, you may walk up to go to dinner, but rolling home
is much easier. We didn't actually get much of a chance to sample any of the upper end of cuisine as
we couldn't get in to the restaurants we were particularly interested in. I've also started somewhat
of a diet in the last few days, but not intentionally. Basically I tend to eat lunch at somewhere
typically American (see Bubba Gump below), and come dinner time am happy with going to bed without
We also spent one full day in the Napa Valley. Which included quite a few wineries, a nice buffet
lunch, and about half an hour driving around looking for Thomas Keller's French Laundry.
Not that we had reservations (we tried, couldn't get in), we just wanted to have a snoop around
one of the best restaurants in the world. We never did find it, but to be fair our only map was
not the clearest.
The weather we had was perfect, clear and sunny, which meant that we even got to see the Golden
Gate Bridge as we drove over it; this is apparently not all that common. A few things that struck
me most about Napa, besides the beautiful scenery, is that it seemed rare to find what we would
call small wineries. It appears as if almost every vineyard has fairly grand tasting rooms, and/or
tours, apartments, restaurants/cafes, media room (yes, Domaine Chandon had a media room), and
astronomic tasting fees. In Australia, tasting fees are usually nominal, $2 seems to be the norm,
here you won't taste for less than $10 (that's US$10 per person). And even then, you won't necessarily
get to taste all the wines, that will cost extra, especially for reserves etc. To be fair, it is (as
in Australia) often refunded upon purchase, but it still seems like gouging to me. Expect to hear
more on this topic on the next podcast.
Lunch was at Brix, a restaurant just North of Napa (actually not far from the French Laundry).
Sarah tells me she selected it for it's "lovely surroundings", although I think it may have more to
do with it's seafood bar. At our buffet lunch Sarah wandered over to gather a plate and came back
rather sheepishly suggesting she took more than her fair share of oysters. In the end we came home
with four bottles, one of which has already been consumed. I'm aiming to bring at least two of them
back to Australia with us. Depending on what I want duty free.
As in New York, our final day in San Francisco was spent doing the touristy type things. We toured
Alcatraz (which I actually highly recommend), then wandered around Fisherman's Wharf looking at (and
smelling) sea lions. We also ended up at that bastion of Americana - Bubba Gump(TM). For anyone who
doesn't know, Bubba Gump was a fictional shrimping company from the movie Forest Gump. Always looking
for ways to cash in, Paramount Pictures ensured that it is no longer so fictional. I didn't actually
have shrimp, but a Cajun chicken burger which was surprisingly quite good, although it would have been
improved immensely if only they'd used decent bread (a rarity in this country).
Anyway, it appears my plane is almost ready for boarding. See you next from Vegas! (Although I may
not be allowed to post from there, I've heard anything that happens there stays there).
A few more days in NYC
Mon 19th Oct, 2009 - by
New York, New York. It's a hell of a town
At the time of my last post I was about to embark on some time in New York. After a few
days here it's easy to see why people are so passionate about this place. It's a pretty
awesome city to look around, and if I had to live in the US, this is one of the places
I could do it.
So far we've done the MET, the American Museum of Natural History, been on the subway,
seen Times Square, been honked at by irate taxi drivers, and to a few department stores
(which cost more than all the other attractions combined). But this is a food website, and
surely what you want to know about is that thing on the left.
That's the first course of the seven course menu of Chef Vongerichtens Assortment of
Signature Dishes at Jean-Georges, a three Michelin starred restaurant at the South-West
corner of Central Park. It's a soft boiled egg, topped with vodka infused cream. Oh yeah,
and caviar. This is one of the dishes that Jean-Georges is famous for, and it's indicative
of the rest of the menu. It's simple food in terms of complexity of ingredients, flavours or
textures, but extremely well executed. And while many of the ingredients may not be particularly
exotic, they are....showy. And expensive. Lobster, foie gras, and caviar. Frog's legs,
garlic soup, scallops and squab also made the list.
It certainly wasn't cheap, even factoring out the bottle of Californian chardonnay (another
good American wine, damn it) and the strong Aussie dollar, it was probably the more expensive
meal we've ever eaten. I'd describe it as flawless, but that's perhaps a tad strong, so instead
I'll say it was without flaws. I can't legitimately complain about anything they served, or how
it was served, but it wasn't quite as mind blowing as I would have liked for the price. It comes
down to personal preference, for what it is it's fantastic. But since starting this site I've
decided I prefer cuisine that's a little more daring or creative.
Last night we dined at a Thai/Japanese place around the corner from our hotel after a long day
out museum-ing, but today was another food oriented type day. Lunch was spent at The Oyster
Bar, a New York stalwart that resides in the bowels of Grand Central Station. The setting
is far from glamorous, but you don't come here for the surroundings. You come here for the
selection of oysters, and what a selection it is. Sarah had a half dozen varieties, and still
barely scratched the surface (incidentally, I had a beer and some fries).
We wandered the afternoon away exploring Central Park, well maybe about a third of it. I knew
it was big, I never really knew how big. But I'm again getting off topic. Dinner was a short
cab ride (which I also love here) down Park Avenue to Les Halles Brasserie, the restaurant
that made Anthony Bourdain famous.
Sarah and I both really enjoyed Anthony Bourdain's book, "Kitchen Confidential". So when we
started planning our trip to New York we decided we had to make it here. There are actually
two Les Halles in town, one on Park Ave and one a lot further away, I'm not sure which one
was the original. We turned up about twenty minutes before our reservation (cab issues), and
had to wait at the bar for about forty before our table was ready. It was busier than we had
expected, when we were finally seated there were still a bunch of people waiting for tables,
and when we left there had to be 30 people queuing. I'm not sure if it was this popular before
the book, but it can only have done good things for its business.
The room itself was pretty loud and crowded and I didn't much go for their choice of music,
but most importantly the food did not disappoint. From the house made rillettes to the
beef short ribs, and (obviously) the steak with pommes frites, we were happy campers. The
portion size was generous, even the dessert (a chocolate creme brulee) was large enough for
Sarah and I to share without clashing spoons.
So that's almost it for our NYC adventure. We have a couple more days in which to find a
hotdog, see a Broadway show, and a few other miscellaneous attractions. But the next post
I make will probably be from Boston, or failing that back in LA before heading to San
From the west coast to the east.
Thu 15th Oct, 2009 - by
More LA then off to the Big Apple
Since my last post we had a chance to see a little more of Los Angeles.
And the only thing I could think as we drove around was "wow". And not
always for the way you might think. We bought a ubiquitous star map and
began on what can only be described as a slightly stalkerish tour of
Beverly Hills, looking at famous peoples houses and being reminded that
some people simply have too much money. More still have too little taste.
Also, forget everything you've heard about Hollywood. For the most part, it's
not fancy, it's not glamorous. It's a giant hole. There's a reason why, when
The Oscars are on tv, that the cameras never venture far from the red carpet,
or even turn around and look at the opposite side of the street. When our guide
(Sarah's cousin Vanessa) asked if we would like to get out and wander about the
"walk of fame", I was busy making sure the car doors were locked.
But this is a food blog, so I should at least mention food a little. For morning
tea we went to Sprinkles, a cupcake bakery in Beverly Hills. Delicious, sweet and
moist with a disturbing amount of flavoured icing, it's like a heart attack in a
For lunch, as promised, we arrived at Hooters in Santa Monica. It's basically everything
you expect and less. Waitresses in small and tight clothing wandering about making it
very awkward to look about. I simply didn't know where to look, so I spent most of my time
there staring at my food. The wings were okay, the burger less than average. It was like
McDonalds, but slightly bigger and drier; and delivered by a singlet with a face. I turned
down the chance to get my photo taken with a Hooters girl, and it's fair to say I won't
That evening we cooked a meal for our hosts (including poached pears in port and pastry and then
were off early the next morning for the East Coast. That's where you find me now, lying on
the bed at The Pod Hotel on East 51st street, after demolishing the best part of a "small"
pizza bought around the corner on 2nd Ave. I'm not sure of the name of the pizza place, but
it was past the first pizza place but not as far away as the third. I've been in New York
no more than a few hours and I already love this place.
Tomorrow is to be filled with culture, and then what will hopefully be the best meal of
our lives (so far), it's certainly at the best internationally regarded restaurant we've
From the other side (of the Pacific)
Tue 13th Oct, 2009 - by
Day 1 in LA (eventually)
We finally made it! We arrived at Melbourne Airport characteristically early, only
to have a half hour delay boarding our direct flight to LA due to it arriving late
(allegedly). Once we did board we were informed there had been a slight mechanical
fault with one of the engines and the engineers were on fixing it. Once fixed
we pushed back from the gate to the taxiway, started the engine, turns out it wasn't
fixed, were pulled back to the gate, re-fixed, tested, and away. We'd been sitting
on the tarmac for approximately 3 hours by this stage. At least they brought us water
A short 14 hour hop across the Pacific and here we are in LA. After a quick drop by
admissibility control for Sarah (her passport threw up some flag which resulted in them
having to ask her questions like: "when have you been denied entry to the US before?" (never)
and when were you last in North or South Dakota?"(never). This was all cleared up in the end
and we made it to Sarah's cousin's house near Venice Beach. We had a brief wander around
the beachfront and jetty before crashing for a couple of hours due to jet-lag.
For dinner we went to craft, a restaurant owned by some form of celebrity chef -
Tom Coicchio, who is apparently one of the judges on America's Top Chef. It's also some food festival going on in LA at the moment, so the menu was limited to a "Dine
LA menu", a tapas type affair with entrees, sides and desserts shared by the table,
and a choice of mains. Sarah had Diver Sea Scallops (which were huge) and I had the
Braised Beef Short Ribs. Why don't we get this cut in Australia? It has got about the
same meat/fat ratio as pork belly, but with beef. And the fat flows in deliciously melty
fatty goodness throughout the meat, rather thatn just on the top. We "went native" and also got a bottle of shiraz (or Syrah as they prefer)
from the Napa Valley. It annoys me that America can make good wine, it's so much more fun
to pretend that it's all to crass over here, it makes us feel superior.
And speaking of crass......
Day 2 in LA - Disneyland
Sarah had been excited about going to Disneyland for, well pretty much ever. She maintains that
when she was younger the other kids at her school used a Disneyland trip as a sort of status
symbol. Now a short 20 years later she showed them.
I won't say much about The Happiest Place On Earth. Maybe just one tip for anyone planning
their own trip to The Magic Kingdom (sorry, I love the amount of names they've come up with),
if catching the shuttle from LAX, just because a bus has a sign on the dashboard that says:
"Disneyland Express", that doesn't make it THE Disneyland Express. Turns out it might
just be some guy in with a mini-van and some spare time. But hey, he got us there.
On the bus home (a different bus run by a more reputable bus company) Sarah decided we should
do some real, traditional modern American cuisine. So she's currently out getting Mexican
Tomorrow will be spent touring LA (the touristy stuff, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, that sort
of thing) although there has been some talk of lunch at that great American institution
Hooters. Just so we're clear that was NOT my idea.
Quick and easy food
Sun 11th Oct, 2009 - by
Lachie suggested at lunch yesterday that I should but up a few more "quick and easy" recipes, starting with what we ate yesterday. I can't put up dessert (Banana & Drambuie Tart Tartin) since it's not my recipe, but the others are straight forward:
Rotisserie lemon and honey lamb, with almond and goats cheese baby carrots
Linguine with vongole clams, garlic and white wine
Also up now are a few standards that people have asked me for, namely Bulletproof Bearnaise Sauce and Turbo carbs (Roast Spuds with rosemary and garlic)
A while ago I added (but didn't post about) the recipe for the Gruyere pastries, or Gougere and I've since finally updated the Slow roasted pork hocks
Unfortunately, photos for most of these are on lachie's eee-pc. Which is probably in Lachie's backpack, still sitting on the tarmac (according to his last tweet) about to go to the US. So it might take a while to get some more photos up, but at least I can sit back, relax and attempt to wrap my head around the complexities of the Gourmet Wife's most recent request: Ron O'Bryan's pork trotter stuffed with cotechino and lentils. I think I'm going to need another beer...
Gourmet Husband on Tour!
Sat 10th Oct, 2009 - by
Tomorrow my wonderful Gourmet Wife Sarah and I depart on a much needed three week
holiday to the United States. As is out wont, we are intending to do quite a few
food centric activities. Including, but not limited to:
- Grand Central Oyster Bar
- Jean Georges (A three Michelin starred restaurant in NYC)
- Les Halles The French bistro of Anthony Bourdain
- Evoo in Boston
- And several less elegant destinations. Some pizza, burgers, Mexican, and all
that other good stuff.
We'll be doing LA, New York, Boston, San Fransisco, and Las Vegas.
I'll be blogging the best of what we find, as well as posting photos and tweeting the
journey. We've booked in with Dave to do a podcast the weekend after we get back, so
I should have plenty to say. But for now I'm off to finish packing.
Gourmet Husbands In Print!
Thu 1st Oct, 2009 - by
Gourmet Husbands In Print!
So as many of you may know (especially those of you who found the site via the article),
GourmetHusbands.com featured as one of eight Melbourne food blogs in the Herald Sun Extra Food
liftout. Us, along with:
Eating With Jack,
Totally Addicted To Taste, and
Where's The Beef? were described as
eight of Melbourne's best food blogs that review. I have to say, after being in this game
only a year I felt quite honoured to be in such company. One thing I would like to clear
up is the quote attributed to me by the Herald Sun was actually from Dave, I sent them
a quote that sounded a lot less like a wanker.
While the section on blogs took up half the page, the real action came before. The article
itself, on food blogs, was mostly devoted to an interview with George "I don't like bloggers"
Calombaris. For someone who is obviously a talented chef, successful restaurateur,
and extremely media savvy, something about this interview seemed absolutely bizarre. It's
just bad PR.
I won't go too far in my analysis, instead I'll just point to the great article at
Eating Melbourne, where you'll find the thoughts of most of Melbourne bloggers accurately
Now like I mentioned, I'm new to this game. However, when everyone's third favourite
Masterchef judge comes out and says bloggers "have no idea about restaurants. They've no idea
how they're run", something really got to me. I think the reason it annoyed me so much is that while I may
write about the food that I eat, I'm a paying customer first, and a writer second. I wonder how many
professional critics can say the same (I'm thinking zero). I'd just like to point out that I willingly make concessions for a
restaurant that is having a bad night, and most bloggers do the same.
On a final note is the downright odd quote from George: "what does wind me up about it is that
you're not able to respond to them".
Read that again.
Has he ever seen a blog? There's a comments button right there. On every one. I'm yet to find a print
review with such an immediate right of response, I've tried clicking my mouse on the paper but
so far nothing has happened.
Anyway, rant over. I hope those of you who have found our site through either the article, or links from
other people mentioning it, have a look around. Feel free to make use of comments button, everything on this site is opinion,
everything is open for debate, and that's half the point.