Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bright Red Mac

Too many of my posts seem to be about food and food-related topics.

Whatever.  Here’s another one.

The general international viewpoint on American food is that it’s not all that.  And that the portions are too big and that’s why we’re all fat.  But no.  We’re all fat because it’s so damn tasty and that’s why we eat more of it.  And I set out to prove that in 3 easy steps.

Step 1:  macaroni and cheese.  From scratch.  Extra sharp cheddar, parmesan, feta, and gouda.  I made it for the Spanish boys weeks and weeks ago.  They were skeptical at first, but after a few bites, I swear they were horny for the stuff.  But here’s the kicker- when I suggested making it again one night, their faces lit up like little children’s faces on Christmas morning.  Not that I know exactly what that looks like in real life, because I’m Jewish and I don’t like children, but I’ve seen it in movies.  1 point for Phill and the Americans.

I’ve even done gluten-free mac n cheese and kosher mac n cheese a few times, and maybe I’ll meet a gluten-intolerant Jew and be daring enough to do a kosher AND gluten-free mac one of these days.  AND, better yet, I went to a dinner party a few weeks ago which had a red theme (because it was May Day and I think red is somehow associated with that, though I’m American and we don’t have May Day so I’m not entirely sure) and I decided that I needed to represent the USA a bit and do a mac n cheese… in red!  Copious amounts of red food colouring later, I had a neon red (maybe pinkish) dish of pasta that looked a bit like a scene from a horror movie.  (Notice that I added the “u” to coloring!)  But it tasted delicious.  See…


Step 2:  chicken tetrazzini.  Another American classic.  Another win!  They loved it!  I cheated and used the recipe from the Campbell’s soup website (of course I had to go to the American website because Campbell’s Australia didn’t have it), but it was good nonetheless, and it called for about 20 fewer ingredients and 45 fewer steps than making it from scratch like The Food Network’s website suggested.  I believe that is 2 points for Phill and the Americans.  Alycia said it best:

Step 3:  Ok, I haven’t figured out what my next dish will be yet, but I’m sure it will be good.  Besides, I think I’ve already won them over with the first two, so maybe I’ll quit while I’m ahead, though it would be fun to attempt something complicated involving peanut butter.  Comparing American cuisine to Australian cuisine… there’s no comparison.  Australia may have better health care, expanded gay rights, better international reputation, and a more laid-back culture, but the United States has the food.  No “buts”.  The United States has the food.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hot Van-on-Bus Action

“Hot Van-on-Bus Action” is the final installment in the three part series:  “Beyond Sydney:  Day Trips & Shit.”  There will not be anymore installments in this particular series, but rest assured I’ll have plenty of other shit to post about.

The Friday before my first day of work marked the final big bit of tourism in Sydney for a while.  Oscar and I took a day trip up to the Hunter Valley, one of the best known wine producing regions in New South Wales and world famous for its Semillon.  We were accompanied by two of my lovely American girls, Karen and Liz, and Liz’s two visiting American friends, Jeff and Rob, and a small van full of other characters.  The day started out with a bang.  Literally.

Our van driver hit a bus.  Great.  What a way to start off a day of wine tasting.  Nobody was even drunk yet!  Ok, it was just the side mirrors, and it only really set us back a few minutes while they exchanged information, but still.  We are all a bit nervous after that, especially because our van driver was… how do I say this… somewhat older than we would have preferred.  Not to be ageist or anything, but the age combined with the incident at the very beginning didn’t really do much to instill confidence.  I mean, have you been to South Florida?  I spent most of my formidable years there and let me tell you:  older drivers are often times quite worrisome.  Like that guy who drove into the post office.  INTO the post office.  And then got mad because the cops wouldn’t let him drive his car home.  No no no.

Plus it was 7am and we were all cranky.  Luckily, our van had those mirrors that fold back, so there wasn’t much damage to our car, but the giant mirror on the poor bus was just dangling helplessly from the side of the vehicle. 

Anyway, moving on, I won’t elaborate too much, but here’s the skinny:  we went to a cheese shop for a cheese tasting (I LOVE CHEESE) and then we went to two wineries - a big winery called Tempus Two and a little winery called Blueberry Hill (I LOVE WINE).  The little winery was a one man shop and I swear this dude should narrate documentaries about winemaking.  He was so complimenting yet modest of his wine and I really wish I had recorded what he said but you seriously need to go here and listen to what he says.  Then we went to lunch at the Blue Tongue Brewery, where we had schnitzel and did a beer tasting (I LOVE BEER).  Then we hit up two more wineries – IronBark Hill and Tintilla Estate – the latter of which had a sassy lady serving us and the former of which told us that they used ethanol in their fortified wine instead of brandy or rum or something.  Big mistake.  That’s the only winery where I didn’t buy anything.  Then we went to a chocolate shop (I LOVE CHOCOLATE) which had another cheese and gelato shop next door (I LOVE GELATO) before we were driven the 2.5 hours back to Sydney.

Ok, but here’s the best part:  we saw kangaroos.  IN THE WILD!!!  Winery #3 had a big field out back and there, waiting for our arrival, was a mob of kangaroos!  A mob is what you call a group of kangaroos, like a school of fish or a pride of lions or a pod of whales or a pack of rats or a shit of small children.  That’s what you call three or more small children, right?  Well of course our whole van ran over to look and take pictures and video of the kangaroos and we missed half of our scheduled time at the winery so I sort of felt bad for the lady running the place, especially when she was super sweet about it.  But then again it was the ethanol winery, so maybe I shouldn’t feel so guilty.  So yeah, here without further ado, are the pictures and of course – video of the kangaroos!

Our group!  From left to right:  Rob, Liz, Jeff, Karen, Me, and Oscar.

Wine sampling and price sheet from Blueberry Hill.

It’s a MOB!

It’s a bit fuzzy, but I’m no professional videographer.  Oscar hopped in front of the camera like a kangaroo at the end, but I was zoomed in too far to get it :(

Oscar with the vineyards at Tintilla Estate in the background.

Well, if you insist…

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Super Tasty Christians

“Super Tasty Christians” is the second part of a three part series:  “Beyond Sydney:  Day Trips & Shit.”  Look for the final installment in the days to come.

My first real excursion away from Sydney came the Tuesday before I began work.  Oscar and I woke up at the crack of dawn and hopped on a train to the tourist trap town of Katoomba – two hours away - in the Blue Mountains.  The Blue “Mountains” don’t really look like mountains.  Maybe more like little mountains?  Or itty bitty mountains?  Mountainitas?

Ok, they look like hills.

Whatever.  We’ll give them the name “mountains” because I think that’s all they’ve got here.  Anyway, the day was great.  We did some hiking, rode a few cable car type things, did some more hiking, rode a super steep railway car type thing, hiked, saw some rock formations and waterfalls and cascades, did some more hiking, ate some chocolate, hiked a little bit more.  You know, the usual.

Did I mention the tasty Christians?  Oh well, I shall tell!

So, a few weeks before our trip, I was reading a news article about a religious sect that operates a café in Katoomba.  I had to go.  Of course I wikipediaed them and it turns out that they believe that Jesus will come back if they recreate the way the church was back in the first century.  Or something like that.  They’ve been compared to Jews for Jesus because they celebrate Jewish holidays.  But they believe in Jesus so they are Christian and not Jewish.  Just like “Jews” for Jesus.  They’re Christian too.

So, anyway, each little community lives on a commune and I think some of them grow food and they use that food to operate a café which is how they make money.  They home school and have been accused of child labor and our experience there showed that they were a little bit socially awkward.  Not like crazy foaming at the mouth Branch Davidians in Waco awkward.  More like we’ve seen spaceships and been zapped by something awkward.  You know what I mean?

But, whatever they were zapped by has done wonders for their little café.  I had a chicken sandwich.  No big deal, right?  Well, it tasted fresh and organic and very healthy and overall placed a delightful flavor in my mouth that left me wanting more.  Oscar ordered nachos and of course I was skeptical because we weren’t in Texas but I tell you those nachos were absolutely divine.  Crisp, not soggy, with the ideal combination of beans, cheese, tomatoes, and the likes.  Maybe they should stop trying to recreate the first century and lure Jesus back with those nachos instead.  I swear it would work.  Plus, the inside of the café was super adorable.  Over all, I’ll say that those were some damn tasty Christians.  Or something like that.

Of course I have pictures…

Riding on your mom.  Sorry!  I mean the world’s steepest funicular railway.  Whatever that is.

The Three Sisters.  Feminine rocks?  They look pretty butch to me...

Maybe Oscar has a crush on the queen?  He's totally out of her league.

I like my men like I like my chicken:  milk chocolate and cheeky!

The Giant Staircase!  900 steps!  I think we did about 50 and turned around.

The café menu.  Even the description on the front is a bit tree-hugging hippie first century Jesus, eh?  Click to enlarge if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Baby's First Kangaroo

“Baby’s First Kangaroo” is the first of a three part series:  “Beyond Sydney:  Day Trips & Shit.” Look for the second and third installments in the days to come.

I knew it was coming.  It was almost here, and it had the potential to ruin everything.  “It”… was work.  And while it’s happening now and I can’t afford to change it, I decided to take full advantage of my last two weeks of freedom by venturing a bit beyond the CBD.  First stop:  just across the water to the fabulous Taronga Zoo.

It’s a zoo.  Big fucking whoop, right?  Well, yes.  For the average Australian, I imagine that Taronga Zoo isn’t all that AND a bag a potato chips.  Or potato crisps, actually, because crisps are chips and chips are French fries and wedges are more portly French fries and it’s all very confusing.  But for a “Yank” like me, it was pretty sweet.  First, you take the ferry there across the harbor – or rather, the harbour.  Then, you take the Sky Safari (gondola thingy) OVER the zoo to the top of the hillside on which the zoo sits, and then you work your way back down the hill while viewing all of the animals and you conveniently end up back at the ferry terminal at the bottom.  Did I mention the zoo is right on the water and the views of the city are amazing?  No?  Well, it is, and they are.

Of course, Taronga has all of the typical creatures:  lions, and tigers, and bears, OH MY!  And giraffes, and elephants, and an aquarium with seals and penguins, and a random peacock running around the food court.  But what was awesome was the large collection of marsupials and other native-Aussie fauna.  Yes, many zoos in the U.S. have Australian animals such as kangaroos, but the zoo here had a “shit ton” of Australian animals.  I think it said that in the brochure.

Maybe not.

There were kangaroos and wallabies and emus and crocodiles and cassowaries and wombats and platypuses (or is it platypi?) and echidnas and Tasmanian devils and koalas and a kookaburra sitting on the old gum tree… merry merry king of the bush is he… nevermind.

Anyway, through the use of expensive technology, I now present to you:  the zoo!

O. M. G.  YES! YES! YES!  My first kangaroo!  And he’s… licking his balls, maybe?  Thumbs up to that.

Cock of the walk.  Or emu of the… something.  Whatever.  He or she was just walking around like he or she owned the damn place.


This bird will fuck you up.  Seriously:  one of these killed a man in 1926, and killed a dog more recently in the 90’s.  It’s a bird forchristssake, but it can “disembowel a man with one kick.” Cassowary?  No, thanks.  I’ll have the chicken.

And what trip to the zoo would be complete without video of a koala?

Cute, eh?  He sleeps 20 hours a day and eats and plays in trees for the remaining 4 hours.

Lucky bastard.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Fuck You, Caesar Salad

Where do you get off?  Seriously.  Where do YOU get off?

The last time I checked, any salad that parades itself around with bacon and a hard-boiled egg is a COBB SALAD.  Are you confused, Cobb Salad?  Why are you calling yourself Caesar?  Did you have salad gender reassignment surgery and are now changing your name to match your new personality?  Maybe you are like the drag queen of the salad world – deep down you are Caesar, but on the outside you appear to be a Cobb?

Or is it vice-versa?  I just can’t tell.

Caesar Salad was invented in North America – not in Australia.  So, if you‘re going to serve it here, Aussies, you ought to do it the proper way - the North American way - the way god and creator Caesar Cardini intended it.  There should not be bacon in my Caesar Salad, nor should there be ginormous chunks of hard-boiled egg.  It's just uncouth.

All of the menus here in Australia clearly say “Caesar Salad”, but then my plate comes and my salad says to me: “HAHAHA!  I’m really a Cobb Salad!  Fuck you – you can’t eat me!  HAHAHAHA!” undoubtedly in some sort of French type accent because that’s the worst and it just adds insult to injury.

Ok, maybe not a French accent – that’s mean to the French.  Maybe a Quebecois accent.  Because when the French can’t stand a French-speaking accent, you know it’s the accent of evil.

And the “Caesar Salads” here in Australia speak with that accent.

And they are evil.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Did I mention I got a job?  No?  Well, I got a job.  I start tomorrow.


It took three months, but I think it was worth the wait.  I had the brokerage offers when I first got here, but I really wanted to switch to underwriting, and that’s what this is.  I’m starting off on a 6 month contract to fill in for a lady who is out on maternity leave.  If a permanent role opens up, they’ll sponsor me and keep me on full-time and I’ll get to stay.  If not, I’ll spend these next 6 months networking so hopefully I can get something else ASAP once my contract is up, get my sponsorship, and stay down under for a while to come.  With the connections and the Aussie work experience under my belt, I don’t imagine it will be difficult.  Also, they don’t mind that I’m taking a 2 week vacation back to the States after only 3 weeks of work, so that’s good.  After all, I’m in the wedding party of friends I’ve known for nearly half my life… I sort of have to go (and I want to go).

So yeah – details on how the job is going will follow in the next week or two.  In addition, look for blog posts on these topics during the month of May:

 1.  Delicious religious sects
 2.  How Caesar Salad is delusional
 3.  Hot van-on-bus action
 4.  Bright red macaroni and cheese