Sydney, Day 2

Sydney, Day 2

My mom is from Sydney and has quite the family over in Australia with 3 brothers and 1 sister that all have kids around my age. I grew up visiting them throughout the years it was about darn time that I introduced my husband to them. After years of trying to make that happen, today was finally that day!

My sister, Ryan & I made a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast, at the hotel and then we took off to find some coffee, a birthday card, and wrapping paper for my Aunt who celebrated her birthday in the day prior. We went to a few grocery stores before finding a card and had to go to a bookstore to find any sort of wrapping paper or bags. The differences in what stores carry in the US and AU are incredible. Almost every store in Australia is unique and has super cute designs. Chain stores / restaurants are much fewer and farther between. I quite prefer the Australian stores to those in the US.

Once we got what we needed, we ran back to the hotel, grabbed the gift, and took off in a cab to Ripples Chowder Bay for brunch. The view from the restaurant was beautiful and we had two big tables for the 20 of us! I can’t tell you how happy I was that everyone was coming in from all over Sydney for lunch with us. Ryan did a great job trying to remember who everyone was and we were all in great spirits.

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Since there were so many of us, we had a prix fixe menu, though the waiters were having trouble rounding us all up to order since we were all socializing! Oops.

Our first course was either deliciously buttery prawns or a goat curd salad with beet root. I got the prawns and could not have been happier. They were 8 inches or so long, buttery, and melted in your mouth.

The second course was either risotto, barramundi, or what most of us had, the steak with mushrooms and sweet potato puree – so scrumptious!

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Dessert option 1 was meringue – an Australian dessert of the most fluffy, cloud like pastry you could imagine. Ryan tried it and kept saying he “made a HUGE mistake” ordering the chocolate moose!

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After a lively lunch, we took some family photos of all of 11 cousins and then my sister, Ryan, and I with my aunts and uncles.

It probably took us about 30 minutes and some serious corralling from some of the cousins to get us out of the restaurant and into the cars since we were all chatting so much! We ended up in my cousin’s car to drive back to her and her husband’s new apartment. They just recently bought the place to start their new family and it had an amazing view of a national park off of the back balcony. We even saw a few kookaburras in the trees!

We had some great conversations and catch up time before it was time to head back to Surry Hills. My aunt and uncle were kind enough to take us on a brief tour of downtown and drop us back at the apartment. It was so great to see everyone!

While brunch started at noon, we didn’t get back until 6! Time flew so fast and we were pretty hungry when we got back so we took off to an Indian place that my sister had been wanting to try called Masala Theory. It was a “neo-Indian” cuisine an we started with some deconstructed samosas that were to-die for! We then split some amazing lamb chops in a mango puree, flaky naan bread, and a green veggie curry – yumm!

That restaurant turned Ryan into an Indian food fan – something I’ve been trying to do for years! We were stuffed and were glad to walk some of it off on the way back to the hotel.

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Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

I woke up this morning with a little wine-induced fuzzyness from our romantic evening prior. I was pretty proud that I set my alarm, charged my devices, and even pre-packed a little! I felt great though and it was time for another fantastic breakfast at the Coronaro Hotel. I didn’t eat apple pie for breakfast again this morning, instead opting for croissants, some prosciutto and cheese, and yogurt. Ryan ordered the “best pancakes of his life” which were more like crapes with a fantastic berry compote. He also got a ham and cheese omelette and I tried the Diocletian omelette made of prosecco and honey which, unfortunately, was brown/ greyish, looked pretty gross, and didn’t have much flavor.

After breakfast, we packed our room up, checked out of the hotel, and left our bags at the front desk. We had a minor panic when the front desk tried to give us our rental car keys back from the day before – the hotel was supposed to call the rental car company the night prior so they could pickup the car! Somehow, that didn’t happen and the hotel wanted to charge us for parking and who knows what the charge would have been from the rental company! Thankfully, the hotel comped our parking charge and got things sorted with the car company so the crisis was averted.

We decided to do a little shopping before our 1:30 ride to the airport. It was sprinkling a bit but that didn’t stop the businesses of the city! First, we stopped at Jupiter’s temple in the palace. Apparently, the tickets we bought to the bell tower two days prior included Jupiter’s Temple, so the guy at the front entrance just asked to see pictures of us at the bell tower as proof we bought the tickets – pretty smart move huh?

The temple was slightly underwhelming, consisting of one statue and 3 caskets, but seeing stone caskets from 10 AD was pretty surreal.

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After the temple, we walked to the green market and it was bustling! I wish we had a market like that in Texas! The smells of the flowers, herbs, meat, and cheese were intoxicating and even made my overly full stomach rumble. We bought some freshly shaved prosciutto, honey, lavender, and olive oils for our families and didn’t want to leave.

 

Eventually, the time came for us to head to the hotel. I had left over cheese, bread, and meat from dinner the night before, so that was my “light lunch” before we took off to the airport. Our cab driver was quite talkative and pointed out all of the historical sites along our 30 minute ride. He also told us the state of the country and how governmental corruption has made it impossible for foreign investors to invest in Croatia, how there are only jobs during summer tourist season and that, during winter, there are not enough jobs to go around. How the pay is not enough for young people to start family’s so more Croatians live outside of Croatia and in Croatia because there are more job opportunities. It was quite a sad but interesting point of view.

The Split airport only has 8 terminals and is super small. Checking in for our flight took about 30 minutes and we had 1.5 hours to kill before takeoff. The airport was so small that, once we did need to board, we walked the tarmac to the airplane and walked up a short flight of stairs onto the craft. There wasn’t even room for carry on bags! Fortunately, the tiny plane had no issues taking us to Rome, though it was too small for a gate and we took a bus from our landing pad into the Rome airport.

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It was about a 65 euro taxi / Uber ride from the airport to our hotel in Rome so we decided to take the train for 14 euros instead. The train was relatively easy to find as the airport is so well signed, and we were on a direct train to Rome quickly. The travel time taking the train vs. a cab was actually very similar too – so no time lost!

We were in a bit of a hurry at this point since we had a 8 PM reservation at Il Pagliaccio.  Translated as “The Clown”, Il Pagilaccio is a two Michelin Star winning Italian restaurant in the middle of Rome run by chef Anthony Genovese. Since there aren’t any Michelin Star places in Texas, we wanted to try one out as a honeymoon treat! We arrived at our hotel at 7 PM and the restaurant was about a 15 minute drive, so we needed to change quickly – the only problem was the guy at reception had trouble finding our reservation. I got about 4 emails over the past three days from Expedia telling me our stay at the Dharma Hotel was approaching and I had my confirmation sheet printed, so I was so confused. I handed him my sheet and he directed my attention to the date of our stay, September 30th, and reminded me it was only September 25th! I accidentally brought us to the hotel we are staying in before we head back to Texas! Ryan was not happy and the time was ticking!

The front desk guy called us a cab and we rushed to the new hotel, he dropped us off on a side street and we finally found the Spagna Royal Suites and rang the bell. The guy who answered said we were, yet again at the wrong place, and we needed to go to the other Spagna hotel down the street – seriously? Ryan was laughing at me and it was already 7:40 so when we arrived, huffing and panicked at the Spagna, they quickly tried to calm us down. The two reception guys called the restaurant to bump back our reservation to 8:30 and walked us through the amazing concept hotel. They brought us down to level two, where our room was, and walked us through the amenities, including a sauna in our room! There were even a bunch of fish tanks spanning the entire wall adjacent to our room with jelly fish and other sea creatures. How cool!

Jelly fish tanks at the Spagna Royal Suites in Rome, Italy

We quickly freshened up and were off in another adventurous cab ride, squeezing narrowly through alleyways packed with people and cars. We didn’t think we were going to make it a few times but successfully got to Il Pagliaccio in good time.

The staff at Il Pagliaccio was so polished, with white gloves and perfect timing, and I loved the ambiance of the restaurant. We were seated in a corner table and I couldn’t help but eaves drop on some of the interesting conversations at tables near us, spanning from the hedged-fund class dating scene in NYC, to tips on how to write thrilling, non-fiction novels. It was quite a scene.

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We choose to do the 8 course “surprise” tasting menu and started with a glass of Pinot Grigio before transitioning to a nice, 2012 Chianti Classico (Ryan’s favorite) to go with it.

The dinner started with 3 amuse bouche dishes, ranging from 36 month old parmesan cheese, dry yeast and venison waffle with salad, lentils and blue cheese, chickpea foam with anchovies and crunch bread, and a “surprise” mushroom dish.

The main courses began with a chilled mushroom soup and oyster in green, burrata and tapioca. The chilled soup was an amazing start to the night. To be honest, when the oyster arrived on our table, I was slightly hesitant, but I do love oysters. It ended up being a surprisingly delicious course with interesting texture bold flavors.

As a pasta lover, when the tagliolino came out with a savory sauce and freshly made noodles, all of my senses were sent to heaven! The first pasta course was followed with veal tortellini and carrots, and I was finally, again, reunited with truly Italian pasta. While my taste buds wished that the dishes were twice their size, my stomach was already starting to fill up – oh no!

We enjoyed some delicious bread variations with the main courses. One of the breads was a fantastical crispy and fluffy salted focaccia. It was by far my favorite. I finally flagged down the waitress to get a second portion of the carby goodness but, before I could take a bite, another waiter came and delivered our white fish and peas course and stealthily took my bread! I think that moment was the saddest I have ever been in relation to food. Like, envision your favorite piece of food ever, and then, as you are about to enjoy a miraculous bite, someone swoops in and takes it from you, never to ever be had again! And now you feel my ciabatta sorrow…

Do you know what the best way to cure bread-induced depression? Desert! After we finished our final entre, the desert train started down the tracks.. and was 5 carts long! It all started with milk ice cream, goat cheese, caramelized rice and pear compote in an amazingly complex dish. My favorite part was the bits of cereal under the ice cream which gave some crunch to the otherwise soft compilation.

Milk ice cream, goat cheese, caramelized rice and pear compote.

Next was a lemon cake topped with mint and berry, a sorbet, assortment of truffles and other little pastries.

We were stuffed beyond reason. Thankfully, I came prepared in a flowy dress, and we had a long walk back through the streets of Rome to our hotel. We even got a sneak night-peak at the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon before arriving at the hotel.

Continue reading this adventure…

Nobu

I was first introduced to Nobu at the New York City, Nobu 57 location in 2010 (prepare for old photo below!). I was spending the summer with friends in Connecticut and we took a long weekend to venture around the city. Before seeing a show on Broadway, we went to Nobu 57 for one of the best dinners I’ve ever had. Not only was it my first time seeing a show on Broadway, it was also my first time experiencing a tasting menu. My, was it exciting and delicious!

Outside of Nobu 57 in NYC

A tasting menu is a series of small portioned courses arranged by the chef so that you can experience a wide variety of the best a restaurant has to offer. Typically, there are 2-3 versions of menu at different price points based on the number of courses and the proteins in each selection. I have had some tasting menus with 8 courses and, like in the case of Gaggan in Thailand, some with 18! Each course is a surprise and you get to try things you never would have tasted other wise.

A sampling of sushi at Nobu, Dallas

With such nostalgia for the NYC location, once I heard there was a Nobu in Dallas, I just had to try it! The first time was for my birthday over July 4th weekend in 2014. I remember it like it was yesterday. We had gone to a birthday pool party that afternoon and I had warned Ryan not to eat too much since we were getting the tasting menu that night. 3.5 hot dogs, chips, and a pizza Lunchable later, he was so full that he couldn’t have drinks at dinner so he could save stomach-space to try all of the food! *Sigh*. At least he learned his lesson! We had a delicious dinner that night and have been lucky enough to go back for tasting menus multiple times. With over 40 dishes tried at Nobu, I have never had a bad one – a pretty good track record in my opinion!

A sampling of sashimi and crab at Nobu, Dallas

I have met fellow Nobu enthusiasts while raving about how good it is. One of my very dear friends actually got the opportunity to meet Chef Nobu Matsuhisa at the Dallas location and invited us along! Matsuhisa co-owns the Nobu restaurants with actor Robert De Niro, and it was quite funny hearing Matsuhisa refer to De Niro as Bobby (a typical nickname for Robert).

Meeting Chef Nobu at Nobu, Dallas

We had some perfect sushi appetizers while socializing with Nobu
and then had another amazing dinner topped off with a tempura fried sea-bass specially flown in for the event! Not only was the plating incredible, but it was so delicious and something I would have never thought of trying otherwise.

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Overall, Nobu is an unforgettable tastebud experience that you will not regret. If you go, branch out from the normal and trying something new, either in a tasting menu or via your wait-staff’s expert recommendation. They have locations all over the world so find one near you and enjoy!

Emporium Pies, Dallas

Emporium Pies, Dallas

Bishop Arts District is one of my favorite spots in town because of the sheer number of things to do there. Why spend all of your time at one restaurant when you can do a progressive dinner, ending in short walk-off-your-delicious-dinner stroll to Emporium Pies for dessert!?

Emporium Pies is run out of an enchanting tiny old house at the outskirts of Bishop Street. Typically, there is a line of people waiting to order their delicious piece of the pie at almost all times and there is even live music outside while you wait. With that said, I definitely recommend arriving earlier in the evening rather than later as their best flavors run out quickly. I have still not been able to enjoy their version of apple pie!

Anyway, the sweet smell wafting through the doorway immediately grasps you and pulls you and your taste buds into the small dining room. The menu on the wall makes your mouth start to water, especially upon reading that you can add a scoop of ice cream, with a side of coffee or tea, to your order. My pie-taster-extraordinaire boyfriend had the Father Christmas, a peppermint pie with chocolate cookie crust – umm, yumm! – and I opted for the Merry Berry pie, a mixed berry pie with walnuts and the most melt-in-your-mouth crust I have ever had. I asked them to warm my pie up too before enjoying which made it that much better!

Merry Berry Pie at Emporium Pies, Dallas

Needless to say, that pie didn’t last long after that picture was taken!

(Feature photo credit to Emporium Pies. Those pies featured are out of the oven and ready to go now if your hungry!)

Eureka, Dallas

One of my favorite places for a refreshing drink on a hot Texas day at a reasonable price is Eureka! in Uptown, Dallas. It has a constantly changing variety of crafted beers for anyone looking for a custom beer flight, and their mixed drinks are light and full of flavor.

Eureka!, Dallas

The last time I went, I enjoyed the below fig, goat cheese, & bacon burger with melt in your mouth honey drizzled sweet potato fries! (Just looking at it makes me want to go back!). I topped it off with my favorite signature cocktail on their menu, the Caphuchin’s Ruby Red with grapefruit juice and rosemary.

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We also had a beer flight and Caphuchin’s Greyhound: Vodka, mint, basil, and maraschino – yum!

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If you go with a group. Eureka! has some great plate for sharing such as their Nacho Average Nachos, Lollipop Corndogs, and taco bar.

If you are looking for a delicious spot for happy hour or a yummy bite to eat, you can’t go wrong with Eureka!