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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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!

Bangkok – Day 2

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We woke up naturally at 5:30 AM since our body clocks were so out of whack. That actually worked out perfectly because we had enough time to visit the hotel’s breakfast buffet for a fantastic breakfast before we met Kiwi for our 7 AM tour pick up time.Breakfast at the So Sofitel Hotel in Bangkok Thailand

We hopped into the Jeep with our guide and driver and it took about an hour for us to turn off the highway for our first stop. Our nerves heightened as we drove under the highway, past some very sketchy looking food stands, to basically a small wooden train station dock. The area was so sparse and the train ride was not on our itinerary so Ryan and I were a bit worried as we got out of the car, but we trusted Kiwi and she promised that the experience we were about to have was worth it. Apparently, our driver was the lead coordinator of transportation for Tour with Tong and he suggested we make the extra stop since we had time. He was super nice to do so because the tour service usually charged extra for the train market tour stop. Anyways, we waited for about 15 minutes for the train to come and Kiwi directed us to the very end cart. She talked with the conductor and we got to sit in the conductor booth at the very end of the train. We thought we did that just for pictures, but it was for something much cooler!

The Maeklong Train Market is literally a market on the train tracks. All of the tents fold back to make way for the train that comes through every 30 minutes, and then immediately go back into place for the sellers to keep selling their produce which literally sits in the train tracks! We got such a cool view of the train speeding by the market and all of the tents going back into place by sitting at the back of the train!

We ended up getting off of the train at the market so we could walk through. You could buy almost any type of meat, seafood, vegetable, or fruit imaginable in the market. The market was basically a single file line in each direction since it was so narrow and Ryan almost got pick pocketed being in such close proximity to all of the people around! He was also way too tall and had to duck. We only walked about a block within the market before it became to claustrophobic for us to go through anymore. Still a really neat thing to experience!

We walked through the streets, found our driver, and took off to Damnoen Saduak floating market. It was about another 30 minutes in the car before we arrived and we parked within the market. Kiwi knew tons of people at the locations we stopped at, and brought us to a certain market stand where we would get the best prices on merchandise. The lady who owned the shop said she had been working with Tong from our tour service for over 20 years and encouraged us to go see if we found better prices on the river for anything she sold. We decided to do so and walked down to our market boat.

We had a little old lady as our paddler but boy was she strong – we had some serious speed going through the market! Both sides of the market were lined with shops and there were tons of boats selling all types of food. Kiwi knew all of the best tasting food vendors and encouraged us to try spring rolls, coconut ice cream, and mango sticky rice. The spring rolls were delicious and the ice cream was so decadent! We saved the rice for the next car ride and keep floating through. I was super glad both of us had hats as the sun was very strong and it was hot and muggy. We paddled through a bunch of canals and saw one with some interesting art. After quite a bit of haggling on my part, Ryan and I ended up buying a very pretty canvas painting of an elephant for our apartment. Kiwi was impressed (?) by my haggling skills and kept laughing as I tried to drive the price lower. While the guy would go to my “highest price” of 1,100 BHT, I ended up caving at 1,200 BTH – a whole $3 difference! He rolled up the painting so we could travel home with it and we took off through the market for some more browsing.

We didn’t end up seeing anything better than what was at Kiwi’s friend’s booth, so we stopped there to get some tea cups and a tank top. They gave us a very fair price and were really nice. With our goodies in hand, we hopped back in the car and indulged in our sticky rice on the way to the speed boat that was to take us to see the monkeys. Let me tell you, mango sticky rice is AMAZING! It is basically like a desert and I could have eaten bowls and bowls of it. We also stopped off got some Thai Tea at Kiwi’s insistence which was also delicious. I wish we had more of these things in the States!

We made one last stop before getting to the speed boat for some fruit for the monkeys. The bananas at the fruit stand were too ripe, so we got 4 huge bags of this potato looking fruit that the shop owner hacked up into pieces for us. Our driver also got us some coconuts to drink, one was a raw coconut and the other had been grilled. The grilled coconut milk was much sweeter and we both like the raw milk a bit more.

Anyways, we finally arrived at this very colorful housing area to transfer to our boat and use the loo. For most places in Thailand, you have to bring your own toilet paper and the majority of toilets, especially for men, are just holes in the ground. While I was able to find actual toilets to use, it made for an interesting experience for Ryan….

We hopped in the boat and took off to down the river. The description of the tour was not very robust online (literally just said “monkey island”) so we did not know what to expect. We saw some very large water monitors right off the bat and thousands of crabs lining all of the beaches. It was low-tide so there were mudskippers cruising through the muddy beaches and some were 6-inches long. We left the inlet into the ocean and all of the beaches were lined with sticks which indicated each cockle shell farmer’s land. The farmers also had these really high huts to sleep in at night to watch their property and make sure no other farmer infringed on their shells.

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We stopped at one of the high huts to drop off our lunch and then headed out further into the ocean. The lines of stick fences went on for miles and we eventually got to a section of higher sticks that held oysters. It was super cool! There were mini crabs all over the oysters during the low tide and we held some that really tickled!

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Our next stop was to an inlet to find some monkeys. As soon as we started driving into the small river inlet, Kiwi and our boat driver made us start howling to call out the monkeys. It was so weird and I felt awkward making those noises until hordes of monkeys started to line the shores! There were lots of mom monkeys with babies on their back, medium monkeys, and then the big alpha-males that were quite aggressive if another went for their food. We threw the potato-like fruit out to them and then closer in the water to draw them nearer. Eventually, we set the fruit right on the side of the boat and the monkeys would hop up next to us on the boat! I even handed them fruit! The monkeys were super muddy and they would jump off the boat quickly and their tails flung mud all over us. I was covered! It was so gross but we were having too much fun to stop. At one point, an alpha-male monkey jumped on the boat and tried to take off with Ryan’s bag of fruit, Ryan tried to grab it back and the monkey almost tried to fight him! Eekk! We let him have it, he hopped off, and our driver used a stick to ward off the bigger monkeys from jumping on board and causing trouble. From then on, a lot of mom and baby monkeys hung out with us on the boat – so cute! Eventually, we ran out of food and had to leave, but it was by far one of the best experiences of my life.

We got out of the jetty and headed back to the hut to eat lunch. After washing up, we had quite a spread of grilled crab, curry, baked fish, veggies, and more. It was quite a delicious lunch with an outstanding view! We didn’t eat too much since we had a large dinner coming our way and so the staff ate the rest of what we didn’t touch.

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After lunch it was sadly time to head back. We had about a 1.5-hour drive back to Bangkok and it was a good time to rest up before the night’s activities. We stopped at an ATM to pay Kiwi and our driver and I almost left my debit card in the ATM – ahh! Thankfully Kiwi alerted me and I grabbed it. We said our good-byes at the hotel and headed up for a much shower. I have to say, we could not have booked with a better service than with Tour with Tong and our guide Kiwi!

Due to the monkey mud, it was time for a much needed shower before our dinner at Gaggan! I first heard about Gaggan through an episode of Chef’s Table, a Netflix original series that documents top chefs throughout the world. Gaggan and his restaurant were voted the best in Asian in 2015 and his elevated take on Indian food was not to be missed while we were staying in Bangkok, especially since it was right across the park from our hotel! We headed off to our 6 PM reservation and were surprised to be taken upstairs under the atrium to a mini-kitchen. We were picked at random with some other diners from all over the world to test Gaggan’s new concept where the sous chef and team prep the dishes in front of us! What a treat and so unexpected! We started the night with a delicious Thai-jito and got to know some of the chefs. One was an American from Miami and was so delighted to talk football with a fellow American football fanatic, Ryan. We had a great banter back and forth as the 18 courses started to flow.

The first 1o courses came out in a rapid fire style, one quickly after another, and the Indian flavor profiles exploded onto the scene almost immediately after each item was placed in our mouths. Not only that, but the plating was amazing.

The wine started to flow as we got into the main courses, consisting of increadable flavors, textures, and the most tender lamb chop I have ever eaten ….

During the desert courses, Gaggan himself joined us upstairs and let us try this new dish he was preparing for his new menu that replaced what we had in the very next week! We tried this amazing chicken stock soup type cracker that was out of this world. Gaggan talked with all of the guests and was quite a character, just like his fellow chefs.

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After we had our fill, we said goodbye to our new chef friends and some of the other diners we made friends with throughout the experience. This definitely went down as one of the best dinners I have ever had!

We went back to the hotel and, while I had every intention of visiting another night market, sleep called my name and our 6 AM wake up for our flight to Chiang Mai the next morning dictated that some Zzz’s were in order.

Taco Heads, Fort Worth

Flour tortillas. Yes, you read that right, flour tortillas, are by far, one of my favorite components to any “south of the border” style dish. A few years back, I stumbled upon a taco truck that toasted their flour tortillas before filling them with taco-goodness and topping them with spicy sauce. This little truck of Taco Heads, open late across the street from my apartment, stole my taste bud’s heart, lots of my money, and my taco buying business forever (when possible).

Unfortunately, my love story with this taco truck became one of long distance as I uprooted my life to a new city a good 45 minutes away. While away, the Taco Heads truck opened a permanent location in Fort Worth with an expanded menu. Once I head about it, I vowed to visit and enjoy every morsel of what the new menu had to offer!

The new location has an almost beachy, modern feel with a clean lined inside area to eat and a large outdoor picnic area which will be great for patio season.

Taco Heads, Fort Worth, Texas

I absolutely love their breakfast tacos, especially the chorizo Mexicano & egg taco, but those are only served until 11 AM or after hours, so for this visit I was out of luck. Instead, I started my menu journey off with their take on Mexican street corn called Elotes: roasted corn, chile aioli, garlic-butter, cotija.

Elotes at Taco Heads, Fort Worth, Texas

I know, that photo made your mouth water and it was just as delicious! Trying to eat it delicately without making a mess is difficult, but who doesn’t love a bit of a challenge?

Next up: the Nuevo Leon al Pastor taco with grilled pineapple, onion, cilantro, red cabbage, adobo, queso fresco. At first, I thought the chunks of grilled pineapple were the pieces of pork, but boy was I wrong. The pineapple melted in my mouth and was the perfect flavor addition to this toasted taco (featured on the right).

Taco Heads, Fort Worth Texas

Last but not least in the flavor department, the Carnitas (seriously, legit) tacos with green cabbage, onion, cilantro, queso fresco. This taco has a mild flavor but, with the addition of some of the Taco Heads spicy green verde sauce, it stands out.

Overall, if you are looking for a great meal that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, Taco Heads is your place. Just be aware, it is very addictive.

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!)