feel the earth, discover life-hunter valley wine country

A 2 hour drive north of Sydney, we spent a weekend at this beautiful wine country-Hunter Valley to draw away the layers of urban life. We were very fortunate to stay at this beautiful farmhouse (thanks to K's boss!), and I literally thought I was in a movie! Hunter Valley 's wine industry is one of the oldest in Australia, and is well known for its Semillon and Shiraz, and more recently Chardonnay And Verdelho. There are over 120 unique wineries to visit-ranging from intimate boutique cellar doors to internationally acclaimed wine brands.
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taronga zoo-sydney


One of the places that everyone told me was a ‘must see’ was the Taronga zoo. At first, I was like why is this? Apparently it has one of the best views of Sydney from their cable cars! I was fortunate to go with Lena and her daughter Zoe, and found out they literally go every 2 weeks! I even got a personal tour from Zoe herself...I’m just glad I had Lena and Zoe to talk to, instead of just conversing with the animals!    


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sydney's very own korea town...

DSC_0201 in strathfield k-town, with my cousins wife and daughter

I had a chance to visit Strathfield, the largest Korea town in Syndey. It's a 20 minute drive from the city, in a very nice, quiet neighborhood...I didn't know what to expect at first, but to my surprise, it was quite lovely! I had a great time with my cousins, and they made THE 'Aussie-Korean' meal at their place-'Wallamsam' (direct translation=vietnamese spring rolls). Basically, the concept behind this is the vietnamese spring rolls meets Korean banchan, served with homemade chili sauce and crushed peanuts. You dunk the rice paper wrap in hot water, then add veggies of your choice, wrap, dip in sauce, and chow down!
Another Korean-Aussie couple mentioned this wallamsam concept a few weeks back, and explained that since there aren't too many good K restaurants here (totally agreed unfortunately), the Koreans feast on this specialty at home. Great treat for guests (lot of labor preparing for it, even though it's make-your-own), but the Koreans love it, and it's freakin awesome!!! I seriously didn't know when to stop.
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sydney gong ride!

What is the gong ride?

The Gong Ride is a one of a kind fundraising event. You can pedal 90km from Sydney to Wollongong on any day of the year but it’s only on the first Sunday of November that you’ll experience the camaraderie, fellowship, unity, safety, scenery and sense of achievement for pedalling in support of people living with MS (taken from their website). 10,000 cyclists participated this year!

Kristi, Stephan, and a few others that I have met, participated in this years gong ride. It's a 90 KM ride that started from St. Peters, and finished in Wollongong-with tea and lunch breaks along the way! I took a 2 hour train ride to meet these guys at the finish line, where we had a sausage sizzle, beers, and other good food! The train ride was a amazing, I cannot imagine how great the view was for the cyclists! I don't really cycle, and I would have died if I did this 90 KM ride. However, after seeing how beautiful it was to cycle along the coast, I would definitely try it if I live here!

Well done K & S!!!

DSC02921 rob, kristi, and stephan

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sculpture by the sea exhibit


Last weekend, we had a chance to walk along Bondi Beach to Bronte Beach, and see all the beautiful sculptures part of the 'Sculpture By the Sea' exhibit. They only have it for 2 weeks, and I'm glad I was still here to see it! The concept for Sculpture by the Sea is the culmination of many years thinking, where a new step in the thought process came up every year or so. It was absolutely stunning!
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yummy mummy's!



Kristi recently explained the term ‘yummy mummy,’ which is a trendy, urban mom who mostly spends time taking care of kids, doing yoga, and having coffee at the parks with their other yummy mummy friends! Not to mention, they have the resources to really take advantage of the ‘yummy’ part. Hrm...this sounds like some of the mom’s I know in Chicago! Last week, we spent an afternoon at Centennial Park with Kristi and some of her friends...enjoyed a picnic lunch on a beautiful day, with 2 adorable kids! I was just amazed at how many mums and their kids were at the park, on a Thursday afternoon...what a life I tell you! It seems like Sydney is a great place to raise a family-so green, the pace of life is great, and people here take their ‘free time’ seriously. I guess when the weather is perfect almost all year round, how can you not be out and about with outdoor activities!


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breaky 2

single origins special breaky single origins special breaky

Part of the October food fest, 'Single Origins Cafe' was also having a special breaky. First, they made coffee of my choice, with a morning muesli and fresh fruit...followed by a ‘Colombian’ tamale with fresh pico de gallo, matched with a pot of colombian coffee. Food was excellent, and the best part-I met the manager (actually I think he’s the owner) of this cafe, and I received a special goodie bag at the end of my breaky! Gotta say, quite nice when you start chatting with the chefs/owners...they definitely take care of you! This cafe is absolutely the best here...not just by recommendations from friends, but I am already addicted! It’s quite a walk, but I’ll be making my frequent stops there for a ‘flat white!’


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One of the buildings that I absolutely adore is the ‘Queens Victoria Building,’ a.k.a. ‘QVB.’ One of the oldest buildings in downtown Sydney that was built in 1898, has stunning architectural details that include stained glass windows, intricate mosaic floors, and two large mechanical clocks-each featuring dioramas and moving figures from moments in Australian history. The QVB takes up an entire block on George Street, which originally housed street markets. Now it houses 200 shops, cafes, and restaurants! I was also fortunate to have high tea at the tea room, located on the top floor. The best high tea ever, and I think I ate a whole bowl of clotted cream myself!!!

The photos will speak for itself...  

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night noodle markets-hyde park

chinese dragons at the night noodle market chinese dragons at the night noodle market

Last night, we went to the 'Night Noodle Markets', an authentic Asian hawker market held over 2 weeks in Hyde Park-in downtown Sydney. I was expecting mostly noodle stands, but they had everything! The food and prices were great, although the lines were a bit crazy. But lucky me, they had a special 'VIP' section for citibank cardholders...thus this was our ticket to a nice section with tables, and no lines at the bar! Not to mention the unlimited FERRERO ROCHER DARK CHOCOLATES that they were giving away as they are promoting them all month! I've had so many of those, I'm already addicted. I think we all downed 5 each, and took a few extra in our pockets for our trip home :)  
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waffles with strawberry, and flat white coffee in a cafe-woollahra

'Breaky' as the aussie's put it, is quite good! I have mostly been eating breakfast at home...with a few occasions of going to a cafe. Kristi and Stephan are my favorite 'chefs' here...just look at what they make me! Most of the cafe's here offer a full breakfast/brunch menu, and even at 11am, it's packed with everyone eating breakfast! People do take their time at these cafes...I usually try to sip my coffee slowly, but when it's too good, it goes down like water! So yes, I have not spent more than 45 min. at a cafe as of yet.  

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sydney international food festival

One of the main reasons why I am in Sydney in October, is to participate in all the activities at the festival. The highlight of the fest was the chef food showcase, where the best chefs from all over the world, presented their favorite recipes, held panel discussions, signed autographs, as well as taking photos. The ticket to attend a program for one day was $285! However, it was so well worth it! Unlimited coffee, lunch (I had sushi!), cupcakes, dumplings, wine, and fruit were provided all throughout the day. I really didn't know what to expect from a 9:30-5:00pm program schedule, where all the food demos were held in one room. I enjoyed every segment, every food demo, and most of all, actually meeting these chefs in person! I think I was the only one in the room from the U.S., and during one of the panel discussions, I mentioned I was from Chicago. Then people started coming up to me about how they would love to go to visit 'Alinea'! I soon found out most of these chefs have been to Chicago, specifically to visit Alinea and Charlie Trotters. Of course I had to give my plug on other Chicago favorites. My 'Chicago' connection has never sparked so much interest from these chefs, when I was asking for their autographs. I was able to get 3 more minutes of their time, more than the others that were eagerly awaiting to shake their hands. Woohoo for me! Edward Kwon was one of the chefs that I definitely had to meet! He is one of the top chefs from Seoul, who has a restaurant and his own cooking show. During his segment, I think all the Koreans from Sydney came out of the woodworks, just to see him. I had a chance to meet him after his demo, I presented him my business card and discussed Chicago, (spoke to him in English the whole time, he's quite fluent!). I also had a great discussion with one of the top food critics of Paris-Sebastien Demorand. He is a fan of Rick Bayless, and loves Chicago. Even though I gave him my contact info, I forgot to get his...and ever since I have been pounding my head for that. Here are the chefs I met at the Chef Showcase (all from just one program, there were 6): Sergi Arola (Madrid-www.sergiarola.es/) Alexandre Bourdas (Paris-alexandre-bourdas.com) Cheong Liew (Adelaide-www.thegrangerestaurant.com.au) Edward Kwon (Seoul-www.edwardkwon.com) Justin North (Sydney-www.becasse.com.au) Alvin Leung (Hong Kong-www.boinnovation.com) Peter Gordon (London, NZ-www.longrain.com) Sebastien Demorand (Paris) Matt Preston (Host of the Master Chef Australia) chef sergi arola from madrid chef sergi arola from madrid fresh dumplings during our morning break at the showcase fresh dumplings during our morning break at the showcase chef alexandre bourdas and food critic sebastien demorand chef alexandre bourdas and food critic sebastien demorand prepared by chef bourdas-snapper with oyster, local vegetables, seaweed and lemongrass prepared by chef bourdas-snapper with oyster, local vegetables, seaweed and lemongrass lunch time at the showcase...very nice! lunch time at the showcase...very nice! chef edward kwon (left) and one of his assistants (right) chef edward kwon (left) and one of his assistants (right) 'chilled chicken with ginseng'-a deconstruction of the traditional korean dish-sam gye tang, prepared by chef kwon. absolutely amazing! 'chilled chicken with ginseng'-a deconstruction of the traditional korean dish-sam gye tang, prepared by chef kwon. absolutely amazing! chef peter gordon, chef alvin leung, and sebastien demorand chef peter gordon, chef alvin leung, and sebastien demorand
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hello sydney...

Hello there...as this is my very first blog entry, I decided to finally create a blog dedicated to my love affair with food...with design...with travels. I am on holiday for 2 months in Sydney, and arrived here on October 2nd. Why am I here? First of all, my good friend Kristi has been trying for years, to figure out every possible way for me to make my way down here. Sydney is one of the cities that I had to visit, and also known as one of the food capitals of the world, why not come and check it out myself? October is the Sydney International Food Festival (SIFF) month, with endless things to do all food related. 2 months is quite a long holiday...but I had to take advantage of this food fest, as well as taking the time to explore the city inch by inch. It's only been a little over a week, and I am absolutely in love with this city! The air...the water...the food...and the coffee. Oh the coffee!!! 'Flat white' as they say...shot of espresso with milk, is my choice of coffee here. Kristi gave me the run down on how to order a coffee, thank goodness. Aussie's take their coffee very seriously, and boy they definitely don't mess around! One place in particular that is known for their coffee, with their special brewing-'Single Origin' was amazing...check out the photo in this entry! It will be difficult to have coffee in Chicago after I leave Sydney. the view from kristi and stephan flat white
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