Eating Ourselves Stupid in the USA – Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York
First opened in 2004 Momofuku Noodle Bar was one of the original restaurants on my ever-growing iPhone list of restaurants that I hope to visit in my life time (and yes I know iPhone hasn’t been around that long). Now one of 13 restaurants owned by David Chang, including one in Sydney Momofuku Seibo, Momofuku Noodle Bar is renowned for its signature pork buns and having the best ramen in New York. Forget the ramen – we came for the pork buns. Usually my skills of navigation are on point but this time around I led us in the exact wrong direction of where we wanted to go so we ended hailing a taxi to take us there.
When we arrived there was yet another large line – much to MS’ dismay because he was getting a little fed up with having to line up for food everywhere we went. In my defence all the good places I take him to are usually quite popular hence the hefty line up but I always assure him that it’s worth the wait. For Pete’s sake if he hadn’t met me he would still be eating dinner at Cock N Bull on a regular basis, now he’s dining at trendy restaurants in New York that he knows nothing about and doesn’t care for either ha! I was well aware from reviews that it could take up to an hour to get a seat but I played it down to MS telling him that I read the wait was usually only about 15 minutes – what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Inside the door it was hard to differentiate between exactly who’d had their name taken by the hostess and who was waiting to get their name taken by the hostess. Lucky for me a friendly local (surprisingly the only kind that we met in NY despite their gruff reputation) arrived straight after us and ushered me up to the front of the restaurant with him and within ten minutes MS and I were in!
*Goddammit! Why didn’t I take more photos?!*
We took a seat near the end of a long communal table next to a group of three that were high up in the corporate sector of Starbucks. They had come together in Manhattan from various parts of the USA to inspect a few of the Starbucks stores and make sure things were up to scratch. MS and I ordered our meals and chatted to them about the terrible coffee that we had encountered on our trip so far with the worst of all being at bustling LAX diner LA Roadhouse Route 66 – the food was also terrible. We told them how Starbucks had become a beacon of light and hope on our six day road trip from Columbia, SC to New York City and that it was our ‘go to destination’ for a decent cup of coffee in the USA. Although he worked for Starbucks one of the men of the trio told us to go to Blue Bottle Coffee shop for a decent cup of coffee when we were in San Francisco much to the dislike of the other guy and girl in the group.
I’m 90% sure I saw that kid (now grown man) from Billy Elliot standing inconspicuously in the corner at Momofuku but either no one else recognised him or they are just so conditioned to seeing famous people in New York that no one gives a f*ck. I pride myself on my uncanny ability to pick random D grade celebrities out of a crowd and know exactly what obscure movie they were in back in 1996. Kind of like this one time back in 2007 when I served the kid from the 1st Jurassic Park movie at the Cairns airport. He’s been completely ‘not famous’ since starring in Jurassic Park except for a run with Meryl Streep down the Kootenai in The River Wild and man did he get ugly but I knew exactly who he was from the moment I spotted him. A true talent that I could really go places with I’m sure.The seating conditions at Momofuku are practically elbow to elbow and you have to shout to speak to the person you are dining with but despite how busy the restaurant was the kitchen was absolutely pumping out dishes and our bun entrée took no more than about 10 minutes to arrive. We had ordered two each of the Shitake Buns with Hoisin, Scallion and Cucumber (US$10 each) and two each of the Brisket Buns with Horseradish, Pickled Red Onion and Cucumber (US$12 each). The buns were actually quite filling and the Shitake Buns were a clear winner for both of us. Anything with Hoisin Sauce is normally a winner for me. MS enjoyed them so much that he ordered himself two more (he is a fatty though). Not long after we polished off our buns our bowls of ramen arrived.
Momofuku’s signature ramen is your typical ramen with Pork Belly, Pork Shoulder and a Poached Egg (US$16) but they also have a yummy sounding Chilled Spicy Noodle on the menu with Sichuan Sausage, Spinach and Cashews, only thing is that it was a little too cold out to have chilled noodles. The hearty bowls of pork broth were huge and we struggled to finish them especially since we’d already had entrees. Purported by many to be the best ramen in all of New York City it certainly may well be because we didn’t have any other ramen to compare it to while we were there. The ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar was delicious but, well, not to brag but MS and I were not that long ago eating ramen from some of the best ramen joints in Japan so our tastebuds have been a little spoiled of late. In the end I think I had hyped the place up a little too much in my head but the buns alone were worth walking in the wrong direction for. I just looked at photos of the inside of the restaurant online and I didn’t even recognise it because when we went there were that many people there you couldn’t even make out the walls and furniture. Don’t let that deter you though. If the crowds are anything to go by then even after 11 years as one of the most popular eateries in New York City, Momofuku Noodle Bar has still go it.
Eating Ourselves Stupid in the USA – Katz Delicatessen, New York
For MS and I Katz Delicatessen was kind of the crème de la crème of places we wanted to go in New York because if there’s one type of food we can agree on it’s a pastrami sandwich aka The Reuben. The place that made Reuben Sandwiches famous Katz’s Deli is still the talk of the town in New York even after over 125 years in operation (it was first founded in 1888) and is hugely popular for its pastrami sandwiches and hot dogs. Some of you might remember it from the famous scene in Where Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm but me, nah I just remember it for the sandwiches.
MS and I figured eating a Reuben Sandwich on a Friday night was the way to go so we took a taxi down to the Lower East Side and made our way along the busy street to Katz’s. As we entered the door we were handed a ticket by the door attendant. I had read many a review about Katz’s and the one thing that stuck in my mind was that we must hang onto that ticket for dear life because if we were to lose it then it’s a lost ticket fee of US$50. A bit steep but neither of us planned to lose that damn ticket. You have the choice of sitting in a particular section where you can get table service or go straight up to the servery. The huge deli is absolutely pumping with restaurant workers, tourists and New Yorkers alike – so much so that it’s a bit of a spectacle.
We both got a bit of a shock when we realised that it was almost US$20 for a Reuben Sandwich which going by the Aussie Dollar these days is about AU$30 – that’s one bloody exy sandwich – and we wanted two! If all the hype was to be believe then it was definitely worth it right? We ordered two Reuben’s from our friendly server, a small middle aged man – one with corned beef and one with pastrami. He promptly took out two enormous slabs of freshly cured corned beef and pastrami and proceeded to expertly slice pieces off for our sandwiches. He even cut us a few extra pieces for us to try whilst we were waiting.
What makes Katz’s pastrami and corned beef so special is that it’s cured using a ‘slower method which best flavours the meat, without injecting chemicals, water or other additives. Their finished product can take up to 30 days to cure whereas most commercial prepared corned beef is often cured in 36 hours (from the Katz Deli website). What the hell is the difference between corned beef and pastrami anyway? Well corned beef is brined whereas pastrami is rubbed in spices and smoked. The corned beef and pastrami is seriously unlike any that I have ever tasted before. So juicy, so succulent and a hell of a lot better than the sh*tty corned beef and pastrami that you get from the deli at Woolies or Coles. There’s just no comparison. When he was done making our sandwiches the man handed us back our precious tickets and we parked ourselves at a table smack bang in the middle of the restaurant.
Photos ensued and MS was finally allowed to take a bite of the most expensive sandwich he had ever bought. After the first bite we both agreed that the Reuben sandwiches with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and sauerkraut were well worth their US$20 price tag. No orgasms were faked during the making or eating of the sandwich but I may have been close to having a real one whilst eating my Reuben.
There had to be close to 300g of meat on each of the sandwiches and the rye bread was deliciously soft. It was a mean feat to finish a whole sandwich because of the sheer size but I more than managed. Seriously on my top 10 list of the best things I have ever eaten. Believe all the hype you have heard about this place – it’s well worth going to not only for the delicious Reuben sandwiches but also for the atmosphere and spectacle of Katz’s Deli.
Eating Ourselves Stupid in The USA – Smorgasburg, Brooklyn
New York was such an epic part of our trip that it would take me a million years to detail what we got up to over there and since this is essentially a blog about food I figured I would just include the most important part of our trip – the food. I have taken it upon myself to just write solely about the most memorable food spots that we visited starting with Smorgasburg in Brooklyn…
Smorgasburg: I had been following the mouth watering Instagram page of this outdoor food market for quite some time now. Suffice to say that Cairns is severely lacking in the outdoor food market department so anytime I see or hear about a food truck or food market I make a beeline straight for it. At the time of writing Smorgasburg is held outdoors every Saturday in Williamsburg and every Sunday at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 5. I had planned for us to do the Brooklyn Bridge walk on our one and only Sunday in New York and then onward to Smorgasburg at Pier 5 on the waterfront to fill our bellies.
The walk across the bridge only took us about 20 minutes and it gives you fantastic views of the city. Only problem is that it’s quite a popular pastime for tourists and New Yorkers alike so you can expect to spend the walk with literally hundreds of people which can get a little annoying because everyone is constantly stopping to get photos. Be careful of the bike riders going past because they aren’t going slow and some of them definitely aren’t friendly. Never mind that Brooklyn Bridge was the first steel-wire suspension bridge constructed, all MS cared about was that Jay Z had taken a photo on it and we spent a significant portion of our trip across attempting to recreate said photo.
On the otherside in Brooklyn we found ourselves walking amongst beautiful old buildings and warehouses on our way to Smorgasburg. Brooklyn is clearly the more family friendly and affordable part of New York judging by the amount of young couples and families we saw going about their business and if you’re a Sex and The City fan then you would know that Miranda was horrified when she realised she had to move to Brooklyn to raise her family. Seemed like a pretty nice place to me!
Back to the food – Smorgasburg kicks off every Sunday at 11am and we arrived there at about 11.45am. By that time a reasonable sized crowd had gathered so we lined up at the first stall that was selling Bao’s. A bao is kind of like a Chinese style pork bun if you haven’t had one before – you know those heavenly sweet buns filled with delicious pork and MSG? We ordered two share for US$9 – a Red Coconut Curry Chicken Bao with Peanuts, Cilantro, Fried Garlic and Shallots and a Braised Pork Belly Bao with Cucumber, Scallions, Hoisin Sauce and Jalapeno’s. Neither of them particularly floated my boat and they didn’t seem to be very fresh. The accolade for Best Bao still goes to the wondrous hidden gem Wonderbao in Melbourne IMO (if you’re in Melbourne it’s an absolute must!)Next up MS was chomping at the bit to get his chompers on his own bit of meat from popular stall Carnal. He had seen other big manly men wandering the markets with big bits of meat on the bone and needed one of his own so we joined the line for a Beef Short Rib with Bone Marrow, Ramps and Black Pepper for US$13. Carnal was easily one of the most popular stalls out of the more than 100 at Smorgasburg that day so the wait was a little longer than anywhere else but by the end we were met with a freshly grilled and extremely juicy beef rib that MS sprinkled with a mixture of fried garlic and chicken skin. Yep you heard it here. That salty/fatty goodness. Onward we wandered to the next stall – another one that I already had pegged from Instagram the Ramen Co. Stall for a Ramen Burger while MS stood off to the side in a state of bliss as he navigated his enormous piece of juicy meat on the bone. While waiting in line at the ramen burger place I chatted to a friendly Chinese guy who was originally from San Francisco but had moved to New York to start a job in IT. I told him that we were going to SF so he gave me a few tips on where to go to get good food over there – namely egg tarts. The Ramen Burger was essentially a bit of meat between two ‘burger’ patties that were made out of fried ramen noodles and Kewpie mayonnaise. It does sound kind of amazing but it was just so fatty that all I could taste was oil. It failed miserably against my very high expectations. Whilst waiting for my ramen burger MS had gnawed the last remaining piece of meat of his rib and already cased the next stall he wanted to try – the Scotch Eggs stall so aptly named The Imperial Egg. Much to the delight of my London friend SS who is a connoisseur of Scotch Eggs (or so she says) this was to be my first ever Scotch Egg. Since it was MS’ baby he chose the Lamb Merguez Scotch Egg which was so expertly cooked that when they cut it open the golden yolk was still oozing and just perfect! They must have a technique after cooking hundreds if not thousands of scotch eggs and I can safely say they have it down pat. I will go as far to declare the Scotch Egg the best thing we ate at Smorgasburg that day. After that we were pretty much stuffed and knowing full well that I still had plans for us to go to a famous Brooklyn pizza joint for ‘afternoon tea’ we called it there – ok after we ate some Red Velvet Cupcakes.
So many food stalls, so little time but there were so many more that I wanted to try like the lobster rolls, the ice cream sandwich and all the other flavours of Scotch Eggs. One stall that I did find particularly interesting was the Von Kava stall with a three course tasting menu that they call ‘Flash Fine Dining’ for only $15. Pretty cool idea if you ask me! Would I recommend the Smorgasburg food market? Hell yeah! Just make sure you get there early because by the time we were leaving at about 1pm the place was absolutely packed with people and lines were enormous with some places selling out of food. Places that we missed out on in Brooklyn because we just didn’t have enough time (or room in our stomachs were):
Brennan and Carr – another Man Vs Food gem famous for it’s French dipped Roast Beef Sandwiches (pretty much a sandwich dipped in gravy). Sounds kinda foul but apparently it’s amazing.
Roberta’s – a pizza joint that has been named as one of America’s top 15 pizzeria’s.
Brisket Town – A bbq joint that well, the name speaks for itself really.
Till next time x
Eating Ourselves Stupid in the USA – Philadelphia
Last time I was in Philadelphia was way back in December 2003 and it was the same day that that the USA captured Saddam Hussein. We didn’t stop in Philly for long back in 2003 because it was snowing but I do recall losing the keys to our family’s RV. Lucky for us they weren’t lost in the snow and after a frantic search I ended up finding them in the kitchen sink, phew! This time around MS and I were overnighting in Philadelphia, a decision we later regretted because of Philly is actually a fantastic place to visit! Sadly I had only booked a one night stopover for the sole purpose of breaking up our drive to New York. After spending the afternoon there we realised that Philly wasn’t just A) the home of Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches B) where Rocky famously ran up the stairs and C) the only place other than San Francisco that serves decent coffee. Philadelphia is also quite an up and coming destination in the USA and well worth spending a bit of time to explore!For our one night in Philly I had booked a room on AirBnB at a place which also moonlighted as a yoga studio. The price was good and I am all for staying in places that are just a little bit unique – most of the time. When we arrived our host Valerie gave us a tour of what literally was a yoga studio and informed us that we would have to vacate between 6 and 8pm that evening to make way for her yoga class. In that time she would pack up the air mattress and bed side tables and then return it all to its original place for our return. Yes I know it’s a little random but you seriously couldn’t beat the position of the yoga studio in terms of location – it was literally a 10 minute walk from the Rocky Stairs, fantastic restaurants and the Eastern State Penitentiary (a National Historic Landmark that was no longer in use). The only downside to the yoga studio was a bit of an unpleasant smell that I attributed to her two cats that proceeded to wander in and out until MS locked them out. Also it turns out that sleeping on an air mattress pretty much guarantees you the worst nights sleep of your life! First place we headed after dumping our bags was to the Rocky Stairs where it seems we weren’t the only people attempting to follow in Sylvester Stallone’s footsteps (literally). There was tonnes of tourists there doing exactly this as well as quite a few locals using the stairs for some HIIT. As with most popular landmarks in US cities there was someone at the top offering to take photos of us. l’m not an idiot and I’m also not one to be conned by this type of ‘friendly and helpful’ photographer however I did want some photos of MS and I together for once. When handing him my iPhone I was fully aware that I was going to be asked for some money at the end of it all. What I didn’t know was that he would ask me for US$20. That’s nearly AU$30 to take a few pics with my own camera!!! When he finished and asked for the money I nearly fell down the stairs in shock – You’ve got to be kidding me?! Apparently the had been taking photos at the top of the stairs for nearly 20 years and in the end I gave him US$5 for his terrible photos and he moved onto some unsuspecting Chinese tourists.
Later on that evening, after a few rounds of shadow boxing, we were both feeling pretty hungry andI had carefully researched where to go for the famous Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich in Philadelphia. For those unaware of what a Cheesesteak is (do you live under a rock?!) well it’s a sandwich made from thinly sliced pieces of steak and melted cheese, served in a long roll. Despite there being plenty of places claiming to serve ‘the Best Philly Cheesesteak’ in all of Philly I thought it would be fitting to go to the place that started the Philly Cheesesteak movement – or so they say – “Pat’s King of Steaks”. Located in South Philadelphia Pat’s Steaks is directly across the road from rival Philly Cheesesteak restaurant Geno’s Steaks. After navigating the narrow streets and stopping to ask a friendly lolly pop lady just who had right of way at an ALL WAY STOP SIGN meant MS and I were lucky enough to find a park just across the road from the busy eatery.
The man that served us at Pat’s was abrupt and spoke in a thick Jersey accent which I found to be not only amusing but pretty awesome! There’s a sign next to the counter that explains to newcomers like ourselves just how to order the Cheesesteak. As a humorous reference to the Philadelphia accent ordering with the simple words ‘wit’ or ‘wit-out’ means with or without onions so ‘wit’ it. We also added the wiz cheese instead of provolone after a recommendation from a friend of mine who had only a few weeks earlier visited Philly herself.
The wonders of NYC next xox
Eating Ourselves Stupid in the USA – South Carolina to Virginia
So it turns out that my USA holiday posts aren’t going to write themselves and I know that there are a few people keen to hear them so I better pull my finger out. We spent a total of 3.5 weeks in the USA – an absolutely amazing country to visit and one that I’ve already had the pleasure of visiting twice previously, although this was MS’ first time. We arrived mid afternoon in LA after about 20 hours of flying and transiting through Sydney and what seemed like an eternity of MS chucking the sh*ts on the flight over because of the lack of leg room in economy. We’re all in the same boat buddy – well kind of. The fact that he is 6 ft 2 and I am all but 5 ft surely makes a difference to the level of comfort onboard a 747.
We overnighted in LA close to the airport in a reasonably priced hotel. It wasn’t anything flash but the beds were comfy and the copious amounts of hair loss ads on the TV sure made up for it. We ventured down the road to get some food for an early dinner only after confirming with the clerk that it was safe to do so. It is LA after all and almost everyone is packing, or at least that’s what we’re led to believe. We ended up at the clerks recommendation of Waba Grill which was only a 10 minute walk down the road and wasn’t particularly amazing. Imagine a fast food place that serves brown rice and teriyaki marinated meats with avocado and there you have Waba Grill. It was a little better than the other option next door – Little Caesars, whose newest product was bacon wrapped pizza. Actually on second thought maybe we should have gone to Little Caesars. It was the first day of the holiday however and I was still holding onto the completely ridiculous notion that I wasn’t going to put on any weight in the USA despite the long lists of burger and BBQ joints I had in mind.
Early next morning we flew from LA to Charlotte in North Carolina for a short stopover that ended up being delayed (thank goodness for the rocking chairs at Charlotte airport) and then finally to Columbia in South Carolina where my uncle met us. My mum’s brother and his family have lived in the USA for about 15 years now and this was MS first time meeting them. Just for a bit of inside info my uncle and his family are moonies and their particular way of life, as you can imagine, is a little different to many including both MS and I. It was MS first time being in such close proximity to people that are so deeply religious and he found it both fascinating and horrifying at the same time. He challenged my uncle on his beliefs (in a polite way) with conversations about the big bang theory, Adam and Eve and even Obama Care over the few days we spent with him – at Walmart, at Sam’s Club, in the car, at Verizon and back at Walmart again. Despite how it sounds it was a very friendly interaction but it’s obviously a conversation that my uncle has had plenty of times. In fact he freely admits that his responses have been well crafted over the years whereas MS was almost completely out of his depth. We had a great time with them but without being rude or disrespectful since my uncle will most likely read this I live my life very differently to those of the Unification Church.
Three days after we arrived we hired a car, said goodbye to my South Carolina family and after MS got his bearings for driving on the complete other side of the road in 6 lanes of traffic at 90 miles an hour we were on our way north to Durham in North Carolina (about a 3 hour drive). Along the way we passed a road sign advertising a Gun Expo in Charlotte and since we weren’t constrained by time we figured we would stop off to check it out. Sadly I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures inside and my Go Pro had to be put away the minute I stepped in the door. Pointing a high powered assault rifle with a scope and a laser sight at someone elses head so they can show me the accuracy of their favourite weapon isn’t something I thought I would ever see myself doing but it was pretty interesting to see the conservatives in their element.
Later that afternoon we arrived in Durham and headed straight to the Backyard BBQ Pit which was due to close earlier than we expected. It meant an early dinner of 5pm but it would have to do. I had heard about Backyard BBQ Pit on my beloved show Man Vs Food and kept it on a list ever since as one place I wanted to go to. We arrived to an unassuming brick restaurant on the side of the road with a sweet smell of barbecued meats in the air.
There was quite a line inside because the place was very popular and despite the questionable cleanliness of the eatery (cue waitress swatting blow flies with a broom) we took our place in the line. I’ve eaten at plenty of places where the hygiene was questionable and still lived to tell the tale. One that comes to mind was a road side hut that my cousin and I stopped at whilst touring Sri Lanka with Intrepid. We had a fantastic curry lunch served in large clay pots in an open air dining room. Before getting back on the bus I went to use the bathrooms and caught sight of the blow fly laden kitchen, a sight I would have preferred not to see.
Back at the Backyard BBQ Pit MS ordered the rib dinner with a trio of meats including brisket, ribs and pulled pork with sides for US$10.49 while I chose the Brisket plate with choice of sides for US$6.49. We both chose the mac n cheese as well as the hushpuppies – think deep fried mashed potato – and took a seat at a booth on the side.
The styrofoam take away boxes that seem to be a popular serving option in the US don’t make for a particularly aesthetic meal but they do the trick. One thing that was very obvious to me in the USA is that they live in very much a throw-away society. I thought we were bad in Australia but sh*t they are leaps and bounds ahead of us in terms of waste produced and no one seems to care (unless they are from San Francisco).
The best part of my meal was easily the mac n cheese. That cheesy, fat ladened pasta was so ridiculously rich I shudder to think what was in it but I didn’t come to the USA so question the calorie content of my food. My brisket was lovely in a vinegary sort of way. I recall my South Carolina cousin telling me about the difference in BBQ in the southern states – some swear by the vinegary type brisket and pulled pork whilst others think covering it in BBQ sauce is the best way. I’m definitely the later. Bring me the BBQ sauce! In fact, you can just leave it on my table. I tasted MS’ ribs and got a bit of food envy – he had definitely made a better meat choice than I had.
Later we explored our first Whole Foods supermarket of many which was conveniently located across the road from our hotel. If only for the entire fridge of different Kombucha (my new found love in life) I give Whole Foods 5 out of 5.
Next morning after a gym session in the ‘no judgement zone’ that is Planet Fitness we were on our way to Richmond in Virginia but not before stopping at the ridiculously popular bagel house Bruegger’s Bagels.
As you can imagine, bagels are hugely popular in the USA and the line for bagels at this place was well out the door. Bagels for breakfast soon became our ritual much to the dismay of my ass.
For lunch we made it to our first Chipotle for the trip as recommended by my mum and dad – think Zambrero but tastier and not such a damn rip off. In my opinion it’s one of the best fast food options in the USA and there are thousands of them around the country. I can recommend the Barbacoa with lots of Tabasco Sauce.
Later that night was our second BBQ stop Buz and Ned’s Real BBQ, another one I had seen on Man Vs Food. This was the other type of BBQ that my cousin was telling me about, the one with the BBQ sauce smothered all over the meat (aka my kind of dinner). We both ordered the BBQ Pork Sandwiches (MS had two because he’s a growing boy apparently) with more mac n cheese, hushpuppies and also fried okra (another popular southern dish). The mac n cheese wasn’t nearly as good as the one we had the previous night but I enjoyed the brisket burgers way more. And the fried okra? Well that kind of just tasted like oil. I love BBQ and it was one of the things I most looked forward to in the USA but I find it very rich and filling and can’t eat a whole lot of it.
The next day we were back on the road again and after our regular bagel breakfast we stopped at a random servo somewhere on the outskirts of Virginia. Inside I glanced at a newspaper on the counter with about 15 mugshots of people on the front of it. I asked the attendant if those were people that had gone missing and she said that it was people that had gone to jail that week. Only an emoji could convey my reaction to her reply.
To be continued… xo
Wings of Death @ the Green Ant Cantina, Cairns
If you’re a true Cairns local then it’s more than likely that you’ve heard of the Wings of Death challenge at the Green Ant Cantina on Bunda Street. For those of you that haven’t well it goes a little like this… The Wings of Death are chicken wings that are coated in secret hot sauces made from ‘some of the hottest chillies known to man’ – the habanero and the ghost chilli. To win the challenge one must eat seven of these wings without any liquids to ease the burn and the plate must be completely sauce free at the end. If you achieve all that then you get a bumper sticker and your name on the ‘Wall of Flame’, because how cool are bumper stickers? Pretty sweet deal huh? Did I do it? Well, not exactly…
As someone that has watched the entire series of Man Vs Food and heard various tales of people that have attempted the Wings of Death I’d be lying if I didn’t say curiosity had gotten the better of me over time. Thinking that I am pretty bulletproof admittedly I have always wondered what it was like to do one of these so called ‘challenges’ last Friday night whilst there with my family for a friend’s birthday dinner MS suggested we give it a go.
Ok, ok initially the suggestion was made for the Birthday Boy to do the entire Wings of Death challenge but he pretty much straight up refused it. Soon after dad’s curiosity as to how hot these wings really were also got the better of him. He lay down the challenge to myself and the Birthday Boy saying that we couldn’t/wouldn’t eat one and so we decided that the only way to find out was to order a plate of the Wings of Death and share them.
This wouldn’t be the first time my dad has egged me on and no doubt it won’t be the last. Ever since I was a kid everything between me and him has been a competition (a friendly one of course) – from who could run the fastest to who could eat dinner the fastest, hence the reason that now as an adult I don’t chew my food, I inhale it. And who could forget our much contested appearance on the live audience version of Fear Factor at Universal Studios back in 2005 where we both drank a concoction of blended up sour milk, fish guts, duck tongues, live maggots and live crickets. I beat dad by drinking two cups of the horrendous tasting gunk to move onto the next round in my unquestionable gut churning domination of the event. Dad still to this day cannot let it go and swears that he drank it faster than I did unbeknown to the entire studio audience that was watching. Needless to say The Mummy rollercoaster ride later on that day was a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons.
So now you understand how competitive things can get between us I shall go back to my original story. To cut an already long story short the death wings arrived at the table and out of the 9 people there only 3 of us ate a Wing of Death – myself, my dad and the Birthday Boy. My brother put his finger in the chilli to taste it and cried like a little baby, my Sri Lankan mother who barely consumed a ‘bee’s d*ck’ of the sauce made an awful racket about how badly it burned and then the rest of the table just down right refused to go anywhere near it.
The remaining three of us each consumed a wing whilst waiting for our mains to arrive. It goes without saying that these wings are ridiculously hot but because we weren’t officially doing the challenge (we were just sharing an entree) we could have as much water or in my case blue cheese sauce as we wanted. After the tears and the running noses we all decided that one Wing of Death was indeed enough and the remainder of the wings were pushed to the end of the table never to be thought about again. Or so we thought.
We had dinner, which might I add wasn’t particularly great, and I was about to signal the waitress to bring out the birthday cake. About an hour had passed since we ate ‘one’ Wing of Death each and I began to feel a slight burning in my tummy followed by a strong feeling of being generally ill. I excused myself from the table and went to the ladies toilet which was luckily very close by, all the while using every ounce of my energy not to fall over because I was so dizzy. I sat in there for a good five minutes sweating profusely and wondering if possibly my drink had been spiked. I also seriously considered lying down and curling up on the cold concrete floor at my feet. I heard a bit of a commotion outside the door and realised that I wasn’t in fact the only one that felt this way.
Because I had so quietly excused myself to go to the toilet when my dad started panting heavily and struggling to breathe MS sincerely thought he may be having a heart attack and went into full emergency mode, which luckily is what he is trained for. A few minutes later when I literally dragged myself from the toilet and the rest of the table saw how deathly white and pouring with sweat I was we all realised it was in fact the Wings of Death. The party was over. No cake for me and dad, or anyone for that matter. Mum drove dad home stopping suddenly along the way so he could power spew on the side of the road. My sister, who pleaded with me to go straight to the emergency ward, on my staunch request took me straight home where I lay on the shower floor in foetal position with severe stomach cramps until MS forced me to drink milk and miraculously as quickly as it had come on the pain subsided.
For dad and I it was a bit of a horrific end to what was a nice birthday dinner for the Birthday Boy, who might I add despite a bit of heart burn didn’t succumb to the Homer Simpson-like experience that dad and I did. Dad is still convinced that someone is probably going to die one day doing the actual challenge which is probably why anyone that does do it has to sign a medical waiver before they commence. They’re certainly not called the Wings of Death for nothing but in the end I didn’t spew like dad did so that makes me the clear winner. Again.
Petit Cafe, Cairns
Have you ever wanted to try somewhere new to eat out and then arrive there only to take one look at the menu and walk out again? Well that happened to my mum and I yesterday. Unfortunately for you I’m not going to divulge any more the details or give you the name of the place I am referring to because I didn’t try their food and it might just be amazing, it was just the menu didn’t really float my boat. Lucky for me, due to my incessant hourly scrolling through Instagram I already had a backup so mum and I jumped in the car and headed straight there.
My backup lunch destination was the newly opened (as of yesterday in fact) Petit Café on Lake Street. Directly across the road from Woolworths mum and I were both blown away when we entered the schmick Sydney-esque interior with soft blue walls, IKEA type retro furniture and mirror like polished floors (although much to mums dismay no communal table).
The whole place is very ‘not Cairns’ in a very good way! The Petit Café on Lake Street is the second such branch of it’s kind in FNQ with the first one being the ever so popular (so I have heard anyway) shop in Kuranda.
Mum and I took up a table for two in the middle of the floor and had a look over their extensive menus with a page each for Traditional Crepes, Gourmet Crepes and of course Sweet Crepes. With over 30 different types of crepes on the menu it was quite a difficult choice for both of us, even mum who is still – despite my initial thoughts that she would barely last 2 weeks – a vegetarian. Sorry mum!
She chose a Traditional Crepe with Creamy Goats Cheese, Homemade Onion Jam, Toasted Almonds, Cherry Tomatoes, Cheese and Spinach while after a tough choice I ended up choosing a Gourmet Crepe with Medium Rare Roast Beef, Homemade Tartar Sauce, Egg, Cherry Tomatoes, Cheese, Cornichons and Baby Spinach. Initially I did think that the prices were a little high – a couple of the Gourmet Crepes are around the $23 mark I instantly changed my mind when I saw the sheer size of the things and the generous toppings.
Mum’s Traditional Crepe came out pizza style whilst mine was folded up a little like a calzone. I’m going to try and keep this short and sweet because there’s not a whole lot that needs to be said other than both of our crepes were absolutely delicious. Mum thought her crepe had a few too many almonds on it but I tasted it and disagreed with her.
My egg was runny and the homemade tartar sauce along with the cornichons gave my Gourmet Crepe a lovely zing! It was so big that I was in fact full for the rest of the afternoon but I am looking forward to my next visit to try the Kangaroo Prosciutto Crepe and of a course one of their amazing sounding Sweet Crepes – and yes of course they have Nutella Crepes for those of you that were wondering!
Attentive service, knockout decor, beautiful fresh ingredients and crepes made with love I have absolutely no doubt that it’s going to be on for young and old at the newly opened Petit Café.
Lake St, Cairns
Opening Hours: 7 days 7.30am – 3.30pm
Eating Ourselves Stupid in Tasmania – East Coast
Continuing on from my last post where I rambled about wine and cheese platters in the Tamar Valley the next day we were leaving Launceston bound for Swansea. Being a Saturday I was well aware that one of the biggest and best markets in the country, the Salamanca Markets, was on in Hobart but alas we were a couple of hundred km’s away. I tried to plan our initial itinerary around being in Hobart on that very day but logistics just didn’t allow for it so instead we found ourselves at the Harvest Markets in Launceston.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting much but I was actually pleasantly surprised by the size of the markets and the variety. I mean it was no Salamanca Markets that’s for sure – Salamanca Markets has over 300 stall holders while the Harvest Market in Launceston probably had about 30 but you know what they say ‘size doesn’t matter’. The Harvest Market is held in a carpark in the heart of Launceston every Saturday from 8.30am – 12.30pm. Awarded the Most Outstanding Farmers Market by ABC Delicious Magazine in 2013 it brings the farm gate to you and after my visit I can highly recommend it.
When we arrived it seemed like the majority of Launceston was there for a look and to sample some of the local delights. There’s artisan bread, wine, cider, cheese, preserved, fresh fruit and vege, seafood, meat, coffee and also a handful of food trucks serving everything from gozlemes to waffles to Reuben sandwiches. Typically MS and I just couldn’t go past the stall selling Reuben sandwiches so aptly called ‘Meat Bread Cheese’.
It seems many other people attending had the same idea because they had quite a following of people also keen to have a Reuben. MS and I shared their apparently famous Reuben sandwich with Pastrami, Swiss Cheese, Russian Dressing and Sauerkraut on Fresh Rye for those of you that don’t know what a Reuben is (you should be ashamed of yourself). It was a fantastic Reuben and probably the best I’ve had but that will most likely change when I go to Katz Deli in New York for THE Reuben in a couple of months time.
When we first walked into the markets I spied a stall selling fresh blackberries that was doing an absolute roaring trade. A few stalls over I also spied another stall selling blackberries but with no one buying them. Ever the bleeding heart – I still have pangs of guilt about not buying a piece of fruit cake from an old man trying to sell fruit cake at the weekend markets in Broome over three years ago – I went over and bought a punnet of blackberries from this couple for about $5. Turns out no one was buying their berries because they weren’t very friendly and their blackberries were that sour that we couldn’t even eat them. Anyways we bought a gozleme for the road and jumped in the car headed for Swansea.
The road to Swansea was winding and littered with dead wildlife – I have seriously never seen so much roadkill as I have in Tasmania, it’s a little sad. MS thought it would be a fantastic road to travel on his GSXR and even fantasised about moving to Tasmania just so he could explore new roads at high speeds (and no I do not condone speeding). We were overtaken by a convoy of classic cars and premium sports car prompting an argument about which car we would rather own. In the end the silver Aston Martin won out for me whilst MS refused to go past the 1972 Ford Falcon XY GT. Come on the two don’t even compare!
We were staying at a cosy little BnB in Swansea that night but we weren’t due to check in till later that afternoon so in the meantime we stopped off at the Bark Mill Tavern and Bakery for a bite to eat because god forbid we had been a good hour and a half without food. I ordered a Curried Scallop pie while MS got a sausage roll and a Steak and Bacon pie. I’ve only ever eaten three scallop pies in my lifetime – in Hobart back in 2009, Bairnsdale in 2002 and this one in Swansea. It wasn’t amazing with no more than 5 or 6 scallops inside but given that it was in fact a scallop pie it automatically gets a few extra points.
We jumped back in the car and headed off towards Coles Bay and the Freycinet National Park because I had a mission to eat oysters at the Freycinet Marine Farm. Due to my awesome navigating skills and MS’ lack of sign reading ability (someone navigating for you does not take away from your responsibility to pay attention to any and all signs on your journey) we ended up driving straight past the oyster farm and into Coles Bay. It wasn’t a major drama since we had planned on heading there to get some photos of The Hazards before heading back to Swansea. We parked down at the boat ramp and the place was packed with boaties either launching or recovering their boats after a morning of fishing. By the looks of the boats and the 4WD’s towing them there was certainly a bit of money in the area.
Beyond the boat ramp though were the spectacular Hazards – rugged mountains that separate Wineglass Bay from Coles Bay. It was a stunning view. The whole area is just so pristine and beautiful I would love to spend a bit more time there and do the hike up to the Wineglass Bay lookout one day – just not this day. One things for sure I will be coming back to spend a night or two at Saffire Freycinet – when I win the lotto.
There was a nice French man fishing off the pontoon and I asked him if I could get a photo of him fishing. He happily obliged as long as I was happy to send the photos to his email address because he said he didn’t have any photos of himself fishing. I put his email address into my phone and sent the photos to him later that evening only to have them bounce back. I tried a few different alternatives to the email he had given me but with no luck. If you are reading this nice French man I am sorry you didn’t receive the photos but I really did try to send them. I’m a woman of my word!
About 20 minutes later we found ourselves at the Freycinet Marine Farm which was pretty much exactly what the reviews on Trip Advisor had said – a shack in the middle of nowhere. Still we weren’t there for the view we were there for the oysters (well I was anyway). Despite being in the middle of nowhere they were doing a roaring trade with a few actual meals on the
specials board as well as some variations of oysters, mussels and crayfish.
I ordered a dozen of the natural jumbo sized oysters and a half dozen of the Kilpatrick simply because I’m a glutton plus a glass of Sauvignon Blanc to wash it all down. Despite my desperate pleas for MS to order something he stuck to his guns and instead watched me eat my mollusc delights. The jumbo oysters ($20 for a dozen) were excellent – big and meaty however the Kilpatrick were pretty damn ordinary but personally I’m the kind of person that doesn’t really believe in dressing up oysters, they taste great just the way they are. Yeah that kind of defeats the purpose of me ordering them I guess.
Later that afternoon we found ourselves checking into our bnb in Swansea followed by a little afternoon nap. The Freycinet Waters bnb building was a lovely former post office with plenty of character and friendly owners to boot. We spent the afternoon snoozing with the free wifi and the tennis on in the background before heading across the road for some ciders overlooking the Great Oyster Bay on the balcony of local restaurant Salt Shaker.
That evening at the Salt Shaker restaurant we dined on Seafood Chowder, Calamari and Chicken Parmigiana (not me). The Calamari was pretty ordinary especially for the price and so was the Chicken Parmi. I had been longing for Seafood Chowder since arriving in Tasmania and this one was excellent despite the hair that I found in it… We totted off back to our room at the bnb finishing the night with a tipple of port supplied by our hosts and dreams of Scallop Pies and fresh shucked oysters (me) and MS most likely his other girlfriend (his motorbike).
Stay tuned for my final post as we head back to Hobart xox
What’s your all time best foodie experiences?
After over 150 posts of me talking about myself I want to hear about you! I want to hear the all time best foodie experiences of you guys – my foodvixen readers. It doesn’t have to be fancy and it certainly doesn’t have to be expensive – the best meals are often the cheapest meals! For me food is all about the experience – who you dined with, where you dined or what you ate. It doesn’t have to be overseas, it could be a memorable picnic on the Cairns Esplanade or fish and chips at Palm Cove… Whatever is it I want to hear about it! For those of you that have followed my blog some of you might remember me recounting my top foodie experiences in previous posts but for those of you that missed it, I’ll recount one more time in the hope of unlocking some of your top foodie experiences.
1. Peking Duck in Beijing – I travelled to China for the first time in 2006 and as part of the tour we were on my family and I ended up at a restaurant in the heart of Beijing. I had never had Peking Duck before – the world famous dish that actually originates from Beijing and was first prepared during the Imperial era – nor did I know what it entailed. The duck was sliced in front of our table by the chef and then the waitresses showed us how to eat it with spring onions, cucumber, sweet bean sauce all wrapped up in a little pancake. The thin and crispy skin of the duck was out of this world and to this day I still dream about returning to Beijing to eat their amazing Peking Duck.
2. Oysters in Florida – Before the big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – 2004 to be exact. My family and I did an RV tour of the USA and we stopped in at the Eastpoint Oyster House in Florida for some fresh seafood. There is nothing my family loves more than fresh seafood – apart from my sister who only just discovered wine (yes she hasn’t quite grown up yet). We bought 12 dozen oysters to eat between three of us – me, mum and dad. The oysters were only US$3.99 a dozen if you shucked them yourself. Having owned a seafood factory for many years my dad was and still is no stranger to shucking oysters. He would also tell you he once won a prawn peeling competition against the prawning peeling ladies that worked at his factory. What he won’t tell you is that he cheated and those ladies should have beat him hands down. Anyway we sat out of the front of the Eastpoint Oyster House on a rickety old table overlooking the Apalachicola Bay, surrounded by mountains of discarded old oyster shells and ate dozens of Apalachicola Bay oysters straight from the shell with savoury biscuits, hot sauce and lemon. Absolute bliss.
3. Chicken Biryani in Colombo – I travelled to my mother’s birth country in 2011 where I did a three week Intrepid tour with my cousin. The first day that we arrived in Sri Lanka we found ourselves at a rundown little restaurant on the main strip not far down from the famous Galle Face Hotel. We had no idea what to order so we pointed to what everyone else was having which turned out to be the best Chicken Biryani of my life for all of about 200 rupees (about AU$2). Although I was the only female in there the owner made us both feel very welcome, in fact he was beside himself with excitement at having some Australian tourists dine at his humble roadside restaurant. It was the perfect beginning to what was an amazing 3 week adventure in Sri Lanka.
4. Stand up noodles in Osaka – Tachigui soba is a fast food that is unique to Japan and literally means ‘standing up eating’ soba noodles. I first travelled to Japan in 2009 where my friends and I stumbled upon a tiny Tachigui soba bar in the Osaka suburb of Fukushima (no not that Fukushima). The four of us crammed into the noodle bar on a cold and wet day and slurped our steaming hot bowls of noodles with a couple of friendly Japanese business men who found it all highly amusing. It was my first introduction to stand-up noodles and I made sure that I returned to this very place in my most recent trip to Japan in November last year.
Others moments worth a mention are gobbling up cherries the size of a baby’s fist at the Salamanca Markets in Hobart, baby back ribs in a dingy bar in Nashville, a birthday picnic organised by my love MS and courtesy of Davy at Mama Coco at Lake Eacham, a 10 course degustation atop the Rialto in Melbourne at Vue De Monde also with my love, xiao long bao amongst Chinese breakfast-goers in Shanghai and fish and chips on Bondi Beach in Sydney. I could go on forever here because I have had some truly memorable foodie moments in my travels. As you can tell I love food and I love travel but this was only supposed to be a relatively short post. Now it’s over to you x