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Bali Foodie Tour 2017

Now that I have finally had a chance to collect my thoughts after a massive couple of weeks in Bali and Port Douglas I finally had time to sit down and put pen to paper and write a wrap up post for the Bali Foodie Tour 2017.


Firstly I want to say that this tour was a collaborative effort between myself and Mercedes from Mercedes Gonzalez Travel Management. After I got back from my trip to Europe last year Mercedes approached me and asked me if I would be interested in hosting a food tour with her. Was I ever?!  That’s every bloggers dream isn’t it? We met for coffee and we were so excited about the prospect of working together on this tour that we hit the ground running and began organising.


Just a small portion of the offerings at Starfish Bloo’s Sunday Brunch


The Bali Foodie Tour was in fact my first trip to Bali so Mercedes was my eyes and ears when planning the food tour.  As she has visited Bali over 30 times there is no one more qualified to show us the sights and sounds of Bali. As co-host of the tour I was lucky enough to have my flights and accommodation covered by Mercedes Gonzalez Travel Management. She organised flights, accommodation, travel insurance, transfers, massages and cocktails for the group for 12 while I worked on the food component.


Sunset cocktails at La Plancha -YES PLEASE!

Originally the tour was going to be in Melbourne but a few logistical and cost concerns had Mercedes suggest the idea of Bali to me. I’ll be honest, prior to this trip Bali was never on my list of destinations I wanted to visit but around that time I had some read articles in Delicious and Gourmet Traveller about the increasingly sophisticated food scene that has emerged in Bali over the last few years. Just to mention a few, Frank Camorra of Movida fame in Melbourne had opened his first overseas outpost at the much hyped Potato Head Beach Club. In November owner of Bondi Icebergs in Sydney Maurice Terzini brought the Amalfi Coast to Bali with the opening of his first Bali restaurant Da Maria and Adrian Reed opening Motel Mexicola. I wondered if maybe it was time for me to finally make my way to the Island of Smiles and when Mercedes suggested  Bali for the foodie tour I figured it was fate.


Indonesian food at Kaum, Potato Head Beach Club

I researched my little butt off to put together an itinerary that would be not only tour some of the best new eating and drinking spots in Bali but also some of the hidden gems and local haunts (Warung’s)where one can dine on a huge plate of Nasi Campur for little more than AU$3. I’m not gonna lie, but now that it’s all said and done we did visit some seriously awesome places and ate some even more awesome food. The price of ‘high end’ food in Bali is roughly half of what you would pay in Australia and it’s true when they say you can eat like kings (and Queens) in Bali for a fraction of the cost. It’s not just the price of food in Bali but the quality of the food in many of these restaurants and cafes is second to none. And I know you’re probably wondering did anyone get the dreaded Bali Belly on the tour? The answer is yes – but certainly not from anywhere that I recommended.


Handmade donuts while shopping up a storm at Kuta Beach


After 5 days of eating we barely scraped the surface and there are so many more restaurants I want to tick off my list. Unfortunately one can only eat so much – even though I was called a ‘bottomless pit’ by one of the ladies on the tour. So I guess that means I will just have to go back and admittedly I am already on high alert for cheap Bali flights on Jetstar.


Welcome drinks before the Paon Cooking Class in Ubud

I’m beyond grateful to Mercedes for the opportunity to co-host this tour with her. In fact this tour would never have gone ahead if it wasn’t for Mercedes putting it together.  I enjoyed my trip to Bali more than I ever thought I would but not just because of the place and the food but also because of the fabulous group of ladies that came on the tour. Alana, Shannon, Jesse, Keithea, Andrea, Cara, Lauren, Lindie, Mercedes and the two Katrina’s -thanks for an unforgettable 5 days! I’m looking forward to our reunion dinner in a few weeks time. And lastly will I be doing another tour? Hell yeah!


Important Info:

Contact Mercedes Gonzalez Travel Management for all your travel needs. You can find her on Facebook or contact her direct on 0488 223 685.

We stayed at the quirky Dash Hotel right in the heart of Seminyak. You cannot beat this place in terms of located (literally we were right across the road from Potato Head). The beds were comfy, there’s a spa onsite, a rooftop bar and the brekkies are pretty darn good.

Each time Mercedes travels to Bali she uses Made Suarjana from Prestige Driving Service (Ph: +628123952745). He’s friendly, reliable and has a well stocked esky onboard. I will definitely be using him again when I return.

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.

bacon wrapped pizza

Behold the bacon wrapped pizza from Little Caesars

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.


Just another day in South Carolina suburbia

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.


I wasn’t kidding…

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.

Despite how it looks mine on the left was far smaller than MS'

Despite how it looks mine on the left was far smaller than MS’

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.

The wall of Kombucha at Whole Foods

The wall of Kombucha at Whole Foods

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.

The 'Lunk Alarm' at Planet Fitness that is set off if someone is dropping weights.  Seems a little extreme to me.

The ‘Lunk Alarm’ at Planet Fitness that is set off if someone is dropping weights too loudly. Personally I think its a little extreme.

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.

Bruegger's Bagel makers at work

Bruegger’s Bagel makers at work

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.

Lunch at Chipotle

Lunch at Chipotle

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