Saturday, September 12, 2009

Coffee and the Untrained Palate

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Latte at Philippa's in Armadale, Melbourne

I've never been a big coffee drinker and only ordered an occasional cappuccino whenever I had lunch with the girls. Then Starbucks came to town together with all the other coffee shops. And because it became a hang out and a meeting place, I got used to having cafe mochas. That tasted good. Finally I settled on Cafe Latte because I really do like a lot of milk in my coffee.

But it was in Italy a few years ago that I became a coffee-drinker. They would serve a cappuccino with breakfast at the BnB we were staying at and it gave me a giddy feeling the whole morning. I couldn't decide whether it was the coffee or just the excitement of being in Italy. Maybe it was a combination. I began to look forward to breakfast because of the coffee. I now know how people can be addicted to coffee and understand when they say they're zombies the whole day without their morning coffee. It's a legalized drug!

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Cappuccino in Rome

In Australia, they people take their coffee very seriously. Coffee here is all espresso based and even the smallest shop will have hard-to-beat coffee. And whoever gave them their names is a marketing genius. I remember my cousin ordering a "Flat white please..." and I remember thinking "oooh, what is that?!?"  She laughed and said "it's regular coffee!"  Then there's a short black (a single shot of espresso) and a long black (an espresso topped off with water) too.

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Cappuccino at Vue de Monde Bistro, Melbourne

I still order lattes which is similar to a flat white but with more milk. A flat white comes in a cup and the latte usually in a glass.  I think the small-cafe glass is stylish, even if not very practical. In Australia, I looked forward to having coffee every morning and afternoon too. I think the best I had on the trip to Melbourne was at Caffe Brunetti-- rich, smooth and velvety. 

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Latte at Caffe Brunetti, Carlton

I also learned just recently that you're not supposed to stir a cappuccino before you drink it--something to do with the microscopic bubbles. In Italy at breakfast, I'd always stir the whole thing. It all tasted the same to my untrained palate.

But now I finally know what people mean when they say the coffee is so good in Italy. I think it's just as good in Australia. It's probably not such a good habit to take up, after having stayed coffee-free for so many years. For a someone who doesn't drink coffee regularly, I'm now craving and dreaming of the coffee I had in Melbourne, and wondering where I can get a really good cup in Manila.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Melting Moment

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I came across these cookies when I was first went to Sydney almost ten years ago. They were in almost every coffee shop and snack shop and in many restaurants too--always in jars near the cashier, meant to be an impulse buy. Of course I always bought one. Two shortbread cookies with cream in between, they were so good! I would look forward to having one after lunch or an afternoon coffee (tea?). My cousin who lives in Sydney was surprised I was so thrilled with something so ordinary. Of course I know the shortbread cookies that come in a tin, or a box (Walkers?)--but these always looked so tempting. How can anyone resist?

I'm familiar with chocolate chip cookies in a jar, but not shortbread cookies named "melting moments". In other places they were called "soothing moments" or something similar. It's probably a British thing? I've only been to London a couple of times and I didn't particularly notice them in jars at the checkout counter there.
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Another thing i noticed in Australia then was the toasted sandwiches which were toasted on George Foreman type grillsl. This was ten years ago and before paninis became common in the States. (Paninis in Italy were hardly the toasted sandwiches we know paninis to be. I remember seeing paninis in Italy laid out in trays--a few slices of salami folded inside ciabatta-looking rolls, sitting out there for at least a couple of hours. They were hard!) I usually like my sandwiches on toasted bread, and I remember being pleasantly surprised when I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich from a kiosk in a Brisbane mall and it was a hot toasted sandwich. Simple grilled ham and cheese. Yum!

So probably very ordinary to the mates down under, but toasted sandwiches and melting moments made quite an impression on me! And I haven't started yet with the coffee...

Rainbow in Yarra!

rainbow to melbourne

I've never been this close to the end of a rainbow! 
When we actually got to it, it was at the entrance of Chateau Yering. What a 
beautiful place! I would've wanted to try this place if only for one 
night (had we had that extra night!). Good thing we didn't too because 
it was quiet expensive. It's a"Historic House" hotel that is part of the
Relais and Chateau group of hotels. Of course I still asked to see the rooms.

chateau bedroom
I love "period" rooms and bathrooms


I liked all the furniture in the sitting room!

morning room

There are just so many options to stay at the Yarra Valley that
if ever I went back, I would still explore the other little bed and
breakfasts around the area. I don't even mind transferring inns
everynight so I could explore as many of them as possible!

I love beautifully designed hotels and I observe every little
detail down to the baseboard and the cornices. Of course I take home all
the amenities like the shampoos and conditioners. I also take the
stationery that's in the desk and also the little notepad beside the
bed. I actually read in some travel magazine about the author "stealing"
these things. It's hardly stealing if it's meant to be consumed anyway. I
wouldn't want to use slippers someone else has used. So it they are
sealed are unused, I take them home. At least I remember the hotel long
after I've left it!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I Love Cheese!

Actually, I do love cheese, but the main reason for this post is that I think I finally learned how to download my photos to Flickr (free space), and then link the photos here back to the photo on Flickr so that I don't use up my allowable download space on Blogger. Hmmm..

But I think there still should be a better way to drag and drop the photos instead of cut and paste between two URLs? I must be doing something wrong. Will practice with more..

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Beautiful Balgownie

We stayed the night at the Balgownie Estate. The suite was very well appointed, it made us want to stay in and watch DVDs all night. But of course we ended up having dinner at the vineyard restaurant called Rae's, where I had this really delicious appetizer which had watermelon and goat cheese. The steak dishes were good too.

During the day we visited the Tarrawarra Estate for wine tasting and to have a look at the art gallery. Pete, the gentleman at the bar was very accommodating, giving us the history and describing the different terroirs of the area.

Having had most of my wine experience in California in the 80's, where and when I developed a preference for Cabernet Sauvingon, I didn't really pay attention to the lighter Pinot Noir and Shiraz stuff. But come to think of it, lighter reds and whites are much better suited to our tropical environment. I really liked the fruity crisp whites and the lighter reds--we went away with a bottle of Shiraz.

We could've stayed here longer and just basically stay at the Yarra Valley but someone told us we had to check out the Mornington Peninsula and check out the scene there too. So by noon the next day, we were off with our Hertz Neverlost, typing in "Mornington".


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