Trying to live a holistic life in an unholistic world

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…..

with 6 comments

However, there is a distinct line between drawing inspiration from someone else’s work as opposed to copying not only a concept, but a whole shop, right down to the actual menu, spatial design and interior decoration – including personal quirks.

Having worked as an interior designer, I value good design, but above all, design integrity.

I refer to my previous post, (which was sooooo long ago I know) where I hailed Porchetta as having a holier than thou vegan sandwich. I don’t want to slam a small business directly, or wish them into closure, however I think it’s important to be well informed, as things aren’t always as they appear.

After I had posted the previous blog entry, I received an email from Frankie Harrington, owner of Meat & Bread in Vancouver. The tone and delivery of the email was polite and informative, without any spite or malice. Frankie informed me that

“I built Meat & Bread sandwich shop and opened in October 2010 with my business partner. We grew up in restaurants and opening Meat & Bread was our first crack at owning our own. We took many risks in this venture and tried our hardest to be different and to stand out with our approach, cooking techniques and design.”

“It’s pretty upsetting to know that there are people that copy everything…inspiration is one thing but they took everything. My business partner and myself have worked very hard independently to open Meat & Bread…It’s not like we have bottomless pockets and come from a corporate background. This idea is as real as it get’s and we both still work at our two locations 6 days per week.”

Whilst I can not deny that I still dream of that sandwich from Porchetta, their ethics and morals have left a bitter aftertaste. It is a personal decision for me to decide not to visit Porchetta again, mind over stomach, ethics over hunger for me. Besides, Casablanca is just a 5 minute walk away when a carby craving hits, and it hits the spot oh so good.



Written by ayearinpatissiere

May 26, 2013 at 20:09

Garosugil 가로수길 is so 2010. Serosugil 세로수길 is the new black.

with one comment

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Today, being the last day of my holiday, I decided to take a stroll around my favourite southside area, Garosugil in Sinsa-Dong, Gangnam-Gu. (Dong = micro suburb, Gu = suburb. Southside = anywhere south of the massive Han river.

Garosugil directly translates to “tree-lined street” (Garosu = tree-lined, Gil = street) and is aptly titled, with the whole street decorated with deciduous trees which are in the first stages of shedding their summer skin in exchange for the warmer orangey-brown hues of Autumn. The area is renowned for having a European vibe from the huge varieties of food available to imported brands.

New fashion / cafe collaboration: ‘Around the corner’ fashion and ‘Publique’.
Original bakery in Hongdae.

Publique: Hongdae.
Sadly closed when I visited.
Amazing breads (none of that sweet white shite) and other sweet treats.
The founder was once an architect, with a passion for bread, and an obvious talent!

Last Winter.
The big brands have taken over.

However, as with the gentrification of all suburbs, what was once a little hidden pocket for authentic pop-up shops, emerging designers and small businesses, has become a mecca for the big players, taking advantage of the beautiful location, accessibility and apparent ‘new money’ wealth of the area.

세로수길, or Serosugil, translates to ‘side streets’ and these noticeably quieter, quirky side streets of Sinsa, off the main drag of Garosugil, have been sprouting new small boutiques, cafes and restaurants reminiscent of the area formerly known as.

I was on a mission today to do the unthinkable in Seoul.
Trying to find some place I’d read about somewhere, but couldn’t find the post online again, or any information at all regarding the place. My phone wasn’t loading the Korea Herald website here, which has directions in layman’s terms.

So, Le Pure Pressed Juice, it’s you and me baby another day.

It wasn’t all a futile waste though. There’s always something new to be found in this city. That’s what I love.

Walking around in the glorious Autumn afternoon,weaving in and out of streets, I saw many interesting places, old faithfuls like Le Alaska Boulangerie (Why Alaska?) who imports their wheat flour direct from France and has a beautiful open kitchen where you can watch the bakers at work, dine in and enjoy coffee and croissant or take it to go. I’ve tried the spinach twist (and still dream of it, however now try to refrain from wheat) and can vouch that it is as delicious as it looks.

Help! Get me outta here.

Open prep & baking area

Because the French do it better

Another favourite, the Swedish cafe ‘Fika’ which has recently moved to a bigger location and extended beyond just a cafe to include a 2nd floor ‘smart working library cafe’ where the premise is to ‘work, share, read, write and drink.’  The basement floor is a Scandinavian design lifestyle shop where they sell different kitchen utensils, homewares and soft furnishings. The cafe now also stocks a range of gourmet biscuits, crackers and muesli’s. Not all Swedish, some German, but there was the ‘vellicht Svensk’ (very Swedish) Lingonberry and Gooseberry jam. This can be either spread on bread or crispbread or mixed with water to form a drink.

Having lived in Sweden, I find Fika to be quite authentic with the selection of cakes, buns and savoury items. Generally, Swedes love processed cheese/fish pastes in a tube and it was scarily heart-warming to see these nutritional nightmares there!

‘Fika’ in Swedish means coffee break. And Swedes love to take fika 2 or more times a day. I lived in a small town outside of Gothenburg on the west coast, and it was a tiny, quaint, fairy tale beautiful town with only around 25,000 people, a main street in the city centre that went for 2 blocks, but with a crazy 30+ cafes. At any time of the day, these cafes would be filled with people, man or woman, young or old, all enjoying fika.

The sweet taste of Sweden, Lingonberry.
Enjoyed with everything from pancakes to meatballs.

Bottom Left: Cheese/Fish paste in a tube
Top Right: Semla – a sweet bun usually filled with marzipan. Traditionally only eaten around Easter.

Other places of interest:

Spellbound Fixie Shop
Lots of people riding around, hanging about.
Will go back another day and buy me a bike.

One Chu – Churros Cafe

Cafe No Bear

Fork Fork Diner
Kitsch little cafe serving burgers, salads, pasta

Hello! Diner and Cafe
Menu looked suspiciously asian for a ‘diner’
Noodles, rice dishes……ho hum ho hum

Jane’s Picky Pizza
Good design, both architecturally and graphically
Food looks pretty banging too

It’s not all about food
Serosugil has nice, independent boutiques like this as well as more street fashion orientated stores stocking European brands like Nudie, Cheap Monday, WESC.

Ok, around the corner, back on Garosugil.
Collab between ‘Around the corner’ and ‘Publique’

Delicious bread from Publique.
Vegan chive and ‘cheese’ dip – recipe to follow

How to get there: Sinsa Station exit 8, line 3 (orange) Walk directly out of subway for 2 blocks. Turn left at the Missha into Garosugil.
Walk around, get lost, discover a new favourite, like I have here (post to follow)

Written by ayearinpatissiere

October 3, 2012 at 14:32

Time Travel: Vietnam

with 9 comments

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Prior to moving to South Korea, I travelled solo around South East Asia.

I only had a one way ticket to Hanoi, no real itinerary, no real time frame, no real budget, no nothing except a wad of hard earned cash (via a soul destroying job) and unlimited time.

All I knew was I needed to travel, I needed to get away from everything that defined me.

I needed to lose myself in order to find myself.

I met some amazing people, many of whom I’m still in contact with.

It turns out that when you’re travelling on a familiar backpacking route, most people are asking the same questions as you are. We’re all on this big trip, thinking we’re taking a unique leap of faith, but really, we’re all searching for the same answers.

We’re all reading the same books, Shantaram, Life of Pi and at the time Eat, Pray, Love was viral. It was therefore assumed I was a broken woman flying solo on a quest for enlightenment, satisfaction and love inspired by Julia Roberts on a Carrie Bradshaw mission. Not 100% inaccurate, but still a long way from the truth.

So, I travelled from North to South Vietnam. Up and down the coast, weaving in and out, east to west.

I explored Vietnam mainly by myself. I was emotionally hungover from a particularly shite past few years and needed to clear the crap from my mind.

I hiked through the mountains of northern Sapa for 5 days to the border of China with only a guide and local tribeswomen. I had the honour of being welcomed into a local village party where they were celebrating the acceptance of their first-born into a Hanoi University. A humbling experience where I got to witness how proud her family were with a celebration of  festive food, in this case many dishes made from the prized mountain dog, and homemade cobra rice wine.

When in Nam, right!

Trekking through Sapa with my guide and H’Mong tribeswoman 

Festive celebration – the whole village was invited.

Far north Vietnam / Chinese border homestay
Preparing dinner with everything, vegetables and pork, sourced from his own farm.

I rode a motorbike for a few days through the central highlands of Dalat, visiting Phan Rang where my dearly missed dad was stationed. I wanted to see the Vietnam he saw.

Phan Rang: Dad on the right. Circa 1969-70

Phan Rang: 2011
Not too much had really changed

Street Vendor Phan Rang: Bánh xèo
Coconut milk flavoured crepe stuffed with prawns and beansprouts

Soups in the Dalat Centre Square

I saw the usual sights, Halong Bay, DMZ, the red sand dunes at Mui Ne, the beautiful French inspired Hoi An and got stuck for days at the beachy Nha Trang, swimming, drinking, cycling and lazing my cares away.

Life’s a beach – at Nha Trang

Street Vendor Nha Trang: Banh Can
A southern speciality which is a small rice pancake made with quail eggs cooked on a charcoal plate

Banh Canh Nha Trang: Fish noodle soup
I taught the girl in blue English for one week. At the end of the week she wanted to take me to lunch and meet her family.

Street Vender Hoi An.

Not exactly sure what it’s called but it was a standout. BBQ pork skewers served with mint and coriander, greens and dry rice paper.
Outta this world amazing.

But, it was essentially the food that kept me travelling and exploring. As you move north to south, the food changes dramatically and local delicacies found in Hanoi are not to be seen in Hue. (pronounced Hway)

Due to the apparent cooler climate in northern Vietnam, (definitely not when I was there in July-August) the production of spices is limited and therefore the cuisine is more mild, relying on black pepper instead of chillies for seasoning.

The soups and dishes of central Vietnam are noticeably more fiery due to the abundance of spices being produced in the mountainous region. As Hue was the capital of the last dynasty in Vietnam, the food is intricate and elaborate. (refer below to the many plates and separate banana leaf envelopes of Banh Beo and Lok)

Southern Vietnam also has a milder, sweeter flavour than the centre due to the tropical fruits and different vegetables such as garlic and shallots available which are indicative of the warmer temperatures. The region also uses more coconut milk in their dishes due to neighboring Cambodia.

Street Vendor Hanoi: Bun thit nuong
Round the corner from Hanoi Rendezvous Backpacker hostel.
Unbelievably fresh and good.

Street Vendor Hanoi: Bún chả

BBQ Meatballs served with cold noodles, fish/chilli sauce and salad.
OMG – Friggen amazing.

Start questioning why there are fine cheeses, breads and desserts in Vietnam and you learn about the history of the French Occupation in the 19th century. The French chefs taught many Vietnamese their methods of food preparation and techniques which were then adopted and fused together with traditional Vietnamese flavours and ingredients.  The French influence on Vietnamese food is now so deeply ingrained that some people are unaware of its presence.

Perfect examples of this fusion is the French technique of making stock to produce a broth for soup. When paired with Vietnamese flavours such as star anise, soy and fish sauce alongside garnishes of peppery Vietnamese mint, coriander, basil and chili it produces the rich and flavoursome dish of the country, Pho.

Street Vendor Hanoi: The quintessential dish – Vietnam in a bowl.
Beef Pho.

Street Vendor Hanoi: Pho

Street Vendor Hanoi: Banh Cuon

Another perfect French/ Vietnamese combination. Rice flour crepe with meat and mushrooms inside. Typically served for breakfast with fried egg atop. An absolute must.

Another fine example is the Vietnamese bread roll, Banh Mi. Having mastered the art of a perfect baguette in not only shape, colouring and taste, but most importantly, texture. The firm and crunchy outer shell protects the soft, yet slightly chewy inside which when spread with French-style pate, luncheon meats and cheese – usually Laughing Cow, and combined with chili paste, “Sambal”, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs, notably coriander, Banh Mi is the perfect marriage between French and Vietnamese cuisines.

Street Vendor Saigon: Banh Mi

Other dishes not to be missed is the Royal cuisine of Hue, Banh Beo which is a rice flour dumpling/pod in a small bowl combined with small dried prawns and pork rinds. Banh Lok is a more gelatinous rice ‘rectangle’ with whole dried prawns and pork fat enveloped and steamed in a banana leaf. Alone, the flavours are subtle and the texture soft, however when paired with the spicy, fishy, salty dipping sauce, the flavours of the pork and prawn are intensified.

Whilst these can be sourced out in Saigon, the quality and price is far superior in Hue. Not much else to see in Hue apart from the Citadel and a day spent biking around, but definitely worth the trip for the food alone.

Also a standout is Banh Khoai which is an egg and rice flour pancake with prawns, pork meat and beansprouts.

Hue: Banh Beo (small dish) and Banh Lok (Banana leaf)
One of my absolute favourites.

By the time I reached Saigon (I realise it’s called Ho Chi Minh now, however the locals still refer to it as Saigon) I was encountering similar dishes. Whilst I wasn’t growing tired of the food at all, I was struggling to find totally new eats.

However, I was staying a stone’s throw from this bustling restaurant below and after arriving late and starving, a new friend and I wandered down for a much needed beer (it’s always a hot, humid Summer’s day in Vietnam. The weather varies from hot and humid to fucking hot and humid and storming) and to see what the fuss was all about.

Beef Bo Kho.

Holy crap. It deserves a line to itself, centre alignment, bold and italics. I’d make it a gif if I had more time.

A hearty beef stew with carrots and onions in a rich tomato broth very similar to Beef Bourguignon, asian-a-fied with liberal dashings of basil, bean sprouts, chili and lemon. You can choose to have it with either rice noodles or a baguette. I preferred to just eat it straight up with extra bean sprouts.

Long lost love: Beef Bo Kho. The first thing I will eat the next time I’m in Saigon.

Whilst there is so much choice of what to eat in Vietnam, and I seldom ate the same thing twice (except for the free bowl of Pho for breakfast available at all the hostels I was staying at), this, available only in Saigon, was a daily staple. Seemingly an odd choice to be eating such a rich stew in the stifling heat, the flavours, fall-apart-tender meat seasoned with star anise and cinnamon was such a stellar meal that I still find myself thinking about it now.

Bia Hoi Corner: Old Quarter Hanoi

Not to be missed is Bia Hoi Corner in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Basically an intersection where there are four ‘bars’ on the corner selling large pints of fresh beer for 5,000 dong – .25AUD. They usually run out of beer at around 10pm – in line with the curfew, yes curfew, on the whole city (the one reminder you’re in a Communist country – oh and also the 5am? 6am? propaganda-ish sounding radio announcements). The other stipulation is technically it’s illegal to have chairs on the road, and the police roam past on regular patrols. There seems to be an unspoken handshake that if you just kinda attempt to get up and move your stool, all is forgiven.

I cannot even begin to describe my love for Vietnam. I had the luxury of spending however long I wanted in each city, heading in any direction I wanted. Whilst on face value, it is a mish mash of overloaded scooters, beautiful women covered head to toe, middle aged men with their shirts rolled up and full bellies exposed as a sign of wealth, stifling heat and the fishy, salty, sour smelling street food prepared on seemingly dirty apparatuses only to be served at doll-sized plastic tables and chairs, there is so much generosity, kindness and beauty to be discovered.

Learn the culture through the food, try anything and everything and avoid the places Lonely Planet suggests. It is the only way to truly experience Vietnam. Sit down with the locals on the tiny plastic chairs. Eat at the places on the street where you don’t even have to order, where there’s just one thing on the menu. Don’t be afraid to try anything once. If you see something you wanna try, buy it then and there, because chances are you might not see it again.

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” James Michener.

Written by ayearinpatissiere

September 27, 2012 at 18:16

Posted in Lifestyle, Rambles, Travel

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Faffing about: Time Travel prelude….

leave a comment »

Libertine – Paddington

Having grown up in Australia, we have the privilege of being exposed to a myriad of food cultures. The standard and authenticity of these select foods is outta this world, due to our multicultural population. What is crazy though is not being able to get a decent meal after 9pm. “Kitchen closed” What the shiz?

I first realised the high quality of  ethnic food in Australia when I moved to Sweden and sampled various “Thai” and “Japanese” restaurants which were run by people of said ethnicity, however I can only guess that due to a more conservative taste palette of the Swedes (not very spicy) or to cut costs with expensive, albeit obviously necessary ingredients, some things, like taste and flavour, were thrown outta the imported plane window.

I spent most of my food-appreciating, wining and dining years in Brisbane and food culture there is immense, focusing on everything from raw, vegan and wholesome, to hearty and artery clogging and everything in between. Traditonally, certain suburbs became well renowned for different types of food, depending on who immigrated there, however with the gentrification of all the inner-city suburbs this has changed and good food of any nationality can be found pretty much anywhere.

Still though, some remain pertinent. Want Greek? Head to West End, Lefka’s has the best cinnamony Mousakka, lemon potatoes, fried haloumi – OMG! and lamb shanks as big as your head. Ouzeri is casual, alfresco sidewalk eating that is the place to go for group parties; their platters are of sizeable quantity, without substituting quality, I can still taste their fava beans. yum. West End is also home to many Vietnamese restaurants with Kim Thanh being my personal favourite for Hue spicy soup, prawn and pork rice paper rolls and a very much missed 3 colour drink. Huangs also has the best Massaman curry I’ve had outside of Thailand.

Take-away section of Lefka’s. So. freaking. good.

Sunnybank, traditionally home to a predominantly Chinese community, however in recent years has grown further to include Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, basically all Asian cultures, specialises in the cheapest and largest pan-asian cuisine. Singaporean Hainanese Chicken, Taiwanese drunken chicken, Korean Chimaek 치맥 beer and chicken plus all other vegetable and animal combinations can be found here. Just be careful, sometimes the area can be quite literally on fire.

My favourite Korean BBQ joint in Brisbane – Obaltan

However, being a 2-zone city girl myself this was always too far out for me and instead I milled about the city fringe for good Asian fare. Hubbed around Elizabeth Street in the city is a growing selection of Korean bbq, traditional restaurants and noraebangs thanks to the growing Korean student population. Good Japanese sushi trains, hand roll boogaloo’s, ramen joints, gyoza and izakaya places, as well as fine dining can also be found around here. King of Kings Yum Cha in the Valley was also a staple for the craziness and awesomeness that has to be experienced to be believed.

Good Italian restaurants are also found around Teneriffe/New Farm with Vespa Pizza having an amazing cinnamon roast butternut pumpkin with dried chilli, sage and fetta although the 3 little piggies was always the favourite for my best friend Veracakes. We also shared some serious d+m’s over their smashed kipflers and a good, or cheap – depending where we were in our pay cycle –  red from our selected favourite bottleshopboy of the moment.

Vespa Pizza

Paddington, my old hood, home to many cafes that serve up a mean eggs benedict with a babycino for the bambino and provide a water bowl for your little white yap-yap, is also home to some of the best pub steaks when you wanna get your bogan on at the Paddo or the Cacko. “Rib fillet, medium rare with mushroom sauce” is the catcall, the wolf whistle, on Tight-ass 2-for-1 Tuesdays.
Fine Italian can also be found at 1879 which does amazing Pizza and Vio’s, an elaborate setting for an elaborate menu.
Old locals for me, The Lark which does inventive mod-aus fine dining with an impressive whisky collection and amazing cocktails (and will let you stay on after closing time and persist for weeks on end with my silly requests of a long lost cocktail – he did nail it in the end) and Cartel – the bar where everyone knows your name and you can kick back on one of the couches, play some videogames, watch some Star Wars, listen to some local music or just enjoy good craft beer or Monteith’s on tap – brilliant.
Other staples were the dark and atmospheric Spanish tapas bar Peasant or the vibrant French/Vietnamese fusion fare at Libertine, which has a magical vibe at dusk on a balmy Summer’s eve. And whilst most people crave a greasy fry-up when hungover, I always could be found at the sushi train Sunday afternoon sipping my hangover away over miso soup and a giant Kirin.
However, let’s be brutally honest here, Harry’s diner has also saved many a drunken night with a deep fried dim sim, spring roll or chicken chips to soak up the inebriation. Also worth a mention is the Paddo Bottle-O – open until midnight – the latest in the city fringe and a 5 minute walk, 2 minute run away from my old beloved terrace house.
On the other sober hand, Fundies, a local institution, has organic vegetarian, vegan and raw salads, bakes, burgers and cakes, as well as having a store next door to pick up all your essential grains, groceries and gourmet snacks.


Fundies nosh. yum.

Oh, I miss home now.

Peasant – many a night spent at that bar.

I haven’t even mentioned Indian, Mexican, Nepalese, the cafe brunch scene and amazing Modern Australian which is basically a fusion of everything available. Check out the menu at Esquire here for an idea of good Australian food, kimchi and beef ‘bbq’ chips?  Scraped raw Wagyu beef with soy, ginger and fried rice? And in the year that I’ve left there seems to be whole new wonder of restaurants, cafes and bars to tickle the fetish of anyone, regardless of what you’re culinarily in to.

Indian Kitchen – by no means the best Indian in Brisbane, but authentic, cheap and an institution.

But this wasn’t meant to be a post on the Brisbane food scene. Or food scenes in general. Clearly got sidetracked, but realise I’ve written too much now to simply delete and start again. The nostalgia of home has been warming.

But rather, this is the intro into a series of travel snaps. Travel times. Time travel.

Whilst obviously the Korean food here is very authentic, it is hard to find other food that hasn’t been korean-i-fied. Pickles with your bulgolgi pizza? Pickles in a Vietnamese rice paper roll? Kimchi tacos and burritos? This has made me reflect back to not only food available in Brisbane, but the traditional food I’ve eaten whilst travelling.


Pizza and ah, pickles?

I am interested in how the food traditionally eaten by different cultures affects their lifestyle. Different cultures have certain rituals with food, unique ingredients, cooking techniques, eating styles, which affects their lives in so many ways; their relationships with family and friends, weight, complexion and facial features.

Food is the focal point of celebrations, tragedies and everything in between the world over. Travel, real travel off the beaten tour package path allows us the privilege to witness first hand these different cultures, norms and cooking practices whilst gaining wisdom and insight into the interaction and relationships of people from different backgrounds.

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins

Written by ayearinpatissiere

September 26, 2012 at 18:09