after taking a taxi to our hotel and checking in, we learned that we had been upgraded to a suite, so that was pretty awesome.
on the heels of days of bathing suits, cut-off jeans, and air-dried hair, we decided to get a little dressed up for dinner. y’all, a shower, good blow-dry, and a striped sundress have transformative powers. i felt like a whole new woman as we stepped out into the night. we had intended to go to press, but unfortunately it was still closed for the holidays. many restaurants take a good few weeks off this time of year -from about christmas to the first week of february. it must be rough when your restaurant makes enough money for you to do such a thing. lucky for us, directly across the alleyway was a neat rooftop restaurant called gallery. we took the elevator to the top and were greeted by an urban garden of sorts. high back tables and chairs were scattered amongst decorative foliage and twinkly lights. it was the perfect atmosphere to celebrate our first night back in civilization. we ordered cocktails and took a peek at their menu -an offering of both small and large plates. we ordered a little bit of everything and shared the dishes between us. i chose their organic chicken dish that came accompanied by baby king brown mushrooms and a sweet corn puree. oh-em-gee, corn puree might be my new favorite thing ever. while i didn’t take the plate up to my mouth to lick it clean, i most certainly used my index finger to sop up any rogue morsels that my fork had missed. because i’m a classy broad.
following dinner we roamed the streets of adelaide to find the perfect place for a night cap. a google search had turned up udaberri pintxos y vino and once we slipped inside its modern interior -complete with chalkboard walls and wood-slatted ceiling, i knew M’s research had, yet again, turned out a winner. making instant friends with the bartender, we sipped our libations at a leisurely pace. gosh, i love vacation.
our time in adelaide proper was short-lived as the morning took us to our next locations –adelaide hills and the barossa valley. while i stayed with the luggage in the hotel lobby the following morning, M walked to retrieve our rental car. on his way, he popped into coffee branch for a short black (essentially an espresso shot). i’d like to think that he thought to order me a soy flat white, but seeing as it would have been cold by the time he brought it back to me, he was probably just being practical (it’s the thought that counts, right?). i had ordered one from the hotel cafe anyway. half an hour later, he pulled up in our new ride, we threw the bags in the car, and we were off to wine country!
though it may have taken a little longer, i was so glad we decided to drive the scenic route to barossa, via adelaide hills and the back valleys. the grape vine-adorned hills were stunning as they passed by out my passenger window. we pulled up to the first winery on our list in adelaide hills, shaw + smith, at a hair before 11 a.m.. what’s that saying? it’s five o’clock somewhere? i mean, wine not (i told you it wasn’t the last time i would use that joke)?
shaw + smith produces two of M’s favorite pinot noirs. their flagship shaw + smith pinot noir for special occasions and their secondary line, incognito, as a really good alternate (and great for serving those who wouldn’t appreciate the flagship one as much as they should). it turns out his team at work had been ordering cases to the office and drinking shaw + smith for a few years now so he took great joy in sending them back photos from the tasting room while they toiled away in the office back in sydney. we split a single tasting, sampling two whites and two reds and an accompanying cheese plate (no cheese for me, please). while i much prefer whites to reds, all four varietals were tasty.
before we left the winery, we asked our hostess for a brunch recommendation. she led us to the white house just a few minutes away in the town of hahndorf. if the name of the town sounds german, that’s because it is. this particular region of australia was was established by german settlers in the 19th century. their legacy continues in the town’s architecture and abundance of restaurants serving traditional german cuisine. i all but expected a man in lederhosen to come stumbling out of one of the pubs.
while this white house may not have come with a president, it did come with delicious breakfast cuisine. i elected (see what i did there?) for the housemade granola, and M, the blueberry pancakes. we both devoured them handily and once properly fueled, we were off again, leaving adelaide hills behind and heading through the scenic back valleys on our way to the barossa valley (australia’s version of napa, or sonoma as we were later told) and our eventual destination (our hotel).
we stopped in the small town of angaston to get out and snap a few photos as well as stretch our legs. but with the temperatures creeping toward triple digits, we tried to keep our time in the outdoors to a minimum. God bless air conditioning.
we arrived at our hotel in the mid-afternoon and treated ourselves to a much-needed nap. a few hours later, after the heat had subsided ever-so-slightly, we went to the lobby where there was a rumor of free wine tasting. turns out the rumor was true. after sampling a few more of the region’s wines, we ventured outside for a little friendly competition -some good old-fashioned table tennis! much like my regular tennis skills, my table version was equally as rusty. M demolished me. glad to know he isn’t into that whole “letting the girl win” thing (but then again, i would have been more upset if he had done that anyway). before heading back to the room to get ready for dinner, we stopped by the gift shop to get a pint of the famous maggie beer‘s burnt fig, honeycomb & caramel ice cream to enjoy later. M assured me it would be well-worth the stomach ache.
i decided to wear my new skirt to dinner because i wanted to feel a little bit fancy for one of our last nights in australia. we took a cab to the local pub for ciders before heading over to 1918, a restaurant i had actually found in my own research efforts back in december. truth be told, our first choice had been an eatery called fermentAsian, but we couldn’t manage to score a table in time. so by default, my choice had won. whatever, a win is a win.
never mind how we ended up there, it didn’t take away from the fact that the restaurant itself was outstanding. the food, the atmosphere, the service. all enhanced by the company and the conversation. we finished off the evening by splitting the half-melted pint of maggie beer’s. M had definitely been right about the whole it being worth a stomach ache thing. the ice cream offered such an eclectic yet harmonious combination of flavors. it was the perfect ending to what had been a near perfect day (i deducted points for the heat).
the next morning (saturday) we woke up early to explore the local barossa farmer’s market. it was a feast for the senses. smells of bacon, fresh fruit, and coffee filled the air. colors of every spectrum of the rainbow lay before us in the shape of produce and posies. it was a mini metropolis of barossa valley residents all on the hunt for the perfect components for a week’s worth of homemade meals. we ordered from the breakfast kiosk and found a seat at one of the picnic benches. the baby burger (barossa heritage free range pork bacon, waechter’s free range egg and chutney or relish of your choice) for him, and the poached summer fruit bowl (poached local stallholders’ fruit, vicki’s quark (like yogurt), barossa soul kitchen’s organic, activated, spiced buckwheat and thatch mint) for me. my dish was light and refreshing and made me really sad that it wasn’t still summer in the states (i miss you, stone fruit).
after one quick lap around the market, we got back in the car to drive to the hotel for check-out. our flight back to sydney wasn’t until late in the day, so we had plenty of time to visit a few more wineries before our departure. but before we threw back a few more tastings of vino, we were reunited with miss maggie.
to give you some perspective, maggie beer is essentially the australian version of the barefoot contessa (ina garten). she’s big into fresh ingredients and has built an empire on her no-fuss approach to cooking/baking. besides her amazing ice cream, she has a cornucopia of homemade products -everything from pates to preserves, sauces to stocks. her farm shop was just a short drive from our hotel, so after check-out, M took me there to explore. it was gorgeous. adjacent to a lake, the shop was bustling with patrons taking advantage of the free samples and perusing her wares. i could have stayed there for hours. but it was hot, so we kept moving.
the first winery on our mini wine tour was torbreck. there, our new friend pete guided us through the winery’s featured varietals. the barossa valley region is most known for its abundance of shiraz and torbreck was no different. as i mentioned before, i’m not as big of a red enthusiast as i am a white, but i can appreciate a good bottle of wine when i
see sip it. pete and M engaged in some small talk and before i knew it, we had been given the name and number of an exclusive winery off the beaten path. wait, what just happened? i didn’t question our exclusive privileges, i had come to learn that with M, anything is possible.
when we got back to the car, we called the phone number and asked for “rachael” as instructed. sure enough, the friendly voice on the other end of the line provided us with detailed directions to travis earth. hesitant to embark on an unpaved road given our flat tire situation in kangaroo island, we drove cautiously down the dirt pathway to the specified address. funnily enough, the road was lined with giant palm trees and the scenery out our window reminded me of home -reminiscent of the landscaping one might find around the estates of rancho santa fe.
at the end of the path, as promised, we found rachael waiting in her car to lead us down to the private home. travis earth produces a very small quantity of shiraz vintages, but what they lack in quantity, they certainly make up for in quality. seeing as the temperatures were already hovering around 100 that morning, after our introductions, rachael insisted that we bring the bottle of wine purchased at torbreck inside to keep cool. how sweet was that?
i pretended to know what i was doing as M and i sat in the private tasting room with our new friend. swirl the wine around in the class a few times, bring the glass to your nose and take a moment to sniff the aroma, then take a baby sip and nod your head when rachael asks you if you taste the peppery flavors, etc. okay i’m just being flippant (per usual), i really did learn quite a bit (like how chocolate truffles make red wine taste significantly better) and the whole experience was just so special given the intimate setting. M planned on purchasing a dozen bottles to ship back to sydney but rachael offered a better plan. she suggested that he buy only eleven and fill the open slot for the bottle from torbreck, that way we didn’t have to worry about carrying it around the rest of the day in the heat. i mean, rachael was a gem.
before saying so-long to travis earth, we did ask that gem for her recommendation of wineries to visit before leaving barossa. wineries that also served food as it was nearing lunchtime, too. she circled a few on the map, we thanked her for our time together, and headed out to find our next destination.
the final stop for the day was murray street vineyards. covered in cobblestone and climbing wisteria, the tasting room was by far the most picturesque of all the wineries we had visited. as we entered through its doors, we were greeted by sweet sweet air conditioning and paul, an equally as sweet british man who would act as our pourer for the afternoon. with our stomaches rumbling in hunger, we took a peek at their menu. unfortunately it was all pretty much shawna-unfriendly. M ordered a tray that came with bread, pate, cheese and dried pears and as he enjoyed the first three items, i devoured the last one handily (dried pears are highly underrated). we split the whites and reds between the two of us. i don’t think i have to clarify who drank what at this point. of the three i sipped, i enjoyed their viognier marsanne varietal the most on account of its fruity notes and hint of almond flavors (i kind of sound like i know what i’m talking about, don’t i?). while i snuck away to the little girls’ room, M purchased a bottle of wine to take back home with us to sydney. we then said so long to paul and to the barossa valley as we embarked on the long less-scenic route back to adelaide.
we arrived to the airport just in time to return our car, check our bags, and decompress in the qantas lounge before boarding our flight home. we touched down in sydney approximately an hour later. tired but happy, we gathered our luggage from the carousel and hailed a taxi to take us back to bondi. once home, fighting the urge to collapse in a pile, we rallied, correction i rallied, for my final night in australia. quick showers and wardrobe changes later, we were ready for the last supper.
given the fact that it was another balmy summer night in paradise, bondi was alive with energy. M had thought to try and snag a table at neighbourhood down the street from his place, but seeing as it was just past 9 p.m. on a busy saturday night, it was looking to be a 45+ minute wait to get said table. so M resorted to plan B -a quaint restaurant called brown sugar. the hostess ensured a 30 minute wait and even offered to take our phone number so she could call us when our table was ready. we accepted the offer and told her we’d be back in half an hour’s time. to ensure that i had experienced all of the local haunts, M took me to beach road hotel for a cider to kill time. it was your typical see and be seen bar. the kind you’d find in pacific or mission beach back here in san diego. after we had had our fair share of dudesville, we walked back over to brown sugar to see if our table was ready. after a few minutes they waved us in to a tiny table for two.
another evening, another incredible and unique flavor-filled meal. seeing as it was my final night in australia, i threw caution to the cheese gods and tried the haloumi dish M ordered for us as an appetizer. while i’d like to think i’m fairly well-versed in fromage, i had never heard of haloumi before. apparently it is of greek origin and its consistency is something i could only liken to string cheese. it was delicious (as most cheese is). as was the rest of our meal. scallops, snapper and sous vide pork neck, oh my! all enhanced by a bottle of one of torbreck’s winery’s finest. the perfect homage to a weekend in wine country and the perfect final dinner to commemorate my final moments in sydney.
following dinner, i was craving something sweet, but at nearly 11 p.m., my options for satisfying said craving were growing slim. low and behold, ben and jerry’s was still open as we passed its doors en route back to M’s apartment. “one scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough in a cone, please.” M joined me in my ice cream indulgence and ordered a scoop of mint chocolate chip for himself. we came back to the apartment and enjoyed our creamy confections over a few episodes of the quirky british comedy show the inbetweeners before passing out from exhaustion-slash-a severe dairy coma. goodnight sydney, it was good to be (temporarily) “home.”
to be continued…