London Highlight #2: Harrod’s & Liberty

London

We ended our second day in London with a quick stop inside Harrods. Since London is so huge with lots to do, I tried my best to research and plan ahead of time (despite my natural inclination to just “roll with it”). Every person that I spoke to, blog post, website and forum that I read mentioned Harrods, and instead of focusing on the major credit card damage that you could do inside, everyone said that I had to check out the food court. If you’re like me, the words “food court” make you think of Jamba Juice and Panda Express — think again! Harrods blew away all expectations. Once you step inside, just follow your nose and you’ll likely find yourself lost inside the maze of tea and desserts… you’ll see a full date bar, cheeses & pies, breads, Japanese cuisine, oysters…even just regular produce.

London

(check out all those dates!)

London

London

(for the cheese lovers)

London

(no photos allowed! sorry i’m not sorry!)

London

Regrettably, I did not have the best appetite. We treated ourselves to a full, proper afternoon tea at the Kensington Palace a few hours prior (more on that later!) and while my brain said “try EVERYTHING!”, my wallet and stomach said “maybe next time”. Don’t those pies look delicious though?! Don’t even get me started on the oyster bar.

Liberty London on Regent Street was another fond memory from the trip and a must-do. We stopped in for a cup of tea (obviously), but I could have spent hours wandering inside… i

i

ii

Liberty is another department store in the “look, don’t touch” category but it is situated in a super old building that is true to its original 1875 architecture. It’s known for its playful and luxurious use of floral and graphic prints and of course, its rich history. If you’re Gwyneth Paltrow, this is where you would shop for your unique gifts and oddities like the kitty tower pictured above (priced at over 100 pounds)! In many ways, Liberty is a typical designer department store, but it also has a stationary shop, home goods, even fabrics sold off the bolt. Picture me in window-shopping heaven!

Advertisements

London Highlight #1: Borough Market

It’s hard to pinpoint a favorite memory from my trip to London, but visiting Borough Market is definitely up there on the list.

If you enjoy local fruits and veggies, freshly baked goods, gourmet cheeses and charcuterie and unique jams and spreads, you must carve out a few hours to spend at Borough Market. It’s located on the Southbank and is easily accessible from the tube (London Bridge Station)…just make sure you come with an appetite because you’ll want to try everything! Upon arrival, Lauren and I swept through the market to see what we were up against. Unlike the food court at Harrods, the vendors were all mostly friendly and willing to provide samples. We tried all kinds of cheeses, charcuterie, and olives before choosing our meal. Lauren is a vegetarian and was satisfied by all the cheese and bread samples (umm, fresh baked sourdough? Yes please!), but she patiently watched me slurp down some oysters. We also enjoyed some fresh squeezed OJ, a yummy parmesan and olive bread stick, some leek and potato & tomato basil soup, and a small focaccia. Mmmm! Our only regret was not having enough room for dessert.

More photos after the jump!

Continue reading

London On Foot

A few months ago, I was offered a chance to go to Frankfurt, Germany to check out a new trade show. Five or six years ago, I would have dropped everything at the opportunity to travel so it was really weird to feel resistance and anxiety about leaving home this time. When vacation days are few and precious, money isn’t exactly flowing, and life at home is really comfortable, it’s much harder to leave (yikes, I am getting old and boring aren’t I?!) However, a free trip to Europe doesn’t come around often so before I knew it, I was planning a trip!

Continue reading

Melbourne, the Delicious

The start of our trip to Australia had been so laid back that it was a major shift in gears when we were left to our own devices in Melbourne. Jackie’s visa appointment was over (and successful!) in less than an hour, which left us with two full days to explore the city. It’s been a while since I’ve been free to roam a completely new city and I was definitely rusty when figuring out the public trams. Luckily, once we got ourselves to the CBD (Central Business District), we could handle the rest on foot. Obviously, we organized our day around our appetites starting at the Queen Victoria Market. Earlier I mentioned that the Noosa Farmer’s Market reminded me of good ‘ol Santa Monica…this market was in a league of its own! I realize now that I never took a photo of the entire block but even if I tried, I wouldn’t have been able to capture it all. The market covers all types of food and gifts from fresh produce to souvenirs, and mini-shops with cured meats, specialty cheeses and honey, spreads, baked goods, desserts, flowers, the whole lot. I found myself jealous that Melbourne locals had food like this at their fingertips!

Queen Victoria Market

Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne 2

The Meat Section at Queen Victoria Market - Melbourne

Doughnut Truck at Queen Victoria Market - Melbourne

Jackie in the Flowers

Melbourne’s RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) is right in the heart of the CBD so the sidewalks were bustling with students carrying around portfolios and art materials. RMIT’s buildings were imaginative and abstract…I loved being able to peek into open studios and observe students in the midst of projects. We also liked dipping into little shops and cafes – Melbourne has such a growing art community with LOTS of handmade crafts. I was in heaven! DesignSponge collected a list of Melbourne’s cutest shops in a convenient city guide a few years ago and I used it to make sure I didn’t miss anything good.

Melbourne- RMIT

Street Cafes and Art

Flinders Station, Melbourne

…and now to my favorite aspect about Melbourne: the food. We arrived in the evening and as we warily navigated our way to our hotel in St. Kilda through the CBD, I started to take mental notes of all the small restaurants with the key words “Noodle”, “Dumpling”, and “Bao”. After walking through Queen Victoria Market, we made our way to the wonton houses and ended up choosing Taiwan Cafe Street Food. We wolfed down a full plate of bak choy, pork wontons, soup dumplings and BBQ pork buns.

We rolled out of there happy and full and spent the rest of the day trying to rebuild our appetites for dinner. Lunch carried us to 9pm after a full day of wandering around the streets of Melbourne, and even then, it was difficult to eat again! During the day, we scouted out Mamak,  an amazing Malaysian restaurant known for their roti canai. All the dishes were really affordable and I wish I could have eaten more – I’m still dreaming of that fluffy, doughy roti.

Roti

I don’t want this post to turn into a glorified UrbanSpoon review, but I have to mention Wonderbao. With a name like Wonderbao, there wasn’t a chance I was leaving Melbourne without finding this place. I innocently jotted down the address and cross streets before we hit the town but we spent almost the entire day looking for this little hidden treasure. We gave up on the first day and told ourselves that we would go back to the hotel and do more research…the next morning we finally found it hidden in the tiniest laneway. Six baos later, we decided that it was worth the trouble!

In conclusion, I’ll say that my visit to Melbourne was eye-opening. Now I know that there exists a place that has all the foods I like on every corner…it’s not too expensive…and they speak English!! It’s too bad Australia puts pets in quarantine for 4 months or else I might have to seriously consider a move. I’d have to give up some of my favorite American conveniences, but look what I’d be getting! Wonderbao! Chinese bakeries and wonton houses! Sushi stands! You sure do drive a hard bargain, Melbourne. I’ll be back.

A Visit to the Sunshine Coast

The beautiful Sunshine Coast

It’s been almost a full week since I got back from a blissful ten day vacation in Australia but now that I’m sorting through the photos, it feels like it was forever ago. Normally after vacation, I return home feeling energized and ready to get back to my normal routine. However this time, going back to work seemed like a harsher reality. Maybe 10 days just wasn’t enough!

Two Wednesdays ago, Jackie and I hopped a 19 hour flight (I watched four, yes FOUR, movies) to visit her family in Coolum, a quiet resort town right on the Sunshine Coast. It wasn’t your typical family visit as their house is part of the Palmer Coolum Resort and since this time of year isn’t exactly peak tourism season, we had a lot of the resort facilities to ourselves. I’m talking full access to a pool, gym, and spa…yeah….(!)….and to top it all off, we got to navigate the grounds on our own golf cart, which is fun in and of itself!

A post about the trip wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Shadow and Kitty. I thought that we spoiled Neko and Moby, but these two had trained their humans better than any other cat that I have ever seen! They live in feline heaven with full reign of the house and backyard – food at every corner and plenty of cozy nooks perfect for afternoon sunbaths.

King Shadow

Queen Kitty

Dodger, Alex and Shannon’s dog/pony, has another starring role in this household – he doesn’t have it bad either as the official garbage disposal and bed warmer (hearts melt for those perky ears!):

Oh, Dodger!

I know what you’re thinking – “You went all the way to Australia to just hang out with someone else’s animals?!” – and my answer to that would be…well, kinda. Vacations don’t need to be jam packed with sightseeing and this time around, we just told ourselves to relax and recharge. Their backyard was peaceful and quiet with the exception of exotic birds engaging in colorful conversations. Even though we had a mostly overcast days, mornings on the patio were always nice and bright so I especially enjoyed digging into big bowls of musseli, passionfruit yoghurt, bacon and espresso for breakfast and then losing myself in books for the rest of the day.

Family dinners were a treat each night. Alex showed off his seafood culinary skills all week and made salmon, mussels, scallops, oysters, you name it. Jackie’s dad grilled lamb, steak and sausages on the BBQ. Shannon made cioppinno. Jackie and I whipped up Smitten Kitchen’s key lime cheesecake (note: subbing digestives for graham crackers is delicious) for mother’s day. We even broke in their new pasta machine and made seafood linguini! It would be a major understatement to say that I was well fed.

Pasta Machine 1

Pasta Machine #2

Jackie's No Carb Version

Seafood Pasta from Scratch

In-between all the rich meals and trips to the spa, we made it to Noosa, another quiet town 20 minutes away. Shannon and Alex took us to the National Park to work off all the carbs and take in the views. Forced family photos and a near-death experience (story for another time!) ensued.

Noosa

Not bad

Forced Family Photo

…and then we ate some more at a new outdoor bar/restaurant as the sun set.

Flux in Noosa

mmm scallops

From what I could tell, life on the Sunshine Coast wouldn’t be too different from what I’m used to in Santa Monica. Once you get past seeing different stars at night, driving on the other side of the road, watching out for kangaroos, and maneuvering through all the round abouts (I could count the number of times I saw a traffic light on one hand), there really isn’t much of a culture shock. S & A took us to a Sunday Farmer’s Market in Noosa and I almost felt like I was transported back home. The one difference? Since Australia is much closer to SE Asia, the Asian food influences are much stronger and better…come on LA, catch up!!

Happy Sprout

Asian Street Food

Potstickers!

Whew, that was a doozy. A post dedicated to our (food) adventures in Melbourne coming up next!