Aussie peas and pies

January 17, 2009

roo

For the 10 readers who care, I take full responsibility for the delay in posting the details of our trip to eat Australian food. Because I appreciate you, dear readers, I will also provide you with a number of worthless excuses. I was busy. I was too full of ribs and pulled pork. I had exams. I was too excited about Tim Tebow and the 2009 Florida Gators. I was serving on jury duty. Thank you for understanding.

I wasn’t all that crazy about the idea of eating Australian food. In spite of my wife’s experience in the middle of last year chronicled here, I associated Aussie food with bloomin’ onions, soggy fish and chips and Foster’s beer. After finishing dinner at the Tuck Shop on First Street and First Avenue in the East Village, my prejudices, like most, withered in the face of the genuine article.

aussiebeer

The Tuck Shop wasn’t fancy. There were a few stools at a counter to the side of the door and there was a table where we managed to squeeze in seven.

menu

The menu was simple: pies. Small, personal-sized, flaky pies filled with meats and vegetables. We ate pies with ground beef, pies with thai chilis, lamb pies, and chicken pies. I ordered my beef pie swimming in thick split pea soup. The peas were fresh but just the right amount of mushy and mixed enjoyably with the pastry crust and beef.  The combo meal, the Tucker box, was also popular for including two sides with a pie for $11.  I tried someone’s vegetable of the day, brussels sprouts, and thought that they were prepared just right, simply with butter and pepper, tender with no bitter aftertaste.

forknknife

fork and knife: ur doin it wrong

We had a good time here with a number of friends who managed to put down a number of Coopers and Boags, rich Aussie beers that I tried for the first time that evening.   While the Tuck Shop may have lacked elegance, it had plenty of charm and was surprisingly cheap given its location.  Look for the place with the Vegemite in the window and make sure you order your pie with peas.

peasonpie

insidepie

fullplate

Thanks to Zach, Lynne, Elizabeth and John for helping us eat the heck out of some pies, and for the photos!

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The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

I ate kangaroo while I was in Australia. Twice!  And it was delicious!  Actually, when I wrote the earlier post on my Aussie culinary adventure, I had already had it once, and completely forgot to mention it (I was totally jet lagged and still savoring the flavors of huge nice bowl of pho at the time, so I do hope you’ll forgive me for this extra bonus post).

The first time it was in the form of a nicely grilled, tender steak, over a bed of grilled vegetables, on top of mashed potatoes.  Washed down with a local Savignon Blanc.  Eaten on a old, docked ferry-turned-restaurant on Darling Harbor, which rocked for a few minutes whenever anyone came aboard.  When we sat down to dinner, my dining companions (who grew up in Sydney a few decades back) told me stories about taking that very same ferry to the famous Manly beach area, on the far north side of Sydney Harbor.  They also told me about the kangaroos they often see outside their house in Canberra.  Then they encouraged me to try the kangaroo.  Fantastic!

Later I came across the ‘roo again on a menu at a little cafe in a town called Katoomba.  This is in the famous Blue Mountains World Heritage area, where my colleague and I had spent a very full day hiking through the hills.   How could I resist kangaroo burger and chips after a long day of bushwalking?  Though not as tender and juicy as my first experience, the kangaroo burger hit the spot.

'Roo burger and chips

Did I actually see any living kangaroos during my trip, you ask?  In fact I did.  On the way back from a tour to Canberra, I spotted a number of ‘roo families grazing on the grass in the late afternoon sun.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see a close up.  Nor did I see a koala.  I did, however, see an echidna while in the Blue Mountains.  This little creature is both a marsupial and an egg layer, one of only two in the world!  Apparently, I am very lucky to have sighted it, as they are shy creatures.

Think we’ll find kangaroo on the menu when we eat Aussie in NYC?

Special Report: Live from Oz

September 20, 2008

So you decided we are a bunch of slackers because we haven’t written in a while?  Well, fear not fellow travelers, for we have not abandoned our mission (we’ve even done part one of Andorra, to be posted soon), but have merely been taking a break while I am in Australia.  I have been here now for a week, and have a week more to go.  The trip is work related (conference), but I’m finding time to get in some great sightseeing, and eat lots of different and yummy things.  I figured since Australia is an “A” country (on our list), and we’ll have to be eating some of their cuisine in New York in a few weeks, it would be worth a preview since I have a first hand look right now.

I should clarify that I am in Sydney, and have not been outside the city as of yet.  But there are plenty of culinary adventures to be found here.  What is Australian food like, you ask?  Well, there is a lot of this:

But there are also loads of other things.

Particularly notable is the delicious Asian food.  It’s also convenient that my hotel is a couple blocks from Chinatown, so I’ve been sampling some of the excellent Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese around.  Chinatown here is different from the Chinatowns of New York.  It is much less residential, and much more touristic than the Chinatowns of our fair city.  There are a lot of young Asians running around in packs, and fewer hunched over old ladies.  There are restaurants a plenty, but few vegetable shops (and no vege stands.  In fact, I have not seen any street food in Sydney at all, which is a little disappointing).  That said, I think the food might surpass that found in NYC.  The Thai food is far more dynamic, with more flavor and dimension that what one finds in a typical Thai joint in the Big Apple.  And the Chinese is also outstanding.  The other day, whilist walking home from a long day at the conference, the wind suddenly carried a distinctive smell my way.  It was familiar, but from a long time ago.  It took me a minute to place it, then it hit me: China.  It smelled like China.  Not in a stinky fish head way like you get in Manhattan C-town, but in a delicious, street food in Xi’an kind of way.  I haven’t smelled that since I was in China in late 2003.  So immediately I wandered into the first Sichuan restuarant that i found, and enjoyed the heck out of a scallion pancake and some Kung Pao chicken.

Cafe life in Bronte Beach

I’ve also had some cheap and excellent sushi (surprisingly cheap, considering food is generally rather expenive here), Italian and Spanish, as well as grilled fish, octopus, prawns, and scallops (more local fare).  They certainly do seafood right.  Sydney has a fantastic cafe culture; sandwich shops and pubs typically have tables spilling good vibes and eats onto the street.  And they have killer coffee.  Now, I am not a coffee drinker at home (maybe one cup every two years), but immediately upon arrival here (at 7:30am after a 23 hour journey) I grabbed a cup, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  The name of my new found love is the “flat white.”  This is a shot of espresso with milk.  I also add a little sugar.  And being the talented baristas they are, the Aussies make it look beautiful too.  You can also get a flat black, a long black, and the familiar latte.  Yum.

So we’ll soon be eating Australian in New York, and will have good basis for comparison.  I’m assuming it will be lots of grilled and fried seafood, to ensure the experience is typically Aussie.  I hope its as good as the food here.