Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Gourmet Escape

We had already planned to spend a few days in Margaret River before we discovered the Gourmet Escape food and wine festival... but it did help determine our order of cities to visit!  And what a fabulous way to end our time in Australia.  

In addition to the actual festival, there were several other events that you could purchase tickets to, such as specialty chef pop-up dinners.  We decided on 2 - both things that were unique to Australia, that we couldn't easily repeat at home in DC.  

The first was Dining on the Brusselton Jetty.  Sponsored by the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), it was a seafood focused meal.  The dinner took place at the end of the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere, which we had to take a boat out to! 

Beautiful but quite windy evening as the group waits for the boat to arrive. 

Not too shabby!

Very cool to see the sun setting in Margaret River, just at the same time as it was rising at home. 

The tent on the end of the jetty!  We were lucky the dinner even was able to occur, the evening's before had been postponed due to the wind. 

Sitting inside the beautiful tent.  There were 2 waves of diners, we were in the second. 

The 2 celebrity chefs, Rick Stein and his son Jack, came out and did a bit of a Q&A, told stories and jokes, in the middle of the evening.  They were quiet entertaining!  We also got to chatting with a lovely couple on the boat who we sat with at dinner, so it was a very fun evening!  We are now Facebook friends - gotta love social media.  You never know - our paths might cross again one day!

The next day was our day to attend the actual festival.  It was incredibly hot that day, but we still had a great (albeit sweaty) time trying all kinds of different foods from the chefs.  

I was so hot I could hardly catch my breath - I don't know how these guys were cooking over hot grills!  

After a few hours and lots of delicious food and drink, we took the bus back to the house to clean up for the event I was most looking forward to - dinner on the Castle Bay beach!

It was even more beautiful than I'd imagined!

Chef Guillaume Brahimi was the celebrity chef of the event.  He's from France, but currently living in Sydney.  He grilled the lamb chops that we had for dinner on this massive grill, right on the beach!  Luckily, at this point in the day, the weather had cooled down and it was quite nice.

We were literally right on the water!  They were starting to stack sandbags while we were eating to keep the tide from getting into the tents.

We had lots of time to mill around, try different beers, take photos and chat with folks before dinner.  Lots of the other celebrity chefs who were in town for the festival were at dinner, and it was very cool to meet some of them.  We met the guys behind Porteno, one of the restaurants we ate at in Sydney

Dinner was served family style, and was absolutely delicious.  We sat with 2 couples who both live in Singapore, and since that was our next stop, we were able to get some tips!

It just couldn't have been a better last evening in Australia. 

The next morning, on our way back to Perth to fly out, we made a few stops along the way.  First, coffee with a view. 

and a windy selfie!

Our final stop was at Eagle Bay Brewery for lunch on their back patio.  It was beautiful!  The food and beer was delicious.  

And with that, our time in Australia had come to an end.  I knew it would be beautiful and the people would be lovely, but we were just blown away by everything.  If only it wasn't quite so far to travel to visit!! 

Next stop, a 24 hour whirlwind tour of Singapore!  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Margaret River

After a too-quick stop in Perth, we headed south to Margaret River...another Australian wine region.  Starting to see a theme?  It was about a 3 hour, incredibly boring drive down to Margaret River.  Once we got to town, we made a few stops - Providore was first.  A beautiful little shop with a wide collection of home made jams, olive oils, sauces, dressings and wines.   After tasting several delicious sauces, and wishing we could take them all home, we went next door to the Margaret River Chocolate Company.  Here, we did stock up!  One bar for mom, one bar for dad, one for M's mom, one for us...and so on! 

Then we headed into 'downtown' and checked into our adorable Airbnb, Yellow Door.  It was such a cute little house - great size, perfect location, and adorably decorated.  M was quite proud that he was able to park the car in the narrow carport, he requested a photo.  Actually, the bigger Camry was much easier to drive that the little whatever-we-had in Yarra Valley because he felt more comfortable in the car, feeling like he knew the corners better. 

We were only a couple blocks away from the cute little downtown so we walked over for dinner.  First we went to Settlers Tavern to try a few local beers.  Then we walked across the street for dinner at Swings.  The place was absolutely mobbed and the food was delicious.  

The next morning we got up early and went to the local farmers market for coffee and green smoothies.  We had a tour booked for the day with Top Drop Tours, and they picked us up at the house.  

Our first stop was Juniper Estate, and I think it might have been our favorite winery of this area.  We ended up going back before we left town to get a couple bottles of one of our favorites of the whole trip to bring home - their 2005 Estate Shiraz.

Next was Windows Estate - what a beautiful little winery.  They had some great wines.  They also had a beautiful little set up with gift items and jewelry for purchase, as well as a full cheese counter.  We also stopped back by Windows on our way out of town to get a bottle, as well as I picked up a beautiful necklace to remember our awesome trip.

One more before lunch -  Cape Naturaliste.  The owner was a trip, and it was so fun to do our tasting with her.  We tried all kinds of different things, and enjoyed playing with their adorable dogs.  The setting was beautiful and wines delicious.  

Lunch time!  We went over to Hay Shed Hill Winery for lunch on their back deck.  We were serenaded by a group of didgeridoo players, which was so cool.  The place was packed, and everyone loved the music!  

I can't remember what exactly I had - but I DO remember that it was beautiful and absolutely delicious.  We each tried just a couple of their wines during lunch - the rose was perfect with my salad on this hot day!  

Final stop of the day was Burch Family Wines.  It's a huge facility with several different brands of wine in the same place.  We hopped around a bit and tried several different things.  The tasting room manager was determined to find a chardonnay we liked...and we just don't like them!  But applaud her effort.  

Our tour guide was fantastic - I can't seem to remember his name!  But he was as nice as could be, funny, and very knowledgeable of the area and wines.  We had one other couple on the tour with us, and they were very nice as well.  While a lot of times we like to do the wine tours on our own, in areas that are so new to us, it's great to have an expert guide!  We even ran into him the next day at the food festival we attended.  He came over to us and chatted for a few minutes!  Great to see a familiar face!

Burch Family was a great spot to end the wine tour day.  We headed back to the house to get ready for our first Gourmet Escape event - dinner on a jetty!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A quick visit to Perth

After a busy, but relaxing 2 days in Adelaide, we packed up again and flew to Western Australia and Perth.  Although it's a pretty easy 3 hour flight, we were a bit delayed that day, so unfortunately arrived in Perth later than we had hoped.  Still, we checked into our hotel and grabbed the train south to Freemantle.  We had planned to spend the afternoon poking around in and out of the little shops, but most were closed by the time we got there.  

Since the shops were closed and we were hungry, we grabbed a table outside at The Monk.  After sharing a taster flight of their beers and a snack, we wandered on.  It had become dark and was a bit chilly sitting outside!

As you may know, M is afraid of heights.  We were walking through a park heading over to our dinner stop when we passed a Ferris wheel.  I jokingly said let's go - and for some reason he agreed!  So we bought our tickets and stepped into our own little enclosed carriage thing, and off we went!  Quite fun!

I was so proud of him!  We needed photo evidence - I knew my mom wouldn't believe me otherwise.

After our thrilling ride, we finished our walk to Little Creatures.  Definitely one of the most well known breweries in Australia, as it seemed like everyone we told where we were going suggested we check it out.  We went in the tasting room first and shared a sampler tray of their beers.  Then we went next door to the restaurant for dinner - we were starving at this point!  The place was packed, but we grabbed the end of a communal table right in front of the kitchen.  We ordered one of their wood fired pizzas and a few other things to share - and everything was delicious.  

The next morning, we got up and out pretty early.  We grabbed some coffee and set off on a little self guided walking tour.  The City of Perth has a few to chose from, complete with a map and building descriptions!  We just downloaded it onto my phone and off we went.  It was a beautiful day!

A beautiful little shopping arcade called London Court

Perth Town Hall, which opened in 1870.

St. George's Cathedral

Government House, completed in 1864.  Just as we walked by, one of the staff members came out to pick some herbs from the garden.

Sculpture in Stirling Gardens.  We really loved the mix of old and new throughout the parts of the city we saw. 

We got about halfway through the walk before my friend Peter called us, saying he was on his way to pick us up.  Another former club manager, we met at one of my previous conferences, and I promised if I ever made it to Western Australia, I would call.  Well, we had lost touch for years, but a few months before our trip I finally found him on LinkedIn - and you can imagine the surprise when I told him we were coming to visit!  We only had a few hours together, but he took us on a great little tour of Perth!  

First, beaches.  In the few short minutes we stood on this beautiful beach, a coast guard type truck drove by warning folks that a 30m shark was just off the coast, and people should stay out of the water for 'just a few minutes while they shoo him away.'  There was a helicopter just hovering overhead to do the shooing... guarantee I would not be getting back in that water!  But apparently this occurrence was not out of the ordinary! 

Next he took us up to Kings Park and Botanic Gardens.  According to their website, "Kings Park is one of the world’s largest and most beautiful inner city parks. It is rich in Aboriginal and European history, contemporary culture and offers innovative design, displays and services. Kings Park is home to the spectacular Western Australian Botanic Garden, which displays over 3,000 species of the State’s unique flora. Two thirds of the 400 hectare park is protected as bushland and provides a haven for native biological diversity."  

It was packed on this beautiful morning.  We stopped to enjoy the sweeping views, take a few photos and then grabbed a coffee from their cafe to sit and visit for a bit.  It was great to catch up, and we promised our next trip to Perth would be longer!

He dropped us back off at our downtown hotel.  We walked around the CBD a bit more, stopping for a delicious lunch at Grill'd.  We really loved Perth, and hated not having more time to explore the city.  It was beautiful and had a really unique, new design feel to it - that's what you get in a modern city built from new coal money!  But alas, it was time to go south, so we grabbed our rental car and set out for Margaret River!