Some of my friends suggest that I eat out too much. While that may be true it does depend on what you use as your reference point. The fact that I have an ever-increasing back log of pending blog posts may give some weight to support this accusation. On my trip to Barcelona last year I travelled without my husband making it the first time we were separated since we started dating nearly sixteen years ago. It felt strange and empty without him but I was lucky enough to find myself a wonderful group of friends which became my buddies for the whole week I was away. Every night the five of us would journey out into Barcelona for a meal together and I was so appreciative of their lovely and welcoming friendship. We all are still in contact with each other and hope to meet together again sometime. On our first night out for dinner as a group I really wanted to try to score a table at Tickets but being such a famous venue they were booked out well in advance. Deb and Tyler, the married couple among us strongly recommended to return where they ate at the night before; Restaurant L’Amfora.
Some people shop until they drop. Me? I just eat until I drop. gluten free Barcelona
Surely, by far and by large the best part of travelling to another country is being able to taste their local cuisine. When the Boy and I travel together we will always share our dishes so that we can try as many different things as possible. Recently I travelled to Barcelona without my lovely husband to attend the International Society of Feline Medicine’s World Feline Veterinary Conference. This was a new experience travelling solo and it presented me with a problem; I no longer had a buddy to share food my food with. Now logically one would think that there is an easy solution to this problem. Just order less food. But no, this solution was never going to work as moderation has never been my forte. I take the concept of “all or nothing” very seriously.
It was only about six weeks ago that the Boy took me down to Margaret River on a prescribed weekend of rest. We wined, dined and came back as fresh as daisies albeit slightly rounder in shape. It was a comparatively unplanned and impromptu trip which is quite out of character for me and I love that the Boy can have this sort of influence on me. I had barely finished writing up all my blog posts from the trip when it was time to head back for Gourmet Escape.
For my non-Western Australians readers; Gourmet Escape is a three day food and wine festival held in Margaret River in November each year. Famous chefs from around the world join along including Heston Blumenthal, Harold McGee, Rick Stein, Adriano Zumbo, Hadleigh Troy, Guillaume Brahimi, Matt Stone, Tetsuya Wakuda and Neil Perry to name a just few!
Something many of you may not know about me is that I am a quarter Chinese. My grandfather Wun on Tong immigrated from the Canton province in China to New Zealand in the 1930’s to flee the changes in government. He met my Irish grandmother in Auckland; they married and had a family of three children with my mum being the youngest. As is sometimes the way, their marriage unfortunately wasn’t meant to be and she left the children to be raised by their loving but hard working father. Sadly I never got to meet my grandfather as he passed away before I was born but my mum has very fond memories of him and has shown me some gorgeous photos of him. He was quite a handsome man!
Earlier this year I was in Barcelona for eight days to attend a conference. Despite this being a short trip, I managed to squeeze in a tremendous amount of eating and I can proudly look back and commend myself with my efforts. The downside of my gluttony was incrementally revealed day by day as I stood in front of my hotel room mirror each morning I could see my waist line slowly enlarging! After the first few days I realised I needed an action plan and so first thing in the morning I forcibly dragged myself out of bed hung-over and blearily eyed in order to jog up the 200 stairs leading to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
On reaching the summit I nearly tripped over my own feet in exhaustion with my sides heavily heaving and my face flushed tomato red. Feeling hideously nauseous but oh-so-satisfied I vowed to return to repeat it all again the next day. This was my warped mental justification for spending the remainder of my day eating.
I may have inadvertently blown our wedding budget to the point that there was very little left in our kitty for a honeymoon. Our original plans were to go on a six week drive up the West coast of America followed by a week in New York. My fantasy of cruising up Route 101 in a bright red convertible with the wind in my hair and not a care in the world has been pushed far, far away into the very distant future. Our make shift post-wedding holiday was instead to be a four day stopover in Singapore; an easy holiday to do as Jetstar land in Singapore on their way back from Phuket anyway.
Degustation is a French word which can be translated into meaning “a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods focusing on the senses using high culinary art”. I have always been a huge fan of tasting menus as they allow me to taste a myriad of different dishes and leave me so insanely full that I never feel like I missed out. This style of dining is one best done slowly with good company and conversation which makes me thankful that my dear husband loves “degos” as much as I do. As you can imagine, for my recent solo trip to Barcelona I became emotionally torn; do I have a degustation in a city known for its fabulous food ON MY OWN? Is that too weird? I had read great things about Michelin starred Restaurant Nectari where their Chef Jordi Esteve offers a gluten free tasting menu complete with matching wines. Nectari opened their doors nearly five years ago and since then they have worked toward earning a well-known reputation for their service and food leading to receiving their first Michelin Star in 2013.
It is literally impossible to put down in words the sheer joy and emotion of our wedding day. I have wanted to share our big day with you, my dear readers, for months and months but every time I try to put pen to paper I come up blank. How do you describe the best day of your life?
We chose to have a very intimate wedding with only 34 guests including our close friends and family. Every single one of our guests came with such wonderful love and happiness and this injected immense energy and passion into the whole day. Here are some moments from our day. (Note all photos are copyright and by Julian Wainwright)
Despite the common perception that veterinarians make a lot of money, those of you who are in the profession can appreciate it is really quite the opposite. Don’t get me wrong; it can be a highly rewarding career but it is not a path I would recommend to someone who aspires to be rich! While many of my non vet friends frequently travel for their jobs, work travel of a veterinary nature is much less frequent and usually has to be self-funded. This year my continuing education expenditure has ground to a halt as I poured all my spare savings into our magical wedding in Thailand. When I saw a brochure for the World Feline Veterinary Congress in Barcelona, I consoled myself that there would always be other Congresses. So I’m sure you can imagine my complete gratitude and surprise when our company offered to fund a trip for me to attend. A whole week of cats, tapas and Spanish sun. I felt like I had won the lotto!
Part One: Finalising our Phuket Wedding Preparations!
Prior to getting engaged I often toyed around in my head with the idea of eloping off to somewhere exotic. Like many people I have a divided family with my real parents and my respective step parents not exactly being the best of friends. Having to brave getting all these loved ones in the same room sounded like a daunting feat and one that could prove best to avoid. Our engagement party at The George provided me with a safe way to test the waters and despite all the anxiety and tension in the build-up to the evening along with very disappointing customer service from the George’s staff; everyone managed to get along wonderfully. In fact we all had an absolute ball. It dawned upon me that I should give my family much more credit.
One of the many unfortunate consequences for me if I eat gluten is the way my skin reacts. Within about eight to twelve hours of being “poisoned” I break out in an extremely itchy rash that often spreads to my face. The itch is incessant day and night breaking my sleep into fitful scratching fragments. The eczema is unsightly and I’ll confess to my vanity as it makes me feel highly self-conscious taking over a week to heal, sometimes longer.
Understandably in the months preceding our wedding I became painstakingly cautious with everything I ate. I was not ready to take any risks of accidental gluten ingestion. My sufferance paid off because on the wedding day my face was blemish free and radiant. On the return trip home from Thailand via Singapore my newly wed husband and I spent nearly four days eating non-stop. I was so relieved to finally be able to stop scrutinising everything I ate; it felt like a pressure was lifted off my shoulders. However as is often the case with me it is all-or-nothing and consequently I swung too far into complacency resulting in the obvious; gluten poisoning.
On our way home from Phuket still loved up and emotionally high on wedding bliss, we stopped over in Singapore for a few days to unwind before heading home. We flew in Singapore accompanied by my Dad and Step mum who were also stopping over albeit only for a few hours. The thought of returning back to a heavy work load loomed dark over their minds so for one last hurrah we took to the incredible SkyPark up on the 57th level of the MBS building. There are two restaurants up in the clouds on SkyPark; Ku Da Ta and Sky on 57. As Ku De Ta served a buffet style lunch we chose to dine at Sky on 57 for a more classy experience with a view.
Our post wedding stopover in Singapore consisted of four days of non-stop eating, drinking and sleeping. After having our whole week in Thailand planned down to the minute, it felt like a luxury to be somewhere on holiday without any schedules and we made the most of it. One of the few tourist attractions I wanted to see was the new marine park S.E.A. Aquarium opened on Sentosa Island. Just a tip, there are two marine parks on Sentosa. The original one is called Underwater World is hideously out-dated and not worth wasting your time. S.E.A. Aquarium in Resorts World is the second addition and is contrastingly modern, huge and very impressive.
One of the best ways to get a taste of the local street food in Thailand is to head to one of their night markets. Most towns in Phuket have their own markets held on specific days once or twice a week but the biggest night markets are the Phuket Town Night Markets (Talad Tai Rot to the locals). These markets are open on the weekends from 4pm until around 9pm. Unlike a lot of the smaller markets in Phuket, most of the ground surface at these markets is cemented meaning you don’t have to pick your way through the mud. My advice is to get there fairly early as it gets very busy from around 5pm as the sun sets and the weather cools.
It was the day after attending our dear friend’s wedding banquet at the Fairmont Hotel in Singapore. Knowing that avoiding gluten at a Chinese banquet would be literally impossible I made the choice to eat gluten that night so I wouldn’t miss out on any of the gorgeous delicacies served to us all. I had psyched myself up for this event for months and was fully prepared to deal with the onslaught of symptoms that would ensue in the following days.
When I got up that morning it was hard to distinguish what were the after-effects of eating gluten and what were due to the alcohol excesses. The tell-tale spots of eczema were only baby fledglings at this stage and for a change had not appeared on my face…yet. As a gesture of their gratitude to us for coming to all the way to Singapore to share the happiness on their big day, our friends and their parents invited us to join them and their family for lunch at Pow Sing Restaurant; a place famous for its Hainanese Chicken Rice along.
After nearly two years of preparations and a lot of blood, sweat and tears here we are……finally in Thailand for our wedding week extravaganza! With my insane desire for attention to detail, we had arrived 4 days prior to our wedding guests to finish off all our last minute preparations. There were welcome presents to arrange for each of our guests, gifts for the parents, cake testing, hair and make-up trials and so much more! For the final touches to our wedding welcome gifts we headed into Phuket’s largest shopping centre Central Festival.
I was trying so hard to be super adherent to my dietary requirements as I didn’t want any last minute facial eczema to ruin my bridal beauty preparations. Sushi is always a good option for me in these circumstances provided I stick to simple options. With this in mind we stopped at Sukishi Japanese Restaurant for a bite to eat. I didn’t have any gluten free soy with me and hoped the sashimi would be fresh enough not to need any.
I have been a loyal Qantas girl for most of my life and I try to book the majority of our flights in Australia and around the world flying with my favourite airline. However late last year when I was booking our flights to Phuket in Thailand for our wedding, the need for a direct flight with no stopovers became much more important than any airline loyalties. The logical preference was to fly with Virgin Australia. Virgin operate direct flights to Phuket from Perth arriving on the sunny island in less than 7 hours.
It was the weekend before Christmas and I had flown into Melbourne a day earlier than the Boy in order to attend to some “secret wedding business”. It was for my final dress fitting at Luci Di Bella and despite enduring a terrible flight with crying babies, vomiting toddlers and a delay on the tarmac for nearly an hour I remained hyped with excitement.
My Dad and Stepmum’s apartment is very conveniently located just off Flinders Lane; meaning with a short skip and a jump you can find yourself submerged in one of Melbourne’s hottest spots for restaurants; PM24, MoVida, Chin Chin, Cumulus Inc, Coda, Ezard…need I go on?
Despite their close proximity, I have not had the fortune to visit many of these fine establishments as my family are also star entertainers. They are well known for throwing many fabulous dinner parties that often carry well on until the wee hours of the morning. As a result when I am in Melbourne, I rarely get the chance to check out the local eateries because there is too much good food to eat at home!
Adelaide holds a close place to my heart. I spent much of my impressionable teenage years there and much of that helped to culture the type of person I am today. The real joy of returning to Adelaide however is largely because it is the home town of my dearest Mother. I am a fiercely independent person much to the annoyance of those close to me; but I cannot deny that it would make my life so much better if I was able to spend more time with my Ma. She is my best friend, my confidant, my comforter and my inspiration. She is one of the best cooks, has a gifted touch in the garden and can always make me laugh until I cry. I love her so much!
After landing in Singapore on the overnight flight from Perth I was accompanied by the Boy and one of my business partners Woki to attend a friend’s wedding at the Fairmont Hotel. Not willing to be discouraged by our lack of sleep we refused to waste our free day and spent most of it exploring the city. We conveniently ended our self-guided tour at Ku De Ta which is situated on the 57th level of one of the three Marina Bay Sands (MBS) towers. Sipping our drinks we watched a blanket of dark ominous clouds slowly envelop the city from our viewpoint on high and by the time the tropical storm reached us we were all seriously hungry. We headed back downstairs in search of some food.