NOT a food blog
I wasn’t planning on visiting Sydney this year. Last year, I intimated to him that I wanted to celebrate my 10th year wedding anniversary in South Africa where we honeymooned in 2000. I hadn’t been reading the news then, or I’d have known that the World Cup was taking place in South Africa this year, and knowing my husband, he’d find a way of getting there way before our wedding anniversary, without me. What I also didn’t know was that he was planning on being in Sydney two days after our anniversary (in November 2010) to watch Metallica (the heavy metal band from 1981) perform. When I did find out about his plans, I calmly told him that he was on his own because I wanted to go to South Africa or Egypt or somewhere exotic. For months, I refused to budge, but he had other tricks up his sleeve to get me to go to Sydney. About a couple of months back, he gave me a “belated birthday gift” – tickets to Sydney for our anniversary. Bugger. I thought I was the one with the brains in the family.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going to Sydney, of course. It is one of my favourite cities in the world; two years back, we celebrated New Year’s eve there. We perched ourselves on a slope at Bradley’s Head at the Sydney Harbour National Park, a little bit inebriated after the numerous bottles of wine and good food which we had consumed earlier at Ripples (an amazing Australian fusion restaurant) and watched the fireworks go. It’s a feeling that I can’t quite describe. It felt like all of Sydney was out there, some at the Opera House, some in the anchored yachts near the harbour, some at the various lookout points, some at home…all watching and cheering together. Hugs and kisses all around. Best feeling ever.
What about my memories this time around? Of course, I remember our wedding anniversary celebration. We had checked ourselves in at the Sydney Hilton and when we went downstairs to the Zeta Bar for pre-dinner drinks, our dear friends Aly and Michael surprised me with their presence. Bald Eagle had planned with them all along to meet up for a couple of days in Sydney, and it felt so good to be there with fellow KL-ites. Michael presented us with a precious anniversary gift, his new cookbook – Cooking with Michael Elfwing, filled with Modern Australian and Malaysian inspired recipes from his years of experience in the industry. (The book is available for sale at Senses, KL Hilton, and will be hitting the bookstores in mid January 2011.) After some fabulous deconstructed cocktails at Zeta Bar, we proceeded to Quay, which was voted No.27 on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, 11 spots above Tetsuya’s. Expectations were high; Peter Gilmore’s tasting menu wowed us in many aspects but, being acquainted with some pretty amazing Asian cuisine already, we weren’t as impressed with some of his Asian inspired dishes. However, we loved the freshness of the ingredients, and his acclaimed snow egg dessert was out of this world. The entire experience was enjoyable – we had a table overlooking the Sydney Opera House, and as the skies cleared after the spring showers, the stars came out.
The next day, we took a wine tour to several boutique wineries in the Hunter Valley. We sampled 41 different wines – semillon, shiraz, voignier, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, merlot, etc – and what holds true is this – when we drink the wines that we have brought home with us, we shall remember that radiant sunny day spent out in the country, admiring the fields of shimmering green vines, getting intoxicated on wines and laughing in each other’s company. We shall remember our friends from Brazil and UK and Australia, and we shall remember doing the samba with them.
Holiday memories are not all about destinations and taking great photos. The most poignant memories are not always captured on film. Our brief encounter with 90-year-old Vera at church in Manly is one that I want to remember because it reminds me that life has to be lived to the fullest. She talked about climbing down the wharf to spy on fairy penguins – this 90-year-old woman, and her eyes lit up with mischief, her exuberance masking her million wrinkles.
A day trip to Cabramatta and Bankstown, southwest of Sydney, exposed me to some of the best Vietnamese food I had ever tasted. I loved the pho at An, a restaurant in Bankstown, because the thinly sliced beef cooking in the boiling broth was just so fresh and flavourful. We had dinner with Bald Eagle’s friend, Peter, and his family who brought us to their favourite Vietnamese restaurant in Cabramatta – Quan an Bau Truong, where we had delicious spring rolls, salads, noodles topped with coconut cream, banh xeo (stuffed pancake) and crispy fried quail. It was such a satisfying meal, and more importantly, it gave me the chance to get to know Peter and his wife better, and to be thankful for the solid, uneventful middle-class upbringing that I had. Peter’s story is one for the movies – boy grows up in Kajang, girl grows up in Saigon, girl escapes Saigon with her family and lands in the refugee camps in Malaysia, boy drives past refugee camp everyday and sees children playing, girl looks out of window and sees boy, girl goes to Australia, boy and girl grow up, boy goes to Australia to study, boy meets girl, girl meets boy, boy and girl fall in love.
Everybody has a story to tell. And they’re all equally fascinating.
Happy 10th anniversary, my darling husband.
The Rocks, Sydney
Tel: (61 2) 9251 5600
27 Greenfield Parade
Tel: (02) 9796 7826
Quan an Bau Truong
42 John St
Tel: (02) 9727 4492
Food, for me, is a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Food, for me, represents the love of family, the fellowship of friends, and the community and communality it brings.