Posts Tagged ‘Melbourne’

Two times a week I venture to a market to replenish our produce.  Melbourne markets vary in shapes, sizes, frequency, prices, and offerings so while we do have our favorite, we like to spice things up a bit and check out different markets from time to time.  Last week we ventured to the Dandenong Market.

We were met with a river of pedestrians and cranky drivers before we even entered the parking lot.  Before we got out of the car Ryan turned to me and said, “Just so you know, I already know I’m not going to like this place.”  “Thanks for the warning,” I replied.  Fair enough, I thought.

This was our bounty from the Dandenong Market.  You’re looking at the results of a typical trip, minus the salmon that we immediately refrigerated.  We’ve been loving silverbeet and lil mandarins…but not at the same time.  We also can’t get enough of the mangoes when they’re in season.  I’m already salivating over the chicken, avo, and mango salad I plan to make with the first in-season mango.  But, I digress…

Bottom line on the Dandenong Market:

+Good prices and quality produce, meats, and seafood, although we didn’t see a ton of organic, sustainable or free-range options.

-Too many stalls and vendors to choose from and too many people to shuffle through.  Let’s face it, sometimes you’re in the mood for a stroll, a leisurely walk around the market to peruse the produce and people watch.  Most times, I am not.

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This weekend we enjoyed a night out with friends watching the Melbourne Storm — currently first on the ladder — take on the 2nd place Brisbane Broncos.  It was our first live rugby match and we loved every minute of it.  The experience can be summed up as follows:

Learning the rules of the game

One small scuffle that was squashed before it could become an all-out brawl.

Very few hoaky mid-game marketing stunts…although there were cheerleaders and a mascot.

Ended after two seemingly short 45-minute halves.  The clock doesn’t stop except in rare occasions unlike NFL (Gridiron, as they call it here) where it seems there is a TV timeout after nearly every play.

Really solid, large-necked, big-legged, strong-armed men running at each other with ungodly amounts of force and speed.

Un-adulterated brutality.  Imagine NFL without the pads.  So Brutal. 

Great seats at a really cool venue, AAMI park, pronounced “Amy“.

Bundled up in our warm, hooded, winter jackets we felt like we were at a football game at home.

Yes, VICTORY for the Storm!

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These newly married days we wonder if we’ve lost our cool.  True, we never had much of it…but now on any given night we prefer to make dinner, cuddle up, and watch TV or read (that is, when we’re not traveling).  I know what you’re thinking, ‘WHOA – how much excitement can one couple handle?’  But those who know us from the ragged race that was our life in the US know how far we’ve come to reach this sort of balance, peace, this place of un-coolness.

So every once in awhile we like to live dangerously, step outside our comfort zone, and hit up a cool cafe.  You know…the ones with the cool factor, that make you feel cool by just being there.  Three Bags Full in Abbotsford (near Richmond) in Melbourne is one of those places. Their website describes their cafe as “Fresh house made produce and specialty coffee”.  Cool, right?!  🙂

There’s nothing special about the interior.  It’s a converted warehouse so the walls are brick and pretty bare.  Truly it’s mainly the waitstaff — who are waaaay cooler than I could ever hope to be — and the light fixtures that give the place its personality.  Can someone PLEASE tell me where I can get those teacup lights for over our as-of-yet-non-existent kitchen breakfast bar?

And before you ask, no I wasn’t paid for this post.  This is out of sheer love or maybe they slipped something into their heavenly ricotta pancakes (below), ricotta hot cakes with baked fruit and orange infused ricotta, to be exact.  Yes, most importantly, the food is to-die-for so you can enjoy a fabulous brekkie while you bask in all your coolness.

Three Bags Full on Urbanspoon

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If you’ve been following our blog you’ll know that our outings are dictated by our ever-growing stack of Scoopon and Living Social deals.  The latest, of which, brought us to Robarta on Fitzroy Street in Saint Kilda.  Ranging from 3.5 to 4.5 stars — depending on your restaurant review site of choice — I had high expectations.  Thankfully this trendy tapas bar lived up to its reputation.

We had an early booking on a Sunday evening so had our choice of tables.  We sat at a high top that looked out onto Fitzroy (gotta’ love Melbourne’s open-air dining).

Once seated we were immediately greeted by a pleasant gent who was a lovely balance of attentive-but-not-intrusive the whole meal.  With our Scoopon deal we started with a bowl of Miso soup each.  It was yummy and just a tad on the salty side, which Ryan loved.  We were off to a great start.

We ordered four tapas, mainly staying with an Asian theme.  The Garlic Chicken with sweet and sour sauce came out first with the chicken and pork spring rolls, along with the complementary fried rice.  These dishes were quickly followed by the Shanghai dumplings and spiced chicken wings.

Each dish was surprising, in a good way.  The chicken wings had a dipping sauce that I likened to an upscale version of A1 steak sauce and Ryan nearly licked the little bowl clean.  At first bite, the fried rice is pretty ordinary but the more you have, the more you taste special something.  It’s not earth-shattering gourmet cuisine but it’s good, bordering on very good.

We were happy with the tapas and comfortably full.  But we would not have missed the dessert, which was, by far the highlight of the meal.  It’s not odd that I would say that about a dessert because I believe that ending dinner on a sweet note is imperative but my dear hubs is not a slave to his sweet tooth like I am and even he agreed that the desserts were the best part.  Included with our deal was two desserts of choice.  We went with a lovely White Chocolate Panna Cotta which is described on the menu as “light, silky smooth cream and white chocolate custard with seasonal fruits and a drizzle of sticky red wine syrup”.  We also chose the Apple Mango Coconut Crumble which can only be described as “yuummmmmmm”. 

Ryan also enjoyed dessert with a latte which we — as emerging coffee snobs — can say was very well done.  The Scoopon deal made this little spot very affordable but even without it, we’ll be back to Robarta.
Robarta on Urbanspoon

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We recently spent an afternoon at the Royal Melbourne Zoo as part of another Scoopon deal.  Neither of us are regular zoo-goers, subscribing to the philosophy ‘a zoo is a zoo’, but I’ve always enjoyed Omaha’s great Henry Dorley Zoo and have experienced the San Diego zoo a couple of times so I was anxious do a comparison.

The Melbourne zoo didn’t disappoint.  It’s full of shaded walking paths, informative placards of animal info, and, of course, animals from many different countries and landscapes.  Unique highlights included the Butterfly house, the baby orangutan and the  little penguins.

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We enjoyed our experience and are glad we visited the zoo at least once but our non-zoo-lover adage gained even more cred.  A zoo is a zoo.  I guess that’s true no matter what side of the world you’re on.

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Best.Valentine’s.Day.Ever.  I won’t go bragging on and on about the amazingly romantic Valentine’s day we had.  I could.  But I won’t.  Instead I’ll share one of the highlights of the day as it relates to Melbourne.

Picnics and beaches are quintessential Melbourne experiences.  Packing up a blanket and filling an “esky” — short for Eskimo, a popular brand of coolers – is  a common activity for Melbournians.  And with the wonderful weather and great bay beaches, a beach-day is a regular Melbourne past-time.   Admittedly, we’ve neglected our “pseudo –Melbournian” duties by not enjoying either of these activities enough.

On Valentine’s Day Ryan surprised me with a dinner picnic to the beach to watch the sunset. We drove to Brighton Beach arriving around 7PM with the sun brilliant over the bay.  We set up our beach chairs and enjoyed a fabulous dinner, packed courtesy of my hubs and complete with sparkling wine.

We dipped our toes in the warm water as we strolled along the shore.  Here’s a shot of my gorgeous husband, ooh la la.

And, of course we watched the sunset together.

While we won’t be able to recreate the romance of this Vday regularly (nor would we want to) we agreed that we MUST make beach visits more frequently in the future.  Now onto getting a beach bod…

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There is so much to do and see in Melbourne I’m starting to think that we won’t get it all done before we head for home.  Maybe that’s okay but it’s an unsettling feeling for two planners like ourselves.  Daily deal sites like Scoopon, Living Social, Spreets, etc, have been great ways for us to explore Melbourne as they’re constantly offering deals to restaurants and attractions across the city.

One of the latest deals we picked up was for 3 hot attractions at a very discounted rate.  First on the list was the Melbourne Aquarium.  I should mention that I’m not much of an aquarium go-er.  My trip to the Shedd Aquarium several years ago in Chicago with a dear friend was a blast but was my first and last fish-fest that I can remember.

At the Melbourne aquarium there we were with hundreds of families and little kiddoes running amuck among the displays (it should be mentioned that I love kids…when they’re quiet…or when they’re still babies) but I could understand their excitement.  The first display was a bunch of Gentoo Penguins.  You could watch them on the ice and in the water.  “Cheeky and feisty” so said the sign but truly adorable.

If you’ve read or heard much about Australia, you’ll know that it’s lands and waters are home to some of the deadliest creatures (spiders, snakes, crabs)  known to man, like the box jellyfish.  Think of the worst unimaginable pain, multiply it times 100 and by the time you’ve done that, you’d be dead, or wishing you were.

The aquarium had some great tanks with a ton of different underwater species.  The displays were interactive and educational.  You could feed and touch fish in certain sections. The aforementioned kiddoes were loving it.  (Have I mentioned before how kid-friendly Melbourne is?)  The most interesting display (for me) was the Seahorses.  I just find them so funny and cute and majestic at the same time.

And The Weird award goes to the Axolotl which comes from Mexico where it’s known as the Mexican Walking Fish.  According to the oh-so-informative display, axolotls aren’t fish but amphibians.  What makes them an oddity–besides the obvious creepy appearance–they can regenerate their gills, heart, tail, liver, kidneys, parts of their nervous system, and their arms and legs.  These little guys are critically endangered worldwide.  SAVE THE AXOLOTL!

Ryan is the same way I am about aquariums so I’m not sure we would’ve felt that the steep admission fee at the aquarium was worth it if we didn’t have the killer discount but for those with kids I reckon it’s a great outing, especially with the family discount…an alternative to the “Ryan-and-Laura-are-frugal-aka-cheap”  rate.

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