Earn What You Eat, Cooya Beach, AUS

We traveled just north of Port Douglas, AUS to visit Cooya Beach (Kuyu Kuyu). This is a traditional fishing ground of the Kuku Yalanji people.  We were taken out by the Kubirri Warra brothers for a walk on their beach, mudflat and mangroves and introduced to traditional fishing and gathering techniques, and we got to find our own tucker (aka food).

So, we walked out in the water (pants up to knees and barefoot from their house — no shoes allowed) with sticks in hand and started working for crabs.  The past few years in MD crabs have been expensive.  Yes, frustrating.  But our guides were telling that around that area the prices is around at least $200/bushel.  Ok, at the end of our half hour ‘fishing’ trip, I see why.  You walk around with a sharp edged stick in hand and look for crabs and stab them.  That’s about it.  Talk about labor hours! I was lucky enough to get one.  And getting that one (key number)…once I saw it and it didn’t scurry away, it probably took me about 5 minutes to stab it.  Dang!

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After we were done ‘crabbing’ we continued, but it was through a bit different areas.  This is where oysters and escargots live.  We found many of them.  I don’t like raw oysters but when it Rome… These were pretty good.  Because of the salt water they are in, it seeps into them.  They were very (good &) salty.  And the salt crystals on them were darn good, too.  We also found many of the escargots.

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When we returned to the starting point, our guides cooked all of this up for us and we had a small feast.  Great local findings.

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Fetta’s Greek Tavern, Cairns, AUS

When in Australia, one must eat Greek!  Was on a tour bus on somebody mentioned this great Greek place in Cairns.  Sounded good so decided to check it out.  The name — Fetta’s Greek Taverna.

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Got there, got a table and right away we knew this was authentic Greek.  Was tough to understand the staff because of accents, we could not figure who our waiter was vs who the (apparent) drink order taker was.  We asked a lot of questions and the waiter sort of gave answers but we couldn’t totally understand him.

Most important thing for me to get at a Greek place is an appetizer and we and opted for the Melitzana, an eggplant, onion & garlic dip.

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After that we decided to split several small dishes.  We went for dolmas, a village salad (with true feta) and octapapodi (octapus marinated in olive oil, vinegar, garlic & oregano).

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For wine, the waiter wasn’t overly helpful but this guy sitting next to us piped in and gave us amazing help and suggested a wine I would not have jumped on, but so glad I took his advice.  We opted for the Bay of Stones Merlot.  Not what I would expect from a Merlot.  This was another amazing dinner in Great Barrier Reef world.  This place is just great!

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Dundee’s, Cairns, Australia

April, Cairns, Australia. It’s the place you go to visit the Great Barrier Reef.  You get off the plane and it’s upper 70s to low 80s.  Heaven!  Can we bring some of that to the DC-area…PLEASE?

The first night there we walked around and checked out menus for dinner and finally decided on Dundee’s, which is one of the many restaurants right on the water.

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While going through the menu of course some wine was needed.  We opted for some (get Austin Powers in your head) Mojo.  Very nice Shiraz from Barossa Valley.

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After much going through the menu we decided on one of their very popular dishes to get a true local flair, the Australian Sampler Plate — A taste of Australia’s most popular cuisine – chargrilled eye fillet, pan seared wild barramundi, kangaroo striploin satays, crocodile tail satays, emu chipolatas and a tiger prawn satay served with honey roast sweet potato, teriyaki, spicy peanut and plum sauces with lemon beurre blanc.

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We also decided to get some salad to have a bit of veggie, so went for Rocket & Apple Salad and Mixed Leaf Salads.

That mix of meat was so unique.  I’d had the ‘roo, but the croc was pretty cool.  Similar to gator.  The emu was nice.  Praws, just like shrimp.  The barramundi was great.  All this, the salads and that wine…glad the hotel was about a 2 minute walk away.

 

Cheers to Beer(s) in AUS

Ok, there is of our amazing wine in Australia and New Zealand.  But, one must not forget about the brew!  Some amazing stuff come from malt, yeast, hops and water.  Some were enjoyed with aforementioned meals in posts.  The couple below were ‘just’ enjoyed in Cairns, AUS near the Great Barrier Reef.  The James Squires Pale Ale was perfect.  Not hoppy, just smooth.  The Golden Ale was a bit light, but nonetheless refreshing!

The XXXX Australian was one of those to just drink because it’s hot out and you wanted to try local beer.  Think Foster’s.  The picture of it focuses more on the beautiful water because of that.

 

Mudbrick Vineyard, Waiheke Island, NZ

The final stop on our Waiheke Island tour was Mudbrick Vineyard.  We started the tour with being handed a glass of their Sauvignon Blanc.  How nice!  (Per the site — Intense aromas of passionfruit, gooseberry and freshly cut grass. The palate is concentrated tropical and citrus notes with juicy acidity and a long polished finish.)

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We walked around and learned about the history, the grapes, etc.  While checking out these physical grapes, we were handed a glass of their Syrah.  The pepper notes were very present.  (Displays aromas of plum, blackcurrants, black pepper corns and camphor. The palate has concentrated dark fruits, liquorice and spice with plush round tannins and a long pure finish.)

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All this while having an amazing view!  Can I have a ride?  Apparently these swing by often.

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We finished off in the tasting room with a taste of the Merlot/Cabernet Blend.  Home run!  I knew I still had two cities to visit on my trip but I had to take one with me.  Wow, what a taste.  (Displays aromas of plums, cassis, dried herbs, pencil shavings and dark chocolate. The palate is refined and elegant with soft powdery tannins and a long classic finish.)  Side note, pencil shavings?  So many great ‘things’ you can add to wines.  Besides the pencil being far out, the fact that it’s a shaving.  Do you get the sharpener ready and compare?  Love being wine lovers.

New Zealand Wine and Beer Stop, Wild on Waiheke

As part of the wine tour we also got to enjoy some brew.  We stopped at Wild on Waiheke, which has the Waiheke Island Brewery and also the winery.  We primarily had the beer at this one but also had a sip of vino.

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For the wine we had a sip of their Sauvignon Blanc. A nice traditional one that you get from NZ.

For the brews we had quite the spread. We enjoyed a taste of all of them while hearing the history of the brewery and all about the brewing process.

-Baroona Original, 4.7% ABV.  Based on the German Kolsch style, the use of famous NZ grown Saaz B (Motueka) hops gives this beer its distinctive grapefruit peel aroma.  Baroona is brewed from 90% pilsner malt and 10% malted wheat and is top fermented. — nice and cris,p just like it should be.

-Whard Rf. Wheat Beer, 4.5% ABV.  Based on the Bavarian Hefe-Weizen style, brewed from a 50/50 blend of Pilsner malted wheat, very lightly hopped with Pacific Hallertau and fermented with authentic Bavarian yeast.  Like many classic wheat beers this product is unfiltered and has the authentic clove and banana aromas. — definitely had the banana, not good for me.  I like having banana flavor from the fruit or in some tasty bread.

-Matiatia Malt Beer, 7.2% ABV. Based on the new American Imperial Pale Ale style, this beer’s high ABV makes it perfect as an after dinner beer or nightcap.  The palate is rich and full with notes of toffee and chocolate, balanced with generous additions of NZ grown chocolate, balanced with generous additions of NZ grown Cascande hops for a lingering resinous finish — heavy, couldn’t take more than a sips.  Could taste what they said and definitely wouldn’t want it as a ‘main’ beer.

-Apple Cider, 5.5% — Brewed on site alongside the beers and make from Hawkes Bay Granny Smith apple juice and fermented with their top fermented ale yeast culture.  The cider starts fermentation at a high gravity and is then cooled down once it reaches 5.5% ABV.  This rapid halt to the fermentation leaves plenty of residual apple flavour and just the right level of sweetness.  The aroma and flavour are both full of fresh apple notes and a lingering finish. — pretty good!  And the sweetness is not overbearing.

-Hauraki Gulf Ginger Beer — non-alchohol.  ‘Nuf said.

 

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Another great place to check out.

Olive Oil Tasting, New Zealand

As part of our tour on Waiheke Island, we got to visit an olive grove to learn about the olive industry in New Zealand.  The place we checked out was Rangihoua Estate, which has been around since the late ’90s.

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We learned about the entire olive oil making process from picking the olives through processing them to putting the final product in a bottle.

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After that we got to sample!  Some of the oils were very nice, some, for my taste were ok.  Overall, great experience learning about everything and adding to the wine tour day.

New Zealand Winery #1, Stonyridge Vineyard

When in New Zealand, one must visit wineries!  Right outside out Auckland is a little island, Waiheke, that has plenty of wineries to visit.  We found a wine tour, Taste of Waiheke, to take part in that took you to wineries, an olive oil tasting and a brewery.  Great!

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After leaving the ferry we got on a nice bus and sauntered our way to winery #1, Stonyridge Vineyard.  Very nice castle-like look.  This winery is “dedicated to producing the finest Cabernet blends in the world (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot) using traditional winemaking.”

Upon arrival we stood just outside the vineyard, right near some olive trees, and learned about the history while enjoying some of their delectable Airfield, a mid-price Bordeaux-style red.

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After that were served an amazing lunch!  They whipped up this great nicoise-like salad for me vs. a quiche because of my lactose intolerance.  This was awesome.  Enjoyed that with some very nice Sauvignon Blanc.

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Beirut, Auckland, NZ

Another night, another restaurant.  Asked for another suggestion from the concierge and this time because of what we were looking for, the restaurant suggestion was Beirut, which is contemporary middle-eastern food.

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After pouring over the menu, we opted to split several small dishes and opted for:

Za’attar: kale, thyme, coriander, sumac, goat’s cheese

Fattoush: watermelon, beetroot, cucumber, orange blossom, parsley

Bubba: burnt eggplant, black sujuk, toasted sesame, black cabbage

Skate:  fermented apple water, bees wax, pine oil, onion ash, batarekh, white radish

 

All were amazing.  The bubba just melted in your mouth.  The radish wasn’t my favorite in the fish dish (skate) but the rest of it was great.  Love this kind of food!

Fuga Japanese Brasserie, Auckland, NZ

On the second night in Auckland, opted to go for some Japanese fare.  Found a place right around the corner from the hotel, Fuga Japanese Brasserie, that wasn’t busy.  It was also pretty hidden/subtle.  When we walked in, we were definitely in the minority, which likely meant it was not common for tourists to check this place out.  Makes it all the better.

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The table opted for some sake and Japanese brew.

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Went for some pretty basic food options that night.  Some nice soup (it was cold out that day), fresh salad, sashimi and nigiri.

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Pretty good, though the fish didn’t have any outstanding flavor.  The service was a bit slow, but very nice.  Good choice overall.