Category Archives: Travel

Are you ready?

Red Rooster Harlem
Red Rooster Harlem

I’ve just tasted the best fried chicken ever. I kid you not: the batter was crisp and crunchy, making you want to bite and bite; the chicken was moist and tender, almost melting in your mouth; you just wanted to add more of the spicy seasoning from the shaker.

Last night, my brother and I dropped into Marcus Samuelsson’s latest creation, Red Rooster Harlem, a restaurant serving classic American dishes with a twist. Not to be confused with the Australian fast-food franchise, Red Rooster Harlem is the newest restaurant in the area, and is hopefully leading a local renaissance of good restaurants.

The service was friendly and attentive. The ambience was relaxed, with cool tunes playing in the background and lots of animated chatter in the foreground. The cocktail list was interesting, a mix of old and new, making the most of a good range of infused liquor.

A Harlem local, Marcus Samuelsson was guest chef for Barack Obama’s first state dinner. Born in Ethiopia, he grew up in Sweden, studying in Gothenburg before moving to New York where he served as executive chef of Aquavit, winning a stack of awards. More recently he won television’s Top Chef Masters Season 2.

Marcus Samuelsson pays homage to the best in Southern cuisine with dishes such as a cheddar pastry apple cake, yet salutes his Nordic roots with the tempting gravalax and purple mustard. Both the smoked and salt cured salmon was fantastic. That said, the chicken was my favourite, so if you’d like to try the best fried chicken ever, head up to Red Rooster Harlem, and order the fried yard bird.

Overcoming jet lag

Some say it’s the curse of the modern age. Others avoid visiting friends and family so as not to experience it.

Jetting abroad
Jetting abroad

Jet lag describes the condition where your circadian rhythms are interrupted when travelling in an aircraft across time zones. Symptoms of jet lag include difficulty sleeping at a normal time, waking up in the middle of the night, and extreme drowsiness. In my years of travel, I’ve been very lucky in avoiding the severe effects of jet lag by following three simple rules.

Rule one: always adjust your watch to the destination time zone. As soon as I get on the plane, I adjust my watch to the time zone of my destination city. This means if I’m going from Sydney to Los Angeles for instance, I’ll turn my watch back seventeen hours. Likewise if I’m going to London where I’ll turn it back nine hours. By adjusting my watch to the destination time zone I start acting as if I’m the destination time zone.

Rule two: don’t eat and drink too much. When you’re onboard the plane and the attractive hostess keeps offering you food, I know it’s difficult resist the extra chocolate ice cream and cheese platter. Equally, when that glass of wine seems to have a never ending bottom, and you’ve left the cares of the world 35,000 feet below, saying “no” to the cognac or some other digestif requires real willpower. Believe me; on the occasions where I’ve over indulged, I’ve regretted it; on the occasions where I’ve been disciplined, I’ve sufferred little jet lag.

Rule three: sleep according to the destination time zone. I know this is a follow-on to my first rule and it works. If you can sleep as close as possible to normal nighttime according to the destination time zone, you’ll land fresh and full of energy. For those who find it difficult to sleep, I’ve always found some Baileys with a mild antihistamine works a treat.

So there you have it: my three simple rules for overcoming the jet lag curse. Try them next time you fly to visit friends and family and let me know if they work for you too!

Wanna go out for dessert?

Kyotofu's award-winning cupcake
Kyotofu's award-winning cupcake

Although many people use the phrase “going out for coffee” as an expression to catch-up (or meet-up) with an old (or new) friend, couldn’t “going out for dessert” be an equally valid social occasion?

A little over a month ago, I did just that with my brother and a bunch of his friends in New York. The venue was Kyotofu a Japanese dessert bar in Midtown. Containing two sections, the front of the restaurant had bar stools and a couple of tables while past the kitchen, while down the back, was a larger dining room housing more chairs and tables. On offer was a full menu of sweets that could be ordered individually as well as a prix fare menu. Being a closet sweet tooth, I couldn’t help but indulge in the sampling menu that included cheesecake, black sesame sweet tofu, and the miso chocolate cake.

The cheesecake, accompanied with a sponge base, was delicate yet had a full flavour. The black sesame sweet tofu came with a roasted green tea sauce and goji berries. The slight bitterness of the berries worked well with the sweetness of the tofu whose texture was smooth but firm. The miso chocolate cake was a surprise. I’ve always thought of miso as being extremely salty but in this instance it was juxtaposed against lightly-flavoured green tea ice-cream.

With good service and the right sort of lighting (dim if you ask), I reckon it’s a pretty good date venue.

If I wasn’t concerned about my carbohydrate intake, I’d be back more often.

Mobile phones overseas

I was chatting with some friends over dinner last night and realised I had forgotten to share a little tip I learnt when last overseas.

Nokia E71Anyone who has travelled abroad with global roaming will recognise there’s a large cost for convenience. If you’re an Australian who is travelling in say, Singapore, and one of your mates in Australia calls your mobile, and you answer, your mate will be charged for the Australian portion of the call while you’ll be charged for the international (Australia to Singapore) portion of the call. This means taking calls overseas can be an expensive past time, especially if it’s your mate who talks and talks and talks, before you can even tell her you’re overseas!

It’s a slightly different story for text messages (SMS). In most countries, it’s free to receive a text message on a foreign phone so texting has been the communication method of choice for travellers. The catch, of course, is the cost of texting on your Aussie phone while on foreign soil. The last time I checked with my Australian carrier, it cost 75 cents to send a text message while overseas, which is a good three times the cost of a text message in Australia.

After a day of sending about fifteen text messages to a friend while I was on foreign soil, I realised I blew through more than ten dollars very quickly. I then remembered I could email! While the cost of data while roaming overseas is much more than when back home, it’s much cheaper than texting. If memory serves me correctly, I pay around 1 cent per kilobyte and given the 160 characters you can type into a text is much less than 1kb, the data rate can go a long way. (Obviously there’s a communications overhead and you could get in trouble if you decide to download that 2 megabyte attachment from the office.)

So there’s my tip. If you’ve got a BlackBerry or email-enabled phone, it can be much cheaper sending emails overseas than texting. (Oh, and if you’ve got a GPS-enabled phone, the A-GPS feature that uses the data network helps you find your way around really quickly!)

Ah, the sound of music

I was in London the other week catching up with some friends. After lunching at the Borough Markets, they suggested we take a leisurely walk along the Thames to check out the amazing architecture and art at St Paul’s Cathedral. Little did I know they had a sneaky plan. Little did I know I was being set-up as a pawn in their desire to hear piano music on the sidewalk.

London piano
God Save the Queen

London, like other towns around the world, has installed a bunch of upright pianos around the city. They’re located in popular areas such as Millenium Bridge and Soho Gardens, and they’re free for the public to play. Given London’s habit of grey drizzle, I’m not sure how long the pianos would last but sure enough, as we walked up the Bankside Jetty and onto Millenium Bridge the familiar object became larger and larger. I found myself trapped by three friends who forced me onto the piano stool. Not really sure what to do, I let go of my bag and found myself paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II with God Save the Queen. I guess old habits die hard and even though Australia has had its own national anthem 1984, many Australians are still fond of Betty Windsor.

What a great idea: providing instruments in public spaces for the public to play! We already provide public furniture, amenities, maps, light posts; why not instruments?

The joy of the ocean

Bramston Beach
Bramston Beach

My last weekend was fantastic; I spent it in Tropical North Queensland, enjoying Bramston Beach and its surrounds. I must say, the whole process of getting away, even for a short weekend does wonders for the mind. Even though some people get stressed out about getting to the airport, waiting for the flight, and squeezing into a small seat, I find the whole process quite relaxing, especially when you know you’re going away for leisure.

My Saturday morning was the highlight: still waking up early at 6.30am to the sound of breaking waves on the beach; walking up and down the beach with the sun steadily rising; admiring the distant islands. It really was idyllic and helped clear my mind from the stresses and strains of the week before. The rest of the day was no different: driving into Cairns; having brunch on the wharf; milling around the organic markets at the wharf-side centre; snoozing in the afternoon; finding a Chinese restaurant in Innisfail; losing a whole lot of poker chips.

For those of you who are need of refreshment, you could do much worse than than taking a short trip to enjoy the climate, coast, and hinterland of Tropical North Queensland.