Day4 in Adelaide – A story of two food experiences

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Here’s the thing about day four of my Adelaide road trip – both the highlight and the lowlight were food related (isn’t it always?). First the lowlight. Pie floaters, another South Australian culinary institution are gross! A pie drowning in pea sauce? WHAT IN HELL WAS I THINKING? Never again.

But the highlight was so unexpected and so unobtrusive it kind of blew my mind. But first I need to give you some background.

When I was a kid growing up in Sydney, we had a little corner shop at the end of our street. It’s gone through a handful of owners over the years, but there was a period where it was owned by an Asian family and they made the best damn hamburger I’ve ever eaten. I’m not talking about your gourmet burger. I’m talking about your local milk bar, Australian burger. The kind of burger that’s just a beef patty with lettuce, tomato, caramelised onions, BBQ sauce and beetroot (always beetroot). If I was feel a bit fancy I would put a potato scallop/potato cake on it, just because. The owners sold up that shop around the time that I finished up in high school, and I have never had a milk bar burger as good since then.

Until Adelaide.

Another friend told us to check out this little take away shop in North Adelaide called the Blue & White Café . It’s apparently been there since 1954. I normally never order burgers from these kinds of joints because they inevitably lead to disappointment, so I’m not sure why I did this day. Maybe it was fate? But I am so glad I did because that burger took me straight back to that time when that Asian family owned the corner shop and made the best burger I’ve ever eaten. This burger tasted the same as my memory.

The patty tasted the same – it wasn’t overly spiced, it had the right amount of char from the flat-top grill and it was succulent. The bun was the perfectly fine, regular hamburger bun that you buy from the supermarket, complete with sesame seeds. There was the right ratio of ingredients, especially the sauce.

It’s amazing when a food memory is so powerful that it destroys your experience of similar foods to the one in the memory. But it truly is mindblowing and emotional when you find a food that matches it. I’m glad this memory found it’s match.

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Melboure to Adelaide and back again

Back at the beginning of August, my partner and I went on a five day road trip to Adelaide, coming back via the Silo Art Trail in North West Victoria.

We’ve been together for almost 10 years at this point, but this was the first time that the two of us had actually gone away together. We had made a few trips to Sydney, but that was to visit my family. This time it was just the two of us.

The first day we spent on the road from Melbourne to McLaren Vale. This meant a lot of time in the car, but it did cement that our typical road trip food is whatever the local bakery can supply us with. My partner is a fussy eater and a vegetarian to boot, but at the least he can have a salad roll. My bakery treat of choice is usually a pie. And some kind of pastry. Always pastry.

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We stopped off along the way to take photos of things by the side of a road – an old building that had been turned into a massive antiques barn in Beaufort, the terrifying Giant Koala at Dadswell Bridge, a rock formation that bizarrely has been turned into a place for people to graffiti on, and a pink lake. There was a Makatron piece in the middle of nowhere. Then there were the massive silos painted by Guido van Helton in Coonalpyn that we drove through in the pitch black night and definitely did not expect to see – we weren’t expecting painted silos until at least day five.

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We stopped for the night in McLaren Vale before my Straight Edge, non-drinker partner took me to wineries (which I will talk about in another post) the next morning. We wandered around the beaches in Port Willunga, ate at a bakery in Morphett Vale that was so warm and friendly, especially when I tried my first Kitchener Bun.

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I was told by a friend that a Kitchener Bun was one of those must-try, South Australian delicacies. It’s essentially like a cream bun, but instead of being a sweet bread stuffed with cream and raspberry jam, they do the same to a bun with more of a doughnut texture. The bun is even rolled in sugar before being filled. It was all my pastry dreams in one creation.

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Wine regions are some of the most beautiful parts of the world to me. The symmetry of the vines, even when they’re bare, always take my breath away. Quite a few vineyards had oxalis blooming between the rows so the bright, yellow flowers were visible from the road. Not to mention the olive trees that lined the roads, heavy with fruit – I definitely bought olives at one of the wineries.

That evening we made our way into Adelaide, spending the evening together wandering around a city I had only ever visited for about an hour before, on the way to a work conference in the Barossa.

So the third day was my first full day in Adelaide. After a sleepless night, we got up pretty early to go get breakfast from Jamface at Adelaide Central Market. Poh Ling Yeow is one of my all-time favourite Masterchef alumni, so it was great to sample her food, even if it only was granola and a Melting Moment cookie.

Markets are one of my favourite places to wander around. I love seeing the different types of food on display – like the selection of sausage at the Bratwurst stall. And before you ask, no I was not brave enough to try the Bum Burner.

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My partner had to work half the day, giving me the opportunity to spend some time wandering the city by myself and do things I enjoy that he has no interest in, like visiting the Art Gallery and the Museum, and doing a little shopping at places like Clarity Records. I got to eat a delicious lunch at a little katsu place tucked away in a tiny arcade off Rundle Mall. I had a drink in a great bar/book exchange around the corner from the hotel where the cocktails all had a decidedly literary theme (which definitely appealed to the librarian in me).

Dinner that night we splurged a little and went to Melt Pizzeria. We shared a Bianca (mozzarella, parmesan, garlic, rosemary) while my partner went with his traditional Margarita and I had the Jamon (tomato, mozzarella, rocket salad, prosciutto). It was absolutely worth the little splurge, especially as I had been craving this type of traditional style, wood-fired pizza for a number of weeks. I always say – give in to your cravings when you can!

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After another sleepless night (these were thanks to the beer garden the hotel backed onto), I was left to my own devices (read: sleep) while my partner took himself on a bit of a wander around the city to take photos. I was up and ready to go by the time he got back, however as it was a Sunday morning and it took us forever to find somewhere to have breakfast because nothing was open at our end of town. We were down near the University of South Australia and there wasn’t a café in sight. I would have settled for a McDonald’s hashbrown or three at that point, especially as we had a big day planned.

On the upside, the wander gave us the opportunity to indulge in a little street art stalking around the uni, which would set the tone for the rest of the day since we were heading to Port Adelaide to check out the artwork around the town that had been painted as a part of the Wonderwalls Festival. Port Adelaide is a really pretty little town, and the mix of the old buildings with the art was a cool juxtaposition.

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I’m going to leave the post here for now because I’m going to spend a whole post talking about the culinary highlight of day four. And day five was the Silo Art Trail, which is a whole post unto itself.

If anyone has any questions about my trip, feel free to post them in the comments below.

Why food?

Why food?

I find it fascinating that when you meet people and you start talking about your interests, people are quick to ask why you have that particular interest.

Well in almost everything. Because I’ve noticed I never get asked that when I say that food is an interest. It seems to be almost just accepted as, “OK, Sarah has an interest in food” or dismissed as me buying into “foodie culture”.

But, for me, it goes a lot deeper than “just food”, and when you get to know me in my entirety it starts to make sense.

I love learning. I always have. And the things that I am particularly interested in – history, sociology, art, eating – all lend themselves really well to studying food. Think about ramen, for example. It’s a food that is absolutely ubiquitous with Japan and Japanese culture. But delve deeper, and you start to see that it was a food developed post-WWII to cheaply and efficiently feed a starving population. Those flour-based noodles didn’t really exist in Japan until after the war when the US were importing massive amounts of flour into the country. Stories of history, politics and popular culture can all be told by one food.

It goes even further than that, back into my family history.

I’m approximately half Italian. It’s a bit of an over-simplification (which I will talk about in future posts) but it’s a good starting point for knowing about me and my family. My mum is a great cook – she learned from my Nonna (her mum) and her Nonna (my great-Nonna). My Nonna was a chef. The food from her tables is legendary. She learned from her mum (my Great-Nonna) and also her brother in law. Needless to say, my Great-Nonna was also a great cook. I think it’s genetic.

I learned a few things from mum, especially about baking and sweets, but a lot of my culinary knowledge came from hours spent watching my Nonna in the kitchen and my own self-education (again, that love of learning). I spent a lot of time with my Nonna and Nonno when I was a kid, so food was a common connection between all of us. My Nonna would prepare and feed us ridiculous amounts of food. Her lasagna was the things dreams are made of. The family table was a way for everyone to all be together.

Being in another state to my family, food is a way for me to connect with my family when we’re not together. It’s a way for me to connect with my Nonna who is no longer with us.

These are the lessons that food has taught me. It brings people together. It’s a common language that we can all speak. It is so full of emotional connection that is impossible to deny.

That’s why food.

Photo is me, circa 1985, demonstrating a love for charcuterie even back then.