Where to Eat in Melbourne, Australia: Cicciolina Restaurant and Back Bar, St. Kilda

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Cicciolina has a great lunch special: Pasta of the day + a glass of Wine for A$29.50

One of my favorite things about visiting St. Kilda is checking out the ever-changing restaurant scene. On my recent trip, I decided to try Cicciolina Restaurant and Back Bar. According to the restaurant’s own website, Cicciolina’s has been a “St. Kilda Institution since 1993.” Despite Cicciolina’s long running presence in the area, the restaurant was still new to me.

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Art filled walls and mid-century touches add to Cicciolina’s funky vibe

I liked the restaurant’s mid-century modern space and art-filled walls. I was a bit surprised that an Italian restaurant had limited pasta options, but it all worked out in the end. The Special Pasta of the Day, featured ribbons of pasta topped with tomato sauce, basil topped with a light dollop of mascarpone cheese and garnished with shaved almonds, was rather delightful. My husband and I swapped pastas halfway through the meal.

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Tubetti all’Amatriciana – guanciale, bacon, tomato and oregano ragu (A$29.50 )

Non-pasta eaters will appreciate the fresh seafood options marked up on the chalk board like wild barramundi filet and kingfish carpaccio. The standout deal was the Monday to Friday Pasta + Wine Special for  A$29.50, which is available from 12-6pm. My husband got that I helped myself to his Little Angel Sauvignon Blanc 2013. It made for a delightful lunch.

The Cicciolina menu also had gluten free dishes available, including some gluten free pastas, and an extensive wine list. My biggest complaint about Cicciolina is that the bathroom is extremely difficult to find, even after getting instructions.

Cicciolina

130 Acland Street
St Kilda, Victoria3182

Australia

T: 03 9525 3333
F: 03 9525 3397

E: cicciolina@netspace.net.au

Clouds and Sky: A Global Photo Essay

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Clouds and sand in the Hoanib River Valley, Namibia

It’s April and spring is in the air. That often means rain and cloudy skies. As a photographer, I much prefer a little dramatic cloud action to bright blue skies. Here are some of my favorite recent images to show why clouds can be a good thing. Namibia has the best clouds I’ve ever met. They add drama and softness to the often beautifully desolate landscape.

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Cloud reflections on the River Derwent

I recently visited Tasmania for the first time. The landscape reminded me a bit of Scotland, only the Southern Hemisphere’s version.

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#shotoniPhone6 unset panorama of the River Derwent 

The island had some gorgeous wispy clouds. This made it fun photograph landscape on the River Derwent at sunset. I liked framing the scene both vertically and shooting in panorama mode on my iPhone 6.

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Dramatic sunrise in Sydney

Clouds make all the difference when photographing sunrise and sunset. They are nature’s own filter, changing the color and mood of the magic hour.  I liked the way their texture complemented Sydney Harbour when I took this shot of the Sydney Opera House at sunrise.

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Blue hour clouds over the Olympics in Seattle

Seattle has too many gray days for my taste. But when the cloud cover is just right it can make for some fantastic colors during blue hour after sunset. I thought the Olympics looked particularly stunning bathed in pastel light this week.

Where Foodies Dine in Sydney, Australia: Gastro Park

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The Arctic Scampi was the standout dish for me at Gastro Park

I always like trying out new restaurants when I visit Sydney, Australia. Since I was dining with my friends, Justine and Brenton of the RoomCritic and the Offen Store, I knew we’d want a place with great food and drinks and a civilized decibel level so that we couldn’t enjoy our always lively conversation. Jonathan Fambert, the amazing concierge at the Park Hyatt Sydney, suggested Gastro Park in Potts Point.

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Wagyu Beef Grissini

Self described as a“ playground of Gastronomy,” Gastro Park certainly hit the mark in terms of a great place for a sophisticated double date. The molecular gastronomy was fun, but not overwhelming and technique didn’t dominate the flavors of the restaurant’s modern Oz style cuisine. But the presentations were fun and made for interesting dinner conversation. The Wagyu Beef Grissini was served sticking out of rock, Flintstones-style.

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We started with garden tartlets served like a Japanese rock garden

The seared arctic scampi was less flamboyant in presentation, served with coconut, kaffir, and apple sorrel but was such a standout, I wound up ordering two in lieu of an entree.

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A delicous version of pork belly

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Kingfish carpaccio served with pomelo, fennel and nectarine vinaigrette

Gastro Park prides itself on changing it’s menu frequently. You can get an idea of what they serve from the menu section of their website as well as their Gastro Park Instagram.

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Robata duck breast, soy & mustard glaze, kohlrabi ravioli, abalone mushroom

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Grain fed beef fillet onion crumble

The liquid butternut gnocchi and mushroom consommé  (A$30) was playfully delicious and fun. Unfortunately, due to second round of cocktails, failed to capture a picture of it in focus. I can vouch for it’s deliciousness.

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dessert was steep (A$22) but well worth it for the table to split

For dessert we shared the chocolate honeycomb sphere with cardamom and  saffron ginger A$22.

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Fun and flavorful inspired food and cocktails like those at Gastro Park do not come cheap. But it’s memorable cuisine and clean and contemporary dining space make it a great choice for special meal dinner for foodies in Sydney.

Gastro Park Sydney

5-9 Roslyn Street 2011 Potts Point, Sydney, NSW

info@gastropark.com.au

Phone: 02 8068 10 17

Official Instagram

Tasting Tasmanian Whisky and Spirits at the Lark Distillery in Hobart

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Enjoying a Tasmanian Single Malt at the Cellar Door at Lark Distillery

I recently visited Tasmania for the first time. The Australian island state has a population of just over 500,000, friendly people, and gorgeous scenery. They also have a booming spirits industry and award-winning whiskey that has beat out those from Scotland and Japan to win coveted World Whiskey Awards. Note: the Tasmanian product prefers the “Whisky” spelling.

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Tasmania’s landscape is reminiscent of Scotland

My husband is a fan of Single Malt, so we made it a point to taste some Tasmanian spirits during our stay in Hobart.

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Tasmania’s pure water and rich peat makes for drinkable spirits

Lovely water and lush highlands make Tasmania’s landscape reminiscent of Scotland. So it’s not really a shocker that they have the raw materials to produce great spirits.

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Taste testing Single Malt Whisky at Lark Distillery 

Fortunately Lark Distillery has a Whisky Bar and tasting room located along Hobart’s waterfront where you can taste a flight of single malts from their range. I opted for gin tasting (Tasmania also produces a lot of nice gin). Lark also offers half and full day Whisky Tours if you want to delve deeper into their world of “Peat and Passion.”

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Enjoying a tasting of small batch spirits at the Lark Distillery 

Tasmanian spirits are brewed in small batches and difficult to find abroad. Some of this has to do with the industry being in it’s infancy. I was surprised I was unable to buy any Tasmanian spirits at the Duty Free shop at the Melbourne Airport.

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Day drinking + iPhone 6 = Tasmanian spirit tasting GIF goodness

A hotelier at one of Sydney’s top luxury hotels told me he had to wait three months to get a bottle of coveted Sullivan’s Cove Whisky for his hotel’s bar, where the clientele likes a good whisky. It’s clear this is a result of demand exceeding supply, and distribution doesn’t seem to be well established yet. Lark’s worldwide distributors are listed on their website.

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The Lovely Courtney McCabe led the spirit tasting at the Lark Distillery

If you’re looking for things to do in Hobart, I’d highly recommend popping into the Whisky Bar at Lark Distillery. The Lovely Courtney McCabe led us through a delightful tasting of local Tasmanian spirits.

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Lark makes great gin, too!

 

The Lark Distillery

Address: 14 Davey Street, Hobart, Tasmania, 7000

Phone: 03 6231 9088

Where to Eat in Sydney: Mr. Wong For Dim Sum

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The house special: pork and asparagus wontons

Sydney is one of my favorite cities to visit and I always enjoy checking out the food scene when I’m there. But unlike New York or LA where reservations are essential if you want to dine a hot foodie spot, many of Sydney’s of-the-moment restaurants don’t take reservations at dinner. The last thing I want to do when I’m traveling is wait in a line for over an hour for a meal.

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Solo diners can eat at the counter at Mr. Wong

Fortunately, Jonathan Fambart, the amazing concierge at the Park Hyatt Sydney, pointed out that many of these same restaurants do take reservations for lunch. So my husband and I switched our plans to make lunch the primary meal of the day. Jonathan got us a table at Mr. Wong, the contemporary Chinese restaurant run by the Merivale group.

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Craft cocktails at Mr. Wong focus on Shochu and fresh ingredients

While we had a table reserved, we opted to eat at the bar downstairs because it was slightly quieter. This is not a restaurant for serious conversation, as the brick walls and loft-like space make it rather loud. I started with a Yin martini made with shochu, vodke, Aperol, apricot brandy and fresh peach. It was not overly sweet and not Mad Men-strong, making it a nice choice for lunch.

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Dim sum being prepared in the kitchen at Mr. Wong

Dim sum is only available at lunch, and we ordered a few different things to share. I very much enjoyed the pork and prawn shumai (AUS $12). The duck spring rolls (AUS $12) were also a nice alternative to an entire Peking Duck.

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The oysters at Mr. Wong go for AUS $4 per piece

My husband very much enjoyed his rock oysters served drizzled with a ginger rice wine vinaigrette.

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Duck Spring Rolls at Mr. Wong

There are also a wide variety of roast meats and live seafood on the menu at Mr. Wong, should you be in the mood for mud crab, rock lobster or a whole roast duck.

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The Yin Martini at Mr. Wong

The atmosphere is stylish and the Central Business District location make Mr. Wong a popular spot for business lunches as well as dinners.

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The decor is Cantonese contemporary chic

The standout dish of the meal was the special pork and asparagus wontons (I can’t remember the price). They were exceptional and had the right amount of smokiness and heat. I was expecting the duck to the highlight of the meal but I can’t stop thinking about those wontons!

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The downstairs dining room and bar at Mr. Wong

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Mr. Wong exterior tucked away on Bridge Lane

If you don’t want to wait for a table for dinner, head to Mr. Wong for lunch. The pork & asparagus wontons are not to be missed.

Mr. Wong

Address: 3 Bridge Lane, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Phone:+61 2 9240 3000

Hours:

LUNCH Mon – Sun 12:00pm – 3:00pm
DINNER Mon – Wed 5:30pm – 11:00pm
Thurs – Sat 5:30pm – 12:00am
Sun 5:30pm – 10:00pm
YUM CHA Sat – Sun 10:30am – 12:00pm

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