Saturday, December 10, 2005
andrew gross & jones the grocer
take my advice: jones the grocer is just the bccy kinda place. perfection! i love the dedicated cheese room -- and i finally picked up some pink murray river salt, which is one of my new aussie enthusiams.
it's heavenly sprinkled over excellent artisan sourdough bread spread with a little of the finest sweet butter you can get your hands on.
before my lunch at jones -- i had an organic chicken, pumpkin (what we in the u.s.a. would call a kabocha squash seems to be what sydneysiders call pumpkin), and arugula pie with a salad of baby lolla rossa -- awesome aussie barista judge paul haddon and i dropped by the regular saturday coffee morning held by the amazing andrew gross at coffee masters.
there several aussie coffee lovers checked out different baskets, sniffed green, and chatted on about almost every possible topic of conversation. if you're down under in the sydney area and haven't been to one of these yet, go!
further i briefly got to speak to the beautiful and talented 2005 aussie barista champ hazel de los reyes, whose coffee just happens to be sold at jones the grocer above. must find the time to catch up with her at her roastery!
she's such a sweetie. and speaking of sweeties and dreamboats, i also made contact with paul bassett at long last.
paul. . .paul. . .maybe i should just rename this site "the paul bassett cult." everyone just adores him, right?
with luck we'll have coffee next week before i head out to tasmania!
finally, i made it yoga synergy yesterday. wow -- all things are regional after all -- coffee, bread, chocolate and even yoga.
the synergy yoga style is a true aussie yoga style, completely unique to sydney, that moves at the challenging pace of a fast led ashtanga class, but incorporates ideas and sequences familiar to viniyoga as well as the primary series, and your average vinyasa class.
at the same time it incorporates unique poses and many dancer-like hand gestures the teacher (luke -- who happens to have one of the most beautiful and effortless looking practices i have ever seen, just from his in-class pose demonstrations) called mudras.
altho' these particular mudras were unfamiliar to me from my past yoga experience, i could see that they were incorporated into the poses in such a way as to increase the isometric effect and offer more intense arm involvement during standing poses when it might otherwise be tempting for yoga students to let their arms get lazy!
a very different and unusual pose flow, as well as an original approach to yoga. hard to follow at first, but still i recommend every yoga student check it out if only for the experience. personally i found much in this yoga philosophy to approve of!
Thursday, December 08, 2005
jivamukti workshop & back to toby's
let me first say that while i'm ambling around sydney in my yoga clothes enjoying a pleasant breeze off the harbor i understand there is a giant blizzard from chicago to nyc, extending down as far as washington, d.c. apparently it's snowing an inch an hour, with dreadful freezing winds that caused a 737 jet to blow off a runway in chicago and skid into the street.
with all due deference however i have to say that i spent my afternoon yesterday in a jivamutki workshop back at samadhi bliss. and it was as advertised: alanna had come from new york to run the usual 2-hr. yoga class, featuring a lot of partner work on handstand, wheel, descending backwards down from handstand back into wheel, and standing back up to tadasana from wheel.
this kind of work seemed quite novel to the participants, altho' indeed it's something we used to do in nicole's old jivamukti sunday class at yoga people all the time, so that was good. the nice aussie woman who was partnering with me, jacky, had never done any of these vinyasas before and was really quite afraid.
(with that concrete floor at samadhi bliss, honestly, who wouldn't be?) but luckily since i had done all of this exact work many times before, she had shradda (faith), trusted me, and so managed to easily and enjoyable go through the whole sequence!
before the workshop i fulfilled my intention and returned to toby's at a slow bar time to get a better idea of what the place was really like. i just have to frankly say that while the basic blend at toby's could be good, so far, i think the coffee's a tad bakey.
(yes dear readers, you are seeing one of the rare appearances of the scaa taints & faults wheel here. "baked" is definitely a roasting fault!)
further, while toby's advertises pro classes in latte art, with all due respect, i have to say that both drinks i had there featured misshapen, off-center hearts. at least the single-origin coffees offered there have roast dates written on the dispensers.
i had high hopes for this store when i saw long-time bccy pal and scaa 2nd vp mary petitt's juan valdez coffee-tasting term posters so nicely displayed, too!
finally, not to be too harsh, i will confess that the only 2 places i have met 'tude and not the overwhelming aussie friendliness is at the upscale espresso bars i've visited. isn't that odd?
campos serves actual milkshakes with ice cream à la the mermaid and yet cops 'tude; toby's offers baked monkey-butts (this is a technical term for bad latte art, the "monkey-butt") and cops double 'tude. or maybe as aussie barista judge paul haddon speculated, they just hated my allure.
maybe next time instead of going undercover i should i.d. myself and see what happens. . .but still, campos has the better coffee!
speaking of latte art, i had a lovely tulip from the part-time bus-chick at bourke street bakery. their bread is much better than that from infinity sourdough, imvho. and bourke street has the most beautiful, light pastries, not too sweet, not overly glazed, with truly delicate puff pastry and the freshest fruit!
the white sourdough half-baguette from infinity had the noticeable crust bubbles from retarding in the fridge, and i thought an overly strong sour taste from having been retarded too long. i mean, considering how hot it's been in sydney, i understand you have to chill the bread to keep to baking schedule.
but that just means you have to watch it with care! also the infinity crust wasn't paper-thin and crackly, as a baguette should be; instead it was thick and chewy. however the crumb was nicely chewy, creamy in color, and with good holes.
the bourke street baguette was also an artisanal sourdough product, but it was must better. in fact it was perfection.
it too showed the retarding crust bubbles, but the bread had a sweet wheat taste with a perfect crackly, shiny crust. the slice of the light rye with mixed seeds i tried had textbook-classic translucent cell walls on all the crumb holes, along with a light pleasant crackly crust.
not one of those overly thick crusts that displease mary beth! i highly recommend bourke street bakery.
oops, almost time to dash for the train to catch my class at synergy yoga! at least i can say that oz takes bread seriously!
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
paddington lace & chocolate
so this morning i wandered out on the train to edgecliff and walked thru the tromper park to paddington, an upscale sydney district famous for its art galleries and row houses trimmed in elaborate wrought iron, known as "paddington lace."
i repeat: sydney trains are clean, new, with blue upolstered seats and cheerful yellow doors, arrive on time according to the electronic screens that announce them, and have sparkling clean stations. unlike nyc, where the tracks are littered with trash, which draws rats, causes fires, and blocks the drainage so the tunnels flood.
i went to check out some art in paddington, but while i was there i also hit the handmade chocolate of just william. i highly recommed the dark chocolate and raspberry ganache platypi(!) and well as the dark chocolate dipped glacé apricots.
then i walked down oxford st. to stop by max brenner, an upscale chocolatier. there i sampled a selection of 3 bonbons: a dark chocolate square with orchid oil, a dark chocolate square with caramel cream and whiskey, and a dark chocolate ganache square with arabian spices.
so let me just frankly confess i had chocolate for lunch; highly recommended, especially the orchid oil, which tasted just the way cattleya orchids smell. enchanting!
this of course was just a triple-play after last night's excursion with the extremely patient aussie barista judge paul haddon, whereby we found some kimberly chocolate in an asian market, of all places. (scroll down from here to the food section, where you'll see the review.)
the kimberly bars he found were semi-sweet and white -- all flavored with indian chili flecks. the semi-sweet bar was good but a little gritty; however the chili sneaks up on you and leaves your lips with a gentle tingle!
afterwards, i made it to mark's yoga class at city apothecary from yesterday -- a very pleasant beginner-type vinyasa featuring a lot of pranayama at the end. i loved this class, but i do wonder why so many yoga centers in sydney seem to have concrete floors!
this is a minor kvetch, because the yoga studio is lovely and the yogini at the front desk was so kind.
i also managed to catch a very gentle viniyoga class at yoga sanga, which is frankly a pleasant page right out of mark whitwell and gary kraftsow. this studio is in the surry hills district, in a korean area.
totter up the narrow wooden staircase to the second floor, and again, meet some very friendly and soft-spoken aussie yoginis. the floor here is also concrete, but at least it's covered in an indoor-outdoor type carpet!
i have 2 more yoga studios to check out: synergy and lifesource.
Monday, December 05, 2005
various weather websites inform me that it's snowing today and tomorrow in nyc, whereas i'm forced to report that here in sydney it's a lovely 90 degrees with low humidity and a brilliant sun that dances in gilt sparkles off the emerald waters of the bay.
have i mentioned recently that i love australia? i absolutely don't understand why the word isn't completely out about oz yet: as i keep saying, it's everything you like about california but better.
only a couple of small cultural issues, like the time thing, and that constant translating from english to english. . .
having been given a list of supposedly the top 6 yoga studios in sydney, before i left new york i diligently printed out their schedules from the awesome find yoga. however, not only are these schedules a bit off by a class or two -- not so bad, i guess -- i also keep running into the laid-back sydney lifestyle.
of course in nyc time is all: how dare you not keep your website up-to-date with your newest classes? what do you mean you closed early and just went to the beach?
how could you advertise a class and not hold it? and by the way, why are you lolly-gagging on the sidewalk?
(once you adapt to the sydney sidewalk etiquette -- there is one, and it is different than the free-for-all, parking's-for-the-driveway-so-shift-that-rear-in-gear-now! nyc one -- you will also realize that sydneysiders walk slowly by nyc standards. . .i'm racing down the sidewalk still in comparison and have to remind myself to ease off lest i'm mistaken for an ambulance or bodyslam some innocent banker downtown. . .)
in nyc, yoga classes are crowded and you have to go early to stand in line, get a decent spot not too close to a wall, set up your props before all the blocks are taken, etc. etc. here people straggle in, classes start late and end early (sydney yoga classes tend to be only about an 50-60 mins. long, unlike the 1-1/2, 1-3/4 or even 2 hrs. i'm used to in new york), and the pace is more relaxed generally with more gentle poses.
thus this afternoon i go to city apothecary, where a 3:45pm vinyasa class with a famous teacher was recommended to me. but alas, said teacher has left for india until the new year, the class is cancelled, and of course it's still on the website. sigh.
since i made my dinner plans around this class, i guess i'm not doing any yoga today! aarrgggh!
the sweet yogini at the desk consoled me: "well, mark who teaches yoga to the aussie olympic team is doing a led ashtanga tomorrow at the same time."
but what about today? i wanted to sob. oh well, mark the olympic trainer tomorrow and then i guess the jivamukti 2-hour workshop on thursday back at samadhi bliss in newtown.
even my ultra-spoiled self has to admit this is hardly a form of deprivation. . .
i suppose this frees me for the rest of this afternoon before i finally catch up with awesome aussie barista judge paul haddon for a quick malaysian dinner.
and in that amount of time i suppose i could make it to the new lindt concept chocolate store. . .
this still leaves me however with several important questions for my aussie readers: what really is the best king island blue cheese? i've already discovered that they make the most amazing, naturally sweet and thick yogurt ever.
really, it's almost gelato-thick. . .
also, which is the best domestic aussie soft fresh goat cheese? my expedition to david jones foodhall yesterday left me with several nice cheeses, which i snacked down with some handmade fig-and-walnut wholemeal bread from brasserie.
(note: aussie wholemeal bread doesn't seem exactly like u.s. whole wheat bread, since the flour seems to have a slightly different composition. . .i'm afraid i have to report it too is better. . .)
and finally, lest you gentle readers think i'm slacking off on my coffee-tasting and regional coffee culture duties, i did get to toby's today before checking out the mca. based on one cappuccino, i must say that i think campos is the superior shop so far!
however, it was a busy bar in woolloomooloo and i suppose i owe it to myself to check back at a less slammed moment. . .the shop itself is fun & funky.
as for the mca itself, i wasn't thrilled by most of the po-mo, photography-based, neo-conceptual exhibits featured now. however, i did enjoy a couple of light sculptures from the 60s, which alas they don't mention on their website.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
pissarro & maureen fitzwilliams
fueled by those iconic aussie foodstuffs -- i mean a flattie & a lamington -- i hit sydney's art gallery to see the current pissarro exhibit. this was after pondering the selection of king island and other domestic aussie cheeses in the david jones foodhall, which is rather a cross between dean & deluca and fortum & mason.
but as usual i'm getting ahead of myself. . .let me step back to say that on average the food in sydney is much better than that of nyc, but alas costs even more.
as long as you're prepared to drop serious cash -- scrambled eggs and toast that cost US$4.50 in nyc will run you A$11.80, but in sydney they will be fantastic, organic, free-range soft and yummy scrambled eggs with artisan white sourdough toast -- you'll be happy with the quality. absolutely.
so yesterday after this amazing brunch i ran over to the zoo on the ferry to see the best view of the harbor, which is enjoyed by the giraffes. in any other city, developers would have put high-rise condos on this hill and sold the view for millions of dollars each.
not here -- the giraffes peacefully graze with one of the planet's most beautiful water overlooks. it is truly quite close in loveliness to that of the bay of naples or from capri. photos do not do justice to the seashell texture of the sydney opera house.
and i must say the aussies seem more than a little bit unaware of this: do they really not comprehend how absolutely gorgeous it is here? with the exception of course of the marvelous maureen fitzwilliams of south highland, aged 76.
so. unlike such an exhibit in nyc, aussies wandering thru the pissarro chat. it's true -- they are a friendly people. they just cluster in front the art and begin talking to total strangers about it, mate.
whereas in nyc everyone would don their best black to view the art in either reverential or ironic silence. thus i am standing in front of picture 88, "afternoon sunshine, pont neuf," 1901, when white-haired margaret fitzwilliams turns to me and says, "lovely, isn't it?"
it just so happens that i saw this painting some time ago at the museum in philly, where it normally lives. and i must confess that prefer pissarro's landscapes, esp. his supple, almost nubile, trees.
but there i was, meeting the forthright maureen fitzwilliams, full of vim and vigor, just magnificent, an aussie country lady of the classic type. what a spitfire!
upon discerning that i was an american tourist, she immediately demanded to know how i found australia. as i waxed poetic about the giraffes' great fortune and compared it to the bay of naples, she instantly leapt in -- "oh no," she said, "not at all. the view is actually much better in sydney because vesuvius, while dramatic, blocks the view of the country so you cannot appreciate the green."
i love australia. this would never happen in new york!