Paul’s Caul… the Spanish cook off

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For all those playing at home, I don’t have red hair and a beard and I’m not G-bags Mcfilthy mouth… no, I am not the father of this blog, I’m perhaps best described as this blogs estranged brother that likes to drop by unannounced and expects every thing that’s great about writing a blog whilst having no responsibility at all… yes that is me in a delicious nut shell, I’m simply a man called Paul who has a shit load to say about food and anything even slightly related to it, like travel, drinking and eating of said food.

I’m a chef that has been cooking for overs 20 years all over the place and I have been extremely fortunate to have known G-bags for all of that time. We share a love of food, swearing and most importantly telling the whole fucking world about it, so a blog seemed inevitable. I’m honoured he allows my scribbling’s to be part of foodisthebestshitever and I hope you enjoy them just as much as we love bacon, but lets face it that’s asking quite a lot. P

SPANISH COOK OFF

After spending a season admiring this guys food, I won’t lie I felt some serious pressure as we prepared for the Spanish cook off. This cook off entailed a four course menu with a canapé, cooked for Grants Dad Derek, the lovely Paula and our respective partners Rachel and of course Lauren. The rules were simple we would go shopping together at the local shops and then each choose a night to put on a slap up feed in Casa Oasis (Derek and Paula’s B’n’B). Grant choose Thursday night so he was first cab off the rank, I choose Saturday so I could gauge just how far I needed to push things. But all this meant was I had a day to stress as his food as expected was top notch. Other rules included you must be dressed at all times and never play Ouiji alone, but lets face it that’s just common sense.

Yes
Yes

The location and the ingredients were the only thing Spanish about our cook off, we may have been sweating a little more than usual and yes we were drinking the benefits of a tax-free live but not much tapas in sight. When we arrived at the supermarket it was a real treat to see a banging seafood counter full of interesting and unusual species ready to confuse travelling chefs who think they know a thing or two about food. But with a huge crowd hovering around it we decided we should start the shop before attempting to order said seafood in a language that we were sure to bastardise.
Yes
Yes

It was about now it dawned on us that nether of us know enough Spanish to successfully navigate around a shop, but with a total disregard for logic our shop began with a couple of donuts for the ladies being whacked in the trolley, lets face it a donut doesn’t need any translation. Next was the veg aisle and it wasn’t the array of goodies we had hoped for, what was there was nice stuff but not a lot of variety at all. So what people saw was two large chefs mumbling dishes under their breath as they tried to conjure menu’s in their heads. Yes we seemed autistic as we said things like “zucchini with parsley, watermelon with chilli and mint, but what the fuck am gonna do with this parsnip… fuck it I’ll grab it anyway” this is as far as I know how all chefs shop, sporadic with a sense of purpose that seems confident, when inside we have next to no idea what it going to be finally placed on plates.
Not the best pic but still hell yes
Not the best pic but still hell yes

Next was the booze aisle so two bottles of 7 euro gin was quickly placed in the trolley along with tonic, so it was back to the veg aisle to grab cucumber and lime, no one said we were organised. Meat was to follow and in the middle of the meat section was a magnificent sight… a god damn Jamon stall, set up like a beach shack that served the most delicious cured legs of black pigs, the nice lady noticed our drool and quickly offered to slice us some samples. I feel she actually feared for her life, as we salivated some more, so in turn she gave us more Jamon. I did like her and her generous ways, so I felt it only right to buy some serrano Jamon, for what I didn’t know but you cant go wrong with the nutty tasting salted leg of the famous Spanish pig. I cant help but now picture a Spanish pig wearing a flamenco dress drinking sangria in a small tapas bar watching football, but you know me and stereotypes, I effing love them.
Yes
Yes

I also have a penchant for black pudding, so when I noticed some Morcilla for 1 euro I didn’t even know what happened, but as I walked away they were in our trolley, I love my brain. Grant had been scoping out the meat section and picked up some mini balls of chorizo but his heart was still at the seafood counter so it was back to the iced up tubs of the Mediterranean’s finest. Mackerel, octopus and razor clams took his attention so the senorita kindly gutted the fish and bagged up the clams, he was nice enough to get me 4 small whole squid.
Yes
Yes

With a full trolley we hit up the register to assess the damage but it was only 116 euro, which is only about 150 Aussie dollars, which is so effing cheap for a full trolley of goodness. Once home Grant started to truly formulate his menu and what he came up with was…

• Paprika caramelized Plantains for a canapé/snack
• Razor clams, octopus with ginger & tomato
• 5.5 minute egg with charred asparagus, egg dressing, chorizo
• Mackerel, spiced aubergine caviar, torched broccoli, roast cherry tomato, saffron sauce
• Banana cake, whiskey strawberries, mango custard, toffee banana & mint

What we were treated to that night was nothing short of spectacular, I wont lie I’m very jealous of the way Grant plates his food, its stunning and just so different from my plating. I was crossing my fingers under the table hoping for his flavours to be rubbish, but no such luck, all dishes were a triumph both visually and flavour wise. My personnel favourite was the octopus and clam dish with a hint of ginger, spring onion and a little chilli… here is his recipe and some photo’s of other dishes…

Oh dear good lord yes
Oh dear good lord yes

Razor clams with octopus

250g octopus
20 razor clams
4 spring onions
1 knob of ginger
1 small bunch of coriander
12 sprigs of parsley (for garnish )
4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 Juice and zest of a lemon and a lime
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 shallots
6 tablespoons extra Virgin olive oil (3 for garnish )

• Season the octopus with salt, pepper, garlic, chilli and lemon. Either bbq or grill then oven cook on a low heat for around an hour
• Cook razor clams for ten seconds in boiling salty water. Take the clam from the membrane, discard the latter and boil the empty shells to sterilise
• Fry shallots , garlic, spring onion, ginger and finally tomato paste and paprika until shallots are soft and the tomato has been cooked out
• Thinly slice both the octopus and clams and add to the frying pan to combine
• Add the lemon, lime and olive oil and cool
• Once cold add chopped coriander and place mixture into sterilised shells
• For service grill until warm, place on plate and garnish with olive oil and parsley

The bar was not only raised it was fair up me, I wasn’t comfortable with the situation or this analogy but I was very well feed and honoured to be part of a home cooking challenge with such an incredible chef such as Grant. So over the next day I plotted and planned many dishes but with an extra day up my sleeve I did have the upper hand.

Friday came along and it was deep sea fishing in the med for day time activities followed by cooking our bounty as the sun went down, but I still managed to whack out a dessert in the afternoon. I made 6 glasses of ginger and chilli panna cotta and some spiced cookie dough, these made me sleep a little easier, as I had a bit done for Saturday night. But when I awoke on Saturday I checked the panna cotta’s and as I’d had to set them with agar agar they were heaps more set then I wanted, in fact they were rubbery as fuck so I decided to take from glasses and blended then whip to make into a ginger and chilli cream. Then it was my time to finally decide on some dishes so I scribbled down my thoughts…

• Roast pear with balsamic, blue cheese wrapped in serrano Jamon
• Ginger & lime squid on a watermelon chilli & mint salad
• Morcilla, tapenade, asparagus salad
• Herby beef, parsnip puree, confit cherry tomatoes, spring onion
• Chilli & ginger cream, spiced biscuit crumb, coconut rum & mint macerated strawberries, candy floss

All in all I was happy with what I served up, especially since all was produced in a home kitchen with limited ingredients. My squid dish seemed to be the people’s favorite, whilst the morcilla was mine, one day these two might have the same out come. I have before made many versions of this squid dish and I think I have even given you the recipe before so instead I will give you the desserts recipe…

More yes
More yes

Chilli & ginger cream, spiced biscuit crumb, coconut macerated strawbs

Chilli & ginger cream

300ml cream
200ml milk
120g sugar
1 dried chilli
1 small knob fresh ginger
1 teaspoon of agar agar

• Heat all except agar in pan and simmer for 5 minutes to infuse flavours, then whisk in agar and simmer for 1 minute, strain into container and refrigerate
• Once set, blend until smooth then whisk up into nice thick cream. Whack into piping bag

Spiced biscuits

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3 cups plain flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon hot water
1 tablespoon four spice

• Cream butter and sugar then add all ingredients one after another then roll into logs in cling wrap and freeze or chuck in fridge
• When want them just slice into ½ cm slices and bake at 180 until coloured nicely
• To make crumb blend once cold in a blender

Macerated strawberries

• Chop strawbs into ¼’s and toss in Malibu rum and fresh mint. Leave for a while so they all get together
• You can then start the build on the plate, I whack some crumbs down first, then the strawbs in a nice pile then pipe 5 different sized blobs of the cream, crumble some freeze dried raspberries around the place and finish with some candy floss on top of strawbs

The week finally came to end with so many memories of lazing by a pool and eating lots of delicious food. Who won you ask? Well I think the other four people were the real winners, but I give my vote to Grant as his food is always food I wish was something I’d produced, and special mention to Derek and Paula of Casa Oasis for allowing to chef’s into their kitchen and home to do what we do best… cook, eat & drink.

Banh Mi… A sandwich, but an effing good sandwich to be sure

banh mi, food, vietnam, pork
I don’t even know where to start about the details of this little adventure, which was the first off Australian soil for this little family unit.

I have wondered if I should try to describe to you my annoyingly deep seeded fear of flying. How when we hit a bit of turbulence I freak the fuck out and start looking around at other passengers only to notice they are all calmly sitting back sipping their cup of tea or cheep domestic sparkling wine, and reading their news papers. Mother fuckers. I am wrenching at that chair like an old diesel mechanic. Seriously, they would need the jaws of life to pry me from the seat in the case of decent turbulence. It would be true to say even the seatbelts would be fighting to put me on to ensure their safety in the case of emergency. I seriously think I need to drink more when I’m flying… Lot’s more…

Anyway, clearly we did arrive at our destination all safe and sound. First stop, Hanoi and the Old Quarter.

Banh mi. The photo may not look much chop, but the flavours... dear good lord
Banh mi. The photo may not look much chop, but the flavours… dear good lord

The Old Quarter is called the Old Quarter because that’s what they damn well wanted to call it. Cut these homies some slack, would you…

We stayed close to the Old Quarter as we had heard that this was the place to go for good cheap eats, and my friends, we were not disappointed.

On the first morning we woke up early and hit the streets. Not literally of course, as we had only just met these streets and they had done nothing to wrong us… yet. We saw power lines attached to trees. Like, rows of power lines attached to trees. It was like the city would be powerless if it didn’t have these trees. That was the first of many noticeable differences between Vietnam and Australia but, as I am not a cat loving Aunt trying to decide which nephew is my favourite, I’m going to move on for now and appreciate ‘nam as the individual and unique snow flake it is.

The boys and I sit and do this thing that is banh mi
The boys and I sit and do this thing that is banh mi

That first morning was when I saw my first banh mi stand. It was like I was a teenager again and I had swapped gazes with that pretty and heaps popular girl (whose name I can’t remember) at the school dance, the dance floor opened up like the red sea, and then she walked over to me and took my hand and we… um… that must’ve been someone else’s screwed up gym class dream there. Sorry about that. Back to the banh mi stand; I saw it from across the street and I knew it must be mine. I pushed my way through a crowd of scooters and small people with very dark and very straight hair, until I had finally reached my target. Now I pointed at the crusty roll the banh mi vendor held in her hand and, pausing momentarily to wipe the drool that was slowly making its way from my lips to my shirt front via way of my beard (not a good look no matter what country you are in. I enquired how much it would cost for my family and I to partake in the much anticipated porky baguette. My enquiry was received with nothing but a blank look followed by a smile. I asked again how much this would cost, this time using hand signals so as to help my cause… alas the gesturing did not bring me any closer to purchasing this holy fruit, but only made me seem like I was trying to signal a small aircraft to land on the foot path.

A nice pic of the first banh mi stand I ever visited. As you can see, we had a nice seat next to the garden...
A nice pic of the first banh mi stand I ever visited. As you can see, we had a nice seat next to the garden…

Still I battled (baffled) on.

After what seemed like an eternity (honestly, I’m sure it didn’t take us this long to finalise the purchase of our house) I had finally secured the purchase of our banh mi.

The lady at the banh mi stand beckoned us toward a small plastic chair – a chair that would be part of a young child’s play set – which was where we would sit to eat our banh mi. This arrangement was clearly more suited to the smaller people of Asian descent who were swarming the footpath around me, but on that child’s play set is indeed where we sat and ate our first banh mi.

My favourite breakfast consisted of banh mi and Vietnamese coffee. If you need a reason to get up in the morning it might be time for you to look at real estate in Vietnam
My favourite breakfast consisted of banh mi and Vietnamese coffee. If you need a reason to get up in the morning it might be time for you to look at real estate in Vietnam

Something happened to me that day as I consumed that sandwich. The whole experience affected me like I never ever dreamt of being effected by a sandwich. It was the smell of the town, mixed with the noise of the streets, mixed with us sitting on children’s décor, and of course the little coal fired oven-crisped baguette filled with a porky meatloaf, cucumber, herbs and chilli dressing.

Holy fuck balls is all I have to say about that.

You see how there is a little cupboard below the meat... that's not a first aid cabinet, that's where they have a little coal oven type set up going on to het the rolls. Genius
You see how there is a little cupboard below the meat… that’s not a first aid cabinet, that’s where they have a little coal oven type set up going on to het the rolls. Genius

Every banh mi vendor has their own version of what can only be described as the National Sandwich of Vietnam, and every single one of these sandwiches we tried, how ever different from the last, was truly effing delicious. They could contain a selection or all of the following ingredients; BBQ pork, braised pork, pork sausage, pork meatloaf/terrine (these folks really love their pork and it is probably no secret that this is a contributing factor as to why I loved this country so much), pate, sometimes chicken, fried egg, cucumber, julienne carrot and radish, heaps of different herbs, mayo, fish sauce, braising juices and chilli paste/sauce on the crustiest of baguette – a parting gift from our old friends “the Frenchies” before they headed home in the 50’s. Très bon.

More bahn mi
More bahn mi

Prices ranged from 10,000dong (US$0.47 or AUS$0.60) for the most simple versions – maybe meat, a few herbs and a dressing – to 50,000dong (AUS$3.00 if you can’t do the math) for a more complex, multiple meats, possibly an egg, all the salads version, or the cheaper, simpler version but sitting in an actual restaurant not eating in the street…

This is something you do need to try before you move on from this earthly coil.

Banh mi are good.

Done.

Soz for all of the Asia talk that’s coming up and a recipe for Smoky Eggplant and Pork (kinda knicked from Morning Glory Restaurant, Hoi An)

smoky eggplant, pork, morning glory, vietnam, hoi an
As you may or may not know, Jennee and I have spent the last three weeks with our two boys, Seba and Obi, travelling around the Mid-North of Vietnam and Laos – get a bit of culture and a whole heap of good food into us, yeah?

Well, now we’re back and I feel I should semi-apologise for the talk of these countries that will ensue on this blog over the next while… but not really…

While we were travelling I wrote some stuff down in a small brown writing book that had off white pages and faint black lines to keep my writing neat. How clever of the journal making people. I carried my writing book and a black pen with me in a backpack. I wrote words about the things I saw, heard, touched, smelled and more importantly, ate.

It was an interesting experience to be doing the old pen on paper thing again full time for three weeks. Interesting and good. Really good. Although from time to time I ended up feeling like a student who was completing his away-from-school-journal that his nasty assed parents were making him write about his experience because he was missing school… a lot like what we did to our children, except we got work sheets from the school as well *insert absolutely sinister, deriving way to much pleasure from the children’s suffering, parent laugh here*.

As it seems like it may take me a day or two to properly decipher and amalgamate said journal, I shall get straight into the cooking side of things. The last few weeks have been easily the longest time I have spent out of the kitchen in the last 10-15 years purely because… well… let’s face it, there was soooo much really fucking good food, getting cooked on every street corner in Vietnam, all being sold at what can only be described as ridiculously low prices, like, eat some cracking food and get a beer for the same price as a coffee is going to be in Australia, that there was no way I was going to be cooking on this trip. No effing way.

Now is time for me to return to my rightful place at the stove and off load some of the pressure that has been building in my brain due to the sensory overload that was Vietnam and Laos.

This is an attempt (the first of many I am sure) at the reincarnation of a dish we ate at Morning Glory Restaurant (don’t worry, there’s a post all of its own coming for this little gem of a place… sexual innuendo included) in Hoi An. It was the tastiest little smoky eggplant number and, if you love the tasty of smoky charred eggplant as I do, then you will love this dish. Unless you don’t like pork, in which case you will not like this dish at all. You should leave the pork out. Yes, for those of you amongst us who are of the predisposition that does not for what ever reason believe in the consumption of pork, we here at foodisthebestshitever recommend you omit the pork from this dish.

Also, I have added a little rice to the pork mince in the recipe, which the more astute amongst you may notice is not in the pics. This is because as I was winging this recipe I neglected to look at the photos I had taken of the original dish at Morning Glory and realised later that the OG dish did indeed appear to have a little rice mixed through the pork mince. This little number was damn tasty but I think it was just missing the rice to help the pork stick together a little. Anyway, this shit is fully easy, tasty, good. Get on it!

Grill the eggplant over an open flame so it gets all black and delicious looking
Grill the eggplant over an open flame so it gets all black and delicious looking

Get some rice cooking in a rice cooker. This shit is legit
Get some rice cooking in a rice cooker. This shit is legit
Eggplant peeled, cut and looking sweet
Eggplant peeled, cut and looking sweet
Porky goodness slapped on top
Porky goodness slapped on top

Garnished with the good stuff and ready to hit the table
Garnished with the good stuff and ready to hit the table

SMOKY EGGPLANT with PORK MINCE (serves 4 with sides)

500g pork mince
3 medium eggplant
1 large or 2 small onions, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
½ teaspoon castor sugar
½ teaspoon ground pepper, black is what they use in ‘nam
A splash of stock or water
1 cup of cooked rice (you can use the stuff you’re going to serve it with)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Crisp eshallots* and sliced green chilli to garnish
Stir fried vegetables with garlic and steamed rice to serve

• Grill the eggplant on an open flame as you would for a babaganoush or something similar, except don’t quite cook it all the way through as you will finish the cooking process in the pan. Peel and cut into thumb-sized pieces
• Lay the eggplant pieces in a pan and set aside while you get the pork ready
• Heat oil and cook onions over med-high heat for two minutes or until starting to brown. Add fish sauce and garlic (I feel a knob of ginger, finely julienned, would also be a great addition right now) and cook out for another minute. Set aside
• In same pan stir fry pork mince over high heat until cooked. Season with black pepper. Stir through onion mix including all of the oil, and also stir through one cup of cooked rice… I hope you have some rice cooking**…
• Now to get it all together
• Dress eggplant with soy sauce, sugar and a splash of stock/water and the spoon pork mix over the top
• Cover and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until eggplant is fully cooked
• Check seasoning and add a little more soy sauce if necessary
• Garnish with a heap of chilli and crisp eshallots, and serve

*Crisp eshallots are available everywhere you look in Vietnam, or Asian grocery stores and probably even major supermarkets in whatever country you live in

**It is totally legit to use a rice cooker. I recommend using a rice cooker. Asians use rice cookers. In Asia it was not uncommon for us to wake to the sound of tens of thousands of rice cookers being simultaneously switched on around the city. True story. Get a rice cooker today.

Paul’s Caul… South American Quest part 3

Pretty
Pretty

Part 3… On our way to Machu Pichhu

Well where do I even begin, the last week has been jam packed with so much beauty, history, culture and geography that it’s hard to summarize… But as to not bore the tits off you all I shall try my hardest.

We left Cuzco on the Monday morning starting our four-day Inca Jungle Trek to Machu Pichhu. We had opted for the less walking more fun option which included down hill mountain biking, zip lines and of course a shite load of hiking. So after a slap up breakfast at a locals house we set off in a bus taking us 4000m up a mountain where we would start our 3000m decent on the bikes. This was awesome, the views where as you would expect breathtaking and before we knew it hours had passed and we where drinking a well deserved cerveza in a tiny town before heading to an even smaller town (for want of a better word) where we were to stay the night in a hostel which was either still under construction or it was just a shithole, really not sure.

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I’m not one for tours as I hate to think I’d have to spend time with weirdo’s that I don’t like – sounds heaps like school all over again. But this tour was made up of several quality characters from the English lads (Mike, Ed and Ben) who where extremely funny guys to the Boston boys (Marcus & Shaun). Between them we were kept entertained with tales from Columbia and of course Marcus trying to bed the Vego from Oz (she may have had a name, I didn’t learn it). All in all we couldn’t of asked for a better crew, at first we looked at them in their shorts 4000m on top of mountain about to bike down and thought you silly twats. Later as their legs turned blue as they rode down, I mocked them only find out they had thought at the top look at these muppet’s in long pants… from there on in I knew we’d get on alright.

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Our first port of call was a restaurant aptly named ‘the only restaurant in town’ we were greeted by some crazy art work of what I imagine was Yoda smoking coca leaves with ganga, there was monkeys hanging from nooses and many other weird yet wonderful decorations adorning this establishment. The food however was very tasty indeed consisting of a delicious chicken soup to appease the starving hordes followed by some slow cooked beef on a mash with a wee bit of spicy mojo like sauce, they love their chilli sauces and in turn we love them for it. Dessert was a magnum like ice cream, which was well tasty at that point in time. This day was finished off with the four of us cruising around this tiny town drinking cerveza in literally any place that sold it, we even found a hut down by a near derelict bridge that sold us said beverage… got to love Peru.

I don't know what's going on here but Pauly looks to be growing a beard so we may be true brethren
I don’t know what’s going on here but Pauly looks to be growing a beard so we may be true brethren

Hiking is what the next day consisted of, 22km up hill to be precise, winding our way around Inca tracks chiseled into the side of the mountains, and this guys must have been small as tiny paths just doesn’t cut it. Along the way we stopped at several local houses learning about the local organic coffee, which grows everywhere, the coca plant and all of its many uses (good and bad). They also showed us traditional get ups and face paints as well as the many different corns they use for drinks and foods. Up to this point I thought there was only one or two kinds of corns, what an absolute mug I’ve been as there are hundreds, fair enough most of them taste like flavourless llama shit and can quite frankly be left undiscovered in the Peruvian jungle, but you must take the good with the bad.

Not tourists
Not tourists

After trekking our proverbial balls off we finally made it to a very cool/scary/archaic what they called cable car, and anyone else would call a wheelbarrow attached to a cable going across a river… I admit my name is a tad long. Regardless of the basicness of this cable car it did serve a purpose as the small Peruvian man (that is a redundant statement as they are all small) pulled us across without water touching us, so it was a great success and brought us 30m closer to the hot springs that had been promised to us all day.

With filth from head to toe a cold spring would have been luxury, so a hot springs was effing superb we bathed like whores after a big night, you could see the filth diminish with every plunge… this was punctuated with a few cerveza’s before the bus ride back to town. That night we were served some local fare, and without taking away from their culture… it was fucking awful, possible the worst meal of my life, seriously it consisted of banana in every single possible form and cold cooked veges, but we did eat it, smile and said thanks heaps that’s lovely (liars maybe but polite non the less).

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Once dinner finished we all hit the sack as we where exhausted, all except G-money who felt the town had a slight dust till dawn feel about it and was keen to go drink and see if anyone turned into Latino vampires. No one turned into vampires but G did turn into an extremely drunk walrus that came back to our room at 1.30am and for the next two hours groaned as if to beckon his mate. His mate however the lovely and at this point tired Carla Da Bruce was not enticed by the mating call in fact she quite sharpishly checked he was safe and alive then shut him in the hall way… well played G-money and well played Carla.

With half of our tour group feeling the effect of last night’s escapades the following mornings zip lining across huge valleys was harder than it should have been. We had quite a big climb to the top before flying across 1km plus cables travelling at up to 90kmh. It was incredible fun and I feel we just don’t use this form of transport to its full potential. With adrenaline kicked in we set off that afternoon to hike a further 12km to reach Machu Pichhu town at the base of the final accent. This walk took us along the railway track so, with G singing “stand by me”, we meandered our way through the jungle to the quint yet very expensive tourist Mecca which is Machu Pichhu town. We did manage to find some caprioska’s and some awesome Alpaca quesadilla to get us primed for a good sleep as we had to set off at 3.30am the next morning to hit the top for sunrise.

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I wont lie to you the climb the next morning wasn’t satisfying or enlightening. It didn’t bring on any life changing moments; in fact we all hated every goddamn step, except possibly the final one. If I were to do it again I’d get the effing bus and still get to see this wonder of the world, as the buses arrived at the same time as us… what the fuck? I feel that the stupid twats like myself and my travel companions that walked should get the honour of first in, not to share with the non sweaty bus monkeys… but once we had got our breath back it was only to be taken away by the shear beauty of this place.

I’ve been in awe of this place since the first doco I watched as a child but nothing can prepare you for the sheer scope and size. The engineering, the vision and pure grit these guys must have had to create such an incredible city in such an isolated and hard terrain is without equal in my opinion. I went photo crazy, I had to hand the camera over to Lauren after 15 minutes as I had already taken 100 photos and even though they were all good, there was really no need for another 100 to be taken.

A fine looking crew indeed
A fine looking crew indeed

The walking up there didn’t make me reflect, but ancient surrounds of Machu Pichhu definitely are a catalyst for a good old fashioned ponder. We had been part of a coca leave ceremony days before which consisted of thanking the local mountains for all we have received and are about to receive. It also was made up of a very cool fable about the humming bird, the gist is even with its very small stature it can still make a difference if it just kept trying… this story hit a cord with all that took part in the ceremony and was right at the fore front of my mind as we walked around the ancient site.

We all left the mountain with nothing but respect for this beautiful place and more importantly the beautiful people and culture that created it, but to be honest I also found respect for something else on this journey and that was of course a nice bed and steaming hot shower… I am one enlightened mofo.

Paul’s Caul… Ubud in da hood!

Ubud in da hood

The last few months I’ve been working like a crazy man, setting up a new café, training new staff and in general filling my time more than one wants. But don’t feel sorry for me, hell no! Because this is accomplished with the sole purpose of getting me exactly where I am presently… “where is that?” you ask. You inquisitive make believe person… Well I am currently sitting next to our private pool in our villa in Ubud (I will take a photo for you right now). Brilliant. Got to love holidays, pools, camera’s and computers, possibly not all together as I have found over the years that pools and computers are not meant to meet, not even after a few drinks when both are nicer and more affable then normal, still they never seem to hit it off.

Proof of the pool/sitting back scenario
Proof of the pool/sitting back scenario

So my amazing and real life girlfriend/lover/travel agent sorted this entire trip for a Christmas present, I know! How effing good is she… but as I have just called her my lover on a public forum like this, then I imagine it may be our last holiday for a while. So I shall enjoy it all the more knowing it to be our final days together, I may create a montage of our time together and get it played on a massive screen to make leaving me nigh on impossible, as the treasured memories of frolicking in boats on lakes, snow ball fights and that time we rescued beached turtles and swam them back to the safety of the open ocean… hang on a damn tooting minute, none of that will happen as firstly I’m sure she just skim reads this just to placate me, and secondly non of the fore mentioned bollocks every happened, so I reckon I’m safe and shall continue my tale of wood carvings, Ralph Lauren shops and sweat as these are the three every present things I have associated with Bali in the last 12 hours.

As everything in our life our holidays are based completely around food, this I feel works so well as you should all be aware by now that we actually need food to survive… FACT… so why not put just a little thought into your dining experiences and then all you have to do is fill in a few hours in-between meals and bam your holiday is sorted, then add the extra dimensions of a different country and by all that is holy you’re in for a treat. Of course traveling doesn’t instantly mean new cuisines, you could for instance come to Bali and act like the majority of cashed up bogans and basically ignore anything slightly cultural and eat burgers, club sandwiches and pizza whilst sipping on what you think is Balinese culture in a bottle, a.k.a. Bintang… now I won’t lie to you that does sound kinda nice but not day in day out.

Since I started writing this we have snuck off and been pampered by a pregnant Balinese lady who performed some very impressive Thai massage techniques, I wonder if I was to go to Thailand, would a Thai virgin perform an impressive Balinese massage? Something for all of us to think about, me thinks.

Babi Guling
Babi Guling

Babi Guling* was what we where hunting for after our 90 minutes of bliss, and this my friends is the kind of hunting I’m best at; the kind where the pray is well and truly dead. If it’s not dead its doing a very good job of pretending, a rouse perhaps, one that this pig has definitely not thought through… regardless of my want to hunt helpless pre dead creatures and ineptness of the swine’s master plan, we started our expedition. We had a map which Lauren had compiled from two of our very good friends, both stating they knew the best pig place in Ubud. G-money is a true foodie and our most frequent dining partner so we where locked in with his suggestion, then another great mate suggested the same … Che is a chef, he is our very good friend and he lives in Bali, so when he agreed with G-money we thought too easy. So it was off to find a place called IKU OKA, down some alleyway hidden in-between shacks and bamboo scaffolding.

Lauren walks fast when she is hungry
Lauren walks fast when she is hungry

This adventure would have been a lot easier had we actually taken said map with us… instead we walked around Ubud with the kind of pace only hunger can arouse, we found out a few things along the way… firstly Lauren gets very snappy when she is hungry, secondly there are fuck loads of Babi Guling restaurants in Ubud and thirdly finding the right one is worth going through all that shit… Iku Oka is pretty effing amazing, we ordered the special plate which had, roast pig, fried pig meat so crispy it should be iligal, crispy skin, blood sausage, rice and shit tonnes of their delicious green chilli relish. All in all it was everything Gray and I always bang on about, it’s was simple, it was un-pretentious and it was pig in many forms…. Fucking right on Iku Oka, you guys are the tits!

Find the pig shack, eat the pork, make Grazza very jealous...
Find the pig shack, eat the pork, make Grazza very jealous…

Why spend an hour finding a pig shack down an alley? The answer is simple, play to people strengths I always say… well I don’t actually say that, but I really do think it a lot… let people/chef’s (they are almost the same thing) do what they know and love and the finished product will be amazing… unless they are a shit person/chef then it will be mud.

*Balinese roast pork

Grill’d. A place to eat burgers…

Grill’d. A place to eat burgers…

Grill’d at Coolangatta. A place to eat burgers and look at scantily clad women and guys with really big arms…

The bohemian chic fit out
The bohemian chic fit out

Another contender for the trendy-and-maybe-a-little-bit-healthier-fast-food-chain-of-the-year award. These guys do make a good burger.

From seemingly humble beginnings in Sydney they have grown to a chain of at least two restaurants. A fact I can bare testament to as I ate at the second one in Coolangatta, on the Gold Coast.

The best thing about this place    

They sell beer. It’s no pussy assed HJs or Maccas, they sell beer. The alcoholic stuff. You know what you always need to have with your lunch when you’re on holiday? Beer! We were in a winning position right here folks. This was Lance Armstrong hitting the finish line on the Champs-Elysees. This is the fifteen-year-old boy who has got the condom on and the girl is still there, in his bed, ready. This is the puppy who has just realised he can lick his own gear. WINNING.

The second best thing about this place

They do really good burgers. Homemade and all the trendiest shit the burger world has to offer; hand made beef patties, great condiments, locally made buns, chips with special salt, pretty drawings all over the walls and semi-uniforms which are reminiscent of 50s burger Betties. I loved the whole package and quite frankly that’s all that counts to me.

My bacon & cheese, chips and dipping sauces
My bacon & cheese, chips and dipping sauces
My editor said I needed a little more focus on the burger
My editor said I needed a little more focus on the burger
This burger is getting hurt
This burger is getting hurt
...and so are those beers
…and so are those beers

I had the Crispy Bacon and Cheese, $11.50. Grass fed beef, crispy trim bacon, cheese, relish & herb mayo. It was a damn good burger and had the perfect amount of toppings. Yes, perfect amount (and perfect isn’t a word I chuck about lightly)! I really despise a dry, under adequate burger. On the flipside I am well renowned for filling a burger to the brink of making it impossible to eat unless you are the real life snake-man complete with unhingable jaw. So this… how you say… perfect amount of toppings was something of a revelation for me. The only small qualm I will mention is the menu stated the bacon would be crispy… it was flaccid. Flaccid like the new prisoner who has just met his cell mate, “Big Black”. But that’s all.

Jen's chicken McGluten-less
Jen’s chicken McGluten-less
Jen's tipsy Mctipsy tips
Jen’s tipsy Mctipsy tips

Jen had the Hot Hombre, $12.50, on a gluten free bun. Not because she thought a gluten free bun sounded extra delicious but because her body cannot handle the dreaded gluten. As far a gluten free burger options in the world, I haven’t come across heaps… or even any burger joints that are willing to touch it (except for the “no bun” option). This was a successful attempt at making something that would normally be glutinous, but now contained no gluten, palatable and passable as a burger. Kudos for that, as normally this is done about as much success as an octopus tying its shoelace… and what the hell is that octopus doing wearing shoes?? Grilled chicken breast, chilli black bean salsa, cheese, avocado, tomato, onion & crisp tortilla chip, she was a very happy little Jennee. No complaints from this beered up young lady today. She even commented that the tortilla chip was an awesome touch… a bit like me, I guess.

The boys ate some burgers to, but I was too busy enjoying my time to notice them.

We also got Chips with that magical herb salt $4.50, all three Chip Dips (herbed mayo, tomato relish, sweet chilli mayo) $0.70ea and a handful of Corona, 4 for $20.00.

All good. I would go back for sure. I think I’ve mentioned that they do really good burgers at least 3 times in this post so you should go there too… unless you don’t like burgers, in which case just down the road is a sushi joint called O-Sushi… they have a sushi train and all the extras plus they do a cracking mixed aburi plate and they wear bandanas so they must be the real thing!