While we knew we’d miss the foods of Asia (and their prices), we were looking forward to getting back to what was more familiar and Suhail was, of course, looking forward to all that lamb.

We stayed with Siobhan and Sam, friends we’d met in Ireland, who now live in Maroubra, so we were able to take over their kitchen and grill to do some cooking. Our first attempt had to be some shrimp “on the barbie,” so we decided to try some of the king prawns from their local fish market. I made a simple lemon-garlic-chili marinade and Suhail handled the grilling. They were huge and delicious.

Eating out in Australia can be very expensive, so we had to be careful not to blow our budget here. Sam and Siobhan knew of some good weekly specials, which we enjoyed and we did manage to find some street food at the Eumundi Market in Queensland. This market is a lot of fun to explore – offering everything from clothing to art to local foodstuffs. Perfect after you’ve walked around for a bit and worked up an appetite! These German brats were cooked up fresh and hot and came with your choice of mustard. Add a fresh ginger beer (see below) and you’re all set!

Brats at the Eumundi Market

For carry out (or “take away”) options, we tried Vietnamese bahn mi from the local bakery down the street, which were very good – even when compared with those we ate in Vietnam. At $4 apiece, they were also the best deal in town!

Australian banh mi

Fish & chips is generally a good budget option, if not a great healthy one. In Noosa, we tried Troppo, which had excellent food and lovely owners.

How do they get the chocolate and coconut evenly distributed around the whole thing??

Being the bakery fiend that I am, I had to try the lamington, which is a traditional Australian treat. It is basically a bit of sponge cake covered in chocolate and dipped in finely shredded coconut. So good!

One thing we did NOT eat in Australia was bananas. The first time I went to the grocery store, I nearly bought some (they’d become such a staple of our diet in SE Asia, it seemed natural) until I looked at the price – over $6/lb!!! I later learned the prices are not normally this high, but inflated due to an Australian shortage caused by a cyclone. Their prices stayed this high for the entire month we were in the country.

Melbourne – a foodie’s paradise!

We had some great and unique food experiences in Melbourne. We met up with Brian Ludwig, an American turned Melbourne local, who was a great host while we were in town.

Friendly welcome, cool old monastary buildings and tasty food

Among the hidden spots he showed us was Lentila’s Anything. This restaurant is on the campus of a monastery and serves a buffet vegetarian lunch daily on a pay-what-you-can basis. The food was mainly Asian and Indian inspired and healthy and fresh. The restaurant is also gives formerly homeless individuals training in the hospitality industry, which also made us feel good.

The vegetarian buffet features a wide variety of Asian inspired food - you won't miss the meat!

That evening, Brian and his girlfriend, Cat, took us to their favorite Vietnamese restaurant (unfortunately, I did not take note of the name), where we ate excellent chicken wings and an amazing duck salad. Maybe not the most traditional Vietnamese food, but really delicious all the same!

I could take or leave chicken wings, but these were amazing - meaty, spicey and served sizzling hot!

Duck salad - one of the best dishes we ate in Melbourne

Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne

On our last day in Melbourne, we hit the Queen Victoria Market, our first non-Asian fresh market of the trip. It was incredible! You can buy nearly any variety of edible item here – ethnic foods, fruit & veg, raw meat, fish, bakery, deli goods and delicious items to eat on the spot. We were leaving the following day, so unfortunately we could not buy any of the fresh goods, but we did try a spinach & feta borek (me) and a brat (Suhail). This market is a must-see for anyone who likes to eat!

Some local Aussie meats on offer (including kangaroo, crocodile and emu)

Butcher at work

Assorted lamb (and other) bits

A HUGE variety of sausage!

Awesome sign hanging at one of the butcher shops

On to the fresh fruits & vegetables

You can buy wine in bulk!

Grow your own mushrooms - I have never seen anything like this

Melbourne has a large mediterranean population and some folks make their own olives. These are fresh ones - another thing I'd never seen before!

And now for the ready-to-eat foods

Polish deli - I almost feel like I'm back home!

Borek vendor

Spinach and feta borek - served piping hot

These ain't Wisconsin brats

Brat with all the fixins


So excited to have good, western style coffee, and to check out our first Australian cafe (we’d heard so much about Australian coffee culture – I mean, this is a country in which Starbucks has absolutely flopped!), Suhail and I made our way to Billy’s Espresso in Maroubra. Not only was it just down the street from our temporary home (thanks, Sam & Siobhan!), Billy’s also served up really great coffee. The only thing we needed now was for someone to tell us what the hell a long black and flat white were!

Eventually, we figured it out (a long black is something like a cross between a double espresso and an Americano – two shots of espresso and a bit of hot water and a flat white is something like a latte without the foam…cappuccino = the most foam, latte = more milk, less foam, flat white = the least foam), but it took a while. Australians take their coffee seriously, which means you can get a good cup at a cafe, the airport and even at a car wash…because every single car wash we passed was a car wash/cafe, where you can enjoy your coffee while someone cleans your car…why don’t we have these in the US???

Lovely latte - always served in a glass

We were also thrilled to be back in the land of good beer, and Suhail wasted no time sampling them (and thanks again, Sam, for your help in this department!). Toohey’s Extra Dry (Ted’s) is an easy drinking lager

Little Creatures Pale Ale was our favorite, by far. It reminded us of our favorite American beer, Bell’s Two Hearted (though we still prefer Two Hearted and I can assure you will be rushing out to get a 6-pack asap after we get home). We also visited the Little Creatures brew pub in Melbourne (though the beer is brewed in Western Australia).

Here are some of the other beers he sampled in Sydney…maybe he can add his two cents later:

Not a beer at all, but I am not really sure what to do with this. While in Australia, I was startled to learn that there is such a thing as a “Chicago recipe” bourbon…? To the best of my knowledge, the only booze Chicago has ever been known for is bathtub gin, but there is a company marketing this bourbon & cola alcopop and, I am quite sure, giving our fair city a bad name in the process! Any body else know anything about this stuff???

From a "real Chicago recipe!"

Marquis at the Bundaberg Barrel

Ginger Beer (and rum)
Suhail and I (along with my brother, George, and my friend, Steven) are pretty obsessed with ginger beer. Fairly hard to come by in the states, we fancy ourselves connoisseurs and have tasted just about every ginger beer we’ve come across in the past few year (reining champion as far as Suhail and I are concerned in Maine Root’s Ginger Brew). Imagine our delight – and a little bit of trepidation – upon learning that ginger beer is EVERYWHERE in Australia.

At the Eumundi Market, we were surprised to find fresh ginger beer for sale at a few of the stalls. They proclaim it “the best in the world” and I would agree that it was pretty darn tasty. Not to mention, it is cool to get a bottle of ginger beer filled from a small barrel, while you wait!

The visitors' center is in a giant barrel...for real.

By far the biggest brand is Bundaberg, which is commercially available in the US and which we had tried before. We did find ourselves in Bundaberg during our travels and made our way to the “Bundaberg Barrel,” where we were able to learn about the ginger beer brewing process (real ginger beer is made with active yeast and brewed like regular beer, but they remove the alcohol before bottling) and the tradition of ginger beer home brewing in Australia, as well as taste each of Bundaberg’s 14 soft drinks (which is probably more soft drinking than I usually do in a year!). We really enjoyed trying some of their other sodas, which are not sold in the US. Our favorites (other than the ginger beer) were their lemon lime & bitters, burgundy creaming soda (sounds disgusting, but is just a red version of what we call cream soda) and sarsaparilla.

The other famous Bundaberg institution is Bundaberg Rum, so we also paid a visit to their distillery. We did not want to shell out the $30pp for the tour which included the production floor, so we got to know the brand’s history and folklore through their interactive museum, which was actually pretty interesting. The company has survived more than one devastating fire and played a part in several war efforts by providing liters of rum to the soldiers (basically wiping out their entire production leaving none to be sold to consumers). We also got a tasting there with the tour and we tried their excellent dessert liquor, which they serve White Russian-style with milk or cream (delish!).

Trains at the Bundaberg distillery

The two companies are unrelated (the names are based solely on their location). Both were originally (and still are) situated in Bundaberg to take advantage of the area’s main crop, sugar. On the drive into the city, the main road is continually criss-crossed with railroad tracks. These rails are for sugar trains, used to bring the crops in for processing at harvest time.

Ginger is also a big local crop and Bundaberg uses fresh ginger in its beer. I love the principles behind the local food movement and, while this was not quite the same as a meal cooked from locally grown vegetables, it was pretty cool to drive through the sugar cane fields and then taste two versions of a local end product!

Available everywhere (in Australia)

But I guess the ultimate Bundaberg treat would have to be the dark & stormy, which is ginger beer and rum. You can mix your own or buy them pre-mixed, which was actually really quite nice. It is made with actual rum (not a weird malt liquor flavored to taste like rum like most other pre-mixed bottled drinks) and the ginger beer tastes nearly as good as Bundaberg. I would drink these often if they were sold back home. In fact, I’d say it would be the perfect way to reward yourself after spending hours slaving over the computer writing about Australian food and drink!

DIY Dark & Stormy