Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The weather in Melbourne is a bit insane, jumping wildly in one day, and with highs leaping from 65F to 95F from day to day.  Day 5 was a hot one, and we enjoyed the hotel's rooftop pool on our last day in the city (for a little while, anyway) before heading out to a few other Australian locales.

The pool looks nice enough, but the hotel was a bit of a relic.

This is further evidenced by the furniture in the room.  Like something left over from the Ruthless People shoot.

We headed out to Sydney Road on the tram and grabbed lunch at A-1 Lebanese Bakery, another Anthony Bourdain favorite.

The freshest zatar bread I have ever tasted.

This chicken wrap was also delicious, and the beautiful pickled vegetables added a special flavor.

Sydney Road is the epicenter of Melbourne's thriving Lebanese community.

After lunch, our ride picked us up and we drove to the beach town of Lorne, on the Great Ocean Road about 2 hours south of the city.  We drove through farmland and national park made up of huge ancient Eucalyptus forests, and arrived in time for sunset at the beach.

The following morning, after a watermelon-lemon juice and some great coffee, we hit the beach.

Lorne reminded me of Marin County... hot, hot sun but a cool ocean breeze; huge trees; and lots of really relaxed surfers.  After some time on the beach we headed up into the forest to the Falls Festival.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Yesterday we headed out to the Yarra Valley, about an hour northeast of Melbourne, with my expat friends.  After a really beautiful drive, we stopped for lunch at the TarraWarra Estate winery. 

We drank some 2007 Pinot Noir Rose with our lunch, walked around the grounds, then headed to the Healsville Animal Sanctuary, which specializes in conserving native Australian animal species, some of which are critically endangered.  It was a holiday, and we were told the crowds of excited children broke a record.  I didn't care, however: I got to see Koalas and Kangaroos up close in their native habitat.  We also saw Bilbys, Walabies, Flying Foxes, Platypus, Kookaburras, Emus and all sorts of funny little marsupials.  It was great.

Roos are apparently the deer of Australia.  It was hot, and this Eastern Gray Kangaroo was relaxing in the shade.

This Koala was pretty relaxed as well.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Miles flown so far: 10,380

We arrived in Melbourne rested and ready to go.  We checked in to our hotel downtown, then walked around a bit in the sunshine, got some coffee, met up with an expat friend of mine in the Fitzroy neighborhood, and later headed to Dainty Sichuan for dinner.  I have never had Chinese food like this in my life.  It was SO SPICY my body felt like it was going into shock, but if you could get past the pain there were so many complex flavors, it was beyond words.  I couldn't finish what I ordered, but now I want to go back and eat there again tonight.  
Today we visited the Royal Botanical Gardens, the seaside St. Kilda neighborhood and our hotel's funny rooftop pool.  We are having some down time before dinner with an Australian friend at a surprise place of her choosing (Dainty Sichuan, I hope?)  Here are some images from the botanical gardens.

Melbourne is a pretty, livable, cosmopolitan city.  It feels like Denver or San Francisco or San Diego, but if they had been British instead of Spanish founded cities.  Lots of Victorian ironwork, beautiful parks, a great tram system, good food.  The Christmas and Boxing Day holidays mean a lot of things are closed, but hopefully tomorrow things will liven up a bit.

Here she is: the Dainty.  I, of course, learned of this place on No Reservations.  There are a couple more Melbourne spots Anthony recommended that we want to try before we leave.  We will see.

Spicy Prawns.  Absolutely delectable.  Not an ounce of slimy, gloppy sauce in sight.  Everything was crispy, oily and seasoned to within an inch of your life.  Spice at this level terrifies me, but I had to try it, and it was worth it.

This dish is called Mouth Watering Chicken.  And it was.  Though if I had one criticism it would be to be more careful to get rid of the bones and gristle before chopping up the chicken.

Some images via rabbit does brisbane and ador australia

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Miles flown so far: 2,462

We are having a surreal Christmas Eve in the airport lounge at Los Angeles International Airport, waiting for the next leg of this journey to begin.  It is midnight in New York, 9pm here in LA and 4pm tomorrow in Melbourne (our first destination).  Should I be eating something?  Drinking an afternoon cocktail?  Taking sleeping pills?  Staying awake?  I am not sure.

Thank god for miles programs and business class.  This lounge and the comfortable seat awaiting me are making this epic journey no-so-bad.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I have been very neglectful of my blog this month, as you may have noticed. Preparing for our long trip (housesitter, dogsitter, plant-sitter, work-sitter) the holidays, and some minor illness meant I was not able to give the proper attention to AHFAH. Well, we leave tomorrow for Australia and the South Pacific. Here's to a happy holiday and great new year, and a promise to TRY to post while traveling as often as possible.

Monday, December 7, 2009


The birthday dinner: bouillabaisse.

(recipe from Piera Gelardi)
Serves 10-12

3 live lobsters
1 bottle olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup celery with stalks, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
8 peppercorns
sea salt
4 fresh sprigs thyme
8 cups water or seafood stock
2 bottles clam juice
1 bottle white wine
2 leeks
2 medium fennel bulbs
juice and zest of 1 orange
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (save shells)
1 pinch saffron
2 cans whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
2 pounds assorted shellfish: little neck clams, cockles, scallops
1 filet whitefish (cod or tillapia)

First cook lobster in hot olive oil in a large pot until bright red. Reserve oil. Seperate lobster meat and reserve.

For the broth, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in another pot, sautee onion, celery, 3 cloves of chopped garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, salt thyme for 5 minutes. Add water or stock and clam juice, wine, leek greens (save whites for later) fennel ends (save bulbs for later) and shrimp shells (save shrimp meat). Simmer on a low heat for 60-90 minutes, strain.

Place strained stock back on heat, add 1 pinch saffron, 1 cup leek whites (thinly sliced), 1 cup fennel bulbs (thinly sliced), 1/2 cup lobster oil, tomatoes, orange juice, orange zest, 2 tablespoons chopped garlic, parsley. Simmer until vegetables are tender, then add clams and fish. 5 minutes later add cockles, then in another 5 add scallops. Lastly add shrimp and cooked lobster meat. Once clams are opening, serve with fresh parsley and slices of baguette with saffron aioli (see below).

Saffron Ailoli
(recipe from
Makes 1 cup

20 strands of saffron
1-1/2 tablespoons warm water
2 large egg yolks
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
fresh ground pepper

Soak saffron in warm water in a small bowl for 20 minutes. In a deep bowl, combine egg yolks, garlic, salt and whisk to combine. Very slowly, dribble the oil, whisking all continuously.

Add the saffron and its soaking water, then use the lemon juice to swirl around the saffron soaking bowl to catch any remaining essence. Whisk the lemon juice into the aioli. Add a few grinds of pepper. Make at least 4 hours before using, refrigerate until served.

Beet and Asian Pear Salad
(recipe from Piera Gelardi)
serves 10

2 bunches red beets
2 bunches golden beets
2/3 cup slivered almonds
9 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, minced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
2 large asain pears, sliced thinly
1 pound baby arugula leaves
1 tablespoon sugar
sea salt
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Wrap bunches of beets in tinfoil and roast for 1-1/4 hours. Sautee slivered almonds in olive oil until golden brown, drain, reserve oil, and set aside to let cool. Season with salt.

Whisk shallots, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, oil from the almonds, salt and pepper to taste together.

Once the beets have cooled down, mix them with the shallot dressing and pears, serve on a plate with portions of arugula.


This weekend we hosted a birthday dinner for a friend.  It was a group effort; other friends cooked (more on that tomorrow) and we crammed 12 people in our tiny kitchen.  I made three little simple arrangements for the table.

Peonies, ranunculus, and black berries.  Not grown locally, as obviously it is not peony season, and thus not very earth-friendly, but it was a special occasion.

I am actually not a big lover of complex flower arrangements (maybe because I am not so skilled at making them).  My preferred look is just a simple bunch of one type of flower thrown in a vase.  This time, however, I felt like the combination of these two blooms and one fruit was just perfect.  I arranged them in the some pottery handmade by a friend's mother.  The reds against the dark blue and turquoise of the pottery makes me happy. 

I got some dark navy napkins as well.

Maybe it's time to invest in some more bowls, plates and cutlery.  Another generous friend had to bring some of hers so we would have enough place settings.  I like an eclectically set table, so I am going to start looking for some interesting dinnerware to coordinate (but not match) what we already have.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Though I have been to Miami several times, I have never been for Art Basel. So many people dislike Miami, and many of my friends avoid it (except during Art Basel, for work, of course). Well I think Miami is great. It's fun, and pretty, and, well, it's dark and cold here tonight, and I am chained to my computer working late. A mojito by the pool at the Raleigh sounds good to me.
Love that lobby. What a great hotel.

Design Miami is a subcategory of Art Basel that especially interests me. If it weren't for the epic trip coming at the end of the month, I would have loved to go down, see some art, catch some sun, and enjoy the hot humid air with friends.

ARL posted yesterday about Artlog, which is a great site devoted to covering all the goings on at the fair. Also, here is a snippy little snippet from bidoun magazine when they visited a while back.
art by Kerne Erickson

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I have been pretty lucky thus far over my career as a designer. Most of the clients I have worked with have been reasonable, educated, well-intentioned people who are rational and expect a high quality product, but also value their designer's time and talent, and understand how much what we do is worth. That said, there have been some crazies.
I found a blog that lists anoymously contribluted stories of crazy things their clients have said and done. Most seem to be related to the design industry, either graphic or interior, and I find them endlessly amusing. Clients From Hell makes me feel better about my life when I get a passive-agressive email or wacked-out voicemail message from a client. Not that that has ever happened to me. I have wonderful clients. Every one. Really.
Image via