So, my beautiful home city got an article in the New York Times!!
YAY ADELAIDE!!! (even if it is not actually on the 'Pacific Coast' :P)... still getting a review, and getting a GOOD review by the NY Times is just awesome.
A ‘City of Churches’ Emerges as a Culinary Hub
Tony Sernack for The New York Times
A rowing team on the River Torrens.
By FINN-OLAF JONES
Published: December 23, 2007
“WE searched all over the world for where we could start the kind of restaurant I always wanted to go to,” said Jim Carreker, who left his job as a chief executive in Silicon Valley to start the much-lauded gastronome hotel, the Louise, in the Barossa Valley in Australia last year. “When we came to Adelaide, we were stunned to discover the area had the best of everything: great wine growing, people who raised good livestock, fantastic fruits and vegetables. It’s like the Australian version of Tuscany except we also have extraordinary seafood.”
Two decades ago, Adelaide, the capital of the state of South Australia, was considered the dowdy wallflower to its lively coastal siblings, Melbourne
. Even its nickname, “City of Churches,” implied an innate conservatism. Australia’s most famous conservative, Rupert Murdoch
, started his global media empire from the city.
But now South Australia’s capital, nestled along the Pacific Coast and sprawled against the garden greenbelt of the gentle River Torrens, has become the colorful cosmopolitan hub of Australia’s culinary revolution — 51 percent of the country’s wine is produced in the region, while the Adelaide Hills are Australia’s fruit and veggie basket.
Add to that picture the multiethnic population that has swarmed into this rapidly growing city of 1.1 million, and it seems inevitable that a teeming cafe and restaurant scene would arise. In fact, Adelaide claims the country’s highest number of restaurants per person, including the Grange and Petaluma’s Bridgewater Mill, often mentioned as among Australia’s best restaurants.
Some claim that the region was a culinary haven even before the first Dutch ship spotted the coast in 1627. “See this wet bark? We used to peel it off and suck on it for its sweet taste,” said Haydn Bromley, an Aboriginal guide showing me a towering gum tree in the city’s more than century-old Botanic Garden (www.environment.sa.gov.au/botanicgardens/adelaide.html). “Aborigines ate really well here long before the Europeans showed up.”
The Adelaide plains were home to the Kaurna Aboriginals, a dynamic people with their own distinct language who revered red kangaroos — still seen in the hills above town — as mythical relatives whose exploits formed the core of their creationist stories, or “dreamings.” Adelaide’s sprawling South Australian Museum (www.samuseum.sa.gov.au) has the largest collection of Aboriginal artifacts in the world, including boomerangs, painted “dreaming” maps and an exhibit of pharmaceutical plants used by the Aboriginals like grevillea leaves for mothers wanting to produce more breast milk.
But Mr. Bromley had nutrition more relevant to my current needs in his pack. Amid a chorus of kookaburra birds throatily serenading us from the towering fauna, he spread out a picnic of “bush tea,” consisting of jams of native orange, peach, bush tomatoes and wild gooseberries produced by Aboriginal artisans who have created a thriving condiments industry in the Outback. The condiments are a zesty mix, like what you would find in an Indian restaurant, but with a smoky desert zing.
Aboriginal bush spices are all over Adelaide’s supermarkets and gourmet stores. But for those who don’t want to cook, there’s a city of opportunities.
One popular place for “up-market bush tucker” — food with an Aboriginal twist — is the Red Ochre Grill, overlooking downtown from the riverbank. Here, depending on the current menu, you can dig into kangaroo fillet with local chili glazes and tasting platters featuring a sweet ’n’ sour range of scallops, beet root confit, and dumplings with seasoning from the Outback.
Adelaide offers a lot of ways to work off the grub. Surrounding the Square Mile, the original downtown district, built according to a grid-system planned with military precision in 1837 by Colonel William Light — is a giant square moat of green, consisting of parks, a horse racing track, and miles of meandering paths, some that follow the river. Light, a man ahead of his time, built the city inland from the sea to allow space for wide avenues and more firm ground for Adelaide’s gorgeous kaleidoscope of stone colonial buildings whose elaborate outdoor iron railings bring to mind New Orleans.
Despite a serious attitude toward food, Aussie informality and fun supersedes any preciousness one might expect from a foodie destination. Even the local wines, despite all the international accolades, are not spared. “Make wine, not love” a sign in a local wine shop exhorts. To ensure that consummation is an uncomplicated affair, screw tops have replaced corks, even in South Australia’s most virtuous bottles. “Why make a big fuss over corks that have a 20-percent failure rate?” asked a local winemaker, Stuart Blackwell, pouring an excellent bottle of citrony St. Hallett Poacher’s Blend — the name honors a tasty truckload of grapes he’d secretly harvested from another wine grower to collect on an overdue debt.
But for all the fun and games, everyone — from the guy deep frying the pastry-like fish and chips made from local King George whiting at Paul’s Seafood at 79 Gouger Street (“these were probably swimming yesterday”) to the Grange’s celebrity chef, Cheong Liew, whom I spotted in Adelaide’s Central Market examining a kangaroo sausage as if he were diffusing a bomb — seems to have an obvious passion to live up to the cornucopia of fresh produce that is South Australia.
A walk though the sprawling Victorian-era stalls of the indoor Central Market gives an idea just how rich that cornucopia is. A mouth-watering mega-mall of the four food groups and the artisans — chocolatiers, bakers, olive oil makers, and the like — who transform them, the Central Market is heaven for gawkers and snackers. Blink and you’d think you were in one of Bologna’s famous food markets, albeit one inhabited by people who talk like “The Wiggles.” Indeed, one of the most beloved stop-off points in the market is Lucias (www.lucias.com.au), an island of Italian culture, which for over half a century has been serving pastry and coffee worthy of the Old Country.
But for sheer diversity, the Central Market is hard to match: stalls featuring butchers with kangaroo and emu meat stand side by side with shops selling Russian, Asian and other international food products — the beginning of a vast assembly line that extends to the kitchens of Gouger Street in front of the Market where a mind-boggling array of ethnic restaurants await.
“I’m a Kurdish political refugee,” the cab driver who drove me from the airport told me. “But I married a Chinese woman, converted to Buddhism and now speak Mandarin at home.” It seems a typical story for the international Cuisinart that is Adelaide. Strolling down Gouger Street and nearby Hindley Street is like wandering through the set of “Blade Runner” with a garish mishmash of neon signs fronting old British colonial buildings where, as night descends, the rich smells of world cooking are joined by Arabic pop songs, German techno and other tunes from around the planet.
With all these cultures, how could Adelaide not help but have a fascinatingly eclectic night life? Places like the Moskva Vodka Bar with a number of distinct bars mashed into three levels, or the back-lit marble jewelry box of a place at Escobar with its live jazz, or the heavy metal and garage music of Enigma Bar, are vibrant venues to mix it up with Adelaide’s unusually good-natured glamazons, Goths and preppies.
And why wouldn’t they be friendly? Most have probably been very well fed.
A 15-minute cab ride from the airport to the city center costs about 15 Australian dollars, or about $13 at 1.16 Australian dollars to the U.S. dollar. Otherwise, use Adelaide’s public transportation system (www.adelaidemetro.com.au), which runs a regular JetBus service to and from the airport. Day tickets on the bus, train and tram system are 7.70 Australian dollars.
WHERE TO STAY
For one-of-a-kind lodgings, North Adelaide Heritage Group (61-8-8272-1355; www.adelaideheritage.com) offers 20 restored properties around Adelaide, including a comfortable 19th-century firehouse with a 1942 fire truck and fireman’s pole. The main double suite costs 330 Australian dollars a night.
The Hyatt Regency Adelaide (North Terrace, 61-8-8231-1234; www.adelaide.regency.hyatt.com) is an elegant, centrally located high-rise on the river. Rates for a double room start at about 250 Australian dollars.
The Louise, Seppeltsfield Road, Barossa Valley (61-8-8562-2722; www.thelouise.com.au) is an outstanding gastronomical hotel in the midst of the vineyards an hour’s drive from Adelaide. Doubles start at 381 Australian dollars a night with breakfast.
WINING AN DINING
Red Ochre Grill (War Memorial Drive, North Adelaide, (61-8-8211-8555, www.redochre.com.au) overlooks downtown and offers an “upscale bush tucker” menu with an Outback twist.
The Grange (Hilton Hotel, 233 Victoria Square, 61-8-8237-0737; www.thegrangerestaurant.com.au) has Asian-Aussie fusion tasting menus from 105 Australian dollars.
Petaluma’s Bridgewater Mill Restaurant (Mount Barker Road, 61-8-8339-9200; www.petaluma.com.au) is set in the Adelaide Hills. Eclectic tasting menus feature Asian, Australian and French cuisine starting at 67 Australian dollars.
For nightspots, visit Moskva Vodka Bar (192 Hindley Street, 61-8-8211-9007), a throbbing glamour scene on three levels; Escobar (91 Gouger Street 61-8 8231-6023), an elegant club often featuring live jazz; and Enigma Bar (173 Hindley Street, 61-8 8212-2313), which features live alternative music.