Two weeks ago, we threw our first dinner party in Melbourne. Well, if you can call it a dinner party when there’s just one guest. But despite the small guest list, I was a bit apprehensive about hosting.
That’s not to say I’m afraid to host in general. I’ve organised plenty of get-togethers – Christmas parties, pumpkin carving parties, Cards Against Humanity parties (I like a good theme). Food was always an integral part of these gatherings, but the focus was on whipping up theme-appropriate finger foods (like pigs in a blanket that resemble mummies for Halloween or vegemite scrolls for Australia Day) rather than main course dishes. And since I pretty much plan my life around what I’m eating next, most of these parties had enough finger food to fill up on in lieu of a meal.
The older I get, the more patriotic I seem to get. Sure, Canada isn’t without its problems (as many have chosen to highlight for #Canada150), but I truly believe it’s one of the best countries in the world. Living abroad has only reaffirmed that. So it make sense that Canada Day is a big deal to me. Usually spent at the Skydome watching the Blue Jays play, followed by a patio somewhere to watch the evening fireworks, I was determined to find some sort of substitute celebration in Melbourne.
Friday nights are usually family dinner night with my significant other’s family. We all gather at his aunt’s house at 6 pm sharp and feast on a large spread of meats, fish and vegetables. (Well, they do. I stick to the veggies). This is followed by fruit, which is then followed by coffee and cake — homemade, of course. It’s essentially Christmas dinner every Friday. No wonder I can’t seem to shed that little bit of extra weight I’ve gained since moving here.
This week his aunt, along with his dad and one of his cousins, went to Sydney to visit relatives so we were left to our own devices. Keeping the family dinner tradition alive, we made plans to meet up with his other cousin and his wife (who I’m going to refer to as D and Y from now on) for dinner in the city. We decided we’d meet up at Flinders Station and figure out where to go from there.
It’s been seven months since I moved to Melbourne (seven months already!) and I’m fairly settled now. In some ways, it was easy as Melbourne and Toronto are pretty similar cities. But there were some things I had to learn and adjust to along the way. Here’s my run-down of some of the thing I discovered that no one told me and that never gets written about in travel books.
Australia’s most underrated city also happens to be my new favourite. A victim of its nickname, perhaps, the City of Churches is often dismissed by Aussies as boring. But after a weekend getaway with my significant other to celebrate our three year anniversary, I beg to differ.
It’s no secret to both tourists and locals alike — the best parts of Melbourne are tucked away in the city’s many laneways. They can be picturesque and Instagram-worthy or downright dodgy looking, those in the know will venture down any alley to see what new hotspot might be hidden there.
It’s no surprise then that my significant other and I made our way to several laneway destinations while out celebrating a friend’s birthday last weekend. Our night began at The Whisky Den on Russell Street. Not located on a laneway, but worth mentioning because of their extensive selection of whiskies. (Note: I’ve never been sure if it’s ‘whisky’ or ‘whiskey’. After reading this guide from The Kitchn I’ll use ‘whisky’ going forward since neither Canada nor Australia have an ‘e’ in their name). Our friend, a whisky enthusiast, was thrilled to find 17 year old Springbank on the menu. An elusive Scotch whisky, he apparently hasn’t been able to find it since a trip to the United Kingdom ten years ago.
I recently learned an interesting fact: across the globe, the average person consumes 75 pounds of meat per year. Australians, however, consume a whopping 198.8 lbs per person per year, making them the highest consumers of meat worldwide.
Though Melbourne prides itself on being a world class food city, I would argue it still has some work to do when it comes to catering to vegetarians. Sure, there are some reputable restaurants that serve up vegetarian-only fare — Vegie Bar and Smith and Daughters, for instance — but it can be a struggle to find places that satisfy both my taste buds, as well as my meat-eating significant other’s.
With this in mind, I made sure to have a good list of restaurants prepared when my mom and sister came to visit as we all have dietary restrictions — my sister is also vegetarian and my mom requires gluten free.
Below outlines some of the culinary experiences we had during their stay: