Taking stock…

Ben and I have now been in my home state, Western Australia, for 3 weeks of our 4-week visit. The time has gone quickly, but we have crammed in a lot of time with family and friends, and have celebrated both of my parent’s 70th birthdays.

mum and me Feb 2018


As we are over the hump of our time here and are winding down, I wanted to ‘take stock’.

Making: memories. Being with family and dear friends fuels my soul. Having Ben here with me, watching him being part of my family, makes me beyond happy.

Cooking: with produce from the garden. What a treat to stay at the farm, where my mum, aunty and uncle live, and pick figs off the tree for a delicious fig compote. Or, to trawl my dad and step-mum’s garden for fresh herbs and veggies to make a vegetarian pasta sauce.

We also stopped at the incredible Bunbury Farmers’ Market where we stocked up on corn, melon, and kale to share with the family. I couldn’t get over how beautiful the arrays of produce were.

Drinking: WINE! My uncle put down a Methuselah of his Shiraz 10 years ago to gift to my dad for his 70th. We opened it over the weekend. Stunning. We’ve also been enjoying some of Western Australia’s incredible offerings.

Dad with his Methuselah of Shiraz     
Moombaki Tasting Room

Playing: KUBB! This is an outdoor game that is kind of like chess meets boules meets horseshoes. We’ve been playing matches for days. Ben, Dad and I hold the equal record for the highest number of KUBBs knocked over in a row (4).

Even the dogs take KUBB seriously 

Reading: Outlander #7. Diana Gabaldon’s writing takes my breath away. Her storytelling is outdone only by her dexterity with prose. She both inspires and intimidates me as a writer. Both prompt me to work at my craft.

Next read: One of the many chicklit nooks I have lined up on my Kindle. It’s great to read within the genre I’m writing.

Deciding: Believe it or not, I am still deciding what clothes/stuff will make the cut to go to Bali in a week’s time. The rest with be gifted or shipped off to the next port of call. :/

Loving: Kangaroos and other assorted WA wildlife. I am never blasé about seeing kangaroos in the wild – they are magnificent animals. We’ve seen quite a few on our trip as most of our family live in rural or semi-rural settings. We’ve also seen a possum, a quenda, some bush rats, a baby dugite (snake), kookaburras, cockatoos, parakeets, wrens, and too many other birds to mention.

company on an early morning walk
kookaburras are my fave

Watching: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. We watched it last night. It was a truly unique and excellent film. We also saw The Greatest Showman at the cinema, which was a lot of foot-tapping fun.

Wearing: a new dress I bought (oops!). I am supposed to have all my clothes for the next leg (Bali) sorted. i am also supposed to be economising, but I saw a gorgeous dress in a local boutique and it fit perfectly. Of course, I had to buy it. I’m wearing it in the pic with my Dad above.

Enjoying: I am LOVING writing book two, I Think I Met Someone. I’m about 10K words in (of about 100K) and it’s so much fun finding out what Sarah gets up to next.

Admiring: My family; they’re my village. Not only do I love my family, I like them and am fortunate to count them amongst my close friends. They are all incredible people, each with their own beauty. We’ve had a blast this past month.


Feeling: grateful, present, and excited. I am a fortunate person to have so much love around me and to soon be embarking on the next part of our adventure. I’m trying to soak up and live every moment – and I am doing a pretty good job of it.

With thanks to Ben Reierson for many of these pics, and to Pip Lincolne and Allison Tait for this fun idea. This meme also includes the following if you’d like to play along too:

Next watch:

Never too much of a good thing

Sunrise in the country

Poor us – we had to stay here for 4 whole days!

Let me set the scene. It has been 8 years since we met on Santorini and went on our first date. To celebrate this anniversary, we took ourselves to wine country. This isn’t really a surprise to anyone who knows us, as we both love wine, and have certainly made similar jaunts in the past. This time, we headed to the stunning Barossa Valley in South Australia. That’s right, home to some of the finest wine in the world – for 4 days and three nights. As I said, poor us, right?

If you look really closely at this photo, you will see where we stayed int he background. This is the view from the top of the hill that I climbed each morning as the sun was coming up – just one of the glorious details that made the weekend sublime. On arrival back at the homestead each morning, a freshly baked breakfast was waiting. The first morning it was muffins, the next was home-made toasted muesli, and the last, homemade bread with homemade jam. Our host was really into homemade.

We stayed at a little farm we found on airbnb. If you haven’t yet heard of airbnb, then he’s a quick and dirty: it’s a website listing homestays all over the world. Some are a room, some are are whole house. Typically, airbnbers host only one guest, or couple, or family of guests at a time. Ben stayed in the heart of Amsterdam once, and together we have stayed in three wine regions now – Napa, Yarra Valley and Barossa.

This stay was quite unique. We stayed in the farm’s original outer buildings – with three rooms side-by-side, each with a door to the outside. It’s the first time I have had to go outside from my sleeping quarters to get to the bathroom since I ran tours in Europe – but far nicer. Though in Europe, I typically didn’t have to chance stepping in geese poop – well, except maybe in Rome and that is a whole ‘nother story.

This is the view along the veranda:

one kitty

This was our bed:

grandma’s feather bed

It wasn’t actually a feather bed, but we did use the mosquito net – country living, after all. Lots of critters.

This was the just one corner of the bathroom, which was the biggest room of all – our host is a woman with her priorities straight. And that tub was glorious.

Epic tub

On the second day, we were joined in the bathroom by a creature of the arachnid variety. Ben, who has yet to encounter one of those hand-sized huntsmen says, “Now I can say I’ve seen one of those giant Australian spiders.” This was my (slightly) patronising reply: “Actually, now you can say that you’ve seen one of a giant Australian spider’s babies.” (It wasn’t very big – maybe three centimeters across).

“And you know what is worse than finding a spider in your bathroom?” I asked my now concerned boyfriend. He shook his head. Like the tough Aussie chick I am, I must have impressed him with this important nugget, “Knowing there’s a spider in your bathroom, but not being able to see where it went. If it goes out of sight, check your towel before you use it.”

Ahhhh, country life. I should say that we spent a great deal of time in the outdoor room, fending off puppy dog eyes, so we didn’t have to share our spoils.




Audrey Hepburn

Yes, that is actually the dog’s name. And while she is called something regal and she looks quite regal in this photo, she’s usually covered in dirt and the saliva of her two male counterparts. In truth, she’s a little slapper.

Here are some other shots from around the farm:

still runs
glam rockers

How cool are these horses’ manes?


Oh, and I nearly forgot. There was wine! Barossa is not just a beautiful location, they have wine there too.


We did our first taste the morning we arrived – late morning – we are not total lushes. And did our last taste the morning we left (again, late morning). Henschke was a highlight, as was Pindarie. I think we reached saturation point, however, when we got to the end of the third day, and were tasting what was probably a very nice Riesling. I looked at Ben and said, “I can’t tell if this is good or not. I think my palette is tired. And my brain is definitely tired.” He felt the same, so we excused ourselves and quit for the day.

We developed a set of subtle cues to tell each other that we didn’t really care for the wine without insulting the person two feet away who was pouring it for us. “Thank you, but I can only try one or two, I’m driving,” I said on numerous occasions. If Ben agreed, he’d follow up with, “We’re over limit on our luggage at the moment, but can we find your wine in Melbourne?”

Of course, if we loved something, we bought it and then we shipped it all back. A cool tip: there are about 15 wineries that will ship a mixed case for $15. That is, if you buy one or two of their bottles, they will ship a case that’s completed from other peoples’ wine. Ask at the cellar door, and if they don’t do it, ask who does. They will likely have a list. Penfolds doesn’t by the way.

Of course, there was also incredible food – not just at the farm-stay, but at little pubs and restaurants that dot the picturesque towns of the valley. We were impressed with the selections, along with the incredible produce.

picture perfect

All in all, the trip was exactly what we’d hoped it would be – relaxing, enjoyable, a feast for the eyes and the stomach, and a long-anticipated visit to somewhere new.

Happy anniversary, Ben. I can’t wait for our next adventure!

When the pieces come together: Part Two

Our accommodation the first night of our weekend was with a lovely lady called Barbara at her B&B in Port Angeles, Ocean Crest.  We arrived just before dinner and she showed us to our room.  It was very comfortable, had its own bathroom, and just next door was a little sitting room for us.  Barbara was thrilled to hear an Australian accent, as her beau is keen to take her to Australia next year and she was full of questions.

She took us through our dining options for the evening, and made reference to ‘Twilight’ several times.  I then noticed the Twilight paraphernalia featured on a bookcase.  Apparently, there is a book out there called Twilight, and quite a few people have read it, and many of those people come to the Olympic Peninsula to see where Bella (the heroine) and her vampire lover, Edward ‘live’.

The story is set in Forks, Washington, and we were 60 miles away, but that didn’t mean that the Twilight business is not thriving in Port Angeles too.  It was our first taste of how far reaching this phenomena is.

We opted not to go to ‘Bella Italian’ – a favorite amongst Twilight devotees, but instead chose a seafood restaurant on the water.  It was a good pick and I had Dungeness crabcakes (Dungeness is just up the road from Port Angeles) and Ben tried razor clams.  Both were delicious, especially the unusual razor clam, which is large and meaty and quite a bit sweeter than crab.  After dinner we discovered a cozy wine bar, and sat down to taste some California reds.  We would have stayed longer, but one of us would have had to play ‘skipper’ and it is just no fun watching your love drink lovely wine while you sip water.

Barbara, a pro in the B&B business for eleven years, not surprisingly made a fabulous breakfast the next morning.  While we enjoyed pancakes, eggs and bacon, we heard more of her story – recently divorced, but seemingly happy – and about her son who runs a resort out near Forks – yes, the Forks of the novel, Twilight.

We  kept a close eye on the weather through breakfast.  That morning we were supposed to be going kayaking on Freshwater Bay.  However, I awoke to a very stiff and sore shoulder, so Ben was going it alone.  Even though check out time was 11am, Barbara had generously offered for me to stay on and ‘chill out’ until Ben got back around 1pm.

As I ate, I looked out at dark clouds and incessant rain, and a niggling thought popped into my head: ‘It’s still officially summer’.  I pushed aside the disheartening thought about the demise of my favorite season.  I needn’t be selfish, as I wasn’t the one who would get very wet.  Luckily when I called the kayaking place to cancel, they said they only had the two of us booked, and it was probably best to call it off all together.  Ben seemed very happy about that.

Instead, we decided to go wine tasting.  (Hooray!)  We said a fond farewell to Barbara, and as we drove out of the driveway saw this little lady:

Doe a deer...

We then went to Camaraderie Cellars and Harbinger Winery.   Both had some lovely wines, which were presented by lovely people.  We killed a couple of hours, and made some dents in the plastic, but you have to when you taste good wine that you can only get at the cellar door.  Wine tasting at cellar doors is a ‘regret-less endeavor’ only if you buy what you like when you’re there.

We were a chatty pair as we drove again past Lake Crescent, and on towards Forks.  We would stay that night at Manitou Lodge, which sits nestled in the coastal rain forest, just west of Forks.  A couple of hours before check in, we pulled up outside Three Rivers Resort and Cafe, also just west of Forks.  We knew that the cafe (owned by Barbara’s son) had its own ‘vampire menu’, but it was at this time that the whole ‘Twilight’ obsession started to hit home.

Inside the cafe is this sign:

Treaty line
Treaty line

which I am sure people thought I was photographing because I am a fan.  I’m not; all I know is that the books – and now a film – exist.

We later learned that next weekend is a huge celebration in Forks to mark Bella’s fictional birthday.  Her birthday part is being held in a church, because, as you all know, vampires can’t go into churches.

It is an intriguing pursuit, this whole Twilight obsession.  It has me more than a little curious, so I have asked Ben to put the film on our Netflix cue.  I am not too keen to read the book, but I will check out the film.  At least we can say ‘We’ve been there”.  We ate our burgers – which were terrific – and played two games of Yahtzee, both of which Ben won – but only just.

After lunch and a short drive we were at the coast at LaPush, Washington.  It was spectacularly beautiful, but the most inhospitable I have ever seen the Pacific.

A storm was raging, waves crashed and the whole scene was of gray debris.

The town itself was not beautiful, rather a lonely, decrepit town I can imagine is only visited because of the views from it shores.

It was time to go to our accommodation, so we headed away from the coast and deeper into the forest.  Manitou Lodge is the sort of place that actually looks like its name.  It is big and rustic, with stone and timber walls.  On entry we were faced with a giant staircase and a grand room with a long dining table, four leather couches and bookshelves lined with old books and games.

It is a place that could be either the scene of a horror movie, or the backdrop for a mini adventure.  I was hoping for the latter.  We were shown to our room, the Lady of Guadalupe:

Both of us were keen for some indoor R&R, because the rain outside was unrelenting.  After I nested for a few minutes, much to Ben’s amusement, I chose to have a hot bath, and he chose to read about Seattle a hundred years ago.  Both of us enjoyed these solitary pursuits, and then we came back together, and headed downstairs to see what we could see.

We scoured the bookshelves for games or interesting books, all while maintaining our library voices.  There were 4 other people in the grand room, and all were reading, so we whispered.  We then hit the jackpot with a 600 piece Star Trek puzzle.

I looked at Ben as though asking, ‘Are you game?’ and he looked at me as though replying, “Okay.”  We cleared some space on the table top, and began our task.  Five hours, one and a half bottles of wine, two cheese croissants, and a bag of popcorn later we called it a night.

There were many pieces missing – we guessed about 50 – and it was too dark in the grand room to discern between dark blue and black, so we left a few patches unfinished, but overall it was a hugely successful and fun endeavor.  Whenever either of us found the place for a tricky black piece with a sliver of color on the side, we earned a ‘well done’ and a kiss from the other.

We grew new-found respect and appreciation for just how clever the other is (keep in mind that we already had heaps of both, so this is saying a lot).  The hours flew by.  I can highly recommend puzzling as a good bonding experience for couples who are rained in on an adventure holiday.

This is how we left the puzzle for anyone keen to finish it:


The rain was still with us the next morning as we bid farewell to Vampire Country.  We had survived!

We were driving the long way home, south, then east, then north up into Seattle.  It would take about 4 hours if we didn’t stop, but of course, we wanted to stop.  We chose Ruby Beach.  It was a fluke, because there are a dozen places to stop and see the ocean on the drive, but we’re both glad we got to see this:

And these examples of natural graffiti art:

We ‘souvenired’ some of these pebbles, and they now sit proudly in our home.  My favorite is the perfectly round stone Ben found.  It is 6 inches across and now sits next to the television.  I should also mention that we got very wet on this excursion.  We both had waterproof jackets, but the rain and wind were in full force – it was wild and woolly – and we spent the next hour of driving, drying off.  (Well worth it though!)

The rest of our drive went by quickly, although we did realize about 2 hours down the road that I had left my perfect pillow in the Lady of Guadalupe (they’re sending it to me).  Lunch was breakfast at Denny’s.  It is kind of a cheesy place to stop, but is always clean, and the breakfast is great.  Good ol’ Denny’s didn’t disappoint, and gave us the energy we needed to get home.

We packed a lot in, but as I said before, the success of the weekend was as much about what we skipped as what we saw.  Wine tasting is a much better way to spend a rainy day than kayaking.

As always, thank you to my darling Ben.  He is the best travel companion (and life’s companion) this girl could ever hope for.

And the boys want to know where we’re all going next…

Tahoe and Squirt are ready to go

What’s that aboot?

We spent the weekend in Vancouver, Canada. I need to make that distinction, because there is actually a Vancouver in Washington State. We discovered this as we sat in the car at 6:40am on Saturday morning, trying to input a Vancouver address into the GPS to no avail. We were due at 10am to claim a ‘prize’ we won at a recent travel show. The prize – a trip to Las Vegas for two, including flights and accommodation – comes with the catch that we must endure a 90 minute timeshare presentation. That’s it. We were both adamant we could sit still long enough to claim our prize, and then have the rest of the weekend to get out into a favorite city.

Back to the car at 6:40am on Saturday: the address didn’t compute because we are actually expected in Vancouver, Washington, three hours to the south. Vancouver, Canada is three hours to the north. Bugger! We laughed about it. I had gotten up at 5:45 to shower. So there we sat – do we drive down to Vancouver, Washington (probably not as enticing as the one to the north) to keep our appointment? Or head north where we had a hotel room booked, and the expectation of a fun weekend.

We headed north. And called the timeshare people from the road.

A treat when we arrived in Vancouver was blue skies and a mild sunny day – the first I have ever experienced there. I suggested we drive up to Grouse Mountain, about 20 minutes out of the city. The drive there took us through Stanley Park,
passenger view
and across the Lion Gate Bridge.
Lion Gate Bridge
It was a busy day at the base of the mountain, which was understandable considering there is skiing and snowboarding up there, and the weather was beautiful.
The cable car ride takes 6 minutes.
Up the mountain
Man and Mountain
At the top, we walked into the bistro just as it opened and claimed a table by the window. I had never seen Vancouver from this height, as the last time I had been up the mountain (last year with Lara), it had been cloudy and rainy – and dark!
Lara and me

But Saturday was perfect and we could see the city laid out before us.
View from our table
View from our table too

We ate a leisurely – and early – lunch of burgers, and chased it down with a delicious BC Pinot Blanc. We have tried this varietal a few times now, and it is well worth a sip – or two.

Back on flat ground, we checked into the Hyatt, mooched about for the afternoon – including a trip to the hotel gym – and then headed out for an early dinner at Wild Rice. Early lunch = early dinner. We loved the food there, except the spring rolls which were flavorless and oily. We sent them back. BUT the Kung Po chicken was inspired, the salt and pepper squid rivaled that which you can get in Sydney, and the hot and sour soup was hot – and sour! Delicious. We also enjoyed that all food was brought to the table in serving dishes, so we could serve ourselves. Overall, well worth a visit, and is a runner-up in the ‘Best Asian Dining’ 2008 in Food and Wine Magazine. But seriously, the spring rolls need attention.

Breakfast the next day was a special treat. We headed two blocks away to Caffe Artigiano, where I have previously had the best coffee EVER.
Muffins and a bowl of smooth, hot, creamy coffee. Heaven.
“You brought reading material,” commented Ben when returned to the table with our coffees. The coffees were huge, and I knew we’d be there a while. WIRED for him. SELF for me. We sat, we supped, we read, we smiled at each other across the table in silence while we enjoyed our breakfast. “That as so good, I kinda want another one.” I knew what he meant. We could easily have killed another hour with another cup, but we needed to check out of the Hyatt.

Our last outing for the day after checking out, was to head to the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Vancouver Art Museum
I know Ben loves contemporary exhibitions, and they also had a Canadian Impressionist exhibit I wanted to see. The Impressionists didn’t disappoint, and there were some extraordinary pieces, but the collection became somewhat repetitive. more interesting were the second and third floors, filled with contemporary pieces and installations.

I was struck by this:
Skull 2008
It is “Skull 2008” by Kristi Malakoff, and is 12 feet tall. It is constructed of 12,000 paper flowers, which are photographs she took, cut out and then assembled onto this wall.
Here is a detail:
Skull Detail
Those flowers are 2-dimensional, even though they do not look it. It was my favorite piece of the How Soon Is Now collection. There were many that left me cold, however. And wanted to ask, “Really?” One installation was 6 panes of glass lying on the floor. That’s it. So, in the spirit of ‘art is subjective’, I created some of my own. Here are three pieces inspired by simplicity.

Going Down

Topsy Turvey Escalator

Okay, maybe I am being a little facetious, but 6 panes of glass? Perhaps it was left there accidentally by construction workers.  Someone puts a rope around it, and it becomes art.

Outside the gallery is this:
Olympic Clock
It is the Olympic countdown clock. It should say at the top, ‘this clock will self-destruct in…’, because BC – like many Olympic sites before them – is going into massive debt – to the tune of about 8billion dollars – to meet their Olympic obligations next year. I realize that because the U.S. government is throwing around figures like 782billion, that 8billion doesn’t sound like much, but it is. I do suppose that if we are still living in Seattle this time next year, it is very likely we will do our bit to help refill the coffers.

Our trip back to the United States took a bit longer than our journey to Canada – by 2 hours and 30 minutes, which is the amount of time we waited at the border.
Two and a half hours
People got out, played some ball sports, and the atmosphere was generally more festive than any other delayed border crossing I have experienced. The North Americans are a little blase about the whole border thing, I have to say. It will get more strict in June when you need more than a Driver’s License to cross from one country to the other, but my experience of border delays is ‘stay in the car, and do not make a peep’. Not so yesterday…
Ben stretching his legs.

When we eventually got up to the border, expecting to contribute to the delay for those behind us, we were waved through after a cheeky border guard asked if I was trying to smuggle in Vegemite. I played the role of the charming Aussie girl, Ben the chuffed boyfriend, and we were on out way.

Because of this huge delay, I had resigned myself to the fact that we were going to miss the start of the Oscars – the part with the big song and dance number. I am such a Hugh Jackman fan too. But no. As if by magic, out of the 100 channels we subscribe to, our TV was set the right one (ABC), so when we walked in and turned it on – about 20 minutes after it started – we could ‘rewind’ to the beginning and watch it delayed. SIGH. It was a brilliant end to a brilliant weekend.

Thank you, as ever, to my best friend, Ben, who makes sitting home on the couch as fun as a trip to another country.

Oh, and the title of my post? Just a little nod to our friends to the north. That’s what that is aboot.

Long distances

Yesterday I turned 39. I spent the weekend with new friends up in the Hunter Valley – a wine region two hours north of Sydney – and I have some great pics and stories to share soon. And I mean not to take away from the fun, friendship and festivities of the past two days (or from those planned celebrations to come) by saying that, on my birthdays I feel long distances more acutely than any other day.

My parents live in across the country. My sister lives in London. My boyfriend lives in Minnesota. I have family and close friends literally all over the world. This means two things. Firstly, it means that I am inundated with cards, presents, calls, emails and good wishes from all over the planet. I enjoy this, because the girl inside me is part princess and loves being spoiled with love and good wishes.

It also means that, on my birthday I miss my nearest and dearest even more acutely than I usually do. I mean not to bemoan my life as it is. I mean only to say to those of you I miss, a lot, all of the time, and especially yesterday, that I love you. And I look forward to the next time I get to hug you, laugh with you, shake a hair shimmy with you, and sit next to you, with your hand in mine, while you fill me in on all I have missed. You see, the best thing about a ‘long distance’ is the reunion.

Flying Fish

I am not a food critic by any means, and I will not attempt to become one in this post, but Ben and I have been really impressed with restaurants we have eaten at in Seattle.  And there are so many to choose from.  Ben and I are staying close to downtown, so we are spoiled for choice within walking distance – or at most, a short cab ride away.

Last night we went to Flying Fish in Seattle’s restaurant district, Belltown.  What an extraordinary meal.  We ordered carefully, so that we could share bites, and we chose a local bottle of white on recommendation of the waiter.  We know we like New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs – and there were several on the menu to choose from – but we have wanted to stay true to the region when ordering wine here.  I have mentioned that Washington and Oregon do a ‘good red’, so when our waiter admitted this to us and still recommended the Washington Pinot Gris – “It partners really well with our menu” –  we agreed to try it.

We were not disappointed.  While we ate crusty bread with butter, our wine arrived, and he was right.  It was a terrific bottle of King Estate, which partnered well with the Thai crab cake I had to start, and the crispy calamari Ben ordered.  We both ‘ummmed’ as we tucked in.  We swapped bites a few times, and admitted ‘yes, you chose well too’, but ultimately we were happiest with our own selections, and we savoured them.  The portions were not skimpy, but we took our time. 

Before we knew it, and before I had a chance to find the bathroom, our mains were sitting before us.  Ben had the seared tuna and I had the mahi mahi.  I looked over at his plate with menu envy.  I took a bite of the mahi mahi and it was a little oily, and not quite what I expected.  I saw Ben’s obvious enjoyment, and put my cutlery down.  “Not good?” he asked patiently.  I have sent stuff back before, and I don’t really like being that person.  “It is okay.  I think I just ordered badly.”  Within seconds our waiter, Jeff, was by my side.  “Are you not enjoying that?”  I looked up at him, “It is just a lot heavier than I thought.  I think I just ordered poorly.”  He said he would be back in a second and he returned with the menu. 

We read it together, and yes, the fish was served with an apple butter sauce.  I guess I just thought it would be more apple than butter.  He did not hesitate and asked me to select something else.  I looked over at the tuna, and Ben offered me a bite.  It was delicious.  “I’d like the tuna please?” I asked, humbly.  He whisked the menu away with a genuine smile and went to get my tuna.  Ben kindly suggested I find the bathroom; he would wait for me to get my main, and then we could finish together.  When I got back to the table, the tuna was placed before me (it is seared for a micro-second).  Magic.  A little glitch of my own doing smoothed over within minutes, and we were off on our food Odyssey once again. 

If the wine had proved a good match for the starters, it was an even better pairing for the salty crusted tuna and risotto cake with Asian-style sauce and bok choy.  We ate slowly.  Mostly to savour the exceptional combination of flavours, but also to pace ourselves.  The portions were generous, and we wanted to finish every bite, because the food was so damned good!

We both cleaned our plates, again.

The bottle of wine was coming to an end, and Jeff poured the last glasses as he appeared with the dessert menu.  “See?” I said, looking up at him, “You look like butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth, but you are in fact the devil.”  He laughed, and recommended his favourite dessert, the chocolate grappa brownie.  Our eyes flew to the menu.  There it was, “Warm Grappa Brownie, vanilla ice cream, milk and bittersweet chocolate sauces”.  Oh my.  We chose that and the cheesecake, because we both love a good cheesecake.  Jeff returned to take our order, “We’ll have the brownie and the cheesecake – we’re just going to put them both in the middle of the table and fight it out.” 

Ben and I have been fortunate enough to have had some extraordinary meals in vast corners of the world, including Hawaii, Greece, and New Zealand, but I have to say, and I know he agrees, more often than not the desserts just do not complete the meal as they should.  We will have brilliant starters and mains, even great house-made bread, paired with terrific regional wines, but then dessert comes and it is an anti-climax.  We did NOT have this experience last night. 

The desserts arrived just as we were finishing our wine, and they looked good.  Both of us took pause to appreciate how pretty they were.  “I don’t think we’re supposed to eat them.  I think we should just look at them,” offered Ben.  I agreed, asking if he had his camera so he could take a picture of me with dessert.  He didn’t, so we turned our attention back to the table, and we got up the nerve to break the brownie.  We approached with care from both sides and dipped into the flourless brownie, soaking up some sauce and nicking the scoop of ice cream on the way to our mouths.  The ‘mmmm’s that followed were involuntary.  It was so unbelievably good.  And it was served with a chocolate/vanilla shortbread cookie, which added a whole other dimension of crunchy buttery goodness.  Praise all that is good!

We looked over at the poor cousin, cheesecake, and wondered how it could possibly compare.  But it did.  It was created with a ginger biscuit crust, served with poached pears, and throughout the filling was a cacophony of spices.  “It tastes like Christmas,” said Ben.  I just nodded and ‘mmm’ed in agreement; I had momentarily lost my ability to speak, but he nailed it with that description.  Both desserts were fantastic and we happily alternated back and forth between the two, commenting on how, at last, we’d shared a brilliant meal, complete with a brilliant dessert. 

The check came as we sat in blissful silence with two more empty plates before us.  Ben compared the desserts with his favourites ever, at Chino Latino in Minnesota, and at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney.  These two desserts were at least on par.  I mentioned that the brownie was remarkably similar to a molten chocolate pot I make back in Sydney when I have people for dinner.  “You can make something like that?” he asked incredulously.  “Um, yeah, I can,” and I promised to make it for him as soon as I am back in my own kitchen – and he is there to eat it.  I was inspired by presentation and accompaniments at Flying Fish, and it was outstandingly good, but, yes, I can make a fine dessert.

Flying Fish is the brain child of Christine Keff, who was inspired by a trip to Thailand where the menus at beach-side restaurants are simple, changeable and reflect only what is fresh that day.  Her philosophy translates in Seattle to a high-end restaurant where the complex menu changes daily to reflect the fish and produce that is fresh that day.  In fact, in researching this blog, the menu has already changed since last night – you could still get the brownie today, but even the desserts are changeable, as the cheesecake is missing.  The mahi mahi is still there, but no longer served with an apple butter sauce.  Did I do that?  Doubtful, but a timely change on the menu. 

To create a new menu daily based on what is fresh and available, is not an innovative concept for restaurants.  It is just that Flying Fish does it so well, and that the menu is highly creative, diverse and extensive.  So, next time you’re in Seattle, check it out.  Or, live it vicariously at the following site: http://flyingfishrestaurant.com/.

Bon appetit!