Yarra Valley Wine Tasting: Week 206

St Ronan's Cider

One of my friends pushed me forward. “Excuse me,” she said to the vendor, “could you please explain to my American friend where the Yarra Valley is? I can’t believe she doesn’t know.”

“Sure.” The guy replied. “We’re about 60 km northeast of Melbourne.”

“Ah, ok.” I shook my head knowingly as I reached for my glass of pinot noir. “I kind of know that area.”

As soon as we turned away, my friend leaned in. “I didn’t know where the Yarra Valley was either- but I couldn’t admit it because I’m Australian.” I don’t know why my friend was so worried because the question really wasn’t as stupid as it sounded. My friends and I weren’t in the Yarra Valley, we were actually at a tasting exhibition in downtown Sydney.

Although the event was dominated by wine vendors, there were representatives for Yarra Valley ciders, beers, and gin too.

St Ronan’s Cider was my first stop and I tried both their apple and pear ‘Methode Traditionelle’ cider. Both were very good, but anyone interested in more detail than that would be disappointed- my notes simply say, “sparkling apple & pear.” No beating around the bush for me.

Seville Estate Yarra Valley

My next stop was the delicious Yarra Valley Dairy. Of all their cheeses, my favorite was the Black Savourine. I was too busy scraping the soft cheese off the plate to compile my thoughts on paper, but luckily I did pick up a brochure description which sounds a bit naughty (as all good food descriptions should). Semi-mature, aged white mould goat’s milk cheese. A complex plate of full flavours. Roast nuts, cooked cream, hint of blue, full length.

From there I visited TarraWarra Estate (my notes say “very tannic pinot”), another vineyard who had one of their wines chosen for Qantas first class (can’t remember the name-lost that note), and Seville Estate (my notes show a picture of a smiley face).Payten & Jones

Of all the wine that I tasted, and I did enjoy most of it, the vendor that stood out the most was from Payten & Jones. His name was Troy and I noticed that he not only had the most casual shirt of the lot but he also had working hands- as in the kind of hands that are actually out in the vineyard picking grapes.

The reason that stuck out in my mind was that after having picked kiwifruit in New Zealand, I know how much it sucks to be in the field. So for someone to be so passionate about their product that they wouldn’t avoid the back-breaking work when they still have to do the marketing and all the other stuff that comes along with running a vineyard, I think that says something good about the product.

Of course the wine speaks for itself too and in this case it’s saying, “buy me- I’m tasty.”

About: The Yarra Valley

About: Payton and Jones

About: Yarra Valley Dairy

About: St Ronan’s Cider

Perth & The Giants: Week 205

The Giants - Little Girl on a boat: Perth, Australia

Hey!” An older woman called out on my right. “Don’t push me!”

“I’m TRYING to walk!” A grumpy old man yelled back. Beads of perspiration dotted his bald scalp.

“So is everyone else.” The woman replied. “That doesn’t mean you have the right to push.”

“Aw, shut up you old cow.” 

The woman laughed, incredulously. The old man continued pushing through crowded Barrack Street and into a father with a newborn baby in his arms, then he stepped on a kid’s foot.

Don’t you trample my son!”

“Aw, shut up.” The old man yelled over his shoulder.

“Just because my son is little doesn’t mean he deserves to be pushed around and stepped on. Get some manners.”

The Giants - Diver: Perth, Australia

Barret and I had come to Perth over Valentine’s weekend to see The Giants- two massive marionettes that walked the streets of Perth thanks to a French troupe called Royal de Luxe. The production was the highest-attended public artwork ever in Perth and it was the showpiece of the Perth International Arts Festival. Hundreds of thousands of people poured into the downtown area and at times it felt like the festival was suffering from its own popularity.

The Giants - Diver taking a drink of water: Perth, Australia

However, The Giants did not disappoint. From their costumes and props to their eerily human gestures- it was magical to watch. They stopped at intervals along their routes to do things like remove rain jackets, jump on cars for a ride, or take a cool sip of water. The diver had a glass plate on his helmet removed so he could quench his thirst with the help of a vintage fire engine.

Salvation Army Building: Perth, Australia

When the massive crowd became too much to handle, Barret and I headed back to a loft we found on AirBnB. It was inside an old Salvation Army building in the heart of Perth’s CBD. We took a shower, changed into our evening clothes, and wandered over to William Street in Northbridge.

Polaroid of Chinese shop window in Northbridge: Perth, Australia

The neighborhood is packed with good restaurants and nightlife. It’s such a diverse area that within a few blocks we went from a back alley Kung Fu studio in Chinatown to a South African restaurant named Baby Mammoth which serves curry just the way my mom makes it- sliced bananas on top. Breakfast at a paleo cafe and a nightcap at the hidden Ezra Pound. Our Vegas IDs always get a comment.

Polaroid of Perth architecture: Curtin House

Because the local university is also on William Street, we found a popular and affordable late night café. The Moon was filled with students and an instrumental quartet led by a micro-managing Peruvian. The music was pleasant, restrained, and unfortunately not loud enough to drown out the conversation behind us. “I like ketchup on everything.” Same person: “I don’t get it. How can you name a song with no lyrics?”

Barret and I shared a pizza, two glasses of the finest boxed wine, and settled into one of the many overstuffed couches. Around one in the morning we plucked ourselves out of our comfortable seats and went outside to hail an  airport taxi. We had a redeye flight to Sydney and a full day at work ahead of us.

Polaroid of black cockatoo street art: Perth, Australia

I had been feeling quite ambitious when I booked this trip. Barret and I packed a lot of walking and not a lot of sleep into two full days- but you know what? It was worth it. The Giants were stunning and the city did not disappoint. My only regret is that I did not have more time to spend in Perth.

The Giants: Perth, Australia

About: Perth International Arts Festival

About: The Giants

The-Giants-Hanging-Girl

How to get to Baby Mammoth: 2/305 William Street, Northbridge WA 6003

How to get to The Moon: 2/323 William Street, Northbridge WA 6003

How to get to Ezra Pound: 189 William Street, William Lane, Northbridge WA 6000

Glebe Town Hall: Week 204

Phia performing at Glebe Town Hall for High Tea: Sydney, Australia

For most people high tea is a sugar-filled, decadent afternoon treat. For Sydneysiders in the know, High Tea is also an invite-only folk music event that happens twice a month.

The musical headquarters is located inside a small loft in Surry Hills. The street-level entrance leads people through a graffiti-covered passage, up a few flights, and out onto a walkway that is curiously squeezed between two buildings. It’s a bit of an urban rabbit warren.

Because the venue is so intimate, it’s not always easy to get tickets. You have to follow the High Tea Crew Twitter account so you know exactly when the event list has opened. The event fee is payable at the door and, as always, a table covered with tea cups and hot kettles awaits guests at the entrance.

High Tea at Glebe Town Hall: Sydney, Australia

If the tea fails to excite, there is no charge to bring in your own bottle of wine. There aren’t a lot of chairs but there are plenty of cushions around the room. The lights are low, the candles drip, and the large art deco windows front a twinkling nighttime city landscape.

The only difference this time around was that for the season opener, High Tea was being held at Glebe Town Hall. This historic venue was built in 1880 and the main hall fits up to 200 hundred people, which is a lot larger than the loft in Surry Hills. Although the Town Hall lacked the quirky layout of the usual venue, the table of tea was still there and I suspect the program organizers spent a lot of time tracking down more cushions.

Glebe Town Hall: Sydney, Australia

High Tea kicked off with Phia- an Australian/German loop pedal and kalimba playing songstress. She was classically trained on the piano and is the first to admit her parents weren’t too happy when she first ditched all that training for the kalimba. Her boyfriend is the only other member of the band and is probably the most timid musician I have ever seen on stage. He looks a bit like a lost puppy- which I mean in the nicest way possible. It was the second time I’d seen them perform and I liked them even more than the last time.

The Maple Trail closed the program and as it got close to the end of their set, I lay down, closed my eyes, and listened to the music. The group sounded a lot like The Wallflowers and it reminded me about my childhood in Florida and the excitement of owning my first few CDs (which obviously included The Wallflowers).

While I’m guilty of enjoying a bit of nostalgia, I’m lucky enough to be simultaneously happy about the past and the present. And where I am- inside the Glebe Town Hall with friends and tea and wine and music- is pretty darn good.

About: High Tea

How to get to the Glebe Town Hall: 160 St Johns Road, Glebe NSW 2037

About: Phia

About: The Maple Trail

Hayden Orpheum: Week 203

Hayden-Orpheum-Exterior

Barret once read that the more you remember a memory, the more it changes. This suggests that the truest memories are the ones that you’ve mostly forgotten about until they randomly pop up out of nowhere.

If that’s true, there’s a recurring memory I’ve had for so long that it’s bound to be completely fictional by now. It’s short, like a movie trailer, and takes place on a rainy day in the city.

If pressed to describe the scenery I would say gentrified LA. If pressed further, I would say the setting has the ambiance of the educational video series I watched in my high school Spanish class. The film quality of Destinos had that soft early-90s blur that I think is very appropriate for my childhood memories.

Hayden-Orpheum-Small-Theatre

The only notable thing that happens in this recollection is that I take cover from the weather at a movie theater. I go in the door, take my seat, the screen starts to glow and that’s it. The end. There’s no other interaction that might give this memory some significant meaning, but the weird thing is though- any time it rains in the city, in any city, it reminds of this memory and that makes me happy.

Which is why, when everyone at work was bummed about the rainy weather, I was looking forward to meeting my friends at the Hayden Orpheum. It’s a beautiful art deco cinema on the North Shore that was dates back to 1935.

The glow of neon in the misty rain, the smell of butter popcorn, the swish of velvet curtains parting- I was halfway around the world but I somehow I was back home just in time for our movie to begin.

Hayden-Orpheum-Main-Theatre

How to get to the Hayden Orpheum: 380 Military Road, Cremorne NSW 2090

Tabac Rouge: Week 202

Tabac Rouge at the Sydney Theatre Company

She laughs and babbles like a madwoman. Then she leans her head so far backwards that when she puts on a jacket all you see is a decapitated body in repose. This is the physical embodiment of Thierrée’s opium addiction.

Not that James Thierrée really has an opium addiction, but his character in Tabac Rouge does and when it hits him, he jolts back in his armchair and drifts across the stage. A cloud of smoke and a spry contortionist trail along in his wake.

Tabac Rouge did not have an intermission, so at the end of the show it took me and Barret a couple of minutes to digest just what exactly we had seen.

What had we seen?

Tabac Rouge at the Sydney Theatre Company

The centerpiece of the show was a grimy, massive mirrored wall. On the reverse side was a labyrinth of pipes. At the end of the performance the mirror fell into separate pieces that spun like a shattered disco dream.

There was a small troupe of dancers whose movements alternated between mechanical precision, epileptic seizures, and rolling waves.

Then it all ended with the floor swallowing up everyone on the stage.

Barret and I had our own ideas about what it all meant, but all the reviews I read seemed to lead in another direction. The only thing we could agree on was that Tabac Rouge was truly out-of-this-world.

Tabac Rouge at the Sydney Theatre Company

About: Tabac Rouge

How to get to the Sydney Theatre Company: 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay

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