Gallinazo: Week 228

A man on horseback in Gallinazo: Caldas, Colombia

Gallinazo is a vereda, a very small rural town, on the outskirts of Manizales. If it weren’t for the nearby hot springs, it probably wouldn’t be on anyone’s map.

However, given its fortuitous location, Gallinazo is a popular weekend destination for traditional Colombian food. Of the three or so streets in the entire vereda, one is almost entirely dedicated to restaurants.

At the foot of town was a dessert stand. I knew we’d come to the right place because the vendor had the teeth of someone who has enjoyed a lifetime of sugary treats.

The arequipe was soft and delicious. It’s similar to caramel, but not as sticky or as thick. Arequipe can be enjoyed on its own or on top of something traditional like cooked figs. There were also several different versions of postre de natal, which is made by boiling milk and then continually skimming off the foam. The foam is collected in another cup and when it cools it almost has the texture of a rice pudding.

After starting the day with a healthy dose of dessert, we picked a popular restaurant for an early lunch. The food was delicious, but I made the mistake of ordering Bandeja Paisa. It is a regional dish that has steak, sausages, chicharrón, red beans, rice, plantains, a fried egg, an avocado, and an arepa. It is also often preceded by a bowl of soup. The food is great- but the sheer quantity of it is staggering. Barret and I once shared a smaller version of this dish and the two of us together couldn’t finish it. I don’t know what I was thinking; I need to start asking for a different dish.

Around about the time we finished lunch, Gallinazo was beginning to fill up with day trippers. Sunday morning brunch is not a popular concept, perhaps because of church, but lunch is king. And what better way to enjoy a meal than out in the country with a train of horses clip-clopping down the street?

How to get to Gallinazo from Manizales: At the intersection of Avenida Kevin Angel & Calle 69, catch a buseta in the direction of the Termales (hot springs).

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High Tea at Vaucluse House: Week 153

High Tea at Vaucluse House: Sydney, Australia

Vaucluse House is the former home of William Charles Wentworth, an Australian colonial barrister and politician. In 1827 Wentworth purchased the land and the single story cottage atop it from an eccentric Irish knight, Sir Hayes, who had been banished to Sydney for kidnapping an heiress and attempting to marry her by force.

Curiously enough, despite being sent to the ends of the earth, Sir Hayes had managed to get his hands on enough Irish peat to encircle his house to protect it from snakes. St Patrick had ‘so managed matters that no snake could live on or near Irish soil’.

Over the next five decades Wentworth and his family developed the property into one of the most charming harbor side estates that no upstanding citizen would set foot in.

Inside the servant's quarters of Vaucluse House: Syndey, Australia

Both William Wentworth and his wife Sarah were the children of convicts as well as, “part of a new generation of Australian-born colonists determined to break down the social and civil barriers that divided free settlers from the convict-stained.”

William was successful in this regard as he held important political positions and advocated for social issues like the right to trial by civilian juries. However, high society could not forgive Sarah for having her first two children out of wedlock. Even the Sydney Morning Herald put their two cents in:

Whenever a woman falls, she falls forever … She becomes as it were socially dead.

Ouch- and Wentworth had fought Governor Darling for freedom of the press.

Vaucluse House: Sydney, Australia. The flat wall on the right is where the front door was supposed to go.

In response to their lack of social status William never installed a front door (note the hedge in front of an off-color square wall) and the family spent a lot of time in Europe. Upon their return to Sydney in 1861, after having been in the presence of the Queen’s court, the Wentworths finally find a more welcoming high society. Too little too late? Nah, Sarah enthusiastically jumped into the very scene that had once resoundingly excluded her.

William died in England in 1872 and when his body arrived in Sydney, he received the first ever state funeral in New South Wales. Over 2,000 people attended his funeral and around 65,000 people lined the route of his funeral procession.

In 1923, this comment appeared in Freeman’s Journal: Much interest is being taken in the re-storing of this famous home, so that it will remain always for the people, and it will be to Australians what Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, is to the American citizen.

Gluten free desserts at Vaucluse House tearoom: Sydney, Australia

By 2013, the grounds of the Vaucluse estate receive at least 60,000 visitors annually. Many of these guests flock to the garden tearoom that was added in the 1920s. The art deco windows overlook verdant landscaping and the linen-covered tables are piled high with tiered cake platters, flutes of sparkling wine, tea pots, clotted cream, and scones. There is even a gluten free option and it is just as decadent as its counterpart. See those passion fruit tarts with candied flowers above? Not a spec of gluten on that plate.

It’s a bit ironic how one’s popularity can pick up in death. I think if Sarah Wentworth had had gluten free options she would have had a lot more guests. And by guests I mean picky eaters with loose morals.

 How to get to Vaucluse House: Wentworth Road, Vaucluse NSW 2030

Leichhardt: Week 121

Leichhardt

“Hmmm… This is not what I expected.” Barret and I were walking through an empty and mostly-closed shopping center called the Italian Forum. It was built in the heart of Little Italy, but it looked like the namesake heart had stopped beating yesterday, or maybe last month.

A few restaurants were open, but they had the ambiance of a concrete food court. Only one boutique store was open in the whole building and it was stuffed to the gills with cheap Venetian masks.

“Let’s walk back down the street in the other direction.”

We retraced our route for several blocks without finding anything that grabbed us. There were good restaurants in Leichhardt- they just weren’t Italian or Italian-enough.

During our third pass down the road our hunger kicked in and we settled for a sprawling restaurant named Giogia. It had a canopy, large parking lot, and a huge laminated menu that reminded me of strip mall restaurants in Los Angeles. I was completely unsurprised to learn it used to be an old BP station.

I realize it’s probably not fair to judge how well Giogia prepares Italian cuisine when all I have had was a gluten-free pizza, but it was called the Leichhardt Special and it was soggy. If I were Gordon Ramsey, I would have slammed my fist on top of the pizza. But I am not him, so I ate half because it would be a shame to waste perfectly half-cooked food.

“Do you remember that cute place we went to in Brooklyn?”

“Yeah,” Barret replied as his slice of pizza collapsed en route to his mouth. “That restaurant was really nice.”

“Yeah. Now that was Italian.”

Penny Fours baked treats: Leichhardt, Sydney

We passed on their dessert and instead went across the street to a bakery called Penny Fours.  It wasn’t the kind of place where people lingered behind the counter if there were no customers- they went back to help out in the kitchen. Within a minute of us arriving, a woman peered out from a glass window on the furthest wall and walked out to greet us.

The layout was a little wacky and they didn’t offer coffee, but we didn’t care. Look at how mesmerizing the chocolate hazelnut cookie is! And the homemade Rocky Road smothered with dark chocolate and pistachios! Word on the street is that the owner/pastry chef used to make bread at this famous place near Bondi Beach. At least, that’s what I overheard while savoring my heavenly mountain of marshmallows.

I also learned where all the good Italian restaurants went: Haberfield.

About: Leichhardt

How to get to Penny Fours: 141 Norton St, Leichhardt, NSW 2040

How to (not) get to Giogia: 126a Norton St, Leichhardt, NSW 2040

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