Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Long black, mate. And a side of poo.

I just spent a week in Sydney, Australia, which is not the capital of the country (that's Canberra) but is world famous for its fjord-like harbour, iconic opera house, majestic bridge, immense zoo, and yummy but oddly named coffee.

(Also it's expensive as hell. This tube of lip balm--crappy, waxy, ineffectual lip balm--cost me $7.95.)

Sydneysiders don't drink Dunky-Doe-style brewed coffee when they go to cafes. It's all about variations on espresso, but with funked out names like "flat white," "skinny flat white," and "long black." The latter (which I mistakenly called "long dark" several times in cafes but was usually understood) was my drink, which is basically an Americano, or espresso with water. Scott drank flat white, which is an espresso with steamed milk. It sounds like a latte, but it apparently doesn't taste like one. (Not being a latte drinker, I can't elaborate.) The skinny flat white is with skim (or fat-free) milk rather than whole.

I didn't think they sold lattes (they weren't on the cafe menus I saw), but apparently Aussies make good ones: Con Haralambopoulos just won the World Latte Art Championship in Copenhagen, the third Australian in a row to do so. (An Aussie also placed second in the World Barista Championship, held at the same time.)

The coffee we had in Sydney cafes was delicious, dark, and dear, running $3 for a cup. Given the care that baristas take to make their coffee, I was surprised to find little wee packets of instant coffee in our hotel room. (Still no drip coffee maker.) They were from a Foreign Land (I forget which), and the package was dark, which made me think of dark roast, and because we were both often suffering from caffeine headaches at strange times of day (it is 14 hours ahead there), we tried it. The granules were small, almost like powder, and dark, and very unlike my Nana's Maxwell House instant coffee with its pebble-sized milk-chocolate brown granules that, mixed with boiling water, tasted like day-old diluted Tim Horton's.

The instant wasn't amazing, but it was better than ok, and it got rid of our headaches. I just read this startling fact from the Australasian Specialty Coffee Association: Australians consume more instant coffee at home than most others; about 85% of cups drunk in Aussie homes are instant. How very interesting!

A couple of other notes on food: The toast there is really thick. That's one of their "things," and it rocked my breakfast world. For dinners, we ate Chinese and Spanish and Italian, which all were much like their counterparts in North America--though in Chinatown our waitress tried to sell us a several hundred dollar "rock" lobster, which looked just like a B-movie alien and rather different from the red New England lobsters we're used to seeing. (We didn't buy it. )

And there were foods that are exactly the same as those in the US but are called something else, namely "Rice Bubbles" instead of "Rice Crispies." I tried to find out why this is (on the webby of course), but to no avail. Does "crispy" mean something dirty in Aussieland? Please do tell if you know.

Finally, the most disturbing food-related experience in our travels came at the Taronga Zoo, which sits on a big wooded hill across the harbour in North Sydney and provides extraordinary views. We saw giraffes and elephants and all manner of marsupials and birds and a killer leopard seal. We spent a big chunk of time watching the chimpanzees, who were (of course) so human-like. We saw one youngster pat the back of another as he passed, in a very "hey buddy, wassup" way, and we watched two females groom each other as a wee baby sat patiently between them, staring at the crowd. That baby was about the cutest thing I've ever seen.

And then we watch a grown-up dude (he looked like a guy) sit happily with his friends while munching on poo. Yeah, poo. His own poo? His mama's poo? What? It covered his mouth, but he didn't care. He had a stick of poo.

1 comment:

Katie said...

Loved the shout-out to Tim Hortons. Do you miss your Canadien Dunks or did you ever even go there? I hear they're beginning to trickle southward, with locations opening in Buffalo, NY etc.