Sydney Eats: The Grounds of Alexandria

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The City2Surf has become a bit of a tradition for my family – once a year, we all go to Sydney, run a casual 14km on a Sunday morning and spend the rest of the weekend eating and enjoying the warmer Sydney weather.

This year, on our way out of Sydney, we stopped in at one of my favourite places in Sydney – The Grounds of Alexandria. I’ve written about The Grounds before (see here), but I’ve only ever been on a Sunday when they have their gorgeous market stalls out in the courtyard. On the weekends people are absolutely everywhere and the wait for a table at the cafe is hours long.

While their market stalls are full of delicious goodies, I was keen to try the cafe this time. For a Monday morning the place was surprisingly busy, but after a short wait for a table, we were seated inside and treated to a killer brunch.

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The photos pretty much speak for themselves – good coffee, chilled vibes and delicious everything else. I had the berry hotcake with vanilla marscapone and it was all kinds of light and fluffy. Everyone else enjoyed their meals too – the baked eggs were cooked to runny perfection and Steve was impressed that his breakfast burger came with a side of chunky polenta chips.

Their attention to detail is one of the best things about this place and they are killing it on all fronts  – everything looks good, tastes delicious and always delivered with a smile.

I definitely recommend a visit, even if it’s just for a wander through their gardens and courtyard. They have a gorgeous florist on site and if you’re into cute farm animals, you can’t leave without saying a quick hello to Kevin Bacon, the Grounds’ resident piggy.

The Grounds of Alexandria is located at Building 7A, 2 Huntley Street in Alexandria. If you’re into a little bit of food envy, they also have the most drool worthy instagram feed.

– Bec x

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Canberra Cafe: Barrio Collective Coffee, Braddon

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon a few weeks back when I got to spend some quality time with my favourite Cuzzillo men.

It had been a while since we’d spent an afternoon just the three of us – Dad, Steven and I, that is. Given such a rare opportunity, we decided to try the newest cafe to hit Lonsdale Street in Braddon, Barrio Collective Coffee.

This cute little spot opened only a few months back and has quickly become my go-to for good coffee in this trendsetting area. It’s a tiny little hole-in-the-wall cafe with communal bench seating for all, good vibes a-plenty and the best cafe interior I’ve seen in a long time – those white wall tiles are seriously instagram worthy.

Good interior design aside, coffee is Barrio’s main game. I went for a brewed coffee, while the boys ordered a couple of flat whites. With no soy on the menu, Steven gave their house-made nut milk a go and loved it. My coffee was equally as delicious and I even grabbed a bag to take home with me.

Barrio’s lunch menu is on point too, with food that is simple but impressive. I had the avocado on rye with togorashi seasoning and it was delicious. Togorashi is now my new favourite thing – it’s a Japanese seasoning and if you know where I can find some, please do tell.

Dad and Steve were big fans of the food too. Dad ordered the marinated eggplant sandwich with piquillo peppers, goats cheese, pine nuts and bean sprouts, while Steven had the special of the day, a decadent toastie with fried mortadella and cheese. They were in Italian sandwich heaven.

We finished off with another round of drinks and some Italian pastries to share. Dad had a second coffee and I almost joined him, but instead got a chai while Steve tried the house-made lemon and rosemary soda. On all counts, it was the perfect end to our long lazy lunch.

For a tiny little cafe that specialises in coffee, Barrio does everything well. While it’s a given that their coffee should be good, it’s the other details that really make Barrio special. You can tell that a lot of time, thought and love has gone into this place and what they offer.

While coffee is what keeps the place buzzing, Barrio’s food menu is delicious and interesting, and their non-coffee drink options are also worth taking the time. If you’re not in the mood for coffee, I recommend a big mug of their chai with a cheeky doughnut on the side – a particularly good combo for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Barrio is open from 7am, every day of the week. Find them at the ORI Building on Lonsdale Street in Braddon, as well as on facebook and instagram.

– Bec x

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Head & Heart: July 2015

July was a truly killer month. I marked four years as a vegetarian, took some time off work for a little staycation and spent some quality time visiting my nonna and extended family in country NSW.

In other life news (probably the biggest ever), I also became the proud new owner of a rather large debt. Yes, finally, after 18 months, the wrong coloured kitchen and one failed attempt at settlement, I’ve moved out of home and into my own little apartment with Matt. It’s amazing, busy and terrifying all at the same time.

So now we’ve arrived at August and I’m back with another ritual Head & Heart post. It’s “a monthly capture of my feelings and doings, in the raw”, originally created by Helen of Lime Tree Bower. You can join in too, if you want. It’s a good little exercise to close out a month and look forward to the next.

Grateful… for secret family recipes and time spent making biscotti with nonna.

Thinking… that I probably should have trained more for the City2Surf this weekend. I’ll let you know how that goes down when I get to the end of 14km on Sunday morning.

Excited… to be finally in our new little apartment. It might not be very big and there’s still a lot to do, but it’s ours.

Doing… a lot of packing and unpacking, cleaning and culling, and rediscovering some of my favourite things that I had packed away. Moving has been a lot like Christmas, except more work.

Learning… how to use a cordless drill. Hooray for flat pack furniture and little DIY projects!

Eating… off chopping boards and borrowed plates. Crockery is next on the shopping list.

Counting… down the days until springtime. It’s 26 sleeps, in case you were wondering.

I’ve also shared a few little pics from the month just gone. I hope that July treated you well too!

– Bec x

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Travel Lessons From A 17 Year Old Me

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Porto, Portugal

There are few things in life that throw you more life lessons than travelling solo.

I was 17 when I first set off for what I thought would be 10 months kickin’ back in Europe. And, despite a few hiccups along the way – including a small bus crash on a highway going from Turkey to Bulgaria and my first night in Copenhagen when I had my wallet and camera stolen – I had an amazing time.

In the end, I came home after 8 months when I ran out of money (thanks to a very expensive 6 day cruise in the Arctic circle). And while there are some things I would never do a second time, like a 46 day camping Contiki tour for instance, I don’t think I’d change a thing about those 8 months in Europe. I worked a little, touristed a fair amount and learnt a lot about life, the world and, probably more so, myself.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

I also learnt a thing or two about travel. If I had 8 months to kill hanging out on another continent again, there are a few things I would do differently. Here are just three:

1. Pack small

When I was 17, how little I knew about packing.

I have vivid memories of dragging 20+ kilos of luggage across London – down the street, on the tube, changing trains, up a staircase and down another street. It was hell, but by that time it was towards the end of my 8 months, I was running out of money and there was no way I was spending the kind of dough you need to take a taxi across London.

Well, it’s safe to say that I’ve learnt my lesson – packing small is now a top priority. All it takes is a little planning. And for me, it means only taking items that I a) actually need, b) are appropriate (weather wise and culturally), and c) that I genuinely like to wear. 

As a general rule, I try to take no more than 10-12 kgs, no matter how long the trip. I spent 4 months in Fiji a couple years ago and got away with a mere 13 kgs. Kicking all those packing goals!

Ireland

Ireland

2. Take your time

Did I mention that I did a Contiki tour?

In true Contiki style, we smashed out something like 26 countries in 46 days – it was insane. And while we could set up and take down a tent in record time by the end of it, we came away with only a taste of what Europe has to offer.

Now let’s be serious. As a fresh-faced 18 year old (I’d had my birthday by then), I loved that tour. It was perfect for me at the time, but that doesn’t mean that I would do it again now.

It’s not all bad news though. Thanks to that tour, I now have a list as long as my arm of places I want to revisit and spend some quality time getting to know. A few years on, my travel mantra is all about spending more time in less places, whether it’s a couple of weeks or a few months. Now the only difficult part is deciding where to go first.

Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain

3. Find good coffee

To be honest I don’t remember coffee being on my radar at all when I was in Europe. Oh, how things have changed!

Apparently my caffeine addiction has taken on a life of it’s own and now good coffee is one of the first things on my to-research list. By proxy, this often means also finding the cutest cafes serving up good food and chill vibes. If you follow me on instagram, this won’t come as a surprise and you’ll already know that cute cafes are my absolute fave.

Speaking of insta, these days it is definitely my go-to medium for kicking off research about a new place. In my opinion, if the coffee is worth grammin’, it’s probably worth drinking. Some destinations make for a harder task than others, but if you’re anything like me, it’s definitely worth taking the time to try and find a decent coffee.

To sign off I’ve pulled a couple of happy snaps out of the archives just for you. And I’m keen to know – what are your top travel tips or favourite destinations for good coffee?

– Bec x

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Norway

Note: This post was written for Virgin Australia’s ProBlogger competition. Are there any bloggers out there going to ProBlogger this year?

Canberra Cafe: Fox and Bow, Farrer

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I’ve been looking forward to this edition of our Canberra cafe series for a while now. Fox and Bow is one of my favourite cafes in Canberra and I’ve been hanging out to tell you all about it.

There is something about this little cafe in Farrer that just feels right. The atmosphere is cosy, the staff are friendly and the good vibes, always free-flowing. They have a killer menu too, with cheeky names for all their dishes.

When Bec, Matt and I ventured out there last weekend, we grabbed a table inside and got some coffees and the last strawberry cronut to start. For those not in the know, cronuts are a magic combo of croissant and doughnut, which taste as good as they sound and are a great way to warm up the tastebuds before a big feast.

It was lunch time and I ordered the “Old Mate”, a delicious ricotta gnocchi with braised lamb, peas, mushrooms, gravy and parmesan. Being Italian, it shouldn’t surprise you that gnocchi is one of my all time favourite meals and, while my nonna’s recipe will always reign supreme, I did enjoy Fox & Bow’s take on the dish. It was definitely a great meal for a cold winter’s day and, as a long time gnocchi enthusiast, I would highly recommend it.

Bec had breakfast for lunch, ordering the “Hot Toasty Nuts”, a warm chia and chai spiced porridge topped with coconut, banana, strawberries and nuts. Matt went for the “Roadrunner”, a down-to-earth chicken burger with spicy jalapeños, Swiss cheese, slaw and guacamole. It was an all-round delicious meal for everyone involved.

We also got a few of their fancy drinks to wash it all down. I tried one of the new shakes, cheekily named “The Kimye”. It’s a delicious mix of white chocolate, caramel fudge and enough glitter sprinkles to give Kimmy K a run for her money. With flavours as punchy as Kanye’s lyrics and the visual aesthetic of Kimmy’s bottom, this is a shake that lives up to it’s name.

As for the others, they went for the healthy option and got a juice each. Matt got “The Buzz Lightyear”, a green juice that, thanks to a little tabasco, will well and truly take you to infinity and beyond. While Bec had the “El Macho”, a delicious but unusual pineapple juice with coconut and nopal cactus – it definitely seemed to make her a very happy señorita.

If you’re feeling foxy and a little peckish, then get amongst it at Fox and Bow. Located at the Farrer shops, they can also be found on facebook and instagram.

– Steven

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Note: Fox and Bow were very generous and gave us the coffees, cronut and one of the meals on the house. As always, all opinions are honest – and I can honestly say, we love this place!