12 things i did in melbourne

Here are 12 things I did in Melbourne this year, sadly without taking photos (with the exception of a few posted on Instagram — see right nav link)

  1. Ate many acai bowls at Green Cup each dripping with house made creamy peanut  butter and oh, so yummy!  539 Chapel Street, South Yarra
  2. Happened into a charming pottery studio on Chapel Street that is home to three ceramicists during the week and open to the public on weekends to buy wares or for scheduled classes. Pot Dispensary, 425 Chapel Street, South Yarra
  3. Had the most relaxing facial at Little Company. The perfect way to re-hydrate after a 15+ hour flight. 79 Stephenson Street, Cremorne
  4. Took in 2 exhibitions (Commes des Garcons and Keith Haring & Jean-Michel Basquiat) and a few galleries at the NGV — one of my favorite museums for its interesting roster of shows. And a wonderful way to escape the heat and humidity that was oddly Melbourne in February.
  5. Gifted myself a few pieces of Bromley & Robert Gordon pottery from their new collaboration exclusive to Myer stores.
  6. Attended a lunchtime sitting of Lune Lab — 3 heavenly courses of croissanterie and all the fancy coffee and/or Mork hot chocolate you can drink.  Lune, 119 Rose Street, Fitzroy
  7. Picked up heat and eat meals at Meatsmith because why cook if the Andrew McConnell team can do it for you. 273 Smith Street, Fitzroy
  8. Bought more pottery at Made in Japan, direct importers of beautiful wares at affordable prices. 1-7 Wynyard St, South Melbourne
  9. Ate Indian street food at Delhi Streets. All I can say is eat some Pani Puri. 22 Katherine Place, CBD
  10. Made my second visit in a second city to the Rain Room interactive exhibit. Held over through March 2020 in St. Kilda
  11. After the rain, ate beautifully crafted cakes at the Black Star Pasty Pop-Up right next door.
  12. Watched the ABC TV special on rescuing koala bears after the devastating fires. Koalas are precious. People are heroes. I cried.

Another great trip to my favorite city. You can now make your way there for as little as US$675 round trip from Los Angeles through November 2020 on nearly any airline. Do yourself a favor and go. Do Australia a favor and visit some fire ravaged areas where your dollars are needed.

past present, future perfect

Once upon a time, I owned a small little clothing shop in Los Angeles. And in that shop i carried a line of clothing created by two graphic designers from San Francisco, MM Sherman Wong Workwear. They made the most amazing unisex jeans — wide leg, light weight, slouchy — and other unisex white button down tops, jackets and sweaters. It was a staple line of my shop, my wardrobe and still influences my life today as one of their graphic mailers sits framed in my house as my favorite piece of art.

Not at all related but nearly the same in styling (uncannily so), Eileen Fisher has just launched a unisex capsule collection exclusive to Nordstrom that is the very essence of what MMSW Workwear was, only eco-conscious and updated just enough to make it relevant for today’s fashion. It’s fabulous. Selling out quickly. So don’t wait!  Only through Feb 9, 2020 in store and online.

bon appetit!

Without hesitating, nearly a year in advance, I signed up for an ACE CAMPS learning vacation that promised a week in Provence, staying in Julia Child’s home, cooking recipes inspired by the famous cookbook author and potentially hitting up some of her well traveled haunts as we explored the region. As I’d never been to the South of France before and am a huge Julia Child fan, I was all in.

If you haven’t heard of ACE CAMPS travel, it is a company out of Canada that offers small group, mostly educational vacations to interesting spots all over the globe. Their offerings are highly fascinating, unusual, centered around one theme or activity and a great way to travel alone but not be alone, with a friend or even to book out the entire trip as a family affair  — as one family did for a second week at Julia’s house, and i thought what a great idea!

ACE trips are small group tours — we were five women and a chef/guide, the maximum that could fit in Julia’s house with shared accommodations. The itinerary was a good balance between far reaching tourist activities and cooking. After the first day of traveling around by car, it became clear that this trip had been planned by somebody back in Canada who wasn’t terribly familiar with the logistics of the local surroundings. The good news was, we discussed it over dinner that evening and after one phone call back to the main office, the group quickly agreed to change things up a bit picking out items from the original itinerary that seemed do-able, mixed with suggestions from our own research on the area. Everything we added to the itinerary was cost covered by the things we removed, the wine & food flowed throughout and all ‘n all, we had a great time — I think made easier by the fact these trips attract like-minded creative types. The head office just wanted us to be happy (this was a first time itinerary so learnings to be had) and our guide was endlessly amenable. She cooked amazing breakfasts each morning, cleaned up afterwards, planned and taught hands-on cooking classes every other day resulting in fabulous dinners, drove us around everywhere (not an easy feat if you’ve ever driven in the South of France) and handled all the details. Although on the costly side, I wouldn’t hesitate to take another of these vacations — indigo dying in Japan anyone?

So let’s talk Provence  — Round-abouts abound and people drive like maniacs. I don’t know how people found their way around before GPS (even with it, we got lost more often than I care to admit), not to mention everything is hidden and if you don’t know about something, you’re unlikely to just stumble across it. Made me glad, I was traveling in a group, actually, and that we had the internet and GPS to help us find some good stuff.

Julia Child’s Home — Known as La Pitchoune, Julia vacationed here with her husband Paul and amazing a-list of guests rolling in and out on a regular basis. The 1500 square foot, 3 bedroom, quintessentially French cottage was built on the property of their friend and fellow cookbook author, Simone Beck. The Child’s visited often over a 20 year period up until the time of Paul’s convalescence in the 80’s. A few years ago, the property was purchased by a Smith College alum (where Julia attended) who turned it into a vacation rental and even runs her own cooking school out of the house — not associated with ACE CAMP.

Julia’s kitchen remains exactly as it was with all the original cooking instruments lining the pegboard walls, while the rest of the place was lovingly updated at some point along the way. On the coffee table is a little black binder with Paul’s sketched house plans that show the slight differences from then ’til now, detailed instructions on how to work everything in the house, and lists of where to go in the area to purchase just about anything complete with Julia’s opinions and notes on each, circa 1970. Adorning the mantle is a photo of her and Paul who have to be the cutest couple in the history of love.

Best Home Decor Shop — With designers amongst us, we were constantly on the hunt for great shopping. And I think we found what may be my favorite shop of all time in the little town of Mougins. Called Envers Du Decor, it’s a mother daughter affair with the most beautiful country French style furnishings & accessories you have ever seen. We all purchased something and one interior designer even arranged to ship a host of objects back to her studio in Chicago. I would go back just to shop here, if nothing else.

Eat the Socca — a local street food found at markets throughout the region made from chickpea flour and water, cooked on a flat griddle and dusted with sea salt. It is supremely simple and delicious!  We found the best at the market in Valbonne (located just at the base of the stairs on the way up to the parking lot). It’s surprising that something as good as this hasn’t taken off in other parts of the world as a healthy treat — which just goes to show, you’ve got to travel to find the good stuff.

One Michelin Star — there are probably many Michelin starred restaurants in the area but one great original itinerary item I was thankful for, was dinner at Restaurant Lou Cigalon (an old-time restaurant recently taken over by a new chef). Just one year in and already star-adorned at the time we dined, the restaurant has just a handful of tables in a charming stone building along the main road in Valbonne. We dined in private and had a tour of the kitchen afterwards — up a narrow and winding staircase, clean as clean can be, no freezer, only a tiny refrigerator and a single chef for the evening. The food was amazing as were the local wines.

Art & Architecture — located just outside the fortified and uber-touristy village of Saint Paul de Vance is Foundation du Maeght. A visit here was our addition to the itinerary and the highlight of the trip from a culture perspective. A mid-century, architecture dream come true with a sculpture garden by Miro, modern artworks and views to die for stretching all the way to the sea. This is a true treasure not to be missed!

Wine Tasting — We had two completely different wine tasting experiences complements of ACE CAMP planning. One, a tiny little family run vineyard producing a few thousand bottles a year complete with hand drawn labels by one of the brothers. High up in the St. Jeannet hills, Vignoble Rasse is a chance to taste wines made from the ancient technique of sun aging. The six of us sat around the matriarch of this family run operation, trying one wine after another with healthy pours, while listening to stories about each vintage all while overlooking the hills of vines as far as the eye could see.

Our second experience was a large scale winery that by contrast produces millions of bottles a year, Chateau de Berne in Lorgues — a commercial winery with a Chalet & Relais hotel & spa, a restaurant, a mammoth gift shop and regular tours & festivals on the property to keep the tourists coming throughout the year. But to our surprise, we received a great tutorial on how to taste wines, what notes were what and the signature rosé wines weren’t half bad. Their bottles, a patented square design, are beautiful and I may have one that I now use as a water bottle with a little glass stopper, since polishing off the original contents.

Vacherin Mont d’Or — cheese glorious cheese! This buttery and oh so velvety cheese is only in season a few months of the year starting in November. Actually Swiss by origin, our guide made sure we were well stocked in the house at all times. I think we went through at least 4 of the small rounds in their little spruce boxes (and I may have polished off another on my own in London the following week). If you’re lucky, Murray’s cheese shop in NYC may have some available if in season but it will cost you.

holiday gift guide — vermont edition 2019

Last Christmas, everybody on my list got a bottle of pure Vermont maple syrup. But Vermont has lot’s of locally made goods worthy of gift-giving. Here are my top picks for the 2019 holiday season.

Clockwise from upper left:  Simon Pearce Burlington Moss Glen serving bowl. 10.5 inches. $125   |   17″ Solid Oak French Paddle by Vermont Farm Table  $115      Hand made French Ticking Half Apron by Red House Vermont  $98     A Vermont twist on the classic s’more  — Shelburne Farms S’mores gift basket contains their 2-year waxed cheddar, local liquid honey and locally produced salted maple crackers. No fire required.   $33      Stacked Shape Butter Dish with antique wooden handle, hand made by Sugar House Ceramic Company   $58   |    Waxed Canvas Weekender Bag in true black. Also available in red, brown, green and grey by Red house Vermont  $268     Jam made with all local fruits and honey (instead of cane sugar) in the cutest little 2 oz jars so you can try lots of flavors.  $6.99 each at V. Smiley Preserves

 

sale of the century

I know summer is on the way (although you wouldn’t know it here in LA). But despite the fact you won’t wear these clothes for months to come — take advantage of the winter clothing sale at what is undoubtedly the best new fashion brand to come along in ages: ROUCHA.

I am head over heals in love with these clothes.The styling is right up my alley — slightly masculine but with feminine flair. Ultimately mix and matchable in black, navy, brown, grey and the occasional pop of color –  just what we all wear anyway. These are pieces made to be worn every day and work with sneakers or heels, whichever you fancy. I’m of the former variety myself.

The quality is gorgeous. The fit slightly oversized. The look sophisticated casual. And right now nearly everything is on sale up to 50% off.  If they weren’t sold out of a lot of styles in my size, I’d seriously own one of everything right now. I have an entire closet of winter coats from my East Coast days that never get worn here in California. But i am seriously tempted to buy another, knowing that a European trip is in my future late fall. At these prices, how can a girl resist?

This brand came to me in my Instagram feed. And boy am I happy about that. It a brand with serious pedigree and serious chops. Clothes that will last a lifetime and never go out of style. Even at full price … worth every penny!

Sale ends June 3, 2018

 

new & notable in melbourne

Just a quick stay in Melbourne this trip, I didn’t have time for a whole lot of new but made a point of getting to some of the places I’ve been dying to get to for awhile. Melbourne never disappoints!

NEW

The Hub General Store:  Down a back street in Collingwood there’s a charming little brick building that houses a million and one basic treasures from around the world. Need a scrub brush? A bar of soap? A bunch of clothespins? How about a loaf of freshly baked bread and a jar of local creamed honey? Or maple syrup from America? A children’s book or miniature stuffed animal? A notebook and a pen or pencil perhpas?  You get the gist.

Piled high and a bit of a treasure hunt, the every day is elevated to the sublime. And before you get to those everyday treasures, there’s a small gallery in front where invited artists treat visitors with a different sort of sensory experience. When I was there the gallery was overstuffed with big, round, white balloons — a stark contrast to the slowly deflating black balloons creeping up and around the exterior facade. Simple objects raised to the level of art.

36 Cambridge Street, Collingwood

Higher Ground:  The new CBD restaurant brought to you by the same folks that own Kettle Black. It’s another beautiful space with unique all day dining. Located in an old power station just across the way from the Southern Cross station, it has soaring ceilings and various seating arrangements from traditional tables, to common tables and cozy lounge areas across multiple floors. Look for their signature beautiful brunch dishes like this polenta porridge offering

and some unusual and interesting fare. Expect a wait even on a weekday. But worth it.

650 Little Burke Street, CBD

NOTABLE

Lune Croissanterie:  Not new but certainly notable, Lune might just be a national treasure if that can be said of a bakery in Australia that specializes in signature French pastries. Proclaimed as being the best croissants in the world by The New York Times no less, the lines can snake out the door and around the block to purchase croissants that can cost upwards of $12+ each. Open from 7:30 AM until sold out most days, get there early, stand in line and make sure whatever concoction of a croissant you indulge in, your box of goodies (yes, you will purchase many because each looks better than the next) includes at least one classic ham & gruyere — it’s buttery, crunchy, salty and cheesy goodness not to be missed.

119 Rose Street, Fitzroy

Meatsmith:  This absolutely fabulous (and beautiful) butchery is from my favorite local chef, Andrew McConnell, where you can get the best cuts of meat from local farmers, Australian wines, spectacular condiments in simple glass jars (they make great gifts!) and other specialty grocery items. But I am here to tell you about the house made lasagna.

If you need a heat and serve meal, this one is sublime. Ready in just 30 minutes, it’s rich, meaty, creamy, tasty and the perfect accompaniment to a bottle of red — or maybe that’s the other way around. At any rate, it will only set you back $22 and serves 2-3. My recommendation — leave it in the oven a bit longer to crisp the top to a crunchy charred finish. (My little heat and serve disaster actually turned out to make it that much better!)

273 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Bobbie Burns Shiraz:  No it’s not a place in Melbourne. But If you’re looking for a nice bottle of wine to pair with your lasagna, consider this 2013 vintage from Victorian winery Campbells

I am not a wine connoisseur but I do know what I like. I found this smooth and easy to drink. I liked it so much I came home and bought 6 bottles here in America. And don’t be fooled by the twist top bottle — it’s an Aussie thing.

 

for your shopping pleasure

These days when you have to supply your own shopping bag at the market, why not make it beautiful and functional? Tyvek and leather 3D shopping bag by Milk Designs comes in two sizes and two colors.  $29.50

object of desire

Worth every bit of the $80 price tag. Gorgeous and functional. Which color will you buy? By SimpleHuman

All photos by SimpleHuman