Chilis (chillis) down under

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It’s the dead middle of winter here, so naturally we’ve been turning to stews, soups, and spicier fare.  My usual repertoire of warming recipes is getting a full rotation, but I find that I’m having to reduce the amount of chili powder (or chilli, as it’s spelled here) or else risk ending up with a dish spicy enough for us to breathe fire.  We recently almost had to toss out a batch of an old favorite because it bordered on inedible.  (We ended up diluting it so as not to waste… and now our freezer is stocked for what might be months.)

We haven’t been able to figure it out… Chili powder for the Australian market generally seems to be at a more potent level.  Any insight, dear reader?  Do tell.

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Scott’s MoTW – The Exam

The Exam

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Info – Suspense/Drama (not horror), 101 min, 63% on rottentomatoes.com

Why? – Do you tire of seeing the same 10 actors and actresses working a variation of 5 scripts? ME TOO! For better or worse (and I think it’s for the better), The Exam is a fresh idea with fresh faces. The movie provides a slow burn of anxiety as you gradually learn the purpose of said exam. The purpose and method of passing drive the movie to it’s climax, and I wasn’t the slightest bit disappointed by the finale. It has a diverse cast and diverse characters with naturally opposed personalities. However simple the premise, the journey to the film’s conclusion is as chemically imbalanced as some of the characters.

The film has it’s flaws, and there’s a lack of polish on the production that I can’t put my finger on… it just felt a bit cheap. And if you don’t know the meaning already, perhaps spend 20 seconds looking up the word “invigilator” quickly before hitting play.

How? – If you want a physical copy, it’s going to cost you – $8+ used, or $16 new via Amazon, it’s abnormally pricing, but it’s also an abnormal title. Digital rental is probably the way to go, at $2.99 from Google Play. Or, if you take my word as gospel and just want to buy it, plan on spending $10/$13 for the standard or HD versions.

Long black, please

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This city is serious about its coffee!  Everyone has an opinion on their preferred drink, cafe, roaster…  I keep things simple and am always after a long black (espresso poured into a bit of hot water).  Here are a few of my favourite spots for a cuppa.

Redfern Continental

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The new-ish neighbourhood spot is heavy on German homestyle food, in addition to freshly baked pastries from friends of the owners, who are often seen on Saturday mornings mingling with customers as they transfer their goodies from Tupperware to display stands on the counter.  RC is sister to Arcadia Liquors, a little bar equally loved by us (more on that in another post).  The overall vibe is friendly, easy, warm, and welcoming.  And they make perfect long blanks.  Seriously.  Rich, roasted velvet in a cup.  I am rarely impressed enough to order a second coffee in one sitting, but I’m tempted every time I’m at Redfern Continental.

Three Williams

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There are some big names behind 3W: the owner is formerly of The Grounds of Alexandria (another brunch hot spot) and the chef spent time at Aria ( an upper-crust fine dining restaurant at Circular Quay).  The food is spectacular.  Their french toast is probably the only way I enjoy brioche.  But that aside, their long black is smooth and strong, just as it should be.

Gumption

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Gumption, in accordance with its name, is itty bitty but packs a big punch – standing room only inside their shop itself, although they have a good amount of seating in the pedestrian corridor right outside their doors.  They’re wedged in The Strand shopping centre, and I’ve never seen it without a line out the door.  Associated with Coffee Alchemy, Gumption serves a long black that’s considerably lighter, fruitier, and acidic.  Refreshing, if that word can be applied to hot coffee.  It’s not always what I’m in the mood for, but really hits the spot when I’m after something a little different.

Porch & Parlour

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A block up from famed Bondi Beach, this rustic spot is the only other place where I’ve ordered multiple long blacks in one sitting.  I was buzzing for the rest of the day, but I couldn’t help myself.  They use Will & Co. coffee, and it is creamy, toasty goodness.  Bonus points for having a magical (MAGICAL) kale-spinach-herb-egg-avo breakfast bowl. They’re currently closed for renovation and I’m counting the days until their doors reopen.

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Scott’s MoTW – The Princess Bride

(Quickly – As a new feature this will NOT be a review process of newly released films. It will be a mix of new and old, popular and “lightly enjoyed.” The only common thread is that I enjoy and suggest all of them.)

The Princess Bride

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Why? – “It’s a classic.” Can’t tell you how many times I heard this exact comment. Well, it wasn’t a classic to me. It was a movie people clamored about yet never spoke in any depth about. “You haven’t seen it?!?!?!” was often the first audible comment, once their aneurism subsided. If you haven’t seen it, ask someone to explain it. Inevitably they quote “my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.” Not terribly descriptive, but always enthusiastically recited. You might be asking, “Scott, why not just see the damn movie?” The answer is: I’m adamantly opposed to reading books, seeing movies or indulging in popular culture simply because it’s popular. For that reason I’ve yet to see/read a single Harry Potter film/book (yes, I have many faults)… Yet for all my humbugery I finally took the plunge on this one, and I’m glad I did. Some of the dialogue, names, places and more of the movie are ridiculous, but they fit the mold of the film. The portions perceived as ridiculous are intentional, and work well as a fairy tale/fantasy much the way that Neverending Story was good because it was intended to be seen through an imaginative child’s eyes. It’s filled with adventure, comedic breaks, and content for children and adults. So bring your imagination and a large bowl of popcorn, because you’re in for a ride.

How? – For free? Netflix. You can own a physical copy for $4.75 via Amazon (or $9 for Blu-Ray, although that seems excessive).  Want to step into the 21st century?  Grab it for a bit more on Google Play for $9.95, or $12.95 for the HD version.

Love the movie already? Want to take it one step further? Follow this link to buy an incredible Etsy mug displaying your love of this 80’s masterpiece.

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Photos from eastern Siberia by Damien Milan

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We did something a little different this week.  On Wednesday night, we  went to check out the opening of Landscapes from Within, a photography exhibit by Damien Milan.

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The photos were shot on Olkhon Island in eastern Siberia, a place where the small local community of about 1,500 people still practice shamanism and regards the island to be a significant spiritual place.  The landscapes were remote, expansive, and I found myself taking deep relaxing breaths.  Perhaps the spirit of the place was carried through the photographs.

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Damien took these shots while on a 50 day journey across the Trans-Siberian railway!  What an adventure!  To say that my wanderlust went off the Richter is putting it mildly.

Aren’t they beautiful?  For more, visit Damien Milan’s website.

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Memory Soundtrack

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When I hear Fuel’s “Shimmer” I’m immediately transported to my small cab Ford Ranger in the La Costa Canyon HS parking lot.  For some reason it’s night time, but I’m there, in the cab driving home.  For Beck’s album “Guero” Rema and I are driving on the I-80 from Tahoe to Reno so we can get a space heater (and people watch) at Wal-Mart, perhaps the last time we shopped in one.  Filter’s “Take A Picture” brings me to a bathroom stall in Thousand Oaks, listening to a walkman, trying block out all but a single instrument in the song to sharpen focus before a tournament for USC.  Three notes from Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose and I can smell the football field from my freshman year… I can feel the excitement of the first day, and the disappointment of the day I pulled my groin and couldn’t kick for the team.  Silversun Pickups, Everclear, Linkin Park, Dave Matthews Band… a few notes, a relatively unoccupied mind, and I’m instantly taken somewhere.

This is but a small sampling of the songs tied forever in my mind to events, or periods of time in my life.  Until recently I had never paid attention to the association as it was building.  For some reason it just wasn’t interesting, or had simply never occurred to me that the music we listen to becomes cemented as part our memories.

So far, I’m happy to report that my acknowledgement of this association hasn’t seemed to have changed my song selections.  For some strange reason it does add to my enjoyment of the music I decide to entangle with my life.  There’s a comfort in knowing that, until my body or mind fail, I can get back to this very moment… or at least to one close to it.  I know that listening to Beck’s recent album “Morning Phase” will bring me to our early days of Australia.  I’ll be transported to the weather, people, food, unemployment (it’s not all positive association!), struggles and successes of this period.

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Cinco de Homesick

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I don’t get homesick easily, and I’m a pro at taking twists on celebrations in stride.  Smoked salmon plate at Thanksgiving.  Red envelope ‘lucky money’ ceremony at New Years.  Pickled herring and pumpernickel instead of a sweet pastry at a birthday party.   Hot dogs a week after July 4 because that’s when we finally found a store selling the right kind of yellow mustard.  These things don’t faze me.  In fact, I kind of relish these weird cross-cultural experiences.

But I got a little homesick yesterday.  It was Cinco de Mayo: the holiday that’s an Americanized excuse to hang out and consume tequila, beer, and gobs of Mexican food.

We went out of our way last night to have black beans, corn, lots of cilantro, lime, Coronas, margaritas, and corn chips.  Things were almost perfect, aside from the slightly stale Mission tortilla chips – the only kind we can easily find – perhaps from the long trip to this continent?  It cost us a small fortune ($49 for a 24 pack?!  $3 for a can of black beans?!)  but we ate, drank, talked about how we would have spent the evening if we were in America…  and suddenly really, really missed San Diego.  It completely snuck up on us out of nowhere.

We haven’t yet found any decent salsa here, nor can we find the chilis that we’d need to replicate them in our kitchen.  There aren’t any tamales sold by sweet abuelitas or carnitas tacos threw together just so with perfected technique by guys who call you mija.  Our family and friends aren’t here to laugh with over way too much cheese and endless chips.

So, we were homesick yesterday.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Mexican food and drink will be so much more appreciated the next time we’re back in California.  Rico’s, Juanita’s, Roberto’s, Neto’s, La Takiza:  Wait for us!

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