Australia feels a little bit like our spunky southern cousin. Originally colonized by British prisoners, it is now a melting pot of cultures following waves of immigration from China, Italy, Greece, Central Europe, Vietnam, and the Middle East. Its vast geography encompasses several climates, which means Aussies enjoy a wide variety of indigenous produce, from papaya and mangoes in the north to berries, pears and peaches in the south (plus pretty much any veggie you can dream up). Eat Well Global correspondent and native dietitian Kay Gibbons, FDAA, touts the variety and quality of local crops as one of the most exciting aspects of Australian cuisine. Add fresh seafood from miles of coastline and a thriving grass-fed beef industry, and you have the makings of one tasty trip. We had Kay help us plan 24 delicious hours of eating well in Melbourne, the way an Aussie would do it. Feast on this:
A Hearty Start
Kay tells us that breakfast is an Australian specialty. And while we generally subscribe to the light and lean school of thought - sometimes, you just want to fill your belly with a big, delicious breakfast (it's satisfying just writing the words). So give yourself one day to splurge. You've got hours to walk it off, and a lot of city to see. Sit in quaint café The European, which overlooks the parliament building (161 Spring St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Tel: +61 3 9654 0811). Or, take the tram out to Albert Park Deli, located in a "heritage-listed" area (what we know as landmark status) lined with pretty Victorian homes (129 Dundas Pl, Albert Park VIC 3206, Tel: +61 3 9699 9594). You can go for the standard Aussie breakfast of eggs, bacon, spinach and tomato; or, try one of their rotating specials like sweet corn fritter with grilled bacon, smashed avocado, and tomato relish on sourdough (yum). After you've had your fill, it's just a 15 minute walk to Port Phillip Bay, where you can go for a stroll along the beach.
Another awesome feature to take advantage of in Melbourne is their bike share program (www.melbournebikeshare.com.au). This will look familiar to fellow New Yorkers - you pick up a bike in one location, rent it for a fixed amount of time, and return it at any bike share location in the city. It's the perfect way to burn off breakfast and see more of the sites. Pick up your bikes at Beach St Port, and head north towards Queen Victoria Market, your next destination for eating well (513 Elizabeth St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Tel: +61 3 9320 5822. Closed Mondays.). Since you had a substantial breakfast, it's a good day for a light lunch. Kay suggests enjoying some fruit, fresh baked bread, and local cheese for your mid-day meal. And remember, the growing seasons in Australia are reversed! So if you've come from the doldrums of winter produce in the states dreaming of summer's stone fruit, now is the time to load up on beautiful peaches and nectarines, as well as berries. Compliment the sweet spoils with a bit of cheese from the Yarra Valley, and bring your haul to neighboring Flagstaff Gardens to picnic outside.
Delicious Dinner, Pho Sho
Like the States, part of what defines Australian cuisine is its diversity owing to decades of immigration from all over the world. Do some globe-trotting at dinner by traveling east of the city to Richmond, a community that boasts both a large Vietnamese population and killer shopping. Leave a bit early to hit Bridge Road, the major shopping district which offers both outlet stores and boutiques featuring local designers (http://www.bridgerd.com.au/). The tram or a taxi will get you there. Then, set your sights on some Pho, a light Vietnamese staple that features rice noodles, fresh veggies, herbs, and thinly sliced beef in a flavorful broth. I Love Pho 264 delivers a tasty, straightforward version at an affordable price (264 Victoria St Richmond, VIC 3121, Tel: +61 03 9427 7749). If you're looking for more of a dining experience, Kay recommends heading a bit further out to Dandelion (133 Ormond Rd, Elwood VIC 3184, Tel: +61 3 9531 4900). In addition to traditional Pho, Dandelion also makes excellent use of fresh produce in lettuce wraps, rice paper rolls, and salads. They also offer a completely vegetarian chef's tasting menu designed in keeping with the Buddhist principles of ahimsa (non-violence). Ommmm....nom nom nom.