Food find: Lula

While out and about doing our favourite thing on a Sunday (riding our bikes along the Ciclovia), hunger stopped me right in front of a cute little place I’d often admired but never stopped at. What captured my attention today was the sign out the front saying “Brunch 9 – 12”.

Brunch has long been a very special mealtime event for me. Seeing the English language word in a sea of Spanish made me nostalgic for the weekend brunches I would often have with friends and that I miss enormously. Brunch is a great opportunity to debrief from the previous night out, catch up with friends in a relaxed manner and of course to drink long and languorous coffees.

So I pulled the brake levers on my bike and told mi novio that we were going to have brunch. I think I also said, with a starry-eyed expression, that brunch is my favourite meal of the day and that before sampling any of the restaurant’s offerings I was already going to return with a colleague and also anyone else who comes to stay with us.

Lula is a bakery and coffeeshop with two dining areas, the front courtyard covered with an awning and with greenery all around, and the inside section with gorgeous wooden chairs with a vintage style oval pink and white fabric-covered back in one of those designs you usually see on fancy crockery.

We took the advice of the waiter, who upon asking if it was our first visit, suggested we start with the bread basket while we decided what to order. Out came a beautifully presented tray of assorted breads and croissants and four glass jars with wooden paddles stuck in the top. It looked divine. The smallest pot contained cubes of butter and the waiter explained the other three; a white chocolate and red berry cream, a peach, orange and almond marmalade, and a chunky chocolate and hazelnut spread. We set to work trying out everything from the fanciest bread basket I’ve ever seen. The chocolate and hazelnut spread was exactly like crushed up Ferrero Rochers. The white chocolate and red berry cream had that syrupy berry flavour mixed with the creaminess of the chocolate but my favourite was the runny marmalade which left the orange in the backseat and let the peach and almond flavours and textures dominate.

Our meals of baked eggs with bacon and asparagus and the Mexican styled fried eggs unfortunately didn’t live up to the high expectations the bread basket had set. My delicious and perfectly flavoured baked eggs could have been cooked a bit longer as the runny yolk only added to the thick creamy hollandaise soup they were served in, which was nigh on impossible to eat with a fork. Mi novio’s Mexican ranch style fried eggs lacked flavour and the presentation lacked flair.

As I think has only ever happened to me in Colombia, our lattes came out with the coffee topped with a dollop of froth in the cup, and the milk on the side in a teeny little jug for us to fill ourselves, and only reached three-quarters of the way up the cup.

Despite a few small disappointments with our meals and a sizeable bill for brunch, the bread basket trumped it all and we’ll definitely go back again; even if it’s just for the bread basket as that was the winner of the day.

LulaCalle 116 No. 15B-78, Bogota

Getting in a routine

So here I am, back in Bogotá studying Spanish at International House.

After I arrived in Colombia I discovered a couple of things about my ability to communicate in Spanish:

  1. I´m not really very good at speaking Spanish, but at least I can get my message across, mas o menos.
  2. I cannot for the life of me understand Colombians. They are supposed to have one of the clearest accents, but instead I find myself staring at them as though they´d just said something to me in Russian.
  3. I don´t like not being able to participate in a conversation.
  4. I HAVE to get better.

I do love speaking in Spanish. I love the novelty of being an Australian who can speak another language. I love being in Latin America.

Now that I´m in Bogotá for a couple of weeks, I´m taking this opportunity to get into a little routine, something I craved by the end of my roadtrip.

So I go to my classes in the morning, then at 1pm I go to a restaurant called Mele that has quickly become my favourite for the daily special and then either go to the after school activities or come back to the hostel to do my homework and study a little more on my own. I´m trying to avoid speaking English wherever possible, because that doesn´t help my fluency in Spanish.

I like that I´m the only foreigner at the restaurant amongst a sea of Colombian students and business people. I also like that today three of the staff of the restaurant recognised me and had a little chat with me. I want to be a regular!!

Dollar taco night at Malo

Monday night is dollar taco night at Malo, a funky restaurant on Sunset Boulevard.

Our first Monday night in LA was spent here, gorging on too many tacos and with my buddies imbibing much sangria. Tonight was my second visit, but Gin and J were back for a third time (three Mondays out of six is pretty good going) as it is a great place to take visiting friends.

With the tacos on special from $1 to $5 each it also makes for a great bargain. Especially when you only need three after making your way through the complimentary corn chips. Personally I prefer the hard tacos. The tortilla of the soft ones has a funny taste to it, nothing major, but they taste mass machine-made, which is unfortunately also how many of the tortillas come when in Mexico.

So tonight, with three tacos, a couple of cokes and a great night in a trendy restaurant, I came away having only spent $12 (including tip) and with a full stomach.

Catch of the Day: Atlantic salmon

The restaurant where I work doesn’t have specials. The only items subject to change on any given day are the house dips and the catch of the day.

The other day a repeat customer came in and asked after the catch of the day, the Atlantic salmon. He first asked if it was local, which was easy to answer given our inland location.

He then asked where it came from. Having been a member of Slow Food I understand the importance of food provenance and also eating regionally and seasonally. Now I’m not a fish or seafood expert by any means, but I told him that I assumed it would be Australian and most likely from Tasmania.

The next question was whether it was wild, and I responded that I thought it would be farmed. You see I’ve met people from Tasmania who are involved in aquaculture and fish farming. Plus on one holiday there, I saw the fish farms from a distance.

I offered to check with the chef, which the customer then asked me to do. Unfortunately I didn’t get a particularly forthcoming answer from the chefs. They said “Well where is the Atlantic?”. I pride myself on my geography, so I know that it is the ocean between the Americas and Europe and Africa.

So I went back to the customer, explained the geography lesson I’d received from the kitchen and he was appeased. It was as though he knew that all along and was testing me. I must say I felt a little foolish. But now I just feel foolish because my research shows that I was right in the first place.

Salmon was first introduced to Australia in the 1800s, with eggs arriving on sailing ships, for sport fishing, though it wasn’t particularly successful. Then in the 1960s, eggs from Canada were brought in to the Snowy River Mountain Hydroelectric Scheme lakes, however it was too warm for them to establish a colony.

Tasmania has been farming salmon, Atlantic salmon, since the mid 1980s. Though it may be an introduced species, just because its name is reminiscent of its origin doesn’t mean that’s where the only ones come from. It is not as specific to one region as Parma ham or Champagne.

So eat Atlantic salmon and know that it’s Australian, farmed and good for you.

I found my information about how Sammy the Atlantic Salmon found his way to Australia on these websites:

A secret new world

I’m moving to LA in February. All the way across the Pacific Ocean to the city, to another country.

But before getting to that point, I finished up my high flying, high paying marketing job and went to the Kimberley in remote north western Australia for a holiday and came home doing various bits and pieces to essentially bide my time.

One such random opportunity that presented itself was waitressing. I have never waitressed before. I somehow managed to get to my thirties without having worked at the hospitality coal-face. I have had plenty of experience on the other side of the plate but making the trips between kitchen and table was a whole other world. A whole other world of scary.

My foray into the world of carrying plates, taking orders and smiling sweetly to customers has come about because I want to overcome the fear I had, and I want to challenge myself.

The thing I notice most clearly are during those pre and post shift walks down the main restaurant strip to and from the restaurant. Here are all these others, people I’d never really noticed before, in their head to toe black uniforms. Suddenly I am catapaulted into a whole new world where flat shoes reign and aprons are standard attire. I am one of them, I am a waitress.

I don’t hold back the urge to smile and nod knowingly to these people in the street setting up or clearing away tables. These are the people who’ve seen it all. They’ve been run off their feet as they juggle plates, egos and customers. They scrape plates and set tables. And once they start a shift they don’t stop running.

So as I savour the time honoured hospitality tradition of a knock off drink, I feel like I’ve been initiated into a secret new world. Thank you for coming, I hope you enjoyed your evening.