Sex and the City: Dated, or does it still have something to teach us about dating? 29 lessons from SATC

Sex and the City (SATC) turned 20 last month. Yes, I’m late to celebrate the party because,  life (and the city). But I wanted to acknowledge the milestone with a blog post, as it’s been one of my favourite TV shows over the years and I feel compelled to share some pearls of wisdom from those SATC ladies… 20 years and 2 months later.

A Google search on “lessons from Sex and the City” delivers a whole host of content, both negative and positive over what was, in the late 90s, a ground-breaking show.

Has SATC aged badly?

An anonymous writer for USA Today, in a piece titled 20 years later, ‘Sex and the City’ has aged badly (June 5), says that the show’s sensibility has become “irksome” in view of today’s cultural zeitgeist, and that some episodes now seem homophobic or racist.

“I ate up their romantic and sexual exploits and I listened to Carrie’s’ voiceover with reverence. But two decades after it premiered, I’m not so sure I believe everything the ladies who brunch had to say”.

A 40-something male friend of mine, Raj, agrees it has aged, but thinks the show deserves credit for capturing many of the types of experiences people – especially women – still face on the dating scene. “It’s not as ‘real’ as say, Girls, but there was no way a show like that would’ve been shown at the time (late 90s/early 00s)” he says.

I agree that it’s dated in some ways, but I find repeat viewing still serves up the laughs and some truths about dating 20 years later. And people must still watch it because it was on free-to-air TV last night – for three hours!

SATC was heralded as a controversial new show when it launched,  because it portrayed women going for what they want just because they want it, and not having that pursuit be part of the marriage agenda. It portrayed women “having sex like a man”, and talking about – shock – actual sex acts.

Far too outrageous

Before I even saw an episode, I remember thinking that it sounded like it was just not for me and would be far too outrageous. I felt challenged by the concept of it. But then I watched it and loved it. It wasn’t really so much about sex at all, but about friendship, questioning accepted social mores and daring to be true to yourself.

It also served up eye candy every week in the form of the cutting-edge outfits by Patricia Field, aesthetically-pleasing apartments and New York locations.  Another friend, Giselle, still loves the show for all of the above and takes from it the idea that, “You don’t need a man to have a good life, but the right man can bring you lots of happiness.”   

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No eye candy here. Absolutely nothing to see.

Who was I at the turn of the millennium?

When Sex and the City was in its hey day, I was in my late 20s and working in publishing. A couple of  years into the show’s run, I felt hemmed in by one particular boyfriend. I was just not that into him. But at least I didn’t dump him by Post-it note. I broke the news in person, in a shop doorway in Newtown one Friday night. Or maybe it was at Town Hall Station. Whatever Sydney situation it was , it was Breaking up and the City.

I wanted to be free and single,”…like the Sex and the City girls” I told people. I’d delayed “break-up talks” because I didn’t want to ruin the Olympics (Sydney 2000), although in hindsight it would’ve been preferable to be single for that – look at what the future Princess Mary achieved at Sydney’s Slip Inn.

By now I was working at Weight Watchers magazine with a whole lot of women (we put SJP on the cover of one issue). Whenever we attended events circa 2000 – 01, we needed to take a big spray of Rhinocort to cope with all the oversized flower brooches on the dresses and lapels of the PR and publishing crew. My peers, along with the SATC girls, were out in bars, drinking cocktails, going to launches, lunches, as well as shopping, brunching and chatting.

But back to my boyfriend… although I knew I wanted marriage and a family one day, I realised I didn’t want it with him. I wanted to be single for a while, party at Darling Harbour with athletes and princes (yeah… in my dreams) and not be beholden to anyone. I would find someone else to marry later.  But until that time,  I would curl up in bed on Monday nights for my double episode of SATC, eating buttered toast and honey (my secret single behaviour).

As for that boyfriend, let’s call him Tim (not his real name). I hope you’re not reading this, Tim. It’s highly unlikely, But if you are, I’m sorry, I couldn’t, don’t hate me. Anyway, I’m sure I saw you pull up next to my car at traffic lights 10 years later, and you looked really happy. So I’m sure it was for the best.

 

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Oh hello again. Could this be the right man to bring you lots of happiness?

And what was my friend Giselle doing circa 2000? She was waxing celebrity legs by day in one of London’s finest beauty salons, and corrupting her octogenarian Hungarian land lady with episodes of Sex and the City by night. “They’re all sluts!” land lady would exclaim. Slut-shaming aside, as I’ve mentioned, the show was about so much more than sex.

Carrie’s pithy narration and the characters’ one-liners, while clever and funny, sometimes did perpetuate stereotypes, and I concede could seem homophobic and racist at times when viewed through a 2018 gaze. Carrie’s voiceover told us things like, “The gay-straight man was a new strain of heterosexual male spawned in Manhattan as the result of overexposure to fashion, exotic cuisine, musical theatre and antique furniture.”

My friend Raj says he doesn’t recall it as being racist or homophobic but notes, “I’m obviously a fairly privileged middle-age man, because even now, I don’t see it. Modern Family plays up to gay stereotypes as much as Sex and the City ever did, and both do it with affection.”

Not affectionately enough for some. In an attempt to correct the labels, stereotypes and political incorrectness, the people behind the Instagram account @everyoutfitonsatc created the hashtag #WokeCharlotte. It’s a meme that refocusses the cultural lense to one that’s a bit more socially progressive.

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Didn’t Charlotte pull a great array of judgemental and appalled faces on the show? (Often about something Samantha was doing) Which is why it’s so easy to make a meme out of her correcting any political incorrectness.

My mate Raj concedes: “I guess there are some episodes that could be not PC, like the gay-straight man (and the converse) and Samantha’s line to (her actor boyfriend) Smith about “First the gays, then the girls, then the industry…”

“I suppose a lot of Charlotte’s views were very traditional. But she was meant to represent a prude, even then, and much of the show was about her opening her mind.”

Consuming any historical text through current eyes highlights the differences in thinking between now and then. But SATC does stand the test of time in its central tenet  – to remind us that women should be able to live their lives however they like, without judgement, and that they have the right not only to choose, but to shoes! But more on that later.

Sex and the City was ultimately intended to portray the lives of women living the single life and not being in the waiting room for marriage. Although Charlotte was always wanting to get married. But that was her choice. As she repeated in one episode, desperate for a critical Miranda to approve of her, “I choose my choice!”, when Miranda accused her of succumbing to traditional female roles by deciding to quit her job and not work, so she could focus on becoming pregnant.

Miranda, eventually comes around, as they all do in different situations, and while they would often make different choices from one another, after some discussion, debate (and a teensy bit of judgement in some cases) they were always there in the end, supporting each other’s choices.

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Another female choice was illustrated in the episode “A woman’s right to shoes”, where Carrie made the point that for years she and her single friends had subsidised the lives of married friends by buying them expensive wedding and baby shower gifts. Yet, now she was being judged by a married woman for spending money on expensive shoes. Carrie points out that she has a right to choose, and she chooses her shoes ($485 Manolo Blahniks in this case). The anonymous writer for USA Today who asserts the show has aged badly, concedes that this is one episode that does stand the test of time.

“I liked A woman’s right to Shoes at the time, but if anything, I find that episode has aged” Raj offers.  “It has a message, but it’s pushed to the point where I now find it manipulative.” Manipulative maybe, or perhaps the writers were making a point about something they’d heard their single friends complain about.

Criticisms aside, many, including me, still view the show with fondness. Years later, my friends and I still enjoy it as it raises questions and issues that we all remember and in some cases still relate to. And it’s funny. I love that I can still watch this show with my friends (even if it’s just over text) and we can still find humour and relatability in in.

“I still love Sex and the City, I think it’s still relevant today… I relate to Charlotte being such a romantic and love how Samantha acts like a man. I wish I could think like her!” says Giselle. And she loves the show for it’s focus on the female friendships.

My friend Nadia’s takeaway from Sex and the City is that “Women and men will always be the same, even though times have changed. We all want to love someone and to be loved.” She loves that it talked so openly about sex, as well as the depictions of some of the crazy situations they got into. “Especially Samantha! Samantha is a legend! I love how she goes for her man and is proud of her sexuality.”

My sister, Senorita Margarita, who was in her early twenties when the show was about to air, recalls she had just arrived in New York at the time… “I remember when I first got to New York from JFK airport and was catching the bus into town in June 1998, I saw a massive billboard with SJP on it in that nude-coloured cami dress with the words “Sex and the City on HBO” on it. It made a big impression as I had no idea what it was and obviously didn’t know how it would impact on and reflect culture and our societal ethos.”

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29 lessons in life and dating from the women of Sex and the City 

1. Despite what Donald Trump tweeted above, it’s OK to eat chocolate cake from the bin (Miranda). I’ve done it once or twice and even thought of Miranda while doing it.

2. If you don’t want to be dumped by a Post-it, then don’t leave them lying around. Invest in some stylish stationery and leave that lying around instead.

3. The gem that helped women just hand their worry over to the universe… If he doesn’t text you back, or call after a date and a week has gone by… he’s not sick, he probably hasn’t lost all his phone contacts… he’s probably just not that into you (which is a relief because now you can move on).

4. To avoid the risk of being fashion road-kill, just don’t walk the catwalk

5. If you must choose to walk the catwalk and risk being fashion roadkill, make sure you’re wearing spangled Dolce and Gabbana undies.

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6. Remember, even Heidi Klum feels the need to ask “Do I look OK?” before walking the catwalk.

7. Don’t party at 2am on a Tuesday if you don’t want to look like sh*t at your magazine cover photo shoot the next day. Especially if it’s an article on how being single is so hot right now.

8. Don’t use the F-word in Vera Wang.

9. But do swear on Chanel.

10. Just don’t get drunk at Vogue.

 

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11. Men in their 30s who live with their parents, smoke weed and run a comic book store, are only for Summer.

12. If your boyfriend delivers you a pizza-sized chocolate chip cookie with the words “I love you” on it, just eat it really quickly in one go so it doesn’t exist and you don’t have to deal with it. Emotional eating at its finest, thank you Miranda.

13. That as long as you can breathe, and kneel, you should be able to do whatever mutually consenting act you like without being judged by someone who happens to walk in on you.

14. Online shopping will never completely replace bricks and mortar retail, as shopping IS many people’s cardio.

15. If you’re forced to take your $485 Manolos off at a party and leave them in the host’s designated shoe area, chances are they won’t be there when it’s time to go home.

16. Furthermore, if you’re a freelance writer who spends $40,000 on shoes, you won’t have enough for a deposit on your rented apartment you want to buy and you will literally be the old woman who lived in a shoe (or shoes).

Shooting from the lip… in their own words

17. “Men in their forties are like the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle: tricky, complicated, and you’re never really sure you got the right answer.” (Carrie)

18. “Ball parks are great places to chat with your girlfriends, flirt with sportsmen and smoke and drink at two in the afternoon without judgment.” (Carrie)

19. “I’ve been dating since I was fifteen! I’m exhausted! Where is he?” (Charlotte)

20. “If he seems too good to be true – he probably is.” (Samantha)
21. “You could listen to and analyse an answering machine message for years and never know.”(Miranda)
22. “If you have an affair with your married ex-boyfriend, you will be able to reflect on it like a  Charles Dickens novel, as being both the best of times, and the worst of times.” (Carrie)
23. “Women sit around, obsessing about what went wrong, while men just say ‘alrighty’ and move on.” (Charlotte)
24. “If it’s tedious and the sex is dwindling, it must be called a relationship.” (Samantha)
25. It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in email, and you prefer calling and hanging up… as Samantha tells Carrie, “Honey, you gotta get online, if only for the porn.” (Samantha gives Carrie a lesson in the new online communication)
26. “Relationships and partial lobotomies are two seemingly different ideas that might just be perfect together – like chocolate and peanut butter.” (Carrie)
27. Sometimes, a uniball bartender and a lawyer with lazy ovary can create a baby. “It’s like the Special Olympics of conception.” (Miranda)
28. “People who sit alone at Starbucks writing on their laptops are not necessarily pretentious posers. They may be people who have recently moved in with someone.” (Carrie)

29. “Nipples are HUGE right now!”(Samantha, wearing fake nipples)

 

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What did you learn from SATC?  Do you still watch it? Tell me, I’d love to know!

Cocktails and dreams: back to the 80s at 88mph

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As an 80s teen and someone who saw Back to the Future three times when it was first released, AT THE CINEMA, I knew Canberra’s new 80s-themed bar, 88mph, had my  name all over it. I couldn’t wait to go Back in time! (thank you Huey Lewis and the News).

This new venture by owners Ant Arena, Lorenzo Focarile and Dean Brown, the team behind Canberra bars Highball Express, Black Market and Molly,  had its opening night earlier in November.

With my visiting Sydneysider sister (Señorita Margarita) in town for a Day of the Dead festival, a perfect opportunity presented itself afterwards to jump into my DeLorean (aka my Toyota Corolla hatchback), flux up the flux capacitor and go be with my people, the 80s McFly barflys.

After a quick stop at Kokomo, we drove the few blocks to Hobart Place. It was unseasonably cold, we were bare-legged, high-heeled and Señorita Margarita was in full Dia de la noche sugar skull face paint. She looked amazing and I admire how she always embraces the theme of any event, but to the uninitiated, she was a hybrid of Marcel Marceau, Skeletor and Frida Kahlo.

Well get out of my dreams and into my car! I couldn’t believe we got a free car park literally right outside the front of the building (the aptly named Neon House) where 88mph is located.

“See Marg?” I said, ready to launch into another iteration of my “Canberra has things” monologue (#canberrahasthings).

“You couldn’t do this in Sydney! Can you imagine parking right outside anywhere you wanted to go in the city in Sydney on a Saturday night? Can you??”

“No Al, but it IS only 8pm.” she observed.

We were greeted by the warmly familiar, yet exciting, neon glow of the 88mph signage, all dreamy purple and pink reflecting off the wet-look black subway-tiled entrance. Down the steps we went, into another world, back in time.

I knew I would love it even before I got in there, but once I was in the bar, I knew my love was real (because as Cheryl Lynn says, it’s got to be real). The owners refer to 88mp as a bar, but it is so much more than that. There is a dance floor that lights up. Not huge, but big enough for fun with your peeps, and other peeps. There are video games, pinball, menus presented in VHS cases, hot pink cassette tapes and black VHS tapes representing an equaliser as wall art, pizza, and oh hail, lord-of-the-night-that-doesn’t take-itself-seriously – three karaoke rooms!

There were colourful cocktails on tap for $14 for a standard cocktail glass, an extensive list of wines, and beers on tap. Feeling hungry and hoping for something to nibble, I looked at the menu and realised it was pizza ($14) or nothing.

I ordered the “Chicken Pizza” and the cute, young, young bartender with not a whisker of hair on his baby-face, seemed amused. “You want the Chicken Pizza,” he said, like it was funny. He explained there is no “Chicken Pizza”, the “Chicken Pizza” is a nick-name for the “Vegetarian Pizza”. Then I realised I hadn’t actually read the fine-print description of the “Chicken Pizza” because I thought the name was pretty self-explanatory. And I’d been too vain to wear my olde lady middle-aged reading glasses. Oh how we laughed!

I studied this young whipper-snapper as he poured a cocktail, as Heaven 17’s Temptation (1983) was playing, and mused that he wouldn’t even have existed in the 80s.  This was reminding me too much of Back to the Future 2, and I was a crumpled, middle-aged Lea Thompson, aka Lorraine Baines McFly, Marty McFly’s mother. But fortunately the lights were low, being a bar and all, so when I told my bar tender, “You know, I was going out to bars in the actual 80s”,  he replied, “Surely not?!” Dude knows how to score a tip.

Meanwhile back in my own era, I chatted to a friendly middle-aged group and we reminisced about the decade in which we came of age. Then my buzzer went off telling me my food was ready.

A dedicated pizza guy was whipping up made-to-order pizzas. It was served to me hot and fresh on a gingham-patterned plate. My sister and I walked around with said plate trying to find somewhere to sit; both of the two long booths we approached were taken up with guests from two separate parties.

A handsome bearded man suddenly appeared in my path, apologising for the lack of tables, and I realised he must be one of the owners. There’d been a hitch, he explained, but tables and chairs would be arriving Monday he said. It was easy to forgive, after all this was only the bar’s second night.

Senorita Margarita and I perched on bar stools and rested the pizza plate on the top of one of the booths. I inhaled half the pizza immediately.  It was hot, fresh and delicious. I decided I wanted to take the rest home and the guy at the pizza oven was very helpful; apologising for the lack of pizza boxes as he put it in a plastic takeaway food container for me – more handbag friendly than a pizza box, and all to the strains of Alison Moyet’s Don’t Go (1982).

Now The Jackson’s Can you Feel it?  (1980) was playing and it was time to hit the dance floor. Super Freak (1981) was next and Señorita Margarita busted her best moves in her sugar skull face paint. She sure is super freaky.

At about 8.45pm the place really started filling up. And not a moment too soon, because when you’re my age, you turn into a pumpkin at 9.30pm. In a joyful flashback to my 1989 Queensland girls’ holiday at the Contiki Island Resort, the B52s Love Shack brought the crowd to the dance floor – in fact I would go as far as saying, the whole shack shimmied!

Then suddenly I was back in Oxford Street Sydney’s pre-Kardashian Klub Kakadu with Yaz’s The only way is up (1988). We had a quick peek at the three Karaoke rooms and promised to book one on another night.

Then it was a journey back to Year 7 with Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982). A twenty- something guy in a yellow bow tie started doing the Thriller dance – and the whole shack was still shimmying as everyone on the dance floor brought their best zombie/wolf arms.

Then suddenly a man was dancing in front of me. He told me it was his buck’s night. I told him I was going to places like this in the actual 80s.

“Me too, ay” he told me. “I’m old, this is my second buck’s night. I’m 37!” Huh. Spring chicken pizza in my book.

Because Girls just wanna have fun, Señorita Margarita danced with him in her huge pink tutu. Buck’s night guy may have been Hungry like the wolf, but it was Margarita who went into full Thriller mode as she zombied-it up.

It was an early one for us, we left at 9.15pm and not a moment too soon, as my scalp had started itching with a post-pizza hives breakout mid-way through my Walk This Way air-guitar solo. I could feel the hot and itchy beginnings of a full-body hive attack under my body-suit. Feeling like Michael J.Fox on the verge of a Teen Wolf-style werewolf transition, I knew I had to get out of there fast before my itchy secret was discovered.

It’s not 88mph’s fault – It took a heavy gluten day for me to finally accept I have a gluten sensitivity that must be respected if I don’t want to be red, itchy, scratchy and spotty and, let’s face it, the rest of the seven dwarves (sneezy, grumpy, and sleepy). But that’s probably a story for another blog post.

If it wasn’t for the hives, I could’ve hit that high like George Michael in Wake me up before you go go. That and the fact that mum-duties beckoned, as I’d promised Spider Boy’s dad I would be home at a reasonable time.

But, I promise 88mph,  like the 80s themselves, “I’ll be back.”  I’m so happy I can feel like it’s the 80s again whenever I want. It’s a full-immersive experience. It’s amazing how music and decor can bring the feeling.

The verdict: 88mph was a fun night out with positive vibes from the crowd. On the night we went, there was a good mix of ages, ranging from twenty-somethings to people my age and possibly even older. But everyone was smiling and having as much fun as a Wham! video. Sydney-dweller Margarita observed, “I love how in Canberra you get all kinds of different people in the one club.”

As owner Ant Arena told goodfood.com.au earlier this month, “We want this to be Canberra’s most fun night out – that’s the idea. You come here, the cocktails are gonna be great, the environment’s really cool, and the music – you can’t listen to the 80s and not smile,” he said. I’ll drink to that. Now, baby-faced bar keep, pass me a Blue Lagoon.

 

Literal: Basement, 8/10 Hobart Pl, Canberra, ACT

Virtual: www.88mph.bar

Pop quiz: What 80s movie does this blog post’s title come from? (Hint: there is a link to the song Kokomo)

Are there any fun 80s bars or clubs where you live?

Fun Food at Sydney’s Winter Garden. And Dolph Lundgren.

Have you got a hankering for a bit of apres-ski adventure, but not the funds to actually hit the slopes? Don’t worry; Sydney’s pop-up “winter garden” is the answer to affordable urban apres ski-style adventure, complete with alpine-style huts selling sausages, mulled wine and hot chocolate. And Tornado Potatoes.

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It was almost taller than he was!

But more about them later… IMG_6308 Although the main attraction, the ice skating rink in the forecourt of St.Mary’s Cathedral, is not what I’d call a cheap activity for a family, it is still a billion times more affordable than a ski holiday/actual alpine adventure. And even if you don’t want to fork out the dollars for skating, you can sit down at the outdoor chairs and tables and soak up the winter wonderland atmosphere for free. IMG_6065 Kids can experience weaving their way down the slopes on a mechanical snowboard, a giant slide or for milder fun they can visit the baby animal nursery. They can also float around a pond in a giant Lindt ball. Spider Boy didn’t meet the 140cm height requirement, and I was secretly relieved. IMG_6169

There are also igloos available to “chill-out” in of course…

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Because the Winter Garden is in a prime city location, we’ve been to this frozen funland three times in the past two weeks when we happened to be in the neighbourhood. We haven’t ice-skated, because, budget, but we’ve enjoyed sitting in the winter sun with our hot chocolate (and yes alright, our potato-on-a-stick) watching the skaters carve up the ice to a pop-music soundtrack. But if you think the only food available is the greasy fair-ground type, you’d be wrong. Agape Organic has a kids menu including vegetarian nachos and organic fruit juice, there’s teppanyaki noodles, gozlame, wood-fired pizza and of course no alpine-style adventure would be complete without German sausages and Nutella crepes. If you want a really good hot chocolate, try the pop-up Lindt chocolate cafe for a hot sweet, thick beverage and, Lindt balls wrapped in every colour of the rainbow.

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But back to the potato-on-a-stick, aka the “Potato Tornado”. I couldn’t resist its greasy, salty allure, so we bought one to share. It was exactly as I imagined plus oh-so chicken-salty. The charming young man working the potato counter (and also the German Sausage counter) had a charming alpine accent: I assumed it was German but my sister Señorita Margarita later pointed out it could be Austrian or Swiss.

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Clockwise from left: “Dolph” patiently explains the Tornado Potato to customers at the German Sausage Hut (he was multi-tasking). The Tornado Potato machine. Don’t worry, Spider Boy didn’t eat all of this, I finished it off for him; The deep-fryer, spectacular and frightening all at the same time. 

I do want to acknowledge Mr. Potato’s great customer service. He patiently explained the Tornado Potato concept to customers, and with his well-groomed northern European style and charming accent, Margarita and I dubbed him Dolph Lundgren. We may have been referencing a character in an Adam Sandler movie. Because sometimes with my sister, I am 15 again. I had mentioned “Dolph” to Margarita on the phone when I called her to get her ETA. She and Spider Boy had an auntie-nephew afternoon planned at the Australian Museum across the road. Later when we all met at the Winter Garden again, Margarita went to the counter of the Tornado Potato/German Sausage Hut, not to purchase a potato, or a sausage, (because, deep-fried carbs and fat) but to hear “Dolph” speak. I observed the exchange from a distance. I couldn’t hear what she asked him, but I believe she went with my suggestion of “How many potatoes are there in a Tornado Potato?” Then to my delight I saw Dolph hold up a whole unpeeled raw potato, on a stick, and point to the machine that spins the potato into a long coil, and then he pointed to the deep-fryer, with the exaggerated and engaging hand gestures of a flight attendant. IMG_6464

The Sydney Winter Garden: Fun, food, alpine adventure and Dolph Lundgren.

As that other* Austrian superstar would say, “I’ll be back.”

*The real Dolph Lundgren is actually Swedish.

Sydney Winter Garden: St Mary’s Cathedral, Cnr College St and Cathedral Square, Sydney.

June 19 – July 19

Skating (including skate hire) $30 (adults) $20 (children). Family skate 4 pack: $90 Rides (Zorb ball, slide, snowboard machine)

1 ride/3 rides/unlimited $6/$15/$20

Winter Garden

Review: Kurtosh House, where “gluttonous curiosity is to be explored”.

Señorita Margarita had told me there was a great bakery/cafe she wanted to share with me when I next trekked over to her neck of the woods. So last Sunday when Spider Boy had a birthday party to attend nearby, I dropped him off (after watching him ride a mechanical bull that looked like a giant guinea pig) and my mum, sister and I went to Kurtosh House (No.1), a cosy little bakery in Randwick (Kurtosh Houses 2, 3, 4, and 5 are in Surry Hills, Crows Nest, Darlinghurst and Wollongong respectively).

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The decor is very old-world rustic charm thanks to the pretty tiles, exposed brick walls, metal and wood chairs, soft lighting and a beautiful vintage-style coffee machine.

The cake display will make you say, “Oh wow!” Well, that’s what I said. There were sample plates along the top of the cabinets which looked like they were being regularly replenished.

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Clockwise from left: strawberry sponge, cookies and cream slice, lemon crumble cheesecake and choc-hazelnut torte.

There were huge slabs of cake, from fudgey chocolate, to sponge to cheesecake.  And the special thing is that cake is sold by weight (to satisfy your inner-glutton, according to the Kurtosh website). So you could ask them to slice 100 grams off a huge slab of chocolate, sugar and butter, and pay $4.50. So neither the indecisive nor those with a penchant for variety need to fret, their website statesWell, that’s a relief.

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They also sell chimney-shaped pastries called Kurtosh’s (also known as chimney cake), something I’d never seen or heard of before. These are cylinders of caramelised crispy flaky pastry dipped in a variety of coatings, such as cinnamon, coconut, pistachio, walnut, almond, caramelised hazelnut and chocolate hazelnut.

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Normally I go to bakeries for the combination of fat and sugar, but since it was lunchtime I ordered a quinoa and veggie pastry. I know, you’re practically blinded by my halo, right? It was so good, I couldn’t even taste the quinoa. But I could taste the curried veggies, which were not too spicy, not too bland, but just right. Does quinoa even have a taste? Or is it like tofu, the quinoa of the 90s?

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Kurtosh describes itself as being …what home feels like – comfortable, cozy, relaxing, flawed, unquestionably accepting, eclectic and sweet. I would say they pretty much nailed it. The only flaw I could see was that our veggie pastries weren’t quite hot enough, but when our waitress brought them over she said that may be the case and she happily obliged when we asked her to reheat them.

The coffee was great. And in case you’re wondering, yes, of course I took home a dessert for later. When I paid for my coffee and pastry and realised I didn’t have any cash, a staff member at the counter told me there was a $10 Eftpos minimum. Luckily there were plenty of slices to choose from that could bump up my spend. And bump up my blood sugar at the same time.

I chose the cookies and cream slice. The staff member helpfully reminded me I only needed $2.00 worth of cookies and cream slice to total $10. But that would mean less than 50 grams of sugar and fat. I can do better than that.

I told her I’d take the 100 grams slice for $4.50, thanks very much.

If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then Kurtosh House No.1 would be Love Potion No.9. If the old cliche is true, here’s hoping for more baking successes from me, and less baking “disasters” (read about one of my baking disasters here).

By the way, if you have a penchant for pastry porn, I implore you to get onto the Kurtosh website now.

www.kurtosh.com.au

Kurtosh House No.1

20B – 20C St Paul’s Street, Randwick

Open Monday – Friday 7am – 10pm

Saturday – Sunday and public holidays 8am – 10pm

Ph 9399 8412

Easter Show 2015: Food-on-a-stick, pigs, and not a kewpie doll in sight.

It was a windy and rainy finish to the school holidays yesterday, just like the first day (see previous post), but thankfully there were many sunny days in between.

One of these sunny day highlights was our visit to the Sydney Royal Easter Show, run by the NSW Royal Agricultural Society. This was Spider Boy’s first visit to the “real” Easter show, rather than the mini-one at Moore Park’s Entertainment Quarter.

I have always been partial to fairground food and the Sydney Royal Easter show never disappoints in that department…

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Yes, it is what it looks like – donuts on a stick! What fun. And yes, I know it’s just “occasional treat” food.

But I’ll get back to the food…

I hadn’t been to the RAS show at the showground at Olympic Park since years before Spider Boy was born and I remembered it being big, crowded and surely overwhelming for a young child. And I also remembered it as being a big schlep from the Eastern Suburbs. And it’s usually not a cheap day out. But my dad gave Spider Boy and I two free entry passes, so schlep we did. It was totally worth it. The schlep was a lot more arduous in my head than it actually was. Here are a few snaps from the day…

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There were many gentle and traditional rides…

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…and there were many people, but as it wasn’t a public holiday, it wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded.

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For me, the amazing Australian produce displays have always been one of the highlights of the Royal Easter Show. This year, the fruit/vegetable/grains display had an ANZAC theme, to mark the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli.

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For Spider Boy, meeting some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the highlight…

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… and also meeting this mask owl called Willow. We have been reading Harry Potter lately and now he wants a pet owl. I said we could look in to it. But then my ex-husband reminded me owls are nocturnal. Not sure it would work in the tiny apartment we live in.

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My fantasy-loving son also got into a spontaneous sword fight with the girl at the Adventure Time stall. I blame those Ninja Turtles.

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Another highlight for me was seeing my boy on TV. He read that autocue like nobody’s business… apart from tripping on one word. But that just added to his charming delivery. I must not be am not a pushy stage mother.

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And I think a highlight for both of us was the “Pat a pig” pavilion! Here I am actually looking trimmer than I have in years as a fake farmer. Oink! OMG, while writing this I just had a flashback to my mother telling me that when I was a newborn the maternity nurses dubbed me “Porky Pig.”

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Not that there’s anything wrong with that… look how content these little guys seem. Three happy, spooning pigs. All they need is a blanket!

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The unlikely friendship between a spider (boy) and a llama.

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And what would an Easter show be without Easter eggs. Cheep cheep!

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Oh, and then there was the time Spider Boy came face to face (well, became the face of) his favourite vegetable.

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But you didn’t think the Royal Easter Show would be all about the vegetables did you? I know sugar is not in fashion at the moment and all I can say to that is… Pour some sugar on me! Without sugar, creations such as the cakes above WOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE.

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More spectacular sugar creations. And then there was the dirty food…

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…tasty, trashy, nasty and dirty, just the way I love it. Lots of sticky food on sticks. Cheese on a stick, meat on a stick, cake on a stick, potato on a stick. The only thing NOT on a stick was Kewpie dolls (I didn’t see any, much to my disappointment). And don’t get me started on the Manwiches. Yes, that’s right, there was a “Manwich” stall. For when a sandwich just isn’t enough. Because of course no woman could eat a big sandwich (they haven’t met me, clearly). But “Womanwich” just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

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Oh how we laughed.

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A display in the farming pavilion set the facts straight on sugar, without all the negative hype. It was pretty much spelled out in black and white; Sugar is high in energy but has no nutritional value. But I will never abandon my love of sugar as it has sentimental, nostalgic, artistic and happy value. And for me that means something. And stevia is not the same.

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Manwich time.

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Another decorative and functional place to eat.

The Sydney Royal Easter show was a great day out and we didn’t end up spending that much money. Once you’ve paid to enter the showground (or presented a member’s pass), entry to all the pavilions and the main arena is free. There were so many things to see and experience, as well as many free samples. In fact Spider Boy enjoyed seeing the animals and the free entertainment so much, he wasn’t bothered about rides. We were just too busy posing for all those face-in-the-board photos.

The only things we paid for was a professional photo of the Spider Boy and the owl, and some food (not on a stick). And something at the Adventure Time stall. And that Ninja Turtles showbag of course.

Dinner with a “Day of the Dead” Devotee

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My dinner companion

My sister, Senorita Margarita, has just returned from Mexico and has fallen in love with its cultural traditions. There were no Jennifer Aniston-style antics by the pool in Cabo. No, Margarita’s journey was more spiritual. She did a tour of Mexican villages with middle-aged achaeologist-type people and took part in a traditional Day of the Dead ceremony. The Day of the Dead is a yearly festival where people pray for and commemorate friends and family members who have died.

So when Margarita stumbled upon El Topo, a new Mexican restaurant in Sydney recently, she knew it was the perfect venue to celebrate her birthday, a la Mexicana. Margarita also happened upon a makeup artist at a local makeup store who knew how to do Day of the Dead-style makeup. Margarita’s face was painted to resemble a skull, a symbol of the Day of the Dead.

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Strike a pose Day of the Dead style. Check out the skeleton-back chairs!

El Topo’s decor is colourful and, from the perspective of someone who’s never been to Mexico (except for that four hours in Tiajuana in 1992), very authentic. I walked in there and felt I was escaping to a Mexican holiday destination. Or at least, escaping Westfield. (Yes, it can be accessed from Westfield Bondi Junction).  It has an exceptional outdoor terrace area with a private dining room (where my sister’s party was). There are also cosy booths, each one decorated with different Mexican-style themes, from traditional Day of the Dead skulls, to religious iconography, to pictures of guitar-strumming, movie star-style senoritas.

Cosy booth with traditional decorations

Cosy booth with traditional decorations

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Margarita displayed this poster of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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An El Topo cocktail – hibiscus, lime juice and rose (it was “el Topo”)

The food was unlike no other Mexican I’ve ever had – it was authentically Oaxacan (Wahacan). There was not a Dorito in sight –  yes, it was a Nachos-free zone. While there are fried crickets (the insect) on the menu, there are so many other delicious items for the not-so adventurous diner (that’s me).

Senorita Margarita had told me she’d eaten fried grasshopers in Mexico and crickets were on the menu here. I warned her before we went, “I’m NOT eating grasshopers! But I will try the Mole”, I said, pronouncing it “Moll”.

“And don’t call it Moll!” Margarita warned.

When Senorita Margarita first returned from Mexico, she brought over a bottle of what look like chocolate sauce. “Mole” read the label.  “What’s this Mole?” I asked, pronouncing it “Moll”.

“Mol – ay” she corrected.  Mole is a Mexican sauce containing chocolate, chili and other spices.

“What’s this Mole”? said my dinner table neighbour as she perused the menu, pronouncing it “Moll”. Some people, honestly!

I later tried some of the famous “Mol – ay” from my neighbour’s plate of “Pollo en Mole Negro y Garbanzo” (chicken maryland, mole and chickpea) and we agreed it was like “a party in the mouth”, with about five different flavours at once, like a spicy tomato chocolate sauce. On chicken. Quite amazing.

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Not Mole. Hot stuff though.

I ordered a Quesadilla or “Queso y Flor De Calabaza” which was four folded-over triangles of burrito with a Oaxacan cheese, quinoa, salsa vierge and zuchini flowers. It was delicious,  with the delicate flavours of the zuchini flowers and the salsa. It was tasty, satisfying and at $13 a great price for a meal. Wish I’d photographed the quesadilla, but was too busy eating and talking. But here’s a shot of dessert. Mmmm… donuts.

These donuts were made for dunkin’

The dessert menu is amazing, and I had trouble choosing between the “Flan Roto de Coco con Chocolate y Cajeta” (smashed flan of coconut, single origin Mexican chocolate, hazelnut and goats milk caramel) and the “Bunuelos con Chocolate” (donuts and chocolate sauce). I chose the donuts, and despite my eagerness to dunk the hot, crispy, sugary goodness into the melted Mexican chocolate (which was NOT Mole), I managed to photograph my plate first (because I had to wait for the donuts to cool down).

El Topo is located on the rooftop (level 3) of the Eastern Hotel, 500 Oxford Street, Bondi Junction, and remember, can also be accessed via Westfield!

So, Senorita Margarita, Feliz Cumpleanos! May it be a wonderful year for you.