02 January 2010

One if by Land, Four if by Seaplane?

Friday, 4 September 2009

I can't believe our dream vacation is almost over - I know I'm not ready to go home and I'm sure I will be back!  But, for our last full day in Australia, we have the most incredible adventure planned!  Shelley had booked us on a seaplane flight that would take us out over Sydney Harbour and up the coast to an exclusive cliff-top restaurant, and even though it was rainy and dreary yesterday, the sun was out!!!  Off we went to catch the seaplane, which was over near the place (Watson’s Bay, I think?) Shelley had taken me on my first day in Sydney.  We were all dressed up (well, for us, anyway) and Keith drove us over.  Rex and I had taken a seaplane ride in Vancouver several years ago, and we were so looking forward to this!  We had time to take some pictures and to watch some other planes land and take off, and soon it was our turn!

In addition to the four of us, another couple was on our plane, and unbeknownst to them, they provided our entertainment for the day.  They were celebrating the guy’s 40th birthday, and I would say the girl was in her late 20’s.  She was wearing a fairly short skirt and VERY high heels, so she had quite a time getting on and off the plane…I refrained from taking any pictures, but I’ll bet you have a pretty good mental image!  They had to get on first, as they were in the back seat of the plane.  Next up was Rex, sitting in the cockpit with Adam, our pilot.  Shelley and Keith went next, and I was the last one in.  It was a little snug, but we all got our seatbelts and headphones on, along with our life jackets (which have never been used on this company’s planes, I’m happy to report!).  And then we were off!

We buzzed over the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, and we caught a glimpse of the Manly Ferry on its way out to Manly Beach.  We flew over North Head, marking the entrance to this beautiful harbour, and then we followed the coastline north.  The colors of the water and rocks were incredible!  We saw some “secret” installation, golf courses, suburbs, beaches, and lakes, and then we got to a point where the other 0.1% of the population lives – you know, in a gorgeous house on a fantastic beach with a boat in the water!  I figured that meant we were almost to Palm Beach!

Sure enough, Adam set us down safe and sound, and a launch was waiting to take us to the dock.  I got to make my exit first, which was fine, since no one except the launch driver had to see my big butt coming down the stairs!  The four of us got situated in the boat and then we all got to watch the happy couple disembark.  Sir Galahad was not following directions in an effort to appear gallant, and he almost put the two of them in the water because of it!  But, like I said, we enjoyed the show!  And the guys really enjoyed Legs!  Once we were all settled in the boat, it was a quick ride to the dock, where we had a rousing welcome from three cute pups!  Then, we were ushered into a waiting van – this was turning into quite a production!  Up the hills we went, and soon we had gone from Palm Beach to Whale Beach and were dropped off at Jonah’s.


I know you are going to want to have a look at their website, so click the pic to go there!


The setting was just amazing – we were seated at a table by the window overlooking the coast (thanks to Shelley!) and we took a deep breath as the feeding frenzy was about to begin! Our drinks were brought to the table and we were invited to take them outside, so we did.  We got some wonderful photos of the beach, the ocean, the surfers, and the surrounding area, and we were really hoping to spot some whales.  The weather was perfect – I still can’t believe they call this ‘winter’ although as of 1 September it is officially Spring here – no messing around with those silly solstices and equinoxes Down Under – they just declare the first of the month as the first day of the season!  Makes sense to me!  Anyway, we had a coastal toast to new and lasting friendships and started planning a way we could all meet again.

Somewhere along the way, we had perused the menu and made our choices, and now we were being summoned back inside…

All I can say is, this was one of the most beautiful, most delicious, most sensory incredible meals I’ve ever eaten!  I’ll try to do it justice by just giving you the menu descriptions, because they tell the story (along with the photos!).  First, we were offered a little shot glass of a cauliflower soup starter with truffle oil on top – heavenly! 

For our entrees, I think Shelley won the prize for most unusual.  Hers was freshly baked butter croissants, seared foie gras with a short stack of buttermilk pancakes √° la mode prune and Armagnac ice cream and baby rocket.  It really was ice cream, and she said that even though she’d never had liver and ice cream before, it was delicious!  Rex and Keith each had Tasmanian black truffle and Gruyere toasted “cheese soldiers” with a soft boiled truffled egg and Cyprus black sea salt.  Mine was sort of pedestrian in comparison - steak tartare topped with a quail egg, served with crostini and an array of condiments. I don't know what all of them are, but there was a yummy sweet chili sauce, herbs, French mustard, shallots, cornichons, and something else.  I ate them all, and loved every bite!

Next came our mains – we all went the seafood route.  Keith chose seared pink snapper and Coffin Bay scallops, broad beans, potato puree, corn nage and Tasmanian black truffle. Rex got the blue swimmer crab-filled roasted John Dory, wild rocket, foie gras ravioli, melted leeks and baby herb salad, and Shelley and I both went with oven roasted Jewfish fillet with salsa verd√©, cherry tomato, garlic and spanish onion confit. 

Oh, did I mention that we also had a few side dishes?  Pommes frite with malt vinegar, tomato, and aioli; long beans, creamed potatoes, and a lovely salad with raspberries and sugared walnuts.

And just when you thought that surely we’d be DONE, it was time for dessert.  But wait – first we got a little pressie!  A little shot of hot chocolate and shortbread cookies to sip on while we made our decisions!  ALMOST as good as my Chocolate Dome in Melbourne!!  Rex must not have filled his chocolate quota, because he opted for the orange laced chocolate mousse, cocoa meringue, mocha rum sauce and chocolate brownie cake.  Shelley and I, being health conscious like we are, had fruit.  Well, sort of.  It was strawberry, mascarpone and brioche pain perdu, a sable biscuit stack with fresh strawberry and vanilla cream topped with spun sugar, and a dried strawberry, ricotta cheese and pistachio filled cannoli. YUM.  Keith, however, totally won the prize on this one, as he provided enough belly laughs for the day that maybe we lost a few calories.  And who would think that a simple vanilla panna cotta with fresh pomegranate and lavender honey would do that? 

As you can see from the photo, the panna cotta’s conical shape and its wiggly, jiggly composition, combined with the vanilla tip made for a hilarious trip across the entire dining room.  I was seated so that I saw it come out of the kitchen, so I was laughing so hard before anyone else saw it that I couldn’t even speak.  Let’s just say the whole restaurant was entertained.  I’m not sure how Keith even managed to eat it!  I’m hoping to be able to publish the video Shelley took so you get just a little idea about how funny it was!

Bet you thought we were done.  NOT!!  Now it was time for tea, which we took out on the veranda (as we say down here!)  Funny, our veranda does not have an ocean view…Rex had a pot of Earl Grey, Shelley and Keith had Yunnan, and I had vanilla (the panna cotta made me), and as we were finishing the last drops, we were summoned to catch our van for the ride back to the dock.  We shared our van with a group of businessmen who had been having a lunch meeting at Jonah’s (what recession?) so we got a good shot of them riding out to board their plane.  And again, Legs and Sir Galahad joined us, texting on their individual phones the entire trip.  I did grab his camera so they’d at least have ONE photo to remember the day…

You may be thinking that after our meals we were over the weight limit for the plane (probably) or that after we returned to Sydney we just went straight home for a nap, but you should know better by now!  Rex was not leaving Australia without seeing world-famous Bondi Beach, so off we went!  But first, here are a few photos from the ride back.

We drove over to Bondi Beach, where things were starting to wind down for the afternoon.  Surfers were coming in for the day and most sun-worshippers had already left.  Several surf schools were still in session, and lifeguards were just taking up the warning flags.  There was the ubiquitous old man with the metal detector, a young man (not a kid!) digging a hole to China, a little kid learning to ride a bike in the coolest way – it had no pedals and was not high off the ground – he could just push it with his feet and then lift his feet so he got used to the feel of coasting and balancing!  And then the kids playing cricket (!) and even a little eye candy still out sunning – just another day in paradise!  We even saw them setting up the World’s Largest Twister Game – hate that we missed that!  Rex was so happy to be at Bondi, and I was feeling like I had come full circle, going back to many of the places I’d been on my first day here.

As we headed back to Shelley and Keith’s, we were treated to the most wonderful sunset – just a little going away, come back soon pressie, I hope!  Once back at the house, we all changed into our jammies and crashed on the couch!  Keith made me some delicious iced tea and Shelley and I looked at pictures while the guys watched TV.  Somewhere along the way, Shelley heated up some soup (in case we were starving) and then it was time to pack…but what a beautiful way to end the BEST.HOLIDAY.EVER!!!

Already planning my next trip but wondering if I can leave here again…


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