TARTINE BAKERY

I feel loneliest sitting on a plane, waiting for take off. In my small space, with my small pillow, small blanket and small amount of legroom, looking out the small window as the terminal grows small in the distance. Leaving everything behind, crossing the skies and the seas, hoping to make it somewhere. The loneliness between leaving home and getting there yawns.
I wonder who will miss me while I’m away. I wonder where the kind older man sitting next to me is going and why he’s also travelling alone. I wonder if he feels lonely on planes. I’m grateful that he remains within his own small space, makes small movements when stretching and refrains from making small talk. I’m afraid my small voice will shake and crack if he is kind to me. I wonder if he’s leaving or coming home and I wonder who I’ll come home to when all is said and done. Continue reading

HARTSYARD

Perfect in every way… but his last name is Hitler. Do I have to take his name? Yes, you’re Mrs Adam Hitler. I just couldn’t. Perfect in every way… but he’s a heroin dealer. Does he sell it, like, hand it to the junkie, or is he just the boss? He’s the leader of a cartel, super-rich, Colombian. Is he a good dancer? Continue reading

WILSON’S LEBANESE RESTAURANT

Everyone knows first is the best. To wit: the 1986 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; the initial chip from a packet of Salt and Vinegars; Home Alone; Mickey Rooney’s original wife (of eight); the chicken; the egg. Add to this illustrious list, Wilson’s, the self-proclaimed ‘first Lebanese restaurant in Sydney. Est 1957.’ It’s cold, the horse’s birthday and dinnertime in Redfern on the night we walk in. My first impression? Brown. From the chocolate-brown carpet, to the mission-brown laminate tabletops, with matching vinyl chairs, and the ceiling, tented with dirty-brown parachute fabric. Literally dirty, with blooming rust stains. Strangely, suspiciously phallic shapes weigh the parachute down in random spots, raising questions as to where the rest of the body is kept. But first is the best and we barrel on accordingly. From the word doc menu we order vine leaves ($9.50 for 8), the mixed entrée of hommos, baba ghannouj, tabbouli, falafel and tahini ($16, serves two) and a mixed grilled plate of shish kebab, shish tawook, kafta, shawarma and sausages ($35, serves two). ‘Do you think I should stop drinking coffee?’ I ask. ‘Yep.’ He replies. ‘Are you just saying that?’ I press. ‘Yeah.’ It’s a routine conversation, comforting in it’s familiarity. ‘Do you think I’d make a good spy?’ I wonder, so often looking for opportunities to diversify my portfolio. ‘Because of your agility, firearm skills and composure under pressure?’ The vine leaves are served warm, with a cool yoghurt dip; they are mild, with a soft breath of cardamom. ‘I think I could be a good cater-waiter, don’t you?’ I continue, considering a casual, cash-paying weekend job. ‘What, because of your unwillingness to talk to people? Your whisper-quiet voice and discomfort in social situations?’ We take delivery of a plate of smoky, earthy dips and lemony-tart tabbouli, with a basket of flat bread and a plate of pickles. We both love pickles. The meat plate is hot, a bed of flavourlogged white rice piled with tender chicken and beef. Tasting of the grill, lemon, salt and faintly of cinnamon and fresh herbs, it’s brown and finished quickly. ‘Another person called me “weird in a good way” today. Do you think I’m weird?’ I query. ‘No, you’re not weird.’ I’m pleased. ‘Of course you are, you weirdo!’ He recants, noting my blush of vindication. I’d ask him anything, because there’s no one who’ll give me a more honest answer. He made the call that jump-started my stalled career; I cried and cried on his shoulder when I thought my heart could never hurt more; he gave me a home and his heart when my life came unmoored. He’s the first friend I’d call, and concurrently, is proof of the opposing rule, ‘first the worst, second the best…’ In the beginning, almost ten years ago, he looked witheringly from my under-cut bob haircut down to my ugly shoes and asked, ‘who’s this freak?’ Then ordered me to, ‘stop staring, you freak.’ He still tells me to stop staring, but six times out of ten it’s for my own safety.

Wilson’s Lebanese Restaurant

BÄCO MERCAT

My best friend moved to the other side of the world. Not to get away from me (right, pal? TELL THEM) but to carve out a new life with her husband. She’s like that – adventurous, driven and devoted. She also matches me, pound-for-pound, when a plate of food is set in front of her. No mean feat. We share a romance with food; a love for cooking it, eating it, writing and obsessing about it. We both hate runny eggs and both love… well, most other foods. She’s not big on pork, but that’s ok, as it balances my passionate and excessive consumption. When I’m blue, she cooks for me. When I’m exultant, she cooks for me. On weekdays ending in ‘ay’, she cooks for me. When we worked in the same building, our productivity plummeted as a result of regular tea/yoghurt/vending machine/crudités breaks. I sat by her side as Maid of Honour on her wedding day and greedily enjoyed the spoils of a considered, and spectacular, matrimonial feast. She waited patiently when I was vegan, tolerated me as a vegetarian, encouraged me as a pescatarian and now, frets about me as a glutton. I miss her. I’ve been lucky to visit her twice since she fled my clutches and each time we easily picked up where we left off. And ate a lot of hot pastrami. I love her a lot. Like I love sandwiches a lot. Far from the madding crowds, she takes me to grand, tragic, on-the-up-again Downtown, Los Angeles. If she had blindfolded me in, say, Hollywood, spun me around and around in circles then whipped the blindfold off in Downtown, I would have sworn I was in NYC. Or, at least, on the set of Seinfeld or something. But there we were, on the eerily quiet streets, passing the run-down early 1900s movie theatres and playing a round or two of ‘Hipster or Hobo?’ Baco Mercat is a fancy sandwich shop and bar snuggled in the bosom of this exotic, Gotham City landscape. Our waiter is sassy, dropping an F-Bomb here and there and making me feel like an idiot in the most charming way. On his recommendation we each order a Vinegar_Based Sweet & Sour Soda ($3); the pear and meyer lemon varieties from a list of fifteen flavours. They are indeed vinegary and sweet and sour – an absurdly appealing mix of tart, fetid and irresistible. We share the “Cowgirl Creamery” cheese plate ($19), a top-shelf selection replete with candied pine nuts, honeycomb and pickled golden beets. But we’re here for the ‘baco’ flatbread sandwich. I’m pretty sure people have been wrapping bread around meat since people were monkeys, and the baco renovates this ancient art to modern masterpiece. I order The Original – pork, beef carnitas, salbitxada ($10) and my buddy, The Meatball – raisin, pine nut, tomato ($14). Both come served in a bowl, the famed flatbread piled high with the chosen fillings – so high I have to chip away with a fork before grabbing it and taking the whole lot on a messy journey to my mouth. The chunks of pork are satisfyingly fatty, the lard softening a potentially tough equal-measure of meat; the beef is yielding and prickly with heat.  Heaped with tangy, sweet, nutty Salbitxada sauce and with minimal rocket/arugala, I want to order a second helping immediately upon finishing the first. It’s a sandwich to break my heart. Lucky then that the broad sitting opposite me is the woman to help mend it. As much as I miss sharing the same city as my best friend, exploring Los Angeles and it’s sprawling, glorious eating options with her is delicious consolation.

http://bacomercat.com/