The time has finally come this year to pack away the smarminess and speak with a thread of earnestness.

Throughout September and October I embarked on a little holiday across Hong Kong, Europe and Japan. Naturally my camera accompanied me and as a result I treated the trip somewhat as work, for better or for worse. I took a lot of photos in eight different cities (Sheung Wan, London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Cinque Terre, Madrid, Copenhagen, Tokyo).

Instead of posting them on Facebook, or making a 10-part blog post, I designed a 290 page book – and in true Gen Y-ish style I’m turning to Kickstarter for help!

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Holiday Notes: Notes From a Holiday is a chronological book: part photo album, part eclectic travel guide, part blog post, part journal. It’s 290 pages of big photography with notes, captions, and the odd essay – a fun one-off publication for those who enjoy food and travel which doesn’t take itself too seriously. These are concise “reviews” (spoiler: I liked everything (almost)) and photo essays of over 70 things I ate and places I visited, with writing ranging from a couple of sentences to a few paragraphs. It’s for people who prefer photo after photo rather than walls and walls of text. From drunk food to fine food, from coffee bars to beer bars, I believe a nice cross-section has been covered. You won’t find the meaning of life here, it won’t provide enlightenment or eternal wisdom, but you will be able to track down the best panna cotta in Manarola. Yes, these are some cities from only one person’s perspective, but this is my point of difference. It’s the personal touch of exalting a neighbourhood restaurant on the other side of the world for offering traditional street food I’d never seen anywhere outside of family meals, how some rotisserie chicken made me feel complete again, or how I lost my shit at the famed Noma in Copenhagen. Needless to say it’s food heavy.

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If you’d like to pledge/pre-order a copy of this book, please visit the Kickstarter page where you’ll find far more information concerning this big fat vanity project. I shoot for restaurants and city guides, I write smarmy things here, so making something of my own seemed like a natural progression – self-publishing as a challenging personal project. If I don’t make my goal it will be a shame, but I’m proud of myself nonetheless for seeing a project through from start to finish.

Regardless, I would be really thankful if you had a spare minute to take a look. Thank you so much!!

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“Here’s something a little bit Cheesy for Father’s Day”, quoth the internet. Pizza Hut, I’m so tired of taking photos of you.

It’s Fathers Day in Australia and I’ve just returned after a lovely breakfast at my family home. My dad is a good man, his work ethic and hobbyist camera wielding probably have something to do with where I am today (admittedly lying on the floor beside a half chewed pizza), so I cannot help but take offence when comparisons are drawn between him and these Chillidog and Cheesydog Hotdog Stuffed Crust Pizza creations via Pizza Hut’s Facebook page via a Sponsored Post. It’s another postmodern copycat wank, this time taking inspiration from KFC’s Aussies like it HOT!! mentality.

I’d post sentiments accompanied by a retro 80s photo of my dad on instagram which I know he’ll never see over ordering some more first-world slop anyday; but as usual The Blog Life wins and I reluctantly supply my credit card number for home delivery by way of beating my head against the keyboard as I contemplate which emojis represent my father best (camera, soccer ball, dog, smiley face).

When I open the pizza box I am not greeted with luscious waves of gaudy mustard and ketchup as advertised, instead lies a dank pizza with a couple of sauce sachets on the side. Nothing particularly offensive to look at, no vortex to hell, no means to perform a seance around later on. I prise each bloated crust open like a blooming meaty flower and behold the putrid symmetry before me. I’ll sum up the flavour in three words: needs more dog. I’ve never experienced mystery meat quite as mysterious as this. Please don’t try this at home. Or anywhere.

I take photos of this pizza on the very wrapping paper I nestled my gift for my dad in today: my caring, thoughtful, gift, now tainted with the most manchildish of all food. You know when people fall to their knees and weep? In this case you would fall to your knees and shit your pants. Like a baby. A big, stupid baby. This pizza is the equivalent of a mancave. This pizza is the pizza equivalent of shopping for undies on Target’s online store with the search option set to Sort by: Price Low-High. This pizza is the equivalent of a restaurant argument about splitting the bill because somebody in your party ordered an extra Coke. No, not a Coke, something more juvenile; like Mountain Dew, a Pepsi, or creaming soda. In some form of sick metamorphosis the addition of this grotesque pizza has instantly mutated my home into the fabled mancave. The collection of craft beers that hang from the shelves are transformed into tinnies and Crownies and all sense of responsibility for my family dissipates as I enter an hotdog-induced utopia of fake wood, topless waitresses and poorly prepared nachos. Warney is a deadset legend. I’m commissioning a mural with a topless Angelina Jolie. I… I… I’m purchasing a pool table from eBay, a bar fridge, and a neon sign which reads “It’s 5:00 somewhere“. No chickflicks allowed. The toilet seat stays up. MY CAVE, MY RULES.

The Pizza Hut Chilldog Hotdog Stuffed Crust Pizza is 35 years old and still wears Homer Simpson boxer shorts to bed. How coincidental I seem to be left with a pile of limp dicks sprawled on the floor.

Happy Father’s Day, everyone.

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Extreme milkshakes. The well-garnished milky beverage game of Sydney has reached peaked virality. Donuts perched upon mason jars, Kit-Kats wedged like an unholy crucifix: doused in chocolate sauce knotted with lashings of whipped cream, a striped straw puncturing everything in its path, impaling every adornment. Heavy handled jars of flavoured milk are spewing from so many cafes in pure copycat style, each establishment attempting to outdo the last, to outplay the originals who rightly hold the claim to fame. Freddo Frogs drowning in salted caramel milk, achingly slow, their faces submerged with that deranged smile like something out of a horror film, ganache is oozing from its enormous lip, pretzels, M&Ms and 100′s and 1000′s tacked on just for show. And the Oreos, my god the Oreos, they’re everywhere, and everyone’s got one, and everyone’s holding one of these extreme milkshakes, gnashing at food for the sake of social media, exchanging calories for notifications, it’s 8 o’clock in the morning and everybody’s drinking them to avoid the hour long lines from the brunching hour onwards to attain the Thing. The cult. The cult of Extreme Milkshakes. It’s here and we’re all trapped in a vortex of milk and Nutella and garnishes the moment we open Instagram.

But, if you can’t beat them, join them. Here are three flavours of my own: S’Mores Chicken, Bacon Burger and Coles Baked Fresh Today Bakery Aisle. Be inspired. Eat marshmallows and chicken. Milkshake flavours are irrelevant now, the duty falls upon whatever lies on top. May God have mercy on us all.

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#tbt to 2009. I was sprawled before the television on the share house futon, my housemate’s Minneapolas-born girlfriend sprawled on the share house floor, when an Old El Paso commercial aired. “Por que no los dos?” the little girl announced, and everybody cheered, and I stared blankly into the abyss of repetitive advertising, yet my housemate’s American girlfriend stiffened, slack jawed, lost for words, and after a few moments finally uttered “that’s… so racist”.

Like Eve to the tree of knowledge I lunged for the proverbial leaf to hide my shame. “I, uhh… oh yeah. Wow. Jeez.”

Fast forward to last night: an obnoxious version of myself was particularly pleased after an evening of indulgent $23 ironically named cocktails, designer soft serve ice cream and one of Sydney’s Best Burgers. Not one for existing with wind in the sails a deep part of me insisted I detour past a local belt of popular fast-food chains to return to the hideous grease trap from which I was so tragically spawned. My ego required deflating after the holy trinity of white people delights and I was lured into KFC for one final Saturday Night indignity.

From limited research I understand the KFC Zinger™ Taco was “created” to cater to those Aussies who enjoy their food a little spicier“we’ve taken a classic taco and given it a KFC twist for Zinger™-loving Aussies”. A Zinger™ chicken fillet is bestowed atop “salsa sauce”, tomato and lettuce, encased in a hard shell taco and a layer of “super-charged sauce” to glue a soft tortilla on the outer. Tsk tsk tsk, no no no. And this has nothing to do with my pet-hate regarding the redundant “sauce” suffix, i.e. “tzatziki sauce” a la Pete Evans circa My Kitchen Rules 2014.

Please allow me to dissect the beast as frankly as possible:
The soft outer tortilla is brittle in a number of places.
The super-charged sauce glue is a vinegar bomb.
The taco shell, a Stand ‘n Stuff Old El Paso taco (hahahah A STAND ‘N STUFF TACO), is chewy and stale.
The salsa sauce is taken straight from the Doritos jar (to their credit it’s at least a little spicy).
The Zinger™ fillet has no chilli.
The salad is minimal.
In a soggy nutshell: many mouthfuls of mediocrity.

Do you think the indigenous civilisations of Mexico, one of the first cultures in history to develop an independent writing system, carved KFC ZINGER™ TACO in eternal stone for all to behold for centuries to come? Emblazoned with the comical flames spouting from Zinger™ and all?? It isn’t advertised however there is conclusive evidence to suggest Old El Paso has a grubby hand in this. The double. That Stand ‘N Stuff Taco. I simply cannot get over it.

The entire concoction reeks of KFC desperately clawing for relevance (again), carting out a mediocre product, leaping for that junk-food-fusion-mash-up bandwagon but instead of soaring like the majestic corporate pigs of do-no-wrong McDonald’s or everything-is-fucked Pizza Hut they miss by as many meters as there are calories in a Zinger™ Tower Burger and fall face first into the dirt with no theatre, no majesty, no lols. Old El Paso is synonymous with families who gloat about having home cinemas installed in their unnecessarily massive homes who ride their high horse of modern sensibilities anyway, literally the worst of the worst street food offerings to date. “Isn’t it so wonderful we can eat ethnic foods in this country?” they coo, chomping on chewy Zinger™ Tacos. But you already knew that. Toss the moist towelette wrapper into the ring like a used condom and call it a day.

Empty out its contents and hold this taco to your ear like a seashell: I guarantee you can hear the sweet Old El Paso girl sobbing all the way from cardboard-stage-Mexico. Stop the boats. Stop the godamn Soft Taco Tortilla Boats before KFC get their hands on them as well.

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I’ve finally worked it out: bad food bloggers are fedora wearers.

The dish they idolise, two-hatted or casual feed, is the woman on the pedestal.

If they don’t get what they want, boom. Down she falls in a torrent of angry online reviews, slamming the dish, the restaurant, the ambiance, everything, all via misplaced expectations. The guilt trips, the shaming. The food blogger is a “nice guy” until they are friend zoned by a soufflé lacking “depth of flavour”.

But this… this. What is this? Who is the key demographic here? Meninists, online reviewers, ironic stoners? How could someone, anybody, review this seriously, without their fingertips being matted in doritos cheese crumbs? Welcome, Pizza Hut Four’N Twenty Stuffed Crust Pizza.

This starburst of horror, “Australia’s favourite lovechild” (gross), between Pizza Hut and Four’N Twenty pies, already exists as a parody of itself. I order it online in its Hawaiian incarnation, the ultimate insult. When it arrives my home is perfumed with stale meat yet I dive in with the contempt of a million home-owning “you don’t know how easy you have it” boomers. The pies are easily extracted from each slimy slice’s obnoxious gaping mouth, the pastry even soggier than the pizza’s. The bare minimum of meat is nestled inside its dank home like a nasty surprise and after a while the cavity begins to resemble something like a terrifying oversized belly button.

There’s very little to add to this devastating pile of western, first-world developed rubbish. Is this what we’ve come to, really? This is dinner? This is what we’re cramming into our already filthy bodies, for the lolz or otherwise? It even comes with two tomato sauce sachets – how ungenerous, how bloody ‘strayan. brb, cancelling the Italy leg of my Europe trip this year as true perfecto authentico lies a mere mouse click and $17.95 away. We’re even inspiring America, my lord, we are inspiring America.

I don’t want to imagine the flurry of emotional abuse that came about when conceiving this deliberate mess of a “lovechild”. “Who am I? What am I?”, I imagine the pizza remnants singing from my K-Mart garbage bin beneath the kitchen sink, “why does this keep happening? Please, put me out of my misery once and for all”. Well done Pizza Hut, I am finally disgusted. Congratulations on your attempted high-vis couture you monsters. You are no longer RSL Chic, next level irony, or even worthy of cry-eating. You’ve jumped the shark except this shark represents every played out meme of Tony Abbott in speed dealer sunnies, only this time it’s not even funny.

M’lady.

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I met Elise and Scott through Kate, a uni friend, on the internet. Facebook-chat heavy story short I learned of their emerging food business, Grumpy Donuts, and a few weeks later they visited to meet IRL to take some photos of their enormously spectacular donut range. My modest dwelling was heaving with good stuff that day – boxes and boxes of the freshest donuts adorned by relevant and perfectly executed toppings created with fine, thoughtfully sourced ingredients. Even their dough recipe is enough to make a grown adult weep.

Straight up these are the greatest donuts that have ever been bestowed upon me and the good news is they are now taking orders for deliveries to select Sydney areas! Please visit their website grumpydonuts.com to view their perfect, perfect flavour list and to order, alternatively visit them on instagram at @grumpydonuts for instant visual stimulus worthy of popping many a food boner. Grumpy Donuts are destined to be huge so you’ll be glad you got on these guys early – I hear they’ll be stocked in cafes across the city shortly.

Small business is where it’s at. Support local! Am I gushing too much? Just buy the donuts. Especially the maple bacon bar.

Thank you Kate for retouching the bacon in the below images.

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In 2003 one of south-west Sydney’s original food trends burst forth into Australia. Lines would snake around the cut-and-paste All American Diner that is Krispy Kreme and free doughnuts would be awarded to keen and patient punters. Multiple faces pressed against the glass, the excitement of the live glazing carousel was just too much – circles and circles and circles of doughnuts being churned out, like shimmering rounds of hope and wonder, was the closest thing to a modern-day Willy Wonka factory we’d ever have.

Yet 13 years on, like an optimistic food truck lacking any finesse, Krispy Kreme have attempted to fuse two of Sydney’s most popular dishes: burgers and donuts. Claiming to Trick your Taste Buds, the #kirspykremejoy Grilled range includes a Krispy Slider (what is this, 2012?) and Glazed Dog. Take note of the fake ingredients constrained in quotation marks for some real-life Heston Blumenthal alchemy:

This isn’t your normal hotdog. The Krispy Kreme version is a sweet treat you’ll love. A ring doughnut is compressed and iced with caramel glaze icing and topped with a cream ‘sausage’ and ‘mustard’.

Don’t be fooled, this sweet sensation will keep you guessing. A shell doughnut is cut in half, filled with a mini Mudcake doughnut ‘patty’, cream ‘ketchup’, ‘cheese’ and ‘lettuce’. The ‘bun’ is topped with sweet sugar crystals to finish off this sweet treat.

The topography of Mascot’s Krispy Kreme is delightful: shadowed by both a Formulae 1 motel and big planes housed by the adjacent Sydney Airport. The service is so friendly a pang of guilt resonates from my skepticism as I order a box of their Grilled range and a flat white. However the barista’s lack of urgency has forced me beside a mammoth flickering sign, KRISPY KREME ORIGINAL GLAZE HOT NOW, the fast-food equivalent of GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS. My eye begins to twitch scorched by red light and any semblance of innocence I carried for this brand is being swept away in an eternity of milk frothing. I am finally released from the neon prison that is the hot beverage waiting pen.

Now, there is a thing to be said for balance, decadence and indulgence, but these donuts tick none of those boxes. The Glazed Dog is fine for what it is, the caramel donut is nostalgic, it’s symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing, kinda cute. My main gripe lies with the Krispy Slider. Where do I begin? Imitation is the lowest form of flattery. The bloated sensibilities of this bastard are rife and each mouthful is 70% heavily dyed cream. After one enthusiastic bite there are smears of red, green and yellow, the “ketchup”, “lettuce” and “cheese”, all over my hands, face and arms. If glitter is the herpes of the craft world then I’ve just become acquainted with its buttery equivalent. Is there a poltergeist in the room? The experience is pornographic and the sugar granules adorning the slider are crunchy and unnecessary. Buttercream is oozing everywhere. The thing is sticky from all angles, there’s residue everywhere, it’s clingy, it’s repulsive – I bet this slider takes too many selfies with its spouse at other people’s weddings and has an inflated sense of strong personal brand.

Against the backdrop of balletic soaring planes I hurl a Glazed Dog to the sky in a final flourish – “be free! Reach your potential! Glass ceilings answer to nobody but yourself! I believe in you!!”, I shout with more fake encouragement than a clean-eating inspired social channel, my voice bleating with the calligraphic strokes of watercolored re-blogged sentiments scheduled for peak times of user engagement. It hits the road, cracked and bruised, much like anybody who naively submerges themselves in the feeds of manufactured wellness warriors and pseudo-science expecting wholesome changes in their life overnight. High hopes for any fad issue is destined to plummet back down to earth in a huge mess – just look at Belle Gibson – empty words will never defy gravity and the pedestal will inevitably topple. Infinite encouragement on social media is about as shallow and fake as this Krispy Slider, literally.

As I try to leave this place a large truck screeches before me in the parking lot and I fall to my knees. “EAT DOUGHNUTS”. I discover more red stains on my hands and my clothes. Mocked by mock cream I’m flailing, a sensory overload of a dismal dystopian buttercream filled future. Lukewarm coffee is pooling into a nearby drain beside me. This red cream still won’t come off, it’s smeared everywhere and is staining everything. Like blood on my hands I close my eyes and it’s all I see. By disrespecting both my body and profession I’ve asked for this, but do I deserve it? I’ve just discovered more on my sleeve. The relentless buttercream just won’t let me forget what I’ve done as I stand alone amongst bushes in the middle of the night, wearing red on my skin. Redrum. Redrum. Redrum.

… redrum.

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Announced online on March 25th I wondered why? Why debut the Pizza Hut Ultimate Hershey’s Chocolate Chip Cookie now? Are we celebrating the changing of the season a month late to parallel the earth-in-crisis weather experienced in Sydney? Is this a feeble attempt at a sweet autumnal dish? Could this be a chocolate/Easter tie-in? As a keen fan of variety it’s unfortunate most of these posts have been centered around Pizza Hut, but they’re the only fast-food joint brave enough to churn out limited time only specials frequently.

Online the Ultimate Hershey’s Chocolate Chip Cookie is nestled between soft drinks and large oven baked chips in the extras column. Coincidentally their hero shot of this monstrosity is delicately bestowed upon the holy wooden board (torn baking paper and all, so now), beside a glass of both lemonade and coke. Three arrive at my door (that’s 18,876kj for $28.40) and the scent of cooking chocolate fills my home. It measures 19cm wide, significantly smaller than the usual Pizza Hut pizza with more calories than most savoury offerings in their range, minus the iota of nutritional value of scant vegetables at least a supreme pizza would provide.

The flavour? Sugar. The texture? Gritty sugar. I’ve never consumed anything so sugary. The pieces are soft, around 1cm thick, and crumble the moment you attempt to lift them from their aluminium home. I’m well familiar with the supple bite of a soft Mrs Field’s cookie or the unfathomable chewy stretch of some Momofuku alchemy, but this a whole new genre of biscuit I’m coining sugar mush. Not even dedicated years of cryeating nor all of my miserable unhealthy food conquests combined will even compare to the enormous malnourishing zero-return in this “cookie”. All the calories, none of the perks. No flavour, just sugar. I can still feel the granules clinging to my teeth after a liberal bowl of olives to cleanse myself afterwards. I read a comment stating it’s “great with ice cream” – I hurl ice cubes at the thing in immature retaliation, some leaves from nearby shrubbery don’t go astray either.

Pizza Hut’s Ultimate Hershey’s Chocolate Chip Cookie is akin to the sloppy romance of chocolate covered strawberries or sparkling wine in the bedroom. It reminds me of men who are exclusively into women in g-bangers, and exclusively talk to their mates about women in g-bangers, womanising loudly. It is a loathsome, offensive brute disguised in a pious white box. Can somebody please post one of these to I Quit Sugar HQ and watch world World War III erupt? Hurl one at paleo Pete Evans and maybe his face will melt off like the Wicked Witch of the West. Some men just want to watch the world burn. I tug my hypothetical collar awkwardly just thinking of the children who will be subjected to this disgusting thing. I try a piece that had been refrigerated for a few hours and I reel back and swear louder than usual – still bad, just hard.

“1. Do not microwave. You and the cookie deserve better” declares a Pizza Hut’s social media on March 30th. Do you yourself a favour: Do not consume, if in the presence of said cookie place into the nearest garbage receptacle immediately. There’s something to be said about cryeating, but if this cookie arrives in your company abort immediately for the good of both your physical and mental wellbeing, for the love of God, lest you wish to be transcended to hell and back in a few mere bites.

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I promise this is not a parody.

I had written a long-winded and piece about brown food, irrelevant garnishes, people who content-churn, posting for the likes and what it means for the definition of “real food”, but, it was too reminiscent of old man yells at cloud so it’s been archived into a “things to complain about later” file. Emerging from my literacy stupor I think I was trying to celebrate brown food and announce that not everything needs to be brightly coloured or highly stylised to be wonderful. Join me as I bask in the stupid serenity of my brown dining table and brown dessert. It’s Autumn, after all.

The moistness (hah) may vary depending on the size of your baking tray or loaf of bread (I used a rather large one on both counts) – you may have a little custard mix left over, or if you wanna get real juicy serve it with a little cream or ice cream on the side. Enjoy the brown food and share it with your pals. For a smaller version with stale bread and fruit, here’s a recipe for bread and butter sourdough pudding with sugarplums.

Bread and Nutella Pudding
1 loaf brown bread
400g Nutella (or more for the lavish)
600ml milk
600ml cream
260g sugar
8 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
Good grating of fresh nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Slice most of your bread into generous slices, then depending on the size of the loaf, halve them. You can arrange them in your baking dish of choice to check you have enough.
2. Slather that bread with as much Nutella as you please. Make it thick. Arrange the bread into the dish, trying to sandwich the bread so that most of the Nutella has been covered on the surface (otherwise the Nutella will burn).
3. For the custard mixture whisk together milk, cream, eggs, sugar and cinnamon. Grate the nutmeg straight in the bowl. Pour over the bread – if it’s stale allow to stand for an hour, if it’s supple and fresh it’s good to go after 15 minutes or so. Tear the remainder of your bread into small pieces and fit them into the crevices of the dish, ensuring they are well coated in custard. Add a few extra decadent dollops of Nutella if you like.
4. Once bread is drenched and ready, give the bread one last push into the dish and bake in the oven for around 45-50 minutes. When ready (a skewer inserted comes out relatively clean, or push it down with a spatula – if no juice emerges all is well) sprinkle with icing or snow sugar and serve immediately.

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In an attempt to lift and salvage this “blog” from its near parody state here is some recent work from Flying Fish and Little Fish in Pyrmont, Sydney – a few offerings from their Summer gin bar and new Autumn menu by the incredible team. If you can’t tell I’m also attempting to reduce the file size of my images for the sake of website health, so gross, but here we are. Transeasonal and optimised for web without a hint of irony.

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