holiday notes

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Hong Kong Airport McDonald's

“This is the worst McDonald’s in Hong Kong”, a young businessman with an American accent jokes beside me. “Hah, yeah, of all the places in the airport I don’t know why I decided to dine here”, I lie, “hahahaha”, and we both laugh, while my eyes remain sternly fixated on the lightbox advertising their limited time only Spicy Beef Burger. I’ve been in line for what seems like 20 minutes, it’s a bloody outrage, or at least that’s what I’d be saying if I were at home in ‘Straya.

I receive my order and apparently accidentally ordered a really large Coke – I offload the enormous cup to my new corporate friend and find a seat to dissect this international oddity before my flight to London. There’s only room in my stomach for one piece of garbage tonight.

Firstly, why the hell is Shrek on the box? Secondly, the “green” iceberg lettuce is more desaturated than a Kinfolk feature on whimsical rooftop gardens. Thirdly, the generous lashings of beef as advertised are actually four limp, perfectly square beef “patties”, the texture as manufactured as discarded, worn out yoga mats (not that I’d really know what that feels like), or some odd, old, thick cut lumpy brown ham. Biting into four back-to-back layers of spongy post-it-note sized beef flaps has me imagining some sort of gross mille-feuille in a bizarro parallel universe.

The sauce is sweet, and to their credit is at least a little spicy.

I nurse the sad burger in one apathetic hand and at a glance notice four floppy beefy tongues sluggishly toppling over one another. Four stupid razzing tongues right up in my face. They look like four :P emoticons. Oh god. The worst emoticon of all time, used solely by awkward boys and wielded exclusively by fedora-wearing men dipping their terrible toes into the unpredictable waters of female companionship via MSN Messenger or text message (“you’d have a nice time if you came to my bedroom haha :P”). Cannot unsee. :P is the biggest cop out, a linguistic tool reserved only for the spineless. I’ve never met a good man who used :P and I’ve never ended a friendship on good terms with a man who used it frequently. I remember them all. :P is not cute and this burger reminds me of the lame boys I used to know offline and converse with online: cautiously gauging interest, lacking the ability to stand by their own tasteless convictions and instead opting to hide behind the world’s most cowardly suffix of an emoticon. A tepid, confused and flaccid mess.

The above is an excerpt from my self-published book Holiday Notes.

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I’ve spent a long time attempting to write about my experience at Noma – paragraphs of anecdotes and waffling about complex cooking of foraged leaves, essays concerning unruly restaurant expectations of people with TripAdvisor accounts – but I’m struggling. I need to be more succinct lest I sound like a drooling fan.

I could tell you about the new friends I made from Singapore out the front as we aided each other in selfie-by-proxies at the famous restaurant’s front door, I could wax lyrical of its unexpected location, an area undergoing intensive redevelopment, or perhaps mention the intimidation which poured over me as I approached the façade I had seen in so many photos before.

We were the first to walk into the restaurant, and – “hello! Welcome to Noma!”, greeted 30 or so waitstaff and chefs in waves of humility. I was stunned. The bants of the waitstaff are so strong, as are the chefs’ as they introduced the food after introducing themselves, asking how long we were staying in Copenhagen for and about our hometown (“did you pick we were Australian from our horrible accents?”, “well yes, but I also saw the country code of your phone number of your booking”).

The dishes continued to arrive – immaculate, curated nature – they graced the table, not with any flourish, but with a casual cool composure, and I gazed toward this mysterious food, then gazed out the window to a half-constructed bridge toward Nyhavn, then gazed back to my transcendent bowl, and sighed, not a resigned sigh, but an expression of appreciation and wonderment – sedated by an unescorted grilled onion served with a single wooden spoon, and like Kanye West feeling on a typeface, I’d never felt emotions like this.

Black garlic was pressed and shaped into gorgeous flowers, an entire wild duck, shot only the day before, is served whole, then trimmed and returned to the table beside berries and greens soaked in vinegar for one year. An amalgam of esteem, humility, and flavours as stunning as new colours don’t exist anywhere else but here. Bold and kind: that’s Noma.

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Dishes pictured: Apples and lemon thyme, Øland wheat and rapeseed oil, cabbage leaves and white currants, grilled onion, grilled baby corn with cured egg yolk, new Danish potatoes and artichoke, sliced raw squid and kelp, monkfish liver, pumpkin, beechnuts and barley, vegetables flower, roasted wild duck, a dessert of Gammel Dansk and hazelnut oil, forest flavours with chocolate and egg liqueur.

The above is an excerpt (with additional photos) from my book Holiday Notes which is available to purchase here.

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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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