Oliver’s Twist on Fabulous Food

I have a soft spot for Jamie Oliver. His enthusiasm and passion for cooking is so infectious! The acclaimed British chef, with an affable, easy going charm, has a laid back attitude that’s reflected in his down to earth approach to everyday cooking.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

In an earlier post titled “Domestic Goddess Sizzles in the Kitchen”, I pointed out that cooking had never been my speciality. In fact, cooking and I go together like chalk ‘n’ cheese, we just don’t gel. Eating on the other hand is my forte. I love food. But, it’s more than comical that I have a tendency of scorching, nuking and spoiling the most simple of meals like scrambled eggs or even the humble toast. I’ve experienced more misses than hits when preparing food that’s fit for human consumption. Consequently, I have a ‘can’t cook, won’t cook’ mind-set to whipping up a gastronomic smorgasbord.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

 Often cooking programs focus on complicated feasts, and not surprisingly, I find such recipes way too challenging to even attempt given my limited culinary skills. What’s worse is that you need a myriad of gadgets which I don’t own, just to slice, dice, chop, julienne, mix, mash or boil the ingredients. Otherwise, the recipe consists of exotic components you’ve never heard of, or elements you’d rarely use in other meals and your local store doesn’t carry in any case. To top it off, I don’t have the time, not only to prepare the dish, but to clean up the mess afterwards. It’s all too hard and puts me off from bringing my A-Game to the kitchen.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

On the other hand, Jamie’s signature style to preparing a meal makes cooking accessible to the masses, boofhead friendly and idiot proof! He’s recognised that cooking fabulous food isn’t just for elite professionals or experienced cooks. Let’s face it, we don’t always need to prepare Michelin awarded meals for everyday cooking. Jamie’s recipes aren’t pompous or pretentious. When it comes to casual dining, precision isn’t paramount and presentation doesn’t always require the perfection that’s demanded in 5-star restaurants. Instead, Jamie’s twist on a delectable dish centres on simplicity and big bursts of flavour, colour and texture. His meals have a rustic, organic quality, using fresh, seasonal and/or everyday ingredients commonly found in your pantry. Convenience and ease is the key, but taste isn’t sacrificed.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

 Best of all, Jamie Oliver is a chef with a heart of gold and a conscience for social issues. He takes on causes and challenges close to his heart. Jamie’s highlighted the rising levels of obesity amongst young children and has campaigned tirelessly for healthier menus in school canteens. He opened Fifteen, a not-for-profit training restaurant that empowers young adults from underprivileged backgrounds with an opportunity for a better future1. The initiative offers disenfranchised youths with an apprenticeship and first hand experience in hospitality2.  He promotes a healthy lifestyle through the magic of food, with recipes emphasising the importance of affordable, well balanced meals. Through his cook books and various television programs, he has inspired families to get back to basics with home cooking, to source and use locally produced goods and to opt for freshly prepared meals rather than the fast food alternative.

Image Source: facebook.com/jamieoliver/photos

 What’s refreshing about each of Jamie’s television cooking series is that they don’t rely on his experience and celebrity profile to humiliate and break down aspiring chefs or avid cooks like a drill sergeant, a la Gordon Ramsay. Mainstream television is flooded by reality based competitions, where amateur cooks and professional chefs are under pressure cooker conditions and consequently ridiculed for their errors or critiqued on trivial criteria as a form of entertainment.

 Instead, Jamie’s shows have a casual, light hearted vibe that centres on what cooking programs should focus on – creating practical, well balanced, hearty culinary delights; comforting meals made with enthusiasm and love.

Sources: http://www.jamieoliver.com/  Viewed February 19, 2013

Citations: http://www.jamieoliver.com/  Viewed February 19, 2013

Christmas Greetings! With Love, Melbourne

Flinders Street Station Image Source: The Vibe 101

Flinders Street Station Image Source: The Vibe 101

There’s nothing like summer in Melbourne, especially as Christmas approaches. The city’s lively atmosphere steps up a gear and comes to life even further as the festive season kicks in. Christmas brings such a spirited, vibrant buzz in town. The garlands are hung, decorations adorn street lamps and shop windows are decked out with glistening ornaments and flickering party lights.

Melbourne Town Hall Image Source: The Vibe 101

Melbourne Town Hall Image Source: The Vibe 101

The Block Arcade Image Source: The Vibe 101

The Block Arcade Image Source: The Vibe 101

The mood around the CBD is laid back, yet pulsating and infectious. As you stroll along the city streets, you’ll find yourself weaving in and out of the large crowds of people, some of whom have taken to the festive spirit by donning reindeer antlers or Santa hats. It’s hard not to be captivated by the light entertainment performed by an eclectic mix of buskers and carollers scattered on the corner of busy intersections or positioned outside retail department stores.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

The smorgasbord of bars, cafes and restaurants is the heart and soul of Melbourne. Personally, it’s a great city to wine, dine and ultimately to relax as you gear up for Christmas celebrations. The tantalising aromas wafting through the air from some of Melbourne’s finest eateries combined with the large number of funky pubs and clubs only adds to the sizzling energy and ambiance of this great city.

Burke Street Mall Image Source: The Vibe 101

Burke Street Mall Image Source: The Vibe 101

Myer (Melbourne's equivalent to Macy's, Selfridges or SM Department Stores) Image Source: The Vibe 101

Myer (Melbourne’s equivalent to Macy’s, Selfridges or SM Department Stores) Image Source: The Vibe 101

The hedonistic fusion of awesome music, delectable food, cocktail of drinks and great company is hypnotic to the senses and further intensifies the joy and merriment one would experience at this time of the year. Melbourne certainly knows how to turn on the charm to build up a cheerful party vibe full of reverie. You’ll wish to soak it in and bottle it up

I love Christmas, especially in Melbourne!

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Visual Light Show at Melbourne Town Hall
Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 20 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Visual Light Show at Melbourne Town Hall
Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 19 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Visual Light Show at Melbourne Town Hall
Image Source: The Vibe 101

Melbourne Town Hall Image Source: The Vibe 101

Melbourne Town Hall Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 8 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Hardware Lane, worth visiting for a bite to eat
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Pic 3 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 5 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 7 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Image Source: The Vibe 1o1

Pic 12 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne’s equivalent to New York’s Grand Central Station or The Tube in London
Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 9 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Burke Street Mall
Image Source: The Vibe 101

Pic 10 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

The GPO at Melbourne
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Pic 6 Mobile Phone Pictures as at 23-12-2012 132

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Dubrovnik – The Bittersweet Memories

Dubrovnik 1

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I have bittersweet memories of Dubrovnik. I travelled there to catch up with an old flame. But in the back of my head, I knew the relationship was heading straight towards the deep dark void of romance abyss – that is, splitsville. All good things must come to an end, but memories last forever, hence why Dubrovnik will always hold a special place in my heart.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Oh the crazy things we do for love! I visited Dubrovnik just a week after my 30th birthday. The trek from Melbourne to Dubrovnik was an adventure in itself. The journey involved close to an 8hr flight from Melbourne to Singapore. The second flight from Singapore to Frankfurt was just under 13hrs and the final leg between Frankfurt to Dubrovnik was a further 2hr plane ride. That part wasn’t bad. It was the 8hr stopovers at both Singapore and Frankfurt that was draining.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Actually, Changi airport was fun. The free internet, cinema centre and entertainment areas featuring widescreen TV monitors that were strategically positioned near a smorgasbord of shops and café’s, was enough to keep me occupied. It was Frankfurt that was the bane of my existence. There was nothing to do as I roamed around in limbo trying desperately to pass time, while the cigarette smoke wafting through the air was strong enough to gag on. What was worse, I was dragging around luggage while wearing knee high boots with three inch heels. Don’t judge me – I looked hot despite my pain. Besides, I just entered my ‘flirty thirty’ phase of life and I was footloose and fancy free!

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Situated along the Adriatic Sea, south of Croatia, Dubrovnik is a UNESCO listed city and a gem of the Dalmatia region. During the drive towards our hotel, the taxi driver kindly stopped at a popular observation deck overlooking the scenic view of the coastline (it was a sneaky, but effective move to bump up my fare but it was worth it!). It was my first taste of the Old Town of Dubrovnik which was accentuated by a sea of terracotta coloured rooftops.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

The Old Town is the heart and soul of Dubrovnik. As you enter the gates of the walled city, you take a step back in time into a golden era reminiscent of a period where fair ladies and knights in shining armour still roamed. The city is characterised by traditional architecture inspired by Gothic, Romanesque or Baroque designs (I’m not an arts connoisseur, but I’m assuming the buildings are of that vintage). As you stroll along the Placa or Stradun (which is the main city walkway), you’ll notice the promenade is flanked on either side by a myriad of cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Our accommodation was just a leisurely walk outside the city. Each evening, S and I headed towards the historical site for a bite to eat. Even at night the city keeps a vibrant atmosphere as the residents open up their quaint al fresco cafés and restaurants to tourists. During summer, candlelit dinners with the stars above are the perfect way to soak in the laid back ambiance.  Being of Bosnian background, S spoke the language and recommended local cuisines including bureks (a pastry dish) and cevapčići (minced meat, similar to a kebab) which is worth trying.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

I had the chance to explore the Old Town, walking the length of the outer perimeter of the city. Meandering along the surrounding walls is the best opportunity to get a bird’s eye perspective of the lofty bell tower which dominates the main square or watch the sail boats and even the odd cruise liner that are docked in the port. From this vantage point, you’ll be amazed by the town’s timeless, classic appeal. However, based on the information plaque at the main entrance, much of the city was heavily damaged during the Balkans war. Following the end of the war, the town has managed to restore many of the buildings to their original structure.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

As you immerse yourself in the maze of cobblestone streets and corridors of lane ways, you’ll discover prominent landmarks including the Dominican Monastery and church with its large dome; the Great Onofrio Fountain built in 1348 and the Franciscan monastery. Other highlights include the St Blaise Church for its traditional architecture; the Rector’s (Sponza) Palace and its beautiful archways, and the Gunduliceva Poljana which is the site of the busy morning market.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Dubrovnik has an enchanting fairytale charm. Sadly, S was not my Prince Charming. However, I didn’t want this doomed relationship to overshadow my time in this romantic city. Yet, as each day passed, I knew the inevitable was looming. The relationship was coming to its finale and I was trying desperately to hold onto ‘something’ that clearly wasn’t worth clinging to.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

As women, we all know some boys are toxic. There’s a breed of men out there that are like cigarettes. You know you should stay away from them but temptation gets the better of you, until it finally hits you that they’re clearly a bad habit! Ok, this hook up wasn’t all good, but it wasn’t all bad either, it just was never meant to be.

Image Source: The Vibe 101

Image Source: The Vibe 101

During the journey home to the land of Oz, I remember sitting at Changi Airport with a heavy heart, staring outside onto the tarmac…I was 30, and single….AGAIN, I thought to myself. There’s a line in Sleepless in Seattle where a man says to Meg Ryan’s character “It’s easier to be killed by a terrorist than it is to find a husband” and it hit me hard. I shed a tear. It was the end of a chapter to another failed romance.

Luckily, this story didn’t end there. Within a few months, I met a wonderful, caring, smart, funny guy who is the love of my life! To this day, this love story continues….