10 Best Stops on Margaret River’s Wine and Truffle Trail, Western Australia

Truffleco12

Truffle hunting at The Wine & Truffle Co in Western Australia (Photo by Brad A. Johnson)

It’s truffle season in Australia, so I’m bringing this story out of the archives. The Margaret River valley is one of the best wine-growing regions in Australia. The wine-tasting trail is an amazing romp through rolling green hills that stretch along the coastline of Western Australia all the way to its southernmost cape, where the Indian Ocean and Southern Ocean collide.

Wine-wise, the area is best known for Chardonnays and for Semillon-tempered Sauvignon Blancs. The Cabernets are great, too. What a lot of people might not realize is that this region also produces some of the world’s best black truffles. They’re the exact same species as the famed black truffles from Perigord, France—and they’re just as good (harvested in Australia’s winter, our summer), as chefs such as L.A.’s Josiah Citrin will attest. (Actually, he thinks Australia’s truffles are more consistent than France’s.) The region also boasts a burgeoning beer industry. Here are 10 essential stops along Margaret River’s wine and truffle trail. 

Continue reading

Perth, Australia: 5 Hot Restaurants, 1 Super-Cool Bar

Andaluz8

Fried lamb brains with polenta and black truffle at Andaluz in Perth, Australia (photo by Brad A Johnson)

You don’t hear much about Perth. But that’s about to change. It’s one of the fastest-growing cities in Australia — thanks to a booming mining industry, Perth boasts the strongest regional economies in the country. Everyone here is flush with cash. (It feels a bit like San Francisco during the late ’90s dotcom gold rush.)  Continue reading

Squatting in Australia: What’s Up With The Stools?

Chinchin

Tiny plastic stools at Chin Chin in Melbourne (photo by Brad A Johnson)

Hey Australia, what’s up with all those tiny stools? Got something against real chairs? 

Here’s a trend I couldn’t help but notice in Australia: tiny stools instead of chairs for the alfresco dining areas at bars and restaurants across the country. I’ve frequently squated on these sorts of stools in Southeast Asia, in dark alleyways and on crowded city sidewalks, where streetfood was being served by plucky owners who couldn’t afford a real brick-and-mortar shop. In cases such as that, the stools made perfect sense. But in rich, modern Australia, these little less-than-knee-high stools are being used in trendy, swanky and often very expensive restaurants and bars in chic, upmarket neighborhoods—inside and out!  Continue reading

Room with a View: Karri Valley Resort, Australia

Karrivalley6

Balcony of room 19, Karri Valley Resort, Western Australia (Photo by Brad A Johnson)

This is the view from the balcony of my cabin (#19) at Karri Valley Resort, just outside of Pemberton (a wee blip on the map) in Western Australia. The balcony juts over the edge of an amazingly beautiful lake surrounded by densely forested hills. It’s like a scene straight out of Friday the 13th—except Jason never shows up. Continue reading

Before & After: Andaluz Tapas Bar, Perth, Australia

Andaluz6

Before: Sardines at Andaluz in Perth, Australia (Photo by Brad A Johnson)

You’re looking at some incredible pan-fried sardines from Andaluz, a sexy little tapas bar in Perth, Australia. This is such a simple, rustic and immensely satisfying dish. This is the “before” shot. And here’s the “after”…  Continue reading