Dining – Part 1: Haute cuisine

Food is one of the most complicated things that humans do. From a strictly primal, biological view, all we need to do is ingest chemical energy so we can convert that into movement, heat, and other necessary functions.


                        Like stealing oxygen.

But macro-nutrients and amino acids aren’t the whole story.  We have 9,000 taste buds and although their primary function is as a food safety sensor, we’re past that now. No longer do our bodies serve to protect us from poor quality ingredients; now they are merely vessels of culinary pleasure.


As illustrated by this borderline orgasm.

Nowadays with the slew of cooking shows like My Kitchen Rules and Masterchef, we’ve taken food preparation to new levels of pornography. Every man and his wok now knows what crème fraîche is, that Harissa isn’t just a stripper name, and that it’s impossible to present a croquembouche without looking like a complete tosser.


This is the human equivalent of croquembouche: equal parts fat and wank.

Haute cuisine is known to most people as “when you’re served a big plate of small food”, and that is a pretty succinct definition. It’s the “less is more” mantra, where subtleties and nuances are dished up instead of flavour. There’s no denying that this is what the most revered restaurants serve, and they charge what’s known in the industry as a “Royal Fuck-tonne”. Don’t believe me? Check out this menu, the highlight being a $5,000 burger! I can only assume that it’s served with a drink made out of Antarctic ice and virgins’ tears.

But some people have either too much money or too little self-esteem, and just love to blow their money on overpriced food, in a desperate attempt to seem wealthy or cultured. Sydney and Melbourne both contain enough of these people to have cultivated a market for this sort of dining, so let’s sort out the foie gras from the foy grass, the sauté from the sour-tea and the jus from the Jews.


Yes, this is actually what comes up when you Google Image “Jew jus”

According to gourmettraveller.com.au, the top ten restaurants in the country were all from either Sydney or Melbourne with Sydney scoring seven of the top ten. In fact, Victoria and New South Wales are responsible for twenty-eight of the top thirty! Does this mean that the rest of the country are subsisting on a bland diet of potatoes and mushrooms? Or is it that the best chefs in Australia hunger only for the big-city money?


All those kilos of butter aren’t free, you know.

Now, as many of you know (from Masterchef – be honest), the highest honour a restaurant can receive is the Michelin Star. This started in 1900, when tyre manufacturer and slippery Frenchman Andre Michelin published a book reviewing restaurants…to promote car tourism, aaaaand to increase tyre usage. Basically, 1 star is excellent, 2 stars is super-excellent, and 3 stars is “Bring your Gold Amex”. So, how many Michelin Star restaurants are there in Australia? Exactly zero. We’re too classy for that. We have our own system, devised by the Australian Good Food and Travel Guide – a Chef’s Hat. It works the same way as the Michelin Star, except you can only score “one”, and no one cares.

But if you were to care (and I’m not suggesting you should), the best restaurant in Australia is called “Vue de Monde” and it’s in Melbourne, as are three of the top ten. This is compared to Sydney, which has four of the top ten. Incidentally, the website that lists Copenhagen’s Noma as the best restaurant IN THE WORLD has only one Australian restaurant listed. At number twenty-nine, it’s Quay, from Sydney.

This post has all been about dining’s cream of the crop. Next week, however, will be all about real food. Peasant food. The 99%. Until then, if you’re in the market for the top 1% of cuisine, Sydney has you served.

Monuments

Every city needs some landmarks to put it on the map. Whether it’s ancient ruins, ultra-modern skyscrapers, or a series of Big Things, people love their city to have impressive stuff that you don’t.

At the end of Danny Boyle’s sci-fi thriller “Sunshine”, a film set aboard a spaceship, there is only one scene at the end in which we see earth. The director chose one location to represent our world, Sydney Harbour, as he considered the Opera House to be one of the few monuments that are “universally recognisable“. How many other monuments would qualify for that illustrious title? The Taj Mahal, The Eiffel Tower, The Great Pyramid of Giza, The Statue of Liberty, The Colosseum…but what about Melbourne? Anything there?


                   Aww, yeah! The 8th ugliest building in the world, bitches!

Conclusion: Melbourne has nothing that compares to the Opera House. One point to Sydney.

What about the Harbour bridge?

Beautiful. Such an iconic, original design. Except that it isn’t, which is something this tourism website conspicuously fails to mention. If you’ve been to New York, I’m sure you saw the charming Brooklyn Bridge and the impressive Washington Bridge. But did you notice the Hell Gate Bridge? No? Well, here it is:


                          Look familiar?

Completed 10 years before Sydney’s Harbour Bridge was started, this must be the greatest case of fraud in civil engineering history! And yet the Harbour Bridge is described as “an economic feat as well as an engineering triumph”, which also ignores the inconvenient fact that it took 56 years to pay off. Melbourne’s prefered supplier of suicide, The West Gate Bridge, is more than twice as long…and half as pretty.


“Fuck this whole “looking nice” thing, we’re too busy trying to stop the bastard collapsing again”

*Sigh*…more people died in its construction than care it exists. What about Melbourne’s Bolte bridge? Well, that looks like someone said “Hey! Let’s make a bridge with a couple of unconnected, hollow, useless towers, and splash a bit of ‘Golden Gate Red’ on the bottom”.


          Where’s al-Qaeda when you need them?

Another point to Sydney.

What about Sydney’s 309m Centrepoint Tower? Sure, it’s probably just a ripoff of Seattle’s Space Needle, but it’s the only one in Australia, so it’s reasonably unique. Melbourne’s Art Centre Spire, at 162m, is nice but it’s not particularly noticeable and doesn’t have an observation deck or a revolving restaurant. Another point to Sydney.


“I dunno, sort of make it like the Eiffel Tower or something. Here’s $20.” – note handed to architect, presumably.

Does Melbourne have anything else? Well, yeah, the Shrine of Remembrance, Flinders St Station, St Paul’s Cathedral, Parliament House, Luna Park, The Sidney Myer Music Bowl…and that’s probably it. Attractive, sure. Some of them are even quite impressive. But you’re not going to compare them to, say, Big Ben or the Brandenburg Gate. Sydney for the win, and a monumental one at that.

Sport

“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting.”

-George Orwell

Or alternatively:


New Olympic Sport: Synchronised Cocksucking.

With that in mind, let’s triple-jump into the wide, wide world of sports.
Unless you’ve been lucky enough to avoid social-media or…anti-social (?) media recently, you’d know that a global phenomenon is currently underway in England: The Olympic Games, which is only slightly more of an athletic exercise than marketing one.


The REAL Olympic gold…

Australia prides itself on being a leader in the sporting world, and despite figures from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games corroborating that fact, the 2012 London campaign has been an abysmal effort. Since 2008, Australia has spent about $600 million on Olympic sports, which currently gives us a return-on-investment of…SIX GOLD MEDALS! In Beijing, Australia had the 2nd-best performance on a “gold-medal-to-population” ratio, with the gold medal in that event going to Jamaica. But that probably has more to do with the Caribbean being a landing point for thousands of enslaved West-Africans than Jamaicans living out their own versions of “Cool Runnings”.


A heartwarming film where the black guys do all the manual labour and the fat, white American is in charge. Wait, what? Disney, you sneaky racists!

I am of the unpopular opinion that almost all professional sports are severely over-rated and over-represented in society. Most half-hour news programs dedicate almost a third of their time to sports, and there are 17 sport channels on Foxtel (Australian cable TV). In which other field of endeavour would you find such media coverage? Biology? Mechanical engineering? Environmental news?
The funniest part of sport is hearing fans denigrate other people’s’ favourite sport. “That’s not a sport! My sport is tougher than your sport. SPORRRRRT!!!”. It’s like that Stephen Roberts quote about God: “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”


But we can all agree: this is not a sport. And what the fuck is “dressage”?

Despite our apparent love for physical activity, Australians are some of the fattest people on earth, with this study claiming that 71% of us are overweight! Maybe we should stop watching sport on tv and actually play it.
So, what does this have to do with Sydney and Melbourne? Well, I want to figure out which city is the sporting capital of Australia.
In Melbourne’s favour, it has five out of the top ten largest stadiums in Australia, while Sydney only has two. The Melbourne Cricket Ground also hosted the 1970 Aussie Rules Grand Final which holds the records for both the Highest Attendance at an Australian Sporting Event (121,696), and Most Number of Mulleted Bogans at a Sporting Event (also 121,696).


          These days it’s just the one.

Sydney held the most recent Olympics in 2000, which is a feat Melbourne accomplished 44 years prior. Both cities have hosted the Commonwealth games (a multi-sport event where Australia destroys England, Canada and much of the third world), and shared hosting duties for the 1992 Cricket World Cup.
Also, both cities have two Twenty/20 cricket teams, and two A-League Soccer teams (Although Western Sydney is yet to play a game and Sydney FC averages just over half the crowd-attendance of Melbourne Victory)
As for Melbourne-invented Australian Football versus Sydney’s English-adopted Rugby League…well, I’ve discussed the issue here and here, and it was a resounding victory to Melbourne.
But which sport is the most popular in terms of participation? Surprisingly, it’s basketball. Paying no heed to our lack of either tall, black men or NBA television coverage, we apparently love the sport, especially Melbourne. But not as much as Stephanie Rice.


“…so then I raped her!”
“LOL Kobe! You’re SO funny!”

What about tennis? Ever heard of the Australian Open Grand Slam? Melbourne.
Formula One? Melbourne.
The only horse race in the world that requires a public holiday for its city? Melbourne Cup.
MotoGP? Melbourne (Well, Phillip Island, two hours from Melbourne)
Golf? Sydney with the Australian Open (Although Melbourne does have the Aus. Masters)
Look, in all sports, there are winners and losers. Except when there’s draw. Whatever, this isn’t soccer. Melbourne wins the gold.

Gay Culture

According to this poorly-researched fluff piece that references a scholarly work I can’t seem to locate, the more gays in a city, the better it is. The logic goes: gays are less likely to have kids, hence have more disposable income, hence can afford nicer things, hence are more likely to be found in nicer cities.


     Pictured: nice stuff

Now, despite what a lot of you think of me, I’m not gay. Everyone seems to believe that I am some sort of closeted homosexual. Sure, I’m comfortable with blokes. I don’t mind wearing pink. I’m all for gay-rights. And I’m quite partial to Bob Dylan’s “The man in me”. But that doesn’t mean I’m attracted to men.


                       Or this.

Despite this, I couldn’t help but feel a bit gay walking down Oxford St the other day. More than a little bit, in fact. My gaydar was jammed with of the amount of twinks, queens and…”indeterminates” that I saw. And there were so many rainbow flags that I started to question my own wavering sexuality wonder if rainbow parties actually exist.  Also, a quick tip for straight guys: never enter a store called “Tool Shed”; they aren’t necessarily selling tradie’s equipment. Are gay men THAT concerned with leather?


I was so distracted by all the male-to-male anal-rape, I forgot about how GAY this scene is!

This topic is going to be difficult to assess. I’ve spent at least a few minutes on the internet trying to get some stats about gays in Australia, and I can’t find much. Wikipedia, that ever-reliable source, just gives me a list of gay suburbs in Australia. Turns out Sydney has 6 and Melbourne has 5.

I wanted to compare the number of gay-bars and such, but I couldn’t find the stats. Ditto for violence against gays. There’s just no readily available info on the first page of results from google.

Interestingly, I found this report on homosexuality, and the only relevant point to us is this:

So, Victoria is the most gay-tolerant state. Queensland and Tassie are the least (surprise!) Also in the report, the three least homophobic city areas in Australia are:

Melbourne – Inner
Perth – Central
Melbourne – Central

However, Sydney does have an entire street dedicated to things that would make the Ancient Greeks blush. Not to mention they have some little party once a-


           Helllllllllooooooooo!!!! (Say it in a gay voice)

Yes, Sydney, with its Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, has been awarded this year’s International City with the Best Gay Festival. And Sydney is number two in this article from The Independent titled: “The Ten Best Places To Be Gay”.

Well, that’s about it. I think Sydney’s buggered off and won.

While we’re here, I should probably mention that the whole “gay-marriage” thing is a bit of a social issue here in Australia. Even though public support of same-sex marriage is at 64%, both political parties have said they won’t be addressing it, anytime soon. I’d expect that from conservative monastery-trained Tony Abbott, but not from our PM; Julia “Living in sin” Gillard. I find it very convenient for her to accept women’s rights, but not gay rights.


This is WAY more offensive that anything a gay man has ever done.

In case you haven’t heard the arguments against gay marriage, let me sum them up for you quickly: “Men sucking dick is gross”. That’s it. Seriously.

What, you want a more detailed analysis? Done.

“Homosexuality isn’t natural”
Marriage isn’t natural either.

“No, I mean it isn’t biologically natural”
Yes, it is. At least 450 species engage in homosexual behaviour.

“But still, we’re humans, not animals”
Biology is not your strong point. Also, have you not heard of the gay gene?

“God hates fags”
At no point has God ever written or said that he hates anything. The Bible was written 2.5 millenia ago by conservative Jews, NOT by God. These are the same people who thought that the world was flat, and were still amazed by iron.

“Leviticus 18:22, y’all”
Yes, in Leviticus, the Bible does say that you shouldn’t lie with a man as with a woman. It ALSO says you shouldn’t do the following: eat fat from an animal, eat pigs/seafood/rabbit, eat blood (no black pudding for you!); lie, steal, deceive, spread slander, wear clothes with two different materials, get a tattoo, cut your hair on the sides, clip your beard, get your fortune predicted, commit adultery, have sex with a woman on her period, go to church if you are blind/disfigured/have damaged testicles, work on a Sunday, or say the word “God“. If you’ve done any of those things, FAIL!

But you should do the following: get circumcised 8 days after birth, sacrifice a young goat and a young pigeon two weeks after giving birth ; sacrifice more animals if you have a wet dream or your period. If you haven’t done those things…FAIL AGAIN! Yes, Leviticus is insane, and it is FILLED with sacrifical-killing of animals, yet homosexuality is mentioned in only a couple of verses.

“What’s next, a guy marrying a dog?”
Any two consenting, loving, human adults should have the same rights as anyone else, shouldn’t they? No one mentioned another species, or something that can’t consent.


“Now son, you’re not GAY are you? I wouldn’t want this sacred institution to be ruined.”

“This cheapens the institute of marriage”
Britney Spears can marry a dude for 55 hours, Kim Kardashian can get married for tv ratings and 72 days, and these fuckwits can marry video-game characters/The Berlin Wall/dead ex-boyfriends/themselves/The Eiffel Tower. Why can’t two people of the same sex marry?

“How am I going to explain this to my children?”
The same way you’d explain anything; honestly. “Sometimes, boys can like boys, and girls can like girls. Most people don’t do that though, and it is quite complicated. You’ll understand when you’re a bit older, but keep asking questions”. As my favourite comedian, Louis CK, says: “Two guys are in LOVE but they can’t get married because YOU don’t want to talk to your ugly child for five fuckin’ minutes?”

“They can’t have kids, so it’s not right. Also, they’ll produce only gay children”
Gay kids have been produced by heterosexual couples for hundreds of thousands of years, so blame the straight people for that. And a lot of straight couples can’t procreate…so should we ban them from marrying too?

“Something, something, something…TRADITION”
You wanna talk about marriage and tradition? How about the banning of inter-faith or inter-racial marriages? Your biblical tradition says that men are supposed to “love your wives”, but women are told to “submit yourselves to your husbands” (Ephesians 5:22-33). And sorry rapists, if you rape a woman, you’ve gotta marry her (Deuteronomy 22:28-30). Also, if you have slaves (because tradition, that’s why) then you’re allowed to sexually exploit them. To summarise tradition: slavery, rape, female submission, racism, all ok. Same-sex marriage, not ok.

Anyone against gay marriage is anti-human-rights, and thus, can eat a bag of dicks. If you don’t like that, consider the following map. Dark blue is gay-friendly, and dark red is “Death to fags”. Tell me; where would you rather live?


“Why, oh why, didn’t I choose the BLUE countries?”                        – Everyone in the red countries.

Coffee

For some reason, coffee is the drink of choice for adults around the world. I don’t really understand it. If I had to choose between coffee and tea, I would choose tea. Green tea, black tea, chai, whatever. But, at some point in humanity, it was decided that coffee would be our master. Not tea, or cocoa, but coffee. In fact, just asking “Do you wanna grab a coffee?” is as good as “Do you wanna chat?” to a mate or “I’d like to fuck you, but I’m not paying for a meal” to a girl.


By accepting a cup of coffee from a man, this woman has consented to give him at least one blowjob.

The worst part of it is the fraud. People claim they like the taste of coffee, but THEY DON’T! They only like it if it’s been diluted by milk, sugar, chocolate, cinnamon, blah blah blah. A simple glance at a Starbucks menu will yield at least infinity varieties of not-quite-coffee. I reckon everyone turns into a hipster when they’re ordering coffee. I’ve never heard anyone go to a cool cafe and say they want “just a coffee”.

Now, I’ll accept that coffee is culture, in the same way that Jerry Springer is quality television. But how much coffee do Aussies drink in comparison to the rest of the world? Well, turns out we’re way down the list, being the 42nd greatest coffee consuming nation. We have an average of 3kg of coffee per person per year, which sounds like a lot, until you consider that Finland consumes FOUR times that figure. Not bad for a country of rude, depressed alcoholics. They need it more.

Back in Australia, we won the highly-coveted “Best Coffee Nation” in 2010 at the World Barista Championships. Impressive. But how does coffee rate in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s two most important* cultural cities? *(according to that sentence I just wrote).

According to urbanspoon, there are 1,910 cafes in Melbourne, compared to 1,320 in Sydney. That’s 45% more, in a city with half-a-million people less! Is it the cold weather? Is it the typical Melbourne hipster? I don’t know. And I don’t have any facts to get in the way.

From purely anecdotal evidence, the best places to go for coffee in Sydney include:
Gusto in Coogee, Coffee Alchemy in Marrickville, Reuben Hills in Surry Hills and Campos Coffee in Newtown. In Melbourne, the best places to go for coffee include: everywhere but Starbucks.

Don’t believe me? Well, fuck you! Also, check out which city is number five in the Huffington Post’s “9 Best places to have a cup of coffee“. Or globeinnovator.com’s “world’s 5 greatest coffee cities“…guess which city is the only non-European? And worldhum.com’s “Best Cities to Drink Coffee“? Number four is…Melbourne.


That, my friends, is a river of coffee. I know, it looks like fecal matter, but it’s not.

So, despite my earlier rant, I actually DO like coffee. It’s gotta be black with no sugar, and you can only have it once in a while. It’s best with something sweet like baklava or biscotti. And the stronger the better: Turkish, if possible. I don’t know why I hate coffee culture so much. Maybe I’ve been jaded by all the gourmet coffee corporations. More than likely, though, it’s YOU. You with your “I don’t feel like myself until I’ve had a coffee” whinging. You with your “I can’t wake up without a coffee” mentality. I’m sick of your dependencies! But when you do need your fix, you know where to go: Melbourne.

The weather

I’m going to assume you’ve seen any shit comedian’s routine and that you know the stereotypes.


“…and have you ever noticed how boys have penises and girls have vaginas?!”

How does one judge the weather? I think most people would agree that sunny days are a good indicator, whether it’s for going to the beach, playing sport, or just cultivating melanomas. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne has 49 clear days per year, while Sydney has 104. That’s an emphatic win for Sydney. How about gloomy, cloudy days? Melbourne has 180 (yes, that’s half the year – the worst capital city in Australia!), compared to Sydney’s 133 (About a third of the year).

Just for reference, New York has 107 days of sun, and London has no data available, so I’m forced to assume they have 0.


Which is good, because according to this study, Londoners equate warmth to suicide.

Oddly enough, Sydney and Melbourne have the EXACT same number of days with 1mm or greater of rainfall, at 100.3 per year! But when it rains in Sydney, it pours. The average rainfall is twice that of Melbourne. So what would you prefer: hot and wet, or cold and dry? Of course, with climate change more of a “thing” than sceptics would have you believe, we might have to have another look at these figures in a couple of years, when our hoverboards and flying cars arrive.

“‘Global warming’? Sorry sir, that’s just scientist talk” – Kenneth Parcell, 30 Rock.

Sydney also has slightly greater humidity compared to Melbourne, which has two bonuses: making the weather seem warmer, and keeping my cigars fresh.


But not as fresh as some.

As for other factors, the two cities are more similar than you’d believe. Average daily maximum? 22c to 20c, Sydney’s way. Foggy days? 18 to 15, Melbourne’s way. Average wind speed? 11.6 to 11.7km.

But it does feel different. As a warm-bodied person, I’m struggling to adjust to this weather. Basic meteorology tells me that no clothing is needed, but society says otherwise. I hate society. Luckily, I live near the beach, so I’m subjected to lovely ocean breezes and I do have the ability to jump into the cool water if my nether-regions are too hot.


“Testes, cancel sperm production in 3…2..1…”

Ok, ok, I’m padding; Sydney does have a better, warmer, climate. Whether I like it or not. If you want to investigate this topic further, but with actual research and professionalism, click here. Sydney wins.

Beaches

Most people love the beach[citation needed].Whether it’s the surf, sunbaking, or the occasional spot of nudity, we Aussies clamour for the chance to be near a body of salt-water. With 83% of Australia’s population living within 50 kilometres of the coast, and one of the longest coastlines in the world, we certainly have ample opportunities to enjoy some sun at the beach. Oh, and get skin cancer while we’re at it.
Living in Sydney’s south-east, I am privileged to be approximately 4.5 minutes drive from both Coogee and Clovelly beaches. Coogee is quite nice, but everyone knows that, which is why it’s always busy. As for Clovelly beach…well, it’s too narrow, the water is a bit dirty, and the slabs of concrete on either side really clash with the natural beauty.


                “Concrete. Because fuck you, nature.”

In spite of this, the waterside views In Sydney are quite remarkable. And I can see the ocean from my apartment, but only if I’m not currently in it


“Charming 2bdr with awkward ocean glimpses”

Having been to Bondi, and (the very-gay-and-desperately-macho-sounding) “Manly” beaches before, I can confirm that they are excellent. They are never going to be as good as a small-town beach, but for a place to swim that’s only minutes from the CBD and a stone’s throw away from heroin-addled hobos, these might be the best in Australia. Also, I’m told that Tamarama is the beach to go to for surfing. I’ll just have to learn how to surf first, so I don’t get into a fight with a Sydney’s version of Anthony Kiedis.


Like this, but with a Southern Cross tatt.

If you like beaches, but don’t like sand because your cleanliness borders on OCD, consider the Bondi to Coogee walk. All the fun of being at the beach and then walking away. I’m underselling it; the views on this walk are outstanding. I can’t think of another major city in the world that has access to a nature walk of this beauty.


“…and just past that bend is The Gap, kids. Nothing to see there. Nope, nothing. Seriously, though, don’t ever go there.”

And Bondi even has a reality show based around its beach. Perfect if you want to see English and Japanese tourists drown and then get resuscitated. Terrible if you like good television. I’m taking one point off Sydney for that.


    Because this is not entertainment.

Melbourne’s beaches range all the way from “filthy” to “bummer, dude”. In the bay, there is not one beach that is plungeworthy, especially after storms on Christmas Day in 2011 deposited a whole bunch of E. coli there. This caused almost every beach to be listed as “unacceptable” for swimming. And this is an ongoing thing: the EPA has advised Melburnians not to swim at beaches for 48 hours after any storm!


                           “Shitter’s full!”

To find a decent beach in Victoria, you really need to get down to Bell’s Beach, Torquay or further down the Great Ocean Rd. Otherwise, there’s Portsea, Sorrento, or Phillip Island  south-east of Melbourne. These aren’t really Melbourne beaches, though. These are day trips. And with Melbourne’s weather not known for its kindness (blog post coming!), I’m awarding this contest to Sydney, scoring 9 out of 10. Melbourne, on the other hand, gets a 4. When it comes to beaches, Sydney is a bikini-clad blonde, and Melbourne is a streetwalker with questionable STD results. Sydney for the win.