Our globe-hopping ‘foodie’ reports from the Land Down Under
By: Elan Head
October 25, 2008
Photo by Elan Head

Greetings from the Southern Hemisphere! Wrangler News’ editor and a longtime cohort, Don Kirkland, asked me to provide an update on what the Discerning Diner has been doing since leaving U.S. shores in December. So, here’s my first dispatch from Down Under.
You might imagine that wherever she is in the world, the Discerning Diner is eating well. True!

I’m currently living in Melbourne, Australia, which has to be one of the best food and wine cities in the world. Much like, say, San Francisco, pretty much everyone in Melbourne lists “food and wine” as a top interest.

Although the population of the Melbourne metro area is only around 3.8 million people, the restaurant scene here can compete with much larger cities.

I live right downtown – or in the “Central Business District,” as the Aussies call it – so my dining options are particularly good.

Besides any number of wonderful upscale restaurants, there are lots of good, cheap ethnic restaurants in my neighborhood, too. So while I’m definitely spending more than I should be on food, I haven’t quite broken the bank.

One of the best things about Melbourne is its market scene. I live a block and a half from the Queen Victoria Market, the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere.

I pay a visit to this foodie wonderland a few times a week; this morning I picked up the ingredients for a nostalgic American supper of pot roast, mashed potatoes and green beans. The market is a great place to go for breakfast or lunch – yesterday I met a friend there for its legendary bratwurst.

But enough about food! Believe it or not, I’m not in Melbourne simply to eat: currently, I’m also the editor of the helicopter magazine HeliNews (pay me a visit at www.helinews.com.au).

Working for HeliNews has been a fantastic opportunity to meet some really great people and see a big chunk of an amazing continent. In May, I went on a week-long helicopter “safari” to Ayers Rock, or Uluru – that big red rock in the middle of Australia.

Let me tell you, you don’t realize how big this country is until you start flying across it in a helicopter. Outback Australia is as remote and empty as everyone says it is, but it’s also spectacularly beautiful.

I did another long, cross-country trip in June, when I accompanied a friend to his cattle station near Mount Isa, Queensland, for some helicopter “mustering.”

Herding cattle by helicopter is something that’s done occasionally in the U.S., but it’s much more common in Australia, where the cattle ranches, or “stations,” are generally much larger.

It’s some seriously crazy flying (and consequently a lot of fun).

Having grown up on cattle stations in New Mexico, it was great to see how they do things Down Under. I will say that the “jackaroos” and “jillaroos” in Australia work just as hard as the cowboys and cowgirls in the United States – and eat just as few green, leafy vegetables! (Wherever you are in the world, the ranch diet is all about meat.)
Another one of my standout experiences was a week in Wanaka, New Zealand, where I attended the Warbirds Over Wanaka air show and did some mountain flying training at Wanaka Helicopters.

Wanaka is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world – it should be on everyone’s list of places to see before they die.

And that’s the word from Australia. I hope everyone is staying cool up there: tired as I am of this Melbourne winter, I can’t say I miss the Arizona heat.




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