That’s what I call a chocolate bar

61% chocolate KitKatOn the way home tonight, I innocently stopped for some chocolate before I got on the train. Instead of going into the Coles, which had long queues, I went into the asian grocery next door. Little did I know that they had a range of chocolate imported from Japan.

Well, Melbourne Central has a lot to answer for because, I brought home one of these KitKat bars. Have you ever seen a 61% chocolate KitKat? Yum. They are very fine. And the Meiji chocolates that I bought there have mostly been eaten now too. They might not survive the evening.

Harry Potter launch

I wasn’t there for the iPhone launch, but I was there for the Harry Potter 7 launch! Kate and I pre-ordered our books at Dymocks, and went to the event held at the Collins St city store to pick them up. We’re probably not the maddest of mad keen Potter fans, but we do like a good spectacle.

We arrived at Flinders St station a little after 9am, and saw people already reading the book. Some of them were walking and reading, so keen were they to begin it! Many were carrying balloons, since Borders was supplying black balloons as part of their Harry shtick. Unfortunately, Dymocks was a little too good at sales fulfillment, and the queue had mostly disappeared by the time we got there at about 9.10am. However, the choir (!) was still singing, and there was a happy, festive atmosphere.

Needless to say, we bought two copies, rather than one of us having to wait for the other. But, we both finished the book (which has almost exactly the same number of pages as Harry 6) by the end of the weekend. It was fun, a little heavy on the exposition, but brought about a satisfying conclusion.

101 Entries!

99sauces LogoA few of us having been working on a new sort of food website concept, called 99sauces, and today it passed the 100 entries barrier. In fact, it’s now 101 entries, which is a lot better than 101 dalmations, I’m sure.

“What makes it new?” I hear you ask. Well, unlike the hundreds of other food and dining based websites out there that relate to Melbourne, this one is based on the wiki principle, which is that anyone can contribute and edit the contents, even if they haven’t registed. (You may be familiar with this sort of thing from Wikipedia, which is also a wiki).

But that’s not all. It’s also not just about places. More importantly, it’s about people – the people behind the places. There are entries for the chefs, owners, and anyone else of note. When your favourite cafe goes downhill, you can find out that the chef has left, and where they’ve gone to!

But that’s not all. It doesn’t contain any reviews itself, but it refers to reviews from elsewhere, even old reviews. So, you can see a variety of opinions about a place, and whether people think it’s improving, or something’s going steadily wrong.

Since this is the first time I’ve mentioned this anywhere publically, I’d like to thank everyone who has helped us (my co-moderator Cathy and I) with this project, by providing advice, contributing entries/comments to 99sauces, and even designing our logo. You know who you are, and I won’t list all of you here. But a heartfelt Thanks!

Cycling

This rambling monologue is a week late, but better late than never. So, last weekend I went riding in Melbourne with Kate and Claire. It was my first ride since arriving here about a dozen years ago. And it was great, but it was one of the worst rides I’ve ever had.

I might not have ridden in Melbourne before, but I assume that bikes here are meant to work pretty much like bikes anywhere else. I hired my bike from Hire a Bike (on the river near Fed Square, phone number 03 9654 2762). Initially it seemed okay, but a few minutes into the ride I found that the seat was loose and would rock backward and forward as my weight shifted. Then, when I was over an hour into the ride, the handlebars loosened and rotated. It made it impossible to ride it, but luckily we were stopping at around that point anyway.

We had ridden along the Yarra River to the Collingwood Childrens Farm and had lunch at Lentil As Anything cafe in the nearby Abbotsford Convent. The cafe wouldn’t lend me a spanner (I’m not sure they even knew what one was), but the adjacent bakery was kind enough to lend me one and I fixed the seat and handlebars. I bought some nougat and florentines from them in return, and because they were very tasty.

It was a beautiful day, and as we rode along the river, I saw Melbourne from a perspective that I’d never seen before. Cycling on the trail, you can almost feel that you’re in a different city. There are places where the river is peaceful, only a few, old houses can be seen, and the green banks hide the suburbs around. You won’t see these places if you drive in Melbourne, or travel by train, but only by being on that bike path.

It reminds me a little of when we were in London, and your mode of travel set your perspective on the city. If you travelled above ground, you would think the city was laid out completely diferently than if you just travelled on the Underground. And just before we left, we met someone who lived and travelled on London’s canal system. It would’ve been good to try that as well – I think it would’ve been pretty amazing.

Anyway, it was pretty amazing to cycle along the Yarra. Although after that loose seat, I had a really sore butt.

Picasso and Maar

We’ve seen a fair bit of Picasso, or rather his work, in Spain. Both Barcelona and Madrid have some pretty impressive paintings, particularly Guernica. That work falls in the period of Picasso’s life, 1935-1945, being focussed on in the NGV’s current exhibition …

Picasso – Love & War

Dora Maar was an absurdist photographer, and one of Picasso’s mistresses. She also hung onto a lot of stuff. When she passed away in 1997, the contents of her apartment turned out to be a veritable timecapsule. The scholarship that has resulted from the study of her treasure-trove led to this current exhibit. It’s her photos of him, his paintings of her, her knick-knacks that he’s scribbed on, his works-in-progress that she’s captured on film, etc.

The strange thing is that this exhibition is so obviously full of joint works, but Picasso has taken the title. This slight to Maar aside, it’s up to the NGV’s usual standard, and again shows their skill in taking an assorted collection of pieces, a few clear masterpieces (most in their permanent collection anyway), and creates something more than the sum of its parts.

If you’d like to learn about an interesting abstract artist you’ve probably never heard of, and learn some new things about an interesting abstract artist you’re probably sick of hearing about, then this is the show for you.

My rating: 4.0 stars
****