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Food, travel and soundtracks for the adventure of being alive

Life Curator_Fervor Food

There’s two WA ingredients on the Noma Australia menu that you’ve never heard of.

Not keen to join 27,000 people on the waitlist at Noma’s pop-up restaurant in Sydney? Get your fix of a bucket list food experience in the West.

Chef Paul Iskov’s Fervor pop-up dinners use native ingredients and locally sourced produce to tell edible stories around Western Australia. Paul worked with Danish chef René Redzepi in 2012 at Noma, ranked four times San Pellegrino’s Best Restauraunt in the World, on a two month unpaid stage (an industry term for free labour) in Copenhagen. “I was going to Noma thinking what is all the hype about?” says Iskov. “I was picking the same herb for six hours around a table doing 16 to 18 hour days. I was lucky enough to do service and see the test kitchen, and they really are next level. At that time they were starting to play with lacto-fermentation, grasshopper gum, and the ants.”

Paul’s time in the Noma kitchen lead to the creation of Fervor with his sister Bree Iskov. Together they host interactive degustation dinners cooked guerilla-style in remote locations around the state, from the Pinnacles to Broome, Margaret River and the Goldfields. In late 2015, Paul reunited with Redzepi and sous chef Beau Clugston during their sourcing trip across the country. Paul showed the duo Western Australian produce in his hometown of Busselton when they were gathering ideas for the Noma Australia menu.

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new words for old desires

"I want to see you dance again"

Harvest Moon, Neil Young

Sometimes in life, you have to go backwards in order to move forwards. It’s called ‘closing the loop’. Allow me to explain – it’s like an incomplete romantic relationship and needs to come full circle. Perhaps you have unfinished business with someone whom you once shared affection with. Basically – it’s all the unexplained, unsettled, unfulfilled parts of you that are tied to someone. An intense intimate encounter with no ending. Do you feel me?

There is a high price to pay for keeping the loop open. Like keeping a part of yourself closed to real commitment. The incompleteness with this person is exciting, sure. We fantasise about what could have been and what will be. Because the loop is not closed, we yearn for the road not taken, the one where anything could happen.

‘Let it go. Whatever it is  that you should’ve let go long ago. Let it go. The freedom that comes next is something wild and true.’ – Unknown

I took my own advice with closing a seven-year loop. I do not have any personal wisdom to offer about sitting on a porch in Toronto crying in the rain. I don’t know how to get heartbreak out of your bones, when it is still moving through mine. But I do know that in breaking your own heart, you learn extraordinarily quickly about grace. About a lightness that comes with freeing each other from a fantasy of long ago. Realising how completely different and unromantic life can be to the script in your head, and being okay with it. This is a special kind of humanness.

‘Sometimes when you are in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.’ – Christine Caine

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Curated Portland

Put them worries on the shelf, learn to love yourself.

Hang Loose, Alabama Shakes

A city of bridges, bikes, porches with wooden swings, locavore corner stores, 600+ food carts, and the occasional angry vegan. If you take delight in ethically sourced coffee, sustainably caught seafood, hand foraged salads, vegan cheese delis and stone ground chocolate – you will certainly be enchanted by Portland.

Portland is (surprisingly) a relatively small place that is divided into four quarters – NE, NW, SE, SW – for ease of navigation. Hop on a bike to freely explore the food adventures that await you across the twelve bridges, but also make time to take in the natural beauty of Oregon’s main city. Walking around each neighbourhood is also a great way to spend an afternoon – look out for back alley blackberry bushes, overhanging fig trees and sidewalk plum shrubs.

To get quickly acquainted with the rhythm of the city, pick up a copy of the Portland Mercury – a wry weekly local newspaper that makes fun of itself while reporting on current zeitgeists. Also look up the Willamette Week for music events and cultural happenings around town.

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couchsurfing

Home is where I want to be, but I guess I'm already there

This Must Be The Place, Talking Heads

You won’t find a 1886 medieval mansion with a greenhouse and butler’s quarters on Airbnb. It is unlikely your hostel will greet you with a cup of artisanal coffee and I have never heard of a concierge at a hotel taking you to a punk house show.

If you are craving a more engaging or adventurous accommodation experience (because it’s more than just a change of scenery, right?) embracing Couchsurfing is a way to travel cheaply and meet locals around the world. A travel community based on global altruism, Couchsurfing connects like-minded travellers on an online platform where ‘surfer’s request to stay with a local host in a city. Apparently there are more hosts on Couchsurfing than rooms at the Hiltons. But unlike taking the hotel or hostel route, it is accommodation at no cost.

In my six months of travel across North America, I have stayed with over 12 hosts in 10 cities so far. Before doing it myself, the idea of Couchsurfing made me nervous and I couldn’t help but think “what if they kill me?” (If you are having these same thoughts, don’t worry.) Arriving at my first house in Portland, I didn’t know what it was all about but I was curious enough to find out. And I am so glad that I did. I was on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and I was going to waste a moment of it by playing small.

Turning up to a stranger’s home has been fertile ground for transformative experiences. In a matter of minutes, complete strangers have become good friends – sharing not only a place to lay my head, but also their time, friends, weekend plans and personal tours of the city. Couchsurfing hosts have gone above and beyond for me, and this weary traveller will be forever grateful for the goodwill offers of a fresh towel, hot shower, washing machine, a cup of tea, pickled preserves, bikes, WiFi passwords, cat hugs, spare keys, and shared time. The ethos of Couchsurfing: ‘Expect nothing, be grateful for everything’ makes you appreciate how big-hearted humanity can be.

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green tomatillo salsa verde

Just follow all the pretty lights, get lost till it feels right

Places You Will Go, Patrick Watson

On my travels in Chicago I came across someone who didn’t eat vegetables. “Not even sweet potato fries? How about tomatoes?” I enquired, and was received with a flat out no. Determined to cook breakfast for my new friend and convert her to the kingdom of plants, I headed to a neighbourhood farmers market looking for a vegetable muse.

A peculiar looking green tomato called a ‘tomatillo’ jumped out at me. Having never see one before in Australia, I was excited to create a frittata (disguising vegetables with delicious eggs – works a treat) with a side of homemade green tomatillo salsa verde. Tomatillo’s are not tomatoes – they are cousins, and cannot be eaten raw. They must be roasted until soft to release their zingy and fresh flavours that make this salsa verde so endlessly spoonable (like ice cream good!).

After breakfast I left a bowl of salsa verde in the fridge. Later in the day I received a text message from the said ‘vegetable hater’ with: “I can’t stop eating the verde, please come back and make more”. It seems this salsa verde might be a game changer with the humble tomatillo as the entry level vegetable. Try it and have an easy-peasy-tomatillo-squeezy party!

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aerie-1

Lost, lost, but not alone anymore.

Ancient Light, Allman Brown

Travel opens the portal to many signs you may have missed in your day-to-day back home. On a particularly rainy Toronto day, and after spending way too much money at a chic grocery store (I’m looking at you $7 packet of sweet potato chips), I rode my bike to a cozy Kensington market café just before closing time. My body was tired and wet, but really it was my spirit that needed the most tending to. I felt lost in myself. You may know this feeling – it’s like a gentle heaviness. It seems to be an oxymoron, but it’s not. It’s like nothing is wrong and yet everything is not right. Despite it’s best efforts, even my cardamom spiced almond latte (try it, it’s a thing) could not fill this intermittent emptiness.

As I looked up, a calming green poster caught my eye. A sign – literally, and a much-needed moment of synchronicity. Three days later I was sitting in a circle with thirteen people making an offering at The Aerie Collective’s ‘Embracing Change’ Urban Retreat in Toronto, Canada.

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apple chamomile marmalade

I always wanted a real home with flowers on the window sill

Where You Lead, Carole King

You can’t beat the magic of apple and chamomile, especially when it tastes like apple pie in a jar.

After the wondrous adventure of finding a giant apple tree in my Toronto neighbourhood, I had to commemorate that day (and the four bags of organic-as-it-gets apples) into a jam. It seemed such a waste to throw out the apple skins so I sliced them and added them halfway through the simmering process, like you would normally do with orange peel. The result is comforting apple-y marmalade compote with a subtle twist from the freshly steeped chamomile flowers.

As with any ‘slow’ food – it is a labour of love, so don’t rush the process (it took me a whole day, in between comings and goings). Also it’s best to tell you know: the apple skin slicing park takes forever so put on a lingering album like Carole King ‘Tapestry’ to keep you company.

A humble apple tree taught me that if you have two legs, a ladder and an adventurous spirit – you don’t have to book a plane ticket to travel. You can take twelve steps out your door or walk twelve blocks into a new corner of your neighborhood and simply look up. All the while there may have been a huge overflowing apple tree, a flowering thyme bush (perfect with eggs) and a blooming chamomile bush in your own backyard.

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the distillery

Toronto’s Gooderham and Worts Distillery has undergone several transformations in its 119-year history starting off as the largest whiskey producer in the world in the early 19th century and then becoming one of the most popular film locations in Canada. Since 2011, it has taken on a new guise as a shopping and entertainment area know as The Distillery District—a reimagining of a legendary Parisian near downtown Toronto.

Food pioneers, local artisans, entrepreneurs and forward-thinking designers have since populated the 47 restored buildings that make up the Victorian Industrial village. Stepping through the grand gates onto a cobblestone street, there is a buzz in the air and impressive details evident in the craftsmanship of a Toronto icon’s metamorphosis.

Push open the heavy wooden green door into Balzac Coffee Roasters and order a Parisian Mist (black tea with steamed milk and vanilla syrup) as you overlook a grand chandelier and sky-high windows facing giant public art works. Make your way to Blackbird Vintage Finds to find a long-lost treasure and try the quince balsamic vinegar at Von Mass Spice Shop next door.

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Apple Tree

The road you take will lead you here, so while you wait for the sun to rise again, think of us dancing in the rain

Tomorrow, Jono McCleery

Whenever I try a new cuisine I want to immediately jump on a plane to a new place: Iran for Persian eggplant stew, Morocco for harira soup, Venezuela for arepas and Ethiopia for handmade injera. The discovery of a new flavor (salted maple), condiment (green tamatillo salsa verde) or vegetable (squash vine) gives me the same thrill as another traveller might feel when they say, bungee jump into a waterfall or find bottomless $2 mimosas at brunch.

For every new city I visit, I always seek out a local farmers market to see, taste (and squeal) at seasonal produce and ask the growers lots of questions – they are the ultimate tour guide.

Four months into my North American travels, it was love at first bite when I tasted an organic Ontario-grown ginger gold apple at a farmers market in a Toronto park. I immediately wanted to know where I could pick them myself. The apple-picking season was in full swing at orchards an hour outside of Toronto, but I had no car or way to get to the countryside. I considered hitchhiking but knew I would be stretching my traveller’s luck by trying to cart home a 20-kilo basket of apples in a stranger’s car.

Two weeks of persistence and failed persuasion left me fruitless, literally. I had given up hope of tasting an apple straight from the tree when my two Canadian housemates (returning from a camping trip) casually remarked that they had picked buckets of apples last week. From a tree. Down a street. A few blocks from where my mouth was standing wide open in our kitchen.

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long distance crush

I can't help but wonder do you ever think of me.

Reverie on Norfolk Street, Luluc

A playlist for longing for someone who lives far away. A long distance crush. For what might have been. Songs about an emotionally unavailable love interest. Maybe it’s them, maybe it’s you. For the times when your heart is in it more than theirs. For getting close, but not close enough.

I once heard that ‘true love is matching energies’ and I wrote it down. A holiday fling, instant soul sparks, electric connections – we’ve all had one. Long distance crushes do have their success stories but in reality – they are part ecstatic romance, part the perils of technology and part insanity management. At first you (think) you are falling in love, but then later realise that you are falling into patterns of sustaining whatever this is.

Then there is the burden of the gesture to consider – no one wants to have the last say. It’s vulnerable. It hurts to sit on an unreturned message. Dead air. The faux pas of last word. You don’t want to seem desperate. But you desperately want to hear from them. We are deeply afraid of feeling desperate. I wonder if animals feel the depths of longing like humans do? We all want to feel autonomous, yet we want to be chased. We want to have our soul sparked, not stalked.

Expectation is the root of all heartache. – William Shakespeare

Timezones, mismatched body clocks, hemispheres and bipolar seasons – long distance crushes can be a long con. Logistically your lives don’t collide in the slightest. But yet your spirits do. Often we have to shift our paradigms of romance and courting in order to actively pursue this gambling kind of love. You don’t choose who you wake up thinking about. You heart does. As Fiona Apple sings in Paper Bag: ‘Hunger hurts, and I want him so bad, oh it kills.’

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