Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Best Authentic Burrito Around…but in Australia???

Brisbane: In Search of the Perfect Burrito
Yes, that’s right…Australia. For all you Mexican food addicts (myself included), you can now devour a mouthwatering burrito and Dos Equis beer at the bright, modern Tuckeria Fresh Mexican Grill in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley on Australia’s eastern coast. 

Totally Mexican
My readers know that I’m very picky when it comes to food and I only blog about select local eateries that I come across during my travels. Tuckeria made the cut.  No matter if you’re on a surf trip or backpacking along Australia’s coast, morning and night you’ll find chefs chopping, cooking, roasting, and marinating the freshest ingredients at Tuckeria, right in front of your eyes while you order. 

The restaurant’s signature pico de gallo, as well as its ranchera and tomatillo salsa recipes come straight from the most bona fide taquerías in California and Mexico. Founder and owner of Tuckeria, Jordan Birchall, spent years investigating salsas, burrito combinations, and typical ingredients everywhere from high-end Mexican restaurants to roadside taco trucks. 
Founder, Jordan Birchall

Burritos Deliciosos
Since Tuckeria opened just under two years ago, locals can't seem to get enough of what it has to offer. Birchall drew from a combination of his favorite tastes to create the menu. (That’s probably why some of the dishes at Tuckeria aren’t typically what you’d find anywhere else!) The wackiest item in my opinion is the “California Style Burrito” which comes with potato fries instead of rice wrapped inside the burrito. (However, my dad ordered it, and gave it two thumbs up.) 
Inside the "California Style" Burrito

For the Dieter...or Not
The menu also has low-carb and gluten-free options for the selective eater. For example, the “Naked Burrito” has all the typical fillings of a burrito, but without the flour tortilla. For breakfast lovers, watch out…Tuckeria serves up a mean breakfast burrito all day long, with free-range scrambled eggs, beans, salsa, guacamole and your choice of chorizo or chicken filling. 
Burrito Mojado (My favorite!)

My favorite dish is the "Burrito Mojado" with carnitas (wet burrito topped with red and green salsas with slow-cooked pork). A typical lunch which includes a burrito and beer will cost around $19.

Ordering Help
You must realize that you can’t just sit back and do no work while you order. Nope. Tuckeria's menu is all about choices. 

You’ll need to be ready to choose which meat (carne asada, estofado de carne, pollo asado, carnitas, chorizo, camarones a la parilla, vegetariano), salsa and bean combination you’d like. Oh, and all the extras. To download the menu go to:
Carnitas Meat with Mexican Beers

Why Tuckeria?
Spanish speakers might be thinking, "poor Birchall, he doesn’t realize that he misspelled his own restaurant’s name." Luckily that wasn’t the case. Instead of the traditional Spanish spelling of “taquería,” Birchall played with the word “tuck,” which in Australia is slang for “great grub,” hence the name Tuckeria.

Location Information
Tuckeria Fresh Mexican (Shop 13 Central Brunswick, 421 Brunswick Street; 0406-377-278;

***All photos are taken by me, Molly Malone, unless otherwise specified. Photos are not available for re-posting or publication. Stay tuned to my next blog post on the September harvest in Healdsburg, California...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cuba: Sunny, Carefree…and Too Darn Expensive!

Havana: Traveling on a Budget

Humid days and mojito-filled nights. Sounds of African drums, Spanish guitars and maracas fill the air while you shake your hips to the rhythm of the Son cubano. White smiles, run-down buildings, waves crashing against the stone wall of the Malecon avenue...these were my first impressions when I took a 15-day trip to Cuba. Below are some useful travel tips when planning your trip to read on...

We traveled by car around the island, starting in Havana, then to Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Varadero, Vinales and back to Havana.
However, we did not stay in costly beach resorts, nor partake in pre-arranged educational tours, which run roughly $5000 per person for 7 days. Instead, we bumbled along the streets with the locals and stayed in casa particulares (homes rented out by families). We ate warm buttermilk biscuits, fresh pineapple and mango and drank the muddy coffee that the Cubans kindly served us for breakfast. (photo of mojitos by

What to Expect

When we took walking trips to downtown Havana, it felt like a throwback to the communist Russia days. The depressed vacant window-displays were evidence that there was literally nothing to buy, due to lack of imports into the country. But ironically, there were plentitudes of workers inside each shop. 
Lines for eggs, meat, pencils, weekly rations of rice and beans were a common site a well. For anyone who has been to Cuba in the past 40 years, they know that these images have been frozen in time. 

I guess we were basically prepared for those sights, but one thing definitely shocked us: Who knew that food, hotel, and transportation would be so darn expensive in a place where the average wage is $12 a month per person? Around the country we found that most basic double rooms start at $150, a meager breakfast of coffee and toast costs $8, and dinner at a decent restaurant costs around $25 per person. 

Doing it Cheap

Although expensive, there are ways to budget travel in Cuba, which we learned along the way. It guaranteed us cheaper costs and constant contact with the culture. Be sure to ask locals and tourists for a good casa particular. A small blue triangular sign above the door points the way. These houses, converted into bed and breakfasts, have been inspected by the government, and they must be under good condition and have clean quarters. Prices vary in different regions of Cuba, but in Havanna we stayed in the center for $15 per person.The host family is usually very helpful, providing maps and directions, and they typically serves a large breakfast for 3$ extra per person. 

My personal favorite was staying at the cheerful "Aurora's Casa Particular."After dragging our baggage up two flights of steep marble stairs, we stayed in two large, basic rooms, with a shared bathroom.
From the house, we were just a few blocks walking distance to Plaza de las Armas. Along the way there were colorful fruit carts, people happily chatting on street corners, balconies heavy with laundry and white sheets flapping in the wind, tuk-tuk motorcycles zooming by, stunning cathedrals, courtyards,  European architecture and quaint squares. 
From there, we climbed the stairs to the roof-top deck overlooking Havana, at the hotel Ambos Mundos. They claim that Hemingway rented a room there in the 1960’s. We sipped on cubanitos (a bloody mary made with rum) and enjoyed the balmy evening.

Be sure to take a taxi to the fort. But be prepared for a plethora of political propaganda on billboards along the street. Billboards we saw said things such as "Viva la Revolución" (long live the revolution) with a picture of Fidel Castro's arm wrapped around Che Guevara and others that said "La Injustia Tiembla" (injustice shakes).

Havana Highlights
You won't want to miss the Museo de la Revolucion. It is a time warp and very interesting to see history told from the eye of a different storyteller.  Eat at the Fresas y Chocolate Paladar (a home that has been converted into a dinner-time restaurant). It is quaint, romantic and they serve the fresh fish catch of the day.

Walk to the Plaza Vieja, which had builings from the new UNESCO remodeling and from the old era. It was interesting to see the contrasts between the new/old world. It gave a taste of how Havanna once was. From there, hop on a rickshaw, like those typically seen in India, and ride to the National Art Museum of Bellas Artes. It's definitely worth it, housing a collection of Cuban modern art from the 1800’s through today. You can see how the artists were inspired by Picasso and Warhol.
Car Rentals
To take a trip around the island, we decided to rent a car, which was basically a crazy thing to do. Just know that the car you rent starts off with an empty gas tank. Drive immediately to the gas station and fill the car up, otherwise you'll be stranded, like we were. Also, be prepared to pay with cash. Cuba is a cash-based society (euros are even better to have on hand, you'll get a far better exchange rate).

***All photos are taken by me, Molly Malone, unless otherwise specified. Photos are not available for re-posting or publication.Stay tuned for my next post on the art of an Argentine asados....

Monday, July 26, 2010

Miami In Style

Mod, sexy and trendy…Miami oozes with steamy nights and cool people. Every trip I take, the scene becomes showier than the time before. If you’re ready for a wild ride, then follow my travel tips below to visit some of the hottest spots that Miami Beach has to offer…
(Photo of Miami Beach by

Where to Stay

Pools, sun, 70's style shabby-chic bar, martinis…what more could you ask for? At the newly renovated Eden Roc, you can get a room with a view starting at $219. 

The hip, white and orange lobby bar attracts visitors from around the world. On Saturday nights, relax with a cocktail in hand as you listen to a live DJ spin. 

The hotel has all the basics a traveler needs: Starbucks coffee shop, massage and spa amenities, as well as an eternity pool overlooking the beach. 
Located on 4525 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach Tel: 305-531-0000.
(Photo of pool by

Where to Go Out
Hit the chic Bleau Bar at the legendary Fountaine Blue hotel for a cocktail, where James Bond was said to play a hand in gin rummy. 

Continue on to the hotel’s pumping dance club, LIV. DJ’s spin rock, hip-hop and house all night. The crowd is mainly in their 20's, and the whole place seethes with energy. Stilettos, sheer mini-skirts, glittery jewelry, expensive cologne, long lines, VIP treatment – it's the real Miami deal. Located in the Fountain Blue Hotel on 4441 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach. Tel: 305-674-4680.

Miami’s newest club is Wall, at the W South Beach hotel. Look the hottest you’ve ever looked. Play it very cool. The shorter the skirt, the better. The hipper the dress shoes and the bigger the Rolex watch, the more attention you’ll get. Located at 2201 Collins Avenue. Tel: 305-938-3000.

Sunday bingo night at The Standard is a kick. Dress retro-casual and prepare yourself for a strong martini. Here you can relax, mingle and win something cool while listening to chill out music. Games start at 8:30 p.m. Get there early for a seat, otherwise, standing room only. Located at 40 Island Avenue, Miami Beach. Tel: 305-673-1717

Where to Eat
Join the hip Miami crowd at this hot Italian spot. For delicious thin crust pizza, a mozzarella-tasting bar, and a decently priced bottle of Italian wine, go to Casale restaurant. They offer outdoor patio seating, perfect for a balmy Miami night.

Favorite picks on the menu include the Granturco anipasti (polenta with wild mushrooms and arugula). Clay oven-baked pizzas come out hot and fresh. Try the Catalana (pizza with chorizo, manchego, tomatoe and olives) or the Vegetariana (pizza with cipolline, zucchini, endive and radicchio). Pizza prices range from $9-$15 per pie. Located at 1800 Bay Road, Miami Beach. Tel: 305-763-8088.

If you’re in the mood for Haitian food, you can’t miss out on Tap Tap restaurant. This colorful, casual, lively place offers mouthwatering dishes such as Griyo (lightly fried, marinated pork chunks), Kribish Kreyol (shrimp in Creole or coconut sauce), or Pwason Gwosel (poached yellowtail snapper with lime sauce). Be sure to order a fresh mojito. Meal prices range from $9-$17. Located at 819 5th Street, Miami Beach. Tel: 305-672-2898.

To be seen (and to get some great grub after a long night of partying), go to the Front Porch Café for brunch. This eatery has been voted the “best breakfast in town” by locals for years. Located in the heart of South Beach, the café is attached to the newly renovated Penguin Hotel. You can get all types of omelets, pancakes, health shakes, burritos and sandwiches. Located at 1418 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. Tel: 305-531-8300. (Photo of Front Porch Cafe by

***All photos are taken by me, Molly Malone, unless otherwise specified. Photos are not available for re-posting or publication. Stay tuned to my next blog post on where to go in Cuba...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Venice Beach: Art Walk

Venice Beach, California. The doors are open. Hip onlookers check out eclectic sculptures and paintings while chatting with the artists in their private studios.

This Saturday and Sunday, May 22-23, you’ll get a chance to meander down Venice walkways and visit over 50 art studios located in modern lofts, small cottages and cutting-edge spaces during the Venice Beach Art Walk event. 

Tickets are $50 for a self-guided walking tour or you can opt to take an organized “Art & Architecture Tour” for $100-$150. To purchase tickets online and for more information, visit:

After a few hours of art perusing, the hunger is sure to set in. Stroll over to Abbot Kinney Boulevard – a hangout for the Beat generation in the 50’s and 60s – where you’ll see an overflow of the creative crowd. 

To hang with the Euro-chic, sip a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and munch on Mediterranean-style tapas, then go to Primitivo, located at 1025 Abbot Kinney Blvd. 310-396-5353.

***All photos are taken by me, Molly Malone, unless otherwise specified. Photos are not available for re-posting or publication. Stay tuned to next week's blog on Miami hot spots!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Patagonia: Chile - Where to Stay

When you think you’ve seen all the beauty you can handle on the Argentina side of the Patagonia…sorry to let you know…but you’re wrong. 

The Torres del Paine National Park steps it up to a whole new level: picturesque views of 
jagged snow-capped mountains, ice blue waters, rumbling rivers, alpaca and wild horses walking across the road in front of you…anyone who snaps a photo will realize that nature has turned him/her into an instant Ansel Adams. All of a sudden, those pictures that normally don’t turn out for you will develop marvelously. Why?  Because the lighting is just perfect and the color contrasts create a precise balance in nature. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Tips Before You Go
However, there are a few things to note if you’re driving from Calafate to the Chilean border. It takes about eight hours due to rocky, dirt roads and poor signage. Before you head out, be sure to stock your car with sandwiches, snacks and water in Calafate, as there are few restaurants along the way. 

Also, remember to leave early in the morning so that you’re not stuck at the Argentina/Chile border in the dark (it’s out in the middle of nowhere). The two last, most important tips are: FUEL UP BEFORE YOU CROSS THE BORDER and EXCHANGE MONEY TO CHILEAN PESOS! Both of these are a must, as there are no gas stations in the Torres Del Paine National Park, and everyone is reluctant to help since gas is so hard to come by. There are also no banks, and most places are cash only (Chilean pesos).

Places to Stay
I stayed all four nights at Hostería Lago Grey, located on the west end of the park. However, I would recommend staying only one night there, and three nights at either the rustic, all-inclusive Hotel Las Torres or at the upscale, all-inclusive Explora Lodge. This way, you’ll experience a variety of areas of the park, and see starkly different breath-taking views while you dine, hike and explore.

Hostería Lago Grey has comfortable and affordable bungalows settled in the midst of a tiny forest. The food is edible, but nothing to rave about. 

The best part is that the bar overlooks the Lago Grey Glacier and floating icebergs. You can easily take a walk around the lake from the hotel (however, be prepared for extremely high winds…bring sun glasses, a wind-proof jacket with hood, gloves, scarves, everything, because the sand whips against your face as you walk). There are also some pleasant day-hike loops nearby that bring you to small waterfalls.

The Hotel Las Torres has a classy and outdoorsy feel. Its tall, wooden ceilings and large windows show off the base of the Torres del Paine Mountain. The hotel is located on the east side of the park and is only three miles from the famous Los Cuernos Mountain. 

There is a minimum three-night stay at this lodge, which includes meals, full bar, guided treks and horseback riding excursions (roughly $500/night - three night minimum stay). This is also the jumping off point to the popular 4-7 day hiking loop.  (Photos of Hotel Las Torres by

For a ritzy, fashionable, all-inclusive experience in the Patagonia, the Explora Lodge provides three gourmet meals a day, full bar service, a room with a view of Lake Pehoe, boat rides, horseback rides, bike excursions and guided treks, all for a very high price tag (roughly $1000/night - three night minimum stay). But I must say, everyone I know that has stayed there just adores this hotel. If you have the money, go for it. (Photo of Explora by

Patagonia: Argentina vs. Chile?
In my honest opinion, even though Torres del Paine is shockingly beautiful, I enjoyed the Argentina side of the Patagonia more. There are a few reasons why, so I’ll list them below:

  • I received much more of a warm, gracious welcome from the Argentines in the Patagonia. The Chileans are nice, but cold.
  • Argentina is more accommodating with money. They accept dollars, pesos, or credit cards in most places.
  • The food is much better, the meat and fish taste fresher.
  • There seem to be more options of excursions and day treks from Calafate than in/around the Torres del Paine National Park.
  • The Chilean Patagonia is super duper windy! 

    ***All photos are taken by me, Molly Malone, unless otherwise specified. Photos are not available for re-posting or publication. Stay tuned to next week's blog on Miami hot spots, art shows and upcoming music events!

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    Patagonia: Argentina - Where to Stay

    It’s the end of summer right now in Argentina and Chile. Why pack a bag full of scarves, wool hats, fluffy jackets and hiking boots to go to the cold Patagonia when you could slip into a bikini and relax on the beach in Punta del Este, Uruguay? For years I wrestled with this question.
    I’ll tell you why: staggering mountains, crisp air, enormous glaciers, kind hospitality, gourmet food, stunning views…and the list goes on. 

    After years of friends and family trying to convince me to go down to the Patagonia, I booked a rather “luxury” style all-inclusive 12-day trip through Exprinter Viajes travel agency. Previously, my friends had arranged the same trip through a U.S. travel agency, and it cost them three times more. I paid $4,400 for everything – airfare to Calafate from Buenos Aires, car rental, luxury hotels/B&Bs, trekking guides, gourmet meals, excursions, horseback riding, glacier boat trips…and every penny was worth it.
    Below is my itinerary to the Patagonia (Argentina), with a few other important tidbits that I would have liked to know along the way before I left home. The best time of the year to go is late November to early March. I’ll write about the Patagonia (Chile) in next week’s blog post.

    Kau Yatún Hotel de Campo (Calafate) – I stayed one night here to jumpstart my trip. This hotel is comfortable, the service is great and it’s located fairly near town. (Photo of Kau Yatún by

    They have a great restaurant on the premise, offering homemade emapandas, grilled steaks and a live show of Patagonian music/dance. Bikes are also available for hotel guests, so you can explore the one-street downtown or ride to the natural bird lagoon close by.

    Hostería Altavista (Calafate) – I stayed two nights at this lovely B&B, to get a more remote experience. 

    This quaint, seven-room house is located on the outskirts of Calafate in the middle of rolling hills and pastures. 

    The experience is all-inclusive, with home-cooked meals, glacier excursions, horseback riding trips, as well as tours to nearby estancias. The Argentine couple who runs the place is very warm and helpful. I would highly recommend that you include this B&B in your itinerary.

    Los Notros (Calafate) –  This hotel is extremely upscale and sits directly in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier. If you can't afford to stay here, then stop by for a cup of tea, and relax at its bar overlooking the lake. This is your jumping off point to go trekking on the glacier or take a boat ride around to all the various glaciers and to the national park.

    Hostería Los Cerros (El Chalten) – You won’t want to miss visiting El Chaltén. From Calafate, it’s just a three-hour drive north to the small trekking village nestled between mountains and glaciers. 

    This town was the highlight of my trip, as it is remote and the Argentines are so welcoming. (As a side note,  be prepared for strong winds. Make sure you pack a durable coat with a hood.) 

    The Los Cerros hotel is pure luxury for this tiny town. You’re greeted with champagne, beer or tea/coffee and a picada (appetizer of cheese and cold cuts). 

    Before you set off on your guided hiking excursion in the morning to see the famous Cerro Fitz Roy, you’re invited to feast at the breakfast buffet, which offers fresh fruits, nuts, homemade  bread and rosa mosqueta jam made from Patagonian berries. 

    To completely spoil its guests, the hotel packs you a personalized lunch in a backpack for your day trip. And after your long excursion, you'll return to a relaxing jacuzzi dip or massage and enjoy a gourmet three-course dinner, with your choice of fresh trout, beef or pasta.

    Since the town only consists of one pub, a wine bar and a few shops, you really can’t miss anything. But, make sure you stop into El Rincon wine bar and get a glass of Malbec and enjoy a fresh plate of salami with olives. 

    There is also a cozy, bustling pub, which sells its own beers on tap and dishes out bowls of crunchy peanuts. Trekkers and guides love to unwind at this spot after a long day in the mountains.

    ***All photos are taken by me, Molly Malone, unless otherwise specified. Photos are not available for re-posting or publication. Stay tuned to next week's blog on tips for traveling to the Patagonia in Chile....