The Art of Cadencia brings flamenco and tango to The Basement in Sydney

Last night, The Art of Cadencia put on a beautiful show featuring live music, including lyrics sung in Spanish, and flamenco and tango dancing in an intimate setting. The Basement in Sydney, Australia, last night delightfully felt just like Madrid.

Art of Cadencia The Basement Sydney

The show featured singer Angela Rosero, multi-instrumentalist Byron Mark, talent from Dance Tango and much, much more.

My favorite part was the flamenco. The passion was amazing and reminded me of what you’d see in Spain.

The show was about two hours long with an intermission, and everything from the musical flair to the dedication of the dancers was impressive. I’m absolutely wowed by the fact this is only The Art of Cadencia’s first show in 2016, after a successful debut at the Sydney Sacred Music Festival last year. Founder Anna Griffiths says the company is looking to do more productions in the future, and I sincerely hope The Art of Cadencia continues to bring high-quality flamenco and tango to music lovers across Sydney.

‘The Reef (Revisited)’ melds surf, film and orchestra music

Last night, I took in The Reef (Revisited) at City Recital Hall, a presentation blending classical and contemporary orchestra music by Australian Chamber Orchestra, film footage of surfing and wildlife, and the singing of everything from music by Alice in Chains to island-inspired tunes. The production that debuted in 2012 had some new additions in its 2016 edition, which was performed for one night only in Sydney and that is heading on a North American tour.

The Reef Revisited Sydney City Recital Hall 2

The show started with the short film Surfing Underground, about 30 minutes, by filmmaker Tim Bonython. The movie captured surfing escapades in some of the world’s most gorgeous waters, including Tasmania. The waves the surfers were navigating were majestic and breathtaking, and it was so neat to see footage of them so up close underneath mammoth bodies of water. The tricks and skill of the surfers were impressive, but watching the wipeouts was just as awe-inspiring.

The Reef Revisited Sydney City Recital Hall

I love the idea of enhancing orchestra music with additional visual stimulation such as video. It’s something I’ve seen executed successfully time after time by Arizona Pro Arte, and it was so cool to see it on such a grand scale here in Sydney in a beautiful theater holding 1,200 people.

Sydney City Recital Hall

If you have a chance to see it, The Reef (Revisited)‘s film’s mysterious storyline is definitely unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and it’s a neat opportunity to witness some of the world’s best surfers battling the world’s biggest waves.

For more information on The Reef (Revisited), head here.

Old Growler in Kings Cross, Sydney, a tasty underground dive

The punkiest burger bar I’ve encountered in Sydney so far is the Old Growler in Kings Cross.

Old Growler exterior

The underground bar (literally, you take steps to go down), instantly makes you feel cool in the dark and divey exclusive atmosphere.

Old Growler Sydney stairs

The bar has a large selection of draft beer, and I really enjoyed the refreshing and perfectly sweet Young Henrys Cloudy Cider, made here in Australia, $10 AUD for a pint. Order and pay for food at the bar, and a server will bring out your eats.

Old Growler Sydney bar

The Veggie Burger ($15) was a fried patty topped with field mushroom, chèvre and seeded mustard mayonnaise on a brioche bun, with a side of beer battered chips.

Old Growler Sydney veggie burger and chips

Every bite of the burger was enjoyable, and I quickly gobbled it up. The portion of thick-cut fries was a little smaller than I’m used to, but the meal left me satisfied and not stuffed, perfect for a bar night out. Other meal options include Australian classics like chicken schnitzel, plus poutine, fish, steak and cheese boards.

The crowd was super-friendly, and there was lots of comfortable seating.

Old Growler Sydney

I loved the fun touch of the bear designs on the food placeholders.

Old Growner Sydney interiorPlus, there was a delightfully smutty gender-neutral bathroom, decorated with sexy pictures, which added to the dive atmosphere.

Yelp Sydney recently named the Old Growler one of the city’s top burger destinations, and I can see why. The lively atmosphere, quick food service and large libation selection that includes wine, champagne and mixed cocktails makes it a Kings Cross hot spot.

Learn more about the Old Growler here.

Casa Asturiana offers flamenco and Spanish food in Sydney

Put two of my favorite countries together, Australia and Spain, and you’ve got me hooked. Thanks, Casa Asturiana, in central Sydney, for offering this Spanish gal a vast variety of Spanish tapas and dishes to keep stomachs muy alegre.

Casa Asturiana Sydney menu

The bi-level restaurant is located in a Spanish quarter featuring several other dining establishments with comida de España, near the Town Hall train and down the street from the Metro Theatre. I had some delicious tapas at the fun outdoor Spanish-style street seating there recently, a spot I was delighted to learn features flamenco dancing Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m.

I loved seeing the juxtaposition of the Spanish and Australian flags both on the menu and inside — it just made my heart happy.

Casa Asturiana Sydney interior 2

Indoors is classy dining, with Spanish-style decorations and artwork surrounding dining tables and the bar.

Casa Asturiana Sydney interior

Outdoors is much more casual, but I always love taking advantage of gorgeous Sydney summer weather.

Casa Asturiana Sydney Nicki Escudero

The sangria is a must-have. I drank a half-litre (about four 4-ounce glasses) myself, and it was chock full of fresh fruit pieces and had the perfect balance of fruity flavors.

Casa Asturiana Sydney sangria

Casa Asturiana offers full paella and seafood entrees, but I’d go for tapas, perfectly-sized dishes to share for a party of two or more.

Here’s a look at the Pulpo al Ajo Arriero, or braised octopus in olive oil, garlic, paprika and vinegar, which was a hearty portion for two that I heard was delicious and not overly chewy like octopus can be.

Casa Asturiana Sydney octopus

I was hoping for some Spanish manchego cheese, but this eatery with northern Spanish cuisine didn’t have it on the menu. The server accommodatingly brought out a dish full of tasty feta bites,which I really enjoyed.

Casa Asturiana Sydney feta cheese

Definitely get the Champiñones a la Plancha, which are barbecued whole button mushrooms with white wine garlic and parsley. Spanish mushrooms are my favorite mushrooms because they’re juicy and perfect to pop in your mouth.

Casa Asturiana Sydney mushrooms

The Patatas Alioli, lightly fried potatoes covered in a warm garlicky mayonnaise sauce, were also plentiful and delicious. I know it might be a little weird to eat mayo with potatoes, but it’s big in Spain — and here in Sydney, mayo is also popular.

Casa Asturiana Sydney patatas alioli

The order of Spanish bread was a little different than the crusty pan con olive oil I was expecting. It came covered with tomato sauce and herbs, and the two giant pieces were, again, great to share.

Casa Asturiana Sydney Spanish breadFor all this food and sangria, plus a beer, it was only $75 AUD, what I’d consider a great value for such a feast. I loved that my server, who was from Colombia, greeted me in Spanish. It was refreshing to experience such a Spanish-friendly atmosphere in Sydney, where I haven’t seen many Spanish restaurants. I’d love to go back and check out the flamenco, one of the most beautiful dance art forms in the world, plus to get some of their delicious-sounding desserts, including tiramisu and churros.

For more information on Casa Asturiana Spanish restaurant, head here.

Grill’d in Chatswood has healthy burgers in Sydney

Having walked past the tantalizing scents of Grill’d in Chatswood, Sydney, many times, I was excited to finally nosh at the joint touting healthy burgers.

Grill'd Chatswood Sydney interior

Grill’d serves a variety of burgers and sliders, made with chicken, beef, lamb and veggies, as well as offers steak sandwiches and salads. There are three — count ’em, three — vegetarian burger options! I definitely want to go back to try them all, but this time, i opted for the Field of Dreams ($11.50 AUD), a portobello mushroom burger that was one of the lowest-calorie options on the menu at about 470 calories for a huge sandwich. It was incredibly juicy and came with basil pesto, roasted peppers, cheddar cheese, lettuce and herbed mayo — and an Australian flag, for good measure.

Grill'd Chatswood Sydney Mushroom Burger

Be sure to pair your burger with some “chips” (French fries), too — I loved the thick-cut fries here because the seasoning was ample. The regular version ($4.80) is super-huge, and I wasn’t able to finish mine. Next time, I would get the snack version ($3.80).

I ordered the tomato relish thinking it would be ketchup-y (or tomato sauce-y, as Australians would say), but it was a sweet dipping sauce that didn’t satisfy my palate — though, with other ingredients, like on my mushroom burger, it was fine. Instead, I’d recommend the very spicy hot chilli mayo dipping sauce, which had a huge kick and is mighty tasty. Here it is, appropriately labeled “hot,” paired with the Friends of Falafel burger ($11.50):

Grill'd Chatswood Sydney falafel burger new

That’s the burger I might get next time, or the other veggie burger option, the Garden Goodness ($11.50), a veggie patty made with beetroot.

Grill’d is super-casual and popping on weekend nights, with street seating that gives plenty of opportunities for people-watching.

Grill'd Chatswood Sydney patio

The order-at-the-counter spot is stocked with local bottled beers and beers on draft. I loved the fun attitude, from the Australian burger flags, to the sassy copy on the knife holders:

Grill'd Chatswood Sydney knife

Learn more about Grill’d here.

Walk the Moon and The Griswolds rock Sydney Metro Theatre (VIDEO)

I was so excited to see my first concert featuring an American band I love in Sydney last night, when Walk the Moon brought the party to the Metro Theatre, and Sydney-hometown-ers The Griswolds got the crowd excited as the opening act. I have always loved The Griswolds’ song “Beware the Dog,” so I was so stoked to see them live and had a blast dancing to every single song they played, including their popular American single:

I first saw Walk the Moon in 2012 at the much-more intimate Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix, which was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. The only major label album they had out then was their self-titled album, but they had a veteran performance quality to them because the crowd was constantly dancing and singing along loudly to every song. Since releasing their massive hit “Shut Up and Dance,” off 2014 album Talking Is Hard, they’ve achieved global success and packed the 1,100-person-capacity Metro Theatre, opening the show with my favorite song by the band, “Jenny”:

Their last song of the set before the encore was unsurprisingly “Shut Up and Dance,” which they performed after playing about an hour and 15 minutes worth of tracks from both their albums, plus a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”:

I loved how, as always, positive the band was, including a moment when singer Nick Petricca had the audience symbolically ball up all their negative energy and expel it to the sky during the song “I Can Lift a Car.” The audience members appropriately went crazy for both bands, and the good vibes permeating the theater made for a blast of a show.

I enjoyed the Metro for its friendly bar service (they also serve hot meat pies, if you’re hungry) and variety of seating, from the pit below, to seats in the back.

Walk the Moon The Griswolds Metro Theatre in Sydney

Learn more about Walk the Moon here, The Griswolds here and the Metro Theatre here.

Happy Endings Comedy Club in Kings Cross, Sydney, hosts underground shows

I’m so excited to have learned the Sydney comedy scene seems quite strong in Australia, as the past two comedy shows I’ve been to have featured full houses and lots of laughter throughout. This past weekend, I attended my first stand-up show at Happy Endings in Kings Cross, an intimate underground 65-person theater with a stylish lounge up top where attendees can drink and chat before the show starts.

Happy Endings Comedy Sydney Kings CrossI went to a “happy hour” there, an hour-long show that featured three stellar Aussie comics: Sean Woodland, Ray Badran and Chris Radburn. After getting a drink (the bar is cash only) and waiting in the lounge for about 15 minutes after show time, the theater was opened to attendees, who were ushered in party by party and given seats. Everyone had a great view of the stage, and many were near tables, allowing patrons to set their drinks down.

Happy Endings Comedy Sydney Kings Cross

I wouldn’t say there are many significant distinguishing characteristics between the stand-up comedy styles of Aussies versus Americans, though I have discovered, I tend to “Wooo!” a lot more than Australian audience members. This difference was blatantly pointed out in the warm-ups for a live talk show I attended in Australia, when the audience was told to “cheer and clap like Americans” in order to convey excitement during the show. While I’m used to participating and cheering if a comedian asks a question I can relate to, in Australia, I haven’t witnessed that as much.

Despite the more subdued audiences in terms of cheering (there is still lots of laughing), the stand-up comedy was relatable in Australia, as Woodland told a killer party story involving Sinéad O’Connor, Badran had engaging weight loss anecdotes, and Radburn hysterically talked about fatherhood. What I did think was interesting was that every single comic mentioned America in their set. After hearing a joke from the door lady about “stupid Americans” directed towards my party before entering, I found the remarks about my home country interesting, as always, here in Australia.

From the chill lounge experience up top, to the excitement of the underground show, to the cozy feel of the comedy club combined with the personal ushering to your seat, I really enjoyed the atmosphere and high-quality talent at Happy Endings. My only suggestion for improvement would be to swap the curtain dividing the club from the lounge to a door. As soon as ticket holders for the following show started congregating in the lounge, their laughter and talking could be heard downstairs, which was a bit distracting from the show. Otherwise, I can’t wait to head back and see more entertaining Aussie comedy.

For more information on Happy Endings, head here.

Lid and Jar in Chatswood, Sydney, Australia a relaxing and delicious brunch and lunch spot

I absolutely love sitting outdoors while dining, and often the summer weather in Sydney is too beautiful not to. One of the best patios I’ve found in Chatswood is at Lid & Jar, a coffeehouse and restaurant serving delicious offerings for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Lid and Jar Chatswood patio Lid and Jar Chatswood upstairs coffee bar

The first time I went, breakfast serving was barely over — it ends at noon. If you love breakfast, though, you’re in luck, since several breakfast items also appear on the lunch menu, including the wonderful Crispy French Toast ($18 AUD), with natural Greek yoghurt, fresh strawberries and dried fruit compote sprinkled with candied nuts.

Lid and Jar Chatswood French toast

The abundance of berries makes for an amazing flavor combination, while the toasted oats on top give some crunchy textural variety. The cream that accompanies the bread is a perfect complement, and while I didn’t order this, I happily stole multiple bites.

I opted for the Fresh Corn Fritters (also $18), something unlike anything I’d ever had before.

Lid and Jar Chatswood corn fritters

I adored the plentiful arugula, avocado and tomato topping that was like a mini-salad, and the fritters were fried to perfection and packed full of corn. I left off the bacon, and it was an ideal lunch portion, leaving me full and happy.

I had to head back for brunch. The patio is so peaceful because it overlooks a grassy area near The Concourse theater.

Lid and Jar Chatswood view

It’s also dog-friendly, and seeing cute pooches makes any meal better.

I had a fresh cold-pressed green detox juice ($9.30), made with apple, pear, spinach and coconut water. I instantly felt the healthy nutrients perking me up, and it had the perfect amount of sweetness. The fresh cold-pressed orange juice ($9.30) was also spectacular, and both were great choices if you love fresh juice.

Lid and Jar Chatswood green juice Lid and Jar Chatswood pure orange juice

I wanted a veggie benedict with no meat or eggs. My server suggested avocado toast with sides of roasted tomatoes and hollandaise sauce, which was a fantastic suggestion and shaved a few bucks off the regular benedict price of $17-$18. The hollandaise sauce was thick and creamy, just like I like it, and the tomatoes were juicy and perfectly cooked.

Lid and Jar Chatswood avocado toast

Here’s the Smoked Salmon Benedict ($18):

Lid and Jar Chatswood salmon benedictIt doesn’t come with any sides but is an ample meal, for sure.

Lid & Jar features two levels, including indoor restaurant seating up top:
Lid and Jar Chatswood upstairs inside restaurant

and a second lower-level coffeehouse on the bottom, where you can order and take away from the sidewalk.

Lid and Jar Chatswood downstairs coffee bar

Lid and Jar Chatswood downstairs exterior

Lid and Jar Chatswood downstairs interior

Like many Sydney restaurants I’ve encountered, here a server takes your order, but you’ll pay at the counter. Everyone at Lid & Jar was extremely friendly, and the restaurant makes you feel instantly welcome. While I am striving to try new restaurants as often as possible, Lid & Jar is a place I can’t wait to return to for some dinner eats. Learn more about the Chatswood restaurant and coffeehouse here.

Chelsea Hotel in Chatswood, Sydney, Australia, a happening place for hipsters

I found my new favorite place in Chatswood, Sydney, Australia, recently: a pub/restaurant called Chelsea Hotel that made me happy for its abundance of light, its beautiful patio in the heart of the city and its myriad hanging plants that brought nature indoors.

The Chelsea Hotel Chatswood Sydney Australia

The place was packed around 6 p.m. on a Friday night, mostly with young hipsters listening to disco tunes and a lot of David Bowie from the live DJ.

The Chelsea Hotel Chatswood Sydney Australia

Food was mostly American fare, with some Aussie twists. The fried blue corn chips bar snack was perfect to share between two people ($4 AUD). The chips were freshly made and had the ideal amount of salt, and came with sour cream to dip them in. I admit, I’m a pretty picky vegetarian eater, but I’m trying to expand my palate more in Australia, including noshing on this sour cream side. I actually liked it a lot because it cooled off the warm chips and had a nice flavor to it.

The Chelsea Hotel Chatswood Sydney Australia

All “between bread” options come with thick-cut fries, which are my favorite type. I’m not a shoestring gal and never could find enough thick-cut fries in the States, but in Australia, everywhere I’ve had fries, they’ve been nice and thick. Score! Check out the chicken burger ($19), which came with habanero mayo (mayo is also big in Australia, and you’ll start to enjoy it on restaurant sandwiches if you don’t already), jalapeño, tomato and pineapple:

The Chelsea Hotel Chatswood Sydney Australia

I nommed on the spiced vege burger ($16), which came with yoghurt, tahini, tomato and lettuce. I swear I eat more than veggie burgers, but I was craving one this night, and I loved the spiced patty made with black beans and served with those delicious fries. Note: Aussies call ketchup “tomato sauce,” and be sure to ask for it if you like it, because it doesn’t always automatically come with fries.

The Chelsea Hotel Chatswood Sydney Australia

The bar was fully stocked with beer, wine and fruity cocktails, and Chelsea Hotel also offers several “cocktails to share,” which serve four people and are $25. There was lots of tumbler shaking at the bar, so try one of their signature drinks if you’re craving a cocktail.

The Chelsea Hotel Chatswood Sydney Australia The Chelsea Hotel Chatswood Sydney Australia

There are plenty of televisions playing Australian sport (that’s singular — even if you’re talking about multiple types of athletics, it’s still “sport” here), and the vibe is friendly, relaxed and chatty. Beautiful weather beckons people to the spacious patio, and I’d say it’s hard not to instantly fall in love with this spot’s tasty eats and comfortable atmosphere.

Learn more about Chelsea Hotel here.

‘The Darren Sanders Show’ spotlights notable Australians

A who’s who list of Australian movers and shakers was on display when I attended the taping of The Darren Sanders Show at the Giant Dwarf Theatre in Redfern, Sydney, Australia, this past weekend. This season of the talk show set to be broadcast on FOXTEL Aurora starting Sunday, January 31, features 12 episodes with guests ranging from authors and actors, to athletes and musicians.

I got to see four 30-minute episodes taped in one night, and segments included an interview and musical performance by actor and band frontman Mark Lee, performances by stand-up comedians Christina Van Look and Jacques Barrett, and interviews with writers Dan Ilic and Jo Abi, wake board world record holder Amber Wing, comedian and musician Dave Eastgate and actress and producer Matilda Brown. With hype man Al Del Bene bantering with the crowd in between segments, there was never a dull moment.

The Darren Sanders Show_2

I loved the diversity of the roster on the stage, including the comedic chops of host and comedian Darren Sanders. He, along with his guests, never stopped with the witticisms, and the stories told on stage — from a smoking incident involving Metallica and an apple, by Eastgate, to the reenactment of wake boarding tricks using a doll by Wing — were highly entertaining. The show could compete with my American fave The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, despite the small budget. I could see the program getting picked up by a larger network and was impressed by the professionalism of the talent.

For more information on The Darren Sanders Show, head here.