Foodtourist – Our exciting food and drink experiences

Foodtourist – An Introduction

Welcome to Foodtourist where the stories are written by Sue Dyson and Roger McShane who have travelled the world for forty years discovering interesting dishes, exciting restaurants and enticing drinks.

It is important for us to make clear what Foodtourist is about. First we will tell you what it isn’t! Foodtourist isn’t a restaurant review site. For many years we did accept work as restaurant reviewers. Over the last forty years we have written for Ansett, Qantas, Gourmet Traveller and many other publications about restaurants within Australia and overseas. We also spent twenty five years doing a weekly (unpaid) broadcast on ABC radio in Tasmania talking about food in general and restaurants where you could find interesting food.

In all that time we never wrote or talked about any restaurant in a negative way, neither in paid articles or on the Foodtourist site. If we didn’t like a place we didn’t write or talk about them!

Then we made somewhat of a U-turn in our business. Having bought a house in France with some friends we started to get interested in the taste of French wines, so decided to import a small amount to Australia as a side interest.

Early on in this venture we were visiting Paris and had booked to have lunch at a restaurant we were writing about for Gourmet Traveller – Le Verre Vole, a restaurant that is still going strong some eighteen years later and which we have included in a story about places to eat and drink in Paris on Foodtourist here.

When we walked in we saw that every table that was occupied had the same bottle of wine. We didn’t know what it was, but we thought we should do the same!

It turned out to be a style of wine that was just starting to be talked about called “natural wine”. We liked this particular wine very much (and still do – it was made by Foillard which our friend Andrew Guard has been importing to Australia from about the same time as we made our decision) and when we found out more about the philosophy of the natural wine movement we made the decision to only import wines to Australia that were made naturally.

(As an aside, natural wines are wines made from grapes that have not been sprayed with poisonous sprays, have been fermented with the natural yeasts on the grapes and have had no other additions, except sometimes small amounts of sulphites. You can read a lot more about natural wines on our Living Wines Web site which includes over 100 newsletters and many articles talking about natural wines.)

It was also at a point in changes in the hospitality industry when more and more restaurants were sourcing organic food products and yet the wine that was mainly available was not organic with various toxic sprays being used to either fight diseases in the vines or to reduce the prevalence of weeds in the vineyard, especially in the area under the vines in order to make the vineyard look “neat”. So the restaurant was therefore providing food that was free of poisons but wines that contained residual poisons. We saw an opportunity for change!

This became another reason for us to not review restaurants any more on Foodtourist, so we gave up paid reviewing and eventually also gave up the radio program because we were supplying many of the restaurants that we may have wanted to talk about.

We moved instead on this Foodtourist Web site, which incidentally is one of the longest running food websites on the Internet having commenced in 1996, to telling stories about people and places that do interesting stuff with food and drinks.

We have put you through this introduction because many restaurants around Australia now purchase natural wines for their wine list. It may be that we sell them wine and a review may be seen as influencing our decision to write about them. Therefore we want to stress that we write stories about the people and the food and drinks NOT a judgmental review.

The same also applies to why we might decide to go to a restaurant in the first place. These days, if a restaurant does not serve any natural wines then we are unlikely to go there as they are the only wines we drink.

However there are other reasons why we might choose to write a story about a restaurant, or a specific food, or a book or a wine on Foodtourist.

For example, once in the early 1990s, we were at an IT conference in Washington DC. During a mid-morning break we decided to take a walk around the block to stretch our legs. We came across a restaurant where one of the staff was almost lovingly cleaning the large outside window. Her attention to this task suggested she cared about the diners’ experience so we asked her if they had any places available for lunch and she said they didn’t open for lunch – she was getting ready for dinner that night!

We enjoyed our dinner there very much and the care and attention and general professionalism were also highlights of the service and the way in which the food had been prepared. If the restaurant were still operating (which it isn’t) we would have written a story about the importance of factors other than the food in running a restaurant based on our experience there.

Out of interest, the meal we had the next night was also pivotal. We had been recommended to try the Red Sea which was an Ethiopian restaurant. The meal we were served was exemplary, but it was the accompanying injera, the Ethiopian flat bread made from teff flour, that really caught our attention and we have been big fans ever since.

We were recently enjoying one of many visits to a new restaurant in Hobart called Trophy House and we had a flashback to our Washington experience. When the Trophy House opened recently we were amazed at how everything worked beautifully from day 1. The staff exuded a calm professionalism that we rarely see in just-opened restaurants these days. Every interaction with the staff is handled with care and concern and every dish comes to the table perfectly cooked and perfectly seasoned. Everyone from the industry who we have talked to about this place says the same thing! We have put the story of this place on the Tasmanian special site of Foodtourist here.

There have been so many influential moments in our travels that we have based stories on Foodtourist around. We will provide a short summary of some of them to give you an idea about how we have been influenced and what we regard as important.

  • In 1985 we travelled to an IT conference in Norfolk, Virginia. Before we left, Sue decided that we should stop over in San Francisco to visit a restaurant that served fresh, organic vegetables and ethical meat products. This was the beginning of a number of visits to the famous Chez Panisse! Our meal was exemplary and exceeded our expectations.
  • On a future visit to the same city, we dropped in to Cafe Zuni for a drink and snack and were captivated by a simple dish of anchovy, celery and parmesan cheese. This was a perfect example of how simplicity, but with well-chosen quality ingredients can make a memorable dish.
  • And, of course, we returned to Cafe Zuni many times after that to enjoy their incomparable roast chicken.
  • On the same trip in 1985 we ended up in Northern Greece at an open market in the city of Thessaloniki. Here we had something memorable and incredibly simple. It was a skewer of lamb cubes, cooked over charcoal and served with a sprinkle of sea salt. Perfect! We can still, nearly forty years later, clearly remember that flavour!
  • After a drive across to Kavala near the Turkish border, we visited a beach-side open-air restaurant that served the fish they had caught that day on a charcoal bbq. The flavour and texture of this fish was stunning. No expensive kitchen equipment was needed. No fancy table settings and no fancy fit-out. Just simple food cooked perfectly.
  • These are just a few of the early highlights that lead us to register one of the first sites on the Internet dedicated entirely around the food and wine we encounter in our travels.
  • Currently, there are many stories on this Foodtourist site including the story of fresh fish at Rafa’s in northern Spain, a long lunch of Japanese-influenced food at Muni in South Australia, a lunch in the outer suburbs of Hong Kong where we went looking for delicious Chinese Islam food, where we found the best tielles in the town of Sete in the Languedoc, how to find the best wine bar in the city of Angers which now has, as one of its owners, Joseph Mosse who is one of the producers we import to Australia. And so it goes.
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