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A beautiful day in the neighborhood...

It is reminiscent of the European approach to supermarket site selection that the two supermarkets that I visited here on Thursday both were part of a larger shopping complex; they didn’t even look like so-called “anchor tenants,” even though they clearly were the biggest retailers in the mall. Rather, they were just sort nestled among the other shops, even taking a little work to find.

In the case of the older Coles store at King’s Crossing, it was actually a two story store that seemed to occupy the basement and then the sub-basement of the building on the corner of Darlinghurst and William Streets. A nifty and very modern looking IGA store I saw - located in the AMP Retail Plaza near Circular Quay - was nestled in the corner of the plaza in a very understated way. (This IGA may have been one of the nicest IGA’s I’ve ever seen, right up there with the Kress IGA in downtown Seattle.)

The thing about these stores is that in some ways they actually compete head-to-head with other food shops located in their malls, and in other ways they create a symbiotic relationship; this is especially true in the case of the IGA, which concedes any level of foodservice offering to shops that surround it. This is an observation, not a criticism one way or the other; it is just a different real estate construct than we’re used to in the US.

But the competition and proximity don’t seem to matter. Here’s what seems most important about the two stores. One, they seemed expert at cramming as much merchandise into relatively small spaces as possible. (The Coles was a lot bigger than the IGA, with a greater emphasis on price, but the latter certainly offered a full, albeit convenience-sized, shopping experience.) And two, they both seemed busy, reflecting a correct reading of what their local neighborhoods needed and wanted out of a supermarket.

Can’t do better than that.

G'Day Mate!

Beach music...

One of my goals on Thursday was to get outside the city, so I took the Bondi Explorer bus tour, which took me to the eastern and southeastern beach communities that surround Sydney; there’s the opportunity to get of the bus and explore these small towns, and then catch up with the next bus that comes along.

It’s a great way to see towns like Bondi Beach, Tamarama, and Bronte Beach, and even get a sense of how people live there. They seem like an odd yet perfect combination of an English seaside village and Manhattan Beach, California - some of the houses are old and charming, some are sort of mid-seventies nondescript, and others are modern and gleaming. It all fits somehow, though there did seem to be a lot of them on the market or up for auction. (One was advertised as being a “beach pad with a long rug.” I have no idea what that means, but it sounds cool.)

In Bronte Beach, I got a good lesson in how a standard meal can be made transcendent with a little bit of care. I was looking for something to eat, worried that my growling stomach would scare away the wildlife. There was a row of cafes across the street from the beach; some were closed, some were open but looked a little chic for my taste, and then there was The Bogey Hole Cafe - nondescript in grays and blues, and with just a few tables outside and in. And then, there was the kind of sign that always lights up my eyes - “Breakfast served until 3 pm.” (The only better sign is “breakfast served all day.” I view such messages as things of beauty, like an answer to an unstated prayer.)

So I went in and ordered a long black coffee (which ended up coming in a short white mug), and a bacon and egg roll with the works (cheese, tomato, lettuce and barbecue sauce). Now, this could have been nothing special, but it was precisely the opposite - fresh and delicious and cooked to perfection, on a thick roll, steaming with flavor. It was wonderful.

Now some of this may have had to do with the fact that I was famished, and with the fact that sea air makes everything taste better, and that I was romanced by being in a tiny village on the other side of the world from home. But it was still a great sandwich, made with care. Nothing lowest-common-denominator about it.

Quaffers...

When I returned to the city, I had a hankering for a beer...so I stopped at the Glenmore Hotel (all the hotels here seem to have charming pubs inside) for a Coopers Pale Ale. Delicious. Cold. Fresh. Yummmm...

Later in the evening, looking for something more refined, I found it in a fabulous wine from the New South Wales winery called Mirrabooka - the 2008 Eloquesta, which is a blend of Shiraz and Petite Verdot. This is an amazingly good wine, not available outside of Australia because it is handmade in small amounts, that manages to be both soft on the palate and delicately balanced between robust and fruity. It was just really, really good.

So good, in fact, that I drank a toast to all of you.

And will again tomorrow.

My Web Grocer

BTW...I’ll continue to post pictures from my Sydney trip on our MNB Facebook page.

Thanks to TCC ... which is sponsoring “The Content Guy On The Road.”

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