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Friday, October 31, 2014

Marah-marah VS Mudah mudah

Paling ogah membuka tulisan dengan kalimat “zaman telah berubah.” Kesannya tua amat! Jadi bagaimana kalau “emosi orang gampang berubah, ya!”

Saya sering mengernyitkan dahi dengan orang-orang yang sering marah: “Kenapa whatsapp cuma di-read doang!” Padahal umur pesannya baru 2 jam. Belum 2 bulan.

Biasanya saya kalau 'telat membalas' itu karena ingin menunggu suasana asyik buat respons pesan. Kali aja kan, saat baca lagi meeting atau pas lampu hijau yang keburu merah. Atau pas mau bales ketemu diajak ngobrol orang. Yang jauh lebih cakep dari kamu. HAH!

Lagian, simpanlah energi kemarahanmu, karena percayalah, ada yang lebih menyebalkan dari reply superdelay: telat transfer duit! Ow, yang lebih mengesalkan lagi: transfernya hari ini, sampainya besok! Kalau ini, baik yang menunggu atau yang sudah mengirim, bisa sama-sama stres.

Pernah ya, di sebuah sore gembira, saat lagi di Singapura, saya harus kirim uang saat itu juga ke salah satu supplier Warung Ngebul. Sayangnya, karena beda bank, uang tidak sampai seketika; bahkan sampai saya tiba di Bandung keesokan paginya. Ironis amat, tau gitu bayar cash saja pas ketemuan, kan? Untung ini 'cuma' masalah supplier yang masih mau mengerti—gak sampai obrak abrik warung! Tapi saya percaya, mengirim uang tepat waktu—tanpa jeda adalah syarat utama membina kepercayaan.

Untungnya kekalutan ini gak perlu lama dipiara, soalnya bank kepercayaan saya, CIMB Niaga, kini menawarkan tabungan ON Account dengan salah satu fasilitas yang sangat saya butuhkan: transfer duit antar bank langsung sampai! Gak ada lagi hari-hari dimana transfer dari bank A ke bank B harus nunggu 24 jam dulu sampai uangnya masuk.

Terus ya, pake On Account ini, semua transferan langsung sampai real-time alias detik itu juga. Sedapnya! Ada satu lagi keuntungan On Account yang bikin rahang lepas pas denger: tarik tunai di seluruh dunia bebas biaya! Wah, ini sih jelas berguna banget buat yang sering jalan-jalan ke luar negeri.

Jadi keingetan pengalaman jalan-jalan ke London, eh duit jajan cashnya kurang. Ya ketimbang jadi TKI ilegal demi ngumpulin duit jajan malah kena deportasi, akhirnya merelakan diri narik uang dari rekening rupiah, deh.

Ketika pulang ke tanah air dan menerima statement bulanan, baru ketahuan kalau tarik tunai di London kemarin kena charge £7. Buset. Kebelet pipis di London saja saya tahan-tahan ketimbang bayar public toilet £1 atau sekitar Rp.19,000,-. Lah, ini narik duit kena biaya £7. Kan bisa pipis 7 kali! Haha, itungan banget yak!
Yah, agak kapok lah ya jadinya kalau narik uang di luar negri. Kebayang kan betapa leganya waktu On Account dikabarkan bisa narik tunai tanpa dikenakan biaya. Exchange ratenya juga menguntungkan banget.

Tenang, ini bukan kabar burung. Soalnya saya datang ke acara peluncuran On Account, khusus buat cari tahu lebih lanjut mengenai rekening ini.

Talk show On Account bareng Glenn Marsalim (blogger),
Raline Shah (aktris),
Sukiwan (Vice President Liabilities Business Group Head CIMB Niaga),
Mario Patrick (MC).  

rame-rame buka rekening

layanan video banking

Melalui acara ini saya juga jadi tahu bahwa buat registrasi gak perlu sibuk dandan dan ngabisin ongkos transportasi demi datang ke bank: cukup klik http://www.cimbniaga.com dan pilih menu Online Account Opening.

Semuanya online dan bahkan kita bisa memilih untuk buat janji dengan CIMB Niaga supaya mereka yang datang ke kita untuk pembukaan rekening. Asyik, bikin rekening sekarang bisa sambil piyamaan dan ngopi pagi-pagi!

Tapi tunggu, dengan berbagai fasilitas menyenangkan ini, sering mendadak parno gak sih? Jangan-jangan biaya administrasi bulanannya yang nyekik? Atau gimana abis ngambil duit di atm, kartunya berubah jadi dedaunan? Klenik amat.

Oh, gak perlu paranoid! Selama saldo tabungan minimal Rp 1 juta, maka bebas biaya administrasi, termasuk bebas biaya transfer ke mana pun! Berkurang deh alasan saya untuk marah-marah urusan duit dan bank.

Semoga dengan berbagai kabar menyenangkan ini bisa bikin kamu juga gak gampang marah-marah, karena akan selalu ada pilihan yang bikin mudah!

Friday, October 24, 2014

10 writer-friendly cafes in Ubud


Supposedly, being a writer is about being mentally prepared for rejection. Either by publishers, readers or waiters.

Here's the case.
You're on vacation in Ubud, but you still have deadlines that can't be missed. As you open your laptop in public, people around you start giving you that bitchy stare like those “it” girls at school. You probably act like you don't care, but what you need is “workcation” amenities.

So, before rejection kills you, these writer-friendly cafes will help you relax to get down with your laptop and a cup of coffee to writing the first draft of a novel, sexy lyrics, a dirty diary or whatever you want to write.

But before we walk down the streets, let me give you my definition of a “writer-friendly café”: varied prices ranging from cheapy to pricey in one location, relaxed waiters that still smile if you only order a single cup of coffee, comfortable seats and cozy from the couch to the gazebo and, of course, free WiFi -- hey, in the end we still need the Internet to send in our work, right?

If your head kept nodding while you read the above list, join me as I explore Ubud from the west.

( I wrote this article for The Jakarta Post Travel. So please continue reading here)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Surat 1002: Antara Logika dan Hati Nurani

Dear Vibi,

Seminggu terakhir ini saya tidak dapat memalingkan mata dari buku yang kamu tulis, Kedai 1001 Mimpi. Saya juga tidak dapat membiarkan waktu senggang saya terbuang tanpa membaca buku-mu.  

Mungkin saya adalah salah satu pembaca bukumu yang tidak begitu kaget dengan cerita-cerita yang ada di dalam Kedai 1001 Mimpi, lebih tepatnya sudah siap mental duluan, hehehe. Saya sadar dan yakin ada sejuta misteri terselubung di negari yang kamu ceritakan, sampai akhirnya membaca cerita-ceritamu merupakan bagian yang mampu membuat saya lebih yakin akan misteri-misteri tersebut.

Miris rasanya harus mengetahui lebih dalam seluruh kejanggalan yang terjadi di negara kerajaan tersebut. Sekitar tahun 2010 atau 2011 saya menjalankan ibadah umrah dan sedikit mendengar cerita mengenai adanya tempat perjudian di Saudi Arabia.

Awalnya memang terasa berat harus mendengar berita tersebut, seperti membenturkan hati nurani dengan logika berulang-ulang, terbayang kan beratnya? Hahaha!

Setelah melakukan beberapa pencarian ditambah lagi membaca buku yang kamu tulis, kemelut yang terjadi di negara kerajaan itu ternyata lebih dari "sekadar" tempat dan aktivitas perjudian yang saya dengar sebelumnya.  

Melalu surat elektronik ini saya ingin mengucapkan terima kasih sebesar-besarnya karena cerita-cerita yang kamu tulis semakin membuka mata saya mengenai negara tersebut. Apa yang telah terjadi di negara kerjaan tersebut (sayangnya-red) akan selalu dikaitkan dengan kepercayaan dan ajaran yang mereka peluk.

Inilah yang membuat saya semakin berpikir sekaligus menjawab pertanyaan-pertanyaan yang ada di dalam kepala saya beberapa tahun terakhir ini.

Vibi, Bolehkah saya bilang suatu kewajaran terhadap para pembenci tulisan-tulisan mu jika mereka mencaci maki dan melakukan teror terhadap dirimu baik secara langsung ataupun tidak langsung setelah membaca tulisan-tulisan tersebut?

Kalau iya, berarti kita sepaham dan tidak perlu diperdebatkan.

Dan, saya yakin kamu pasti sudah mempersiapkan diri untuk skenario terburuk yang akan terjadi ketika meyakinkan diri untuk menjadikan cerita-ceritamu menjadi sebuah buku yang akan diterbitkan dan dapat dibaca oleh orang yang berada di negara mayoritas muslim ini.

Jikalau tidak, menurut saya para pembenci yang mencaci maki serta meneror dirimu setelah membaca tulisan-tulisan mu adalah orang yang tidak mau, tidak mampu, atau bahkan tidak sanggup membenturkan logika dengan hati nuraninya.

Mereka terbayang seluruh ajaran yang mereka pahami hampir seumur hidupnya, yang mengajarkan kebaikan secara keseluruhan, nyatanya berbanding terbalik dengan cerita-cerita yang kamu alami secara langsung di tempat pertama ajaran tersebut disebarkan. Dan saya yakin, kamu pasti lebih paham alasannya mengapa mereka melakukan hal-hal tersebut.

Vibi, melalui email ini saya memberikan dukungan agar kamu tetap tegar, kuat, sabar, dan selalu semangat berkarya melalui tulisan-tulisan berdasarkan pengalaman nyatamu. Kenyataan memang selalu pahit, seandainya manispun pasti hanya sepersekiannya, bahkan terkadang manis yang dirasakan itu pun tidak nyata.

Saya percaya seluruh cerita-cerita yang kamu tuangkan dalam buku Kedai 1001 Mimpi benar adanya terjadi di Saudi Arabia tersebut. Mungkin ini email kesekian yang menyatakan dukungan kepada kamu yang jika dibandingkan dengan email penuh caci-maki dan teror mungkin tidak ada apa-apanya.

Semoga email singkat saya ini semakin membuat-mu yakin, kalau kamu berada di jalan yang benar dan masih banyak pembaca yang percaya serta mendukung-mu setelah membaca buku Kedai 1001 Mimpi yang kamu tulis.

Vibi, semoga kita diberi kesempatan untuk bersua dan bertukar pikiran lebih jauh tentang cerita-cerita mu. Oh iya, sampaikan salam saya kepada Teteh Yuti, Mas Blitar, Bambang, Benny, Randy dan seluruh sahabat-sahabatmu yang kamu ceritakan di Buku Kedai 1001 Mimpi yaa..

Vibi, sekian email dari saya. Semoga kamu sempat membaca dan membalas email ini di tengah kesibukan.

Salam Hangat.

-Muhammad Puri Andamas-


Halo Puri, 

Terima kasih mau berbagi benturan hati! 

Sama dong, awal menemukan banyak 'keunikan' di negeri itu, hati ini rasanya berat. Saat diam saja, bisa gila sendiri. Giliran ribut curhat, malah dikira 'bongkar aib saudara sendiri'. 

Saya masih berharap muluk, buku Kedai 1001 / 1002 Mimpi bisa menjadi bekal calon pekerja yang akan mencoba berjaya di Saudi—bahkan di manapun. Jadi saat mereka menginjakkan kaki di sana dan menghadapi berbagai keanehan, mereka dengan kuat bisa "ah, gak kaget tuh" dan menjaga diri dengan gagah menawan.

Ah, saya jadi keingetan, 'penyerangan' pertama saat saya menceritakan pengalaman saya saat bekerja di sana adalah saat curhat di Facebook. 
Awalnya sih perih, tapi lama kelamaan setelah mendapat 'hadiah hitam' bertubi-tubi, saya tidak sedih lagi kalau dapet respons negatif, karena bisa jadi mereka pun dalam fase awal sama seperti saya dan kamu saat pertama kali hati terbentur, bukan? Bedanya ada ada yang segera mencari fakta, ada yang menutup hati dan memilih caci maki. 

Lagipula perih saya tidak sepadan dengan pedihnya hati para TKI yang teraniaya--bahkan diperkosa yang saat meminta pertolongan malah dituduh 'si pembuka peluang' atau malah 'sama-sama menikmati'. 

Seperti saya tulis di Kedai 1002 Mimpi, TKI nakal pun pasti ada, tapi bukan berarti bisa jadi pembenaran untuk memperlakukan mereka semua semena-mena. Sama seperti halnya majikan Saudi, yang baik pun pasti ada, semoga golongan merekalah yang pada akhirnya akan merajalela. Amin. 

Puri, terima kasih untuk surat dukunganmu ya. Salammu akan saya sampaikan beserta link postingan ini agar mereka bisa ikut baca ;) 

Salam adem, 

Vabyo

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Keliling Ubud: 10 Tempat Makan Ramah Penulis


Memangnya ada tempat makan yang judes sama penulis? Belum pernah nemu, sih.Tapi tempat yang akan saya koar-koarkan berikut ini bisa jadi pilihan asyik bagi penulis untuk bekerja; Entah menulis buku, lagu, blog, naskah, resep masakan atau malah diari. Hei, apa pun kini bisa jadi sebuah karya, bukan?

Nah, kalau tempat makan menyenangkan bagimu adalah:
Harga variatif (mau makan kenyang, ayo. Mau ngopi doang mulai 20 ribuan, bisa!)
Pelayan ramah (gak dijutekin kalau kerja kelamaan—padahal ngeteh doang)
Tempat nyaman (bisa leyeh-leyeh di sofa, duduk manja di kursi atau selonjoran ngampar!)
Tentu saja penting: ber-WIFI kencang (walau kadang penuh ujian)

Kalau setuju, mari ikut saya menelusuri Ubud mulai dari arah barat!

1. Bambu Indah
Lokasi: Jl. Sayan


Pertama kali mampir ke Bambu Indah, saya kira ini 'cuma' hotel butik yang restaurannya tak bisa didatangi tamu luar. Eh, ternyata bisa! Dan menyenangkan!
Paling asyik nongkrong di sini sore-sore, menjadi saksi matahari terbenam. Sambil menikmati secangkir kopi, semangkuk es krim, atau segelas wine chardonnay.
Coba juga minta izin sama sang pelayan buat keliling kompleks, bersiaplah menemukan banyak tempat memukau!



Spot nulis asyik: Bale-bale menghadap Sungai Ayung!
Boleh coba: Sate Tempe & Ayam Bumbu.

2. Cafe Vespa
Lokasi: Jl. Penestanan


Menunya beragam, dari japanese sampai lebanese; dari sushi set sampai saus hummus! Menunya juga bisa mendua; berdaging atau vegetarian.
Teh herbalnya juga juara menyembuhkan rada tenggorokan dan migren.

Spot nulis asyik: Meja panjang ujung ruangan; bisa gabung sama pengunjung lain, kali aja kan jodoh.
Boleh coba: Cheese Platter & Vegetable Stack. Coba juga roti Ciabatta yang dibuat setiap hari, colek pakai mentega hangat. Pilihan teh herbal: lemongrass herb + spices & rooibos

3. Kopi Desa
Lokasi: Masih di Jl. Penestanan


Setiap cafe pasti berlomba menawarkan kenyamanan. Kopi Desa menawarkan kenyamanan bertandang ke rumah saudara di desa; dimulai dengan lepas sandal saat masuk ruangan.
Ruangan dihangatkan rak buku dan hiburan instan; entah dari pengunjung yang sekadar bermain gitar atau nonton film bareng lewat proyektor.

Boleh coba: mixed vegetable omelette, mocha coffee.
Meja nulis asyik: Di sofa bagian kanan teras. Bisa sekalian ngecengin yang numpang lewat.

Yang kocak, di depan Kopi Desa hampir selalu bertengger motor Vespa, yang sering membuat orang terkecoh nyangka mereka Cafe Vespa. Ide pembalasan: Cafe Vespa mungkin bisa pasang papan menu dengan tulisan “jual KOPI dari DESA”.

4. Round Bar
Lokasi: Masih di Jl. Penestanan juga. Tapi tenang, cafe berikutnya akan beda jalan, kok.


Dari Kopi Desa menuju Round Bar akan melewati liukan curam nan gelap, bikin deg-degan buat yang masih belajar motor dan bikin gelap linglung kalau siang-siang pakai kacamata hitam. Tapi kelamaan, penestanan jadi trayek menyenangkan buat ugal-ugalan. Hush!

Boleh coba: Aneka pizza, burger, dan uh... pukul 5-7 sore ada Happy Hours, 30% off buat cocktails.
Meja nulis asyik: di meja depan yang nyatu sama tiang. Musik raggae yang mereka putar bikin berasa di pinggir pantai!

5. Dapurku
Lokasi: Jl. Raya Ubud


Begitu masuk ke Raya Ubud dari Penestanan, lurus terus sampai nemu umbul-umbul & lampion berwarna-warni. Patokannya ada di antara apotek Guardian dan belokan ke Tirta Tawar.

Dapurku menyediakan menu parasmanan beragam yang menyenangkan lidah sunda saya. Yang seru, menu gonta-ganti setiap hari dan bisa request pula!Pernah suatu hari saya ngidam petai bakar, yang langsung dikabulkan mereka. HUAHH!!
Harganya pun murah memukau. Untuk gambaran: sepiring nasi uduk, perkedel 3 buah, sayur bayam, balado ayam, bakwan, telur rebus dan es teh manis dingin hanya 25 ribu rupiah! Psst, kerupuk gratis!
Setiap sore, mereka juga menyediakan menu bubur ayam dan berbagai sup hangat.

Boleh coba: Sup Iga, bahkan tulangnya pun enak dan lunak!
Meja nulis asyik: Lesehan paling depan yang menghadap jalan. Tapi kalau sekiranya lagi lapar berat, duduklah di meja paling belakang dekat meja buffet.


6. Abe Do
Lokasi: Jl. Tirta Tawar
Dari Dapurku tinggal lurus dikit dan belok kiri!
Saya hobi jalan-jalan sore naik motor di Tirta Tawar atau Desa Kutuh ini, aspalnya mulus sekali dan relatif sepi. Pemandangan sawah hijau segar bikin hati bugar!
Eits, hati-hati warung organik Abe Do-nya malah kelewatan! Tempatnya mini, jadi datanglah di jam-jam non-orang-kebanyakan-laper.



Boleh coba: aneka jus sayur buah organik & grilled chicken.
Meja nulis asyik: meja paling belakang menghadap pintu.

7. Kebun Bistro
Lokasi: Jl. Hanoman


Dari Tirta Tawar, kita ke Raya Ubud lagi, belok ke Hanoman!
Dekorasi Kebun Bistro membuat kita berasa tiba-tiba ada di sebuah cafe pinggir jalan Prancis. Perhatikan saja tempat lilin atau lampu chandelier mereka, membuat siapapun yang kita temui ingin bilang J'aime beaucoup ce que vous faites!

Boleh coba: French onion soup, tenderloin beef steak.
Kopi italian dark roast pakai french press.
Meja nulis asyik: Di bangku paling luar. Di Kebun Bistro paling asyik nulis pakai pulpen! Mari kembali ke notebook yang sesungguhnya.


8. Kafe
Lokasi: Jl. Hanoman


Masih sejajaran dengan Kebun Bistro, tinggal jalan dikit, menclok ke Kafe!
Iya, namanya memang Kafe. Jadi kalau diajak “Ke Kafe, yuk!” lalu kita tanya “Cafe mana?” dan alisnya mengerut, bisa dipastikan cafe yang ia maksud adalah Kafe!


Meja nulis asyik: Di mana pun di lantai 2. Kalau lagi adem, pilih area balkoni.
Boleh coba: Pesto & Herb Feta Cheese. Minta ekstra Olive Oil. Aih sedapnya!


9. Pizza Bagus
Lokasi: Jl. Raya Pengosekan
Dari Hanoman mari lurus terus sambil curi-curi pandang sebelah kanan, siap-siap belok ke Pizza Bagus! Dan saya setuju, pizzanya memang bagus, baik dari tampilan, harga dan rasa.
Selain makan, di sini juga bisa belanja keperluan pangan. Kapsul kapsul kopi untuk mesin pun tersedia dengan menawan. Bumbu-bumbu rempah pun bertebaran penuh pesona.

Boleh coba: Pizza apa pun dengan ekstra mozarella!
Meja nulis asyik: Di meja tinggi kanan dekat pintu masuk.


10. Warung Sopa
Lokasi: Jl. Nyuh Kuning


Dari Raya Pengosekan, lurus terus ke arah selatan (sudah seperti orang Bali gak sih; pakai arah mata angin), siap-siap belok kanan ke Jl. Nyuh Kuning. Perlambat langkah atau kendaraanmu, Warung Sopa ada di sebelah kanan, tidak jauh dari persimpangan.
Setiap ke Warung Sopa, saya mendadak rela kalau ditakdirkan jadi vegetarian selamanya!


Boleh coba: lumpia pakai sambal matah. Setiap Rabu dari 9 pagi sampai 1 siang ada Ubud Organic Market.
Meja nulis asyik: Di lesehan sambil disapa angin sepoi-sepoi.

Berakhir sudah tur Ubud edisi ngafe-ngafe ala penulis ini. Kalau kaki pegal, di sebelah Warung Sopa ada pijat refleksi, loh!

Selamat berkeliling ria & menulis sadis!


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cycling Through Melbourne's Hidden Places

Klik di sini untuk bahasa Indonesia


If London has Thames river, Melbourne reserve the right to be proud of Yarra river.  I like to sit around on the river side, to clear up my dreariness. But I won't sit for a long time this moment, because I'm gonna cycle around town with Real Melbourne Bicycle Tours!


Why cycling (around the town)? If you really need some reasons other than health purposes, well here you go: because walking around the city consumes more time and riding vehicles could give us hard time in find parking space. 

So don't worry, we don't need to brutally pedal nonstop, they make lots of happy stops, either for just staring down the shimmering bluestone laneways or just to grop some beautiful red leaves in the Fritzroy park! That's all? No, we'll get more than that excitement! 

The bicycle tour is guided by Murray Johnson, a journalist and photographer. He'd love to tell us some of historic stories, such as why Melbourne was formerly called Batmania (taken from one of the inventors name: John Batman) or why Lygon St. is known as little Italy (you have to find out by yourself!).

I couldn't hold myself to not sneaking around during breaks! Brunswick, Smith & Gertrude St are crowded by bohemian houses, street arts, bookstores, vintage stalls, ice cream shops, cafes and there's a barbershop that gives us an Aussie free beer for every haircut!

Books for Cooks, Gertrude St. for your cullinary business
An adorable eclectic cafe at Moor St: Grub Food Van!
Suddenly there's a banana tree!

There must be something special when the ice cream shop is full house on a cold day!
But Gelato Messiina's indeed delicious.

The Royal Exhibition, constructed in 1879-1880, added to the UNESCO world heritage list in 2007.
Carlton Gardens 26 acres


Cycling tips in Melbourne from Mr. Murray:



- Although there's a bike lane, watch out for parked cars. In several cases, a cyclist shoved by the driver or passenger who suddenly open the car door and fell. 
- Please keep cycling in line of the group, especially in crowded streets. It sounds easy, but I often tempted to cycle side by side with a friend for the sake of chatting or asking my friend to photograph me. Sorry, my bad! 
- While it's so exciting to see the beautiful city sights, it'd make us cycle slower and block other cyclist. So, please keep cycling in the moderate speed or make a full stop if you really need to.
- Be careful when cycling through a tram lane, it could make a bicycle wheel twisted. And I've proved it! So embarrassing as it squeaks loudly. Again, my bad.

Me & Mr. Murray Johnson

So get your own experience with Real Melbourne Bicycle Tours, please call +61 417 339 203 or e-mail biketours@rentabike.net.au & don't forget to share your story with me!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Melbourne’s Sweet Surrender: Hunting Sweet Delicacies

Klik di sini untuk bahasa Indonesia


I pretend to ignore the brochures’ warning which I read right before the tour began. Actually, I got a little bit worried as just last night I had a pasta party in DOC Lygon St, then this morning, I had 3 croissants & 2 choco muffins for my breakfast.

But as a sweet craver, I will not recoil! I guess I have lots of space in my stomach. So, take me to your cake kingdom, Mr. Andrew Prior!

Andrew Prior is the owner of Queenie's Food Tours. He is also our guide for this morning cake hunting. When I saw him for the first time, his face looks so familiar. Hey, I’m not delusional. As I secretly googled his name, apparently he’s a contestant of Masterchef Australia 2013. 

Taken from  Masterchef Australia's website
“Welcome to Sweet Dreams Walking Tour! I have spent months looking for the best patisseries & the most delicious cakes in Australia! Now let’s make our way through South Yarra. the dessert capital of Melbourne.”

Among the reddish brown leaves tossing around with the cold wind, I observed to the way Mr. Prior walked. One of the articles that I came across the internet said, “Prior hurt his right knee on the first episode of MasterChef when contestants had to run out onto the Melbourne Cricket Ground.” 

We stopped at LuxBites, a patisserie cafe at Toorak Rd.  My vision was suddenly robbed by the pastries in the display rack!





Baby Let Me Love You Let Me LOVE YOU LONG TIME!

Fully concentrating to the sweet art. 



The creator of  LuxBites; Bernard Chu, is Malaysian. Chu's reputation skyrocketed when he succesfully managed to win the challenge of MasterChef producers; to create a cake recipe combining six classic Australian lollies – mint leaves, bananas, red skins, jaffas, freckles and musk sticks.

Bernard had also generously telling his secret weapon of substituting ingredients, such as replacing spearmint leaves—which has a shortcoming: it coagulates when its hot—with mint flavored cream; made ​​from cajuput oil! I never imagined before, my favorite body oil could mixed into some delish cakes!

“This is my favorite cake!” Andrew pointed to the choco cake named Be My Love, made by chocolate milk mousse, raspberry cream, dark chocolate sprinkle, chocolate glaze & freeze dried raspberry.

 

After drowning on sensuous delightful tasting of Be My Love, I decided to interview Andrew.

“I just read an article about your injury. So how are your knees, are they allright now?”

“My knees are much better now. I feel some pain every now and then but they won't stop me doing food tours.” 

“So how did you decide to become a chef and get involved with Masterchef?” 

“Well I'm certainly not really a chef – more a home cook with a passion for food. I had just returned from a year in Paris and I really didn't want to go back to my job in insurance and wanted to pursue a new dream. So I felt that applying for Masterchef could bring new opportunities, and fortunately it did.” 

Our conversation paused for a while as we said goodbye to Bernard. Then we went on walking to the next store, still on Toorak Rd: French Fantasies. Some of its sidewalk chairs has already filled by the breakfast lover.


Just when I stepped my right feet into the room, the smell of bread wafted wildly. “Like the French people, we make bread so serious!” Joked one of the employees of French Fantasies while offering a variety of delicious breads & cakes. I then continued my series of curiosities.

How hard are the Masterchef’s challenges? Do you get any guidance or given recipes for the challenges?”

“No, not at all. You get no help whatsoever with the challenges. And, as you know, some of them are very difficult. But they are a lot of fun as well.” 

“What happened on the set when camera's off? Were those personalities on the show real? Please give me some of reality TV secrets-you-don't-wanna know!” 

“They certainly are real. In fact if anything they probably toned down what you see on TV. I can't really say too much but if you come on one of my tours there are a lot of stories I can share - in between cake and chocolates of course.” 

From Toorak Rd, we strolled the streets strewn with maple leaves. I thought of the symbols represented by each corner of the maple leaf: strength, simplicity, warmth, romance, and faithfulness. And I suddenly wanted to ask Andrew about loyalty to that famous show that made his name.

“Would you go back on the show or consider auditioning for another cooking competition?” 

“No, not now. I've set up my food tours business here in Melbourne, Queenie's Food Tours, and am very happy with the change in my life. If they wanted me to return for something special, for charity or to set a challenge for new contestants, sure I'd consider it. I miss the great kitchen they have.” 

We arrived in a dazzling kitchen of Zumbo at Claremont St. A fancy pink neon sign reminded me of Miley Cyrus' album cover.





According to Andrew, Adriano Zumbo is a patissier and chef who likes to challenge all of the Masterchef contestants to emulate his crazy cake creations such as Croquembouche Tower (a dessert consisting of choux pastry balls piled into a cone and bound with threads of caramel), V8 cake (8 layers and textures of decadent chocolate) and fairytale gingerbread house.

Foto dari website Zumbo
Oh God, no. If I were the contestant, I might have backed off already. 

So let us eat this carrot cake instead.

Secret Carrot's Business Cake!

Everytime I see something related to carrot, I constantly picture my childhood. Probably because my mom used to welcome me home after school with a bowl of vegetable soup filled with chunks of carrot.

“What are your unforgettable food memories from childhood?” 

“My grandma’s roast lamb with beans that she grew in her own backyard.” 

Aah, for the moment, I felt the warmth of a grandmother who wants to make her grandchildren happy.

Are there any foods you won't even try?”

“I will try almost anything at least once, but I'm against some food which contains animals that are not treated well.” 

“Is there any food that would make you think “It's so delicious it should be illegal?” 

“Definitely chocolate and also custard. I love a good custard.” 

Oh, I imagined it with double pleasure: A custard covered by melted chocolate!

We continued the tour through the increasingly cold wind. I guess the sun was also having a tour; cruising another galaxy. 


As Andrew slowed down on Chapel St, we veered to Burch & Purchese.




Entering this store made my hands tremble. Not only that its wall was fully decorated by everything chocolate fancy, the room were also surrounded by lots of jam jars! 


 
Among all these delicious jars, I picked salted caramel sauce. I couldn't wait to spread it on a warm wheat bread, along with my cup of  hot coffee. 

The Burch & Purchese owner; Darren Purchese also frequently appeared in various episodes of TV cooking shows such as MasterChef Australia, The Circle, and various other events. Suddenly I felt lucky to have a chance of meeting lots of Aussy foodie celebrities!  I immediately was so jealous of Andrew's work. 

“What do you enjoy most about running business of Queenie's Food Tours?” 

“Mostly I love being my own boss and working with my partner, and another thing is getting to meet great food producers throughout Victoria for a living.” 

Ah, Andrew knew that he’s walking on a dream wheel. He's infatuated with his own work. Or as the French say; A La Foile; a term to express madness in the sense of falling in love. Love sick. Love to death. Like the love of Mercede-Coubard; the next cafe owners we visited, who creates cakes in French style.


 


So, if you have this feeling of A La Foile to macaron & petits choux, don’t hesitate to visit 589 Chapel St and get ready to be ambushed by atmosphere of Paris. Even her employees are native French!






Mercédé Coubard has a warm smile as she greeted us while presenting a variety of colorful macarons. With sparkling eyes, she described her effort to open this business. She started out by making cakes exclusively for her family,  until she was finally confident to sell the cake to other people.

And surprisingly, that “other people” are often the celebrities she admired so much.


Taken from A La Foile! Instagram
“Michael Buble came to my store twice! Last visit was yesterday afternoon!” Mercédé was really cheerful when she mentioned her idol, while I quietly watching the entrance; stay alert in case Buble would come again! 

We chatted while our fingers busy taking pistachio macaron; made ​​from high-quality Iranian beans. Its peanut flavor was so strong, yet sweet with a creamy blend that tasted soft.





“I remember when the very first time running this business, I had to waste dozens of macarons because it didn’t match my expectation!”

My dear Lord, Mercédé, I don’t mind chewing your failed macarons! 

My taste buds did a very busy work analyzing crushed crisp-tender and the cream flavor explosion while my fingers took matcha & redcurrant variants. Again, I was struck by the mixed flavor sensation; each flavor complements without eliminating other flavor; like two divas give each other the spot light on the stage, rather than being dominant. 

Mercédé  then excused herself to serve other customers.

“Be ready for another sweet invasion!” Andrew teased us, wearing a sweater, a sign to us to move on to another place. We were herded into a cafe that smells like happiness; Chocolate Ganache at 250 Toorak Rd! 

The smell of chocolate burst at every step, hypnotized us. And like starving cartoon cats, we staggered up to the second floor! 

Upstairs, a man beamed as he welcomed us, "Anyone want a chocolate ball?"




O YES!! I shamelessly grabbed not only one, two,… almost half of the bowl! 

Behind the kitchen, some people was engrossed with their chocolate batter. It turned out that Chocolate Ganache has a Chocolate School! How cool is that?
But I bet if they have any of scholarship program, I definitely would be blacklisted because I might spend most of the study time for slurping the chocolate!

While gossiping about all kind of chocos, we were treated to taste an assorted of delicious beverages and savory dishes. One of my favorite was croque monsieur. It gave the luxury savory flavor after all of those sweet invasion. 

Andrew also seemed to enjoy his lunch, probably because it’s the last treat on this Sweet Dreams Walking Tour.
Hey, but my interview session is not over yet!

“What makes Melbourne a great place to go to culinary scene?” 

“Melbourne is one of the world’s great multi-cultural cities and it has every type of cuisine imaginable. It’s the mixture of the widest range of different cultures and the wide range of inexpensive choices that is fantastic for a foodie like me.” 

If you could only eat one cake or food for the rest of your life, which would it be?” 


“It would have to be the Lolli Cake from LuxBites of course. Only Bernard can make it better than I can — oh and my fellow Masterchef contestant Christina apparently.” 

Bernard Chu & Andrew Prior
Any predictions on which of the new cakes will be 2014's best selling?” 

“I’m tipping the Petit Choux is going to be big.”

If Melbourne were a cake, what would it be and why?” 

“Good question. I’d say an Opera Cake, as it has so many delicious layers.” 

Oke I lied! One more question: If current-Andrew meets with the 10 years ago-Andrew, what would both Andrews say?” 

“Well the older one would probably be jealous of the younger one’s hair and the younger one would probably advise the older one not to wear T-shirts of TV. That’s age for you.”

Oops, his answer had made me suddenly clutching my hair. I hope it’s still there for the next 10 years!

Now I've got a question for you Valiant, if you don't mind.” 

*Gulp* “Okay, of course I don’t mind!”

“What did you love most about Melbourne? And what did you most enjoy on my sweet dreams walking tour?” 

I sipped my double shot. I quickly summarized all that interesting stuff I found since my first setting foot in Melbourne.

“Well, what I love about Melbourne is how Melbournians are real passionate about what they have & what they do. These proud citizens make the city more energized. I can see the sparkle of love from how they draw the walls, how they brew a delicious espresso, or even how they ride a segway when exploring the vineyard.
And 1 of passionate people I admire in Melbourne is you.  In addition to enjoying delicious pastries and acquainted with great people behind the door, you make the walking tour very pleasant, thank you for all the good memories!”



As my extra gift for you, this is your favorite Kylie Minogue song, Andrew!





Actually, there’s one thing from this tour that amazed me.  The business people I met in Melbourne are very supportive towards each other, they are very keen to collaborate.
In fellowship, we shall win together.
Or lose alone. Our choice.

Thank you & sweet dreams! 

Foto by Alex

Hey, Melbourne cruising is not over, I will take you to Yarra Valley and riding a segway around the wineries!