It's been about six months since we last visited Queensland and I felt a little tug to return, so we set aside 5 days at the end of March to visit as many of our family and friends as we could.
We began on the Sunshine Coast on Monday and were comforted with the home cooking of Michael's mum Robyn: tea and fruit cake shared with Nan and two uncles, then miniature pies filled with pumpkin, pine nuts and feta for dinner.
Thursday was my mum's birthday, to be celebrated at my childhood home of Redcliffe. Dining in the outer suburbs has come a long way since Sizzler! There's now a lovely Italian restaurant on the foreshore, where I gobbled up gnocchi in sage butter. Then, wonder of wonders, a new Indian takeaway and grocery just metres away! Frozen flaky breads, shiny serving dishes, discounted DVDs, and a few ground spices I haven't even been able to locate in inner Melbourne. I hope Redcliffe's ready for them.
On Friday afternoon we moved on to Brisbane and amused ourselves for a few hours while everyone we knew finished their working week. The city's exclusive Andy Warhol exhibition was worth a look, and then we revisited our old haunts around West End. Past two of my former homes, fondly remembered restaurants, the video shop I loved, noting which businesses along the main street were new and what they had replaced. We finished the evening with an exquisite Turkish feast and wine; catching up with my dad, his wife Anne, and a childhood friend I hadn't seen for almost eight years.
The consumption climax was Saturday night, a cocktail party in celebration of L's birthday. With her partner S, sister L2 and a few other friends, we shook and stirred our way through Bellinitinis, Moscow Mules, Mimis, Sex On The Beach, White Russians and Chocolate Martinis. As we slept them off, the resident possum helped himself to the plate of cocoa left outside and added his own garnish to the cocktail book.
By Sunday morning, we could do little more than drag ourselves to the Little Larder for nourishment. I bypassed the naughty banana bread with cinnamon yoghurt for the sunny shades of avocado, tomato, wholemeal toast and an ocean of juice - the same zesty combination offered at Tom Phat. I was revived, though only just enough to propel me to an inflight nap.
Melbourne sure feels like home, but Queensland's got a lot more than nostalgia to recommend it. I knew how many people were worth going back for but the food took me by surprise!