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Day 18 - Brisbane, Queensland,

Flying into Brisbane, Queensland, Australia was really something. A flight attendant spoke over the speaker. She said, "Welcome to Brisbane, Queensland. Brisbane has shucked its reputation as a backwater and emerged as one of the country's most progressive centers. It has several interesting districts, a good street cafe scene, a great riverside park, a busy cultural calendar and a thriving nightlife."

Getting a ride to the Marriot Hotel, we also found out from the cab driver that Brisbane was known locally as Bris Vegas. But it's also renowned for its sun and the brash, glitzy hordes that follow it, and it's also the arts capital of Queensland, with dozens of theaters, cinemas, concert halls, galleries and museums. A climate this good and culture too? It must be paradise. We'll find out. He took us along the waterfront and Ziggy had to get her picture taken.

When we got to the hotel, we dropped off a few things and headed out the door. I'll tell you, if you're ever looking for any place within a city for anything, the best person to ask is the concierge. He directed us to the best restaurant so far. It was called E'cco. A snappy, lively bistro that serves some very good food to an adoring crowd of locals. It is clearly the standout restaurant in a city where the food scene has gone to sleep over the past two years.

We had Roast Rib of Wagyu Beef with Red Onions, Fennel and Green Beans. Now, before you ask me what Wagyu Beef is, here's a good description. Wagyu is a breed of cattle naturally predisposed to produce beef that is densely marbled. In fact, Wagyu beef surpasses USDA marbling standards for prime-grade beef. Often referred to as the “foie gras of beef,” Wagyu has an exquisitely tender texture and incomparable, luxurious taste. Here's the recipe!

Roast Rib of Wagyu Beef with Red Onions,
Fennel and Green Beans

Serves 4

1 – 2 to 3 lb. piece wagyu rib fillet, or good-quality prime rib of beef
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed
au-jus, demi-glace or veal glaze (available from good delicatessens)
2 tbs. chopped flat-leaf parsley

Roast red onions & fennel:
4 baby fennel, cut into quarters lengthwise
1/2 bunch thyme, washed and picked
1/2 head garlic, broken into cloves, skins intact
3 red onions, peeled
2 tbs. brown sugar
2 tbs. balsamic vinegar

olive oil, for cooking
salt/freshly ground black pepper

For the roast red onions and fennel, preheat the oven to 350F. In a large bowl, toss fennel, thyme and garlic with olive oil, salt and black pepper. Spread onto a baking tray and roast for approximately 30-40 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, for the balsamic red onions, cut onions into wedges, leaving root end intact to hold segments together; place on a baking tray lined with baking (silicone) paper or a non-stick tray. Sprinkle over brown sugar and balsamic; season with salt and black pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for 10-15 minutes until tender, turning once.

Fennel and red onions can be roasted the day before; keep stored in an airtight container in the fridge until required.

To roast the beef, preheat the oven to 375F. Heat a little olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over high heat. Season rib fillet with salt and black pepper and seal in pan on all sides, achieving good color.

Remove rib from pan and place on a wire cake rack inside a baking tray. Roast for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 340F and continue to cook for 30-40 minutes or until medium. Rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

To serve, place the fennel and red onions on baking (silicone) paper-lined trays and reheat in moderate oven, if necessary. Blanch the beans in a pot of boiling salted water; drain.

Place vegetables on one large serving platter or divide among individual serving plates. Slice the rested rib fillet and place on top. Drizzle with au-jus and scatter with chopped parsley.

Buon appetito!

After dinner, we went for a little walk. Ziggy ran on ahead of me. I told her not to go too far but I lost site of her after awhile. I turned this corner and there was Ziggy and the kangaroo just laying there. I told Ziggy that we didn't have to leave so early and if she wanted to hang out with her new friend for awhile, that was fine with me.

I went back to the hotel without Ziggy for the first time in 18 days. I woke up the next morning and Ziggy had stayed out all night. So I went looking for her. Up one street and down the other. I saw a crowd gathering at this park and went over for a look see. Well, there she was in the kangaroos pouch hopping around all over the place.

I yelled at her that we had to leave for New Zealand and everyone booed me. Even Ziggy booed me. "OK, let's go!" I said. And she jumped out of the pouch, shook her new friend's hand and off we went to the airport.

Our next destination, Christchurch, New Zealand, proved to be the most romantic city for Ziggy. This is where she met her soul mate, Bowser Joe. Unfortunately, this is where she had to leave her soul mate. Or did she?

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