Sunday, 31 July 2016

One of the biggest days on the wine calendar: Wynnsday

The Wynns winemaking team
It is one of the most eagerly awaited dates on the Australian wine calendar. For a few decades now Wynnsday - the launch of the new premium wines from Wynns Coonawarra Estate - has been held on the first Wednesday of August. 

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the six wines from the 2013 and 14 vintages - and what a collection it is.

Winemakers Sue Hodder and Sarah Pidgeon, aided and abetted by viticulturist Allen Jenkins, have put together perhaps the most consistently excellent Wynnsday collections I can remember - and I go back to the first Wynnsdays in Coonawarra in the 1980s, when jovial Peter Douglas was the chief winemaker. 

Chief winemaker Sue Hodder
The fruit across both vintages is uniformly of top quality, the use of oak astutely judged. 

The 2016 collection aims to showcase Wynns’ house-style and includes the Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (RRP $44.99), V&A Lane Shiraz 2014 ($59.99), V&A Lane Cabernet Shiraz 2014 ($59.99), Harold Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($79.99), Michael Shiraz 2013 ($149.99) and John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($149.99).

There are usually one or two clear standouts each Wynnsday. This year all six are excellent, reflecting the work that has been put in both in the vineyards and the winery. These are, effectively, boutique wines from mega international company Treasury Wine Estates.

“In 2013 we chose several of our older, and beloved, classic terra rossa soil vineyards for our John Riddoch, Michael and single vineyard wines," says chief winemaker Hodder. "It is pleasing to acknowledge these special parcels from a great year. Good ripening conditions after a wet winter resulted in wines with fine but abundant tannins.

“In contrast, the very wet winter and slightly above-average summer temperatures of 2014 combined with very low yields. The 2014 Black Label Shiraz and Cabernet and also the two V&A Lane Wines are, by comparison, more linear and medium bodied.
”I think the work that has been done in the vineyard is reflected in the wines. There is balance and when the textures are right, flavours follow."

Originally, Wynnsday marked the day that trade would visit the winery to taste and order their wines for that year. The event was always held on a Wednesday and still today the winery chooses this day to release the collection.

Next year will mark the 60th vintage for Wynns’ much-celebrated Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon. To celebrate, Wynnsday in 2017 will feature a tasting of all 60 vintages to show the changes in style to the wine over the years. My hand is certainly up for an invitation.
In the meantime, here is a brief rundown of the new releases given Hodder describes 2013 as "a really excellent vintage, as good as 2010 for balance and finesse". 

The two top wines now have recommended retail prices of almost $150, but Hodder says: "We are confident they are still good value given the wine quality".   

Black Label 2014  Cabernet Sauvignon: Initially lean, leafy and elegant in a Bordeaux style, but it opens in the glass gaining richness and intensity. Very poised. Good buying. 

V & A Lane 2014 Shiraz: Rounded, silky and very precise with hints of spice and brioche alongside bright berry fruit. 

V & A Lane 2014 Cabernet Shiraz: A classic blend with delightful balance. Silky and smooth and quite rich despite low alcohol levels. 

Harold 2013 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon: A gentle wine with beautiful balance, with briary fruit combined with excellent structure. Long and lingering.

Michael 2013 Shiraz: Very textural and wine that needs time to mature. Layered and considered and it opens in the glass but definitely one for the cellar. 

John Riddoch 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon: One of the finest John Riddochs I have had the pleasure of tasting. Supple, stylish and downright fabulous. A vinous supermodel.  


  


Saturday, 30 July 2016

God bless the baby cheeses. All you need to know and more.

Nick Haddow is the face of cheese in Australia. 


Since founding Bruny Island Cheese on a rugged island off the east coast of Tasmania in 2003, he has established a reputation as one of Australia's finest cheese makers, a trailblazer for quality and someone who is prepared to speak out on a range of topics. 

He is familiar to television viewers as one of Matthews Evans' sidekicks on the Gourmet Farmer TV series on SBS and was the first legally recognised producer of raw milk cheese in Australia.

He has co-written two books with Evans and Ross O’Meara: The Gourmet Farmer Deli Book and Gourmet Farmer Goes Fishing.

Now, at a time when artisan cheese is under increasing pressure from big industrial companies, he has released a book on cheese. How to choose it, serve it and eat it. 


Milk.Made. takes readers on a journey from farm to fromagerie and beyond. 

Along with photographer Alan Benson, Haddow visits internationally renowned cheese makers in Australia, France, the UK, Switzerland and the US, learning cheese-making secrets from around the globe. 

The publicity blurb says he "takes readers behind the scenes, sharing the history, and busting the myths". And for once the blurb is truthful.

The book features 70 recipes that allow gourmets to experiment at home, from fondues to cheesecakes. The layout is excellent, the photos evocative, the prose sensible and easily understood. 

My only complaint is that the cover, while clever, is a little dull. But you can't judge a book by its cover, can you? 

Milk.Made by Nick Haddow is published by Hardie Grant Books. $55.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Stunning views and a waterfront location in Hobart

How good is this view from my apartment suite in Hobart? 



Somerset on the Pier not only offers comfortable apartment-style suites in the centre of Hobart, it is actually located on the water.

This stunning property occupies the first floor of a wooden wharf building, Elizabeth Street Pier, that dates back to the 1930s.The beautifully renovated pier faces 
the River Derwent and overlooks historic Sullivan's Cove.


Loft-style apartments, on two levels, enjoy stunning views of not only the river but also luxury yachts and fishing vessels. They are fun and functional rather than luxurious, with modern bathrooms, writing desks, air-conditioning and kitchenettes - the vibe is old-world charm mixed with contemporary style

There are 56 one-bedroom and family-style smoke-free apartments in all, with free wifi throughout the building and a quiet library/lounge, should you wish to borrow a book or print out a boarding pass. 

As for location, it couldn't be better. The building is shared by T42 tavern and restaurant, an Asian eatery and the rather excellent Fish Frenzy fish and chippery. 



The many restaurants and bars of Salamanca are a five-minute stroll away and current hip hotspots like the Black-Footed Pigs tapas bar and Post Street Social are just a hop, skip and jump down the road with Aloft and other Brooke Street Pier hangouts equally close. 

On Saturdays, the Salamanca Markets are on your doorstep, and there are many cafés and art galleries from which to choose. 

It is a real treat to be able to walk out of your apartment and stroll around the waterfront with its many leisure craft, fishing fleets, old wooden boats and Antarctic exploration vessels.



The apartments at Somerset on the Pier are on two levels with a bathroom, kitchenette and lounge/office downstairs and a bedroom upstairs. Each apartment has an electronic safe.

The service from the young reception crew was excellent and there is free overnight parking available, as well as a free selection of daily newspapers. A DVD library is available should you wish to spend the night in (as is room service from T42), and there is a daily housekeeping service except on Sundays.



A good in-room guide helps visitors with shopping and transport suggestions. All in all, an excellent choice for anyone wanting a bit of space and perfect for those planning stays of more than a couple of days. 



Even a grumpy soul like myself found nothing at all to complain about and prices start from a very reasonable $149 per night for bookings of two nights or more. 

Somerset on the Pier, Elizabeth St Pier, Hobart. Call 1800 766 377, email enquiry.Hobart@the-ascott.com or visit www.-the-ascott.com 

# The writer was a guest of Somerset on the Pier    


  

    



Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Like the idea of driving around Monte Carlo in a Maserati?

Like the idea of driving a Maserati around Monte Carlo? The ultimate fantasy weekend for boys who enjoy their toys has been launched by the Italian sports car manufacturer in conjunction with the five-star Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo.


Until September 30, Maserati has taken over a pop-up suite at the Hôtel de Paris and had it styled by rising design stars L+R Palomba as an homage to the brand's links with the principality, which date back to 1957 when Juan Manuel Fangio won the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix in a Maserati. 


Located on the third floor of the luxury hotel, the dramatically-styled suite offers views of the ocean and the iconic Casino de Monte-Carl - and every imaginable luxury. 

The bedroom features a headboard by Ermenegildo Zegna while the grain leather armchairs resemble the interior of Maserati’s sumptuous saloon cars.


A three-night package, only for those with cash to burn, includes Maserati transfers to/from Nice airport, a Maserati GranCabrio (four-seater convertible) to drive during the stay, breakfasts, a cocktail buffet of Italian-style dishes with Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé champagne and a cryotherapy session at the Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo. 

Rates for the Maserati suite at Hôtel de Paris start from €3,500 for two adults per night. For reservations call +377 9806 4158 or email resort@sbm.mc. Tell them you read about it on Gourmet on the Road. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A unique way to explore Australia's vineyards

Wineries are always looking for new ways to attract cellar door customers and one camper van company has come up with a new deal that allows guests to enjoy exclusive gourmet experiences and park their motorhomes among the vines. 
Maui Motorhomes recently launched its Winery Havens experience with both big-name and boutique wineries in South Australia and Victoria on board. 

Maui’s Winery Havens camper experience allows guests to sample regional wines whilst tasting local produce at premier wineries like Hahndorf Hill in the Adelaide Hills, Lake Breeze in Langhorne Creek, Rymill Coonawarra, Caudo Vineyard in the Riverland and Seppeltsfield in the Barossa, which has a legacy dating back to 1851. 
During the Winery Havens experience, travellers spend their days enjoying the region’s wines, enjoying intimate cellar door experiences, meeting winemakers and sampling the local gourmets cheeses and meats.
At nights, guests are invited to park among the vines and whip up a feast in their very own roving kitchen before retiring for the evening in their motorhome bed. You can't get a more authentic vineyard experience. 
Caudo Vineyard, which is on the banks of the Murray River, offers a tranquil setting for relaxed evenings in the vines. 
“Winter in the Riverland is a truly unique and magical experience,” says Zac Caudo, owner of Caudo Vineyard. “The Murray offers beautiful misty mornings, teeming with local wildlife and amazing scenery, and one of the best places to experience this is on the bank of the Murray at our cellar door.” 
In Victoria, wineries involved include Feathertop, Brown Brothers, Cofield, Dal Zotto and St Leonards.   
Payment of a nightly supplement includes a gourmet hamper for two, a bottle of wine courtesy of the host vineyard and access to the winery's vintners (availability dependent).
For details see www.Maui.com.au/winery-havens.aspx or ring 1300 363 800. 

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Behind the scenes at the Qantas "training camp"

You are in Alexandria. Nowheresville. An industrial estate somewhere between Sydney Airport and the shabby fringes of downtown. 

From the outside, it is just another boring office or factory building. No signage. There's some security, sure, but nothing to prepare you for the magnitude of what greets you inside.



I recently got a sneak peek behind the scenes at the Qantas Centre of Service Excellence; the huge space where Qantas staff are trained. It's a pretty impressive set-up.

Just about any training scenario can be set up here: from first-class lounge dining to an economy short-haul cabin. 



The facility, not usually open to the public, cost $10 million to put together. It is used for inductions, teaching and development and corporate events. 

Australia's national flag carrier obviously takes training seriously. Employees can be taught in replicas of the first-class, business, premium economy and economy seating zones, even a QantasLink zone, which replicate those same spaces in the air.



In addition, there are dedicated sommelier, epicurean, and presentation areas for both internal and external courses. While I was visiting some members of the RAAF were being given insights into Qantas service standards. 



Safety and compliance training are undertaken here in facilities that include a 126-seat auditorium, an eight-metre central stage, four cabin crew training pods, along with internet and training rooms, kitchens and wine tasting facilities.



It's all pretty high-tech and well worth taking a look at should you ever get the chance.  

www.qantas.com

# The writer was a guest of Qantas.   
     

Saturday, 23 July 2016

The best place in Sydney for a quiet drink?


Have you ever pondered where to take a visitor to Sydney for a late afternoon drink? 

Somewhere to watch the sunset and have a quiet glass of wine, or some nibbles?

Regatta at Rose Bay, where veteran chef Damien Pignolet (ex Claude's and Bistro Moncur) oversees the food, is the perfect spot. It's not over-run by tourists or thirsty after-work imbibers and offers fabulous views of the harbor and its ferries.


The vistas from the deck and window seats are enough to make any visitor swoon; luxury yachts and motor cruisers abound at Rose Bay - a little flashy, but hey this is Sydney. 

And did I mention the Negronis are pretty special, made from Bombay gin with Campari and Oscar .697 sweet vermouth? 



I found myself at Regatta twice recently over a 24-hour period and even as a long-time former Sydney resident I was impressed by the style and the modern European/bistro feel.


Regatta has been through several previous incarnations. It was Pier, and then, briefly, Sailor's Club. It sits on a pier that’s now part of the spectacular Rose Bay Marina. It dates back to the 1920s and was run as a fish and chip shop in the 1950s by the Doyle family.

Today, it is rather more upmarket with a dining room, bar and café. Unlike some of Sydney's snootier establishments, guests at Regatta are welcome to just sit back and enjoy a drink and a snack. 


The bar menu includes little treats like tuna tartare cones, snapper and ham hock croquettes, shelled prawns with mayonnaise, and, appropriately given its history; both oysters with eschalot vinegar and good old fish and chips.



They can be matched with a bellini (pretend you are in Venice), or maybe a glass of Jansz Premium Cuvée, Dennis Pommier Chablis, an Antinori Chianti Classico, or perhaps a glass of Provencal rosé. 

The ambience is smart casual and fun - the staff not only know their stuff but seem to have fun while working. Which all helps the vibe of being at a party at a friend's luxury beach house. 



If you want to stay for dinner, dishes like crab omelette with sorrel sauce, carpaccio of Hiramasu kingfish, veal cutlet with a cep sauce and spatchcock with coriander seed and chicken jus vinaigrette just might sway you. 

The wines by the bottle have also been deftly selected with a good balance between Australian classics and good imports.

And prices are quite realistic by Sydney standards. Very impressive.

Regatta Restaurant and Bar, 594 New South Head Road, Rose Bay, 2029. (02) 9327 6561. www.regattarosebay.com

# The writer was a guest of Regatta Restaurant and Bar. 


     

  

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Sydney hotels just don't get any more central than this

Sydney is a big city with myriad accommodation offerings ranging from hostels to ultra-luxe five-star hotels. But if you really want to be in the most central location possible you can't go past Rydges World Square. 



 A major shopping precinct is right underneath you; George Street is on your doorstep; Central Railway Station is just a few blocks away; Chinatown is a two-minute stroll away and there are dozens of Thai and Korean eateries within a couple of blocks.


Walk outside the hip The Cidery Bar & Kitchen and two of Sydney's busiest, buzziest eateries are right there; dumpling heaven at Din Tai Fung and Neil Perry's Burger Project. 

This is where the Central Business District meets the nightlife quarter of Australia's biggest city. Location? Sorted.


Rydges is a full-service hotel in every way. There are plenty of staff to hail you a cab, store your luggage or just point you in the right direction. 

Unlike the remaining dinosaurs who still charge for wifi, here is free in all guest rooms, bars, eateries and public areas.

This is a big hotel; 452 rooms rated 4.5 stars. So the helpfulness and availability of the staff came as a pleasant surprise.


All the bedrooms are equipped with flat-screen TVs and mine had a small balcony (the blessings of being able to enjoy fresh air). I was concerned my room was close to the lifts but it was extremely quiet with a very comfortable bed and I slept very well. 

I loved the vibe of the Cidery (another blog follows) while the buffet breakfast at Sphere offered a good selection (the mushrooms were excellent). At night, however, it was almost deserted and leaves a little to be desired in the ambience department. No problem, really, with dozens of good eating choices on the doorstep. 


On-site offerings include a gymnasium and 24-hour valet parking, along with convention space for up 550 people. Both check-in and check-out were fast and painless.

I would have liked a morning newspaper delivered to my room; and, perhaps, a wider mini-bar choice, but these are mere quibbles. Rydges World Square is a damn fine place to stay. 

Rydges World Square, 389 Pitts Street, Sydney 2000. (02) 8268 1888. www.rydges.com/worldsquare. Packages including overnight accommodation, full buffet breakfast, car parking and a barista coffee start from $232 per night.  

# The writer was a guest of Rydges World Square. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Another day, another idiot

Another day, another tale of woe from an Australian travelling overseas who has suffered from misfortune. 

This time, it is a woman in Bali, who decided to drink cheap alcohol and fell ill "the day their travel insurance ran out". Now they are stuck with a $50,000 hospital bill they can't pay. 


It is a tale that is repeated, in one form or another, every day.

There is the middle-aged person who falls over and breaks their leg in New York, ending up with a medical bill well into six figures. But he doesn't have travel insurance.

Or the young bloke who crashes a motorbike in Thailand, but forgot to invest in travel insurance. 

Memo to morons: If you can't afford travel insurance you can't afford to travel. Other countries are not like Australia; free medical care is rarely available.

You are gambling with your future, so don't expect us to feel sorry for you if you fail to spend a $100 bucks or so on insurance and end up with life-threatening injuries and massive debts. 

Of course, if you are stupid enough to drink illegal white spirit, or go white water rafting while drunk, you probably won't be covered anyway.

But the message is a simple one. If you are travelling, you need travel insurance (it is not that hard to renew if you overstay and your policy runs out). 

It takes about five minutes to fill in a form online. But if you are too busy being a bogan then too bad. 

A taste of all four corners of Thailand

A couple of months ago I stayed at the Rembrandt Hotel in Bangkok and was impressed by the culinary offerings; particularly the presence of authentic Mexican and Indian restaurants. 

Now the hotel is putting a spotlight on Thai cuisine - with the emphasis on the point that there is actually no such thing. 

Different regions of Thailand produce diverse regional specialities as will be reinforced by the new buffet dinner, which will be held every Thursday from 6.30pm at the hotel's Red Pepper restaurant. 


The luxury 407-room hotel bills the culinary journey across the four regions of the Kingdom of Siam accompanied by live traditional Thai music as A Taste of Thailand.

The presentation will feature key dishes from North, North-East, Central and Southern regions presented in a traditional style.

Prices are THB 433 net per person ($16.50) with half price for children and complimentary for a child accompanied by two paying adults.

Highlights include Sai krog e-sarn (Issan sausage), Nhaem see krong moo and Kao soy gai from the North; Kao tang nah tang (crispy rice cracker with coconut dip) from Central Thailand; Kanom jeen nam yah from the South; and a choice of desserts. 


Selected Thai beers at $3.50 a bottle and a variety of local wines (yes there are Thai wines) are available.

"We wanted to create an outstanding presentation of cuisine that showcased world-famous Thailand food," said hotel general manager Eric Hallin.

"The challenge was to develop exquisite, authentic dishes prepared from the best available locally-sourced meats, seafood, rice, noodles, and garden-fresh vegetables and complement them with the earthy flavors, textures and rich aromas of Thailand."

He said all dishes featured in A Taste of Thailand were prepared traditionally.

For reservations, contact +66-2-261-7100 or book via Facebook.com/rembrandtbkk or go to www.rembrandtbkk.com

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

A lifelong love affair with Paris

Paris is one of the most beautiful places on the planet – a city of history and culture, romance and excitement, and a melting pot of colours and ideas.



The French capital is a magnet for tourists from around the world; including myself, who lived briefly in a damp tent in the Bois de Boulogne when I was 21 and vowed to one day base myself in this most alluring of cities.

The five years my wife and I spent living here were quite magical, largely because Paris has something to offer everyone.

Many come to the City of Lights to admire its exceptional architecture; gems like Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe and the grand Champs-Elysées, the basilica of Sacré Coeur and the Eiffel Tower.

Others visit for the artworks to be found in The Louvre, including, of course, the Mona Lisa, and in museums like the Musée d'Orsay and Musée Quai Branly.

But Paris is also a global capital of gastronomy, fashion and shopping and hosts some of the biggest sporting events in the world, ranging from the French Open tennis to the final stage of the Tour de France cycling race.

The French Tourism people say that “innovative, audacious and vibrant, Paris is multi-faceted, magical, mythical, always exciting.”

Nothing symbolises Paris better than Notre Dame de Paris on the Ile de la Cité in the middle of River Seine.

Notre Dame, designated a world heritage site by UNESCO, was built from 1160 in the flamboyant Gothic style – and tours offer visitors close-up views of its flying buttresses, spires and roofs.

The upper gallery provides magnificent views of Paris, the Seine and the succession of beautiful bridges across the river.



Just as magnificent is the Palais Garnier; the latest theatre to house the Paris Opera since it was founded by Louis XIV in 1669.

The Opera building was constructed on the orders of Napoleon III as part of the great Parisian reconstruction project carried out by Baron Haussmann – who was responsible for the city's marvellous symmetry.

Building work lasted from 1860 to 1875 and in 2000 the main façade was completely renovated. The sumptuous red and gold auditorium, which seats almost 2,000 people, is lit by an immense crystal chandelier hanging below a brightly-coloured ceiling painted by Marc Chagall.

No one can visit France without taking a stroll through the Champs de Mars gardens on the banks of the river and gazing at the remarkable Eiffel Tower, built in 1889 as a temporary structure for a Global Expo, but still standing 300 metres tall as the symbol of the city – and probably its most famous landmark.

The French poet, Jean Cocteau, called it “the beautiful giraffe in lace” - and it is the most-visited paying monument in the world.

The brave can climb 1665 steps to the top viewing platform, while glass lifts elevate the more sedentary among us. The Michelin-starred Jules Verne restaurant, at 125 metres, offers spectacular views.

Then there is the Basilica of Sacré Coeur. Sitting 130 metres above the city at the top of the bohemian Montmartre district, it towers above the city and is a meeting place for locals and visitors alike.

Arguably the most famous art gallery in the world, The Louvre, was also the most visited in 2015, attracting almost 10 million art lovers including those interested only in seeing the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa.

The museum is part of the Louvre Palace, originally built in the late 12th-century and extended many times over the centuries. It was a favourite of Napoleon.

Outside the museum, you will find the remarkable glass and steel pyramid crafted by I.M. Pei – the perfect juxtaposition of old and new. Reviled when it was finished in 1988, it is now much-loved by Parisians.




The remarkable Musée d'Orsay is an old train station converted into a building dedicated to 19th-century art and features works of French painters such as Manet, Degas, Monet and Renoir among 5000 paintings and sculptures dating from 1848 to 1914.

Five years ago, the museum underwent a makeover with a new space dedicated to Vincent van Gogh, with 24 of his paintings on display. Make sure, however, to go up to the fifth floor and visit the Gallery of Impressionism.

Lovers of modern art and culture should head to The Centre Pompidou, which houses the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe with more than 70,000 works – and is a fascinating place to people watch.

Then there are the Grand Palais galleries, The Arab World Institute, the Pantheon, the Rodin Museum, Père-Lachaise Cemetery and the wonderful Luxembourg Gardens. So many choices.

But there is much more to Paris than its many grand buildings, parks and artworks. It is a living, breathing city that is best explored on foot. Every one of the 20 arrondisements, or districts, has its own charm; from the rough-hewn charm of migrant areas like the 20th, to the elegance of the 5th on the left bank and bourgeois 6th and 16th.



There is Montmarte for shopping and strolling, the Jewish/gay quarter of the Marais for finding the latest fashionable goods, the golden triangle near the Avenue George V and Avenue Montaigne for classic haute couture and luxury goods, and upwardly mobile Pigalle for nightlife with a touch of naughtiness.

And, then, of course, there is the food. From street markets in just about every quartier, to neighbourhood bistros, cheese shops and chocolatiers to haute cuisine from some of the greatest chefs in the world, Paris is a gastronome's delight. There are over 70 Michelin-starred eateries from which to choose.



Try to get to at least one of the great Parisian gourmet landmarks like Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenee; L'Arpege; new star Ledoyen; Guy Savoy or Pierre Gagnaire, where you can easily spend $1,000 on lunch for two.




Also try out a classic in Le Grand Vefour or Le Taillevent; or traditional brasseries like Bofinger, Brasserie Flo and Le Vaudeville to indulge in delights from magret de canard to macarons.

Alternatively try some of the restaurants which specialise in one regional cuisine, like La Cigale Récamier, which focuses on the cheese soufflé; Pascade, which produces myriad crepes from the Aveyron; or meat-lovers paradise La Maison de l'Aubrac.

Every Parisian has their own favourite restaurant so it pays to ask around to get the best tips – and Paris is an easy city to get around.

The public transport here is excellent. Both the Metro and the buses are clean and efficient, although, as in any big city, it pays to stay alert. Should you choose, you can cross the entire city on foot in just a few hours.

Some of my personal favourite Paris experiences include a stroll in the magnificent Palais Royal gardens, an ice cream from Berthillon on the peaceful Île St-Louis, a glass of wine in Willi's, Juveniles or Le Baron Rouge, people watching on the Place Vosges, gourmet shopping on the Rue Mouffetard, a moment of quiet contemplation on one of those romantic bridges over the Seine, oh, and the world's best roast chicken at Guy Savoy, or maybe a night-time cruise on the Seine or a calvados at one of the cafés along the Canal St Martin.

From low-key style to high-rev excitement, Paris delivers. From the achingly hip style of fashion week to the volatility and excitement of a Paris St Germain soccer game, it is a city of light and shade.

Whatever you choose to do, France's brightest star seldom fails to shine.


#This is an edited version of a story that first appeared in Quest Kudos magazine, the in-room magazine of the Quest Apartments group, which has a wide range of Citadines properties in Paris.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Something new from the House of Angostura

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to spend a few days with the team at the House of Angostura in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, learning all about Angostura bitters and the brand's many different rums. 

Now Angostura has launched a completely new product in Australia; Amaro di Angostura, an award-winning spirit that is imported by island2island. 

It is the first time in the company's long history that is has created an entirely new category of spirits.

Amaro di Angostura is derived from the same bespoke process used in creating the company's iconic aromatic bitters. 

The house yeast strain, cultivated by Angostura since the 1930s in Trinidad, combined with the addition of other spices and neutral alcohol from its distillery, has resulted in a new taste sensation.

As with Angostura bitters, the Amaro di Angostura recipe is a secret. 

"Angostura aromatic bitters, which serves as the base for Amaro di Angostura, has a devoted following in Australia," says Allan Shearer, CEO of island2island. 

With 35% alcohol by volume, Amaro di Angostura is a dark amber colour with aromas and flavours of cinnamon, dark chocolate and bitters. 

Something this exotic is certainly to have cocktail barmen and mixologists creating new drink combinations, although the new release can also be enjoyed solo, or over ice. 

It is available through Dan Murphy’s and selected independent bottle shops for around $55 a bottle.

See www.angosturabitters.com/AMARO

A new guide to craft beer hits the spot

So you think you know all about craft beers? Can you pick a pilsner from a lager at a thousand paces? Know the difference between an amber ale and an IPA? 
No matter who much you know, or how good your palate is, you'll realise you don't know quite as much as you think you do after reading James Smith's impressive new book: The Great Australian Beer Guide.

Even if you do know your porters from your pales and your stouts from your saisons, you'll find plenty of useful info here. And reviews from brewers as diverse as Bright Brewery to Two Metre Tall.  

If you are keen to expand your beer horizons, James Smith (of The Crafty Pint and founder of Good Beer Week) is your man.

I, for one, was amazed by the diversity of both beers and styles that are now commonly available. And I'm not averse to the odd pint myself. 

Today there are well over 300 brewing companies operating in Australia, from tiny, shed-based ‘nano’ operations through brewpubs of all shapes and sizes to larger production breweries as well as ‘gypsy’ or contract brewers who don’t own their own kit. 

That means there is sure to be something to suit every beer drinker’s tastes. 

But where to start? From lagers, pale ales and IPAs to Belgians, barley wines and other oddities, this book has you covered.

Complete with an in-depth history of beer in Australia, a breakdown of the brewing process, style spotlights, brewery profiles and guides on how to store, serve, enjoy and match beer, this is a very enjoyable book - with something for everyone. 

Good layout; excellent typeface. Very nicely put together. 

The Great Australian Beer Guide by James Smith is published by Hardie Grant Publishing. $29.99.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Auction puts spotlight on NSW wines

A unique auction aims to put the spotlight on the various New South Wales wine-growing regions.

The NSW Wine Industry Association and Langton’s have joined forces to hold the inaugural First Planted Auction on September 2, 2016, showcasing the oldest and most-diverse wine producing state in the country.

NSW Wine wants to open consumer's eyes to the range of intriguing and world-class wines coming from the state.

“Winemakers from across NSW have been winning awards and producing outstanding vintages for decades, says NSW Wine Industry president Tom Ward (below). 




"We want to showcase our capabilities and successes as a wine-producing state. This event showcases not only premium product, it also gives the public an opportunity to get their hands on rare wine and experiences that are otherwise impossible to buy.” 

The event is designed as a celebration of the best of the NSW wine industry, opening the door for guests to discover legends, leaders and rising stars. 

The First Planted Auction is the first of its kind, offering rare wines, unrivalled experiences and the chance to dine with industry legends. From limited-release magnums, exclusive winery tours and more, every guest will have the chance to secure a once-in-a-lifetime taste of NSW wine.

Prizes include the last double magnum of 2014 Lake’s Folly Cabernet Sauvignon and a three-night Mudgee getaway including a full-day chartered helicopter ride, lunch at the acclaimed Pipeclay Pumphouse and VIP treatment at the signature event of the Huntington Music Festival.

The event will be hosted by well-known comedian Jean Kittson, Master of Wine Andrew Caillard and Plonk stars Chris Taylor and Nathan Earl. 

To view the Plonk invitation video starring Taylor and Ward, the funny one, please go to www.facebook.com/NSWWine/

The first planted auction and lunch will be held at the Sydney Cricket Ground and tickets are $250 per person, which unfortunately puts the event beyond the budget of many mainstream wine drinkers - although you can bid online via the Langton's site. 

If you are cashed up and do want to attend, tickets are available from www.nswwine.com.au/langtons/ 

Friday, 15 July 2016

Ten top places to dine in style in Bordeaux

Bordeaux may be the world capital of wine, but it also boasts some excellent restaurants. Here are 10 that are well worth visiting. 

[La Tupina]

A favourite of those in the wine trade, convivial La Tupina serves rustic and hearty regional cuisine. Think south-west dishes like a salad of duck hearts followed by escalope of veal with creamed spinach and a fresh pear tart, or maybe an entire veal kidney with mustard or roasted confit goose (below). Good wines; friendly service.


[L'Embarcadère]

L'Embarcadère, which means pier, specialises in mouth-wateringly fresh fish. There is atmosphere plus at this bustling spot in the heart of the old city, which mirrors the ambiance of classic 1950s Paris bistros. Think oysters or langoustines. The sole meuniere (below) is very good and the wines affordable.


[Garopapilles]

Chef Tanguy Laviale serves exceptional modern French cuisine that has the critics in raptures. His casual bistro style of cooking features dishes like scallops with creamy wild mushrooms and veal medallions with praline, pears and cockles, served with squid ink gnocchi. A hip gourmet hangout.

[La Grande Maison Bernard Magrez]

Uber chef Joel Robuchon was replaced in June by another French culinary legend in Pierre Gagnaire. This is arguably the best fine dining destination in Bordeaux, part of Relais & Chateaux. La Grande Maison picked up two Michelin stars in the 2016 guide and offers a traditionally serious experience.

[Le Gabriel]

Serving traditional French food over three levels in a heritage-listed 18th-century building overlooking the Place de la Bourse, this has been popular since opening in 2009. There's an elegant gourmet restaurant offering a modern take on traditional region flavours, a casual bistro and a bar specialising in Champagnes.

[Le Pressoir d'Argent]

An ultra-luxe grand dining room with a seafood theme and a menu created by chef Gordon Ramsay. Expect a serious, expensive, gourmet experience accompanied by fine wine. Ramsay and chef Gilad Peled earned a Michelin star in their first year. A maximum of 60 covers per night.

[L'Entrecote]

There is often a line outside this restaurant (below) , which has just one main course. Part of a small chain, it offers a salad with nuts, a thinly cut steak with sauce and an unlimited amount of chips. There's a wide choice of desserts but it is the reliability of the steaks that's the drawcard.



[Le Quatrième Mure]

Former rugby player Philippe Etchebest built his reputation at Chateau Grand Barrail and won two Michelin stars at L'Hostellerie de Plaisance in Saint-Emilion. He's a TV star whose very chic new brasserie next to the Opera House has pulled in huge crowds since it opened in September, 2015.

[Dan]

In a setting that screams rustic chic, Jerome and Harmony Billot craft some of the most inventive cuisine in Bordeaux. The couple spent many years working in Hong Kong and that is reflected in a menu “inspired by Hong Kong and Asia in general”. Think trout with yuzu or veal served “Hainan-style”.

[Restaurant Jean Ramet]

This central restaurant specialises in south-west gastronomy with a focus on the fresh oysters sourced from Arcachon Bay served with crepinettes, small local sausages. Ramet highlights cep and chanterelle mushrooms during the season and other regional dishes like rich pâtés and terrines.






# The writer was a guest of Scenic, which offers 11-day Breathtaking Bordeaux river cruises on the Scenic Diamond starting from $7,295 including return flights to France and airport transfers. See www.scenic.com.au/tour/bordeaux-river-cruise/1909 or call 138 128.


For a full lowdown of what to do in and around Bordeaux please see my guide on the Travel Associates website: www.travel-associates.com.au/destinations/bordeaux and click on the boxes in the left-hand panel. 

Etihad Airways and partner airline Virgin Australia offer daily one-stop flights from Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney to 20 destinations in Europe, via Abu Dhabi, including flights to Bordeaux via Paris. For bookings visit www.etihad.com or call 1300 532 215.