Wednesday, 30 November 2016

It's not just cricket: the perfect gift for adrenaline junkies.

Did you notice some blue-clad spectators on the roof of the Adelaide Oval during the third cricket test between Australia and South Africa last week? 

The view was great; the adrenalin rush even higher. 

If you are keen to climb to the roof of the stadium during a match you are in luck - and the RoofClimb deal might also make a great Christmas present for those with adventurous friends or relatives. 




Climbs are also available for the KFC Big Bash League matches over summer, starting with the Adelaide Strikers vs Brisbane Heat match on December 21.

Participants with a head for heights can watch big hits and catches from a bird's-eye view behind the bowler's arm. 

The experience costs $225 per person and includes: a 2.5 hour match day experience, including watching 6-7 overs from the Riverbank Stand viewing platform during the first session; a printed group photo, achievement certificate, RoofClimb Cap and what is described as an "Ultimate USB Photo Pack including all your photos from your RoofClimb". 

But talk about sneaky - an entry ticket to the match is not included in the package. Which is like buying a hotel room but being told you have to pay extra to walk through the foyer. Cheapskates! 

All participants will be breathalysed at the time of check-in and must register a blood alcohol level under 0.05 to participate. 

As an extra-special treat, there is also a RoofClimb & Dine experience, which includes a RoofClimb followed by a three-course meal at the Hill of Grace Restaurant overlooking the pitch. Just add $190 per person to your bill. 








Ditch the tick: how Australian airlines try to trick their customers

Ever tried to book a cheap flight online and found yourself mysteriously paying for extras you did not want, like insurance or carbon offsets? 
Good guys this time around
Consumer advocacy group Choice has welcomed Virgin Australia’s decision to stop forcing consumers to opt out of potentially expensive pre-ticked travel insurance when they’re purchasing a flight online and is calling on Jetstar and Tiger to also ditch the ticks. 

That's good news given reports of online customers removing ticks and then finding their fares immediately increased.
Bad guys for now
“Pre-ticked optional extras can see travellers paying up to 40% more for things they don’t want when all they’re trying to do is book a flight,” says Choice head of media Tom Godfrey.
 
“It’s great news that Virgin has decided to let its customers actively opt-in to these online add-ons but it’s time for Jetstar and Tiger to stop tricking people into buying extras they may not need.”
 
Choice has been campaigning for an end to pre-ticked optional extras on the online booking pages of Australia’s four major domestic airlines.
 
A Choice investigation found pre-selected extras potentially increased the price of a flight by up to 40%, with Jetstar the worst offender, as three of Australia’s four major domestic airlines added in extras such as standard seating, travel insurance and even charity donations.
 
“In much the same way that a supermarket wouldn’t get away with handing you a trolley full of groceries you don’t want, every time you arrived at the checkout, an airline shouldn’t be able to opt you in for products you don’t want or need,” Godfrey says.
 
“Signing you up for these extras is little more than marketing trickery. It’s particularly concerning that airlines try to push one-size-fits-all travel insurance, which is unlikely to meet the needs of all consumers.”
 
Virgin Australia decided to end the practice of pre-selecting travel insurance during the online booking process following discussions with the ACCC - making life much easier for the less computer savvy among us.
 
For more info go to: https://www.choice.com.au/travel/on-holidays/airlines/articles/preselected-extras-increase-airfare-costs
 

Talent unveiled for Tasmania's Festivale event

Simon Bryant, star of  The Cook and the Chef TV series, has been signed as the star attraction for the Festivale food and wine festival in Tasmania early next year. 

He will host a lunch at Stillwater in Launceston on Friday, February 10, while other festival attractions include 75 food and beverage stands, and entertainment including TaxiRide, The Badloves, James Morrison and Adam Brand.



Bryant’s 25-year-career includes cooking in Thai, Indian and award-winning fine dining restaurants, as well as a brief stretch as a butcher. 

From 2003-2010 he was executive chef at the Hilton in Adelaide and from 2006 to 2009 co-hosted ABC TV's hit show The Cook and the Chef with food icon Maggie Beer. 


Bryant is the author of Vegies and the newly released Vegetables, Grains & Other Good Stuff published by Penguin Lantern, with both books including a collection of seasonal vegetarian recipes. 


He is also a providore of single origin non-GM Australian foods and believes in using his profile to highlight ethical food issues, including paying fair prices to producers for ethically produced food; using local, seasonal, fresh ingredients with minimal environmental impact; the responsible and culturally appropriate use of Australian native foods; and, in particular, the ethical treatment of animals in the food chain. 


Working Stillwater executive chef Craig Will and his team, Bryant will design and cook a lunch menu showcasing Tasmanian produce. Each course will be matched with a glass of Goaty Hill wine.


Lunch tickets are on sale from Ticketbooth and Festivale runs from February 10-12 in Launceston's City Park. 


Monday, 28 November 2016

A new luxury accommodation option in Orange

For several years now, the de Russie Boutique Hotel has been the best place to stay in the gourmet centre of Orange; a popular weekend destination for Sydney food and wine lovers. 

On a tree-lined street within walking distance of Orange's best bars and eateries, including Ferment, Lolli Redini and the Union Bank Wine Bar, de Russie offers a range of accommodation options from studios to family suites.



This upmarket all-suite hotel is set in a low-rise property just a five-minute walk from Cook Park. 

The upscale, beautifully decorated suites number 25 in all; some with balconies, have free wifi, flat-screen TVs and kitchenettes. Several units have separate sitting rooms and/or whirlpool tubs and one has a four-poster bed. 




Amenities include free continental breakfast, which, to be quite honest does not cut the mustard. Fortunately, there are several very good cafés just a short stroll away.  


Impressive touches include a friendly, helpful front desk, bathrobes and slippers and ultra-comfy beds.



 The latest addition to the de Russie accommodation offerings is The White Room, which is at the back of the building and entered via a private courtyard. 

A separate dining/lounge room and full kitchen are ideal for those planning longer stays and the vibe is simple luxury. The bathroom has a free-standing tub, twin basins and rain shower.



Facilities include air-conditioning, alarm clock, bathrobes, cable/satellite TV, dishwasher, clock radio, DVD Player, full fridge, hairdryer, iron/ironing board, king bed, microwave, mini bar, wireless internet and free bottled water.

Despite being close to the centre of town, de Russie is blissfully quiet and highly recommended. The only problem might be getting a booking. It is frequently sold out.  

De Russie Boutique Hotel, 72 Hill Street, Orange, NSW 2800. (02) 6360 0973.   orange@derussiehotels.com.au. 
www.derussiehotels.com.au



Sunday, 27 November 2016

Australia set for massive hotel boom

A building boom is set to change the face of Australia’s hotel industry, with some 120 hotel projects in the pipeline which will grow accommodation availablity by 30% between 2016 and 2021.

This year saw Australia pass the 100,000 room mark and it is forecast that over 4000 rooms will be added in 2017, and 5000 rooms in 2018, giving every capital city across the country new properties ranging from 500+-room internationally branded luxury properties to intimate boutique hotels.
Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour  
To overcome the lack of land in cities and high cost of construction, hotel developers have become savvy, often converting existing buildings to hotel use. For instance, the stylish QT Hotel in Melbourne was created out of the owner’s Greater Union cinemas on Russell Street, while the art-deco Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board building in Sydney’s Pitt Street now has a far more salubrious role as the city’s newest five-star hotel, the excellent Primus.

The last time Australia saw such increases in hotel accommodation was prior to the 2000 Olympics, when there was growth of 7,500 rooms between 1998 and 2000, but the room boom was followed by a dramatic bust, with faltering international and domestic economic conditions, wars and airline collapses contributing to the downturn.

On this occasion, Australia’s peak accommodation body, Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) believes that a unique combination of circumstances will not only soak up the supply but enable Australia to attract a vast new audience of high-end tourists, business travellers, and conference and incentive groups.

The chair of TAA, Martin Ferguson, was Minister for Tourism in 2010 when he announced Australia’s Tourism 2020 goals. The addition of 40,000 new rooms over the decade was identified as a crucial ingredient in achieving the targets set for the industry.

“We recognised at the start of the decade that we needed to significantly revitalise and rejuvenate the tourism industry’s infrastructure and upgrading hotel stock was a key priority,” Ferguson said.

“With almost double-digit growth in visitor arrivals – particularly from China – we are well on the way to achieving our visitor targets, and this growth will be sustainable in the long term with such high-quality new accommodation being added across the country, complemented by major infrastructure projects such as airports, convention centres and urban redevelopment.”

Tasmania has enjoyed some of the strongest increases in leisure travel in recent years, built on what is being termed the ‘MONA effect’ – the influence of the uber-trendy Museum of Old and New Art. Such has been in its impact on tourism that owner David Walsh has proposed a new 160-room hotel cheekily dubbed HOtelMOna, which would also contain a function centre and spa.

A focal point for the dramatic hotel growth is Darling Harbour in Sydney, where one of the largest new hotel developments in over 20 years – the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour – will open in the final quarter of 2017, while the $700 million Ribbon Hotel and Residences project (which will include a W Hotel) is under construction on the former IMAX site.

On the city side of Darling Harbour, Australia’s largest hotel – the Four Points by Sheraton – is adding 222 rooms to increase its inventory to 892 rooms, while also rebranding to Hyatt Regency. 

Friday, 25 November 2016

The best time to visit Tasmania starts now

Let's be honest. The Tasmanian winter can be long, cold and sometimes dispiriting. Once the sun comes out, however, the Apple Isle blossoms. 

There are festivals galore and open-air gourmet events by the dozen. Tasmania really knows how to turn it on in the warmer months. 

There are superyachts sailing into Hobart, feasting, foraging, sports events and more. 


The big drawcards like the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, MOFO, the Falls Festival and the Australian Wooden Boat Festival are all back, along with the Taste of Tasmania, the National Penny Farthing Championship and the Cygnet Folk Festival. 

Here's a list of some of the major attractions, but be quick, both flights and accommodation sell out over the December-February period. It's all too easy to miss out. 

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race – December 26 onwards
Some of the fastest yachts in the world sail from Sydney down the coast to Hobart, starting from Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day. After 628 nautical miles of unpredictable weather, the doughty sailors cross the finish line at Constitution Dock in Hobart. 

KFC T20 Big Bash League - Various Dates
The Hobart Hurricanes (perennial under-achievers, unfortunately) return to Blundstone Arena for the KFC T20 Big Bash League – cricket’s 20-over, fast-paced competition. Kids tickets start at $8 and adults from $23.

The Taste of Tasmania – December 28-January 3
Tasmania's popular summer event (despite regular organisational glitches) is held on the waterfront and offers the chance to sample fresh seafood, cheeses, berries, cool-climate wines, boutique beers and ciders and much more. The hottest ticket in town is for the New Year’s Eve Party, with live entertainment from special guest Kate Cebrano. 
www.thetasteoftasmania.com.au

The Falls Music and Arts Festival – December 29-January 1 
The Avalanches, London Grammar, Childish Gambino, Bernard Fanning and You Am I are among the headliners for this annunal music and arts festival, now in its 24th year. Think food truck, camping, pop-up bars and beer gardens and yoga and wellness classes. 


Cygnet Folk Festival – January 6-8 
The Cygnet Folk Festival is Tasmania’s largest celebration of folk and world music. Local, interstate and international artists descend on the small Huon Valley town, for a weekend of live performances, dance, poetry and local produce. This is the 35th time the event has been held. 


Hobart International Tennis – January 8-14 
This is one of the warm-up tournaments for the Australian Open, and a chance to check out some of the female stars of the future. Previous editions have attracted the likes of Serena Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Sam Stosur. 
www.hobartinternational.com.au

The Esk Beerfest – January 13-14 
With over 200 craft beers and ciders to enjoy, along with distilled spirits and local foods, the Esk Beerfest is one of the island’s largest craft beer and cider festivals. The Esk Beerfest also plays host to three stages featuring live music, masterclasses, family activities and brewer forums.
esk.beerfestivals.com.au

MOFO - January 18-20 
The eccentric MOFO (MONA's Festival of Music and Art) returns to venues around the city as well as a big weekend at MONA. Curated by Brian Ritchie (Violent Femmes), this is an offbeat celebration of art, music and food. Highlights around the city include Peaches performing the whole of Jesus Christ Superstar solo at the Theatre Royal and street art by Cigdem Aydemir.
www.mofo.net.au 

Barnbougle Polo – January 21
Barnbougle Dunes is best known as a Mecca for golf enthusiasts but it changes direction to host the Barnbougle Polo annual high-goal match. World-class players head for north-east Tasmania for an event arguably as much about fashion as it is about horses and polo.

Hobart Beerfest – January 27-28
Hobart Beerfest showcases over 200 local, interstate and international craft beers, ciders and premium spirits on Hobart’s waterfront, at Prince's Wharf 1. Beer enthusiasts will love direct access to the brewers, masterclasses touching on the latest in trends and craft styles, roaming performers, a dash of comedy and live music.


Festivale – February 10-12
Festivale draws thousands of people over three days to enjoy the best of Tasmanian food, wine, beer, arts and entertainment. Staged in Launceston’s picturesque City Park under old shady elm trees, there is the chance to sample cool-climate wines, meet the producers and enjoy a program of workshops and entertainment. 
www.festivale.com.au

Australian Wooden Boat Festival – February 10-13
Ludicrously scheduled the same weekend as Festivale, the Australian Wooden Boat Festival brings together the largest and most beautiful collection of wooden boats in the Southern Hemisphere for a four-day festival that also programs local food, live entertainment, music, demonstrations and displays. 


National Penny Farthing Championship – February 18 
The National Penny Farthing Championships began in Evandale back in 1983, a quiet village outside Launceston. Now it’s one of the most hotly contested Penny Farthing races in the world - the fastest eight riders advance through heats to the final race of four laps of the circuit. Add to that entertainment, steam engine displays, local food and drinks, pony rides and a dose of country hospitality. 


Koonya Garlic Festival – February 25
The rich soils of Tasmania’s south-east produce some of the best garlic in the world - garlic that is celebrated at this quirky festival. The fiercely contested ‘golden globe’ awards are a highlight of the festival, alongside food, entertainment and guest speakers.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Wine lovers' heaven well worth a trip

Wine lovers now have an added incentive to make the trek to the iconic Royal Mail Hotel at Dunkeld in the Grampians of Victoria. 


The hotel, home to one of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest privately-owned collections of wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy, now offers curated wine experiences and special dinners for aficionados. 

The Royal Mail's $2.8 million wine collection of over 26,000 bottles can now be explored with a sommelier ($20.00 for hotel guests/$25.00 for visitors). A Coravin system also allows pourings from rare bottles. 


To coincide with the re-opening of the refurbed wine cellar, the Royal Mail has also introduced The French Collection; a French wine matching experience that will showcase five outstanding French wines from the Royal Mail Hotel wine cellar paired with executive chef Robin Wickens’ award-winning dining room menu for a cost of $200.

New food and beverage manager Matthew Lance believes “wine connoisseurs will savour the rare tasting experiences now available in the wine cellar because of the in-depth contrast it offers between new vintages and old world wines.”


Lance describes the French Collection as an “ever-changing selection of highlights from the Royal Mail Hotel’s famous collection of old world French wines", saying the wines featured may be sourced from famous appellations including Bordeaux, Burgundy and Sauternes. 

The Royal Mail also offers a Weekend Wine’d Down package for $950.00 per couple and it includes two nights in a deluxe mountain view Room with breakfast daily, a five-course dinner in the Dining Room (wine matches extra), a $50 food and beverage credit to use in the adjacent casual dining space Parker Street Project, a tour and taste in the new wine cellar, a chef-led tour of the abundant kitchen garden and a bottle of Riddoch Estate wine to take home (mass-market Riddoch Estate would seem an odd choice with so many fine wineries on the hotel's doorstep). 


Nestled at the southern tip of the Grampians National Park, the Royal Mail Hotel was originally established in 1855. Today it is one of Victoria’s premier regional dining venues. 

For more information about the Royal Mail Hotel visit www.royalmail.com.au  

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Kuta: the world capital for cons?

So the kid got off. Good on him. Seemed a nice enough bloke. 

But he should have known he was in the world capital for cons. 

Kuta and surrounding areas in Bali are full of dull-witted bogans, making them heaven-sent for scammers and tricksters. Currency con men; drug scammers, you name it you'll find them here. 

Not that you'd know it from reading the glossy travel magazines. The tourism industry in Bali ploughs in far too many advertising dollars for any negativity to creep into the media coverage. 

Here are just a few of the cons you need to look out for in Kuta and tourist areas of Bali (although much of the rest of the island is captivatingly beautiful and trouble free). 


1. The drug drama. Although anyone thinking of going anywhere near drugs in Bali has rocks in their head, you know this one. Someone offers to sell you cocaine and you end up with a baggie containing crushed up panadol - great if you have a headache. 

2. The currency con. You choose a money exchanger offering a good rate, hand over your dollars and he does a lot of paper shuffling. It is only when you walk away you realise that you only got half (or less) of what you should have received. By the time you go back there is another guy manning the booth and he doesn't speak English (this one happened to my wife). 

3. The surfboard swindle. You rent a surfboard for a couple of hours. Either it breaks into several pieces or you return it with a "brand new" ding. Either way, you are up for big bucks and the police will be of no help.

4. The sham survey. You spend a minute or two answering questions for a guy or girl with a clipboard and you win a prize. All you have to do is pick it up in person at a designated time. At best you spend a couple of hours listening to time-share claptrap, at worst you have the hard word put on you and have to find your own way home. 

5. The scooter shakedown. Tourists riding rental scooters might well find themselves stopped by "police" - legitimate or otherwise. They will find some fault and "fine" you for it. And they will probably look in your wallet first to see how much they think you are likely to be able to cough up. Only keep small amounts of cash on you. 

Also look out for pickpockets, taxi drivers whose meters "don't work", touts for stores selling cheap tat at high prices, and fake holy men at temples. Among others. 

Have a good holiday.  



      

Is this most stylish way to discover Saigon?

I receive, quite literally, hundreds of emails a day. 

They might be asking me to write about the five most unusual places people have illicit sex (no thanks), or offering me a trip to somewhere amazingly exotic if I can guarantee a double-page spread in the Sydney Morning Herald (almost certainly not). 

Some might be asking if they can send a bottle of new-release wine (yes, please) but most simply talk about new travel experiences. Many are generic "a new luxury hotel in Thailand" but this one caught my eye as it sounds innovative and fun. 

I'm sharing it on that basis, having not sampled it myself, although I would certainly not say no to an opportunity next time I am in Vietnam. I offer this as news only, without a recommendation. 


The new experience, launched earlier this month, is called "Cruising Saigon" and offers a chance to explore that city's streets and waterways "by boat, by scooter and by luxury motor car". 

Anyone who has visited Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City as it is more usually called) will be aware how frustrating the traffic snarls can be. 

But this one-of-a-kind package by The Reverie Saigon, a luxe high-rise member of the Leading Hotels of the World group, dispatches hotel guests with a personal butler in tow on a private two-hour sunset cruise on the Saigon River, then switches gears at sundown for a city-chic adventure on a chauffeured vintage Vespa.

The cruise includes a picnic hamper of sweet and savoury choices, with five menus to choose from and paired with a bottle of Taittinger champagne.


Leaving from a riverside pier near the hotel, the sunset cruise takes in the landmark Dragon Wharf built in 1863 and the Gustav Eiffel-designed ‘Rainbow Bridge. 

As the sun sets, Cruising Saigon abandons waterways for roadways for an after-dark adventure that is billed as "part night excursion, part street food fest".

A chauffeured transfer to your Vespa follows with visits to a popular local, street-side eatery, a ride through Chinatown and then into the busy streets and alleys of District 4 for street-side snacks, including banh xeo (savoury Vietnamese pancakes) and cold drinks. 

Along the way, the four-hour tour also makes a stop at a tucked-away coffee house for a taste of live Vietnamese music, before concluding at a lively club with a local cover band.


The Cruising Saigon package also includes round-trip airport transfers via a choice of a Mercedes-Benz S-class or BMW 7 series, breakfast daily at Café Cardinal, as well as access to the chic Reverie Lounge on the hotel’s uppermost floors.

Package rates start from $US1,152++, based on a minimum three-night stay. 
The hotel is one of only seven hotels in Asia on the Condé Nast Traveler Hot List this year). 


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

King Valley gets a brand new gourmet destination

The King Valley, best known for producing wines made from Italian grape varieties, has a new gourmet drawcard.

King Valley Dairy (formerly the Myrtleford Butter Factory) has relocated and is making butter again after a $1.3 million expansion and refurbishment of the old Moyhu Butter Factory site. 


“We are so pleased to be back in production,” says Naomi Ingleton, founder and CEO, who started the Myrtleford Butter Factory in late 2010 with husband David. 

The couple became victims of their own success, with glowing accolades from chefs all over Australia and countless awards, demand for their butter steadily increased, and they soon outgrew the former company site on the Great Alpine Road after just four years of operations. 

“Resurrecting this old building has been a huge undertaking, but the new factory will enable the future growth of the King Valley Dairy brand, making us the largest premium, naturally-cultured butter producer in Australia," said Naomi. "The quality and packaging hasn’t changed and we can now produce enough butter to meet increasing customer demand, which we couldn’t do from our Myrtleford factory.” 



Moyhu is just under three hours drive from Melbourne and is located just 15 minutes' drive from the famous Milawa Gourmet region, which is a hub for local food and wine makers. 

The area attracts hordes of visitors year-round. King Valley Dairy’s neighbours include Milawa Cheese, Brown Brothers Winery (with their acclaimed Epicurean Centre), as well as olive, honey and mustard producers. 

Naomi is thrilled with their new location: “The King Valley’s reputation for quality food and wine is a great fit for our brand," she said. "We’re forging some great relationships with local suppliers and we can’t wait to welcome visitors to our new site.” 


The new dairy has created 10 new full-time jobs, with plans to increase this as production grows. 

A second stage of the dairy’s development, incorporating a larger tourism offering and product expansion will commence once production and distribution channels are re-established. 

Wholesale customers will now have access to the entire product range, including the flavoured ‘Fancy Butters’, like black truffle, smoked salt, confit garlic and whipped Valrhona chocolate. 

The temporary factory store, providing tastings, sales and viewing area is open daily from 10am to 4pm. Guests are invited to explore the gardens and see the chickens. 

Plans are underway to expand the newly established orchard and vegetable gardens and a range of classes will also be offered, including cheese and butter making, lacto-fermenting vegetables, beekeeping, composting, permaculture gardening and buttermilk soap making. 

For full details visit www.kingvalleydairy.com.au

Monday, 21 November 2016

Gourmet treat: a culinary tour of Australia's most iconic building

Foodies with well-stocked wallets have a new temptation in Sydney: the first degustation tour of the Opera House, which is billed as "a unique opportunity to experience the symbol of modern Australia through the finest contemporary Australian cuisine".

That makes the experience sound terribly pretentious, when it actually seems like a whole lot of fun, albeit expensive fun. 


The intimate, all-inclusive Taste of the Opera House degustation experience takes foodies on a three-hour guided tour of the Opera House’s award-winning restaurants and bars. 

Bringing together the best of Australian food and culture, the new gastronomic experience includes: cocktail-making at Opera Bar with one of their top mixologists, followed by a seafood and charcuterie tasting at the popular Raw Bar and Meat + Cheese Room; a Japanese sushi-making masterclass at Opera Kitchen to learn the tricks of the trade from one of their top chefs, where guests will have the chance enjoy their creations with a glass of sake. 


Then comes a specially-prepared lunch menu from Portside Sydney chef Lauren Murdoch (she's a major talent) including paired wines showcasing local winemakers; and a signature dessert and theatrical cocktail experience at Peter Gilmore’s Bennelong, served by bar manager Aaron Gaulke.


Jade McKellar, who goes by the impressive title of Sydney Opera House Director of Visitor Experience, said: “Food is such an important part of Australia’s culture and lifestyle. It is central to so much of what we offer at the Opera House from the diverse and sophisticated dining options showcased in our new Taste of the Opera House experience to our talks and ideas programming, including Chez Panisse’s Alice Waters, Noma founder Rene Redzepi and food superstars Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson.

“More than 450,000 people now take a tour of the Opera House each year. Taste of the Opera House takes them behind the scenes of our celebrated restaurants for the first time to experience the drama and theatre of food while delving into the history, architecture and insider stories of this world-famous cultural icon.”


Taste of the Opera House runs once a month on a Sunday (dates vary) from 10:45am to 2:30pm for a maximum of 10 guests. Tickets are $295 per person.

To book, call +61 (2) 9250 7250 or visit www.sydneyoperahouse.com/tasteoftheoperahouse.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Coffee with a cause: drink an espresso, help a refugee

Millions of Australians buy a coffee, or two, or three, a day. 

How many decide to buy a coffee with a cause? 

That's what Ben Cosford, owner of Soul City Roasters in Adelaide, is aiming to discover.


Cosford started roasting coffee in his garage with a popcorn popper in 2009, Then, in February last year, he outgrew his popcorn maker and decided to start selling coffee. 

Soul City Roasters a speciality coffee roaster that uses only ethically-sourced coffee beans - but also aims to create jobs for struggling migrant refugees. 

"We source green beans from various suppliers from across South and Central America as well as in Africa and Indonesia who work hard at relationships with the farms they source from," says Cosford. "I buy mainly from small, family-run farms that employ around 10-15 people.

"What I look for from suppliers are those who have a direct relationship with the farms, they know the farmer's names, they have met them and seen the farms and they share a common goal of improving the quality of life for those who work on the farms.

"My goal is to source some beans from a particular micro venture project that I have contact with in Burundi, but that has been difficult due to the political unrest there in the past 12 months."

So far, so good. 

"Our vision is to eventually give new arrivals to Australia work experience, and employment as we grow," says Cosford. "We’ve already been working in our local community to make recently-settled Australians feel welcome and included by sharing meals and holding events so that we can all get to know each other. 

"We’ve been working to set up the infrastructure so that eventually we can provide paid employment opportunities in the coffee roasting and making business and hopefully set a path for a career in hospitality in a welcoming community.

"In the Salisbury region of South Australia where SCR was founded, there are many refugees who have been settled here as recent arrivals to Australia. For them, settling in and making a new home is a long and often difficult process. One of their challenges is entering into the Australian workforce. In order to get a job, employers want to see some work experience, but you can't get that experience without a job.

"Here is where the SCR advantage lies. We have real ongoing relationships with new arrivals through community connections and programs that enable us to get to know these folk, see their character and their readiness for work, and be able to employ some without any previous Australian work experience."

To discover more: https://soulcityroasters.com 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

What you need to know about carnival in Brazil

Brazil, and more particularly Rio de Janeiro, has been all the rage recently, hosting both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. 

My only previous experience in Brazil was decades ago, but it was enough for me to put it on my "no need to visit again" list. 

That said, I know many people who want to go, including some whose samba-soaked bucket lists include visiting the Rio Carnival, which is just around the corner, running from February 24-March 1 2017. 



The carnival is a mega party to end all parties and it is held not only in Rio but in just about every city across Brazil. Millions of locals and around 500,000 tourists will revel in non-stop music, dance and parades.

Carnival's vibrant atmosphere draws thousands of fun-loving Aussies each year and local tourism authorities have issued their top six tips for getting the best of both Brazil and carnival. Take them as you wish; I'd rather be having a quiet glass of pinot noir on the back porch than risk being mugged or drugged. These are their words, not mine. 

1. Join the celebrations

Rio is regarded as the epicentre of Brazilian carnival excess, but all kinds of celebrations occur nationwide throughout the five-day festival. Allow time during your stay to visit other towns and villages such as Recife, Salvador, São Paulo and Ouro Preto, and you’ll be rewarded with a delightful insight into amazing regional culture, food and music.



2. Plan early

Book your accommodation as soon as you know your travel dates to avoid missing out on your preferred location. There is a wide range of options available, ranging hotel rooms to apartments to backpacker hostels. Prices fluctuate during busy periods like carnival but often the earlier you book, the better the rate.

One of the best-known features of carnival is the beautiful, elaborate costumes. If  you are keen to get your sparkle on by purchasing or hiring an outfit for the festival, again it pays to plan ahead. There are plenty of online options, just make sure you give the supplier accurate measurements.


3. Carnival continues 24/7

Sleep becomes a rare commodity during Carnival, for locals and visitors alike. Particularly in the cities but also some rural areas, you can expect street celebrations to run all day every day, with several thousands of people yelling, whistling, singing and dancing their way to no specific destination.

The cacophony of samba beats, laughter and singing may make sleep difficult, but instead of trying to avoid it, do what the locals do and embrace it - you’ll soon find their energy and enthusiasm is contagious. Boost your energy with smoky barbecued meats and refreshing caipirinha cocktails.

A great way to enjoy a change of pace and escape the commotion of blocos (street parties) is to head to the beach. Whilst the high profile sands of Ipanema and Copacabana may be crowded, there are plenty of lower-key options.



4. Check your driver’s licence

If you’d like to experience Brazil and carnival by car and hold a current Australian driver’s licence, you’ll be allowed to drive in Brazil provided your stay is less than 180 days. If you plan to stay longer, you’ll need to obtain an equivalent Brazilian licence. Check the validity of your licence and identity documents like passports before you travel, to ensure they will be current during your stay. 

5. Money

Whilst there are plenty of places to exchange currency and travellers' cheques in Brazil, it’s helpful to purchase some Brazilian money (known as the Real R$) before you depart Australia, so you’re free to make purchases as soon as you arrive. 

Once you’ve settled in, you can arrange additional local currency through most banks, travel agencies and authorised hotels. Most of the restaurants and shopping malls accept credit cards and you can withdraw money at most ATMs with your Australian
bank cards. 


6. Visas (surely this should have been No.1?) 

Australians visiting Brazil for carnival are required to have a tourist visa. This is not a complex process. You can lodge your application in person or by mail with the Embassy of Brazil in Canberra or the Consulate-General of Brazil in Sydney.

Applications in person require an appointment; tourist visas, when requested in person, are usually processed by the next working day. 

For more details visit

http://visit.rio/en/welcome/


http://www.visitbrasil.com/