Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Celebrate World Cider Day on Saturday with $5 schooners

Willie Smith's Organic Cider is offering a special deal for cider lovers around the country. 

The Tasmanian cider producer is set to celebrate ‘World Cider Day’ on Saturday with $5 schooners of its traditionally made organic cider at selected venues across Australia. 

Based in the beautiful Huon Valley (just down the road from me), Willie Smiths is proud of its long apple-growing history and having been the first seller of organic traditionally made cider in Australia.

The Apple Shed, home of Willie Smith’s cider in the Huon Valley, is leading the charge this Saturday with $5 schooners in celebration of World Cider Day.

Willie Smith’s owner, Andrew Smith couldn’t be more thrilled with the way that Australians have embraced Tasmanian cider in recent years.

“We have long dreamt of the rejuvenation of Tasmania’s apple industry and its image as the Apple Isle.  I really believe that dream is coming to fruition and events like this give it the recognition it deserves.''

World Cider Day originated in Germany, where it is starting to warm up for their summer, and Willie Smith's has decided to join in as a perfect way to welcome winter and as a great lead up to Dark Mofo and its own Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival in July

Drinkers can join in the celebrations this Saturday by taking a photo of themselves using cider using the #worldciderday hashtag.

Cider enthusiasts can celebrate with a $5 schooners of Willie Smith’s all day at the following venues:

  • Willie Smith’s Apple Shed, Huon Valley
  • The Whaler, Salamanca, Hobart
  • Saint John Craft Beer, Launceston
  • The Winston, North Hobart

  • Flying Duck Hotel, Prahran
  • The Local Taphouse, St Kilda
  • Brunswick Street Cider House, Fitzroy
  • Pure South Dining, South Bank
  • The Terminus Hotel, North Fitzroy
  • Forester’s Pub & Dining, Collingwood

  • Fire Station Hotel, Newcastle
  • Bitter Phew, Sydney
  • Empire Hotel, Annandale
  • The Duke of Edinburgh Hotel, Enmore

  • The Durham Castle Arms, Kingston

  • The Burrow, West End
  • Bloodhound, Fortitude Valley
  • Brewski, Caxton St, Brisbane
  • The Mill on Constance, Fortitude Valley 

For details see

Gourmet festivals don't get any cheesier

Australians love their cheeses (says the press release in front of me). From cows, goats or sheep; stinky or mild, hard or soft. (Except, perhaps, those with a dairy intolerence, but they won't be interested in this anyway). 

The point is, Melbourne will have a new cheese festival launching in September.

Mould:  A Cheese Festival (the name needs a colon to make it read properly but doesn't currently have one), is presented by Bottle Shop Concepts in partnership with renowned cheese-maker and author of Milk Made, Nick Haddow of Bruny Island Cheese. 

Haddow, the famous TV fella, is bringing to Melbourne one day of serious cheese eating and discovery with some of the country’s favourite blue, brie, washed-rind and fresh cheeses.  

"Mould" has teamed up with producers from around the country – including Yarra Valley Dairy, South Australia’s Woodside Cheese Wrights, Pyengana Dairy Company from Tasmania and Victoria’s Holy Goat Cheese, who will be on deck at North Melbourne’s Meat Market on Saturday, September 2, for tastings, cooking demonstrations and masterclasses.

Alongside tastings of around 80 of the best Australian cheeses (hello Grandvewe, Pecora Dairy and Milawa Cheese), the festival will feature artisanal cheesemongers including Melbourne’s Maker & Monger with its grilled cheese sandwiches and ‘flaming Reubens’, and Harper & Blohm’s raclette. 

Tivoli Road Bakery will also set up shop with breads and other baked goods, and for dessert, Pidapipó will serve cheese-flavoured gelato.

Festival-goers can wash down their cheese with wines from Patrick Sullivan (Gippsland, Victoria) and Pennyweight (Beechworth, Victoria) wines. Melbourne’s Starward whisky, Stone & Wood beer and Napoleone cider are also on board. As are Hartshorn Distillery with their sheep's whey vodka. 

Tickets ($45) are on sale via The price of admission includes one drink, a Plumm wine glass and tastings of some of the best Australian cheeses housed under one roof.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Finnair to highlight local delicacies as a birthday treat

Finnish national airline Finnair is launching celebrations of the country's 100th birthday with a series of special on-board meals on both economy and business class flights. 

"The collaborations, which intend to promote Finland’s healthy and hearty food culture, are being rolled out in co-operation with the ELO Foundation, an association dedicated to the promotion of Finnish food culture," said Geoff Stone, regional general manager for Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. 

Economy class 

For economy class customers on long-haul flights from July 5 to January 9, 2018, Finnair is partnering with the ELO Foundation and the Cygnaeus elementary school in Turku to create meals inspired by Finland’s school meals. 

The meals were selected by students from the Cygnaeus school during a workshop at Finnair’s catering premises, and tailored to fit the aircraft environment. The meals selected by the students include traditional Finnish favourites such as potatoes and meatballs as well as macaroni and meat casserole. 

Business class 

For business class customers flying out of Helsinki on long-haul flights between October 4 and January 9, 2018, Finnair signature menu chef, Eero Vottonen, has put together an exclusive 100 years’ themed menu to celebrate the culinary nuances of Finnish food. 

The menu features delicacies such as Baltic herring, a traditional Karelian hot pot stew and a cep mushroom soup flavoured with cured elk. “When creating Finnair’s centennial menu, I reflected on what Finland and its food culture represent for me,” he said.

“It’s a big honour for me to collaborate with Finnair on this initiative and I’m excited to have the opportunity to introduce the tastes of Finland to thousands of passengers travelling through Finland with Finnair.”

For business class customers flying to Helsinki on most long-haul flights between the same dates the menus served on Finnair’s flights will feature elements including pickled salmon, rainbow trout and a Karelian stew with beef and pork. 

Finnair will also celebrate Finland’s 100 years by offering rye bread and Karelian pies during the meal service on board its long-haul flights. Both items featured in the top three when nearly 50,000 Finns voted in a public call to find Finland’s national food as a tribute to the country’s centennial anniversary.

Finnair flies between Asia, Europe and North America with an emphasis on fast connections via Helsinki, carrying more than nine million passengers annually and connecting 17 cities in Asia and three cities in North America with more than 60 destinations in Europe. It offers excellent connections from Australia with OneWorld partners.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Hunter Valley Wine Festival continues to grow

The fifth annual Hunter Valley Wine Festival is poised to be the biggest on record, organisers say. 

The festival runs from 11am-5pm on June 24 in the grounds of the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley.

Featuring the best of both the Hunter Valley’s big and boutique wineries, the festival will offer wine, beer and cider tastings throughout the day, as well as high-quality local cuisine and entertainment.

The Hunter is Australia’s oldest wine region, renowned for its semillon, chardonnay and shiraz, along with emerging wine varieties and organic and biodynamic wines.

Uniquely, the Hunter Valley Wine Festival is a family-friendly event, with children receiving complimentary entry to the festival, where they will be able to enjoy a variety of activities including a jumping castle, train rides, carousel, miniature car rides and face painting.

Pre-sale tickets for the event are available for just $20. Tickets include festival entry, five tasting tickets and a tasting glass. A special group offer of ‘buy six for the price of five’ is also available.

Bookings and further information:

There is on-site parking at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley and for visitors from Newcastle a bus service is available leaving the Novotel Newcastle at 9.45am and Crowne Plaza Newcastle at 10am, and departing the Festival at 5pm to return to Newcastle. Tickets are available for $20 return per person. Booking requests need to be made via 

Special accommodation deals including accommodation, breakfast and two tickets are available starting from $289 in a hotel room. Several other packages are also available. 

Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley offers deluxe king or twin rooms, spa suites and two- and three-bedroom self-contained villas. 

For information on accommodation during the festival contact Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley reservations on 138 388, or visit the website for more information.

A most unusual choice: sparkling wine from Brazil

Brazil has a reputation for colour, energy and passion, for carnival and football. Now wines from Brazil are available in Australia with the launch of three styles from Vinicola Salton.

Brazil’s image for winemaking has been slowly but steadily rising. The fifth-largest wine producer in the southern hemisphere, it has more than 1,100 wineries and 82,000 hectares of vineyards across diverse climates. 

Located approximately two hours from Porto Alegre, in Vale do Rio das Antas – Distrito de Tuiuty, near the city of Bento Gonçalves at the southernmost point of Brazil, the fourth-generation Salton winery is one of the most famous in a beautiful wine tourism region, which draws thousands of visitors each year.

At the heart of the Salton family’s success is sparkling wine. As Brazil’s largest producer of national sparkling wine since 2005, Salton currently stands out as one of the three largest cellars in Brazil, with current production nearing 15 million bottles. 

I tried the Brazil Intenso NV Sparkling ($22), grapes picked in early January, made from glera (like prosecco) and perfectly serviceable, although my wife said hers "tasted like beer". There is a yeasty element, but I found the wine quite crisp and clean, light and refreshing. Very pleasant if unremarkable.   

Salton Wines has entered the Australian market, backed by beverage and distribution company Expedition Trade. For details see

Saturday, 27 May 2017

A trophy winning wine for a tenner? It can be done.

I am not a huge fan of show results as a method of deciding on a wine's worthiness. 

The simple truth is that wine shows are still flawed and a glance at charts often shows that a wine that picks up a trophy one week scores 16 next time out. 

The only difference is that the winery shouts from the rooftops about trophies and gold medals but ignores the 15-16s. 

That said, when a modestly priced wine starts picking up awards it pays to take note. 

A couple of years ago the Jacob's Creek Classic Riesling collected show scores and enthusiastic media reviews that showed it to be an absolute bargain. 

Now look out for the Jacob's Creek Classic 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, which picked up a gold medal and trophy for "best wine from a regional blend" at the 2017 Langhorne Creek Show. 

JC has significant vineyard holdings in the region and this wine is 1/3 Langhorne Creek fruit with an PPR of $11.99. The reality is, however, that you can usually find it for under $10. I've seen it as low as $8.95. 

This wine has deep, dark inkiness, cassis and tobacco leaf on the nose, dark berry fruits and impressive structure. It is very meat-friendly. And a definite bargain. 
I scored it 90-91 points and would have been happy to pay around $20 for a wine of this quality (although the 2016 Jacob's Creek Cabernet Merlot, a gold medal winner at the same show, impressed me less and is correctly priced). 

"We are very proud of this trophy because it rewards our wine-making and viticultural teams' efforts to uphold the quality of our red wines across the board," says Jacob's Creek chief winemaker Ben Bryant. "We invest the same attention to detail to make our classic wines and we do to make our icon (premium) wines." 


Friday, 26 May 2017

A whole week to celebrate the ubiquitous Negroni

A few years back a Negroni was a fairly obscure aperitif/cocktail. Today it is the drink of choice for bartenders, baristas, mixologists and inner-city hipsters who work in the wine industry.

The Negroni (think artisan gin, artisan vermouth and Campari, or artisan bitters) is the drink of choice for those with long beards, body tattoos and university degrees. It just doesn't get any funkier, although the drink itself dates back to Italy in 1919.

To celebrate the hipster's BBF (until the next trend comes along) next month will feature Negroni Week. Yes, Negroni's are so cool that they get a whole week of reverence, while chardonnay only gets a day.

Negroni Week runs from June 5-11 and is biiig. Launched in 2013 it has raised nearly $900,000 for charitable causes.

In Australia, Cerbarco Distribution is offering discounts on some of the trendiest Negroni ingredients, while hotel hipsters QT are offering a special Negroni Week drinks menu.

QT Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Port Douglas are all running the same menu with a different Negroni or variation each day and a “Seven days of Negroni” theme. The Negroni Reale is pictured above. And $1 for every Negroni sold goes to QT's chosen charity, OzHarvest.

Icebergs at Bondi (it doesn't get any cooler than an iceberg) is also involved. So you can do some good and get pleasantly blitzed at the same time. 


Thursday, 25 May 2017

Beard Season is here. Discover what it is all about.

Beard Season is here; along with Chivas Regal whiskies, finger food in the lobby of the funky QT Hotel in Canberra and a very important message. 

While the Beard Season ambassadors look disturbingly like hipster baristas, they have wisdom to impart. 

And with Sir Richard Branson now onboard with this uniquely Australian charity, you can expect to soon be hearing a lot more about Beard Season founder Jimmy Niggles, a Sydney advertising executive, and his band of merry bearded men. 

Melonama, or skin cancer, is one of the deadliest cancers in the world, killing over 46,000 people a year. One of those people was Wes Bonny, a close friend of Riggles, who lost his life to melanoma at the age of 26 - seven years ago. 

At Bonny's wake, Niggles and other friends decided to do something to encourage men to have more regular skin checks - a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to early detection, and treatment, of melanoma. 

That project became Beard Season - a non-profit charity responsible for a global movement made up of tens of thousands of hirsute hero ambassadors who are helping spread the message. 

The phenomenon of facial fuzz has enjoyed a distinct renaissance over the past decade. From the bearded lady to bushy hipsters, a series of photographic works of people sporting impressive and interesting facial hair is on display at QT Canberra.

The photographs featured in the QT exhibition were taken by award-winning photographer Brock Elbank, and include actor John Hurt (above).

Niggles says: "Everyone says they want to get a skin check but never get around to it, so we thought if we can convince someone to make the commitment to grow a beard - we can convince them to get a check.

"The most at risk are blokes, aged 18-45. The same people we want to take part. Now, we have tens of thousands of ambassadors all over the world."

For more information on QT Canberra, visit 

For information on Beard Season, go to www.beardseason.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Double trouble. Fun with an Italian accent in the national capital

A few nights ago I was one of a lively group dining at Canberra's lively family-owned trattoria Italian and Sons (below), feasting on several courses of rather excellent traditional Italian food served in a fun setting by well-informed and fun staff. 

The food was great and the almost all-Italian wine list (a selection of wines from Clonakilla the only exception) enticing. 

The following night, after my companions had departed, I dined solo at Mezzalira, also Italian, also owned by the same family, but a little more formal; with excellent food but more of a date-night vibe. The same impressive attention to detail, though. 

The two premium restaurants will this month kick-off a series of gourmet dinners to be called Due Mani (Two Hands), which will see respected Italian chefs Matteo Zamboni (Zambo, Sydney), Richard Ptacnik (Otto, Sydney) and Andreas Papadakis and Alberto Fava (Tipo 00, Melbourne) collaborate to create a series of one-off menus, each with an individual take on classic Italian cuisine. 

Both Canberra restaurants are owned by the Trimboli family. Their restaurant group now comprises award-winning Italian & Sons with adjoining wine bar, Bacaro (below) on Lonsdale Street in Braddon, refined modern-Italian Mezzalira on London Circuit in the CBD and neighbouring pizzeria Da Rosario. 

Owner Pasquale Trimboli saw the opportunity to celebrate Canberra’s flourishing dining scene by inviting some of the country’s most innovative Italian chefs to the capital.

“Australia has a unique heritage when it comes to Italian cooking, and it’s incredible to see an impressive crop of young chefs, each with their own take on traditions,” said Trimboli. “I look forward to opening both our restaurants, and our city, to them."

Kicking off Due Mani, Matteo Zamboni, executive chef and owner of Zambo restaurant in Sydney’s Surry Hills will join Italian & Son’s head chef Francesco Petrillo on Monday, May 29. 

Next up, from Sydney’s legendary long-lunch venue Otto, executive chef Richard Ptacnik will take a spot in the Mezzalira kitchen on Monday, July 10. He will join forces with Italian-born head chef Federico Ferrari. 

Waving ciao to the series will be the duo responsible for the hugely successful Melbourne restaurant, Tipo 00 - on a date yet to be confirmed. 

Reservations for Zambo and OTTO guest chef series are now available via or by calling  (02) 6162 4888. 

The Italian and Son dinners cost $90 or $130 including matched wines, with the Mezzalira dinner $110 a head for five courses or $150 with matching wines. 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Testing one of South Africa's most exclusive game lodges

It is de rigueur for anyone visiting South Africa to spend a day or two exploring one of the many game reserves. 

The Kruger National Park is one of the most famous in the world, the Pilanesberg National Park, just two hours north-west of Johannesburg perhaps the easiest to access. 

For those with limited time and a taste for life's luxuries, I would suggest Kapama Private Game Reserve, one of the most exclusive game lodges in Africa. 

There are four different camps within the reserve, which is home to all of the “big five” wild animals and just a one-hour flight from Johannesburg to the nearby Eastgate/Hoedspruit airstrip. 

At Kapama Karula, monkeys and nyala roam freely and a hippo recently had to be extricated from the resort pool - that's a uniquely African experience.

Kapama Private Game Reserve occupies a vast area between South Africa’s northern Drakensberg mountains and the Greater Kruger National Park. 
Situated in South Africa’s northernmost province of Limpopo, renowned for its diverse wildlife, Kapama is home to over 40 different mammal species, including elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhinoceros. There are twice-daily game drives through the reserve, accompanied by expert guides and trackers.

Kapama Karula combines luxurious (and huge) villas with all mod cons including satellite TV in the library, free wifi throughout and stylish accommodation, with wraparound views of the African bush enhancing the sense of tranquillity.
Kapama Karula has 10 superior suites, all at least 90m² each, with en-suite bathrooms featuring indoor and outdoor showers, his and hers basins, and a bath.

Standard in each superior suite is a minibar stocked with a selection of fine wines and champagne, a Nespresso coffee machine, a lock-up safe, an international adaptor, and an iPod docking station.

Each suite has a telephone, overhead fan and air-conditioning and the superior suites are wrapped by glass sliding doors, allowing seamless views over the Klaserie River. Each suite has its own outside deck area, heated swimming pool and sun loungers for relaxation. There are also two giant family suites.

An open-plan lounge and bar, with an excellent selection of South African wines (all included in the tariff) is a highlight, while guests can try to spot wildlife from the deck. Other luxuries include the new Karula Spa and Fitness Centre.

Kapama Private Game Reserve, R40, Hoedspruit, 1380, South Africa.+27 12 368 0600.

South African Airways (SAA) has daily flights from all Australian cities via Perth to Johannesburg with direct connections to 29 African cities including all major airports in South Africa. For more information see

# The writer was a guest of Distell

Monday, 22 May 2017

The world's greatest rugby team is looking for two special fans

Are you crazy about rugby union? Would you do anything to get up close and personal with the All Blacks? 

Air New Zealand and New Zealand Rugby are searching the world for two All Black "apprentices" to join the world's leading rugby team as they take on Samoa in Auckland on June 16.

The "volunteer" positions are the first of their kind within the All Blacks camp. The apprentices will stay at the All Blacks’ hotel and assist the team both in preparation for the match and on game day, including         assisting in the setting up of the team’s Captain’s Run on the day before the game before joining the team for lunch;   attending an exclusive Q and A session with All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen and players.

The apprentices will also help to set up the All Blacks’ coaches box, sideline and bench on game day and watch the game from their own private sideline bench. One will also be responsible for running the ball on to the field for kick-off.

Air New Zealand will provide transport to Auckland from anywhere across New Zealand - or around the world - for the successful applicants along with up to three friends or family members each. They will also receive accommodation and apprentices will wear special custom-made uniforms.

Hansen, no doubt masking his real feelings about the promotion, says fans of any age can apply.

“The main thing is these people need to be All Blacks supporters through and through and demonstrate a true love of the game," he says.

“Like any position on the All Blacks team we expect these spots will be hotly contested so applicants really need to sell themselves and show us how passionate they really are.”

Air New Zealand spokesman Jodi Williams says the airline has been a proud sponsor of the All Blacks for more than 20 years.

“Together with NZR we wanted to create a truly awesome opportunity for fans to go behind the scenes with the All Blacks and do their bit to help the team prepare for the test match against Samoa,” he said.
All Blacks supporters can apply now at Fans are encouraged to provide any supporting evidence of their suitability for this position – for example video, photos, written material or artwork. Applications close on June 5. 

# This story is a re-work of an Air New Zealand press release.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Meet the unique South African liqueur sold in over 100 countries

There is a fascinating story behind Amarula Cream, South Africa's global liqueur success story, which is now exported to 103 countries, including Australia and New Zealand.

The unique ingredient of the drink is marula, an indigenous African fruit the size of a small plum but oval in shape. The marula fruit cannot be cultivated but only grows wild and sun-ripens to a rich yellow, with a tough outer skin surrounding its fibrous, white flesh.

Amarula Cream is made with sugar, cream and the fruit of what is also locally called the Elephant tree or the Marriage Tree. Elephants enjoy eating the fruit of the marula tree and let locals know when the fruit is ripe and ready to be picked.

Because of the marula tree's association with elephants, producer Distell has made them its symbol and supports elephant conservation efforts, co-funding the Amarula Elephant Research Programme at the University of Natal, Durban.

In 2016 the Amarula Trust formed a partnership with conservation charity Wildlife Direct and its founder, Dr Paula Kahambu, working to protect the less than 400,000 elephants still surviving. The Amarula website contains details on how to help.

Amarula was first marketed in September 1989 and is now the second-largest-selling cream liqueur in the world. Its new-shaped bottle is based on a rescued elephant, Jabulani, who lives at an elephant camp in Hoedspuit, adjacent to the Kruger National Park.

The Amarula Lapa (the Sotho name for a gathering place) is the hospitality centre for the liqueur and is an ideal stop-off for anyone visiting the game parks of the Limpopo Province.

Made from traditional thatch, stone and wood, it offers educational films and lectures, light lunches and tastings of Amarula milkshakes and cocktails, including the Springbok, a popular South African chaser that is a combination of Creme de Menthe and Amarula Cream.

The lapa is just outside the town of Phalaborwa and is close to the processing plant where the fresh marula fruit is brought during the harvesting season, de-stoned and the pulp fermented before being transported to the distillery in Stellenbosch. It spends two years in French oak and has a soft caramel flavour. 

Well worth sampling at between $30-35 a bottle.

Amarula Lapa is at 4311 First Avenue, R40, Phalaborwa, 1390, South Africa. It is open 8am-5pm weekdays and 8am-4pm Saturdays and public holidays.

# This is an edited version of a story that appeared in Winestate magazine. The writer was a guest of Amarula.  

South African Airways (SAA) has daily flights from all Australian cities via Perth to Johannesburg with direct connections to 29 African cities including all major airports in South Africa. For more information see

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

One of Australia's most enjoyable vineyard lunches

I was only vaguely familiar with the Bellarine Peninsula winery Terindah Estate, but locals recommended it heartily - and their advice proved spot on. 

From a welcoming tasting room and snack restaurant to a lovely setting overlooking vines, gardens and bay views to excellent service and top-notch food, Terindah Estate hit a home run for our group.

Established in 2003 by retired quantity surveyor Peter Slattery, Terindah produces a very good range of wines (although zinfandel is a bit of a stretch in the cool climes of Geelong and surrounds). 

Nowadays, Terindah is a magnet for locals and tourists alike; offering al a carte lunches Thursday-Sunday, occasional dinners, weekend breakfasts, cooking classes, weddings and conferences. 

The medal-winning Terindah Estate 2016 Rosé proved a popular lunch choice for our group of five; while the 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir is also outstanding. 

We chose The Shed at Terindah (the name means "most beautiful" in Behasa Indonesia, over the more relaxed The Deck (open seven days for lunch and snacks) and found chef Lyndon Betts and his team in fine form. 

The service from a French waiter and Romanian maitre d' was both slick and friendly - not always an easy combination to achieve.

My entree of pork brawn terrine with mustard and stout and wattle seed bread was a stand out, as were very pretty sardines with creme fraiche, lemon and pickled shallots. Adventurous food this, but not too much "out there" to scare the horses. 

I would have liked the duck skin on my duck with heirloom carrots and radicchio to have been a little crisper, but the dish was plenty flavoursome.

Other star mains included local snapper with potato, Warragul spinach and salty ice plant, and pork scotch with nectarine witlof and garlic. Make sure to order some goose fat potatoes, which are outrageously decadent.

We felt too full for dessert but did manage some excellent French blue cheese. It was perfectly matured. 

The Shed gets all the key elements right and is highly recommended.  

Terindah Estate, 90 McAdams Lane, Bellarine VIC 3223. (03) 5251 5536.