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NSW Winter Weekender | Cultured Canowindra

 

Suffering from a decidedly soggy case of the sniffles we bypassed the ambitious original plan to let Brünhilde (the beloved KTM 900 mortorbike) stretch her wheels and opted to hire a car. We got a pretty good deal through Thrifty with a few insurance upgrades thrown in and a 15% discount thanks to my membership with NRMA (just book online to reap the rewards, otherwise it’s 10% over the phone) and roared over the Blue Mountains in a nifty Suzuki Swift.

Our destination was Canowindra. Only 4 hours from Sydney, Canowindra has the misfortune of a perpetually mispronounced appellation. Out-of-towners are spotted instantly for asking; “How far to Cann-oh-win-dra?” Where locals and those in-the-know realise that it should be: Ca-nouwn-dra. (Obvs.)

factory_espresso_orange_coffee_estellepigot

We pulled into Orange to breakfast at Factory Espresso. This mod-oz brunch spot would be right at home in Newtown or Prahran. Housed in an old mechanical workshop, it is complete with a coffee roastery out the back and they serve house-brewed blends such as The Godfather and Decaf Redux which you can try as a syphon, cold drip and pour over coffee experience. I had the tapioca porridge, he had the eggs.

Slightly intimidated by the “bookings only” policy some local wineries enforce for cellar-door tastings, we found Canobolas-Smith (between Orange and Canowindra) for a taste of the local fruits of the vine. Murray Smith, I later learnt, was one of the early pioneers of the wine-growing scene in Orange. He’s been at it since the 1980’s but has kept the place a friendly, hands-on operation. The viticulturist amused us with tales of the Australian wine tasting scene while we sipped his spectacular chardonnay. I bought a bottle for $40 which left me feeling a little robbed but it did taste great.

The superstar standout treat of the trip was pulling up into Belubula Cottage  , overlooking the Belubula Valley, just outside town. This place was recommended to me by the owners of taste Canowindra but my expectations were not high, so imagine my surprise and delight when the manageress, Marg, emailed me asking my favourite foods for breakfast! I should have known then I was in for something special.

We entered the little self-contained cottage to cosy heating and a kitchen full of treats like marshmallows and drinking chocolate, freshly bakes bread and butter, a stack full of Country Style magazines and bath salts just waiting to be sprinkled into the clawed bathtub which overlooks the bucolic vista outside. The place was heaven and redefines country hospitality. Marg had thought of absolutely everything, from plush robes hanging in the bedroom (think about it, when was the last time a mid-range hotel gave you that?) to cooking spices to go with the eggs and bacon she popped in the fridge. I have not stayed anywhere like this for years and couldn’t recommend it more highly.

Then, finally, we arrived (via the local, and only, cabbie in town) at Taste. A cultural hub in the rolling hills of the Central West, this is the place to taste the region’s best wines, enjoy gourmet food, arts and music, Bob and Marg Craven have created a perfect little niche. We had booked tickets to see the Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier show and dinner they were hosting, and we weren’t disappointed. Treated to the best seats in the house, we listened to the pair sing and play their way through their new album Stories of Ghosts . Conway’s acerbic humour and sarcasm are nicely counter-weighted by Willy’s chill-factor but they are both a very entertaining pair. Washed down with a local red, we were escorted back home by our friend the taxi man, and curled up in our cast iron bed to fall asleep listening to the rain gently drum the roof.

Story by Estelle Pigot

The Gourmet King Unlocks His Treasures

 

josh rea

The world’s finest high-end foods and spices once attainable only by top chefs are now available to the public. The opening of retail store Gourmet Life in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs sees products used by such names as Quay’s Peter Gilmore, Est.’s Peter Doyle and Aria’s Matt Moran in the grasp of every lover of fine food. Brainchild of importer Josh Rea, Gourmet Life is an Aladdin’s cave of culinary and gourmet delights set to change the scope of the city’s food scene.

Josh has unearthed more than 1000 unique products to grace his store, from Rome’s oldest coffee to Europe’s most sought-after fresh almonds and hazelnuts that burst with genuine flavor. But his piece de resistance are his ranges of the world’s finest black caviar, truffles and wild mushrooms – each the largest of any in Australia and available only through his newly opened outlet. Indeed, nowhere else in the country can such an extraordinary range of produce be found.

Over the past decade Josh became renowned through Sydney’s leading restaurants as the supplier of rare, high quality products starting with vanilla and saffron. His dedication to excellence saw him succeed where others had failed: for instance he was the first to bring fresh porcini mushrooms – the king of their kind – into Australia and he remains the country’s sole importer of the delicate morsels. “We nailed the quality aspect of importing fresh porcini and it went gangbusters with all the leading restaurants,” Josh recalls.

 But the price of this success meant Josh’s home-based business took over his life. “We couldn’t fit all the hazelnuts in the hallway of my house anymore”, he says. “We had Mediterranean sea salt stacked to the roof. There was no restaurant we weren’t supplying.” The only way forward was to find a willing retailer to taking on his highly delicate produce, but when this proved impossible, Josh took matters into his own hands and Gourmet Life was born.

It is little wonder that Josh’s dedication has seen him become Sydney’s newest and best fine food purveyor.  Only at Gourmet Life can customers buy such delicacies as the world’s only sustainable caviar, Mottra of Latvia, which is gently milked from the sturgeon before the fish is returned to the water. The store’s hazelnuts are the world’s most sought-after, hand-picked and sorted by an Italian mother and daughter team using methods passed down through generations. Gourmet Life also sells rare wild French asparagus from the Pyrenees Mountains, harvested straight after its month-long growing period, as well as chocolate deemed the finest in the world. Josh has just become the sole purveyor of leading French foie gras brand Castaing, a favourite with Michelin star chefs. Gourmet Life is also the only supplier of beluga caviar in Australia.

 

Some of the treats available at Gourmet Life include:

  • Rome’s oldest coffee label, Sant’ Eustachio
  • Jams crafted by 2 Michelin star Chef Moreno Cedroni presented in hand-made stackable Venetian glass jars. Varieties include strawberry lemon thyme, and tangerine and organic fig with violets
  • French spice range Terre Exotique and its unique varieties including Yuzu zest and Espelette chilli
  • A L’Olivier olive oils, chutneys, pastas, mustards and vinegars
  • The globe’s sexiest bottles of olive oil from Spanish producer Pepa Olivar
  • Hazelnuts from Nocciole d’Etite, Europe’s most renowned producer of the variety.
  • Homewares from Galateo and Friends
  • Chocolates by Catalonian artisan chocolatier Xavier Mor

 

Gourmet Life is far more than just a shopping or browsing experience. Each brand has a story and staff can take customers on a sample tasting through the store, explaining the background of each so buyers fully appreciate products’ unique qualities. Prices are affordable, too, ranging from well under $10. Black caviar costs from $4.50 a gram.

The Hub House Diner – Deep-fried Dreaming

The Hub House Diner – Dulwich Hill – Restaurant Review

Fries

Fat has never been so photogenic since locals rushed the doors of The Hub House Diner which opened in Dulwich Hill last month. The crowd-pleasing Yankee diner cuisine has food bloggers and Instagrammers snapping the golden, mouth-watering morsels and singing high praised ‘hallelujahs’ since the burger joint came to town. Dean and Daniella Papas opened with head chef Joseph Sergio who is still tweaking his fried fantasia but has essentially nailed the ultimate ‘dude food’ menu.

The staff are young, fun and friendly which shouldn’t bear mentioning but makes a mighty impact on a seasoned Sydney diner these days. Daunted by a mouth-watering menu of burgers ($15 – $18) we went for the house plank ($22) and the pulled pork sliders to share in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. The waitress offered us wise counsel when it came to our choices, whipped our beers out to us before we could bat an eyelid, very quickly followed by our meal.

The sliders were not as thrilling as we had hoped. It is true that they had to gently break the news to us that the cute little brioche buns had sold out and instead the chef cobbled together a slider-esque attempt by quartering a larger bun. They were a bit dry and more about the bun rather than the so-called pulled pork.  The saving grace was the share plank which had splodges of American-style mustard, the house chilli sauce, coleslaw, creamy aioli, a steel bucket of buffalo wings, zucchini fritters and popcorn chicken.

Underneath a fantastic, tooth-crackingly crunchy batter were plump pieces of delicious chicken (we had heard a rumour that the owners’ father ran the local BBQ chicken place… but this remains unconfirmed) and the zucchini fritters with orange gel and sour cream were tasty little examples of the rare possibility of a vegetable inspired heart attack. Mopping up the creamy lashings of dip with salty fries and licking our oily fingers with the same immense satisfaction that everyone else in the warm-glow restaurant had on their faces. It seems the Papas’ are on the pulse when it comes to people’s demand for gourmet grease and the rise of ‘anti-health’ cuisine in Oz.

They’re getting a lot of things right at this place. Dulwich Hill hasn’t stopped raving about the coffee since the first day of trade. Barista Nick Xipakis serves Di Bella coffee with a secret twist that people are loving. His specialities include the Cold Drip Espresso Blend on the Rocks and his ¾ Latte.  If coffee’s not your thing, maybe you could be tempted by the artery clogging indulgence that has set the social media mentions afire; the peanut butter and banana smoothie.

 

The Hub House Diner

404 New Canterbury Rd

Dulwich Hill, NSW 2203

Can Do Kandos

 A weekend escape to The Town That Built Sydney

KL80-KL81-4916-4201_WL81_Kandos_29-6-02

 

The Dubbo XPT chugged into station after a carefree hurtle over the mountains and my travelling companion remarked “Oh, it’s cold.” to which a passer-by replied, “Welcome to Lithgow.” We braced ourselves against the mid-summer chill for a brief wait before switching to a Mudgee-bound bus which delivered us  out the front of the Railway Hotel, Kandos (population 1306). The bus was necessitated by the fact that the Gwabegar railway line hasn’t run through Kandos since 2007.

We had arrived in The Town That Built Sydney - home to NSW’s most productive cement works until it was abruptly shut down in 2011, never to be reopened. The local abundance of lime deposits in the Capertee Valley inspired the opening of the works in 1913. The town’s original name – Candos – was an acronym based upon the names of the six directors of the company and in their time, the works were the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.

Just west of the Great Dividing Range, Kandos is 3 hours from Sydney, the town features imaginative structures built in the ‘Spanish mission’ architectural style popular in California and whimsical Federation-era construction curiosities. Visiting for the inaugral Cementa 13 art festival, we discovered that the orderly company village facade (40 wide streets, all scrubbed and freshly painted, not a skerrick of litter in the gutters) does not do justice to the quirky township’s personality.

On the back of a Twitter tip-off, we tried our luck with the delightful hospitality of Marie and Barry Trounson of Kandos’s Fairways Motel (est. 1975 with the first guests through the door being the directors of the cement works) and found that there was room at the inn.

marie_barryMarie, was born in Kandos and destined to be the town’s hostess with the mostess. Her determined work ethic, vivaciousness and generosity are all part of a personal philosophy to, ‘Do everything you can for whoever you can’  We were her good deed for the day when she arranged for us to catch an earlier bus home and with her husband driving like only a country man can, ensured we got to our connection in Ilford with time to spare. If only the dour barmaids at The Railway Hotel had been apprenticed in hospitality by the charming Marie!

She remembers the shock of the Cement Works closing, “It was like losing a member of the family.”  Although she notes that it hasn’t affected business at the motel which overlooks a tranquil 18-hole golf course and is on the fringe of the town (only a short walk to Angus Street). Marie’s sense of community is strong and it’ no wonder;Barry has been strongly involved in local business for many years, serving on the council and working with his son in the younger’s an award-winning winery (now closed, however the beautiful property is for sale if this article convinces you to take up a tree-change. Contact Richard Traunson, manager of the mixed grocery and fuel business in Capertee.)

The museum is a carefully curated trove, and one must make a stop to meet the exuberant proprietress of Shady Lady Hats who with a few expert adjustments (and side-cracks to boot) will have you be-hatted in style. For snacks, cheeky sips of lovely Mudgee wine or hearty breakfasts, you will be cared for graciously at the Clock Stop Cafe by the defunct train tracks. A coverted train station, the deco is so authentic you might feel like you’re about to be ushered aboard an Agatha Christie mystery.

Or, if it’s Mother Nature you yearn for, take a trip out to Dunns Swamp. Manmade in the 1920’s to provide water for the Kandos Cement Works, it forms part of the beautiful Wollemi National Park and is a picturesque camping, fishing or picnic spot (don’t forget to pop into the Kandos bakery and stock up for the picnic on their delicious treats).

Dinner may warrant a drive to neighbouring village, Rylestone, where a culinary surprise exists in the form of the funky 29 Nine 99 restaurant which knocks visitors socks off every day of the week. Outstanding yum cha, with dumplings to die for on offer served up by couple Na Lan and Reg Buckland. But if it’s simple fare that you seek, step into the Hotel Kandos for classic pub grub at its country best.

Enclosed on one side by an enigmatic escarpment, the finest hour is sunset in Kandos. With a drink in hand on the balcony of the Railway Hotel, tourists and locals watch the sky softly burn to an orange glow that illuminates the cliff face to a fierce blush. Glossy cockatoos shriek from the boughs as the shadows of the gums lengthen to streak across neatly mowed town parkland. Maybe it’s a little rose-tinted, but the world sure looks lovely from here.

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HOTEL

Fairways Motel
Cnr Ilford Rd & Henbury Ave
Kandos NSW 2848
Telephone: (02) 6379 4406

WINE BAR & CAFE

Clock Stop Cafe
37 Angus Ave
Kandos NSW 2848
Telephone: (02) 6379 4180

By Estelle Pigot

FREE salsa class at Balcone @ The Junction & Latin Junction

Everyone in Bondi Junction knows the Tea Gardens Hotel but the upstairs restaurant/lounge – Balcone @ The Junction – is a whole other universe compared to the wild shenanigans of downstairs. New manager, Victoria Lungren, has brought to the newly renovated venue an impeccable sense of class (afterall, she was trained at The Hilton Hotel in Sweden) and transformed the bar into an elevated respite from the shoppy frenzy of the Junction.

Her staff function like a well-oiled machine, graciously offering punters all the dying arts of hospitality. With DJs spinning tunes 3 nights a week, this is the Eastern Suburbs’ new low-fi Sunday session default destination.

Lundgren has teamed up with  local Bondi Junction dance school, Latin Junction, to spice up Saturday nights. A longtime fan of salsa, she has invited the school owners Felix Ben and Amber Dawson to treat Balcone regulars to a free beginners salsa class this Saturday 3rd November from 8pm – 8:45pm. After 9pm the salsa spirit really begin, with a special DJ bringing some Latino beats and a photographer capturing the carnivale atmosphere as the Day of the Dead fiesta kicks off.

If you wouldn’t mind combining some fitness regime, with flirtacious dance moves and tequila cocktail jugs then get yourself to Balcone @ the Junction this Saturday night. Bring your friends… because there’s no aphrodisiac like salsa.

FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT LATINJUNCTION.COM.AU

EMAIL  salsa {at} latinjunction.com(.)au

or FIND THEM ON FACEBOOK!

Criniti’s at Finger Wharf, Woolloomooloo

If you’re well-adjusted and grown-up enough to look past the fact that sushi feels a bit wrong in an Italian restaurant, then you’re going to love the latest offering from the CRINITI’S empire.

With established restaurants in Parramatta, Castle Hill and Darling Harbour (and another set to open in Manly next year), they launched their piece de resistance at Finger Wharf, Woolloomooloo last week; with much fanfare, good cheer and ever-flowing Veuve Clicquot (always a winner).

Criniti’s will rev things up on the wharf scene, which has become a complacent locale for long liquid lunches enjoyed by radio shock jocks, politicians and WAGs.  With Ducati motorcycles suspended over the bar like a Calabrian coat of arms, twisted exhaust pipes and Ferrari engines decorating the space; you quickly get a sense that they are finding their way into the men of Sydney’s wallets and hearts via more than just their stomachs.

Head chef, Jason McCauley, will serve up classical Southern Italian fare – soul food like meatballs, Milanese-style crumbed lamb cutlets, pizzas and tiramisus – that will delight the gents and for their carb-conscious dinner dates, a selection of sashimi and sushi. We shall see if this combination works out as brilliantly as the hype suggests (there’s nothing worse than when ‘fusion’ becomes confusion).

The launch party was quite the society gathering last week. Hosted by the wonderful Melissa Hoyer (of www.news.com.au), she interviewed a steady line-up of society’s bold and beautiful. Stepping off yachts, off designer motorcycles and out of cabs, the intimidating sight of these rich young things on a balmy spring night could chill the hearts of the baby boomers dining in the restaurants next door… or was that just the frosty draft off the Absolut ice-sculpture?

The Criniti’s Woolloomooloo playground is open for wining and dining, earmarked by this blog as the place to be this Summer. Enjoy, you rascals.

 

Nonna Maria’s Place Restaurant – food review

Nestled away on Phillip Street in Parramatta is a homely and tasty Italian restaurant Nonna Maria’s Place. New owners took over a few months ago and have turned this restaurant into a must try!

If you’re looking for famous home-made family recipes deliciously prepared the traditional Italian way, then you will not be disappointed. The menu is simple and yet it offers something for everyone. Why not try the smooth Penne Napolitana, or if Spaghetti Bolognese is more your style then jump on board, you are guaranteed to lick your plate clean. If you feel like something more meaty, then the mouth watering Chicken Schnitzel served with fresh lemon may be the way to go or for a hearty meal. I recommend the scrumptious Osso Buco. The sides are enticing whether it’s the Minestrone Soup, Italian salad, or Garlic bread to accompany the meal.

The restaurant itself is warm and cosy. Dom, who isn’t short of a yarn, makes you feel welcome. The decor is authentic and reminds me of a little restaurant tucked away in the country side of north Italy. The prices are unbelievable, mains under $12.00. That’s right, no misprint here – not only is the food great, the environment friendly, but the prices are “cheaper than chips”. To top it off, each customer receives complimentary fresh bread and a jug of homemade lemonade, made the old fashion way!

So what are you waiting for? Whether you want to dine in or take away, you will not be disappointed when you try this food the way your Mum would make it!.. (if she was Italian)

What: Nonna Maria’s Place Restaurant
Where: 56 Phillip Street, Parramatta
Phone: 02 9689 1112
Mains: Under $12.00

Scottie’s Fish Cafe Review

East Newcastle has an irresistible pull. It’s basically Bondi… 70 years ago.   Wide and sleepy streets are sunlit by blue unclouded weather, bikini babes and muscle cars, melting ice-cream and the perfect little beachside cafe.

A block back from the beach is Scotties, Two Flat White’s tip for breakfast or dinner if you find yourself anywhere near Newcastle Beach. With its palm-shaded courtyard nook off Scott street, Scotties has come a long way from the battered sav & scallop style of fish and chippery it once was. Professionals on their laptops sipping frothy cappuccinos in the dappled shade seem just as at home as kids in boardies with their parents lugging sandy towels and negotiating bulky strollers.

Chef Jeramie Heywood’s menu spans the spectrum of accessible comfort food to hoity toity (Hiramasa kingfish, anyone?) with a focus on seasonal produce. Our tip would be to stick to the familiar fare. The fish and chips are still great despite the raging internet review debate which asserts the batter used to be better. The breakfasts are hearty (hash browns, avocado , sourdough, bacon, poached eggs etc) and the takeaway section on the side is replete with hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fishburgers, steakburgers and lentil burgers ($7-$9.50). Plus, they make a pretty decent coffee (Two Flat Whites writers need their caffeine.)

The service is a bit docile, but if you’re not in any great hurry the location compensates, and a pleasant morning/afternoon drying out from the surf can be had munching away. Dinner is a fairy-light lit affair and the restaurant is quite popular so consider booking to secure your table.   Being seasonal, there is an element of changeability to the menu though keep an eye out for Gumbo prawns in ginger sauce or snapper salad with green mango and sweet chilli dressing.  Seafood Sunday at $25 a head is rather tempting, and a good excuse to get into their interesting wine list.

36 Scott Street
Newcastle East, 2300
02 4926 3780

Article written by Estelle Pigot.

La Boheme Cocktail Bar – review

There’s a little place you need to know about.

La Boheme, in Grote St, Adelaide, was once a tobacconist and is now a perfect little salon replete with cabaret shows, gentle live music and a witty cocktail selection to make you cry ooh-la-la.

Cheeky burlesque on school nights, funk tunes spun from decks perched on piano tops on the weekend and local artists hang their work on the damask papered walls. Yes, it’s nothing if it’s not bohemian.

This intimate little, shabby chic distraction is Adelaide’s slice of gay Paris. While the clever staff shake up an American Beauty or an Absolut Hulk ($15), they will banter and flirt you into giddy smiles.

With a wear-worn chesterfield that stretches the length of the room, a rockabilly barman who hands you your receipt complete with a rose for the lady and a French-singing guitarist, there’s nowhere else you would rather sip absinthe in the city of churches.

36 Grote Street
Adelaide SA 5000
http://www.myspace.com/labohemebar
laboheme {at} iprimus.com(.)au

Article written by Estelle Pigot

Guilt-free Chocolate… What Will They Think of Next?

Chocolate is not something normally associated with an ethical stance. It has long been the guilty pleasure snuck late at night in darkened kitchens, or secretly indulged in from a stash in the office drawers. It’s a food steeped in sin for being decadent, delicious and often the subject of glutinous greed.

But Rebecca Kerswell, owner of Coco Chocolate, is an artist who works in the medium of chocolate and she is championing ethical production and good taste with her strictly regulated standards of production.   From her boutique shops in Kirribilli, Mosman and Edinburgh, Rebecca produces organic, GM free, gluten free, vegan, and fair-trade chocolate. You practically become a better person just by eating it! Read the rest of Estelles article about Coco Chocolate»

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