Friday, November 24, 2017

Spiced, oiled and creamed in the The Darling Spa: Moroccan Hammam

Image courtesy of The Star, Sydney
If I only had 24 hours in Sydney, organising a hens pampering day out or a bride wanting some indulgence, where would I go? The Darling Spa and I would book myself into their signature treatment, the Moroccan Hammam. It is the perfect sanctuary to remove yourself away from it all, a place that feels like time has stopped for a brief while and a place to quieten your busy mind. At The Darling Spa I was spiced, oil, creamed and rubbed for 2 and a half hours in a Hamman ritual. It was true bliss, bliss I can only remember that I last experienced in Thailand or Dubai. The Darling Spa is probably the best spa treatment I’ve experienced in Sydney and to a standard that’s similar to what I have experienced at an international level. The Darling Spa is located in the The Darling Hotel which has been named Sydney’s first and only luxury hotel to receive the prestigious Forbes five-star rating – the most coveted award in global luxury travel. Hammam is the Moroccan name for Turkish baths and versions of this ritual date back centuries. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Musical Diary :: Mamma Mia! The Australian Tour 2017/2018

Judging from the responses I got from my Instastories of yesterday’s rehearsals and media preview in ABC Studios of Mamma Mia! the Australian musical that is about to be launched in Australia, the enthusiasm for ABBA music lives on. The catchy tunes and clever plot will no doubt make Mamma Mia! a success when it hits the Australian stage, starting with the Canberra Theatre on November 24, 2017, followed by a season from December 26, 2017 at QPACs Lyric Theatre in Brisbane before it hits Sydney’s Capitol Theatre from February 11, 2018, Crown Theatre Perth from May 15, 2018, Melbourne’s Princess Theatre from July 10, 2018 and the Festival Theatre in Adelaide Festival Centre from October 9, 2018.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Travel Diary :: Things to See, Taste, and Do in Angsana Laguna Phuket resort


When I look back at Angsana Laguna Phuket each resort, I think a beach resort, pools, fun and family friendly. Whilst the time we went was the beginning of monsoon season, the sun was out some of the days we were there and we enjoyed the 31 degree humid climate which was a welcome warm relief to Sydney’s Winter. We headed off in our tut tut with our luggage from Banyan Tree Phuket where our 3 night stay ended and headed to Angsana Laguan Resort for a 2 night stay which was only a few minutes down the road. The Laguna Phuket complex is a large but discrete village of five resorts united around a lagoon or lake and Angsana Laguna is known to be the most family friendly option. But even if you are a couple or with friends it is also a good option with pools, activities and the beach.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Travel Diary: Camp Food Recipe: Spiced Lamb Cutlets

The good thing about testing camping recipes is that you are making dinner that's easy to do which is also perfect for weeknights. I really am addicted to the foil wrap cooking method as it is really simple and all the flavours are contained in your little parcel and is absolutely delicious when it is ready.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Travel Diary :: Things to see, taste and do at the PARKROYAL Parramatta:

Now for something closer to home but not that close as it’s still a 40 minutes drive from home – a weekend escape to the bustling precinct of Parramatta. For those who have followed me on social media and Instastories, you probably would have seen that I’ve been out the Western Suburbs a lot for food tours (run by Taste Food Tours) and there is a lot of cuisines, authentic and done to a high standard out west that you won’t taste on the North Shore, South, Sydney CBD or Eastern Suburbs. You will only experience it by being out west. The Western Suburbs is the ultimate cultural foodies experience.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Travel Diary :: Camp Food Recipe: Foil Packed Spicy Singaporean Noodles

When I ask people what they would cook when they go out camping, often I hear "try damper" ... but I can't eat that every day I'm out camp and it's so bland for someone who has a palate accustomed to a range of Asian flavours. So I tried out making Singaporean noodles without a wok but instead using a foil pack on the BBQ. Wow, it came out so delicious, easy to make and more important no lifting of a heavy wok and scrubbing all the noodles that's stuck to the bottom. Ideally, if you are going out camping you can have the ingredients to make Singaporean noodles prepared and thrown into a foil pack so that all you have to do when you get to the camp site is put it in the camp fire or on the BBQ. When you use the foil pack, there is a crispy noodle layer that forms on the bottom that you can peel off and its so delicious too. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to cook.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Amity Created :: Tea for Tomorrow at The Grounds of Alexandria

Pause for a minute and think about someone you know who has been affected by cancer … I can think of a few people who have been a part of my life but no longer with us because of cancer. I spent my Sunday at The Grounds of Alexandria with Danielle Libri of Amity Created (Instagram
@amitycreated) for the Tea For Tomorrow to support and raise awareness for the good work done by the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (Instagram @cancer_researchau). 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Travel Diaries :: NSW Weekend Escape: Unspoilt Shoalhaven Foodies Trail

Foodies will travel anywhere for good food. It’s crazy, I know. Food lovers book flights and troop around the world to indulge on good food. But what if I told you that you don’t need to book an air ticket and as a Sydneysider, a culinary inspired trip is only an hour and half drive away from Sydney? I’m talking about the Shoalhaven region, in particular a little village town called Berry and a little bit further south, Milton for some of the finest regional restaurants in the country.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Style Diary :: Alannah Hill in Mayfield Gardens

I’ve travelled a fair bit now since I’ve had my blog. I’m always up for new experiences and challenges on what there is to see, taste and do that is not too far from home. I travelled to Mayfield Garden recently and it’s such a beautiful place to be, so peaceful and allows me to be reflective. I was just thinking through my travels and the process of meeting new people and businesses, some people provide services that you think “that’s different” and some provide services that are quite homogenous where I think “oh I can get that back at home”, which particularly rings true for the restaurant and hospitality business. I’ve come to realise that the differentiator though despite providing “the same thing” as someone else is having a great personal relationship with someone, someone who isn’t only "just a customer". Even if their product or service may be a little more expensive, people keep coming back to them because of the strength of their relationship, “they always know what I want” and they are consistent, which secures customer loyalty. Of course, strong relationships doesn’t happen overnight and great relationships and loyalty are built over time. The reverse is also true in that good relationships can be unwound in seconds due to in most cases, distrust. Another aspect is getting your foot on the door, which can happen through word of mouth and leverage from our old customers and referrals and the value of an introduction. Never underestimate the value of an introduction.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Travel Diary :: Mayfield Garden in Oberon, NSW Things to see, taste and do Part 2

This is the third time I’ve visited Mayfield Garden. I always have seen it as a place that provides acres, 160 acres to be exact of botanical profusion that promotes an equal amount of introspection. Mayfield Garden is one of the largest privately owned cool climate gardens in the Southern Hemisphere situated in Oberon in Central West, NSW, about a 2 hour 45 minutes drive from Sydney. Mayfield Garden was inspired by the great gardens of Europe. The garden is owned by the Hawkins family and is open 363 days of the year. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Travel Diary :: Things to See, Taste and Do at Mt Hay Retreat in Berry, NSW

I think I have decided that some stage in my life when I decide to retire from the hustle and bustle of city life, I would happily live in Berry in the South Coast of New South Wales, about an hour and half drive from Sydney (coming from the south of the Harbour Bridge). There is something comforting about going to the country and being on a farm, in open green pastures. It might have something to do with the fact it reminds me of travelling to a farm regularly when I was about 6- 7 years old during school holidays to visit my dad who did a stint in a restaurant in regional NSW (in a small town called Tamworth) or if you believe in star signs, it might have something to do with my birth date coming under an Earth sign. There’s also something mythical about  being a farm too: sun setting and rising on rolling green pastures, animals, cows, goats, pigs and chickens, greeting you as you bring them their next feed, being bowled over by wombats as you walk in the evening trying to do some night photography, or the brightness and expansiveness for the stars in the sky during night fall. A further drive down from Mt Hay Retreat towards the village, you'll also see an alpaca farm where the alpacas will happily come and greet you too.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Travel Diary :: Camp Food Recipe: Foil Packed Spiced Scotch Fillet Strips with Vegetables

I'm starting a series on camp food recipes as we transition into warmer climate in Australia and we plan to get ready for the great outdoors. I do like being outdoors, in the country or regions in natural landscape, away from the cities for a long weekend break. I remember when I did a 4 day hike along the Bay of Fires in Tasmania a few years ago, it was tough with 10 kilograms on my back walking on sand 6 hours a day and I thought I wished I had packed less. Any food you bring out camping should have the criteria of being light weight, can be stored so it's still fresh when you set up camp, is easy to prepare, easy to cook, delicious, nutritious and no fuss cleaning up.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Personal reflection :: What inspired me in the past week?

Dress wise, the explosion of floral prints in Australian retail stores is a sure sign the warmer weather is coming. I don’t mind the corporatised garden party look, meaning the floral prints I wear need to be suitable as corporate office attire without looking like I’m off to a Sunday garden party. The various shades of blue would also make this suitable for office attire too.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Drunken Chilli Prawn, Basil and Rocket Pesto Spaghetti with Asparagus


We normally associate drunken prawns with Asian food where the prawn or shrimps are cooked in Chinese or rice wine. I westernised this version for my pasta recipe and cooked my fresh green prawns in dry white wine which I got from Dan Murphy's. I wasn’t sure which dry white cooking wine to get so I asked the guy at Dan Murphy's and he asked me what I was cooking and I told him prawn pasta. He suggested I try the Semillon Sauvignon Blanc which provides racy acidity, fruitiness of lemon, grapefruit and passionfruit which would be particularly delicious in seafood dishes.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Things to See, Taste and Do in & around the Banyan Tree Phuket resort

“You’ll love Phuket. It’s not only beautiful. The Thai people understand excellence in service. They think of every little bit of detail”, a couple I sat with at a friend’s recent wedding reception said to me who recently returned from a trip to Phuket in Thailand. I started to write this article in the final hours of my 3 nights stay at the Banyan Tree Phuket and I can certainly say the people in the Banyan Tree Phuket understand excellence in service. By the way ‘Phuket’ is pronounced with a silent ‘h’ like ‘Puket’ and not “Fuket’.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sydney Markets Fresh Awards 2017

It was a privilege to be a part of the Sydney Market Fresh Awards 2017 as a finalist for the best blogger story on a florist. I wrote a story about my local florist, Jackie’s Floral Gallery which made it into the finals. I didn't win this year’s awards but big congratulations to We Are Scout for taking out this year’s award and to my fellow finalist for their engaging stories. You can read all the stories on the Fresh Awards website. It was an awesome night at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney with delicious food and drinks catered for by Simon Fox and his team at Graze MCA and Culinary Edge. Although I didn’t take home the prize, I felt honoured to be recognised for my achievement in making it to the finals and to have my blog profile up on the big screen for an audience to see, which seems to validate what I do as a writer and a blogger.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Vivid Sydney 2017 : Taronga Centre & The View Restaurant

After not having been to Taronga Zoo for years (probably since my teens as far as I can remember), I’ve been to Taronga Zoo twice now in the space of three months. By day, it was wonderful to see and hear the animals, where their characters can be observed if you linger long enough at an enclosure. I was there courtesy of Taronga Zoo because their new baby Pygmy Hippo was born earlier in the year, a rare occurrence for the zoo and in wildlife because it is endangered. But by night during Winter from now until 17 June 2017 your focus is not on the animals, well not the live ones in any case, which would have sensibly retired into slumber for the night.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

City Staycation :: Fraser Suites Sydney

A well-executed city staycation can be just as relaxing as a week-long holiday. You are not far from home and the point of a staycation is that you feel you have got away to take a break. Staying in a luxury suite close to home is a good way to do that and that’s what I did, although the practical side of me ensured my staycation was also aligned to a day of a friend’s wedding I attended in the city. I’ve attended many weddings in the city and they are always late nights and by the time you get home and get ready for bed it’s always around AM and you waste the following morning sleeping in. Not to mention if you are planning to drink at a wedding, you have to factor in how you are going to get home, particularly if you live a bit further out from the city.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mayfield Gardern and Central West, NSW :: Things to see, taste and do

When the NSW Tourism Minister Adam Marshall said to me a couple of weeks ago at the Mercedes Benz Australia Fashion Week 2017 launch party that regional NSW has a lot to offer and there is so much to see, I believe him. Too often we think of going on holidays as hopping on a plane and flying to another capital city or overseas, but what if we hopped in a car or a guided minivan tour and headed out to the Central West NSW which is about 3 hours drive, to explore what is on offer, for a long weekend getaway from Sydney, for some country fresh air, to be seduced by the pastoral beauty, lush green fields, to learn of the region’s history, the local produce, to taste the food and the wine?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Recipe :: How to make ANZAC biscuits

I read some of the old war stories on ANZAC day that the universities like Monash publishes. Some are quite intense stories of pain and suffering and makes you feel lucky we live in where we are in the world today. The history of the ANZAC biscuit is interesting though. And it's an ANZAC biscuit not cookie to ensure there are no foreign influences to one of Australia's signature food.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Top Ryde City :: Your one-stop-shop for fresh produce

Despite the rise of home delivery and online shopping, I hope grocery shopping doesn’t become a forgotten pastime. Online shopping can’t replace buying fresh produce from a store, nor does it give you a holistic overview of what produce is in season.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Casa Barilla Cooking School :: Italian Easter Delights

Easter is a big deal in Italy and the most important event after Christmas. Easter is one of the most important holidays in the Christian religion and is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ, three days after he had been crucified. One important detail about this holiday, is that the date changes from year to year. As was decided at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AC, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring and can therefore vary from March 22nd to April 25th.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

#50BestTalks :: Sydney Opera House

Australians love their food, and today was no exception. Today’s event #50BestTalks held at the Sydney Opera House was very well attended. It seems people don’t only like to eat food but they also like to talk about it too. Today we heard the views of the world’s culinary geniuses, the ‘Roger Federers in the kitchen, the brightest stars in the constellation as today’s host, political journalist, Annabel Crabb described it. Massimo Bottura, Peter Gilmore, Brett Graham & Dominique Crenn are the people every person’s eyes were focussed on for a full 90 minutes today, who shared their insights and food stories with us on how they got to where they did, how they were influenced in their careers, how they go about their creative processes, gender issues in the restaurant industry and finally an audience question and answer where the topic of sustainability appears to have dominated that segment. It was excellent panel discussion which was moderated by Annabel extremely well, and an event that got me curious and listening to every word that was said, inspired, with many funny moments where I chuckled.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Jackie’s Floral Gallery in Kingsgrove … love is the flower, you’ve got to let it grow

“When I was 16 years old, I remember seeing someone receive a box of fruit that was nicely packaged as a gift and thought how nice it would be to do something like that but with flowers,” Jackie from my local florist, Jackie's Floral Gallery says to me as we headed out in her van to Sydney Flower Markets. I stepped in her shoes that morning to discover what it was like to be a florist in Sydney. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Taste of Sydney, Lurpak Cooking School :: How to cook spanner crab

Watching a cooking show can’t compete with having your fingers stuck between a spanner crab shell to scoop out the sweet meat. I was invited to the Lurpak Cooking School as part of their Game on Cooks campaign, which was held at the annual event Taste of Sydney in partnership with Electrolux in Centennial Parklands, Sydney. The Taste of Sydney is on until Sunday and with great weather holding this weekend it is an excellent day to see and taste the best of Sydney’s food and wine offerings.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Stylediaries :: How to dress like a Parisian

During a stroll at a lunchtime break, the shop window of Rodeo Show caught my eye. At first I wasn’t shopping for anything in particular. I walked into their tiny store on Pitt Street in Sydney CBD just under Myer and despite its size there was an excellent range in their current collections that I knew I would be shopping for more than one occasion. On the one hand they have their Resort Refresh 17 style which is classy but not too over the top for day wear. Vacation glamour are the right words to describe it, turning up the femme factor with romantic silhouettes and flirty details in dainty prints, lace and flattering drapes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Starting off with a blank canvas: Blanca Bar and Dining in Bondi

"I go to Barcelona at least once a year", Tomi Bjorck, much celebrated Finnish chef and restauranteur told me at the opening night launch of Blanca Bar and Dining and when he tells me that, having just been to Barcelona, I knew Blanca Bar and Dining that has just opened in Bondi was something special.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sydney Event :: One Fine Day Wedding Fair 2017 :: A peek at the Bridal Runways

I first was introduced to One Fine Day, a wedding fair 2 years ago when my wedding dress designer at the time suggested I check out this wedding fair which is a more refreshingly curated and creative event than the large traditional bridal expos, with a handpicked collection of sought after vendors in the wedding field. Not only is One Fine Day the perfect outlet for creative couples to gain inspiration from unique vendors in the planning of their big day, but a fun way to spend a Saturday or Sunday with your friends/family/bridal party. She was right. On a smaller scale, one of the most interesting aspects of this event are the bridal couture runways which showcases bridal designers’ latest ideas on bridal fashion. Unveiled in a romantic, nature like setting at The Cutaway in Barangaroo, all designs were eye catching with looks that yes, bowed to tradition but adding a touch of sultriness, flamboyant ruffles, intricate floral details, slender arm-sheathing sleeves, some with chaste necklines, some more provocative.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I’ll order a salad, please … MD Provodores and Sydney Markets

“I rather my customers complain about price than quality”, Mouhamad of MD Provodores tells me as we walked along A shed in Sydney Markets at 7am on a Wednesday morning.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Society Di Catania comes to Potts Point

"The owner of this building ate pizza at my Bondi restaurant and asked me to set up a pizzeria restaurant in his building in Potts Point", Jonathan Faro, the founder of Society Di Catania tells me today. And the owner of that building on 186-188 Victoria Road, Potts Point is not the only one who knows there is a good thing going. Opened for only one month, Society Di Catania focusing on Sicilian food in Potts Point owned by Italian, former pizza chef, Jonathan Faro is going to be a real hit with locals after what I tasted today.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Spiced Chicken Cous Cous

I love the spicy flavours in the region of North Africa and the Middle East and I’m sure I lived there in a past life. I like dishes with a balance of savoury and sweet flavours that are hearty but not heavy. I added turmeric to this dish to make the colours of the dish pop and so it is visually pleasing too if you are serving guests. It's a simple dish to make and if you are like me who likes to make a lot of dishes for people to try when they come over then this one doesn't take long at all and it's a dish to impress with its flavour combination. This dish was a hit at a New Years Day dinner at my place and was gone in minutes.