Emporium Hotel wins again

Last night Brisbane’s Emporium Hotel took out the 2009 Gourmet Traveller Award - Best Small Luxury Hotel title. Accolades continue to pile up for the Emporium Hotel which topped the best in the country to take the title including The Lyall and The Adelphi in Melbourne, the Islington and The Henry Jones Art Hotel both in Hobart and The Lake House in Daylesford Victoria.

I haven't stayed at Emporium but I've viewed the rooms and they are seriously lush.

It's well worth a visit, if only to see the ecceltic bar decor which also is great place for pre-dinner drinks. Next door is Belle Epoch which is like stepping into a French bistro for a meal. Also hard to resist in the Emporium complex are Poppy Cakes (divine cupcakes) Freestyle Tout (desserts and much more) and Depot (great tapas). For fashionistas - Ollie and Lloyd (gifts, clothes and things you just want to have.)

Emporium Hotel - 1000 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, 3253 6999


Word of mouth on speed

'Word of mouth on speed' is how Brisbane ABC radio announcer Spencer Jolly described Twitter at today's Twitter Event put on by Interactive Minds

This was a great gathering with loads of interesting speakers who demonstrated the wide range of applications of twitter both in a social and business context.

If you have no idea about twitter, think of it as a cocktail party where you meet people briefly and ask and answer questions.

Five things I learnt
  1. Guide for good tweeting - the 70/20/10 rule - 70% sharing, 20% connecting and corresponding, 10% chit chat
  2. Twitter experienced a huge growth curve in January/February 2009 post Oprah.
  3. Standard taxonomy in tweets is important so people can find topics of interest
  4. Some people can limit their twitter conversations to just a few minutes a day (wish I was one of them) and twitter can be addictive - duh!
  5. Should your business be on twitter? The conversation is happening whether you are there or not. Better to be part of it and manage any adverse reactions.

Tools I am going to investigate (advance apologies if some of the names are not correct but just use Google)
  • Tweetlater - tool to schedule tweets ahead of time
  • Twitterfon - app for iphone
  • - new twitter map service with links that work better and more opportunity to personalise
  • Followwatch - tool for checking who is following and unfollowing you
  • Twhirl - helps manage different twitter accounts
  • Tweetreach - measures twitter success
"Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time" by Joel Comm got a great review including the 30 day plan for world domination.

Based on today's event which was well organised, informative, timely, compact and even included coffee and cake, I'm planning to attend some more Interactive Mind events.


Freestyle Tout opens at West End

It's a great day for dessert lovers with the opening of another Freestyle Tout on the southern side of the river on the corner of Boundary Street at West End.

We all know the Brisbane River is the great divide for some, and now they'll be able to get their dessert fix in the comfort of home territory. It's a site that has had a few reincarnations over the past year but this one is sure to be a winner.

Martin Duncan is very excited about the new venue and plans are progressing well for a June 4 opening. Expect a similar menu to Freestyle Tout at Emporium which, along with the famous desserts, has a great all round menu designed by chef Nicholas Cooper.

Out of the blue

If you are into Indian food and have a social conscience, head to Blue Gulabi next Monday (June 1) for their $10 curry buffet. I can’t comment on the food, except to say friends like it, but I do like the restaurant’s concept of a monthly fundraising day which will see 10-15 per cent of all profits donated to the SHE Rescue Home.

The SHE Rescue Home was established to protect and rehabilitate children who have been sold into prostitution in Cambodia. According to a UNICEF survey, Cambodia has about 55,000 young women and girls who are trapped in sexual slavery and of these 35 per cent are under the age of 16.

Local PR Katrina Witham says Blue Gulabi is like a little cafe but the food is completely homemade Indian. Katrina recently had an event to raise funds for the SHE Rescue Home and is also going to volunteer over there at the end of June. Well done Katrina!

Blue Gulabi owner Gomi Chendi says she is passionate about giving back to the local community so on the first of each month the restaurant raises funds for a selected not-for-profit organisation.

Blue Gulabi’s home-made curries are made from recipes that have been past down by Ms Chendi’s family from generation to generation.
All participants in the $10 buffet on Monday will be given a complimentary entrée and dessert. The shop will be open from 11am until 9pm.

Blue Gulabi, Shop 19c, 803 Stanley Street (Cnr off Ipswich Rd), Woolloongabba. p 3391 1576


Penfolds Grange tasting

Calling all lovers of Penfolds Grange - Cookware store Taste…For the Love of Cooking will host ‘A Taste of Grange’ evening on Thursday June 11. With prices that range in the hundreds and, for some older vintages even thousands of dollars a bottle, this is a rare the opportunity to sample Penfolds Grange.

Darren Davis from Purple Palate – a corporate wine tasting company - will offer guests the opportunity to taste through a flight of six iconic Australian wines, including a legendary vintage of Penfolds Grange. Darren says many of these wines will be specially released museum wines that have been perfectly matured and represent an exclusive ‘one off’ opportunity to taste on the night.

Attendees will also take home with them a complimentary set of glassware valued at $59.95.

by Bormioli Rocco. Tasting cost: $119

Bookings to Taste on 07 3252 1022. 3 Montpelier Road, Fortitude Valley


Brisbane City needs buzz

It's about time the city fathers got with the times and assisted the change over of Brisbane's dull, dirty and neglected alley ways into vibrant eat streets.

Filled with gangs of students and aimless groups of people, Brisbane's city centre is in danger of losing its appeal. Tourists visiting the Queen Street Mall would get a very strange idea of what Brisbane is all about on some days.

There are laneways throughout the city that (were they in Melbourne) could be filled with interesting coffee stops, fruit bars and quirky jewellery stores. The sort of shops that have earned Melbourne their shopping mecca tag.

Instead in Brisbane they are filled with ugly bins, layers of grime and neglected. They look like crime scenes.

I would have thought city property prices would have made these lane ways a valuable resource. It's time to turn the city back to the people and make the most of what we have.

Photos: Top left - Brisbane's Burnett Lane which runs between Queen and Adelaide Streets.
All other photos taken in Melbourne lane ways in the city centre.


New restaurant at West End

It's only been closed for two weeks but the site which formerly housed the short lived Mao Mao's on the corner of Boundary Street is now undergoing another makeover.

Mao Mao's closed last year and another business took over to fill the gap but that closed just after Mother's Day.

So what's happening? Well, one of Brisbane's better known restaurateurs is moving into the southside with his brand of dining out. He's a well known player in the restaurant world and there's sure to be lots of interest in the new offering.

The announcement will be made on Monday but the word is that the opening date is June 4. There's lots happening on the site right now so they could actually make it. I can report that the ceiling, which was a statement piece at Mao Mao's, will not survive the refit for a new look.

Stay tuned for updates and do have a go guessing who's holding the hammer! Leave your comments below.


What wine do women want?

With 72 percent of all wine purchases made by women, you would think there would be more effort put into finding out what we want. Well Paula Tewksbury of All About Wine has taken the task onboard and is awarding a trophy for the wine most wanted by a panel of women from government, business, media, wine and food promotion, sport and the arts, including me.

The selection process is simple. The masked tasting by two panels will be of 18-20 wines awarded Gold Medals and trophies. From a short list, a re-tasting will arrive at one wine with the most votes.

Paula says the competition, now in its second year, was a first for Australia and Queensland and marks a unique female involvement in Government and the wine industry. Queensland has a female Governor, a female Premier and Paula coordinates the Brisbane Fine Wine Festival.

The identity of the preferred wine will be released at the conclusion of the tasting and the trophy will be presented at the Presentation of Trophies Dinner to be held at the start of the Brisbane Wine Festival on 25 June.


$18 Sunday Roast at Kingsleys

Kingsleys Steak & Crabhouse, Brisbane is now serving a Sunday Roast from 12pm-8pm (or until stocks last!) for only $18. The roast meat will be will Byron Bay Berkshire pork neck and Riverine beef striploin, which are great roasting meats, freshly slow roasted for a 90 minutes. It's served with traditional potatoes and pumpkin and there's chunky apple chutney and seeded mustard available. Expect perfect crackling with the Byron Bay Berkshire Pork!

The meat is dressed in house-made gravy, and is also served with a jus. Side orders can also be ordered from the menu.

Kingsleys Steak & Crabhouse Brisbane is located at 71 Eagle St, at the base of Riparian Plaza, overlooking the Brisbane River. Call 1300 546 475.


Raw talent - today's nomination Darren Davis

Today's nominee is not a chef but then rules were made to be broken!

Sommelier extraordinaire Darren Davis is a director of Purple Palate and according to his nominee 'he's one of Australia’s few Penfolds Grange specialists - what he doesn't know about Grange isn't worth knowing'.

Darren was hosting and talking about wines at an event at Maroochydore Surf Club and made a big impression on at least one listener. His nominator says Brisbane-based Darren is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and travels around Australia hosting events for up to 1500 people.

Cheers Darren!


Cove Café at Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove has a take a friend to lunch for free offer from now until the end of July.

For $33 you and your friend can walk around and choose from the ‘pan to plate’ service and live hot and cold cooking stations at Cove Cafe.

The chefs work in an open kitchen to prepare home-style cuisine. You can have grill items cooked to order and a selection of ever changing dishes including roasted vegetables, pastas, pizzettas, soups, hearty casseroles, curries and more.

The dessert station includes homemade cakes, pastries, cookies, waffles, pies and tarts.

Cove Café is located within the five-star Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove Resort at Sanctuary Cove on the northern end of the Gold Coast.

‘Take A Friend for Free’ offer is available Monday to Saturday lunchtime only until 31 July (excluding Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show from 21-24 May.

Bookings 07 55301234.

Easy herb oil

I've always felt a big sad when throwing out my beloved coriander because it's past the salad use by date - bit slimy and yellow. However I'll now be turning it into delicious herb oil for use on my favourite salads courtesy of a technique shared by Executive Chef at Outrigger on the Lagoon, Fiji, Shailesh Naidu.

Shailesh says simply blanch the herbs in boiling water for a few seconds and then plunge into iced water. Drain and squeeze dry then place the herbs in a blender with about the same amount of oil. I'll use a nice EVO.

Refrigerate overnight and decant the oil from the top. Keep it in a squeeze bottle in the fridge and you'll be able to do those fancy patterns on the plate just like a pro. If you want to use it straight from the fridge, zap the bottle for a couple of seconds in the microwave to loosen up the oil. Enjoy.


$2 Super Sunday lunch

It sounds too good to be true but The Fox Hotel at South Brisbane is launching a $2 Super Sunday this weekend. From this Sunday, punters can enjoy a Porterhouse steak for the bargain price of $2, and it's accompanied with a side of
chips or a salad for another dollar. Add it all and you might end up paying $4 - I like the sound of that.

Seafood lovers won't miss out, with reef fish also on the menu for just two dollars.

The Fox Hotel's director Paul Johnston said the weekly $2 Super Sunday promotion was unlike anything Brisbane had seen before.

Local musician Adam Power will entertain the crowd throughout the afternoon, followed by a set from DJ Anthonne Shepherd. The Fox Hotel roof garden which overlooks the city will also be open.

The Fox Hotel is housed inside a historic restored building on the corner of Melbourne and Hope Streets.

Go along this Sunday then tell me what you think! I might even take the family!

Fox Hotel on Urbanspoon

Spanner Crabs Noosa wins award

Spanner Crabs Noosa were joint winners along with Pristine Oyster Farm from South Australia in the ‘from the sea’ section of the 2009 Vogue Entertaining + Travel Produce Awards.

The awards were announced last night and celebrate and uncover the best of Australia’s producers and suppliers, in categories including ‘from the paddock’, ‘from the dairy’, ‘from the earth’ and ‘from the sea’.

There were several Queensland finalists in the various award sections.

Jason Sgro and Alison Reed’s Spanner Crabs Noosa crabmeat is well loved in Noosa and Brisbane. It’s a favourite of local chef David Rayner at the River House in Noosa.

Highly commended last year, it’s a worthy winner in 2009. At present, the company’s goal is to reduce packaging and freight by at least 75 per cent to minimise their carbon footprint.

“This has a fantastic, almost gelatinous, texture and clean flavour,” said judge Matt Moran.

It's been a long road for partners in life and business, Alison Reed and Jason Sgro, who established the business in 2002. I met them last year while researching a story for Selector Magazine on the Settler’s Cove Noosa Food & Wine Festival (published Summer edition 08).

Jason, who had turned to professional fishing after a career in the printing industry, wanted to stop wandering the coastline of Queensland and the Northern Territory in search of the next best catch. He saw an opening in the market for catching, processing and selling spanner crabs and set out to establish his own business.

“I wanted to get involved in a live industry and didn't want to keep travelling,” says Jason. “I came back to Noosa and spanner crab licenses were an affordable option.

“It's been a struggle but we are very focussed on where we want to be – a premium producer of spanner crab.”


Cheese Tastes

Brisbane will go cheesey from 13 to 14 June with a cheese weekend that includes the Brisbane Cheese Awards on Saturday 13 June and Cheese Tastes, a people's day of tasting from 10.30am to 4.30pm on Sunday June 14.

The fourth annual Brisbane Cheese Awards will be held at Royal on the Park with Master Judge, Ian Roberton, from the Australian Specialty Cheesemakers’ Association, presiding over a panel of 25 judges (including me) who will taste around 200 cheeses in 10 categories. The cheeses are from all over Australia.

Cheese Tastes ’09, on the next day, is people’s day and visitors can celebrate, taste and learn about artisan cheeses made in Australia by specialty cheese producers.

It's being touted as the largest range of Australian-made cheeses ever seen in one location. Cheese producers will offer free tastings of award winning cheeses, plus a wide range of their produce will be available for sale. Plus there'll be other gourmet food, wine and beer.

This year the action is on at Royal on the Park. It's just a 50m stroll to the Botanical Gardens so you can picnic on your cheese products and platters straight away!

Entry includes free cheese tastings and free education sessions on Fresh, White Mould, Washed Rind, Semi-Hard, Hard and Blue. First in! The free education sessions will be for up to 40 seated (plus 40 standing). A tasting plate of four samples of cheese will be given to seated participants.

You'll have to book a but there are Master Classes - “Cheese on Toast”, “Bunny in the Burrow” and desserts of “Blue Cheese and Chocolate”/“Liquid Nitrogen Goat’s Brie”. These are coordinated by Chef Gary Farrell of the Walnut Room at the Royal on the Park. Gary is a fabulously creative chef who introduced 'Dinners in the Dark' to Brisbane last year - now that's a dining experience with a difference. These are truly great value at $35 per 90 minute session and includes lunch and a glass of wine.

Tickets to Cheese Tastes and Master Classes are available from Ticketek. Early bird tickets are $25 until 5pm on 10 June 2009, then $30 from 11 June and at the gate. Master Classes are extra and feature 2008 winning cheeses.

Discounted entry is also available with a promo card! These are available from all cheese retailers in town. One promo card will provide two adults with a $5 discount per person on entry.

The Brisbane Cheese Awards is held in conjunction with the Australian Specialty Cheesemakers’ Association

Who won in 2008?
Lord Mayor’s Cup – People’s Choice Best Cheese (Sunday event) Udder Delights – Goats Brie
Primary Industries Cup for Champion Cheese- Fromart - Appenzell
Department of Tourism Regional Development and Industry Cup for Best Queensland Cheese - Fromart - Appenzell
Palatable Partners Cup for Best Blue Vein Cheese - Bangalow Cheese - Byron Bay Blue
Black Pearl Epicure Cup for Best White Mould - Hunter Belle - Camembelle
Rosalie Gourmet Market Cup for Best Cheddar - King Island Dairy - Black Label Cloth Matured

Fresh Curd - Soft:Milawa - Goat Curd, Meredith - Ashed Chevre
Fresh Curd - Textured: Udder Delights - Chevre, Olympus - Fetta
Fresh Curd - Matured:Woodside - Edith, Woodside - Masquerade
Fresh Curd - Marinated:Yarra Valley - Goats Medallions, Meredith - Goat Cheese
White Mould:Locheilan - Kaarimba Soft, National Foods - Heritage Signature Camembert,
King Island - Loorana Brie
Blue Mould:Udder Delights - Adelaide Hills Blue, King Island - Endeavour Blue,
Gallo Dairy – Gallozola
Washed Rind: Woodside - Vigneron, Woodside - Pompeii, Witches Chase - LI Washed Rind
Cheddar: King Island - Cloth Matured, Witches Chase - Caerphilly
Semi-hard-cooked style: Fromart - Appenzell, Hunter Belle - Belleyere
Hard-cooked style: Milawa - Capricornia, Dairy Farmers - Mil Lel Parmesan


Everything you wanted to know about pomegranates

Pomegranates are a mystery fruit with their thick, fibrous shell casing and myriad of bright red seeds inside.

Separating the seeds from the connective fibres looks difficult but there are several easy techniques.

Pomegranates prefer hot, dry Mediterranean-style conditions and are grown near Condobolin in New South Wales and Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. Each hectare holds about 600 trees and each tree has about 25 pomegranates. It’s a labour intensive crop as the trees have to be pruned every four weeks and the fruit is all hand picked.

The list of good things that pomegranates, like wine, tea and blueberries, do for you is impressive. It starts with fighting off bacteria and viruses and ends with possibly improving sperm quality and lowering prostate enlargement. Let’s not forget lowering blood pressure and blocking the formation of skin tumours. It’s all to do with polyphenols – a type of antioxidant.

However, from my point of view, the best thing about pomegranates is that as well as being good for you, they actually taste good in a strange sort of way and I feel great after eating them.

I also note that there doesn’t seem to be any deterioration in the taste in those I left sitting in the fridge while I sunned myself in Fiji for a week.

I’ve been adding them to my breakfast muesli or porridge and like the result – it’s another touch of crunch!

Baby leaves with beetroot and pomegranate salad
Serves 4.
Prep Time: 15 minutes.
* 1/2 cup of arils from 1 large Royal Pom™ pomegranate
* 180g packet baby leaves with beetroot mix
* 100g smooth fetta cheese, crumbled
* 1/3 cup olive oil
* 1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar or glaze
* Salt and ground black pepper to taste

* Place baby leaves with beetroot into a large bowl, this is washed and ready to use.
* Cut off the crown of the pomegranate, removing with it some of the pith. Make light incisions on the skin in quarters, from the stem to the crown end. Gently break the sections apart, following the incisions. Bend back the skin and scoop the arils into a bowl, removing any pith (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use).
* Add the pomegranate arils and fetta, toss gently.
* Pour olive, balsamic, salt and pepper over the salad then toss and serve immediately.

Disclaimer: Ed+bK was gifted two pomegranates.


Fosters gets it wrong!

Fosters have been making a lot of noise this week about their big market breakthrough as an 'Australian first' with wine in PET bottles - WRONG!

Way back in January, Sirromet released First Step, wine in a 750ml PET plastic bottle.

This is a David versus Goliath story but Sirromet definitely beat Wolf Blass with the release!

It's hard to tell the difference between the PET bottles and glass bottles. In fact deliberately dropping a bottle is a great party trick - especially when it bounces!

Sirromet’s Chief Winemaker Adam Chapman told me the wine had been well received by consumers with strong uptake from sporting groups and the boating fraternity.

“Every element of this wine’s packaging has been carefully considered for its environmental footprint - hence the name ‘First Step’ and the footprint motif on the label.”

The First Step range plastic bottle has a screw top and looks exactly the same as a glass bottle. It holds the same amount of liquid and doesn't compromise the quality of the wine in any way.

If you don't like the sound of wine in plastic, remember a few things.
  • This is wine to drink now, not cellar for years
  • We once thought a screw top cap on a wine bottle was radical
  • Better for the environment - less energy in production and, being lighter than glass, also uses less energy in transportation. Recycling is also more energy efficient. The labels are 100 per cent recycled paper and the cartons are also made from 100 per cent recycled material.
  • Plastic packaging means no glass breakages - ideal for boats, airlines, concerts, camping and a wide variety of outdoor locations. Plus, empty bottles can be easily crushed to minimise waste storage.
  • And, perhaps best of all, chills faster than a glass bottle!

Adam says the use of PET bottles is widespread in Europe and the UK, in fact some retailers regard it as a mandatory because their consumers are very educated about the issues of environmental responsibility.

Want to try it? Sirromet have an online bottleshop It's $12 a bottle for the 2005 Cabernet Merlot and a 2008 Unwooded Chardonnay. The wine will be delivered in a few days.

Don't forget to trick your friends by throwing them the bottle when you arrive!


Discover single origin

Here's another bright idea from Brisbane's Mr Coffee, Dean Merlo. MerloCoffee is introducing Coffee of the Month to get bean loyalists to think a little outside the square and try something new.

Like chocolate and wine, coffee is heavily influenced by where it is grown. Along with 'free trade', ‘single origin’ is one of the new coffee labels which tells the consumer that the coffee has been sourced from a particular country.

Colombian Coffee, characterised by its soft terroir (climate, soil type and typography to which it is grown), is in the spotlight for May. When Colombian coffee is freshly roasted it is rich in flavour, has a bright acidity, heavy body and intense aroma.

Every month Merlo with feature a new flavor alongside the existing merlocoffee blends, available for purchase as either wet coffee or take home coffee.

Merlo Coffee’s Coffee of the Month Program: May Colombian, June Costa Rican Tarrazu, July Nicaraguan Maragogype, August Brazilian, September New Guinean, October Hawaiian Kona, November Kenyan and December Colombian Decaf.


Malevu Village

Today the weather is a bit ordinary so we decided to take the weekly tour to the local village, Malevu. We were welcomed by Village Elder, Jim, who took our group around the village showing us how the locals live.

It's very relaxed living but with some strong traditions of community and sharing. All the doors of the houses must be open when the residents are home and it's common to invite anyone walking past to join for breakfast or whatever. All work together on projects like building a house or tending crops.

Jim showed us the fruit from the Noni tree which he said was a good treatment for cancer, a lantana bush which he said helped high blood pressure and a kava plant whose roots are pounded for Fiji's national drink, kava.

We were invited inside a wooden church which Jim said was one hundred years old. The village is saving to build a new one and it's needed judging by the holes in the floor.

It's considered polite in the village to remove your hat and sunglasses and we also removed our shoes to go inside the community hall for a welcome ceremony and a drink of kava.

The Outrigger Resort works closely with the villages on either side of the resort and many of the staff come from the village. The cute little blondie in the photo is the daughter of one of the reception staff, Salote told me.

Friendly kids at Malevu Village near Outrigger, Fiji. on Twitpic


Life is good!

5pm already? Salote, our Talai butler, brings champagne and canapes to our bure. Later she'll leave us a nightcap of liqueur and a sweet treat. It's tough at The Outrigger, Fiji.

5pm already? Salote, our Talai butler, brings champagne and c... on Twitpic

And this little piggy came home

Just in case you were worried about porking out, it's time to relax - the global concern with so-called swine flu has been declared as not a food-borne safety issue by leading world and local health organisations.

It seems that despite the name, you can't get swine flu from eating pork or pork products.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says “swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs.

Senior Lecturer, Intensive Agriculture, Department of Production, Animal Health and Medicine at Murdoch University, Dr John Carr, also assures Australians that swine flu doesn't exist in Australian pigs. As all fresh pork in Australia is from Australian pig farms, Dr Carr says consumers should not avoid pig products.

“There is a concern regarding the association of a name,” says Dr Carr. “But there is no swine flu in Australian pork and even if you buy pork that has come in from abroad, the meat is all processed ... and the processing procedure and certainly cooking would render the virus inactive.”

The World Organisation for Animal Health Director General Bernard Vallat described the virus being dubbed 'swine flu' as in fact a cocktail of four different strains. “There is no proof that this virus, currently circulating among humans, really is of animal origin. There is no element to support this.”

So there it is folks!

Blissing out in Fiji

It's one of those postcard picture perfect days. I've just had a steaming cup of English Breakfast delivered to the room after watching the dawn break over the ocean. Don't know why I'm up so early as last night's Culinary tour of Fiji didn't end till 11.30, but here I am bright-eyed, relaxed and in love with life.

Here's the view from my room, Outrigger on the Lagoon, on Fiji's Coral Coast. Coup? What coup?

View wins over yoga for chill factor. Outrigger Fiji. on Twitpic