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Life

California Dreaming

No longer just the domain of superstars of the screen, Los Angeles is adding some new leading lights to its food and wine scene.

As the second most populated city in America, Los Angeles is often the entry point for Australians wanting to explore the home of the brave. For food and wine lovers, the City of Angels is often a pit stop on the way to the urbane dining rooms of San Francisco with the perception being that fine 
food and wine play second fiddle to the lure of Hollywood.

But things have recently changed, and LA’s food and drink scene now dazzles as much as any movie star. So it’s well worth spending a few days exploring the refreshed food culture; from the high end down, there’s plenty to taste.

But first some advice. If you want to check out the celebrity haunts or local favourites like Venice at sunset, you’ll need to hire a car. Because while getting your head around driving on the right after 15+ hours on a plane can be daunting, the public transport is even more so.

But once you’ve secured some wheels, avoid the 405 anywhere near the morning and afternoon peaks, otherwise you’ll find yourself in the granddaddy of all traffic jams and LA drivers take no prisoners.

For those really wanting to experience the LA bubble, look no further than Beverly Hills. Originally built as a farming ranch, the Hills became its own city at the beginning of the first World War. When compared to the rest of Los Angeles, it’s like Beverly Hills has its own atmosphere and it’s easy to see why the rich and famous choose 90210 as their postcode.

Low Key Luxury

For accommodation, it’s hard to beat the Montage Beverly Hills . Situated in the middle of the ‘golden triangle’ – the city blocks wedged between the borders of North Santa Monica Boulevard, Wilshire Boulevard and North Rexford Drive – the Montage is classically elegant, but refreshingly understated, and while it promotes low key luxury, everyone gets treated like a millionaire.

If you want to shake off the jet-lag and unwind, the Montage has draped cabanas by the rooftop pool overlooking the city – a great way to get some peaceful perspective. Inside, the lavishly tiled Grecian atrium features a mineral ‘wellness’ pool and a swathe of spa choices.

As for food, the Montage’s main restaurant, Georgie , really helps sets this hotel apart. One of a chain of national restaurants, Georgie was built by New York chef, cookbook author, TV personality and American Iron Chef winner, Geoffrey Zakarian. The restaurant is Geoffrey’s ode to his son, and while the food reflects his classical French training, it also acknowledges America’s many cultural influences. Geoffrey blends and melds Italian, South American, French, German Asian and Middle Eastern touches with quality local ingredients and the result is a refreshing and balanced range of choices, executed with a light touch.

Wine-lovers have plenty to choose from too with over 800 drops from all around the world on offer, and at more affordable prices than we could access in Australia. Their ‘by the glass’ Coravin menu is a great place to start with Coravin being a gadget that allows wine to be extracted from the bottle without opening it. This means air can’t get in and spoil the remainder, giving restaurants an economic means to offer wines by the glass that are normally only available by the bottle.

Wine and Cheese

If you are thirsty for more wine, head north a couple of blocks up North Canon Drive to Wally’s Beverly Hills Vinoteca . Wally’s is part wine library, part wine bar, part bottle shop, offering an astounding range of wine from all over the world. It’s a wine lover’s paradise where you can browse thousands of wines, buy a bottle and take it home, or have someone open your choice to enjoy with the great range of food, cheese or charcuterie.

Speaking of cheese, a quick stroll will get you to The Cheese Store on North Beverly Drive . Norbert Wabnig has been behind the counter since the late 70s and his passion for cheese is displayed in every nook and cranny of this gourmet haven.

Shop Till You're Broke

If $10k handbags and Ferraris appeal, then a walk along Rodeo Drive will have you wide eyed. Considered one of the most exclusive shopping strips in the world, Rodeo Drive is where all the stars go. Giorgio, Valentino and Tiffany keep Versace company alongside a well-heeled Jimmy Choo.

But when you’re all shopped out and in need of more wine, a day trip to Santa Barbara is a must. Head north up the 101 past Oxnard and Ventura and you will soon find yourself in the downtown area of this relaxed Spanish-style town nestled underneath the dramatic Santa Ynez Mountains. Regarded as the American Riviera, Santa Barbera has a Mediterranean climate that makes the production of a wide range of wine varieties possible.

Most of the vineyards, wineries and cellar doors are located up in the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez Valleys to the north, however, there’s a cluster of great cellar doors in the heart of Santa Barbara.

The Urban Wine Train boasts 29 cellar doors where you can taste an impressive range of varieties and styles. From classic Euro-style Shiraz and Cabernet to new world Chardonnay and Pinot, rustic Tempranillos and Italian varietals of every shape and style. Santa Barbara’s wine offering is expansive and when you experience its warmth and hospitality, you’ll wish you had more time.

Aussies Doing Us Proud

Back south in LA, try to get a booking at Maude and see how Curtis Stone is getting on after winning LA Weekly’s Best Restaurant in LA in 2015 . With an intimate 24 seats, Maude offers a ten-course 
chef’s tasting menu that features a different seasonal ingredient every month. From limes in January to truffles in December, it’s an innovative approach that’s seen the culinary team create over 1000 dishes so far. Read our recent interview with Curtis Stone.

Another Australian flying high is Louis Tikaram, the former chef at Sydney’s Longrain who’s doing great things with Thai flavours at EP Asian Eating House in West Hollywood.

With talent like this on offer, Los Angeles is now pumping with vibrant energy and flavour. The over stacked plates of classic Americana and tired European staples of the past have been replaced with exciting and accessible food styles and flavours that reflect the diversity of modern Los Angeles. So while the movie stars of Hollywood might be carefully watching their waists, a trip to modern LA will have you expanding yours.

 

 

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Life
The Epicurean Maturation of Porto
Words by Emily McAuliffe on 19 Oct 2017
Porto may be the lesser known of Portugal’s cities, but it’s becoming a star on the food and wine scene. Porto, which takes its name from northern Portugal’s economy-driving seaport, was traditionally regarded as little more than an industrial workhorse. As Lisbon’s blue-collar cousin, it lacked the cultural clout of the capital, and this was only intensified by a king hit during the global financial crisis that left streets bare and spirits low. But Porto isn’t a city to easily falter and its historical tenacity earned it the nickname Invicta, or ‘undefeated’. Whereas it once resisted monarchists, it is now resisting cultural demise, and has bounced back to attain this year’s title of Best European Destination (an honour it has held twice before). In tandem with this surge of social energy is a lifting of the city’s gastronomic scene. In 2017, Porto and its cross-river city Vila Nova de Gaia were awarded three new Michelin stars, bringing the tally up to five. Despite this epicurean maturation, however, one of the most appealing things about Porto is that residents – including the city’s top chefs – still maintain strong food traditions.  “I think we should fight to keep our traditions,” says Pedro Lemos , who in 2015 became Porto’s first chef to reach Michelin status, and now retains his star for a third year. “When you travel, you want to visit the monuments and experience the history, including through the gastronomy, so I’m not afraid to show our roots,” he says of his exclusively Portuguese menu. Therefore, while the culinary diversity of other Western European cities might fool you into thinking you were in any number of countries, Porto has a way of always reminding you you’re in Portugal. And that strong sense of place provides precious insight into the city and country’s identity. Simple fare
The people of Porto are known to eat every part of the pig bar the squeal and are hence dubbed tripeiros or ‘tripe eaters’. Although a reference to ‘poor man’s food’, the locals wear the label with pride and the dish Tripas à Moda do Porto is still widely available on menus across the city in line with a 600-year-old recipe. In the culinary archives, it sits alongside dishes such as the Francesinha, a greasy multi-decker meat sandwich blanketed in cheese, and dried codfish Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, which are prime examples of Porto’s penchant for simple soul food. “The food in Portugal has history, it’s an important part of our story and culture; it’s our grandmother’s food,” says Rui Paula, who attained his first Michelin star at Casa de Chá da Boa Nova this year. Hence, he and other high-level chefs still frequent local-run tascas, where the prato do dia (plate of the day) is commonly seen scribbled on paper in restaurant windows. In these establishments, dining out remains a boisterous affair where family recipes are served and devoured with contentment and pride, and it’s an endearing example of the Portuguese saying, ‘there is always room at the table for one more’. Raising the bar
Porto’s old-style comfort food is still evident at every turn, but a sign of gastronomical progression came in 2011 when The Yeatman Hotel ’s restaurant, located in Porto’s neighbouring city of Vila Nova de Gaia, was awarded a Michelin star under the leadership of Ricardo Costa, who proved his salt with a second star in 2017. In addition to this formidable two star feat, Porto’s smaller players are offering stiff competition in the culinary stakes, with the quaint destination restaurants of Lemos, Paula and Vítor Matos of Antiqvvm part of the star spangled club. “We used to say ‘we’re lost in Foz’,” says Lemos of his restaurant’s obscure location down a cobbled backstreet in Porto’s fringe suburb of Foz. But a steady stream of locals, followed by travellers, started sniffing out his food creations. “At first people said I was crazy,” says Lemos. “But I wanted my restaurant to grow from its value, and now, the fact it’s a street restaurant makes me even more proud. People don’t stop at the restaurant because they pass it on the street, they come here specifically for us.” Paula, one of the three judges of MasterChef Portugal, is equally chuffed. “It can be difficult to get a Michelin star outside a hotel, so I’m very proud to have achieved it here,” he says from his 30-seat restaurant hidden amongst the sea rocks in Porto’s coastal outskirts. “More and more tourists are coming to Porto and it’s pushing for better dining options,” he continues, referencing the city’s growing number of refined restaurants. Regional influence
Some of Portugal’s best produce is found in the north, so Porto’s restaurateurs can easily tap into quality supplies. Renowned Portuguese food and wine critic José Silva, whose accolades include television presenter, guidebook writer and columnist, cites the smoked meats of Trás-os-Montes as the best in the country, for instance, and Paula, Lemos and Silva all credit the cold vegetation-rich waters of the North Atlantic for producing second-to-none seafood. Though top-notch produce is readily available, local chefs aren’t wedded to northern produce, preferring to draw on regional strengths. “I’ll use local where I can, but I’m not fundamentalist,” say Lemos. “Besides, Portugal is a small country, so really, everything is local.” Costa agrees, saying he prioritises regional products where possible, but also scours the country to find Portugal’s best, such as seaweed from the Algarve region and cheese from the Alentejo.  A fine drop While port has long been a household name, Portugal’s table wines are starting to break international barriers as people discover the 14 principal wine regions, including Porto’s nearby Douro Valley. “In the next few years I think places like the Douro will be one of the 3–4 most important regions in the world for both port and still wines,” says Silva. Francisca Lobão from Porto’s beautiful chapel-turned-wine bar Capela Incomum agrees. “People already have worldwide references of Italian and French wines, for example, and Portugal is on that path,” she says.  Confidence in Portugal’s table wines also led husband and wife team Filipa Garcia Fernandes and Moisés Cardoso Campos to keep the focus away from port wine at their riverside bar, Wine Quay . The gamble paid off, as they have since expanded to include the Quay Market next door for patrons wishing to purchase wines offered at the bar. “People are starting to take Porto more seriously when it comes to food and wine,” says Fernandes. “We have good food, good wine and nice people, and I’m not just saying that because I’m Portuguese,” she laughs. “Oh, and of course, Porto is a beautiful city,” she gushes with true tripeira pride. And, really, what more could you want?
Life
Foodie vs Wine-Lovers' guide to the Indian Pacific
Words by Meghan Londeragan @citizensoftheworld on 10 Apr 2017
The  Off Train Excursions of the Indian Pacific  will split your tastebuds on whether they’d prefer to gorge on rich chocolate fondant frogs, or while away the afternoon with a glass of  Barossa Shiraz . Life is full of decisions and, let’s be honest, if the hardest part of your day is deciding what type of gourmet treat to feast on, then it’s pretty clear you’re having a great holiday.  This is one of the ‘tough’ choices you’ll need to make onboard the  Indian Pacific . One of the great train journeys of the world, traversing Australia from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific (or vice versa), the Indian Pacific not only offers a unique travelling experience, but also myriad off-train excursions to delight  every gourmand and wine connoisseur. TIME FOR WINE
When touring the Barossa Valley with the  Indian Pacific , you’ll get the best of both the winemaking and natural wonders of this unique destination. Famous for its full-bodied wines, it’s a place where nourishing red soil meets lush green hillsides that softly roll on the horizon and it’s genuinely so beautiful you’ll feel like an afternoon spent staring upon its landscape is like refuelling the soul. Disembarking from the train at Two Wells, you’re transported by air-conditioned coach to the heart of the Barossa and the iconic Seppeltsfield winery, whose long, rising driveway lined with towering palm trees welcomes you to its illustrious cellars. Here you’ll be given a private tasting inside the 1900 Bottling Hall that housed the very first blends ever created by the Seppelt family and enjoy their famous wine and canapé tasting – think Grenache matched with soft cheese and onion jam, and  Vermentino  paired with sugar cured salmon with mustard dressing. Seppeltsfield is famed for having the longest continual vintages of Tawny Port dating back to 1878 and an absolute must is Seppeltsfield’s Taste Your Birth Year experience, an extra $60 per person, but so unique and so worth it. For the record, 1985 is an excellent drop. The  Indian Pacific  team firmly believe there’s always room for more, so when you feel you’ve had your fill of vintage Tawny, you’ll be whisked over to  Yalumba , Australia’s oldest family-owned winery. Enjoy an exclusive tasting of their award-winning wines at their cellar door before indulging in a three-course dinner of roasted lamb, summer vegetables and chocolate parfait, set inside a renovated concrete wine vat. CHOCOLATE OR CHEESE
The Adelaide Hills Off Train Excursion  leaves Adelaide by coach and winds through the picturesque churches and laneways of the city before climbing up to the forest surrounds. More specifically, to the historic town of Hahndorf, which is one of the oldest surviving German settlements in the country. Walking the tree-lined streets of this picturesque village is like being transported to a movie set where quaint cafés, bookstores and galleries are the star attractions. You’ll be guided to Chocolate @ No.5, a tiny house that holds a veritable treasure trove of sweet treats that you can taste almost completely at your leisure.  Owned by cocoa expert Alison Peck and chocolatier Sarina Waterman, these  two ladies seriously love their chocolate. They breathlessly riff on everything from single origin Venezuelan beans all the way to what drives a person to stir melted cocoa all day and night. We guarantee you’ll never look at a supermarket stocked block of chocolate again. If cheese is more your thing, you can opt to be taken down the road to Udder Delights, which is famous for its softer-than-soft goat’s cheese. Owner and cheesemaker Sheree Sullivan speaks with such reverence for the process that you’ll almost want to pack up your city life and start your own dairy farm.  The day closes with a stroll down the road to The Haus, a German-inspired restaurant where you’ll dine on all the bockwurst, bratwurst and cheese kranskys your stomach can handle, all matched with wines from the region. Safe to say that whether you’re a vino fan or a die-hard foodie, there’s something for you on the  Indian Pacific  – you just have to choose your side. It’s intense. It’s delicious. I wish you the best of luck. For more details on the  Indian Pacific and Off Train Experiences , visit the  Great Southern Rail website ,  request a brochure  or  sign up to All Aboard .
Life
For the love of Newcastle
Words by Mark Hughes on 16 Aug 2015
Most Selector readers would know that the magazine is produced in Newcastle and as editor I am often asked what is Newcastle like? Where do you go to eat and drink? I like to think of Newcastle as Australia’s best kept secret. Known as a steel city, it has long had a reputation as an industrial town with the smokestacks dominating the landscape. But over the last few decades Newcastle has undergone an amazing transformation. Once the biggest employer in the region, the BHP is gone and the blue collar mentality is changing to white or even t-shirt. The University of Newcastle is now the biggest employer, so in that respect Newcastle is a real college town. With that, there is plenty of creativity, a cheaper standard of living and a growing bohemian café and restaurant scene. It may surprise many that Newcastle is a city of natural beauty, bordered by spectacular (clean) beaches and a glorious working harbour. It is of course the gateway to the Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest and most visited wine region. Just to the south is Lake Macquarie, Australia’s largest salt-water lake offering a plethora of water-based activities from boating to fishing with cafes, restaurants and museums dotting its shores. To the north is glorious Port Stephens, world-renowned for its marine wildlife with whale watching a regular activity in its pristine waters. A time of change The inner city of Newcastle is also going through a real transformation. The main arteries, Hunter Street and Scott Street were once bustling ‘High Street’ style thoroughfares, with hoards of shoppers and business people crowding the sidewalks. But an earthquake in 1987 had an impact that lasted far more than its initial rumblings. Measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale, the tremors tragically claimed the lives of 13 Novocastrians and also caused wide-spread damage. Some buildings needed to be demolished, while a vast majority in the heart of the city were deemed unsafe for business. With an extensive wait for insurance and repair, a plethora of inner city businesses were forced to relocate. Many remerged in quickly growing suburban shopping malls and, as a result, the city of Newcastle became a virtual ghost town overnight. The city’s recovery was initially hindered by Sydney hosting the 2000 Olympics. Money potentially earmarked to revive Newcastle was funnelled into hastily preparing the state’s capital for the world biggest sporting event.
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