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Life

Dubai | Utopia

In the history of civilisation, it is fair to say there has never been as much economic and structural growth as has occurred in the United Arab Emirates in the past 40-odd years. From virtual villages, Emirs such as Abu Dhabi, and in particular, Dubai, have become the new business centres of the world, the must visit stop-over destination for global travellers and with that, a new mecca for food.

Just a century ago, Dubai was a small community of a few thousand, who survived by fishing and pearling Dubai Creek, a 14 kilometre inlet of the Arabian Sea. The discovery of oil in the region in the 1960s saw unprecedented wealth f lood the seven emirs of the UAE. But it has been how these finances have been spent that has set the Emirates apart and facilitated its amazing transformation.

It was the foresight of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai from 1958 until his death in 1990, to develop the region’s economy to prosper once the oil has dried up. The Dubai of today is testimony to the fact his vision has been realised. These days oil production accounts for just six per cent of GDP, with business, trade and tourism raking in over half the Emirates income.

One of the biggest incentives for business is its centre point in world trade, between east and west, north and south, and for the businessman looking to make a fortune, the fact that there is no income tax, is a massive lure. Quite simply, what you earn is what you get! And with many companies providing accommodation and expenses, you can see why Dubai has such a large ex-pat community.

City of Ests

Dubai is the city of ‘ests’ – the bigg-est such as the massive Dubai Mall, the tall-est – Burj Khalifa, at 830 metres the world’s tallest man-made structure, and whose viewing platform on 124th f loor is the highest anywhere, and a must-visit in this city of stunning architecture.

While Dubai sits on the edge of the mystical Arabian Desert, it has been transformed into an oasis with meticulously maintained luscious parks and gardens throughout the city. Ninety-three percent of the water is from massive desalination plants, irrigation is recycled sewerage. The city is fastidiously clean and organised with a modern railway system, cheap and reliable taxis, whose drivers all speak English and, most noticeable of all, it is extremely safe. Due to the fact there are severe punishments for breaking the law, crime rates are low (less than 1%). In fact, Interpol has rated Dubai as the safest city in the world for the past decade. All this means it is ideal for the discerning tourist.

STAYING IN DUBAI

The recent decision for Qantas to partner with Emirates airlines means Dubai is now the designated stop-over spot for many Australian travellers. And this is a city that is custom-made to accommodate and entertain everyone from young families to grey nomads. First of all, it must be remembered that the UAE is a Muslim nation and with that there are rules to be followed and respected. But for the most part, Dubai is far more liberal than one might think.

You should dress conservatively, but women don’t have to wear a burka or hijab, they can wear dresses. Men should be fully clothed in public, but all can wear swim wear on the beach or around hotel pools. And you can drink alcohol. Ex-pats working in Dubai can apply to get a licence to buy alcohol to drink at home, while tourists are restricted to drinking in hotels.

CULINARY MECCA

For this very reason, hotels host nearly all of the city’s bars, restaurants and niteclubs. To this end, there are some amazingly lavish digs around Dubai, from the ostentatious to the stupendous, and with the competition to attract the hungry and thirsty tourist supreme, it makes for some amazing culinary adventures.

Like Las Vegas in the 2000s, Dubai is bringing in top notch celebrity chefs from around the globe, such as American Wolfgang Puck, French Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire and Australia’s own Greg Malouf, who has just opened up Cle Dubai, a glamorous 250-seat restaurant in Dubai’s bustling financial district.

Dubai has every cuisine you desire, with everything from Japanese to Italian to French. In 2014 Dubai hosted its first annual food festival with pop-up restaurants and food-themed events across the city and world media flown in to enjoy delightful customs such as Friday afternoon brunch where the city shuts down and hotel restaurants put on amazing degustation dinners with accompanying wine matches. The award for Dubai’s best brunch is currently held by JW Marriott Hotel’s Prime 68 Restaurant. With impeccable service and an eagle-like perch on the 68th f loor, it offers delicious fare with breath-taking views.

A TASTE OF HISTORY

Of course, you may want to get away from the hotels and bars, to explore the ‘real’ Dubai. Catch an abras (wooden boat) across Dubai Creek to visit the city’s famous gold, food and spice souks, and fill your bags with saffron, the tastiest dates ever, and camels’ milk chocolate – one of Dubai’s newest exports.

And if you want to try some authentic Emirati food, head over to Deira, the old town on the eastern side of the Dubai Creek. There are no skyscrapers, no bling, but here, sisters Arva and Farida Ahmed from Frying Pan Adventures can show you the old Dubai, exploring everything from a Philippine supermarket to Iranian food and traditional Bedouin fare. It will show you that the Dubai of old is still thriving alongside the glitz and glamour of the new.

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Life
Gourmet Destinations - Argentina
Words by Guy Wilkinson on 6 Mar 2015
Wander the streets of Buenos Aires and it won’t take long to hit you; the mysterious, alluring aroma of grilled meat wafting from a restaurant door, or, just as likely, somebody’s backyard. Food in Argentina is a big deal. It’s as deeply entrenched in the culture as tango or ‘the beautiful game’ and when it comes to cooking, the term fast food is something of an oxymoron. Much of the cuisine revolves around meat. Mention the word ‘vegan’ and most people will assume you’re talking about Dr Spock. Argentines are the world’s second largest consumers of beef; each person chows down around 58 kilograms a year and more than half the restaurants in the country are parrillas, named after the grill the meat is cooked over. None of this is to suggest it’s as simple as slapping a quick steak on the barbecue while rustling up a salad. Anything but. In Argentina, the cooking of meat is seen as an art form and is treated with appropriate reverence. “It’s about taking your time,” says Elvis Abrahanowicz, co-founder of Sydney’s acclaimed Argentine restaurant, Porteno. “It’s all to do with the fire, getting the embers just right and warming them up slowly. There’s hardly any heat in it. “If you’re cooking a whole animal, you always have a fire on the side rather then smashing it full of coals. You really only cook it on one side. It gets the heat into the bones then the bones get hot so it’s almost cooking from the inside out.” Influences Argentine cuisine has heavy Mediterranean influences, thanks largely to Spanish colonisation in the 16th Century, as well as a massive influx of Italian immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If beefsteak is the staple, it’s almost always accompanied with chimichuri sauce, a simple but fiendishly delicious combination of garlic, onion, olive oil, oregano, red wine vinegar and lime juice. And then there’s chorizo, though as Carole Poole, a former Argentine native now living in Australia, explains, “It’s sacrilege to call a chorizo a ‘sausage’, as it is so much more; nothing I’ve tasted anywhere else in the world comes near to the flavour of a good chorizo.” Cooked on an asado, the Spanish term for barbecue, chorizo is often served simply in a crispy bread roll and regarded as a meal in itself. Meat is often seasoned minimally, using mainly salt and pepper. Of greater importance is the way in which it’s cooked, as well as the cuts chosen. “Apart from the chorizos, and equally important, are the different cuts of meat that comprise the ‘asado’”, explains Carole. “Favourites are skirt steak, f lank steak, sweet breads, black pudding, and even small intestine, always garnished for extra flavour while cooking with chimichurri.” The usual accompaniments for an asado are fresh crisp bread, green salad and frequently, potato salad. Creme caramel or flan is the dessert of choice, often drizzled with dulce de leche sauce, a deliriously delicious sweetened milk confection. Family Affair Aside from the cooking itself, part of the importance of food culturally in Argentina stems from a desire for friends and family to convene and spend quality time together. “It’s everything,” says Elvis. “I think because of the mix of cultures, everyone wants to bring it all together and share it, it’s created its own cuisine, one that people are super passionate about. “If we had an asado at my house, it’d be an all day affair, a big eating fest! Everyone gets up early. The girls would get making fresh pasta and the guys would get the fire going, and my dad and uncles would cook all day.” None of this is to suggest that anything overly elaborate or pretentious would accompany the cooking process. If anything, Elvis’ father, Adan, who works alongside his son in the kitchen at Porteno, is known to actively eschew expensive gear in favour of more old-school methods. “My old man is the MacGyver of making barbecues,” jokes Elvis. “He’ll make one out of anything, a few bricks, some wire mesh. We still cook like that.” The point was reinforced after Adan bagged himself a $7000 state-of-the art barbecue after winning a cooking competition a couple of years back. Apparently Adan lit it up once, after which it languished in the garage gathering dust, never to be used again. Perhaps it’s a fitting metaphor for Argentine food, where simplicity is key and less is so often more.
Life
17 Must Do Hunter Valley Experiences
Words by Shonagh Walker on 8 May 2017
The Hunter Valley isn't just about cellar doors. Shonagh Walker uncovers a host of activities that may well see you extend your stay. While it's widely known as the destination to uncover  boutique cellar doors  and  world-famous wines , the Hunter Valley has another face that it's worked hard on showing to the world. From balloon rides to nature walks, festivals to art amongst the vines and even animal sanctuaries that will melt your heart, you're spoiled for choice when it comes to filling your itinerary on your weekend or family holiday. Here's a list of some of our getaway inspirations. Be Cheesy Cheese lovers should make a B-line for  The Sebel Kirkton Park  on Saturday June 17 and Sunday June 18, which mark the annual Cheese Lovers Festival. Highlights include 50 exclusive stalls featuring cheese, beer, wine and assorted cheese-related food stalls, cooking with cheese workshops, beer and cheese workshops and cheese making classes. Preceding the official start of the festival is the Classic Cheese Dinner on Friday June 16. cheeseloversfestival.com.au Get Cooking Millfield Hall Cooking School caters for corporate and private groups of eight to 20 people. All produce used is local and seasonal, with citrus and herbs grown in the Hall's garden and eggs coming straight from their own chook pen. Prices are usually around $145 per class, which includes a glass of wine, however, bespoke tutorials can include anything from roasting an entire beast and beer tasting, to matching courses with local wines, which might up the price a bit. millfieldhall.com.au Organic Fare Run by partners Matty and Jimmy Kerr, Nanna Kerr's Kitchen is a mostly organic restaurant and is a huge favourite with locals and tourists alike. Famed for dishes taken from the Kerr matriarch's menu and its farm to table ethos, this restaurant also boasts a retail space where you can purchase the pickles, relishes and jams served on site. Don't miss the Dirty Chai Pannacotta, which was created to celebrate Nanna Kerr's recent 80th birthday. nannakerrskitchen.com.au Be Proud You'll have a blast during the second annual Pokolbin Pride Festival, which this year again sees local businesses band together with wine tasting tours, live entertainment, fine dining and cocktail parties, community markets, guided bike riding winery tours and more. The festival runs from October 20-22. pokolbinpride.com.au A Day On The Green Hit Bimbadgen for this not-to-be-missed event where you'll get your fix of local and international acts teamed with a great selection of wine. This year has already seen rock icons Blondie and Cyndi Lauper entertain, with more acts every summer. When major celebs aren't singing, you can enjoy Esca restaurant and sip a generous wine selection at the cellar door. bimbadgen.com.au Take To The Skies If you fancy yourself a bit of a pilot, then Hunter Valley Joy Flights is for you. Located at Cessnock airport, the company offers Tiger Moth adventure flights where you man the cockpit and fly the plane solo once in the air (an experienced pilot is there to guide you at all times). A less adrenaline-inducing way to get elevated is by Hot Air Balloon. Hunter Valley Ballooning offers exclusive and group flights out of its Lovedale HQ every day and is a peaceful and unique way to take in the views of the region huntervalleyjoyflights.com.au Inspire Your Green Thumb With over 60 acres of international display gardens, you can easily while away a day or two in the lush haven that is the Hunter Valley Gardens, situated conveniently in the Pokolbin region. There's over eight kilometres of walking paths to explore, which reveal 10 individual feature gardens each with a unique theme. The Storybook Garden with its topiary animals including horses, teddy bears and ducks will delight kids of all ages. The Lakes Walk will take you past waterfalls, babbling brooks, Weeping Willows, a chapel and rotunda and stunning seasonal flora. The Rose Garden features over 150 varieties of roses, with around 8000 fragrant and beautiful roses in bloom and the Formal Garden, a nod to French and British garden designs, will transfix you with its manicured hedges, evergreen magnolia and 3000 bushes of Rosa chameleon roses. Make sure you stop by the Wishing Fountain - all proceeds from your wish are donated to local charities. A favourite of this scribe though, is the Italian Grotto, with its Statue of Saint Francis of Assisi (Patron Saint of Animals and the Environment), its lush lavender hedges and incredible bougainvillea. Winter marks the annual Snow Time festival (June 24 to July 16), with a giant ice-skating rink, mega ice toboggan and tubing. You can also build a snowman at in the man-made Snow Play Zone. huntervalleygardens.com.au The Block Four luxury self-contained villas and a three bedroom guesthouse comprise the secluded but stunning accommodation and winery of Block 8. Soak up views of orchards, olive groves, grapevines, open fields and distant mountain ranges as you meet kangaroos and wallabies, sugar gliders, swans and goannas. You can even pat a couple of pigs and handfeed the ducks. Guests also receive bottles of the estate-grown single vineyard wines, generous breakfast hampers and home-baked treats for afternoon tea. blockeight.com.au Get Artsy Sculptures in the Vineyards happens throughout November, stretching across Undercliff Winery and Gallery, Stonehurst Cedar Creek Wines, Wollombi Wines and Noyce Brothers Wine. Works are by renowned local and national artists, with an estimated 100 pieces planned for 2017. sculptureinthevineyards.com.au On Your Bike As the original bike hire company in the region, Grapemobile Bicycle Hire and Tours really know their stuff. Rent from the centrally located vineyard and hire shop in Pokolbin, where you can take a private off road self-guided tour amongst the vines, sampling wines from up to nine vineyards on the way (some even provide free delivery of your purchases to the bike's hire shop). You can also choose to have the Grapemobile bus pick you up and return you from your accommodation or meeting place. All tours include mountain bikes, retro cruisers or tandems, helmets, sunscreen, bottled water, numbered VIP access pass, maps and tour options. grapemobile.com.au Organic Spa Experience There's a plethora of day spas peppered around the Hunter. UBIKA spa at the Crowne Plaza in Lovedale is noteworthy, thanks to its alliance with certified organic skin care brand, Eminence Organics. Hailing from Hungary, this nurturing range relies on ingredients such as blueberries, Arctic berries, and pomegranate. Choose from an array of facials and body treatments including Vichy showers, wraps and exfoliation. Other fantastic spa experiences include iconic Spa Elysia Golden Door, which has partnered with Certified Organic skin care range, Divine Woman and Chateau Elan at The Vintage, where you can enjoy a glass of bubbles in the outdoor Jacuzzi before or after your treatment. crowneplazahuntervalley.com.au goldendoor.com.au ,  chateauelan.com.au Luxe Getaway Just Desserts Sweet tooth? Book a table at Sabor. Famed for its Portuguese Chocolate Mousse made from owner Fernando's grandmother's recipe from 70 years ago, there are over 50 desserts on the menu and each can be paired beautifully with local wines. There are gluten-free options too, as well as Glinelli coffee and a selection of teas. saborinthehunter.com.au A Berry Nice Time Few things taste as sweet as organic, bio-dynamically farmed blueberries, fresh from the bush. At Misty Valley Farm, you can pick your own punnet and enjoy the intense flavour straight away, or freeze your harvest for up to two years. Berry picking season is Dec/Jan, but at other times you can lap up the farm environment in the boutique accommodation, which sleeps up to four people and includes organic farm fresh eggs in the breakfast hamper. mistyvalleyblueberries.com Take A Stroll If you're still feeling energetic and want (or need) to walk off a few calories, take one of several walking trails through Barrington Tops National Park. Choose from easy walks, overnight hikes, or simply enjoy a picnic by the stunning Barrington Tops Falls. Those after more action can 4WD. nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/barrington-tops-national-park See Pigs Fly Where Pigs Fly is a registered charity and sanctuary located in the Lower Hunter region, dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and caring for farmed animals that have been treated cruelly, abused or neglected. With various open days and sanctuary tours (bookings essential) throughout the year, the team is committed to educating guests about the importance of treating all animals with compassion and respect. An open day will see you mingling with pigs, lambs, chickens and cows, living life as they should be - free range and organically. wherepigsfly.org Lush Lavender Daniela Riccio bought Little Valley Lavender Farm five years ago and while she still grows over 100 lavender bushes, the farm is mostly an organic garlic producer, alpaca breeding base and fleece retailer, bee keeper and miniature cattle grazier. It's is also a part of the Department of Primary Industries' Visit My Farm program, whereby city slickers can spend a day learning about farm life. littlevalleyfarm.com.au
Wine
Cycling the Clare Valley Riesling Trail
Words by Elliot Watt on 6 Nov 2017
Discover the fun of cycling the Clare Valley Riesling Trail with Wine Selectors Membership Consultant, Elliot Watt, as he shares all his tips for touring through this spectacular wine region . Exercise and wine don’t usually go together, but, when you think about it, it's actually a genius combination. You are essentially cancelling out the damage done by one with the other. Well, in theory, anyway. Now a word of warning. We’re in no way suggesting you empty a bottle of wine into your drink bottle and hit the gym. There are far more attractive and much more appropriate places to achieve this symbiotic activity. A leisurely two-hour drive north of Adelaide will see you in Australia’s epicentre for Riesling , the Clare Valley, where you’ll find the Riesling Trail. This 35-kilometre-long cycling and walking track follows the path of the old rail line that sliced through the hills before it was irreparably damaged by the 1983 Ash Wednesday Bushfires. Today, the trail takes you past some of the region’s finest Riesling producers, so get ready to sip, sweat and cycle your way through the Clare Valley.  Clare
It all begins with a visit to the Riesling Trail Bike Hire to collect your trusty steed. Kent will size you up with the perfect bike and give you the local lowdown on the trail. Once in the saddle, an easy 12-minute ride north on the trail will take you to your first destination, Knappstein Enterprises Winery and Brewery . Originally established as the Enterprises Brewery in 1878, the current winery was installed by Clare Valley icon Tim Knappstein in the late 1960s. In 2006, 89 years after the original taps went dry, the brewing of beer started up once again in this heritage building. For Riesling lovers, definitely look to the Single Vineyard range, which is a perfect expression of the diversity in Clare Riesling. However, if you prefer a beer, then the delicious Knappstein Reserve Larger will quench your thirst and replenish the tank for the next leg of the journey.  Sevenhill and Penworth
Now you need to put in some hard yards and work off that wine and/or beer. Head south, 6km from Clare, and you’ll arrive in Sevenhill where it’s time to take a detour. John Horrocks Road is off the trail and runs through some seriously beautiful countryside, which will take your mind off the fact your legs are on fire. More importantly, it leads you to one of the jewels of the Clare Valley, Mitchell Wines . Andrew and Jane Mitchell established their winery in 1975 and have created something really special, showcasing a true Australian family-owned and run winery. On arrival, Jane welcomes you like you’re one of the family and you can tell her and Andrew are proud of their wines and vineyards and so they should be. Within their quaint cellar door, they present stunning single vineyard Rieslings, as well as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Semillon. Now, it’s awfully hard to transport wine on a bike, trust me, I ride to work at Wine Selectors and constantly attempt to juggle wines home. However, not to worry, Jane will personally deliver any purchases direct to your accommodation that very same day.  Watervale
Departing Mitchell Wines, with a few more turns of the cog, you’ll be off the detour and back on the trail. This is where things start to go downhill, literally, not figuratively, as you’re now over the incline and can give the legs a rest as you glide through the rolling hills towards Watervale. As soon as you arrive, it’s essential to restore your energy with some carb loading and there’s no better place to do so than the Watervale General Store . It’s one of those charming country icons that is part café, part grocery store, part post office. The food is simple and delicious, but heed my warning, it's not wise to consume a full pizza and then carry on the trail as if you are riding in Le Tour De France. That pizza will come back to haunt you. Leasingham
With a full stomach and renewed energy, it shouldn’t take long to reach the next town of Leasingham and the home of Claymore Wines . Here you can wash down lunch with a glass of Dark Side of The Moon or Bittersweet Symphony . No idea what I’m talking about? Cleverly, the majority of their wines are labelled after hit songs from a bygone era . However, there are no gimmicks when it comes to the wines with some seriously good juice going on here. Sing your way through the range, find your favourite and sit down with a glass accompanied by a board of local South Australian Cheese. For a second in time, you will completely forget about your aching muscles and the fact you still have to ride home.  The Riesling Trail comes to an end a further five clicks south at the town of Auburn. Unfortunately, I cannot tell the tale of Auburn as Leasingham is as far as my legs would carry me. Some say, namely my wife, it was the pizza that lead to my ultimate demise however that’s neither here nor there.  Now begins the journey home, although it's not over yet. As any good bicycle wine tour strategist knows, you’re going to get thirsty, so Stone Bridge in Sevenhill is the perfect rehydration stop. Crafting not only exceptional Riesling but another 14 wines from 7 different grape varieties, Stone Bridge has something to quench any thirst. The aftermath Once off the bike if you stop moving things begin to hurt, the wine wears off and the lactic acid sets in. The only solution is to manoeuvre yourself directly to Seed Winehouse and Kitchen in Clare . Immersed in the simplistic stone and natural timber of the old chaff mill, you begin to imagine you are somewhere in rural Italy about to dine on local rustic cuisine. However, Head Chef Guy Parkinson is no Nonna, he may be better. Offering sophisticated A la Carte and degustation options, the menu highlights local produce with a wine list to reflect. Nearly 200 local and international wines will make the decision hard, add in 47 Gin choices and the mind begins to boggle. Whatever your decision there is no doubt any indulgence is guilt free. You have literally burned off three Big Macs during the ride so sit back, reward yourself and reflect on the beauty of the Clare Valley and the amazing wines it has to offer. Your Quick Guide to the Clare Valley Riesling Trail Wineries Knappstein Enterprises Winery and Brewery Mitchell Wines Claymore Wines Stone Bridge Restaurant Seed Winehouse and Kitchen in Clare Watervale General Store Bike Hire Riesling Trail Bike Hire
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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