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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
Dusted with Love at Spicers Sangoma
Words by Libbi Gorr on 7 Nov 2016
Many years ago as a couple, we had visited an old Buddhist Monk, Genzhan. It was early in our relationship. The key to harmony was simple, he explained, as he cooked for us in his home a simple yet enriching feast. “Don’t stir the sediment”, he intoned. It would be 20 years later with plenty of sediment that randomly swirled that we found ourselves driving to the Bowen Mountains retreat of Spicers Sangoma . ‘Sangoma’ is a Zulu term used for traditional healing practices of the heart and spirit. This is a retreat aimed at getting its guests to reconnect. Not just with nature, but more importantly, with each other. We have an abiding and deep love for each other. Let’s say that up front. It’s just that life often gets in the way. Sangoma is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, just off the Bells Line of Road before Bilpin. The retreat is secluded within the tinkling of bellbird bushland. There’s nothing else within easy walking distance. We were directed on arrival in the nicest possible way by Rhiannon, our host, to a high ceilinged , chandelier-adorned tent perched above the bushland. Here, we would submit to a tandem couples massage. Time was of the essence – our stay was 48 hours at the most – so we gave up fast. We were ultimately scraped off the massage tables, and efficiently poured into fluffy bathrobes for despatch to our bushland apartment to rest before dinner. It was a given that we would make our way through the bush clad merely in bathrobes and shoes. There are no airs and graces. Just sense, elegant simplicity and comfort. That’s a good way to describe the accommodation as well. Think Besser brick, corrugated iron, rich timber. Imagine high vaulted ceilings and wall-to-floor windows looking out over bush . Visualise an ever-so-wide wooden deck overlooking the valley complete with day beds that invite no good. Picture a glass-walled bathroom with a showerhead attached straight to the ceiling, as if you were bathing in a waterfall. In fact, the shower was just a vast wet area, in chattings length from the freestanding bath. Bathing within walls of glass initially made me feel a little vulnerable, but then I realised there was no chance of neighbours looking in. There were no neighbours. Rhiannon brought us a delicious cheese platter to enjoy with  local wines and craft beers in the fridge, organic potato chips and a peppering of handmade couture chocolates. I asked what other ‘wellness’ activities there were for us to indulge in whilst we were here – a yoga class perhaps? An organised bushwalk? A pedicure? Hot mud bath? Naught , Rhiannon replied. Nothing to distract you from yourselves. Or from nature. There was a TV in the room, but it was tuned to a jazz radio station. Our phones had just enough reception to monitor the outside world, but not easily engage. Wasn’t that fortuitous, exclaimed the beautiful Rhiannon, with a gentle reminder that our job was to ‘reconnect’. Disconnect to reconnect? What a confronting concept. We’d only just relaxed. We decided to nap instead. That big, inviting, clean white-sheeted bed strewn with all those delicious plump pillows just looked so spacious and crisp and welcoming. Thank goodness we woke in time for dinner. A Delicious Dusting The Danish cherish a concept called hygge – the art of creating a ‘cosiness of the soul’ and the dining room at Spicers Sangoma exudes hygge . And it’s that cosiness of the soul which is first on the menu of ‘reconnection’. That first night, our five-course degustation (the style I’d describe as gourmet sustainable) featured exciting combinations, surprising ingredients and matched wines for each course. Apart from being delicious, it was how it was served that made our evening such a spoil. It was a dinner made by people who wanted us to feel good. There was no passive aggressive feeding of us with calorie-laden concoctions that would make us oh and ah and groan with dismay all at the same time. Care was taken to nourish us imaginatively. And the service that came with it too was not too posh, not too familiar, but polished and warm. We were there to connect with our food and the people who had made it. To be nurtured in every way. To enjoy what Sam the Chef had cooked that night – he even brought the plates out himself. We could taste the idiosyncratic bursts of his personality in his offerings. And whilst everything presented was sublime, the nurturing, connective experience was the cleverness of the enterprise. The human condiments season the experience with wit, care and kindness. Artifice bit the dust. Everything bit the dust actually. Sam and his kitchen crew had being playing around with the dehydrating machine and creating ‘dusts’ to sprinkle on an array of offerings – mushroom dust, fennel dust, beetroot dust. The dust, once in the mouth, becomes rehydrated to deliver a burst of vibrant flavour. Cute idea, huh? Metaphoric, perhaps? Connection at last The retreat can welcome 12 people at a time, and it’s run by a handful of staff, who genuinely seem to have as part of their duties true care of the guests as well as functioning of the site. The nightly rate includes three beautiful meals and all beverages (including alcohol), but extras like massages and rose petal filled scented baths amidst a candle lit bedroom must be pre-arranged. The leisurely breakfast both mornings was a standout. There’s a lap pool and sauna, and we also ventured out to do three laps of the property, which took us about 40 minutes, wandering slowly. We felt no urge to go anywhere else. We were loved and dusted. And the reconnection? After breakfast on day two, the inner voices were both civil and calm, to both ourselves and to each other. We had taken time to just bask in the sun. And within those boundaries, these kind people had tenderly dusted our relationship to discover the vintage gleam we know is there. There was no need to go wading in deep to stir the sediment. Just rehydrate the dust to create a burst of colour and flavour once again to surprise and delight us and make appropriate use of the day bed. For those who can submit to tenderness and care, Sangoma is a true spoil. Words by Libbi Gorr.  To find out more about Spicers Sagoma visit   https://spicersretreats.com/spicers-sangoma-retreat/
Life
Hong Kong Top 10 Sights and Tastes
Words by Nicole Gow on 30 Mar 2017
Wine Selectors  Tasting Panellist Nicole Gow  reveals her top ten delicious, indulgent and relaxing reasons to visit Hong Kong   If you’re looking for a destination with diversity, where one minute you’re in a buzzing city, then just 20 minutes later, hiking and swimming in a national park, Hong Kong is for you. Renowned for its food scene, it requires a healthy appetite and as all that eating is thirsty work, it’s handy that the local bar scene is really thriving. It’s a place where the traffic is bustling, yet still flows, it’s warm and welcoming, clean but not sterile, and quintessentially Asia. It’s a city where you can have a fabulous family holiday, or indulge in pure enjoyment as a couple. Whatever your purpose for visiting Hong Kong, here are my top 10 things to do: 1. Live Like a Local
Packed with colour, flavour, scents and action, there are food markets to explore in almost every side street. When you’re ready to eat,  Lan Fong Yuen  in Gage Street, Central, is a popular local haunt. It’s famous for its milk tea, an art unto itself that’s poured through strainers six times and served with evaporated milk, creating a deliciously creamy yet tannic drink. And while you’re there, it’d be rude not to get the French toast and bagel with condensed milk. Then don’t leave the area without a few of the famous egg tarts from  Tai Cheong Bakery . 2. Shop Shop Shop Hong Kong has long been renowned as a shopper’s paradise, but with its abundance of shops, markets and malls, it can be hard to know where to start. I recommend planning your spree along the city’s shopping districts. On Hong Kong Island, you’ll find Admiralty, Central and Soho, Causeway Bay and Sheung Wan, while Kowloon is home to Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon East and West, and Mong Kok. Within each district, getting from one shopping destination to the next is easy, especially with an Octopus card that gets you on both trams and buses. 3. Good Fortune For Your Mouth
In Hong Kong, more locals eat out than at home, as it’s usually cheaper and with more than 14,000 restaurants, it’s a dining mecca. For a special treat, head to  Ho Lee Fook , which translates as ‘Good Fortune for your Mouth’. Taiwanese-born chef Jowett Yu’s Chinese kitchen has a funky bright interior where catchy tunes entertain the throngs of diners. Jowett’s food is a clear celebration of his love of food and travel, encapsulated in the 10 years he spent in Australia at Ms G’s & Mr Wong. With fond memories of shucking fresh oysters in Bateman’s Bay, it’s little wonder his food speaks of freshness. The pork belly and Hong Kong-style French toast served with peanut butter and maple syrup or condensed milk are must haves. He has a great wine list too. 4. Wine & Dine Festival If you’re lucky enough to visit Hong Kong in late October, the  Wine & Dine Festival kicks off the Great November Feast . This month of indulgence includes epicurean culinary events, street carnivals, and wine and dine offers all around town. The Wine and Dine festival is situated next to the stunning Victoria Harbour skyline, so the night time backdrop is particularly spectacular 5. Walk or Run
If you’re looking for more compelling evidence that exercise helps you live longer, a walk or run in  Victoria Park, Causeway Bay  is a must. A memorable sight are the masses of seniors doing Tai Chi across the park to the meditative chimes of Chinese music boxes. Or for something completely different, get up early on a Sunday morning and run around the famed Happy Valley Racetrack alongside the horses. Giddy up. Don’t forget, you’re here to eat so keep active to stay food fit! 6. Sharp Island Part of the Sai Kung District, Sharp Island is a 45-minute journey from Hong Kong city, taking in some regional sights along the way. The short trip from Sai Kung Town Port across to the island on a traditional Chinese junk is a memorable beginning. On arrival at the picturesque national park, you can go on a guided 1.5km walk, taking in the scenic surrounds – an impressive contrast to the city lights and action you left behind less than an hour ago. It can get pretty warm though, so a jump off the pontoon and a swim can be a cool reward – and a great way to burn off a few dumplings. 7. Neighbourhood Night Life
Thanks to its vibrant, world-class nightlife, Hong Kong has become a breeding ground for cocktail mixologists. Cool wine bars are dotted across town – La Cabane a Vin in Hollywood Road is a personal favourite – and the surge in biodynamic and natural wines is pushing things along. A visit to the Soho district is a must to check out the work of Australia’s award-winning bar designer, Ashley Sutton. Hailing from Fremantle, WA, Ashley used to work in the mining industry, and you can seen this influence in the one-off works of art he’s created in bars and industrial spaces. The  Iron Fairies  is Ashley’s third Hong Kong bar and it’s all aflutter. Over 10,000 butterflies on thin copper rods hang from the ceiling in a space that’s dominated by iron, timber and leather features. Around the bar there are 12,000 bottles of fairy dust and in the centre of each table are thousands of iron fairies. Ashley is also the design brains behind  J. Boroski’s , an invitation-only bar hidden off Hollywood Road. Named after the renowned mixologist/owner, it has a windowless, tunnel-like interior where the wall over the bar is decorated with rows of preserved beetles – a nod to Boroski’s fascination with entomology. 8. Repulse Bay
A 20-minute bus ride from the city will bring you to the upmarket yet relaxed, low rise residential seaside resort of  Repulse Bay . Popular with both locals and visitors, and home to several super yachts, Repulse Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in Hong Kong. Soak up the sun on the beach, hit the designer shops or enjoy the many award-winning restaurants. Limewood serves a casual, yet very satisfying lunch – BBQ local seafood in a fusion of Mexican, Hawaiian and Asian flavours. I absolutely recommend the sea urchin guacamole and the freshly shucked oysters with quail egg, calamansi, scallion and ponzu, while pork neck in tamarind, garlic, chilli and charred lime was a crowd favourite. Finish with churros drizzled in caramel sauce and coconut ice-cream. High up on the hill coming into Repulse Bay is  Ocean Park Hong Kong , an award-winning marine-life theme park featuring animal exhibits, thrill rides and shows. A world-class experience, it blends entertainment with education and conservation. 9. Iconic Sites
Nothing beats seeing a city from the air, and the best panoramic view of Hong Kong Island is from its highest point, ‘The Peak’. It has also been the city’s most exclusive neighbourhood since colonial times. It features observation decks, restaurants, a historical gallery and the Peak Tram (the opening and closing scenes of the 1955 movie Soldier of Fortune, starring Clark Gable, were filmed in the Peak Tram). During the day, the view sweeps from the sparkling skyscrapers and Victoria Harbour all the way to the green hills of the New Territories. By sunset, the panorama shimmers as vivid pinks and oranges bounce off buildings and at night, the light show begins as the city comes alive. By day or night, board a Chinese junk boat and set sail into Hong Kong’s scenic harbour. Originally owned and manned by Chinese fishermen, the DukLing is typical of the junks that used to crisscross Hong Kong waterways. This trip sails you past the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, which sits on the spot of the old Hong Kong Kai Tak International Airport, renowned for its dramatic landings over the city. Back on land yet at altitude, another incredible angle of Hong Kong and probably the best tea selection you’ll ever experience are offered at high tea at  The Ritz. The view, service, ambience, décor and tiers of sweet delights on offer are memorable and highly recommended. While you’re there, head up a few more floors for a drink at Hong Kong’s most celebrated roof top skybar, OZONE. It has an impressive wine and Champagne list and the Signature cocktails are extreme. 10. Decent Coffee For coffee lovers, the scene is really on the improve with plenty of funky new neighbourhoods appealing to locals and visitors alike.  Fineprint Espresso and Liquor  in the Hollywood Road district is the place to go and I can see why. Not only is the coffee a hit, but it’s the brain child of Aussie husband and wife team, Jamima and Scotty Callaghan. Scotty, a coffee roaster in Australia, set up a similar ‘roasters’ model in Hong Kong and the chefs came in droves for the decent brew and to purchase his Redback beans for their local restaurant and cafes in Hong Kong. The interest led to the coffee shop opening and it’s been a massive hit. Here’s the twist...at night the shop becomes a wine bar, taking just an hour to ‘flip’. It’s a very clever use of space in a city that doesn’t have much, but which has developed a craving for good coffee and wine. Pack, Plan and Fly
Last few quick tips: bring room in your luggage, room in your stomach or better still, an oversized muumuu. For more on all there is to do in Hong Kong, visit  discoverhongkong.com . Qantas ( qantas.com.au ) flies direct from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Fly Business Class to really kick off your culinary journey with Neil Perry’s in-flight menu and superb Aussie wines and Champagne.
Life
Be still my Indian heart
Words by Kathy Lane on 14 Jan 2016
It was love at first sight, smell and taste. My sensory affair with India began when I visited just over a year ago and I’ve been besotted ever since. I was lucky enough to travel to India for the first time with Melbourne’s Epicurious Travel, experiencing a customised version of their ‘Indian Odyssey’ adventure.   When I headed back six months later, I added a side order of Kolkata and opened my heart even further to the joys of this incredible country. One of the greatest sources of my adoration for India is her food, which is prepared with care and tradition after daily trips to the market. At our first stop, Delhi, breakfast is a revelation. There is the delicious simplicity of the masala omelette, featuring a creamy eggyness that plays with the acidic tang of tomato and the subtle heat of chilli. Then there’s the savoury melange of the breakfast masala dosai, a rice and lentil batter fermented overnight then fried and served as a long, crisp pancake roll stuffed with a spicy potato curry. Black mustard seeds, fenugreek and fresh curry leaves deliver a gentle punch in the potato, while the dosai is served with a colourful array of sambars and chutney that are like nothing I have ever tasted. The crunchy coconut sambar and spicy tomato chutney are unbelievably fresh with a lingering depth of spicy, exotic and addictive flavours. Chandni Chowk bazaar in Old Delhi is a crazy, mysterious labyrinth of narrow laneways that all seem to lead inwards, while its main drag is a frantic explosion of cars, trucks, taxis and trolleys, where vendors sell their wares with vocal abandon and a sea of people crush the pavements. In the depths of the market streets, fruit and vegetable sellers perch on their haunches, or lie resting, their fresh, bright produce by their sides. Young men push flat-bedded trolleys of melons, gourds and greens, looking for the next buyer. Fresh watermelon juice is pressed and loaded with ice, giving some relief from the stifling heat. Pots of oil splatter as they cook delicious jalebi – a saffron-tinted disk of pastry with hints of cardamom and rosewater that play with the lingering sweetness. Vegetable samosas are the ultimate savoury street food. Potato and peas mixed with an array of aromatic spices: cumin, garlic, ginger, chilli and turmeric, their crisp pastry delicious and satisfying. We eat chicken kebabs fresh from the tandoor, strung onto metal skewers with onion and green capsicum, covered in a spice mix of cumin, turmeric and garlic, and served with a pot of bubbling dal. India has a love affair with dal, its shades and flavours unique to each region. In northern India, dal makhani features an array of dark beans and lentils flavoured with chillis, garlic, ginger, onions and unique spice mixes. When ours arrive, a knob of garlic butter has been placed in the bottom of the copper serving pot. The steamy dal is placed on top, its heat melting the butter and creating a lava-like explosion of flavour as its garlicky goodness infuses the beans. Rich, textural and highly complex, its lasting flavours linger in my memory. The bustle to the iconic From Delhi, we travel by bus to Agra, enjoying the countryside, where villagers barter at their local market, tend their land and mend things. Indians can fix anything it seems – including our broken down bus – with garages and workshops in every town, faces and hands stained from the grimy work, the air heavy as the scent of automotive oil mingles with village life. The ultimate monument to love, the Taj Mahal, is a sight to behold. Its majesty at sunrise breathtaking in its beauty, its painstaking construction a work of symmetry and wealth, the ultimate jewel in Agra’s – and India’s - crown.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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