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Life

Gourmet Destinations - Argentina

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.

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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.
Wine
The Granite Belt: Beautiful One Day, Perfect Wine The Next
Words by Paul Diamond on 8 May 2017
Cool climate wines from Queensland – if that sounds strange, head to the  Granite Belt wine region  and you’ll find plenty! It’s well established that the first ‘official’ Australian wine region was Farm Cove NSW, planted by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788. But what about the second? If you assumed it was in South Australia, Victoria or even Tasmania, you would be wrong.  It is, in fact, Queensland’s Granite Belt, planted in 1820, preceding Victorian and South Australian regions by 15-plus years. Given most of Queensland is hot and tropical, we usually associate it with beaches and reefs rather than grape vines. However, the Sunshine State has a rich and varied agricultural history and people are now starting to favour the Granite Belt’s cool climate, Euro-style wines. Three hours south west of Brisbane on the southern Darling Downs, the Granite Belt is situated around Queensland’s apple capital, Stanthorpe. This is heralded on your arrival by a massive apple on a pole, a bold indicator of local pride in the tradition of Coffs Harbour’s big banana, Ballina’s prawn and Goulburn’s Merino. Originally known as ‘Quart Pot Creek’, Stanthorpe was settled when tin was discovered in the late 1800s. Fruit production followed as the altitude and climate started to attract Italian immigrants who’d come to Australia to cut cane and then moved south to take up pastoral leases.  Cool Climb Wines As you travel south west from Ipswich along the Cunningham Highway, you start the gradual climb through the Great Dividing Range. By the town of Aratula, a popular resting spot, the temperature drops considerably and you realise how cool it gets at 110 metres above sea level.  The Granite Belt has some of Australia’s highest altitude vineyards and it is the associated cool climate that is the perfect setting for the region’s fine boned wines. So don’t visit this region expecting big, ripe wine styles that are popular in warmer areas. The cool climate dictates that the Granite Belt’s wine styles are closer to those of Europe. Think medium bodied, savoury reds with fine tannins and pronounced acidity. In the whites, expect lighter, citrus driven styles with elegant layers and fine acid lines. Adding to the Granite Belt’s wine identity is the fact it excels in alternative styles. While you’ll certainly find mainstream varieties like  Shiraz ,  Cabernet   and  Chardonnay , real excitement comes from discoveries like  Fiano ,  Vermentino , Chenin Blanc, Savagnin, Barbera, Graciano, Durif, Nebbiolo and Tannat. Granite Belt producers have long recognised that these varieties are the future and with their unique alternative identity, have dubbed themselves the ‘Strange Birds’ of the Australian wine scene. In fact, visitors can explore this fascinating region by following one of the Strange Bird Wine Trails. BOIREANN WINERY Established in the early 1980s by Peter and Therese Stark, Boireann has been a Granite Belt standout for decades. While quality and consistency are high, production is low, with reds the specialty and only a very small amount of  Viognier  grown to co-ferment with Shiraz. Standouts are their Shiraz Viognier, Barbera, Nebbiolo and the ‘Rosso’, a Nebbiolo Barbera blend. www.boireannwinery.com.au/ GOLDEN GROVE Third generation winemaker Ray Costanzo has made wine all over the world, but is passionate about the Granite Belt. Golden Grove is one of the oldest wineries in the region, making a wide range of wines including Sparkling Vermentino, Barbera, Nero d’Avola and  Tempranillo , but it is Ray’s  Vermentino  that has developed a solid following.  www.goldengroveestate.com.au JESTER HILL Established in 1993, Jester Hill is now a family affair, having been bought by ex-health professionals Michael and Ann Burke in 2010. With the new focus that Michael is bringing to the wines, the estate is building momentum and picking up accolades along the way. Standouts include their Roussanne, Chardonnay, Shiraz and  Petit Verdot .  www.jesterhillwines.com.au/ BALLANDEAN With an extraordinary history of winemaking that stretches back to the 1930s, the Puglisi family have been operating their cellar door and passionately flying the Granite Belt flag since 1970. Fourth generation Puglisis Leeane and Robyn are warm, generous, regional advocates, who have a large cellar door from which they love sharing their passion for both the wines and the people of the Granite Belt. Tasting highlights include their  Viognier , Opera Block Shiraz and Saperavi, a full-bodied red that originally hails from Georgia.   www.ballandeanestate.com/ JUST RED Another family-owned winery, Just Red is run by Tony and Julie Hassall with their son Michael and daughter Nikki. Just Red’s organic wines are styled on the great wines of the Rhône and are winning awards in the show system. Their star wines include Tannat,  Shiraz Viognier , Cabernet Merlot. www.justred.com.au/ RIDGEMILL ESTATE WINERY Starting its life as Emerald Hill in 1998, Ridgemill boasts a modern but unpretentious cellar door looking out on dramatic mountain surroundings. The broad range of wines is crafted by winemaker Peter McGlashan and includes Chardonnay, Shiraz,  Shiraz Viognier , Mourvèdre and Saparavi. With its self-contained studio cabins, Ridgemill is a great place to base yourself. www.ridgemillestate.com/ SYMPHONY HILL Symphony Hill’s winemaker Mike Hayes is quite possibly the Australian king of alternative wine varieties. Mike won the Churchill Fellowship and travelled around the world studying alternative styles. His wines are highly awarded, vibrant and interesting. A trip to the Granite Belt is not complete without a tasting with Mike, including his standout expressions of  Fiano , Lagrien, Gewürztraminer,  Petit Verdot and Reserve Shiraz. www.symphonyhill.com.au/ TOBIN WINE Adrian Tobin’s wines are a strong philosophical statement, reinforcing the notion that wine is made in the vineyard.  Since establishing Tobin Wine in 1999, Adrian has been deeply connected to his vines and produces a small amount of high quality Sauv Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet. All of Adrian’s wines are named after his grandchildren and are collectables.  www.tobinwines.com.au/ GIRRAWEEN ESTATE Steve Messiter and his wife Lisa started Girraween Estate in 2009. Small and picturesque, it is home to one of the region’s earliest vine plantings. They produce modest amounts of Sparkling wines, including Pinot Chardonnay along with Shiraz, Rosé and Sauv Blanc. Their table wines include Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet.  www.girraweenestate.com.au FEELING HUNGRY There is no shortage of good food in the Granite Belt, but a trip to  Sutton’s Farm  is essential. An apple orchard, it’s owned by David and Roslyn Sutton, who specialise in all things apple, including juice, cider and brandy. Their shed café also pays homage to the humble apple with the signature dish being home made apple pie served with Sutton’s spiced apple cider ice cream and whipped cream. For breakfast, try  Zest Café  located in town, where the coffee is fantastic and their baking game is strong. Their breakfast will definitely see you going back for seconds.  A delicious choice for lunch or dinner is the  Barrelroom and Larder , lovingly run by Travis Crane and Arabella Chambers.  Attached to Ballandean winery, the Barrelroom is casual in style and fine in output. Everything that Travis and Arabella cook comes from within a three hour radius and if it doesn’t exist in that area, they don’t cook it. A fantastic way to spend an afternoon is with Ben and Louise Lanyon at their  McGregor Terrace Food Project . Based in a Stanthorpe, this neighborhood bistro with a gorgeous whimsical garden offers cooking from the heart with the surrounds to match. Whether your choice is a Granite Belt alternative ‘Strange Bird’ or a more traditional varietal, take it along to Ben and Lou’s Food Project, sit out the back and you’ll feel like you’re in the south of France. You will, in fact, be in Queensland, thinking that it is a pretty cool place to be; literally and figuratively.     
Life
The way to travel in 2016
When cruise ships parade into the harbours of the world and get fanfare normally reserved for royalty, you know that cruising is more than back in fashion – it is the way to travel, today’s ‘jet set’ are now called the ‘cruise crew’. Three of the key factors for cruising’s amazing resurgence are: the incredible facilities on board today’s modern ships; the wondrously varied on-shore excursions; and phenomenal range of never-before-visited destinations. And things are only going to get better in 2016. The modern cruise ship is light years from the behemoths that sailed the waterways of years gone by. These days, there are more boutique-style ships catering from 680 - 1,250 guests – consequently, there is a heightened sense of intimacy and a personalised holiday experience. Staff and crew attend to your every whim and remember your individual preferences, there are no lines, going ashore and returning on board takes minutes rather than hours, and life just seems to proceed at a more relaxed pace. Facilities and entertainment have been described as a floating five-star hotel crossed with the best of a theatre district. Everything from bespoke spa services to English-style libraries, a live pianist, classical string quartet, dynamic vocalists and spectacular headliners. You may also wish to try your luck in an elegant Monte Carlo-style casino. Some cruises even have guest lecturers who might be historians, naturalists or former ambassadors, eager to share insider knowledge. Guests’ suites are a personal sanctuary with state-of-the-art custom-made furnishings such as plush ‘Tranquility Beds’ with1,000-thread-count linen, lavish marble-infused grand baths (with a private half-bath for guests), showers, luxurious sitting rooms and private teak verandas. Guests are even given their own range of fine Bvlgari bath amenities^. On-board dining has really stepped up. Celebrity chefs such as Jacques Pépin are providing signature dishes at a range of dining options from French bistro, gourmet Italian, contemporary Asian, French country cuisine, American steakhouses and more and matched with wine lists to rival any Michelin-starred restaurants.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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