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Chat: Sharon Stone

Hollywood siren Sharon Stone plays Dorothy Boreman, a haggard and exhausted housewife and mother in the film Lovelace, which tells the story of  1970’s porn actress Linda Lovelace.

The film portrays the domestic violence, the abuse and the pain Linda suffered during her years of fame.

The role for Stone is a far cry from her Hollywood sex symbol status.

I snared an Australian radio exclusive with the Basic Instinct star and soon realised that Sharon, at 55 years of age (at the time),  is very comfortable with being famous.

She also chatted about her admiration for Aussies and how she would change the world.

Lovelace, also stars Amanda Seyfried, Hank Azaria, Peter Sarsgaard and Chris Noth, opens in Australian cinemas on September 26.

 

Bush Tucker, Yulara, Uluru

I didn’t know what a quandong was when I sat down with Patricia Solomon to talk about her work at the Kulata Academy café at Ayers Rock Resort.

In less than two years, Ms Solomon has been promoted to Step-Up Leader at the incredibly busy cafe and training academy that churns out build-your own sandwiches, focaccias and wraps from morning to late afternoon.

It’s a basic concept – people select their sandwich fillings then add sauces, dressings and condiments to their stomach’s delight.

patsolomon

I’m told grabbing a kangaroo sanga is a visitor favorite but many ask for a taste test before committing to the whole sandwich – only to exclaim – “It tastes like roast beef!”

As you wander into Yulara Town Square, you’re more than likely to witness an extraordinary queue of keen and hungry visitors, patiently waiting for their reasonably-priced repast.

As Ms Solomon talked me through her life-changing decision to leave family in Townsville to take up a gig at the Resort, I was impressed by her passion and respect for her work, food and culture.

“I started off not knowing how to carry two glasses on a tray. Then I got the opportunity to learn from others who know five-star dining right through to working in a cafe,” she told me.

“I feel I’ve changed as a person. Two years ago, I was sour towards people but I feel now, through working in customer service, it’s opened my mind to how everyone has a story.

“Instead of being closed off, I’m now open to conversation. Everyone is so interesting.”

Ms Solomon believes visitors also change their ways after coming to Yulara.

“Being Indigenous, I feel this is the motherland because they still practice traditional ways. So, it makes me proud when customers and guests ask me questions about me or here.

“I feel that people coming here and learning about the culture and how people live off the land, they leave with a better appreciation for the environment.”

Ayers Rock Resort has introduced a new Bush Tucker Trail at its eateries, cafes and restaurants with flavours such as Lemon Myrtle, Kakadu Plum, Bush Tomato, Quandong and Wattleseed incorporated into dishes across every restaurant.

Offerings include braised pork belly sliders with kakadu plum chili sauce, cucumber and macadamia nut salad or grilled crocodile tail dusted with bush dukkah with spinach salad and lemon myrtle and mango dressing.

Naturally, a selection of Bush Tucker cocktails have also been whipped up by mixologist Ty Bennett. They include a Lemon Myrtle Martini, a Quandong Capriosca and Native Mint and Desert Lime Mojito

Tourism Australia says that Indigenous experiences and food and wine were key to Australia’s international tourism offering.

About 14 per cent of international tourists to Australia take part in an Aboriginal cultural experience, bringing in about 5.6 billion dollars a year.

Ray Stone from Voyages says the team of Executive chefs joined forces to create contemporary dishes that add ingredients that have been used in Indigenous cuisine for thousands of years.

After my inspiring chat with Ms Solomon (who is hoping to one day be promoted to manager), and as I sunk my teeth into the Quandong cheesecake, I realised I actually love the taste of wild peach.

The writer travelled courtesy of Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia

Krabi, Thailand

It’s a clever, thoughtful hotel that compiles a series of indoor activities for those times you don’t feel like venturing outside for a drenching. Stretches of South East Asia, including Thailand, are known for afternoon downpours during monsoon or wet season, so ideas are welcome on what to do when it’s teeming rain.

As I absorbed the serenity of the expansive foyer at the Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, I noted the list of fun things to do written neatly on a solid, wooden framed blackboard.

The activities included batik, yoga, candle-making, Thai boxing, learn how to speak Thai and bag painting but what caught my eye, (the eye of someone often chided for being a dreadful cook) was the Thai cooking class.

I adore Tom Yam and just my luck, how to make the spicy soup was part of the rainy-day tuition.

Krabi 3

On entering the custom-made cooking school, tucked in amongst gorgeous gardens, I observed piled-up spices, fresh herbs, gleaming pots and pans, glossy bench-tops and shiny silver cooking stations.

Then I saw the man who would impress me for the next two hours with his knowledge, patience and humour: chef of 40 years Phak Phakphoom.

What a sweet smile he shared as he imparted the cooking tips he’d accrued over the decades.

Krabi 1

The following is what I believe is the ultimate (and authentic) Tom Yam recipe with notes attached as told to me by Chef Phakphoom.

Tom Yam Goong ( Hot and Sour Prawn soup)

200 gram prawns, cleaned,

3 cups water (or stock)

2 garlic cloves minced.

3 thin slices fresh galangal

¼ cup fish sauce

2 stalks lemon grass

2 shallots sliced

2 kaffir lime leaves

½ cup sliced straw mushrooms

5 green Thai chili peppers ( optional)

¼ cup lime juice

1 teaspoon chili jam

1 teaspoon chopped coriander leaves

Preparation:

Heat water to boiling. Add the garlic, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass and shallots to the water ( or stock). Add the mushrooms and chili peppers. Cook gently for two minutes. Add prawns to the soup and reheat to boiling. When the prawns are cooked, place lime juice, fish sauce and chili jam in a serving bowl. Pour the soup into the bowl, stir, garnish with coriander and serve.

Chef notes: Do not take the stems off the kaffir lime leaves. Only use skinny pieces of lemongrass. In order to “balance” the dish, it’s crucial to use an identical amount of lime juice and fish sauce. It’s okay to cheat and use bought chili jam since it takes a full day to make a homemade version. And as Chef suggested with a cheeky grin, “Chili jam okay for Europe people but only half spoon.” Smash chili peppers with a spoon to release the juices. Turn lime inside out to squeeze maximum juice out of it. Do not overcook prawns.

Footnote: The soup was delicious and I have proudly made it on my return from Krabi. However there’s just one thing missing at home: Chef’s guiding smile.

Krabi 2

Donna Demaio was a guest of Accor, Qantas and Bangkok Airways.

Roc’s Bar, Jam Factory, South Yarra

Roc’s Bar at the Village Cinemas at the Jam Factory has officially opened, describing itself as New York cool. At the launch, invited guests were treated to the theatre of freeze-dried popcorn, cool champagne and canapes (the prawn and chorizo skewers were a hit) – an apparent expression of gratitude for the crowd who had stepped out on a brisk Monday eve.

As the film fans snuggled into the V-max seat to watch Jason Bourne, a special mention was made of the founder of Village Cinemas, Roc Kirby. It was he who in the 1950’s founded Village Drive-Ins in Croydon ( later the operation was to be known as Village Drive-Ins and Cinemas) and who now has a beautiful bar named after him.

A brief video introduction from actor Matt Damon was impressive, as he noted the crowd was amongst the first in Australia to see the action-packed film.

Roc’s, with piano bar, comfy couches and chic décor, hosted more drinks after the screening.

http://www.rocsjamfactory.com.au/#

 

Helpmann Awards, Sydney: 2016

Matilda the Musical has been the big winner, raking in 13 awards from 13 nominations at the 2016 16th annual Helpmann Awards in Sydney.

Hosts at the glittering event  included Chloe Dallimore, Helen Dallimore, Guy Noble, The Umbilical Brothers and Simon Phillips.

Others at the event, presenting the awards in a range of categories including comedy, cabaret, musicals and opera, included Tim Finn, Noni Hazlehurst and Eddie Perfect.

There were sensational performances from the Singin’ in the Rain cast, Sarah Blasko, Marina Prior, Ladies in Black and The Sound of Music, and more.

TIM MINCHIN

Photo: Tim Minchin ( copyright Donna Demaio)

The ceremony was broadcast live on Foxtel Arts and is available via webcast at www.foxtelarts.com.au until August 25.

Winners list:

BEST MUSICAL
MATILDA THE MUSICAL

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY
SARAH PEIRSE
The Golden Age
Sydney Theatre Company

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
DANIEL FREDERIKSEN
Matilda The Musical

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
ELISE MCCANN
Matilda The Musical

BEST INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY CONCERT
PRINCE ‘PIANO & A MICROPHONE’ TOUR 2016
Prince, Dainty Group and ICO ApS

BEST CONTEMPORARY MUSIC FESTIVAL
WOMADELAIDE 2016
Womadelaide Foundation

BEST AUSTRALIAN CONTEMPORARY CONCERT
KATE MILLER-HEIDKE AND THE TASMANIAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA WITH VISUALS BY AMY GEBHAR

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
ROB HOWELL
Matilda The Musical

BEST SCENIC DESIGN
ROB HOWELL
Matilda The Musical

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
TIM MINCHIN
Matilda The Musical

BEST MUSIC DIRECTION
STEPHEN AMOS
Matilda The Musical

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
HUGH VANSTONE
Matilda The Musical

BEST SOUND DESIGN
SIMON BAKER
Matilda The Musical

BEST INDIVIDUAL CLASSICAL MUSIC PERFORMANCE
PIERRE-LAURENT AIMARD
Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Melbourne Recital Centre and Sydney Symphony Orchestra

BEST CHAMBER AND/OR INSTRUMENTAL ENSEMBLE CONCERT
FRENCH BAROQUE WITH CIRCA
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

BEST SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT
SIR SIMON RATTLE CONDUCTS THE AUSTRALIAN WORLD ORCHESTRA
Australian World Orchestra

BEST PRESENTATION FOR CHILDREN
BAMBERT’S BOOK OF LOST STORIES
Barking Gecko Theatre Company

BEST REGIONAL TOURING PRODUCTION
SUGARLAND
Australian Theatre for Young People and Performing Lines

BEST CABARET PERFORMER
MICHAEL GRIFFITHS
Cole
Adelaide Festival Centre’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival

BEST COMEDY PERFORMER
TOM BALLARD
The World Keeps Happening
Token Events

BEST VISUAL OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION
IL RITORNO
Brisbane Festival and Circa

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A DANCE OR PHSYICAL THEATRE WORK
FRANCES RINGS
Sheoak
Bangarra Dance Theatre

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A MUSICAL
PETER DARLING
Matilda The Musical

BEST MALE DANCER IN A DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE WORK
KIMBALL WONG
Habitus
Australian Dance Theatre

BEST FEMALE DANCER IN A DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE WORK
YOLANDA LOWATTA
Sheoak

BEST MALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA
JOÃO FERNANDES
Agrippina
Brisbane Baroque in association with QPAC

BEST FEMALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA
KERI FUGE
Agrippina

BEST MALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA
CARLO VISTOLI
Agrippina

BEST FEMALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA
NICOLE CAR
Luisa Miller
Opera Australia

BEST DIRECTION OF AN OPERA
SIR DAVID MCVICAR
The Marriage of Figaro
Opera Australia

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
MARK LEONARD WINTER
Birdland
Melbourne Theatre Company

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
PAULA ARUNDELL
The Bleeding Tree
Griffin Theatre Company

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
JAMES MILLAR
Matilda The Musical

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
MOLLY BARWICK, DUSTY BURSILL, TIANA MIRRA, ALANNAH PARFETT, SASHA ROSE, GEORGIA TAPLIN, BELLA THOMAS AND INGRID TORELLI
Matilda The Musical

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
LEE LEWIS
The Bleeding Tree

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
MATTHEW WARCHUS
Matilda The Musical

BEST NEW AUSTRALIAN WORK
CAROLYN BURNS AND TIM FINN WITH SIMON PHILLIPS
Ladies in Black
Queensland Theatre Company

BEST OPERA
AGRIPPINA

BEST BALLET OR DANCE WORK
SHEOAK

BEST PLAY
THE BLEEDING TREEG

The ceremony was broadcast live on Foxtel Arts and is available via webcast at www.foxtelarts.com.au until August 25.

 

 

Wellington on a Plate 2016

Partly inspired by the success of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and a desire to celebrate great food and drink, respected New Zealand chef Martin Bosley teamed up with some pals about eight years ago to establish Visa Wellington on a Plate. Nowadays, the two week festival brings together thousands of people in August, to experience, explore and discover the treats that lie within the nation’s capital.

This year there are more than 130 events with Chef Bosley’s fourth Prison Gate to Plate, once again sold-out before the festival begins.  There are several sessions, where 80 people dine on food designed and made by maximum security prisoners at Rimutaka Prison, New Zealand’s largest jail. There are drug dog checks on the night before guests get a tour of the prison perimeter then seated for their meal in the correctional officer’s training quarters. Chef Bosley reveals that prisoners eat dinner in their cells, served on trays  through slots and not in a dining area as depicted in television shows.

Martin Bosley

Mr Bosley says it’s a golden job to work in the prison kitchen, so the six inmates that he works with and trains appreciate the opportunity. There are four in the back-up crew just in case the chosen ones “stuff up” (which has happened). Dinner is served by prisoners and correctional officers and to Mr Bosley’s delight, guests often can’t tell the difference.

The menu is printed at the prison print shop, the roses sourced from the gardens of Christchurch prison (nothing grows at Rimutaka according to Chef Bosley) and painted plates, made by inmates of course, decorate the walls of the dining room. This year, there’ll be a cookbook collating four years of Prison Gate to Plate recipes.

The menu is developed by the prisoners, who have been  learning to make sausages and squid ink ravioli. And since they expressed a strong interest in molecular gastronomy – caviar and foams have been added to the offerings.

Mr Bosley says his position on incarceration has altered, while the concept of “food as an agent of change” still plays in the back of his mind. “I used to think that since they’ve done bad things, they should be breaking rocks in the hot sun.  Why should I help them.”

Now he gets emotional reflecting on his own learning curve and how profoundly he’s changed. He’s heard the prisoner’s stories unfold while teaching them how to slow braise ox cheeks or break down a fish.  “We need to give them the opportunity to show they can be worthwhile and contributing members of society. During the process, they’ve been given self-confidence and self-esteem and  they’ve taught me empathy and humility.”

He is still trying to convince authorities to allow him to serve the upcoming dinners on the actual prison trays with scratched-on graffiti and gang slogans.

Meanwhile, he has succeeded in getting “jail juice” on the menu –  a non- alcoholic drink made of left-overs and essentially whatever the prisoners can get their hands on. This year, there’ll be three different flavours served.

There are so many inspired and interesting Visa Wellington on a Plate events.  Here are some top picks:

1/ The biggest beer festival in New Zealand is Beervana.  There will be about 60 breweries with more than 300 types of beer being served. It’s held at the Westpac Stadium, with thousands of craft beer enthusiasts gathering around the perimeter for the event.

Beervana  1

2/ A Taste of Old: Pioneer Cooking for Kids. Children get a hands-on  chance to take a trip back in time and experience cooking as it used to be: without electricity. The program is presented by the Garden to Table Trust.

3/ A record 116 burgers will vye for the big prize in this year’s Garage Project presents ‘Burger Wellington’, which sees food trucks and restaurants battling to win the ultimate accolade.

4/ The sleek and stylish Egmont Street Eatery is part of the Laneway Progressive Dinner that has you meandering through Wellington’s artisanal laneways, enjoying a veritable feast. Others taking part include Pizza Pomodoro and Golding’s Free Dive.

Ti Kouka Burger

5/ High Coffee at the Intercontinental. The plush foyer of the Intercontinental hotel is hosting high coffee with a delightful selection of sandwiches, pastries and not-to-be-missed coffee-flavoured macaroons. The event kicks off with an espresso martini.

High Coffee at Intercontinental, Wellington

6/ Pizza making wonder Tom Kirton (Tommy Millions) is presenting  an all you can eat pizza and dessert buffet at Prefab Café. The man spent time in New York to make sure he learnt what he needs to know about good pizza. And trust me, it’s great. There’s to be beer matching too, thanks to the Garage Project.

7/ Bypass the Bin is an afternoon well spent, learning how to minimise waste in your own kitchen. Chef MacLean Fraser is hosting the entertaining, informative masterclass which shows how to make the most of what’s in the kitchen.

Tommy Millions Pizza

Visa Wellington on a Plate, with 136 events, runs from August 12th to 28th. www.visawoap.com

The writer travelled to Wellington courtesy of Positively Wellington

 

 

 

 

Northern Germany: A nature tour

 

There I was at the Wadden Sea Unesco World Heritage site at Cuxhaven, feeling the mud squelching through my toes as I dug for worms on the tidal flats. My guide was a chatty chap who perhaps knew a little too much about these slippery and decidedly ugly lug worms that buried themselves under the sea bed, leaving trails of thousands of tiny hillocks of excrement (that resembled grey spaghettini).

Some visitors choose to walk the ten kilometres to the island of Neuwerk while others ride horseback. There are even horse carriages that will transport you. The visitor centre is brimming with insights and information on the sea life and why the site must continue to be protected.

www.npz.cuxhaven.de

It was in the late 19th century that an artists’ colony grew in the scenic village of Worpswede. Artists including Fritz Mackensen and Heinrich Vogeler founded the community where painters, poets and artists flocked because they wanted to connect with nature. They chose well. It is a place to admire works in quirky museums and intriguing galleries. There are vibrant indoor and outdoor exhibitions. There’s a lovely main street and pretty parks.  I took a ride on the River Hamme with Captain Klaus who kindly allowed me to steer the Torfkahn ( peat tub) for a bit. Activities include bird watching, horse riding, cycling, fishing and in winter, ice skating on the river.

www.bremen.tourism.de/worpswede

I strolled through the medieval city of Luneburg , stunned by the beautiful town hall and welcoming central square. It’s a cool university town, with houses made of half brick and half stone, and on the day I visited the city centre was preparing for a children’s street festival. To the south of the city is Luneburg Heath, where I enjoyed a long, leisurely nature walk through just a tiny part of the 7,400 square kilometre stretch of land. The area is considered a culturally historic landscape where the huge horned moorland sheep called the Heideschnucke graze. I saw only one that day but consoled myself with a delicious hot “schockoccino” at the café,  as the rain pelted down.  I had earlier walked to the highest spot on the Heath – the Wilseder Berg – at 169 metres high. It wasn’t too strenuous.  And the reserve has proudly established wheelchair accessible walks. It’s protected, so you can’t pick the blueberries but look out for tiny frogs hopping along the track. Or you can travel in a horse and carriage.

www.germany.travel

Not all the locals are happy that the marketing campaign to promote Hitzacker involves gnomes. There are big gnomes, small gnomes and every size in between peppering the place. Outside one major park, a taller-than-life-size smiling gnome welcomes all visitors with a grin and a hand-raised in-salute. The place itself is considered a “spa town” on the River Elbe. It has an assortment of places that will pamper and offer treatments for all manner of ailments. You can hire “beach baskets” which are adorable, compact, cosy and ideal for a restful/playful day on the sand.

A boat trip along the River Elbe was wonderful. A packed lunch and stories of times gone by when the river was the border between East and West ensued.

 

Spring boarding from Hitzacker, I visited the “Rundling Villages” (in the Wendland area in rural Lower Saxony)  that hark back to the medieval times when there were German overlords and Slavic subjects. There used to be more than one thousand such villages but now there are only 95 left. They can’t be spotted from the main roads – strategically hidden amongst or behind trees. The farmers who built the circular-shaped villages would divide the land into wedges and share evenly amongst themselves. After about 100 years, they stopped building the villages in such a fashion. For decades, a group of volunteers has been fighting to protect the villages and aiming to secure UNESCO World Heritage Status.  I visited the open-air museum in Lubeln (a rundling village of course) which gave a vivid insight into the lives the farm folk led.

 

www.rundlingsverein.de

The writer travelled courtesy of the German National Tourist Office

Los Angeles (the bits you don’t know)

Celebrity spotting, sunshine and shopping can sum up most people’s LA experience. And that can be a perfect break. But what if you’re seeking something different ? Perhaps this check-list can help.

Sunset Ranch

Sunset Ranch is nestled in Griffith Park, a massive municipal park at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains, covering 4,310 acres. My Sunset Ranch guide Joanie stated that so few locals, let alone visitors, are even aware that the park, one of the largest in North America, even exists. I am not a very “horsey” person so it was with a hint of fear and trepidation I rode “Marilyn” along the dusty trail through the Hollywood Hills. The views were phenomenal as we trekked close to the edge. The Griffith Park Observatory where Rebel Without a Cause was filmed was pointed out while the original bat cave entrance used in the Adam West Batman television series was also noted. It seems celebrity seeps in, even when you’re not trying, on most LA adventures.
3400 N Beachwood Drive Los Angeles Prices for Sunset Ranch start at 40 dollars (US) for an hour

Marina Del Ray

I waltzed through the stunning foyer of the Ritz Carlton at the seaside resort of Marina Del Ray in Los Angeles County and headed for the outdoor restaurant Cast and Plow where I proceeded to scoff the most delicious salmon I have ever tasted. The hotel has hosted the likes of Zsa Zsa Gabor to Britney Spears (apparently she loves the pool). On yet another stunning sunny day, I admired the pretty boats in the largest man-made small craft harbour in the world (it has 19 marinas). I was reliably informed that para-sailing in Marina Del Ray is amazing. I can believe it.
Ritz Carlton 4375 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Ray

Hiking

The kindly local that advised me that the hike to “behind the Hollywood” sign takes about 90 minutes round trip was sadly and emphatically wrong. It’s not his fault he didn’t factor in that I am incredibly unfit, and he wouldn’t have known that about 15 minutes into the walk ( which I suggest you do early morning, not in the heat of the day as I did) I would start to fall behind schedule. It’s not easy to find the beginning the hike and it can be tricky to stay on course but it is easily worth all the effort when you scale that final hill and perch yourself in front of those big iconic letters. There is a huge fence erected to prevent scaling the actual letters. Perhaps I didn’t look very “LA cool” but I completed the hike in about 2.5 hours and took home a brilliant sunburn as a souvenir. Hint: to find the entrance drive to the end of Canyon Drive in the Hills and park up. Start walking, it’s worth it.

Montana

Having visited Santa Monica and Venice Beach several times, and always appreciated the Ferris Wheel at the end of the Santa Monica Pier and ogled the muscle men working out on the beach, it was time to see more. Third Street Promenade is wonderful if you’re in search of Gap, Zara, Mac, American Apparel and so on, but I discovered the lovely Montana just a few minutes away. The shopping strip is a haven for inspired local designers, beauty salons, nail salons and blow-out (blow-dry) bars. Once I found Montana, an afternoon of pure pampering ensued, ending with a new slick hair-do and vibrant blue pedicure. I’d been LA–ified and I liked it.

Malibu Wineries

There’s a law that’s carried on from the prohibition era that bans the making of wine in Los Angeles County. So some rather affluent businesspeople with fancy hobbies, in this instance, wine-making, grow their grapes in the fertile mountains of Malibu, send them to be made into wine in the Napa Valley, then have them returned to be sold and drunk in Malibu. I hung out at two such wineries. The first, Malibu Family Wines, had beautiful gardens, large picnic tables and wonderful knowledgeable staff. The tasting was enjoyable and sitting under the trees was pure relaxation. Another winery, The Cielo Estate, was quite quirky. It also had a lovely drop but a tiny courtyard and intimate retro-styled bar called Sip with references to rock bands of the ‘70’s.
Tours by Katherine Miller, Hidden Malibu Wine Country Tours cat@malibuwinecountry.com

Koreatown

I walked into The Brass Monkey primed for a night of old-school karaoke. The venue is a bit sticky carpet but has scores of framed, famous-people photos who have also enjoyed a behind-the-mic sing-a-long in the dingy confines of the underground bar. Just down the road is the exquisite Line Hotel. The design of this Wiltshire Boulevard hotel is uber-modern, couched in a welcome warmth. The building has been fully restored and the rooms are spacious. I did have a quiet giggle when I noted some of the knick-knacks (art) in the rooms were for sale, including a rock – a very plain, grey, every-day rock, with a price tag of 20 dollars. It’s so people don’t steal them. If you’re hunting the definitive Korean feast, seek out a spot at Pot, at The Line Hotel. The courses came rapid-fire from the kitchen which I did find overwhelming. The dishes were mind-blowing. So much flavour, so authentic, so good.
The Line Hotel, Koreatown 3515 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles

The Scene

There are countless places to hang out and be seen in LA. Poolside at The Ace, Downtown is a true scene, with inspired cocktails, beautiful people and gorgeous views from the roof-top. It was a joy to behold the hotel’s theatre which was the former United Artists’ Theatre with incredible chandeliers and artwork. I spotted painted depictions of Errol Flynn and Charlie Chaplin. A real old-Hollywood buzz melded with the now.The ACE Hotel 929 South Broadway, Los Angeles.

The Food

The city’s reputation for fine food is ever-expanding. Bestia is a huge Italian restaurant that is overflowing with those busting to taste the home-styled anti-pasti or the housemade pork sausage pasta with black truffles and grana padano. Even a simple pizza margherita was sublime. You can book but try calling ahead about a couple of months.
Bestia 2121 7th Place Los Angeles

The View

If you find yourself in the vicinity of Santa Monica and you want a magnificent view. Well, it’s a bit of fun to go through to The Penthouse, the fine dining restaurant at The Huntley Hotel and check out the beach view from the Ladies toilet. I found it quite impressive. By the way, the locals may try to keep it hush-hush but the refined restaurant bar at the hotel has five dollar glasses of wine during Happy Hour.
The Huntley Hotel 1111 Second Street, Santa Monica

Donna Demaio visited Los Angeles as a guest of Qantas and Visit California

Santiago, Chile

Visiting the Museum of Memory and Human Rights is a sobering introduction to Santiago, and as  you read the thoughts and cries of those who suffered through the Pinochet dictatorship, your understanding of their pain and history grows.

The museum (www.museodelamemoria.cl) visit helps you appreciate the optimism and resilience of the Chileans.

The Chilean tourism industry is relatively new and perhaps still finding its feet, and yet, the country has people and places so welcoming, fascinating, fun and beautiful.

The following is a checklist for any visit to Santiago and surrounds:

Best view: Sky Costanera, the tallest building in Chile at 300 metres, (Andres Bello 2425, Providencia) has 360 degree views. Admittedly, the city can get smoggy but it is heady fun looking out onto the numerous provinces, with their distinct architecture and style.The open-air top level platform provides an exhilarating rush. It’s found in a shopping mall, but more on that later.

Best ice cream: A brilliant mix of strawberries with a hint of basil satisfies fussy taste-buds at the luxe icecream bar at Coquinaria. (www.coquinaria.cl) The gourmet establishment, filled with high-end lunch-time diners, is nestled in the basement of the W hotel and has an attractive deli and assortment of imported and local goodies on offer.

Best BBQ: A slow trot through the countryside is relaxing, even if  you’re not terribly “horsey” where caring guide Cristian Waidele from Andes Riders (www.andesriders.com) points out the flora and fauna, as he checks on riders’ welfare.  It’s an easy ride across El Dehesa and the reward is more than adequate. With the Andes mountains as a backdrop, chomp on a most delicious, succulent steak accompanied by rice salad and local wines. Nothing like mountain air to peak an appetite.

Best empanadas (fried or baked bread/pastry stuffed with meat, cheese and/or vegetables): Carolina Blanco is a wondrous woman who opens her inner city home to travellers to experience a home-cooked meal. (santiagopuertasadentro.cl) Her abode is filled with artefacts and exquisite pieces (replicas and such) from her 30 years as publicist for the Museum of Pre-Colombian art. The charismatic Carolina is the perfect host and masterful conversationalist. She sits at her expansive dining room table to tell tales of her illustrious career and her love of the city. The empanadas are entrée to an exquisite meal and experience at what translates as “hidden kitchen”.

Best cerviche: Locals on the streets near the Mercado Central (Central market)  serve cerviche (fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices) from their rickety shopping trolleys or rigid cardboard boxes fashioned into tables. Unless you have a rock solid constitution, steer clear of such offerings. Instead, a cerviche to truly impress is  at the trendy restaurant/bar called Chipe Libre (Jose Victorino, Lastarria 282). Be bewitched by the cool dudes, mixing cool cocktails in their cool threads draped in cool jewellery. The music is pumping, the dinner tasty and the eye-candy tremendous.

Best wine: Earlier this year, Chile replaced Australia as the fourth biggest exporter of wines. On arrival at the Bodegas Re winery in the Casablanca Valley, admire the passion and commitment poured into the place. Snaffle the local wine vinegar as a tasty souvenir. A must mention is the brilliant gift store with hand-made rugs, sauces and spices and of course a significant range of wines. Look out for kooky blends such as Pinotel and Chardonnoir.

Best art and craft shopping: The stylish Carolina Blanco (see best empanadas) says you can’t  leave Chile without an Indio Picaro. At Pueblo Artesanal Los Dominicos there is an artesan couple with a vaste selection of Indio Picaro items. The wooden carved toy depicts a smiling Mapuche Indian who is proud of his assets, let’s say, complete with moveable parts. The outdoor art and craft centre also has beautiful clothing, stunning scarves and creative and traditional jewellery.

Best soup: Colin Bennett from Iowa (www.foodychile.com) leads you through the Mercado Central and La Vega to witness to an incredible array of fruits, vegetables, brash chararacters and soup. Find Don Victor, a local institution, for a hearty, traditional bean soup.

Best market (experience): You can try the taste of freshly squeezed donkey’s milk, for just a few cents. The donkey owner, with a smirk perhaps reserved for curious tourists, offers the droplets in a tiny plastic cup.

Best hot chips: You must give yourself time to acclimatise heading to the Valle Nevado ski resort peak at 3000 metres. It doesn’t matter if you don’t ski. Build a snowman and  watch the snow lovers do their thing. Sip on a hot chocolate and inhale crisp, perfect hot chips from the restaurant decking.

Best shopping: The Costanera Mall is a standard six storey shopping centre with department stores and boutiques. At Alonso De Cordova, Vitacura (some call it the Chilean Rodeo Drive) there are shoe stores, fashion boutiques and a range of other stylish places. While Patio Bellavista is a gorgeous centre of boutiques, with an arty plaza to hang out in. There’s a mix of eateries including Japanese fare and the brilliant Barrica 94 (www.barrica94.cl) which serves splendid dishes including excellent short-ribs and a renowned mushroom risotto.

Best street art: Valparaiso is a colourful, vibrant, graffiti-splattered port city. It seems that there is not a stretch of wall, fence, door or façade that hasn’t been decorated to some degree. It is steeped in history and culturally distinct zones (Italian quarter, German quarter) make it a fascinating place to stroll around. Cool bars and cafes abound.

Best trivia: The traditional dish is essentially left-overs. Whatever is in the fridge is stir-fried and if available, a few strips of steak and a couple of eggs get thrown in. Also, there are 500 varieties of potatoes and 40 types of avocado in Chile.

Best breakfast:At the Novotel  (Av. Americo Vespucio Norte 1630, Vitacura, www.novotel.com.br/santiago) in the swish suburb of Vitacura you can indulge in the impressive breakfast buffet generously stocked with local fare. Favorite morning morsels include sliced prickly pear, a delectable soft cheese spread, potato soup, polmites (palms) caramel custard and copious olives mixed with pickled onions.

The writer travelled courtesy of Qantas, Accor and Turismo Chile (www.turismochile.travel)