June 21, 2016

Regional Flavours 2016 - the tastes of Queensland

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I recently experienced a gourmet's ultimate weekend experience, heading to Brisbane for a 24 hour whirlwind trip of the city's best food and then out west for another day and night to the Lockyer Valley to see where most of that food is produced.

As well as enjoying great food with exceptional company, I also faced that classic food blogger problem... my pants were too tight for me to try everything! So heed my warning if you're planning to head to the Regional Flavours event on 16th and 17th July, elastic-waist trousers and loose dresses will be what those in the know are wearing!

My taste buds are already tingling as I start thinking about the delish fare which will be served up at Brisbane's Southbank Parklands. The eighth annual festival aims to offer visitors a taste of the varied and quality produce Queensland has to offer, and educate consumers and home cooks on the benefits of eating food grown right here in the Sunshine State.

Celebrating our fertile soil and homegrown harvests isn't exactly new,
this vintage tourism poster just screams 'Eat our fruit'!

This year's event will dish up a culinary delight, with the Parklands filled with cooking demonstrations by notable chefs, free tastings and stalls run by local food producers, restaurateurs and traders, food trucks, kid's activities and live musical entertainment. Oh, and the whole weekend's festivities are free too!

I'll definitely be heading down for the weekend, and I've listed my favourite producers, providores and picks that I recommend you keep an eye out for!

A carnivore's paradise, this family-owned butcher and delicatessen chain should be proud of its Plainland and new West End locations that follow the same formula for produce-to-plate philosophy - it's worked for them for over 60 years! When I visited, my blogging companions and I were lucky enough to be given a tour of the premises by Alistair Macleod, well-known chef and tv host, and a proud ambassador for the Lockyer Valley. Offering a huge range that includes Yagaburne beef, Lockyer Valley veges and Granite Belt wines, Schulte's is serious about quality and community.

Holmwood Produce
The trend towards locally sourced products doesn't end with food, with many folks looking for regional herb and spice growers as well. I was fortunate enough to spend time at Holmwood Produce's beautiful lavender and native food farm during my tour through the Lockyer Valley, and as well as having the friendliest donkey greeters, the fresh lavender and lemon myrtle used in the afternoon tea treats were so scrumptious that I fell in love with the property.

Bauer's Organic Farm
Every now and then, you meet someone SO passionate about something that you can't help but join them as an advocate. That someone was Rob Bauer, long-time Lockyer Valley farmer and convert to organic farming over 30 years ago, well before the current organic fad really took hold! Seated at a long table under the eucalypts and hearing Rob share stories about local farmers getting sick and dying from exposure to common chemicals used in farming, the entire table of guests began to think differently about the way we shop for fresh fruit and vegetables.

Bauer's is a diverse property, supplying carrots, potatoes, corn, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, pumpkin and beans, as well as numerous other smaller crops - all on one of Australia's first certified organic farms.

The Charming Squire
Southbank's own microbrewery is probably the perfect weekend venue for discerning Brisbanites, with something for everyone. The talents of their brewers, who are constantly creating new beers, and the constant communication between chef and brewer showcases beer and food pairing in a new (to me) and exciting way! The tasting plates that were offered were beyond amazing, featuring such tasty gems as Woodfired Corn Cobs with parmesan spiced crust, puffed quinoa and chipotle butter; and my favourite, the Slow cooked beef croquettes with Turkish almond & tahini dip. If you're looking for BB and I at Regional Flavours, you'll probably find us propping up the bar at the atmospheric and moody pop-up bistro and bar The Hunting Club, where we'll be working my way through the Charming Squire drinks list! Hosted by The Charming Squire and Target 100, this venue will also host the likes of Paul West, Alistair Macleod and Hayden Quinn.

Having experienced a 'cupping' session at Australia’s largest independently owned and operated coffee roaster, Merlo Coffee on my recent food adventure of Brisbane, I now feel that I have earned the right to call myself a real coffee connoisseur. Tony and Frith led us through 
a short history of coffee, sampling their current blends, using our senses to differentiate between blends and getting expert advice on making the best coffee at home, at Merlo's Fortitude Valley Torrefazione. Possibly the best way to start my day, really. Interested in kicking off your own food adventure of Brisbane with a decent cuppa? Merlo hold public coffee appreciation sessions at various Torrefaziones in Brisbane.

Popolo - River Quay
Make sure you stroll all the way along the Parklands (you'll probably need to, to digest all that food) to River Quay. This strip of fine dining establishments is home to Stokehouse Q, Aquitaine Brasserie, The Jetty, Cove Bar + Dining and my favourite, Popolo Italian Kitchen and Bar. I've dined at Popolo before and it's right up there in my list of favourite Brisbane restaurants.

The menu walks that perfectly fine line between too simple and overly extensive, the food is fresh with a lot of emphasis on showcasing local produce, and the whole place has that classic Italian ambience. It's casual without lacking in service or quality of food, but at the same time classy without being pretentious and stuffy. I'm going to get specific now, and tell you exactly what I'll eat at Regional Flavours from Popolo, and if you know what's good for you, you'll be stuffing these morsels in your mouth too. The crumbed Mozzarella with thyme-infused local honey is going to be the bee's knees. (See what I did there?)

Could eat these all day, every day. The Bee One Third locally produced honey is also going to be available at Regional Flavours... my top tip is to get there early and try and snag your suburb, they sell out quickly!

Regional Flavours 2016 is a fantastic opportunity for local food producers, restaurateurs and traders to showcase their mouth-watering wares, and to show everyone that QLD is no longer the backwards banana-bending state of old. The event which is staged over two days at my favourite polace in Brisbane - Southbank Parklands - will definitely exceed expectations and appetites. I urge you all to put the dates in your diary and come along, as there will be something for everyone - whatever your personal tastes.

All the Regional Flavours stage presenters, stallholders, food trucks and vendors have been hand-selected and are definitely hungry-tummy-approved. Adriano Zumbo, Maggie Beer, Hayden Quinn, the Masterchef lads Gary, George and Matt, Miguel Maestre, Alistair Macleod, and River Cottage's Paul West are just a few big names that will be hitting the stages, but check out the full program on the Regional Flavours website for more details. You’re going to want to start planning your eating agenda now.

I'm planning on being in Brisbane for the entire weekend, staying at Brisbane Marriott, so come hang with me. We can eat until our belts explode.

For stays between 14-18 July 2016, Brisbane Marriott Hotel is offering a special discounted rate of $199 a night if you book before July 1, 2016.

Will I see you at Regional Flavours 2016?

*I was a guest of Brisbane Marketing, the listed venues, and Brisbane Marriott for my recent foodie adventure through Southbank, Brisbane and the Lockyer Valley - they do great work showcasing this corner of the world, and I am incredibly happy to support them.

All images my own, or supplied by Brisbane Marketing

June 19, 2016

Another stripe dress - Surafina Sportif Grey Stripe

At least once a week, I find myself reaching for a striped t-shirt dress. I’m starting to amass a little collection of them and I have no issues with the fact that most of my friends now know that I'm likely to turn up anywhere wearing one. I even shared my love in this post.

My latest one started as a 'Here, borrow this' dress from Trainee Mama who was heavily pregnant with her twins and wasn't getting any wear from it; and now it's a 'No chance am I returning this to you, I love it so much!' dress. (Maybe I'll buy her a replacement. maybe not.)

This is the perfect piece to throw on and head out the door in a hurry, but it’d also be on my list to take on holidays to dress up and down easily. Surafina has a few sizes left online in the grey stripe... hop to it!

The current AW Sportif styles are black with white stripe, and an alternate white with black stripe - choosing is too hard, so I recommend both! But you don't need any convincing from me, do you?

Would it be rude of me to ask how many stripe dresses you have? (Just to make me feel better?!)

*Dress gifted in the sense that I borrowed it from my bestie and am not returning it in a hurry.

June 09, 2016

Visiting China - first impressions

When you tell friends, family and colleagues that you are going to China, most get quite excited and then ask 'Oh, what are you going to see?'

'Are you going to the Forbidden City? The Great Wall of China? The Temple of Heaven, or maybe the Terracotta Warriors?

For BB and I, we couldn't really answer this question. We didn't even know where Shanghai was geographically within China! We were heading to Shanghai for 6 days with BB's business clients, to check out a supplier in his industry (asphalt production and road construction, which I know nothing about), and had never even talked previously about travelling to China. We have such a long list of places we'd love to see around the world, and China was way down that list. Whilst we thought a little about not going, being hosted for six days by a company who wanted to impress us with their manufacturing business was too tempting and we organised a friend to house/puppy-sit, and we flew out of Brisbane last Thursday morning.

After a long day of travel (Brisbane-Singapore-Shanghai), we arrived in China's largest city late at night, and our very welcoming host Joy helped us get through Customs, Immigration and even scarier... the taxi/pick-up zone at the Arrivals terminal of Pudong International Airport.

From this moment on, I took only a few photos. The combination of dodgy internet, no access to Gmail and Facebook (waaaaah), and recently deciding to spend less time looking at life through a camera lens meant that I only took a handful of snaps on the first few days.

Day 1 started with a Western buffet breakfast at our hotel, The Eton; and quite clearly, this was a hotel marketed to foreigners doing business in Shanghai and western tour groups. Whilst this made starting each day in such an exotic and bustling city a little easier, my teeth were definitely grating every time I heard an Aussie accent complaining about the lack of Vegemite for their toast. My pet peeve was that there were no spoons for my cereal or to stir my coffee, but once I started laughing at adding sugar to my morning cuppa with a fork, it became more amusing than annoying!

Joy (the funniest guy on the Asian continent, I'm sure), picked us up in his 7-seater Buick, and we hit the roads - me thankfully in the very back seat, where I couldn't see too much of the utter craziness on Shanghai roads - to head south-west to Wuzhen. Wuzhen Water Town, known as the Venice of China, is one of the most famous ancient water towns in China and has a history of more than 1,500 years. Embraced by the Beijing–Hangzhou Grand Canal, canals crisscross the two town areas, with camphor laurel and willow trees draping their branches in the water. Ancient residential houses, workshops and stores stand on the banks of the East Area canals, and attractions include folk performances. The West Area has been restored for antique-style accommodation, but authentic ancient elements are also easily found.


This area of traditional blue printed cloth hanging on giant bamboo drying racks was so beautiful, and evocative of an older era of craftsmanship. 

Our happy little travelling party laughed and laughed our way around Wuzhen.

Our first impressions of China were fantastic. Having a very friendly host makes arrival anywhere easier, and the city was 100% cleaner and greener than either of us had expected. For many reasons, it felt like a more organised, tidier version of any Shanghai portrayal I've seen in movies. Shanghai has the look of an old city undergoing renovation, and I particularly loved how so many shiny new modern buildings manage to coexist with old Shanghai - it seemed incredibly liveable.

As I discovered by accident on day 3 of our trip, my phone was using data even when I had it in flight mode... what the! so I ended up turning it off completely and hardly snapping any photos throughout the rest of our trip.

I'll share more about our trip soon... I'm still catching up on laundry after so much travel in the last month!

Ever travelled somewhere you never thought you'd be interested in? What did you think of it?

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