Tuesday, November 29, 2016

My Memorable Moment in Queenstown, New Zealand

 Despite living in Australia for 22 years now, I have never been to our neighboring country New Zealand.  I have always wanted to, having been told countless times about its amazing beauty and culture, but never got to do so, that is, until now.  I was very excited to travel to Queenstown, which sits on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu, set against the dramatic Southern Alps.  These snow covered mountains are a sight to behold, especially when flying over them, peering over the airplane window.  Sadly I sat on the furthest seat away from the window, so was not able to capture the view in a photo to share with you all, but they are forever etched in my mind.  You may have seen this beautiful place, as the Queenstown region is home to some of New Zealand’s most dramatic scenery with its towering mountains, ancient beech forests and glacial fed rivers, which have provided inspirational backdrops for many movies. Movies such as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which highlighted the most awe-inspiring landscapes, fueling my desire further to visit this place)...

 Queenstown is also renowned for adventure sports, and is a base for exploring the region’s vineyards and historic mining towns. There's bungee jumping off Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge (the first ever bungee jumping site) and jet-boating on the Shotover and Dart rivers.  In winter, there's skiing on the slopes of The Remarkables and Coronet Peak.  All this aside, what most impressed me about Queenstown was how full of charm and character it is.  This culture, beauty and history was reflected in the beautiful Hotel St Moritz, which is where I had the pleasure of staying. The Hotel St Moritz boasts beautiful views overlooking Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountains, a short stroll from the centre of town and only 17 km from the Coronet Peak Ski area.  Each room is beautifully, tastefully and thoughtfully furnished and decorated to give you the coziest yet luxurious and welcoming stay.  My favourite thing to do in the hotel was stand at my window and take in the breathtaking view of Lake Wakatipu, in awe of my surroundings.

Hotel St Moritz is part of the AccorHotels MGallery by Sofitel collection, a curated collection of boutique hotels dedicated to travelers who share a love of life, literature and culture, combining high-end luxury with its unique culture, local character and history. There are 85 M Gallery hotels around the world in 23 countries, and each hotel has its own personality and story, experienced by guests through architecture, interior design and services.  In addition to their impeccable service and bountiful charm, each hotel offers an exclusive experience curated by the staff themselves with their signature ‘Memorable Moment’. 

Memorable Moments at MGallery by Sofitel reflect each hotel's character, local landscape and culture,, and take many forms, from whiskey and chocolate tasting at Brisbane’s New Inchcolm Hotel and Suites ; candlelit rooftop dinners with a string quartet at the Harbour Rocks Hotel overlooking Sydney Harbour; or morning yoga sessions at Elements of Byron, located on the eastern-most point of Australia and the first place to see sunrise in the country, you can bet it will be a memorable moment indeed.   For Hotel St Moritz, their Memorable Moment is a private charter helicopter ride to “The Ledge” of Cecil Peak on The Helicopter Line (New Zealand's leading helicopter company), with magical picnic on an incredible Alpine Plateau.


Unfortunately (or fortunately), the weather was not in our favour on the scheduled date of our helicopter ride, but resourceful and quick on their feet, the lovely hotel staff at Hotel St Moritz managed to whip up another incredible Memorable Moment for us instead, a beautiful ride on the Pacific Jemm, a beautifully luxurious yacht (and the only private-charter boat in Queenstown) on  dreamy and serene Lake Wakatipu, with the majestic snow-covered mountains as our backdrop.  It was the perfect setting for an on-board picnic with the dreamiest salmon that has ever graced my taste buds (and that I will forever dream about) followed by some bubblies (always my drink of choice).  Truly a moment I will treasure and remember fondly...

If you are thinking of going to Hotel St Moritz and would like to see what their Memorable Moment is meant to look like, the weather cleared up beautifully the day after I left, so that my lovely travel companions Lichi Pan and Melanie Liu (aka The Tia Fox) were able to hop on the magical helicopter ride, which you can see on their respective blogs.

I was lucky enough though to experience yet another memorable moment in Queenstown, with a cruisy day on the bike trails and amongst the vines with Around the Basin Bike Tours. Around The Basin are the local experts specialising in mountain biking adventures on the Queenstown, Arrowtown and Gibbston River Trails. Having been pretty much sedentary for the last 7 years (plus), I was worried about the 15km ride, but honestly, the view was so incredibly breathtaking that I could have kept on riding, snow-capped mountains, aquamarine blue rivers, quaint little houses and lots of sheep...This was another favourite moment of my trip in Queenstown.  We also rode across five bridge crossings, which was so thrilling and spectacular, including the 80m Edgar suspension bridge, and lastly visited the historic Kawarau Bridge, which is also home to AJ Hackett's Bungy site, the world's first bungy operation.  Even though I did not brave the bungy jump, I did get to go on a fun zipline ride with Mr Brigs...You know what they say, couples who zipline together, stay together!

Mr Brigs and I fell in love with Queenstown and seriously cannot wait to come back and bring our little ones with us this time...


 I didn't realize how close New Zealand is to Australia, only a 3 hour flight from Sydney!
 View from my room at Hotel St Moritz overlooking Lake Wakatipu and snow covered mountains...breathtaking
Lombardi restaurant, serving amazing food breakfast, lunch and dinner with this amazing view... 

But first, coffee...It is not 100% definite whether it is the New Zealanders or the Australians that first invented the flat white, but thought I should have my favourite caffeinated beverage in its possible country of origin at Hotel St Moritz
Chilling by the bar and look! Mirror #selfie
 Beautiful food constantly coming out from the kitchen at Hotel St Moritz's Lombardi restaurant...
 I was welcomed with a beautiful bottle of Pinot Noir (my favourite!) in my room, so had to enjoy a glass in my favourite spot (for the trip), taking in this view...
 For dinner, we took away some infamous burgers from Fergburger, which we enjoyed as a picnic by the lake.  When I first heard we were having burgers for dinner, I thought: seriously, burgers? Seriously! BURGERS! I now see these are no ordinary burgers, as Fergburger has become a cult burger joint that has made international headlines.   I'm not usually the biggest burger afficionado, but after having my first Fergburger, I had to go back on my last day and had another (the calamari is so good too!). 
After dinner, we were lucky enough to be in town for the Queenstown Jazz Festival and were treated to an amazing show headlining Nathan Haines, this was totally my kind of music, and the perfect way to end an amazing first day in Queenstown. PS. This is Mel here uber happy with her Fergburger, how cute is she?
Next morning we started with a gorgeous breakfast spread at Lombardi restaurant, I know I keep saying this, but seriously, this view never got old and always took my breath away.
Guess who ordered the poached eggs with smoked salmon? Love me some oozy poached eggs!!! These were cooked to perfection!

 After feasting on breakfast we donned our alpine active wear for our bike tours with Around the Basin
 I didn't get to stop often to take pictures of the incredible views during my bike ride, but I will never forget them nevertheless. One of the most beautiful (if not the most beautiful) bike rides I have ever been on.

First pitt stop for coffee and sticky bun at the restored Boatshed café 'Provisions', and a visit to historic Arrowtown

 When I was told 'sticky buns' I must admit I didn't think much of it, that was until I had my first bite, and I was in heaven...especially since it was that one oozing with lemon curd...A M A Z I N G ! ! !  The perfect start to our bike ride, fueling us onward and upward
 View from the 80m Edgar suspension bridge

 Mr Brigs enjoying the view during our bike ride with Around the Basin
 Ok, so I was too chicken, and Mr Brigs had a busted knee, so we didn't get to bungy jump.  But my lovely and courageous friend Shellie (The Iron Chef Shellie) showed us how it's done - flatlay Shellie!

 That bike ride worked up quite an appetite in all of us, and we were rewarded with a beautiful spread at Lunch at the award-winning Gibbston Valley Winery
 Thankfully we didn't have to ride back to the hotel with our bellies full of food, so Around the Basin shuttled us home and later on we patted ourselves on the back by celebrating with some Frosés - frozen rose cocktails concocted by the lovely bar staff at Hotel St Moritz...Frosés with a view, could this day get any better?
 It could with an amazing degustation dinner at Hotel St Moritz's  Lombardi Restaurant’s Private Dining Room – The Library.  Beautiful local produce showcased with expertise 
 One day I will write an Ode to Salmon...how I love thee!
We experienced Pinot Pinot Pinot – a wine matched dinner showcasing some of the region’s famous pinot vintages.
New Zealand's famous lamb cooked beautifully and to perfection.
 The next morning, we were up bright and early for lake-edge yoga with Soul Journeys, talk about yoga with a view!  We then rewarded our efforts with a hearty breakfast back at Hotel St Moritz.

Spot Lichi's Gucci Dionysus? I'm eyeing one in Python or Blooms Print or...*drool*

 Spot the cute hotel robe fashioned from beautifully soft cotton...oh so cozy!
Love the personal touches and extra care Hotel St Moritz take in everything they do...it is the little things that count.

On the Pacific Jemm with sweet Lichi absorbing the beautiful view on Lake Wakatipu

On me: Dress and scarf: I love Mr Mittens, Shearling-lined Boots: Isabel Marant (available at Fwd by Elyse Walker, Luisaviaroma, Bergdorf Goodman and Selfridges)

 The most incredible spread prepared by Hotel St Moritz, honourable mentions go to the amazing orange duck rillette and that salmon....*drool*

Awe-inspiring view on the Pacific Jemm, such a memorable moment
When strolling around the town's centre I chanced upon this chocolaterie, with 'make your own' ice creams on a stick, and couldn't resist making one for myself...
Raspberries and cream ice cream covered in dark chocolate with toasted almonds and coconuts...messy to eat, but so good!

I could not finish writing this post without mentioning that what truly made our stay so spectacular was the amazing service provided by Hotel St Moritz, in particular their general manager Jo Finnigan's passion and dedication to providing guests the most welcoming, homely and cozy yet luxurious experience that she can.  That dedication and passion is evident in the tiniest details, from the decor, to the service, the food, the wine, so that the entire experience is one that will always be a memorable moment.

Hotel St Moritz, MGallery by Sofitel
Address: 10/18 Brunswick St, Queenstown, 9300, New Zealand
Telephone: +64 3 442 4990
Website: http://www.stmoritz.co.nz
Instagram: @hotelstmoritz

Thank you Hotel St Moritz and Accor Hotels for an amazing (and memorable) experience!

All images taken by me.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Qlippie wearable clippable dressable HD camera (try saying that 5 times fast!)


Have you ever wished for a lightweight compact and easily portable camera that allows you to keep your hands free?  I certainly have, like during a recent amazing bicycle ride along a breathtaking scenic route, or attending my daughter's school performance and trying to juggle a video camera on one hand and DSLR in the other (true story), or like today, when I went on my first ever helicopter ride!

Cue Qlippie, the new clippable livestream HD camera, which boasts a wide angle Sony CMOS-R lens and a variety of customizing 'skins'.  With 12 skins to choose from you can pick and choose a skin to go with your mood or outfit, while its clip makes it completely hands-free and ready for any adventure. No mounts or tripods required, the wide angle Sony CMOS-R lens makes it easy to capture all of life's greatest moments in high definition. Qlippie's free app shows you a live feed of what your camera sees, which makes capturing your photo, video, slow motion, and live-streaming easy peasy. The content is stored on the device, where you it can also be edited (on the app).

 
Compact in size at 48 x 19.6mm body size and 45g body weight, it still boasts an internal memory of a whopping 32gb, taking 8MP stills or 1080p videos, proving good things do indeed come in small packaging! You can clip it on your clothes, strap of your bag, hat, bicycle basket (or helmet), so many possibilities! You can read Qlippie's full specs here.

My current favourite skin is the minimal b&w 'grid', which is what I chose for today,

all images by me

Check out Qlippie for yourself here, and if interested, you can get one at the special early bird price through their Indiegogo--the promotion won't last for long (run, don't walk!).

This post was created in collaboration with @qlippieworld #qlippieworld #qlippielive

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Rolling with my homies in Barossa Valley


If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed my #brigsdoesadelaide hashtag on many of my posts.  Often when people overseas ask me where I live in Australia, they immediately ask if I am from Sydney or Melbourne, and very few will know a thing about Adelaide; so one of my goals in life is to show what an amazing amazing, beautiful and cool city Adelaide is, haha.  While the Barossa Valley is not actually IN Adelaide, it is a winery region only 1 hours drive from the CBD, and a place I used to come to almost weekly at one stage (we still visit it, just not as often with the little ones).  I love its beautiful landscape, the amazing food and produce, and tasting the internationally renowned wines (in moderation, I promise).  Even though I have come to the Barossa often, I must admit that I had never stayed here overnight, or for the weekend, until now, and it really is a lovely way to properly explore the area.  I recently had the pleasure of exploring this beautiful region with some lovely girls - reuniting with Chloe Ting (@chloe_t) and Shellie Froidevaux (@ironchefshellie), as well as new 'breakfast club members' Lichi Pan (@lichipan) and Melanie Liu (@thetiafox). We had an absolute ball with yet another food-filled adventure.

The girls and I had the pleasure of staying at the newly refurbished Novotel Barossa Valley Resort, which boasts beautiful views across the Barossa Ranges and Jacob’s Creek Vineyards.  A short 10 minute drive from Tanunda, the hotel is a 5-minute walk away from the Tanunda Pines Golf Club and 3.6 km from Jacob's Creek Vineyards, its central location making it the perfect place to stay and explore the region.  It also boasts an Endota Spa, and an array of outdoor facilities are available, including tennis courts, basketball court, volleyball court, giant outdoor chess set, walking trail, outdoor heated swimming pool and gym – plenty of fun to be had.


 Foggy view from my hotel balcony, you can see the hotel's outdoor heated pool, as well as their oversized chess set in the distance.

EAT:

The Cellar Door Kitchen:

The Novotel Barossa recently refurbished their Harry's restaurant, which not only received a completely and beautiful interior re-design, but was also renamed Cellar Kitchen Restaurant and Bar.  Along with its new 'look', the new restaurant supports a ‘paddock to plate’ food philosophy, following Novotel’s collaboration with artisan food producer, cook and food educator, Saskia Beer (and yes, for those of you who don't know Saskia and find her name familiar, she is indeed Maggie Beer's daughter).  Saskia Beer's company, Saskia Beer Farm Produce, has successfully engaged local provedores, growers and farmers as produce partners with a menu developed by Saskia to give guests and diners a taste of the Barossa Valley.

The new menu features local cheeses from Victoria McGlurg, smallgoods selected and aged by Saskia, fresh vegetables and herbs by Aldna Farms and Barossa Famers Market along with other small producers through the local farmers market. Saskia’s free range chicken, mushroom and bacon pie and suckling free range Berkshire pork scaloppine are must try mains, along with Suffolk Lamb from produce partner Hutton Vale Lamb and Ducks. The desserts were (of course) a highlight to our meal, and we also enjoyed a beautiful cheese plate with Maggie Beer Quince paste and Barossa Bark.


Breakfast in bed never looked so good:


In-room breakfast or breakfast buffet...the choices are plentiful! 


The newly refurbished The Cellar Kitchen, and their amazing spread for buffet breakfast
 

You can also order some eggs/dishes from the kitchen, I love me an oozy poached egg...
 

View from the balcony outside The Cellar Kitchen (where you can eat or drink, or both!)


 The new menu at The Cellar Kitchen features local cheeses from Victoria McGlurg, smallgoods selected and aged by Saskia, fresh vegetables and herbs by Aldna Farms and Barossa Famers Market along with other small producers through the local farmers market. Saskia’s free range chicken, mushroom and bacon pie and suckling free range Berkshire pork scaloppine are must try mains, along with Suffolk Lamb from produce partner Hutton Vale Lamb and Ducks.  My favourite dish was the Spencer Gulf prawns with herb and lemon butter on handmade pasta, it was all kinds of amazing, and I can still smell that incredible butter sauce as I think about it.
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert (in my books, at least), and it was hard to pick a favourite to mention, so I will pick two: the lemon meringue tart and the pavlova, absolutely delightful! As was The Cellar Kitchen's cheese plate with Maggie Beer Quince paste and Barossa Bark.  If you are like me and like reading through restaurant's menu, you can find it here.


I say, there is always room for dessert, or a cheese platter, especially one as delicious as this one:



Barossa Farmers Markets

To see where The Cellar Kitchen sources many of their local seasonal produce, we hopped on a Barossa Explorer Hop On Hop Off 'mini-bus' and headed to Barossa Farmers Markets.  This relatively new mode of transport is such a brilliant idea, I wish it was around when I used to come on the weekends for wine tasting!  You can join the tour at any of their 9 Barossa Explorer stops along their route (inc. Novotel Barossa, Maggie Beer's Farm Shop, Whistler wines), and the ticket lasts 24 hours.  Great way to explore the Barossa Valley without having to resort to drawing straws to see who is the designated driver of the group!



 The Barossa Farmers Market is based in Angaston and opens every Saturday from 7.30am to 11.30am.  At the markets you can find an incredible range of amazing local food from the homes and farms of the Barossa, from jersey milk to lemon curd, local cured meats to the most amazing chai tea I have ever tasted, Swedish cardamon buns to Indian curries.  It is such a feast for your senses!



The most delicious and heart warming Chai tea! Note that the stalls do not have credit card facilities, so do bring your cash along with you, although there is an ATM outside for those who have forgotten to bring some.


Please humour me for a second (apologies in advance*):

"Knock knock.
Who's there?
Donut.
Donut who?
Donut forsake me my darling.

*Sorry, I read this in my mom's Reader's Digest when I was 6 and it's always the first thing I think of when I see doughnuts.


After perusing through each stall the girls and I were in for a treat: our very own cooking demonstration with Saskia Beer.  Not only did we see her transform simple ingredients to incredibly delectable dishes, we got to eat them for lunch!


 Mushroom and Pancetta on melted cheese bruschetta, a prime example of how just a few (yet amazing) ingredients, can produce such a beautifully delicious dish!


HUTTON VALE FARM
 
Hutton Vale Farm has been part of a mixed farming business since 1843, their philosophy of a sustainable farming program is present for all their produce including wine, lamb, vegetables and artisan chutney.



TO DO:

JACOBS CREEK WINERY

The last time I rode a bicycle in a winery region was in France's Champagne region, so I was very excited to be hopping on two wheels again in a winery region, by hiring a bicycle from the Novotel Barossa and pedal my way to Jacob's Creek Centre (although the hills, not so much, as I am terribly unfit!), which is set on a 42 hectare site with a picturesque bike track that weaves between the vineyards.

  Photo by Shellie Froidevaux

Cheese + Wine = match made in heaven, wine tasting at Jacob's Creek.


 A lot of the produce used by Jacob's Creek amazing restaurant is grown on site, and we got to visit the picturesque Kitchen Garden before our meal.

After our leisurely stroll we enjoyed a beautiful lunch outdoors at Jacob's Creek's restaurant 'Our Table', featuring seasonal food grown locally or picked fresh from their kitchen garden, breathtaking vineyards and views of the Barossa ranges, and a drop (or more) of their beautiful wines, including a beautifully dry and crisp Rosé that had only been released two days earlier!

 Lunch with a view, a beautiful one at that.


I like my Rosés light and dry with a hint of fruitiness, and this 'Let Petit Rosé' ticked all the boxes for me.

BAROSSA VALLEY BALLOONING
One of the highlights of our trip was an incredible hot air balloon ride with Barossa Valley Ballooning (my first ever hot air balloon ride!). Waking up at the crack of dawn, we were rewarded with an incredible experience and breathtaking views as we floated high above the ground, seeing this region from a perspective I had never seen before! Following the balloon ride,  we (and fellow hot-air balloon passengers) were treated to a 'Champagne breakfast' at The Cellar Kitchen, celebrating and toasting the flight with local sparkling wine, upholding the tradition started by the first balloonists in 18th Century France, who were served champagne on landing.  We were absolutely ravenous and attacked the breakfast buffet!

 #caughtinstagramming: from L to R: Lichi Pan, Chloe Ting and Melaniu Liu
 Breathtaking view from the balloon of the beautiful Murray River
Up, up and away...my beautiful, my beautiful balloon...
Why, hello there Lichi!

With Lichi (left) and Shellie (right) - photo by Melanie Liu

I'm wearing: Chakshyn coat, I Love Mr Mittens beanie, Stella McCartney cardigan (the collar is peaking over the coat).

MAGGIE BEER'S FARM:


Last time I visited Maggie Beer's farm was when my daughter was just 8 or so months old, so I was excited to visit this place again.  With beautiful peacocks and Maggie's famous pheasants, this is a fun (and yummy) place to explore with (and without) children.


All of Maggie's amazing products are available for purchase (some for tasting), and you can enjoy some dishes at the cafe as well.  Last time I recall lunching on some pie followed by some tart for dessert, although alas, in this visit I was bursting at the seams and couldn't fit another mouthful in.  I do often have Maggie's pastes in my pantry, along with her Burnt Fig Jam, and her incredibly creamy and indulgent ice creams. Oh, and her famous Verjuice too!
 

The incredible beautiful blue lake at Maggie Beer's Farm:


 photo by Lichi Pan.

Foodies may recognize this kitchen as the set for Maggie's ABC show 'The Cook and the Chef'.  I remember watching a few episodes where my uncle would cook alongside Maggie, and must admit I had no idea it was actually filmed on this 'set' that recreated Maggie's actual kitchen!


all photos by me except where stated otherwise.

 Thanks again to Accor Hotels for hosting us and feeding us!  For more information on the Barossa please visit their website.

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