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Talking travel on SKY

7 Apr

I’ve never been that into seeing or hearing myself on tv or radio but sometimes it’s part of the job. Last week I popped in to the Sky Business studios in Sydney for a live spot talking travel on their programme, Business Class. I love heading to WA to explore so I had a great time sharing all my favourite spots, especially about my incredible experience swimming with the whalesharks. You can watch it here.


The Weekly Review: Marcus Rose from Charles Rose Jewellers

17 Jun

ringLast week I interviewed Melbourne jeweller and artist Marcus Rose for a piece in The Weekly Review about his company, Charles Rose. Their jewellery is beautiful and the story of how it all began is a great one of triumph during tough times in Europe. You can also win a diamond ring…yes please!!

Artichoke Magazine: Claude’s of Woollahra

22 Mar

Claude's of Woollahra

For the design lovers out there, keep your eyes peeled for my article about the renovation of Claude’s of Woollahra. Owned by Chui Lee Luk and designed by Pascale Gomes McNabb, the space looks simply beautiful. It’s geometric, vibrant and the colour choices are out of this world. I love Pascale’s work to bits!

Read the article here…Artichoke Claudes April 2013.

Image from here.

Bright Young Things – Matchbox Wine Co.

24 Feb

Matchbox Wine Co. Riesling label

Matchbox Wine Co. was founded by dynamo wine duo, Nav Singh and Louise Radman – a great combo of winemaker and wine marketer and are beginning to release their first vintages, which I can vouch for. Their Syrah is particularly good and was my favourite (but their Riesling and Malbec were close behind) and is a cracking debut.

I met them recently at a wine tasting in the Coal River Valley, just outside Hobart and decided I had to ask them a few more questions to share here on The Airloom. They are a great couple who produce great wine, I can’t wait to see what the next vintage is like.

Nav is a young winemaker who followed his dream from the streets of Delhi to craft wine in Australia. He graduated with oenology and viticulture qualifications from the University of Adelaide and experience gained throughout Europe and Australia – Mountadam, Domaine Chandon, Domaine de L’Arlot and Chateau Le Pin. Nav was honoured as a Winemaker’s Federation of Australia future leader in 2010 and his wines have been awarded countless accolades and trophies. Louise is a Len Evans scholar and holds a bachelor degree in wine marketing from the University of Adelaide, is the author of Wine SA and a wine writer. Phew…what a busy couple.

It’s a long post but it was all so interesting, nothing hit the cutting room floor! Pour yourself a wine and settle in.


How did you two come to work together?
Matchbox Wine Co. evolved organically out of the things we love. Our whole world revolves around food and wine so working together was a natural progression. After spending many years with wine estates across Australia and overseas, Nav returned to Adelaide and everything just fell into place. We had the opportunity to access amazing vineyards and started toying around with the matchbox concept. As a small start up, it hasn’t been easy but we believe we have created something worthwhile. At the end of the day, it’s incredibly rewarding bringing people together to share good times and conversation over our very own glass of vino.

What makes Matchbox special?
From the outset, we wanted to create something that would fit into our lifestyle. These are the styles of wine we love to drink. They are elegant, fruitful and exciting; exactly the kind of wine we hope to discover at dinner with friends in a great new restaurant or tapas bar.

Our first series, ‘Gentleman’s Athletic Club,’ is inspired by the gamesome gallantry of the quintessential gentleman. The nostalgic retro styling of Matchbox Wine Co. labels harks back to early artwork of the 1920s and 30s. It’s a period in history that holds a curious fascination for us. The roaring twenties and early thirties saw newfound social freedom collide with incredible innovations in technology, aviation, radio and film. The bright young things ruled the world. It was all a well-heeled gentleman could do to keep up with the flappers, the fashion and the politics. The smart set of bons vivants ran at a frenetic pace, embracing the finer things in life with gusto and abandon. It goes without saying that Matchbox wines are centered on quality, but above all we hope they capture that same spirit of carefree youth and genuine bonhomie. They throw down the gauntlet to challenge convention with fresh new styles that are sometimes eccentric, often wild and always ready to play.

Our labels feature whimsical boxing, polo and fencing gentlemen and bring to life an era of sportsmanship, daring and valor at a time when good taste and cultural experimentation were most definitely in. A nod to the days when men were dashing, winners shook hands instead of bumping chests and a healthy moustache afforded one a distinct advantage.

Matchbox logo

What are your current releases, tell me a little bit about them?
The premier release from Matchbox Wine Co. includes a joven style Malbec, spicy Syrah and textural Riesling off the back of an idyllic 2012 season. All the Matchbox wines hail from single vineyards in South Australia’s Clare Valley.

The region is famous for super-dry Riesling with driving acidity and extraordinary longevity. Matchbox Wine Co. Riesling shows hallmark lime juice expression from the contoured slopes of Skilly hills. It is hand picked, wild fermented and matured on lees to gain an additional element of food worthy texture.

We are enthralled by the perfume and spice of the Malbec grape. While it is one of the longest standing varieties in Clare, unfortunately it most often finds its way into blends with Cabernet Sauvignon. We wanted to bring the great Malbec of the region to light and unearthed a wonderful old vine vineyard to help us do it. Matchbox Wine Co. Malbec is crafted in a ‘joven’ style that celebrates the pure blueberry bliss of the variety. It is open fermented in seasoned French oak puncheons, pressed and released early in the full glory of its fragrant and exuberant youth.

While Riesling usually takes centre stage, Clare Valley is also home to excellent Syrah. At elevations of 500m, the cool nights of the Skilly Hills give rise to a singularly spicy style. Matchbox Wine Co. Syrah is an elegant and fruitful wine with fine tannin structure, moderate alcohol and quintessential Clare Valley character.

The current releases are…

2012 Matchbox Wine Co. Riesling $30
Lime blossom fragrance, explosive lemony punch and fresh mineral drive. Pure, lithe and energetic with winsome charm and effortless balance.

2012 Matchbox Wine Co. Malbec $30
Thrilling violet scent, exuberant spice and plush blueberry palate. Wildly enticing, supple and salacious.

2012 Matchbox Wine Co. Syrah $30 (March 2013 release) ** Steph’s favourite!
Succulent wild raspberry woven with lashings of pepper and whispers of tannin. Style and structure true to exceptionally fine form.


What are your favourite food matches with Matchbox wines?
Our Riesling complements seafood, white meats, pork belly and spicy dishes. Crisp and lemony Riesling paired with freshly shucked oysters is heaven. Anything fresh and zesty, loaded with lemongrass, mint or coriander is a sure-fire bet. Vietnamese or Thai style king prawn and green mango salad, another winning combination. Heirloom tomato and burrata with aromatic basil from the garden, cracked pepper and a drizzle of olive oil is one of our favourite matches.

The Malbec is made for spicy duck, crackling pork and chargrilled dishes. The perfumed and supple red is perfect for grazing on tapas like Spanish jamon, stuffed olives, Manchego cheese and Ortiz anchovies. Tomato based sauces and pastas like arrabbiata also work well.

Our Syrah is a fresh and fruitful style that melts in the mouth with slow cooked dishes like lamb shanks, beef Bourguignon stew, cassoulet and coq au vin. Duck and venison always pair well, but you can’t beat this juicy Syrah with a fantastic steak.

What do you believe are the big trends in the wine industry, both in Australia and abroad at the moment? Do you have any predictions for the future?
‘Industry’ is such mass production term. Wine for us is so much more than that; it is a living, breathing, changing thing that speaks of where it was raised. We think of the world of wine more as a community of people and places bound together by a common thread. In terms of trends, there is definitely a move towards appreciation of artisan craftsmanship and traditional skills, a paring back and embracing of the ways of old. With Matchbox, we bring to life the beauty of vineyards and varieties we love with minimal intervention. We believe medium bodied wines with moderate alcohol and food friendly texture are the way forward. Biodynamic, organic and ‘natural’ wines have a growing presence on the international stage. Green is a concept we should all embrace. If we take respect for the land into our daily lives we will build a sustainable future.

Matchbox Wine Co. is committed to a light footprint with Lean+Green™ lightweight bottles from O-I. Our bottles are 100% recyclable and up to 29% lighter than typical heavyweights. They are substantially more environmentally friendly, saving thousands of tonnes in glass packaging each year and delivering large savings in water, energy, transport and production emissions.

Where do you like to eat/drink/travel?
The Matchbox Wine Co. Gentleman’s Credo:
A gentleman never drinks too much
nor dines too well,
except in excellent company!

Great wine and company with good cheese and a crusty loaf is all we really need. We love rustic, provincial style food that shines a light on quality produce, simply prepared. Nothing beats old school recipes like your Nonna used to make.

Most of our travels take us to wine regions around the world. We always rely on local knowledge to ferret out the best eats and experience regional specialties. We love happening upon great little osteria and tapas bars in hidden laneways.

There are so many wonderful meals with friends imprinted on the fabric of our lives. An Italian luncheon under the huge tree in Cesare’s garden was one of the most striking. We sat in cane chairs at a rose embroidered table perched atop Monforte with an amazing vista of the valley below. There was no menu but bottles of Barolo in plentiful supply and each course of home-grown produce more delightful than the next. Imagine plump peaches and porcini mushrooms followed by fresh ravioli with shaved white tartufo, huge platters of spit roasted goat and warm zabaglione whisked at the table. Restaurant Ma Cuisine in the ancient Burgundian town of Beaune is another favourite haunt. In Sydney, you will find us late-lunching at Kitchen by Mike or propping up the bar at The Apollo, Movida or Ms.G’s.

What do we like to drink? The short answer is most anything with a sense of place. It’s not always about wine; Australian craft beer and cider have never looked better. Right now we are having fun discovering artisan brews from Small Players, Two Metre Tall Company, Dickens and Lost Pippin.

Where to next for Matchbox? And for you both?
We recently put down roots in Tasmania so we are exploring a new landscape of food and wine. We are looking to Asia as the next frontier. It will be a massive thrill to share the Matchbox Wine Co. story in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan this year. Vintage 2013 has begun in Clare Valley and a Tassie wine is in the pipeline. Bringing people together is at the heart of Matchbox Wine Co. We like to challenge ideas and always play up our whimsical streak. No doubt there are many adventures ahead!

Where can readers find your wines?
Online at, top restuarants such as The Apollo, Longrain, Four Fourteen, Luke Nguyen’s Red Lantern, Fix St. James, The Four in Hand Hotel, Otto Ristorante, Palings Kitchen and Bar at Ivy, The Apothecary, Andre’s Cucina, City Wine Shop and fine wine retailers.

Annandale Cellars
Bellevue Hill Bottle Shop
Best Cellars
Bottega del Vino
Camperdown Cellars Darlinghurst
Camperdown Cellars Double Bay
Cremorne Cellars
Five Way Cellars
Mogo Village Cellars
Northbridge Cellars
Summer Hill Wine Shop
Taylor Square Bottle-O
The Australian Wine Centre
Vintage Blue Cellars

Blackhearts & Sparrows
Carwyn Cellars
Cloud Wine
Prince Wine Store

East End Cellars
Melbourne Street Cellars
The Edinburgh Cellars (The Ed)

Cool Wine
Pinot Shop

Check out Matchbox Wine Co. on Twitter, Facebook and online.

Q&A with Chris Ball from AdventureHoney

11 Jan


Paddling the length of the Dead Sea

Paddling the length of the Dead Sea

Talking about travel gets me excited. It reminds me of the wonderful times I have had on the road and inspires me to work hard towards having more. I recently met Chris Ball, CEO of AdventureHoney, a fantastic website where you can book adventurous activities overseas with 25% of the profit going to impoverished communities, and the conversation naturally turned to travel. He has had some incredible adventures and I thought it was a crime not to have him share some here. So, enjoy Chris’ story or visit AdventureHoney to check out the adventures on offer. And for the record, this isn’t a sponsored post, it’s just something cool!

How did the idea for AdventureHoney come about? After a ‘gruelling’ two years spent travelling through 50 countries, across six continents, AdventureHoney was born. In my travels, I noticed that although there were a host of online options for booking flights, accommodation, travel insurance, rental cars etc there was very little when it came to tours and activities and everything out there was lame (i.e. bus tour of city sights…meh!)

Now, I dare say that for any adventurous traveller many of the greatest experiences can’t be bought. However, there are many amazing things to do that are only possible if bought from a trusted operator. Whether white water rafting a remote jungle river, tearing over single track trails on a mountain bike or scuba diving a tropical reef – AdventureHoney is the place where you find and book all those adventurous tours and activities. In fact, the name is a reflection of what we offer – the adventurous ‘honey on top’ for your travels – connecting you to all those cool things to do.

What makes AdventureHoney different from other travel booking sites? In a sentence: A place to buy adventurous tours and activities direct from operators, curated by fellow travellers, which generate a positive local impact every time an experience is sold.

So, there’s three points that make us unique:

1. Adventure experience specialists.

2. Buy experiences curated by fellow travellers, like TripAdvisor with a booking engine.

3. We leave a positive local impact on the people and place. 25% of the proceeds invested into our Changemaker Program, investing in social entrepreneurs suffering extreme poverty.

AdventureHoney Logo

To be sharing these adventures with the world, you must have an adventurous spirit yourself. Tell us your most adventurous travel story. Ah-ha, I love this question! But how do I pick just one? Kayaking the length of the Dead Sea before being intercepted by the Israeli military – that was pretty wild; two weeks trekking in Patagonia – almost getting lost in knee deep snow and horizontal sleet; cycling from London to Istanbul; touring Cambodia on a motorbike…so many wonderful adventures!

I’ll go with trekking deep into the Amazon with a local Colombian and living like a local. We lived a subsistence life for a week or so. By day we’d explore the jungle, fish for catfish and piraña, pick fresh mangoes and pineapple and have wonderful conversations using my limited Spanish but mostly just smiles and body language.

At night, I slept in a hammock strung up in a local man’s jungle hut. Regular thunderstorms lit up the night sky, the thunder occasionally drowned out the sounds of the jungle.  One night, we went hunting in a traditional canoe. We shot a Caiman (like a small crocodile) and ate it for breakfast the next day. And yes, it tastes just like…chicken!

The jungle itself was something that must be experienced to be believed. The level of biodiversity was phenomenal. It seemed like every butterfly that landed on you or bee that buzzed by was unique. There was a beetle that came out at night, which had a light as bright as burning magnesium on its abdomen! Monkeys, snakes, monitors, lizards, bugs, birds, bats…a truly amazing part of the world.

Amazon Man

Amazon Man

Bulgarian Black Sea on London to Istanbul ride

Seeing the Bulgarian Black Sea on Chris’ London to Istanbul ride

And your most touching moment on the road? Great question. There are two moments that jump to mind, which are hard to separate. One was in Malawi were I spent some time in a school for orphans whose parents had died of AIDS. The children were filled with love, curiosity and an eagerness to learn. It wasn’t until I left that I discovered that the majority also carried the HIV virus – passed down by their parents before birth. It was sad, but the positive energy and attitude of these children was inspiring.

The second moment was in the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon. To see thousands of displaced people, wanted by no one, with no country or home to call their own, living in fields under plastic tarps was shocking. It provided a deeper understanding behind some of the issues in this troubled region.

Moments like these in Malawi and Lebanon inspired AdventureHoney’s commitment to invest 25% of proceeds into the Changemaker Program.  The program is an incredibly powerful way to make a real and lasting difference. By empowering local people with great social business ideas we can make a difference to the lives of thousands of people around the world. Travel is the ideal vehicle for such a program. By 2020 1.6 billon fortunate people will travel the world accounting for 10% of global GDP. We have a phenomenal opportunity to leverage this weight of money for the benefit of those who need it most.

What can travellers expect from AdventureHoney? They can expect to find real adventure experiences, Thailand only for now, which run from a couple of hours up to three or four days. From free climbing and cliff jumping to kayaking and trekking, from single track mountain biking and motorbike tours to scuba diving and elephant treks – AdventureHoney is where real travellers find real adventures.

It’s safe to book (we have a 100% money back guarantee) and the niche focus means you know what you’re going to get and you won’t pay more than what you would pay going direct to the operator (no big fat travel agent commissions!)

Rafting Chaing Mai

AdventureHoney guests Rafting in Chaing Mai

AdventureHoney guests visiting an Elephant Sanctuary in Northern Thailand

AdventureHoney guests visiting an Elephant Sanctuary in Northern Thailand

AdventureHoney Four Day Moto tour in Northern Thailand

AdventureHoney Four Day Moto tour in Northern Thailand

What are the next steps for AdventureHoney? Getting more great adventurous experiences from awesome operators and getting lots of bookings from awesome travellers! Once we are comfortable with progress in Thailand, we’ll look to expand through South East Asia and beyond!

Where is your next trip or ultimate adventure? One of three places: Nepal, Bhutan or Borneo. I’ve never been to any, but will get to one in 2013. I like Nepal as a destination for awe inspiring trekking and spirituality. Bhutan fascinates me for the way it manages tourism and its take on GDP with the ‘Gross Happiness Index.’ And Borneo is attractive for a nice mix between great jungles trekking and beautiful beaches. Of course, all three are rich in adventure!

Interview with 3 Michelin Starred Chef Heinz Beck

12 Oct

Heinz Beck

Heinz Beck is one of Europe’s most respected chefs and has been heralded as a leader in Italian and Mediterranean culinary tradition. His restaurant, La Pergola in Rome, has gained three Michelin stars. It’s a pretty amazing place, the only restaurant with three Michelin stars in Rome, has a cellar with 53,000 bottles in it, as well as a water menu featuring over 25 different waters to match with dinner.

Chef Beck will be in Sydney in November to host an exclusive dinner at Caffe Sicilia in Surry Hills and I got the chance to have a chat with him ahead of his visit.

How does your German heritage and Italian training translate onto the plate? When I arrived in Italy I was not well versed in Italian cuisine but I spent much time studying the intricacies of traditional Italian cuisine in the city’s best local trattorias. I developed my own idea of Italian food: dishes dedicated to people who live in Rome. I describe my cuisine as light Mediterranean flavours, I use modern techniques to make my plates more healthy without sacrificing flavour.

You are dedicated to providing not only fine dining but a healthy experience. Is this difficult to maintain? I have been advocating healthy eating for over 10 years, so I find it very simple just keep to fresh ingredients. The basis of excellent cuisine should be only these high quality fresh ingredients. Fruits and vegetables should be ripe, and perfect consistency, then you don’t need to over do it on the extras.

Heinz Beck Iced sphere of red fruits

Iced sphere of red fruits with tea flavoured chocolate cream

It took some time to gain three Michelin stars – how did it feel to finally achieve that at La Pergola? I have paid my dues to get those stars – I slogged so hard for so many years before getting to where I am today.

When I received the 3-Michelin for La Pergola, it was broadcast live on TV in Europe. I was in the kitchen with my team and all the staff were jumping with excitement and we celebrated with champagne. I am very pleased and proud of this achievement.

How much time do you spend time ‘on the pans’? Do you find the business of food – events, media and your other restaurants Apsleys and Cafe Les Paillotes – have taken you away from actually cooking? I spend most of my time at La Pergola. However I still ensure to visit Apsleys regularly. It was a big commitment for me to open a second restaurant and it is important for me to do it well.

Heinz Beck Black Cod

Black cod with marinated anchovies and chilli pepper sauce

Heinz Beck's signature Carbonara Fagottelli

Heinz Beck’s signature Carbonara Fagottelli

You are in Australia for a dinner series with Caffe Sicilia and will leave four dishes on the menu for December as a legacy. Can you give us a sneak peek into what guests can expect on the evening? I want to show guests a very modern, healthy but tasty way of eating Sicilian food. I will recreate my signature dishes from La Pergola but also use Caffe Sicilia and Sicilian cuisine as inspiration. Guests will get to experience the ultimate dining food affair – I put a lot of effort into every dish and these recipes will reflect that.

This is your first trip to Australia – what are you looking forward to doing while you are here? I am looking forward to working with the Australian fresh produce, and trying kangaroo. I like exploring new frontiers as it inspires me and rejuvenates my cooking juices. I am also looking for cooking at Caffe Sicilia – my wife is Sicilian so I have a real passion for Sicilian cuisine.

What is your favourite dish to cook when you are not working – just to eat at home? On my nights off I enjoy eating fresh pasta at home, such as spaghetti with clams – I love pasta cooked in any possible way. For a treat, I love Arancini Siciliani, traditional Sicilian street food that consists of a ball of saffron rice filled with Bolognese sauce and fried in crispy breadcrumbs.

Chef Beck will be collaborating with the Caffe Sicilia team for an 8-course dinner (with matching wines) on 28th of November, 29 of November and 1 December for $350 per person. Four of Chef Beck’s dishes on the Sicilian-inspired menu will be added to the Caffe Sicilia menu in December as a legacy of his visit. Tickets can be purchased here.

02 9699 8787
628 Crown Street, Surry Hills, Australia

Lucy Folk in The Weekly Review

30 Aug


In this week’s issue of The Weekly Review is a lovely little interview I did with Melbourne jeweller Lucy Folk. Her work is quirky and draws on a very intense love of food! You can also visit Lucy’s shop in Crossley St Melbourne or online here.

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