Friday, January 27, 2012

Edible thief

(photo by Mark FitzGerald)
When you garden organically, it's a constant battle dealing with pests.
You win some. You lose some.
I'd had my eye on this delicious Tioga strawberry - ripe and luscious from our recent bout of hot weather in Sydney. But a cunning native slug beat me to it.
He'd burrowed deep into the stawberry eating at least three times his weight in strawberry juice.
Of course once he was discovered, the game was up. This little slug had to go.
At least he died happy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Handyman Covergirl - The Edible Balcony Book

There are a long list of magazines I never thought I would ever make the cover of. Handyman Magazine, which is stocked in hundreds of Bunnings hardware outlets across Australia, was definitely one of them.
Look out for the 2012 February issue which features a special on my Edible Balcony book.
Just goes to show that more and more people are making the switch to homegrown - even when they only have a small space garden. Join the movement today.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Morocco - The Angsana Riads of Marakech

Ok. Take a break from your trowel and potting mix, oven and stove and let me take you on the adventure of a lifetime.

This is the breakfast room at our hotel in Marakech, Morocco - The Angsana Si Said Riad. Heavenly isn't it?

The Angsana Resort Group has a collection of 6 riads in Marakech ( former aristocratic homes) in the Old Medina which have been exquisitely converted into luxury accommodation while preserving their historical features.

Each riad has a central courtyard, spacious rooms, pool, a fireplace, and roof terraces.  There are beautiful zellig (ceramic art) tiles, gabbs (picked honey comb plaster work) and tagguebasts (cornices of sculpted plaster) all restored by local artisans.

I Dream of Jeannie meets Arabian nights.....

Being a former French colony, breakfast is a combination of croissants, pastries, eggs and jams or traditional Moroccan breads, rotis and cheeses. And the perfumed filtered coffee and mint tea will leave you in raptures.
Service is 5 star. Your every indulgence is seen to efficiently and discreetly.

Each riad has a menu of local Moroccan dishes including of course a wide variety of tagines. They feature the local ingredients of goat, lamb, chicken, almonds, dried fruit, saffron and paprika.

intricate mosaic floors

The bedroom suites are adorned by tadelakt, a Moroccan plastering technique, and have local antiques, hand-woven carpets, and contemporary artifacts and textiles.

Outside, the Old Medina is buzzing with motorbikes, noisy crowds and loud merchants spruiking their wares. But in our room it is an oasis of calm.

The bathrooms are mesmerising, magical places consisting of curved plastered walls, flickering lanterns and relaxing body treatments.

You're transported to another world...

And then you experience your first hamman - the Morrocan weekly spa and massage ritual.

You lie on stone slabs in warm softly lit treatment rooms and are washed down with strong jets of warm cleasing water. Then you are scrubbed down with desert crystals, rubbed with exotic oils extracted from lavender, rose and argan and lotions made from orange and lemon peels.

And after an hour's massage you won't recognise yourself. I literally floated out the room.

then some mint tea and Moroccan sweets....

and a relaxing drink on the roof-top terrace. While Morocco is a Muslim country, all the Angsana riads have terrific wine lists serving surprisingly excellent local wines. The Romans first introduced wine-making to the region and France developed the industry into a thriving export business until the French relinquished control of Morocco in 1965. My favourite was a Chateau Roslane white from the Les Celliers de Mekenes winery. It's a pity more Moroccan wines don't find their way to Australia.

The Koutoubia Mosque built in the 12th Century. The amplified call to prayers 5 times a day across the city takes a little getting use to.

donkeys and carts are still the best way of getting around in the narrow streets and souks.

The Angsana resorts are all situated a short walk from the busiest square in Morocco - the Jemaa el Fna.
This is one crazy place that has to be experienced to be believed. You'll find snake charmers, monkey-sellers, food stalls, acrobats, dancers and musicians.

And if all this isn't enough the Angsana's managers will arrange tailored tours for you. We enjoyed a guided walking tour through the city with our brilliant guide Ismail. We also drove East through the deserts and oases to the white-washed seaside resort of Essaouira.

On our way we saw what looked like an hallucination. But it wasn't. There were goats in this tree. Apparently the fruit of the argan tree are delicious and the local goats often clamber up to the top branches for a feed!

And the next day a breath-taking trip over the snow-covered Atlas mountains to the 12th Century fortress city of Ait Benhaddou.

Marakech is a dizzy exotic whirl of colour, excitement, romance, and adventure.
It will leave you breathless.

Saucy Onion stayed as a guest of the Angsana Morocco Riads Collection

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cafe Dov - Potts Point's best edible garden

Cafe Dov is fast becoming a Potts Point institution.
Now it's hyper-energetic owner Tim Petersen has expanded the eatery to include an edible courtyard.

The old car-port and storage area has been transformed into a groovy, relaxing outdoor space - the DOV garden.

Can't you picture your Sydney garden party here? The multi-talented Mr Petersen even turned his hand to some carpentry knocking together this rustic table.

There are trellised cherry tomatoes in recycled plastic tubs..

They're thriving in the protected courtyard...

... and occasionally find their way onto the menu..

There are tubs of soft-leafed rocket...

And an array of herbs to perk up dishes from the kitchen...

Thyme, taragon and mint...

...and more mint.

..filling the space with refreshing aromas...

... flowers including pansies to attract insects..

... and to add colour to the garden..

a potted bay tree

..all thriving amongst the hub-bub of Victoria Street.

A special space in a special part of the city. Book your table today.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Berlin - Brandenburger Hof Hotel

There's no two ways about it. Berlin is a looooonnnggg way from home.
 But for Australians there's no better time to travel to the German capital than now.

With our strong exchange rate and cut-price airfares, the arctic chill can turn on a magical winter wonderland at this time of year.

And there's no better place to make your travel base than the Brandenburger Hof Hotel in Berlin's ritzy Charlottenburg just off the famous Kurfurstendamm shopping precinct and near Europe's largest department store the Kaufhaus des Westens. (KaDeWe)

The Brandenburger Hof is one of those destination hotels.

I could easily pull up sticks here for a few weeks...

Of course it helps that it's a five star hotel with a Michelin star restaurant Die Quadriga.

This is the view from our room of the twinkling bejewelled Christmas Tree in the atrium courtyard.

The one-bedroom suite is modern yet soft and inviting.

I wanted to ship this bed back home with me

after a long chilly day of sight-seeing, there'splenty of room to put up your feet.....

...very relaxing...

... or catch up with some blogging..

Nougat, marshmallows and iced gingerbread to keep the energy up

luxurious bathroom with heated floors, double vanity, deep bath and roomy shower

beautiful body treatments and a spa suite for a rejuvenating massage...

Through the lobby is one of the coolest lounge bars

cocktails and an excellent wine list..

And some interesting pieces of art collected and curated by the hotel's owner

love this mirrored piece..

There are several private dining rooms to book for dinner or a meeting. German Chancellor Angela Merkel can sometimes be spotted here.

Breakfast is the real piece de resistance. It's more like an elaborate ceremony.

several courses featuring the Nordic staples of yoghurt, eggs...

cheese, fruit, pickled fish and buttered chive bread.
The service is impeccable. And yes we did feel like royalty for the day.

To top off a perfect stay we were able to snaffle up some standing-only tickets to the Berlin gig of Bryan Ferry's current tour.

Third row from the front at the intimate Admiralpalast Theatre.
My Only Love.
You have got to come here.