A night at the movies and the BLOOM Gin Garden at the Sydney Film Festival Hub

Thanks to BLOOM gin, I was given a Sydney Film Festival experience which included movie tickets to a movie of my choice and drinks and a cheese platter at the BLOOM Gin Garden at the Sydney Film Festival Hub.

The movie we watched was Pop Eye, a movie set in Thailand about a disenchanted architect who is having the crowning glory of his career, Gardenia Square, demolished to make way for a new mega-building that will grace the skyline of Bangkok. Being excluded from being part of this new architectural project, he leaves his office feling disenchanted and has a chance encounter with his childhood pet, an elephant called Pop Eye, which he repurchases. Pop Eye was sold to the circus by his family when he left his village for the big smoke. Realising that he cannot keep Pop Eye in his modern designer home, he embarks on a long arduous journey, mostly by foot with Pop Eye, to return him to the village where his uncle still resides. Along the way, he meets a few interesting characters and ends up finding that things have changed and will never be the same again.

After the movie, we headed to the BLOOM Gin Garden at the Sydney Film Festival Hub Bar in Sydney’s Lower Town Hall which was serving BLOOM Gin’s signature cocktails: BLOOM Classic G&T (made with BLOOM gin, Fentimans tonic water and a strawberry garnish) and BLOOM Rosé (made with BLOOM gin, Fentimans rose lemonade and a strawberry garnish).  We enjoyed our drinks with a lovely cheese platter.

BLOOM Premium London Dry Gin is a light, delicate and floral gin. It is created with a bespoke blend of three botanicals: honeysuckle, chamomile and pomelo.

BLOOM London Dry Gin is distilled at the oldest distillery in the UK. Established in 1761 only seven Master Distillers have worked at the distillery in its 250 year history.

For more information about BLOOM gin, head to: https://www.bloomgin.com

Wine Tasting the best of Mudgee at the Pyrmont and Mudgee Region Festival; Wine, Food and Art

There is no better way to taste the wines of Mudgee than at a wine tasting event at The Pyrmont and Mudgee Region Festival: Wine, Food and Art weekend which occurred on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 May 2017 at Pirrama Park, Pyrmont.

The Pyrmont and Mudgee Region Festival is a family-friendly event with live music, local artists, rides and children’s entertainment. It is in its seventh year and there was over 100 stalls where the public could meet the wine-makers, participate in tastings and sample a broad range of fine foods. Admission was free. Tasting tickets started at $20 with a glass and 5 tickets, and for the first time this year, there was also a beer garden.

For our wine tasting event we started with a crowns and cocktail workshop, where we made floral crowns with real flowers and cocktails using Wellstead Shrubs. A shrub is a sweetened vinegar based syrup. This drinking vinegar is infused with fruit juice, herbs and spices and used to mix drinks.

Then we met representatives from three major wineries and tasted some award-winning wines. From the Petersons Winery we sampled the chardonnay and Jamie’s Quatro (vintage 2015) wines and heard about the history of this Hunter Valley family-owned business that also has a vineyard in Mudgee. From the Burnbrae Winery we sampled the 2016 Burnbrae Cuvee and 2017 Bella’s Moscato. It is the oldest vineyard in Mudgee and still has the original winemaker’s cottage. From Botobolar Winery, we tasted the organically grown The King 2006/7 (made from cabernet sauvignon and shiraz), the Shiraz 2013, and the Shiraz 2016 (preservative free). Botobolar has been making organic wine for over 40 years and is the first fully certified organic vineyard in Australia.

Mudgee Region is the third largest grape growing region in NSW and one of the oldest too. They have been grapes grown here since 1850 and there are more than 110 growers and over 30 cellar doors to visit.

Mudgee specialises in Chardonnay. Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon also benefit from the temperate climate of vineyards high above sea level allowing the berries to slowly ripen in the rich red soil.

The Mudgee Region is also well-known for its food. The area includes Mudgee, Rylstone, Gulgong, Kandos, Hill End, Soffala, Hargraves, Glen Davis, as well as other villages and towns. Food products include honey, free range lamb, pork and beef, hazelnuts, pomegranates, olive oils and chocolate (where the beans are sourced from Vanuatu). The High Valley Cheese Company is making some award-winning cheeses and you can visit them for cheese tastings.

There is also a micro distillery. Baker Williams Distillery, that is making spirits and liqueurs focusing on regional flavours and influences. Their range includes Moonshine, wheat Vodka, Gin, Cumquat Liqueur and even Limoncello and Butterscotch Schnapps. They also make a Rouge Vert Jus-spirit.

Mudgee is only a 3.5-hour drive from Sydney. For more information about Mudgee, go to: https://www.visitmudgeeregion.com.au/

For more information about The Pyrmont and Mudgee Region Festival: Wine, Food and Art, go to: http://pyrmontfestival.com.au/

So Frenchy So Chic in the Park – a day of celebrating French culture, food, wine and music

Crowds packed Bicentiennial Park, Glebe on Saturday 21 January 2016 for the annual, So Frenchy So Chic in the Park, a French festival of food, wine and music.

Renault was one of the proud sponsors of the event and they provided chauffeur driven vehicles to all their guests (which included me) to travel to and from the event in comfort. On the way there, I experienced all the features of the Renault Koleos including the advanced safety features, the intuitive R-link 2 sat-nav and the premium accoustic performance of the BOSE® audio system.

At the festival, Sydneysiders had a day of joie de vivre, with French delicacies from a selection of gourmet food stalls, French wine and beer from a number of pop-up bars and live music from four impressive French bands. Kids also had lots of fun at the kids zone getting their faces painted and playing a number of lawn games.

In the Renault private picnic area, food was supplied by fine food caterer Simmone Logue. Guests enjoyed: a lunch picnic box consisting of a baguette filled with poached chicken, tarragon mayonnaise, charred peppers and butter lettuce, a braised leek and gruyere quiche with buttery creme fraiche pastry, a salad jardinere with French bean and julienne vegetables, a lemon curd cheesecake and petit four chocolate ganache tart; an cheese picnic box with a variety of cheeses (Bon-Mon-Sire, Bieu Auvergne la Veronne and Comte 6 months), accompanied by quince paste, strawberries, grapes and a crusty baguette; and a dessert box of red, white and blue macarons. All this was watered down with Laurent Perrier champagne and a selection of French wines.

The line-up of French musicians was impressive. The four bands were: Nouvelle Vague, The Liminanas, Bertrand Belin, and Deluxe. Nouvelle Vague means new wave and are considered the royalty of French contemporary music. They have had a number famous female lead singers (including Camille, Melanie Pain and Vanessa Paradis) and they return to Sydney for the first time since 2012. The Liminanas comes from Perpignan, South of France. They sing in both French and English and echo the sensuality of 60s French pop and American rock. Brittany born and Paris based Bertrand Belin is a jack of all trades. He is an actor, writer and funk-folk musician. He has five albums and is one of France’s most fascinating singers. Deluxe comes from Aix-en-Provence and progressed from humble buskers to sell-out concerts in Europe. They were the final act and people in the crowd told me that they came especially to see them.

During the day people were enjoying their picnics and at night they were all dancing near the stage.

For more information about So Frenchy So Chic in the Park, go to: http://www.sofrenchysochic.com.au/

For more information about Renault Koleos, go to: http://www.renault.com.au/vehicles/suv/koleos/koleos/intens


The 26th Flickerfest International Short Film Festival launches at Bondi Pavilion

The 26th Flickerfest International Short Film Festival officially opened on Friday 6 January 2016 at Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach with the screening of five short films and an after party.
The five films that were screened at opening night included:
– OS Love – a film about a woman who immerses herself into a world of tropical screensavers and desktop backgrounds and manages to create an operating system called ‘OS Love’
– Bon Voyage – a film about a Swiss couple who are sailing the Mediterranean and encounter a refugee boat
– Messiah – a film about an Irishman and his French girlfriend who encounter a mystical Aboriginal man while driving in the outback
– Fish with Legs – a film about a group of fish who wake up to find that they have four legs and are trying to comprehend why this occurred
– Timecode – a film about two security guards at a carpark who work different shifts but still manage to find a way to connect.
After the screening, guests enjoyed drinks at the after party which was held at the Flickerfest bar and the balcony overlooking Bondi beach.
For ten days, Flickerfest will be screening some of the best short films from Australia and around the world at Bondi Pavilion until Sunday 15 January 2017. It will screen over 150 short films hand picked from over 2400 entries.
The Flickerfest bar will be serving delicious food and drinks every day throughout the festival.
When the ten days are over, Flickerfest will leave Bondi beach and travel to over 50 venues around Australia for their national tour.
Flickerfest began as a small local festival at Balmain High School in 1991. Since then it has grown to become Australia’s leading Academy accredited and BAFTA recognised competitive Australian and International Short Film Festival with 1000’s of entries coming from filmmakers across the globe.
Flickerfest awards a number of prestigious prizes including the Flickerfest Award for the Best International Short Film, the Yoram Goss Award for Best International Animation, the Virgin Australia Award for Best Australian Short Film, and the Flickerfest Award for Best Documentary. There are also a number of prizes for various craft areas inherent in making great short films.
Please visit the Flickerfest website for further event information at: www.flickerfest.com.au
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The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2017 program launches in Sydney

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2017 program was launched on Friday 2 December 2016 at a warehouse in Rozelle with one message: to create equality.

The theme for 2017 is Creating Equality. Equality by its definition is ensuring everyone is treated fairly and equally, and not discriminated against for their race, gender, ability, beliefs, sexuality or age.

It is a poignant message that has been the cornerstone of The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’ ethos since its beginnings in 1978. Australia has come a long way in accepting gay and lesbian people but marriage equality has not been achieved.

The Festival starts on Friday 17 February, and runs for two weeks until Sunday 5 March 2017. It includes a bumper program of events, exhibitions, music and theatre in an all-inclusive, all-singing, all-dancing celebration of Australia’s LGBTQI community.

There are over 80 events in store. There are some new events including Koori Gras @ 107, a festival within the festival where people have the opportunity to discover the history of First People’s involvement in Mardi Gras. The Art Gallery of NSW will present a number of special events around the Adman: Warhol before pop exhibition. Frontier Comedy will bring huge international and local comedians together in Sydney for the Mardi Gras Comedy Festival.

Fair Day will return with tens of thousands of people coming together for a day in the sun. The pool party will take place at the exclusive CBD Ivy pool. Post the parade, there will be The Official Mardi Gras Party with over 12,000 ticket holders at Sydney’s Entertainment Quarter.

And of course, the jewel in the crown of Mardi Gras, the Parade will take place on Saturday 4 March 2017 and offer a chance for over 200,000 LGBTQI people and their supporters to come together and celebrate the community,

Tickets for this program go on sale Friday 02 December 2016.

For information about events or to buy tickets, go to: mardigras.org.au

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The inaugural Royal Croquet Club launches at Bondi beach

The weather at Bondi beach was perfect on Thursday 24 November 2016 for the launch of the inaugural Royal Croquet Club – an 11 day lifestyle festival of food and music.

Celebrities, VIPs and media gathered for drinks and a game of croquet on opening night at the Pol Roger Champagne Garden and Pimms Bar.

Celebrities that attended included: Home and Away star Nic Westaway; The Saddle Club actress Sophie Hensser; My Kitchen Rules winner Steve Flood; Big Brother’s Aisha Jade and Lisa Clarke; The Bachelor’s Keira Maguire and Kiki Morris; The Bachelorette star Matty Johnson and celebrity make-up artist Michael Brown.

Food was served from the pop up restaurants on site which included: Southern fried chicken from Butter; Frying Nemo burgers from Milky Lane; fried fetta balls, falafel and kefta from Old City Kitchen Bar; fluffy filled steamed buns and duck fries from Bao Stop; chicken satay skewers and roti from Mamak; bbq meats from Hoy Pinoy, and ice-cream served in look-alike Campbell soup tins from Gelato Messina. This food will be available for purchase for the duration of the festival.

There will also be a number of music acts during the festival including: Bag Raiders, Dope Lemon (Angus Stone), Electric Fields, Hayden James (DJ Set), Hugo Gruzman, Jarryd James, Jimmy 2sox, Kilter & Klue, KLP (DJ Set), San Cisco, Thandi Phoenix, Tom Tilley, and Wealth.
The 11 day festival will take over North Bondi from 24 November 2016 until 4 December 2016.
For more information, go to: https://royalcroquetclub.com.au/

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The Sydney Italian Festival launches in Sydney

The Italian Trade Agency launched the Sydney Italian Festival at Doltone House, Pyrmont on Wednesday 12 October 2016.

There were a number of Italian food and drink stations at the event including: pasta from Barilla pasta; Moretti beer served with pizza from Versace Pizzeria; a cheese, prosciutto and olives table; hazelnut gelato, and coffee and lemon granite from Cremeria De Luca; coffee from Lavazza; Ferrero Roches from Ferrero; prosecco and Aperol Spritz served by Casa Italia; and Italian Wines served by il Mercante.

Channel Seven Morning Show stylist, Donny Galella, was one of the special guests of the event and he also judged the best Italian style competition with the prize sponsor being Karisma.

Speeches for the night included: the first speech by Master of Ceremony Janette Lakis; a welcome by Italian Trade Commissioner Antonietta Baccanari; a speech by His Excellency Ambassador of Italy Pier Francesco Zazo; and the final speech by Peter Redford from Five Star Motor Cruisers.

The surprise of the night was the view of a stunning yacht, the Flybridge 70, which was parked outside Doltone House and represented Italian design and technology.

Guests also enjoyed the “Escape to Italy” photobooth featuring the irresistible “toy car” red FIAT 500 Abarth .

Sydney Italian Festival 2016 runs from the 12 October 2016 to 30 October 2016

For more information, go to: www.sydneyitalianfestival.com

Photograph provided by Mondostef.

Cool Yule Festival has returned to Darling Harbour for the winter school holidays

Darling Harbour will come alive this winter with Cool Yule Festival. The Festival launched on Friday 1 July 2016 showing guests what the public will experience during the Festival.

This year the ice skating rink is bigger than ever. There are learn to skate lessons from 9am to 10am daily for both adults and children. Buy your tickets in advance to be sure you secure a spot.

Top figure skaters will be showing off their skills as part of the Stars On Ice Show from 12:45pm to 1pm daily. The performances change daily with beautiful costumes and impressive routines.

The Cool Yule Snow Pit is back by popular demand. Children will be able to build a snowman or have a snow fight without leaving the city.

There is a 20 metres high and 20 metres long Frozen Forest to wander through with lit up trees, icicles and snowflakes. The Monkey Bae Theatre Company will be using this backdrop to entertain the little ones for free with interactive storytelling sessions and fun activities.

The sky will light up every Saturday at 8:30pm with spectacular fireworks set to a soundtrack. The best place to watch them is at the promenade at Cockle Bay.

The Cool Yule Ferris Wheel will lift you to the highest viewpoint in Darling Harbour. Admire the views of the harbour and the Cool Yule iceberg down below.

To capture your memories, there is a Cool Yule selfie station where you can design your own frosty themed selfie. Using augmented reality, you can interact with penguins and experience snow. Download the Cool Yule App for free from the App Store or Google Play.

There is also a Cool Yule Competition to celebrate Sea Life Sydney Aquarium’s new Penguin Island Expedition where you could win a Premium Merlin Annual Family Pass for 12 months. Simply photograph yourself with at Cool Yule and tag it with #DarlingHarbour and #CoolYule on instagram to win the prizes.

The event will run from 2 July to 17 July 2016 for the duration of the winter school holidays.

For more information about tickets and prices, go to www.darlingharbour.com/whats-on/cool-yule/

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The Rocks Aroma Festival is back in July 2016

The Rocks Aroma Festival brings together the very best in brewers, baristas and boutique roasters from around Australia for one magical day of caffeinated delight on Sunday 24 July, 2016.

Tantalise the taste buds with more than 60 coffee and gourmet food stallholders, food trucks, latte art competitions and demonstrations, pop-up bars, performers and amazing coffee inspired specials.

Brewing industry leaders are showcasing some incredible offerings at Aroma. Melbourne brand St Ali are popping up with their Sydney outlet, Sensory Lab, to deliver a fuss free speciality coffee experience that focuses on the minimalist magic behind the perfect brew.

Sydney’s rockstar roasters, Pablo and Rusty’s, are recognised around town for their small-batch roasted beans. A regular at Aroma for the last few years, the team are known for their ethically sourced produce and stellar trio of espresso blends.

The Rocks Aroma Festival is about celebrating coffee from every corner of the globe. Malgudi Days bring their South Indian style filter coffee made with stretched milk to the festival while Djebena Coffees will be brewing coffee the traditional Ethiopian way, in a clay pot called a ‘djebena’.

If hot drinks aren’t your cup of tea, the Aroma Brew Bar is a pop-up bar with a difference. For one day only, the bar is serving up Mr Black artisan cold press coffee liqueur cocktails and a coffee infused beer, poured especially for Aroma by the team at Endeavour Vintage Beer Co.

Visitors to The Rocks can enjoy a stellar program of music across the festival site, including folk-pop duo Microwave Jenny, and gypsy band Lolo Lovina on the La Toosh stage. Roving performers, and DJs are also on the menu, playing fresh and funky soulful sounds all day long.

There’s a whole host of activities planned for when you’re not savouring a warm drop. Breville’s Latte Art Smackdown is back and sees professional baristas battle each other in a knockout competition for who can pour the prettiest cup. Those who feel they’ve got what it takes can also join in – an amateur Latte Art competition is taking place on the day with one lucky pouring punter taking home a Breville Oracle coffee machine. People who are new to Latte art, can visit the Breville Marquee for some tips.

Australia’s leading almond milk brand, Almond Breeze, is hitting the Aroma Festival stage to run the regional heats of its Breezy Masters competition. The “Masters” is the first non-dairy competition to be run nationwide, where baristas from across the country will be invited to craft the most creative latte art in a bid to compete in America.

After the excitement of watching Australia’s best battle it out for coffee glory, wind down over a latte and relax at the smoothfm Picnic Area. The soothing sounds of classic songs will mix with the scents of roasted beans and be carried on the air through the cobblestoned laneways of The Rocks.

Visitors can also raise funds for Australian dairy farmers by buying from the Sam Project’s mobile café. Pauls, exclusive dairy milk sponsor of Aroma, is also a supporter of the Sam Project whose mission is to impact all Australians to live a mentally and physically healthy life.

The festival also offers an impressive array of workshops in the two weeks leading up to the big day. Curated by the Australian Speciality Coffee Association, coffee connoisseurs can unleash their inner barista and learn tips from industry experts on key flavour profiles, how to brew great coffee at home and impress with Latte art designs.

Aroma’s newest partner, Food Network, will be filming live at the Aroma Coffee Festival. Food Network is Australia’s first and only free-to-air food channel bringing some of the world’s most popular food personalities to TV screens 24/7. Keep an eye out for some of the crew who’ll be capturing all the action, excitement and ‘froth’ of the day

The Rocks is one of the most envied heritage destinations in the world. The Rocks’ unique heritage is preserved and celebrated in large scale and intimate quality events, outdoor markets, and educational tours. The Rocks is a perfect blend of culture, cuisine and a myriad of experiences worth savouring. The Rocks attracts over 14 million visitors each year as an extraordinary place in Sydney that the world talks about.

Visit the therocks.com for more information.

The Rocks Aroma Festival
Sunday 24 July, 10am – 5pm
With coffee experiences and workshops in July

Sydney Fringe Festival highlights announced

Sydney Fringe Festival, the largest independent arts festival in NSW, marks seven years of success by announcing its largest and most dynamic program yet, to be presented from 1 until 30 September. For the first time in 2016, Sydney Fringe together with Inner West Council will unveil and enliven a new Sydney cultural precinct ‘Off Broadway’ bringing pop-up spaces, performances and street activations to a previously disused strip of Parramatta Road.

Sydney Fringe Festival returns to take over the city this September with a ‘call to party’ theme inviting audiences onto the streets with more than 300 productions in over 50 venues spread across five cultural villages. Highlighting the city’s vibrant culture, the cultural villages presented for Fringe will activate Sydney suburbs with a diverse program spanning theatre, music, comedy, visual art, film, musical  theatre, dance, circus, literature and poetry.

Sydney Fringe CEO and Festival Director Kerri Glasscock said: “In 2016 the Sydney Fringe Festival will put the sparkle back into our City’s nightlife. It’s time for the Independent sector to stand up and say “party”, to celebrate the rich cultural offerings that are lovingly created throughout the City all year round and we want you to be there. This year we’ll be reawakening old haunts, reviving long forgotten venues and activating new precincts across the City throughout the month of September.”

A highlight of the 2016 festival will be the new Sydney creative precinct titled ‘Off Broadway’ to be unveiled by Sydney Fringe and Inner West Council for the first time during the Festival. Off Broadway will host a series of events in the disused shop fronts along Parramatta Road in Sydney’s inner west.

FRINGE IGNITE, the festival’s opening party, returns on Saturday 3 September and will take place in Darlinghurst along Stanley Street and neighbouring laneways. Teaming up with the Live Music Office and APRA AMCOS with guest curator Barney McAll, Fringe Ignite features a decadent program that will then spill into the neighbouring venues of Oxford St and Darlinghurst post 8pm for further celebrations. Further parties are planned for the Festival including a series of themed discos to take place at venues around inner Sydney.

Sydney Fringe Festival is delighted to work with 2016 Festival Ambassadors including actress Camilla Ah Kin, actress Paula Arundell, actor Nicholas Brown, comedian Sam McCool and the multi-talented Stone family with Yael Stone of Orange Is The New Black fame, musician Elana Stone and Jake Stone previously of band Bluejuice.

An extended family program of events will be offered with FRINGE KIDS presented over the first weekend of the school holidays on 24 – 25 September, including workshops by local Instagram sensation Handy With Scissors plus kids performances and family friendly events at 5 Eliza St Newtown. Sydney Fringe is also hosting a high tea for mothers while the kids are in workshops, a champagne brunch in aid of raising funds for Fringe Festival’s community partner Look Good Feel Better providing support to cancer patients. Camperdown Park will play host to a family movie screened in the park on 17 September and an Edwardian inspired family cricket and picnic day on 18 September.

A large-scale Silent Dinner Party at Paddington Town Hall on Saturday 24 September will be a highlight of the Festival’s closing weekend, following the popular 2015 Fringe Festival event that set a record for the largest silent dinner party. Guests at the Silent Dinner Party are instructed to “not use words or your voice, please don’t read or write, try to make as little noise as possible, don’t interact with technology and stay for at least 2 hours.” Dinner is included in the ticket price, offering the chance for guests be part of a living artwork that has now been hosted in eight countries across the world.

The full program for the 2016 Sydney Fringe Festival will be announced on 1 August 2016. Please visit https://www.sydneyfringe.com/ for further details and updates.