I am on the Gold Coast this week hunting and gathering new stories, but wanted to leave you with some final images of Sri Lanka on which you can feast.
The fish was fascinating…
The curry fragrant…
The fruit and vegetables were organic…
The spices, well, spicy…
And the kitchens rustic…
The Global Goddess travelled to Sri Lanka on a Real Food Adventure as a guest of Intrepid Travel – http://www.intrepidtravel.com
I AM dining in the Brisbane restaurant which has just been named Best for Romance/First Date 2015 by the Dimmi Awards. The irony of the fact that I am dining with five other women, two of whom are complete strangers, is not lost on me. Story of my life that this is, I am at Auchenflower’s Deer Duck Bistro to see what the duck the fuss is all about. How can a restaurant be romantic? Isn’t it up to the diners? We are here to try the 7-course Chef’s Menu with matching wines and even better, it appears romance is right around the corner from me, with this restaurant in the next inner west suburb to that in which I live.
Owned by Chef Nicholas Cooper, if you love the planet, Deer Duck Bistro sprouts a very romantic ethos: to promote ethical eating by using the freshest, local, sustainable, organic and macrobiotic produce possible. A boxed garden onsite grows heirloom plants and micro herbs harvested just before they hit your plate, and the restaurant supports small, independent growers. Where possible fruit and vegetables are sourced locally from Mount Tamborine, The Darling Downs and South Burnett regions and bread is baked on premise using organic ingredients.
While there’s not too many deer or ducks roaming the streets of Brisbane, you’ll see plenty on the walls of this restaurant which is themed with unusual antiques and is a pleasant departure from the usual bold Queensland colours you see elsewhere around town, particularly on this crisp winter night. In fact, so eclectic are things in this establishment, that even each table setting consists of mismatched cutlery, which evokes that comfortable, familiar feeling of dining at your grandmas. The aim: to deliver modern Australian, European cuisine.
The restaurant also serves a-la-carte dishes and, despite its carnivorous name, is incredibly popular with vegetarians and vegans for whom it caters beautifully, including an individual 7-course degustation for those who don’t eat meat. For consummate carnivores like myself, the menu is a delicious dream. Our 7 courses started with mussels, carrot and dill, which was an unexpectedly tasty combination. Onion, thyme and veal sweetbreads followed before barramundi, shitake and black rice.
Chicken, corn and tarragon formed the basis of the fourth course, followed by beef, pumpkin and onion. While not part of this particular 7-course menu, we had the opportunity to try the duck after which the restaurant takes its name, and I’m delighted to report it, too, was delicious. We finished the savory courses with beef, pumpkin and onion. While my forte as a travel and dating blogger lays more in describing destinations and men, rather than food, I can report that each dish possessed a crunchy texture and a surprise I’d never even imagined…just like most of my dates, although in this case, it’s a most pleasant surprise. I only wish, like the deer heads in this restaurant, I could hang some of the men I’ve met on the wall.
While a refreshing zing, the rockmelon, honey and pistachio would have made a far greater impact served somewhere between the meat dishes as a palate cleanser and seemed slightly strange to serve just before another dessert – the chocolate, pear and hazelnut, which would have worked well straight after the rich, slow-cooked beef dish.
But it’s difficult to fault this restaurant which pairs each course with a diverse and innovative wine list, serving everything from French champagne to start, to high-quality international and Australian drops in between. However the sparkling merlot at the end was an unusual finish and again, I would have ended with something sweeter like a sticky. Apart from the gorgeous main dining room, there’s a private dining room and my favourite of all, a cosy cocktail lounge in which you can partake in pre or post dinner drinks, and even order from a bar menu if the desire to slink into those comfy couches overtakes your need to sit at a table.
Deer Duck Bistro last week won its first coveted Chefs Hat at the Good Food Guide Awards and it’s easy to see why. My advice: make a booking there sooner rather than later, as this is one of the hottest restaurants in Brisbane right now which is courageous enough to not follow the pack with its menu, flavours or décor. As for the romance, partaking in a fabulous feast with three old friends and two new ones may not be conventionally romantic, but you could do a whole lot worse. Bloke or no bloke, what the duck, I’ll be back.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Deer Duck Bistro – http://www.deerduckbistro.com.au
MID summer and Thailand’s mounting humidity is threatening to chuck a torrential tantrum any day now. And I’m traipsing around the country’s only organic resort in search of a salacious story, one which will take my taste buds from paddy to plate. Curious about the tropical property on which I find myself, I ask my guide whether there are any snakes here: “Of course,” he says with trademark Thai honesty. “Are they poisonous?” I tip toe my thonged feet tentatively through the cackling grass. “Of course,” he replies.
I recently travelled to Thailand’s Sampram District, 45 kilometres west of Bangkok, the kind of country where bare-chested men crack open coconuts plucked fresh from the tree with their huge hands. (OK, he may have had a big knife, and was actually wearing a shirt, but a girl can daydream). On this occasion, I’m exploring the organic farm of Arrut Navaraj. Like so many of the best ideas, this concept was born of one simple action. Fifty-two years ago, Arrut’s grandmother was travelling through this district, when she saw an old bullet tree which needed saving from falling into the river. She ended up buying the 0.4ha of land on which the tree still stands today, built a house and starting growing roses as a hobby. But the story doesn’t end there.
In fact, it’s only the start. Arrut’s grandmother went on to build an open-air restaurant where the menu was limited to just two items: Pad Thai and coconut ice-cream. But that was enough to lure Bangkok’s expat community to the property which they nick named Rose Garden. Arrut’s grandmother even taught her rose gardeners how to dance to perform for the tourists. And this is where the story takes a delicious twist. Arrut himself was a chemical engineer for Shell, working on the “dark side” if you will, before he decided to take over the family property, and transform it into Thailand’s only organic resort.
These days, it’s called Sampram Riverside Resort, a 160 room hotel with 6 traditional Thai houses, which employs 450 people and stands on 28ha which includes Botanic Gardens, a Thai Village and Rose Gardens. But the highlight is a green market on the weekends where only organic certified products are sold.
“Our concept is based around the traditional Thai way of life. We wanted to expand more into our local community and into organic agriculture,” Arrut says.
“Unfortunately farmers use a lot of chemicals in central Thailand and we want to reverse that trend. We’ve been doing that for the last four years. We are the only hotel in the country to receive funding to do this.
“We want to promote Sampram as a new destination and hub for organic producers and travel. It’s been going quite well.”
“Quite well” is a bit of an understatement for this concept which is about to expand with an “urban farm shop” in Bangkok and with Sampram in talks with a number of luxury hotel chains and top supermarkets to promote their products.
“We weren’t professional farmers. We started approaching them and found most of them used chemicals and there was no incentive for them to not use them,” Arrut says.
“They were only getting cheap prices so we thought we needed to start being a market ourselves to buy from them.
“The Thai Government doesn’t look at this as a way of life, as a supply chain. It’s been a long process between us and building trust with the farmers.”
Arrut says no one else is the country is offering anything similar and those hotels or resorts who claim to be organic are mostly paying lip service to the ideal. The next stage of the business is to work on “The Sampram Model” where stakeholders will form a Memorandum of Understanding on their various roles, rights and responsibilities within the supply chain.
“A lot of hotels have organic gardens but that is really for show. To sustain a whole hotel is a different story. We know the people who grow the fruit, the rice…we are in touch with about 200 farmers at the moment in our province,” he says.
“It is a leap of faith to do organic farming. I started eight years ago and I thought it was impossible. In the end I had to come back to myself and you learn from your practice and get better and better. You learn to get the best balance in your farm.
“My big dream is for the Sampram district to become chemical free. The market wants organic and the government has failed miserably by not paying the farmers and they are now switching to the organic. “
Arrut also wants to use the 0.8ha of roses grown on the property to produce the first Thai rose oil in the world. And he’s sure his grandmother, who is now 91 and living in Bangkok, would be proud of what he’s achieved.
“She’s happy with what I’m doing. She was a keen gardener. She believes we have to adjust with time. Everything we are doing is based on the traditional Thai way of life.
“Every Thai feels now, after the coup, is the time for change. I’ve never felt like this before in my life.
“It is karma. We went right to the bottom, the only way is up.”
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. http://www.tourismthailand.org
THE year was 1978 and my eight-year-old self was sitting in the old Coolangatta cinema on seats strung with scratchy hession bags, about to experience my first ever movie on the Big Screen. Grease was the word and from the opening scene I was so hooked on the movies, and on Olivia Newton-John, I’d forgotten I was slouching on an old bag of potatoes.
Thirty-five years later, and around an hour down the road, I am about to become a personal guest of Olivia at her Gaia Retreat, in the Byron Bay hinterland. Well, she doesn’t actually know I exist, but I can’t help but feel we are old friends. I drive south through towns so deliciously named you just want to wrap your mouth around them like a huge, buttery, salty tub of movie popcorn. I meander around Mooball, bump along Billinudgel, tumble through Tumbulgum, before nestling in Newrybar, just behind which sits Gaia, named after the spirit of Mother Earth.
Things are looking pretty good. The fact Olivia isn’t actually at the retreat doesn’t really matter, as I can feel her everywhere. I just can. She’s in the little personal touches such as the magic metal box of Australian Tea Tonic in your room where you can sip on brews such as ginger, lemongrass, Echinacea and white tea. There’s also lemon myrtle oil for your burner, and plush, chocolate bathrobes perfect for lounging on your day bed, or when you alight from your bath replete with rose petals and a cushion for your head. Yes, Olivia has thought of everything and I feel like she has personally plumped my pillows.
You expect rainforest music on your CD player, but Olivia isn’t tacky (well, there was that little head band and leg warmer stage in the 80s but who wasn’t guilty of that?) Instead you’ll find So Fresh Hits of Autumn 2013 and you’re flat out finding a self-help book in the extensive library, which instead houses a wide range of contemporary reads and DVDS. What I do discover is Olivia’s “Livwise easy recipes for a healthy, happy life book.” If I’m going to look like Olivia, I have some work to do. And Gaia is the perfect place to start.
Indulge in breakfast such as scrambled eggs in fresh herbs with smoked salmon; a lunch of chickpea tagine with cauliflower squash with yoghurt dill on the side; and snapper for dinner with a poached pear and chocolate dessert. And there’s even an extensive beer and wine list, including Gaia’s own organic wine range.
In between, simply have some fun – there’s nothing hardcore about this place – as General Manager Gregg Cave says “all you have to do is surrender.”
Each evening, guests are handed their personal schedule card, outlining any treatments they may have booked in the day spa, or just general activities throughout the day. You can do as little or as much as you want.
Yoga instructor Danielle speaks of “pushing the edge” – the point between finding your point of stretch and indulging the ego and pushing yourself too hard, resulting in pain. “The longest relationship we have in this life is with ourselves, so learn to love yourself,” she says. Nicollete, an “esoteric practitioner” extolls the benefits of becoming your “inner most” and operating from your “inner heart.” In her treatments, she looks at the root causes of symptoms in the body and what buried emotional issues may have triggered these.
“What we need to develop is a much stronger sense of self love in our body. Most of us don’t realise the importance of that,” she says.
“Often we put the needs of others before our own. You have more information to make more choices in your life and do things that is more loving for you.”
There’s a wide range of treatments in the Gaia Day Spa, but The Global Goddess recommends the 4.5 hour Gaia Goddess/Gaia Man signature experience. Billed as a journey of “complete surrender” among other things you’ll undergo a body polish, cocooning body masque, warm oil scalp massage and full body massage.
There’s also an interesting esoteric breast massage for women and an esoteric shoulder massage for men, designed to tap into self love and if you so desire, a milk bath somewhere on the property. (The Global Goddess did fantastise about laying in a field naked in a pool of milk like Cleopatra waiting for her Julius Caesar but realised she’d have better luck finding a Caesar salad on this trip).
Drawing on her Aussie roots, Olivia has built a retreat that is empathetic to the 10 hectares of manicured Australian bushland on which it stands, replete with its own fresh herb garden, pool, sauna, spa bath and gym. Walk to the Samira Lookout at the top of the hill and you are at the highest point in the Byron Bay Shire, from which you can scan the Lennox Headlands and Pacific Ocean beyond. Here there’s also a Buddha and labyrinth for reflection and meditative thoughts.
You’ll find plenty of day beds dotted around the property, as well as hammocks strung between giant eucalypts from which to honour the rising and setting suns.
During my four-day journey I meet Olivia’s personal jeweller, who designs jewels for the retreat, and her comedienne friend Sandy Gandhi, who performed at Olivia’s 60th birthday a few years ago, and who is waiting for fellow comedienne Ruby Wax to finish her spa treatment. Ruby walks into the dining room, but there’s still no sign of Olivia and it doesn’t really matter. By the time I leave, I’m learning to love myself and it may have been 35 years, but Olivia I still love you…I honestly love you.
ENTER A COMPETITION TO BECOME YOUR OWN GAIA GODDESS…
As a special treat for Global Goddess readers, and courtesy of the Gaia Retreat and Spa, The Global Goddess is offering readers the chance to win an amazing prize valued at $1585.
This lovely prize package includes two nights accommodation staying in the Layana Room double/twin; all gourmet meals and snacks; spa gift on arrival; daily yoga and all retreat activities; and use of all the facilities.
To enter, simply go to:
and sign up to receive Gaia Retreat newsletters. The competition runs for two weeks, and will close at 5pm Australian Eastern Standard Time on Monday, September 9, 2013. Gaia will draw the lucky winner, who will be announced on The Global Goddess blog on Tuesday, September 10, 2013.