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.


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 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 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.



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.

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 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).


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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Friday, June 10, 2016

Sweet Escape in Bali

 I am embarrassed to say that up until last year I never really had the desire to visit Bali.  I blame it on shows and footage like "What really happens in Bali", depicting Bali as a place tourists (and a lot of Australians) go to just to get drunk at bars, a little similar to my experience in Phuket when I went with a large group of co-workers on a work trip many years ago...It wasn't really my scene, and is even further now that I have two little ones.

Then came last year's visit to Nihiwatu, which was my first time ever in Indonesia, and consequently first time in Bali, which was such an amazing experience!  Except I don't really count that as a visit to Bali as it was merely a stopover to go to Sumba Island.  However, the little that I saw, and the time spent at The Legian gave me a little taste of Bali, and I wanted more.

When it starts getting very cold in Australia, my hubby and I like to travel somewhere warm, and when I suggested going to Byron Bay, Mr Brigs countered with: why not Bali?  Me: Sure, why not?  We were told Nusa Dua was the more 'family friendly' part of Bali (as opposed to Seminyak, which is where we stayed last time, a busier part with cute boutiques, bars, clubs, restaurants and lounges), so I started planning our family holiday from there...

Ok, so trying to take pictures on one's phone + camera + snapchat with two little ones in tow (and most importantly, enjoying the moment) is not as easy as it sounds, so I don't have pictures for all we did, so here's my quick rundown of what we did (or wanted to do but didn't get to as well) in Bali:


Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua - After my lovely experience during my trip with Accor Hotels to Queensland, I thought I'd see which hotel I could find in Nusa Dua under the Accor Hotels umbrella, and came across Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua in my search.  The hotel is Nusa Dua’s only French heritage instilled luxury 5-star beachfront resort with 8 hectares of tropical gardens and modern architecture with a sophisticated touch, boasting 2 restaurants, 2 bars, a beach club, gym, luxurious spa , an aesthetic centre, a kids club, 12 function rooms and two ballrooms!  The reviews I read on the hotel were great, and it is only 3 years old.  Reading about their kids pool (with slide) and kids club cinched the deal.  We opted to stay at their Presidential Suite, because that allowed us to pull the screen door that partitioned the room so that the kids could go to sleep, and I didn't have to tiptoe in the dark (as well as giving each other space which was great!)...The Suite itself is absolutely beautiful, and we had our own outdoor courtyard and private plunge pool! The kids thoroughly enjoyed the Japanese-style toilet, haha, and I, for one, loved the Hérmes amenities!

The staff was absolutely amazing, and because we stayed at a Suite, we had our own butler(s), who were so friendly and helpful!  The butlers gave us tips on where to go and what to do (offering to organize and book anything we liked), including offering us the very welcome tip that from 1 to 4 pm, massages are half price in the hotels beautiful SoSpa! Hubby and I treated ourselves to a couples massage while the kids had a blast at the hotel's kids club (can you believe they kept asking to go there instead of the beach?!?).  Staying at the suite also afforded us access to the hotel's Club Millésime, where we spent a lot of time in, such a beautiful space with fabulous food and staff (and a little room for the kids to spend time in as well, which was great for when they had finished eating but I still wanted to pig out some more, haha).


At the hotel and hotel area:

Kweezeen - at Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua, lovely Indonesian fare.

Cut Catch Cucina - also at Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua - for their famous Sunday brunch - A M A Z I N G ! ! ! (think chocolate fountains, incredible desserts, seafood bbq'd on order, roasted meats, loads and loads of food, as well as beautifully plated up a la carte dishes.  This restaurant is rated second best in Nusa Dua, so even if not staying at Sofitel Nusa Dua, it is definitely a place worth considering for not only Sunday brunch, but lunch or dinner.

Nikki Beach Club - located in the Sofitel Nusa Dua hotel, it is actually a separate restaurant/club, with delicious food and own pool! Coconuts were a bit cheaper than in our actual hotel, too (important when you love coconuts as much as I do).

Beach bar and grill (Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua) - all you can eat bbq seafood by the beach - the bbq'd calamari, cockles and fish were our favourites, with lashings of sambal matah (which I absolutely love, since first discovering it in my last Indonesian trip).

Tamarind at Nusa Dua Beach Hotel - we walked next door for a dinner on the beach, and the setting was just beautiful, colouring for the kids kept them occupied while we waited, which was great. The hugest coconuts I've ever had and cheapest in Bali too! I will seriously forever dream about their coconuts...

Outside the hotel and hotel area:

Bumbu Bali: this restaurant was suggested to us by our butler Suarcana (such a gentle and sweet guy!), for authentic Indonesian fare in a more relaxed family-friendly vibe.  The restaurant even offered a pick-up service to/from hotel, as it is only a short drive away.  The chicken satay sticks were a hit with the kids, and service was great.


Merah Putih Bali:  offering authentic Indonesian food as well as fusion, this restaurant accepts booking online.  Mr Brigs and I dined her sans kid (in fact, kids are not allowed past 6:30!), and thoroughly enjoyed our dinner, from entree to dessert.

Bambu: I absolutely loved this place! Wish they had an online booking system, as the hotel staff had trouble contacting them to make a booking over the phone, but we just turned up, waited a little by the bar, then were shown to a table after a short wait.  Loved the interior and ambiance of the place, wanted the waiter's uniforms (male and female), and above all, the food! SO good! Modern but delicious Indonesian food...

Restaurants I didn't get to but are on the list for next time: Sarong, Mamasan and La Lucciola.  I have heard and read great things about these places and hope to check them out next time.


So the point of this trip wasn't really to go sightseeing, but more to relax, so we didn't actually explore Bali much (save that for next time). We did however go to:

Finns Beach Club

Unfortunately we came here 1-2 days after a full moon, so the tide was incredibly high, and the waves way too crazy for us to swim or do any of the cool water sports that are on offer at this beach club, which is accessible by cable car and costs roughly $30pp to get in.  There is a lovely restaurant and bar you can eat at (amazing food I absolutely loved), and weather conditions permitting you can stand-up paddle board, kayak and such.  They also have lounge beds or bean bags with umbrellas they can set up on the beach.  Because it is by the cliff (with slightly restricted access), the sand is pristine, and water beautifully blue.  Thoroughly enjoyed my lunch here!

Where I wanted to go (but didn't get to): Tagalalang Terrace in Ubud for the amazing rice fields, Tanah Lot - an amazing temple sitting atop a rock formation.


Ok, for someone who spends a lot of time behind a camera lens, I am not actually in front of one a lot, especially in family shots.  In fact, I have never had a family photographic shoot, until Bali.  After booking my flights I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to finally have some candid shots of my family.  Cue Sweet Escape, whom I fortuitously discovered whilst browsing Melanie Liu's Instagram feed (the lovely @thetiafox).  They specialize in holiday photography and are located in 220 cities worldwide! I will certainly be looking them up wherever I go next! Because the kids were sleeping (catching up on much needed sleep as they were a little unwell this trip), for half of my session Dodo (Reynaldo Tjandra) happily obliged my request to take some photos of myself around the hotel, so all photos of myself below were taken by him.  So also great for bloggers out there who need a photographer, group of friends, special occasion (milestone birthday?), family photography or perhaps pre-wedding or engagement shoots? Or maybe even wedding shoots!  I ended up with some beautiful shots of the family that I will treasure forever...

So enough talking, here are some pictures I took of my time in Bali (with some photos by Sweet Escape thrown in for good measure - those of myself and of my family):

Bali sunset
Our private courtyard and swimming pool at our suite at Sofitel Bali Nusa was absolutely blissful having this little corner to ourselves, despite the beautiful pools available to everyone staying at the hotel.  Giving us a chance to relax completely, and even enjoy some meals outdoors (some room service and some takeaway)
The buffet breakfast at the hotel is amazing! There is a sushi station, juice station, amazing patisserie (their almond croissants especially, I would at times have two in one go), egg station, dim sum station, you name it...SO GOOD! We also alternated having breakfast at Club Milessime (pictured above), which was a quieter affair but still had plenty to offer including some a la carte options, and the most divine smoked salmon I've ever had, which I found out is smoked on jackfruit wood in-house!
 The main pool which had many 'sections to it', including an in-pool bar with stools, a 'kids pool' (there is also a separate kids pool with slide and fountain that my little ones absolutely loved), and one area with cozy sections with jets!
When your outfit matches the hotel walls...
Top and trousers: Chloe (from a few seasons ago)
Hat: San Francisco Hat Company
Sunglasses: Le Specs x Self Portrait (available at Shopbop, Intermix, and mirrored version at My Theresa)
If staying at Nusa Dua I highly recommend taking away Babi Guling (suckling pig) from Pak Dobiel, ask any taxi driver and they will know what you are talking about, they open in the morning and close by around 2-3pm, and there are line-ups at lunch time (you can eat there apparently, but it is hard to find a table at times).  We enjoyed this dish with some Indonesian sweets hubby also took away in our private courtyard, yum!
Hello world!
Snake fruit!
You can hire bicycles from Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua for 2 hours, and discover your surroundings on two wheels, which is what hubby and I did, cycling up to a nearby water blow (which was an amazing experience), thoroughly enjoyed those two hours!
 I will literally dream of this salmon for a long time to come...
Behold our humongous bathtub that comfortably fit this family of four (ok, it was just for a photo op, but I'm sure we could have if we wanted to).
Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua's suites and villas are all stocked with Hermés amenities, a very lovely touch indeed, love the orange blossom scent!

 Beautifully cut up star fruit by the staff at Sofitel Nusa Dua
I could spend all day here...
Lunch after soaking some sun on the beach, at Nikki Beach Club adjacent to the hotel.  Tuna tataki was delish!
 Love high tea, and everyday between 3:30 and 5 there is High Tea at Sofitel's Club Milessime (which is followed by tapas from 5:30 to 7).
Or here!

 And I could live on these! We spent a lot of time lounging by the beach on the hotel's reclining beds...such bliss!

Look what I found!!! At first I thought it was sock, then was amazed when I inspected it more closely!
One more photo of this bathtub, as I would literally sigh and stare at it every time I was in our suite...
All photos taken by me some iPhone some camera (photo of me on the bike taken by Mr Brigs on his iPhone) , except for those of myself in them, and this last shot of my family - which were taken by Sweet Escape - thank you for capturing our amazing holiday Sweet Escape and Dodo, we will treasure these photos and memories always!