Pienza Cocktails at Idyllium Bar

If there was one way to kick off a mega weekend of wedding celebrations in style, that’s exactly what we did with sunset drinks in the old town of Pienza on Friday 30th August. With the wedding party of over one hundred people arriving in Italy for the weekend ahead, my brother and his bride-to-be hosted welcome drinks in this dreamy location overlooking the Tuscan countryside.

Edit 3It was the most fabulous occasion with a breathtaking backdrop as the evening sun treated us to perfect golden hour hues. 

Edit 5We had the entire back terrace at Idyllium to ourselves with a selection of bubbles, wines and beers served by our own barman who kept everyone’s drinks flowing. With its prime location and flawless service, it’s no wonder this cocktail bar is known as one of the best in the region.

Edit 8.jpgI had such a wonderful time hanging out with my family and friends of my brother’s, some of which I hadn’t seen for years! Sipping our bubbles overlooking that Tuscan landscape with my awesome cousins by my side, I couldn’t have been happier at that moment.

Edit 7.jpgPre-wedding excitement was certainly on a high and I was extremely prouder of my big brother for bringing together so many loved ones here in Italy for the occasion.

Edit 6.jpgAs the night drew in, it was soon time for the groom to say goodbye to his fiancé the final time before their wedding the next day. Joining us for dinner just around the corner, it was a special meal together as a family of five before he became a married man.

Edit 9.jpgAnd so is evident from the wavy photo above, I knocked back a fair few proseccos as the night continued and we enjoyed another delicious Italian meal involving plenty of bread and pasta. I wore my electric blue lace cap sleeve Lipsy dress for the occasion with stiletto nude heels. These proved quite the challenge when walking the cobbled streets of Pienza, however I had my sister and future sister-in-law by my side to give a helping hand!

Edit 2.jpgWhat an evening it was and terrific welcome to what was to become the wedding of the century. Idyllium; A romantic interlude…let the wedding day commence ❤

Italian Eats; Daria Monticchiello

Staying in the heart of Tuscany, we were spoilt for choice when it came to choosing not only the fabulous local wine, but also the exquisite food on offer. Each region of Italy has its own specialities which use the best of local produce, the Tuscan cuisine being known for its simple, quality dishes often incorporating meat from the land.

Edit 1Following recommendation from fellow visitors at our villa and rave reviews online, we decided to try Ristorante Daria in the nearby town of Monticchiello. This ancient walled village makes for the perfect setting for this fine dining restaurant serving traditional Tuscan food with exceptional service to match.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEntering through the glass doorway laden with green plants and pots, we are greeted by welcoming staff who seated us to our table tucked away around by the artistic wall display of wine bottles. Edit 5From the moment we arrived, the attentive hospitality and personal service from Daria herself made for a homely ambience. As we sipped on our aperitif of prosecco and browsed the menu, Daria quietly circled the tables making recommendations where sought. Edit 3With an extensive menu showcasing the best of Tuscan flavours served with an elegant twist, I was torn by a number of dishes. For a starter I opted for the goats cheese tomato salad and for secondi the ‘spaghetti di zucchine su cream di piselli’.

Edit 6After choosing a local red wine from 2010 to accompany our meal, we were treated to a tasty amuse bouche of fish pate alongside a gourmet basket of breadsticks, flatbreads and fresh breads. Served promptly after this, the salad starter I chose featuring plenty of goats cheese in different rinds was a taste sensation.

Edit 7With a hum of fellow diners including locals and foreigners alike, wine continued to flow as our waiter insured glasses were topped up and Daria came over to have another chat between courses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASoon our secondi was served and once again presentation made for a feast for the eyes as well as our bellies. Despite choosing an all vegetable based main, my zucchini spaghetti in a veloute of green peas was packed full of flavour. I also had a try of my cousin’s homemade gnocchi which too was delicious.Edit 9To finish my Dad and I shared the chocolate cake a la Daria served with custard and chocolate sauce, the perfect end to a perfect meal.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this wonderful restaurant to anyone visiting the region who is looking for authentic local cuisine served with a touch of elegance. Ristorante Daria certainly does epitomise the best of Tuscany – its energy, culture, food and friendly locals.

Sydney Sunday

As I leave Aus tomorrow on my trip back home to England, I had to soak up one last weekend in Sydney before I go. First on the agenda was of course what Aussies do best – a brunch date with a good friend on a Sunday morning. We grabbed Acai at Bondi Fruitologist where every bowl served is fully loaded with scrumptious granola and a generous dollop of peanut butter.

Edit 1We strolled the Bondi to Bronte beach walk as we devoured our delicious pots of refreshing acai and caught up on life.

Edit 2When we reached Bronte it was time to grab an arvo coffee. We went to Huxton’s Cafe on the main drag where it was hard to resist the indulgent array of stunning cakes, fluffy doughnuts and largest lamingtons I’d ever seen!

Edit 3Of course a trip into the city wouldn’t be complete without a bit of retail therapy too. I visited Newtown to have a good browse of the eclectic mix of vintage and outlet stores where I finally purchased the perfect dress for my brother’s wedding at the end of the month. Opting for an authentically Australian made peice, the dress was only $69 from the Melbourne brand Ache.

Edit 4One final stop by Paddington for the afternoon and I inevitably ended up in my favourite shoe boutique on Oxford Street. Zomp sells hundreds of covetable designer shoes at a discount price, making it hard to resist adding to my ever growing shoe collection anytime I visit the store. In search of a pair of heels to match the dress for my brother’s wedding, I bought this stunning pair of Senso satin copper pink mules down from $200 to $95.

Pic04809.jpgGoing back to where it all started in the Paddo hood was the perfect way to end my last weekend here in Sydney for a while. It won’t be long before I’m back in town again though, no doubt strolling the beaches in the Australian summer sun with an acai bowl in hand and good friend by my side ❤

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Sydney Eats: Bush Cafe Redfern

You’d be forgiven for missing this hidden nook located amongst the neighbourhood of Redfern, yet this innovative new restaurant has already got people talking. Bush is an Australian inspired cafe dreamt up by a couple of local lads passionate about the foods which represent and shape the culture of Aussie households.

Edit 1As a good friend of mine is one of the team behind this new hotspot, we visited the cafe this Friday evening to experience it firsthand (and see our friend in action of course!) Dropping in on a blustery winter’s evening, we were greeted by toy wombats and kangaroos as we took our seats on the wooden benches. At 7pm on a Friday night the place was already packed out.

Edit 2The menu is super simple with their famous cheeseburger taking pride of place as star of the show. We began with the Curry Roo Party Pie, a novelty for me as I’d never tried kangaroo meat before. Whilst this delicacy has struck a nerve with some customers, roo meat is actually very sustainable as there is an abundance of wild kangaroos which get killed and discarded of anyway.

Edit 3That’s not to say this restaurant isn’t vegetarian friendly though – the mixed greens served on a smashed potato salad are delicious and the cheeseburger can even be made veggie with a mushroom pattie.

Edit 4Opting for the traditional beef cheeseburger loaded with pickles and special sauce served on a steamed fresh brioche bun, I would go as far as to say this is one of the best burgers in town!

Edit 5To complete the authentic Aussie feast, we had to try the Fairy Bread n Butter Pudding. Served hot from the oven with a scoop of ice cream, this delightful desert would take any Australian back to their childhood days.

Edit 6Bush cafe has certainly filled a gap in the market when it comes to traditional and somewhat ironic Aussie fare. Whilst the interiors reflect the outback with sandstone walls and wooden table tops carved by locals, the nostalgic menu feels like you’re in the company of true Australians at home – well done lads, keep it real!

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Highlands Merchant; Best Coffee in Town

One thing the Aussies can confidently claim to do best and take very seriously is their coffee. Consequently, the cafe culture is a competitive market here with brilliant baristas to match.

Edit 1My favourite place for an arvo coffee hit in the south is Highlands Merchant. With its art deco inspired decor and selection of niche cookbooks and kitchenwares on offer, this cafe is perfect for mulling over a book or magazine whilst sipping your favourite hot beverage served to perfection.

Edit 3The friendly staff are always welcoming and they’re never short of a delectable selection of sweet treats baked fresh daily. Their savoury muffins are a must to try or if you have time, the extensive brunch menu has something for all tastes.

Edit 4So if you do happen to pass through Moss Vale, it would be hard to miss the pastel hues and rose gold exteriors of Highlands Merchant. From tradies on their way to work to local mums getting their 11am coffee fix, this local gem is known for serving the best coffee in town!

Sydney Eats: The Meat & Wine Co

There’s nothing more rewarding at the end of a hard working week than booking in for a long lunch. One of our favourite places to indulge and unwind over a few wines on a Friday arvo is The Meat & Wine Co in Barangaroo.

Edit 1.jpgNot only is the food delicious with perfectly matched wine, but the friendly and attentive service is always on point too. When escaping the office during lunchtime in search of a sit-down meal, it’s important to find somewhere you can switch off and enjoy the simple pleasure of good food and company, without feeling the usual rush of lunchtime hour in the city.

Edit 2.jpgThe Meat & Wine Co welcomes guests to their upstairs dining floor tucked away from the busy streets of Barangaroo. Choosing the lunchtime menu, we usually opt for the starter and main with a glass of wine for $42 (or three courses for $49). My favourite starter from this menu is the beetroot and smoked labne served with radish, rocket, quinoa crisp, feta and dill oil.

Edit 3.jpgFor the set menu mains there is a variety of choice including salmon poke bowl, chicken schnitzel and even a 250g wagyu rump steak. This time I chose the roasted pumpkin and halloumi rocket salad on a bed of quinoa, herbs and olive oil drizzle.

 

Edit 4.jpgThis was all washed down with a gorgeous glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc white wine as part of the lunch menu deal. Once again, the service was excellent and the restaurant humming with that relaxing Friday feeling vibe. This is why The Meat & Wine Co is our go to restaurant for a working lunch and somewhere we can confidently send colleagues who may be in search of a venue when hosting a client lunch or dinner.

 

Fond Farewells

And so my final week at opr Agency rolled around bringing with it a number of leaving dos involving plenty of drinks and food galore. I don’t know where the past six months has gone, but it certainly has been a wicked time getting my teeth into the life of PR and supporting the cogs of a fast-paced agency environment. 

Edit 2.JPGWhilst on the face of it my role often appears to be the thankless job, it can be the most rewarding hosting successful events or being of assitance to team members when they are under client deadlines. In my view, the employees in my teams are my clients, so supporting them to reach their full potential and keeping team morale high is my goal.

Pic04243Consequently I have built many strong work relationships and made life long friends, so saying goodbye was always going to be tough. Farewells kicked off on the Thursday with a lunch courtesy of my Manager and boss, followed by arvo drinks and stunning mezze platters from Chomp organised by one of my teams.

Edit 4.jpgOur Christmas in July party that evening left the office very bare on Friday for my last day. However my Manager treated me to brekky at Back Row West and that afternoon also put together a delicious cheese board including popcorn, dark chocolate and berries – yum!

Edit 6.jpgI was presented with a huge card filled with so many lovely messages, along with a leaving gift of a gorgeous blue leather KiKi-K planner embossed with my name in gold lettering.

Edit 8.jpgThe teams gathered around to say farewell and some very touching words were said about all the hard work I have put in over the past six months. It’s pleasing to know that all the hours and commitment to the job haven’t gone unnoticed and I have made a difference to the agency in my short time there.

Pic03705From having my head stuck in a spreadsheet for hours on end, to serving up countless platters of food and topping up the team’s wine glasses on a Friday arvo, it certainly has been a blast – Cheers opr Agency!

Edit 10.jpg‘Dream big, work hard, stay focused, and surround yourself with good people.’

Ozzy Christmas in July

When it came to my first Christmas in Australia, I was horrified to learn that the traditions on this side of the world are a little different to back home. Given that it’s the height of summer with scorching hot temperatures in December, the typical roast dinner and all the trimmings is swapped for a spread of seafood and cold salads. Consequently, Australians have developed their own tradition of celebrating ‘Christmas in July’ during their winter time (despite it remaining around 20 degrees here in Sydney!)

Edit 1.jpgIn honour of this celebration, my PR firm hosted their very own Christmas party this month with all the tinsel and outrageous festive decor in check. Catching the ferry from Barangaroo to Balmain as the sun set, we made our way to The East Village Hotel to get merry over mulled wine and a pub trivia quiz.

Edit 10.jpgOnce sat at our tables, everyone pulled their crackers, popped on their paper hats and the trivia commenced. Plenty of wines down and soon the roast dinner was served. We were presented with a typical feast of turkey, roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, brussel sprouts, green beans, cranberry sauce and plenty of gravy. The only missing key component was the Yorkshire puds, but I’ll forgive the Aussies on this one 😉

Edit 7.jpgTo finish we were treated to a platter of deserts including mince pies and fruit cake. With bellies full and the trivia over, whilst everyone continued on drinking at the bar, my night cap was an order of a pot of tea…you can take the girl outta England, but you can’t take the English outta the girl!

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Week of Dinners: Waste Friendly

Whether money is an issue or not, we’re living in an environmentally conscious century where waste is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. I’ve always been savvy when it comes to cooking and I enjoy the challenge of rustling up a good dinner using a bunch of ingredients from whatever I have in stock. I find that in Australia where groceries and particularly fresh fruit and veg are rather pricey, there is even more need to make the most of what you buy. Over the past week I have made some fantastic dishes by simply using what I had going in the fridge alongside some store cupboard basics. Not only were these delicious and nutritious meals, but I saved on my grocery shop and can proudly say there was no waste at the end of the week!

Edit 3.jpgWith plenty of fresh veggies at the start of the week, I made this Moroccan inspired couscous salad bowl served on a bed of salad with some pumpkin I had left from a previous recipe, roasted veg seasoned in paprika, a generous dollop of tatziki and fresh mint leaves for garnish.

Edit 13I always crave a good bowl of pasta for my midweek dinner, so I made this simple penne pasta using pesto I had in the cupboard, leftover green beans and sautéed courgette with jarred sundried tomatoes and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Edit 9My favourite way to have rice is to make it super sticky by leaving it to cook a little longer, making it more like a risotto. I used some leftover white wine and plenty of garlic to flavour this rice dish which I then paired with roasted veggies, salad, jarred beetroot and some natural yogurt.

Edit 7To finish the week and use up any fresh ingredients I still had, again I roasted all of the veggies, fried off some chorizo slices and mixed it all in with the couscous, before serving with the last of my salad, mint leaves and the rest of the tatziki dip.

Sydney Eats: Wild Sage

As everyone escapes their office desks to enjoy a long lunch on a Friday arvo, Barangaroo restaurants and bars are bustling all afternoon and into the evening. With such an abundance of choice when it comes to fine dining, there’s always somewhere new to try. So last week we scoped out Wild Sage for our admin team lunch in celebration of the past month of hard work. Grabbing a spot outside, we soaked up the midday sun whilst savouring a glass of Rose wine to complete that Friday feeling.

Edit 2.jpegWith a delectable menu of modern Australian cuisine and a twist of European influences, it was hard to choose. For appetisers the Burrata, Lobster Tacos and Grilled Corn caught my attention. However we went straight in on mains, so I opted for the Beetroot Salad served with spiced pumpkin, heirloom carrot, roasted sprouts, humous, goats curd and a garnish of flaked almonds.

Edit 4.jpegThis dish was not only exquisitely presented, but the roasted veg were served piping hot and seasoned to perfection. I particularly liked the wintery twist of spiced pumpkin and by favourite brussel sprouts, bringing together a colourful plate of delicious food as pleasing to the eyes as it was to the tastebuds!

Edit 3.jpegFrom the specials board, my collegue went for the Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup served with sourdough, a perfect winter warmer. My manager chose the Sweet Potato Gnocchi served in a pea puree with grilled asparagus, Persian feta, crispy kale and dry ranch. Yet another stunning bowl of food with gorgeous flavour also inspired by Mediterranean cuisine. I would highly recommend visiting Wild Sage for an ideallyic long lunch savouring fine food and lapping up those European al fresco dining vibes.