Author: tduchess

Hungerford Hill Wines

Hungerford Hill Wines

Fun flirtation or mortal sin?

If I was a wine, I would be a bubbly, full of fun flavours and a little bit of zest. If KAM were a bubbly, he would be a dark, brooding red, full of reliability and strong flavours – the kind of wine you want to snuggle up with on the couch in front of a fireplace in winter.

I guess that’s why when it comes to Bubbles, we happen to class the sparkling range of Hungerford Hill Winery one of the best. With only 2 bubbly’s, their range might not be large, but why do a lot of something, when you have reached perfection in just 2 bottles?!

The white variety is a Sparkling Chardonnay Pino Noir called the “Dalliance”. When looking up the dictionary, Dalliance is defined as a fun flirtation toying with the idea of procrastination. I can’t find a better reason to procrastinate than sitting with a beautiful bottle of Dalliance and a good meal, not wanting either of them to end. The Dalliance has won countless awards and at around $45 a bottle rivals any of the more expensive French bubbles on the market. This is a light, bright wine, with an exuberance that twinkles in the glass as your pour it. Perfect for a hot Summer afternoon in the sun with good friends – although you may find yourself not wanting to share!

In total complete contrast, is the NV Cardinal Sparkling Shiraz. If ever it was worth committing a mortal sin for all the right reasons – this is it! This is not a wine to be taken lightly, and as the name suggests, “The Cardinal” is in my opinion, paramount in a region with a number of comparative wines. This wine is sacred and should be saved for moments of utmost importance. Perfect for Christmas lunch, the spices in this wine go perfectly with a roast dinner or pudding afterwards. At around $30 you will definitely not be disappointed when you open a bottle of this!

So whether you are a bright white or a dark red drinker, I suggest you try both of these beautiful wines from Hungerford Hill. Even if you thought you knew what you liked – these bubbles will change your thinking. If the definition of Dalliance is to ‘hesitate’ and the definition of committing a Mortal Sin is to ‘deprive your soul’, why do either when Hungerford Hill bubbly range can give you the kick-start you need!

Hungerford Hill Wines

Hungerford Hill Wines
2450 Broke Road,
Pokolbin NSW
http://www.hungerfordhill.com.au/

The long road in DJ mode!

The long road in DJ mode!

Following on from the 10 commandments of a Co-Pilot, in this story I will be focussing on a very important aspect of any road trip – ‘Music’. Whenever The Duchess takes the wheel, a friend of mine, DJ Mezzanine kicks into gear to keep us going with songs for the long road ahead. So in true road trip style, may I introduce DJ Mezzanine, who will be keep you entertained and give you a great list of tunes (and a little bit of crazy!) to help pass the time on the endless roads that lay ahead.

DJ Mezzanine’s Top 10 Driving Songs

 Hey Hey Everybody how are y’all doing out there? This is DJ Mezzanine taking you to the next level in dance, music and a whole lotta thumping sounds to get you grooving in the car. I’ve been asked to dissect and rate the very best top ten driving songs to sing with your driving partner and ensure high energy and smooth sailing in the vehicle.

 1. This band is a favourite of this DJ and I’ve been lucky enough to see them live 4 times, they have many songs that I could’ve picked for this list however their first and best will get you jumping and pumping to start the drive. “Hello” – Cat Empire 

2. Ok OK, now we are rocking it out, I like to slip in an oldie but one that always demands people on the dance floor. “Bust a Move” – Tone Loc

3. Keeping the beat high and going to the next level we slip on some music that will please the harsher of critics. I’m actually going to double this one up, two pronged, take your choice, both songs get this DJ blasting out the sounds. New York” or “Girl on Fire” – Aleisha Keys

4. Time now to spin the wheel and bring in some recent music, if you not singing yet this one will grab your tongue and lead you to the dance floor. “Moves Like Jagger” – Maroon 5

5. We are now riding into the middle of the song list and I’m starting to sweat this up, a perfect time to slip in a cheeky song we all know and love with a bit of spice. “Let’s Talk about Sex” – Salt n Pepper

6. I need to take a breather after that one, oh yeah! Time to rest up as we move higher up to the second level, this song will help take the edge off. “Some Nights” – Fun

7. C’mon everybody we are almost there, stay with me, keep up I’m not leaving anyone behind today……“Brave” – Sara Bareilles

8. We are almost there people, this song brings back the memories and has a great sound that I just can’t keep quiet, and this song needs to be let out…”Thunderstruck” – ACDC

9. DJ Mezzanine is almost peaking and at these times I need inspiration, something to strive and reach out for, this song will bring the motivation we all need. “Fight Song” – Rachel Platten

10. We made it!!!! We are here; the final song is in the room. We are all on the second level for the absolute BEST driving song in the world. “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen 

Thank you everybody for keeping on this journey with me, I want to share as a parting gift a couple of bench warmers who will serve a purpose if required. While driving things happen that can bring on the need for a particular song to help us along the way. When you need a good angry pump up song to shake off the demons : “Bad Habit” – Offspring

When you’re all fluffy and everything is right with the world, as you look out the windows of the car and see only marshmallows, this song is a treat. “Free Bird” – Lynyrd Skynyrd 

DJ Mezzanine signing off… see ya next time you’re ready to raise it to the next level baby!!!

Little Love Letter

Little Love Letter

Soldiers Point Beach, NSW

I am missing Summer. The bright mornings, the sunny days and warm evenings. There is something about travelling through Summer that makes me feel like I am on holidays, no matter where we go. In an effort to remind me of an actual Summer Holiday taken last year, I had to share this photo of KAM, taking a dip at Soldiers Point, NSW. Near the busier, more popular Nelson’s Bay, we had the beach to ourselves. The water is crystal clear and you can see the fish swimming with you through the warm water. This place has been a favourite of mine since I was a child, and it is a great secret spot for a quiet swim! You wont be disappointed!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soldiers_Point,_New_South_Wales

Moneypenny, Newcastle NSW

Moneypenny, Newcastle NSW

Sexy Solace with a little ‘tude!

If you want romance, you call Holly Golightly. If you want adventure you call Lara Croft. If you want strength you call The Bride. But if you want solace, you always call Moneypenny.

Solace can often be found in a place you least expect. When running through Newcastle recently, trying to escape the wind and the cold, relief was found in a little bar called Moneypenny. Located within the Honeysuckle Precinct the view from Moneypenny is beautiful even on a cold day and you can imagine how pumping this place would be during the warmer months.

The interior of the bar is petite, dark and sexy with flair and the slight nod to Asia adds a little cheekiness – just like Moneypenny herself – and the enclosed deck area provides a welcome relief from the wind, while still giving a stonking view over the industrial style harbour area. With heaters burning on high and a combination of the Bombay and upscale pub food warming me, it a formula that kick starts our hearts since being frozen by the winter chill.

And its not just us who have been attracted to this place. There is a hen’s party on one side and an elderly lady who has just had her hair permed on the other. I almost feel sorry for her and her new hair-do because of the weather, until I see the look on her face as the fancy cocktail she ordered arrives at her table beautifully presented like a scientist presenting a prize-winning formula. Priceless! At that point, I don’t think she cares what her hair looks like!

Two smart ladies also hide out in a corner gossiping and sipping espresso martini’s and as a young family, obviously in a hurry to escape the cold, run along the foreshore, I want to invite them in for a moment of solace and a stress-relieving beverage.

Whilst this place is known for its cocktails, don’t discount their wine list. We order a bottle of Tyrrell’s Brookdale Semillon to go with our Cheese Burger Sliders, Prawn and Avocado Taco’s and massive Cheesy Bacon Fries. All up at a cost of around $100 including drinks we consider this a bargain!

I used to live in this town and I think if Moneypenny were here then, I wouldn’t have been in such a hurry to leave. Everyone needs a little solace sometimes. A retreat from life in general for a while. Moneypenny offers all that and more and let’s be honest… solace is always served best with a good, strong beverage.

Moneypenny
1 Honeysuckle Dr,
Newcastle NSW
Phone: (02) 4926 1799
http://moneypenny.net.au/

 

Disney On Ice

Disney On Ice

Booyah in a Big Way!

Now I know what you are thinking.. Aren’t I little old for Disney?! Truth is that you are never too old for Disney!

You might think Disney and Booyah don’t go together – but I can’t actually think of anything more Booyah than front row seats to a bunch of my favourite characters skating and singing their way around an ice rink.

I am one if those people that when a new Disney movie is released, I am lining up at the movies with thousands of kids to see the first session available, and I have no problem sitting at the back, crying my eyes out to a happy ending.

So when I heard that Disney on Ice was coming to Newcastle, I convinced KAM that we simply had to go. I love the classics – give me the little mermaid any day of the week and I’m a happy girl. Who wouldn’t be?! It’s a happy film full of singing crabs and seagulls and a love story that rivals any Oscar winning performance. And this years Disney on ice just happened to feature the little mermaid, beauty and the beast and of course, Frozen. Let it go, okay?

KAM having never experienced a live Disney production was a little apprehensive when I told him I had purchased VIP front row seats. But knowing that the only way we do things is VIP, and seeing how excited I was ( I really was like a 5 year old on Xmas morning), he just smiled and said “ok, what do I wear?” I do love him!

Newcastle I think does it a little differently to Sydney whereby I believe the rink itself is a little smaller. However this does nothing to deter the masses and for us it just meant sitting that bit closer to Mickey, Minnie and all of their friends and experiencing the cold first-hand, especially when real snow starting falling from the sky and blanketing us all in a winter Frozen wonderland.

The show itself goes for 2 hours with a 15 minute interval and each set is broken up into small 20 minute snippets of the highlights from 4 different Disney favourites. Ariel at one point rises to the sky from a rope (with no safety harness) and completes a beautiful routine to rival her name. When the ice melts for good during Frozen the stage is filled with around 50 singing, dancing and skating birds, bees and flowers! It is an information overload that you just can’t help but smile at and clap along with the spectacular!

I know you might think this is a little naff. But please give it a chance. Disney on ice puts a smile on your face from ear and ear and takes you back to a time in your life when everything was just simple, honest fun. Forget your day and leave your worries at the door. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and all of their friends will make you realise that life doesn’t have to be so complicated all the time. Well… At least for a couple of hours anyway!

Thank you Disney for reminding me about the simple pleasures in life. Love and music equal happiness. If only life were that simple all the time xo
http://www.disneyonice.com/au/en-au/magical-ice-festival

Little Love Letter

Little Love Letter

Fire Dancers, Byron Bay, NSW

Byron Bay is a beautiful beachside town full of eclectic people and travellers looking for adventure. By day its stunning! But by night it comes alive with bohemian entertainers who perform in return for a small donation. These fire dancers were amazing, performing under a full moon with the rolling waves as a backdrop! We don’t spend as much time as we would like in Byron Bay, but when we are there – like everyone – we make the most of it!

http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/north-coast/byron-bay-area/byron-bay

The Sebel, Hawkesbury Valley

The Sebel, Hawkesbury Valley

Stop-over in style at the Sebel

There are some places where luxury is in abundance. Hotel after hotel offering luxury inclusions and top of the line service. I have to travel to the Hawkesbury region of southern Sydney quite a bit, and when I do, there is only one place I choose to stay. I mean, if you have to work, you may as well lay your head somewhere nice at the end of a long day, right?

Heading out through town towards the air force base, the Sebel Hawkesbury Resort and Spa appears like a mirage in the middle of a desert. The country Manor House styling of this hotel and its beautiful grounds are inviting from the moment you enter the gate. The lobby is grand and the staff welcomes you back like a member of the family.

After checking in and before heading to our room, we usually head straight to the bar. Set with big booths and deep leather couches, it is the perfect place to unpack your day, before unpacking your luggage. If you are up to it, the snooker room is a great place to challenge a loved one. If you are going to do this though, have a Shivers and take your time. The space is perfect for a slow afternoon wind-down after a long day. And KAM is a good snooker player, so I need something to soften the blow!

There are a number of room types in this lovely hotel, but we only ever chose to stay in the Balcony Suite. Priced at around $ 300 per night, this room is full of heritage country charm with the separate living room having big comfy lounges to meld into while staring at the blazing fireplace (which you will need in winter as it gets very bloody cold here!). The living room also has a tiny hideaway balcony where you can sit with a morning coffee and watch the mist rising from the mountains beyond.

While you are here, if you are lucky enough to catch some of the training exercises being performed from the air force base, it is a sight to take in. Every now and again, the massive planes roar low over the hotel and hundreds of tiny parachuters jump from the rear hatch. It is awe-inspiring! I’m like a kid every time they fly over and I can’t help myself but to wave in excitement.

The bedrooms here are full of dark antique furniture and you really feel as if you have stepped back in time. There are lots of blankets piled high to keep you warm and the large European duck-down pillows are the softest anywhere. I look forward to this luxury every time I stay! You can snuggle up in bed on a cold night with a glass of something nice, watching television, forgetting all about the world beyond for a while.

In the morning, we suggest going down for their big buffet breakfast in the Atrium. This is the prettiest of spaces with floor to ceiling windows and a romantic courtyard off to the side. If you are warm enough, sit outside under the big umbrellas and take your time. The eggs are piping hot, the bacon is crispy and it all pairs very wel

The beautiful Atrium & Courtyard at Sebel Hawkesbury Valley
The beautiful Atrium & Courtyard at Sebel Hawkesbury Valley

l with a glass of bubbly – if you don’t have to go to work, that is!

 

Whilst the Sebel might just be a stop-over, who says you can’t do a stop-over in style? And the Sebel has style and charm in abundance. It might cost a little more than the company credit card will allow, but it’s worth the splurge. You can’t live to work, so you may as well work to LIVE.

Sebel Hawkesbury Resort and Spa
61 Hawkesbury Valley Way
Windsor NSW 2756
http://www.sebelhawkesbury.com.au
h8799@accor.com

Patonga Beach, NSW

Patonga Beach, NSW

An Endless Summer Snow Globe

It’s winter and windy and cold. There is something about winter that can start to get you down unless you’re snuggled up in a fancy hotel with a fireplace and a good bottle of scotch. So in an effort to feel a little sunshine on our skin, we decide to head to Patonga for the day. It seems like the perfect choice with the local Patonga Beach Hotel perched right across from the water.

On your way there, glimpses of the ocean tease you and as you wind your way through the tree-line, you can feel the winter sun beckoning you closer to a small but busy piece of paradise.

The little township is ruled by the Patonga Beach Hotel which sits grandly in white-wash, nestled amongst 100 year old pine trees. The local (and very well fed) pelicans and sea hawks take solace in the branches when they tire of fishing and sit and watch the spectacle of the people as they arrive for lunch. We can’t help but wondering who’s watching who – as they seem just as curious about us, as we are of them.

A good idea is to get there early as by Midday the place is buzzing and tables are scarce. We are excited to see Craigmoor bubbly on the wine list for only $26 a bottle – this is a fraction of the cost at other places! It’s delicious and cold and is presented beautifully in a large wine bucket, protecting it from the warmth of the winter sun. Patonga Beach HotelWe are seated at a table right opposite the ocean which sparkles bright aqua blue against the white sand. There is an open-mic session happening and the soft jazz tones suit the mood as we while-away a Saturday afternoon.

For lunch we can’t resist ordering a bucket of fresh prawns ($24) which when they arrive, stacked high on ice, are sweet and fresh making us even more nostalgic for summer days. We also share the Braised Beef Burger ($22) which is almost to divine to share! These 2 dishes are however perfect for sharing if you want to enjoy a lunch without feeling so full you can’t move. I guarantee you will be more than satisfied.

So we sit, watch the birds, listen to the soft lapping of the waves on the beach and spend an afternoon with good champagne and even better company. When we do eventually decide to head off, KAM suggests a walk on the beach to delay our leaving just a little longer.

Any reminder of summer is a good one and as we leave Patonga and head back up the mountain, the sand between my toes is like a souvenir. Summer is too far away, but the Patonga Beach Hotel has done a good job of jogging my memory. This place is like one of my snow-globes. A forever memory locked in time – just add sunshine and bubbles for the place to come alive.

The Patonga Beach Hotel
6-8 Patonga Drive,
Patonga NSW 2256
http://www.patongahotel.com/
info@patongahotel.com

McWilliams Winery, Hunter Valley

McWilliams Winery, Hunter Valley

McWilliams is more than pleasant!

There are many good wines coming out of the Hunter Valley region these days. However, none are more quintessentially Hunter than an aged McWilliams Semillon. The vineyard itself, founded in 1921 by the late and great Maurice O’Shea, McWilliams is one of Australia’s largest owned family wine companies.

I know KAM and I will disagree on this, but when it comes to Semillon, McWilliams do it the best. I have been collecting these wines for years, and if stored correctly, they just get better and better with age. The Lovedale is one of their flagship Semillons and with grapes coming from vines planted in 1946; this Semillon definitely packs a good punch. It’s won a thousand awards too, so I know it’s not just me who loves it.

In my opinion though, my favourite of all time is the Elizabeth. Whether you go a bottle of the Cellar Aged or something more recent, this wine bursts full of flavours and includes hints of green apple and lime. Best served super cold, this beautiful wine will compliment any meal. If you look at my collection or in my fridge chilling, you will see many of these beautiful Semillons on any given day of the week. Some of the vintages we have shared such as 2002, 2006 and 2007 have made for an epic experience. When you pour a glass and the deep honey colour sits in the glass like a nectar from the gods you cant help but enjoy!

Some more recent additions to their wine list and my collection are the Singing in the Rain and B-Side ranges. With fun flavours and pretty labels, any dinner party guests will be happy if this on the table when they arrive.

If you are a red drinker, and a fan of big bold reds that are full of winter flavours, you cannot skip this vineyard! My two favourites are the Philip and the Old Paddock and Old Hill Shiraz. They are richly intense and full of distinction and definitely the sign of a red drinker who knows what they are talking about!

If you do visit the vineyard, take your time at the cellar door and chat to the guys who have been serving here forever. They know their vintage McWilliams wines and are happy to share their knowledge or chat to you about previous years you might still have within your collection. You see their eyes light up at the mention of an old vintage, that they know is good and are wondering how it still in the bottle un-drunk, and almost invite themselves to your home to share it.

If you have the time, while away the afternoon here. Don’t bother to rush anywhere else.

Mount Pleasant Wines
401 Marrowbone Road
Pokolbin NSW 2320
Phone: (02) 4998 7505
http://mountpleasantwines.com.au/

Common Ground Canteen Kitchen

Common Ground Canteen Kitchen

Nothing Common about Common Ground

Nestled in a tiny shop, on the corner of a very busy street in Long Jetty on the NSW Central Coast, you will find Common Ground Canteen and Kitchen. It seems like a strange placement for this paddock to plate style cafe, but it works for them as they are always busy and you need to fight for a table on the sidewalk.

But it is more than just their location that seems to capture everyone from a morning coffee run, to a late night pasta. It is the brilliance of Chef Nic and his wife Kath and the honesty of this place, that keeps people coming back again and again.

Opened a few years ago by this dynamic pair, the place has gotten busier but their philosophy has remained the same. Fresh ingredients, cooked on an open fire in front of you, with a no-fuss attitude and it works. This is not a place for Pima Dona’s.  common Ground Blog 3

Open every day, this Chef and his team work hard to get good wholesome food to you, presented simply, but always filling your belly. You will not leave here hungry and need to do a Macca’s run on the way home. For the reasonable prices, the plates are huge and their share plates are great if you want to try everything they have to offer.

The daily menu, with old favourites, is rustic with a modern twist and the myriad of specials changes daily. It seems like Nic buys what is fresh and inspires him on the day and the concept of the dish starts from there. No recipes required.

They are licensed for BYO and you are always welcome to take a bottle of bubbly to go with their massive breakfast. You can build your own, but can I suggest Kath’s AM Dinner. A 130gram grass fed sirloin for breakfast might seem excessive, but it’s great after a big night out and at $19.50 you can’t go wrong. This is good steak, cooked right!

Of an evening, try their pasta nights. Big bowls with steaming hot ingredients that you will want to share and pass to your partner to try. Our faves are the Grinds Burger ($12) and the Lamb Forequarter on a roll ($10). After a long day at work, we pick up an easy, breezy bottle of wine and head down to Common for some no fuss fun. This is where you go when you don’t want to cook and you want someone to do the work for you. Take a deck of cards and just sit and watch the world go by. We do this so often, that when we don’t appear there for a while, the guys are all asking us where we have been when we finally have time to return!

Common Ground Blog 2Nic and Kath want to remind you of home, and they have achieved this. Common Ground Canteen and Kitchen is definitely our home away from home.

7/328 The Entrance Road, Long Jetty NSW 2261
Phone: (02) 4333 4214
http://www.thisiscommonground.com.au/
https://www.facebook.com/commonground2261/