Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Smile Cheese when you see the price

In his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, Get Up & Go guest blogger David Ellis says the world’s most expensive cheese doesn’t come from cows or goats, and you won’t find it in the plushest restaurants or finest delis in London, New York or Paris.

Instead this cheese comes from the milk of donkeys, just 100 jennies amongst a pack of 130 of them that live in a Special Nature Preserve outside the Serbian capital Belgrade.

And if you want to find out why it can command such a bizarre price, you’ll have to go to Belgrade to try it for yourself, because it’s not sold retail anywhere else in the world - and you’ll pay the equivalent of around AU$3000 a kilo for your little indulgence.

Serbian donkey cheese is white, crumbly and intensely flavoured - and the most expensive cheese in the world.

Called “Pule” it’s made in what’s said to be the world’s only donkey cheese factory, with 25 litres of donkey milk (6.6 gallons) required for each kilogram of cheese, and annual production a mere 200 kilograms. Those who’ve tried it in local restaurants, say it’s white and crumbly, intensely flavoured, has a natural saltiness to it, and is smoked in the final stages of production.

Highly nutritious donkey milk that’s beneficial to babies’ immune systems and is used in many European beauty and skin-care products, is also available at an equally pricey 40 Euros a litre (around AU$59) – because donkeys are simply not big daily milk producers.

And which reminds us that ancient Egypt’s Queen Cleopatra bathed nightly in donkey’s milk to preserve the beauty and youth of her skin… and to indulge her whim, needed 700 of the animals on stand-by no matter where she travelled.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Czech Republic's Kosher Wine Tasting

Guest blogger Catherine Marshall shares a special wine tasting with us . . .

This is the perfect place to host a kosher wine degustation: Trebic's Jewish Quarter which comprises, along with the city's Jewish Cemetery and the St Procopius Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In a café near the Jewish Gate, Szabo Tibor pours a Riesling and points to the platters before me: there is cheese and bread, meat spread and blue cheese spread and – could it be? – a slice of chocolate cake.

“Taste the wine, eat something,” he says. “Taste it again and you will see the taste changes.”

And indeed he’s right: something happens to the receptors on my tongue when I follow the food with wine. I try it again, with the chardonnay and the rose and the black grape varietal called Svatovavrinecke.

They’re lovely-tasting wines, but undetectable as a kosher, for such wines are classified not by taste but by the method of production.

“From the time you pick the grape, to the moment the cork goes in, only Orthodox Jews can [be involved],” says Tibor, himself merely a Gentile wine lover. “The process is supervised by a rabbi from Prague.”

Just one Jewish family remains in Trebic – home to the largest and best-preserved Jewish Quarter outside of Israel, from which thousands of Jews were transported to death camps during World War II. And only two kosher winemakers remain in the Czech Republic. Yet locals are keeping the Jewish memory alive: Tibor holds his kosher wine tastings, while resident Linda Navratilova immersive Jewish experience tours.

Back at the café, it’s time to taste the dessert wine, Zweigeltrabe. I take a sip, and follow it with a bite of chocolate cake. How appropriate that this wine should be served during Shabbat, for it’s as though I’ve tasted a piece of heaven.

The writer was a guest of Beyond Travel. More information: beyondtravel.com.au;


Monday, July 11, 2016


Dive into the pristine waters off Sabah's Sipadan Island


The triangle between Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines is one of the most bio-diverse marine habitats in the world. Strong ocean currents, deep-sea trenches and sea mountains, combined with active volcanic islands have created a complex oceanographic environment that is paradise for nature lovers and divers alike.

The beauty of this region lies in its diversity, and the dive spots and marine life vary from island to island, but most people come for the world-famous Sipadan Island located off Sabah’s east coast.

Rising 700m from the sea floor and at only 12hectares, Malaysia's sole oceanic island is tiny, taking just 25-minutes to circumnavigate on foot. Declared a bird sanctuary in 1933 by the Colonial Government of North Borneo and re-gazetted in 1963 by the Malaysian Government, the island’s dense vegetation supports a large variety of tropical birds including sea eagles, kingfishers, sunbirds, starlings and wood pigeons. Exotic crustaceans including the amazing coconut crab roam the beaches and scurry among the undergrowth, with blue skies and tropical scenery Sipadan’s stock in trade.

But it is below the surface of the ocean where this island really excels. The late Jacques Cousteau, world-renowned oceanographer, once described the pristine waters around Sipadan as an untouched piece of art, helping to establish this dive mecca as the most famous scuba destination in Malaysia. The diversity of the island’s marine life is unparalleled, home to thousands of turtles, manta rays, schooling sharks, swirling barracuda, and awe-inspiring coral walls dropping more than 2,000m straight down to the sea floor. Its famed Barrier Reef is the largest in South East Asia and regularly voted by divers as one of the World’s top dive destinations.

So make sure you include this tiny gem – truly one of the last unexplored frontiers on Planet Earth, in any trip to Malaysia. Diver or nature lover, the experience is guaranteed to be unforgettable.

Getting There

The jump-off point for all Sipadan Island explorations is the town of Semporna, a one-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu, followed by a 30-minute speedboat to Mabul.

For information about tours of Malaysia, please contact:

Tourism Malaysia, Telephone: +612 9286 3055, Fax: +612 9283 8311, Email: malaysia@malaysiatourism.com.au or visit http://www.malaysia.travel

Top 10 Dive Sites

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Big Booze Heist

Steward's mini bottles maxi trouble

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, Get Up & Go guest blogger David Ellis says a 28 year old flight attendant has been charged in Memphis, Tennessee with stealing more than 1,500 minis of booze from flights she was working.

And rather than to simply enjoy herself or with family or friends in her time off, she allegedly pinched them to sell.

The attendant worked for Delta Airlines’ subsidiary Endeavour Air which sells minis to passengers for US$8-$10 each, and it’s claimed she regularly slipped the tiny bottles of whiskey, vodka, rum, gin and exotic liqueurs into her bag at the end of shifts, later putting them on classified ad websites for just a dollar each.

She was arrested when undercover liquor licencing agents made a number of online purchases, and subsequently charged her under American “profiting from crimes of opportunity” laws with Theft of Property Over $10,000 and Unlawful Sale of Alcohol, and the almost-bizarre Unauthorised Transportation of Alcohol and Unauthorised Storage of Liquor For Sale laws.

And even more weirdly while Endeavour Air could have earned $12,000 from the legal sale of those 1,500 minis on board, all she got from selling them illegally was $1,500… not very rewarding considering she could face from 3 to 15 years in jail when she appears in court again later this year.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

CARS: Rare Aston Martin’s Amazing Price

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, Guest Blogger David Ellis says that a dilapidated and un-roadworthy 1949 Aston Martin DB2 sports car has just sold at auction in England for 679,000 British pounds – the equivalent of nearly AU$1,243,000.

But it is the car’s amazing history the new owner obviously thinks worthy of every penny of what he’s spent: after competing in the 1949 French Le Mans and Belgium Spa-24 endurance races, it raced for a few more years before being retired and eventually bought by an English enthusiast – from whom it was stolen in Hertfordshire in 2002.

Looking forlorn after being recovered from a storage shed in
Holland 14 years after disappearing, the famous Aston Martin DB2
sold at auction for the equivalent of AU$1,243,000. (Pic: Bonhams Auctioneers)
Two men were subsequently convicted of auto theft, but after being released on bail and ordered to surrender the vehicle, both disappeared… and not surprisingly the Aston Martin with them.

Then amazingly in March of this year Hertfordshire Police were tipped off that the car was in a storage shed in Eindhoven in Holland, and while it was recovered there in dilapidated condition, the two men who stole it have still never been found after absconding all those fourteen years ago.

The Aston Martin in action in its racing heyday over a half century ago.

And as the English owner died in 2003 – one of the last things him asking of a relative “has that nice policeman found my car yet?” – it was returned to his nearest of kin. Not able to afford the thousands of pounds to restore it, they put it to Bonham Auctioneers in late June of this year, where it fetched that amazing 679,000 pounds.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Lure of the Exotic East

Guest blogger Sally Hammond votes number one for Canberra's newest hotel - East Hotel.

An amazing set of coincidences and a love story meant that last week we were chatting to Italian-born Chef Francesco Balestrieri at East Hotel in Canberra.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Canberra has enough hotels, but Singapore Airlines has recently launched direct flights to Canberra. Now that the city is much more accessible to international visitors, a good hotel such as East Hotel (part of Bisa Hotels) is an important addition to the capital's dining and accommodation scene. Its central location, ten minutes from the City of Canberra, close to Parliament House and the National Gallery of Australia, as well as the vibrant hubs of Manuka and Kingston with their cafes, restaurants, bars and markets, adds to its value for overseas visitors.

Our accommodation in a Luxe One BR suite had all that we needed right at hand. Ideal for either business people or couples, there were all the extras that frequent travellers like: robes, slippers, kitchen, coffee machine, laundry, bath and shower, plus parking underneath the hotel.

Joe's Bar, the hotel's bar-restaurant, located just off the lobby is fast becoming a drawcard in its own right and, as an added lure for locals, it also opens on to the street. The night we dined, we could see this was a selling point, especially as the moody bar area serves as a perfect backdrop to the wide range of wines and cocktails served here.

At Joe’s the underlying principle is that locally sourced produce is best served in season and as fresh as possible and the menu is following the current trend of shareable plates and platters.

Before dinner, Chef Francesco sat and talked to us for some time and we asked him some questions.

We discovered that an amazing quirk of fate – a lucky career break ­– brought him to Australia a few years ago, and this led to him meeting his future wife. Now very settled in Australia, his Italian background makes him most comfortable serving quintessentially Italian dishes, with some smart and savvy twists.

But when we ask what he likes to cook, his eyes light up and, like any true Italian, he answers: 'pasta'!

East Hotel, 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston, ACT, www.easthotel.com.au. Phone: +612 6295 6925.

(also Muse cafe and Joe's Bar, restaurant and bar)

Sally & Gordon Hammond stayed as guests of East Hotel.

Food & Travel: http://www.foodandtravel.com.au the first place to come for authoratitive information on food and travel worldwide.