How to Enjoy Your Stay at Hyams Beach New South Wales

A stay at Jervis Bay gets more awesome by enjoying the amazing hyams beach. There is much fun on this beautiful white sand beach. The beach is situated on the southern shore of Jervis Bay, a famous holiday spot on the South Coast.

Hyams is surrounded by awesome natural attractions such as Booderee National Park, Jervis Bay Marine Park, native forests and cliff top walking trails on headlands. It is also wedged between the beautiful Greenpatch and Murrays beaches.

There are various exciting things to do on this beach. Snorkeling and diving are some popular things to do during your stay. Beginner divers or experienced divers will enjoy exploring the sea floor. Snorkeling is exciting along the shorelines of the beach. Enjoy yourself by windsurfing, sailing, sea kayaking, surfing and other water activities in this idyllic beach. During your stay, enjoy swimming with your family and friends on the beautiful waters. Dolphin and whale watch cruises are also available in the nearby Huskisson.

The nearby Boodere National Park gives a choice for adventurous bushwalks admiring the nature. The walks and tours around the park are guided. The park has many cultural and historical features to see and learn. The white sands walks along the beach are enjoyable and give panoramic views to the Jervis Bay. There are fishing charters available for anyone want to catch a bite, a good way to go further than the wharf or beach.

Continue reading “How to Enjoy Your Stay at Hyams Beach New South Wales”

Blame the Architects!

Luma is just the latest restaurant to be opened in a cultural institution — without making reference to its context.  It could be a restaurant anywhere. There’s no reason for it to be in TIFF Bell Lightbox.  Why?

Elsewhere, restaurants in museums are tailored to exploit their context.  You dine at The Modern in MoMA, eat three-star food, and look out over the sculpture garden.

At the Metropolitan, diners in the Petrie Court….

At the British Museum, the Court restaurant is right under the great dome.  But in Toronto….

You wouldn’t know that JK at the Gardiner  belongs in the same space as the enchanting ceramics museum.  Ditto ROM’s C5. Last time I was there, a functionary pointed out to me how environmentally conscious the museum was, there would be gardens on the roofs.  Get over it. I can get that anywhere. Why aren’t some of the museum’s remarkable artifacts on display? Gosh, the restaurant’s big enough. Of course, like poor Luma, C5 is difficult to actually find.

Continue reading “Blame the Architects!”

National Post Restaurant Review Dec 4 2010 Niagara St. Cafe

‘Tis the season to eat fresh truffles. I hail a passing pig, the non-pareil truffle hunter,  to hunt them down.  She  sniffs the air, gives a grunt and trots straightaway to the Niagara Street Cafe, Anton Potvin’s festive little boite in the  rising condo corridor along King St. W.  The truffle’s release of pheromones is that powerful! Sure enough,  I find both white and black truffles for the asking. Just jetted in from Croatia. They’re billed as Wanda’s Truffles after  the supplier, Wanda Srdoc whose family made a major truffle strike in the Motovun oak forests which is to Croatian truffles what Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar oil field is to oil.  Motovun’s truffles are so good that the Croatia is now a leading exporter to North America. Truffles of course are now being farm-grown as well –  New Zealand and North Carolina are among the leaders.  Eco-eaters may grumble over the hefty carbon print left by the little truffle.  Go ask Ontario farmers why we don’t have fresh’n’local truffles.  B.C. has begun with  Duckett Truffieres , but their truffles haven’t yet made their way to Ontario. Of course that will be a hefty carbon print too.

Chef Nick Liu is now bringing out the truffles for our inspection. They look like a couple of smallish moon rocks. One step for mankind, a giant step for the gourmand.   The white one is pockmarked, the larger black one has a bubbly black skin.

OMG, a pound of these negligible fungi cost the earth – an aphrodisiacally high price tag. Retail – twelve bucks a gram or $5376 a pound. I have ideal companions for this treat. Nigel and Diane are chalking up their first wedding anniversary. May the good times continue to roll.

They rate the NSC romantic. Soft lights, soft music, friendly service, comfortable banquette. So far no cell phone activation. Nobody’s reading the Giller winner The Sentimentalists  on Kobo. A live person place, a sophisticated take on a neighbourhood restaurant. Dusted with glamour too.  It  has the reputation for entertaining major wine imbibers who bring their own great vintages  to match a meal.  Us chickens do ok too. Potvin has a discerning wine list, starting with a a crisp and affordable white house wine, Domaine de Sancet, Cotes de Gascogne, $8 a glass.

We sniff the air. Something’s coming, something good.  Little bowls of  fresh, hand-cut pappardelle with pecorino cheese arrive,  spotted  with truffle scrapings – don’t waste a spoor now.  The black truffles are $15, the white, $19.  The white gets a higher gastronomic rating says  Connoissieur Potvin. He declares that at first he liked the black better but now he’s in thrall to the white – it tastes of gasoline, high octane, intoxicating.  Say, perhaps he’d like to become a food writer. Chef Liu is even more ecstatic “The white truffle’s flavour gives me the  feeling of being in love.”

To me, the truffle-imbued pasta is food from the crypt — as if retrieved from some musty tomb. It’s amazing  just how far a few truffle scrapings are infecting the thick pasta ribbons. Greedily, we think, more please. We agree  that we’d be willing to pay more for say, another half-gram of black or white.   Not more pasta, just more truffle. Perhaps the menu should indicate a booster dish for Xtreme truffle hounds.  .

We come down from our truffle high and consider Liu’s menu. Refreshing.  Crispy confit frogs legs are juicy, like baby chicken and they come with a Toadstool! $13. It’s okay, not the red one with white spots. The accompanying  sauce Gribiche, eggy, creamy, spiked with pickles is complemented with the peppery fresh watercress.

Ontario smelts! They must not be ignored. Fried, $12, they no longer smell of violets but the green curry mayo and a spicy thai dipping sauce makes up for that.

Diane picks the fish special. The fugitive-flavoured rainbow trout $25 has the requisite crisp skin. Nigel says the fried duck confit duck wings hit the spot, but why are they “parked on a strange Belgian waffle”  — corn and duck bacon waffles – which makes the meat seem dry, despite maple jus and green slaw $25.  A little pot of bronzed lemon curd and green tea cream chantilly ($9 each) make a sweet ending. .

** Niagara Street Cafe, 169 Niagara St. 416-703-4222 wheelchair access. Dinner for two plus tax:  $115

One star: worth a detour. Two stars: Exceptional cooking and/or unique surroundings . Three Stars: The Package – signature cooking/style, atmosphere, service.

National Post Book Review Nov 27 2010

Deborah Mitford, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire with her great grandchildren

Wait For Me! by Deborah Mitford,Douglas & McIntyre $32.50 345 pages

If you’re under thirty  you may be bewildered by Mitfordmania. You may be saying who are/were  the Mitfords anyway?  Why all the publicity around a 90, yes 90 year old Dowager Duchess of Mitfordshire, I mean Devonshire, and her memoir Wait For Me!
A little history.

Exhausted by world war II, Britain voted in the socialist revolution in the hopes of making the country more egalitarian.  But the older, richer, anarchic England wouldn’t lie down and die.  Today,  the word aristocratic is often used to indicate refinement.  In fact, aristo culture is warlord. In the old days, the landowners used their private armies to make kings.  Today, the greatest aristocratic families still look down on the Royal Family as upstarts.  Thus Nancy Mitford’s novel The Pursuit of Love, published in 1945,  even as the socialists got their teeth into the muscle of the country, was a hunting call to the newly oppressed.  The  affectionate satire of her parents Lord and Lady Redesdale, and their six daughters who insouciantly made their own rules, their own language in their own bubble made readers laugh and cry.   Overseas readers loved Farve, an unregenerate feudal lord who did exactly what he liked, hunted his children across his Oxfordshire acres, and hated all foreigners.   How the dining room was so cold  that the family used to clasp heated soup plates to their chests to keep warm.  One night absent-minded Muv clasped  a full soup plate…. English eccentricity at its most beguiling.

Aristo backlash – then some.   As taxes rose and 80% death duties ravaged many an ancient estate, aristos kept their heads down.   But slowly aristo creep was observed.  Charm is a  prerogative of power, and the aristos continued to use charm in the trenches, anticipating  People magazine and a time when charm and celebrity would be all. Nancy was also a skilled provocateur , writing an article about U and Non-U speech which emphasized the  divisions of  a class-ridden nation. Even the Queen, so it was said, let it be known that she didn’t want to hear any more about how the use of mirror instead of looking- glass made the English despise each other. Of course it was a Nancy tease – how, said one of my cousins, can you say “driving looking-glass.” ?
Nancy’s sisters, meantime, had outraged the nation even more sensationally. Unity had fallen in love with Hitler, and  tried to commit suicide when war broke out. Jessica, having eloped in order to fight in the Spanish Civil War, was now in California, a Communist organizer, preparing her muckraking bestseller The American Way of Death.  Diana had married Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British fascists, in Goebbels’ Berlin house with Das Fuhrer the only witness. She was imprisoned during the war as a threat to the state – and it was Nancy who had denounced her!

What today’s 7/24 news cycle would have done with this. As it was, the press gave the Mitfords  as near  a full Princess  Diana  as print could provide. No wonder Lady Redesdale, brought up to believe that a lady should only have her name in the press when she was born, married, and died, found her heart sinking when she saw the headline “Peer’s daughter….” That was just for starters.  Books  by and about the girls became a cottage industry, followed by a musical, TV….

Enter Deborah,  Debo, the youngest and  surviving sister to tell her story. Her parents nicknamed her Stubby because she had such short fat legs:  she trailed her sisters crying “wait for me.”  She’s funny of course, not  brilliant like  Nancy or spontaneous as Jessica who intoned “Nature nature, how I hateyer” on a nature walk, but deadpan.  And remember, she’s the one who had tea with Hitler.  In 1936, when Debo visited her lovesick sister Unity in Munich, the dictator invited them to tea in his flat. He didn’t say much but imagine  Adolf putting aside his plans to murder millions to spend a couple of hours with the Mitford girls.

Subsequently, Debo pulled herself together and married an English duke. Not any old duke. The Devonshires were magnates like the Duke of Omnium in Trollope’s The Palliser series, owners of vast estates,  above all the greatest country house of all, Chatsworth, a glittering Baroque  gem with 297 rooms and  set in the rolling hills of Derbyshire, surrounded by ll miles of parkland, and stuffed with incomparable art treasures. ( Moviegoers will have had a glimpse of its beauty from the movies of Pride and Prejudice and The Duchess.) Happy ending? Not yet. Lucky she  was battlehardened by the Redesdale school of hard knocks.,

First the enchanted early years of being a Mitford.  Debo,  who’s as fed up with the age of Mark Zuckerberg as  most  everyone over 25, recalls tartly  that “Money was not spoken about as it is now, when it is often the sole subject of conversation, with a bit of illness thrown in.” The children didn’t know their father had squandered his inheritance just that they kept moving. While a new house was being built,  Farve  stashed the family in a cheap Paris hotel. Unfazed, the  children wasted no time making it like home. Debo, Jessica, even Nanny were puzzled by the bidet and hurried out to buy some goldfish to fill it. Fortunately, no formal schooling – the girls had governesses –  squelched  their shiny faced naivete. They must have inherited their insatiable curiosity from  their journalist maternal grandfather, Thomas Bowles, the publisher of the magazine, The Lady, which survives today.  Their fearlessness too because Bowles was  illegitimate in an  unforgiving era. But they got their way with words  from their father, a powerful  imagemaker.  He came home from lunching on sheep’s hearts “still beating on the plate” as he told the children.

Muv was the family’s anchor wherever they moved, running any household to perfection.  A progressive Green, she served only Kosher food (healthier), never drank or smoked. Refrigerators may have saved millions from food poisoning but Muv said “I don’t really like refrigerators: they make the food so cold.”  Aghast to learn Farve had only read one book, White Fang,  she read  him  Tess of the D’Urbevilles, thinking its rural character would please him. But when the story grew sad, he started to cry, “Oh darling, don’t cry, it’s only a story.”  Farve was furious. Books were dead.  He did however read Nancy’s description of him in  The Pursuit of Love – and laughed.

Upperclass women’s destiny was marriage and Muv  had no choice but to  raise her daughters to be subservient wives. She did her best.  When Debo was ten, Muv tested the  girls’ housekeeping skills, asking them to account for a budget of 500 pounds a year.  As the others struggled with rent and wages, Nancy wrote “499 pounds for flowers. one pound for the rest.” After that, “Muv gave up.”  But she remained heartbreakingly loyal to her warring  brood. She had their number.
Dying she told them “You’ll cry at my funeral and then you’ll start laughing.”  She was right.

If Debo had any idea that marriage was a safe  harbour, she was soon disillusioned.  She felt quite at home with her father-in-law . A keen fisherman who made his own flies,  he would lie in his bath pretending to be a salmon and his butler would float the flies above him so he could determine which was irresistible. But then he died inopportunely in 1950 triggering horrendous death duties  which took 4/5ths of the family fortune and 24 years to pay off.  This wasn’t the only problem. Debo’s  husband was a drunk most of their married life, which she discreetly acknowledges. But she doesn’t mention his sex addiction. In 1985 the butler spilled the beans on the Duke’s habit of giving large checks to a series of young women who came to his London house. The  Duchess stayed mum. In the sixties, Debo became a good friend of John F. Kennedy – his sister had married the Duke’s elder brother who was killed in the war – and recounts without irony that she swam with him in the White House swimming pool –  since  revealed as a noontime hookers’ venue.    MItfords don’t apologize or explain.

Anyway,  by this time she was inextricably wedded to Chatsworth itself.  The Duke who liked to tell people he did nothing, did atleast one great thing. He made her CEO of brand Chatsworth. If the estate survives in the future, it will be largely  thanks to her.   Not only did she supervise the modernization of the huge house so a family could once again live in it, but she opened up the  Chatsworth experience to the people.  Channelling Muv, Debo made Chatsworth green.  She  opened the first farm shop at any stately home, stocked with local produce, opened a restaurant and gift shop,  all contributing to Chatsworth’s bottom line.  Chatsworth is now child-friendly with hands-on exhibits, a working farmyard and a maze. She bonded with her neighbours. More than 3,000 couples in Derbyshire  married the same year as the Devonshires were invited to tea to celebrate their golden wedding. Not least,  she led the Chatsworth contingent  to join  750,000 fellow rustics  in the  1997 Countryside March on Westminster to protest the ban on fox hunting. Her daughter Sophie beside her sported a banner “I’m ready to go to jail.”
Somewhere her  sisters must be laughing. .

National Post Restaurant Review Nov 6 2010 *** ICI BISTRO

Ici Bistro is open.

Whew. For more than year now, Ici Bistro has been the phantom of the West Annex,  appearing and disappearing like the Cheshire Cat, now opening, now not opening,  the victim of municipal red tape.  Neighbours longing to taste chef J.P. Challet’s boeuf  bourguignon were frustrated when the  liquor license was refused. The city feared the smell of lobster bisque might distract pupils at the school next door from shooting – up or each other.  Next thing for god’s sake, the kids will be demanding Beaujolais to perk up the cafeteria’s cottage pie. And that was just for starters.

Bon Vivant can’t wait – Ici’s travails fit right into his thesis on why people eat. Not because they’re hungry? “ Too tea parties” he sniffs “I got the grant to write something loftier — our hunger for community.” I move the chewing gum from one cheek to the other.

So now we’re bonding knee to knee with neighbours. Ici is delightfully small, only 24 seats, soothing grey with a stripey banquette for serious eaters. We’re going the whole nine yards – we’re eating French. You may have heard that the Spanish are now the great innovators, that foraging is  the new rave, that the Italians have taken over the restoscape. Hmm.  When I  dream of gustatory pleasure, I  wake up hungry for sweetbreads  financier. Not that I kid myself I’ll find anything  so rich today. Like other great empires,  the luxe French cuisine,  butter, cream, truffles, foie gras, caviar,  has had to adapt to changing times.   The classics on Ici’s carte sound  the same as those made by Escoffier a century ago, but they’ve been  reinterpreted to suit the Canadian palate  – and in a bow to grazing, each dish comes in both small and large sizes.  Need more explanation: ask the server Sukaina who has a PHD in food and charm besides.

We start off with a glass of celebratory fizz,  13th St Cuvee Rose Brut ($12)the right  way to begin a French dinner. So is the  platter of oysters (Maritimes at $3 per). We toast oysterman Rodney who has made Toronto the queen of oyster cities. As we butter a slice of Challet’s angelic baguette (no charge) we notice the plates are all shaped like tear drops. Yes to steak tartare $18. A platter of six elegant ovals of hand-cut raw beef – tart  and creamy, mustardy, a whisper  of chili and a few  potato croquettes as counterpoint.

A baby-pink torchon of foiegras with floating figs, a crisp  black trumpet mushroom croquette $18/28 is the kind of food that is so good you can’t bear to finish eating it.

Lobster thermidor is one of the showgirls of the classic cuisine, the crustacean baked in the shell with a sauce bolstered by lashings of cream.   Challet’s version (18/30) is lots skinnier with emphasis on lobster’s taste which evokes the antiseptic smell of the ER.  The claws and tails are  steamed, shelled and set out on a long platter with  mayonnaise kissed with chili and accompanied by  tender lobster/bechamel croquettes and a deep red flower of a beet.

We’re sipping one of those soft shouldered Cote de Rhones (Vignerons D’estezargues ‘Terre de Mistral’ $48)  which is perfect for our next dish. Blanquette de Veau  is a stupendously rich white veal stew.  But what is this?  A platter displaying a large cannellono shrouding a brown stew.($17/29) Of course –  today chefs use rose veal , the calf given a kinder, gentler death.  I cut into the pasta to find strands of  pulled veal, silky button mushrooms,  black trumpets all bathed in a bronze-toned veloute sauce which tastes just as inspiritingly earthy and profound as the old super-enriched one.  A little pumpkin mousse  provides another texture. So does the traditional  boiled potato with the firm consistency of soap.

Of course we must end with a souffle, the classic cuisine’s Koh-I-Noor diamond.. Grand Marnier souffle ($16) is  just a few mouthfuls of orange-tinctured bliss.  Then Bon Vivant spots the chocolate platter $12 on the next table. A must. Dark and medium chocolate mousses puckered up with a sweet-sour red currant ice cream.

Choc’s too heavy for me. I prefer my chocolate mousse ultralite, made from just eggs and semi-sweet chocolate with Cognac trace.

Over  Armagnac, another estimable tradition, Bon Vivant says he’s  uplifted by the spiritual sustenance from sharing food.  But not any food. In future, he’s only going to eat in three star restaurants.

NOTEA new star system is in effect. One star: worth a detour. Two stars: Exceptional cooking and/or unique surroundings . Three Stars: The Package – signature cooking/style, atmosphere, service.

***Ici Bistro 538 Manning Ave 416-536 0079

Not wheelchair accessible. Dinner for two, food plus tax: $140