The Knot

Friday, July 31, 2009

My Vogue Australia

Left: Cate Blanchett, immortalised in illustration on the cover of Vogue Australia's 50th anniversary issue, on sale next week.

Vogue Australia turns 50 this week, the fourth edition launched of a global fashion phenomenon.

Its main rival in the Australian magazine market Harper's Bazaar, launched, closed and then launched again. Meanwhile, the most important fashion magazine brand in the world today has endured through changes of management, from Conde Nast Australia to Michael Hannan's FPC magazines to current licensees News Limited.

The 50th anniversary edition offers four different collectable covers - all featuring an illustration of Cate Blanchett wearing one of four nominated fashion designers. The covers, revealed in The Weekend Australian today, are breathtaking. Editor Kirstie Clements says the hairs on the back of her neck stood up when the concept for illustrated covers was first raised. I had a similar experience when I saw the finished product as I was reading the newspaper over breakfast.

I fell in love with Vogue Australia when I was 16. Consumed by the fantasy of its fashion pages, then directed by the extraordinary talent of Judith Cook, I was smitten from the first issue that I purchased with my casual wages as a shop assistant. That was 27 years ago and the Vogue masthead still sits higher up the fashion chain for me than any other magazine brand. If I desire an indulgent fashion flick, it's Vogue all the way.

Vogue is a title that I wish I could have edited in my magazine editing career. I was offered the editorship of Vogue Australia in 1999, while Editor-in-chief of ELLE Australia, but the timing just wasn't right for me. It was probably a good thing. I've never been able to enjoy reading a magazine that I once edited because it always feels like work.

I can't wait to get my copy of this special birthday edition. I know I won't be disappointed.



Speed Shopping: Travel Tips For The Time-Poor

I've been told that I shop like a man. Apparently being decisive, buying more than you try on and doing it all in short time bursts is a masculine way to buy clothing.

I read somewhere that women buy 20 percent of everything they try on, whereas men purchase 80 percent of anything they bother to take into the change room. The theory being that women try to decide; men try on for correct sizing once they have already decided. In that way, I am certainly more like the male gender when I go shopping.

The issue for me is time. Rarely do I have the hours to browse directionless. I usually know what I'm looking for before I enter a store and exit rapidly if I can't find it. I managed to cover the majority of the stores in the Soho area with an hour a day of 'free time' on a recent business trip to New York.

So here's a rough guide to how I manage to tip the luggage weight scales every time I head o/s on a full-scheduled business trip:

1. Know what you need before you enter a store. That doesn't mean that you can't find something you want as you're looking for what you need (I inevitably do).

2. Be decisive. If you've fallen in love with something you didn't previously know you needed (but now know you can't live without), then buy it. I have spent too many regretful days thinking about the Gucci shoes I should have bought on a Milan shopping trip a few years ago. If you're in another country or city, it's unlikely you'll be back there next week if you wake up in the middle of the night and suddenly realise you definitely need that item. Or is that just me?

3. Buy for your style and body shape. If you know what suits you, then it's easier to be decisive. I can speed-flick through racks of clothing now in seconds: yes, no, maybe - it's all about knowing what will and won't work.

4. Avoid fashion trends. What's IN today can be OUT tomorrow, but you'll be stuck with an expensive purchase regardless. Only buy-in to a fashion trend if you truly love the item of clothing regardless, or you are a fashion editor and have no choice but to be fashion forward.

5. If it's on special and less then $20, don't waste time thinking about it. Buy now, think later.

6. Only take into the change room the items that you will definitely buy if the fit is perfect. Avoid the temptation to try on everything you touch and hope for the best. This is the single biggest waste of time in the shopping process.

Happy and speedy shopping!


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bridezilla...or not?

When this youtube video was shown on Oprah there was much debate about its authenticity. Having been a bride myself, albeit many moons ago, I can see how this might have actually occurred. But really, would a bride lop off her own locks hours before her wedding, Shirley Temple ringlets aside?

I tore my bridal bouquet apart an hour before my wedding due to some inappropriate inclusion of baby's breath, which I am not a fan of. But that is small fry compared with the decision to take scissors to your own hair.

What do you think? Real or not?


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Top 10 Places To Eat In New York (in no particular order, although Balthazar is my favourite)

1. Balthazar
Where: 80 Spring Street, Soho
What: French bistro meals
When: breakfast through to supper
Why: caramelised banana ricotta tart

2. Les Halles
Where: 411 Park street, Midtown
What: Parisian-style brassierie
When: breakfast, lunch and dinner, brunch, continuous service.
Why: pave de thon grille, sauce vierge, legumes grilles a l'huile d'olive

3. Nobu Next Door
Where: 105 Hudson Street, Tribeca
What: Japanese, seaside
When: late-night dining
Why: the raw bar

4. Chinatown Brasserie
Where: 380 Lafayette @ Great Jones, Noho
What: Chinese answer to Balthazar
When: lunch and dinner
Why: Peking duck with homemade mandarin pancakes

5. Gemma
Where: The Bowery Hotel, 335 Bowery Street, Noho
What: rustic Italian
When: breakfast, lunch and dinner, brunch
Why: sea-bass crudi

6. Ruby's Cafe & Bar
Where: 219 Mulberry St, Nolita
What: cafe, inspired by Australia's east-coast
When: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Why: the Bronte burger

7. Ferrara
Where: 195 Grand Street, Little Italy
What: bakery and cafe, espresso bar
When: from breakfast till late
Why: key lime pie

8. Tribeca Grill
Where: 375 Greenwich St, Tribeca
What: market-driven menu
When: lunch, dinner, brunch
Why: roasted striped bass, crawfish, corn & fava bean succotash

9. Jubilee
Where: 447 Broadway, Soho
What: delicatessen
When: 24 hours
Why: sushi and salad bar

10. Cafe Gitane
Where: 242 Mott Street, Nolita
What: French-Moroccan
When: 9am - midnight
Why: Moroccan couscous with red peppers, raisins, toasted pinenuts, hummus and eggplant


Saturday, July 25, 2009

A New York Dash

Above: Interior of the Guggenheim Museum, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece

To most New Yorkers, Saturday represents the beginning of a weekend unwind. To those of us due to fly out of the city, it was a last chance to do and see the final things on our wishlist.

We started with brunch back at Balthazar, in an effort to leave a lasting good impression of New York dining and erase the horror of the previous night's dinner. The recommended scrambled eggs with puff pastry were inspired and will be remembered for some time.

Next it was uptown to the Guggenheim Museum to view the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibition, From Within Outward. It was an opportunity to gain a better appreciation of the full body of work (built and unbuilt) of this visionary modernist architect. The Guggenheim Museum itself is one of Lloyd Wright's famous structures and exemplifies his love of new materials such as concrete and steel, post Industrial Revolution.

I have been to New York many times but never taken the elevator ride to the top of the Rockefeller Centre. We decided that a spectacular view of New York would be a fitting way to end our tour of the city. The view from 'The Top Of The Rock' is breathtaking. You need to see Central Park from up there to fully appreciate its size. Then looking back toward the financial district and past the beautiful Empire State Building, still my favourite in this city, you are reminded of the tragedy that changed a city's skyline forever.

Above: The Empire State Building from the top of The Rockefeller Centre, with the financial district beyond.

On the way back to our hotel, the taxi weaved its way through Times Square to give us a final view of the hustle and bustle of a city that never sleeps.

After a week in New York its finally time to say goodbye and board that Qantas jet for the long haul home. I'm hoping to be back here again soon.


Shopping In A New York Minute

Left: The spoils of New York shopping

I spoke to my husband via skype this morning. It's my last day in New York this time round and he was questioning me on the week I've just had.

"Did you buy anything?" he asked innocently.

Bless him. After 16 years of marriage, Graeme still chooses to think the best of me.

It wasn't an entirely silly question, though, my passion for fashion aside. This is a business trip and he knows I was in back-to-back meetings. So his question was around timing rather than intent.

Luckily for me, we were based in offices on Broadway, in the heart of Soho shopping. I ducked out at lunchtime, walked back to the hotel via the shops rather than taxi back, and took advantage of the odd hole in the daily schedule.

Having shopped this city many times before - I think this may be my fifth trip to New York, I was already of the opinion that the best shopping is downtown.

I stocked up on Levis, t-shirts and Converse sneakers for the boys. I always buy them a souvenir of the city when I'm away, so I am taking home a copy of a script of a Seinfeld episode for my 15-year-old who studies drama, and a framed cover of New Yorker magazine featuring the Empire State Building and three gorillas lazing on a rooftop nearby for my 11-year-old who already has a healthy appreciation for art.

Graeme also did well: Levis, Fruit Of The Loom t-shirts in undershirt quality that you just can't find back home, a John Lennon t-shirt (as a nod to our 1990 visit to the Dakota Building together to reflect on the day Lennon was gunned down outside his residence in 1980), plus a few other bits and pieces.

Once the boys were taken care of, I could shop freely. There is a gorgeous little Bloomingdale on Broadway at this end of town and it rewarded me well. I purchased five pairs of shoes there (although one pair was for my mother who had moved into my home to care for my family in my absence).

I spent many New York minutes in Hugo Boss (a long-time favourite of mine - the women's collection is incredibly good value for the style and quality), due to the 50 per cent off sale.

For quality basics at my age (not dead yet, but wanting to dress more 30 than 20 which means I like my bottom covered), I fell again for Banana Republic. The store never disappoints. I checked out Zara, Top Shop and H&M too, all of which had fantastic sales, some as much as 80 per cent off, but the quality and cut was for a woman of a much younger age - meaning I'd either be flashing my bottom or breasts if I was to wear any of it.

The cool editors and fashion staff in our place of business were dressed in a Palm Beach meets New York style. They recommended Calypso at 191 Lafayette Street for a lesson on New York dressing in summer. It proved to be a great tip and I purchased a couple of things in order to bring a little New York summer back to Sydney.

We leave New York tonight, following visits to the Guggenheim Museum to see the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibition and The Rockefeller Centre for final views over Central Park.

With my wardrobe now updated and New York experiences refreshed, it's time to blog out from New York.



Friday, July 24, 2009

In Search Of Key Lime Pie

Left: Key lime pie, Ferrara Pasticceria Espresso Bar, Little Italy, NY

I blame myself. The first time I visited New York in 1990 a friend took me to a creole restaurant and I tasted my first piece of key lime pie. I was hooked. I was keen for a key lime experience on this trip, believing it to be the perfect way to cap off a successful visit.

We asked the hotel concierge for a recommendation. My request was simple: a restaurant that served key lime pie for dessert.

"You'll be wanting Southern food then," the concierge said.

We nodded trustingly and then left it to the concierge to make a booking.

It was our final night in New York and as our stay had coincided with restaurant week we had managed to dine at some of the city's best establishments to date, including Balthazar and Nobu. We were looking forward to trying somewhere new before signing off.

We were given the address of a restaurant in Chelsea called Hill Country. As we pulled up outside we could see that the restaurant was alive with customers, jam-packed. It was looking promising.

As we walked into Hill Country, the first thing I noticed was a massive sign hanging over a buffet-style set-up where customers were queueing. The sign read, 'Barbeque and Sausages'. It was then that we should have gone with our gut and done a runner. But against our better judgment (and with the hope of key lime pie ever present) we took our reserved table before lining up for a helping of pork spare ribs (where for no extra cost you can get hit on by the greasy bald guy behind the counter), Bourbon sweet potato mash (that was overpowered by the main ingredient:Bourbon), corn bread (the only thing edible on my tray), a corn concoction that I don't even want to think about, and macaroni and cheese (bland and sickly). I had been hoping for creole cooking. Instead we were dining on crud.

Left: Chowing down on pork spare ribs at Hill Country.

We knew we were asking for trouble or a triple bypass at some point in the future when the brown paper that the ribs were wrapped in turned opaque, as the result of the oil they were dripping in, before we'd even made it back to the table. (I had to wash my hands three times with soap to lessen the smell of pork - I just know that I'll have to cut off my hands if I want to be rid of it forever.) To add insult to an inedible meal, key lime pie did not feature on the menu.

Quitting while we still had our health seemed like the only option, so we high-tailed it out of there before our bodies had time to reject their dinner.

In an effort to salvage our last night in New York, we decided to continue the search for key lime pie. Reward came in the form of Ferrara Pasticceria Espresso Bar in Little Italy (it was either Little Italy or Harlem, following a Google search for 'key lime pie, NY'). Thank god for the Italians.

Left: Little Italy, NY

At 10pm, the place was pumping and we finally felt that we were back on the good food track. The key lime pie was sensational. As good as I recalled it to be on my previous visits to New York.

As we departed Little Italy for The Bowery Hotel, we made a pact to never speak of Hill Country beyond this evening, lest it tarnish our New York.

Ferrara is at 195 Grand Street, Little Italy.
Hill Country is in Chelsea, no need for you to know exactly where.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Day For Icons, Past & Present

Above: Pallbearers carry the casket of iconic US newsreader Walter Cronkite down the steps at his funeral at St. Bartholomew's Church in New York. Photo: AP

We taxied our way down Park Avenue toward our hotel in Soho this afternoon, following a visit to the Museum of Modern Art. Just after passing the Waldorf Astoria, we noticed a large gathering of journalists and photographers lining the footpath of a beautiful old church. We wondered aloud what important event was transpiring inside. The church was St. Bartholomew's, and inside we would later learn was the funeral service for iconic newsman Walter Cronkite.

What a stroke of luck to have passed as this extraordinary journalist's life was being celebrated.

Left: Robert De Niro's Tribeca Grill

This evening we chose to dine at an establishment owned by one of New York's living icons, Robert De Niro. Tribeca Grill opened in 1990 and has been a tourist attraction ever since, largely as the result of its famous owner.

A De Niro original drawing features as the menu cover, just in case you needed reminding of the restaurant's famous link.

As it is restaurant week in New York, we chose to try the Prix Fix menu, which looked like great value at $35.

All three courses were sensational. I started with the Fennel Soup, followed by Roasted Bass and finished off with a delightful Peach Tart. I do love my desserts. Given that the Roasted Bass alone is priced at $31 a la carte, I believe I chose very well.

The service was fast and efficient, especially given that the restaurant was packed to the rafters and by 8pm already onto its second sitting. The food lived up to expectations.

Tribeca Grill is at 375 Greenwich St.

Photo of Walter Cronkite's funeral:


Classic Wall Hangings At MoMa

Left: Paul Cezanne's Still Life With Fruit Dish at the Museum of Modern Art, NY

It was the 'Cezanne To Picasso' exhibition that drew me back to New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) after a break of nine years. The installation is a display of nine early modern European paintings that David and Peggy Rockefeller have promised to the museum, including Cezanne's Still Life With Fruit Dish.

I studied art throughout high school and my favourite stream was the modern art movement. A quarter of a century later, I still feel fortunate to be in the presence of the paintings that I studied and admired, from the Impressionists of Monet, through to the Pop Art movement lead by Andy Warhol. It doesn't matter how many times I have viewed an original artwork by one of those painters, I continue to be delighted.

The exhibition features classic examples of Post-Impressionist, Fauvist, and Cubist painting, and celebrates the early flowering of modern art.

It is an entree to the wider delights of the modern art and avant garde movements with the cream of the world's renowned paintings hanging on the walls at MoMa. You will indeed feel like a child in a lolly shop when you spy Andy Warhol's Golden Marilyn Monroe holding pride of place in one room, Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night lighting up another and Mondrian's Trafalgar Square featuring prominently in a third.

Left: Andy Warhol's classic Campbell's Soup Cans at The Museum of Modern Art, NY

MoMa's collection of modern paintings is breathtaking with an entire room devoted to Jackson Pollack (my 15-year-old son's namesake) and more Picassos than can be viewed within the context of an exhibition. You'll find a couple of Picassos hanging out near the stairwells too.

The works of art at MoMa have to be seen to be believed.

MoMa is at 11 West 53 St, NY


Finding Fortune At Chinatown

Left: Chinatown Brasserie, New York

I am in New York on business and to celebrate the beginning of a new and hopefully prosperous business relationship our partners took us to dinner at Chinatown Brasserie, a venue that has always proven lucky for them.

As I tucked into an array of traditional Chinese dishes, including my favourite Peking Duck (an astonishingly good version), I was suddenly feeling the luck of the venue too.

The specialty of the house are the dim sums and dumplings, created by Cantonese dim sum chef Joe Ng. Definitely worth savouring.

Cocktails are on the menu and an interesting modern addition to a Chinese meal. The fortune cookies even have a modern twist: chocolate flavoured.

The decor is Suzy Wong meets, well, New York. Modern, hip and yet with a sweet nod to the supper clubs of Hong Kong, where wealthy businessmen wrap up the day.

If you have a hankering for a good Chinese meal, as we did, you won't be disappointed.

Chinatown Brasserie is at 380 Lafayette @ Great Jones.


Australians In New York

Above: Former Australian photographer Stuart Ramson shoots Australian swimsuit designer Zimmermann's new resort collection on the rooftop of New York's Empire Hotel.

I caught up with a friend for lunch yesterday, former News Limited photographer Stuart Ramson, who now resides in New York with his American wife and three children.

Our venue of choice was Ruby's Cafe & Bar in Nolita, a popular lunchtime haunt for Australians living in New York I discovered (even the waiter was Australian). Offering a variety of Aussie-style burgers, including the Bondi and Bronte burgers, brilliant salads and mixed fruit smoothies, Ruby's was the perfect place for us to catch up on the media news of both our cities.

Stuart and I went on many jobs together back in the heyday of News Limited's Daily Mirror newspaper. We keep in touch these days via facebook.

Stuart regaled me with stories about some of the extraordinary photographic jobs he has done over the years he has lived in New York, from taking that now iconic photo of The Statue of Liberty with thick, black smoke from The World Trade Centre burning billowing behind it, to photographing Paul Newman and Robert Redford during the filming of Iconoclasts.

Following our lunch, I walked the four blocks back to the office on Broadway to continue the business at hand, while Stuart was heading off to pick up some Yankee tickets for an event he was covering at the Stadium the following evening. After collecting the tickets he was off to The Empire Hotel to shoot a new swimwear collection by Australian designers Zimmermann.

Stuart's photo appeared in the following day's edition of The Australian newspaper, where he once was employed as a staff photographer and where my husband (who also worked alongside Stuart years ago) still works. What a small world.

Ruby's Cafe & Bar is at 219 Mulberry St.



Financial Ruins

Left: Ground Zero, July 21, 2009.

I was worried about how I would feel when confronted with the reality of a New York without The World Trade Centre. Most of my travel photos of the city, from previous visits, have them in the background somewhere. The twin towers were so tall that you could see them from virtually any part of Manhattan. I wondered how emotional it would be to see a New York skyline without them.

The skyline is noticeably different and that's an odd feeling after nine years away from this city. I experienced mixed feelings about visiting Ground Zero on this trip. It was always something that I thought my husband and I would do together, as the last time we were in New York we climbed to the very top of one of the towers to view New York in its entirety, as only one could do from the viewing floors of the World Trade Centre. But it was something I needed to do, if only out of respect to those whose lives were lost on September 11, 2001.

Left: World Trade Centre, before September 11, 2001

Ground Zero, almost eight years later, is one big construction site. The enormity of the gaping hole between buildings is breathtaking. However, the huge barriers around Ground Zero prevent the full force of the horror from being relived. It's almost impossible to see in. You are forced to look across and up instead. And that's probably a good thing. And in many ways symbolic of the challenge facing New Yorkers who have to move beyond the terror of this tragic event and rebuild their financial district.

I'll never forget the day the twin towers came down, but it will no longer haunt me.

Photo of World Trade Centre:


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Balthazar By Night & Day

Above: Balthazar streetscape

Left: The Balthazar buzz

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. In New York, that means experiencing the French cuisine at Balthazar.

Notoriously difficult to get into (we had to beg on the grounds that we were Australians leaving the city at the end of the week - did the trick), the favourite of many New Yorkers, past and present, lives up to its reputation.

I first dined at Balthazar in the year of its opening, 1997. It became a must-dine destination virtually from day one, the reviews reaching Australia like wildfire. It was on my list of things to do in New York, and 12 years later it was again on my list.

Balthazar by night encapsulates the buzz of New York. A vibrant cosmos in its own right, the place is as much about who is there as what you're eating. New Yorkers choose Balthazar as their celebration destinations, such as the couple seated next to us who were enjoying a birthday dinner.

I chose the lamb tenderloins with roasted vegetables and cous cous (I have a thing for cous cous). This was a spectacularly good version and the lamb was so tender that I barely had to chew it. The best lamb I've tasted.

Dessert was the caramelised banana tart. Again, extraordinary.

The meal was so good that we decided we needed to experience breakfast there as well. A traditional French breakfast of pastries and coffee is actually a cost-effective way to do Balthazar. It's also a lot less crowded so a last-minute drop-in shouldn't be an issue.

Balthazar is in Soho at 80 Spring Street.

Photos: James Hannan


Monday, July 20, 2009

Knocking On Nobu Next Door

It is possible to get into Nobu without a reservation, although I don't recommend it if you have your heart set on dining at this fashionable Japanese restaurant in Tribeca.

There was no way on earth that Nobu would have a spare table on any given night, so my traveling partner James Hannan recommended we go directly to Nobu Next Door, created originally to take in the overflow of Nobu but now a destination eatery in its own right.

From the outside Nobu Next Door presents as an unobtrusive door in a wall with a shy wall of windows. There is no branding to scream at you as you arrive in front. It would be easy to walk right by if you didn't know the pleasures awaiting inside.

Left: the exterior of Nobu Next Door

You haven't tasted quality Japanese cooking until you've eaten from the menu of masterchef and owner Nobu Matsuhisa. How I'll ever be able to eat ordinary tempura again is beyond me.

Our menu choices were: prawn tempura with the most extraordinary batter I've ever not tasted separately (the fusion of flavours is pure magic), beef skewers that literally melt in your mouth, soft shell crab and california rolls that were a delicious meal in themselves and the most delicate salmon sashimi. Even the miso soup was the best I've tasted. Talk about raising the bar forever more.

I'm officially a food snob when it comes to Japanese food because Nobu will now be the benchmark against which I compare the rest, and it will be tough for most to come anywhere near this.

I guess I'll just have to make regular trips back to New York in the future for my Japanese fix.

Interior photo: by Marina Go via Blackberry


The Buzz On Broadway

I spent the day on Broadway as the business of my New York visit got underway. Although the day was full with essential meetings, there was time for a quick visit to a classic American delicatessen for lunch. I was delighted to find more options then I could get my stomach around at the recommended Jubilee, 447 Broadway and across the road from the office. On display and beautifully prepared was everything from sandwiches, salads and sushi to a buffet of hot delicacies. And to go with that was every juice and soft drink known to man. It's impossible not to find something wonderful to eat there.

At the end of our business day I decided to pick up a few pairs of Levi's for the boys back home as the $40 price-tag said bargain to me. The shop assistant at Rubber Sole, 740 Broadway, was horrified when I told her how much we pay for Levi's in Australia.

We have our eye on Nobu for dinner this evening, so I'll let you know how it goes (and if we manage to get in). There is little evidence of a recession in this city as the popular restaurants are still impossible to get into and stores are overflowing with shoppers, albeit in sale mode.

Our Qantas flight from Sydney was full in every class and our hotel is solidly booked too this week. The vibe is positive downtown so perhaps the New York recession was largely reserved for those residing uptown.



A Nation United Over Great Cooking

Left: Masterchef series one winner Julie (left) with runner-up Poh.

I followed the finale of Masterchef Australia via Twitter feeds to my Blackberry in New York. Twitter was going crazy with comments, criticism and outpourings of emotion.

A simple idea for a cooking show united the country, and those who had temporarily left, as we waited to see who would win the first series of Masterchef Australia.

It was a home-style cooking mum who got the gong, ahead of my favourite, Thai specialist Poh. Although there was disbelief from the Twitter crowd who appeared to mostly be backing Poh too, home cooking was the winner here in every way.

The number of people I have spoken to these past few months who have been trying out the dishes at home is remarkable. It literally became: if those cooking novices can do it, then so can I. Spectacular outcome.

Masterchef Australia was a success because it was so very well cast. Unlike the rival commercial networks, Channel Ten's hottest new show in a long while didn't cut from the obvious cloth. There didn't seem to have to be the blonde beach boy, the tall gorgeous model type, the dark and mysterious loner etc, etc that has become the cliche of Australian reality TV programs (Home Made was just one tired example of this). And when the contestants were chosen, there wasn't the temptation to style them up to within an inch of Vogue. We watched them slaving over hot stoves, perspiring with the best of them. It was real and we lapped up the contestants' highs and lows each week before ducking to the supermarket to pick up the ingredients for the paella we just learned how to make.

I loved that the judges weren't household names or over-exposed media darlings. The casting was honest, raw, believable. And inspired.

I have launched a couple of food magazines in my time and the reaction to Masterchef took me back to the flood of positive feedback I received following the launch of Australian Good Taste magazine for the Woolworths chain of supermarkets in 1996.

We too made it clear that restaurant-style cooking wasn't only for the elite. Like Masterchef, AGT made quality cooking accessible to all.

Bring on season two. Our dinner tables won't wait.



Sunday, July 19, 2009

A New York State Of Mind

I arrived in New York last night and already I'm intoxicated. It'd been nine years between visits for me, reluctant as I was to drop in on my favourite city following the terror of 9/11, 2001.

A business trip has brought me back and thank god it did. I had almost forgotten what I'd been missing.

Within hours of disembarking the Qantas flight at John F Kennedy airport, I was dining out at Anthony Bourdain's celebrated eatery Les Halles, mid-town. I started with the roasted beetroot and goat's cheese, followed by a main of grilled tuna and vegetables and celebrated with the most glorious chocolate souffle ever created.

I started my Sunday with a visit to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) as I was dying to see the Model As Muse exhibition that I'd read about on I was like a kid in a candy shop. I found the exhibit quite emotional as it brought back a tonne of memories of the glory days of fashion, fashion magazines and supermodels. It should be a must see for all fashion magazine editors, if only to understand the value of an iconic cover.

Lunch was at Cafe Gitane, Mott Street, Soho where I treated myself to the delights of Moroccan cous cous with roasted vegetables. And when in Soho, one is left with no choice but to shop.

The joy of New York in late July is the sheer pleasure of discovering designer shoes at up to 80 per cent off. Naturally I had to purchase five pairs. Why limit yourself when you can buy a pair for every working day for the usual price of one. A bargain.

I'm back in my room at The Bowery relaxing with a copy of The New York Times and its free insert magazine. Those lucky New Yorkers get to do this every day.

New York is as wonderful as I remembered it to be. The skyline is noticeably different from my last visit, but the New York spirit and energy is still here.



Saturday, July 11, 2009

Yes Sarah Palin Resigned. Does Anyone Really Care?

Sarah Palin made history in December 2006 at the age of 42, when she became the first female and youngest Governor in Alaskan history. The mother of five was poised to take female leadership to the next level.

Instead, Palin proved to be a disappointment to her gender after being propelled into the stratosphere of public debate as the hand-picked running mate of Republican Presidential hopeful John McCain during the 2008 US Presidential campaign.

Trading on her model looks and adopting the dizzy soccer mom 'everywoman' approach, she dumbed down her chances and women dumped her in horror.

Left: The Palin family in 2007

Her resignation from the governorship came as a surprise to some, but did she really have a choice? Her intellect ridiculed, her family life dissected and her ethics challenged, Palin slipped from 'Sarah the Barracuda' to a vulnerable mess within months of her first public interview as a Vice Presidential candidate.

Those who've stuck by her like that 'she's one of us'. The reality is that she was just an ordinary person trying to have a go, but most of us hope that those making key decisions about the way our respective countries run are instead extraordinary people, irrespective of gender.

I am all for women in positions of power but let's not choose the wrong woman just because we want it so bad. So while we're discussing gender for gender's sake, perhaps the Liberal party should rethink Julie Bishop who I'm convinced remains Deputy Opposition Leader just because she's a woman.

Palin family photo:


Friday, July 10, 2009

Women With Time To Obsess About What To Wear

A report on the UK Telegraph website claims that women spend near enough to a year of our lives deciding what to wear. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Who are these women?

According to the study, commissioned by clothing retailer Matalan, a large portion of that year can be attributed to "picking a killer ensemble for Friday or Saturday nights". Okay, well now it's evident to me that the 2,491 British women surveyed are largely single and childless because who else still goes out for a big Friday or Saturday night? And if you are in a relationship, especially marriage, and have children, then the "killer ensemble" is often a distant memory.

That doesn't mean that I don't dress up and attempt to look suitably glam. I haven't given up yet. It's just that it's relative these days. I no longer have to impress my husband, although bless him he still feigns surprise and enthusiasm, even when he's seen a frock on many occasions before (maybe that's why he's surprised - he's thinking I've stopped spending!)

At the age of 43, I know what works for me and my wardrobe is less of a surprise to anyone. I still have days when I should have been in the car on the way to work but instead find myself staring at my wardrobe as though there's nothing in it. But that doesn't happen as often as it did when I was in my twenties and experimenting with every fashion trend known to woman.

"The study - which was based on an adult lifetime from the age of 16 to 60 - found most women will spend around 20 minutes deciding what to wear before hitting the town on a week night," the Telegraph reported.

You see there it is again - hitting the town on weeknights. How many women with children really go out on a school night unless it's for a business dinner (and then the dress code is relatively prescriptive and excludes the term "killer')?

I wish I had a year of my life in extra time to spend staring at my wardrobe. I'm afraid that mine has less than five minutes to speak to me most mornings and if for some reason it doesn't cooperate, I stick with trusty black everything.

The fact that black is the most purchased colour in the fashion world tells me that this survey cannot possibly be indicative of most real women. Am I wrong?



Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Culture Vultures

Left: Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat

Dana, a blogger from Kazakhstan, recently commented on my blog about Bruno. I was excited that Sacha Baron Cohen had made another 'send-up' style movie in the vein of Borat. Dana clearly wasn't.

"I have my reasons to dislike Cohen. He made fun of the country that I live in. And that does hurt me," she wrote.

"Hope that after release of Bruno world finally forgets about Borat =)) Maybe :)"

Does that make you feel as uncomfortable as it made me about our Borat appreciation? The thing about comedy is that there are winners and losers. It's easy to find a routine funny if someone else is the butt of the joke.

Which brings me to The Flight Of The Conchords, a television comedy series that follows the adventures of a two-man novelty band from New Zealand (called The Flight Of the Conchords), as its members seek fame and success in New York. Currently showing on the ABC, it portrays a fictionalised version of the real-life duo, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie.

Jemaine and Bret send up Australians in the way that Borat made fun of blogger Dana's home country. And I have to admit that as I watch it it does make me squirm - not because the references are too close for comfort but because, like Dana and her beloved Kazakhstan, we know that they're way off the mark (mostly).

In this week's episode Jemaine dated an Australian, much to the horror of his band mate and manager. They were concerned he might catch something from 'the Australian' and continually urged him to dump her. The Australian was a fairly attractive blonde girl who had a living room littered with rubbish and made tea with milk using leftovers from that morning's breakfast. She also announced that she needed to "murder a brown snake" as she headed to the bathroom at the pub. While dating 'the Australian' Jemaine was transformed into a khaki-wearing (think Steve Irwin) yes man.

I can laugh along with the best of them and often do. But then the joke is rarely on us. We happily make fun of the Kiwis, Americans, Scottish, in fact anyone we can. And we are open to laughing at ourselves as long as we're pointing the fingers, as in Kath & Kim and The Chaser. But can we really be comfortable with a couple of New Zealanders laughing at us, to an American audience?

The show is a huge hit in the US and has been nominated for an Emmy. And that means sooner or later some Americans will be of the belief that Australians and New Zealanders are vastly different, that we are social pariahs and that they have the preferred accent. Yes, really.

We'll know we've reached that tipping point when 'Australians' like Russell Crowe begin promoting their Kiwi heritage. It could happen.



Why Rupert Murdoch Has To Be Admired

Above: News International CEO Rebekah Wade

You've got to hand it to Rupert Murdoch. Regardless of gender, race, religion or age, he's renowned for choosing the best person for the top job. And his most recent appointment appears just as insightful.

Former Editor of The Sun Rebekah Wade's promotion to the Chief Executive role at News International last month is cause for celebration, and not just because she's a woman in an industry primarily dominated by male executives. Murdoch clearly spotted something in the talented Editor that caused him to believe she could run the company, directly from the helm of a single newspaper. Not without her detractors, Wade has been described as "fiesty", "dazzling" and "publicity-shy". But no one has attacked her talent, at least not publicly.

It's an exciting time for the media industry as the woman who famously spearheaded Sarah's Law, while Editor of News Of The World in July 2000, moves to a position where she could seriously impact the future of journalism. Sarah's Law was a campaign to create a sex offenders register in the UK, in response to the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne.

Like Murdoch's Australian CEO and Chairman John Hartigan, Wade is a journalist to the core. And like anyone with ink in their veins (I don't know what the cyberspace equivalent would be), she will continue to put customers at the forefront of decision-making. Her campaigning for consumers' rights via the newspapers she has edited proves she knows exactly who the customer is and how to convert them from occasional to committed.

Wade recently gave a public address about the importance of good journalism in today's media climate.

"The death knell is already ringing for publishers who have forgotten our reason for being," she said in her address. "Cost-cutting in this business only works if the savings are reinvested in journalism."

Journalists (and women) globally are punching the air.



Friday, July 3, 2009


A report in The Daily Telegraph today reveals that women who sleep fewer than eight hours a day are more likely to suffer heart disease.

The same cannot be said about men who apparently show little correlation between their sleeping habits and their heart. That won't come as a surprise to some women.

This is not the news that I needed to hear. My grandmother died of heart disease at the youthful age of 59 and I rarely get more than six hours of sleep a night. I should be walking around with 'Prime Candidate' stamped on my forehead.

It's been that way since I became a mother nearly 16 years ago. I am naturally a night owl and that hasn't really changed. But now I'm forced out of my warm and comfy bed before the sun comes up (depending on the season, but certainly in winter), to make school lunches, organise breakfast and perform the working woman's 'quicky tidy-up' dance before rushing out of the house at 7.45am to drop the boys at school on my way to work. At some point in between I need to shower and dress. Make-up these days is on the go (applied in the car, at the red lights).

I'm not complaining. It's what I do. But I would like a bit more sleep.

At the other end of the day, when I should be turning in early, I become caught up with the daily administrative needs of my coffee shop, my desire to update at least one of my two blogs, washing and ironing of my boys' school uniforms and late night communication about the website I publish, primped. That's after I make dinner for the boys, help them with homework, bake cookies (ridiculous, I know) and give each of my sons quality time to discuss the days' events. And that's before I set aside time for my favourite TV shows, websites and Twitter updates of people I'm following (on Twitter only, I'm otherwise not a stalker). I still like to read The Australian and Daily Telegraph newspapers thoroughly at the end of the day, having only scanned them for quick insights over breakfast that morning. As well, I like to ease myself into bed with a few chapters of a good book. Not much time for sleep. (Lucky my husband works nights too.)

I want to sleep for eight hours a night, honestly I do. But until we can figure out a way to make the days longer, I just can't see how I'm going to find the time. Am I alone in this?



Thursday, July 2, 2009

Australian Netball Diamonds 2009 Schedule

Left: The Australian Diamonds in action

Holden Netball Test Series (Australian Series)

Diamonds v World Selection
Wednesday September 2, ETSA Park Adelaide

Diamonds v Silver Ferns
Sunday September 6, Acer Arena Sydney

Wednesday September 9, Hisense Arena Melbourne

Sunday September 13, BCEC Brisbane

New World International Netball Series (NZ Series)

Diamonds v Silver Ferns

Sunday September 20, Stadium Southland, Invercargill
Wednesday September 23, Vector Arena, Auckland

World Netball Series

9-11 October, Manchester

England Series

Diamonds v England
Tuesday October 13, Bath

Jamaica Series
Diamonds v Sunshine Girls

Saturday October 17, Kingston

Sunday October 18, Kingston



The Daily Show On The Burqa Ban

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Burka Ban
Daily Show
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Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

The Daily Show taps into the controversy surrounding French President Nicolas Sarkozy's public rejection of the burqa. This is a must-see.


Why Does George Clooney Make Me Feel Guilty?

Left: I just wanted a reason to publish an image of George Clooney. Too obvious?

I was flicking through a book in Borders the other day while my husband was paying for his reading selection at the counter. I quickly closed the book featuring the work of a celebrity photographer as he returned to my side.

"What were you looking at?" he enquired, as I hastily tried to cover that book with another.

"Nothing, just flicking," I replied as I could feel my face suddenly warm.

I'd been staring at an image of George Clooney, the actor of my dreams. My husband knows that I have a thing for George. I know that he knows and yet I always deny it. A bit like my shoe purchases.

It's not like I'm cheating so why do I feel so guilty whenever he catches me swooning?

My husband will happily point out an attractive woman in the street, he will stare at a supermodel in my presence guilt-free and he had no qualms in telling me how he had more than a little crush on Farrah Fawcett after sighting that infamous swimsuit shot.

He doesn't feel guilty, so why do I? It's also not like I'm ever going to be in a position to cheat with George. And yet I am at a loss to explain the increased heart rate, the little smile that I get when I see his image or my passion for all of his films, even the dodgy ones. I convince myself the weekly women's magazines are publishing falsehoods when there is a negative George story. I will argue with anyone who suggests that he's gay. Hell, I even raced out and bought a Nespresso machine when he became the brand's spokesperson. I know it's pathetic, but George Clooney makes me a weaker person.

And because of all of that I feel guilty just looking at his photo, especially when my husband is near. (Slightly less guilty when he isn't around - I wonder what that says?)

Apparently it's gender-related like everything else. According to a study, published recently in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, men feel guilty when they actually cheat and women feel guiltiest about emotional infidelity.

So I'd be feeling less guilty if I was actually sleeping with George...according to the results. We are definitely the more interesting sex.



Splitting The Spoils After Divorce

Above: German heiress Katrin Radmacher

Wealthy people in pre-nuptial prone countries punched the air today when a British court ruled in favour of a German heiress retaining her family fortune post divorce.

The couple had signed a pre-nuptial agreement waiving husband Nicolas Granatino's claim to share the spoils of the Radmacher family fortune in the event of a split. But when the hypothetical happened he went back on his promise and put his hand up for a cut. Granatino was originally awarded 5.8 million pounds until the court over-ruled that decision today.

The point of a pre-nup is to protect those with money from being fleeced by those who don't. So help me out here: why exactly are rich people walking down the aisle with people they think are capable of that?

It doesn't matter to me that it's a woman who has won. It would be hypocritical to be excited that a woman has won out against her gold digger (less well-off women have to bear that tag, so why not a man?). Shouldn't a person's vulnerability be taken into account when the spoils are looking to be split? Radmacher's one-time investment banker husband now works as a modestly paid researcher. He has been described as 'destitute'.

So while Radmacher celebrates her victory, I am caused to wonder if the decision is fair. Should the poorer partner go back to being poor just because they lacked wealth to begin with? Wouldn't the new whole be greater than the sum of the original parts? To cut him loose with zip means that his contribution to their marriage was valued at nothing.

Think about it. If a woman marries a wealthy man and spends her life making his life comfortable, happy and secure, should she too have to walk away with nothing if the marriage ends just because she was penniless to begin with?

What do you think?



Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How To Make Tortilla Soup

I discovered Tortilla Coup a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to get excited by any other food. Much like the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld (minus the Soup Nazi), when my regular refueling station, Wheels and Cupcake at Alexandria, puts on Tortilla Soup people line up in anticipation.

As a relative newcomer to the Mexican favourite, I look forward to receiving emails from in-the-know staffers about when its expected to feature on the day's specials. Tortilla Soup isn't a fixture on the standard menu.

When it's on, the rumblings take hold from midday with a rush to get down to the cafe before the soup runs out. On the day I received my first email about this sensation in a cup, I joined the rush lest I too miss out on something I'd never even tasted. I spent the next few weeks hoping each day for that email proclaiming Tortilla Soup was back on the menu.

My patience was rewarded today. And it was just as good the second time round.

Tortilla Soup now sits at the top of my favourites list.

A recipe for Tortilla Soup can be found at


Me & My Crackberry

Left: Model performing the Blackberry clutch

Blackberry Addiction - Click here for this week’s top video clips

Is it possible that I may be addicted to my Blackberry?

An addiction is an affliction of other people. Or so I liked to believe until a Saturday sans my digital best friend. I'd set off for the boys' Saturday sports games with my handbag crammed full of all the usual essential items and hadn't noticed that my Blackberry had fallen out onto the sofa as I grabbed a jacket from the closet. As my husband drove, and the boys were plugged into their ipods, I thought it an opportune time to check for emails (as you do). To my absolute horror, I couldn't find my first technological love. I almost tore my handbag apart as I checked every conceivable zip and cranny.

My husband looked on in amusement as I became desperate. "We'll only be a couple of hours," he said. "What's so important?"

Nothing was so important, other than finding my beloved Blackberry. So he talked me through it: Was I expecting an urgent message from someone important? "No." Did I have a message that was critical to send that morning? "Well, no." Would the world end if I forgot about my Blackberry for a morning? "Maybe not...but what if it's not at home and I've lost it?"

Various experts, more knowledgeable than me, have written about the dangers of technology addiction (although I have blogged about it, in reference to my teenage son). The Daily Mail warned digital devotees about the perils of becoming too attached back in 2006.

The article reported that a study carried out by New Jersey's Rutgers University School claimed the Blackberry was "fuelling a rise in email and internet addiction, with sufferers able to survive only a few minutes without checking for new mail".

"One key sign of a user being addicted is if they focus on their Blackberry ignoring those around them." If I'd taken note then, I never would have allowed myself to clutch it without question.

The first stage of beating an addiction is to acknowledge that you have a problem. So I'm on the path.

But could I survive without my Blackberry in an age where I am defined by a Twitter account, Facebook page and various blog interests? I honestly don't think I could...unless I swapped it for the new Apple iphone 3GS, in lipstick red. Yes I could probably do that.


iphone image:


Where Are They Now?

When this story of the Cosmopolitan team, circa 1990s, was published in the magazine during Pat Ingram's reign as Editor, few would have realised the glorious career she would go on to enjoy as the queen bee of ACP during the coming decades.

Some of the Cosmo girls moved on to greener pastures not long after the photos had dried, such as Deputy Editor Tracy Cox who is now a leading sex expert in the UK and Fashion Editor Terry Kaljo (better known as Schwamberg) who owns a string of glam hotels and other business interests. Smart women. Others in Ingram's original magazine posse progressed to senior roles within her portfolio. Best friend Catherine Marshall was given her own magazine to edit but was recently named by The Daily Telegraph's Annette Sharp as being on shaky ground since Ingram 'left the building'.

After an illustrious career running all manner of important women's magazines, I find it unusual that Ingram wasn't given a glamorous farewell party to send her on her way.

I'm staying tuned to Girl With A Satchel because Editor Erica Bartle usually has the ear on these things. That is if Sunday Telegraph columnist Ros Reines doesn't get there first.