A big trip begins, a big lunch happens and big rums end

Every evening for the past month, the skies over Sydney have turned this eerie orange colour.

As the smoke and ash continues to descend on Sydney, so much of the countryside suffers with the terrible bushfires happening across the state. Our thoughts are with those at the front line, both victims and the brave people battling the blaze. 

While Christmas marches ever closer, our nephew takes his first solo flight, we lush up at our annual writers’ Christmas party and a dinner ends in rum. The festive season we’re gearing up for is promising to be unlike no other.

We hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition. 

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

Exciting times are ahead for our young nephew! We’re at Sydney Airport with him and his mum and dad this morning to see him off on his first ever solo trip.

He’s heading to the States for two months to spend it with a great aunt in Florida. He’s a pretty laid back, smart lad, and it sounds like his relatives have big plans, so I’ve got a feeling he’s going to have an amazing time.

We’ve heard rumours of snorkelling off the Florida Keys, seaplanes to the Dry Tortugas, skiing in Canada, Christmas in Trinidad… he’s going to come back with a passport fuller than ours!

The Baked Box cookies

Merry Christmas indeed! These cookies are a lovely gift from our friends at Accolade Wines who represent some of the best-known and much loved wine estates in the world. 

These cookies from The Bakes Box are incredible – it’s taking a lot of will power not to demolish them all in one go… mind you, they’re so rich, you can’t really do more than one at a sitting.

The Baked Box is a cookie gift business run by two mums who happen to be amazing at baking biccies. Their gift box sets, perfect for Christmas, birthdays or really any time at all, are super popular and I can totally see why. 

Thanks again to Accolade for the gift and for the Champagne too of course! Check out our Discerning Drinker’s Christmas List for some of our favourites from Accolade’s portfolio.

ASTW Christmas lunch 12-Micron

This afternoon, we’re at the Christmas party for the ASTW – the Australian Society of Travel Writers – of which we’ve had the honour of being members for two years now. 

They always do great parties with excellent food and – following the journalist trend – plenty to drink!

This year, the ASTW Christmas party is at 12-Micron, a beautiful event-space restaurant in Barangaroo with views out across the harbour to Balmain. 

We’re being hosted by Tourism New Zealand and Cloudy Bay Wines (I told you!), and are ready to learn about what’s happening in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

ASTW Christmas lunch 12-Micron

As you’d expect from a party put on by Tourism New Zealand, lamb is on the menu! 

And thanks to the auspicious kitchen of 12-Micron, it’s delicious. NZ lamb rump cooked medium rare with a delicate potato croquette of tender lamb shank, smoked sweet potato puree, spinach and a Cloudy Bay jus.

Of course, I’m drinking the Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2016, which goes wonderfully with this hearty dish. 

ASTW Christmas lunch 12-Micron

Christina’s grilled king ora salmon comes with buttered asparagus, saffron potato and a citrus dressing. The fish is so tender yet rich. Superb. 

At first, the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc seemed the natural choice for the dish, but the passionfruit hit was too much. We’re now all enjoying the Pinot Noir.

ASTW Christmas lunch 12-Micron

Dessert at 12-Micron has always had a reputation and now we see why. The Kiwi pavlova (behind) is a remarkable construction of coconut meringue, kiwi fruit, mango and lime tartare and a coconut whipped genache.

However, the Manuka honey finger is even better – atop a delicate honey and lemon madeleine biscuit sits a finger of Manuka honey mousse with apricot and rosemary compote. It’s excellent.

There’s just enough space in our bellies for a couple of cheeky pints at the pub after lunch to chat more to friends we haven’t seen for ages – a hazard of being in the travel industry.

American Express Openair Cinemas Pyrmont

This evening, we’re at the American Express Openair Cinema in Pyrmont. We came here last year, though thankfully tonight has stayed a bit drier!

The range of seating, food and drink here is awesome. And if you have an Amex card, you can book seats in the Amex Lounge.

You get access to the reserved section, surprisingly comfortable beanbag loungers, a cushion, blanket, table service and popcorn! You’re also greeted with your choice of Giesen wine or a beer.

Sadly, there are no more shows in Pyrmont this year, but there are others around the country. Check out your location here.

west elm X The Atlantic Byron Bay

There’s a new place to stay in Byron Bay – the west elm Bungalow at The Atlantic. This collaboration is giving us so much home decor inspo and makes us want to run away up the coast right now.

Styled by Jason Grant, it’s the perfect mix of coastal cool meets Brooklyn on the beach. 

west elm X The Atlantic Byron Bay

You can book the west elm Bungalow from $350 a night and check out more of what do in our Byron Bay Guide.

Stone Pine Dead Man's Drop Hoochery Spike's Reserve

Tonight, we’re catching up with some amazing friends of ours, whose wedding we went to earlier in the year.

It’s always a pleasure to spend time with these guys – and they also have an appreciation for good rum!

I’ve brought the final vestiges of two of my favourites to share with them. Spike’s Reserve – a 10-year-old rum from the Hoochery Distillery in Kununurra in far north-west WA – in this style bottle is now very rare. 

Dear Spike, who you can see on the front of the bottle, started this distillery and was one of the pioneers Australian craft distilling. Sadly, Spike’s no longer with us, but his rum still is. 

We also finish off my all-time-favourite black spiced rum from our all-time-favourite distiller Ian Glen. Ian is the founder-distiller at Stone Pine Distillery in Bathurst.

His Dead Man’s Drop black spiced rum was an Australian first (in fact we got the scoop!) and is smooth, sweet, complex and wonderful.

He also makes some of the best gin out there, with seasonal gins like black truffle gin, pink rhubarb gin and orange blossom gin that are true master strokes in the craft.

The golden rum, aged grappa and limoncello Ian makes are also truly superb.

To learn more about the Australian craft distilling industry and to hear real-life distillers talk about their trade, check out the fascinating podcast The Aussie Spirit

What’s happening here, you may ask. In fact, I think I should run this photo on a caption competition!

Christina’s going to be in the paper soon talking about curly hair in her capacity as Hair Romance. The lady taking her picture – our new friend, press photographer Gaye Gerard is doing a sterling job on a stool! Looking forward to seeing one of these in print soon. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

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