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Aløft

There's nothing new about Nordic interiors - blond timbers, concrete surfaces, warm, mid-century charm without the twee - and thank heavens for that. It's a style that augments the beauty of everything around it, in this case, gorgeous Hobart harbour, which makes up one whole wall. What is new here, however, is the food - by veterans of Garagistes, which once dazzled diners down the road, Vue de Monde in Melbourne and Gordon Ramsay worldwide. There's a strong Asian bent, but with Tasmanian ingredients. In fact, the kitchen's love of the local verges on obsessive - coconut milk in an aromatic fish curry is replaced with Tasmanian-grown fig leaf simmered in cream to mimic the flavour. Other standouts include a gutsy red-braised lamb with gai lan and chewy cassia spaetzle, pigs' ears zingy with Sichuan pepper and a fresh, springy berry dessert. While the food is sourced locally, the generous wine list spans the planet. 

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

Farro recipes

Farro can be used in almost any dish, from a robust salad to accompany hearty beer-glazed beef short ribs to a new take on risotto with mushrooms, leek and parmesan. Here are 14 ways with this versatile grain.

Secret Tuscany

A far cry from Tuscany’s familiar gently rolling hills, Monte Argentario’s appealing mix of mountain, ocean, island and lagoon makes it one of Italy’s hidden treasures, writes Emiko Davies.

Brae

Prepare to enter a picture of the countryside framed by note-perfect Australiana but painted in bold, elegant and unsentimental strokes. Over 10 or more courses, Dan Hunter celebrates his region with dishes that are formally daring (Crunchy prawn heads! Creamy oyster soft-serve! Sea urchin and chicory bread pudding!), yet rich in flavour and substance. The menu could benefit from an edit, but the plates are tightly composed - and what could you cut? Certainly not the limpid broth bathing fronds of abalone and calamari, nor the clever arrangement of lobster played off against charred waxy fingerlings under a swatch of milk skin. The adventure is significantly the richer for the cool gloss of the dining room, some of the most engaging service in the nation and wine pairings that roam with an easy-going confidence. Maturing and relaxing without surrendering a drop of its ambition, Brae is more compelling than ever.

Grilled apricot salad with jamon and Manchego

Here we've scorched apricots on the grill and served them with torn jamon, shaved Manchego and peppery rocket leaves. Think of it as a twist on the good old melon-prosciutto routine. The mixture would also be great served on charred sourdough.

Discovering Macedonia

Like its oft-disputed name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia defies simple definition but its rich diversity extends from the dinner table to the welcoming locals, writes Richard Cooke.

2017 Australian Hotel Awards: The Finalists

This year's finalists across 11 different categories include established and new hotels, all with particular areas of excellence. Stay tuned to find out which hotels will take the top spots when they're announced at a ceremony at QT Melbourne on Wednesday 24 May, and published in our 2017 Australian Hotel Guide, on sale Thursday 25 May.

Sneak peek: The Italian Wine and Food Festival, Melbourne

The Italian Wine and Food Festival 2015

The Italian Wine and Food Festival 2015

The Italian Wine and Food Festival makes its Melbourne début this weekend, and we've got the inside running.

Italians do it better. That's been the motto, if not the mission statement, of the Italian Wine and Food Festival since its inception. Inaugurated in 2013 in Sydney, the festival this month makes its first appearance in Melbourne, and it's going to be big.

We spoke to the festival's founder, award-winning sommelier Lara Caraturo, about its highlights.

You're a champion of Italian wine in Australia, Lara; how did that come to be?

I married another sommelier who is very passionate about all things Italian. Then I had the pleasure of working for Sardinian-born chef Giovanni Pilu at Pilu at Freshwater restaurant in Sydney for eight years. I created a very Italian-focused wine list for the restaurant, which featured an extensive Sardinian offering, as well as an eclectic range of other Italian drinks which hadn't been seen before in Australia. I think we were one of the first Italian restaurants to focus on one region with our drinks offer, too, and that really seemed to resonate with our guests.

You've spent plenty of time eating and drinking up and down the length of Italy. Have you got any memories that shine particularly bright?

So many. I really loved Sicily and Sardinia, but I also have a weakness for the rich food of the north. The biggest recent highlight was probably dining at Osteria Francescana last year and meeting chef Massimo Bottura. I love his focus on local produce and traditions. His energy and passion are inspiring and so infectious.

What prompted you to start the festival?

With our love of Italian culture, and so many Italians living here in Australia, it just seemed like a natural fit.

What can Melbourne expect from the adventure?

Copious amounts of amazing Italian wine and food, for starters. You'll taste Italian wines region by region, meet Italian chefs, join cooking demonstrations and and make pasta and cheeses, shop in the food market, take a workshop, relax in the wine gardens, pick up a cocktail, listen to live music and tap your feet to tunes from our Italian DJ. It's a big day.

Are we right in thinking that though the festival has a wine focus, there's plenty of other good stuff to drink beyond the grape?

Absolutely. There'll be Italian beer, aperitivi, grappa and liqueurs, espresso, Italian waters and soft drinks, plus cocktails made by the magical Matt Bax and his team at the pop-up Bar Americano: think Negronis, Americanos and Aperol Spritzes.

And there's plenty to eat, of course.

It wouldn't be an Italian event without plenty of food. We have some of Melbourne's top Italian restaurants coming to the party (the pizza masters from 400 Gradi among them), and the Gourmet Traveller Food Market will be offering fresh bread, pasta, cheese, salumi, gelato and other Italian specialties.

What about something to feed and water our hearts and minds as well as our bellies?

There'll be food talks with the chefs, Italian wine masterclasses hosted by GT wine editor Max Allen, olive oil workshops hosted by chef Nino Zoccali, sommelier tours, Italian wine workshops for beginners with sommelier Rocco Esposito, and live food demonstrations all day.

What's on the cards for the return of the Sydney festival in August?

We are bigger and better this year, with a larger venue and even more Italian wine and food, plus we will have some special guests joining us from Melbourne.

Any last tips for first-timers?

Come hungry and thirsty and with an open mind, and remember, Italians do it better!

Melbourne Italian Wine and Food Festival, 11am-9pm Sunday 29 May, Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton Gardens, 9 Nicholson St, Carlton, Vic. For tickets and information visit italianwinefoodfestival.com.au

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