1 Hold me down now, tiny burgers
Now this is our kind of American cultural imperialism: tiny scale-model burgers, known as sliders in the US. They've established a Sydney beachhead at the bars at Rockpool Bar & Grill and Etch. Rockpool Bar & Grill, 66 Hunter St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 8078 1900; Etch, 62 Bridge St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9247 4777
2 Most exciting advance in air travel
Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's Superman! No, it's a plane! In this post-9/11-SARS-GFC-world, nothing has done more to revive the fortunes of international air travel than the arrival of the A380. Not since the Concorde has a jet created such excited expectation, fuelled by accounts of double-decker decadence including first-class suites with two-metre-long beds, private lounges, shower spas (on Emirates) and an electronic art gallery (on Air France). With 50 per cent more space than a Jumbo, better fuel efficiency and the ability to fly from New York to Hong Kong in a single bound, you realise this isn't just a plane, it's the Superjumbo of the skies.
3 The north shore strikes back
After more than a decade of digs from their dining compatriots south of the harbour, residents of Sydney's north shore and northern beaches are on the cusp of enjoying a northside restaurant revolution. New restaurants from the teams at China Doll and Glebe Point Diner (in Manly and Neutral Bay, respectively), in addition to Manly's El Toro Loco and Manly Pavilion, plus Ad Lib Bistro in Pymble and Cavallino in Terrey Hills (from local heroes at the reborn Berowra Waters Inn and Pilu at Freshwater, respectively) are just the tip of the iceberg.
4 Clean, green island dream
Sonu and Eva Shivdasani of Six Senses resort, Soneva Fushi, believe that climate change begins at home - they live in the Maldives, after all - so they're determined to preserve the surrounding landscape. Their benchmark resort is already carbon-neutral thanks to a range of measures that includes carbon offsetting, bottling water supplies and composting organic waste. Reducing reliance on fossil fuels is "more about effort than actual money", Sonu Shivdasani says, adding that when people travel to experience new surroundings, hotel operators have no choice but to protect their environments. Six Senses also cares about the livelihoods of its neighbours, investing half a per cent of its revenue into community projects. Rooms from $692.
5 Most anticipated (and elevated) opening
It's the perfect way to celebrate a 10th anniversary. Vue de Monde's move to the 55th floor of the Rialto building in Melbourne's CBD comes a decade after Shannon Bennett opened his first restaurant in Carlton. And just as his Little Collins Street version of Vue was a sleeker, more ambitious animal than the original, the new Vue is also tweaking its outlook. The design, by architects Elenberg Fraser, will feature Australian and sustainable materials, including lashings of reclaimed timber. The menu, too, will be "more iconically Australian" and include locally sourced truffles, heirloom vegetables and kangaroo charcuterie. A spacious dining room seating about 50 people, a small number of chef's tables overlooking the kitchen, function rooms for up to 130 people, a dedicated elevator and, of course, the view make the reopening of Vue de Monde - perhaps as early as October - this year's one to watch.
6 Best reason to reconsider economy
Air New Zealand promises to inject some comfort into cattle class with the addition of - brace yourselves - beds. The third-class sleepers, dubbed Skycouches by the Kiwi carrier, are due to be installed in a quarter of the economy cabin's seating area; padded foot-rests will rise up to cushion level to convert three adjoining seats into a makeshift bed (sleeping two adults). The catch is that you'll need to buy three seats in a row to lie down (the third will sell for about half the usual price), but that's still cheaper than buying two premium economy seats that don't lie flat. The Skycouches are due to go on sale from April and debut from November.
7 Best eat-Tweets
Is there a better source for cheap-eats gold than Lotus's Dan Hong? Who do you turn to for baking tips if not Sepia pastry chef Yu-Ching Lee (aka blogger Lemonpi)? You can catch Mitch Orr talking about new dishes he's trialling at Adriano Zumbo Café Chocolat or Provenance's Michael Ryan talking Tokyo. And then there's the simple pleasure of seeing James, Traci and Todd from Buzo trading war stories with Fix St James's Stuart Knox and Ash St Cellar's Lauren Murdoch, or Lake House's Alla Wolf-Tasker and Circa's Matt Wilkinson talking produce. Unedited, unfiltered and occasionally unhinged, it's a peek behind Australia's kitchen door that can make for compulsive reading - and, best of all, you can talk back.
8 Best vegetable merchandising
Launceston's newest corner store, Alps & Amici, has laid down the gauntlet when it comes to fruit and veg displays. It seems Daniel Alps (of Daniel Alps at Strathlynn restaurant) or his amici have been drinking some great drops, judging by the wine crates they have recycled as produce containers. Organic leeks sit pretty in Le Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf du Pape boxes and peas overflow from no less than Château Pétrus crates. Wicker baskets full of radishes, and potatoes in classic produce boxes, are slightly less rarified but equally charming. Alps & Amici Food Store & Kitchen, cnr Abbott and Arthur sts, Launceston, Tas, (03) 6331 1777
9 Closest most of us will get to George
If you can't score a bed at Italy's Villa Oleandra, Gorgeous George's soon-to-be-sold lakefront villa at Laglio, head down the road to Cernobbio and grab one at Villa d'Este, a former royal residence dating from 1568. The pick of its 152 rooms and suites capture magical views across Lake Como and offer an ideal vantage point for sightings of Hollywood's leading man (and Como's favourite celebrity). Alternatively, don the dark glasses, order a Bellini and stake out the waterfront deck alongside the cream of European aristocracy. Rooms from $770.
10 Most sculptural amuse-bouche
Anyone who admires the work of artist Ricky Swallow or jewellery designer Julia deVille will get a kick out of Michael Ryan's Sicilian anchovy snack at Provenance. The skeletons of the anchovies are removed whole, deep-fried and then laid over the top of the fish's soft, silvery flesh. It looks slightly macabre and is almost too artful to eat, but, as Japanese and Spanish fried fish-bone aficionados know, the eating is even better than the looking. The brittle, salty bones and the gentler, softer give of the meat will have you calling for more of these beauties with nary a thought for the lost aesthetics. Provenance, 86 Ford St, Beechworth, Vic, (03) 5728 1786
11 Most fashionable accommodation
The once-daring "design" hotel has been gazumped by the "designer" hotel as fashion leaders Giorgio Armani, Missoni and Diane von Furstenberg unleash their creative talents on the world of hospitality. Armani is aiming high with his eponymous hotel on floors five to eight of Burj Khalifa Dubai, the world's tallest building, with suites on levels 38 and 39. Missoni's debut property in Edinburgh has brought some geometric chic to the Scottish capital and will soon do the same for Kuwait. Meanwhile, London's Claridge's has engaged the formidable talents of Von Furstenberg and shoe designer Christian Louboutin to vamp up its venerable interiors. Von Furstenberg, who has 10 suites underway, promises to deliver "the most glamorous hotel rooms in the world".
12 Best weather-sensitive blackboard menu
Seasonal menus are so passé. In Tasmania, where it can be 38 degrees one day and 19 degrees the next, the promise of seasonal dishes is not quite good enough. We love menus that show someone listened to the day's weather forecast. Tricycle's list of four daily specials delivers just that. Chilled beetroot soup or green bean, chicken and olive tapenade salad is ideal when summer's behaving, but the next day when the temperature's plunged, tender sherry-braised lamb shoulder with fresh peas, green beans and baby carrots is much more on the mark. Tricycle Café and Bar, Salamanca Arts Centre, 77 Salamanca Pl, Hobart, Tas, (03) 6223 7228
13 Best reason to get packing
We don't love the Louis Vuitton Monogram Idylle collection because it's cute. Or because it's incredibly practical. Or even because of the adorable name. We love it for all three reasons. Light, supple and hard-wearing, the vintage-inspired canvas range is available in three shades: sepia (maroon), encre (blue) and fusain (dark brown). We have our eye on the rolling suitcase in encre, which comes in at $3300. 1300 883 880.
14 Best reason to get lost in the fog
Matt Bax and his cocktail-scientist confrères at Melbourne drinks powerhouse Der Raum were stumped. How, they wondered, could they use scent to boost their cocktails' flavours? Though the bulk of what we perceive as flavour is carried by our sense of smell, cocktails, being by their nature very cold, tend to smell of very little apart from alcohol. Thus a process was devised to create an aromatic "flavour fog" with which to top the drinks. First cab off the rank is the Velvet Fog, a mix of gin, crème de violette, citrus liqueur and Champagne that tips its hat to both a pre-Prohibition favourite called The Blue Moon, and jazz crooner Mel Tormé - the original Velvet Fog. (And yes, it tastes as good as it smells.) Der Raum, 438 Church St, Richmond, Vic, (03) 9428 0055
15 Best road for rubbernecking
Since opening in mid-2008, Melbourne's Eastlink has set a new standard for Australia's public roads. This 39km tolled motorway, between the city's outer east and the Mornington Peninsula, features $50 million worth of landscaping, 86 bridges and a roadside art gallery. The $5.5-million alfresco art collection includes a 13-metre tall blackbird and Callum Morton's ironic Hotel sculpture that looks, to all intents and purposes, like a scaled-down hotel. We like it.
16 Ultimate scenic drive for coasting
It's got to be Hawaii, according to GT's man in London, Guy Dimond, who spent some quality time behind the wheel last year cruising the most scenic island, Kauai. "You have the benefit of Jurassic Park scenery, plus first-class roads and services, but hardly any traffic," he says. Kauai's North Shore drive is renowned as the most beautiful in Hawaii, taking in tropical fruit stalls, dramatic views of rice paddies and the beautiful town of Hanalei, with its backdrop of volcanoes, and golden surfing beaches. Cars are easy to hire too. Make yours a convertible.
17 Biggest bang from your bubbly
If you're intrigued by the idea of cutting the tops off Champagne bottles with a sword, you may also be interested in attending one of Brisbane-based Philippe Reboul's demonstrations. Who better than Reboul, a knight of the order of the Confrérie du Sabre d'Or, no less, to initiate one into the mysteries of the sabrage de Champagne?
18 Flight face-savers
We polled beauty directors Lucinda Pitt from Grazia and Madison's Stephanie Darling for their hottest travel products. Pitt rates La Mer's new hydrating cloth face mask ($480). "I took it to London recently, and it totally revived me." And Darling? Model Co make-up remover buds ($14.50). "They're genius for travel. A one-shot make-up remover that comes in a handy pack: use and lose."
19 Shortest period of mourning
The tears over the sale of I Carusi, one of Melbourne's pizza pioneers, had barely time to dry before news broke that original owner Pietro Barbagallo was opening a new joint in the city. The relief was even more palpable as updates confirmed that not only would Barbagallo Trattoria e Pizzeria continue serving the thin-crust beauties that many Melburnians had cut their artisan pizza teeth on, but that Barbagallo was expanding his repertoire to include handmade pasta and baked goods such as bruschetta and schiacciata. Though more sophisticated and clean-lined than his other ventures, Barbagallo's new place stays the hand/home-made course, a relief to emotionally fragile pizza fans across the city. Barbagallo Trattoria e Pizzeria, 103 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9639 6222
20 New pecking order for fried chicken
Sorry Colonel, but Korean cooks have fried chicken down to such a fine art that the acronym "KFC" will soon have a new meaning. Whether you're at a branch of Hello Kyochon in Brisbane or an independent operator on the Korean corridor of Sydney's Pitt Street, the formula is simple but effective: crisply battered chicken pieces (usually with a choice of soy or chilli sauce dressings), plus the essential side dish of pickled turnip to cut the fat.
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