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Archive for December, 2015

Blue Mountains: Roaring `20s Gangster Casino Night

Claudia

Roaring 20s Festival patron Claudia Chan Shaw. Photo: David Hill

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group

In the tradition of Al Capone, Dutch Schultz and Bugsy Siegel, the original Blue Mountains party palace will reawaken the spirit of its Roaring `20s heyday when the Hydro Majestic Hotel holds a Gangster Casino Night on Friday, February 5.

The event, which will kick off Roaring 20s-themed events at the hotel during that weekend, will celebrate the era of breaking with tradition, crooks and prosperity.

Guests can play Blackjack, Poker, Roulette, The Money Wheel with Majestic Money at casino-quality tables with professionally trained casino standard croupiers.

roulette-table-and-casino-elements-Download-Royalty-free-Vector-File-EPS-124667Prizes on the night will include accommodation packages, dinner and show tickets, day spa and high tea packages and more.

An 18 years plus age restriction applies for this event, which will be held from 9pm to 11pm.

Net proceeds from the event will go to CareFlight aeromedical charity. Donation receipts are available on the night for cash-in purchases only.

Established in 1986 with a mission to save lives, speed recovery and provide the highest standard of rapid response critical care, CareFlight has since helped more than 5000 patients a year.

CareFlight relationship development manager Andrew Whitelaw said: “CareFlight’s first mission, close to thirty years ago was flying two children after an accident in Lithgow. From those early beginnings, CareFlight has continued to service the greater Blue Mountains communities. Without the generous support of these communities, we would not be able to take off – literally.’’

Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said the luxury hotel group was pleased to help CareFlight, which often assisted other emergency services with search and rescue, lost bushwalkers and urgent medical transportation by highly trained and qualified medical staff.

The Gangster Casino Night would provide the pinch of outrageousness the Hydro Majestic was renowned for when it was opened by retail doyenne Mark Foy in 1904.

“Foy held legendary parties at the Hydro. They were totally over the top and hedonistic. His `Palace in the wilderness’ was where everyone who wanted to have fun went – the famous and the infamous.

“We’re still partying.

download“There will be no cigars or opium like there was in the 1920s, but there’s no prohibition in 2016 so our bars will be open and serving a range of exotic cocktails.’’

Elegant gangsters and flappers can relive the era of sumptuous architecture, saucy clothing, outrageous dancing and jazz music at the most famous hotel in Australia.

“Gangsters were most definitely criminals but the mob bosses weren’t ruffians. They always look snazzy – Al Capone was just as sophisticated as Rudolph Valentino,’’ Mr Bruegger said.

To look the part, gents could wear a three-piece suit (pinstriped if possible) accentuated by a contrasting tie (never a bow tie) and suspenders, with a dark overcoat, a fedora hat, black dress shoes with white spats, a pocket square, watch chain with a watch and a thin, straight moustache.

Flappers sported short sleek hair, shorter shapeless shift dress, a flat chest, dramatic makeup (often applied in public), exposed limbs and epitomising the spirit of a reckless rebel who danced the night away in the jazz age.

Accessorise with a long string of beads; a beaded skullcap, fascinator headpiece or scarf; long satin gloves; stockings rolled down just below the knee; and Mary Jane-style shoes. Hair was worn in a bob, a chignon; or waves or kiss-curls around the hairline.

Hydro Charleston Challenge co-ordinator Angela Corkeron leads the successful 2015 attempt

Hydro Charleston Challenge co-ordinator Angela Corkeron leads the successful 2015 attempt. Photo: David Hill

The popular festival will continue to swing at 11am on Saturday, February 6, when approximately 520 people attempt to reclaim the Guinness World Record for the largest number of costumed people dancing the Charleston at the Hydro Majestic Charleston Challenge.

That will be followed by the Majestic Long Lunch from 1pm to 5pm featuring regional food and wine, special guests, dancing and jazz music.

Guests can complete their immersive 1920s experience with Shanghai Nights of cocktails and canapes, lights, lanterns and jazz music to celebrate on the eve of the Chinese lunar New Year.

The Roaring 20s Festival will continue throughout February at other venues around the Blue Mountains.

Go to hydromajestic.com.au to book the Gangster Casino Night ($65 per person) and other Hydro Majestic Hotel events and register for the Hydro Charleston Challenge.

* Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Headline Publicity and Deep Hill Media

 


Blue Mountains: Holiday at home this summer

Holiday at home in the Greater Blue Mountains this summer

Holiday at home in the Greater Blue Mountains this summer

By Ellen Hill                Photos: David Hill

From magical adventures among history and making your own fire poker to thrilling mysteries and gourmet delights, frazzled parents and bored kids can holiday at home in the Blue Mountains these holidays.

Take your pick from this list of local activities:

TalismanTalisman Gallery, Hartley Historic Site, Hartley: make your very own fire poker in an authentic blacksmith’s forge under the tutelage of expert metal artists Ron Fitzpatrick and Steve Cunningham. Sessions will be held from 10am to 12pm and 1pm to 3pm from December 26 to 29. Cost: $15 includes materials and tuition. Participants must wear closed in shoes. Bookings essential: Ron 0407 723 722.

 

Kew Y Ahn 10

 

Hartley Historic Site, Old Bathurst Rd (just off Great Western Hwy), Hartley: Soak up the atmosphere of one of the best examples of colonial Australia when you picnic among the 17 historic buildings, wander the Kew-Y-Ahn sculpture walk and visit the Kew-Y-Ahn Art Gallery, the only dedicated Aboriginal art gallery in the NSW Central West. Cost: Free. Details: (02) 6355 2117 or hartley@environment.nsw.gov.au.

 

Everglades Kids 06

 

Everglades Historic House & Gardens, 37 Everglades Ave, Leura: Children can learn about heritage conservation and the natural environment at one of the most enchanting historic properties in the region through the My Adventure at Everglades program. Activities include matching, drawing, colouring, identifying component parts, labelling and drawing from their surrounds along with counting, exploring and contemplating. Entry: $13 adults, $8 concessions, $4 children, National Trust members free. The children’s activity books cost $10 and $5 per subsequent book. Bookings and information: (02) 4784 1938 or email evergladesgarden@bigpond.com.

 

 

Mystery Tours 01Blue Mountains Mystery Tours: Shiver in ghoulish delight at deliciously dark tales of the rich and sometimes bloody history behind the ruggedly beautiful landscape of the Greater Blue Mountains as you explore haunted buildings, abandoned cemeteries and other bereft locations. The experience can be tailored to suit children during the day or, for the more daring adults, conducted at night for spine-tingling effect. Cost: from $75 to $200 per person, includes all fees and charges. Bookings and details: phone 0418 416 403 or (02) 4751 2622, email mysterytours@bigpond.com, website bluemountainsmysterytours.com.au or Facebook.

 

ChocolateBlue Mountains Chocolate Company, 176 Lurline St, Katoomba: Treat yourself to the ultimate sweet indulgence with a visit to this scrumptious venue. Just minutes’ walk from the world-famous Echo Point Lookout and Three Sisters rock formations, the shelves are dripping with an extensive range of luscious hand-made goodies. Sip a hot chocolate drink melted over a romantic candle and nibble on a luxuriant cake while watching the in-house chocolatier create mouth-watering decadence.

Hols

 

Locals and visitors to the area can also take advantage of longer days to explore their own backyard by taking to one of more than 400 bushwalking tracks through the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area; hunt for tadpoles or dip their toes in fresh alpine waters at one of the many watering holes, waterfalls and lakes.

Those looking for a more urbane pastime can trawl the eclectic shopping strips for unique post-Christmas bargains and indulge in leisurely dining at one of the numerous cafes and restaurants, each with their own special flavour.

 

 

Leura Garage Summer Menu 09Check out the spectacular painted panorama of famous Australian destinations at Aitken’s Panorama in the Round at Glenbrook; try a takeaway food box filled with wholesome rustic mountain food from Vesta Blackheath (open Christmas Day); the new summer menu of regional delights at Leura Garage; dine where local identities gather at the legendary Victory Café at Blackheath and enjoy breakfast at any time of the day; and be sure to recharge the senses with a visit to Dry Ridge Estate Wines in the magnificent Megalong Valley to stock up on local wines and take in a gulp of pristine air and the soothing sight of rural countryside.

* All businesses mentioned are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity

Vesta Oven 08

Try a takeaway box filled with delicious rustic mountain food from Vesta Blackheath

 


Blue Mountains: Naughty dance-off set to raise world record

Charleston Challenge 01

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group                 Photos: David Hill

A little bit naughty, a little bit scandalous, a little bit sexy but ooh so majestically classy: the Hydro Charleston Challenge will high kick the original Blue Mountains party palace back to its famous roots on Saturday, February 6.

The annual Guinness World Record attempt for the largest number of costumed people dancing the Charleston will be held on the lawn in front of the Belgravia accommodation wing at 11am.

Hydro Charleston Challenge co-ordinator Angela Corkeron said: “There’s plenty of room. If the lawn fills up or you prefer to dance on a hard surface, step into the historic tennis courts overlooking the exquisite Megalong Valley.

Hydro Charleston Challenge co-ordinator Angela Corkeron leads the successful 2015 attempt

Hydro Charleston Challenge co-ordinator Angela Corkeron leads the successful 2015 attempt

“It’s crucial that we have at least 520 dancers to reclaim our title (let’s aim for 600 to really smash the record), so we’ll even spill into the carpark if we have to.’’

After holding the title for two years in a row, the Blue Mountains relinquished the mantle in August after a successful challenge by the Town of Bexhill in the UK with 503 people.

“It’s lovely to share it around and give someone else a turn but really, recognition for the biggest naughty knees-up belongs to the Hydro Majestic. We want it back and we’re going to take it back in true art deco style.’’

Anyone can take part in the Hydro Charleston Challenge. All participants need do is wear a costume and be able to follow the dance for five minutes.

“Assembling a costume could be as simple as wearing a boa, a drop-waist dress and some Mary-Jane shoes (the ones with the straps, buttons or ribbons across the top) for the ladies and a loose suit and a Fedora for the fellas.’’

Gold coin donations will be collected for the Rural Fire Service Blue Mountains district on entry.

Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “Events such as the Hydro Charleston Challenge is what this fabulous hotel was built for – the chance to let your hair down and show off.

“Original owner Mark Foy was famous for his outrageous parties. We are proud to announce now that the most famous hotel in Australia is well and truly back on the party scene with the flare and style of its first heyday – all with the trademark Hydro Majestic elegance of course.’’

The 2016 Hydro Charleston Challenge will be held at 11am on Saturday, February 6, followed by the Majestic Long Lunch from 1pm to 5pm featuring food and wine and special guest Lyndey Milan OAM.

12304298_10153738764324029_660090830147222258_oGuests in 1920s finery will graze informally from picnic hamper boxes packed with regional delicacies, promenade on the lawns and dance the afternoon away to the strains of a 1920s-style band.

The Roaring 20s-themed weekend will begin on Friday, February 5, with the Gangster Casino Night to celebrate the era of breaking with tradition, crooks and prosperity – and this time there’s no prohibition. Net proceeds from the adults-only event will go to CareFlight aeromedical charity.

The weekend will close with the uber sophisticated Shanghai Nights of cocktails and canapes, lights, lanterns and jazz music to celebrate on the eve of the Chinese lunar New Year.

The Roaring 20s Festival will continue throughout February at other venues around the Blue Mountains.

The Hydro Charleston Challenge and other Roaring 20s events at the Hydro Majestic Hotel pay homage to the decade when the region cut loose in an endless round of hedonism – sumptuous architecture, costume balls and high teas, saucy clothing, outrageous (for the time) dancing and jazz music.

Go to hydromajestic.com.au for more event, accommodation and dining option information and bookings and to register for the Hydro Charleston Challenge.

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Hartley, NSW: Aboriginal art gallery 40,000 years in the making

Kew Y Ahn Aboriginal Gallery, Hartley.

By Ellen Hill for Hartley Historic Site              Photos: David Hill

The only dedicated indigenous art gallery in the NSW Central West showcases the evolution of art from the ancient culture to convict Australia and then to modern Aboriginal talent.

The Kew-Y-Ahn Art Gallery was opened by then NSW Governor Professor Dame Marie Bashir AC CVO in June 2013 at Hartley Historic Site east of Lithgow.

Kew Y Ahn 08A partnership between Arts OutWest, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the OEH Heritage Division, the gallery features work by Aboriginal painters, weavers, designers, jewellers and photographers.

Hartley Historic Site manager Steve Ring said the gallery aimed to forge new relationships with the Aboriginal community of the region including the Wiradjuri people without being a strictly tribal gallery.

“Any person living in the NSW Central West who identifies as Aboriginal and is recognised by the Aboriginal community as such, may exhibit work in the gallery.

Kew Y Ahn 04“The idea of the gallery is to give Aboriginal artists the opportunity to grow into commercial artists: we deal with them on a commercial basis like any other commercial art gallery.

“It also provides us with a commercial link with the indigenous history of Hartley and the Aboriginal people who still live in this area.’’

Visitors to Hartley Historic Site can snap up affordable artworks from $3 bookmarks in Aboriginal colours; leather, bead and seed bracelets, hair wraps and leather cuffs; to artworks, paintings and photographs priced up to $650 by artists such as Scott McMillan, Peter Shillingsworth, Jaycent Davis, Tamara Leggett, Claudette Elliott, Tirikee, Tony Lonsdale and Nicole Trudgett.

The gallery is located in the old Farmers Inn building at Hartley Historic Site, one of the best examples of colonial Australia with 17 buildings of historic significance from the 1837 Greek Revival courthouse to Corneys Garage built in 1945 of timber and iron.

The village was declared an historic site under the management of NPWS in 1972.

Kew Y Ahn 07“Visitors can actually experience the evolution of art at the site from the crude convict scratchings in the cells in the old court house to the quality artworks exhibited in the Kew-Y-Ahn Art Gallery, which we like to say were 40,000 years in the making,’’ Mr Ring said.

One artwork has been part of the building for at least 120 years before the art gallery standard LED lighting and hanging wires were installed. Before the inn closed in 1895, an itinerant traveller painted a picture of a cockatoo on a wall of the inn in return for a free feed.

Kew Y Ahn 06In fact, art lovers can immerse themselves in art at the popular heritage attraction with a stroll along the Kew-Y-Ahn Bell Rock Heritage Trail and Talisman Gallery showcasing the metal art of Ron Fitzpatrick in the old woolshed behind Farmers Inn.

Arts OutWest will curate the ongoing exhibitions while NPWS manages Hartley Historic Site including the Farmers Inn building. The project forms part of Arts OutWest’s ongoing Aboriginal Arts Development program.

Kew-Y-Ahn Art Gallery in the old Farmers Inn, Hartley Historic Site, Old Bathurst Rd (just off Great Western Hwy), Hartley, is open from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 4.20pm Tuesday to Sunday. Cost: Free. Details: (02) 6355 2117 or hartley@environment.nsw.gov.au.

 

Kew Y Ahn 09Mr Ring also encouraged visitors to explore the wider region.

“If you’re coming from Sydney, travel up the Great Western Highway and see the Blue Mountains, spend the day with us at Back to Hartley, then drive into Lithgow and head home via the Bells Line of Road through the Hawkesbury to experience the World Heritage Area from a very different perspective.’’

Visitors can choose from a range of accommodation and dining options in the Lithgow area.

Go to lithgowtourism.com for more information.

Kew Y Ahn Aboriginal Gallery, Hartley.


Blue Mountains: Historic oven chef’s secret ingredient

Vesta chef Misha Laurent checks a loaf he has baked in the antique woodfired oven

Vesta chef Misha Laurent checks a loaf he has baked in the antique woodfired oven

 

By Ellen Hill for Vesta Blackheath                           Photos: David Hill

She’s warm and gentle with a loving embrace: the honorary maître’d of Vesta Blackheath has been at the heart of the popular eatery for more than a century.

Executive chef of the upper Blue Mountains restaurant, Misha Laurent, said the 120-year-old Scotch oven influenced the menu and set the tone for the atmosphere and décor.

Vesta Oven 06“This oven is gentle, loving, warm, a matriarchic, an oversized mama. But she’s not temperamental at all. We just put the fire on and she warms up and ten hours later the food is cooked. Literally, the lamb shoulder is always perfect.’’

Guests’ first experience of Vesta is crusty bread made daily in the oven and served complimentary with homemade labne and local olive oil.

In fact, most dishes on the menu are cooked in the oven.

“It would be ridiculous not to because it’s there,’’ Misha says.

Vesta’s use of the enormous oven harks back centuries when wood-fire ovens were present throughout Europe in Italy, Tuscany, Spain and even Turkey and North Africa.

“They would kill the goat and put it in the red wine from their own vines and then add vegetables from the garden and shove it into the oven and come back ten hours later after a hard working day and serve it up to the family.’’

Misha uses the same techniques with local and regional produce at Vesta.

“You’ve got this amazing cut of meat from Rydal and it’s soaked in wine and vegetables for 24 hours, then it’s put into pots and covered with that liquid and vegetables and herbs and put in the oven for 12 hours and pulled back out.

Vesta Oven 03“Then you’ve got all this fresh organic local vegetables with it that has been roasted or blanched and this amazing sauce that you’ve got from cooking this lamb for 12 hours.’’

The Vesta oven is part of one of the first buildings in Blackheath, the bakery.

“They would make their bread and distribute it around town door-to-door and people would bring dishes into the bakery and cook them in there in return. It was a sort of barter system.’’

When the bakery closed the oven was ignored for many years. The building was used as a retail shop before it became Vulcan’s Restaurant in the 1980s.

Current owner David Harris was adamant that the oven would become a crucial feature of Vesta Blackheath when he opened the restaurant in 2011.

Built of double brick with a wall of sand between its layers to retain the heat, the oven can hold 180 loaves of bread.

Vesta Oven 07The fire is lit on Wednesday morning when it heats to about 180 degrees Celsius ready for service. It is kept going until Sunday.

Food served from the oven’s belly is infused with the smoky flavours of a century’s subtle perfumed woods and ancient coal.

By embracing the historic oven and allowing her to dictate the food style and influence the menu, Vesta (meaning “goddess of the hearth’’) has become a second home for many locals and substitute Grandma’s kitchen for those searching for the warmth and comfort of rowdy family oven dinners of hearty food in intimate spaces rather than frigid venues offering plates of absence and pretention.

“Who wouldn’t want a slow cooked local lamb shoulder with vegetables grown in Hartley and great wines and good service?’’ Misha says.

This kind of thing is actually missing in Australia, whereas in Italy they have Agriturismo which promotes local food experiences at farms. It’s phenomenal food and it’s everywhere.I want to try to recreate that in regional Australia: an extension of home combined with a special occasion of going out while not being posh and uptight.’’

The oven at Vesta allows Misha and his team to “cook from the heart’’ rather than rely on modern gadgets and technology.

Vesta Oven 05“Unfortunately these days chefs rely on electronic devices monitoring humidity, temperature, time of cooking etc and it removes the feeling part of cooking – looking, smelling, tasting, touching.’’

Diners are also steering away from the complicated eating of the past 20 years and craving a return to the simple, wholesome cuisine of the past, Misha says.

“The trend is to go back to the early days of cooking, all the old recipes are coming back.

 

“I like to bring in a modern touch, not so much in the decoration but old style cooking was quite heavy so I modernise it by keeping it light.’’

Food has always been at the heart of French-born Misha’s life. His father Toma who is now a Blue Mountains food supplier, is an avid cook and owned restaurants and espresso bars in Germany.

While food on his mother’s side of the family “wasn’t very relevant’’, Toma was on a perpetual food safari.

“My dad used to grab us on the Friday after school when I was a child, drive from Munich to Modena four hours away, to his favourite restaurant. We’d have dinner, amazing stuff, and then drive back.’’

Outings and holidays centred on eating – golf and food.

Vesta Oven 08“We’d go skiing in Austria, we’d go to Faro in Portugal, we’d go to Italy, Switzerland. It had to have good food.’’

Friday evenings were spent at the table of Misha’s Jewish step-grandmother Rachel.

“She’d prepare homemade breads and duck and chicken and fish and there would be porcelain and crystal glass on the table. She spent two days in the kitchen preparing for what we call shabbat.’’

Misha began his career with an apprenticeship at the Sheraton Hotel in Munich followed by positions with the Eastern Oriental Express luxury train through South East Asia and The Road to Mandalay river cruise in Burma.

He then solidified his techniques in his father’s upmarket Italian restaurant, Il Borgo, in Toronto, before being the opening chef at Leura Garage in the Blue Mountains where he created the menus, its concept of shared food and designed the kitchen.

Misha took over the Vesta kitchen in 2014.

Vesta, 33 Govetts Leap Rd, Blackheath, is open for dinner from Wednesday to Sunday. Details and bookings: (02) 4787 6899 or vestablackheath.com.au.

Vesta Oven 09


Blue Mountains: Hydro cuts loose for majestic good time

 

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By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group                       Photos: David Hill

Sumptuous architecture, saucy clothing, outrageous dancing and jazz music – the original Blue Mountains party palace will high kick back to its hedonistic heyday when it hosts Roaring 20s events in February.

Festival events will be held at the Hydro Majestic Hotel on February 5 and 6.

Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “Original Hydro owner Mark Foy held legendary parties at the hotel. You can still feel that energy in the place.

Hydro Casino Night final image“With just the right mix of decadence and mischief, all elegantly conducted of course, the Hydro is the perfect venue to celebrate the era when Australia’s first tourist destination kicked up its heels for a decade-long party – we’re still partying.’’

The most famous hotel in Australia sat out a few dances in recent years but has undergone an extensive sumptuous revamp and has a full social calendar once more.

The Roaring 20s Festival will begin on Friday, February 5, with the Gangster Casino Night to celebrate the era of breaking with tradition, crooks and prosperity – and this time there’s no prohibition.

Play Blackjack, Poker, Roulette, The Money Wheel with Majestic Money at casino-quality tables with professionally trained casino standard croupiers.

Prizes on the night will include accommodation packages, dinner and show tickets, day spa and high tea packages and more.

An 18 years plus age restriction applies for this event, which will be held from 9pm to 11pm.

Net proceeds from the event will go to CareFlight aeromedical charity. Donation receipts are available on the night for cash-in purchases only.

12339370_10153738764369029_809297172751268176_oThe popular festival will continue to swing at 11am on Saturday, February 6, when approximately 600 people attempt to reclaim the Guinness World Record for the largest number of costumed people dancing the Charleston at the Hydro Charleston Challenge.

The Blue Mountains relinquished the mantle in August after a successful challenge by the Town of Bexhill in the UK with 503 people.

The dance-off will be held on the lawn in front of the Belgravia wing, the historic tennis courts overlooking the Megalong Valley and spill into the carpark in front of the Hydro Majestic Boutique.

The Hydro Charleston Challenge will be followed by the Majestic Long Lunch from 1pm to 5pm featuring food and wine and special guest Lyndey Milan OAM.

(l-r) Jodie Van Der Velden, Randall Walker, Lyndey Milan OAM and Pam Seaborn at a previous Long Lunch

(l-r) Jodie Van Der Velden, Randall Walker, Lyndey Milan OAM and Pam Seaborn at a previous Long Lunch

Guests in 1920s finery will graze informally from picnic hamper boxes packed with regional delicacies, promenade on the lawns and dance the afternoon away to the strains of a 1920s-style band.

Guests can complete their immersive 1920s experience with Shanghai Nights of cocktails and canapes, lights, lanterns and jazz music to celebrate on the eve of the Chinese lunar New Year.

“This will be a very beautiful event which reminds people of the romance of the 1920s and the elegance of the Hydro Majestic rather than the flappers and gangsters,’’ Mr Bruegger said.

“We will recreate the softness of the lighting, the feathers and fabrics, the sophisticated lines of the architecture. It will be like living a fabulous dream.’’

The Roaring 20s Festival will continue throughout February at other venues around the Blue Mountains.

Go to hydromajestic.com.au for more event, accommodation and dining option information and bookings and to register for the Hydro Charleston Challenge.

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