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Memphis, Hawaii and Dylan Alcott’s favourite wineMr and Mrs Romance

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With travel gearing back up, it feels like everyone’s heading overseas at the moment. We’re still in the planning stage, but things are coming together.

In the meantime, we’re getting our itchy feet and travel bug tended to by meeting with some friends from Memphis and Hawaii tourism boards, and distracting ourselves with visits to local museums we’ve never been to.

We also had the pleasure of meeting a real-life olympian and the Australian of the Year (same person actually) and enjoying a wine or two with him.

Christina’s also been busy up on stage MC-ing like a legend. So it’s all been happening. Here’s the whole story.

Enjoy this Edition! Cheers—Jim & Christina xx

Christina and National Maritime Museum art

Today we’ve decided to head to Sydney’s National Maritime Museum. We can virtually see this place from our apartment, but for some reason we’ve never been here.

It’s a brilliantly put together museum, even if you’re not into ships, the navy or anything like that.

In the main building, there’s an enormous range of sea-faring artefacts from pre- and post-colonial Australia. There’s even a full-size navy helicopter hanging from the ceiling and even Kay Cottee’s ship she sailed solo around the world.

But there’s also a fascinating art section to the museum that’s definitely worth checking out too.

Christina & HMAS Onslow National Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum continues outside on the water. The submarine HMAS Onslow, which was decommissioned in 1999 after serving in the Australian navy for 30 years.

Christina entering HMAS Onslow National Maritime Museum

It’s pretty daunting going inside the submarine. The door hatch is small and the ladder down is steep, but it’s pretty exciting all the same.

Submarines are famously cramped and claustrophobic, but even knowing that isn’t enough preparation for the realisation of just how squashed in a whole crew must be to man a ship like this.

Inside HMAS Onslow at the National Maritime Museum

Moving through the submarine, climbing through round doorways to each section, we’re met by the volunteer guides who talk us through what we’re seeing.

It’s fascinating just how much is packed into every spare inch of this machine. Imagine a Swiss army knife but hollow, waterproof and big enough to house up to 69 crew, and where every compartment, wall space, seat and desk has multiple uses and tools attached.

Betamax HMAS Vampire at National Maritime Museum

It’s quite a relief to get out of the Onslow if we’re honest. Next we go aboard the impressively named HMAS Vampire, a destroyer that was in service between 1959 and 1986. There’s even a Betamax in the mess to prove the point.

There’s so much space on this ship compared to the sub that we almost don’t know what to do with ourselves. It’s so interesting to be able to see what it’s like to walk the decks of these war machines, to think that this was home for so many people for so many years.

Jim & HMB Endeavour replica at National Maritime Museum

Finally, we hop across the gangplank to the replica of the HMB Endeavour, the ship that Cook famously sailed to Australia and explored the Pacific.

This ship was only built in 1988, but it feels just like you’re aboard the real thing from the 1700s. You can see all the rigging and masts up close. You can even go belowdecks to see where the crew would have slept and ate, and the captain’s cabin at the stern of the ship.

Once again though, there’s not much space here and climbing back out where you can stand at full height again is a pleasure.

Memphis Tourism at Stitch Bar

This evening, we’re catching up with some friends and folk from Memphis Tourism down in one of Sydney’s classic subterranean speakeasies Stitch Bar.

It’s great to hear more about Memphis, Tennessee’s—in fact America’s—home of music. It is after all the birthplace, home and final resting place of Elvis Presley.

We’re catching up with the all-too-cool Chris Ingham to talk all things Tennessee.

Memphis Tourism Bourbon old fashioned at Stitch Bar

Even better, Stitch Bar is serving us beautifully made Tennessee Bourbon Old Fashioneds while we chat about Memphis, it’s music scene but also the number of great hotels and how it’s really lifting its tourism game.

Next American city on our list for sure.

It’s an exciting day today: Christina has gone for her next jujitsu grading and has passed! She’s now a green-tip belt, which means she’s way tougher than me.

Really impressed with her and so proud of how passionate she is about her new-found art. She only joined this dojo a few months ago and without knowing anyone else there–a daunting moment even when you’re a kid, but even more so when you’re an adult!

Hawaii Tourism Botanic House Sydney Botanic Gardens

This afternoon, I’m flying solo at Hawai’i Tourism’s latest grand tour Down Under at the beautiful Botanic House in the middle of Sydney’s Botanic Gardens.

Bringing a huge host of travel providers with them all the way from Hawai’i, the board is talking all things aloha this lunchtime.

Hawaii Tourism Botanic House Botanic Gardens

Over lunch, we hear from a few people from Go Hawai’i, learning about some of the amazing places to stay, things to do and ways to get around these famously exotic and beautiful islands.

My new friend Kelly Strickland from the incredible Kahala Resort in Hololulu has me absolutely sold on this stunning residence, where the likes of the Obamas, George Clooney and Dwayne Johnson come to regularly. Can’t wait to cross the Pacific for this place!

Tourism Botanic House

As part of the lunch event, the whole Hawai’ian entourage get together to sing us a traditional welcome song. It really sets the mood for the rest of the day, in spite of the rain that’s started falling right in the middle of our meal.

I come home to Christina with so many plans of visiting this island paradise as soon as we can!

Fiery Irish Whiskey Australia launch Dubliner Distillery

Some interesting news in the spirits industry: Dubliner Liberties Distillery has launched a new whiskey liqueur called Fiery Irish in Australia.

It’s not only a tongue twister but a tongue sizzler too, packed with warming flavours of chilli and cinnamon, perfect for the last couple of cold Sydney months.

You can pick up a bottle of Fiery Irish from $49.99 RRP at Dan Murphy’s and BWS stores across Australia.

I was supposed to be at the launch party for this tasty new SKU, but sadly a funeral of a dear family friend took priority.

Leave Your Mark Grant Burge

Tonight, Christina and I are at the excellent Olio Kensington Street in Chippendale for a wine evening to remember.

Hosted by Grant Burge Wines, who are beginning their latest campaign called ‘Leave Your Mark’, this evening is all about celebrating celebrating ambitions, achieving goals and leaving our mark in society.

It’s a concept that ties in well with this winery, which has been making superb wine for five generations and continues to do so.

And it’s an all-star cast here tonight as well.

Leave Your Mark Grant Burge - Charlie Pickering

MCing the evening is none other than comedian, TV and radio presenter, author and producer Charlie Pickering. He leads proceedings like he’s done it before and entertains us with a few well-chosen yarns.

Now, Charlie’s pretty famous and it’s quite impressive to hear from him, but he’s not the highlight of the evening.

As well as hearing from the excellent Craig Stansborough–Grant Burge’s Chief Winemaker, who we’ve actually met before, there’s someone else who’s even more famous…

Leave Your Mark Grant Burge Filsell

But before we do, there’s delicious wine to be drunk and food to be eaten.

The meal kicks off with a huge dish of sumptuous gnocchetti with Sicilian pork sausage , chestnut and beetroot.

With it, two wines to taste: the Holy Trinity GSM 2020 that’s balanced and full of fruity flavours, and the Nebu Cabernet Shiraz 2019. This is my favourite (for the whole evening as it turns out) with big spicy and savoury notes, dark cocoa and plenty of oak.

Our mains come out next–a large charred wagyu tenderloin with a 9+ marble score, porcini mushroom soufflé, black truffles and a jus made with Grant Burge wine. It’s a formidable dish expertly executed and exemplary of this wonderful restaurant.

Wine for this course is something special too: the notable Filsell Shiraz 2020, which is an iconically Barossan wine, packed with plump fruit and plenty of structure. But next to this is a glass of the Grant Burge flagship wine. The Meshach Shiraz. From the 2018 vintage–and they don’t make this wine every year, this highly acclaimed red is beautifully complex, brilliantly balanced and resonating with restrained power.

Charlie Pickering & Dylan Alcott

But back to the real hero of the evening, we’re joined by Grant Burge’s new ambassador, two-time Paralympic gold medalist and Australian of the Year 2022 Dylan Alcott AO.

Dylan talks to his mate Charlie about his life and how it felt to have so many successes and honours bestowed upon him, and how they connect with his current role with Grant Burge. And although most of us will never have any of these experiences that Dylan’s worked so hard to achieve, he’s incredibly relatable and humble.

Most significantly, this Golden Slam winner launched the Dylan Alcott Foundation in 2021, which helps young Australians with a disability achieve their goals in the workplace, in sport or at university.

Dylan Alcott Olympic medals

Dylan even passes his two Olympic gold medals out for us all to look at while he and Charlie talk. But rather than him being precious about them, he just pulls them out of his pocket saying: “people seem to want to see these, so here you go.”

They’re surprisingly heavy, but if you ever meet Dylan, don’t tell him that. Apparently, he’s heard that before!

Leave Your Mark Grant Burge - cheese

To finish our meal, first some aged pecorino and a glass of the Grant Burge Shadrach Cabernet 2018 land in front of us, followed by a warm ricotta, egg and dark chocolate tart with cinnamon ice cream served with a 20-year-old Tawny.

Needless to say, we’re hale and hearty by the time it’s time to go home!

Jim GF medal Balmain Tigers

It’s been the strangest season of football I’ve ever known, but it’s finally come to an end. And what an end. With rain delaying, cancelling and postponing so many matches this year, it’s amazing we even got to the finish line.

But here I am.

Our team were valiant, playing not just the 90 minutes of standard time but then another 20 of golden goal extra time. When that final whistle on our grand final sounded and the game stood at 2-2, there was nothing else to do but watch the Fates open their golden book.

The penalty shoot-out that followed broke all our hearts, leaving us with only silver medals, but medals nonetheless. There’s always next season, I’m told.

Christina MC at YCK Laneways Women in Australian Distilling

On the same day as my final, Christina is much more successfully scoring goals!

This weekend she’s hosting A Little Bit Shaken, A Little Bit Stirred. This a marathon four events, on stage as MC for Nip of Courage at the YCK Laneways and Front & Centre Festival for Women of Australian Distilling.

What does this all mean?

YCK Laneways is a consortium of independent hospitality, retail, entertainment and corporate businesses in the precinct between the QVB and Wynyard on York, Clarence and Kent Streets.

YCK Laneways is working together with Front & Centre, which is a festival promoting female and non-binary creatives in a month-long showcase of over 50 events.

One of these events, run by Nip of Courage, the preeminent Australian craft spirit wholesaler, distributor, educator and online shop, and Women of Australian Distilling, is championing the women who work in the industry, from blenders and distillers to bar staff and hospos to upper management and venue owners.

Christina MC at YCK Laneways Women in Australian Distilling with Joey Tai - Anther and Sarah Wallace - Animus

There are four separate masterclasses within this two-day event, each has two women from different distilleries, and each has two spirits to taste and two cocktails that the audience learns to mix for themselves.

Of course, Christina is the perfect host and runs the event like a boss.

The first day sees Christina introduce Celia Wynne from Naught Distilling and Gemma Duff from Poor Toms, then Natalie Ng from Tilde~ Distillery and Door Knock Bar, and Ash Clinton from Grainshaker Vodka.

Day Two–shown here–has Joey Tai from Anther Distillery and Sarah Wallace from Animus Distillery, then Lisa Truscott from Archie Rose Distillery and Carlie Dyer from Starward.

YCK Laneways Women in Australian Distilling

I don’t like magic shows or pantomimes, but this is the kind of audience participation that I could get into! Everyone in the audience does a great job with their cocktails, under the careful guidance of Christina and co.

And we’re all kept fed by the devilish pecan pâté on our tables from Claire Von Vuuren–owner-chef at the extraordinary Bloodwood Bar and Restaurant in Newtown.

Christina MC at YCK Laneways Women in Australian Distilling with Carlie Dyer - Starward and Lisa Truscott Archie Rose

Pictured: Christina Butcher, Carlie Dyer – Starward, Lisa Truscott, Archie Rose, and Kathleen Davies – founding owner of Nip of Courage and Women of Australian Distilling, and expert photobomber

Christina with Joey Tai and her new Anther Moon Cake Gin

At the end of the third event, we heard some more exciting news–an exclusive in the Australian craft distilling world.

Joey Tai, one of the distillers at Anther, has released her own gin. Calling it Moon Cake Gin after the delicacy from her Hong Kong homeland that is eaten to celebrate mid-autumn and lunar appreciation, this gin is beautifully balanced sophisticated gin.

It plays with flavours from native Australian botanicals but also with notes you’d expect from a gin called Moon Cake: red date, lotus seeds and rose. It’s a martini waiting to happen.

Jim and Christina Butcher HMB Endeavour replica National Maritime Museum

We hope you’ve enjoyed this Edition. Have fun and live well.

Jim & Christina x

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