Top Australia Attractions in its Northern Territory

Australia Top Australia Attractions - Uluru Rock in Australia's Northern Territory Outback

Published on June 6th, 2014 | by Charu Suri

2 Top Australia Attractions in Australia’s Northern Territory

With a population of just 200,000 but land six times the size of Britain and three times the size of California, Australia’s Northern Territory gives you enough landmarks and leg room to

World Heritage sites are a given here, as are Aboriginal culture and photogenic landscapes (Uluru in broad daylight; beneath a canopy of stars; from a hot air balloon….the possibilities are vast). There’s no question that this area of the world is as expansive, raw and rugged as it gets: to be in the Northern Territory is to dance cheek to cheek with the great outdoors.

Here are can’t miss sights and ways to take in the Northern Territory:

Top Australia Attractions - Alice Springs Larapinta Trail

Alice Springs / Larapinta Trail (photo credit: Allan Dixon)

 “Top End” Australia Attractions: This region is the three northern tropical and sub-tropical regions of Darwin, Kakadu National Park and the Katherine region which is further south. You’ll find a tropical climate filled with rainforests, waterfalls and plenty of water-based sports as well as Aboriginal culture.

At Darwin’s doorstep you’ll find the waterfalls and waterholes of Litchfield National Park as well as the colorful Tiwi islands.

Top Australia Attractions - Uluru Rock in Australia's Northern Territory Outback

Uluru (photo credit: Shaana McNaught)

The “Red Center”: Often referred to as the real Australian Outback, the Red Center is what people think of when they hear the words “Northern Territory.” Here you’ll find the red as rust Uluru Rock, Alice Springs (the country’s most famous outback town) and Aboriginal art. Bush-walking? Yes, please.

Aboriginal Art in Australia's Outback

Aboriginal Rock art (photo credit Peter Eve)

National Parks: The area is home to several national parks: Kakadu, Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Nitmiluk, which are Aboriginal names and are jointly run by Aboriginal people. If you’ve always wanted to play the didgeridoo and do dot painting, this is your chance to shine.

These parks also serve as Aboriginal rock art museums: get up close and personal with some of the oldest work in the world.

Working Holidays: The Northern Territory is an excellent place for a working holiday. There are several opportunities to do WWOOFing on organic farms, do construction projects in Darwin, work in the hospitality industry, do seasonal fruit picking and also cattle station work. Visit this site for more information.

 

That concludes the Top Australia Attractions! Hope you enjoyed it!

 

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An Australian Culinary Evening: Evenings AFAR

Affordable Luxury Evenings AFAR Australia at James Beard House

Published on December 30th, 2013 | by Charu Suri

2 An Australian Culinary Evening: Evenings AFAR

It is always a humble experience to be invited to a master such as James Beard’s home, and equally humbling when you are in the presence of a superb chef imported from Australia.

AFAR’s almost Gatsby-like intimate dinners called Evenings AFAR proved to be one of those affairs to remember. Evenings AFAR, for those who are not acquainted with the even feature multiple courses hosted by world-class chefs around the world. But instead of you flying over to say, Australia, AFAR brings the chef to you.

The result? A well-heeled, beautifully-done place setting (roses, wine glasses, fine china, the whole nine yards), a four-course meal and more than generous wine pairings. Education by the mouthful can be a beautiful thing.

The varied, unexpected and fine menu created by Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker from Lake House in Victoria, Australia, surprised me for many reasons, the chief reason being that I sincerely did not think of Australia and fine dining as going hand in hand. But after seeing dishes like the Chestnut-Armagnac Veloute (a thick, creamy soup) and the Endive with Fresh Curds and Grain-Seed Praline, I had to give the country a second look, and that too on the culinary front.

Evenings AFAR Australia at James Beard House

A dish I did not try: the Kangaroo Tartare with Pepper Berries and Bush Tomatoes

Evenings AFAR Australia at James Beard House

The “Gatsby-like” place setting

Wolf-Tasker has made quite a name for herself in Victoria, Australia, at the Lake House in Daylesford, where she is Executive Chef. The hotel and restaurant is an elegance meets rustic charm destination that has been praised to the skies (the “little extras,” thoughtful turndown service, romantic atmosphere and its brilliant regional cuisine). She works tirelessly with small-scale suppliers in the immediate region, and the term ‘locavore’ doesn’t get truer than that (most of the produce is so fresh that it is picked and delivered each morning). So it is little wonder that AFAR plucked Wolf-Tasker and her culinary sleight of hand for its very first Evenings AFAR dinners, which costs $130 for James Beard House members, and $170 for non-members.

While most people had the standard dinner menu (see below), I had a vegetarian version, which was hearty but not exactly the same experience. The foraged mushroom with black truffles were paired with a delicious Grenache 2009 from the D’Arenberg The Derelict Vineyard which boasted a black cherry, candied and oakey. Many tasters at my table agreed that the Grenache was the wine of the evening. Every wine pairing that was suggested by Chef Alla and her team brought out the local flavors of the varied dishes. The tawny dessert wine, a Yalumba Museum Release, paired like Siskel & Ebert to the late harvest apples with caramel, buttermilk, honey and oatmeal desert which was texture heaven.

Evenings AFAR Australia at James Beard House

The dessert was by far the most accomplished: as many food textures as there are in dresses at Fashion Week

The circular tables also allow for fluid conversation; despite the James Beard House being somewhat small (large by New York City standards), there is no elbow-rubbing because you can always get that at Time Square.

I started the evening by mingling with the guests, and when it was time for dinner, there were a few introductions, and the meal with a flourish of wine and hors d’oeuvres. It was almost operatic. While cocktail attire is suggested, the vibe was casual.

In short, you can get a gourmet four-course meal at a top restaurant in New York City, or you can travel far without leaving your home city, at least on a culinary level. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty priceless.

The next Evenings AFAR will take you to someplace quite different. Check back here for updates.

 

Evenings AFAR: Australia

Hors d’Oeuvres

Chestnut-Armagnac Veloute

Kangaroo Tartare with Pepper Berries and Bush Tomatoes

Endive with Fresh Curds and Grain-Seed Praline

 

Dinner

Freshwater Trout with Buckwheat Vinaigrette and Fennel

Smoked Eel with Pancetta, Beet Remoulade and Horseradish

Pork Croustillant with Choucroute Garnie

Butter-Poached Pheasant with Foraged Mushrooms and Black Truffles

Brioche French Toast with Goat Cheese and Local Pears

Dessert

Late Harvest Apples with Caramel, Buttermilk, Honey, and Oatmeal

Macarons

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This Holiday, Give the Gift of Reading: ‘Izzy and Poe’ Book Review

Family Travel Izzy and Poe Book Review

Published on December 24th, 2013 | by Charu Suri

0 This Holiday, Give the Gift of Reading: ‘Izzy and Poe’ Book Review

If you’re a shopper like myself, you’ve probably left your purchases to the Cinderella Hour.  Last Friday, I felt completely flustered as I walked down 5th Avenue in search for some ideal gifts for friends. It suddenly dawned on me that despite the Nooks, Amazon Kindles and tablets, all I wanted to do was to buy my friends some good old-fashioned books. It seemed like a great idea at the time, but in truth I could not find a single bookstore nearby. And then I became quite sad. Just a few years ago, I was able to brush shoulders with so many more bookstores in the city: Borders at Columbus Circle; Oscar Wilde Bookshop; and perhaps the most crushing of all –the four-story Barnes & Noble right across Lincoln Center that was my home, hearth and haunt for so many years. A New York Times article from August 30, 2010, said that although people loved the chance to look at the books, browsing and reading became the primary focus for frequenters of the Barnes & Noble flagship at Lincoln Center, not so much the actual physical purchase of books. And I find myself guilty of this far too much these days. I rely on BCCLS, my state library system, and my local library to borrow free e-books. I visit one of the last remaining Barnes & Noble bookstores in the city (the one on 44th and 5th) to check out their titles and sip a latte in their café but not so much as to buy a minted copy of The Bee Keeper’s Daughter (I read it through my library system for free).

Izzy and Poe Book Review   So I too am to blame for this dwindling in bookstores, and yet, in romantic fashion, I kind of wish that bookstores didn’t have to die. I’m so glad that my cousin, at any rate, continues to churn out books. Her second book, Sparks Off You is a poignant coming of age story, and her latest illustrated children’s book, Izzy & Poe is a charming book written after the birth of her first child, Illyria. Izzy and Poe Book Review Since I love dogs, it was not hard for me to find Izzy & Poe’s adventures charming, especially when you add the magical twist of a parrot teaching these dogs to fly. I have had the chance to meet these dogs in person, and it is impossible not to love their inquisitive nature, unbridled energy and diamond-like eyes. Izzy and Poe Book Review

The book is short (18 pages of text, and 44 pages in total with illustrations) but apart from the cute fantasy of a story, the illustrations by Lindsay Merrill are really what caught my eye throughout the entire read. From the warm chocolate brown tones of the horses to the creamy white, beige and black tones of Izzy and Poe themselves, every drawing spills off the page dressed in what seems like 3D Technicolor meets Pixar, and makes the $15.99 gift paperback price tag ($9.99 for standard) completely worth the value (if you see one of my favorite authors John Grogan’s Marley children’s series—also beautifully illustrated—you’ll see how why drawings are the lynchpin of a great young kid’s storybook). This is a charming anytime book: breakfast, lunch, nighttime—I had great fun reading it to Erika and she kept pointing to the flamboyant parrot and dogs and horses, which makes you realize the animalia are quite realistic and not completely fantastic. The story itself is short and ideal for kids’ short attention spans, and thankfully, nothing catastrophic or crazy happens to the dogs in their Wright Brothers-like quest for flight. Some people will say that I am biased (Felicelli is my cousin after all) but this is a completely objective review. If I saw this book in a bookstore and I knew nothing about it, I’d be compelled to pick up a copy. And if anything, to continue supporting of bookstores, and ‘old-fashioned’ books.

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Nomad Two Worlds: Perfume as an Agent of World Change

Affordable Luxury Nomad Two Worlds Artisanal Perfumes

Published on December 15th, 2013 | by Charu Suri

1 Nomad Two Worlds: Perfume as an Agent of World Change

In many countries, the beauty industry is a driving force behind exports and mass consumption, offering everything from soap to candles. Perfume has long been associated with a certain luxury appeal and quality rather than a charitable endeavor, from Chanel No.5′s days to now.

And so it was always a bit hard for me to equate perfume with transforming travel—that leap was a bit of a stretch, until now. Nomad Two Worlds and well-known perfume house Firmeniche committed to a Clinton Global Initiative to develop perfumes that use rare ingredients from marginalized communities in Haiti, Western Australia and the Amazon.

Nomad Two Worlds Artisanal Perfumes

Wild Fire, which pay homage to Australia ($35); Bijoux Vert, which is a nod to Haiti, once known as the ‘Jewel of the Antilles” ($35); “Citadelle,” a nod to Haiti ($35)

The perfumes, which are quite beautiful and well-composed (the Swiss company Firminiche has given us Calvin Klein’s ck One, Ralph Lauren’s Romance and Lancome’s Miracle), and that is not surprising. But what I loved most of all was the idea behind it all.

Master perfumer Harry Fremont introduced three new fragrances: the “Bijou Vert” and “Citadelle” uses vetiver sourced from Haiti, and proceeds from these will support sustainable agricultural projects with Firmeniche. There is another fragrance that benefits the indigenous people of Tasmania: “Wild Fire” uses Australian sandalwood and essential oils from the island.

I personally love Bijou Vert, which was inspired by Haiti and features Haitian Vetiter, grapefruit, mandarin, geranium, lotus flower, black pepper and cedarwood. It’s a very sophisticated scent that’s strong and full of personality, just like the Haitian people. And the combination in this fragrance makes me think of the days when Haiti was known as the ‘Jewel of the Antilles.’

And in terms of gift giving, it’s ideal for the seasoned traveler, and you know you’re supporting a great cause too. More information at NomadTwoWorlds.com

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Proof: a Southwest-style Canteen in Arizona

Affordable Luxury Proof Canteen in Arizona Four Seasons Troon North

Published on December 11th, 2013 | by Charu Suri

1 Proof: a Southwest-style Canteen in Arizona

During my second trip to Arizona (the first with baby in tow), I was a bit mesmerized by the skyscraper-tall Saguaro cactii, the desert landscape, and the flowering plants. But I was not really expecting to be bowled over by the food (whoever went to Arizona for cuisine?).

But as usual, I was wrong.

For a taste of the authentic, unpretentious Southwest, Proof Canteen offers more than you bargained for, with floor-to-ceiling windows and unvarnished views of the Sonoran desert landscape.

The vintage-style canteen, which is part of the Four Seasons Resort at Troon North, offers weekend brunches with dishes like waffle chicken sliders, sweet potato pancakes with honey maple butter, and home-style potatoes that are so good that second helpings are a given. What I especially loved was the old-fashioned soda fountain and the microbrewery menu (the cover of the menu is a stylish car license plate) which features craft brews from 50 states. In other words, drive to Proof Canteen and drink through the 50 states without worrying about a DUI.

Proof Canteen Arizona Four Seasons Troon North

Proof Canteen: a vintage-style brunch

Proof Canteen Arizona Four Seasons Troon North

Give us this day our daily bread tray and carrot cake jam

Proof Canteen Arizona Four Seasons Troon North

Proof Canteen Arizona Four Seasons Troon North

Southwest tones are everywhere

The newly-opened juice bar punches out fresh carrot and acai shots for everyone, and is one of the highlights of the brunch menu (for $4 extra, you get unlimited juices: a no brainer). The lemon ricotta blue corn pancakes are cotton-soft and delicious, and the root beer floats from the company Dry in Seattle are so very vintage. “We really try to accommodate all the 50 states on our menu,” says Proof’s chef Dale, and it shows. He takes special pains to get locally-grown vegetables, and even feature local wine where possible (yes, the Verde wine trail runs near Sedona in Northern Arizona). The thoughtful menu, inspired decor which is far from kitschy, and well-heeled waitstaff (long-sleeved shirts and bow ties for the boys) make this a bit more upscale version of a traditional canteen, but this is the Four Seasons after all.

Proof Canteen Arizona Four Seasons Troon North

Proof Canteen Arizona Four Seasons Troon North

Proof Canteen Arizona Four Seasons Troon North

Erika had a blast with two straws; that’s all she cared about

But because the canteen also has unpretentious southwestern food, and more kid-friendly perks than FAO Schwartz (toddlers get served Etch-A-Sketch and crayon pencils), this is a win-win for the entire family (the Boomer generation will appreciate the comfortable gingham-upholstered sofas; the quirky teen will love the cinematographic-style vintage lamps). Erika quite obviously loved everything there, from electric lights suspended from longer than usual wires to the vintage items available for sale (including license plates). The drinks menu, with its craft beer and ice cream floats, bowled me over and I would have gratefully drunk my way the entire afternoon.

 

 

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Five Delicious Thanksgiving Cocktail Recipes

Affordable Luxury Apple Pie Cocktail Food Network

Published on November 27th, 2013 | by Charu Suri

7 Five Delicious Thanksgiving Cocktail Recipes

That very American tradition, Thanksgiving, is around the corner, but it doesn’t all have to be about the staples of pumpkin pie and Turkey (in our vegetarian household, it rarely is). But instead of the staples of iced tea, glasses of red and white, why not go for a full-blooded Thanksgiving cocktail? Some are simple (a couple of pours and blends), and some are as complex as baking a Cinnamon bun.

Here are a few we love:

Positively Warm Apple Pie 

Apple Pie Cocktail Food Network

Photo credit: Food Network

Ingredients

6 oz. apple cider (heated)
2 oz. Tuaca liqueur
Whipped cream
Pinch cinnamon and nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick

In case you want to increase your apple pie consumption, make the drink version of it. In a glass coffee mug or heat-resistant goblet, combine your heated cider and Tuaca. Top with whipped cream. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the cinnamon stick and serve with a smile.

Hot Apple Cider Toddy

 Hot Apple Cider Toddy

Photo Credit: Food Network

Ingredients

3 cups apple cider
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
8 graham crackers
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons rum extract
2 cups non-dairy whipped topping
4 whole cinnamon sticks
4 shots bourbon whiskey

Directions

This one is a bit more complex, simply because of the spices. Heat the apple cider in a non-reactive saucepan. In a bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ground cloves. Whip until the butter becomes creamy and place the graham crackers and pumpkin pie spice in a plastic baggie and crush with a rolling pin. Combine the rum extract with the non-dairy whipped topping. In a footed coffee glass, place a single cinnamon stick and a slice of spiced butter. Pour 1 shot whiskey into the glass. Ladle the hot cider to fill the glass. Garnish with a dollop of rum-flavored topping and a sprinkle of graham cracker crumb mixture. Serve warm.

Thanksgiving Day Cider

Ingredients

1 part Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie Vodka

3 parts apple cider

Splash of club soda

Lemon wedge for garnish

This one is as simple as it hitting the MP3 player button: simply mix the ingredients in the order listed inside an ice-filled highball glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge. 

Old Irish Cure

Old Irish Cocktail

Food Credit: Food & Wine

 

1 1/3 oz. Irish Whiskey, preferably Jameson

1/3 ounce dark rum

2 1/2 teaspoons Calvados

1/3 ounce fresh lemon juice

1/4 ounce cane syrup or Rich Simple Syrup

1/2 teaspoon honey mixed with

1/2 teaspoon water

1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger juice

Dash of Angostura bitters

1 think apple slice for garnish

If you want a good old-fashioned fruity cocktail, this one is it. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the apple slice garnish and shake well. Strain the drink into a chilled coupe and garnish with the apple slice.

Pecan Pie Martini

Pecan Pie Martini

Credit: Daydreamer Desserts

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup dark corn syrup, plus a little more for garnishing the rim

2 teaspoons of brown sugar

1/4 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped

Ice

4 ounces (1/2 cup) vodka

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

On a small plate, stir together teaspoon corn syrup and the brown sugar. Dip the rims of 4 martini glasses in the mixture, then in the chopped nuts. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine 1/4 cup vodka, 1/4 cup corn syrup and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Strain into 2 prepared glasses. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Reported by Jay Dee

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Napa in a Box: Escape Monthly Subscriptions Arrive

Affordable Luxury Escape Monthly Napa in a Box

Published on November 19th, 2013 | by Charu Suri

6 Napa in a Box: Escape Monthly Subscriptions Arrive

Can you actually get a vacation out of a box? Escape Monthly seems to think so, by giving its monthly subscribers products that are themed around a particular destination.

I ordered the Napa Escapes box when it debuted just to get a look and feel of what goodies were inside my destination inspired box (the choices change every month, of course, just like Birchbox).

The long rectangular blue and white patterned box with corresponding liner tissue arrived quickly at my doorstep, within a few days. What impressed me the most is that these products are full-size artisanal goods, not sample sizes or disposables, so you really get to try the products out and enjoy them for a few days, not minutes.

Escape Monthly Napa in a Box

Escape Monthly Napa in a Box

In my Napa box, I had a Miracle Mud mask sachet from 7th Heaven,  a full-size Napa & Sonoma handbook from Moon Guides,  a loofah, a soap from Napa Soap company, a Sparkling White Grape tea from Tiesta Tea company, Mineral Salts, apricot sage cookies to accompany my wine, a French lavender body scrub from 100% pure, candles and a few more items like chapstick. All products are sourced from local companies too.

My favorite products were the wine-themed: after all, that is what Napa is known for. The apricot sage cookies were a big hit, and the Sparkling White Grape tea was a cheeky idea (after all, it’s alcohol-free tea, but I couldn’t resist putting a bit of wine in it).

And that’s not all, once you purchase a box, you’ll automatically be entered to win a destination-specific trip for two. Now, that’s a vacation I can live with (boxes cost $49.95).

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Glamping in a Yurt in the Catskills

Affordable Luxury Glamping in a Yurt in the Catskills

Published on November 13th, 2013 | by Charu Suri

14 Glamping in a Yurt in the Catskills

“What’s a yurt doing in the middle of the Catskills?” was my first question as my husband proceeded to book our single-day retreat at Harmony Hill in East Meredith.

It turns out that Harmony Hill Retreat was the only lodge for miles which had something that distinctive: the “tree house yurts” advertised on their site (they have three of them) looked elegant yet rugged, unusual and spacious. Since our family was not going to Mongolia anytime soon, last we checked, we decided to give the toddler, our au pair and us a sound education in glamping.

After a 3.5 hour drive on a Tuesday evening, the longest that I can remember, we left the city firmly in the rear view side of things, and entered a landscape with sporadic cows, horses, and apple trees studded with brilliantly-colored fruits of fall. Erika fell asleep within minutes as we departed the house, and woke up once we pulled into the retreat’s driveway.

Harmony Hill Retreat Yurt East Meredith

Our “Tan Yurt” in the middle of the woods

Harmony Hill Retreat Yurt East Meredith

The Labyrinth, made with field-cut stone

“Tan Yurt” said a sign, encouraging us to turn right past the retreat’s entrance, and we looked for a cylindrical tented structure in the middle of the barren thick of pine trees. We had booked the yurt right at the cutoff point, the owner Chris Rosenthal told us, since she shuts down the tents during the winter season.

We had to call an hour before we arrived so Chris would turn on all the space heaters and have the yurt comfortably heated so Erika wouldn’t freeze. Typically, yurts are not heated. Technically speaking, a yurt is a portable tent which is covered by fabric and sheep’s wool since they are erected by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia, where temperatures can plunge to subzero levels. Our yurt was every bit glamping, with a ceiling of ribbed wood, a ceiling fan in our Pantheon-like skylight, latticed framework, and plush furnishings including a table, chair and pull-out beds.

Harmony Hill Retreat Yurt East Meredith

Harmony Hill Retreat Yurt East Meredith

A gloomy, English-weather kind of day, but still beautiful

My bedroom was cozy, with a Queen size frame, a nightstand, but no phone (Matt eventually found a dusty, oversized phone stuffed in a cabinet). Our cell phones’ AT&T bars were nonexistent –this was off the grid territory. But we loved the hardwood floors, the chic iron fireplace (technically a fire stove), and our bed. The bathroom was so roomy that it took up a third of the yurt (you could waltz in there).

The Labyrinth, situated in an open field, was one of my favorite aspects of the retreat. The Hill’s fieldstone was cut and placed piece-by-piece in eleven concentric circles. It is peaceful just to walk along the path and take in the fresh country air.

I felt the landscape was something out of the English countryside, the same vibe as StoneHenge, which I had visited a decade ago.

For around $200 a night (we paid a bit more because we brought our au pair), we were able to listen to the crickets, see the stars, and go for a long hike around the property wood (70 acres goes a long, long way). Harmony Hill is so quiet you can hear every leaf crunch and sigh—it helped me unwind considerably from my city-induced stress.

Nomadic  glamping? I could get used to this.

Harmony Hill Lodging & Retreat Center

694 McKee Hill Rd, East Meredith, NY 13757

Phone: 607-278-6609

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Legoland: The Art of the Brick Exhibit, by Nathan Sawaya

Family Travel Easter Island Art of the Brick Discovery TSX

Published on November 8th, 2013 | by Charu Suri

12 Legoland: The Art of the Brick Exhibit, by Nathan Sawaya

LEGO typically conjures up images of tiny blocks stacked together into fancy shapes that befuddle the imagination. Colored blocks? Check. Construction? Sure. Now, think bigger, think different- Life-size sculptures. A dinosaur. Or even The Mona Lisa. Sounds unlikely, right? But not for artist Nathan Sawaya who has recreated famous works of art and built some of his original pieces using LEGO blocks.  A LEGO obsession that supposedly should have ended in childhood, followed him all the way to college and beyond and can now be witnessed at Discovery’s Art of the Brick Exhibition in Times Square.
Engineering the Wow factor

Easter Island Art of the Brick Discovery TSX

A Moai warrior at Discovery’s “Art of the Brick”

Rodin's Thinker  Art of the Brick Discovery TSX

Rodin’s “The Thinker”

SHAPE-HEAD

Growing up, my LEGO set was easily one of my favorites in my toy collection. Being able to create an object straight out of my imagination was one of the reasons I enjoyed setting up one block over the next—earnestly anticipating what the end product would look like. I love art in its various forms and its expressive nature has always been exhilarating. Now I understand how the doodling of a young child may not hold much meaning at first, but can translate into an amazing career choice, as was the case with Mr. Sawaya.

I had to go and visit the exhibition after hearing rave reviews from friends. From portraying a swimmer in action to giving a LEGO touch to The Great Sphinx, each and every construction is a special sight, and not out of the LEGO textbook. And if you are one who thinks that LEGO is just for kids, this exhibition aims to change your perception, whether you’re 8 or 80.

Not Quite Pixelated Pieces
The T-Rex lego sculpture is made up of 80,020 pieces, the Mona Lisa, 4,473 pieces, Easter Island’s Moai sculpture,75,450 pieces, Rodin’s Thinker, 4,332 pieces. Sawaya’s original creations include the “Blue Guy Sitting,” made of 21,054 pieces, a portrait of his partner Courtney, 4,125 pieces, and one of his most iconic constructions, “Yellow” with 11,014 pieces. He spent two-three weeks on each piece, and stuck them together with adhesive.

At first glance, these block constructions look like something out of a pixelated picture— all straight shapes and no smooth curves, with critics pointing out this fact. But, squint a little and the lines blur out.You’ll see the constructions coming alive and it’s only then that they really start making sense and developing new meaning. And that’s when you get it—these Lego pieces are so much more than just a collection of pixelated images. This is one man’s extraordinary medium of defining the world around him.

The exhibit will make you take a closer look at these ordinary blocks with fresher eyes.  It’s been years since I held a block, but now as I dust off my worn out LEGO set, half-forgotten on a shelf somewhere around the house, a flood of happy memories come rushing back- huddled over the LEGO set with friends, blocks strewn all over the carpet, giving final finishing touches to our custom-made race cars, all ready to race them down the hallway.

Yes, the element of play is contagious. Picasso once said, “it takes a long time to be a kid again.” Sounds like Mr. Sawaya has found his way there.

To get your tickets, visit this site.

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At Key Largo Chocolates, the Spotlight is on the Pie

Affordable Luxury Key Largo Chocolates Upper Florida Keys

Published on November 3rd, 2013 | by Charu Suri

8 At Key Largo Chocolates, the Spotlight is on the Pie

The plastic flamingos at the entrance of Key Largo Chocolates made it even more enticing for us to visit the store because, how much more “Florida” could one get?

Not a sliver of a shop like many Manhattan-style stores I’ve seen (think two-bedroom, not studio), Key Largo Chocolates was impressive on many levels because of its various offerings. From the popular key lime truffles, to the frozen key lime pie-on-a-stick, there is something here for every picky candy lover.

Co-founders Bob and Kristie Thomas are chatters, in the best sense. When requested, Kristie eagerly showed us the back kitchen where her employees were making truffles, with the seriousness of Cake Boss. She also took the time to show me just key limes went into making her famous chocolate-covered key lime truffles each day (the answer is, an entire plastic bin of them).

Key Largo Chocolates Upper Florida Keys

The “key lime pie-on-a-stick” is not an item you’d regret purchasing. These are sourced from Kermit’s Key Lime Shop in Key West.

Key Largo Chocolates Upper Florida Keys

The sprinkles are “popular with kids” says Kristie

Key Largo Chocolates Upper Florida Keys

A lime-green toddler chair and free mini cones were a hit with Erika

Key Largo Chocolates Upper Florida Keys

The busy kitchen at the back of the store

The lime-green toddler chair was also a big hit with Erika, who slouched there with a freebie mini cone and refused to move. A store that takes special pains to put a toddler-friendly chair in the store is obviously thinking about kids, and I found out that the store also offers a Junior Chocolatier program, where kids are invited to learn more about candy-making in the kitchen. Adults receive a similar lesson but with a more grown-up name, A Night of Chocolate.

In the section devoted to ice-cream,  there are local and popular ice-cream flavors that will make you give up your weekly Ben & Jerry’s pint.

Linger awhile and savor cake balls in key lime, coconut, rum or brownie flavors. If you’re feeling charitable, send a wounded veteran one or half a pound of “Bob’s Chippers,” which are chocolate-covered potato chips specially-priced at $8.50. My favorite, the key-lime truffle, is a big hit with practically everyone who comes to the store. These are filled with ganache and are smooth and they feel local; the tropical versions like the coconut and rum are a bit more exotic, but always a pleasant treat after a tough day.

But, as my husband rightly asked me, what exactly does a rough day in the Florida Keys mean?

Key Largo Chocolates

100470 Overseas Highway

Key Largo, Florida 33037

Ph: 305-453-6613

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