Brave Enough? | Bendigo Writers Festival

Bendigo Writers Festival

I love to travel, whether it be overseas or around our own country; I especially love a good road trip. You can find some great things in rural Australia; unique stores full of hand-made goodies, beautiful scenery, and amazing food and wine. What I wouldn’t have expected to find is an event full of creative inspiration and motivation from some of our best writers. Bendigo has had some fantastic cultural events lately, including the recent Marilyn Monroe exhibition, and we can now add the Writers Festival as of these successes.

Bendigo Writers Festival

Brave Enough brought together Benjamin Law, Ita Buttrose, Graeme Simsion, and David Astle to speak about bravery, taking risks, and creativity in general. Cheryl Strayed was initially booked to appear (the title of the event being named after one of her books) but unfortunately had to cancel due to a family emergency.

To hear these writers, all from different fields, speak about their own creative processes and the paths they have taken to get to where they are today was utterly inspiring. This coming from an aspiring writer’s point of view of course, but it was also beneficial to anyone who is working towards a creative goal. It was so refreshing to hear differing points of view on how to build your creativity, what constitutes bravery, and if boundaries are conducive to being creative.

We must make mistakes in order to learn and move forward, this often involves taking risks. But are we really brave if what we’re doing doesn’t feel like bravery but rather something we have no choice but to do? This is just one of the questions we are left with, as well as the responses of the writers which were varied and wise, each in their own way.

It was so interesting, so heart-warming, and so funny, I think the audience could’ve sat there and listened to the writers speak for hours. To get to witness such an insightful discussion of risk-taking and writing in general was a worthwhile experience and one I would recommend to anybody needing some motivation in their creative endeavours.

The Bendigo Writers Festival had many other wonderful talks, unfortunately it only ran for the one weekend.  Melbourne Writers Festival is coming up however, and will run from August 26th until September 4th, so we should have a great deal of inspiration coming our way.

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Star Trek goes Beyond with their latest installment!

Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond was released on the 21st of July this year and after watching it in the cinemas it is easy to see how it gained its popularity and success so far. Having never been a big fan of the original Star Trek series, I found myself oddly drawn to the 2009 release. Now with Beyond being the franchises third instalment, they have successfully introduced Star Trek to a new generation who had been previously disenfranchised by its highly stereotyped past. Directed by Justin Lin and with returning cast members such as Chris Pine as the infamous Captain James T. Kirk, Zachary Quinto as our beloved Spock, Karl Urban as the cynical Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and Zoe Saldana as the inspiration that is Nyota Uhura, this instalment promises to once again deliver what the 2009 reboot did so successfully.

Star Trek Beyond

The movie takes the viewer with the Star Fleet crew as they are completing their five year exploration mission. When recruited on a rescue mission to an unexplored planet, the crew is attacked by the movie’s villain Krall, portrayed by Idris Elba, and trapped on that planet.
The film incorporates dramatic and exciting action with a humour that makes it very entertaining to watch. It still surprises me when I laugh out loud in the cinema to one of these films, I just never expect to get that from a Star Trek Film.

A major highlight is the strength of the relationships between actors, many of whom have returned for this film. Being the third film in the franchise all of the actors have had time to flesh out their characters and make them their own, providing the audience with believable bonds and relationships.

In saying that, the character that stood out the most within the film was newcomer to the franchise, Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella. She was funny and strong while still having a heart breaking backstory. I hope to see her character continued in the fourth instalment.

Star Trek Beyond

Following the lead of other highly successful franchise reboots such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World, Star Trek Beyond seems to have fallen flat in terms of the storyline and having stuck to a basic formula. The aesthetics of the movie work well to draw the viewer into the film and make the impact of the plot flaws minimal. The plot itself is not awful in any way and the movie is able to achieve everything that it sets out to do.

The action and effects all but make up for what the film lacks in plot. It’s littered with fast paced scenes and yet the climactic finale manages to outdo all of them.

While it may have its flaws, Star Trek Beyond is a highly enjoyable film which is capable of engaging even the most cynical Star Trek critics.

Troye Sivan’s Blue Neighbourhood Tour comes to Melbourne

Troye Sivan

A spectacular night filled with rainbows, glitter, pride, and many emotions is what it’s like to be watching Troye Sivan perform live. The venue was Margaret Court Arena, which was fairly large but still small enough to have a great view from wherever you were standing or seated.

Opening the show was the wonderful Nicole Millar, you may have heard her voice on Peking Duck’s track High. Following Nicole’s stellar performance was Tyde Levi who helped pump up the crowd with an incredibly loud DJ set.

Troye Sivan

Even if you’re unfamiliar with Troye Sivan I have no doubt that at some point during your day, maybe in your car, you’ve heard one of his recent singles – Youth or Wild. Troye’s set list started off with Bite, which, if I’m being completely honest, I wouldn’t have picked as the opening track, however it seemed to work and the crowd responded really well to it.

Some songs that were performed and received exceptionally well include, Fools, Wild, Youth, and my personal favourite Heaven. During Heaven the stage was flooded with rainbow coloured lights and beforehand Troye gave a speech on how lovely and supportive everyone in his life was when he came out as gay 6 years ago.

Only FOOLS fall for you. #troyesivan#troyesivanlyrics#melbourne#blueneighbourhood

A photo posted by Xinyang (@lazylazy_bunny) on

The best part of the whole night was how most of the crowd were waving pride flags or had glitter on their faces. This was the result of a tweet that Troye had sent out two days before. What an amazing and wonderful thing the Internet can be.

Would I pay good money just to experience that all again? HELL YES! I would very much recommend to everyone that you should see the talented Troye from Perth at least one time, or to even just give his album Blue Neighbourhood a listen.

Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first | LuxBite Review

LuxBite Cafe

“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” – Ernestine Ulmer

LuxBite is a small café located down the road from South Yarra Station, and is known for its macaroons and small cakes. However, if you’re in town for a drink and some brunch they also provide a wide selection of savoury options that Melbournians are known to love.

The café is decorated with plants, marble tables, and metal chairs; a charming and complementary aesthetic to its menu. At the counter there’s a glass cabinet showcasing a range of their cakes – a sweet tooth’s dream. Visitors have the choice of ordering their singular favourites, or for any newcomer, like me, you can order a “Signature Tea Set” which provides you with the top nine desserts.

The set includes: heilala vanilla crème brûlée macaroon, blue Calpis cheesecake, caramel cravings, lollybag cake (as seen on MasterChef), endless love macaroon (inspired by Pierre Herme’s), green tea cheesecake, kuma (bear) tart, bamboo oolong tea macaroon and lemon, lime and bitters tart.

If you prefer lighter and zesty desserts like me then the blue Calpis cheesecake; lemon, lime and bitters tart; and bamboo oolong tea macaroon are some divine options to satisfy your cravings. They’re easy to devour without overwhelming your senses with sweetness and the bamboo oolong tea macaroon is a must try due to the unique flavour.

Otherwise the kuma tart, endless love macaroon, or lollybag cake are some sweeter alternatives for the serious dessert eaters. The kuma – Japanese for ‘bear’ – tart is especially interesting, as the name suggests the banana cream filled cake is made into the mould of a bear face which you cut into!

Finally, if you prefer denser treats then the green tea cheesecake, crème brulee macaroon, and caramel cravings are the choices for you. One of the servers will direct you to start with the lighter cakes, gradually building until the heavier cakes such as caramel cravings. While the cakes look deceptively small on the platter set, it took a combined effort between my partner and I to finish them. It’s good value for money, and the perfect option if you’re bad at choosing between favourites.

Happy Father's Day! 🎩 #LuxBite

A photo posted by LuxBite (@luxbite) on

Overall, LuxBite is a haven for every dessert lover in Melbourne, their unique twist exemplifies them from other cafes. It’s a great place for meeting a friend, a date, or to even just have some time alone to relax during the day. Whether it be sweet or savoury LuxBite definitely caters to all tastes.

For more information on LuxBite and its menu please check out their website
http://www.luxbite.com.au/

Toto’s | Icons Of Melbourne

Toto's Website header

Pizza, Pasta and a Vision for a New Australian Life

When the sun sets over Carlton

And the moonlight floods the streets

All those pizza places and spaced out places

They all get on the beat

Carlton (Lygon Street Limbo)

Okay, okay, they were writing about cruising for drugs, but Skyhooks, the seminal 70’s Aussie glam rock band who wrote these lyrics, still captured the feel of a street that has become larger than life in the history of Melbourne – Carlton’s Lygon Street.

A street bursting to overflowing with history, Lygon Street started life as a Jewish ghetto, then morphed into a hub for Italian migrants: the first port of call when they got off the boat from war torn Italy post WWII, looking for a better life.

These immigrants created a cultural and food legacy – “Little Italy”.  And this is where the first Australian pizzeria, Toto’s Pizza House, was born on 7th July 1961 at 101 Lygon Street, and where it has remained ever since.

It’s hard to imagine an Australia, particularly a Melbourne, without pizza.  Melbourne is considered the pizza capital of the world, and mega-corporations such as Pizza Hut and Dominos have saturated the market. But prior to 1961, if you wanted to dine out or take away, well…. you kind of didn’t.  The Aussie staple was meat and three veg, and there was not a zucchini or even the smallest of garlic cloves hiding in any greengrocers. Our love affair with olive oil, pasta and the dreamiest of espressos was not even a twinkling in the eye of any Aussie brought up to revere the humble potato and lamb chop as the height of culinary excellence.

Yes, we have a lot to thank those Italian immigrants for.  Spaghetti Bolognese (spag bol in Aussie-ese) is probably close to our national dish today and seriously –  could you imagine a life without coffee? Strange to think now that they were subjected to racial vilification relentlessly, being labelled “wogs”, “dagos”, and “eyeties”. Their contribution to the culture and cuisine of Australia is enormous (perhaps something to remember next time you hear or think that migrants couldn’t possibly contribute anything to Australian life, and in fact actively destroy it.  We could all still be a nation of tea drinkers chowing down on a pile of mashed spuds).

But back to pizza.

When Salvatore Della Bruna established Toto’s in 1961 with Franco Fera, he also invented the classic ‘Aussie Pizza’ – yes, you know the one: pineapple and ham.  Salvatore came from a long line of pizza makers near Naples, and admitted that his own father probably would have killed him if he had have known.  You didn’t mess with traditional pizza back in Italy. Salvatore said in an interview with Melbourne newspaper The Age back in 1982: “Did I come here to make pizza? No, I would have stayed in Italy if I wanted to make pizza and spaghetti, because my family had the business from my great grandfather. My father told me: ‘You can go to Australia. You can go to America. You will end up with pizza in your hand because that’s the only thing you can do!’”

As the evolution of pizza in Australia travelled further and further from the Italian models, Salvatore’s father probably wore out the wood turning over in his grave, despairing of the overloaded, soggy varieties that have become our staples.  With traditional Italian pizza, less is definitely more: think the classic Margherita combo of tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and basil as a prime example.

In 2007, Toto’s was the second member inducted into the World Pizza Hall of Fame.

Back in 1961, Toto’s catered mainly to students from the nearby Melbourne University. Today, walking along Lygon St involves ducking and dodging aggressive touts, determined to make you eat at their establishment. Pizza is everywhere, just like Skyhooks sang. The evolution continues: from European speciality street to tourist mecca, Lygon St was in danger of becoming – in the words of Shannon Swan, co- director of the urban history short film Lygon St – Si Parla Italiano -a “caricature of itself”. This, coupled with the street’s descent into murky gangland territory in the 1990’s (Mick Gatto, anyone?)  tarnished its reputation a fair amount.  People who always loved “Little Italy” have stayed away, in spite of Carlton’s reputation as a counterculture hot spot in the 1970’s and 80’s.  But there seems to be a re-emergence of spirit in more recent times.

Approaching Toto’s from across the street, it advertises its heritage loudly and proudly, with a large sign post above the front entrance: “Toto’s Pizza House First in Australia”.  It features al fresco dining at the front, tables and chairs underneath large umbrellas, like most trattorias on Lygon St.  The interior is traditional trattoria as well: wooden tables and chairs, with the large pizza oven at the front.

It has since expanded to two more stores, one in Richmond and one in South Melbourne.  The current owner is Sami Mazloum, who has operated the store since 1982.  It has only changed hands once in its long history, and Sami bought the original recipes off Salvatore as well.

Family and tradition are the big drawcards for Toto’s – something that Mazloum, speaking in 2008, recognised, and which corresponded with his own values.

“It is a family restaurant,” he said. “I try to keep building the name in this industry.  The family is the main thing; it is the foundation of the society.”

He wanted the restaurant to be about food and family; the customer to feel like they are eating at home. The restaurant’s focus on fresh produce and excellent service is a part of that as well – Mazloum’s vision is that the restaurant is like a stage, and the customers are the audience to the performance.

The menu has changed since 1982 – expanded from purely pizza and pasta to incorporate other foods such as steak and seafood.  But the pizza continues to be the staple: those Italio- Aussie hybrid classics that are now found in every small town pizza shop in Australia. Ironically, those hybrids that were invented to suit the palettes of Australians are now under threat from a new wave of ‘gourmet’ pizza varieties and traditional Italian wood fired.

Mazloum, who hails originally from Lebanon, believed it is hard work and inspiration which begets success, following on from opportunity.

“Australia is a great nation,” he stated. “We are a multi-cultural society; the people come from all over the world.  They bring their best.  This country opened their door and their heart to me and to thousands and thousands like me.”

So next time you tuck into your classic ham and pineapple pizza on a Friday night, think about how it all could have been a dream if not for some enterprising, hardworking Italian migrants who came off a boat with pizza in their blood and a vision for a new life in their eyes.