The Hot 100 2012, 51-75

Photography: prue ruscoe

Serums: they're a godsend for travellers who need to hit the ground running. The next generation of high-end formulas means no excuse for turning up puffy-eyed, dry of face and as though you've aged at altitude. Best in show are La Mer's Radiant Serum, $500; Estée Lauder's new Re-Nutriv Re-Creation night serum and face cream set, $1350; and YSL's brand-new Forever Youth Liberator serum, $120.

The cottage at Robert Schwamberg and Andrea Duff's Byron View Farm (pictured above) commands some of the Byron Bay hinterland's very best views, by virtue of the simple fact it occupies the highest perch and thus can enjoy simultaneous vistas of Byron's lighthouse, Lennox Head, Mount Warning and the Gold Coast's spires in the distance. This idyllic eyrie, perfect for couples, has been decorated in captivating form by stylist-cum-importer Duff, who, with partner and former hotelier Schwamberg, regularly sweeps the world for design inspiration. Interiors are a bowerbird's nest of global style featuring colourful Dutch textiles, Tunisian bath towels and Uzbekistani bowls. Dinner kits of fresh local produce can be prepared on request. Schwamberg and Duff's century-old farmhouse (two queen bedrooms) is also available for rent sporadically during the year.

Its owner, Tasmanian property developer Brett Torossi, has affectionately dubbed the glass jewel box under construction near Hobart's waterfront "the Omnipod", and indeed the Avalon City Retreat will be a striking new addition to the city when it opens later this year. The two-bedroom retreat marks the city debut of the team behind Tasmanian gems Avalon Coastal Retreat and Rocky Hills Retreat, both near Swansea. Hobart architect Craig Rosevear is driving the design, which is modular in appearance and fantastically quirky in detail. Avalon City Retreat will have an outdoor bathtub, its own rooftop cinema, and grandstand park and river views. 1300 361 136

This seems to be the year indigenous ingredients are set to return to top restaurants, and this Australian native is leading the charge. The leaves of grey saltbush are loved by our chefs for their subtle, savoury saltiness. Crisped up, they adorn Ben Shewry's celebrated "potato cooked in the earth it was grown". You're also likely to find them at Loam, Billy Kwong, Garagistes, Marque and The Stackings at Peppermint Bay.

Speaking of indigenous leaves, warrigal greens have also made considerable inroads at leading tables, appearing boiled, braised, steamed and in salads at restaurants such as Quay, Sunnybrae, Rockpool and Momofuku Seiobo, where they appear with mullet and furikake.

The Delaunay, the new sister of grand Piccadilly tearoom The Wolseley, is shaking things up, discreetly of course, in usually staid Aldwych. Cinnamon buns (along with Victoria Beckham sightings) for breakfast, crumpets for English tea, and pre-theatre salted pretzels all draw a crowd, but the Margolis Silver handcrafted teapots stamped with a crown and made especially for The Delaunay are our personal London favourite. Yes, even over Posh.

"The ants are such a different flavour," Enrique Olvera suggests as he lifts the lid of a hollowed gourd to reveal three tiny corncobs on a bed of smouldering husks. The skewered cobs are coated in a mayonnaise blackened with coffee and ground chicatanas, the flying ants that arrive with the summer monsoon.

In the polished dining room of his restaurant Pujol, located in one of Mexico City's most fashionable suburbs, a spectacle of dishes unfolds. "La milpa" is his conceptual take on the traditional Mexican crop field, a rustic display of Oaxacan tomato and its fried skin, squash and its flowers, a fried chochoyote dumpling of corn dough and an excellent bean purée. These classic milpa crops of pre-Hispanic Mexico appear alongside a flurry of fresh cheese and a couple of toasted bugs called jumiles. "To me they have a very subtle citrus flavour," Olvera says of the dead insects. "They have a high content of iodine too, so you should use them sparingly. Otherwise they are overpowering." Jumiles are symbolic of the omnivorous Mexican appetite that devours everything from armadillo and iguana to cactus and grasshoppers. When these stink bugs arrived en masse on their farms, the Mexicans dealt with the pests the best way they knew how. They ate them.

A glass globe appears cradling a single pumpkin flower that has been filled with fried beans, avocado leaf and pasilla, a dried black chilli. "It's different, no?" Olvera smiles. "That's what we try to do. Our whole food philosophy is we build modern food with traditional ingredients and traditional techniques."

One remarkable consequence of Olvera's quest to capture and preserve his culture faithfully has been the revival of the floating market gardens called chinampas. These canal-fed plots once sustained the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán but fell into rapid decline in the late 20th century, around the same time that they earned a World Heritage listing. Now that the country's top Mexican restaurant sources its vegetal supplies from the chinampas, the farmers have a future to look forward to.

When Olvera opened Pujol in 2000 he offered the classic modern American cooking he learned in New York at the Culinary Institute of America. Then he received a visit from fellow chef Ricardo Muñoz, the undisputed authority on Mexican cuisine. Muñoz praised Olvera's talent but said he should be true to his roots and cook more Mexican food. "And I started doing that, not because he said so, but because I started falling in love with my food, and I understood that's where I felt most comfortable. I started reinterpreting traditional street food and the restaurant became crazy-busy. So it was good for business. And now, in the past year and a half, we are trying to move to creating something different. We realised our thing is not just reinterpreting. We need to create."

The 35-year-old's efforts at innovation are paying off handsomely. Last year Pujol debuted on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list at number 49, triggering a two-week waiting list for a table. "That's something that is really uncommon in Mexico," he says. Not least because just up the road is Biko, a Spanish restaurant run by two Basque chefs that shot up 15 spots last year to rank 31 on the list.

Pujol's rise parallels the ascendance of Mexican cuisine globally. Not only are new-wave Mexican restaurants the latest must-have accessory in capital-city dining, but in 2010 UNESCO inscribed the food customs of Mexico onto its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. "Traditional Mexican cuisine is a comprehensive cultural model comprising farming, ritual practices, age-old skills, culinary techniques and ancestral community customs and manners," the citation says.

For all its cutting-edge cool, Olvera's food is true to these age-old customs. His version of the ubiquitous tamal, corn dough baked or steamed in husks and usually filled with meat, looks more like modern art than old street food. Beneath a spume of Oaxacan cheese lies a tamal laced with huitlacoche - a delicious, dark, corn fungus - on a salsa of green tomato and chilli that has been charred on a clay comal baking disc. Even though it looks nothing like a peasant tamal swaddled in corn husks, it still captures the sentiment of its inspiration. "The thing is when you open a tamal, it's like a gift and you don't know what's inside," Olvera explains.

Alongside his passion for tradition, Olvera has an eye on opportunity and the future. He recently opened a wine bar and a deli, both called Eno, in Mexico City's moneyed enclaves. This (northern) summer should see the debut of his seafood and corn restaurant, Mais del Mar at Playa del Carmen, the upscale beach resort on the Caribbean Sea. And sometime down the track he'd like to open a small hotel in Oaxaca state. "I want to retire there," Olvera says. "I'm thinking I want to retire in 10 years, five years, and do something I really like. So we are looking at something really small, maybe six rooms. It wouldn't be retiring if I had 20 rooms." WORDS KENDALL HILL

They're not giving anything away, but you'd best believe that when David Gillman (Helvetica) and Patrick Ryan (formerly of Balthazar) reopen white-collar favourite Emporio as a "slick inner-city tavern" in Perth later this year, it'll be worth the wait.

While winemakers might be easing off the oak, everyone else seems to be just getting warmed up. From beer and cocktails finished in old spirits casks to feta, fish sauce and all things beyond, expect to find the word "barrel-aged" in your life a little more often.

If there were anyone who could make recycled urine a hot topic during this year's Melbourne Food & Wine Festival it would be Joost Bakker. The Dutch-born Melbourne artist, florist, builder, designer, gardener and man behind the eco-friendly Greenhouse restaurants (pop-ups in Melbourne and Sydney, a permanent site in Perth), is a man blessed not only with imagination and (earth-friendly) vision, but also with the nous and the enthusiasm to get people on board and to get things done. Hence the wee, captured and recycled as nitrogen-rich fertiliser at the latest Melbourne Greenhouse, part of a series of practical innovations at the temporary restaurant (alongside straw-bale construction, cooking oil recycled to provide the restaurant's electricity, wheat milled on site, furniture made from recycled pipes and scrap leather, compostable cutlery, glassware made from jars) that Bakker, through his company By Joost, wants to bring not just to restaurants but to building generally. Currently negotiating permanent Greenhouse restaurants in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, London and Milan, Bakker is also working on houses (including chef Shannon Bennett's), a homewares range, furniture design and his signature steel-structured vertical gardens that brought him to attention initially. His business partner Greg Hargrave calls him "a creative visionary and a polymath". We call him one to watch.

It used to be that the only people able to get a glimpse of Fernleigh, tucked into the far reaches of the Upper Hunter Valley, were those with back problems. But Sarah Key, physiotherapist to the British royal family, has opened her retreat, traditionally used for her famed "back in a week" workshops, to the more mobile among us. The property is on Pages Creek Road only a stone's throw from the Packer family's Ellerston estate, overlooking the slopes of the Great Dividing Range. It consists of eight suites and five rooms in restored shearers' quarters, as well as a library, verandah and gardens. Restorative, whether one is injured or not. Direct your inquiries to (02) 9247 8627.

Naisoso Island will be the bold new face of Fiji, a master-planned island resort of four- and five-star lodgings, swaying palms and postcard beaches. The Australian-owned Peppers group got in early with Naisoso Island Resort, a seafront enclave of lagoon pools, swim-up bars and three-bedroom penthouses that will be the first thing to open on the island. Construction is expected to commence next month, with opening slated for the end of 2013. Paradise found.

Quite a few of the amphora-fermented wines out there (see number 66, below) are disconcertingly orange-hued. This is what can happen when you ferment the juice of white grapes in contact with their skins, like you do with red wine (conventional white wines are usually made solely from the juice). And again, while most of the examples out there are imported - the insanely multifaceted orange wines of Radikon, for example, from northern Italy, are a vinous adventure - a few locals are also playing with the technique. One of the best is the 2011 Didi Giallo, a deliciously grape-pulpy, complex, skins-fermented sauvignon blanc from Barossa winemaker Tom Shobbrook.

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef (Random House, hbk, $79.95) is one of those rare cookbooks that makes the reader start thinking about planning a trip (in this case to Montreal) just to visit the restaurant. The name is no furphy, either - beyond the excellent recipes (pork fish sticks, kale for a hangover, sausage Martini), and digressions on riding Canadian trains, making absinthe and building a smoker, the book imparts the Joe Beef ethos, a mixture of warmth and wit, both considered and irreverent. It's a must.

There's precious little that Canadian interior-design stars Yabu Pushelberg can't do: their sophisticated touch can be seen in restaurants and hotels the world over, including Ian Schrager's new Public hotel in Chicago. Now they've been handed the baton at Viceroy Group, working their magic on the group's new outpost in the Maldives. The private island of Vagaru, in the northernmost reaches of the Maldives, plays host to the new retreat, whose 61 villas - a combination of over-water and beach-side - are each designed to resemble the inverted hull of a Maldivian dhoni, or traditional fishing boat. The overall vibe is white, bright and seriously sexy, in complete keeping with the style Kelly Wearstler used to put Viceroy on the A-list map.

Inspired by the growing number of amphora-fermented wines of Italy, Slovenia and Georgia, some brave local producers are tipping their grapes into large terracotta containers and even ceramic eggs. The Natural Selection Theory winemaking collective now has two vintages of seriously complex, textural, egg-fermented Hunter semillon under its belt; in 2011 Kevin McCarthy of T'Gallant made a deliciously savoury Pyrenees nebbiolo in amphora, and Brad Hickey of McLaren Vale label Brash Higgins made a Sicilian-inspired nero d'Avola in large amphorae he had specially made for him. In the same vintage, winemaker Glenn James-Pritchard co-fermented white fiano, vermentino and moscato giallo grapes in amphora, and the sensationally complex wine, tentatively called Pandora, is now slumbering in big old oak, due for release later in the year.

Marrakech is having a moment. The revamp of the majestic La Mamounia hotel in 2009 sparked a gold-plated rush of new properties, all purpose-built to fuel fantasies of escape to the land of the casbahs. The dazzling list of new addresses includes Les Terres M'Barka, a 15-hectare working farm just outside Marrakech where guests loll about in sumptuous Berber-styled suites with exceptional views of the Atlas Mountains. Not to mention three new "palace hotels" for the former imperial city: there's the Selman, with its lavish interiors by French design star Jacques Garcia (who also masterminded La Mamounia's new look) and its 16 resident pure-breed Arabian horses; the stunning Taj Palace Marrakech, which will be familiar to anyone who saw Sex and the City 2 - it stood in for Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace Hotel but officially opens to real guests next month; and the Palais Namaskar, a Moorish-Andalusian vision of shimmering pools and garden terraces from the same hoteliers who brought you the exquisite Hôtel Le Bristol in Paris.

Thanks in part to the proliferation and popularity of meaty South American grills - think Sydney's Porteño, Melbourne's San Telmo - the former trickle of Argentine wines available here is turning into a flood. And it's not just Argentina's most famous vinous export - plush, purple-fruited malbec from Mendoza - appearing on lists and shelves: now you can also find plenty of fragrant, floral whites made from torrontés; fleshy examples of sangiovese and tempranillo; and wild-fruity rustic reds made from bonarda.

Coworth Park, the Dorchester's gracious retreat on the fringe of London at Ascot, is the ideal place to crash after the long flight to London. Feel the jet lag kicking in? Draw a bath - the copper tubs are pieces of art - and flick through the copy of The Book of Idle Pleasures resting on the rack above. Tom Hodgkinson and Dan Kieran's whimsical guide to the joys of doing nothing much is the perfect way to settle into a country-house holiday. Tip one: take a bath. And two: poke the fire. Love it.

Or a grand way to celebrate scoring a table. Whatever. Just don't pass through Paris's hip 6th without stopping by this most XO of bottle-os, literally across the road from Yves Camdeborde's revered bistro. Across its three wondrous levels, La Maison du Whisky has everything needed to bring booze nerds (and their credit cards) to their knees, from comprehensive Japanese whisky and Del Maguey single village mezcal selections to its own line of bottled barrel-aged cocktails.

Most sidecars fit just one person. Fortunately Hobart chef Luke Burgess and partner Katrina Birchmeier can squeeze a few more into the bijou wine bar they've just opened with business partner Kirk Richardson (although not many more: total capacity is 20). Staffers refer to it affectionately as a "holding pen", and indeed Sidecar has been designed partly to capture the overflow from Garagistes, its no-reservations big sister around the corner. But Sidecar is also an event in its own right, with a wine list that spans many of the world's leading natural winemakers and a chic industrial aesthetic. There's no food yet but once the planned charcuterie hits the menu, Sidecar will surely become your new favourite place to be held.

Banjo & Matilda's The Jet-Set cashmere travel pillow and eye-mask duo, $299, is as practical as it is pretty. Ideal for those back-breaking long-haul trips or just for grabbing some shut-eye once you've landed.

Just as Fergus Henderson got us eating every part of the pig, it's time we looked at our seafood the same way. While Japanese cooks have long appreciated grilled heads, wings, belly and other fishy off-cuts (read: shirako, the fish sperm sacs known to startle many a non-Japanese diner in the wintertime), they've been a bit of a non-starter back home. Sly upcycling like Restaurant Amusé's "tripe pasta" of scallop mantle, though, is just one example of resourcefulness here. Think of it as "nose to tailfin" eating.

The Atacama and the Amazon are more accessible than ever with the launch of direct Qantas flights from Sydney to Santiago. There's no time like 2012 to experience the natural beauty of Chile, the passion of Argentina and the fabled food of Peru, not to mention the flash new hotels - check out Palazio Nazarenas, a reimagined convent that's about to reopen in Cuzco.

We're no strangers to American whiskey in Australia - Jim Beam has long vied with Bundaberg Rum for the top spot in spirits sales - but what is news is the variety and quality of the bourbons and ryes now finding their way into our bars and Manhattans. Van Winkle, Rittenhouse and Whistlepig are just some of the names on the "sipping list" at Melbourne's The Everleigh, which stocks more than 40 American whiskeys. Bourbon might be something many Australians encounter early in their drinking life, says co-owner and bartender Michael Madrusan, but "only as adults can we really appreciate bourbons as we do fine Scotch".

THE HOT 100 2012

The Hot 100 2012, 1-25

The Hot 100 2012, 26-50

The Hot 100 2012, 51-75

The Hot 100 2012, 76-100

The Hot 100 in pictures

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