Monday, 28 December 2015

Elephant Hill Restaurant (Te Awanga, Hawke's Bay) is outstanding

Jane & I had a magnificent meal out at the restaurant at Elephant Hill​ this evening. If you are after a top class fine dining experience with magnificent food and wine and superb service then this is hard to beat. We have eaten at a number of excellent restaurants this year and this comes out at the top of the list for both of us for fine dining.

After a nice amuse bouche of apple with a rosemary foam and a cumin seed roll thereafter we were ready to get started. For entree I had the "Smoked venison tartare, beetroot meringue, horseradish sorbet, walnut" and Jane had the "Cured kingfish, lime pearls, dill, cucumber granita, crème fraîche, wakame dressing". Both were superb dishes that were magnificently presented, packed with flavour and intrigue and flavours that all complemented each other well.

For our mains, I had the "Smoked lamb loin, gremolata, goats curd, eggplant, artichoke heart, puffed black rice" and Jane had the "Glazed duck, soft shell crab, pomegranate, cucumber, coriander, vanilla lime dressing". Both were yet again superb, but my taste of Jane's dish was absolutely divine. We accompanied the mains with a nice "green leaf, walnut, pear, white balsamic" salad. I had the 2013 Elephant Hill Reserve Syrah and this was superb.

By dessert I couldn't fit much in so decided to have the "Petit Fours" which were four different chocolates and delightful. Jane had the "Dark chocolate crema catalana, milk chocolate mousse, jaffa curd, crème fraîche sorbet" and the crema catalana and jaffa curd were particularly good.

The service was outstanding as is the setting (looking out past the reflection pond to the vines and with the sea in the distance). We will very happily return.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Ski review: Blizzard Bonafide & Nordica Fire Arrow 84 EDT

I tried out a couple of skis yesterday from the latest range of skis on the Turoa ski field at Mt Ruapehu. The conditions were a mixture of hard packed, soft, crud and a little bit of ice but not a huge amount.

Blizzard Bonafide 2016 - 173cm - with a 98mm waist width I was looking at them in the context of an all mountain ski that is suitable with powder. These skis really wanted to move and skied well over a mixture of snow conditions but I found they were a bit hard to turn. The difficulty turning may have been due to me not being sufficiently heavy to drive these (~75kg) or maybe just not having much experience with a ski of this width. NZ$1399 (without bindings).

Nordica Fire Arrow 84 EDT 2015/2016 - 176cm - these skis felt great and natural to ski as soon as I headed off. I also felt a great sense of stability on the hard packed snow and felt these went well through a mixture of snow conditions (although the Bonafide was a bit smoother through the crud). With quite a stubby nose and next to no rocker, these were very responsive to turn but I expect they won't be the best in too much soft snow. NZ$2199 (with bindings).

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Book Review: The Complete Joy of Homebrewing Fourth Edition by Charlie Papazian

The Complete Joy of Homebrewing Fourth Edition contains lots of good information about the brewing process and use of different sugars, ingredients such as berries, coriander, chocolate and when to add them.

There is also a useful description of different hops, basic guidelines of quantities of malts and hops to use for various styles of beer and a significant number of recipes. Unexpectedly there are also a number of different Mead recipes. There is even a section on growing hops.

The coverage of Brew In A Bag (BIAB) was quite light and I didn't see any coverage on how to scale a recipe (maybe I missed it).

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Wine Review: Te Awa Merlot 2004

From the Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, this beautiful ruby red coloured wine from Te Awa Winery has a leather nose, is very tannic and dry and has a lovely plum flavour. It is very enjoyable to drink and despite being labeled a Merlot it is actually a blend of Merlot (85%), Malbec (6%), Cabernet Sauvignon (5%), Cabernet Franc (3%) which provides a good level of complexity and interest. Drinking well now and the structure feels solid to last for a number more years.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Book Review: "How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time" by John J. Palmer

Having now brewed a couple of all grain beers I thought I should find out a bit more about what I should be doing and why I do certain things so I picked up this book that I had seen referred to in many places from the local library.

"How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time" by John J. Palmer is a superb book about brewing beer. It explains the basics (from kit brewing to extract to all grain), gets quite scientific and provides a number of recipes. For an absolute beginner of brewing this book may be a bit overwhelming. As somebody who has brewed many kits and recently got into all grain brewing (with Brew In A Bag) I found the book to be superb.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Immersion Wort Chiller with DIY instructions

As I previously posted, I have started brewing beers using the Brew In A Bag (BIAB) technique. A key component of making beer is being able to cool the wort (unfermented beer) down quickly to get a "cold break" and reduce the risk of infection.

Initially I thought I would simply use an ice bath but when you end up having over 16 litres of liquid in a pot of 39cm diameter pot it is not the easiest to manoeuvre. There are a number of alternative options commonly used for cooling down wort with the two key ones for home-brewers being immersion chillers and counterflow chillers.

Counterflow chillers adopt a tube in a tube design where you flow the wort through a (usually copper) inner pipe while cold water flows through the outer pipe in the opposite direction. Whilst this is more effective than an immersion chiller, it was going to be more complex to get this working with my setup and it does come with higher sanitation requirements due to the wort travelling inside the tube.

Immersion chillers adopt a simpler approach whereby you flow cold water through a coiled (usually copper) pipe that is placed in the wort. I decided to go with this approach.

I looked around to buy a pre-made wort chiller, but in New Zealand there weren't too many available and those that were I thought were overpriced for the 15 metre length I decided I wanted. I therefore opted to make one myself.

Finding copper pipe turned out to be harder than I thought, but I ended up buying 15 metres of 9.52mm (3/8 inch) copper coil from TradeMe (New Zealand's equivalent of eBay). The seller offered to coil this into a diameter of my choosing to send it (which was great), and so I opted for a 25cm diameter since this was a good size for my 39cm pot.

I pretty much followed the instructions in this YouTube clip to bend the copper tube and attach the hose and fittings:

I bought two 2 metre lengths of garden hose, two hose clips for attaching the hose to the copper pipe and connectors to attach one of the hoses to another hose connected to the tap. The hose clips were just big enough for the hose and this proved challenging in terms of them initially slipping when trying to tighten them but I finally got there with perseverance and some pliers. In terms of the hose connectors there wasn't one connector that alone had a suitable attachment for connecting to the hose attached to the tap so I had to get two different ones (no biggie). I've also attached the cold water to the pipe that goes to the top coil. My chiller doesn't look as elegant as the one in the YouTube clip but it does the job.

When running water through the chiller you don't need the tap on full, in fact you need significantly less than that; I probably have about a half full pipe when I'm running it. As the water runs through I have the other hose sitting in the sink for the hot water run off. The temperature does reduce rapidly; my experiences so far:
  • First brew: 16.5 litres - 18 mins to get from boiling to 22 degrees Celsius
  • Second brew: 18 litres - 29 mins to get from boiling to 22 degrees Celsius (I did however note at one point that not much water was flowing through so had to turn it up)
When I did my first brew I found the wort chiller did leak quite a bit, but after tightening up the connectors some more prior to my second brew I got no leakage most of the time until I did increase the water flow significantly and then a little bit came out.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Several small tracks in the Waitakere Ranges

I knocked off some small tracks in the Waitakere Ranges today:

  • Opanuku Pipeline Track - This was mainly a stone path and not the most exciting of tracks but it got more exciting near the top with decent mud pools to negotiate. The tunnel was the highlight.
  • Sharp Bush Track - This was a nice sedate wander through the bush with a smidgen of mud with a river crossing at the end (that I decided to do for completeness). Lots of beautiful kauri.
  • Walter Kauri - closed
  • Spragg Bush Walk - This was a dentle wander through the bush. It was flat for a decent proportion. One huge kauri on the walk. Takes a while to walk to each of the exits.
  • Goodfellow track - Lots of steps. Nice view looking back to Auckland. Pretty walk.
  • Large Kauri Track - 2 min return. Nice kauri.