Sunday, 24 January 2010

Dine by Peter Gordon - Restaurant Review

Yesterday was our 5th Wedding Anniversary (my word that came around quickly!), and Simon booked us in to Dine for dinner. Now, forgive me while I quickly go and try and find out if it is still "Dine by Peter Gordon", or if it is simply "Dine".... Hmm. Ok, the official website says "DBPG", but Simon did note last night that nothing in the resaurant was labelled beyond "Dine". Either way - at least you know where I'm talking about now.

The Setting
Lovely big open, simple dining room, beautiful linen, lovely glassware, quite bright lighting compared to most of the places we've been lately, but not harshly so. I did feel the tables for 2 were a smidgen close together - the guy at the table beside us and I kept making rather awkward eye contact through out the evening - most innappropriate seeing as he and his lady were also celebrating an anniversary (evidenced by a chocolate piped congratulatory message on their dessert plate). Anyway, I digress, again!

Service was very attentive, our waiter and sommelier (the same person) was very consultative in her approach, and more than willing to let me taste a wine before serving me a full glass. The one negative comment on the service (and it is picky), I was suprised that the person who brought our entrees out to us needed to ask who was having what - just not something I would expect in a restaurant of that calibre. But it was the only time.

One hilight of the service in particular - the maitre-d (?) who transacted our payment noticed that we only said 'it was ok' when asked how our evening was and he genuinely sought to get more information and was clearly interested in feedback and I felt reassured he would act on it - this is a rare (in our experience) but very welcome response.

This is where our comments about it being just ok come in to play. Firstly we both felt the entrees sounded far more interesting than the mains and sort of ended up planning our meal around our starter rather than our main as we would usually have done. Simon had the stuffed courgette flower - he enjoyed it, but it was nothing special. Beautifully presented - as was everything in the meal - we would not and could not fault the presentation at any point. I started with the tempura miso quail. Again, nice, but nothing 'wow' worthy. And unfortunately my last mouthful seemed to include a large amount of skin (at least, I can only guess that's what it was - the quail was inside nori-like rolls) and this just wasn't a nice way to end the dish.

For mains - Simon had the taste of NZ Beef two ways - and in hind sight we felt this was playing more to the tourist market - one of the two ways was NZ Beef. Just NZ beef eye fillet, cooked more blue than the requested rare (fortunately Simon doesn't mind it blue). The other was wagyu beef done in a more asian style. It was tasty and had notably more flavour than most other items we ate. I had the Tuna with a clam & mussel congee. And again, what was lacking here was flavour. The tuna was nicely cooked, the presentation was lovely, but there were no notable bursts of flavour, it was all quite, for want of a better word, 'every day' from a taste perspective. Which is simply not what we had expected.

We did have desserts. Simon opted for the Vanilla Creme Brulee with olive oil cakes & yuzu sorbet. The sorbet was lovely and full of flavour - yay! The creme brulee was ho hum. And the olive cakes were nice, but he insists were lemon cakes! I had the chocolate parfait with cinnamon marshmallow, espresso foam and peppermint ice cream. Each component was nice, and I experimented a little to work out how well I felt it all worked together, because every component (except the parfait log itself) had a very strong note to it and I wasn't sure about them together - and I enjoyed discovering that they did indeed work together for a really nicely balanced flavour. Enjoyable from a fascination perspective, but I wouldn't order it again.

In Closing
All in all, we had a lovely evening and appreciated good service and beautiful presentation. We were disappointed to not be wow'ed by any part of meal, but pleased to have someone take an interest in our lacklustre response. Would we return? Not in the short term.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Fresh Pasta Making

Simon bought me an Imperia Titania Pasta machine for Christmas, so I am at last trying my hand at making fresh pasta.

I've now made 2 batches of fettucine and have concluded that this is a fabulous way to tone up my arms and also an incredibly satisfying little project. Not to mention absolutely DELICIOUS!

Just in case I take a break at any point and forget how I'm making the pasta when I come back to it - my recipe:

Per person, to be served as a main course: (if its a side dish, plan to store some of the resulting dough!)
  • 100g flour (currently using Italian 00 flour from Sabato, although I'll give High Grade a go for comparison at some point)
  • 1 egg
  • Optional: 1Tb tomato paste (may require additional flour)
  1. Mound flour on to cleaned work surface, make a well in the centre (because I'm making it for 2 this usually means I clear back to the work surface with a little flour fort around it!).
  2. Break the eggs in to the well (add the tomato paste if using).
  3. Mix the eggs with a fork and begin to incorporate the flour.
  4. Continue mixing in the flour until kneadable (at this point I usually still have quite a bit of flour that is not mixed in)
  5. Continue kneading until all the flour is incorporated.
  6. Set a timer for 10 minutes and knead until it goes off. (This is perhaps a little longer than necessary, but it makes for a good work out!)
  7. Wrap the lump of dough in cling film and set aside for about 30 minutes before rolling and cutting pasta. (I've done this once at room temperature and once in the fridge - the fridge one seemed to have sweated, so I'm going to go with room temperature).
I'm still working on perfecting my rolling technique, but the gist is - roll through largest width and fold - repeat at least 3 times, then work down through the thicknesses until desired consistency if reached - for fettucine & lasagne I'm going to 5. I think I'd use 6 for ravioli seeing as books I've looked at suggest you should be able to read newsprint through the dough for ravioli.

Finally, cut the dough to usable lengths (bear in my mind this will also be the length of strands you'll be chowing down on!), lightly flour the dough on both sides, then run through the required cutter (I have fettucine & tagliatelle options on my machine). Hang over cheap dowel that you bought at Bunnings and suspended between a couple of cube crates on the bench, or dining chairs. (ie don't bother buying an overpriced and unwieldy purpose made pasta drying rack).

Don't clean the pasta machine with water - rather, just make sure that dough is not too wet when you put it through, and brush it off with a pastry brush or similar before storing.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Tasmania summary

We thoroughly enjoyed Tasmania.  We were very spoilt though with excellent weather.

If there was a direct flight from Auckland I expect it wouldn't be long before we went back (apparently a direct flight from somewhere in New Zealand to Hobart is under discussion according to one of our taxi drivers).

The people we met (other than one taxi driver) were all really friendly.  The Georgian and Victorian architecture and stonework  buildings and bridges were great.

Hawley Beach in the North is magnificent and there's hardly anybody around.  I could imagine spending a lot more time there.

I really liked Hobart, it had a good buzz to it, but that would have been helped by the Taste of Hobart festival and the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.  I would suggest that coinciding a trip with the Taste of Hobart is worthwhile in order to sample lots of good food and wine in one location and for the vibe itself.  Long Beach was nice, Port Arthur was a day trip away, and the fireworks were also awesome for New Years.

Whilst Coles Bay was a lovely location, I expect we would look to stay in Bicheno instead, since it’s not far away, it has good beaches and a bit more going for it.

I thought Launceston itself was a little dull, but it was nice to look around the greater area and travel further North.  The Cataract Gorge, Monkey Enclosure in the Park and Smokey Joe’s Creole Cafe, made it worth the visit though.

A car in Tasmania is mandatory and if you’re looking to go at peak times book accommodation and rental cars early.  We were struggling to find central accommodation in Hobart for New Years 6 months out!

For further information about our trip read the numerous other posts here (I got a bit carried away).

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Henry’s Harbourside Restaurant, Hobart

Located at The Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart this is not a cheap restaurant but we did get to enjoy some lovely meals and also had some lovely cocktails from the bar prior to eating.

We started with some taste teasers and I had a tasty Beef Carpaccio that was accompanied with a sliver of blue cheese and something else I can’t recall (but it was good).  Jane had a small cup of field mushroom tea with truffle cream that she also enjoyed.

For mains, I had the duck and this was cooked rare and had a very light asian flavour to it, and was accompanied by Bok Choy, Poached Pear and a very slim and long spring roll that was filled with leg meat from the duck and very nice.  A nice dish.

Jane had some nice lamb medallions that were nicely balanced with an olive oil puree and wilted spinach and low baked onion.  Also a nice dish.

We finished with a nice cheese platter with predominantly Tasmanian cheeses.

The service was very professional, however at times we found it to be a little inattentive.

Launceston to Hobart via the Highland Lakes

image002 We decided to take a different route back to Hobart from Launceston and went via the Highland Lakes.  We didn’t realise however that we would be going up such a huge mountain to get to the lakes.  It was a nice drive with lots of hairpin bends image001and the lakes were very isolated.  There were also hardly any other vehicles on the road.

I’ve never seen a boat ramp as wide as the one at the Great Lake and it was definitely quite a barren area.image004

Back in Hobart we checked  into the lovely Henry Jones Art Hotel in Sullivan Cove and then had an excellent lunch at Muirs Upper Deck a short walk away, that would be the classiest lunch we had in Tasmania.  Excellent image003food, excellent  service, and a magnificent setting.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Smokey Joe’s Creole Cafe, Launceston

We had a great casual meal out at Smokey Joe’s Creole Cafe in Launceston.  It is a well priced meal that is not flash but good honest flavoursome food.

We both had the Half Ribs with Half Chicken, mine was with a Northern Style BBQ Sauce and Jane’s with a Dry Rub.  Both were great, and there was lots of meat on the ribs.

I then had a Cherry Cobbler for dessert that was lovely, and Jane had a Banana’s Foster for that was essentially caramelised banana with a bit of rum and then poured over some ice-cream.

A very enjoyable evening and we’re a little sorry we didn’t discover it earlier otherwise we would probably have been back.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Monkeys in the Park

The City Park in Launceston has a Monkey Enclosure that houses around 20 Macaque Monkeys and is totally free to visit.  The Monkeys seemed very relaxed and we found it was quite enjoyable to watch them get up to their antics.


The Sebel Restaurant, Launceston

We dined in the restaurant of our hotel last night and had a lovely meal with a very professional service.

We started with a shared plate of prawns that were cooked with an Asian influence and had a light lemongrass flavour.  These were accompanied by noodles and Bok Choy that had a Soy and Honey based dressing.  A nice dish.

For mains I had the Fish of the Day, which was Tasmanian Salmon, which was accompanied by a light lemon flavoured Risotto that was a little overcooked and not as flavoursome as what I have become accustomed to (NB: Jane makes an excellent Risotto).  The meal was okay, but not great.

Jane had a beautiful beef dish that had a light anise flavour and she thoroughly enjoyed.  From the taste I had, I could imagine that I too would have been very happy with it.

We then followed this with a variety of nice dessert dishes.

Launceston to Devonport, the magnificent Hawley beach and the Cataract Gorge

The drive from Launceston to Devonport in Tasmania up the Bass Highway passes through a few stops that foodies are likely to enjoy.

image001 Our first stop was at the Christmas Hill Raspberry Farm a few kilometres south east of Elizabeth Town where we had a very enjoyable experience.  The farm is well setup with an outdoor area for kids and they have made good use of showcasing raspberries,  image002 including the excellent Raspberry Latte that I ordered, Jane’s fizzy Raspberry drink she thought tasted like sea water but I enjoyed, a sweet but excellent Raspberry Crepe with Raspberry Ice cream, and Damper (okay it has nothing to do with  image003 Raspberries, but we  ordered it).  They also had jams, a raspberry vinegar and a lovely chocolate dipped raspberry.  The service was great and the cafe had a nice vibe.  This place was our favourite cafe experience of the trip.

image004We then drove a little further up the road, just  north of Elizabeth Town and went to the Ashgrove Cheese Factory.  They had many cheeses available for tasting and you could watch the cheese being made.

image005The House of Anvers Chocolate Shop near Latrobe had some chocolates to taste and to buy however I can’t say I thought much of the chocolate I had there.

Devonport is where a number of people enter Tasmania (via the boats that come in), so we were a little shocked to find that the first restaurant we decided to go to for lunch was closed and that the cafe we then tried to go to thereafter was closed until mid January.  I would have thought this would be their busy season.

image006We subsequently continued on to Hawley Beach and Port Sorell to the East of Devonport.  Hawley Beach has one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever come across and is somewhere that we are very glad we decided to go to.  In addition to rock pools there are beautiful white sand beaches and the colour of the water was akin to what you would normally associate with the tropics.

image007After a good burger at Port Sorell and a quick drive-by of Hawley House we headed back down towards Launceston via Exeter past many poppy fields, that are throughout Tasmania and a key part of the landscape.

The Tamaimage008r Valley is one of the key wine growing areas of Tasmania and the Tamar River flows through the valley looking magnificent.

We then had a short stop at the Grindelwald Tamar Resort Hotel that is modelled on a Swiss Village and has mini-golf, a 9 hole golf course, lake, kayaks, a games room and lots of other fun stuff that seems well equipped for families with kids.

image009Back in Launceston we went back to the Cataract Gorge and I walked along from the Gorge Restaurant to the Kings Bridge and was taken in by the beauty of the gorge.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The Gorge Restaurant, Launceston

Tonight we dined at The Gorge Restaurant that is situated in the magnificent Cataract Gorge in Launceston.

The restaurant is in a lovely location and a peacock roamed freely through the outside tables.

We started with a disappointing garlic bread, and I followed this with a Smoked Quail entree that was okay although not rave-worthy.  Jane had Oysters done three ways, of which she found that natural was the best and that the other styles overpowered the oysters.

For a main course I had Duck, that was reasonably good and Jane had Lamb that she enjoyed, although the grapefruit accompaniment did not match.

Jane finished with a Rhubarb and White Chocolate Terrine that she enjoyed.

Eastern side of the Tamar Valley

We drove up the East Tamar Highway from Launceston today.

IMG_3759Our first stop was at Hillwood at the Strawberry Farm which was a waste of time.  It was however very close to the Batman Bridge that spans across the Tamar River.

IMG_3761We then continued up to the Low Head Lighthouse at Bass Strait and then backtracked down to some of the vineyards in the Tamar Valley.

Jansz in Pipers Brook was our first vineyard stop for the day where we sampled some lovely sparkling wines.

Literally around the corner we went to Pipers Brook Vineyard where I particularly enjoyed their Sparkling wine, Pinot Noirs and Blends.  We also stopped here for lunch and I had an excellent Prawn Salad and Jane had an antipasto platter.  Both meals were great.

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Larceny, Launceston, Tasmania

We dined at Larceny restaurant (previously Q22) in Launceston last night for dinner.  This is part of the Clarion Hotel.

The restaurant is trying to be a classy establishment with nicely set tables and well-dressed waitresses, however it fell short this evening with the “lack of polish” that the wait staff exhibited and the food was okay although not great.  To be fair though, we think that most of the staff looked like they were in training so this may improve, so I won’t labour this point further other than to say that there is a lot of room for improvement.

I had the Venison and this tasted okay and was reasonably cooked, was accompanied by a nice caramelised poached pear and was adequately presented.  It was okay, but nothing special. 

Jane had the Pork Belly and found it to be a little dry and the cider-based jus a bit too acidic, but otherwise it was okay.

It is worth noting that whilst Q22 is in the Entertainment Book, they are no longer taking the card under their new name.

Hobart to Launceston via the Midland Highway and Ross

We drove up the Midland Highway yesterday from Hobart in the South to Launceston in the North.  At Granton we crossed the Derwent river and passed over the interesting bridge depicted below.


This is apparently the busiest highway in Tasmania however it was not abnormal to pass no vehicles for several kilometres.IMG_3755

Along the way there are a number of steel cut-outs that make the drive a little more interesting. IMG_3739_cropIMG_3744_crop 

We then went through the well-preserved town of Ross and had Devonshire Tea at the bakery after visiting their stone bridge.IMG_3749


From Ross he went to Launceston.

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Shipwrights Arms, Battery Point, Hobart

We went to the Shipwrights Arms a couple of nights ago and there was a good casual buzz there and they were very busy.

We started with a Cob Loaf and Garlic Butter that was okay. I then followed this with a steak, that was more blue than the rare I requested and seemed to have been resting for a bit long since it was not particularly warm.  It was quite tough, not well seasoned and they had run out of Dijon butter (one of the accompaniment options).

Jane had a huge chicken schnitzel that she enjoyed.

The wait staff are not polished, although being more of a pub-style establishment it was okay for what it was.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Cascade Brewery, the Huon Valley and Grandvewe Cheeses

IMG_3726We went out for a drive today south of Hobart to the Huon Valley.  On the way we drove by the very picturesque Cascade Brewery at the base of Mt Wellington.  Tours are run at the brewery several times a day, however at this time of the year booking in advance is required.

Approximately 30 minutes South of Hobart in Grandvewe Cheeses that specialises in sheep cheeses.  We tasted some lovely cheeses and an excellent Mutton Kransky IMG_3730and purchased some goat cheese (which we hadn’t tasted) and kransky for consumption later.

We drove around the scenic coast and stopped in at a bakery in Cygnet where we picked up some bread IMG_3732and after some more driving found a place for an in-car picnic (because it was a bit windy outside) consisting of the goats cheese, kransky and bread.

The goats cheese was much stronger than anticipated and not to our liking and rather than stink the car out we got rid of it at the first rubbish bin we came to.  The rest of the in-car picnic was however great.

Magnificent Tapas in Hobart

We had some exquisite tapas for dinner last night at “Francisco’s on Hampden” in Battery Point, Hobart.  Jane even commented that this was the best tapas she has ever had and I would have to agree, and that includes the tapas we had in Spain.

The restaurant had a nice upbeat ambience and was quite busy.  The service was very slow, however this was made up for the excellent tapas.

In terms of the tapas, we had Ceviche (which was excellent), Mediterranean Salad, Octopus (a but chewy and nothing wonderful), some magnificent Garlic / Chilli Prawns, Lamb Pintos (i.e. Souvlaki) and some lovely marinated mushrooms.  We concluded with a traditional Spanish version of Creme Brulee called Crema Catalana that was also great.

Louis Freycinet Chardonnay 2008

This Chardonnay from Freycinet Vineyard wine is a very pale colour with a tinge of green.

It has very little nose although a hint of oak (although I can’t tell from the label whether it in fact has been matured in oak).  The flavour is equally light, and I picked up mineral, peach and lemon flavours.  Jane got passionfruit, white peach, flint and something green.

The wine has medium acidity, short longevity and I thought it was okay although not great.  I did however taste a number of much better wines at the vineyard.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Markets, Port Arthur and Richmond

Jam packed today (and my first post of the trip!  Simon’s doing such a great job I figured I’d leave him to it.)

Up before the crack of dawn, well, it felt that way, and off to Jackman & McRoss bakery for a quick breakfast and a couple of takeaway pastries. 

Then down to the Saturday morning Salamanca Markets in time to be there before some of the stalls had even set up – in our experience this is the very best time to arrive at markets, avoiding a least a little of the crowds.  Although, this market is so extensive that by the time we had ambled past every single stall, it was actually fairly well crammed!

Great market, lots of great things to see and some not so good things to smell (neither of us can stand the smell of incense – fortunately there weren’t too many places burning it, but enough to notice!) and some great things to hear – one guy singing 80’s ballads with a beautiful voice, and harpist at another point.  We both made small purchases then grabbed a crab, sorry, cab, but she really was a crabby patches, up to the Avis office to pick up our rental car.

That sorted, we headed down the coast to Port Arthur to visit the site of the Penal Colony. We wandered around with the initial working tour, this was really very informative, and contained much of the info that we received again later on the boat trip around the harbour (you wouldn’t miss much if you missed your scheduled sailing). 
PortArthur1 We grabbed a bit for lunch in the museum – which used to be the asylum, checked the database for any relatives who may have spent time there (no hits!) and then wandered off to the harbour tour as mentioned above. Simon did a little more exploring on the way while I took a few photos, but other than commenting that the governors house was climate controlled he didn’t mention anything so I’ll assume he didn’t see anything that really interested him!
PortArthur2 We both listened to a little of the audio tour, but decided that the informative bits had mostly been included in the original 40 minute walking tour, although I did enjoy listening to some of the diary readings from the period.

We decided at this point we’d seen as much as we wanted to, so headed back up the coast to the historic village of Richmond.  Took a few photos of the bridge….


And Simon (I asked him to smile. Just smile!)…
Drove through the absolutely beautiful little village with all of it’s gorgeous stone buildings and stopped for Devonshire Teas at Ashmore on Bridge Street.  Seriously – these were the BEST scones I’ve ever eaten (sorry Mum!) and Simon loved his iced berry tea.DevonshireTeas BerryTeaSo that brings us up to date again.  No decision on what we’re doing for dinner tonight yet.  We’ve got one more full day in Hobart before heading up to Launceston, although I expect tomorrow we’ll head down to the South coast in a Westerly direction and take in a few vineyards and dairies.  Stay tuned and you’ll find out!

CREDITS: all food and drink photos are Simon’s, the rest are mine.

New Years Eve in Hobart

Hobart was our destination for New Years Eve this year and here are some of my favourite shots from the evening, including a photo of some of the Sydney to Hobart Yachts taken on my way to get dinner, Flippers (the floating fish & chip shop where I got dinner) and some slightly bizarre fireworks shots.  The fireworks display at midnight lasted for 15 minutes.

IMG_3630IMG_3631 IMG_3660IMG_3657IMG_3646

Friday, 1 January 2010

Simple Motel services that make a difference & St Ives Motel

We have been staying at the St Ives Motel in Hobart for the past few days and there are a number of small little touches that this basic but clean motel about 10 minutes walk from Salamanca Place has that would cause us to strongly consider returning.

Broadband: Whilst the broadband is not free, it is very reasonable at 5 cents per MB download.  There is not wireless available, however there is an Internet connection point in our room and there is also a computer available for use down at reception (for no additional cost than the MB) and free printing.

Mini Bar: Mini Bar’s are notorious for being ridiculously priced.  The prices here however are just what you would pay if you at the liquor shop, which is in fact right next door.

Continental Breakfast: At AU$3 per person for a Continental Breakfast Pack that contains Bread for Toast, a spread for the Toast, a pack of Cereal and Milk, this is very well priced.

Phone Calls: Local calls at 15 cents for the call, and International calls at 20 cents per minute to UK/USA/Canada/NZ Hong Kong is great.

Washing Machine: Use of the communal guest washing machines is very reasonable at AU$2 and this includes the use of washing powder.  It is an additional AU$2 for use of the dryer.

TV: Equipped with a large Plasma TV screen and a reasonable number of channels, other than one channel that the sound isn’t working on for us, the rest were great and many in HD.

Well done St Ives Motel.