Thursday 31 December 2009

Battery Point, An awesome bakery / cafe and Hobart CBD

IMG_3620 This morning I went for a walk through the streets of Battery Point and came across “Jackman & McRoss”, an excellent bakery / cafe located in Hampden Road just across from Waterloo Crescent.  They have lots of indoor seating and a small amount IMG_3617of outdoor seating out the front. 

I had a cafe style meal that consisted of scrambled eggs encased in Tasmanian Smoked Salmon on a brioche (Hmmm, maybe I wrong here) base.  It was excellent as was the Skinny Latte I had with it.  I’m slowly getting used to ordering Skinny Latte’s as opposed to Trim Latte’s, which are often met with a confused look in Australia.

IMG_3621 I then wandered through Princes Park that had what looked like a pretty cool kids play area.  Well, I thought it was cool anyway and noted that it had sand as its protective landing for kids.


IMG_3625From Princes Park I walked along the Esplanade (which didn’t have a lot going for it) to Salamanca Place and cooled down in Parliament Square and watched people on a trapeze setup for the New Years celebrations this evening.

IMG_3629Elizabeth Mall was one of the many places I ventured to in the CBD.  The shopping area felt quite relaxed although I found that some of the malls were a bit outdated.  There are however some beautiful character buildings located in the vicinity of the CBD.

I then met up with Jane and got some Garlic Mussels and a nice Bruny Island Cheese Platter from the Taste festival.  I also tried a “Two Metre Tall” Tasmanian Bitter Ale, that was not to my liking; I thought it actually tasted a bit like a dirty homebrew.  I followed this with a really nice Extra Zingy Ginger Beer from Gillespie’s Ginger Beer.

The temperature today kept creeping up higher and is apparently quite abnormal for Hobart; I noticed at one point it was 36.5˚ Celsius.  Thankfully it is looking cooler for tomorrow.

IMG_3627 IMG_3626

Hobart: Mt Wellington + Long Beach + The Taste Festival

We arrived back in Hobart on yet another beautiful day and the receptionist at our motel (St Ives) recommended it would be a great day to go up Mt Wellington, the huge mountain in Hobart.IMG_3601

It was a 20min drive from our motel to the Summit and the road was quite narrow at times.  Once at the top we were rewarded with magnificent slightly hazy views and a very rocky precipice.

IMG_3612 We then ventured along to Long Beach for a casual lunch at a bakery where we each had salads and cold ice-cream based drinks.  The beach area has a lovely promenade from where we saw some of the Sydney to Hobart yachts arriving.

IMG_3614The Taste Festival is an event run each year in Hobart and this was the next stop on our journey.  This is a Food, Wine & Beer festival with a variety of entertainment that runs for 7 days and nights with superb food and beverages.  Very enjoyable.

Madge Malloys, Coles Bay

IMG_3593This wife and husband run restaurant catches a significant amount of the fish themselves that they have on the menu.

Barb is very friendly and accommodating and makes you feel like you are part of the family as she rushes around but not getting flustered.

We started with the Oysters and the Seafood chowder.  The Oysters are freshly shucked upon ordering them which is nice.  The Seafood chowder was nice although it was a little disappointing to see it padded out with a pre-frozen seafood mix and a little too much potato in my opinion.

IMG_3595I then had the Wild Perch special which was beautifully presented, all-be-it with garnishing that was a little antiquated.  This unfortunately was far too strong on the ginger.  Jane had a lovely Trout that was very delicately flavoured.

For dessert I had a lovely Chocolate Mud cake and Jane had Cassata that she enjoyed although the almond was a little liquid.

Wednesday 30 December 2009

Vineyards in the Cranbrook region of Tasmania

We stopped in at four vineyards on our round trip from Coles Bay via Bicheno, St Marys, Campbell Town.


IMG_3590Our first stop was Milton, which has its shop located in a a lovely old home on top of a hill with a lovely backdrop of vines located across a lake.

Having not tasted wines from this region before I tried a variety of different wines (other than the Rose I had tasted the day before) and was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed them all.  It is predominantly a cool-climate region, not too dissimilar to the Marlborough region in terms of flavours.  I tried the Riesling to start and enjoyed the zesty citrus characteristics, the Pinot Gris  had a lovely pear flavour and the Ice Riesling was light, packed with raison flavour and very drinkable. 

If we didn’t have the logistics challenges of getting wine back to New Zealand I would have purchased more from here than the Riesling and Ice Riesling I ended up buying.  This was my pick of the vineyards we visited in this region.

Spring Vale Wines

Whilst the wines here were appeared to be quite good, the tasting size was so small it was really hard to be able to assess the wines.  I left empty handed.

Craigie Knowe Vineyard

This was an enjoyable experience.  Finding the vineyard wasn’t the easiest with the signposts hard to see, then there was the driveway to navigate that was more equipped for a 4WD than our 2WD rental car.

The door on the shed had a sign on it saying “Honk for attention” but we didn’t need to do so as the elderly vintner saw us from the house, jumped in his Ute and headed down to meet us, with a half-full bottle of wine in hand.

After being asked what we were there for he then opened the shed and we were then surrounded by chemicals, barrels and packaging.  He then proceeded to get one of the dirty wine glasses down from hanging above the sink and filled it with his Bordeaux blend.   This tasted a little dusty, although maybe that was from the glass, as he proceeded to tell us about the region and Buttons his dog, which shortly after came to see us too.  I then had his only other wine, a Pinot Noir, and this was reasonable enough for me to buy a bottle, although I was probably buying it more for the entertainment value than anything.

Freycinet Vineyard

We decided to stop here because they had a sign out saying they sold Cherries. 

Whilst there it would have been rude not to taste their wines too, so I tried a few.

They had a good selection of wines and I particularly enjoyed their Pinot Noir although decided not to buy any and stick with the cherries.

Coles Bay round trip via Bicheno, St Marys, Campbell Town

IMG_3567 After breakfast in our apartment (and seeing a micro-lite fly overhead) we headed North along the coast and further up the Tasman Highway.  Our first stop was in Bicheno which is a lovely sea-side town where we saw the blowhole – although it was more of IMG_3572a squirt on a day with very little surf.

We then travelled further up the Tasman Highway and turned off to drive inland through Elephant Pass to the quiet town of St Marys.  This was a beautiful drive through the hills and with the windows down on the car we could smell the eucalyptus and hear the birds in the trees.  IMG_3575We contemplated stopping at  the Mt Elephant Pancakes shop just east of St Marys but decided it was a little early for lunch (approximately 11am), and  instead opted for an ice coffee at the Purple Possum Wholefoods and Cafe in St Marys that was excellent.  IMG_3581The staff running the shop were also very relaxed and friendly.

From St Marys we headed further inland on the Esk Highway and filled up the car in Avoca.  The service station consisted of really old petrol pumps and the owner came out and filled the car and had a chat.  He was very friendly and gave us directions on how to get back to Coles Bay which was via Campbell Town.IMG_3584

Campbell Town was bigger than we expected and an excellent stopping point for lunch at Cafe 100 where I had a decent sized burger and Jane had an excellent antipasto platter she thoroughly enjoyed.  This was the hottest part of the day and a dry 28˚ Celcius heat.

From Campbell Town we took the B34 which meant we were heading  towards the coast again and stopped off at Lake Leake (because we could).  The water here actually looked a little swampy but the area was very peaceful.

We eventually connected back with the Tasman Highway and stopped at four vineyards along the way back to Coles Bay; one of which there was a sign outside saying “Honk for attention” and the driveway was more apt for a 4WD.  We must have travelled 200-300km today but it was enjoyable.

The Edge Restaurant, Coles Bay, Tasmania

IMG_3563 For dinner we went to The Edge Restaurant at the Edge of the Bay Resort just North of the Coles Bay township in Tasmania.

We had some great tables for two up against the window that were a triangular shape (i.e. half a normal table). 

I had Trumpeter which I enjoyed and Jane had a Seafood & Saffron Linguine that consisted of well overcooked seafood.  I also enjoyed a Wizards Ale (I think that’s what it was called).  For dessert I had an excellent selection of Tasmanian Cheeses and Jane had a Rhubarb & Apple Crumble on a Shortbread Base with Vanilla Ice cream that she enjoyed although found the all-bran in the crumble a little disconcerting.

Milton Pinot Noir Rose 2009, Freycinet Coast, Tasmania

IMG_3560 I had to buy some local Freycinet Coast wines when given the opportunity in Coles Bay and one of these was Milton Vineyard’s Pinot Noir Rose 2009.

This wine is very pink and has a strong strawberry nose.  To taste I find that it is very easy drinking, but lacking a little body in the middle with medium longevity.  Some nice levels of acidity and quite nice to drink chilled on a hot day (like today!).

From Hobart to Coles Bay

We got a rental car in Hobart and headed up the East coast towards Coles Bay on the Freycinet Peninsula along the Tasman Highway with the help of our trusty GPS.  It is worth noting though that once out of Hobart, that many of the smaller roads in towns up the East Coast were not covered by the TomTom maps.  This wasn’t a problem due to how few streets there are in some of these towns but does make the GPS a little less useful.

Spring_Beach_Along the way we stopped at Spring Beach which is just out of Orford which was a beautiful beach busy with families today.  Actually, on either side of the shot taken here it was a lot emptier on the beach.  The temperature at this point was about 24˚ Celcius and it was about 11am.

Spiky Bridge_3 Our next stop was about 10km south of Swansea at Spiky Bridge, a convict built construction.  One look at the bridge and it’s not hard to see where the name came from.  We were initially looking at heading down to the beach on the other side of the road but the temperature was getting a bit too warm.

Kates Berry Farm_Swansea_1We stopped a few kilometres up the road at Kate’s Berry Farm. Whilst the cakes and jams looked nice (and I think I saw some ice-cream too), there were literally only two punnets of raspberries and one punnet of strawberries to be seen and it appeared to be a tourist trap with a lovely building and outlook so we escaped.  There were lots of other tourists there on a bus that weren’t so lucky.

Nine_Mile Beach_Swansea_1

Nine Mile Beach just North of Swansea was our next stop along the way, and this beach had significantly more drift wood on the shore than Spiky Beach and did not appear to be as friendly for swimming at but was nice all the same.  It would however be nice if some of these beaches had some sun shelter.

IMG_3553Coles Bay (or to be more accurate Swanwick), our destination was basically at the end of Nine Mile Beach, however there is a little stretch of water at the end without a bridge which means that a 60km (or thereabouts) long drive is required to drive around the bay.  The view from our unit at Freycinet Beach Holiday Apartments is absolutely beautiful and it is lovely listening to the waves arriving on the shore.

For lunch we went to the Freycinet Bakery Cafe in Coles Bay and I had a Curried Scallop Pie which was okay (but the scallops, as expected in a pie, were overdone) and Jane had a Seafood chowder that she enjoyed.  I then went to the Bottle Store at the back of the local Bar and bought a couple of local wines to enjoy over the next couple of days.  We also bought a couple of other bits and pieces at the local store for breakfast and snacks and then returned to our apartment to find a Snake on the driveway.  Thankfully the snake moved and we were able to park the car but it was a little scary.  Unsure of the protocol re snakes, we have been reading a few little bits in some of our guidebooks but without the Internet readily on hand it’s a little hard. Apparently there are four Snake varieties in Tasmania and all are venomous so we are keeping our distance! It does look like he might live in our garden though.

Our first morning in Hobart

IMG_3514 I woke up early this morning and went out for a walk along the waterfront in Hobart.  It was a nice start to our trip away and a magnificently sunny day.

Hobart is so picturesque and has many buildings that have been there since the settlers arrived in the 1800’s looking for the next penal settlement after Sydney.   IMG_3528

Salamanca Place has a number of cafes, bars and shops and this morning when I ventured out many appeared to be just opening up around 7:30.  I can imagine that this area will be buzzing later and there will be lots of people lingering around.




I bought some supplies at the Salamanca Store and then found that there was free Wifi available in this area for up to 5MB download per day so quickly checked Twitter, posted a Twitpic and checked out some emails.Hobart_Latte_3

I then went back to our Hotel (Zero Davey) and Jane & I ventured out to breakfast at The Timeless Way.  We started with some excellent (build-your-own Latte’s) out the front, but it got a tad too chilly so we ventured out the back to a lovely atrium to eat the mediocre breakfast that was made up for the fact that the Waitress was friendly, the food arrived in a timely manner, and the aforementioned coffee.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Blitza Pizza, Birkenhead

We hadn’t been to Blitza for a while but decided to give it a go last night.  The restaurant was reasonably busy when we arrived and had a nice atmosphere.

We started with an excellent Garlic Pizza Bread and I followed this with a lovely Chicken Fettuccine and Jane had the Moussaka which was good as was it’s accompanying Greek salad.  The meals all arrived in a timely manner and were decent sized portions.

Jane also had an Espresso Martini which she thought was excellent.

The owner was friendly and the wait staff bubbly.  Whilst the service started off good it went downhill.  We must have waited about 30 minutes after finishing our meal before somebody finally cleared our table.  It was not that we were out of the way, but wait staff walked past several times on their way to other tables but we were unable to catch their eye.  It was then a further 10 minutes until we were asked if we wanted dessert, which we did.

I had a Lemon Meringue Cheesecake which wasn’t really me, and Jane had a Chocolate Brownie (which she described as being more like a 5mm thick chocolate goo) with icecream.  It tasted good but she wouldn’t call it a brownie.

Yeha! We're on holiday!

How does one spell a gargantuan exhalation expressing one's absolute delight at finally being on vacation I wonder? I know how it sounds. And I know how it feels. And I expect that you, dear reader, have been there yourself and know precisely what it is that I'm not even really attempting to describe because I know I'll never do it justice. Suffice to say - ahhhhh. Bliss. Joy. Delight.



I promised myself during my summer holdiay of 08/09 that I would NOT leave it until Christmas 09 before having my next break. I reneged on that I'm very sorry to say. But at this point, that is irrelevant.

Happy days.

I really have nothing for you. Just a gratuitous expression of my sheer and utter joy. Did you notice? :-)

Happy Holidays everyone! Whatever it is you may be celebrating, recognising, rejoicing in or otherwise, may it be pleasant, relaxing and refreshing.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Narita Japanese Restaurant, Glenfield

We had dinner at Narita Japanese Restaurant in Glenfield tonight for the first time.  The restaurant was busy and had a great buzz.

We ordered Edamame, the Meat Lovers Bento box and the Seafood Bento Box and all food arrived in a timely manner.  The wait staff were polite and efficient.

The portions were all of a significant size however I was not wowed by the Meat Lovers Bento box.  It was ok, but nothing special.  Jane found the Seafood Bento box more appealing although she did comment that if she was being critical that the Bento Box at Sakanaya is in fact better.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Satya South Indian Restaurant (Great North Road)

We had heard good reports about Satya and I had in particular been recommended this one in Great North Road so we decided to give it a go this evening and we would happily return.

The restaurant is situated in a slightly weird location but people definitely seem to be able to find it.  The decor is simple but with an Indian theme and silk draped across the ceiling.  Considering our table was originally for four people I expect they try and squash people in; it was a suitable size for two people.

We started with some thick Mango Lassis that were pretty good and for our entree Dahi Puri and Hypderabadi Lamb.  These were both very good and packed with flavour.

For our main we had Apollo Fish (Dry Curry), Mutter Paneer, Garlic Paratha and Cheese Paratha.  We enjoyed all of these dishes and in particular enjoyed having a dry curry for a change.

The service wasn’t friendly or attentive and the wait staff were all very casually dressed.  It is a very relaxed environment so don’t expect anything else.

The food is great and we will be back for it.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Burnt Spur Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006

I found this straw coloured Sauvignon Blanc has a herbaceous, passionfruit, light gooseberry, steely nose.   This resonates with the flavour however is accompanied by a citrus tone.

It is a full-bodied well balanced wine that is still quite zesty with a hint of sourness.  A medium length wine that is drinking well now, but I would not recommend keeping much longer.

A nice drop, that I was initially thinking lacks a wow factor.  I do however possibly feel that way about most Sauv Blancs, and this one does keep wanting me to drink some more and has enough going on to peak my interest.

Sunday 6 December 2009

mini-Tweetup at The Falls

After the soggiest Friday we've seen in a while, Auckland turned on the weather all weekend - it seems a shame to go back to work tomorrow to be honest. We were fortunate to have a brunch planned with a bunch of Twitter-ites out at The Falls this morning, so could make the most of the sunshine and fresh summer air in their gorgeous outdoor area.

We've been meaning to head out to The Falls for quite a while now, and after this morning, we're looking forward to returning and thinking about who else we can introduce to this fabulous location, and wonderful hosts.

Simon had the vegetarian breakfast (with a side of Bratwurst!) - this was delicious by all accounts, and I absolutely love the way the avocado was presented (ooh, and the crusted mushrooms were scrumptious - I did steal a wee morsel!).

I had the corn beef hash cakes with poached egg and pesto hollandaise - which was really good. Coffees were great - long black for me, trim latte for Simon. And then we both had a chai latte later - which I always find a bit hit or miss - these were most definitely a hit!

Thanks Alan and team, we look forward to seeing you again soon.

PS: if you want to find any of those mentioned here on Twitter:
Me - nztebs
Simon - gianouts
Alan/The Falls - @thefallsnz

Sunday 15 November 2009

Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2005, Central Otago

home_strip1 Unscrewing the cap of a 2005 Wooing Tree Pinot Noir from Central Otago the first thing I noticed was a magnificent cherry aroma that was released.

Once in the glass, this accentuated the cherry, but I then smelt a strong aroma that I attribute to alcohol and Jane also got leather.  The alcohol aroma dissipated over time.

This beautiful looking ruby red coloured wine is lighter than I expected for a 2005.

This is a big wine with quite a bit of complexity, well balanced, few tannins, a little bit of acid and remarkably smooth.  A delight to drink.

Saturday 14 November 2009

Fratelli, Blair St, Wellington

I went to Fratelli on Wednesday night in Wellington with some family friends I came across in my travels for dinner.  This was my first time here, but they had been here before.

We started with one of the best Margherita pizzas I’ve ever had.  I then followed this with a Risotto with slow cooked Duck, Beetroot & Orange.  Beetroot and Orange together in a risotto is a tad bizarre but it made for a tasty (although not outstanding) risotto.

The restaurant had a nice ambience, good service and the food was a high standard Italian meal that I thought was reasonably priced.

One Red Dog, Queens Wharf, Wellington

I went to One Red Dog on Queens Wharf in Wellington during the week for dinner with a colleague.  I had a large half and half pizza with:

  • ‘The fastest indian’ - real tandoori chicken, red onions, poppadoms, buttered chicken sauce + garlic yoghurt, and
  • ‘terayaki lamb’ -lamb marinated in red wine, honey & garlic with spring onions, mushrooms + teriyaki sauce. 

Both sides of the pizza were good and I would order them again.

The restaurant was quite quiet when we were there, the food arrived swiftly and it was a nice relaxed environment.

Sunday 1 November 2009

Manuka Restaurant, Devonport

For lunch today we headed along to Manuka Restaurant in Devonport.  We have been here a few times over the years, with mixed experiences.

Today I had a Beef burger which was okay, but nothing special.  I would have preferred the fries to be fatter than the shoestring fries that accompanied it, and the fries didn’t actually taste that great.

Jane had a fish pie, that was comprised of salmon, white fish and chewy prawns.  It was under-seasoned, and she would not order it again.

On the positive side, the coffees were good and the food and drinks arrived in a timely manner.

We have thoroughly enjoyed the pizzas here in the past and would look to return to eating these on our next visit.

Clooney - fabulous again as expected

Last night we took a friend out to Clooney for her birthday. We first visited Clooney back in May and Simon has referred to it as his favourite restaurant ever since. Well, last night served only to further secure that status in both of our minds.

We had the same waiter as last time and he was once again excellent, and we really do appreciate having a waiter who you can completely trust to choose an appropriate wine for you and be surprised and delighted by the result. I also appreciate that he is incredibly gracious in his approach - I can sometimes feel a bit stupid hazarding a guess at what I am drinking or asking questions about wine that I perhaps ought to already know, but this is certainly not the case with this waiter (apologies but I have no idea what his name is), and he taught me a few things along the way as well.

Still waxing lyrical about our waiter - I made a point of commenting to my girlfriend that 'we could sing you happy birthday with your dessert' while our watier was in earshot. And sure enough, when dessert later arrived, hers had a candle and 'Happy Birthday' piped in chocolate on the plate. Splendid, wonderful man!

Despite it being our second visit, we still really appreciated and enjoyed the decor and how classy it all is - despite knowing that if the lights were turned all the way up, it would just be a fairly raw, fairly ugly warehousey kind of space! But it is far from that with the ambient lighting, the subtle curtaining and the privacy afforded by clever placement and private lighting.

The menu was essentially the same as our previous visit, but we all chose very different dishes, and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. I'll say no more about the food - it is fabulous and flawless sums it up perfectly.

Friday 30 October 2009

Ascension “The Passion” Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2006

passion I decided I felt like a Sauvignon Blanc this evening, and since I had the Ascension one in the fridge it lucked out.  In fact I lucked out too, since it is a nice drop.

This is a beautiful pale straw coloured wine that, as its name suggests, is strong in passion fruit flavour and a refreshing change from the predominant gooseberry flavour of New Zealand Sauvignon.  There is still a touch of acid present that nicely balances the wine.

To the nose, it has a hint of kerosene and alcohol but it is not overpowering.

Drinking well now.

Monday 26 October 2009

Pegasus Bay 2002 Pinot Noir

I just opened a lovely Pegasus Bay 2002 Pinot Noir from the Waipara Valley in New Zealand. I haven't got to the Waipara Valley yet, but when I do this will be one vineyard I will definitely go to.

This wine has a magnificent toast and dark cherry aroma. Echoing the aroma, this wine has a lovely warming, fruity full mouth feel that is not shy of hanging around for a long time. The colour is a very deep red, almost verging on light brown colour.

This is drinking beautifully now but has the structure to support several more years of cellaring.

A delight to drink.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Ponsonby Road Bistro

We decided on the spur of the moment to go out for dinner tonight and decided to give the Ponsonby Road Bistro a go, and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  The restaurant had a relaxed but professional ambience and was remarkably busy for a Tuesday night.  The menu was not large, but the variety of wines by the glass was extensive and quite different from the norm.

We started with the Oysters and the Soup of the Day.  The Oysters were beautifully presented on a bed of Seaweed with both lemon and vinegar.  The Soup was unfortunately a bit salty and lacking in flavour.

For mains I had a magnificent Fish of the Day dish which consisted of Gurnard on Indian spiced lentils with cress (I think), which I would very happily order again.  Jane had a Charcuterie plate which had home smoked ham, chicken liver parfait, pickles, fig compote, terrine, salamis and was accompanied by a nice fresh bread.

We finished with some lovely desserts.  I had a Chocolate "Eton Mess" with Chocolate Mousse, Valrhona Chocolate and Dark Cherries.  Jane had an excellent Sauternes Custard with runny Caramel which she thoroughly enjoyed.

We will happily return.

Sunday 4 October 2009

Takapuna Beach Cafe

Last weekend Jane and I went out to the Takapuna Beach Cafe for brunch and had an enjoyable experience.  Jane had been here previously and hadn’t had a great time, but we decided we would give it another go.

This cafe has an excellent vista however the space between tables is too cramped.

I had the Moroccan Eggs which were reasonably good, although not the largest of portions.  Jane enjoyed a Butternut and Halloumi Salad although found it a bit unexpected to have two very large sections of butternut on the plate.

Coffees were excellent as was the Coconut & Lime (I think) Smoothie I had.

As for service, the menus were dirty, but the food and drinks all arrived very quickly.

As for price, you definitely seem to pay a premium for the view…

Arashi Kushiyaki, Wellington

About two weeks ago I went to Arashi Kushiyaki (41 Courtenay Place, Wellington) midweek for a meal with my parents. This was my first time here.  We ordered three of the Set menus and found this to be a decent amount of food at an appropriate price.  The quality of japanese was pretty good although I have had better teriyaki chicken elsewhere. The service was noticeably slow, inattentive and there was a lack of enthusiasm from the staff.

Onion Johnny - Takapuna - Restaurant Review

What we ate:
•Garlic Ciabatta with Kalamata olives - nice to have real kalamatas, the ciabatta was deliciously garlicy.
•Fish of the day with fresh salad & prawns - really enjoyed this, especially the fresh coriander in the salad. Wasn't quite sure about the prawns in the salad being cold, but all the same, an enjoyable dish/
•Duck with scallops - scallops perfectly cooked, duck absolutely melt in the mouth, salad lovely and fresh and delicious
•Chocolate torte - quite rich, sorbet was nice, not convinced that it was the right match with the torte, would have preferred an ice cream or light custard perhaps - the creaminess would have softened the richness of the torte. Or even just a bit more of the berries with it would have been great. Still tasty.
•preserved lemon & white chocolate tart - delciously lemony and tart! The way a lemon dessert ought to be!
•long black - fantastic coffee! and we're picky about our coffees!

Other observations:
The staff were friendly, sometimes to the point of being a little disconcerting, but the service was not bad. Occaisionally things took a little longer that ideal, but only just - as in we'd get to starting to comment about where things were, or when orders were going to be taken and before it became a sticking point wait staff arrived. Not a complaint.
The decor was lovely, and the glassware beautiful quality.

The theme of the restaurant seemed a little bit confused - a little bit bistro, a little bit classy. I'd like to see Onion Johnny stand up and be counted as a decidedly bistro-y bistro!

Wednesday 30 September 2009

German Potato Salad Photo Recipe

I made a huge batch of potato salad on Sunday, knowing we had friends visiting for dinner on Tuesday night. While Simon was around I took the opportunity to do another photo recipe - after the bean salad effort I concluded this was decidedly a 2 person job!

I hit one snag, just as I was about to post this it suddenly occurred to me that I'd better check it wasn't a family secret recipe! So I phoned Simon's folks tonight and checked, and sure enough, I'm safe, this one is a free for all, and very typical of a Bavarian style potato salad.

So, for your viewing, cooking and tasting pleasure (and believe me, it tastes fantastic!), Bavarian Potato Salad Pictorial recipe. Note there are no quantities - I was never given any after all!

Potato Salad Photo Recipe

If you click the photo it will take you to my flickr page which also includes the instructions.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Brick Bay Wines 2007 Pinot Gris, Matakana

Having just opened a wine that was a bit too past it to drink, we decided to open a Brick Bay Wines 2007 Pinot Gris from Matakana.

This is a very alcoholic Pinot Gris, both to the nose and taste, to the extent that I doubt I would have picked it as a Pinot Gris if I didn’t know what it was.  This is a medium-bodied wine with a long tail.

Very pale straw in colour and initially I was picking up apricot to taste, however unfortunately I found the strong alcohol flavour then overtook the wine.  Jane found the fruit/alcohol balance was okay and the alcohol contributed more to mouth-feel than flavour.

The wine was initially at room temperature, so I chilled it for a bit and found that it improved and the balance was better, although in my view there’s still too much alcohol coming through.

Dutch Delight, Birkenhead

We went to to Dutch Delight in Birkenhead last night for the first time and whilst it was ok, it didn’t quite live up to the great place we had heard it was.

The decor is a bit tired, but they have decorated it well with a Dutch theme.

It was our waitress' first night last night and it was quite evident that she had been poorly trained and no idea what was on the menu. When she asked if we would like any drinks and I asked what they had, since we hadn’t had a chance to look at the menu at that point, her response was Ummmm.  Other than this, the food did all arrive in a timely manner and the staff were all very courteous.

We started with the mixed starter platter to share, and whilst the items did taste ok, it was disappointing to find all of the items were deep fried; this was not clear from the menu.

For our mains we had a goulash pancake and a seafood pancake.  The goulash was good, but the seafood was quite obviously predominantly frozen seafood and tasted like it.  The pancake itself was excellent.

We will keep Dutch Delight in mind for if we want to have a dessert, but for dinner we will probably give it a miss.

Sunday 6 September 2009

Crossroads Hawkes Bay Destination Series Chardonnay 2005

Crossroads is a vineyard from the Hawkes Bay that used to rate as one of my top picks of vineyards, however I had not had their wine for many years.  To remedy that I decided to open up Crossroads Hawkes Bay Destination Series Chardonnay 2005 this evening, and found it to be okay (after a couple of glasses); in fact I did not particularly enjoy it at all to start with, but once it had aired for a while I found it significantly more pleasurable.  Jane, on the other hand, thought it was great and delicious from her first mouthful (which is bizarre for Jane since she is often not particularly fond of Chardonnays).

It had a light golden hue, and was not as dark as I expected for a 2005.  Initially I was getting French oak on the nose with toasty characteristics, but found that this became a lot mellower over time.  To taste I found it to be a bit too acidic and bitter with a light buttery flavour at first, although not heavy with the strong French oak tendencies that can dominate some Chardonnays.  It was a very full bodied wine and had a nice long tail.  The taste got significantly better once it had opened up a bit and by about halfway through the bottle I was actually enjoying it significantly more.  I do wonder whether I would have preferred this wine though if I was drinking it a couple of years ago.

Friday 4 September 2009

Royal Thai Restaurant, Birkenhead

We hadn't been to Royal Thai Restaurant in Hinemoa St, Birkenhead for several years and thought that we would give it a go this evening on the spur of the moment.

The last time we had been here we weren't overly impressed, however this time it was quite a different experience. The restaurant is still a bit sparse in terms of decor however there were a reasonable number of people dining this evening.

The menu was sufficiently large and had a variety of different Thai dishes. We started with the Tom Yum Goong and this was nicely spiced and enjoyable, and followed this with:
  • Gang Pep Pip Yang (Duck with Red Curry, Bamboo Shoots and Peas),
  • Nua Wine Dang (Red-wine Marinated beef in a sweet and sour sauce), and
  • Pad Pak (Mixed Vegetables in Oyster sauce).

All the dishes were really good, and as bizarre as the beef sounds we would order it again. The meals all arrived in a timely manner and the staff were attentive and courteous.

Monday 31 August 2009

Seafood Chowder

Seafood Chowder

This was dinner tonight, and it was Deeee-licious!

How I made my seafood chowder - you should know up front that I had no intention of making chowder when I shopped yesterday - so any recipe I referred to (I read 3) in making this was for inspiration only - the result was dictated by what I actually had in the fridge.
  1. Chop an onion, fry in a butter/oil mix in a heavy bottomed sauce pan.
  2. Add in a peeled and chopped golden kumara (recipes called for potato, but I had surplus kumara, so I used it - and liked the result)
  3. add a sprinkle of oreganum
  4. add fresh chicken stock, use the whole bag (ha! fresh as in purchased from the fridge at the supermarket!!!)
  5. add a dash of nutmeg and cayenne pepper to taste (and I used a pinch of mineral salt - a free sample from Sabato the other day)
  6. boil until the kumara is cooked through
  7. while step 6 is in progress, whisk together about 3/4 of the pack (don't ask me the size!) of creme-fraiche and a similar amount of low fat milk, and 4 tablespoons of plain flour (I actually only used 2 here, but then had to add 2 more at the end, better to do it here!)
  8. add chopped snapper fillets & fresh scallops
  9. cook briefly
  10. add the cream/milk/flour mixture and stir
  11. add a generous handful of chopped fresh parsley
  12. gently heat until suitably thickened
  13. serve, garnish with a touch of fresh chopped parsley and enjoy!

Saturday 29 August 2009

Sakanaya Japanese Restaurant, Grafton, Auckland

I went to Sakanaya tonight for the first time and was pleasantly surprised. Jane went here two weeks ago with others and enjoyed it, so we thought we would give it a go again.

It is not located in the best of locations (160 Symonds St, Grafton), but once you get inside the Surf / Japanese decor supports a nice relaxed atmosphere.

We had a variety of dishes (which all arrived reasonably quickly) and they were all good; sesame broccoli, red snapper tempura, oysters with ponzu sauce, california roll and terayaki chicken. There were a number of Sakes on the menu, of which I enjoyed a Cherry Blossum Sake.

The meal was well priced and we will happily return.

Cafe Review: Manuka - Devonport

We've brunched or late-lunched a few times at Manuka over the years, but it's always been a while between visits as we've usually left a little disppointed with the food and decidedly underwhelmed by the service. Not so anymore!

We were greeted politely and pleasantly, shown to a table immediately, had coffee orders taken straight away, and these arrived very quickly afterwards - and were good quality (trim latte for Simon, long black for me).

We ordered a half-and-half pizza (tandoori & mexican) with a side salad. Again, our order was taken in good timing, and arrived remarkably soon after ordering. The salad was lovely, the pizzas were quite frankly absolutely delicious! In particular, the Tandoori was great - great flavours, not too greasy, delicious fresh coriander sprinkled on top, and the yoghurt and mint sauce dotted amongst the chicken and the mango chutney was a really nice balance.

We were sitting right by the kitchen so saw a lot of meals being delivered as well - and they looked really good.

So yes, Manuka is back on the 'happy to go there' list, and I expect we'll be back sometime soon!

Wednesday 26 August 2009

The Tasting Room, Wellington

I went to The Tasting Room in Wellington last night for the second time. I had Monk Fish on a potato mash for dinner and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a nice relaxed bar environment which was remarkably busy for a Tuesday night (we were lucky to get a table). The food was also quick to arrive.

Sunday 23 August 2009

Bonjour Cafe, Arrowtown

I had lunch at Bonjour Cafe in Arrowtown on Saturday with several others and it was great and well priced.

I had a Galette (Savoury Crepe) with a lovely Racellete cheese filling which was very tasty and a good coffee.

Others thoroughly enjoyed their meals as we sat outside in what is a lovely setting. I will happily return.

Hansan Vietnamese Restaurant, Glenfield

We went to Hansan Vietnamese Restaurant (Link Drive, Glenfield) tonight for the first time and really enjoyed it. The restaurant was about 3/4 full when we arrived and we were one of two non-Asian tables in the restaurant (which I see as a good sign).

We have had Vietnamese several times before and the menu here was very extensive and this restaurant was significantly cleaner than many we have ventured into previously (in fact it was very clean).

We started with some Vietnamese fresh spring rolls and chicken satay skewers which were both good, although the spring rolls could have done with a little more mint.

For our main dishes we both had slightly different Beef with Vermicelli dishes which were good.

The food was very fast to arrive, well priced (all up for two people it cost us about $28) and we will happily return.

Speights Ale House, Wanaka

I went to the Speights Ale House in Wanaka on Monday night for dinner with a group of eight others and we had an enjoyable experience.

The meals were huge and good solid pub meals. I had a large rib eye steak on the bone which was cooked rare as requested. For dessert I ordered apple pie (or something like that) and it came out as three small pies which was a bit bizarre; it did however taste ok.

The food all arrived in a timely manner and was well priced.

Relishes Cafe, Wanaka

I went to Relishes on Friday night for a meal with eight others. The restaurant was packed and we were glad we had made a booking.

We ordered the breads to start, but unfortunately they did not arrive. The wine we ordered also took a long time to finally arrive at the table.

In terms of meals though, these did arrive quickly and were good. I had the wild rabbit and whilst a little tough (although not totally unexpected for wild game) it was a nice dish. A number of others had the tuna and thoroughly enjoyed it. For dessert I had a bread and butter pudding which looked a little lonely on the plate but was tasty.

The restaurant had a good vibe and I would happily return.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Tonight I made bean salad

Well, as promised, tonight I made bean salad. And I'm really really tired now. Primarily because of continually stopping to take photographs of each stage. My word. Recipe blogging is not my thing! I'll blog the recipe and I'll even try and post a photo of the finished product, but I don't think I'll do a visual recipe again without willing helpers!

Anyway - too tired to create a single image, so have a look at the set on my flickr pages for now, until I get around to it!

Ok, 1 shot....

10 finally add black pepper and chill

Cooking - a rarity

I've got my cooking mojo back just a smidgen of late. Last night I made absolutely-delicious, brimming-over-with-goodness soup - chock full of veges, pulses and scrumminess. This morning I was a little late to work because I decided to soak some beans in preparation for making a batch of bean salad tonight. I must take photographs along the way this time and redo the recipe.

This batch of sloup*:
  • thinly slice onion, fry off, add a couple of oxtail bones, brown, add water.
  • add diced carrot, parsnip, kumara
  • add chopped celery leaves and a few diced stalks for good measure
  • boil, for ages
  • remove oxtail bones, if there's any good meat on them, hack it off, cut it up, set it aside.
  • carefully semi-blend the soup - don't lose all the chunks of vege, but make sure the celery leaves are unrecognisable. ;) I just used my stick blender straight in the pot and pulsed for less than a second each time.
  • add the meat back in, add Soup mix (barley, lentils, split peas)
  • boil, for even more ages than last time (ooh, and make sure there's enough water!)
  • season. Cool. Refrigerate until required, or until you can't resist it any longer.
  • reheat, consume with toast. Or on it's own.
* SLOUP: not a spelling mistake, rather an indication that this is a cross between a sludge and a soup - ie its really very very thick and hearty.

WARNING: when you taste this before the cool, refrigerate step, try not to blister the roof of your mouth.
Ooh, another WARNING - if you're cutting up the veges with a victorinox serrated knife, remember they are omnivourous and will not be sastified with the veges and are liable to take a chunk out of your thumb if you don't keep them under control. (gory details - DON'T KEEP READING IF YOU'RE SQUEAMISH!!!!!!: I felt every single serration going through the pad of my thumb). I'm fine. So's my thumb. This is why I keep sticking plasters in the kitchen.

Monday 17 August 2009

Poaching the Pears

I really do need to organise my photo uploads a little better! Tonight I've uploaded photos that I've then discovered are already on my flickr page, and now I've just found photos of the pears in the process of being poached. You know, the ones I blogged about last night in their final form!

So anyway, here they are actually poaching away, smelling delicious and looking wonderful in all their spicey goodness!

Poaching Pears
Poaching Pears

Sunday 16 August 2009

Poached Pears with Ganache & Peach Sorbet

I have the house to myself today so I'm catching up on a few things, sadly its mostly housework, but I'm also sorting back through a few photos. Well, I'm a little astonished to discover that I have not yet blogged about the most delicious dessert I made back in April! I'm pretty sure this was the evening we had friends around for dinner and I can't really remember what else I cooked, but I do remember this dessert!

For ages I had been wanting to learn how to poach pears, so I finally decided to give it a go. I have to say, the absolutely worst part of this whole process - coring the damn things out while keeping the stalks intact! What a mission! I got there eventually though and then proceeded to poach the pears in a delicious spicey sugar syrup. I've served them with a chocolate ganache I'd made earlier and then softened in the microwave for serving, and a homemade peach sorbet. Delicious! And really very easy!

Homemade Dessert

I belatedly found some pics of the pears actually poaching.

Sunday 2 August 2009

Surprisingly good cafe on the North Shore - Solstice

We have had so many 'average' cafe experiences on the North Shore that we have all but given up on brunching in this area and tend to end up in Grey Lynn, Ponsonby or Herne Bay. Today we wanted to swing by the ice-breaker outlet store and as I had wasted the morning recovering from a hateful migraine that graced my head upon waking, we figured we'd risk somewhere new on the shore.

So we headed to Solstice - 30 Kell drive, Albany - little alley way right in the village, beside the library. I knew about it as I was on the mailing list from Mosaik - I'm not entirely sure about the history here, but I believe Solstice was set up by the owner (ex?) of Mosaik.

The setting was lovely, the service friendly and there was definitely some consistent staff training evident.

We both had trim lattes (and I then also had a long black). Coffee was strong and good quality.

Simon had the Tuscan beef stack - this was nicely presented, had a gorgeous char-grilled flavour, the salad was nice, overall a great dish. (Personally I thought the beef a little too cold, but Simon thought it was fine, although he did comment it was closer to blue than the requested rare).
I had the Seafood Chowder. This was really nice, appropriately rich, without being unpleasantly so, full of good size chunks of seafood. My only comment on this though, I would have liked to have seen it served with a piece of ciabatta or similar - this would have taken it from being a lovely chowder to being a great lunch. It just seemed a little incomplete - and I do find chowder benefits from having a piece of bread to break up the creamy richness.
We kind of shared an Apple Tarte Tatin - this was quite sweet (mostly due to the butterscotch sauce I think), but very nice, and the vanilla bean ice cream with it was delicious.

We would order all of these dishes again.

Other observations
Attention to detail was pretty good - we had lovely stemmed water glasses, and we wondered whether these would get refilled, and yes they did, with a small, but excusable delay. The menu was laid out beautifully, and unlike so many places we seem to visit on the shore, it was clean! Prices were also very reasonable.

Saturday 1 August 2009

Grand Harbour Chinese Restaurant

We have been to Grand Harbour Chinese Restaurant (Viaduct area, Auckland) for Yum Char many times over the years and often take out of town guests.  This is my favourite Yum Char in Auckland and today’s experience was comparable to what we have previously had, although it was a little quieter today (i.e. there was no queue out the door). 

For Yum Char on the weekend you can expect that it will be really busy, noisy and the service abrupt (but usually fast).  As for bookings, don't expect they mean a lot, and if you require a fork instead of chopsticks you’re probably best to bring your own.

The food is excellent and there is a great variety continually moving around.  If you have never done Yum Char before I would suggest going along with somebody that has. 

Grand Harbour is well worth going to for the experience.

Kura Japanese Sake Bar

We decided at the last minute to go out for Japanese last night and were lucky to find a table at Kura Japanese Sake Bar in Queen St. 

From the street you wouldn't even know this place existed, but once down the stairs there was a great buzz of activity. 

Seeing that there were some Japanese beers on tap I ordered one and it went down very nicely.  Jane settled for a tea instead and enjoyed it. 

For our meal we decided to try some "different" dishes.  The raw octopus marinated in octopus juices tasted like essence of anchovy with a sprinkling of salt for good measure.  This was a great learning experience and we won't be ordering it again, however I don't doubt that it is very authentic.  We also had some excellent Sushimi, great fresh spring rolls (not deep fried), Terayaki Chicken and a Smoked Eel Donburi.  The meal was great although if we were ordering the Terayaki Chicken again we would probably get it as a Donburi or with rice.

A nice evening out and despite how busy it was the food arrived very quickly.

Sunday 26 July 2009

Cooking Schnitzel

I cooked schnitzel for dinner tonight. Simon is always a little nervous when I cook schnitzel, despite really liking it. Patience is not my strong point and as far as he's concerned, good schnitzel requires a concerted exercise in patience.

Well, tonight I cooked seriously impressive schnitzel. Thanks to a little help from German Food Guide. Every tip on this page helped.

  • Lightly flour the schnitzel, then egg it, then coat in the crumbs without patting it on and IMMEDIATELY get it into the oil/butter mix at a medium temperature. I used Canola Oil & Butter.
  • This requires a bit of preparation - I had the german potato salad (made last night) and green salad served on the dinner plates before I even removed the schnitzel from the fridge. And had the oven on to keep the schnitzels warm while I cooked the rest of them.
  • I cooked one at a time. And I replaced the oil/butter after the 2nd schnitzel.
Delicious! (And Simon reallly wanted me to make a note of it here for reference next time around).

Always great service - the Homestore

This is a shout out to The Homestore, because they are consistently awesome.

We regularly shop at The Homestore, especially when we're buying engagement or wedding gifts, or on the rare occaision that we actually need something for our kitchen. (as I told one of the staff there today - Simon has this odd expectation that you can only buy stuff if you NEED it. She responded that he's not very well trained. ;-)

Whenever we visit The Homestore, we are consistently greeted with a warm and familiar (and often cheeky) welcome, we are well looked after, we have fun shopping and it goes without saying that they always have a fabulous product. They also leave us with the confidence that if we do have a problem with something we've bought, it won't be a problem to sort it out. Even years later. They usually even remember things we bought from them, yes, even from years earlier.

We always leave feeling, frankly, special, and we pretty much always rave about them for at least 5 minutes after leaving the shop.

Now THAT is great marketing. They are guaranteed to get our continued custom, not to mention all the free word-of-mouth marketing.

Thanks for being awesome, and we look forward to visiting you again soon!

Saturday 18 July 2009

The Grove Restaurant

We dined at The Grove Restaurant (Auckland CBD) this evening for the first time.  The menu here really gives nothing away, and the molecular gastronomy experience is great. 

To start we had the "Big eye tuna, seared scallop, calamari, crayfish gelée" and the "Slow cooked poussin w farmed rabbit, foie gras ice cream, carrot ".  They are definitely not large portions, and I felt they were overpriced, but they did have some magnificent flavours and lots of discussion of what particular tastes were. 

We followed this with the "Beef fillet w cauliflower purée, escargot & oxtail ragout" and the "Market fish, gentle braise of prawn & abalone, almond, lemon" which were both very good, although not standpoint meals.  The accompanying "Globe artichokes w capers, caramelised garlic, parmesan" we ordered (for something different) was in fact a highlight of my meal.

For dessert, I had the magnificent "Crème brulée, orange blossom, rhubarb, orange" and Jane had the "Coconut parfait w smoked cashew, mango, pineapple & sesame" which was equally good.  Our accompanying coffees were also good.

A very nice meal, although not cheap, and other than the dessert and the molecular gastronomy experience did not really have that wow factor.

Der Metz German Restaurant

We went to Der Metz (Kohimarama, Auckland) last weekend for our second time.  The previous time would have been about two years ago and the experience was comparable. 

Having spent time in Bavaria 18 months ago, this restaurant is fairly typical of what we experienced at bars in Germany.  The portions are large, sausages excellent and the Hofbräu beer on tap goes down well.  We started with Nurnberger wurst and it was very good with an excellent Sauerkraut.  We followed this with an enormous Schnitzel, Venison (which was smaller than the other meals, but still an adequate portion) and a ridiculously huge Pork hock that was crispy on the outside and succulent within. 

The Apple Strudel for dessert was also nice although it was different than the standard Apple Strudel I am used to.  The chocolate mousse was apparently also good.

Just like what we had in Bavaria, the Presentation was not a focus.  A good decor with lots of Bavarian icons with a nice atmosphere.  A well priced hearty meal.  We will be back.

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Craggy Range Wine Tasting

The North Shore Wine and Food Society had Craggy Range Winery along this evening.  With vineyards throughout the country they grow grapes in what they deem to be the most appropriate region for that type of grape. 

It was an excellent evening and Craggy Range have some superb wines.  Two wines this evening I found to be particularly good; the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

My rough notes from this evening:

Sauvignon Blanc, Avery Vineyard, Marlborough, 2008 Lovely nose and taste, clear, crisp, passionfruit to the nose and taste, fresh.  Drinking beautifully now but should be good for another 1-2 years. A great wine.*
Chardonnay, Kidnappers Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, 2008 Light armpit aroma (but ok), very young, lightly oaked, not big, Pale straw colour.  It was described as a “Chardonnay for Sauvignon Blanc Drinkers” which I would agree with.  Quite nice.
Chardonnay, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, 2008 Strong drench oak/buttery nose, light yellow hue. This will be a big wine, but I felt that the oak is squashing out a bit of the fruit flavour.  With a cream-based pasta this was a great accompaniment.
Pinot Noir, Zebra Vineyard, Bendigo, Central Otago, 2007 Beautiful nose, blackberry, big wine, Awesome, very long tail, great mid-palette.  One of the best Pinot Noir’s I’ve had!
Syrah, Block 14, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, 2007 Deep purple, light pepper nose, starts strong with a medium finish, big, great wine
Merlot, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, 2006 Lovely plum nose, dark red colour, dry.  Initially I felt this lacked anything of interest, but it grew on me.
Sophia, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, 2007 This is a Merlot based Bordeaux blend.  Super Dark colour, lovely, Plum/Vanilla, Sufficient tannins to cellar.  I thought this was a bit overpriced, however we decided to get one anyway to cellar for a few years, since it felt like there was potential just waiting for time.

* Considering the wine notes for the Sauvignon Blanc mention grapefruit and white nectarine, I wonder whether I am misinterpreting passionfruit.  More drinking is obviously required.

Sunday 5 July 2009

Coffee Drinks Illustrated

I just came across this Coffee Drinks Illustration via Lifehacker (an excellent blog) and just had to share it.

Coffee Drinks Illustrated by twoeyes.

Sunday 28 June 2009

Various posts relocated to nztebs

Simon has wisely suggested that some of my recent posts are better suited for my nztebs blog, my tech/professional/personal development blog rather than here on our family/leisure blog or over at unplain-Jane which is of course my creative blog. So many blogs. Anyway, the list of relocated entries is below with links to their new home.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Ascension “The Ascent” Reserve Chardonnay 2005

This is a big wine from Matakana (an hour north of Auckland) and one that we should really have consumed about 12-18 months ago and not in June 2009.  We have previously really enjoyed this wine, however it has now turned to being a touch acidic and the alcohol and French oak is now starting to overpower the fruit.  It is still quite drinkable but if you still have any of this vintage I suggest, unless you have great cellaring conditions, you drink it now.

Saturday 30 May 2009

Clooney: My new favourite restaurant

This evening we went to Clooney in Freemans Bay, Auckland for the first time. I had heard great things about this restaurant so went in with high expectations and was not disappointed. I would even go far to say it is one of the best (if not the best) meals I have ever had.

Situated in a bizarre location with a non-assuming entrance, the internal decor is equally “different” (but in a good way) with curtains of floor-to-ceiling tassels segmenting the restaurant, individual spotlights for each table and beautiful hand-blown light globes.

The wait staff were very knowledgeable about the menu, efficient and professional, yet with a nice relaxed nature.

The restaurant was very busy this evening, yet we were attentively waited on as if the restaurant was empty. It did get a little noisy at times but this just added to a nice relaxed upbeat ambience.

We started with Ciabatta that came with three different spreads; an olive oil, a herb mascorpone and a parmesan butter. They were all good, but I particularly enjoyed the herb butter.

I then followed this with a superb Kawau Blue Soufflé that just melted in my mouth whilst Jane had the Scallops. Whilst Jane enjoyed her entree, she felt the Scallops weren’t anything special.

I had the Venison for my main course whilst Jane had the Pork. The Venison was lovely and tender and the tastes of red wine, chocolate and cherries worked well. Jane found her Pork to be nice and tender although didn’t think it was rave-worthy; the creamed Celeriac was in fact her favourite part.

We accompanied our mains with a Radicchio and Wild Arugula salad which had lovely samplings of Roquefort dispersed within, and marinated Portabello mushrooms. Both of these were good.

I finished with a Creme Caramel that was excellent and had a great consistency and Jane had a couple of lovely French cheeses.

For drinks this evening we went with the advice of our waiter. I had a TerraVin Omaka Valley Pinot Noir 2004 from Marlborough and Jane had a Onyx Merlot Cabernet. Both of these were excellent matches for our main courses.

Whilst not a cheap night out (~$270 for 2 people tonight) it was an excellent experience and I will happily return.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Potts Family Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

To accompany a lamb rump this evening we opened up a bottle of Potts Family Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 from Australia.

It is a lovely wine that is very easy to drink.  It has a beautiful leather aroma and a lovely deep red/purple colour.

It is a very fruit-filled wine that is well balanced with a medium to long tail, but would have been better matched with a meal with slightly more fat.  Berry fruit, Plum and Leather are the flavours shining through.

Drinking well now and should also keep for a while yet.

Friday 24 April 2009

Things to do

Mental note to self: when I'm bored and I don't know what to do this weekend, assuming I've already:
  • removed and planted out all the yucca babies and
  • cleaned up the tile to try and find a match,
  • organised birthday presents for 3 nieces
  • organised mothers day recognition for 2 mothers
  • buy some balloons and experiment with high-speed photography, because I can and it should be fun

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Wooing Tree Vineyard wine tasting

This evening the North Shore Wine and Food Society had Wooing Tree Vineyard along from Central Otago.

Wooing Tree predominantly has a range of Pinot Noir wines, including a white wine made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes.  The Sandstorm Reserve 2007 was also released this evening.

A short synopsis of our tasting this evening (in order of tasting):

Wine Comment
Blondie 2008 White wine made from 100% Pinot Noir.  Champagne Colour and to taste it was like Champagne without the bubbles.  Nice and could be paired with fish.
Rose 2008 A 100% Pinot Noir based Rose with a light nose.  Not fruity like the Hawkes Bay Rose’s we have recently been drinking.  In fact, I would even say it was not a Rose style I have encountered before.  It was okay, but not as a Rose.
Pinot Gris 2008 Light kerosene to the nose and a nice dry light lemon/lime flavour.  Very smooth and would probably go well with a Thai Duck Red Curry with Grapes.  Highly recommended.
Chardonnay 2007 This had an oaky nose, although it smelt a bit different than a standard french oak.  It was a big wine, however was not big on fruit or oak on the palate.
Beetle Juice 2007 This is Wooing Tree’s entry level Pinot Noir.  Raspberry to the nose, thin, very fruity and a sweet acidity (if there is such a thing).
Pinot Noir 2007 I was not overly keen on the leather nose characteristic of this wine and felt this big wine was too heavy in alcohol.
Pinot Noir 2005 A lovely big plum-dominated Pinot Noir, with a little bit of roughness.
Sandstorm Reserve 2007 This was an excellent big plum-filled wine and definitely the best of the Pinot Noirs this evening, although I felt it was probably overpriced at its normal price of $85.  Cropping on this grape is one bunch per vine.

Sunday 12 April 2009

Stir Fry Chicken and Veges

Simon has told me that I MUST blog what I just cooked for dinner, so that I can create it again. He didn't stop raving while he ate it, and then proceeded to slurp (yes slurp) the sauce off his plate with the odd glance at the neighbours house to check that I was the only one who saw. Although I was actively not looking and frankly I don't think he'd have cared if the neighbours did see! Either way, I'll take it as high praise and a seal of approval on what I thought was a quick easy meal.

Prepare everything before you start cooking anything. I used 8 separate bowls in the preparation! Admittedly they were all little rice bowls or smaller, so not as bigger deal as it sounds.

Thinly slice 2 cloves garlic.
Cut a thumb size piece of ginger into thin matchsticks. (Keep the ginger and garlic separate for now - they need to be cooked separately - seriously!)
Cube half a mammoth breast of chicken (I don't know what our grocer does to his chickens, but I think they genuinely have been crossed with a mammoth)
Squirt some honey and soy sauce over the chicken.
Cut the ends off a couple of heads of bok choy or similar (because I HATE having to cram a whole bok choy plant in my mouth - the leaves are fine, but not the the whole damn tree!)
Grab the left over broccoli (which I can never spell) out of the fridge and cut into small mouth size chunks.
Thinly diagonally slice a carrot or 2 - put in the same bowl as the broc.
Thinly slice a couple of courgettes on the diagonal.
Quarter or a halve a handful of mushrooms (depending on the size).
Thinly slice, end to end, about 1 capsicum - I used half a red and about a quarter of an orange one.

Ok, is that it? Hmm, prepare 2 cups of Chicken stock - but bear in mind you only used 50 ml this time, so maybe 100ml prepared would be sufficient!

Also required on the bench - soy sauce, Hoisin sauce, arrow root, oil. Wok on the gas element, both a slotted (or net) spoon and my favourite wok turner thingamy-doofer.

Ok, wok on, add a generous amount of vege oil. Before it smokes (in theory), add the garlic, this will take less than 1 minute to cook - remove with the slotted spoon, drain on a paper towel. Do the same with the ginger - they can now both be put in the same bowl for use later.

Now you should have quite a bit of oil in the wok - add the chicken and keep it moving until cooked through. Drain and remove to a bowl.

Now there is a brown soy-ey, honey-ey, oily puddle in the wok. Begin adding the veges in the order of slowest cooker to quickest cooker - brocolli (spelt differently!) and carrot first, then capsicum & courgette fairly close together, finally bok choy and mushrooms.

Throw a teaspoon of hoisin sauce over the chicken.

If the veges are taking too long (I'm a notoriously impatient cook), add a dollop of chicken stock to the pan to encourage more steaming!

Before adding the chicken back in, and once veges are suitably cooked (I like mine still a little crunchy), check the amount of liquid in the wok, keep it boiling and add up to 2 teaspoons of arrowroot mixed with a little of the chicken stock. Mix quickly. Yes, quickly - arrowroot goos up really fast if you're not careful!

Reintroduce the chicken to the pan and tell it to play nicely with the veges. Discover you didn't drain it so well and there's more juice in the pan again - no worries, it made a great sauce. Squirt over some soy sauce (because it was lacking a little bit of saltiness at this point), stir loads - like, don't stop, just keep stir-frying until everything is well mixed and the chicken heated through.

Serve and DO NOT forget to evenly sprinkle the ginger and garlic over each serve.

Apparently this was absolutely delicious and Simon would go back to a restaurant to have it again and would happily pay $30 for it. Nice.