Sunday, 28 August 2011

Raw Carrot Soup - recipe

I just haven't eaten enough fresh live food this weekend, so I really couldn't face the thought of having a meal based on lamb tonight.  I had a raw soup recipe bookmarked that I've been wanting to try for a few days, and Simon didn't seem to mind the idea of raw soup for dinner. 

This is inspired by Uncooking 101's Creamy Garden Chowder recipe.  Thanks for the inspiration! 

My drizzling skills need some practice!

Raw Carrot Soup

for the soup
3 large organic carrots, peeled and chopped roughly (my chunks were about 2cm long)
3 stalks of celery in 4cm lengths
1 clove of garlic - use a small clove, or just 1/2 a clove (I used a really big one and it was seriously overpowering!)
1/2 red pepper
1/2 cup filtered water
1/8 cup olive oil
1 spring onion
1/8 t himalayan sea salt
for serving
extra olive oil for drizzling
baby tomatoes for garnish (or whatever you have on hand)
pepper for garnish

Throw all the soup ingredients in a blender (and I don't use a vitamix, just a good quality kitchen blender), and blend until smooth and slightly warmed - but not too much!

Pour into bowls, drizzle over olive oil, garnish, crack some pepper and serve!

Simon thought it would have been good chilled and with coriander.  I'll give that a go next time.  And yes, he completely cleaned up his serving and said he'd happily eat it again.

Jack Tar - Bar & Restaurant Review

Today was such a glorious day that we decided it was high time we checked out the newly redeveloped Wynyard Quarter.  Simon had a quick look for recent reviews of the various restaurants down there before we went, and fortuitously also saw a note from a colleague who had eaten there this morning.  The comments seemed to all be of the nature of 'expect teething problems'.  So we went with the expectation of probably needing to wait and maybe not having the most polished of service.

We spent an absolute age trying to find a carpark, and in hindsight we probably should have just gone straight to Simon's work carpark, or, had we have realised earlier, we could have used the Wilson's carparks for $5 - their signs didn't make it terribly obvious that they had a seperate weekend rate.  Next time though!

We wandered around for a bit and commented with relief that finally there is more of the waterfront being made use of in Auckland. The whole area was absolutely heaving with people, and rightly so - it's a beautiful place for a day out in the sunshine, right along the waterfront with loads of access through to the viaduct, a huge kids playground and paddle pool, and some oversized deck chairs further along for the adults.

After browsing through all of the insanely busy restaurants and bars, we headed back to Jack Tar and lurked near a table that looked like it was soon to vacate, and headed off other hopeful patrons!  We ordered a seafood platter to share, a small salad of tomato, olives & feta and Simon had a garlic pizza bread.

The seafood platter had prawns and freshly grilled fish in a garlic butter - both absolutely delicious, shaved smoked salmon and seared tuna, a couple of fresh oysters, mussels and some lemon curry seasoned smoked fish.  It was all really good, and a great size for 2 people to share.  The salad was good, although quite small.  Simon enjoyed his garlic pizza bread, commenting that the thickness and cookedness was really good, but that it was a little light on the garlic.

Our wait time was possibly a little extended and it did take some time to actually get someones attention to take our order, but the service was certainly pleasant, and hopefully these are simply symptoms of it being new and insanely busy.  Hopefully they'll improve over the next couple of weeks in the lead up to RWC.  That said, we certainly didn't have a negative experience and we would definitely return.  All of the food we saw being delivered to other tables looked really good.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Mt Difficulty Single Vineyard Long Gully Pinot Noir 2005, Central Otago

imagesI do like the wine from Mt Difficulty, and this wine is consistent with the quality I expect from them.

It is a lovely ruby red wine that has a huge nose of black berry fruits and plum. It is the sort of wine that gives me a smile on my face as I enjoy the aroma.

To taste, it is quite dry with a little bit of acid, very full bodied and packed with fruit intensity that lingers on the palate. It is a lot drier than the younger estate wine I have recently been drinking and the berry flavour is more smooth.

It is undoubtedly a lovely drop.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Maximus, the 10 foot snowman

Liam, Tammy, Logan & I made a mammoth 10 foot tall snowman earlier today in the backyard in Queenstown. The resulting effort is very impressive.


Construction started with Liam and Tammy getting the ball rolling.


About 40 mins later the snowman was starting to take shape. This involved creating two massive balls and then using some wood as a ramp to get the balls on top of one another, adding more snow to give it shape, creating some arms, and then creating and positioning the head.


After the head was better affixed, there was lots of shaping with a pruning saw.


Coal was then used for each of the eyes and a mouth carved.


The snowman was thirsty so we gave him a bottle of beer to hold.


It was then time to use another bottle of beer for the nose and give the snowman a hat (the lid from the rubbish bin).


After putting on a scarf, the snowman was complete, and he was given the title Maximus.


Sunday, 14 August 2011

Carrick Riesling 2010, Central Otago

carrick_logo_001I was at Carrick in Bannockburn, Central Otago last weekend and enjoyed a number of their wines. Tonight I opened up the 2010 Riesling. With a very light citrus nose, this is a lovely Riesling at the lower end of medium-sweet on the IRF scale with lemon and lime to taste. It is a beautifully fresh wine that is nicely balanced and a medium tail. I would definitely buy this wine again, expect it would age well, but am also very happy to drink it now.

Wakatipu Grill, Hilton Queenstown

Wakatipu Grill is the flagship restaurant at The Hilton in Queenstown and is set on the lakefront with beautiful decor throughout. Last night I went there with two friends for dinner but for some reason they couldn’t find our reservation even though I had phoned them that afternoon. We were seated at the bar while they set up a table for us, and after about 15mins we prompted them to be seated. The service was thankfully significantly better once seated.

We started with a nice selection of breads and then I had the all day braised ox tail as my entree. This was beautifully tender and the accompanying parsley puree lovely, however I missed the richer Ox Tail flavour I can remember having in Spain.


For the main course I had the Venison. This was beautifully cooked and accompanied by baby beetroot, but for me it lacked any wow factor. It was however a nice dish.


One of the others had the tortellini with blue cod and scampi for their main and thoroughly enjoyed it.


We had a swede mash and brussell sprouts as sides; both of these were lovely.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Saffron, Arrowtown

I had an exquisite evening out with friends at Saffron restaurant in Arrowtown. I had heard that this was a good restaurant and my expectations were exceeded.

The restaurant prides itself on South Island food done well and it achieves this in a restaurant that has a nice warmly feel that feels a little bit like a modern version of a farm cottage.

Two of us started with a Spicy Lentil, Tomato & Coconut Soup with chargrilled Flatbread & Yoghurt Riata and the other with the Confit of Canterbury Duck Leg on Maple & Date mash, with slow cooked Rhubarb. The soup had the consistency of a tomato soup and a light flavour of star anise. It was very nice. The duck was apparently beautifully cooked and falling off the bone. Both dishes were beautifully presented.


For my main I had the Cassoulet which consisted of a variety of Meats slowly cooked with Tomato & Haricot Beans. This had a light paprika flavour and very comparable with the first Cassoulet I ever had in Carcassonne in the south of France. The others had lamb and bendigo rabbit, both of which were thoroughly enjoyed.


For dessert I had to give the strange sounding Tagine of caramelised Apple & Figs with Truffle Ice Cream & Rose petal Cous Cous a go and wow, this was a great dish. The truffle ice cream was magnificent and a nice balance of sweet and savoury. The rose petal in the cous cous was very delicate and complemented the dish nicely, and the apples & figs were nicely caramelised without being too sweet. This was accompanied by a very light pastry.


We would all very happily return.

A night out in Queenstown

We visited several bars on a Friday night (although apparently you can do this any night in Queenstown and sometimes Friday can be a quiet night), starting with Stacks Pub at the Hilton in Frankton. This is a new bar that is surprisingly well-priced with excellent $17 pizzas and alcohol at non-exorbitant prices. There is also a water taxi that goes from the Hilton to Town (and vice versa) that at $5 per person is great value; not surprisingly the last water taxi for the evening (9:30pm) was our transport to the town for the evening.

The Boiler Room is a nice bar on the waterfront that still had a couple of tables free when we arrived about 9:45pm, but by the time we left was really busy (and noisy) and had a good youthful vibe.

The Ballarat Trading Company was our next stop for a couple of beers; this was a lot quieter and seemed to attract more of a 30+ year old crowd (on the night we we there anyway).

Upstairs from the Ballarat Trading Company is Winnie’s. This bar had a very young crowd and was very lively. They also apparently do really good pizzas. It reminded me a bit of being at bars when back at University.

To top it all off we went to BarUp cocktail bar and stayed here for hours until closing time at 4am. They were playing great music, the wait staff were full of energy, the bar was busy and the Money Shot cocktail was superb. It is not a large bar, but it had an excellent vibe and I expect probably attracts a 25+ year old crowd. On another night we came back hear and it was reasonably quiet until around 2:30am.

Another evening we went to SkyBar, a cocktail bar that is nicely decorated, but we were almost the only people there. It can however be quite busy sometimes apparently.

On the same evening we also went to The World Bar which had a very youthful crowd and was buzzing with activity. You can also order a teapot full of your selection of cocktail.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Monty’s (Queenstown) & the Mud Crab

On Wednesday nights Monty’s has a seafood night and one of the items on the menu is Mud Crab. 03082011150The mud crabs came highly recommended from a friend, so I just had to check them out with him. On the night we were there the dish came with two crabs and they were beautifully cooked in a sweet spicy sauce that had a hint of chilli and accompanied by a very flavoursome smoked salmon salad. The crab was nice and tender and sweet although a bit fiddly to eat. It would have been good if the shells were pre-cracked, and this would have reduced our eat time of about 1hr 30min! A nice dish none-the-less.

The service was good, there was a good pub vibe and we’d happily return.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Northburn Station Pinot Noir 2007, Central Otago

On Sunday we headed out to Northburn Station just out of Cromwell. Located on a working 13,000 hectare merino sheep farm, they have also ventured into the wine business. Overlooking Lake Dunstan they have a beautiful location.


With light leather and liquorice to the nose, this ruby red wine is full-bodied with a medium-long tail. It has light tannins and is a bit more acidic than I expected, but this works well with a bit of fat and in fact works superbly well with Bluff Oysters. In fact with a bit of fat this wine has transformed to being a very pleasurable Pinot Noir to drink that I would happily buy again.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Queenstown & Lake Wakatipu

I’ve been having a little holiday in Queenstown for the past week. It is a very picturesque town, albeit cold at this time of the year. My main reason for being here is to go skiing but when the weather hasn’t been up to it, I’ve used the opportunity to look around Queenstown a bit.

I’ve already written about the NZSki Pass, Arrowtown and the Arrow River trail and lunch and wines at Mt Difficulty vineyards, but the town centre and the lake itself deserve a mention on their own.

There is a lovely walk around the edge of Lake Wakatipu in the Queenstown Gardens that has beautiful views looking in any direction. This is within easy walking distance from the heart of Queenstown.


The town itself is also looking even nicer than when I stayed here about 5 years ago and the quality of the restaurants, cafes and bars seems to have improved. I will cover further restaurants, cafes and bars in separate posts.


There is a monument down on the waterfront that I quite like, that has apparently been here since 2000 and comprises 5 different layers each signifying different eras in Queenstown’s history:

  • Limestone – the beginning, when moa roamed the region
  • Riverstone – the arrival of Maori
  • Schist – the gold rush
  • Railway Sleepers – settlement and development
  • Water – Lake Wakatipu

The two metal rings show the lake levels at the peak of flooding in 1878 (bottom) and 1999.


The Lake is equally magnificent from the other end of the Lake at Frankton.


Arrowtown and the Arrow River Trail

It was another non-skiing day today, so I headed out to historic gold mining town of Arrowtown. I arrived at Arrowtown around 11am and was surprised how quiet it was, which was still the same when I left around 2pm. It had been a couple of years since I had been in Arrowtown and it is still a lovely village that is beautifully maintained.


After a hot chocolate at Patagonia Chocolates (really good!) and a bite to eat at Cafe Mondo I headed out for a walk along one of the many trails in this area, the Arrow River trail.

This trail starts just over the river from the town (start at Butler Green and walk across the small bridge to get over the river and follow the signs to the right). The trail heads up and over the Arrow Irrigation pipeline, which it follows for a large chunk of the walk.

P1010918_017 It is a reasonably easy walk, although good shoes are recommended since it can be a little muddy and narrow at times.


There was even a little snow to the side of trail and several small waterfalls along the way.


It is a very scenic walk that looks down onto the Arrow River. After about 25mins you end up at the Norman Smith foot bridge.


At this point I then turned around and followed the trail back.


It is not a busy track, and in the 50mins (or so) of walking there and back I passed two other people walking their dogs.


Sunday, 7 August 2011

Mt Difficulty Wines & Restaurant

Located about 45mins drive from Queenstown, Mt Difficulty Wines in Bannockburn is one of my favourite vineyards and after sampling some of their wines today we enjoyed a lovely lunch as we looked out over the valley with snow on the hills.

In terms of the wines, I really enjoyed the fresh well-balanced light citrus flavoured Mt Difficulty Dry Riesling 2009. The peach and pear flavoured Mt Difficulty Pinot Gris 2010 was equally good as was their estate Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir 2009; this is a medium-bodied Pinot with cherry and plum characteristics and whilst drinking well now should be superb in another year or two. The Mt Difficulty Pipeclay Terrace Pinot Noir 2009 was magnificent, it had more body and was very smooth; although at $89.95 so it should be.

For lunch I had the Duck, slow-roasted in Pinot Noir with raspberry & cassis sauce. This was served with a nicely seasoned lettuce salad, courgettes, pumpkin and pine-nuts. It was a lovely dish with a decent quantity of beautifully tender crispy duck.


My friend, Logan had the Venison rack with scallops which he thoroughly enjoyed, although the quantity of venison did seem a little on the light side.


We would both be very happy to return for both the food and the wine. It is worth noting that we were very lucky to get a table and booking is recommended.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

NZSki is making great use of RFID to enhance customer service

I went skiing yesterday and was impressed with how NZSki is using RFID to enhance customer service.

I started the day by going into the Queenstown Snowcentre to buy a ticket for the bus up to Coronet Peak. Instead I found I could buy my ticket for skiing as well, which was great. The queue was short and when I got to the counter I was asked if I had used NZSki before. I hadn’t, so the person serving me proceeded to ask my name, took my photo, and casually asked me where I was from.

Before I knew it, a plastic re-usable pass for the mountain had been printed for me with my name on it, a reference number and the fact I was an Adult and Male.


NB: Reference number blanked out in picture.

After a 25 minute bus ride, I was at Coronet Peak and then proceeded to the chair lift. What I then found was that at every chairlift and t-bar I went to during the day there was a gate to go through where you needed to hold your pass up to (typically there were 5 gates, one for each seat). This worked fine through my jacket, however for the first gate since I had my cell phone in the same pocket it didn’t work, but the liftie let me through anyway.

I also noticed that as each person went through, the liftie had an iPad that had pictures of who was coming through each gate so they were doing checks to see that people weren’t using other peoples passes.

There were also top-up machines located at both the snowcentre and near the ticket offices up the mountain, where you can use buy your ticket yourself without needing to go to the counter. Similarly, you can also buy your ticket from the comfort of your home through registering and logging in online (more about that later).

The whole process worked well and helped to keep the flow going (not that there was much of a queue today; it was in fact almost non-existent).

I had a superb day on the mountain. The conditions were excellent, beautiful blue sky in the morning (there was a little bit of cloud in the afternoon, although this was minimal and there was still unlimited visibility), no wind, great snow and almost non-existent queues. My legs and feet were a bit shocked by the exercise, but I still managed to do a decent number of runs.


Once I got off the mountain I went to the mypass website, entered the reference number on my card and then proceeded to enter a username and password. Some details such as my name and city were already populated. What was also nice was the statistics displayed, showing how many metres I had descended and how many runs I had done (NB: this will be missing my first run, since they just let me through).


There are also leader boards of who has descended the most in the day, season etc. and who has done the most runs.leaderboard_resized

Today I went back to this site and purchased an afternoon pass for The Remarkables. It was all very simple to do.

I was impressed with how well RFID was used to enrich the customer experience.

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