Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Dylan Moran - Off The Hook

As a big fan of Black Books, I was introduced to the comedy of Irish comedian Dylan Moran and the hilarious and intelligent Bill Bailey. Having seen Bailey peddling qualms and in Limboland, last night it was the turn of his Irish counterpart to come to town.

Moran's opening line of "It's been a long time since all the stuff" immediately set the scene and he delivered two rambling 45 minute sets. This man is a weary, middle-aged father just trying to survive everything that life and his kids throw at him. It's not easy spending eight years giving up smoking and subsequently replacing it with food, especially since everything good in this world is designed to go into your mouth. Moran's four stages of life are sharp and scarily accurate: birth, failure, old, death. Kids (or lack of them), pets, a dislike of eating animals who names have only three letters, German (and Finnish) humour and a plethora of made up words and phrases all worked their way into his routine.

At times it was hard to work out just how far Moran had planned to ramble before pulling it all in again. The white wine was swapped for red at the interval and the bar leaner was well used. A couple of half-hearted hecklers were painstakingly shut down as his general frustrations in life took centre stage.

The laughs came hard and fast and the reviews are favourable. Dylan Moran's unique brand of charm may well have got him Off the Hook last night and endeared him to a full Wellington house.

Friday, 28 August 2015

TIKI wine tasting

This month's wine tasting was hosted by Pip from TIKI Wines. Tiki is a family owned and operated winery based in North Canterbury but with vineyards in Waipara, Marlborough, Central Otago and Hawkes Bay. 95% of the fruit grown in the Waipara Valley are contract grown for other producers. Each vineyard is certified sustainable and working towards achieving certified organic status within the next two years.

We sampled a selection of seven wines from three of Tiki's five wine ranges: Koro, the premium reserve label, Estate and two single vineyard reserves.

Tiki Pinot Noir Rose 2015. We were privileged to be only the second group in the country to taste this newly released rose, which was bottled just five weeks ago. Even this early on, the flavour was full with notes of cherries and strawberries. Definitely a wine for our yes list. We even ordered two bottles to enjoy when summer arrives, as it can cellar for 2-4 years.

Tiki Single Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Gris 2014. This smooth pinot gris had a low level of residual sugar, leaving it with an off-dry finish. Slightly aromatic, I didn't really taste the pear, quincy and spicy notes that others seemed to be enjoying. Drinkable and pleasant, so it'll go on the maybe list.

Tiki Single Vineyard Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014. We heard about the very impressive process followed to make this chardonnay. It was bottled 4 months ago but apparently will cellar until 2023! I just couldn't get past the heavy oak notes. A no for me.

Tiki Koro Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014. Only 300 x 6 cases of this reserve label chardonnay were produced and they can cellar for up to 20 years. Oaked for 14 months, I once again couldn't get past the overpowering oak and acidic aftertaste. Another no.

Tiki Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015. As a sauvignon blanc fan, this wine surprised me. Released just five weeks ago, it was already earned two 5-star recommendations. I disliked how it was incredibly acidic up front - although the hints of evil capsicum may have turned me off even more. Sadly, a no.

Tiki Estate Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014.
Tiki Koro Wanaka/Central Otago Pinot Noir 2013.
Two pinot noir varietals here. Both were too oaky for me. Definite nos - although our table did enjoy reading the tasting notes for the Koro pinot noir and its description of 'forest floor aromas'. Isn't that what most people call mulch?

Thursday, 27 August 2015

WOAP lunch: Bistro 169

Bistro 169 is the restaurant in the Abel Tasman Hotel. Their $25 two course Wellington on a Plate lunch menu looked absolutely mouth watering and so Bistro 169 became the destination for an impromptu work lunch today. How I love this time of year. :-)

First up, entrees. I chose the Randwick Meats Wairarapa free range pork belly with saffron cauliflower purée, apple and fennel salsa, and bourbon sauce. The pork belly was divine but unfortunately there were unadvertised diced evil capsicums hiding in the salsa so I pushed that aside and enjoyed it with the bourbon sauce instead.

Pork belly with saffron cauliflower purée
The main course of Preston's beef cheek with roasted garlic mash potato, mushroom ragoût and salsa verde was simply huge. The beef was incredibly tender and the mushroom ragoût was delicious. There was a lot of verde and a lot of mash which has left me in a very full tummy contented-type mood for the afternoon. A glass of Mela apple juice finished off my meal.

Beef cheek with roasted garlic mash
Lunch today has wrapped up my Wellington on a Plate campaign for 2015. It confirms what I already know: Wellington is a great place for foodies to be in August or any time of the year.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

WOAP dinner: Burger Liquor

Burgers. They're everywhere lately. A key feature of Wellington on a Plate is Burger Wellington where you can sample every type of burger imaginable and vote for your favourite. My first foray into burgers for many years was at the home of burgers last night, Burger Liquor on Willis Street.

The two course Welly on a Plate set menu for $25 includes a Wellington regional beverage. I combined the best of both menus and had their featured tipsy lamb burger with an entree and a cocktail.

In a flash, two Bootleggers Dark and Stormy dark rum cocktails arrived at our table. They went down very smoooooth.

Bootleggers Dark and Stormy cocktail
I love halloumi and so chose Zany Zeus halloumi croquettes with mint aioli as an entree. They weren't quite what I expected. The carrot in them made them very sweet and the halloumi was melted in rather being a 'chunk' or piece like I'd thought. The aioli was delicious and it was a good way to start our meal.

Zany Zeus halloumi croquettes
When we were half way through our entrees, the main course arrived. (No time to muck around here!) I had the famous tipsy lamb burger: Pirinoa Station backstrap with Garage Project Angry Peaches molasses, hot n' cold yoghurt, carrot and lettuce. The lamb was cooked medium rare and served in pieces. This burger was small and well formed. We ordered a side bowl of smoked paprika makikihi fries to go with it.

Tipsy lamb burger
I see you can order meals and drinks at Burger Liquor via the YQ app. I might need to test that feature sometime soon. :-)

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Pimp my dough

Totara Cottage know a thing or two about baking. They've been baking up a storm since 1996 and were the hosts of today's cookie making demonstration at Moore Wilson's, Pimp my dough - One mix, many variations. I've had mixed levels of success with baking biscuits and cookies but always console myself with the fact that even my cookie 'pancake' leftovers (read: failed to rise or hold their shape) still taste good. Now, I have a few more tools in my baking arsenal and am assured of future cookie baking success!

We were greeted with a recipe sheet and a sample of three biscuits: morning glory breakfast (with grated apple, carrot, sultanas and coconut), adult indulgence (triple chocolate with white chocolate raspberry filling) and chocolate chip. I munched on the morning glory breakfast as the demonstration was beginning. Its soft, cakey-type texture slightly resembled a muffin.

With one basic recipe mixed by hand, we saw how to vary things by adding a few extra ingredients. The great thing about this dough is that it can be frozen and cooked later, or you can just cook a whole batch of biscuits and freeze leftovers to reheat or recook - if there are any left. The scroggin biscuits with sunflower seeds, cranberries, pumpkin seeds, rolled oats and chocolate budlets caught my attention. They almost sound healthy. Almost.

We got to choose a lovely take home pack of ingredients to try baking at home. I went for the scroggin mix while my colleague chose chocolate and cranberry. We're going to make our batches at home this weekend and swap some with each other. I'm also thinking about making some of these recipes next time I am rostered on for Good Bitches Baking. They'd certainly make delicious  treats.

Scroggin biscuit mixture to make at home
Check out the Totara Cottage product range.

Totara Cottage product range
It looks like next week's demonstration still has some places available. I'd recommend it as a fun lunch time activity.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Mint by Dai and Dal

Two events on Friday got my Wellington on a Plate experience off to a great start. I was thrilled to win tickets to the sold out pop up restaurant event Mint by Dai and Dal at Pataka in Porirua.

Now is probably not the time to say that I've never watched My Kitchen Rules, Masterchef or any other cooking show. I did know Dai and Dal from the Wellington Wine and Food Festival earlier this year and really enjoyed their Tom Khem and coconut rice balls. I also don't know much about Laotian cuisine but am a huge fan of food from Laos' neighbours, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

A three course Laotian meal with a modern twist and wine matching made for a blissful night out. The name Mint was inspired by the use of fresh herbs in Lao cooking, representing fresh, new flavours and is also a kiwi-ism for something that is good. Dai was the front of house host for the evening while Dal oversaw all the cooking.

We arrived to find two huge, long tables impeccably set for around 60 guests and glasses of Palliser Estate Methode Traditionelle waiting - another yes for the wine list. The table decorations were beautiful, with little bottles and vases of flowers and fresh mint leaves all along the centre.

Table for 60
Each table setting had three wine glasses, a water glass and a 1 litre bottle of antipodes sparkling water. Unfortunately I forgot to bring home my beautifully printed menu so my description of each course is how I remembered it and not necessarily exactly what we ate.

Table setting
Our first course got off to a great start as I'm a huge fan of dumplings. We had three steamed duck, shitake mushroom and bamboo dumplings with parsnip crisps in a spicy broth. The matching wine was a rich, dark red pinot noir from Urlar Estate in Gladstone.

Steamed duck, shitake mushroom and bamboo dumplings in a spicy broth
The main course was beautifully cooked Tom Khem marinaded pork belly with the crispy coconut rice balls I remembered. It was so delicious I could easily have had another serving if there were leftovers. The wine match was a dry Urlar Estate sauvignon blanc.

Tom Khem pork belly with crispy coconut rice balls.
Growing up, I'd never tasted sago but knew it from my father's childhood meal nightmares (along with tapioca and rice pudding). I was curious to try the sago with coconut cream, lychee and mango pieces but can report that I am definitely my father's daughter; sago is not for me. Looking around me, though, there were empty dessert plates and happy smiles as several people commented how it reminded them of their own childhood. Each to their own! The wine match was a dry, oily Urlar Estate Reisling.

Sago with coconut and lychee sauce, mangoes and a meringue slab
An extra bonus came in the form of being able to take away my unopened bottle of antipodes sparkling water ("Take it home," Dai told us. "It's really expensive.") and goodie bags containing their famous Tom Khem marinade and accompanying instructions on how to make your own pork belly at home. Yum! This marinade will be stocked at Moore Wilson's late next month.

Goodie bag!
A huge thank you to the Capital Day section of the Dominion Post (@CapDayDom) for our complimentary tickets. This is one of the best prizes I have been lucky enough to win. Apparently a restaurant is not on the cards yet for Dai and Dal, but we'd certainly love to see it happen and be there to support them.