Sunday 15 August 2021

Chocolatier for the day

Three years after a fun evening of chocolate making for Wellington on a Plate in 2018, I returned to Wellington Chocolate Factory yesterday for another chocolate making session. Chocolatier for the day is a hands-on event that will appeal to any aspiring Oompa Loompa. Kitted out in a stylish hairnet (no selfies!) and apron, each station was prepared with all we needed to create three handcrafted chocolate bars.

Ready to begin
Which is your favourite?

We started with a quick explanation of how things would work then began tempering some melted chocolate by hand. (No machines this time.) We could make three bars of either milk or dark chocolate so opted for one tray of each that we would divide and share later.

The wide range of appealing ingredients meant we could experiment with our flavour combinations. I remembered from last time that less is more when it comes to piling on the ingredients, especially when it's time to wrap the bars, so tried to be a little more restrained this time. We made tasty treats including mini marshmallows and sprinkles, broken wafers with freeze dried strawberries, and biscuit crumbs with crushed pistachio nuts in milk chocolate. We experimented with more savoury combinations in dark chocolate, including freeze dried raspberry with sea salt, chili flakes with pretzels, and crispy salted caramel.

Sweet milk chocolate delights
Savoury dark chocolate flavours

While we were waiting for our chocolate creations to set in the fridge, we were treated to a real hot chocolate and a more detailed explanation of the chocolate making process.

Real hot chocolate

Then it came time to wrap our bars by hand in beautiful coloured wrappers. Believe me: it's not as easy as it looks, especially the bars with chunkier toppings like marshmallows and pretzels. We opted to chop our bars across the middle and wrap them as a mixed selection, which means we're in for a pleasant surprise of two out of six possible combinations each time we open a bar at home. Clever thinking!

Another delightful Wellington on a Plate event hosted by the lovely team at Wellington Chocolate Factory. Check out their future tours and chocolate making sessions. They're interesting, tasty and lots of fun.

Saturday 7 August 2021

Rice and Shine

Wellington on a Plate has returned to its usual August calendar, promising a month of culinary adventures for the region's foodies. We got our campaign off to a great start with Rice and Shine at Master Kong, a fusion between European style brunch and Asian yum cha.

The courses kept coming and I lost count after around 9 or 10 dishes. Breakfast cocktails were also available and there was a great vibe in the restaurant overlooking Wellington's waterfront.

The menu included bacon and egg bao buns, chicken dumplings with lemongrass sauce, karachi chicken on savoury waffle, pad thai, salmon blinis, sweet banana and bacon bao, pork croissant, bacon fried rice ... I've forgotten some of the combinations but we rolled out of the restaurant at the end of the session feeling happily full.

Master Kong yum cha brunch

Our friends agreed that Rice and Shine was a great start to this year's Welly on a Plate festival. I'm looking forward to more foodie events this month.

Sunday 23 May 2021

New Zealand Comedy Festival 2021

The New Zealand International Comedy Festival takes place in Auckland and Wellington during May each year. Well, most years. 2020 was obviously an exception. The festival kicks off with a gala evening where local and (usually) international comedians put forward four minute samplers of what's to come during their festival shows. Last year's gala evening happened later in the year and featured an almost exclusively local lineup. This year's show had a few more internationals who had either moved her shortly before the pandemic or simply decided to sit it out in relatively safety while on their travels. Either way, we're glad we can enjoy live stand-up comedy again.

We went to five stand-up shows during the festival, having decided on three of them after attending the gala show. Hands down the best show we saw was Arsebiscuits by British-Indian storyteller and comedian Sameena Zehra. Her show was a roller coaster of intelligence, hilarity, dark humour and clever wit that has left me looking out for anything else featuring this multi-talented performer. Such a treat! 

Another on-form performance was Ladi Dadi Assadi like to party by Pax Assadi, who is really hitting his comedy stride. Ben Hurley is one of our favourites but we realised during Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream that we may have been to a few too many of his shows recently as we could recognise many of his stories from the opening lines. Guy Montgomery and Nick Rado served up fun nights out - even on a school night. 

It feels great to be able to support local artists and attend live events once again.

Sunday 11 October 2020

Winetopia 2020

Winetopia logo
Winetopia came to town this weekend. More than 50 wineries offered 30 ml tastings of their products in our own takeaway Spiegelau glass. We explored some new wineries and also enjoyed listening to tales of wine and music with musician and composer Laughton Kora.

We're generally white wine fans (apart from oaked wines, chardonnay and pinot gris) and made some great additions to our yes list in 2019. This year we looked for more sauvignon blanc, sparkling wines, dry Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Albariño and Viognier. We quickly spent our tokens, bought a few more and purchased four bottles to take home of wines that aren't too easy to find locally. A very successful evening.

Winetopia 2020 wines
Take home collection

2020 yes list highlights

Friday 9 October 2020

Afternoon tea with lots of talk about baking

Wellington on a Plate moved to October this year and once again I've planned a busy itinerary for myself. The title of my first event is quite a mouthful - just like the delicious afternoon tea we were served. Everything you could ever want to know about baking, all in one afternoon was hosted by three industry veterans at Floriditas. Ruth Pretty, Julie le Clerc and Julie Clark delighted us with tales from their baking careers, baking failures and advice for those of us still practising our craft.

During the talk, we were served afternoon tea featuring menu items from each chef. 

Afternoon tea menu
An enticing menu

 I swapped my hot drink for a refreshing mocktail.

Seville orange and mint cordial
Food was presented in two courses: savoury and sweet. The savoury selection included a roast chicken cocktail sandwich with bacon and herb stuffing, spinach za'atar puff and an asparagus, parmesan and gruyere croissant. So very cheesy!

Savoury selection
Savoury selection

We all know I'm really about the sweets. Our sweet treats included a little Persian love cake, a soft ginger kiss, passionfruit and white chocolate macaron and a decadent dark chocolate strawberry tart. Divine!

Sweet treats
Sweet treats
This was a delightful afternoon with lovely company and great advice. If only we could enjoy afternoon tea like this every weekend.

Sunday 13 September 2020

Digital Nights - Van Gogh Alive

Of all the immensely talented impressionist and post-impressionist artists, Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) is probably my favourite. I'm an art admirer but not much of a visual artist myself. As a teacher whose strength was performing arts, I worried I wouldn't be able to do my students justice when it came to teaching visual art techniques. My colleagues suggested choosing an artist to study (guess who I chose?) and my class of 7-8 year olds got busy drawing and painting their bedrooms, their shoes, bowls of fruit, vases of flowers, self-portraits and some very tempestuous starry nights. Together, we unlocked the magic and beauty of impressionism by studying the work of Van Gogh.

Van Gogh's prolific collection of around 2100 art works famously sold a single piece during his lifetime, yet live on to bring pleasure 130 years later in a form he could never have imagined. Wellington is the first city to host Digital Nights - Van Gogh Alive outside, which is a bold and brave move during springtime. (Yes, it rained when we went and was very cold, but this didn't detract from the experience.)

Dozens of art works are projected onto giant shipping containers standing three-high and accompanied by an emotive score of well-known classics. Every standpoint offers a good view and standing further back makes the impressionist's brush strokes come alive.

Everyone has a favourite Van Gogh painting or three. I have been captivated by the scene depicted in Café Terrace at Night for as long as I can remember and have a canvas print of it hanging in my lounge. Phone photos can't even begin to capture the magic of seeing these masterpieces in such amplified splendour. Some zoomed in to reveal finer detail in the brush strokes. Here are a few highlights.

Café Terrace at Night
Café Terrace at Night - zoom view
Starry Night Over the Rhône
Starry Night Over the Rhône
The Starry Night
The Starry Night

So many art works, so many masterpieces and so much torment and sadness before an untimely death at age 37. Digital Nights - Van Gogh Alive is an art experience that speaks to your soul.