Sunday, 16 December 2018

NZSO Christmas Pops

Of all the gifts I'm blessed with, music is the one I'm most grateful for. Music is the blood that runs through our family. It's who and how we are. It's our identity. It's a passion we share and also one that divides us as we analyse and debate the ins and outs of what we're listening to, what we're watching and how to play it. It's led to a solid work ethic, a love of performing and many years of entertaining others.

Mr 10 is latest to be bitten by our musical bug. Our family are currently arguing (with him) about how many instruments he should be allowed to learn simultaneously. We've settled on 2-3 for now, on condition that piano with theory is number 1, followed by guitar and then maybe bass.

This week, I won tickets to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's final performance for 2018, Christmas Pops. It's always a treat to attend a NZSO performance, but pops orchestra programmes offer a great introduction to symphony orchestras by mixing up lighthearted classical arrangements of popular show tunes. It was obvious who would come to the concert with me, and I'm not sure who was more excited: Mr 10 anticipating his first orchestral experience, or me being able to share our family's love of music in yet another way. 

From the moment we took our seats, Mr 10 was fascinated. How many instruments could we see? (Too many to count!) Look at all those cellos and double basses! The orchestra took their seats and started tuning. "Wow, even that sounds amazing!" he declared. What instrument is making that sound? (It's an oboe ... oh, now listen to the clarinets!) He watched and listened and joined in the mass chorus numbers with open excitement. So did I!

The programme featured mostly Christmas music, including carols, songs, movie themes and classical works. Australian mezzo-soprano Jacqui Dark was the orchestra's special guest. Her introduction was a beautiful tear-inducing rendition of Climb Ev'ry Mountain from The Sound of Music, taking me back to my teenage years. She entertained and delighted with every number and even bravely attempted the New Zealand version of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

The biggest musical highlight for me was a suite of three pieces from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, my favourite ballet and the centrepiece of my Christmas playlist. Of course, Mr 10 loved the arrangement of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, even if he was a bit shy when singing along. (I wasn't - but he's still young enough to not be embarrassed by me doing things like that ... yet.)

The only lowlight of the evening was the late start time for what is essentially a family show. 7.30 pm in summer is fine for grown-ups, but a 9.30 pm finish for little people, even overexcited budding musicians trying their very best to drink in every moment, was all a bit much. He slept well last night!

How special that the NZSO could share the gift of music with a whole new generation. I'm sure many fans were made last night.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Louis Sergeant's tasting plates

Louis Sergeant has a new home at the top of Lambton Quay. The decor has been refreshed and now boasts a street-facing store front to entice hungry customers in for afternoon tea. There are fewer tables and no kitchen on site so the selection now focuses on a more refined and predominantly sweet menu. The high tea menu has also been refreshed. There are now nine sweet items (no savoury) available Wednesday to Sunday.

Even with a refined menu, you're really spoiled for choice. Everything looks so perfectly appealing. If you can't decide, I'd recommend a tasting plate of three petits fours and coffee or hot chocolate for $14. The selection changes frequently and features miniature versions of the full sized patisserie items. My platter gave me explosions of flavour featuring chocolate, hazelnut, choux pastry, lemon, vanilla and pistachio ... and an appetite to return and try three more treats another day.

Tasting plate

Friday, 14 September 2018

Petit fours at the InterContinental

I'd heard that petit fours on the InterContinental Hotel Lobby Lounge dessert menu are Wellington's best kept foodie secret. I'm already a big fan of high tea at the InterContinental. Yesterday, my team and I checked out petit fours.

For $18, you get a platter of sweet treats to share. It's enough for one between two if you want to sample everything or three people if you're being polite. The selection changes regularly. Yesterday's menu included macarons, chocolate truffles, candied orange wedges dipped in dark chocolate, biscotti, fruit jelly, coconut ice, marshmallow and new season strawberries. Delicious!

Petit fours
Petit fours are a great introduction to high tea if you have less time or are after a smaller treat. Ssh - pass it on!

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Two hours of power at The Arborist

Wellington on a Plate wrapped up its tenth birthday today. We ended a foodie fortnight by saving the best for last. Two hours of power at The Arborist was described as a kiwi take on yum cha. Apparently the kitchen was given free rein and came up with a seemingly endless menu. This is what they promised:

An ambitious promise
The menu listed nine courses, in no particular order, plus two desserts. We actually started with a bonus dish not on the menu: baked potato with pulled pork filling. (Don't worry - each potato was to share between two people.)

Baked potato with pulled pork appetiser
So, with our palettes ready, then dishes kept coming in yum cha style. There were so many highlights and I only remembered to take a few photos. Marmite glazed pork ribs, hot smoked salmon devilled eggs, prawn cocktails with avocado on melba toast, mushroom and feta mini quiche, slow braised lamb shoulder with smoked kumara pastries ... we were served continuously for an hour before needing to slow things down a bit - a welcome reprise before starting again.

Would we like seconds of any dish? Although we were pretty full after nearly two hours, here's what we chose to sample again.

Beer battered snapper with salt and malt vinegar fries
Coq Au Vin chicken tossed in hiracha honey and garlic with blue cheese dip
Mini pavlova with strawberries, kiwifruit and chantilly cream, and a mini lemon curd tart topped with crumbled meringue finished off an amazing meal at The Arborist. The service this afternoon was exceptional and the food simply divine. A fitting end to another Welly on a Plate season.

A sweet ending

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Mad Hatter's Tea Party with a twist

High tea two weekends in a row? It must be Wellington on a Plate. The Mad Hatter's Tea Party with a twist was held at the festival hub behind Prefab Cafe.

This dapper couple were suitably dressed for the occasion.

Thomas the Tank Engine meets the Mad Hatter
We entered through the magical festival hub, where candy floss clouds were there for the taking.

Candy floss clouds
Walk past the popcorn wall and entice your palette. Which will you choose: sweet, sour, bitter salty or umami?

A wall of popcorn
Alice invites you ...

  ... to follow her down down the rabbit hole ...

Don't get lost!
... and take your seat.

Table setting
The flowers look so pretty ...

Pretty flower bowl
... but they're actually a resting place for this little blue penguin!

A penguin ice sculpture
Ooh, a game of chess! Who is brave enough to play?

Giant chess board
Time for tea. Teapot cocktails were served. There were no non-alcoholic or coffee substitutions included (apart from some available for purchase) so we stuck with water.

Tea is served
While waiting for our food to arrive, we visited the vending machine in the Visa Festival Hub and munched on another pottle of popcorn along the way.

Treat yourself for just $1!
Here's how the menu transformed:

Mad Hatter's high tea
Where to start? At the bottom, of course! Rabbit pies, chicken liver and plum jelly brioche doughnuts, and cucumber, cream cheese and cricket (yes, cricket) sandwiches. The brioche and bread were amazing. The fillings ... well, I need a bit more getting used to chicken liver and crickets. Surprisingly, the chili and black ant candy floss was actually quite delicious.

Savoury style
These champagne jelly tarts were set on shortbread and dusted with freeze dried raspberries.

Champagne jellies
And no Mad Hatter's tea party would be complete without jam tarts. We finished off high tea with a mini chocolate (mousse) garden.

The Queen of Heart's tarts
This Mad Hatter's tea party was a magical way to wile away an hour on a Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Homegrown high tea at Artisan Dining House

Wellington on a Plate continued today with Homegrown high tea, an elegant high tea experience at Artisan Dining House in the Bolton Hotel. High tea featured a range of handcrafted gourmet teatime treats made with local ingredients and began with half a glass of The Griffin bubbles from Palliser Estate on arrival. The tables were set.

A bubbly start
The menu promised nine items sourced from locally produced ingredients along with a selection of teas.

High tea menu
 Thankfully we could exchange tea for coffee. Our high tea arrived.

Artisan Dining House high tea
Where to begin? The classic cucumber sandwich was actually on the top (dessert) tier, so we started there and then moved to the savoury bottom layer. You can see little venison pies, mushroom arancini, and lamb croquets. They're hiding a teeny tiny cheese scroll nestled in behind.

The middle tier had a range of sweet items, including citrus slice, almond friand and a Whittaker's chocolate coconut fudge slice featuring an elegant white chocolate shark with a pretty marbled effect. This was my favourite high tea treat.

We finished high tea with a tiny salted caramel macaron.

The Artisan Dining House is a lovely setting for an elegant Sunday afternoon high tea.