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.

Friday, 14 August 2015

WOAP lunch: Grill Meats Beer

It's Wellington on a Plate time! Two and a half weeks to indulge in local food is a great way to end of what has been a long and dreary winter. To celebrate the start of Welly on a Plate 2015 today, twelve of us had lunch at Grill Meats Beer. The set lunch menu features a choice of two courses plus a Wellington regional beverage. There is also a Burger Wellington option available for $26.

I found choosing just two courses from the set menu difficult. Looking at what everybody at our table ordered, I can quite honestly say that I'd have been happy with any combination of the six options. I settled on a main course, dessert and a glass of GMB homemade lemonade - delightfully bitter and very lemony.

GMB homemade lemonade
My main course was a perfectly cooked garlic and miso marinated rare bavette with black bean and harissa hash. After drooling over everybody's entrees and seeing all the delicious meals being served around the restaurant, I was well and truly ready to tuck into this course. Two of our boys loved their burgers - and we enjoyed watching them trying to eat them politely. We may bring bibs next time. ;-)

Bavette with black bean and harissa hash
And then, dessert: Whittaker's malted milk chocolate sundae with salted caramel and peanut brownie crumbs. The peanut brownie crumbs were just like the biscuits Mum used to make when we were kids and the salted caramel and malt combination finished it off beautifully.

Malted milk chocolate sundae
There was a long wait for service as the restaurant was so busy with several groups booked at the same time for the opening of Welly on a Plate. Luckily afternoon meetings could be put on hold, as most of us were all at lunch together anyway. There's now a very full and contented air about the office to end the week.

Monday, 10 August 2015

High tea at Sweet Pea

It has been a big week full of food, frivolity, family and friends. I topped off a wonderful weekend of fun and celebrations with a ladies' high tea at Sweet Pea in Petone yesterday.

High tea at Sweet Pea is an elegant affair. However, if the idea of high tea sounds too girlie for the men in your life, I hear they also offer a guy tea option, although I'll have to take my friend's word for that one, as she said it was the only way she could get her husband and son to accompany her to high tea. It sounds like a very clever strategy!

I bypassed the extensive tea menu in favour of coffee, then we were served twelve items of food on three tiers. The bottom tier had cucumber sandwiches, something resembling a toasted cheese roll, two types of pate on wafer crackers and kransky pigs in blankets. They even catered for the capsicum-intolerant, replacing the chicken club sandwich with ham and cheese for me. The middle tier featured cheese and date scones (with red plum and raspberry jams and cream) and other savouries that tasted delicious but disappeared before I could note exactly what was in each. For sweet treats, there was a passionfruit and lemon curd tart and yummy panna cotta with strawberry garnish.

High tea at Sweet Pea
Finally, we got to select a cupcake to take home from Sweet Pea's decadent cupcake cabinet. This is a jersey caramel cupcake, beautifully packed up and ready to go.

Jersey caramel cupcake
High tea at Sweet Pea is a great thing to do with a group of girls, whether you're celebrating a special occasion or just want to indulge.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Sileni Estates wine tasting

Sileni Estates is a vineyard and winery in Hawkes Bay. Founded in 1997, Sileni is named for Greek demi-god Selinus, companion and tutor to wine god Dionysus. We were in good hands with chief winemaker Grant Edmonds as our host for the evening. It made me realise that the best wine tastings are hosted by experienced winemakers who are both knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. Grant also shared with us two samples from his private vineyard, Redmetal Vineyards.

Sileni's success story sees them exporting approximately 95% of their total production each year. This is quite common in the New Zealand wine industry, where most of the wine produced by around 700 wineries is exported and not destined for the domestic market. A point of difference that sounds great to me is the sweetness scale of 1-5 printed on Sileni wine labels. Being a fan of dry wines (usually less than 5% residual sugar), this is something I'd really like to see on all bottles.

The yes and no list was very clear cut; all the white wines (apart from the sticky) got a yes vote from me and all the reds were nos.

Yes list
  • Sileni The Straits (Marlborough) 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. I'm biased but I really did like this reserve Marlborough sav. It sits in the tank for a further 3 months after fermentation, giving it a creamy, smooth finish. This wine makes up 2/3 of Sileni's total production and gives them a foot in the door in overseas markets. 
  • Sileni Cellar Selection 2014 Pinot Gris. Apparently pinot gris is Sileni's second largest varietal. (I say apparently because the winemaker also said that pinot noir was their second largest varietal, so who knows?) This dry pinot gris has just 4 grams of residual sugar. The sweetness comes directly from the fruit, leaving a low level of acidity and a smooth finish.
  • Sileni The Lodge 2014 Chardonnay. A big surprise here for me: an oaked chardonnay that I like! 100% barrel fermented in 20-25% new oak, this award winning chardonnay was pleasant and smooth.
No list (remember - I'm not much of a red wine drinker or a sticky fan, so this is just for my reference)
  • Sileni The Plateau 2013 Pinot Noir
  • Sileni The Peak 2013 Syrah
  • Sileni Cellar Selection 2013 Cabernet Franc
  • Redmetal Merlot 2014 Cabernet Franc
  • Redmetal Basket Press 2013 Merlot Cabernet Franc
  • Sileni Exceptional Vintage 2014 Pourriture Noble