Saturday, 27 August 2016

Craft chocolate and soda night

Tucked away upstairs at the start of what is known as the Hannahs Laneway is a tiny soda factory that is taking on the Wellington food world. Six Barrel Soda Co make sodas and soda syrups that you'll find in bars, cafes and restaurants all around the region. It has been a pleasure seeing their business grow and develop from its humble beginnings in Newtown four years ago.
Six Barrel Soda Co sodas
Not too far away is The Chocolate Bar, a boutique bean to bar chocolate maker. There are very few bean to bar chocolate factories in New Zealand (Whittaker's is one and Wellington Chocolate Factory is another). They sure do take their chocolate seriously.
The Chocolate Bar
Both these wonderful businesses came together to host a Wellington on a Plate event this week, the sold out Craft chocolate and soda night. Hosted by Luke from The Chocolate Bar and Tegan from Six Barrel Soda, we got to sample ten (10!) different chocolate and soda combinations. It was a great way to taste our way around the world of New Zealand made craft chocolate, discover some new soda flavours and learn more about the process of bean to bar chocolate making.

Each chocolate and soda 'course' was introduced with a description of the beans used, their origin and tasting notes.
The first of ten chocolate and soda combinations
Wellington Chocolate Factory Peru 70% with orange and dandelion soda
This chocolate promised hints of apricot and honey. It turns out we started with one of the best tasting sodas of the evening.

Ocho Samoa 70% with creaming soda
Who remembers creaming soda? Yummy! Not as thick (creamy) as I recall but still delicious. The chocolate was made by Ocho in Dunedin, who source all their beans from the Pacific Islands. It had a really pleasant nutty, caramel finish.

Ocho PNG 66% with hibiscus soda
Much like PNG origin coffee beans, I didn't like the bold up front flavours of this chocolate. Also, the hibiscus soda was too sweet for me.

Hogarth Craft Chocolate Akesson Estate with raspberry and lemon soda
Hogarth Craft Chocolate is a new chocolate maker based in Nelson. This 70% chocolate using beans from Madagascar had a lovely raisin and raspberry aftertaste. It went well with my long time favourite Six Barrel Soda flavour, raspberry and lemon.

Ocho Beekeeper with lime soda
I'm not much of a honey fan but this 70% bar with manuka honey, bee pollen and puffed amaranth was really good. It also went well with my favourite citrus flavour, lime.

Wellington Chocolate Factory Dominican Republic with ginger ale soda
This dark bar was rich and with undertones of burnt marmalade - or so we were told. I couldn't quite taste it for myself but knew that I really liked the chocolate. I was also reminded that I still don't like ginger ale.

Wellington Chocolate Factory Bougainville Bar with pinot noir soda
There's quite a story behind how these cacao beans were sourced from Bougainville. The chocolate tasted raisiny and was worth the journey. The pinot noir soda was a little bit different: non-alcoholic, for one thing. Given that I don't care for either the wine or this soda, it seems reasonable to assume that pinot noir grapes are not for me.

Hogarth Craft Chocolate Conocada with cola soda
This chocolate was made with the same Dominican Republic beans as two others we sampled but the flavour palette for each was quite different. I liked the hints of caramel and toffee. The cola soda tasted a million miles away from Coca-Cola but is still not a flavour I like.

White Rabbit Cacao Dominican Republic with sarsparilla soda
Another chocolate bar made with the same Dominican Republic beans by a boutique chocolate maker in Bannockburn, near Cromwell. I don't remember much about this chocolate apart from its smooth finish. The flavour was completely overpowered by the cough mixture soda.

Hogarth Craft Chocolate Gianduia with coffee soda
We'd saved the best for last. I loved this soft, creamy gianduia chocolate with 30% Nelson hazelnuts and 70% Venezuela cacao. As for the coffee soda ... I'll stick with the real thing.

A big thank you to Luke and Tegan for a delicious and enjoyable night of sampling. We also got to take home one of my favourite bars from the evening to savour later, Wellington Chocolate Factory's Dominican Republic 70% single origin.
Wellington Chocolate Factory bars to take home

Monday, 15 August 2016

High coffee

It's no secret that high tea is one of my favourite treats. Sure, it's been pointed out to me many times that "you don't like tea". Most high tea venues are happy to exchange their selection of teas for coffee. Some will even upgrade you to sparkling wine. With high coffee for lunch today, I didn't have this problem.

The Intercontinental Lobby Lounge was the location for today's Wellington on a Plate event. We were presented with a selection of fifteen high tea items (I think - I lost count!) and a novel coffee selection to begin with: either an espresso martini or affogato on the side. Given that it was a work day and I had meetings to return to, I opted for non-alcoholic affogato, much to the disappointment of the maître d. "Shall I put a shot of something in it for you?" she asked. I have to admire her tenacity.
We hatched a game plan early on and decided to take it slowly, pacing ourselves through the wonderful menu, but we were no match for what was placed in front of us. The savoury and sandwich layer included a delicious smoked salmon and cream cheese mini bagel, egg and cucumber club sandwiches, pumpernickel with blue cheese (not for me) and little scones with jam and cream. My attempt at the middle layer was pitiful; I managed a mini red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting, a lemon meringue tartlet and a few spoons of fruit salad in between finishing my affogato before declaring defeat. The leftovers (seven more dessert treats!) were packed up into boxes for later.
Intercontinental high coffee
Back in the office, my box of treats was admired and drooled over by my workmates. Mr Weka and I shared them after dinner and enjoyed an orange macaron, strawberry tartlet, lemon cheese cake, dark chocolate mousse cake, Gâteau Opera and a delightful chocolate and popping candy lollypop that fizzed and popped on my tongue.

High coffee at the Intercontintal is a decadent treat more suited to a long afternoon tea than a workday lunch ... so we'll make sure we do that next time.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

The Dairy Made

Wellington on a Plate 2016 has started. Two and a half weeks of endless food and local foodie events lined up. Wellington's food scene really comes alive at this time of year.

Our first event was hosted by one of my favourite foodies, Ruth Pretty. The Dairy Made was a celebration of all things dairy. (Think milk, cream, butter, cheese ... mmm.) Fittingly, the event was held at The Milk Station in Otaki, an old 1900s milk station converted into a beautiful venue and function centre. Check out the decor.

I'd love a chandeleir like this
(and a house big enough to hang it).
'Old school' milk and dairy memorabilia
This copper milk jug used to carry 5l of milk at a time.
We were warmly greeted by Ruth and treated to coffee and cheese scones. The tables were beautifully set and decorated with daffodils, reminding us that spring is just around the corner.
I love the huge wooden doors in the background.
They led through to an interior courtyard.
A touch of spring.
I confess to not having read the event description properly before we arrived. Imagine my surprise to discover a menu for a four course meal with wine matching! Each dairy-inspired dish was preceded by a speaker talking about various related topics (an introduction to the venue, the chemical constructions of dairy products and a talk about the free range pork we ate for the main course). This spread the meal out, meaning we could take time to enjoy each course before the next.

We began with the first course of smoked fish pie with walnut and Colby crumble and fennel lemon salad. The wine match was 2014 Soho Jagger Pinot Gris from Awatere Valley.
First course
As if one entree wasn't enough, we had a second! Double baked cheddar, mushroom and bacon soufflé served with a refreshing sorrel and radish salad. I hadn't eaten raw sorrel before. On its own, it would taste quite overpowering but the radish complemented the flavour. The wine match was Tietjen Witters Gold Chardonnay from Gisborne.
Second course
Even the palette cleanser between courses was a noteworthy dish of its own! I could easily have eaten this kaffir lime sorbet with poached pear and frozen yoghurt for dessert. Note the original 1930s parchment paper (a butter wrapper) place mat.
Palette cleanser
The main course was all about pork cooked three ways (plus crackling). Woody's Free Range Farm founder Daniel Todd talked about the challenges of feeding quality food to around 200 free range pigs to produce a quality pork product. We enjoyed pulled pork, pork belly and pork braised in milk with apple and pork jus. The creamy Swiss style cheese potato gratin was absolutely delicious. Note the token touch of green (broccoli)! The wine match was 2012 Georgetown Pinot Noir from Central Otago.
Main course
Finally, it was onto dessert. I hadn't tasted junket before but apparently it was a staple dessert before my time. I didn't care much for this rum junket but did like the crumble on top, along with the other dessert dish of Esther's gingerbread with poached quince and vanilla whipped cream. The gingerbread would also have tasted great slightly warmed.
After dessert, we got to walk through the impressive wooden doors into an interior courtyard, where Milk Station owner Lindia Wood had opened some of the accommodation rooms for us to explore.
European style interior courtyard.
Thank you to Ruth, Lindia and the team for a delightful long lunch. Needless to say, I don't need dinner tonight!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Neapolitan cake

There's so much more to Neapolitan than the ice cream we grew up with as kids. Back in the day, vanilla and chocolate were the predominant flavour options. We hadn't heard of cookies and cream, goodie goodie gum drops or salted caramel yet. Neapolitan added a touch of exoticism, even if we didn't really like it. Hokey pokey was another whole level of excitement for kiwi kids.

Birthday time calls for a special birthday cake. I wanted to use my Fresh As freeze dried strawberry powder to bake with and Neapolitan cake came to mind. After unsuccessfully searching for Neapolitan cake recipes, I decided to double and modify the standard Edmonds Cookery Book butter cake recipe. It's incredibly versatile and produced three layers for turned out to be a very large cake once assembled and decorated.

Neapolitan cake

  • 300 g butter, softened
  • 3 t vanilla essence
  • 330 g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 420 g flour
  • 2 T baking powder
  • 375 ml milk
  • 1 t freeze dried strawberry powder
  • pink food colouring
  • 2 T cocoa
  1. Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease and line three 20 cm sandwich cake pans.
  2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla essence together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down sides of the bowl and beating well after each addition.
  4. Sift flour and baking powder together. Fold into creamed mixture.
  5. Add milk gradually to give a soft dropping consistency.
  6. Divide mixture into three equal portions (about ~568 grams each) as follows.
    Vanilla cake
    : Pour one third of the mixture into a prepared pan.
    Strawberry cake: Pour one third of the mixture into a separate bowl. Add freeze dried powder and enough pink food colouring to achieve your desired colour. Pour into second prepared pan.
    Chocolate cake: Add cocoa to remaining mixture and combine thoroughly. Pour into third prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cakes are cooked when a skewer comes out clean and cake shrinks a little from the edges. Cool for 10 minutes in pans, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Assemble cake layers with chocolate on the bottom, vanilla in the middle and strawberry on top. Spread buttercream in between each layer before icing and decorating the whole cake.

Decorate any way you choose. I made 700 g of strawberry buttercream by adding one tablespoon of freeze dried powder and food colouring to a standard buttercream recipe, then decorated the cake with fondant ruffles in the same order as the cake's layers. The finishing touch was fondant roses using my new easiest rose ever cutter.

Neapolitan cake with fondant ruffles

Strawberry, vanilla and chocolate layers