[Fri 12th & Sat 13th Aug] New Zealand Chocolate Festival
Seeing that I've left it so very VERY late to post this up, so hopefully, my memory holds up! If not, perhaps the photos could speak for themselves! Some fellow bloggers and I were invited by the Festival Manager for the launch (thank you!), and some of us came back in again on the first day of the festival, to enjoy all that chocolate goodness. And it was a LOT of chocolate goodness!
New Zealand held it's first chocolate festival at the Hotel InterContinental in Wellington. On the morning of the launch, I met up with Emma of Muffin Mum for a quick coffee before heading across the road to the hotel. Once there, we caught up with Rosa from The Culinary Explorations of Mrs Cake and Millie of Gusty Gourmet. Armed with champagne and mini pain au chocolates in hand, we waited in excited anticipation for the ceremony to start. Once the formalities were over, everyone streamed into the main ballroom which was turned into the Choc-Centre. Well not everyone. I power-walked in. Running and pushing my way in might had been seen as just a tad bit too keen.
And now, for a cliche. But there's just no other way of describing it. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I didn't know which end to start. But! That dilemma passed in a nano second. I floated from stall to stall, tasting, chatting, buying, MORE tasting...
Here are some photos I took of some of what was on offer. I didn't get photos of every chocolatier there - I was too busy tasting and buying chocolate!!
Don't be wrinkling your nose up on these - you'll be so pleasantly surprised with how good Indian spices work with chocolate! These were from Schoc. Schoc Chocolate introduced me to Dark Chilli Hot Chocolate years ago, so I was well-pleased to see them at the festival.
These chocolate boxes from Scilla Chocolates bring an oldy-worldy charm which I love. I even bought one myself - but have to confess it was more for the box than it was, for the chocolates!
These gorgeously packaged fine handcrafted chocolate are from Esque. The photos I took don't do any of it justice. These are perfect gifts for anyone special!
These amazing looking and to-die-for tasting chocolates are from right here in Wellington - RQute. RQute make artisan chocolates right from the source - cocoa beans from all kinds of origins. I understand that they grind their own beans to make these wee works of art! Now that's dedication, passion and love.
Bull Rush Chocolate makes chocolate that's fun on the senses. The mix of flavours gets you thinking even before you pop any into your mouth. And once you've tasted one, you want to move on to the next and taste them all! I bought a 'taste box' of 10 mini slabs to be slowly enjoyed at home, at my leisure.
Rene Fellmann, a Swiss Chocolatier gave us a crash course on chocolate tasting. Yep. People, there is such a thing as eating your chocolate correctly. Small bites, let it melt in your mouth, etc. No chomping for the connoisseurs amongst us!
Mr Fellman says: "Chocolate consumed in moderation, as a treat, will never interfere in body shape, but just give you a happy lifestyle". I like this man.
And there was the chocolate fountain...but of course!! I stood around that fountain for some time.
Our first ever pastry team to represent New Zealand at the Asia Pastry Cup 2012 in Singapore. Wohoo!!
Suffice to say, our very first New Zealand Chocolate Festival was a success. I'm definitely going to next year's!
That's the view from our table. To be honest, there is no bad view from any table at Martin Bosley's. But one that's just by the window made our Wellington on a Plate experience there even better...after a tiny bump.
The eager-beaver keen-bean that is moi made our WoaP lunch reservation weeks in advance. Even took the name of the waiter to took our booking down - for 'just in case', you know. So a week before the day, I get a call from another venue to confirm another WoaP reservation we had. Which got me worried as I haven't had a call from MB's. So I rang and got told that my reservation had been cancelled! Oh the horror!! To cut the long story short - my voice on the phone became strained, annoyed and bordering a little on panic as I tried to explain that I.did.not.cancel.my.reservation. Then John-Paul the maître d' took over the call and smoothed it out in 10 secs flat. At that point, I allowed myself to breath again. Happy days again.
Martin's WoaP lunch menu was a choice of 2 dishes - entrée + main or main + dessert, including a glass of Martinborough Sav Blanc each. No prizes for guessing which combo I went for!
'S' entrée - Harrington's air-dried ham with roasted pears and fresh cheese. Salty ham against the sweetness of roasted pears. No going wrong with that pairing.
My main - Grilled fish from Yellow Brick Road with herb salt, vadouvan risotto and rosemary-creamed zucchini. Perfection. What's vadouvan you ask? It's like a French version of an Indian mix of masala spices. It gave the risotto a round yet gentle hint of Indian spices, not overpowering the fish at all.
I had MAJOR food envy over 'S' main - Yellow Brick Road clams spaghetti with chilli and basil. Simplicity which belied mouthfuls of fabulous tastes that made you moan at the end that there just wasn't enough of it on the plate! The somewhat irritating knowledge that as a mature adult, one should not grab someone else's meal and hog it, was all that prevented me from grabbing his plate, stamping my foot and insisting it was miiiiine...
Side - simply plated and to look at, and yet packed with flavour. Those dark dusting on the plate I believe was dark chocolate.
My dessert of yoghurt and white chocolate panna cotta with lemon peel purée, roasted rhubarb and mint granita. It was okay. At that stage, I was still thinking about clams and spaghetti....
Of all the WoaP events and meals I booked for, the one I most looked forward to was the Tongue-toTail Duck Delights at Le Canard. For no other reason than simply because I love duck. I never cook it at home but seldom pass up an opportunity for some good duck if it's on the menu - mind you, only good duck!
And once I managed to convinced 'S' that the theme of the degustation doesn't necessarily mean that duck's tongue will be served, dinner was locked and loaded.
And we were not disappointed.
The degustation started with an amuse-bouche. Now since it was quite some time ago and I'm now only updating the blog, I can't remember what the waitress said this was. But my taste-memory tells me that it was a creamy but light concoction between a mousse and a smooth pate. Duck of course. Lovely way to start...
1st course of 'Cou Farci' with kumara mousseline and prune chutney. The Cou Farci is a bit like a terrine, but shaped more like a sausage. Traditionally it's a sausage made from stuffed goose/duck neck, filled with pork, duck meat, foie gras and variations of that.
2nd course was Duck buillon with foie gras and mushrooms. Although the broth looked light, it was packed full of flavour and it definitely left you wanting more of it!
3rd course was one of my favourites - Duck gizzard and liver glazed in cherry vinegar. When this dish arrived, 'S' eyed it with suspicion. His Kiwi upbringing of one meat-3 veg and only eating what you can identify was knocking on his palate's door. But I can happily (and smugly) tell you that after the first tentative taste, he polished his plate CLEAN. I still can't get him to eat fish roe though...
Next came the palate cleanser - a Walnut wine granité. This was my least favourite. It was waaay to alcoholic for my liking. It made me feel like if I blew out a breath in front of a lit match or lighter, I'd turn into a mini flame thrower.
4th course of Duck leg confit with cèpes sauce and crispy potato cake put us back on on duck track. Cèpes sauce is essentially a mushroom (porcini) sauce. Nom nom nom... Enough said here.
5th course was seared Duck breast with blueberry and coffee sauce, and pea purée. [Confession: I really really wanted to pick my plate up and lick up every bit of the sauce]. Mental note - must try to replicate the sauce at home, or at least something similar!
Dessert came around far to quickly, so I tried to slowly savour the last course to stretch the experience out a little longer. The 'Ducklings Board' as it was called was made up of a petite crème brûlée, a duck's egg filled with gorgeous chocolate and a 'duck' profiterole - which looked more like a swan...but who's complaining? It was divine.
And finally, to finish the night, it was coffee and a wee ducky bickie. Lovely, just lovely...
[Tues 16th Aug] Urban Harvest HQ
We were super curious about Urban Harvest's 'A Local Food Story in 3 Parts' - it was going to be cooking demos and food tasting by local producers and a local chef, hosted in Urban Harvest's HQ nestled in the inner city suburb of Mt Victoria. It sounded like 'us', so we signed up for it.
And so on the night of the event, again being the super eager-beaver that I am (a regular occurrence with me if you've not already noticed!), we arrived almost an hour earlier than the recommended time. I read the time wrong on our tickets. It was raining and blowing a gale, even for Wellington's standard. But I was so super embarrassed at being so early that I decided that we could not possible go in just yet, and made 'S' huddle with me under the roof of some shop across the road.
But we were spotted (thankfully!) and were invited to come in from the cold. So what is there to do when you're like ONE hour early?? Help out with the set up of course! :-)
Jo Freeman of Urban Harvest setting up. Lovely, lovely lady.
Lovely band that welcomed in the guests.
Antipasto plate full of yummy nibbles for the early arrivals. Ooo...and wine as well.
A selection of olive oil from Olivo for tasting.
Helen Meehan from Olivo Oil sautéing some amazing halloumi cheese in Olivo oil that has been infused with fennel.
Plates of halloumi and more fennel-infused olive oil for dipping, being passed around for tasting. Swoon...
Chef Elliot cooking some majorly scrumptious braised lamb and also crushed potatoes.
I'm afraid that this is not a very good looking photo of the food that we had - which were actually just amazing. I was already midway into tucking in when 'S' reminded me to take a photo for the blog!
Dessert was a selection of gelato from Carrello del Gelato. Even with the cold and wet weather, these gelatos disappeared within seconds.
Now you might think it was all over by this stage. Afterall, dessert had been 'served'.
But wait! There was more goodness to come...
The richest hot chocolate, made with REAL chocolate pieces with REAL spices whisked, in came next. There was this quiet that settled in amongst the guests as we all happily sipped our hot chocolate. A few sighs of contentment were heard...hmmm...that may have been me.
And then! Yep, there is an 'and then' here.
The gelato cart opened for yumminess! This time it was chocolate gelato drizzled with cayenne pepper and orange infused oil from Olivo Oil. It was seriously good gelato, I tell you.
And finally, when the night drew to a close and we were all filing out back into the cold dark night, gourmet chocolate from L'affaire au Chocolat were given out.
Seriously, we were spoilt. We paid for some cooking demos and a 3-course tasting. Tasting!! So there was tastings...and then we were FED all this goodness. It was a crazy night. A gastronomically crazy and happy night. Yep - when my belly is happy, I'm happy. :-)
So let's not say goodbye, but see you again soon. At next year's WoaP!
burger wellington 2011
 Plum in a Bun
We'd made our burger wish list for Burger Wellington 2011, and with our dinners and lunches booked as well for Wellington on a Plate (WoaP), we waited rather impatiently for the festival to start. And so our WoaP journey started on the festival's first day with an unplanned burger dinner.
Last Friday after work, 'S' and I decided to get takeaways home for dinner as we were both feeling too lazy to cook. Whilst walking to meet 'S', I remembered that WoaP had started earlier that day and a snap decision was made to pop into Plum to try out their burger. Plum wasn't actually on our burger list, but it was the closest place I knew for sure that was serving their burger for dinner.
I was VERY excited - it was the start to our gastronomic adventure for the next couple of weeks . Actually, if you had seen me at Plum (and not know about WoaP), you'd be wondering how strange it was for a grown woman to be rubbing her hands with glee over a burger!
Plum's entry for Burger Wellington is 'Plum in a Bun' - a prime Angus beef pattie burger with crispy pancetta, Kapiti Kikorangi Blue Moon Cheese, beetroot relish, caramelised onions and rocket sandwiched between a bun from artisan bakery, Cottage Lane. Served with shoestring fries.
I would say that we had a pretty good start to the festival! The beef pattie I thought, was just the right size and thickness, and it was very succulent. I wasn't able to put my finger on what herbs and spices were used to season/marinate the beef. But I thought I tasted fennel but the waitress assured me that fennel wasn't used. Whatever, I still thought it was tasty. The blue cheese did not overpower - but I could be biased as I like blue cheese, whereas I know that the tiniest bit or even a whiff of it puts others off. Caramelised onions always has a place in a burger, so I was well pleased to see that Plum's burger came with some.
Now I had never eaten beetroot in burgers until coming to live in NZ and for me, it's a very Kiwi thing, beetroot in burgers. And I've grown to really like it! The chef had decided to use beetroot relish instead of slices, which I thought was a great idea - see, the taste I like, but beetroot slices sliding out and beetroot juice trickling down my hand as I'm chomping away at my burger, I don't much like. So yay for beetroot relish! The burger bun was...well, a bun. Albeit a artisan made one. It was light and not 'bready' but our buns had these cold spots, probably due to not having been heated up or defrosted for long enough.
The burger was a good size for me, I had no problems cutting it in half and biting down. Gourmet burgers are often so large that I end up eating them de-constructed because it's nigh on impossible to hold on to it and bite down. It becomes an open sandwich eaten by knife & fork instead. That kinda takes away the burger-eating experience I think.
So overall I enjoyed Plum's 'Plum in a Bun', both burger and fries were polished off the plate. It was good, but I wasn't wowed. But although I can't rave about it, I would still recommended it. And the service was friendly and attentive even as the cafe filled up quickly and become busy.
We went home satisfied and agreed that it was a good start to the next couple of weeks of some serious eating.
Our 2 cents worth:
Taste - 7/10. Totally tasty burger but it was a bit ordinary for Wellington on a Plate.
Service - 8/10