foodiegemsofwellie

For worthy eating and drinking experiences around Wellington, NZ (and the greater region) – you can also catch Heather over at KNOW Wellington's Word on the Street Blog or hosting Zest Food Tours around the city…

Archive for the tag “wine”

Italian wine at Petone

Michele Marai started Cangrande Italian Wine importation and distribution around five years ago, and has recently set himself up for retail – both online and a wee flagship store in Petone named Il Doge (pronounced eel doe-jay, in honour of the Duke of Venice).

This has been in response to people continually asking to buy the Italian wines they’ve experienced at restaurants around the city and region.

Il Doge decor 2

The two points of different at Il Doge are the quality of the wines (his father back in Italy samples 300-400 per year and selects the top 40 for further sub-selection – that’s really taking one for the team huh!), and each being displayed with a label of its provenance, tasting profile, and most importantly, what food it goes with.

Turns out food and wine matching is a big deal for Michele (the Italian heritage), with many Italian wines drier and more rustic on their own than our Kiwi palates are used to, but wonderfully rounded with the right food. Aaaaha!

So on Fridays from 5.30 – 7pm Michele opens a wine of the week for sampling with tasty hors d’oeuvres (which I completely forgot to ask the source of, I was so entranced with the whole concept), to demonstrate just that.

We enjoyed the Isonzo del Friuli Northern Italian Chardonnay so much we subsequently took a bottle to dinner with us, and discovered it went well with Vietnamese food.

The biggest seller is the Valpolicella Ripasso from Valrona (the hinterland near Venice that Michele hails from), which ‘speaks to you about village life’ and is a gentler big red for those who aren’t into big reds. I loved Michele’s passion and eloquence when talking about his wines, totally infectious.

I ended up buying a bottle of the Amarone Campagnola (also from Verona), traditionally paired with horse meat (errr venison or rich stew), and with a slightly different production process – grapes dried indoors, macerated and oaked for three years – resulting in a chocolatey, jammy, dark minerally drop. Yet to be enjoyed, but the anticipation is great.

As well as an interesting selection of wines, you’ll find authentic Italian craft beers (the Vienna lager had a caramelly smoothness and was quite the moreish drop), balsamics, spirits and liquers – a bottle of the Amaretto very nearly jumped into my bag as well. Next time.

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So pop along on a Friday evening to taste and learn, grab a bottle for your next BYO dinner (or what the hell, just to enjoy at home!), and watch out for Italian food and wine matching events at a restaurant near you.

281 Jackson Street, Petone

Pinot May – Tequila Joe’s

2016 is the inaugural Catch Pinot event, courtesy of the Visa Wellington on a Plate team. To celebrate the pinots that come out of the Wairarapa region, restaurants across the region have free reign to match them to whatever food they like. To be as creative as they fancy.

CATCH-PINOT-BANNER-2-620x420

Given I like the unusual and slightly out-of-the-box, my first stop was Tequila Joe’s (more below), but some of the others that take my fancy are:

  • Afrika’s crocodile tail gumbo – crocodile meat soaked in lime juice and grilled, with wok-fried maize and salad. With a Pencarrow Pinot Noir.
  • Coco at the Roxy’s glass of Paddy Borthwick Falloon Block Pinot Noir 2014 with a culinary cocktail bringing together a new way to experience Pinot Noir – a modern fun cocktail experience with molecular gastronomy and a side serving of childhood nostalgia (intriguing!).
  • The Larder’s duck confit with pomegranate molasses, confit gizzards, roasted cauliflower, liver and chestnuts. With a Porters Estate Pinot Noir.
  • One80’s masala lamb cheeks, sago sandige, and mango mint chutney. With a Russian Jack Pinot Noir.

So Tequila Joe’s. A fun Mexican taverna and cocktail bar near the corner of Vivian and Tory. I’d spotted their maytag fries (never heard of them) with Applewood smoked bacon (ditto) and exclusive gorgonzola bleu cheese sauce, matched with a Paulownia Estate Rose 2014. Definitely in the I-can’t-imagine-how-that’s-going-to-work category.

The Rose was so delicious on its own, I damn near hoovered it all up before the dish arrived – off-dry and with plenty of body and flavour, so a more intense Rose than I’d expected – but I did manage to control myself and enjoyed it with the dish as well (and the ‘Death Rides a Pale Horse’ blonde ale we sampled was pretty fine too!).

The maytag fries are a crispy waffle cut fry imported from the USA (took a month to get here), as is the Applewood smoked bacon, while the bleu cheese sauce is made just for TJ’s. Because the Rose was richer than expected, and the smoked bacon and bleu cheese more subtle than expected, the flavours actually met and melded well. The waffle-cut chips gave great texture and crunch against the softer bacon, with the only issue being the bottom chips sogging before getting to them (I can confirm the plate was clean at the end though!).

And it would have been rude not to finish with the recommended apple cinnamon churros, right? Also light, crispy and flavourful. And refreshingly different to the norm.

So there you have it, a match that I thought couldn’t possibly work.

Here’s the full line-up of offerings to whet your palate further.

 

 

Delicious Wairarapa

I’ve been tootling around in the Wairarapa this weekend, so since I posted about it on Wellingtonista, I thought I’d share it here also….

Lots of delicious eats, and a rather fine 2012 Murdoch James pinot gris.

Murdoch James

Some of the other vineyard lunches out that way:

And some with platters and more cafe-style food:

We so need to get out of the city regularly and enjoy the lush offerings of the Wairarapa (hmmm, I wonder if I know anyone who needs a Wairarapa summer clerk one day a week….).

 

 

A Wharekauhau long lunch

For a luxurious experience without the need for a second mortgage, a long Sunday lunch at Wharekauhau is a feast for all the senses.

Wharekauhau decorA three course lunch with glass of Te Kairanga sauvignon blanc (swapped for a delicious Te Kairanga 2005 off-dry Riesling after a to-die-for Lustaw Pedro Xenemez sweet sherry starter for her, and followed by an Awatere Pinot Noir well matched to the beef for him),
Wharekauhau tablecomplimentary salmon amuse bouche, quality settings and service, in a private dining room overlooking Palliser Bay, was $105 each after the entertainment card discount (the starting point was $110 each before extra wines and discount).

Wharekauhau soupCompared to many dinners in Wellington recently with smaller courses,
shorter timeframes and not dissimilar costs, it stands head and shoulders above as value for money.

The wines were all of excellent quality, with the Foleys (owners) having ownership in Te Kairanga and Vavasour, and those wines featuring prominently beside a nice range of other NZ and Californian wines.  Wharekauhau lambI see in the media recently the Foleys are looking to acquire a few more Marlborough vineyards to add to the stable.

The menu provided three choices for each course, focused on locally grown or caught, and seasonal – their own vegetables, beef and lamb; Palliser Bay octopus and snapper.  The soup (butternut pumpkin, apple, parsnip with fresh horseradish) was crisp and refreshing, the lamb (roasted, with coffee, eggplant Wharekauhau dessertand jus) was tender, and the creme brûlée (vanilla with shortbread) rich and filling.

We also scored a complimentary cheese board by virtue of some mix-up in the kitchen.  Again, very good quality and well presented (and no dinner required for us that night!).

We were invited to explore the lodge and surrounds (indoor covered pool with bathrooms of elegance, fully equipped gymnasium, all weather tennis court, groomed croquet and petanque lawn, shady and pleasant pathways) and did so between mains and dessert (good suggestion!).
Wharekauhau pool

The lodge has a number of upstairs rooms for games, reading, leisure and socialising, all with different moods and decor, so one could easily find a spot that resonated.

Oh, and year on year on year lamb and beef award winners. What more can one say?

Three hours of feeding the senses for a delicious birthday treat -simply divine.

Turn south down Western Lake Road at the southern end of Featherston, and keep going for about 40km.

Wharekauhau pool towel

Bebemos South American

On an unexpectedly free evening, we decided to tootle along to Bebemos at Newtown.

BebemosI had heard of this new South American Bar in connection with Little Beer Quarter (an owner in common I believe), and a bit of googling suggested an interesting range of craft beers, a few Argentinian wines, and a mix of South American foods (primarily Brazilian).

He had a couple of different tap craft beers, and I chose the one apple and elderflower cider they turned out not to have currently, so reverted to a simple ginger beer (having had a three-course wine matched lunch earlier in the day already!).

The tapas to share as a starter turned out to be more generous than expected (and tasty), so we were clearly not going to make it all the way through the menu this time (doh – the dulce de leche ice cream sundae will have to await another occasion).

The tapas shared were pao de queijo Bebemos tapas(baked Brazilian cheese puffs served with acai relish) and crispy Brazilian rice bolinhos with parmesan & chili mayo.

To follow was the Gaucho burger (beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato and chimichurri) served with rosemary and garlic fries for him, and steak and cheese empanadas for her.

I particularly liked that the empanadas were hand made and irregular, with a delicious pastry both firm and melt-in-the-mouth tender (not chewy). Nice.

Bebemos wallThe decor is welcoming, with both indoor and courtyard dining.  Staff were friendly and welcoming, although there was a tiny feel of still being new and not having hit a rhythm yet.

I will definitely pop into Bebemos for a beer and tapa again if in the neighbourhood.

Corner of Riddiford and Hall Streets, Newtown (at the first intersection just past the public hospital).

El Matador, upper Cuba Street

NOTE: Their sharing meat platters are fantastic, share with friends and a few sides, and don’t be fooled by the platter being for two, its got enough meat for four easily…

El Matador Cafe, Asador Grill and Bar is a recently opened Argentinian restaurant in the old Munchen Burgers space next door to Logan Brown.

El Matador had very quickly decided not to take bookings after the initial ones (we had booked thankfully being a bigger group) so if doing the bigger group thing, go early or late and be prepared to wait (not much waiting space).

There is an air of authenticity and charm about the place though which will take them a long way.

The service was fairly slow (they were very busy) and we had a Mexican waitress who was doing her first night ever, so probably a little nervous of a group of 7 asking questions about ingredients and dishes.

El M kitchen

To summarise, several of the mains came out wrong, one or two a bit cool temperature-wise (the meat), the 6-hour cooked lamb dishes were not 6-hour tender, the sides of spinach and feta were spinach leaves only, one of the tapas ordered as an entree came at the same time as the main and a second never appeared, the boys who ordered tomato sides with their steak and potatoes got tomato but lost the potatoes etc etc.

To give credit, they provided complimentary empanadas to the boys who had to wait for their correct mains, and one somehow couldn’t take offence as the place had a buzzy vibe and they are clearly trying hard amongst the initial swamp of activity.

The desserts were superb in taste and interest (and price at $8 – $10), and definitely uplifted everyone’s experience, with the favoured desserts being Quemado oranges with almond brittle ice cream (very good but alas well inhaled before I could photograph!) and panqueques con dulce de leche (pancakes with caramel) (simple but delicious, also a breakfast option).

Unexpectedly there are more NZ wines on the menu than South American, with a few Spanish and French thrown in.  So being a white drinker I tried the Argentinian Trivento Torrontes 2010 and found it rather pleasant.

Overall?  A revisit in 3 months or so to see how they’re coping.  Keep an eye out and take advantage of their specials (tapas Tuesdays, wine Wednesdays, Fugazzeta Fridays) and maybe focus on tapas and desserts there as the more interesting offerings.

196 Cuba Street

And a breakfast image taken at a later time. Pretty fine..

El M pancakes

 

Little Beer Quarter

A craft beer, a pizza and a movie.  Perfect wet Saturday fare.

Little Beer Quarter in Edward Street is brought to us by the folks behind Beach Babylon on Oriental Parade, and is one of the new breed of craft beer bars that have sprung up around Wellington.  The environment is very welcoming, with dark cosy colours and lots of interesting touches. Like crates on the wall as shelves, groups of bottles strung up as lights over the bar, upside down plants hanging from the ceiling (which are real!), and a Darwinian quote on the wall about alcohol and brain cells from Cliff of Cheers.

 

The large blackboard at the end of the bar lists what’s ‘currently pouring’, alongside the large menu of craft beers, ciders, wine and spirits available.  Most of the beers on tap are of NZ origin, including the Garage Project’s latest offering (rated as worthy), with approximately half of the rest being of NZ origin. Nice.

The food here turned out to be pretty good too, above the usual beer bar standard. The fish goujons were decent pieces of fish within a thin crispy crumb, and presented in a bowl with salad greens for effect.  And the Beer Garden pizza (pumpkin, spinach, feta, pinenut, rocket pesto) was very good, complimenting the Apple Tree apple and elderflower cider nicely.

LBQ also provide an outside cigarello space and sell a range of cigars for those so inclined.  Also on offer are a range of ‘hoptails’ (beer based cocktails), ‘cocktails’ (more conventional), wines (mostly NZ other than the reds), whiskeys, cognacs and other spirits.

All in all, LBQ is a very pleasant pleasant place to wile away some weekend hours (sadly not open Sundays) and a rather convivial spot for Friday after work drinks. Next time I’m up for a stoutbite ‘hoptail’ – craft stout and cider.  Iron and apples, gotta be good for you……

Gladstone Vineyard, definitely worth the ride…

A weekend with no obligations, no children and no plans.  Yippeeeee!  Ergo opportunities to eat out.  So I will be selective in which ones I blog about to save your eyes from falling out.

Friday night ended up being Zibibbo in Taranaki Street.  I have posted before about their tapas, and still didn’t get to the desserts this time, but suffice it to say they are one of the best for classy food, very good service and a nice ambience.  A wood roasted portobello mushroom herb gnocchi with goat cheese sauce for me, and the special pork belly, blue cheese and mushroom mousse gnocchi for him (Zibibbo is Italian influenced after all!).  The group next to us had the ice cream cone sorbets for dessert and they looked truly impressive.  Zibibbo also do a range of wood fired pizzas in the early $20’s, so it doesn’t have to be an expensive night out there.

Saturday was looking the finest of the weekend, so a ride was required, and a (long-desired) jaunt to the Gladstone Vineyard via Martinborough (for coffee and access to the nice winding Longbush road ensued.

A meandering driveway to a picturesque garden beside the old homestead, with chunky garden tables and brollies, and even a kids play area on sand under the trees (and built from wood not modern glaring brightly painted steel or plastic). Which seemed to do the trick nicely for the kids present.

There was a large family group there for a celebration at one big long italian-lunch style table, so we could only choose a platter for lunch (presumably the kitchen was fully occupied dealing with the big group), which worked just fine.  The choices were a ploughmans platter (very substantial we discovered!), a seafood platter or simpler pate, breads and dips offerings.  The menu is not large and looks like it changes every couple of months, but did include things like courgette, mint and feta fritters, a pork belly salad, and a fish daily choice dish.

All wines on offer were their own (we had a wee sample of Sophie’s Choice, being a barrel fermented sauvignon blanc, yummo), and they are developing the vineyard towards biodynamic principles.  They had about 8 of their wines on offer by the glass – a riesling, sauvignon blanc, vigonier, pinot gris, Sophies choice (named for their golden retriever Sophie), pinot noir, auld alliance red and a dessert wine.  So pretty much a full range.

Again, we didn’t get to desserts, but the descriptions had me deciding to come back during a Wairarapa weekend (also on the planner sometime) for a full tasting session, and dessert and wine some afternoon under the trees.

They open Thursday to Sunday mid morning through to mid-late afternoon, and can be found in the pleasant countryside out behind Carterton.

 

 

Trade Kitchen

Well hello to all my loyal followers (yes all 15 of you!).  Last night was a dinner catchup with some ex-CCDHB colleagues.  A drink and nibble at Foxglove (will have to give you the low down on them another time, they’re a whole post’s worth) and then off to Trade Kitchen for dinner.

Trade Kitchen is another of those places that slides underneath the radar a little in terms of  profile, but actually turns out some very pleasant food at reasonable prices (in today’s market where a lot of restaurants are creeping up into the $30-$35 per main range).

The decor is subtle and reasonably sparce (I liked the big red fabric swathes around the xmas tree though), but still welcoming.  The food and drinks provided a good selection of the usual suspects, lighter and denser meals, and some rather pleasant wines – an unoaked chardonnay for me (not always so easy to get), and a rather tasty riesling for R (well what’s mine is mine and his is mine and mine is his – at least when it benefits me!…).

I chose the risotto of the day of chicken, mushrooms, asparagus, feta and strips of parmesan to complete.  The rest of the group chose a variety including free range chicken breast stuffed with pesto, spinach and mozzarella on warmed couscous, pinenuts, roasted vegetable salad and chermoula aioli (my second choice, mmmm), fish of the day, a scallop special and parmesan crumbed pork cutlet on porcini risotto and sauteed cabbage w almond and apple sauce (my third choice, mmmm mmmm).  They all looked good and were met with favourable reports.

We controlled ourselves in terms of dessert given we’d had wine and nibbles earlier, but the choices (and those that came to nearby tables) looked worthy.  Interactive and humorous service throughout completed the evening.

The only difficulty with the place was ventilation.  We were around the back (overlooking Customhouse Quay) with no opening windows or obvious ventilation on one of Wellington’s (finally!) warmer evenings, and were all glistening fairly well by the time we’d finished.

The brekkie menu looks good (especially the banana and coconut bread with citrus butter and honey – yep me the carbo girl), so might have to find an excuse to slide back along this way soon at the other end of the day…

Definitely worth a visit for something of good value and standard at this ‘corporate’ end of town.

Avida (greedy, covetous, open-mouthed…)

According to the Spanish online directory, that’s what Avida means.  Such is the reincarnation of the old Black Harp on the corner of Featherston and Johnstone Streets into a lighter brighter spanish-style tapas bar.

The place is a bit classier feeling, with segregated dining, leaners and loungey area. There is a popular gas open-flamed fire separating the dining and leaning area imparting a warm glow (aptly named Flamebuoyant apparently, hmmm), but alas open to kids or happy punters putting their hands in and copping a good burn (apparently one or two have had to be headed off).

As others had reported, there’s a bit of disorganisation around the tables and dining area. You can’t book, they don’t have tables for two so you get sat at a bigger table (if available, which seems a waste) or share with others, they don’t tip out just the drinkers from the area to make way for the diners, etc etc etc.  So be prepared to eat at high leaners, or just have nibbles with your drinks so you don’t need low tables (which is really what they’re aiming at anyway), or share a table with others, or eat elsewhere if you want a sit down dinner.

I had read about the Catalan grilled bread (bit like an oval shaped pizza), but knew it was fairly generous and would probably fill us up before we got to the real plates, so parked that for another time.  I did get to eyeball one delivered to the couple at the other end of our table, and it looked worthy with loads of ingredients on the top, the crispy bottom and softer interior.  Next time.

There are a range of nibbles, small and large plates, sides, and 2 or 3 full meals to choose from. I chose ox cheek with creamed cauliflower, mushrooms and lemony enhancements and a side of wilted spinach with goat cheese.  R chose a chicken, bacon, chickpea, black pudding chorizo broth.  Not a lot of 5+ a day hiding in that one!  Although designated as sharing plates, both were pretty much meal sized (especially with a side).  And both were very pleasant, with generous amounts of meat and flavoured nicely.  I liked that the choices were not necessarily mainstream combinations.

In terms of presentation, there is a whole wall of wine behind wire mesh which looks impressive (to my tidy anal mind – although not sure how easy it is for them to unlock and get more wine out from behind customers if they run out down behind the bar), the beer taps come from large shiny silver pipes running from the ceiling, and you can watch the (gas-fired I think) fully glass-walled bread oven at the end of the bar where they cook the Catalan grilled breads.  Helpful conversation starters (or diversions!) if required.

So, not sure how it’d be on a Friday after work, but for a mid-week nibble, quite pleasant, and reasonably priced.

 

 

 

 

As a PS, I have finally gone back to sample the Catalan bread (it’s now February 2012) and one or two other tapas.  Although pleasant, the catalan bread was a little difficult to eat as the toppings are perched on top of the bread with nothing holding them on.  If using fingers, everything just falls off.  Think they’re pushing hard to justify at $18.

The honey and goat cheese puffs were very pleasant and I had a wonderful sticky time, while the seared gamefish (tuna) bocadillos (mini burgers) with tartare sauce were nicely presented, although remarked to be a little underwhelming taste wise. Suspect the thin layers of tuna were overshadowed by dressing and bread.

So perhaps not as good a value for money as last time, but still a very pleasant place to enjoy an after work drink and nibble.

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