Sunday, February 20, 2011

Four-Day Match

We've been a bit boring recently, due to ill weather and illness, so haven't been out much...but on Sunday, we were all set for a day out.

Wellington Firebirds, our local cricket team, have been involved in a monumental tussle with Auckland Aces in a four-day match at the Basin Reserve. After three days, the Aces were on 238/7, and the fourth day looked like it would be a cracker.

We headed down to the Basin Reserve in time to catch the last hour of the morning session. Auckland reached 277 in 13 overs in the morning before declaring, setting Wellington a target of 276 with 77 overs to score them in. When we arrived they’d already dropped a wicket and were drifting along at 17/1.

As we approached the ground, there didn’t seem to be much activity. As you walk along Cambridge Terrace you can see the scoreboard from outside the ground, but we couldn’t see anyone on the bank, which is usually crowded with people. When we got to the gate, there was no-one there to sell us a ticket. It appears that entrance to four-day games is completely free. Despite this, very few had actually turned up. We’d been expecting the same deal as when we’d gone to the Twenty20 series at the end of last year, and in January when I’d headed down to watch the penultimate day of the second test.

Of course, one of the downsides to this is that none of the concessions were open, and when the teams marched off to lunch, there was no Hell On Wheels for us to do likewise. So we left the ground and retraced our steps along Kent Terrace, to have lunch at the Capitol Restaurant. As we were on our way there, we spotted Strawberry Fare, a place which had been recommended to us by various people…so we resolved to visit it on our way back to the ground. Strawberry Fare is noted for its puddings – whilst they do have main courses on offer, most folk give those a miss and head straight for the desserts. We did likewise, and very good they were too! After an enjoyable lunch we headed back to the ground, to find Wellington had dropped another wicket, and weren’t really keeping up with the RRR.

Silly fielding positions

Gloom and despondency set in, despite the warm sunshine and almost cloudless sky. However, the new batsman was Neal Parlane, a stalwart of the Wellington batting, and he soon played himself in. He made a fifty stand with the opener Brodie, then lost his next partner fairly quickly. But then he was joined by Joe Smellie and, with the help of a couple of big overs along the way, they managed to stay on top of the run rate, and they batted out the innings; making a century whilst Smellie made a fifty, with a couple of overs to spare.

View from the grassy bank

We pondered on the economics of this. All the players were being paid to be there, as were the ground staff. There were, perhaps, a total of fifty spectators. We kept thinking that new people were turning up, until we realised that they were using the cricket ground as a shortcut between two streets. We’d turned up fully expecting to pay admittance – the usual exorbitant fee of $15! How does this work? Who benefits? Answers, as usual, in the comments, please!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Name And Shame

We’ve been out for dinner at quite a few restaurants in Wellington. Some of these purport to be top-class dining...they certainly seem to be charging for it. And yet, they seem to get a few things wrong. Sometimes quite minor, sometimes fairly major.

Tonight, we went out for dinner at the White House Restaurant, on Oriental Parade. This is reputed to be one of the best restaurants in Wellington, and if you read their reviews and customer comments on Dineout you’d certainly think so. And, to be fair, it really should be one of the best restaurants in Wellington.

You can tell already, can’t you? Right, let’s get on with it: To begin with, we were seated and offered drinks. These came after about 10 minutes – an orange juice and a vodka & tonic…with plastic straws in them. Classy, eh?

Next up, we were served with amuses bouches in the form of snapper ceviche and cucumber jelly. Really quite nice. The waitress cleared the plates away:

“Did you enjoy your amuses bouches?”
“Yes” replied Nicola, “my bouche was very amused.”
“Never heard that one before” was the sarky comeback from the waitress.

The starters, when they arrived, were competently-seared scallops and a crab raviolo (described on the menu as ravioli, but we can’t all be experts in Italian, can we?...well, actually, if you’re running a top-class restaurant, you really should know this).

When the main courses arrived, they were tepid. They had clearly been sitting on the pass (get me with my restaurant terminology! A sure sign of spending too much time watching Masterchef) for a while as the pur̩e had developed a crust. Things improved with the cheeseboard Рwe shared a plate of one English, one Spanish and three New Zealand cheeses, served with home-made (apparently) raisins and half a poached pear.

After tea and coffee, we found that it was gone eleven o’clock. So, over three and a half hours to serve a three-course meal. They must be watching the snails and tortoises whizz past in the kitchen. Thank god we didn’t go for the degustation menu – we’d still be sitting there come breakfast time at that rate.

So far, of four top-class restaurants that we’ve sampled, three have been found wanting in some respect. The only place we’ve been to so far that hasn’t cocked it up in some way is Matterhorn.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chocolate Ice Cream

So, I thought I’d make some chocolate ice cream. I looked up a few recipes on the internet, and eventually settle on one. Then I adapted it, because when I was making the custard, I thought it didn’t look dark enough instead of adding 150g of dark chocolate, I chucked the whole 250g bar in.

500 ml cream
250 ml milk
250 g chocolate
110 g caster sugar
4 egg yolks

Usual method to make the custard – heat the cream and milk gently, and add the chocolate, and stir until completely melted and almost boiling. Whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar (I now have a handy rotary whisk to do this with), and add a bit of the chocolate cream at a time, mixing as you go. Then return the whole lot to the saucepan and heat gently until it thickens (the proverbial “coats the back of a wooden spoon” test).

Tasted it tonight – it was yummy! Nicola didn’t like it though, so I’ll just have to eat it all myself.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Boys Are Back In Town

This weekend, the NZI Rugby Sevens come to town. The tournament is played over Friday and Saturday at the Westpac Stadium. Today there was a parade of all the teams through the centre of Wellington, with their cheerleaders. I didn’t manage to see the whole parade in my lunch break, but from what I saw the Argentinians definitely had the best cheerleaders!

The England team went through on their float.

Tickets for the tournament sell out very quickly, and many people rely on getting them through corporate allocations. We were too late this year, but I think we’ll go and do it one year sometime in the near future. It’s traditional for Wellingtonians to wear fancy dress for the tournament, so we look forward to seeing those over Friday and Saturday – and possibly posted on here over the weekend. On Saturday night, Courtenay Place is closed to traffic and it turns into one giant party venue once the tournament is over.

New Terms

Dancing restarted a couple of weeks ago – this term we’re learning the rumba, samba, and improving our other dances – in particular (so far) our foxtrotting. And the quiz at the Backbencher started again on Tuesday – we started the season off with a creditable 2nd place – would’ve won if we’d got the connection round right!