Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Joker #3

We were in Courtenay Place at around lunchtime on Saturday, and looking around for a place to have a burger. "Right", thought I, "let's head to Pan De Muerto for their Mollete Burger". On the way we stopped at Osterio del Toro to see what their offering was, but they were shut. Odd, I thought, but we carried on to Pan de Muerto...who were also closed. What's going on? Restaurants shut on a Saturday lunchtime? Undeterred, we reversed direction to head to Monsoon Poon. On the way, I thought "I'll just check that they're open". You guessed it...they're not. Is business so bad on a Saturday lunchtime that these places don't open, and just wait for the evening crowd? Apparently so.

One place that is open is The Bangalore Polo Club. Their entry in the Burger Wellington competition is called The Joker #3. Presumably this follows on from their entry last year, and probably the one before that. It's described like this:

A E Preston's tandoori chicken burger with Kāpiti Brie, bacon, avocado, mango salsa and tomato, with Urban Harvest shoestring fries

It looked like this:

Firstly, you'll notice that there's a lot of bread to this burger - in fact, I left a good chunk of it, as the bread to filling ratio was too high. The bacon was tasty, but the avocado and the brie seemed to have gone AWOL. The chicken had been spiced, but not very strongly - it didn't have the heat that you'd associate with tandoori chicken. Shoestring fries are pretty much as expected, although over-salted. there is no Garage Project beer match with this burger, so I had a Chomp instead.

This burger hadn't been on my original list as it didn't sound all that exciting from the description. And it wasn't all that exciting. it did the job, but all I can award this is a 5/10.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Scorching Buck Burger

Across the road from the office is Arizona Bar and Grill. As its name suggests, it normally dishes up fairly standard American Tex/Mex type food, and normally I don’t give it much patronage. However a colleague of mine went there for their Burger Wellington entrant, the Scorching Buck Burger, and gave it a good review so I thought I’d darken their doorstep once again and see if it was up to scratch.

The description is this:

Slow-cooked Wairarapa venison with red onion escabeche, chipotle mayo and coleslaw in a Brezelmania cornmeal-dusted bun, with cajun fries. Garage Project beer match: Texas Tea

This is interesting in itself as it’s the first burger I’ve come across where the beer match is Garage Project’s Texas Tea – a dark and rich beer with a chilli bite. I tried this at Garage Project when I went there last Friday, and remember thinking at the time that it would be interesting to try this with an actual chilli-flavoured meal, on the principle that you drink sweet wines with puddings – the chilli flavours should cancel out and you get more of the flavour of the beer coming through.

It looks like this:

So, what's it like? As was immediately apparent, this burger had been breadcrumbed. OK, that's probably to hold together what would otherwise become quite a fragile patty, but under the breadcrumbs was a layer of batter, before you got to the meat. It was a carbohydrate too far - you've got your chips, and your bun, already. The meat was slow-cooked, tender, and very tasty, so good points there; but I ended up pulling the meat out of the batter to eat it. The chipotle mayo was spread extremely thin on the top bun, and failed to register any kind of chilli hit. The thick-cut chips added to the carbohydrate-ness of the meal - although their Cajun dusting was the only discernible chilli flavour in the whole shebang. The Texas Tea provided more hotness than any of the burger elements, which failed to "scorch" in any way, shape or form.

A bit of a disappointment, then, and I can only award this burger 6/10.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bee Piggy

So far in this year’s Burger Wellington I’ve not managed to get a pork burger – my previous attempt to visit The Fork & Brewer was thwarted when they were fully booked. It was a lovely sunny day today, so I decided to take a stroll down Courtenay Place to The Jimmy at lunchtime. The Jimmy is the café at St James Theatre, Wellington’s main theatre; whilst I’ve drunk coffee, beer and wine there, I’ve never eaten, so this was a new experience for me.

Their entry is called Bee Piggy, and is described thusly:

Confit of pork neck with Zany Zeus smoked brinza croquette with pear relish and celeriac slaw on an Arobake honey ciabatta bun, with shoestring fries.

And it looks like this:

Does it live up to its description? Well, yes and no. All the elements were there, but some in name only. The celeriac "slaw" seemed to be just grated celeriac, and I surmised it had been grated some time ago, as any flavour had long since evaporated. The smoked brinza croquette, too, was curiously lacking in smokiness. The pear chutney dominated the whole thing, overpowering the pork patty. This, when tasted by itself, was good, but it lost the battle against the chutney. Also, the patty was very small, making the bread-to-meat ratio too high, and I left half of the bun. Any honey flavour in the bun was also beaten by the chutney. The construction, in particular the croquette, was quite unstable, and wasn't going to fit the "eat with your hands" criterion. Shoestring fries were as expected, and the Garage Project beer match was Pils'nThrills - a safe choice. Overall I scored this a 7/10, but thought that with a  bit of work (cut down on the chutney, increase the size of the patty, use fresher celeriac) this could easily have reached a 9. Ah well. Today I have satisfied my pork craving. Tomorrow, who knows?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Big Mack Daddy Burger

I rang Little Beer Quarter in the morning to see if they had a table for lunch; the call went to a recording which advised me that if I was making a Wellington On A Plate booking to contact them via email, so I did. By 12:20 I hadn’t had a reply, so I wandered down there on the off-chance that they had a space. Not a great start, but they had a table free, which I sat at for 10 minutes before anyone arrived to take my order.

The premise of LBQ's entry in the Burger Wellington competition, The Big Mack Daddy Burger is to make a Big Mac, but better. It arrived looking like this:

Which I guess is how a Big Mac looks when it’s served (I haven’t set foot inside a McDonald’s for many a decade, but I’ve seen the adverts). Inside, it looked like this:

Again, so far, so similar. Now for the differences: firstly, it’s morally superior. Not hard, as McDonald’s is, well, McDonald’s. Secondly, the beef was recognisably meaty, had a flavour, and hadn’t been overcooked. (I realise again that I’m somewhat out of date here…do McDonald’s taste of anything these days? I neither know nor care.) The fries were cut rather oddly: advertised as “hoppy shoestring fries”, they were thin in one dimension, but thick in the other. They were crispy and tasty, though. On the downside, one of the things you expect from a Big Mac is two patties which are even in thickness and diameter, and fit the circumference of the bun – making for an easy, if disgusting, eating experience. This was manifestly not the case here, with two uneven patties distributed oddly inside the three-layered bun, which immediately began to show signs of bun fatigue. The middle section eventually disintegrated and fell out. I would have given in at this point and resorted to a knife and fork, but these were not supplied. The “special sauce” in the bun was quite acidic, and I’m willing to believe a fair facsimile of the real thing. The final note of authenticity was supplied by shredded iceberg lettuce, which tastes of nothing.

Garage Project beer match was Pils’n’Thrills, which was, as ever, a tasty beer. Also a good match, as anything with a stronger flavour would have overwhelmed the burger. Overall, I scored this 6/10 – it was an OK burger, and it achieved what it set out to do, I guess…but that doesn’t automatically make the finished product very good. Coming in at $30 for the burger and beer combo, it's not very good value either - I've paid less for better elsewhere. The moral of this story seems to be that you should go to Little Beer Quarter for the beer, which they’re really good at.

Oh La De Da Tartare

Yesterday’s burger was cooked nice and rare in the middle. How rare do you like your burger? Let’s take it to extremes, and try the Oh La De Da Tartare burger from today’s venue from the Wellington On A Plate Burger Wellington competition.

Vivo Enoteca Cucina (usually known as Vivo’s) is a wine bar which isn’t open at lunchtime any more, by the looks of things (I seem to recall trying their burger at lunchtime two years ago, and the place was eerily deserted). In any case, they’re not offering their burger at lunchtime – this was one of the venues that I referred to yesterday. Tuesday night is our new dancing night, so I decided to book for an early dinner before we headed out to Tawa.

As the name suggests, the Oh La De Da Tartare is made from raw beef, combined with traditional tartare ingredients such as cornichons, shallots, mayonnaise (made from quails' eggs, apparently), and Dijon mustard. It was served on a ciabatta roll, with Vivo's trademark chips - coated in polenta, this makes them extra crispy. As expected, this wasn't an "eat with your hands" burger - the contents would have just squirted out of the sides. I washed it down with a glass of Schubert pinot noir from Martinborough - a good wine, I think I have some lurking in my cellar. Vivo is a wine bar so wasn't doing beer matching with this burger. It was very well done, and an interesting and different take on the regular burger. There could have been a bit more of it for a full meal - but actually, as I was going dancing, it was OK on this particular occasion. I'm scoring it 8/10. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

The TK Royale

Another week, another round of burgers in the Wellington On A Plate Burger Wellington competition. Whilst casting around for my lunchtime burger today, I started reading the fine print on some of my proposed choices. Critics may say I should have done that at the beginning! Anyway, it turns out that no less than three venues I was considering were offering their burger only at dinner time or were closed on Monday. I'll try to get around to them another time.

So, making the cut for lunch today is Trade Kitchen with their offering of The TK Royale. Film buffs will of course be familiar with the fact that a "Royale" is what they call a quarterpounder in France:

Jules: Do you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France?
Brett: No.
Jules: Tell him, Vincent.
Vincent: Royale with cheese.
Jules: Royale with cheese. Do you know why they call it a Royale with cheese?
Brett: Because of the metric system?
Jules: Check out the big brain on Brett. You one smart motherfucker.

Trade Kitchen have always delivered quality food when I've been there, so I was expecting something like a quarterpounder, but done to their high standards.

And that's pretty much what I got. A good, standard burger, cooked rare, with cheese, bacon,  and gherkin; served with crispy triple-cooked fries, and the Garage Project beer match Pils'n'Thrills. Nice to see bacon making its way into this burger - it seems to have gone out of fashion this year, at least with the ones I've tasted so far. The bun could've been toasted on the inside, but bun integrity held up to the final bite, so no real quibble there. I scored this 7/10. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Blackbull Spicy Slammer

Café Polo, or “our other local restaurant”, were fully booked last time we tried to get in there. This may have been due to Wellington On A Plate having only just started. Anyway, this weekend, I managed to secure a table despite ringing them up at half past eleven, for lunch. Café Polo are past winners of Burger Wellington in 2011, so I was expecting good things.

And I got them! By golly, this was a good burger: a nice thick patty with chillis, gherkin, American mustard and cheddar cheese. Another “can you eat it with your hands?” fail, but frankly I’m becoming quite blasé about that. The Cajun-spiced chips were also good, and it was all washed down with Garage Project Pils 'n' Thrills. 

If I'd had this burger before I'd had the one from Ti Kouka, I'd probably have given it 10/10. But I can't now, because, although it's good, it's not quite as good. It didn't have that final little extra something to make it a perfect burger, so I'm awarding 9/10 for this little beauty.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Brewery Corp Officer's Mess Hall

The Garage Project, official suppliers of beer to the Burger Wellington competition, have opened up their pop-up pub based on Dr. Grordbort's universe, a creation of Glen Broadmore of Weta Workshops. Garage Project have previously created beers based on Dr. Grordbort. The theme behind this event is the officer's mess of the Brewery Corps.

We went along after work on a Friday night, meeting up with former colleague Hayden, who (happily) lives just down the road from Garage Project's Aro Valley headquarters. Beers were available on tap, in bottles and in cans. We started off with a variety of beers including Angry Peaches, Death From Above and Extraordinary Ordinary, before converging on Death from Above as the beer of choice for the evening.

At some point in the evening, a decision was made to try the absolute acme of ales, Lord Cockswain's Courage ("Tastes like war!"), an award-winning dark porter. This is only made available on special occasions. It's rumoured that it will taste even better if you lay it down for a few years, but frankly, who's got the patience for that?

After that there was no going back, so I staggered out onto the street and made my way to Courtenay Place to catch a cab home.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The TK Double Beef Burger

I phoned Fork & Brewer to get a table for lunch; they’re fully booked. Plan B: I called Ti Kouka, and yes, they could seat us for lunch – they were on my list for next week, so I just moved them up. Ti Kouka were the winners last year, so again, I had high expectations. This year’s offering is the TK Double Beef Burger which consists of minced meat in a bun: a proper "burger" burger.

This towering inferno proved too tall to squash down and eat with the hands. Other than that, it was pretty well a perfect burger. There were so many heroes on this plate that I thought I was watching an episode of Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD. The burgers themselves – good quality, tasty beef, nice thick patties; the beetroot and beetroot relish; a tangy, salty dill pickle; an aioli that didn’t stint on the garlic (you’ll probably smell me from half a mile away this afternoon); a good cheesy kick from the Kingsmeade havarti; and spicy, crispy shoestring fries.

Garage Project Garagista was the beer match, which rounded off the meal nicely. I was going to score this a 9/10 – knocking off a point for not being hand-holdable; but that seems harsh, given all the good things that were going on with this burger. I think I’ll have to give it the full 10.

Avida - Dine Wellington

It’s not all about dégustations and burgers, you know! Wellington On A Plate offers a whole host of other events, including the Dine Wellington menus – where 97 of Wellington’s restaurants offer a menu specifically designed to incorporate local ingredients and suppliers as a prix fixe. The price of this can vary from $15 up to $75, depending on the venue and number of courses.

As I’m burgering about most days, my chances of getting to any of these is slim. However, on a Thursday evening I’m generally at a loose end, as we don’t start dance class until 8:00pm. It has become my habit of late to take myself to Avida for a couple of tapas and a glass of beer – they have a revolving stock of Garage Project beers on tap, and the tapas are of really good quality.

A quick check of my WOAP booklet showed that they were also offering a Dine Wellington menu, so off I toddled, and read their offering: a choice of any two tapas from a short list, and a glass of wine or – yes – a Garage Project beer. In this case, the beer was Beer, a brew which they describe as “Sometimes simple is exactly what you want”. It comes in a plain, simple can:

I selected the diamond shell clams and the Primestar rib from the menu, sat back, and waited. The clams arrived first:

Then the rib:

This was a monster! Slow-cooked and dripping with unctuousness, this is possibly the best rib in the world. As the man from the Dilmah ads says, “Do try it!” And at $25 including the beer, it’s a bargain.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Portobello Peach Bun

Yesterday was a WOAP-free day. I had a work lunch to go to at a restaurant that wasn’t participating in Wellington On A Plate (yes, such restaurants do exist!), so no opportunity for a burger there; and in the evening we were pub quizzing at  a new Wednesday night venue, The Royal, which is also a non-combatant in the Burger Wellington competition.

Today, I was back at an old favourite venue, Boulcott Street Bistro. They were the winners two years ago with their T Rex burger. Having scaled and conquered the heights of the perfect meat burger, this year they’ve gone in the opposite direction and are offering the Portobello Peach Bun – a vegetarian burger consisting of portobello mushroom and preserved peach and raisin chutney, with chickpea chips. Say what?

Can you see the mushrooms?

My big bugbear this year has been "is it a burger, or an xxxx sandwich?" This, I'm afraid, is not a burger; it's a vegetable sandwich. And if you're going to call it a Portobello Peach Bun, you really need more portobello - two small mushroom caps weren't sufficient for me. The rest of the contents were tomato, lettuce, caramelised onion, and the aforementioned chutney (in which I didn't detect any raisin). I tried the "eat it with your hands" test, but it failed there. The bun had been toasted a tad too long as well - it was quite crumbly, blackened on the bottom, and quite dry in the mouth. 

The chickpea chips consisted of pureed chickpeas which had been formed into chip shape and then deep-fried. These were quite good, but I felt they needed something wet to dip them in, as they were fairly dry. A bit of chutney on the side would have done the trick.

Garage Project Angry Peaches was, as ever, faultless. However it was quite a strong flavour next to the vegetables, and possibly not the best matching beer for this particular burger sandwich.

One of the problems with Boulcott Street Bistro is that I have such very high expectations from them. On this occasion, I felt that they didn't live up to expectations, and I'm awarding them a disappointed 5/10 for this. Tomorrow, I'm back on the meat.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Eat An Elk

This year’s dégustation menu at The Larder is Eat An Elk – a 5 course dinner with elk featuring in every course. The Larder’s chef, Jacob Brown, is known for his “nose to tail” cooking philosophy, so we entered with some trepidation – their other event this year is entitled Tripe, Trotters And Testicles – so we were expecting the possibility of elk tripe, elk liver, elk kidney, maybe elk brains, as well as the more traditional meat. 

We needn’t have worried. The scariest thing on the menu was the heart and loin course; everything else was “proper” meat.

We started with a broth with beautifully light and pillowy gnocchi and slices of elk shank, served with a cheese-y roll on the side. On the waitress’s recommendation, I was drinking an Urlar Pinot Noir from Martinborough with the first two courses – quite a light red wine, which complemented the flavour of the meat.

Second course was a tartare of leg. Normally you’d use the fillet for tartare, but in this case the meat was marinaded, and was very tender. The tartare was flavoured with peppercorns, and added unctuousness was provided by a bone marrow butter.

Next up was the heart and loin course – cooked nice and rare, the heart had a more gamey taste than the meat, akin to liver but not as strong. The loins were tender and juicy, and the whole thing served with a beetroot purée and deep-fried curly kale. I switched to a Terrace Edge Syrah from Waipara for the remaining courses, again as advised. I do like it when the wait staff actually know what wines to recommend with the food.

The fourth course had an Eastern Mediterranean flavour – a kibbeh and slow-cooked rib, with roasted chickpeas and a minty yoghurt dressing. This for me was the stand-out course of the evening. 

And so to the “dessert” round. How do you make a dessert with meat? Well, consider this: back in the day, the mincemeat that you put in your mince pies was exactly that – spiced and preserved meat with fruits. Jacob’s take on the final course wasn’t quite like that, but wasn’t far off: slow-cooked cheek wrapped in a crêpe and dusted with icing sugar, accompanied by mandarin segments, almonds, and a marron glacé sorbet. It was really good – probably my second-favourite course.

That was our Eat An Elk experience. We will, of course, be back to The Larder in the regular course of events. They’re also dishing up an elk burger, Home Of The Wapiti, as part of the Burger Wellington competition – I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to fit that one into my busy burger schedule, but I’ll try.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Scopa Saltimburger

Scopa is part of the Bresolin brothers’ empire, which includes Duke Carvell’s; I dine at both fairly regularly, and they’re always good quality. Their entry in the Burger Wellington competition is the Scopa Saltimburger. As the name implies, it’s based on saltimbocca, the Italian dish made with veal and prosciutto. They’ve gone the same way with a veal-and-pork-based patty, wrapped in prosciutto and topped with provolone cheese; served in a ciabatta roll, with apple coleslaw and watercress garnish, and rosemary roast potatoes (which looked suspiciously like chips) on the side. The Garage Project beer match was Pils’n’Thrills, which is always a tasty drop. How does that sound to you?

Cos I’m telling you, it tastes fantastic. There’s a lot going on in this bun, but unlike yesterday’s burger, all the flavours complement each another, instead of fighting for attention. The bun maintained its integrity to the last bite, which is always a good sign. Altogether, this was a well thought out and well-crafted burger, and I’m struggling to think why I shouldn’t give it 10/10. I’ve dropped my year 1 criterion of “must be a beef burger to score 10” as I felt this was narrowing my choices. Nope, can’t think of a reason. This is a 10.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Hot And Saucy Stag Burger

Take some meat. Mince it up. Add spices, herbs, flavourings, seasonings…or not, some prefer it au naturel. Put it in a bun. Add garnishes. Serve with chips.

THAT’S how you burger! How hard can it be?

Atlanta Café & Bar appear to have got their heads around this concept. Their offering is The Hot And Saucy Stag -  a venison burger with chilli, and my first “proper” burger of this Burger Wellington competition.

So how was it, I hear you ask? Well, it was good. Not great? Here’s what let it down: if anything, it was the burger that tried too hard. As well as the patty, the bun included apricot chutney, blue cheese, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato and red onion. This made the whole thing slippery and unstable, and the burger failed the “can you eat it with your hands?” test – there’s just too much going on in there! Flavourwise, there was also too much going on. Is it a cheeseburger? A chilli burger? Maybe a chutney burger? It’s all three.

God I’m hard to please!

That said, it was a tasty burger – good chilli, not overpowering with the cheese, but way too much chutney. The chips were crispy and served with tomato sauce and aioli, and I took the Garage Project Garagista beer match with it – you need a big flavoured beer to cope with all that’s happening between the buns. I awarded it 8/10, which is the highest I’ve given so far this year.

Onwards and upwards! 

Splash Around The World

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Zibibbo is the most under-rated restaurant in Wellington. Every time I go there, I have great food.

Last night was no exception. A Wellington On A Plate event, Splash Around The World was a dégustation menu based on seafood from seven continents, accompanied by wines from the same continent. This follows the event we went to last year, Quack Around The World, which was duck dishes from around the globe.

We started in Australasia with a whitebait fritter slider. This was possibly the least successful dish of the evening. Whitebait fritters are a staple of New Zealand café fare, but wrapping it in a doughy bun didn’t really add anything to the experience, in my opinion. The 2008 Marlborough bubbly was very nice, though.

South America was next, and a bluenose ceviche – very fresh fish cured in lime juice, with baby herbs to accompany, and served with a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.

Third course was my favourite overall, I think – Tuna Niçoise, served with a French Vouvray. The seared tuna was really tender, and the acompaniments included all the elements you normally associate with a Niçoise salad – beans, olives, potatoes, eggs – included in one form or another.

Asia provided Tempura tiger prawns, and an Asian wine…sake.

North America gave us a roast scallop chowder. Unfortunately I scoffed this down before I remembered to take a picture of it. It was delicious. Accompanied by a substantial Californian Chardonnay, this was my second favourite dish of the evening, and I could have handled it if there’d been more than just the one scallop in it.

The final “main” course was from Africa – a spiced South African seafood potjeikos. This was eerily similar to Bouillabaise, but with a stronger, spicier flavour. This was served with the only red wine of the evening, which was needed to counter the spiciness of the soup – a South African Pinotage from Kleine Zalze in the Stellenbosch region.

 That may seem like a lot, but the courses were all perfectly sized so we didn’t feel stuffed, unlike  last year when we went to the seafood dégustation at Shed 5.

But wait…isn’t there a continent missing? Yes there is: Antarctica. This provided the inspiration for the dessert – a “baked Antarctica” consisting of ice cream in meringue on a sponge base, served with a home-made chocolate fish and accompanied by a New Zealand Te Mania koha ice Reisling from Nelson. There being a shortage of vineyards in Antarctica at the moment, but with global warning, who knows…

So that was Zibibbo for this year. We’ll definitely be back there sometime during the coming months, and I’m already looking forward to what they decide to put on for next year’s dégustation. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Go Native Lamb Burger

Another day, another meat sandwich masquerading as a burger. Le sigh.

It was a lovely winter’s day, so we decided to go for a walk in Zealandia and see if we could photograph the elusive saddlebacks. As we made our way inside the sanctuary, we heard the distinctive call, and sure enough, there was one feeding in a tree. Would it come out from behind the branches to have its picture taken? It would not.

We soldiered on, and later, up in the Discovery Area, we came across two more saddlebacks disporting themselves on the ground and in the trees. This time I got a decent shot (there’s more on facebook):

We also saw kakariki, hihi, bellbirds, a robin or two, and some kereru, as well as the inevitable tuis and shags. We also saw some grey warblers but they were being shy so I didn’t get any pics of them.

We then headed to the Rata café, there to lunch upon the Go Native Lamb Burger. It sounded good:

Horopito-infused roast lamb with Zany Zeus halloumi and homegrown pikopiko pesto on a Pandoro bun, with handcut kinaki spiced kumara chips and piripiri mayo. Garage Project beer match: Angry Peaches

And it looked like this:

When it arrived, it was immediately apparent that it fell into the "meat sandwich" category - and of overcooked roast lamb. The first attempt to eat it like a burger failed, as the bun was too crumbly. The promised Zany Zeus halloumi was there, but only in a small measure, and hadn’t been well cooked. Accompanied by soggy kumara “chips” that had the hallmarks of having been around all day, and a piripiri mayonnaise that wouldn’t register on the Scoville scale, the whole sorry mess was a disappointment. I scored it 4/10.

Tomorrow, I'm going to eat a PROPER burger.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Frijoles Fodongas Burger

We were casting about for somewhere to get a burger for lunch in Miramar. Polo Café was fully booked, and we couldn’t get through on Coco at the Roxy’s byzantine telephone system. Next up…La Boca Loca. Yes, they had a table!

I’d been along to Moore Wilson's earlier in the day, where they were hosting an open-air event for the entrants in the Mindfood producer awards. I fell into talking with the cheesemaker from Kingsmeade cheese, whose emmental was so sorely lacking from yesterday’s burger experience. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any emmental with him. We then got talking about other cheeses, and I lamented the lack of availability of sheep’s milk. He told me that he milked his own, but that he also sold it, and it would be available at his stall in the Hill Street Farmer’s Market from October (it’s lambing season at the moment, so he hasn’t got any right now).  I took his card and promised to contact him when we’re ready to take up cheesemaking again.

So, the Frijoles Fodongas burger: frijoles are black beans, and this is a vegetarian burger…yes, the dreaded beanburger! It was served in a blue corn gordita (yes, I had to look it up as well). One look at it told me that trying to eat this as a normal burger – i.e. with your hands – would be a mistake; bun integrity would be compromised almost immediately. We tucked in with knives and forks.

As you’d expect with a Mexican dish, it was spicy, but not overly hot. The “burger” was also quite frangible. Accompaniments of spicy potato wedges and a creamy avocado dip rounded out the dish. There was no Garage Project beer match, so I went for that old standby, Tuatara pilsner, to wash it down.

Overall, this was a tasty burger. Next week I’m going to get on with some proper, meat-patty-in-a-bun type burgers, but the introduction to the competition so far has been with two slightly different types of burger. I scored this one 7/10.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The French Onion Soup Burger

And they’re off! Yes, I’m starting my annual burger odyssey with exactly the same phrase as last year. After all, a tradition is a tradition. It’s Wellington On A Plate time, and with it, the Burger Wellington competition.

First up this year was a visit to The General Practitioner, to check my burger health. This year’s offering was the French Onion Soup Burger. First, let me read you the description on the Wellington On A Plate website:

Shaved beef striploin patty with melted Kingsmeade Emmental cheese and caramelised onions on a Pandoro sesame bun, with dipping gravy and bistro frites. Garage Project beer match: Garagista

And here’s how it looked:

The downside: Firstly, the description definitely uses the word “patty”. There was no patty. There was shaved beef. Secondly, the Kingsmeade Emmental cheese was conspicuous by its absence. Despite this, it was, to coin a phrase, a tasty burger meat sandwich. The beef was nicely rare, and the frites and dipping gravy were particularly good.

The matching beer, Garagista, was also a tasty brew – a typically heavily hopped IPA with bags of flavour and a long, grapefruity aftertaste.  The waitress managed to knock my first one over whilst trying to land my board, so I got another can (yes, it comes in cans…despite this, it’s very good) on the house.

As expected, not the greatest burger meat sandwich, and if it’s the worst one I have this year, I won’t be at all disappointed. I scored it 6/10.

What We Do In The Shadow Limits

What We Do In The Shadows is a 2014 New Zealand mockumentary which follows the exploits of a group of Wellington vampires. It’s been a big hit in New Zealand. It’s very funny and you should go and see it if you get the chance – it will be released in Europe on or around Halloween.

A “Shadow Limit” is a banking term which describes an unadvised limit which allows a credit-worthy customer to borrow beyond their authorised overdraft or credit card limit.

What We Do In The Shadow Limits is our team name for the Battle Of The Brains 2014 charity quiz night organised by ANZ.  This year the theme is “A Night at the Movies”, hence our choice; surprisingly (to me at least) we were the only ones with that idea. In previous years we’ve gone as Yes We Can!, Grexit and Gorgeous Georges.

I scored my costume off TradeMe - it was a cheap option - and accessorized it with my own waistcoat. We had semi-professional make-up done by one of the team members who does stage make-up. Whilst some of our team opted for the full white-face and undead look, I decided on just the dribbling blood. I also had some vampire fangs, but these turned out to be more trouble than they were worth, so I ditched them. The rest of our team headed down to the Costume Cave to get vampire costumes, where they found that they couldn't just get costumes like those from the film - they could get the actual costumes! The film had been a very low-budget affair, and apparently they'd hired from Costume Cave rather than have a fully-fledged costume department.

Suitably attired, we made our way over to the TSB Arena for the quiz. It's been held here since the earthquake in August 2013 damaged the Amora Hotel, which was our previous venue. It's not as intimate a venue, and the event does get a bit lost in the cavernous space, as opposed to the ballroom at the Amora.

There has also been a bit of a change in the organisation, and we no longer get updates throughout the evening to see where we are on the leader board, which is a bit of a retrograde step. They announced the top three teams halfway through, but we weren't in that, so had no idea how we were doing. Nevertheless, we ploughed on regardless, buying beer (part of the price contributed to Daffodil Day) and buying raffle tickets, which failed to net us anything. We were also robbed when it came to the best costume competition - Mrs Brown won that.

So that's that for another year. When I find out where we finally placed I'll update this.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Our Parents Children

BATS Theatre have been producing their Young And Hungry season of short plays over the last week or so. We went along to see Our Parents Children, a play which tells the story of how the world is repopulated after a disaster. The disaster in question is a virus released by an American extremist, Joe. He plans to repopulate the world with clones of himself and his New Zealand accomplice and protagonist of this story, Mary, who he has met online. As the story progresses, we find out more about Mary’s background. She then goes on to her cloning experiment, but makes some crucial modifications to Joe’s not including him in it.

The production wasn't up to the high standards of other plays we've seen around Wellington - very much a student piece, which is what you might expect from something called "young and hungry". The cast seemed to have a lot of unnecessary members, and not all the elements of the play were well explained. The male characters, in particular, were very sketchy...although this may have been intentional given the theme.

Afterwards we headed out down Cuba Street to Matterhorn, only to be told that it would be 45 minutes before we could expect a table. So we decided to got to Scopa instead, and had a very good dinner there.