Monday, October 27, 2014


On our way back from Greytown at the weekend, we decided to stop off in Martinborough for some lunch. I'd checked the Entertainment Book, and found that Café Medici had an offer. I've been there before a few times, so all seemed serendipitous.

When we got there, it looked pretty full. Never mind that, none of the wait staff seemed at all interested in talking to us - not so much as a "we'll have a table in 10 minutes", we were just completely ignored. Yes, I know you're busy, but someone should have managed this.

Never mind, we'll go up the road to Pinocchio. "Hi, can we get some lunch?" I asked. "We've just closed the kitchen" was the reply, at 10 to 2 on a busy Sunday holiday weekend. Not even "Sorry, we've just closed the kitchen, but we've got plenty of stuff from the counter, would you like anything from there?". Rubbish.

We crossed the road from there to the Village Café, who at least were able to serve us.


Greytown is a small town on State Highway 2, over the Rimutakas in Wairarapa. We've driven through it numerous times on the way to Masterton, Castlepoint, and Napier, but never stopped to see what's there.

Thanks to a voucher in Treatme, however, all that was about to change. With a night's accommodation at the White Swan hotel, with dinner thrown in, we decided to take advantage of the offer over the Labour Day weekend. We set out with the plan to get there in time for lunch, and found ourselves in Bar Saluté, a tapas/pizza restaurant in the middle of town. We decided tapas was the way to go as we would be dining again in the evening, so had the asparagus, squid, duck prosciutto and halloumi. These were all very well presented – no ordinary tapas, each was a mini gourmet meal in itself.  We then ruined everything by being tempted to the pudding menu, and these turned out to be quite substantial – a vanilla crème and lemon fritters.

We checked into the hotel, then set out to explore the centre of Greytown, which has a number of shops of the variety that sell things that no-one actually needs, and admired the historic tree.

In the evening, we had dinner at the hotel – scallops followed by deconstructed beef Wellington, and duck liver pâté followed by risotto. We both had the lemon tart for pudding, and by this time were feeling completely stuffed.

The next day we went out to breakfast at the Main Street Deli before looking round the historic village artefacts at the Cobblestones museum, which included an old schoolhouse. This had the primary school curriculum with exam questions on the wall, as well as rules for teachers, both of which exhibited some quaintly old-fashioned values. There was also a typical cottage from the 19th century, which housed 10 people in less space than you'd normally reserve for feline oscillation.

We then drove up to the Waiohine Gorge for a walk which involved crossing on a swing bridge. There is a cautionary notice by the bridge which advises that it swings in high wind conditions. The breeze was beginning to pick up so we didn’t hang about but got across, and then back, without lollygagging too much. The views from the middle of the bridge were pretty spectacular, up and downstream of the Waiohine river. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Smoked Butter

The recipe I was cooking last night called for smoked butter. I'd never come across this until now, but, slave to culinary trends that I am, I took myself along to Moore Wilson's and found that they had smoked butter on the shelves. And not just any old smoked butter, but Smoked Butter by Al Brown, so it must be good!

I was using it in an accompaniment to my fillet steak - cauliflower purée. The recipe called for the cauliflower to be cooked in the butter and milk, and then purée'd with some of the milk and butter, until the desired consistency was found. This I duly did.

The end result looked like this:

But I was left with a bowl full of the milk/butter mixture. What to do?

Last week we'd had some of the spring's first asparagus, and very nice it was too. As is my habit, I keep the harder bits that you break off the end as too tough, and use these for soup. Today I made cream of asparagus soup, with the remaining smoked milk/butter. It was lovely.

Welcome to Rory's World Of Cookery!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Isaac's Eye

In the Dominion Post, there was an article about Isaac's Eye, a new play about Isaac Newton. At the end of the article it said "Tomorrow until 15th November". How strange, I thought, I'm sure I booked it for tonight. So I checked my email booking confirmation, and sure enough, it said 17th October. I checked the theatre's website, which also said 18th October. Curiouser and curiouser, I thought. I called the theatre. It turns out that tonight was the preview show, and yes, it's definitely on. Phew!

We went to Muse On Allen for their pre-theatre menu, as they had recently been advertised in the Entertainment Book with a new offer for this very thing. Now, whilst their menu on the internet shows a choice of chicken or fish, they'd changed it slightly. the choice of starter was now chicken or lamb, and the mains were lamb or chicken. So I had chicken and lamb, and Nicola had lamb and chicken. A little more variety wouldn't have gone amiss. We both had pineapple for pudding.

A quick walk across to the Circa Theatre, and we were there in plenty of time for the start. We were in Circa 2, the smaller, studio theatre. The actors were all on stage before the play begins. The set was made up of a series of black-painted walls, on which were chalk drawings of various sets: an external view along a tree-lined road, with a city in the distance; internal views of a library and an apothecary shop. Parts of the wall were covered in drawings relating to Newton's work, particularly in relation to light.

The play starts with the narrator, Sam, telling us that some of the events are true, and some are not. To help us, he says he will write anything that's true on the walls, and starts off by giving us some examples, such as the fact that Isaac's hair turned white at a very early age, when he was in his twenties. At this point he sprinkles chalk dust over Isaac's head to give him white hair.

The play covers the supposed interaction between Newton, Robert Hooke and Catherine Storer, an apothecary in Woolsthorpe, where Newton lived. She was Newton's...what? friend, possibly lover. Catherine wants to marry Newton, but he hasn't proposed; he also harbours ambitions to become a fellow at Trinity College, which forbids its fellows from marrying.

But first he must become a member of the Royal Society, and to that end, he contacts Robert Hooke, who is Curator Of The Experiments, and also knew Catherine's father.

A great deal of the play is about this meeting, and its consequences and aftermath. Sam doesn't chalk any of these events on the blackboard so we know that it's all fiction - although he does occasionally interject with some true stuff.

The play is delivered in a modern language and style - even down to Newton's little "yay!"s when someone agrees with him, and also deliberately breaks down the "fourth wall" with Sam directly addressing the audience.

Go see it if it's on near you.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Dire Straits Experience

Who is Chris White?

The Dire Straits Experience claim that he is an “original Dire Straits member”. However, a little research shows that he toured with them, but is only credited as an additional musician on one album (On Every Street) so couldn’t really be termed a “band member” to my mind. He plays saxophone and flute…and we all remember those long sax solos in the middle of Dire Straits songs, don’t we? Thought not.

So, former backing band of Dire Straits member Chris White has assembled a band to cover Dire Straits songs and tour with said musicians. They started their New Zealand leg of the tour at the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, and we went along to see them.

The show was due to start at 8:00pm, so we trotted along to Capitol, one of our fave weekend lunchtime haunts, to try their dinner menu. I’ve been there for dinner before, but Nicola hasn’t. I had the first asparagus of the season followed by beef fillet, and Nicola had the bruschetta and malfalde pasta with veal. I say “followed”, but due to a mix-up in the kitchen there was quite a wait for the main courses, so we were a bit rushed and didn’t have time to try any puddings, but headed straight down the road to make it with minutes to spare.

On came the band, and they launched straight into Telegraph Road, complete with sax part. They then ran through a pretty thorough sampling of the repertoire, with the emphasis on the later albums. Mysteriously, they avoided Twisting By The Pool, and one of my favourite tracks from Making Movies, Skateaway, also failed to make the cut. They played out the set with Sultans Of Swing in a full 10-minute version.

But wait…they hadn’t played Money For Nothing yet, had they? Indeed not, and after the obligatory stamping and cheering they came back on to play it, and a final instrumental (featuring saxophone) for their encore. My thoughts on what constitutes a proper encore can be found here.

That was that, so we headed out, and headed home. Not the best concert I’ve been to this year, but it was pretty good.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Antrim House

Heritage New Zealand have been having a Heritage Week over the last week. As part of this, they were offering guided tours of Antrim House, which is an old house in the centre of Wellington. It was originally a family home, but has since been used as a hotel, a bed and breakfast, a hostel for young men, and is now the headquarters of Heritage New Zealand itself. It is normally open to the public for free, but you can’t see very much of it when it’s being used as offices, so this was an opportunity to see more and learn a little of the history behind the house.

It was built as the family home of the Hannah family in Wellington, on what was then a residential street. Today, it is the only remaining  building of its type – it is surrounded by office blocks and flats. The décor was originally in the Italianate style, but a lot of the interior was lost in a fire during its years as a hotel (there are still some signs of the fire on the original timbers, particularly on the staircase). The most notable original features which remain are the cast iron ceilings, the fireplaces, and the stained glass windows.

New Zealand, by its nature, doesn’t have a lot of historical buildings. One of the issues facing those that remain and have been preserved is the level of compliance with the building code – many were built at a time when earthquake-proofing wasn’t really considered. This building was built by a Scottish-born architect, Thomas Turnbull, who had spent a lot of time working in San Francisco, another earthquake-prone area, so had some good experience when it came to building earthquake-proof structures. He was responsible for many of Wellington’s buildings including two churches on Willis St, and several commercial buildings including the former head office of the Bank of New Zealand, which is now a shopping centre.

Our guide gave us some background information on the Hannah family (including the fun fact that Mrs. Hannah's first name was...Hannah!), and how, during the building's hotel phase, the owner ran a brothel as a sideline from the hotel. Hannah is still a name familiar in New Zealand as a chain of shoe shops. Also the fact that the glass on the two front door does not match as one pane was broken during the second world war, and replaced with an inferior copy as the glass etching wasn't done to the standard of the original - this is clearly evident when comparing the detail of the bees on the top of the thistle.

Afterwards we headed down to the General Practitioner for a spot of lunch. They were showing the end of the All Blacks game against the Argentinian Pumas, which the ABs won 34-13, securing the Championship for the year.