fancy plans and pants to match: hanging ditch part two

honestly, what a great photo 
Well hello there, and welcome to another installment of Fancy Plans and Pants to Match. This is an occasional segment of my blog where I break the fourth wall and turn to the camera with a rueful shrug to acknowledge that sometimes nice things happen to me as a result of me being the best food blogger in the world. Wanting to be informative without being irritating is the mother of self-deprecation, so if you’re alright with this idiot dingus taking you on a journey: come with me. This segment is named for a quote from the stirling and spry Jimmy James, a character in the sadly underrated 90s sitcom NewsRadio.
So here’s the thing: In October of last year I attended the opening of aggressively rad cocktail bar Hanging Ditch, run by old mate Benji Irvine and Andy Gray, and I wrote about their cocktail selection for you. It was a lovely night, and Hanging Ditch is now a fully-fledged addition to the snug collective occupying the Hannah’s Laneway precinct: once a grubby old alleyway, and now home to Goldings Free Dive, Six Barrel Soda, Leeds Street Bakery, and much more. 

The pitch: Time has moved appallingly fast and it’s suddenly late June, the upshot of which is the Hanging Ditch has an updated cocktail list for your winter imbibe times. I was invited to try some and to share my thoughts, feelings, and interpretive dance moves about them for you. 
talk about raising the bar (she says, apologetically)  

my review of A Year Abroad: “yeah!” – a broad 


What happened:  The updated menu favours a more wintry vibe – cocktails best drank in our current icy-as climate. Having amassed some serious quantities of experience in some of the best places in town to drink; you know you are in safe hands with this team and that they are 100% not mucking around.

The drinks I tried included…

Hair of the John: Jamesons, tomato juice, cracked pepper, honey, garlic, Cholula hot sauce and Worcester sauce. A Bloody Mary made special with the robust flavour of Jameson’s Irish whiskey and the mellow, floral sweetness of honey. My favourite is usually the Bloody Maria, which uses tequila in place of the usual vodka – there’s something about tequila which makes it so friendly to salty, savoury flavours – but this variation was a revelation and a perfect start to the evening. A garnish of flamed rosemary added smokiness and herbal depth.

A Year Abroad: Papaya, Bourbon, Aperol, lemon, rhubarb bitters, albumen. As well as being incredibly pretty – a kind of rosy peach concoction topped with an airy cloud formed by the albumen (or egg white, in the common tongue) this tastes SO good. Aperol is like a gentler Campari – less sticky and bitter – and that plus the caramel sweetness of the bourbon is delicious against the lemon juice and zingy kiss of rhubarb bitters and the fruity papaya. I am a huge fan of classic sours featuring lemon juice and egg white – if you’re not used to it, yeah it might sound weird but the egg white simply blends anonymously into the drink and creates the most lush, silky texture and thick froth. I know you’ve all eaten brownie batter or cookie dough while you’re baking, so uncooked egg shouldn’t freak you out so long as it’s free-range and you’re not like, allergic. Back to the drink though: OMG yes.

Quarter to Three: Beefeater 24, Picon, Yellow Chartreuse, Fernet Branca, Lactart. So much going on here to catch my interest – first of all I love Beefeater gin, secondly I was intrigued by the use of yellow Chartreuse since I only ever use the green stuff, thirdly I’m a Fernet magnet (not a magnate, alas), fourthly what even is Lactart? So! Lactart is this lactic acid extract stuff, a few mere droplets of which allows you a similar sourness to several spoonfuls of lemon or lime juice. This drink was fascinating – there’s a lot of different alcohols jostling for position here but it was all incredibly balanced, with just the slightest nudge of mint from the Fernet. I liked how the bursts of orange from the elaborate garnish and the Picon were complemented by the acidity of the lactart – this is one hell of a drink, people.

The Muffin Man: Raisin Cognac, homemade gingerbread syrup, lemon, orange bitters. Just as the Hair of the John was the perfect kick-off, this was an excellently puddingy finish – cognac already has raisin vibes, so doubling down on that, plus the spice in the gingerbread syrup, made for a very wintry, richly flavoured cocktail. The gingernut biscuit astride the glass was rendered delicious once soaked in the alcohol. Basically this is the cocktail equivalent of sitting by a roaring fireplace while someone strokes your hair.

Also of note – the Resperation remains on the menu, which I described last time as tasting like that moment when the couple on a TV show that you love finally kiss after you’ve been waiting for them to do it for ages. I also tried some butter-infused 666 Vodka which was every bit as wonderful and up my alley as it sounds.

The Muffin Man? The Muffin Man!

The best bit: great chats with Benji while watching him make all the cocktails; shout out to the bar stools for being stupidly comfortable with surprising lower back support. 

On a scale of 1 to Is This The Real Life, Is It Just Fantasy: Okay so as I said last time I wrote about this place, this gets a 1 out of 10, but that only means that while I had a fancy time this is definitely a place I hang out at of my own accord and drinks I’ll buy for myself. That’s a good thing! 
Would I Do This Again For Not-Free: have, and will. Can enthusiastically vouch for their negronis and daiquiris, by the way. 

Earnest Thanks For Making Me Feel Fancy To: Hanging Ditch, which you can find next to Goldings at 14 Leeds Street. They operate Tuesday through Sunday from 3pm till midnight and it’s a damn charming place to hang out. 
PS: read all of the Fancy Plans and Pants to Match archive here! It’s great. 

fancy plans and pants to match: hanging ditch

Benji! Hanging bottles! Photo courtesy of my charming and talented coworker Matthew McArthur.
Well hello there, and welcome to another installment of Fancy Plans and Pants To Match. As a glamorous food blogger and author who can definitely pay their rent without feeling piteously tearful, why, it’s no wonder that lots of cool things happen to me! This is where I acknowledge the niceness that is occasionally bestowed upon my willing self, while trying to do it in a non-smug way so it’s actually enjoyable to read instead of supremely irritating. Don’t hate, self-deprecate! Oh and if you’re wondering, and especially if you’re not wondering, this segment is named for a quote from the redoubtable Jimmy James from the woefully underrated 90s sitcom NewsRadio.  
So here’s the thing: Benji Irvine and Andy Gray, who between them have an impressive bartending history including Motel, Matterhorn, and The Library (oh hey!), have opened their very own bar. It’s called Hanging Ditch and it joins the Hannah’s Laneway precinct to make it even more glorious, as if it wasn’t fun enough already with Goldings, Pizza Pomodoro, the Leeds Street Bakery and the Wellington Chocolate Factory. 
The pitch: Hanging Ditch had its hard open on Sunday night and I was invited to try some of the cocktails from the fledgling menu. I mean, is that an enchanting proposition or what. 
La Rosita: tequila, sweet and dry vermouth, campari. 

fernet in staggeringly cool shot glasses  

What happened: So as well as being brought into existence by thoroughly good guys, Hanging Ditch has a particularly idiosyncratic approach to its backbar: all the bottles are suspended from the ceiling, twinkling in the soft light like ethically-sourced diamonds. It’s honestly a stunning effect, and I suddenly understood why small babies can be so entranced by dangly items on a mobile.  As well as looking glorious it’s also remarkably practical, by which I mean, all bottles appear to be easily grabbed for drinks making and no one seemed to hit their head.

The drinks I tried included….

La Rosita (pictured above): a spectacular mix of tequila, sweet and dry vermouth and campari, all of which I bloody adore and together they form a lushly layered drink with a hint of stickiness from the campari and resiny depth from everything else. I love it. It’s served down, in a glass as thick and sturdy as an aeroplane window, which adds to the general satisfyingness of it all.

Resperation: Vodka, lemon, elderflower, marmalade and peach: I mean. Obviously you’ve got some soft floral stuff happening here plus some distinct zinginess but honestly the only way I can describe it is that it tastes like that feeling you get when a couple on a TV show that you love finally, finally, finally kiss after you’ve been wanting them to for ages.

Gunpowder Blood and Sand: A drink I love on account of how deadly the name is, this classic is given new legs with Gunpowder, a smoky and aggressive local rum which pleasingly fogs up the varying layers of sweetness provided by the Cherry Heering and orange juice. I would’ve liked to have drank this out of a more sturdy glass, but it was so delicious that you could’ve poured it into my cupped hands and I would’ve been chill.

Daiquiris, plural: obviously they are very capable of making whatever classics you so desire as well as their own concoctions; and with a special on they were slinging excellent daiquiris all evening – all of which were a viciously well-balanced mix of sweet and sour and effortlessly drinkable.

Fernet: because I am a bartender and I accept my fate that fernet is now obligatory and inescapable.

twinkle twinkle little bar
The best bit: The cocktails are honestly so good and Benji and Andy are affable, knowledgeable hosts. While I’m incredibly easily impressed, I’m also pretty discerning when it comes to flavour combinations and ingredients and such, and it’s clear that these guys know exactly what they’re doing and have done a ton of planning. It’s a joy to watch them make cocktails with their own style and panache and the place has an elegant yet unintimidating vibe which means whether you’re the only person sitting there or you’re part of a crowd it’s amazingly easy for the hours to dissolve, like Peychaud’s bitters into a sugar cube. I mean, that could also have been the cocktails that helped make time go really fast, but whatever. Oh and I know I said I’d have liked a solid-er vessel for my Blood and Sand but on the whole the glassware and frankly every tiny detail is so impressive and cool. Like, I want to own all their glassware. 
oh wow it’s me it’s so awkward (how great this photo is) (photo courtesy of the lovely Matthew McArthur)

I spy with my little eye, several babes that I know IRL, but let’s also appreciate the cool fit-out and also how much emptier that bottle of fernet is (photo courtesy of the swell Matthew McArthur)

Benji doing the damn thing (photo courtesy of Matthew McArthur who has had quite enough adjectives by now and I’m cutting him off)

On a scale of 1 to Is This The Real Life, Is It Just Fantasy: It’s a 1. So, quite often the stuff I get invited to that makes it to this blog is not stuff I can necessarily recreate on a regular basis but like, I will so be back here. This bar is DOPE. I am quite happy to spend money here and in fact spent several moneys there later on Sunday night. So saying that this is a 1 on the scale of 1 to bla bla bla is in fact a very good thing. Sure, the quantities and swank-ness of the drinks may have been at a higher level than I can normally back myself for, but this is absolutely not the last time I’ll be having them.

Would I do this again for not-free: See the above paragraph, but: obviously.

Earnest thanks for making me feel fancy to: Hanging Ditch, which can be found at 14 Leeds Street, just next to Goldings and the Wellington Chocolate Factory. Opening a bar in Wellington is not the surest and most straightforward path to success and/or a good night’s sleep, but I have a good feeling about this one. And – feel free to read the Fancy Plans and Pants To Match archive while you’re here.

fancy plans and pants to match: high tea degustation at hippopotamus

Well hello there, and welcome to another instalment of Fancy Plans and Pants to Match, where I acknowledge that okay, sometimes nice things happen to me because I am a food blogger and author, and I try to write about them in a way that’s cool and not too irritating. This segment is named for a quote by the wry and spry Jimmy James from cruelly overlooked 90s sitcom NewsRadio. And now that I’ve done some self-deprecation and explained some things; I shall actually tell you about the nice thing that happened.

So here’s the thing: I was invited to Hippopotamus, the Museum Hotel restaurant, to attend a six-course degustation-style High Tea. Centred around literal tea.

The pitch: Hippopotamus executive head chef Laurent Loudeac and Cocktail/tea maker Camille Furminieux competed against 20 teams from 13 countries in the Dilmah Real High Tea Global Challenge and only went and won the whole thing! Their six course menu both paired and incorporated Dilmah teas and had the theme of ‘The Meeting of the Senses’. Once back in New Zealand, they did a one-time recreation of the entire thing for us at Hippopotamus. Turns out, victory is delicious.  

What happened: Dry ice, tea and gin cocktails, crepes suzettes flamed on the spot in front of us…I really had no idea what to expect going in but should have known that since Hippopotamus is all effortlessly spectacular on a daily basis, that it would’ve been impressive. It was so impressive. 

The food included…

Confit duck leg tortellini in Silver Jubilee Ceylon Ginger, Honey and Mint tea consomme The broth was crystal clear and so delicately flavoured while the duck was so meaty and tender. The sweetness of the duck was brought out by the tea, but also the slight breath of mint and absolute lightness of the dish kept it all in check. Basically: so lush.

Clevedon Buffalo milk Feta Espuma, macadamia nougatine and cucumber with a Vivid Gentle Minty Green Lady cocktail The espuma was a kind of aerated feta mousse that I could’ve comfortably hoofed down buckets of – so creamy and yet feather-light, tangy from the feta but sweetly crunchy from the macadamias – it was incredibly dreamy stuff. The cocktail was glorious – love a bit of mid-morning gin – using Lighthouse gin, tea, and a little Ch’i fizzy water to create something so delicious I wanted to dive into it and swim around. (It seems this course in particular provoked some hyperbole within me.)

Poire Belle-Helene with Medda Watte Single Region Ceylon Mulled Tea the weather was reliably awful on this particular day and so the genius idea of using tea in a mulled mocktail was incredibly well-received by my bedraggled self. The drink included black doris plum juice, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, blackcurrant syrup and of course, this particularly fancy tea. It was glorious. The food itself was both delicious and adorable which is one of my top five food genres – diminutive baby pears poached till tender and snugly blanketed in chocolate sauce. A classic and classically beautiful dessert.   

the best bit: each course was stunning, both in terms of taste and presentation, and it was fun to hear the affable and extremely talented Laurent and Melanie talk about their time in Sri Lanka and their decisions around each dish and drink. Honestly the coolest bit though, was when our tables were flooded with dry ice. I am never not impressed by dry ice, it seems, but it did also tie into the whole theme of The Meeting of the Senses. And looked so cool. Also, the whole thing really did make me appreciate the complexities of tea and made me want to use it a lot more in my cooking.

on a scale of 1 to “is this the real life, is this just fantasy”: it was so unlike anything I’d experienced before and am unlikely to be surrounded by that much tea-related excitement ever again. On top of that the food was utterly wondrous and the staff were confidently capable and charming. So yeah, it’s up there close to ten.   

Would I do this again for not-free: I mean, this was a one-off event and I am constantly piteously broke so I literally couldn’t do this if I wasn’t invited along, but if I was more flush I would be at Hippopotamus all the time.

Earnest thanks for making me feel fancy to: Hippopotamus, at the Museum Hotel, 90 Cable Street, Wellington 04 802 8935/ hippo@museumhotel.co.nz. Also thanks hugely to the photographer on the day whose wonderful photos you see here. And here’s the Fancy Plans and Pants to Match archive if you wish to read more things like this (it’s really good, okay.)

fancy plans and pants to match: portlander’s visa wellington on a plate menu

             
Well hello there, and welcome to another instalment of Fancy Plans and Pants to Match, where I acknowledge that sometimes nice things happen to me and then try to write about it in a way that’s not tooooo teeth-grindingly irritating to read. No point being coy, but also I don’t want to sound as though I’m totally used to this kind of thing, because it’s super exciting every time. Anyway! Now that I have the requisite self-deprecation out of the way, I can actually get on with telling you what happened. Two things though: first, if you’re wondering, this segment is named for a quote from Jimmy James, an abundantly excellent character from the highly slept-on 90s sitcom NewsRadio. And secondly, I’ve managed to lose both my stupid SD cards and so my camera is now little more than an expensive sculpture, meaning that I have to use my phone to take photos instead. As such these images aren’t the highest quality they could be, but I’ve decided to lean into this by running them through some distractingly dreamy filters. 
I now have the theme song from the tv show Lamb Chop’s Play-Along stuck in my head and I also have no regrets…except that this is happening 

so here’s the thing: I was invited along to Portlander to preview their menu for Visa Wellington on a Plate Festival.

the pitch: Visa Wellington on a Plate is approaching super fast, and despite all the cool events promised I have to say for me the most interesting bit is seeing what set menus all the restaurants come up with for the Dine Wellington side of things. Portlander is the restaurant connected to the Rydges Hotel, both elegant and yet burger-ly chill and a rare example of a hotel restaurant that really excels in its own right as a stand-alone eatery. Last year Portlander’s menu did incredibly well for them and they wanted to run this year’s offerings past a few of us before the festival launches – and if there’s one thing I love more than food, it’s sneaky food. Once the festival starts you can get two courses or three courses plus a beverage for a set price at lunchtime and dinner respectively, but we got to try the whole damn lot.

what happened: myself and another foodwriter were given a special table to ourselves with the lovely Sales and Marketing Coordinator; where we were brought all the various courses that would be available on the set menu and given the chance to share them, wallow in the deliciousness, and then provide any feedback we had.

salmon! some mega deliciousness with your omega-3 

The food went as follows –

Starters: Palliser Bay lamb cutlets with Mediterranean Food Warehouse dried figs, toasted pistachio, cranberries and Prana Greens pea shoots (verdict: an excellent mix of meatily sweet lamb, deeply sweet figs and sour-sweet cranberries.)
Grilled scallops with Zany Zeus smoked yoghurt and Greytown Gold saffron essence with parmesan chips, Prana Greens micro herbs and avocado oil (verdict: scallops feel like such a rare treat for me, they’re not something I would encounter more than like, once a year at best, and these were glorious – mellow and tender and bouncy and excellent with the playful pairing of smoked yoghurt.)

Mains: Char-grilled wild venison fillet with Farm Fresh wild mushroom polenta and light truffle jus (verdict: I am a right sucker for polenta in any form so was easily pleased by this gorgeously wintry combination of flavours. The venison was dense and rich and the mushrooms intensely savoury; it was wonderful)
Yellow Brick Road Ōra King Salmon cold smoked with Elaia Gourmet Olives leaf tea and manuka wood chips, crushed potato, housepreserved lemon and Koroneiki extra virgin Greytown Gold olive oil (verdict: the salmon was amazing, with an intriguing, gently smoky flavour that complemented the richness of the coral pink flesh stunningly. Sour salty stabs of lemon and olive flavour, while almost overwhelming, helped keep it balanced. And to literally top it all off the salmon skin, silver like a disco ball, was perfectly crunchy.)

Dessert:Apple Sourz sorbet and RJ’s liquorice individual baked cheesecakes (verdict: I was tickled by the inclusion of the Sourz, which made for a luscious, zingy sorbet. Liquorice is one of the few flavours I avoid in this life, it does absolutely nothing for me, but this cheesecake was spectacular – the flavour was more like the darkest molasses toffee giving way to the barest tickle of liquorice, and the texture was satiny-smooth.)
Housemade shortbread sandwich with Zelati Freezeria peanut butter ice cream and blonde Beer Belly Jellies (verdict: while a little difficult to get into with one’s cutlery, the shortbread was buttery and properly homemade-tasting, while the ice cream shone with pure peanut butter flavour that worked well with the creamy texture, and, oddly, the blonde beer flavoured jelly that accompanied it. On its own the jelly was a bit evocative of a country pub’s carpet, but as long as it wasn’t the only thing on your spoon it was ultimately a daring choice that paid off.)

ice cream sandwich: yes. 

the best bit: our hosts were hugely charming and gregarious, and the Johner Estate wine was plentiful and glorious – admittedly my wine knowledge is like…mostly bluffing, guesswork, and fixed eye contact while confidently telling you adjectives, but this really is delicious wine. However that incredible liquorice cheesecake was the standout for me – such incredible, subtle, deep-toned flavour and swoony texture that got me enthusiastically eating something I professed to dislike. (Outside of this cheesecake though I’m still staunchly not a fan. There’s these photos of me on my first birthday, one of me moving stealthily towards my birthday cake to steal a black jellybean, and then one of my horrified and perplexed face when I actually ate it. Not much has changed.)

on a scale of ‘one’ to ‘is this the real life, is this just fantasy’: I mean – the very point of these Dine Wellington menus is that they’re highly accessible, and it’s lovely to know I could have aspects of this meal all over again during the Visa Wellington on a Plate festival. It was thoroughly fun to be dining at our own special table though, and a delightfully fancy evening, so I give it a solid five. (To reiterate, this is rating it for how outlandish and unattainable it is, not how good it is.)

earnest thanks for helping me feel fancy to: Portlander at the Rydges Hotel, corner of Whitmore and Featherston Street, Wellington. For more information call 04 498 3762 or email info@portlander.co.nz.

Read the Fancy Plans and Pants to Match archives here, and giz a yell at laura@hungryandfrozen.com if you want to invite me to your own fancy times. 

fancy plans and pants to match: the library

Well hello there, and welcome to another installment of Fancy Plans and Pants to Match, where I’m all, “hey pals, sometimes nice things happen to me because I’m a cool food blogger but in my defense I’m going to be juuust self-deprecating enough about it to make you feel comfortable and relaxed”.

I used to avoid talking about it in case I came across as an unrelatable prig who was excited by nothing and filled with ennui by everything, but it turns out that while I can never be that unexcited person I probably should worry about pushing people away by using the word “prig”. Anyway! The name Fancy Plans and Pants to Match is a quote from the wondrous Jimmy James, a character in the woefully slept-on 90s sitcom NewsRadio. And in case all this wasn’t quite enough of a thrilling ride for you, I have a giveaway, whaaaat (imagine me sounding an airhorn right now, if you would be so kind) for a $100 voucher for The Library. You could scroll right to the end for the instructions on how to enter and ignore this post, but just know that I’ll know. Oh, I’ll know. I always know. But also there’s nothing I can do about it, so yeah, really, scroll by merrily if you wish!

feast

so here’s the thing: I was invited to eat and drink up large at The Library, a baller bar and live music venue in town. This kind of sybaritic activity is exactly how I’d like to live my life but so rarely get to, so it was some kind of wonderful to have this opportunity.

the pitch: The Library has long been known for their excellent cocktails and desserts, but they have very recently updated their food menu, and so there’s no better time to do some investigating into these developments with one’s mouth.  

what happened: In the interests of clutching at any brief opportunity to look cool and like a hell of a swell about town, being all rakish and debonaire and decadent, I brought my girlfriend along as my plus one. We were given a number of options for seating, and decided upon the secret dining room, a pleasingly sneaky nook hidden behind a curtain, with a window looking over Courtenay Place, The Library’s signature ceiling-high shelves piled with books, and, the most important thing: perfect light for taking selfies. 

this is the prawn cocktail salad, not a selfie. But how cute would a prawn taking a selfie be! Anyway.

The new menu is positively rippling with flavours and playful, interesting takes on established combinations. For the indecisive amongst us (hi!) this could be fraught-making, but the size of the plates lends them well to ordering many and sharing amongst a few. We started with a cocktail each – the Mrs Peacock (blueberries, raspberry gin, sparkling wine) and Roses Are Red (rose wine, raspberries, cranberry juice, rosewater, rose petals), both the colour of velvety theatre curtains and both a glorious way to start the meal. I believe my words to the impressively mellow person serving us were “I would like to take a bath in this stuff”. After much deliberation, we chose the following:

Prawn Cocktail Salad, with prawns, smoked salmon, bloody mary mayonnaise (verdict: punchy, crunchy, retro-fun…chy)
Honey Marinated Salmon, with cauliflower puree, avocado mousse, and pickled vegetables (verdict: how’d they get the salmon so utterly tender and pink, how, also the pickled vegetables were the perfect textural contrast to all that satiny puree)
Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella with basil gremolata, 12 hour tomatoes and olive oil caviar (verdict: milky soft cheese, basil and slowly-cooked tomatoes made sweet and intense will always be an ideal combination. The olive oil caviar was very cute, but maybe didn’t add much other than cool visuals – this may be my heathenish self being unappreciative of subtlety, though.)
Beef Carpaccio, with wine barrel smoked mushrooms, shaved parmesan and micro greens (verdict: Wow. How dare you. This is frankly too, too good. I’m outraged.)
Tempura Tuna, with soba noodle salad and wasabi mayonnaise (verdict: the feather-light tempura, super-rich rare tuna, and cold, slippery, sesame-tinged noodles were wonderful together.)
Smoked Brioche Bruschetta, with wild mushrooms and sage butter (Verdict: okay, how did something so simple, which we almost overlooked, taste like wandering through the forest after the rain, like jumping into a pile of autumn leaves, like…sturdy boots – oh wait that last one is kind of insulting. This was just really, really excellent.)

honey marinated salmon: a veritable symphony of textures, if you ask me

tempura tuna with soba noodle salad: my hair is so shiny after all this omega action

We finished with two mighty fine Old Fashioned cocktails (that’s one each, but I do like the thought of clutching one in each hand and not leaving till the Angostura bitter end) and we shared Organic Pineapple and Raspberry Sorbets which were so damn fresh and smooth and the only way they could’ve been bursting with more real fruit flavour would’ve been if they were one of those suspiciously fake-tasting fruit lollies which tend to insist in their advertising campaigns that they are, in fact, bursting with real fruit flavour. If that makes sense.

even in the face of unutterable fullness, there’s always room for sorbet.


beef carpaccio, I shall now tell you how I feel about it through the medium of passionate interpretive dance

the best bit: Everything was straight up brilliant. Service, the place itself, the food, the drinks, everything. However, the standout dishes were the beef carpaccio and the smoked brioche. Carpaccio is one of those dishes I only want to pay for, because, like hair cuts, it’s better done by other people. If I tried to do it myself there would just be roughly-hewn chunks of steak everywhere (same goes for trying to do haircuts to be honest.) This was silky layer upon silky layer of cool, rich beef, with thin slivers of parmesan and juicy mushrooms and every time I think about it I feel like I’m clenching my fists and standing in the rain in a dramatic music video, that’s how good it was. Perfect ingredients, presented very simply. Perfect. The brioche arrived in a smoke filled dome, which I loved, and despite being something we picked offhand from the menu it was indubitably a favourite. Buttery bread, buttery actual butter, lushly savoury mushrooms tumbled over, everything kissed with smoke. You know a meal is good when you find yourself shouting metaphors and richly detailed imagery at it to illustrate how it makes you feel, rather than just eating it.

drama!

it’s what’s on the inside that counts

on a scale of one to is this the real life, is this just fantasy: While The Library is somewhere I’d happily wander into for a drink and a snack of an evening, this particular all-bets-are-off evening was like an actual don’t-pinch-yourself-because-you-don’t-want-to-wake-up lucid dream. I give it a nine.

would I do it for not-free: Okay, so I literally cannot afford to recreate the exact quantities that we ate and drank anytime soon, but I am so enamoured with the food that I will most definitely be back to revisit some of the brilliant things we had and to try some more. The coconut coated smoked halloumi, hand-cut potato skins with pecorino and proscuitto, and rare beef fillet with parsnip whip, beetroot tartar and kumara crisps could not be calling my name any harder right now.

more cocktails! The Fresh Prince (gin, elderflower, cucumber, apple juice, celery bitters, lemon, mint) and the Pin Up Fizz (gin, strawberry, lemon, lavender bitters, egg white, cream, sparkling water) one elegant and crisp and one cute and frothy, both way delicious. 

earnest thanks for making me feel fancy to: The Library, upstairs at 53 Courtenay Place, Wellington. 04 382 8593 / bookings@thelibrary.co.nz. Cheers the the wondrous team there for finding us such a fun table, for being so knowledgeable about everything, and for being entirely chill about catching us taking selfies pretty much every time they walked in.
______________________________________________________________________

so you want to win a $100 voucher: Well done, you made it to the end of this long post so I’m gonna finally tell you how. The extremely good people at The Library have given me a voucher for one hundred damn dollars to give away to one of you.

All you have to do is the following.

1) Be in New Zealand (better yet, Wellington, for obvious reasons, but as long as you can feasibly get to Wellington at some point I guess you’re all good)
2) Leave a comment on this blog post recommending me a song you’ve been loving lately. It doesn’t have to be anything brand new, just something that has been making you feel some things in your heart whenever you play it. Seriously, whatever song you like (there are three acts that I truly detest in this life: Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straits and Phil Collins, but like, in the interest of “fairness” and “ethics” I won’t discount you if you mention something by any of them.)
3) Around midday Sunday February 22 I will select a winner at random, and will announce it on my blog’s Facebook Page. I’ll attempt to get in touch with you via email or whatever if I can work out how, but otherwise you’ve got around 24 hours or so to get back to me, otherwise I’ll have to pick someone else, okay?

PS: The Fancy Plans and Pants to Match archive is here, and feel free to get in touch with me anytime if you’re a haver of fanciness out there who wants me to check out your goods.

fancy plans and pants to match: nautilus estate wines, part two

Bread and Butter Chicken

Well hello there, and welcome to another installment of Fancy Plans and Pants to Match, where I overexplain somewhat apologetically about how sometimes I get cool free stuff because I’m an amazing blogger and cookbook author, and try to write about said free stuff in a way that makes me seem charming and only minimally insufferable. The name of this segment comes from a quote by Jimmy James, a character in the brilliant 90s sitcom NewsRadio.

This is part two of a series of recipes I created for Nautilus Estate wines. Last time I wrote about lemonade pancakes with strawberry sauce and pasta with chorizo and feta and chilli butter, and this time I’ve got more deliciousness for you. I hate to repeat text I’ve already written verbatim but I’m gonna power through the pain anyway, because…everything I said last time is still relevant and I’m not going to try and think of a synonym for every single word I wrote when the original will do fine. But consider yourself warned that (just) the following two paragraphs appeared when I previously wrote about this stuff.

So here’s the thing: Nautilus Estate got in touch with me and asked if I’d like to develop some recipes for them to go with their fancy fancy wines. Oh my gosh yes, said I. I love wine, I love thinking up recipes, I love receiving a butt-tonne of wine in the mail, and honestly it’s just nice to be thought of as someone who could do this, right? And then a whole lot of stuff happened in my life. Finally though, I got around to actually completing my original task. So thanks Nautilus, not only for the wine itself, but for your infinite patience and your “hey it’s cool we can wait the wine will probably be kind of useful right now anyway” attitude.

The pitch: Nautilus Vintage Rose 2011 and Cuvee Marlborough NV Brut. Both fizzy and fizzing with deliciousness. All I have to do is come up with some recipes to complement what they’ve already got going on. Important note: I cannot format a swishy little accent on the ‘e’ in rose/cuvee for some reason so when you read it please pronounce it “rose-ayyyyy” and “coo-vayyyy” in your head

fancy pudding with a fancy wine for a fancy lady who needs a synonym for fancy

What happened: somehow these recipes to match the wines came to me pretty immediately and fully-formed, perhaps because that’s something I am very good at doing (in the interest of being a self-deprecating New Zealander I feel like I should match this boastfulness with one of my failings: I can’t ride a bicycle. Self-deprecation, the wine matching of personal self-esteem!) The rose’s delicate but definite berry sweetness could handle something rich and buttery, and I liked the idea of pairing such an elegant drink with something so hearty and cosy. Not that I wouldn’t serve this bread and butter chicken to people I was trying to impress – it’s still at that level, but also really very easy and plain and comforting. Chicken, butter, bread: all as wondrous as it sounds, and ideal with a sparklingly ripe-flavoured wine like the rose.

butter is really delicious: I’m highly qualified to tell you this

bread and butter chicken

a recipe by myself
recommended wine pairing: Nautilus Estate Vintage Rose 2011

four chicken thighs, skin on, organic and free range if possible because I don’t like to be prescriptive but oh damn they taste so much better
100g butter
three thick slices stale white bread, eg white sourdough, those Vienna loaves, that kinda thing 
½ cup walnuts
fresh thyme leaves, around a tablespoon.

Set oven to 200 C, and place the chicken thighs snugly in a roasting dish. Cube the butter and scatter evenly on top of the chicken thighs. Put the dish in the oven and leave for around 40 minutes. 

Meanwhile, tear the bread into very small pieces, allowing some of it to crumble into breadcrumb dust and some of the pieces to be more crouton-esque. Basically just rip it up and whatever you do will be correct. Either roughly chop the walnuts and tip them in, or just break them up in your hands – they don’t need to be too small. Stir in the thyme leaves. 

Remove the chicken from the oven – it should be very crisp and golden and the juice should run clear when you puncture the thicker end of the thigh with a skewer. Scatter the breadcrumb-walnut mixture evenly over the top, and spoon over plenty of the buttery pan juices (there will be plenty!) so they can absorb it all. Some of the breadcrumbs will stay on top of the chicken, some will fall down into the spaces between the thighs, but it will all taste incredible. Return to the oven for around ten minutes or until the breadcrumbs look crisp and golden. 

I’d serve it with lemon wedges and a salad that has lots of peppery rocket leaves and flat leaf parsley in it, but to be honest I just ate one of the thighs with my bare hands straight from the oven with a glass of wine and it was quite perfect. 

I thought the more crisp, full flavour of the cuvee could happily lift the bittersweet and majorly-sweet grapefruit and white chocolate curds. On that note, I thought making a lemon curd thing but with white chocolate instead would be super fun, and oh, how right I was. I use a particular technique that perhaps in time they’ll call HungryandFrozen’s Unclassic Method, where I just throw all the ingredients in at once and stir over a low heat till the butter melts and it somehow comes together. The white chocolate curd has a rich vanilla-custard flavour and the grapefruit curd has a gentle sharpness, which, with the thick, tart yoghurt, is all so good you’ll want to say “OH SHUT UP” to no one in particular after having a mouthful because you don’t know what to do with yourself. As well as tasting excellent, the texture of the cool, bubbly brut goes well with the thick, saucy sweetness of this pudding.

grapefruit curd, white chocolate curd, greek yoghurt

a recipe by myself. Serves two – four, depending on the size of your serving glasses, I recommend going on the smaller side all the same and eating the remaining ones yourself at another happy time if you’ve only got two people to feed.
recommended wine pairing: Nautilus Estate Cuvee Marlborough NV Brut

two grapefruit
four eggs
three quarters of a cup of sugar
150g butter
100g white chocolate chopped as fine as you can be bothered to
several tablespoons of thick, plain Greek yoghurt

In a smallish pan, mix two eggs and half a cup of the sugar. Squeeze in the grapefruit juice and stir again. Dice half the butter into small cubes and tip them into the pan. Over a very low heat, patiently, stir this mixture constantly till the butter melts and it all thickens. Once it has all come together and is looking thick and saucy, but not necessarily too thick – better safe than sorry – remove from the heat and stick the pan into a sink which has a couple of inches of cold water in it, stirring constantly to lower the heat of the pan’s contents. Spatula this into a bowl and refrigerate while you get on with the white chocolate: whisk together the remaining two eggs and the remaining quarter cup of sugar, then add the cubed butter and chopped white chocolate. Again, over a very low heat, stir it constantly till the butter and chocolate have just melted and it becomes thick and smooth. Stick this pan in a sink of cold water too, just to make sure it doesn’t carry on cooking in the hot pan. Transfer this into a bowl and also refrigerate – ideally for at least an hour, but you can make the two curds a whole day ahead. 

Layer up generous spoonfuls of the grapefruit and white chocolate curd and Greek yoghurt in small serving bowls (125ml or so but larger is fine) and serve. Some mint leaves or chopped pistachios might be nice here, but there’s plenty going on already. 

silkier than a silkworm in fetching silk stockings descending gently to the earth from a silk parachute

bread and butter chicken: still delicious, don’t forget

from a scale of 1 to the entire verse of Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads: As with last time, still a solid eight – this is so much nicer than the wine I usually drink, and it was sincerely thrilling having so much of it, with my only task ahead something I already adore: developing recipes.

would I do this for not-free? again, as with last time, I mean, I’m not just going to give people content for nothing – wait, I write a food blog – oh you know what I mean – but I would definitely buy this wine off the shelf now if it was on special or I was feeling, oh I don’t know, employed. It tastes excellent and the people behind it are blatantly pretty cool, so go forth and seek it, I say.

earnest thanks for making me feel fancy to: Nautilus Estate! You rule.

finally, some slightly unrelated blog admin: my rent is not your problem, but I can so feel in my bones that there’s at least one eccentric millionaire who reads this blog and is fond of me in a monetary way. What I’m saying is, hi, this is a periodic reminder that you can totally donate to hungryandfrozen.com to help me continue to exist and to remain on the fringes of that fancy life. But also I shall not be fussed if you don’t. I’m kind of just trying to trick super rich people into Robin Hooding themselves to me. But also trying to pay rent and buy food and such. Anyway: consider it, if you like!

fancy plans and pants to match: nautilus estate wine

Well hello there, and welcome to another instalment of Fancy Plans and Pants to Match. This is where I contritely admit that yeah, sometimes really nice things happen to me as a result of being a food blogger and published cookbook author, but try to do it in a way that isn’t entirely insufferable and doesn’t make you want to hate me. The name of this segment is a quote from Jimmy James, a character from the much slept-on 90s sitcom NewsRadio. It just felt right.

So here’s the thing: Nautilus Estate got in touch with me and asked if I’d like to develop some recipes for them to go with their fancy fancy wines. Oh my gosh yes, said I. I love wine, I love thinking up recipes, I love receiving a butt-tonne of wine in the mail, and honestly it’s just nice to be thought of as someone who could do this, right? And then a whole lot of stuff happened in my life. Finally though, I got around to actually completing my original task. So thanks Nautilus, not only for the wine itself, but for your infinite patience and your “hey it’s cool we can wait the wine will probably be kind of useful right now anyway” attitude.

The pitch: Nautilus Vintage Rose 2011 and Cuvee Marlborough NV Brut. Both fizzy and fizzing with deliciousness. All I have to do is come up with some recipes to complement what they’ve already got going on. Important note: I cannot get a swishy little accent on the ‘e’ in rose/cuvee for some reason so when you read it please pronounce it “rose-ayyyyy” and “coo-vayyyy” in your head.

What happened: Okay, so I really know very little about wine. I am your house-sav, eight-dollar-bottle-of-merlot-from-the-dairy, zero-brand-loyalty-because-I-don’t-know-jack wine drinker. All of which makes me an excellent, ideal candidate for drinking your flashy wines and thinking up recipes for them, because my palate is unjaded. I am an innocent fawn stumbling through a meadow, I am a blank canvas, I am able to talk like this and convince you that it’s a good idea to send me wine even though I don’t have the faintest idea of what I’m talking about. All your wine has to do is make a good impression on me. I don’t know why I can’t get my head around wine, by the way. I also couldn’t get my head around driving a manual car or the cash register at the German bakery I worked at for an entire year.

brunch: it’s the most wonderful time of year

For the rose I wanted to complement the strawberry flavours bursting through each tiny bubble (admittedly, the tasting notes said there were strawberry notes but I honestly did taste them myself independently of this) and also liked the idea of using it in a luxe brunch kind of way rather than just thinking of dinner and pudding recipes. Like, if I’m going to have a mid-morning drink, fizzy glamorous rose is totally on my top five list of ideal drinks. I also felt like pairing it with lemonade. I thought that would be kind of fun since lemonade costs about a dollar, but also to boost the sweet, bubbly lemony fragrant elements of the rose itself. And I wanted to see if I could make pancakes largely composed of lemonade. Okay, so now that you have the story of my life up until this point, did they taste good? You bet your $9.50 corner dairy Shiraz they did!

Pink and white on pink and white.

lemonade pancakes with strawberry sauce

wine match: Nautilus Estate Vintage Rose 2011

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups lemonade (not diet) although be prepared to add more
  • 2 cups frozen strawberries (or actual strawberries, should it be summer when you read this)
  • 3 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemonade (or thereabouts) extra

Place the strawberries in a bowl with the icing sugar and let the former defrost while the latter absorbs into them while you get on with the pancakes.

Whisk together the flour and baking powder, then stir in the egg, and finally slowly add the lemonade, whisking more thoroughly as you go. You should end up with a rather pale, thick-yet-liquidy batter, the consistency of, well, pancake batter.

Heat up a large pan, throw in a tablespoon of butter and let it sizzle, then use a 1/2 or 1/3 cup measure to scoop out quantities of pancake batter to tip into the hot pan. Once bubbles start to appear on the surface, flip the pancake carefully to the other side, making sure it has browned decently, then transfer it to a plate and move onto the next one. Maybe cover the done ones with a paper towel or something to absorb any steam.

Once you’re done with the pancakes, blitz the strawberries and icing sugar in a food processor and slowly pour in the lemonade till it forms a bright, thick, smooth sauce. Pour liberally over your pancakes along with plain Greek yoghurt or whatever else you want, really. Serve with a glass of rose because it’s 11am and you’re a grown woman who can do whatever you want. (You may not actually be a grown woman, this unexpectedly turned into a self-pep-talk. Either way, you can still have rose.)

Um, this doesn’t work as well IRL as it does in cartoons

Despite knowing little about wine I fortunately have a good instinct for flavour and texture and…basically everything except wine. And so. The lemonade made the pancakes light and gently sweet, which, along with the fragrant summery strawberries and thick, tangy yoghurt, was rather perfect with the rose’s fine-textured bubbles and rich-yet-dry vibe.

For the Cuvee I wanted something quite simple yet full of pugnacious flavour, as the wine itself is light and crisp yet not delicate – I felt like it could stand up to quite a lot.

pappardelle with chilli butter, chorizo and feta

wine match: Nautilus Estate Cuvee Marlborough NV Brut

  • 150g dried pappardelle pasta
  • 25g butter
  • a medium-sized firm red chilli, roughly diced
  • a lemon
  • 2 chorizo sausages, preferably good stuff (I mean, not like I’m going to say “preferably the worst chorizo you can find, and then leave it out in the sun for a few days” but basically the quality does make a difference oh wow I sound so patronising I’m going to back away now.)
  • 100g feta, the soft kind, nothing too crumbly or firm (the cheapest stuff is ideal for this, ha!)
  • olive oil
  • sumac

Put on a large pot of salted water to boil and once it is boiling, cook the pasta according to packet instructions – probably about ten minutes. While you’re doing that, melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the chilli and the zest of the lemon. Allow the butter to sizzle and the chilli to soften a little (PS: seeds in or out is up to your level of heat-resistance) and then pour all of this into a small bowl and set aside. Slice the chorizo and fry in the same pan till crisp and browned. Using a fork, mash the feta along with the juice of the lemon you just zested and about a tablespoon of olive oil, stirring harder until it’s quite smooth.

Drain the pasta, schmeer the feta thickly on two plates (I know, fussy, but it’s useful) and then divide the pappardelle between said plates, topping with the chorizo and spoonfuls of the chilli butter. The butter may well have firmed up by this point but the heat of the pasta will slowly melt it. Finally, scatter over a little sumac, and hey ho, let’s go.

you could use any pasta really but things just taste nicer when those things are pappardelle pasta

There’s a lot going on here – sour, spicy, creamy, potentially-mouth-burning – and a lesser wine might’ve been overshadowed, or just taste lousy, against all of that. But the cuvee’s sprightly crisp acidity and full, nutty flavour was not only balanced, it was, I boldly claim, enhanced by the same flavours echoed in the pasta. Also just something about the champagne style of the wine makes anything feel more exciting, and I already get one hell of a kick out of things like pasta and butter and stuff.

the chilli gets a lot more mellow as it sits in the butter, in case you’re nervous

On a scale of 1 to “a whole new world, a new fantastic point of view, no one to tell us no, or where to go, or say we’re only dreaming”: I would say an eight. I got a lot of wine, all of it far more delicious and swanky than I’m used to, and it totally improved my life whenever I had a bottle in my hand.

Would I do this for not-free: Look, it’s more expensive than the wine I usually buy, but not prohibitively so – if I was feeling both flush and celebratory I would most definitely go for a bottle of the cuvee. But also, the prices really are reasonable for what you’re getting, and I suspect that you only have to be marginally less of a dirtbag than me to not flinch at them for casual wine drinking times.

Earnest thanks for making me feel fancy to: Nautilus Estate. They’re damn rad. I’ll be doing another one of these posts in the future sometime too, in case you’re all “wait, Laura, don’t go!”