Thursday, May 31, 2007

Gem Iron Happiness

With this title.. I guess I sort of ruined the surprise about what I found at a local antique shop over the weekend.

If you guessed gem irons, you're right as rain. I had written a draft post about gems last year after a lengthy discussion with a food historian at the University of Otago. Now, as the proud owner of two of these treasured baking implements, I'll dig it out of the archives..

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


This is Laguiole. It is a very old style French cheese originally made in a large drum shaped cylinder in the Massif Central. Laguiole takes its name from a village on the plateau of Aubrac. This geographical area is important to the cows that graze there as it greatly contributes to the flavour and flavour development of the cheese as it ages.

More information on the use and serving of Laguiole is available here.

This cheese will vary from ivory to yellow and can have a spotted rind depending on its age. When ripe, the sourish note of the youthful laguiole will become more rounded, savoury and pronounced. At 6 months maturity it is as complex, nutty and with a depth of flavour as any of the world's great cheeses.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Goodbye London Lounge

The decor hadn't changed in 25 years. The menu didn't showcase Wagyu beef or anything drizzled in truffle oil. And sometimes the television was too loud. But for my Sunday session dollar, or a quick weeknight pint, you couldn't beat the London Lounge.

The London Lounge, one of the few remaining Dunedin Institutions located on the corner of London and George Streets, closed its doors for the last time on the 28th of May, 2007. It's as sad as the prospect of yet another irish pub (and a franchise at that) being opened in the downtown core. Combine that with the loss of a REAL Kiwi pub.. a publican who met every customer with a good natured "How's things?" and staff who are friendly as, even on the busiest of nights (which was often), and you have a tragedy indeed.

And then there was the loss of the regulars.. another matter altogether. The London Lounge was frequented by an assortment of punters: duty managers of other city pubs, families, students, and, by virtue of being THE 'after practice' pub of choice, the local Anglican church choir. Where they have taken their lively conversation, opinions and insight to present day Dunedin and the Dunedin of years gone by, is anyone's guess. They were regulars in the true sense of the word and wherever they decide to frequent from now on is lucky to have them.

"How's things?"

"Ah, good, and you?"

"Yep, good good. Bookbinder?"

A nod. "Please."

The pint is passed across the bar.

"Thanks. Bill not in tonight?" I ask. Hopping on a barstool and hoping to be regaled with more tales of adventures from years tending the viaducts on the Central Otago Rail Line.

"Ah, bit on the early side for Bill yet.. " Greg says, " give him another half hour."

And on the clock.. there's Bill.

Greg, Glynnis, Ellie, all the staff of the London Lounge and the collective crew of regulars are sorely missed.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Out of the brown bottle..

"Where once my wit, perchance, hath shone, in aid of others, let me shine; and when, alas, my wit hath gone, what nobler substitute than wine? - Byron

Um, beer?

Lord Byron wasn't wrong. But why is it that beer is frequently passed over for wine as a beverage for inspiration or contemplation when it is equally as suited to be consumed as an aperitivo, with a meal or for afters?

And what about these beers that are?

I'll try to answer that in a minute.. but will address the problem first. Perception. And I think many people share this common opinion: beer is for drinking. It needs no other accompaniments, no flash glass, and carries no pretense. The colder and the less flavour to hinder the process the better. Down the hatch.

However, interesting to note this uproar over the glass ban at the Blues, Brews and Barbeques that, get this, only affected the beer, not the wine, served at the festival. I think that says more about the preconceived notion of beer drinkers rather than beer itself but that is another matter entirely..

This isn't to say beer should be regarded the same as wine (and open the pandora's box of pretention that the mere mention of wine tastings brings to the average beer drinker) but to correct the notion that beer isn't made to savour. Sniffing and swirling beer might be the stuff of "Yeah right." Tui marketing campaigns but why waste the experience by chugging a traditional European beer or one of the well crafted local brews that are made to linger over or enjoy with food.

Ok, maybe your regular session swill isn't screaming out for seared ahi tuna, flautas with a side of spicy pico di gallo or sticky date pud.. but in many cases I find beer to be the perfect foil to foods that otherwise might not have an ideal wine accompaniment. Fatty, acidic or spicy foods that are more difficult wine companions are perfect with a variety of beer styles.

Even with those classic wine foods, beer does better than hold its own. Cheese, for one, has a magical affinity with beer. A hugely savoury aged cheddar, say, Quickes (available from Canterbury Cheesemongers), is a wonderful beer flavour mate.

As for glassware, ever wonder why Belgian beers in the supermarket or specialty store often make an appearance in gift packs with glassware included at Christmastime? These glasses are the recommended vessels for that beer type. If you were to visit the countries responsible for the major beer styles you'd see what I mean. I'd recommend anyone who hasn't experimented to try them and see the difference.

With the masses of imported beers now popping up in the supermarket, and as much fun as it is to try them, it isn't necessary if you're keen on staying true to the drink local philosophy or just appreciate good Kiwi made quality. You can try beers that are among the best in the world right here at home.

Beers that the South and all of New Zealand should be proud .


Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Feijoas are on everyone's mind lately.. the season is now in full swing and crumbles, chutneys and wine are being whipped up all around the country with feijoa in the starring role.

I spent the season on the lower North island last year and was a bit spoiled. With an unattended feijoa tree next door and a woman at work who brought them in by the box load, we ate heaps of this crumble. This year, there is no shortage at the supermarket, and as I am hopelessly addicted, they will have to do.

I like to keep it simple.. an easy Edmonds cookbook crumble with a few minor alterations is a great start to the day, a tasty mid afternoon pick me up and is a lovely way to end a meal.

A quick slice and scoop removes the juicy, gelatinous and slightly grainy fruit interior and the pulp goes straight into a buttered dish. No pre-cooking required as feijoa will reduce to a bubbling golden creaminess in the time it takes the crumble topping to become brown and crunchy.

Only a sprinkle of brown sugar tops the feijoa and an occasional bit of ginger or cinnamon. I will do this occasionally for something different but this really needs no embellishment.

The crumble is adapted from Edmonds cookbook:

75g butter
1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
Process or stir/mash to resemble coarse breadcrumb.
Add 1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant) I usually use a bit more.
Stir in 1/2 of caster sugar. (I use a bit less).

I use my hands to coarsely crumble the mixture over the fruit. Bake at 180C for 30-40 minutes. My favourite topping is either ice cream (hokey pokey or homemade custard ice cream) or a quick custard made to your taste that can be whipped up while the crumble is baking.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Harbour Travels

These are images from my daily commute to and from Dunedin town. I travel along the harbour bike path every morning rain or shine. It is an invigorating and relaxing start to the day.

Of course, views like these usually make me want to keep pedaling, past varsity and through town, along Portsmouth Drive and across to the Beach or onto the Peninsula. Dunedin is a great city for exploring and there is so much within an easy drive or pedal from the middle of town.

Still, every morning, this has to be enough. I think of people stuck in traffic in other centers or overseas, I turn up Union Street and onto campus, and it is.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Meet Jancis

Meet Jancis, winery kitty at Felton Road.

Along with possessing one adorable wee cat (if cats could ever be accurately described as being owned), this group also possess the ability to make some adorable and amazing wine. I was lucky enough to be at their 10th Anniversary Pinot Noir tasting party a few weeks ago and even though it was Pinot's time to shine, the Riesling was just as bright.

As with everything else lately.. that post is also in the works.