Sunday, June 24, 2012


Maria Callas, smoked salmon, bruschetta and Chardonnay.

I've ranted before on this and my other blog about the dangers of discounting and the ridiculous 'specialling' culture that New Zealand retailers have. They compete on price only, forgetting about the importance of service and quality produce.

Most often though we are lucky to be experiencing the greatest opportunity of any time in history, the opportunity to try, use and even indulge in some of the best offerings the world has. You don't have to be rich or even well off. You just have to be discerning.

This afternoon I indulged. With the late afternoon winter sun illuminating the kitchen and half of the living room I have been eating chunky dry smoked New Zealand salmon with chilli jam on oven-dried bruschetta. I have enjoyed this with a Church Road McDonald Series 2011 Hawkes Bay Chardonnay while listening to Maria Callas ( The best of ... Romantic Callas).

The last hour has been sublime. I have been transported ....


Don't you hate it when those noisy and intrusive discount offers blast out from the radio or TV. Do they think we are all deaf or, more likely, have gone to make a cup of tea or to have a pee during the ad break.

Really though, the Chardonnay, a well-crafted beautiful wine I bought on special at a supermarket at about $17 off at $14.95. It is rich, leesy, pleasantly woody but well balanced. At this price a steal and at the original price very good value against comparable American, Australian and French Chardonnays.

The salmon is great. New Zealand salmon is underrated. It is rich without being gaggingly over-rich, and delicate even though smoked. Cut in slices on bread is the way I like it. It was very affordable from New World - about $5.95 for a chunk that lasted the Old Girl and I through the weekend.

I made the chili jam last year. I bought bulk, over-ripe tomatoes for next to nothing. The chillis and other ingredients were cheap as. We made enough to share with friends and to last us a year. Yum.

The bruschetta is actually left over bread that the Old Girl sliced and baked in the oven a couple of weeks ago. It lasts a month or more. No need to buy the packaged stuff from shops. This is as good as the crostinis and other over-priced deli stuff.

The setting? Here, at our 'up north' house. What can I say - I love it.

The music? As I said Maria Callas with her beautiful soaring voice with the odd quirky cracked note. Listening to Caro nome from Rigoletto with a gob-full of salmon swished down with good Chardonnay
is as near to heaven as I can think of.

And it cost bugger all.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Willi's Wine Bar Paris poster - Rigoletto

We went to the Sunday matinee performance of Rigoletto yesterday. Wow! What a stunning performance.
We all know how good the opera is with very memorable tunes, high passion and intrigue but what NZ Opera did with it is world class.

This is not a review of the performance, other more musically capable people can do that, but from a layman's perspective the singing, acting, lighting, direction and the setting were all fantastic. Style is the best word to describe it.

NZ Opera poster - Rigoletto
I'm turning 60 in August and Her Indoors was going to take me to Oz to see an opera in Sydney. I looked up the offerings - Aida which we have seen before in Verona and The Pearl Fishers which we have seen in Auckland - both very very different in execution and both very good. We have been to Sydney Opera House before and Melbourne was going to show Carmen (again) so I suggested Rigoletto which neither of us had seen before. We usually go to NZ Opera performances though as even if they don't have the scale of US and European performances they usually have an edge to them, an interesting interpretation and 'no. 8 wire' design flair. Rigoletto was no different, except, it was a cut above a lot of others we've seen.

What I also like about New Zealand opera is that it is unpretentious. Yes, there are a few twats who come along all done up in furs and tails but refreshingly a lot of them are nutters. The corporate invitees are usually dullards who wheel out the black-tie outfit that they wore to the last Murray Halberg sports dinner but as most CEO's and Managing Directors are ex accountants they generally pass unnoticed. In New Zealand we can comfortably sit between  the guy in jeans and old sports shoes (who probably knows more about the opera than anyone else in the auditorium) and the Remuera matron dressed to the nines who is hell bent on spending her wayward ex-husband's fortune.

One of the most recognised songs in Rigoletto is La Donna e Mobile, the philandering Duke's duplicitous lament about woman's fickleness or inconstancy. Lovely tune and 30 years ago it would have resonated in me a lot more. Now, and for the last wonderful 24 years living with Her Indoors it doesn't register. She treated me to this memorable performance and afterwards we went to our favourite wine bar (Crowne Plaza Hotel) for a glass of that great Deutz Rose before home.

Why the Willi's wine bar poster?

Well, I have been there a couple of times and, like the Universal Bar in Adelaide used to do, commissioned and sold interesting posters from good artists. The Rigoletto one being among them.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Yes, tenuous I know but clever sub-editing needs time and I wanted to get this posted quickly before cooking dinner (not chilli).

Chile has a few things we can blame them for, principally this arsehole

Another one, also lacking in character is this:

Not the brand but the varietal.

Sauvignon Gris is a pinkish clone originating in France but well established in Chile as a varietal that they have been trying to fool the world for years that it is Sauvignon Blanc (which they can't grow properly there - or at least not as good as we can in Marlborough).

The wine from this grape is dull and boring with no zing to it at all. Why on earth Montana (Pernod Ricard) decided to grow it here bewilders me. Some idiot thought that diversification was a good way of attacking competitors who were eating into Montana's dominance of Sauvignon Blanc a few years ago.

Poor old Richard (of RBB) bought some by mistake today see his comment in his latest Post:   HERE

I suggested that he use it as a foot bath along with the most likely horrible red wines he bought.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Some friends came around for dinner on Saturday. They generally bring an interesting and hard-to-find wine and this time was no different.
The wine was Clevedon Hills 2004 Syrah.

I was pleased as I knew about this label but had never tried the wines before.
I opened and decanted to aerate the wine and let it breathe awhile before dinner.
The aroma was promising. It was reminiscent of an older but good Australian Shiraz, kind of like the 10 year old Barossa Valley wines we have in the cellar.
There was still fruit there but also a strong acetic tone which, on evaluating again was in the nose as VA (volatile Acidity) in too high a proportion.
The wine wasn't spoiled and, with food (Asian lamb dish) worked OK but would not have been that pleasant if drunk on its own.

The overall impression?

  • Smells like an old Aussie
  • Is acetic
  • Has excess volatility
  • Is (a) Red (neck)
Hey it sounds like somebody .........

..... that's right, Clevedon Hills is Leighton Smith's wine.

Friday, June 1, 2012


I've never been one to rave on about food and wine matching. There are enough prats out there to do that. Many of them are full of bullshit and have gained their education from the writings of others. A lot of them are ridiculously prescriptive as if it matters somehow. The ones that generally get my goat are those that adhere to red wine dark meat white wine fish and chicken idiots. Mmmm, goat? Probably a gamey Syrah.
I like to bugger up peoples sensitivities and have a Chardonnay with roast meet or Pinot Noir with fish. To be honest sometimes this doesn't really go well but the effect is good.
I'm not a complete barbarian though, I do treat good wines with respect and find something to go with them - usually another glass of the same.

Last night we went to a local of ours the excellent Delicious that always pleases.
We had zucchini ravioli which we have had before. Delicious make the best ravioli I have tasted outside of Italy and then I'd put them right up with the top over there. This time, as they had added to their wine list (one of the great things about Delicious is that they don't keep changing their wine list, menu and decor believing that if its not broke don't fix it) with Kumeu River Chardonnay we tried it. The wine was the Estate 2009 a stunning wine which has been specialled recently so sensibly the restaurant owners have obviously invested in some. The wine is very seriously made so has lovely fruit and structure and good winemaking inputs (good wood, nice leesy oatmeal flavours) and fresh citrus.It is beautiful drinking now but will last quite a while as well.

The Zucchini ravioli is lovely soft home made pasta with ricotta cheese and lemon amongst other things. The creaminess and the lemon flavour went perfectly with the mealiness and citus flavours in the Chardonnay.

Very rarely have I had such a perfect pairing of food and wine. I'll definitely have these again.

Don't ask. This picture popped up when I searche for "Food and Wine pairing". Lucky the content restriction was turned on I guess.