Monday 30 September 2013

What is out the back at the Langham Hotel?


What is out the back of the Langham Hotel?

We had a weekend in Auckland and stayed at the Langham Hotel. On Saturday night we had a meal with friends who live in Auckland. After a few drinks down at Britomart, we headed off to a couple of restaurants they were keen to eat at. We were turned away from both as they were too busy. The decision was then made to go the Langham’s restaurant, Eight. This had been recommended to us by friends.

We arrived at the end of the evening rush, around 8.30pm. Our waiter showed us around the kitchens that make up Eight and gave us a fulsome rundown. The concept of the restaurant is eight kitchens with different cuisines. You select the food, tell the chef how you want it cooked and the chef then cooks this while you watch. Then you eat it, returning back to the kitchens as many times as you like. One of our party was gluten free - she was easily catered for, had lots of food choices and helpful staff were ready to identify the gluten free options for her.

The kitchens at Eight are an American style grille serving meats, Asian noodles and dim sum, Indian cuisine including a tandoor oven, fresh seafood and oysters, sushi and sashimi, French pastries and crepes, and dessert. I started with a dozen raw oysters, they slipped down so easily that later in the evening I came back and had a half dozen top up.

In the meat kitchen our waiter identified that there were fourteen meats to choose from. I looked for sausages but none were present. However, all was not lost for later in the evening I spied some sausages in the meat display. Naturally I got talking with Brian the chef. He was very helpful, obliging and an interesting guy. He told me they had a selection of sausages out the back. By now I was extremely interested. The selection were: chicken, white chocolate and coffee; venison, chorizo and shrimp; and finally a venison curry sausage. I would describe the sausages as petite, small and thin, a good snacking or tasting size. All were a medium ground sausage. Brian informed me they were the inspiration of the restaurant’s executive chef and are made off site. The sausages are served as part of the breakfast and lunch selection at Eight. I was delighted that as a sausage eater they had made it to the premier meal of the day, even if it was after most of the punters had left the restaurant. Brian the chef is affable, friendly and he certainly knows his sausages. He was a pleasure to talk to as he cooked up the morsels to be eaten.

Sausages on the grill. Once on the plate, the brown sausages and brown plate does not make great culinary photography.
Chicken white chocolate and coffee

This is a unique combination of flavour, the subtlety of chicken meat, combined with the sweetness of white chocolate and bitterness of coffee. I do not drink coffee, and I found this flavour to be strong. My wife, a woman who needs a coffee to get the day going, found the coffee flavour to be subdued. The flavours complemented each other. This is not a sausage to base a meal around, rather it is morsel of different flavours and I consider it works well within a meal of many components. If you are at the Langman it is well worth a try.
Venison chorizo and shrimp

Another interesting combination. Seafood has a delicate taste and balancing this with the strong flavour of chorizo would be a challenge. In our group this was our favourite sausage, however none of us could detect the shrimp. It was a soft and easily chewed sausage, the spice of the chorizo was subtle and not overpowering. There was not the strong after taste you get with many chorizo. I would describe this as very mild venison chorizo style of sausage, and if you are at the Langham, check this sausage out.

Venison Curry
This was the least favourite sausage of our party. Venison sausages are not my meat of choice. I prefer pork, beef or lamb. These sausages were venison with a light curry flavour. They were fine to eat but did not appeal as much as the other sausages to those at our table.

So in a meal of wide ranging flavours, these sausages formed a small but significant part of our evening. Great company, plenty of laughs and fine food augmented with petite, flavoursome, specialty sausages. And the answer to the question I posed at the beginning? Quirky and tasty sausages.

Friday 20 September 2013

Cumberland Sausage - Blackball Salami Company

Cumberland Sausage - Blackball Salami Company

I cooked these sausages up for a pre-dinner snack. They were purchased from Moore Wilsons and they all disappeared quite quickly. These sausages are good solid kiwi bangers. The Blackball Salami Company has made very good sausages over many years. If you go back a decade their smoked Hungarian sausage was my personal favourite. On visit to the West Coast of the South Island a couple of years ago, we made a special side trip to visit Blackball. When we visited the shop on a Saturday afternoon the shop had shut five minutes before we arrived. This meant a visit back to the shop the following day.
The website says the Cumberland sausage is "a pork sausage with a lingering heat created by peppers and nutmeg." I would describe this as a pork sausage with a minimal, and I emphasise minimal, flavour of peppers and nutmeg. However this does not make it a poor tasting sausage.
The kids liked these sausages, and wolfed them down. The sausages were fresh out the pan, and they did spurt a bit of fat. Actually my daughter got fat on her new top which irritated her as she said the washing instructions, say dry clean only. Between gritted teeth she commented on the pleasant flavour of the sausage, and then had another one.

I would buy these again, however there are plenty of quality plain meat sausages in this price range. They are good but not outstanding.

Cost per kilo: $15.50

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Harrington's Chorizo and Black Pudding - Whooping it up at the Hop Garden

Harrington’s Chorizo and Black Pudding - Whooping it up at the Hop Garden
We had a family lunch at the Hop Garden bar and restaurant in Pirie St. This venue has been a variety of restaurants over the years. The latest incantation is a good one with a wide variety of craft beers and above average pub food. The restaurant was very full but my wife had cleverly ensured we had a good table by expressing concern when booking that perhaps the high bar stools wouldn’t be ideal for her over 80 year old mother… As a result we were ushered into a great table and very well cared for throughout the meal.

I ordered The Whole Hop, a mixed grill breakfast comprising of potato rosti, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggs – poached, and of course sausage. The waitress did not know the type of the sausage and black pudding, so she had to ask the kitchen. It was Harrington’s chorizo and black pudding.
Harrington’s Black Pudding

This looked good, however as someone who prefers the meat, or in this case the blood to be the predominant flavour, this sausage was lacking balance. The filler used in the sausage, maybe rolled oats (?) was competing with the flavour of the meat. I thought this detracted from a sausage that had the potential to be very pleasant if there was a rebalancing of the flavour with the emphasis on the meat.
Harrington’s Chorizo

This was served as half a sausage, cut lengthways. And to compound matters these sausages do not have great length. As a sausage aficionado, this is only a mouthful and clearly I would have preferred more. This is an average chorizo, the initial taste on the palate is meat, followed by a stronger after taste of pepper or chilli. While the after taste does linger, the strength of the heat and the after taste is not strong. It was an enjoyable mouthful of sausage, however across the range of chorizos I have reviewed, it does not rise to the heights achieved by other examples.
I still consider that Park Avenue Quality Meats, chorizo corriolo is the best chorizo sausage you can buy in Wellington. In our household at the moment both the boys and I consider that this is our favourite sausage. See my review.
I washed the meal down with a Hofbau Original. A German lager that is light and refreshing with a slight bitterness from the hops. Alcohol content 5.1%
An enjoyable lunch, nice food and great company as three generations of the family shared food, conversation and conviviality. The only thing I could have asked for was slightly more sausage to munch on….
Cost for The Whole Hop: $20.00 beer extra.

Sunday 8 September 2013

It is not all beer and sausages - Part Two

It is not beer and sausages- Part Two

This is second in an occasional series, see part one.

Yesterday I completed the aptly named Mukamuka Munter, a little sojourn around the south coast from the mouth of the Orongorongo River, up the Mukamuka Valley and a climb over South Saddle, over 500m above sea level, steep downhill into the Orongorongo River, down the river for a bit and out via the well travelled Five Mile Track. My watch put the distance at nearly 31km, with a variety of terrain covered, rugged rocky coastline (wave to the seals as you head past), scrambling over rocks as you go up the valley, evading the tree roots as you negotiate your way through the bush, and finally the graded and smooth Five Mile Track.

I know I am not as fit as in previous years, and it took me nearly half an hour longer than last year. One of the things I like about mountain running are the conversations you have with fellow competitors as you work your way through the course. I’m not sure what happens at the front of the field, but at the back we realise that winning is not an option, so the camaraderie of the fellow maniacs and those of unsound mind who seek solace in running up and down the hills is all part of the event. One of the runners filmed as he run, see his video here. Below is a screen shot of my run.

So what are the other rewards? Easy answer - sausages and beer.

I came home to a feed of pork and sage sausages from Freedom Farms. These are nice looking sausages that I purchased at Moore Wilsons. The packaging says the ingredients are 75% pork, water, wheat flour, salt, modified starch and few more ingredients. Freedom Farms say the pork comes the foot of the Southern Alps, where the piggies are raised naturally with grass and mudholes and deep straw shelters.

These sausages taste ok, the pork is the predominant flavour and the hint of sage adds to flavour. When I ate the first one I thought there was a lump of gristle or something rubbery and chewy. My wife ate one and spat out the chewy bits, there is a photo of these. So this is not so great. Good tasting sausages with little lumps of gristle, or something…..

The packaging states, "We also like the idea of a nice coarse meaty texture." The meat is ground to a consistency that is nearly pureed. I cannot align the statement on the packaging to the contents of the sausage. I generally prefer a sausage that is not finely ground. So as you can see I am not particularly keen on these sausages, although I liked the taste as did the family, but the lumps and the fine ground consistency did not do a lot for me. They were a disappointment after all my exertions and I will not purchase these again. In fact there is still one uneaten sausage, languishing in our fridge – unheard of!
Cost per kilo: $17.82
As for the energy drink, the depleted carbohydrates, sugars and salts were in the glass of fulsome goodness. A Yeastie Boys beer, Gunnamatta Pale Ale. This was a pleasant refreshing beer, nice golden amber appearance in the glass, easy on the palate a mixture of flavours with a slightly bitter aftertaste. The beer is flavoured with Earl Grey blue flower tea. This beer has won awards, deservedly so.


For links to other parts of this series.