17 days 17 dates

heartbreak pie does visa wellington on a plate

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17 things: the recap

So, the burger come-down was a lot bigger and slightly more depressing than I thought it would be. And to be honest, I’ve been grateful for a bit of reprieve. I also was busy writing a recap for the Sunday Star Times, and I wanted to let the official winners be announced before I put in my two cents worth. 

And so, with excuses about why it’s taken me over a month to write now aired, herewith my final burger blog recap post. The punters want a winner, and who am I to argue with that? It was my goal in life up until the age of 17 to win Best Actress at the Oscars and make that speech. A blog post full of thank you’s is just going to have to suffice. 

1 winner

The 2nd annual Burger Wellington title was taken out by Cafe Polo’s Polly Burger. And when I said way back at date #6 that we may just have a winner, we did in fact, have a winner. The Polly at Polo was also my pick for best burger. Vegetarian, yes. And totally incredibly delicious? Also yes. 

2 runners up

Which is difficult, because so many were really really good. However, other favourites of mine were both The Tasting Room’s and Logan Brown’s venison and mushroom burgers. 

Other notable mentions: the Southern Cross (the chargrilled eggplant and courgette, so good), the Eating House (classically delicious beef with those tasty pickled courgettes), and Plum (a bargain as well as a great combo of flavours). Coco at the Roxy gets best pork, and a notable mention to Martin Bosley’s for being the only seafood burger I tried, and it being awesome.  

16 dates 

Because of course, there was that time Stephen Fry stood me up on my birthday there were only 16 dates really. I made the most of it though, and do you know what? They were all really fun. I felt mean having to actually rate them, and my rating system was inconsistently applied. And in some cases I made them rate the date, simply because I didn’t want to. But according to my boss in life there are winners and losers, and thus a winner must be declared. 

Hands down, the best date was date #9 - the Girls. Which is funny, and I hope not seen as a cop-out, because it was just my friends and me hanging out, talking smack, laughing, mocking and talking about dates, as well as drinking champagne. It was one of the funnest lunch-turned-huge night out I’ve ever had. And I even nipped home for an hour to write about the amazing night before

An honourable mention must go to the only date who bought me flowers (my favourite thing in the world just about) the younger man Luke at date #11. What a little charmer, and a future heart-breaker no doubt. 

Other highlights included Morgan Spurlock with his confident American charm, James Nesbitt with his hilarious self-deprecating Irish charm and the negroni-fest with my gay friend Steve. And although I gave Lucas a hard time for having to work during our date #7, even that featured elements of enjoyment. 

And why was every one fun? I’ve pondered this a lot. The conversations, I think, are what most make dating so fun. I had a blog to write, so made a point to ask questions, but on the whole the conversations flowed and each one was just a fun time out with someone. That nervous-excited energy that comes along with a date also undoubtedly helps. And I suppose once that goes you’re a bit doomed.

A huge thank you must go to every single one of the 17 dates. I’m not sure each of them knew quite what they were getting themselves into, so for that I’ll be eternally grateful. The single dates were all highly entertaining, and the ones with partners were equally fun to get one-on-one for a yarn. 

I’ve learned a few valuable lessons. Daily blogging is tough, and if it coincides with a birthday bender weekend then it undoubtedly will fail. In dating and in life, managing ones time is a skill perhaps more of us should value and put time into learning. I’m talking mainly about myself here. Of 17 there were probably 4 profuse apology laden text messages sent along the lines of ‘on my way sorry!’ but I’m working on it! 

On dating, I think we can safely assume that honesty is the best policy, that laughter is crucial and it’s extremely important to relax and have fun. No one is expecting you to find the man or woman of your dreams over dinner - just enjoy it for what it is and go from there. Easier said than done, perhaps, but an important lesson nonetheless.

Angela Moriarty of Wellington Tourism did the PR for Visa Wellington on a Plate, and a stellar job at that. She also turned into a chaperone, an official photographer, a 17 dates promotion extraodinaire and quite my pimp. Thank you Angela! The event on the whole, I think most of you will agree, was amazing. Thanks to all the restaurants that hosted, and to those who offered but I couldn’t make it too (including Lembas in Kapiti, the Bay Plaza, the West Plaza and Soi). 

Moderation is key, and it wasn’t the burgers it was all the gins. And beers and wine. I nearly exploded towards the end there and two gym sessions in 17 days were nowhere near enough. Lesson learned. But the social lubrication that alcohol provides made for some entertaining dating escapades. But like I said, moderation is key and there is more to dating than eating and drinking. Get creative! 

So again, thank you. To Morgan, Edward, Kent, Edward, Cam, Jimmy, Lucas, Heath, Rachel, Laura, Laura, Olivia, Simon, Luke, Roger, Martin, Steve, Ryan and Matt:

YOU WERE ALL AWESOME!

And charming, and funny, and entertaining. And that’s all that needs to be said really.

Thanks also to everyone who offered people up, and Andrew for stepping in as photographer and chaperone on unlucky date #13, and to the B-List of options - some of whom have subsequently hit me up about not making the cut. I’ll happily buy you a burger if you’re still upset.  

And post-burgers, the question on most people’s lips - after what was your favourite? was in fact - has it lead to anything? And also - will there be any follow up? Did you meet the man of your dreams? (which I remind you was not the aim of the exercise). That question actually led to quite the psuedo-feminist rant to a gentleman I’d been talking to at some bar in the early hours of Sunday morning after I’d been telling him about my burger dating escapades. And to those who care? 

Well you’re just going to have to watch this space. 

Thanks for reading.  

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#17 - The Flatmate’s Friend

My flatmate Harriet set this one up - a friend of her and her boyfriend James called Matt who plays cricket, studies Spanish and cooks in a rather popular cafe for a living. We’d met before and most definitely had food in common, so to the pinnacle of dining in Wellington it was for date #17 - the Fawn and Fungi Burger at Logan Brown.  

 

The evening was great and I didn’t take notes, so impressions of this date can be summed up as follows:

1. Wellington is small

I met Matt for a drink at Matterhorn, and we ran into Steve and Sam. It was funny because on me and Steve’s date a few nights earlier, we also met at Matterhorn where we ran into Ryan, who I was dating the next day. Ryan was with Alice, who is Steve’s friend, and was also with Beth, who is a good friend of Heath's. The smallness of Wellington, nay the world, was reiterated when we wandered up Cuba St to Logan Brown and were seated at our table by the lovely Rahana, who pointed out that she is friend's with my friend's friends. Of course! The smallness again was reinforced when all of a sudden at dinner we were…

2. Celebrity Spotting

Dates are fun, but there’s definitely an added element of excitement if you’re in a beautiful building in the company of Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr. I’d tweeted Miranda asking if I could take her hubby out for a burger date, to no avail. But here I was on this date, and we had a direct view from our table. Orlando is in town filming alongside my mates Jimmy and Stephen, although we all know Stephen isn’t actually my mate because of that time he stood me up on my birthday. I’ll forgive Matt for being slightly star-struck; I think at one point when it was noted how beautiful Miranda was, I retorted “oh she’s alright!” I think he was slightly more star-struck by the baby faced Mr Bloom though, which was cute. Orlando and Miranda looked like they were enjoying themselves, as were we. Why?

3. The Food

Logan Brown obviously has quite the reputation, having won all sorts of awards, and seeing the rise to success of it’s owners. I once read a review which described it as the pinnacle of dining in New Zealand. We began with an amuse bouche of scordalia and witloof with candied walnuts and balsamic. It was just perfect. The burger sounded quite a bit like the Tasting Room’s, being venison and including a whole mushroom. What I was pretty excited by, but which I was at the same time dreading (this being the end and all) were the wagyu fat potato chunks. Completely indulgent, they were incredible. The burger also was just delicious. It was a venison patty, with the whole mushroom, cheese, rocket and sour cherry relish. It was simple, it was pick-up-able, it was soft, fresh, and amazing. It was matched with a beer, so we indulged, and it was a rich and dark and raisiny number from Blenheim brewing company 8Wired. I’d actually eaten at Logan Brown before on a date that could now safely be lumped in the category known as…

4. Dating Disasters

Matt couldn’t recall any in particular, but had one memory of being in a beautiful restaurant with delicious food and an expensive bottle of wine; neither of which went down well because of his date’s unstoppable tears. I could relate, having cried at beautiful restaurants before but noted the one other time I’d gone to Logan Brown I at least saved my tears for the car ride home. Sometimes you just can’t help it! There were no tears on this date, although I was nearly blinded by Miranda’s shiny diamond when we moved from our table up to the bar, where we really took to…

5. Settling in

…which we did with red wine, lots of laughing and some great conversation, which to be honest, I’d come to expect from this dating experiment. We moved from Martinborough to Central Otago with a bottle of Rippon Pinot Noir, having already dealt to a bottle of Porter’s Estate. We were very well looked after, and we both enjoyed chatting with the staff and poring over the degustation menu, which was taking place around us. We were brought a wee treat for dessert in the form of some rather lush chocolate truffles and got chummy with the barman while checking out the fish.

And so this dating escapade ended with someone who likes food as much as me in one of the country’s top restaurants with a delicious delicious glass of wine - rather apt don’t you think?

The Vital Stats:

Just really bloody good - 9/10  

Thanks to the staff at Logan Brown for being wonderful hosts for date #17. What a way to finish! 

                             

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#16 - The Mate

Hurtling towards the finishing line and it was the perfect time to have a date that was just hanging out. Date #16 was my good friend Ryan, who loves music, is unbeatable at squash and is extremely good at cryptic crosswords. I knew the deal: he would mock me, and I would give him just enough shit to get a bit of bite back. We’d laugh and talk and then he’d say something crass but funny. We headed up to Tinakori Rd to try the Ka Pai Moolahlah burger at Charlie Bill. It was simple, tasty and what you saw was what you got, which was also a rather delightful reflection on our lunch date.  

Often when you’re feeling a bit low, or a bit lonely, or a bit sorry for yourself, it takes a good mate to just give you a bit of stick and bring you back down to earth. For me this inevitably involves being made fun of. If it’s followed by “I’m joking love, I love you really” then all the better. 

Ryan was one of my first friends in Wellington and began our date by asking me what it was like being an over confident over achiever. I was of course offended. He was joking. “Over-confident’s probably a bit mean.”

We were seated in a romantic candle-lit table for two, and were brought a crisp glass of pinot gris. Since he thought I was so confident, I asked him if he thinks men are terrified of women? “No…not terrified, but it’s called Dutch Courage for a reason.” Aah, alcohol and dating. I could relate. 

Ryan was a delightful date; he’s extremely quick-witted and is a great story-teller. It’s not all laughter and fun though. He’s shorter than me, and he once asked me if given the opportunity, would I give him an inch of my height? Absolutely not, I told him. He’s still offended.  

Our burgers arrived. The Charlie Bill burger was a simple construction. It featured a sizeable thai beef patty, shanghai and cucumber coleslaw with coriander and mint, and a chunky tomato ‘fondue’. The cornbread bun was perfect in shape and crisp but soft. The gourmet potatoes were incredible.

Ryan is self-proclaimed food trash, so I wanted to take him somewhere a little bit posh. Charlie Bill is very cute - it only has about 10 tables, and it’s nestled down the Wadestown end of Tinakori Rd. The food is unpretentious though; it was a great balance of flavours and the theme was pulled off perfectly well. We dug in with our hands, but as with many burgers, had to knife and fork it part way through.  

I asked about dating disasters. He recalled, like so so many our age, very little in the way of actual date stories. He did remember being 14 though and getting dumped on the train. He knew she was going to dump him.

All his friends were around, joking and what not, and this girl (extremely bravely in my opinion) approached them. “I don’t think we should go out anymore” she said. “Yes we should” he replied. “I don’t think it’s working” she threw him back. “Oh I think it is” he quickly retorted. She walked off embarrassed. In front of all his mates? He won. 

I was giggling. I can’t do justice to the entertaining execution of the story with words on a screen, but this really is one very funny man. He also reiterated the story of when they had a ping-pong table at an old flat and he beat all opponents that dared to face him, to the extent he started playing with a shoe instead of a bat, amongst other things. He finally lost when trying to play with a 50c piece; “there’s pride in your work, and then there’s arrogance.” 

The coleslaw was a good mix of flavours, with those fresh herbs, and the celery added the requisite crunch. The cornbread bun was a real highlight - those wee crispy bits on top were a textural sensation against the softness of the patty.    

We continued talking smack, much like we’d done a few days earlier on my birthday. We bitched about the opposite sexes and at one point it came up in conversation that I was 27. He looked up shocked - “Jeez, when did you turn 27?” I looked at him. “Um, on Tuesday. We went out for coffee and hung out all afternoon?” I told him he was rubbish, and he admitted it was a rookie error, especially on a date. I just laughed.  

With that, he walked me back to work and we said goodbye. The burger was great and the date was just us hanging out as usual. Ideal really. 

The vital stats:

The burger was well done, but Ryan thinks we would have had way more fun at dinner, and I was on my lunch break so time was slightly limited.

I could have hung out all afternoon, but it was still a great lunch date - 8/10.

Thanks to Leigh at Charlie Bill for being such a lovely host. Delicious!

                               

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#15 - The Gentleman

Steve and I met at law school; he’s tall and a Leo and a lawyer who likes gin - just like me! In 2007 we together organised the best damn law ball that Victoria University has ever seen. We sporadically have rather large nights out when our mutual friends are back in town but hadn’t done a lot of hanging out one-on-one. We had a rip-snorter of a night at the General Practitioner for their Prime Pate Patty burger, which went alongside some great conversation. Date #15 ended later on at the Matterhorn - Steve’s boyfriend Sam came and joined our huddle around the fire just moments before I dropped a full Negroni all down his pants. 


We met for a drink first, and since it had been a whole 30 hours since my last burger or beverage, as soon as I saw Steve up at the bar I got that twinkle in my eye and knew we were up for a fun night. We had a couple of cheeky Negroni’s before heading down to the GP. 

The General Practitioner, or GP, is located in the big beautiful old building on the corner of Boulcott and Willis Streets. Until a few weeks ago it was purely a Monteith’s bar - now though you can get plenty of other very delicious beers by the bottle or on tap. It’s a great pub and the lovely Kirsten doted on us all evening. Three Boys Pilsner to start and a couple of glasses of Peregrine Pinot Noir, thank you very much. 

Steve and I got yarning. Travel and work and thinking outside the square to start, then relationships and dating, obviously.  

We pondered whether expectations are the problem with dating. Maybe the reason it just doesn’t happen. We discussed the unprecedented pressure that can sometimes come with a date. Expectations. What might happen. Who feels what, sitting face to face across a table. There’s no doubt that expectations exist, and with that we thought maybe it’s all too hard when we’re young. 

We laughed about a friend who is “an absolute sluzza” but if nothing else he’s really making the most of his twenties. I told him about a conversation I’d had with a girlfriend recently when she was ranting and raving about being sick of all this rubbish that every girl just wants a relationship! Again, those problems with expectations, and the gigantic grey area that exists with dating. We got onto the benefits of travelling solo just as our burgers arrived.   

The Prime Pate Patty is the GP’s take on a French classic Steak Rossini. It involved a huge, succulent beef patty wrapped in bacon, with lettuce and tomato, red wine shallots and a slice of homemade chicken liver pate. It wasn’t as overly rich as it sounds; it was delicious. I enjoyed really getting amongst it with my hands but unfortunately moisture gave way half way through and we had to knife and fork it.

The pate ended up melting down into the burger, and those shoestring fries did not have a shit-show of remaining on my plate since they were accompanied by truffled mayonnaise. For someone who reallyloves condiments, I was really really enjoying the mayonnaise. The burger was an absolute classic and was very well executed. Beef, bacon, a great bun, red wine shallots and delicious pate. Excellent.

We talked about flings when travelling, and maybe the reason they’re so good and fun is because the entire element of expectation is taken away. He said travelling as a couple was equally as awesome, but only if you are an awesome couple. That got us on to relationships generally. We both knew of couples that lost themselves in relationships, and we expertly decided that if you were bringing nothing to the table with your partner then you were doomed! I think I remember cheers-ing to never getting stuck in boring surburban coupledom. No chance!

The burgers we swiftly dealt to, and Steve was disappointed he had to give up on the hands-eating dream to don a knife and fork part way through; that beef patty was just so darned moist! I was just happily high on mayonnaise. I was also far too full for dessert when it was offered, and Steve taught himself a lesson about never saying no to dessert before the other person does. He advises always check whether your date wants dessert before saying no yourself. I tended to agree very few girls I knew would say a solo yes to dessert on a date.   

Another Pinot Noir down and we returned to the Matterhorn for Negronis around the fire. Rugged up, we got deep into more conversation and lots and lots of laughter. Funny date stories, funny travel stories and confessions no first date should ever hear! It was hilarious. We tended the fire and ordered another round of negronis just as Sam joined us to see how our date was going and to offer up some wisdom. 

About the time we were discussing the importance to never become a sloppy drunk when on a date, (but both recounting embarrassing stories of when we both accidentally had) was about the time we thought we should probably call it a night. It was also about the time I dropped my cocktail all down Steve’s trousers. 

He was such a good sport, and such a gentleman. And one of the funnest dates to date. My new GBF, Sam suggested? I think so! 

The vital stats:

Steve rated the burger 7/10 and I think they get a bonus point for exceptional service and personalised heartbreak pie burger flags! I think our date deserves a solid 9/10 - another very fun Thursday night. Thanks to Steve for being date #15. 

Thanks also to Kirsten and the team at the GP for giving me not only a goodnight kiss, but also for taking extra special care of us. Go and try their new beers! 

                             

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#14 - The Restaurateur

Martin Bosley bought his first restaurant at the age of 21. He’s never worked in an office and he has a beautiful restaurant named after him on the Wellington waterfront. We talked waitressing, break-ups and bacon over the Crab shack stack at lunchtime on Wednesday. I learnt a very important lesson that day: never make it a lunch date with the guy who owns the bar.

 

We began with bubbles at the bar. I was rather excited about getting to pick the brains of one of our country’s top chefs. I admitted though that it was waitressing that was my true calling, rather than slaving away in the kitchen, and he said what I probably forget is the long hours, the sore feet and heavy plates. I still romanticise it though, and I could totally relate to what he tells his wait staff: if people are having a good time, make then have a great time. If people are having a great time, make them have an outstanding time. And if people are breaking up, leave them the hell to it, basically. 

The restaurant is in the Port Nicholson yacht club, and was recently declared by the Dominion Post to be the best restaurant in which to dine as a duo. Bosley said he’s seen it all at those tables: break ups, marriage proposals, break ups straight after marriage proposals, right down to the man whose girlfriend left him at the table and never came back. Martin left him long enough before he figured he simply had to tell the guy she wasn’t returning: “She’s just in the bathroom” the man said. “Um, no she isn’t sorry, I helped her with her coat, she’s gone.” Apparently he sat through the meal anyway. Poor guy. 

The amuse bouche of tuna and freeze-dried mandarin segments made me sorry I wasn’t here for a full degustation. 

So the restaurant setting provides a fascinating look at human behaviour then? Most definitely. Bearing witness to so many dates, what were his thoughts? He thinks we’re a little bit ill-equipped for dating. He said he sees these gorgeous, confident women and men with just these huge expectations. He’s witnessed the comfortable and subtle foot touching under the table, but also the man who held his date’s hand the entire time, right through the meal. That only sent one message really, and that was ownership. He wondered if females sometimes send the wrong message too, and also that men are not terrified of woman (a la Jimmy Nesbitt) but are probably a bit terrified about what their role is these days. 

We were discussing etiquette when our burgers arrived. The crab shack stack contained a crab cake (bound with ground almonds), lettuce and tomato (like all good burgers should), avocado (excellent), and what Martin described as the third seasoning (along with salt and lemon) - bacon. It was contained in a freshly made and freaking tasty sourdough bun, with crayfish mayonnaise and Marty’s bulldog barbecue sauce. When I had my first bite with the sauce and the mayo, I was in a very very happy place. Our chaperone and photographer Angela said the same thing about the cheesy fries. It was explained that they came about as a way to incorporate cheese onto the plate without putting it with the seafood, which one should never do of course.  They were delicious, and I told Martin they reminded me of summer holidays with friends at the beach where we’d order chips from the shop, and they’d come all wrapped up covered in cheese and tartare sauce, all melted in. So so good. 

On etiquette, Bosley said he doesn’t think any woman should get offended by a man pulling a chair out for her. He believes you should treat every woman the way you would your mother, which includes gestures like the chair. We got into some funny dating stories, and he told one of a friend who brought around her new boyfriend, but part way through she “got the ick” and knew instantly it was all over. This poor gentleman had done none nothing wrong, it was just in that setting all of a sudden, she simply did not fancy him anymore. Such is life. 

On that note, the burgers were swiftly dealt to. That combination of the soft and flavour filled crab cake, with avocado and bacon and that life-changing crayfish mayonnaise, was absolutely delicious. I was just very sorry I had to go back to work; he’d done is research (into what I liked to drink) and although I was tired and very slightly seedy post-birthday, I really quite fancied the idea of continuing our chat over cocktails all afternoon.    

The vital stats: 

9/10 - a charming date and an absolutely delicious burger.

Thank you to Martin Bosley for being and hosting date #14. Next time it’ll be dinner! 

                           

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#13 - The No Show

It was bound to happen sooner or later, and this one was always tentative anyway. My date for the evening was Stephen Fry; we were to meet and chat at Coco at the Roxy, before the Dr Grodbort’s event kicked off upstairs. But then it snowed, and he had filming at an ungodly hour the next morning. 

I was stood up by Stephen Fry on my 27th birthday.

 

That frown was swiftly turned upside down with the provision of cocktail after cocktail of Hendrick’s gin. Delicious, delicious gin.

The funny thing is, someone had actually suggested I date myself as one of the 17, as like a strong independent woman gag. The suggestion went down like a cup of cold sick; like I was going to waste a 1-in-17 opportunity when I could do that all the freaking time. 

But there I was in the beautiful Roxy Cinema. On my birthday. It had taken me an hour to get there in the snow and ice. I regrouped, had another gin and ordered the goddamn burger.

I had enlisted my photographing friend (and slight-man-crush-on-Stephen-Fry sufferer) Andrew to chaperone and photograph, and I also met Valentina (owner of Coco and the lovely hostess for the evening). I was not going to let a lack of date halt the challenge, and I decided I was bloody well just going to have to sit down and do it.

So that’s exactly what I did. 

I’m not going to lie: I was nervous. Pork. Again.Coco’s babe burger was my fourth pork burger of the competition - crispy confit pork shoulder, with apple and cashew slaw and hand cut fries. I’ve mused about my nochalance towards pork before, but this really was just so so tasty. It swiftly became the best pork burger of the competition: picture the crispiest most amazing homemade hashbrowns you can, but filled with confit pork instead of potato. The slaw was plentiful, crisp, and tasty, and I indulged in three delicious fries.

Andrew actually ended up two thirds of it, and we both left the table very very full.   

With that, I had another gin and headed upstairs to the steampunk themed Dr Grodbort and Funky Food event. I love a challenge, so wondered if I could manage to snaffle another date just for fun. 

I met Richard Taylor (who kindly let me hold his raygun):

I also met one of the Weta brains and artists behind Dr Grordbort:

This guy from the Garage Project kindly posed for a photo:

So did the Head Chef at the Roxy Nick:

I ended up making the most of the mad scientist cocktail makers behind the bar, and was in awe at some of the steampunk costumes. We chatted with the delightful Stacey from the Dominion Post and her boyfriend, and I even picked their brains about dating: them being a classic kiwi love story (without many dating stories to report!). The cocktail served in teacups which tasted like lemon meringue pie was certainly a highlight, as was all the weird and wonderful finger food.  

Once things died down, we ended up sitting and yarning over gins with Valentina and Nick about all things food, and for me it doesn’t really get any better than that combination. A highly entertaining and thought provoking night in the end, which proves getting stood up is most definitely not the end of the world. 

The vital stats:

I got stood up on my birthday! So this date rates low.

Oh, but the burger was great - 8/10

It did end up being an enjoyable evening, and I have Valentina, Nick, and Hendrick’s to thank for that. Also thanks to Andrew for chaperoning and photographing - you can check out his other photography here. Cheers!

                               

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#12 - The Older Man

Roger happily allowed me to pick his brains about dating and burgers from an older and married man’s perspective on Monday during our lunch breaks. We talked about food as a social lubricant, the couples-culture of his university days and ended up delving into deeper relationship questions. Date #12 was at Astoria on Lambton Quay for the squeals-like-a-pig Deliverance Burger.

Roger is part of the family I have adopted as my Wellington family. I’ve had many beautiful meals and many great conversations around their kitchen table. He has a great love of food and travel and family, and brought with him a refreshing perspective on dating as a concept. 

In his university days they did things in couples. He explained how there wasn’t even that much of a dating culture back then - people coupled up rather quickly. A ball or dance called for a date, and socialising was done at bars (pre 11pm) and parties too. Dinners out didn’t really happen, although you might have taken your girlfriend for a meal at a hotel restaurant for a special occasion like a birthday. He said the great thing about now is that the infrastructure (cafes and restaurants, and bars) exists for a dating culture to happen. He said we need it, and back then once the inevitable de-coupling happened it meant relearning basic skills like how to ask a girl out.  

Now, we all know (some of us more than others) about alcohol being a social lubricant, but what Roger argued was that food is one that is just so much better. More sophisticated. Without coming to a conclusion about what constitutes a “date” per se, Roger explained how sometimes a date can be essentially an entree to a relationship, and what better way to test the water than with food. You’re given an instant talking point, the flavours can evoke memories; it is a great conversation starter and through that conversation you are given indicators to the long-term too (if potential long-term is what you’re after in a date: something I had to point out was very often not the case).

The other thing of course is if there’s no spark then at least you’ve got something out of it. Opposed to that is the notion of just going for a drink: if that goes badly all you’re left with is a hangover. “If it turns out you don’t like the guy at least you’ve had a bloody good meal.”   

Fascinating stuff for Monday lunch, and lunch was essentially a pulled-pork sloppy-joe. Just like we’d pondered what does a date mean, our plate raised a similarly existential question: what constitutes a burger?

The Astoria contribution to Burger Wellington is on a homemade untoasted bun, which is soft and fresh and delicious. The bun is adorned with coleslaw and pulled pork with homemade barbecue sauce. The gherkin garnish ended up being a crucial cut-through to the tasty pork and barbecue combination. Proportionately, I could have done with less pork and more coleslaw, but the homemade crisps on the side were great. For Roger, a burger requires a toasted bun and a patty. In front of us was a very tasty lunch, but there was no going near this unless valiantly armed with a knife and fork.   

The conversation continued. Couples who are great as individuals and as a couple. Dates as a fascinating form of social engagement. Food as a much better medium for dating (and seduction) than drinking. He even confessed that the immaturity shown by males in their twenties now is nowhere near as bad as it was in his day. Which is only slightly frightening!  

As well as being the older man, the married man, and the imparter of sage advice, Roger is also my ex-boyfriend’s uncle; the ex of the Heartbreak that went with the Pie. Part of breaking up I think, part of what makes it so goddamn awful, is the worry about losing and breaking all the other relationships you’ve formed as a result of your now defunct liaison. I feel incredibly grateful that my friendship with this family has been so unaffected. It snowed as we left, which was a little bit magical, and Roger emailed me afterwards to say thanks, and “the date was fun!” Which is of course another important dating tip. A wise summing up and some interesting food for thought.

The vital stats:

Roger gave the burger 6/10 for its lack of patty.

We both agreed though that the gherkins were great! He thought it was ambitious, but tasty, and as already mentioned the home made crisps were ideal. The date was great too - 8/10! 

Thanks Roger for your wisdom and a huge thank you to Astoria for it’s wonderful service from start to finish. Cheers!    

                           

3 notes &

#11 - The Younger Man

After a certain number of gentlemen in their 20s, it was time to gain some fresh perspective. Some youthful insight. My colleague Cathy’s 8-year old son was the answer. He was keen for a date, and exceeded all my expectations. Heck, he even bought me flowers. We had lunch on Sunday at Plum on Cuba St and both thoroughly enjoyed our bargain beef and bacon burgers.

 

Luke came along chaperoned by his Mum and twin-sister Holly, and I came along a little tired from my birthday party the night before. I brightened up immediately when my date came prepared - a bunch of gorgeous purple irises from the market, an origami box with caramel fudge, and an origami flower. The only date yet to stump up with flowers and my heart was won.

His Mum and I decided afterwards that it pays to train them young with manners and chivalry - and I have no doubt he’s going to be a heartbreaker. He also came armed with questions: this was good, honest, getting to know each other. Did I play any sports? I play a bit of Netball (like his sister) and I was captain of the girls 2nd XI Soccer team at High School - a sport he currently enjoys. We didn’t have much common ground over movies, but his Dad’s influence shone through in music to the point we both liked Pink Floyd. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, to which he answered a street artist or street performer. This lead to a conversation about the amazing street performers I’d once seen in Barcelona.

It’s not often I’m rendered speechless by a question, but Luke had me floored when he asked me the same thing. What did I want to be when I grow up? I babbled something about TV and lawyering and food and travel. Luckily then the burgers arrived. And good thing too; we were hungry! 

The Plum Burger is a simple take on a classic - an angus beef patty with pancetta, kikorangi blue cheese, beetroot relish, caramelised onions and rocket. The bun was soft, the fillings didn’t over fill it and it was one we relished with our hands. Plum’s burger is excellent value at $15 and you can even choose your fries shoestring or chunky. We both went with chunky, while his sister chose soup and shoestrings. I was impressed at Luke’s mature palette, with him particularly enjoying the blue cheese. “It is delicious” he quipped. On burgers, he explained that he found McDonald’s cheeseburgers “so gross” and homemade ones second best. To this tasty combination of flavours at Plum he rated it as the best he’d ever had.

With more chat about cubs, ipads, Michael Jackson and Ramona Quimby books, we finished our burgers (my fragile state could only manage half which is swiftly becoming a theme but Luke finished his up!) and hugged goodbye. He didn’t have much to say about dating, but he sure impressed me with his gestures and questions, and he also told me afterwards that he’d had a great time. I walked up Cuba St beaming with my bunch of flowers and decided the men of New Zealand could learn a thing or two from the boys.

    

The vital stats:

Luke gave this burger a 10/10 and I reckon as a date he has to get a 9 - flowers, fudge and origami - amazing!

Thanks Luke! And thanks Cathy and Holly too for a lovely lunch and some delightful insight. And thanks Plum for their very attentive service and yummy burgers!   

                             

2 notes &

# 10 - The Banker

Simon is a friend of my flatmate who deals in money and wears chinos, enjoys croquet and likes girls. He joined me for a chicken burger for lunch on Saturday at Floriditas, and over Peroni and Bubbles we talked burgers and women. 

Once we’d gotten over the fact that even though the ultimate purpose of the date was a blog post, and Simon still refused to have his photo taken, he relaxed and sat back and was, on the whole, a little bit charming. Although 5 minutes late, he did have the foresight to text and let me know that Saturday traffic was going to hold him up a good ten minutes beforehand. 

We were sat by the window; a busy Cuba St Saturday meant that we were both spotted by no less than 5 people we knew. He had the good humour to laugh about it, through tales of his recent sailing trip to Croatia and a little bit of getting to know each other. The bubbles helped things along.

He managed to relax enough into some good chats about flings and dates and girls, but the conversation was overwhelmingly punctuated by one suavely delivered phrase:

"That was off the record!"

Sometimes it featured bonus expletives preceding the “off” and a couple of times there was physical movement forwards complete with a pointy finger in my face. 

 

The burger was touted as thyme and parmesan-crumbed free range chicken, with crisp iceberg lettuce and chimichurri yoghurt. I didn’t note any yoghurt type dressing, and found the accompanying condiment more like a salsa verde. Very tasty though; simple and true to Floriditas’ style. The bun was a real winner and this was a hands-only affair; no knife and fork required.  

The chicken I found a little salty, but it was nice and crisp like a schnitzel and it retained both it’s moisture and a tasty flavour. Simon was impressed by the size and argued that a McChicken is the perfect pick-up-able burger size.  

With nearly everything being off the record I sat there a little dizzy with the power of what I may or may not do online bring his ego down a peg or two; something he confessed could probably do with happening. The slight fear shown, and the right of veto which was requested, meant the lunch was doubly entertaining; and I think we’ve already established that laughter in dating is fundamental.

He paid the bill, kissed me on the cheek goodbye, offered me a ride home and thanked me the next day. I didn’t quite feel like just another statistic, and I even ended up actually enjoying lunch a lot more than I expected.       

The vital stats:

This simple but tasty burger got a 7/10 from Simon. And the date? About the same. I’ll give it a 7.5/10 because of the highly entertaining off-the-record stories and the text messages which followed post-date and pre-publication.     

Thanks Simon for being date#10 and sort-of a good sport, and for a delightful hungover lunch. And wonderful attentive service at Floriditas as usual. 

4 notes &

#9 - The Girls

We met in Wellington and I’m the only one who remains a resident. My girls. My bitches. My favourite people in the world. They were all back for one weekend only, and with Friday off from work and hangovers to nurse, these 4 lovely ladies (with one notable absence) collectively became known as date #9. Rachel, Laura, Laura and Olivia offered some fresh perspective on boys at the halfway mark of the burger dating challenge. I was giddy with excitement. We returned to the Tasting Room where we all used to drink and two of us used to work. We began at 1pm with jager-bombs. We ate venison burgers washed down with bottles of champagne. It was pretty much amazing.


There was a lot of loving at the Tasting Room on Friday. Lots of loving. Loving, and champagne, and banter, and wise words on dating. There was hyperactivity, excitement, and the singing of people’s names. Smack-talk, inappropriate comments, nicknames, stories and delicious food.  

We were seated and treated to a bottle Mumm and a round of jager-bombs. On dating, there was plenty to be said. One began with the announcement of her first proper date where she was so nervous she spewed. Another was wowed once at a very fancy restaurant and when asked whether he paid it was met with a resounding “shit yes!” On that though there was no expectation from us five that the boy would pay. He was welcome to pay the first time if he wanted to of course. Independent and fancy-free, yes we are.

On dating rules and etiquette: There are no rules. There is no etiquette. “Just hang out!”

The dating disaster stories came out with champagne bottle number two. One told of a boy who liked buying her flowers (a big plus) although on their first date he bought her a Poinsettia plant which was a bit much. It was agreed that nothing says long-term commitment like a plant, which is not the message anyone’s wanting on a first date. The conversation and mexican food was obviously good enough to entice her into date two, which is when things really turned bad. They ate Kebabs at a Turkish restaurant and then she fell asleep during King Kong with garlic breath. He was keen, she was not - and after a few dates the final straw was the invite to his family Christmas.  That segued nicely into the question: is honesty the best policy or is the ‘phase-out’ communication-cutback the better option? 

Being honest and up front was by far the winner. Any game-playing was met with “stupid”, “weak” and “ridiculous”. We also slagged off texting as being part of the problem with communication issues, but more about that shortly. 

Our lovely and beautiful hostess (and dear friend) Ella brought a wonderful story about an all day-date she’d once had which involved playing pool, a 6-pack on Oriental Bay and then a movie to which her date bought her the CD of the next day. Good work on the follow-up, we all decided. Ella also brought bad news: they were out of Mumm. Would Veuve be ok? This was one reaction:

It was agreed that in blossoming relationships these days there was too much texting, and that maybe phone calls could well be the way of the future. Hell, bring back love letters! Communication is crucial. And on that note, the Venison burgers arrived.

 

The Tasting Room’s contribution to Burger Wellington is the Bambi beet’n’ blue - venison and Kapiti Kikorangi patty with truffled beetroot relish. It’s $22, and it also features crisp lettuce, tomato and a big juicy portobello mushroom. With shoestring fries, it was damn damn tasty. From us all, who were by now more than a a little giggly on bubbly, commented that all the elements of a good burger are there - it was meaty and juicy without being sloppy, had great textures, particularly with the crisp lettuce and the blue cheese was the deal breaker: “it’s like a party in my mouth and everyone’s invited! Although, I’d probably rather not invite everyone to a party in my mouth.”

It was all very exciting. While eating, one told a story about a date she went on recently. They’d met at a party, and then arranged to meet for a drink. The reliable 4pm Saturday afternoon at the pub timeslot. She said it was so blatantly obvious they didn’t like each other, but at the end he “dropped all this awkward shit on me and said he was seeing someone.” Pathetic.

 

We all absolutely dominated the meals. The flavour combinations and fresh ingredients and the decent meat patty with that mushroom meant the burger was awesome. 

And after the night we’d had the night before, I even ate my fries. 

So from five girls who like beer and lipstick and champagne and good music, what would we like to tell the gentlemen of New Zealand on dating, chivalry and general etiquette?

1. Relax! 

2. Also, suck it up. Man up. Ask girls out on dates.

3. It’s OK to drink Rose. 

4. BURN ALL SATIN BOXERS! 

5. Just be normal! Be yourself. “But not if you’re psycho” “No wait! Especially if you’re psycho!” 

The general message was chill out. We agreed there was a bit too much drinking and pashing, and definitely not enough no-frills dating.

And on that note, the burgers were finished and we settled in for the afternoon. As more friends arrived we stayed in our spot and reminisced and yarned and laughed and laughed. There was a lot of love at that table. It even ended with a kiss (at the noodle shop at 3am). 

The vital stats:

The girls gave the burger a solid 9/10.

This date gets 11/10.

Thank you to the Tasting Room for being incredibly generous and generally wonderful.   

                                   

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