Saturday, 27 June 2015

Friday 26 June - Christmas in July(ish)

Recently I decided to become more proactive at work and to join the Social Committee. This was of course was fueled with wanting to have a Mid-Winter Christmas dinner, something that I had become accustomed to from my time working in Auckland. Little did I know that I wasn’t joining the Social Committee, but rather making one from scratch on account of all the previous members quitting. So that’s how I became the President of the Social Committee (and the sole member for a while).

Beef Broccolini 'Meat Carrot'
 But being the sole member has its perks, I had full reign over where and what everyone was going to eat at the dinner.

I managed to get a booking in at a Restaurant in Northbridge called Bonsai. Then I locked in a 16 course tasting menu for everyone. The items sounded delicious and I was told that the restaurant was excellent so needless to say I was very excited. I worked out a budget with one of the practice directors and off we went. This budget was of course blown by about a thousand dollars - he insisted that we had an unrestricted open bar and assured me that since partners were invited everyone would be on their best behaviour. I do recall thinking, as I looked around the room while people were pouring sake out of novelty sized bottles that this was probably not a good move, however everyone had a great time (I think) so who am I question the decision.

The Tempura Barrumundi
 Anyway, back to the 16 courses, which were (in order of arrival) Crispy Chicken Salad, Tuna Tataki, Wagyu Beef Tataki, Fresh Sashimi Spoons, Prawn Kushi Yaki, Pan Fried Scallops, Beef Asparagus, Fried Chicken Tosazu, Tempura Barramundi, Oyster Panko, Creamy Prawn Springrolls (I was truly drink at this course), Chilli Crab Claws, Takoyaki, Crispy Skinned Duck, Teriyaki Chicken, Teriyaki Wagyu Sirloin.
Sashimi spoons
 Unfortunately, being an open bar I couldn’t really critique each dish and as the night went on everything tasted like the best thing I’ve ever eaten, until of course I becoming so full that I was force feeding myself food so I didn’t feel I was missing out (I know food FOMO).

Tuna, going fast
 However, I would have to say the standout dish for me was the Chilli Crab Claws, although the scallops come in a very close second.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and all the stress of late RSVPs and pullouts was worth it. I had a few great drunken conversations with my bosses and colleagues which were hilarious. Everyone I spoke to on the night thanked me for organising such a great event (which was an added bonus). Hopefully the next event I organise would be equally as appreciated.

Pan fried scallops, butter...mmmm...

Beef Asparagus

Some chicken stuff, almost the end

Chilli crab claws...YUM

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Sunday 17 May 2015 - Welcome to Australia

It has been some time since my last post and a whole heap has changed in my life. Late in November 2014 I made a move to Perth in Western Australia and started a new job at a new Architecture firm. The work is similar to my previous work (commercial type architecture) so the change wasn’t such a shock.

So far I am still trying to find my place at this new place and still getting to know my new city, but things have been going smoothly so far.

In terms of dining (for free of course) there are a few differences (both positive and negative) from my previous job.

Christmas Lunch:
The annual Christmas lunch has always been an event to look forward to back in Auckland and so I had high hopes for my first Christmas lunch at my new job in Perth. Unlike my previous job we didn’t have a day of activities and drinking before the main event, we started the day cleaning our desks. For me this was a short activity as I had only been there for a couple of weeks. However, for some of my colleagues it was more like a episode of Hoarders, complete with tears when throwing away accumulated drawings that probably had never seen the light of day in months. After the uneventful morning of cleaning we made our way into North Bridge (on the edge of the city) to a restaurant called Baby Mammoth, there we started drinking. There was a good range of local beers, such as Little Creatures (which is half decent) as well as Peroni and Asahi to choose from. The wine list included wines from Margaret River (the local vineyard area in WA - think Napa Valley but Australian) and hilariously a Sauvignon Blanc from Villa Maria. I had flown to the far side of Australia to drink wine grown fifteen minutes from my old home.

After a load of speeches about where the company is going we delved straight into lunch. We had preordered our meals about a week ago, but most of us had already forgotten what we had chosen. I had a starter of a duck terrine, followed by pork belly. And to my dismay there was no dessert course, instead someone came around with lindt chocolates...disappointing. The entree was pretty good and full of flavour, but you could tell that the restaurant really struggled with getting the mains out. My pork belly was not crispy, so I felt like I was eating a whole heap of pork fat, I still ate it of course (as I didn’t want to get drunk with an empty stomach).

The 'Soft' Pork Belly
After lunch we went to a bar/micro brewery around the corner where I made the switch from wine to beer. The whole event was good as I got to talk to people I hadn’t talked to in the office yet. However, a few days later I got photos from my old colleagues back in Auckland from their Christmas Party where they took the ferry to Waiheke Island and did wine tasting and archery! They even took cardboard cutouts of my face so they could tag me on their facebook photos.

Birthdays here:
One big difference here is how they celebrate birthdays. Back in Auckland, we use to bake our own cake and bring it in on our birthday, here once a month the company shouts cake to everyone in the office to celebrate the birthdays of that month. The birthday people get their own special cupcake and everyone else gets to choose from an assortment of different cakes. The cakes are pretty decent and there’s way more than enough to go around (it’s no longer the mad rush to the lunch room to make sure you don’t miss out).

Futurenet Breakfast:
The company that I work for sponsors this networking event called ‘Futurenet’. Every month they hold a breakfast and invite someone inspirational to speak. You go there to ‘network’. When an email was sent out asking if anyone was interested in going to the March breakfast I replied (free breakfast, why not). The speaker was the CEO of Sea Shepherds in Australia. He was pretty inspirational on how he got there in a short amount of time, but lets face it, I was there for the food.

One of my colleagues enjoying her breakfast

When we got there there was an assortment of mini croissants, muesli/yoghurt combos and brioches to start off with. Naturally I went for the pastries. After some juice, pastries and a cup of tea, the Sea Shepherds guy was about to start his speech, so we all took our seats and were served our warm breakfast course. This was scrambled eggs with bacon and toasted sourdough bread. It was pretty good (the eggs had a hint of truffle oil in them), but I found the eggs were a little too sloppy for me.

Overall, the move to Australia has been quite good and I hope I can get into the swing of going to catered events here. I hope WA doesn’t disappoint me with their canapes.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Friday 09 May 2014 - Suit up for dinner

It was time for another NZIA New Zealand Architecture Awards dinner and I was lucky enough to get a free ticket from my office again which meant three things; remember to bring a suit to work for the dinner, a lot of drinking will happen and probably very little food will be served.

So I got my suit dry cleaned (it had taken a bashing lately with a string of weddings I had been attending) and bought it in for the big night. From experience, from last year, about half the office went across the road to Burger King before the awards dinner knowing that a) dinner won’t be served till about 10pm and b) it would most likely not be enough. Unfortunately, I had a few things to tidy up on my project and I missed the dinner call. Instead I ‘carbo-loaded’ on beer and potato chips.

This year the event was held at Queens Wharf, which is a short stroll down the road for us. So as per the usual, we left it till the very last minute before walking to the venue. This ensured that we could finish off a few family sized packs of chips. Once we had all suited up we walked down there.

Vegetarian Entree (note micro greens = fancy)
We were greeted with Champaign which we happily accepted. This marked the long night of drinking ahead. I followed that up by a couple of Peronis before we moved on to sit at our tables. However, while we were standing around catching up with people from other offices and sipping our drinks, there was a distinct lack of canapés. This meant that for the people who didn’t grab a whopper before hand, we were pretty much starving when we sat down at out tables at about 8:30.

Similar to last year, and to no surprise the food was pretty lack lustre. For starter we got a fish dish. Which was ok. However, the vegetarian option was pretty hilarious. For what I saw it looked like marmalade or mashed up fruit quince with a bit of micro greens sprinkled on top (cause you know micro greens make everything fancy).

Steak Main
After downing that and the bread roll at the table we sat through the intro speeches and the first of the awards. There was also a speech from Rob Waddell (NZ rower/Team NZ sailer) which was actually very inspirational.

Mains was a steak and steamed vegetables which was ok on the taste level but tiny on the portion level. It also didn’t help that it was 9:30 at night and we had been solidly drinking since 5. We even asked for bread rolls, which they didn’t have any extra.

Desert was a mini meringue, some sort of mini pannacota and a tiny chocolate slice. After it had all finished a group of us went over to the 24 hour MacDonalds on Queen Street and grabbed some burgers.

Although the food was disappointing, the night itself was quite fun. We got to catch up with others from other offices, drink heaps and even won an award or two. 

Desert Platter

Sunday, 6 April 2014

An overdue post from 2013

2014 is now a third over and work life is spiralling out of control. It seems that anything that could go wrong on a project is doing so with mine. As a result I haven’t been able to attend any events lately, and there have been so many good ones. However, I did start writing an update last year for the Resene End of year Christmas Party that I didn’t get a chance of posting until now. Hopefully this will do until things get calmer and I can finally go back to free wining and dining.

2013 marked the return of the Resene Christmas Party, a highly anticipated event that for quite a lot of us in the architecture profession. The last Resene Christmas Party, I can remember, was held on the roof top of a bar called ‘Honey’. It was so packed that the mid stair landing to the roof was as far as I could get, people just handed me down drinks. Besides not actually making into the party I remember having an awesome time. So with those fond memories in mind, I had high hopes for this year’s party, fortunately, these high hopes were not let down.
A view from the upper level

Resene held their Christmas party at ‘Number 01 on High Street’. They had hired out the whole venue and possibly the club downstairs. I say possibly because a group of us ventured down there with the free drinks from above but it didn’t really feel like it was a part of the rest of the party. Most likely we just managed to bypass the bouncer with our drinks in hand.

The only downside to the party was that it was held on a Thursday night, and I had quite a bit to do the next day. This of course didn’t stop everyone. Stories of total mayhem spread the next day and of people leaving in the early hours of Friday totally inebriated.

Deep Fried Cheese Stick
Myself and a group of my colleagues arrived to the venue at around quarter past five, with the event kicking off a five thirty we thought arriving fifteen minutes late would make us not look too eager but still be early enough to get in a drink or two before the crowd showed up. We were totally wrong; the place was already packed when we got there. Lucky for us we managed to corner a waiter who got us our drinks. Setting the bar high (pun intended), everything from the bar was on offer, as opposed to house wine and beer as per the norm. I however, kept on the safe side and only drank beer (with an occasional wine just to mix it up a bit).

The canapés were slow moving though, this is most likely because the waiters could hardly move around the venue, we were advised that about 650 people had turned up and crammed into the venue. But when the canapés did arrive they were of very high quality.  The first bite sized snack I managed to get a hold of was a crumbed mozzarella stick. These were delicious but dangerous. The cheese on the inside was melted making them extra tasty, however the melted cheese was also super hot. If it wasn’t for my cold beer I could have has a cheese tongue burning disaster. My white shirt did suffer the collateral damage of the melted cheese, lucky I could scrap off the cheese before a permanent stain.  

Shrimp Burger
Next up I scoffed up a lamb mini burger, this was ok, but I do prefer the regular beef mini burgers over this lamb variety. After downing about three lamb burgers I grabbed a forth thinking it would be more of the same, but to my surprise my forth burger did not come with a mince meat  patty, but rather a whole shrimp. Needless to say my mind was blown as this set up a new level of free canapé standard. Of course there were also the regulars available, ie some sort of filo pastry savoury cupcake and sear beef bruschetta. I don’t believe the food ran out it was just difficult to circulate.

Overall the party was a hit with everyone I talked to about. I guess this is why we specify Resene paints, so we get invites to this party. My only complaint is that the upstairs area, where I spent most of my night, was ridiculously hot. You could really feel the accumulated heat of the 650 bodies below. But it was free, so I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.   

Filo Pastry

Friday, 26 July 2013

Thursday May 23 – Pink Ribbon Breakfast & Friday May 24 – NZIA Awards

Two things occurred this week which are worthy of mention from a eating point of view (and the second thing was also kind of a big deal for the office).

The first was that our office hosted a Pink Ribbon Breakfast. This was a breakfast that an organisation throws where the staff donates some money towards Breast Cancer research. Technically this was not free, as you should give a donation but the food was well worth the small donation. Our Office Administrator and Business Manager prepared all the food and it was awesome.

My only regret is that I hardly eat breakfast and as a result I could not really eat as much as I would have liked to.

We had pikelets, cupcakes, omelette, sliders (Yes! Mini burgers for breakfast), muesli and some other stuff I couldn't even try because I got too full too quickly. There was even pink decorations and our model maker made a pink toaster for the donations box (ironically we didn't have toast).

All in all it was worth coming in half an hour early for.

Pink Ribbon Breakfast
The second event of this week was the NZIA New Zealand Awards night, held at the Marine Events Centre at Wynyard Quarter (Karanga Plaza). Our office was lucky enough to have come out with two awards and we had booked three tables for the evening. Because I had worked on one of the projects that we had won an award for I was lucky enough to tag along.

The night started with a few of walking into a room lined with waiters with trays of Champagne or beer. I decided to take it easy and only grab one drink, holding myself back from downing a glass of wine there on the spot and chasing it with a bottle of beer for each hand, this was probably a good idea as the clients from my current project were also attending the event.

After a bit of chit chat and catching up with people you recognise working in other offices, we were ushered into the main hall, where we found our tables and got ready for dinner. Of course there were a series of speeches from the sponsors and hosts prior to our first course. Naturally my table started finishing off the bottles of wine that was on the table.

The first course was a salmon dish, which was ok. It was not too fishy which was good.

This was followed by a steak main, with some sort of potato hash brown and peas. The steak was prepared medium rare, which was good for me, but probably wasn't so great for others who couldn't handle a bit of blood. There were no choices in the menu (unless of course my office had just pre-chosen for everyone and didn’t let us know).

The Steak Main
After the main course there were the awards presentations and the short speeches that followed each award, except for one student who claimed an award for some competition and was really enthusiastic and spoke for about five times the length of everyone else.

After the awards were over and we had finished giving each other high fives, we were presented with the desert course. A platter of assorted deserts, mini eclairs, mini tarts, mini cheese cakes and some other mini desert thing. It was pretty good.

I would have to say the food was all of great quality, but as one of my colleagues who also went said, there wasn’t quite enough. The other downside was that they ran out of wine and beer and stop serving out table.  

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Friday May 10: Cake, Mini Burger and Hotdog Week

This week at work has been a particularly good week in terms of food. It started off with a double birthday on Tuesday, meaning birthday morning tea. We were treated to mini burgers from one of the birthday people and chocolate slice from the other. They were both delicious and there was quite a few absentees that day so there was plenty to go around.

Mini Burgers & Chocolate Slice

Sausage Feast
Later on Friday there was another birthday, this time it was celebrated by chocolate cheesecake and some other chocolate type cake. I only had the cheesecake this time. Also on Friday was a special ‘Friday night drinks’. This week it was German/Austrian themed. The catering was organised by an Austrian guy who works with me. He organised German sausages with mustard mayonnaise and curry powder. Apparently, curried sausages are all the rage in Berlin. He also got in a mini keg of Krombacher, and some other German beers that I could not pronounce. It was a great change to the regular chips and dip. To go with the sausages and beer there was French fries (apparently it’s traditional). But un-traditionally we got the fries from the Burger King across the road. I didn’t complain because BK is awesome and it only added to the awesomeness of the over-abundance of sausages and semi-exotic beer (semi-exotic as in not the Steinlager we normally get).

It was a good week on the food front and helped as a good distraction to the lack of invites that we have been receiving to free food events. 

Monday, 1 April 2013

Saturday March 23: Urbis Design Day

I don’t know if it’s because I am getting busier now at work and don’t pay enough attention to catered events that get spammed to my email, or that there have been very few lately. But it would seem that I’ve hit a massive dry spell in the ‘free food’ events department.

I was hoping that this year’s Urbis Design Day would end all this with a great canapé overload, but I was totally disappointed. Unlike previous years, where the nibbles were plentiful and the Champaign was free flowing, this year’s Design Day was lack lustre. I was lucky that I managed to get a couple of free passes to the Design Day (thanks to Resene Paint – I will never specify another brand again) so I really can’t complain, but I was one of the public that bought my $40 (or so) pass, I would be pretty pissed (and not because there was too much wine).

First of all, there were only about six venues. In previous years you had to plan your day properly and pick the ones you wanted to go to, because you may not end up seeing everything. This year I hit all venues, plus went off for an extended BBQ lunch, and got home before 5.

Most venues didn't even have nibbles, which was the sole reason I went. I mean, lets be honest, if I wanted to see a tap sample I could easily ask them to bring it into the office. I wanted mini burgers and meatballs on a stick. Sure if their nibbles are good enough I could possibly specify a product of theirs (probably not because it will be cost engineered out).

Because of the lack in food, I only took one photo. This was of a mini roast beef sandwich with horse radish at the Mini (as in the car manufacturer) garage. They served them with Red Bull (not alcohol!)
Other venues had cheese and salami with bread and one place had Peroni beer, but nothing really like the last time I went.

Mini Roast Beef Sandwich

Bring back the chocolate fondue and the tasting shed! Hopefully next year they will step up again and deliver.