Thursday, January 31, 2013


A great event last night at Abbotsford, where head chef Steve 'Jamie Oliver' Flick, worked the colander and pepper grinder in delivering a gastronomic feast of cunning running. The weather was warm, but the breeze made perambulatory conditions reasonably pleasant (and a nice change from the recent stormy wet stuff) as diners gathered at the old quarantine station for the culinary fray. There was anticipation in the air. Dry mouths looked to a nutty amontillado. The BNO wait staff straightened their uniforms and brought forth the nibbles. Barry 'Nat King' Cole was seen with the tip jar. Steve hovered with the carving knife, Terry with the rouge homme - and with 235 guests (plus 20 odd standing) duly registered and seated, service began.

The menu was in landscape format, and of modest colourings. A fine script noted the thirty dishes on offer, and the various temptations that needed a decision. Many were familiar with the head chef's tastes, and were not suprised to see white meat and white chocolate once again on offer (JO had been seen in kitchen with an old recipe from 2007, and thought he would reprise a few of the dishes with a fresher garnish, and a sweeter syrup). So, how did it look? How did it taste?

With the old Nestle chocolate factory site providing a Sprint O setting in the middle of the dish, diners noted the peppering of sweet meats thereabouts, and also the spread of other controls - spaced as though water droplets from a colander - with general approval. Those that had been following Steve's 'Twenty Minute Meal' recipes, liked most of the entrees - especially the fresh blue cod on offer at #13 and the BBQ quail at #17 - but were unimpressed by #19 (park seat pie) - and completely avoided #15 (road junction pizza). Of the appetisers, numbers 5 and 9 were intended for the younger diners, and therefore found little favour with the tip men. The road junction dip at #2 also found few takers (the elderly runner that ran 12-2 thinking he was running 12-20(!!) notwithstanding). Perhaps the nibble that really caught the eye was the fig gelato at #7, a great dish - and a great view!

Moving to the mains, diners seemed to want the lot - and in scenes reminiscent of 'Le Grande Bouff', piled into them big time. The north western trio (22,24,23) were must haves, 21 likewise - as were the delicious pepper steak numbers in the apartment complex. For runners interested in the history here, #26 'footbridge flan' (Nestles) made a nice accompaniment, and contrast, to #27 'top side steak stair' (BHP Wire Works).  In addition to the eight 'must have' mains, broiled park seat (#25) and sliced and pickled 'stair bottom' (28) provided the outliers for those with stomach stapling in mind, or who had bought the doggy bag. It was going to be a night of high scoring - and loud burping.

Looking at the spread of pots and points, there were good circles to be had, with decisions needed in how to chew 16,21,8,11 into an otherwise steady meal. The apartment courses were on all plates, with #29 being the outpost and turn back point for most, and with the lower group (25,1,6,12,3,2) being an easy drop if you had taken too long over the other dishes. This gave you 410 points - interestingly our most common collect with 13 diners. The next two biggest groupings were twelve diners each for 480/490 points, and obviously a result of adding the southern 80/90 points mentioned above (the fresh greens in garlic butter at #12 being a distinctive part of this fuller tummy experience).

Most runners seemed to begin with #22 and the describe a clockwise route - some 24-10-23, some 24-8-23, others still working in #16 early. Being a contrary soul, Pork Pie likes to dine alone, and seemingly running against the tide, began 16,17,1,25 to collect along the lower menu pages, before swooping through the apartments and allowing a feast of points on the run home. In this case 18,21,11,13,23,10,24,22 - but getting back early, seemingly outrunning the similar 2007 loop by several minutes. Sometimes it pays to check the watch - even if this is rude at table.

Everyone loved the Nestles site material, and are thrilled that this area will be remapped at sprint O standard for one of the Monday series. Lots of good flowing reported, but also great discombobulation. Heiko was slowed by the many dishes hereabouts, and had trouble finding the gents after a gravy spill from the 'stair stew' at #29. His IM rivals greatly appreciated his difficulty in the crowded restaurant though, as did other sprint O stars, working well at the 1:10,000 mapping while others had difficulty with the paths (especially at #18) and roads. The stair up to #27 was another classy delivery from Mr Oliver and his mystery meals.

So, in summary, a great menu and great fun. Fish and meat courses, nibbles, crusty pies, Chicken Kiev - and of course the fig and dark chocolate souffle. To run the Sydney Summer Series is to anticipate dinner afterwards (yes, The Birkenhead did deliver) with a light Rose in reward, and the tingle of reward after a great flog. Last night chef Steve delivered dinner during the event. The double whammy!

OK folks, let's put the Blue Nun aside while we check on the scoring.

As you have seen/will see, the head chef delivered throughout the scoring range, with three punters carrying their bats (in a wonderful mixed moment of cricket and feeding). Unlike last weeks great Balmain Basket weaving wonder, scoring was more concentrated - with many enjoying the same dishes as their dining companions (I have noted the bigger groups above). Another factor that also takes the Maitre D's attention is the number of early returns - none more so than Stacey 'Went' West, returning from her post main course nap in 29 minutes. There were also several mid 30's, and Pie Chops has already mentioned his own early to be routine. In contrast, the overtime's were less, with Ian McKenzie walking the 600 in 87.13, and taking the LOC Award (I'm discounting Gails 101.42, because she forgot to clear and check!).

Before we get to some class timings, I always like to see who has copped the cruelest of finishing beeps - and none are as bad as Mal 'Countersigned' Gledhill's 49.01 with the one second denying him the outright win in IM. Well, he and 'Tearaway' both get the ton, so no probs I guess. Good running from these 410 pointers, and good to see TT in top running form again. Other one overs include Tim Austin '7' and Keith 'President Putin' Povah (46.01/47.01 both MM's) and Vet Mark Robinson (a lengthier time spent on his main - at 51.01). We also have a few very relieved 'on the minute' finishers - with Wayne 'Sergeant' Pepper the happiest at 45.00 exactly. Wayne is our course setter next week, so good that he didn't end his hen & chicken dinner last night in a fug - and thinking 'revenge'!! Kenny 'The John' Schaefer and 'The Hawke' flatlined on 46.00 - a minute over, but still enough (in Neil's case) to deliver a Winning Post Port for his troubles. Mr James would most likely have rather he 'ported' before he ran and gone one under the allotted.

So, who cleaned their plates then? In a break with recent tradition, correspondent Rosscoe from Moscow (aka Pork Pie) thought he would look beyond the evenings podium, and probe those that didn't quite. The 'pipped at the posts', the 'downtrodden and overlooked', the 'poor', the 'lame'..."give me your poor..." I think I'm straying to something American here. "Straighten up lad, what on earth are you on about"!!

Sadly, saluting some of the lower orders is difficult in several classes. For instance in SJW we only had 'The Shunter' (350) and Ellen 'Rogan Josh' Currie (260) on the paddock - no 4th place getters there. Likewise in SJM, where, although we had four at table in suitable bibs, a tie for first (Dunk & Adam - 490's!!), with 'Little Sir' Hugh at 460 and Alex K on 420 rounding out the entries, no 4th again. The Juniors are even more thinly represented in the also ran stakes - with only one/two's to report Matty/Jay and Bethany/Natalie). Our lady legends are similarly of rare pedigree, and much in demand when setting high table. Bryony, MJ, Sue and Janet all enjoying the cakes and fruits of Jamie Oliver's labours - and Kate Grenville's excellent production at STC.

Age classes that do have depth are often ones that only have a (vanilla) wafer between talents. Our Open's for example. After the two Andy's and Mark have left their mark, we salute Patrik 'The Gunboat' Gunnerson (4th with 570) holding off Tommy 'Gun' Joss (5th/560) and a couple of big eaters in 6th equal with 550's (James McQuillan/Michael 'The Four Turn Technique' Weiner). Anthony 'Terry' Dowle, one back (540) in 7th place, was ticked off for wearing his 70's headgear at the table, and will be keen not to upset the judges next week. In the OW's (after sensational stuff from Gill, Lisa and Clare), we saw a tie for 4th with Catherine Murphy and Clare Williams running up 510's. One back with a great run is sister Clare (Murphy), only ten off Catherine 'Parr' and hoping the national O selectors (Henry the 8th et al) will listen up. Great run Clare. Silvia 'Chairman' Teoh takes 6th on 470pts with Amy Harmer a place back with 450. Excellent and selective dining from our Open's.

The Masters also yield packed tables, with tight finishing in the blokes and m'ladies. Apart from Glenn, Richard (best on night with 600 in 42.19), Kar-Soon etc, we very clean plates further down. How about Martin 'Jerry Lee Lewis' Cousins and Pete 'The Yorkshire Dales' Fallows =4th with 520pts, a quartet of runners in =5th and 510pts (Anthony P, Kenny Schaefer, Ross Morrison, Sandy 'Shoe' Smith), and a trio on 500pts - and equal 6th (Wayne, Eric and Laurent 'The Pillow' Billot). David 'The Head' Kricker put the boot in, but ended ten back on 490 - and gets the washing up to do. In MW, Maree 'The Afgan' Bunney and Lisa 'First Stop' Linssen put up 440's to hold 4th from Emmanuelle Convert 'Able' and 'The Real' Julia Clemments (5th= on 400pts) and a triplet of madam's in 6th place (380's) - Lynda Calder, Kirstan Lamont, Louise 'Cat Stevens' Tiller. Feliz Bensan '& Hedges' lights up 7th place with her 290pt post, while casting an eye back at Rachael (510), Antoniya (500) and the 480 girls - and wondering if it was the uncooked mullet tail at #13 that slowed her. Next week Feliz, next week.

Liking what's on the table? Maybe a bit of Vet pie.

I'm noting Graeme McLeod taking 4th with 520, ten on from Mark 'In Irons' Savery and Andy Graham (5th=), and a tie in 6th (Ian 'I Believe in the Market' Clitheroe, Mike Ridley-Smith - 500pts). Jamie Kennedy finished the soup in 7th (490) with Matt 'Mort Bay' Peters working the long sox and after dinner mints for 480 and a tidy 8th on the order of service. Tania Kennedy reprises her run last week with an excellent 4th in VW (420) behind Carolyn, Paula and Sharon. Jan 'By The' Seeho was untroubled in 5th (410, same as her son Jay), enjoying the sea breeze, while Airdrie carded 390 for 6th and Sue Froude worked a tougher pork chop for 360 pts and 7th place. The SV's saw Karin polish the trophy (460), well clear of Kerry Emslie/Helen Murphy (=4th with 380's) and Penny 'The Haystack' Field (5th 270). At the mens table, Wazza is getting back to form with a 4th= run with Ron 'The Banana' Garner (470pts apiece), with a trio in 5th ten back (Lummo, Ian 'Of Cronulla' and 'The Art School'), and David Bowerman making the journey from Green Point to the Abbotsford Arms worthwhile with 450 points and 6th placing. Julian and Martin 'Ned Kelly' Mansfield kept their revolvers from view, gobbling their hen pie with 430 peas in smart time.

Going to the top table we see Legends Ken 'Of Epping' (410), Ernest (400), Dave (370) and Ron (360) fall in behind Rosscoe, 'The Pants' and a nice pudding (with prunes) from Ian Miller (3rd with 420). Tim Cox enjoyed an unusual white chocolate topped muffin for his 2nd in IM, as Brian, Lloyd and Heiko went equal 3rd, and Bruce Stanley (4th, 310pts) tipped the pith helmut at the head waiter (and was duly evicted) was well clear of Bruce Abrahams 250 5th placing. Rounding off as the staff began to clear plates, we see walkers Mel run away with 420 from Jim and Chris (410) a century on from Andy Povah, Matty Morgan (300 in 4th) and Ian's 170. Michelle, Kerryn and Ruth placed in the WaW stakes, with Lelsey, Julie and Alison having to watch - and wait! Not much in this girls!

Finally, a nice report from checkpoint #9. Apparently a family had set up a picnic there, covering the table, and the control with blanket tablecloth. Approaching beepsters found the control by lifting the cloth! The friendly group asked our correspondent to join them. Nice one.

PP is struggling with updated computer and keeps losing this blog, and then finding it again! Fearing this treatise on Sydney's dining habits, and other things gastronomic, might go awol - he roars to the final hurdle. And gives thanks to Steve and the Bennelong crew for such an enjoyable dinner. Great fun, great run - and a full tummy! Very satisfying indeed.

Now to next week, and a return to Penno! This promises to be a sensational, and different SSS experience. We haven't been to Pennant Hills Park for a Summer Series outing for well over 10/12 years, so there is much anticipation in the air. Setter Wayne and the BN crew (again!!) are sure to give us a bit of bush track thinking as we dash beyond the netball and tennis courts. Maybe even some off track stuff?? This was an early Sydney orienteering map, well revised over the years, and always one to offer some excellent navigational challenges. The Pork is already losing hair at the thought of it. Join us as the SSS caravan rolls on - up north this time, and in complete contrast to the last two harbour side symphonies. For those craving a more bushy SSS experience - this is your moment.


the unknown runner said...

Another excellent blog and an excellent course, probably my favourite of the season.A plodder could get a good score and the nav inbetween the buildings was good fun.

Dave said...

I agree; excellent course, something for everyone!

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