Thursday, March 20, 2014


Perfect table manners, and perfect timing, from three runners at last night's spaghetti junction shoot out makes an interesting race review opener. Probably a first time to see triple perfect 45's, and impressive stuff when one understands what the 'concentration of contour', the 'barrier of puff', the 'rampart of restriction' could (and would) do to the dinner plans of over 150 of Sydney's finest. So, let's hear it for our triplets - Sue, Gwen and Istvan. Great timing girls and boys, and deserving of a richly sauced spag to renew the bodily batteries.

Speaking of spag.

One can't help but be impressed (and intimidated) by the Clontarf map's drapery of pasta-like contours. A languor of linguine, a fearful fall of fettucine, a blockage of bavette, a tangle of tagliatelle - providing a formidable taste test in the west. Cannelloni, tortiglioni and ziti drawing the hungrier competitors to the maps southern 'thrust' - and small servings of rigatoni and rigate rewarding runners in the more open centre. Clontarf is a clog and swirl of brown contour lines - it's a steaming bowl of wholemeal spaghetti and spaghettini, and all served in a very deep sided crockery. Very steep!

Let's take our seat at the table as Bennelong's Russian maestro abandons the Borsch and cooks up an Italian chew.

With the BNO kitchen installed adjacent to the Sandy Bay sewer pipeline (contrary to health regulations), arriving diners plonked the $10 degustation menu fee upon the till, selected a table, and, with their backs to the impressive sewer, glanced at the menu. Many fell into animated conversation with their fellows as they scanned the page, string at the ready. Others went suddenly quiet. Quite a few seemed to lose their appetite. The size of the dish, the 90 metres of climb. Before they had begun, meals were imagined as only half eaten. It was going to be a tough night on the chomp.

The tables closest to the kitchen hosted a series of ten pointers, the higher tables were also that way inclined - with the meatier rewards in an arc from the north, around the eastern nibble, to a five layered (and difficult to digest) lasagne in the south. There was, sadly to this reviewer, nothing along Peronne Road and the Gordon connect, to give a middle course option to the otherwise northern 'clocky' or southern 'anti-clocky'. All course options had to confront the climb - and the effect of tomato sauce upon the starched running top . The north allowed a reasonable warm up with a few tenners and a low tide run to #2, a 'Larry' at #30 (slow stuff along the upsey/downsey path to Bradys Point), the steep Graham Street steps past #27, and the slow slog to the question asked by number 16 - especially if going on to the taste of 12,14,25 etc. The 1/10/18 starters only managed a mild engine warming before the full effects of Contour Kate were felt, whereas the low skirt option to #28, involved nice but slowish level track running (great views) before the inevitable. All course options had the same goal of course - collecting as much of the crema on top after a slow slog up and before a flyer back down.

In reality, a two dish menu, with perhaps more opting for the northern circle than those beginning south. Where the course had its challenge for the majority was in the centre around the bowling club and schools. Here a maddeningly bunch of tenners defied easy looping - with #7 losing out to #3 if the tick tock became assertive. Adrian Place demanded attention (#24), and took 3" plus to get into and out of, with Commerce Lane (#13) and the tennis courts (#23) also de rigeur for those a bit peckish hereabouts - and again involving the in-out setting that was a feature of the meal. Pork Pie, working from the northern start, looped 12,14,23,13,24(in-out),15(reverse engines again), 6,8,3,18 before going lap lap 10 to 1 and home. Other middle pot panters, worked east from #14 to include the 25 ('Larry' again) and 17, before hooking up to the tennis lesson and a tenner or two before bed. Tough running - especially the maccheroni shaped climb up from 25 to 17.

Those of even greater abilities would have been tempted to try the twisting fusilli bianco route to #20,22,19,11 - and then i) back to the top (24,15etc), ii) to the 7,15,3,18 garden salad, or iii) the 'I've had enough' option down to 28 and home via your private yacht. The placing of control 29 beside the Grotto Point lighthouse was, where to begin… kind of 'out there', and well beyond most of course. Easily dismissed (likewise #26), although I can breathlessly report that three competitors tasted the Grotto gourmet dish but took too long, and were penalised at the checkout. Getting there via 28 would have added the elusive #9, but I would guess more looped the higher located pots (22/19) with in-out work from the mentioned 20-11 plan. Hard to settle on a 'lonely' - maybe number 9, maybe #11. Mmmm, tough call.

So, how did this evening on the chew pan out?

All early indications looked below 500, with the score lists not moving beyond Tom 'Tom Drum' Joss's excellent 480 jungle beat till quite late in the service. OM joint leader Steve Ryan then moved up ten to 490 after going out for 50.03 (annoying that .03!), but punters had to wait till the late sitting to see Andy Hill crash home in 47.54 to take it over the five - posting 510 in 47.54. Vet Greg 'The Movies' Barbour was also on stage for the late show, putting up a superb 480 - and a strong forty point win over Michael Burton. Not something your food critic often reports.

Richard 'The King' posted 460 in MM, a shave of parmesan from Patrik (450), and a bit more to Glenn (one of the three full menu men) who cleared his plate in 60.01 for a 440 post. The .01 after an hour at his pasta must have hurt. Ouch! Other winners were as per programme, Gill from Claire, Neil over Wazza, Karin, Carol, Sue, Rachael, Andy (suprisingly well on from Mel Cox 300/250), Robin - but good to see Carolyn Haupt card sixty on from Antoniya (our leading MW star 360/300), and Sir Ted run in a great win in IM (330 in 44.02) from Ron '101 hits torture in the back seat to come' Junghans with 300 and Ken 'To Walk, To Stroll' Jacobson's 280. Strangely, IM leader Heiko Schaefer, is almost unsighted here - working a difficult to digest plate of gnocchi for nearly 57 minutes, for an uncharacteristic 190 post. Not a meal to remember Heiko!

Jim 'Nice Creek Detail' Merchant is flying (after a season of WaM) in anticipation of gold and granite this weekend, carding a classy 44.03" 330 pointer in LM - only one second longer than SVM's 'The Blue Engine' for the same result. 'Le Pantalooney' and Rosscoe both home twenty on to share the LM champers it seems - with Ted 'Of Chatswood' a no show. Some diners reported slow service, going home unhappy with their mains - Larry 'L Plate' Weiss one of them (an early back 330), and President Paul, a modest 290 belying the speed his STB victim knows he is capable of. Although seƱor Prudhoe went two over, his zero finish ping (47.00) would have given some satisfaction.

A few more stats and wipes of the SSS bib perhaps. 150 entries, with the three groups adding a few more at table is a bit light but I guess we are getting to the end of the season - and late runners are now thinking 'torch'. Just over half the field managed to wolf down 300pts or more, with the 330 point score the most popular - and posted by no less than runners from eight different age classes (Open to Immortal - just about as wide as you can get). Take a bow you 330 pointers - 'Oh' Brett Sewell, Carolyn 'The Kinks' Davies, Fergus Dixon 'Chambers' and Johnny 'Rotten' Bulman among them. Great to see Terry 'Non Parole Period' Murphy back from his own sentence (imposed after Tezza went doggie on his bike and did a bit of damage - to his skeletal workings, not sure of Fido) - and Bryony, once again with us - in bri-nylon and bonnet. 'Mr Orienteering' was also amongst the diners, his modest 170 a poor indication of the form expected when he mixes gold with his pasta.

No 44.59's this week, although VM's Bernard Thomas comes close with 44.57 in his 250 point claim. I've mentioned Gordon as a 44.02 (with Ted), but note a more poignant two over - Lloyd Gledhill posting 240 in IM with a 45.02. Ouch once again! Our longest on course is a snack, with Ian McKenzie working a farfalle like in-out sketch, to ping all 600 in 101.08 minutes. Ian ends up with 30 points, just clinging to positive territory, unlike John D'Cruz, who spent rather a long time at his suppa verde (68.27), and goes home with minus 120! Nice one, and our only 'free' first time senior entry. He learned a lot which is good. I mentioned that there were three 600, or full menu, men. Given Glenny and Ian have already been issued with their bills, the SSS head waiter can report MM Richard 'Four Pillars' Banks also enjoyed a rewarding dinner - clearing his plate in the excellent time of 67.36 for a 370 post. An excellent run by the banker - one of several 'no-club' runners last night who hopefully might join us soon (as the bush orienteering season gets underway). No JW's this week, but Kaj gets the tiramisu in JM with 320pts. Also, no shows from the Currie's last night, so we have rewards at table for Finn Mackay and Alexandra Thomas in the subs. Modest scoring, but, hey, a win's a win.

What else? Apparently Prince Albert was dining at a nearby table and was shot during the dessert course by a disgruntled Paddy. Gelato with a red topping for our royal guest. The Prince survived, but didn't see his way to staying on in Oz to enjoy Marina's pasta challenge. Sadly. So then, our penultimate Sydney Summer Series event for season 23 is over, and our thanks go to the Bennelong front of house, wait and kitchen staff and, especially, to Marina for her course (or borsch with a difference). Tough, steep, a spread out serving across big plates. That was the 'Tarf' in 2014. A meal to remember.

We now look forward to our final, again at Macquarie Uni Sports Fields, with Doctor Dan in charge. 'Platform One' knows his way around an A4 sheet in full colour, and has good form in the setting department. Dan will no doubt deliver a sneak of oval, a pull of paddock, a reward of road, a ping of parking station - and maybe a hurry of horse jump. It's all here at Macquarie Uni, and will be a fitting challenge for our 2013/14 series final. No minister to share the prize giving, but please all stay about to cheer on the season's winners - and the winner of the Summer Series Cup. The much sort after badges are resting quietly, the Bollinger is cooling, and Rosscoe is working on a few stats. It's been another great season, so let's go out with a bang. As Jerry Lee Lewis sang (ok, youths, I hear you) "I like to give the great artist what's coming to 'em". Dan is such an artist!  


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