The Gastronomic Pub Crawl of Fitzroy; The British Crown Hotel
14 Smith Street, Collingwood
(Corner Smith and Mason Street)
Down the bad end of Smith Street, where the businesses look perennially closed and certainly not hip, and the food tends to fast; the exterior of British Crown Hotel hints at being an old school watering hole for the dissipating working class. It is not though; having been recently refurbished, it is a relatively bland and extremely spacious modern pub: copious tv screens, polished surfaces, and an enormous beer garden. Not that there is anything wrong with those things; and I am sure it piles the punters in on a Saturday.
The bar menu, like the pub, hints at a strategy of quantity over quality. The parmas are cheap - standard sized - but only $9.90 (as is the steak). They come in multiple pizza-like flavours, from which I chose the Hawaiian, with chips and an oily salad I couldn't finish. It is hard to do a bad parma, and this was not a bad parma; but nor was it a good one. The chicken was a little dry, the crumb fairly boring, the chips nothing special. If you lived next door it would be a good home substitute, but it isn't worth travelling for.
The Short: For functions, super-cheap parmas and certain types of nights out
Next Week: Bell's Hotel (Corner Coventry and Moray Street)
8th December, 2013 22:33:26
[#] [0 comments]
Short Stat: Adelaide and batting first
Don't. There are exceptions, but the oft-told story of Richie Benaud's that as a captain he was told to "bat; if in doubt, think about it, then bat anyway" hasn't been true for 20 years.
S Rajesh noted as much a couple of weeks ago, but his analysis was based on the results obtained which has issues (amongst them, that Australia automatically bats) while other sides are a little more discerning. We can run a slightly more sophisticated analysis by comparing the expected margin (based on my ratings) against the actual margin and seeing whether the batting or fielding team beats expectations in each match. In short: for the last 20-odd years they have not.
In the 1930s - with uncovered pitches - the advantage in winning the toss and using the (most likely) best conditions was clear: it added as much as 40 runs per game. But that benefit has steadily eroded, and batting first is now a negative proposition, while fielding sides are regularly beating their expected margin. Interestingly, this is happening in both drawn (margin of 0) and result games:
A drawn games means the better side missed its expected victory. And for the better side, fielding first offers the advantage of time. By bowling there is no wasted runs from the need to set a target - such as last season when Australia still needed two wickets at close of play and had 172 runs, but also in 2003 and 2006 when the batting side had a first innings in excess of 500 and still went on to lose courtesy of a poor third innings. Even with the margin as large as it was, given the rain on the last day, England probably wouldn't have managed to beat Australia in Adelaide in 2010, because their bowlers would have been tired (had they enforced the follow-on), or they'd have run out of time.
Similarly, despite having to bat last on a potentially wearing pitch, if the match is heading for late on the fifth day, the need to buffer a margin by 100 or so runs when declaring helps the weaker side avoid a loss. Of the three recent bat-first-and-win games at Adelaide, all three went into the fifth day, despite the losers scoring less than 520 runs in total in the match. Australia and England both batted and lost in that period with more than 680 runs.
In general, a side that wins beats its expected margin, because the expected margin takes into account draws. In games with a result then, you'd expect any advantage from the pitch to accrue to the batting side, because they get the best conditions, and managed to exploit them. But in recent years we've not seen that; the new pitch has offered movement to the bowlers, and the old pitches haven't broken up significantly enough to negate that. There isn't a huge difference (and quite a bit of randomness), but taking into account the time benefits the bat-first approach is no longer valid, and actually unhelpful.
So unhelpful, in fact, that the expected margin for the toss winner was negative in the 1990s and first part of the 2010s, as well as negative for those batting first in the 2000s. By less than a dozen runs, but negative is negative. Any side with ambitions to win in Adelaide should bowl first; new pitch caveats aside, there is little to fear on the fifth day.
Update on Adelaide:
Australia chose to bat; but that is not a surprise. For reference, this graph depicts the number of total runs in the match for teams batting first and second since 1990; wins at the top, losses at the bottom, and draws in the middle.
For teams batting second, more than ~560 almost guarantees at least a draw, although it is possible to win with less (because obviously the opposition can be bowled out for less). Batting first, there has only been one victory with less than 590 (by a single run no less), and three losses with more than 600. The runs required to force a result in Adelaide are substantial.
Moreover, there is always pressure on the side batting first to keep batting well, because all results remain possible, even with very high totals. Whereas, the side batting second can, if they bat well enough, guarantee at least a draw and press for a victory.
Finally, the innings by innings runs per wicket for the top order: 1st: 48.5 2nd: 49.5 3rd: 31.5 4th: 28.9. That calculates to a total value in the top-order of batting first of 11.2 runs (miniscule in context). The Adelaide pitch clearly becomes harder to bat on, almost twice as hard: but it does so too late to gain advantage in the second innings, and too early to prevent a catastrophic third innings resulting in defeat. In Adelaide, it is the third innings that counts, and you are better off bowling when it does.
4th December, 2013 14:01:14
[#] [0 comments]
Monday Melbourne: CCXC, December 2013
From McConnell Bridge. Taken November 2013
3rd December, 2013 00:20:49
[#] [0 comments]
Momentum is bullshit, Ratings 1st December
|Expected Margin||England by 9 runs|
|Actual Margin||Australia by 381 runs|
The pattern of the past few Ashes has been for the contest to be won by the side that has collapsed the least often. There have been a number of massively lop-sided games, and some (such as the Adelaide-Perth-Melbourne sequence of three years ago) have followed close on the heels of each other. The collapses point to a fragility in both sides batting (Australia's especially) and a weakness in the third and fourth options, that has released the pressure if the opening salvo could be negotiated.
We saw both from England in this test. Broad induced first-day jitters that looked to have them well on top, before their batting fell to pieces against Johnson and Lyon. Twice, in fact, the two bowlers England probably least feared induce a collapse, and if anything should be worrying them, it is that. Johnson has always bowled (and batted) better when he doesn't need to be relied upon, mostly because he has always taken wickets by virtue of being very fast and very hard to pick up. Players are consistently late to his deliveries, balls flash to the slips or off the top edge. Lyon, by contrast, is merely improving as any young bowler with barely any first class experience ought to be. He is doing so in the harshest environment, but his form from mid-way through the Indian tour has been very good, and that puts pressure on England they'd not have expected to face.
Whether it can carry to Adelaide - likely to be slow, low and a bit dry - is another matter. It was unusual from England to chase Johnson, because normally they are more circumspect, despite the shortened decision-making frame he offers. He also benefited in Brisbane from deep square boundaries, which even the widened Adelaide Oval won't have. Notwithstanding the worries about England's declining production in the top-order and the absence of Trott, it would be a shock if they didn't come back well in this test. Whether they can force a win is another matter.
A draw beckons, the weather indicates patches of rain, and a dead pitch. There is speculation over both attacks, with Bresnan likely to return, and Faulkner a good chance, though for whom isn't certain. The team who bowls first will have the advantage of time for both obtaining a draw and a win, but only England is likely to try that. Brisbane was an odd match; Australia won by a lot; but with the ball, not the bat, on which they remain vulnerable. The Adelaide pitch is a new one, and that makes things even harder to predict. But if England can score runs, they seem a slightly more likely winner; though when the winner depends on the vicissitudes of collapsing batsmen and external conditions, anything can happen.
|3 Tests||New Zealand||v||West Indies|
|Expected Margin||New Zealand by 18 runs|
Another predicted margin that is very close. The West Indies were pretty woeful in their last match-up, and while this series is a little longer and oe they will have been better prepared for, New Zealand would still seem to be good favourites at home. The most likely source of an upset would be for one of Gayle (when he returns) or Samuels to make a big aggressive score, and for their spinners to befuddle the New Zealand batsmen. But New Zealand's attack is, these days, quite strong, and with the ball likely to move around a little, they will surely keep the games low scoring. New Zealand's batting is coming along; it seems to have been doing so for a while, but they have little to fear from the West Indies attack - at least the one that played in India - and that means they ought to score enough runs for their bowlers to do the job. Still, this series is predicted to be close, and some good games should be on offer, if anyone remembers they are on.
|Rankings at 1st December 2013|
Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.
2nd December, 2013 23:52:12
[#] [0 comments]
Coffee Chocolate Nut Slice
The good thing about slices is that provided you have time to wait for each layer to set, they are generally very quick, and very forgiving. This particular recipe was made up in order to try a particular technique - namely, boiling cream with coffee in order to make a coffee ganache. Everything else is just there to work around the coffee taste which is great, but pretty strong.
Nut and Berry Biscuit Layer
100g Almonds, chopped
100g Walnuts, chopped
100g Blueberries, chopped
150g Basic biscuits, crushed
200g Condensed milk
80g Butter, melted
1tsp Cinnamon, ground
1. Combine ingredients, adjust liquid amounts to create something that holds together but no more.
2. Line pan with baking paper, press into pan. Bake for 10min to lightly brown.
Easy. Using biscuits (Marie in this case) is the cheats way of making a slice, but it is fast, and it didn't matter really. Those quantities are completely made-up; they'll work; they are just made-up if you want it to look like the picture. When you aren't baking it doesn't really matter, as long as it holds together, and as long as the nuts aren't too big, and you have enough liquid, it will. While this is baking...
Coffee Chocolate Ganache Layer
400g Chocolate, dark
200g Condensed Milk
1 Coffee bag (about a teaspoon)
20g butter, softened
1. Put Coffee Bag into Cream and bring to boil, remove from heat and let steep for a few minutes.
2. Remove bag and squeeze liquid from bag gently over chocolate. (If you don't have a bag, you need to strain the cream with a muslin cloth, replacing lost mass).
3. Add condensed milk to cream and bring to boil again, boil for a few minutes, stirring constantly.
4. Pour over chocolate, and emulsify by stirring centre then outwards.
5. Add Kahlua and melted butter, stir edges until no liquid remains on edge of bowl.
6. Pour over biscuit layer. And leave at least 1 hour to set.
Not quite as easy. This is more fudgy than a typical ganache, but the condensed milk will thicken and caramelise a little, which is why it goes in after the coffee is removed. Coffee bags are a new thing, but they make this task a lot easier because you don't need to strain it; the light squeezing will capture a lot of flavour because the aim is to make this layer quite strong - almost inedibly strong, as it is offset by the sweetness and chewiness of the other parts.
Vanilla White Chocolate Layer
150g Chocolate, white, melted
5ml Vanilla paste (or equivalent essence)
1. Melt the white chocolate to 40degrees and stir in the cream and vanilla.
2. Quickly, with as few light strokes as possible, smooth over surface of the ganache layer.
3. Leave to set (1 hour).
I hate white chocolate. Too thick. Too easy to over-cook. Too quick to set when worked. If you look carefully you can see speckles of unmelted white chocolate because this was a disaster. But no matter; that's the beauty of a slice. In short, the cream makes it easier to cut, because it is no longer pure chocolate but a really hard ganache, and therefore won't crack easily.
Surprisingly, this worked amazingly well. Each layer is, by itself, extremely strong. The biscuit layer is almost pure nuts and berries; the coffee ganache layer is bitter and harsh; and the vanilla white chocolate is ludicrously sweet. But in combination they really came together. It could probably use slightly less biscuit, and slightly more dark chocolate (or just be thinner), but I'm quite happy with it.
Not that you can really go wrong with a slice.
2nd December, 2013 22:40:56
[#] [0 comments]