Tag Archives: giapo

A peek into GIAPO’s kitchen

Chefs aren’t made in the kitchen.
Chefs are made from something they have deep inside them -
an inner flame that burns brightly… with purpose, curiosity and passion.
In reality, true chefs pursue the creation of something better than yesterday and when they think they got it, they realise they don’t.
~ Gianpaolo Grazioli

A smiling face opens the door, and we walk through to the area behind the counter. I peek into the cosy kitchen and see that it resembles a laboratory – only it is fitted with stove facilities and edible ingredients. A purple cap finds its way to my head. I take in the sight of 24 cracked eggs caught in a bowl, yolks bobbing in the gloopy pool of whites. I smile at the myriad of utensils, pots, bowls, trays and litres of milk that line the shelves and fridge. I stare out the window at the other humans walking to work (and smile knowing that I will join them soon… BUT not just yet).

Slowly, a sense of unfounded familiarity and tingles of exhilaration wiggle through my toes.

I am in GIAPO’S kitchen.

This morning, Giapo is baking brownies to make brownie gelato. Fresh cream is whipped till it tries escaping from the mixer with violent jerks, and leaves in its wake a beautiful mound of butter. No store-bought chocolate is used (he uses fresh butter, choice cocoa powder and cocoa butter). Giapo gives me a sample of cocoa butter to taste – I am a little put off by its name because it sounds like a lotion, but I am struck by the luxurious quality of it, the way it reminds me of an edible bar of creamy soap – creamy but clean and not sticky in any way (“wow!” is what I want to say). In the course of the morning, he also makes a beautiful batch of dulce de leche and the bit I taste fresh from the pot leaves me feeling a little like I am walking on air.

The way everything whirls, mixes and cooks around me reminds me (just slightly) of one of my favourite Disney moments. I am as intrigued by the beautiful brownie-making process as I am by Giapo’s solid understanding of the science behind food/cooking. (The science of food is not yet my forte. I cook and bake by way of a certain random madness, and without an understanding of why ingredients act the way they do).

So I enjoy myself immensely watching the brownie come together, but I can’t shake off this funny feeling that lingers in my mind the whole time I am in the kitchen… until Giapo tells me he’s going to make a chocolate gelato and combine that with the brownie to make brownie gelato.

This is the moment at which everything feels illogical and marvellous all at once. Questions and answers start flying in and out of my head in rapid succession.

WHAT! WHY! I want to say. How does any of this make sense? Does everyone even really see/understand just how much work goes into this? Couldn’t you take more shortcuts? Couldn’t you use less good (and thus costly) ingredients? Why don’t you let supermarkets/stores etc carry your products? Why do you bake brownie from scratch? Why and how do you invent so many new flavours every single week? Why do you do what you do?

I’ve asked some of these questions before. But even as these questions surface in my mind, everything now makes complete sense in my heart. I already know that yes, GIAPO is a business with overhead costs. Yes, there is nothing to stop them from taking a few time and money-saving shortcuts. Yes, they could easily rely on market knowledge and stick to flavours that have been proven to be popular with the masses (rather than take a chance with experimental flavours). Yes, they could arrange for supermarkets and other stores to stock their gelato.

But the way I see it, GIAPO is not your average business. It’s a people-loving business/”Wonka factory”/thought leader/research lab/innovative centre/delicious gelato parlour and more, rolled into one magic entity. I think it’s less about sticking with the proven, or focusing on profits, or abiding by what some would label as “sense”…

The way I interpret it, it’s about the execution of a mission. Loving food and loving you. Fanning that inner flame. Embarking on a quest to experience life by tasting everything. Combining science, art and passion. Holding strong to values and principles in a society that doesn’t do this as much as they should. Pushing boundaries. Following a dream and vision. Having the courage to go where passion says to go. Making something gobsmackingly delicious, just ‘cos. Revolutionalising gelato, food and eating. Taking pride in their work. Having fun along the way.

And, as they say, giving you food that is as it should be – good for you. With a lot of love, commitment, excellent techniques, quality time and ingredients (no shortcuts or artificial content), and a sparkling dose of genius.

It’s taken me two days to write this post, and still I am not sure I have expressed myself adequately. But thank you for reading my clumsy words. If you’re in Auckland, please visit GIAPO and bring everyone you know. If you are not in New Zealand, well, get here. It’s a thoroughly beautiful country. And go to GIAPO.

Grazie mille Giapo, for the lovely privilege of spending an hour with you in your kitchen!

Giapo – 279-291 Queen Street, Auckland – Phone: 09 550 3677

Recently/random

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
~ T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

It’s grey and gloomy outside, perfect blogging weather even though I have nothing concrete to blog about today. Being on holiday does that to you sometimes – makes your writing all unfocused and scattered, because there’s so much important stuff to do. Stuff like lazing around in pyjamas, reading books, starting 2012 projects, catching up with favourite people, lying on the grass and watching the sunset, dancing/prancing around, going on long drives, watching movies… you know? It’s hard to focus.

(Alright, I’ll stop rubbing it in for those of you virtuous folk who have already been back at work for a week or two ;-))

So today’s post is going to take the form of “random”. Hope you enjoy it anyway.

Here’s a photo of our dinner the other night, as prepared by my friend Jacqui – whoever knew that pizza without cheese would still taste so good?! Peaches + smoked chicken slices + spinach + mushrooms + capsicums + apricot chutney atop two of those handy pizza bases (3 for $2.99!) made for a rapid (done in 10 minutes!) and good dinner.

A few of my friends here seem to have developed a sudden penchant for bubble tea. Previously, I only visited Hulucat with a certain trio, and quite sporadically at that. We discovered Hulucat’s second branch near the Civic on Tuesday, a very handy location for a post-movie debrief. I’m still undecided as to whether I like bubble tea, but on occasion I find an original or oatmeal milk tea takes my fancy. Hulucat does a fine job with their bubble tea – easy to drink, sweet and customisable (you can request any crazy combination of tea/toppings and have it hot, cold or less sweet). I now skip the pearls though, so as to avoid feeling crazy full afterwards!

And it’s been more than 24 hours since Grace and I went to Giapo… but frankly I find it difficult to forget the gelato we had this time! Grace got a scoop of earl grey tea gelato – I tried it, it was stunning and captured the flavour perfectly – and a scoop of cherry tart. I went for a scoop of the dark chocolate and porcini mushroom, and a scoop of cherry tart too. I was handed a tub containing a velvet dark chocolate dream, and a summery treat with real cherry bits and topped with shortbread crumbs. Very much an indulgence. Very much enjoyed.

In between, I’ve been eating fresh strawberries, greens, eggs, and one rather unhealthy takeaway dinner (which I ate on the porch with my friend R while the clouds turned pink, so that made up for it)…

Hope you are all having a great day, enjoy it – rain, shine or snow… today only comes once.

Hulucat Tea House – 16 Wellesley Street, Auckland – Phone: 09 377 0307

Giapo – 279-291 Queen Street, Auckland – Phone: 09 550 3677

Giapo = gelato buonissimo

Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.
~ Ralph Marston

I’m repeating myself here, but following another visit to Giapo today with my beautiful friend Emily, it’s about time I stop giving them passing mentions and actually wax lyrical about them in a FULL POST on my blog.

Giapo… is glorious.

Think of your favourite ice cream or gelato flavour. What is it? Strawberry? Maple walnut? Chunky Monkey? Lemon sorbet? Mmm, that’s a pretty good thought, isn’t it? Okay, hold that thought…

Now imagine inventing an ice cream or gelato flavour of your choice. What would it be? I remember one frosty night some years ago, when a few of us played this “invent an ice cream flavour” game after dinner… there were suggestions of watermelon, jasmine, bubblegum (guess we already have goody gum drops in New Zealand), peppered steak and toothpaste (yeah, seriously… the last two options weren’t mine).

Now, enter Giapo… which would have taken the cake and stolen the crown in that “invent an ice cream flavour” discussion. I love quality and I love surprises, and Giapo delivers on both fronts. I think of the Giapo team as a real life Willy Wonka and Oompa-Loompa team (ref: Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), inventing all sorts of amazing and surreal goodies, and offering them in a space masquerading as a relatively normal-looking gelateria.

It’s like they’ve taken gelato and dressed it in every possible garment, painted it with every hue and shade in the paint box, and sprayed it with a library of scents to rival Demeter’s… and somehow done it exceptionally well, too. Antipasti and pinot gris. Wasabi vanilla. Dark chocolate and smoked salmon. Seaweed and sauvignon blanc. Pinot noir and espresso coffee. Scallops and strawberry. Pumpkin and amaretto. Christmas fruit mince pie. Whisky and blue cheese. And of course, they have tamer flavours like lemon/coconut/organic cocoa sorbet too (note: by “tame” I mean more normal-sounding, but terribly good and nowhere near mediocre).

Tasting these, you sort of expect magic things to happen in the store, or Oompa-Loompas to come trailing out with whisks and berries in their hands, or something.

From the frequency at which new flavours appear and from the generous smiles of the team there, you’d think they just effortlessly muttered gelato into existence while sleeping. But if you think they’ve just taken a bunch of random ingredients and chucked them into the freezer together for a laugh, think again. The combinations are carefully thought out – Mr. Grazioli said, for instance, that the salmon and chocolate combination was born out of those two elements sharing similarities at a base molecular level. That sounded very foreign to my Bachelor of Arts ears, but tasting this harmonious and madly delicious gelato, I’m prepared to believe it. The way I now see it, salmon and chocolate might appear as different as night and day, but they’re probably distant cousins on some level. And very good blended.

I like so many things about Giapo. For one, there is only one Giapo in Auckland – no franchises or supermarket versions. You seldom get the exact repertoire of flavours every time you visit (this says to me that their gelato is very fresh, and they are constantly seeking ways to improve/delight their customers). The gelato is immaculate in colour, substance and form. The chairs are cute. There is an art and science to everything they do. The team is patient and friendly, happy to give you a taste of anything while you are trying to make up your mind. Wonderful, too, is the fact that they don’t skimp at all on ingredients. Indeed, I think they don’t skimp on anything – they use only the best of everything.

No one’s told me this, but I suspect the Giapo gelato you down in a few minutes is the stunning result of countless hours of creativity, fun, thought, experimentation and research. For all of what I’ve written in this post and more, the Giapo spirit is one that more eating establishments and consumer goods providers really need to catch and embrace.

Giapo – 279-291 Queen Street, Auckland – Phone: 09 550 3677

On sharing

My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato and someone to share it with.
~ Oprah Winfrey

Dishes in the middle for everyone, that was what I knew growing up. My grandma and mom both often cooked this way (unless we were having pasta or similar). We’d all have our own plates of rice and bowls of soup, but everything else – meat, vegetables, fish, etc – would be placed on large plates in the centre of the dining table so we could help ourselves.

For some reason, I possess none of my Gran’s gift for cooking family meals – but what I do hope to learn from her are things like these: cooking with love; feeding friends/family good food; prioritising eating and talking together. Sharing.

Sharing is pretty cool. You know, the kind of uncalculative, spontaneous sharing that we probably used to excel at in kindergarten. It seems that the true, honest art of sharing is slowly being lost in this individualistic, “I need me-time I need space” kinda world we live in. I get like that too, but recent days have been so full of generosity and great times and I am reminded of how good it is to do it together, you know? I really want sharing to become written into my blood.

On that note, are you ready to read a long post? I’ve been writing mini posts in my head for a few days now so this is an ambitious attempt at posting them ALL in one post…

Last week, R and I went to the bubbly Liz’s place for dinner – we used to work together and it was great to catch up again! Liz whipped up this YUMMY bacon, mushroom and spinach Donna Hay-inspired risotto in the oven (up till that evening, I had never known you could make risotto in the oven) – so warm and savoury and filling. We ate this with glasses of singing Gerwutztraminer while their lively cat darted around the room (jealous, I bet) – and had bowls of gourmet ice cream afterwards.

Friday: R taught me how to whip up Spring in a bowlspirals with prosciutto, asparagus and baby spinach leaves with red pesto and parmesan. I learned a few things that evening:

1. To bend the asparagus till it reaches its natural breaking point, then snap it and discard the bottom part.
2. To use baby spinach leaves (I always thought people always used cooking spinach for warm dishes – but he popped these fresh leaves into a bowl with steaming hot pasta which then wilted the baby spinach beautifully).
3. To use red pesto. How is it that I have not previously spotted this jar of goodness in the supermarket?
To recap: cook pasta in salted boiling water. Snap asparagus. Blanch or pan-fry asparagus. Tear prosciutto with your fingers, add this and raw baby spinach leaves into a bowl. Drain cooked pasta and asparagus when they are ready, pour them into the bowl – stir and let the heat wilt the leaves. Stir in red pesto. Serve with parmesan.

I think I’ll be making this again – so easy and so good!

On the subject of thoughtful and talented friends, K gave me kiwifruit and white chocolate muffins, and G gave me cheesecake today… (which served as a most decadent lunch!) So spoiled am I.

Ottolenghi’s Cookbook is bursting with food for sharing. A few weeks ago, G shared her lunch with me at work, so I thought it’d be fun to pack lunch for three of us – and of course Ottolenghi’s book sprung to mind. My eyes fell on a recipe for roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey (recipe re-posted here). I made a few adjustments (chicken thighs as opposed to a whole chicken, orange blossom water as opposed to rosewater, etc) – it was sweet, gently spiced and reminded me of Morocco… I served it with some green beans with tomato and feta (fried them this time).

I was very careful with the orange blossom water and I am now no longer (as) afraid of it. ;-)

Saturday was a Brazilian day – complete with “Reflections of a Blender” (think: a taxidermist who is also a murderess; a talking blender; philosophy; craziness + general fantastic-ness in Portuguese), a loud Brazilian festa; and this gem of a place… Casa da Sogra (which translates as house of the mother-in-law, I think).

When we walked in, I felt like I’d chanced upon a grand secret that everyone else already knew. Small this place may be, but it lacks nothing else. It was 2.30pm, and the place was packed – I tuned in and realised there was almost as much Portuguese being spoken as there was English (so cool)! We joined two friendly Brazilian ladies, started chatting and I couldn’t help ordering what Priscilla was eating – pastel.

According to her, these are as good as the ones in Brazil. I haven’t been to Brazil yet, but I can believe it. For $3 each, these golden pillows are crispy deep fried pastries filled with yummy things. I can’t do it justice with my words, but suffice to say – if you’re in Auckland, you need to go here… even if there’s no seating room when you get there – stand and eat, it’ll all make good sense once you do it.

This is the pizza flavoured one…

We also ordered a few acai berry shakes (rather potent, in a good way) and a spicy lamb pita. Tasty and generous, and better with friends to share everything with. Eating food native to a different culture and chatting with people from different countries while sitting right at home is probably the closest one can get to teleportation (which I would love to do if I could)!

I’m sleepy, so I’m going to start wrapping up my blog post now.

I end with two other places I wanted to share, which I unfortunately did not take photographs at but are worth writing about, photos or not:

Faro – I went here with Brad who was up for a visit and learned a magical combination from the smiling waitress that attended us – leaf + radish + pickled onion + kimchi + a soy bean paste which I cannot remember the name of + perfectly grilled beef. Ask their staff how to eat your food – it could make your eating experience even better. I love that they serve delicious food, don’t close so early, and have a clean and lovely place with thoughtful staff and extraction fans at each table to ensure you don’t smell like food when you leave.

And lucky last – we had the pleasure of meeting the man behind Giapo a few days ago. With its catchy branding, huge array of fantastic flavours, friendly staff and grinning customers – Giapo is hard to miss if you are in Auckland. What’s even harder to miss, if you get to meet Gianpaolo Grazioli yourself, is his insatiable passion for life, honesty that made me smile, creative nature, wealth of knowledge and unmistakeable courage. Hearing him talk was inspirational… as was the ice cream.

The ice cream is all made from excellent ingredients – and there are all sorts of crazy and scrumptious flavours – ALL sorts. Even whisky and blue cheese (this admittedly took my breath away, and I haven’t decided whether in a good way or not). Pumpkin, riesling, amaretti, organic fruit… it is all there.

My favourites were their: (1) antipasti (sounds strange, but it’s crazy delicious); (2) dark chocolate and smoked salmon (base note similarities make for compatibility; who would have thought?); (3) lemon sorbet (think: sweet little girl kissing your cheek), (4) green tea (flecked with chocolate bits, the best word I can use to describe it is a Mandarin word which I don’t know how to put into English right now… but it’s deep, and calm, and sweet in a true, non-sugary way).

It’s so different when people do what they love. Their faces light up and they have this energy and joy about them that is unmistakeable and so super.

Time for bed. All the best to my brave friends who have embarked on the mammoth adventure known as NanoWrimo! Good night!

Casa da Sogra – 12 Remuera Road, Newmarket, Auckland – Phone: 09 520 0250

Faro – 5 Lorne Street, Auckland – Phone: 09 379 4040

Giapo – 279 Queen Street, Auckland

An impromptu roast chicken, and other stories

Most of the food allergies die under garlic and onion.
~ Martin H. Fischer

Tonight I roasted a chicken ‘cos I felt like it.

Free range chicken, on special at the supermarket ($10!)
+ wild fennel and 2 sprigs rosemary and 3 agria potatoes from the farmers’ market
+ 2 of Mom’s lemons (zest and juice)
+ garlic cloves, some smashed and some intact (all a little messy really)
+ salt
+ pepper
+ sprinkle of fennel seeds
+ stream of olive oil
+ smear of mustard
+ oven @ 180 degrees C
+ 1.25 hours (take it out midway and bathe it in its juices)
= impromptu roast chicken.

Dinner + cranberry juice + conversation with Fran. Bright night.

Leftover chicken now in the fridge for us all to lunch on tomorrow.

The other night I visited Deniro with K where we drank red and ate pasta and risotto and a certain lovely lady we knew there got us a small (to save us from ordering the full) platter of calamari… :-) The calamari was nice and fresh, and the spaghetti bolognese – well you know, a good plate of spaghetti bolognese always spells “comfort” (see quick snapshot below)! K’s seafood risotto tasted of that magic kingdom – the sea.

I like Elliot Stables for the way it feels like a mini globe within! So many accents and types of food. Topped with smiling service and a bustling atmosphere… nice!

Later that night K also introduced me to the joys of Giapo… home to one of the best ice cream flavours ever to grace the earth – organic meringue with hazelnut cream! Light meets sweet meets nutty meets fluffy meets mmmmmm… :-)

Pastry from a farmers’ market = always a good weekend breakfast option – this was mine yesterday, as I ran out of groceries at home in the morning: choc and pear brioche…

Mooncake – so many legends surround this one, there’s the one with a Trojan horse of sorts and another involving star-crossed lovers (see Google for details)… so many tales, which to believe? Possibly just the memories of lanterns and relatives and tea – warm thoughts.

Pictured here is a chicken/apricot tagine that Dad made last night… have to admit I was slightly teary-eyed; seem to get this way nowadays when (1) my parents cook for me and (2) I get to eat with my family! The evening flew by, too quickly – the hands on the clock seemed to be sprinting!

And today I went to the Auckland Vintage Textile Fair with T. Wonder what it would have been like to live in a different era… I bought clip-on earrings and aprons which would make anyone look more domestic than Martha S.

Other delicious links:
Wicked: Ottolenghi’s Caramel Macadamia Cheesecake!
If music be the food of love, play on, Turntable Kitchen
Barter trade: I like

Elliot Stables – 39-41 Elliott Street, Auckland – Phone: 09 308 9334

Giapo – 279 Queen Street, Auckland – Phone: 09 550 3677