Category Archives: Drinks

Midnight daze – part one

If you were to ask me if I’d ever had the bad luck to miss my daily cocktail, I’d have to say that I doubt it; where certain things are concerned, I plan ahead.
~ Luis Bunuel

I’ll be honest. The screen isn’t looking particularly focused right now.

It may be due at least in part to the fact that I have, in the last few hours, consumed 2.5 cocktails and more glasses of pinot noir than I care to remember. And note that while that doesn’t sound TOO bad, I’m usually that girl with a tomato/Chinese opera singer face who’s ready to plop onto the pavement after a glass or two of wine.

I’m considering writing this post in Word so I can turn spell check on and further reduce the risk of publishing a post ridden with typos (how I hate typos). But… I don’t want to open Word. Can’t think. Can’t spell. Can’t drag myself to the shower (which in turn means I can’t go to bed).

Funny how I can make myself sit here and resize photos and blog.

We did a cocktail making session this evening. Learning to make (shake?) cocktails has been on my want-to-learn list for a while, so I was very glad when this opportunity came along!

Our lovely bartender showed us how to turn ice, juice, alcohol into colourful drinkable liquids – so we measured, flipped, shook, poured, pried glasses away from the shaker things… and ta-da… we all made a Margarita, and a Cosmopolitan, and a Pina Colada!

Lots of laughs, good cocktails and questionable cocktails. Enjoyed.

Part two of tonight’s blogging spree will be posted shortly.

Coco’s Cantina – finally

Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present, and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.
~ Audrey Hepburn

There are some cities which, I find, people seem to feel one of two or three main ways about – like Paris (“most romantic place in the world” or “city of delicious food” or “full of arrogant people and dirty streets”).

Auckland… doesn’t seem to be like that. Though it seems to be a place people either love or hate (as opposed to feel nonchalant about), ask people to elaborate on their thoughts about Auckland and chances are you’ll get 20 different responses from 20 people.

I’d hesitate to write a guide book about this city. Mostly because I’m in two minds about Auckland myself.

She’s a hard city to love or hate as a whole. She’s got all these horrid bits, like the bus system (what system?) and shops that close too early and questionable buildings and certain smelly streets – but then she’s got a certain depth and unusual charm, too, that she keeps well hidden until you ask her out for coffee. Or a dance. Or a walk on the beach.

Repeatedly.

I’m beginning to see, though, that she values persistence. Persistence will lead you to her jewels.

Like Coco’s Cantina.

If you’re in the mood for a fast, mean burger, or fawning waiters and gourmet dots and stripes of sauce on big plates, skip Coco’s. You’ll get neither cheap instant gratification nor royal treatment.

But if you’re ready for fun, confidence, honesty, smoky seduction and hearty food… this is your place.

I heard or read about Coco’s some months ago; I can’t even remember why or when I jotted the place down in my mental notebook under “to try”. I’d been wanting to visit for some time, but just hadn’t… until recently, when M asked where we should go for dinner. Then the place sprang to mind, and two minutes later we were in a car racing towards quirky K Road.


Photo above © Cuisine

We eventually got a park for the car (seriously – no mean feat in the area at dinner time) and wandered down to Coco’s. I remembered reading that this place can get madly busy, so I was pleasantly surprised that we actually got to pick a table! (We went in on the right side of 5pm – it did get busy later). I took in the cheery gingham tablecloths, rustic decor and trendy mural on the wall. The spirit of the place felt tangible… radiant, casual and unmistakeably hip. The waiters reminded me of some waiters I once encountered in Spain (fun, sharp, no nonsense – made me smile!).

The summery “tea me up” peach tea and refreshing mojito-like liquid in a glass were welcome fare for two slightly sunburned people.

The menu was just right – extensive enough to cater to different tastes and make you deliberate for more than a minute, but not long enough to frustrate. All the options sounded delicious, but we weren’t in the mood for something too heavy, so we decided to share two pasta dishes.

M picked the gnocchi – I’m really not a blue cheese fan, but I quite happily ate my half of this. How they managed to make the gnocchi keep its shape but melt rapidly in the mouth, I don’t know. But the mini pillows mingled seamlessly with the comfortably rich gorgonzola sauce, peppery rocket leaves and fresh walnuts…

I regretted not writing down what this ravioli contained, because I could not place it as I ate! But there were pine nuts and raisins, and it was simple, elegant and oh-so-enjoyable to eat. I sneakily ate just a little more than my allocated half of this… M liked this dish better than the gnocchi too (though we agreed that both were very tasty).

We also ordered a side dish of brown lentils and greens, which were tossed with diced onions, fresh mint and other goodness – faultless and refreshing.

When the adorable dessert menu arrived, we were regrettably full and M had to go to the airport – but it looks like a second visit to Coco’s is in order!

P.S. Oh, and if you have time to drop by The Ponsonby Belgian Beer Cafe en route to Coco’s, or afterwards, do. It’s got the wonderful attributes of a stately exterior, a lovely open courtyard (complete with an actual fireplace for cold nights), and a good selection of quality beer and wine.

M and I got a cold beer each and discussed trivial/not-so-trivial matters in the sun… a sweet evening!

Coco’s Cantina – 376 Karangahape Road, Newton, Auckland – Phone: 09 300 7582

The Ponsonby Belgian Beer Cafe – 1-3 St Marys Road, Ponsonby, Auckland – Phone: 09 376 6092

Good One

The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Love it when a place lives up to its name – for better-than-good (dare I say – perfect?) coffee, go to Good One. Thanks Simon for the great recommendation!

Good One – 42 Douglas Street, Ponsonby, Auckland – Phone: 09 360 5040

Coffee

Actually, this seems to be the basic need of the human heart in nearly every great crisis – a good hot cup of coffee.
~ Alexander King

Wellington coffee, what am I going to do without you?

Went to the revamped Parade Cafe today with my flatmate John, where we had very delicious coffee and wedges while staring out at rain and seagulls. A good afternoon!

Parade Cafe – Freyberg Lagoon, Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay, Wellington – Phone: 04 939 8517

Mmmmemphis!

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.
~ T. S. Eliot

Take a few minutes to watch this – Alice dancing under the gallows – really inspirational! And happy birthday, brave and beautiful Alice.

Yum yum Memphis Belle.

Pictured: chemex to share (with Haidee)! Perfect as it is, no milk or sugar needed. Fair trade beans from Guatemala in this instance.

With Ian and Mandy visiting this weekend, we ate a lot of delicious food – ranging from veal and sweet tripe & trotters and smooth Côtes du Rhône shiraz at Le Metropolitain to super eggs at Floriditas… mmm, tasty Wellington!

Memphis Belle – 38 Dixon Street, Wellington – Phone: 021 244 8852

A good risotto to conclude Risotto Season

Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.
~ Mark Twain

There’re a few dishes that are lovely to cook and to eat, but not in excess – and I am fast learning that risotto is one of them. For instance, I fashion meals with eggs all the time and never tire of them, but risotto… risotto is different. It’s beautiful, elegant and comforting, but it’s absolutely smothering if you have it too often (made the third one this month tonight – oops).

I think both Matt and I were heaving wearily with the weight of risotto after a few spoonfuls of it this evening!

The recipe came from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#62 Champagne Risotto – Page 297

Tessa Kiros describes it perfectly with the phrase “startling honesty”… that is exactly what it is. The champagne is invisible, seemingly lost in a galaxy of rice, butter, parmesan and shallots – but its aroma penetrates your mind and its flavour arrests your tongue the moment it enters your mouth. It’s a blade of truth, transparent and pure. I do like this dish, and think it is best served in smaller portions as a prelude to seafood or vegetables.

As the risotto bubbled to cooked perfection, I stirred in a whisked egg yolk as suggested in the notes; I think I liked this and will do it again in other risotto dishes in the future.

You’re looking for photographic evidence now, I know. Well, I am sorry I am unable to post any of the pictures I took. I ran them past three people just to be sure I was not the only one who thought them distasteful, and all of them think you will be better off not seeing them… :-/

Tonight, we also had:

Matt’s Juice (version #50-something-at-least? of juices like this)… tonight’s version included baby carrots and beetroot leaves. :-/ Pretty potent.

Monkfish baked with lemon zest and juice, garlic, olive oil, rosemary, salt, pepper… (wrap the fish up in foil parcels and bake at 180°C for around 20 minutes. Simple).

And now we are drinking stovetop hot chocolate… always a welcome finish to the evening!

Goodnight!

PS. Cute is this post on The God of Cake.

Not just coffee

I think if I were a woman I’d wear coffee as a perfume.
~ John Van Druten

A group of us went on a round-the-world tour on Wednesday night. Led by Bink and our noses, we journeyed through Papua New Guinea, Cuba, Ethiopia… it was wonderful. I’m talking about coffee cupping at Memphis Belle – if you’re in Wellington, don’t miss out on this very cool experience!

It was a pleasure to delve deeper into the world of coffee. We had 8 glasses of ground coffee placed before us, and I wondered what we were going to do. Coffee cupping was a new, foreign experience for me.

I could write more about how we circled the table, sniffing, tasting, commenting and marveling – but really, what captured me was less to do with what we were sniffing or seeing. I felt a fleeting sense of sadness at the thought of people in business suits who cheapen coffee by equating it with a cup of bitter blackness, the sole purpose of which is to wake us up to help us concentrate on our spreadsheets.

Because really, coffee is so much more than just brown beans/liquid stimulant. Coffee is a world phenomenon. As I tasted the coffee, registering the different notes – earthy, nutty, smoky, sweet – many thoughts came to mind.

We tasted coffee from different regions, farmed by different hands… and amazingly, when I really put my nose to the beans, I smelled alot more than just the generic pungent, robust smell of coffee. I swear I could smell peanut butter, peach sorbet, heck – one of the coffee glasses even smelt like roast chicken. I know, it’s bizarre!

What’s more, it smelled of energy. Farmers’ toil and pride. Fruits of the earth. Sunshine. Conversation. Beauty of the senses. It was so rich, so poignant.

We also had a discussion about fair trade coffee after that. They buy only fair trade green beans. What impressed me was the fact that I could see they weren’t doing this just to feel good about themselves, or to secure bragging rights about being Kind People. From what they said, it was obvious that they had invested much thought into the coffee industry, their values, ethics, passion, and how they could best help.

I think Nick, Bink and the rest of the Memphis Belle team are more than just coffee guys, or guys out to make a living. I was really impressed by their utter unmistakeable passion… passion about coffee, the different ways to brew and enjoy it (you should see their range of equipment, I’d never seen any of those gadgets before)! Passion about fair trade, more than just the ‘feel good’ factor of buying and selling ‘fair trade’ – but genuinely looking into the state of the world – the coffee market – the things that are wrong with it – and the way they can help put it right.

I think that’s really powerful.

Along the way, they shared their passion with us. I caught it. I think others in the room caught it too.

Good coffee = great. Following one’s passion = great. Not just complaining about the state of the world but doing something about it = great. Fair trade = great.

Memphis Belle – 38 Dixon Street, Wellington – Phone: 021 244 8852

Flight Coffee

You can also buy packaged fair trade coffee from Trade Aid