Category Archives: Summer

A new January

We can’t control the sea but we can learn to ride the waves.
~ Said a few wise people

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Happy new year, everyone (or no one?) :-) I have no idea who still reads or subscribes to this blog, but I was told recently that treehousekitchen showed up as a hit in a Google search for Tessa Kiros’s ceviche (first page!). Somehow, that piece of news winked at me ;-) Thanks, Kath, what a fun email to receive.

I spent a bit of time clicking around on the internet yesterday. Peeking at blogs I used to enjoy reading. Some still brought a sense of delight; others were dull with marketing; many seemed to have hit Pause or Stop sometime around 2013.

The internet, along with the rest of the world, is going through such revolutionary times. I mean, life has never ever stood still, but is it just me, or is change just happening faster and faster, more and more (in real life, and 1000x more ridiculously on the internet)? Looking through some older blogs and noticing the amount of change we have been through in a short length of time – just with the average style and quality of photographs on websites over the last seven years for instance – is amazing. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when you might have been the only one in a circle of friends who kept a ‘blog’ and ‘blogged’ on Saturday nights while everyone else was out getting pizza … now heaps of people have operated some kind of blog before and have, in fact, moved on to more significant endeavours.

Sitting down intentionally now to write (or even blog) feels slow and unnecessary; like attempting to knit myself a scarf when I could just buy one from a store. Or like doing something ‘unimportant’ when I could be reading emails or 200 social media updates instead.

I keep glancing up at the time, seeing the minutes tick by as I pause between thoughts and words. I hear a whisper of panic in my heart as I wonder if I always took so long to compose posts in the past, or whether this is taking longer because I am out of practice? And as the fear grows, other questions sprout. Can I do this? Should I do this? Is it going to at least change the world or something, for it to be worthwhile?

And as I write this, I smile with the sincere silliness of these questions.

Can’t we just cook*, blog, publish just for the simple desire of doing so? I ask myself.

And I shall leave it here today.

* Or, in this case, assemble – bagel halves, a full spread of cream cheese, slices of avocado and a fine vine-ripened tomato, smoked salmon, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper – served alongside a generous pinch of micro-greens. 

Remarkable meals

These are hot sticky days we have here, days which remind me of the tropics – days for popsicles and peaches, ice-cold, s’il vous plaît.

I am sitting here typing, slightly dazed from the heat. The windows are shut to maintain the glad boundaries between bugs and men. There is no fan, and lazily ironically I am too hot to walk out to another room to drag the big standing fan into my room.

Earlier I wondered about blogging here tonight, thinking – to my surprise – of how few meals I have found remarkable of late. It sounds really rather ungrateful to say this, but I don’t mean it that way. I suppose … there has just been something missing. The crucial ingredient that makes food feed more than the body … but the person inside its skin.

Three meals come to mind –

A serving of coconut and soya poached chicken at lunch, cooked so exquisitely it made me exclaim and beg the chef for the recipe. A kindly, knowledgeable, even-tempered, quiet man – he wrote it down for me. (Chicken bone-in thighs: rub with a mix of paprika, dried herbs, garlic powder. Allow to rest for 2 hours. Bake for half an hour at 165°C. Bring onion, garlic, coconut cream, soy sauce and water to the boil – drizzle over chicken and bake for 20 minutes at 150°C). Tender, flavourful, inspiring. It’s on my list to try cooking at home soon.

More recently: roast lamb with rosemary and garlic, perfectly roasted potatoes, thick soft bread, big slabs of butter, salad with mango dressing. 10pm, cooked in a foreign oven while on holiday, after attending a wedding and going for a dip in the sea and walk into the sunset. Unbeatable.

Most recently: a picnic. Spiced chicken sandwiches, juicy stone fruit, some juice, etc … we ate on the grass by the sea before the ice cream man drove past with his musical truck. It reminded me of the children’s books I loved so much (you know, the ones with ample descriptions of the children’s lunches, suppers and adventures … sans iPad?) So easy. Pack your favourite things in a big bag, take it along to a spot you love (preferably with someone you love) – and enjoy. :-)

Just typing this I realise that I have more remarkable moments than I realise. How good it is to write and to realise how lucky we are.

Mmm …

It’s late and everything in me is saying it’s time to sleep. I hope that YOU have a remarkable meal today. x

P.S. A few memories from a recent weekend in Christchurch:

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Kith Bistro, Park Mall

Design is thinking made visual.
~ Saul Bass

Evening falls like a blue silk dress, smoothly and elegantly. A sweet breeze from ceiling fans above courses softly through my hair like welcome whispers. Traffic sounds and birdsong merge and mingle into a track for “Sounds of the City”. The tables around me look inviting with the soft, warm glow of candles. I soak in the pleasure of being outdoors on a summer evening, breathing in fresh air. Ahhh…

It occurs to me, briefly, that I am in a busy city with over five million people packed into a piece of land equal to the size of Lake Taupo – but the thought dissolves as I relax into my chair and a smiling waiter hurries over with menus for us.

I am at the outdoor area of the recently opened Kith Bistro. The place is far from sprawling and this is no idyllic resort, but its feel and layout create an effective illusion of spaciousness and play: I feel like I’m in an airy outdoor living space with room enough to breathe and relax. The furniture* here is simple but tasteful, and I spot a colourful corner for kids to play in. It’s a place to visit with friends, or alone with a notebook and good ideas. When I look up, I see a bouquet of leaves and branches – like a pretty silhouette against the evening sky (see above).

It is far too late for lunch and too early for dinner, so we get food perfect for the occasion of ‘in-between meals’ (the menu appears to cater well for all times of day!). Between us, we share a few tasty morsels, coffee and a very refreshing fresh juice. Everything arrives beautifully presented, and polishing off our plates is a pleasure. When we pop inside to pay after our meal, I visually feast on the yummy-looking array of cabinet food and the charming chalkboard menu… I already look forward to trying out their brunch menu sometime!

* Some of the great furniture here can be found at Xtra, conveniently located next door to the cafe. Well worth a browse is all I can say, even if furniture isn’t usually your thing. Xtra is a celebration of art and excellence, a perfect place to get inspiration (and great pieces for your home, if your budget allows for it)!

Kith Bistro (Park Mall) – 9 Penang Road, #01-01E Park Mall, Singapore – Phone: +65 6338 861

Haphazard poetry, and Pizzeria Mozza

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.
~ Jack Brooks

Waiting for taxis; trains; lights to go green
as sweat forms patterns on your back
and oozes out of you
like rain
escaping from secret clouds

Taking in the sight of people permanently attached to
everyone (so it appears) via phone, laptop, iPad
Always
There is no separation from technology

From noise

And yet – for such a connected city
I have to ask – what is connection here?
There are people who do not connect, REALLY join in mind and heart,
with another human…
For days. Years. Ever?

A link on your wall is not a conversation

Merging into seas of humans in shopping malls is not filling your love tank

As you meander through people jams
as you take in the charm and madness of this place
as you eat – something amazing
as you walk – in permanent summer
as you glance – eyes stunned – by the tall buildings and shiny cars
as you dance – in wonder
as you spend – this country is not a place for the stingy

It is hot, so hot.

There is time, just a little, to think (briefly) –
to sleep (maybe).

The sky is blue and bright – but life is not a holiday
Time waits for no one

Waxing poetic at 1.00am, just ‘cos I can. I can’t believe I’ve already been here in Singapore for a whole week… it’s gone by so quickly!

I’ve had some great meals which I have blog posts written in my head about – but no time as yet to sit down and write them. Today was a day of amazing food (not a difficult thing to achieve in Singapore, I know full well)… and I want to write about it all, but that would make for a terribly long post so I’ll stick to lunch for now: a trip to Pizzeria Mozza with my aunt and cousin. :-)

Initial thoughts upon entering: I want to smile. The place is cosy and elegant. Wine bottles line the walls, cherry tomatoes and other colourful fruits beam at you from the bar and the ovens make you feel right at home. Smiling staff are at once discreet and ready to assist you immediately.

First to arrive at our table: fried squash blossoms with ricotta – the taste and fragrance of spring encased in light batter which, upon meeting my knife and fork, revealed a warm oozing centre of ricotta… a great start which certainly made us eager to sample the other dishes we ordered.

Calamari al forno with fagioli & oregano – not a combination I would’ve dreamed up on my own, but one I will bear in mind now if I were to try cooking calamari at home. Beautiful flavours…

(From my placemat: indeed a sad thing to read)

Listed as “funghi misti, fontina, taleggio & thyme” in the pizza section of the menu, this was simply the best pizza I’ve had in a LONG while. Everything from the way the mushrooms and cheese mingled on my tongue and the delightful traces of garlic which surprised me as I inched closer to the tasty crust… was yum yum yum – perfect!

I love it that they employ a “piatto del giorno” system for their main dishes. Today’s (Friday) was the pork ribs, cooked with fennel, honey and cider vinegar. Very filling, with lots of strong flavours which I imagine I would have enjoyed more in New Zealand right now (winter blues call for richer meals) – but still, a nice dish. I’d definitely be inclined to stick to pizza and starters on a future visit to this place though.

Pizzeria Mozza – 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore – Phone: +65 6688 8522

In lieu of food, I bring you weekend photos

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Hello, strangers, from the Land of Busy. That’s where I’ve been hangin’ out lately. You know, those times when major decisions need to be made, your laundry pile suddenly looks like a mini Everest, and all your friends seem to get married, give birth, visit from overseas, etc all at the same time?! That is happening to me at the moment. Read: wonderful and exciting/hideous and tiring all at once. But I am not complaining. I’m merely trying to apologise [or make excuses] for not popping in with a recipe or something yummy in the last few days…

Though you probably wouldn’t have found my rambles on salmon bagels/juicy plums on the go/instant noodles/various takeaways that exciting anyway, right? ;-)

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some photos from a recent trip to Napier for Art Deco Weekend! I enjoyed myself immensely with a great bunch of friends and friends-of-friends. There was plenty of sun, a mass picnic, a vintage car parade (and a short ride in a vintage car), hot chocolate/live jazz, lots of dancing (or attempting to dance…), a nice assortment of handsome men in uniform, etc… oh and we visited an excellent farmers’ market in Hastings on Sunday where I found gorgeous walnut brittle, biersticks, great vegetables (see pics below) and delightful decaf coffee. I felt like I was gliding along a stage set/time machine preview all weekend. On Saturday night we drove with the windows down, the stars above looking like a shower of white pepper across an inky soup, and the wind so strong I thought of holding down my eyelashes so they didn’t pull away…

Till next time, eat well and keep smiling!

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

Mangawhai escape

No man needs a vacation so much as the person who has just had one.
~ Elbert Hubbard

It was really good to go to Mangawhai last weekend! Soul-healing scenery…

reading on the beach…

eating yummy food…

were all great.

These are delicious places to eat in if you are in the area…

Smashed Pipi Cafe Bar – 40 Moir Street, Mangawhai – Phone: 09 431 4848

Frog & Kiwi – 6 Molesworth Drive, Mangawhai – Phone: 09 431 4439