Category Archives: Summer

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

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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

Chef Ray

Dancing faces you towards Heaven, whichever direction you turn.
~ Terri Guillemets

For two years, my friend Mandy flatted with this guy named Rayvin, who was apparently great in the kitchen (amongst possessing other qualities, of course).

I met him a few times on my previous trips to Auckland and duly said hello each time, but finally – finally – I understand what Mandy has been going on about. I have to admit I am rather disappointed that he is soon to leave the country and will not be here to cook with (or for :-P) us…

This boy isn’t great; he’s gifted! Mandy, Justin, Rayvin and I sat down to a marvellous dinner on Sunday night. Thank you, Ray!

Special dish of the night: salted egg yolk prawns. I know this may sound a little odd to some of you who haven’t grown up in Asia, but I promise you you will love it. It’s sweet, salty, crumbly, crispy, hot and fragrant… lovely and yummy in every way. You’ll be licking your fingers and your lips; actually, you’ll probably be gushing like I was, whether gushing is part of your natural conduct or not.

Want to try it out at home? Ray used this recipe as a guide (we skipped the dried prawns and made a few other changes). You can get curry leaves, chillies and salted eggs at a very good price at Asian supermarkets.

Kang Kong, gently stir-fried. God knows what Ray did to this – it didn’t look complex to make, but he cooked it perfectly – light, wonderful, retaining a slight crunch in the stems while being soft in the leaves.

This beef rendang was made with some help from Prima Taste. Ray used a sachet of the magic paste in this; it was lovely with the dessicated coconut and just the right amount of spicy!

Justin brought a bottle of moscato, and we cooked two cups of chicken rice to go with everything… it was pretty perfect! Conversation was brilliant too – a great accompaniment to good food.

In other news, I’ve really been eating out waaay too much in the two short weeks I’ve been up here. I’ve even found a few places which do good long blacks ;-) (or at least, they made good cups for me when I visited!) Mezze Bar, Circus Circus in Mt Eden, and Strawberry Alarm Clock and Citron Vert in Parnell.

I’ve also visited Auckland Fish Market and Tai Ping, both of which I hope to visit again once I settle in here… presently, the days are flying by quickly and I am lost in the world of work, a new city, a sea of unfamiliar faces, flat hunting, picking up dancing again, etc…

Enjoyed driving up to Mt Eden with Mandy yesterday to see the sunset – the sky was streaky like blue and orange bacon, sizzling in pink fire. Twas marvellous to feel the wind on my face and take in the gradual sinking of the sun and slow beginning of winking city lights.

Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake and other stories

And I believe that when I part with a man I must do it in such a way that when he sees me again he will be glad – and so will I.
~ Elbert Hubbard

It is now nearly 2.00am, and I have just put down the phone. I was chatting with one of my closest friends Jane, who’s just moved to China… I wish to goodness that we could chat face to face right now. The silly calling card caused inconvenient lapses on the phone… and of course, nothing really beats face to face conversations. She’s a friend with whom I can have six-hour dinners without running out of meaningful things to talk about… one of those people with whom mutual understanding flows easily and smoothly, like fresh milk. I miss you Jane.

I now have four days left in this city, and as a result, with my kitchen. The day before, I felt inspired and descended upon my kitchen to make a Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Glazed Oranges and Creme Fraiche from Molly Wizenberg’s “A Homemade Life” (Page 88), and a salad (inspired by the mandarin and watercress salad at Estadio)…

The cake wasn’t as simple to make in the end, but I am glad I made it anyway. It gave me a chance to work with two foreign ingredients: vanilla pods and buttermilk, and a chance to master the Beating of Impossibly Sticky Mixes. I highly recommend the use of some kind of electric beaters or mixers for this cake.

I was struggling with a whisk, then a manual eggbeater; by the time my cake mix looked like THIS (picture below) the only thing that kept me from tossing the damn thing out was the smell of the mix (heavenly).

The mix CLUNG to my manual eggbeater like a stubborn sticky octopus, and I ended up prying the mix off in mini clumps and beating it all with a spoon… which is… not so fun.

I was glad no one was in the kitchen with me.

I am also glad that the people who ate this cake with me probably won’t read this blog post.

Still, at least it came together in the end.

This recipe makes a gentle cake, sweet and soft like a baby’s kiss – and shines when partaken of with a good spoonful of tart creme fraiche, a drizzle of orange syrup and a few warm wedges of sticky sweet glazed oranges. Mmmmm… summery comfort.

The salad was fun to assemble: peeled mandarin wedges, baby beets (briefly boiled), fresh radish rings, crisp watercress, brazil nuts (roughly chopped), bits of dark orange-flavoured chocolate, garlic and chilli prawns. Colourful and citrusy.

Thank you Estadio for inspiring this.

And before I forget, Lams prepared the most YUMMY breakfast for us this morning: muesli with mango, kiwifruit, banana, lemon yoghurt, dessicated coconut and chopped fresh mint. Divine!! It turns muesli into a very glamorous dish indeed.

(She really should start a restaurant or some kind of eating establishment).

Scattered

If your house is really a mess and a stranger comes to the door greet him with, “Who could have done this? We have no enemies…”
~ Phyllis Diller

My room is a mess, I’m sleeping on the floor and living out of one box and two luggages. The last week has been a little crazy – and it appears that the week ahead will be as well. This weekend, I could potentially have five boys staying in my house (flatmates and guests) – by next Monday I will probably become a boy too! With luck, some of the Practical Logic of Male Brains will invade my currently scattered frame of mind!

I can barely believe that I will soon be living and working in Auckland (one hour away by plane, which sounds like a mini change but doesn’t feel like one right now).

In between crazy times, life has been good. Beach time, coffee, spontaneous adventures and all…

I’ve been spoiling myself with the fun and fragrance of the gardens – the other day I went for a walk and sunbath with my dear friend Sally… (thereafter, she gave me my first real cycling lesson. Yes, I am in my twenties and have not ridden on a bike since I was 6, with training wheels! It was scary, but fun.)

Here is Sally! If you are over the age of 20 and want to learn how to ride a bike with minimal accidents and shame, she is the girl to call.

I have just discovered that Mojo here serves cortados (the coffee I grew to really enjoy in Spain) :-) – woo! Jono, John and I sat in the sun with our cups of coffee yesterday – cups sizes suitable for Goldilocks and the three bears, don’t you think?

Wellington, you are so beautiful in the Summer! I’ll miss you.

Lams and I went to Midnight Espresso the other day… I shall really miss being able to pop in often.

We enjoyed a very good breakfast – coffee and muesli for Lams, and a vege croissant and Dr Nix juice for me!

I love Midnight Espresso for its funkiness, their way of making food fun and tasty, and its wonderful menu which caters for different diets and levels of hunger.

Random concoctions have been reigning supreme in my kitchen – dubious, perhaps, but I like to have my fun and eat it too.

This is a salad composed of potato rings, zucchini, brazil nuts, mesclun, dried basil and mint, two poached eggs and a sprinkle of pepper. A very filling salad.

My current comfort meal is a hot cup of English Breakfast and peanut butter and chocolate chips on toast. I am eating this WAY too much. I eat it when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m bored, when I’m gmail-chatting, when I’m dancing in my lounge.

Do I feel guilty about the fact that I am eating so much bread, peanut butter and chocolate? No.

Thanks for reading my messy post. I hope you have a wonderful day!

Mojo Coffee – Old Bank Arcade, Cnr Lambton Quay & Willis Street, Wellington – Phone: 04 473 2327 (multiple branches throughout Wellington)

Midnight Espresso – 178 Cuba Street, Wellington – Phone: 04 384 7014