Tag Archives: auckland

Pine Harbour Fresh Market

The Eskimo has fifty-names for snow because it is important to them; there ought to be as many for love.
~ Margaret Atwood

When you love travel and can’t do it all the time, you find ways to ‘cheat-travel’. Language books, foreign films, exotic foods – there are lots of ways these days to make the world your oyster, wherever you are.

I do it whenever I can. Did some mini cheat-travelling via Pine Harbour Fresh Market today… such a treat :-)

Below is my rough guide to/notes from the (délicieux!) market:

  • Leave ugly city behind for fresh air, delicious stands and smiling faces…

  • Join the flurry of people eagerly pouncing on the croissants, brioches, pastries, breads and other delights. Note: if you want some, be quick.

  • Really. Don’t be shy. Minutes after I photographed these fragrant loaves, they were gone… to happy hands (and I suspect, by now, happy bellies). I was not one of them… boo.

  • While we’re on the subject of bread, I’ll tell you what goes superbly well with bread (especially the crusty kind) – this chicken and duck liver parfait. Handmade by two French men and a dream on crusty bread. $5 per tub.

  • As your eyes and nose take in the sights and smells, your ears and feet will be dancing to music by Edith Piaf et al – interspersed, wonderfully, with tunes from this man! (though he may not be there on non-Bastille-Day Saturdays)

  • If you like something very sweet (I do once in a while), pick up a box of lovely baklava – otherwise known in my books as a flaky, nutty, honeyed song for smiles.

  • If baklava isn’t quite your thing, perhaps some dips will satisfy? Tried three and liked them all – finally settled on a light and creamy tub of cow’s feta + garlic + mint… already thinking of ways to use it up. Yum!

  • Got around to the task of buying breakfast after gawking at various stalls. With tempting menus for both galettes and crêpes, we had some difficulty choosing a flavour but finally settled on lemon and sugar. Lovely to listen to the crêpe chefs speaking in French whilst waiting for our crêpes!

  • If I were to become vegetarian, it would be on the condition that my vege supply came solely from farmers’ markets. Most farmers’ market vegetables I’ve ever laid eyes on are so vibrant and beautiful – and it is such a delight to chat with the farmers and/or sellers whilst shopping for them. We picked up some salad leaves with edible flowers and the very nice man gave us a Jerusalem artichoke to try too (since I said I’d never tried one). Really tempted by the carrots, but we already had one very full bag of goodies by then!

  • After an oh-so-tough morning of shopping and waiting in line for breakfast, you may want to eat while looking at this (we did)…

  • Perhaps pick up some flowers on your way home?

P.S. If you observe Bastille DayBon le quatorze juillet, I hope you had a good one!

Pine Harbour Fresh Market – Jack Lachlan Drive, Pine Harbour, Auckland – open Saturday mornings, 8.00am – 12.00pm

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A few good places

If only I may grow: firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer.
~ Dag Hammarskjold

Wishing desperately (fruitlessly) for central heating and/or home insulation to become a priority and norm in New Zealand. I’m in Auckland, warm by comparison to other regions – but for some reason I don’t remember ever feeling this weak or encountering such disgusting germs when I lived in other colder cities. Yes, my brain knows it’s not THAT cold… my body has certainly been saying otherwise.

I have been thawing out in four main ways: overly hot showers, brisk walks, a scalding hot water bottle on my lap, and, on occasion, in cafes. I don’t suppose you’ll want to hear about the first three things, so here’s a post on a few places I visited in recent times:

Ironique

Mount Eden is one area which redeems Auckland for me – primarily because of one funky bookshop and Circus Circus (home to a fun atmosphere and my favourite waiter :-P).

I serendipitously discovered Ironique a few months ago – when a friend and I had no luck trying to get a table at two cafes nearby, and had to find somewhere else to go. At Ironique, we found a relaxed, homely place to hang out; friendly staff; lovely food served with a smile and plenty of care. Recently I visited again with my friend Cam, and we were pleasantly surprised with our personalised (and very delicious) hot chocolates! Little things make ALL the difference :-)

Ironique – 448 Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden, Auckland – Phone: 09 623 3450

Zarbo

This place is always busy, and for good reason – a well-stocked gourmet deli with treats for self or friends, fresh cabinet salads and sweets, and a menu with plenty of options. Recently I found one more thing to like about them: the fireplace!

Zarbo – 24 Morrow Street, Newmarket, Auckland – Phone: 09 520 2721

Savour & Devour

I don’t venture to Grey Lynn much, since it’s quite out of the way for me – but when I next go, I’ll be making a second trip to Savour & Devour to do exactly that to their tasty-looking food. When Tracey and I visited, I restricted myself to just having coffee as I was going to lunch shortly afterwards. Loved the heaters and relaxing atmosphere… a place where you can hang out with your friends and little children (I don’t have the latter, but if I did, I would bring them here).

Savour & Devour – 478 Richmond Road, Grey Lynn, Auckland – Phone: 361 2631

Imperial Lane

I had heard so much about Imperial Lane that I almost didn’t want to go… in the way that I don’t like going to places just because everyone goes there. But I’m glad a few people dragged me there in the end, ‘cos it really is a pretty cool space. Downstairs I feel like I’m in a hidden fancy underground garage, and upstairs I feel like I’m in a lively pop-up dining restaurant somewhere rather foreign – except they’re all speaking in English. Yes, those descriptions make little sense… but you know you’re somewhere special when you can’t quite explain the way being there makes you feel good and somehow transports you to somewhere else. Also, their decaf coffee is excellent.

P.S. The picture above is awful and doesn’t do them justice… you’ll just have to go there now to see the place for yourself.

Imperial Lane – 7 Fort Land or 44 Queen Street, Auckland – Phone: 09 929 2703

Little & Friday

This place is a pocket of sunshine! Everything from its mint-infused water in jars, jolly animal-shaped table markers, excellent coffee and wonderful display of treats… spells whimsical fun and delicious comfort. Since attending a talk by the super woman who started it all, Kim Evans, I have also increased in respect for her and the passion and toil she has poured into her work, which now brings so many Aucklanders joy! Kim has also written a great cookbook so people can attempt to recreate some of the Little & Friday magic right in their own homes. Fantastic :-)

Little & Friday – 12 Melrose Street, Newmarket, Auckland – Phone: 09 524 8742

Teed St Larder

I’ve never seen this place empty whenever I’ve passed by. My first trip there, though, did not satisfy – I remember dry bread and a waiter who came so many times to ask if we were okay that I began to wave my hands and shake my head whenever he started to hurry over (again).

I’m glad to say that this impression has now been swiftly replaced by a better one. So good was the food on one recent visit that my friends Carmi, Jacqui, Fi, and I all exclaimed in one way or another… my order of “grilled squid, chorizo, avocado, agria, gremolata” left me satisfied and tempted to lick my plate at the end.

Funny thing about the waiters though – on this trip, our waiter was sooo elusive we were all clamouring for his attention in a manner that reminded me, just lightly, about the time in high school when I made the huge mistake of accompanying a friend to see a boy band… and witnessed in horror the sort of boy-band-crazy-teenage-girl behaviour I am not a natural at.

Teed St Larder – 7 Teed Street, Newmarket, Auckland – Phone: 09 524 8406

P.S. Don’t forget…

Photos from Marcel’s Great Pancake Race

No story is the same to us after a lapse of time; or rather we who read it are no longer the same interpreters.
~ George Eliot

The luckiest people in the world grow up with a plentiful shower of stories, traditions, legends and tales in their childhood. I certainly did. I read about them in books, learned about them at school, and of course my family celebrated some of them – e.g. Christmas, Dumpling Festival [or Duan Wu Jie], Mooncake [or Mid-Autumn] Festival, just to name a few.

In the last few years, I’ve lost my fascination with and anticipation of some of them. Or, at least, I have never stopped loving the stories and the memories, but I haven’t felt as eager to celebrate them. It’s not New Zealand’s fault; perhaps it is just that to revisit some of those things make me unbearably homesick for what I can never retrieve now and do not hope to. The present has too much goodness in it to stay rooted in the past.

For now, it is good enough to keep listening to people’s stories and exploring different places and cultures whenever I can.

So, recently my friend Gudrun and I joined Marcel’s Great Pancake Race before we went to work. Marcel and team did a great job organising and facilitating this, and from various facial expressions around me I gather that everyone enjoyed themselves – and I imagine that more than one of us discovered the joys of Marcel’s pancakes!

People raced down neat green lanes with mini skillets and pancakes in hand, flipping as they went (a little harder than it may seem)… and then we were all treated to fresh pancakes with a delicious choice of toppings. Hardly a bad reason to stumble out of bed at 6.30am, if you ask me :-)

Are you reading this and wondering what the deal is with pancakes and running? To be honest, my brain didn’t make the connection between Lent and Pancake Day and pancakes until a few days later (I know…).

The tradition has a rather funny (to me) story behind it – the story goes that in 1445, a woman lost track of time cooking pancakes, found herself terribly late for Shriving service, then ran (à la Maria in The Sound of Music, in my mind) – down to church still decked in her apron, clutching skillet and pancake. Her neighbours then (as neighbours do) turned this incident into a race to see who could reach the church first and collect a “Kiss of Peace” from the verger (bell-ringer.) And the rest, as they say, is history… coming to form what we today know as Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day/Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday.

These links paint a better picture about Marcel’s race and the story behind the tradition better than I can: click here, here, here, here and here.

Thank you Marcel and team, for bringing colour to Auckland and for a beautiful morning.

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

Midnight daze – part two

I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.
~ Harlan Miller

In a few hours’ time, I will probably wish I had just yanked my bottom off the chair, pushed myself into the shower and then into bed before 3am so that I could be at work with a fully awake mind and nice big eyes. However, for now, I am still feeling way too full to contemplate lying down.

Anyway. This is a food-focused (mostly) blog, so you probably don’t want to hear me whinging on about being way too full and all that.

(Although the truth is… that humans who like food and blog about food get way too full sometimes too, just like normal humans. True story.)

Anyway, we strolled down to Wynyard Quarter today and my camera asked to be let out of my handbag.

He asked nicely, so I agreed.

So here are a few pictures hurriedly snapped as we were en route to dinner tonight, and on my post-dinner walk with G. I have this habit of walking when I’m taking photos (especially since I start lagging behind everyone else otherwise, and I am not gifted at direction so then I get lost which is not so cool), so forgive me for the ones that aren’t centered… or whatever the right word for imperfect photos is.

I thought tonight about how lucky we are to live in New Zealand.

And how lucky I am to have been born the person I am, in the country that I was, and to live and travel in the places that I have. And etc etc. It’s so easy to complain, and I’m so guilty of doing this… but it’s so good to have a moment to put things in perspective – and I realise I love a lot about my life and would not change anything in my past. Seriously. Like G said tonight, it’s like we won the lottery with the lives we’ve been given…

We ate at Marvel Grill. Everyone enjoyed their food very much, from what I could see! This is what makes me smile: waiters carrying food out like they are proud to bear those plates, waiters who tell you what sauce goes with what, what they like to eat. Chefs who grill beef with a winning grin. Everyone exclaiming as the food gets put on the table. Momentary silence because all are fully intent on digging in. Conversation which then flows like a river… because that’s what eating lovely food together does – it opens doors, paves the way for talking… really talking (not to be confused with small talk). I REALLY love that. I think that is part of the reason that I love to host dinner parties… part of it is the fun parts of cooking and feeding people, the main thing though is watching how it opens those doors and makes connections, touches something that you can’t see but which resides in hearts. It’s beautiful.

Anyway, I’m bordering on rambling. You were warned, though, right? You are reading the words of a girl who is sleepy and full. With dinner tonight, I broke all the rules, ordering John Dory with a merlot sauce (as opposed to lemon and tarragon butter?) and drinking red wine with my fish. But whatever… the fish was fresh and superb, and as good as it gets if you make the rather weird choice of adding a red wine sauce to it. G’s lamb rump came in a cast iron skillet with sweet, sweet roasted garlic and a rich jus that we dipped our fries into and lapped up like happy cats. Loved the sides of good fries (not to be taken for granted), wilted spinach with red onion and bacon bits, and flat mushrooms with (kikorangi?) blue cheese… and I was content with just visually feasting on the other food on the table.

The night… was gorgeous. I felt like I was on holiday.

And that is all. I am going to go NOW and clean myself and sandwich myself between sheets and attempt to wake up with a working brain. Goodnight, and happy happy Friday!

Marvel Grill – 34-47 Jellicoe Street, North Wharf, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland – Phone: 09 377 8828

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.