Tag Archives: croissant

One fine croissant, and other stories

Do you know on this one block you can buy croissants in five different places? There’s one store called Bonjour Croissant. It makes me want to go to Paris and open up a store called Hello Toast.
~ Fran Lebowitz, journalist

So many things affect our experience of food. Who cooks. Who serves. Where we eat it, and with whom. How we eat it. Our mood and hunger levels at the time of our meal. What we eat. How it’s cooked (or not cooked).

Eating is seldom straightforward – even though, on the surface, it is a direct attempt to satisfy hunger. Every eating experience is a delicate dance between tens and possibly hundreds of hidden questions, thoughts, factors and functions all going on at the same time.

Good food, though, is a lot simpler to define: good food nourishes us. On many levels, or all at the same time if you’re exceptionally lucky. I’ll leave “good eating” for another post, shall I, so this doesn’t become a book stuffed into a blog post?

The topic of “good food” has been on my mind a lot this year, mostly in between dreams, plane rides and everything else. Travelling definitely makes me think about good food a lot. From the time you get on the plane, depending on the airline you’re with – you could be very thankful or very revolted looking at that box of stuff that’s meant to tide you over till you land! And, once at your destination, depending on a range of things like budget, availability, who you’re with and whether you’re the kind to dine in style or in hiding when alone – there’s a whole range of possibilities for meals that are different from and better than (you hope) the options at home. If you have dietary needs, then that adds a layer of stuff to consider and all your options under further examination, too.

I flew to sunny Nelson this last weekend – just a bumpy 30-minute plane ride away from Wellington. My belly was surprisingly unresponsive; I subsisted on three meals over two days despite my best attempts to make myself hungry. (Admittedly, one of the meals was had at none other than Burger King since there was nothing else close by and open, and my mind was too engrossed in work to travel much further in search of food).

But something unexpected did happen to me belly-and-food-brain-wise in Nelson; I was surprised by a croissant.

I had just returned to Nelson city from the airport on Saturday afternoon, slightly miffed that flights to Wellington had been disrupted and I was ‘trapped’ for an additional day in Nelson with a lack of clean clothes. This was probably the only moment in Nelson where I was suddenly attacked by hunger pangs… so I googled a place I had walked past the day before to check their opening hours and find their address, and promptly headed to The Swedish Bakery & Cafe – about half an hour before they closed.

As luck would have it, the only likely lunch options left were whole loaves of bread, or a solo croissant sitting in the cabinet. I wasn’t really in the mood for pastry, though this one was very pretty with its brie and chutney stuffing. And alas, this didn’t look nearly capable of killing off Hungry Monster, which was by now causing my belly some distress. Still, the lady there was so nice that before I thought about what I was saying, I bought it and hurried back to the place I was staying at (after casting a longing look at the pretty items on their shelves which I had to leave there since I had no space in my carry-on to bring anything home).

I warmed it slightly in the microwave, took out a pen to keep working and popped a corner of the warm, oozing croissant into my mouth. I thought I’d do the whole eat-and-work thing which I profess to hate but do anyway so as not to disrupt the crucial flow.

Well, I had to hit pause on work because this croissant was too good to be true.

Perhaps I was just overly hungry and everyone knows that food tastes better when you’re hungry… but I’m pretty sure this is one of the yummiest bakery items I’ve eaten in New Zealand. And NZ has a lot of very talented bakers around. But it’s hard to get everything perfect – a croissant, for instance, can be just a little too flaky (so everything falls on you or on the plate); or too soft (meh); or too full of stuffing (so everything falls on you or on the plate); or too salty; or too floury… or something. Not that I can be bothered being so fussy ;-) …… and this croissant was PERFECT. Flaky, without raining flakes on me. Soft, without being limp. Melting cheese. Perfect chutney. Fresh, savoury, flavourful. Yummy! I really enjoyed it. It killed off Hungry Monster, too.

And while it contained neither meat nor veg it really nourished me – sustaining me through an inspirational afternoon at the The World of WearableArt and Classic Cars Museum. :-)

P.S. Not too difficult to see why Lonely Planet put in a good word for them, too!

The Swedish Bakery & Cafe – 54 Bridge Street, Nelson – Phone: 03 546 8685

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Potage parmentier; cocktaile; croissant

It’s true you can’t live here by chance,
you have to do and be, not simply watch
or even describe. This is the city of action,
the world headquarters of the verb –
~ Lauris Edmond, quote inscribed on a plaque at Civic Square, Wellington, New Zealand

I didn’t mean to cook potage parmentier tonight. I had marched in to New World with Nish after we’d had a quick lunch in between work, picking up ingredients for an intended dinner attempt of ratatouille. Sometime between bagging the eggplants and tomatoes, I realised how much it would all cost (and let out an involuntary gasp). So much for knowing what’s in season and getting that – I have tons to learn yet!

I returned the royally-priced vegetables to their respective bins, then bagged leeks, potatoes, garlic – and later googled Julia Child’s recipe for potage parmentier.

If I was stressed at work and tired on the way home, I forgot about it when I hobbled into my flat, washed my hands and got to work. Essentially, I used Julia Child’s recipe except I measured out my ingredients by visual approximation, used hot water at the start, added in fried diced onion and chopped garlic, and added diced carrot. I even followed her instructions to mash the vegetables with a fork at the end – it felt like the right thing to do…

I have to admit it did not smell wonderful whilst it was cooking (the leeks are to blame for this), and was not very pretty at the end (though this is probably more my fault than Julia Child’s!) – Matt needed plenty of gentle persuasion to let it into his mouth; but hey, the taste, I think, made up for it. The soup itself – just onions, garlic, leeks, potatoes, water, salt, a dribble of cream, a sprig of parsley – takes a little time as most good things do, but it is wonderfully simple and satisfying. We had a generous serving of soup each, with crusty baguette slices.

A quiet evening with my 2 other flatmates out; Matt cleaned the house and we went grocery shopping after dinner, and then… I was in for a pleasant surprise at home – dessert! Matt prepared calypso coffee and croissants with banana & jam – delicious! I learned the method of pouring cream on to the back of a spoon to keep the cream in a neat little layer at the top of the glass too (see above).

We are now flopped on the couch like dehydrated frogs, I am just listening to Norah Jones and feeling very sleepy…

PS. Today, I tried bread with peanut butter & maple syrup for fun – well, I really tried this because (true story) – I was too lazy to take jam out from the fridge. Experiment paid off though, I feel; it was quite nice!

Time for a shower. Ciao!