Tag Archives: delicious

Giapo = gelato buonissimo

Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.
~ Ralph Marston

I’m repeating myself here, but following another visit to Giapo today with my beautiful friend Emily, it’s about time I stop giving them passing mentions and actually wax lyrical about them in a FULL POST on my blog.

Giapo… is glorious.

Think of your favourite ice cream or gelato flavour. What is it? Strawberry? Maple walnut? Chunky Monkey? Lemon sorbet? Mmm, that’s a pretty good thought, isn’t it? Okay, hold that thought…

Now imagine inventing an ice cream or gelato flavour of your choice. What would it be? I remember one frosty night some years ago, when a few of us played this “invent an ice cream flavour” game after dinner… there were suggestions of watermelon, jasmine, bubblegum (guess we already have goody gum drops in New Zealand), peppered steak and toothpaste (yeah, seriously… the last two options weren’t mine).

Now, enter Giapo… which would have taken the cake and stolen the crown in that “invent an ice cream flavour” discussion. I love quality and I love surprises, and Giapo delivers on both fronts. I think of the Giapo team as a real life Willy Wonka and Oompa-Loompa team (ref: Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), inventing all sorts of amazing and surreal goodies, and offering them in a space masquerading as a relatively normal-looking gelateria.

It’s like they’ve taken gelato and dressed it in every possible garment, painted it with every hue and shade in the paint box, and sprayed it with a library of scents to rival Demeter’s… and somehow done it exceptionally well, too. Antipasti and pinot gris. Wasabi vanilla. Dark chocolate and smoked salmon. Seaweed and sauvignon blanc. Pinot noir and espresso coffee. Scallops and strawberry. Pumpkin and amaretto. Christmas fruit mince pie. Whisky and blue cheese. And of course, they have tamer flavours like lemon/coconut/organic cocoa sorbet too (note: by “tame” I mean more normal-sounding, but terribly good and nowhere near mediocre).

Tasting these, you sort of expect magic things to happen in the store, or Oompa-Loompas to come trailing out with whisks and berries in their hands, or something.

From the frequency at which new flavours appear and from the generous smiles of the team there, you’d think they just effortlessly muttered gelato into existence while sleeping. But if you think they’ve just taken a bunch of random ingredients and chucked them into the freezer together for a laugh, think again. The combinations are carefully thought out – Mr. Grazioli said, for instance, that the salmon and chocolate combination was born out of those two elements sharing similarities at a base molecular level. That sounded very foreign to my Bachelor of Arts ears, but tasting this harmonious and madly delicious gelato, I’m prepared to believe it. The way I now see it, salmon and chocolate might appear as different as night and day, but they’re probably distant cousins on some level. And very good blended.

I like so many things about Giapo. For one, there is only one Giapo in Auckland – no franchises or supermarket versions. You seldom get the exact repertoire of flavours every time you visit (this says to me that their gelato is very fresh, and they are constantly seeking ways to improve/delight their customers). The gelato is immaculate in colour, substance and form. The chairs are cute. There is an art and science to everything they do. The team is patient and friendly, happy to give you a taste of anything while you are trying to make up your mind. Wonderful, too, is the fact that they don’t skimp at all on ingredients. Indeed, I think they don’t skimp on anything – they use only the best of everything.

No one’s told me this, but I suspect the Giapo gelato you down in a few minutes is the stunning result of countless hours of creativity, fun, thought, experimentation and research. For all of what I’ve written in this post and more, the Giapo spirit is one that more eating establishments and consumer goods providers really need to catch and embrace.

Giapo – 279-291 Queen Street, Auckland – Phone: 09 550 3677

It was muddy, but people came out to play

And because circumstances rarely match, and one afternoon can be a patchwork of both joy and horror, the taste of the soup washed through me. Warm, kind, focused, whole. It was easily, without question, the best soup I had ever had, made by a chef who found true refuge in cooking.
~ Aimee Bender, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Do you ever feel like you want to be everywhere at once? I most certainly do. There are too many great places and people spread in a million directions. I want to hang out with friends in a dozen countries. Visit the places where I grew up. Feel my heart soar in La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Watch the sunlight skip across the glistening blue water at the Cape of Good Hope. Drink earthy, rounded coffee with condensed milk in Hanoi. See, smell, feel, listen, taste, be.

These few days, though, there has most certainly been no time to think about travel. So much on.

It’s been a delicious week, too. Emily and I swung by the NZ Food Innovation Showcase where we got to meet some of the faces behind a few brands like Venerdi (they do a pizza base which I’d be proud to feed non-gluten-intolerant folk too!) and Flyhidrate. It was fascinating too to go beyond the stuff on our plates/in our tummies and take a look at what is going on with packaging, research, exports… I enjoyed listening to people talk about their businesses too. I just wish I had had time to attend a seminar or two!

Emily and I also made a spontaneous decision to go to Taste of New Zealand. It was raining on the evening we went down to Victoria Park. We sought shelter beneath our red umbrellas as we walked from tent to tent, squishing along on the wet and slightly muddy grass. We talked, and laughed, and ate. Oh, and in true New Zealand style, we griped about the weather (really, though, I rather think the rain made it all more fun).

Memories of that evening are sparkling like coloured bits of stained glass in my mind as I type this now. Oh, how to sum up all the highlights?

It was great to meet and chat briefly with Pic, the man behind some really good PB. I will now associate that brand not just with yummy peanut butter – but a pair of very kind eyes too.

Chef Marco Edwardes/Te Whau’s stall was serving up seared Whangamata scallops with almond gazpacho, black olive, golden raisins, young cress, Te Whau chardonnay-vinaigrette. How could I resist? I was glad I didn’t. It was so fresh, you could taste each element perfectly and it was like Sweet and Salty were two equal-sized children sitting on two ends of a see-saw. The black olive dots were startling, like sherbert. Emily and I both enjoyed this! Also, I did a cooking class with Chef Marco earlier this year, so it was nice to say hello and talk for a few minutes too.

Emily’s eye fell on (and so we got a plate of) Cocoro’s prawn and courgette filo tempura, tartare and Worcestershire sauce, Tonburi and Wasabi Tobiko field and sea caviar. Yes, that’s quite a mouthful to recite, but eating these was not quite so difficult. The prawn and courgette pieces were like candles within filo lanterns – the batter was remarkable, light and intricate like crispy interwoven threads, coating but not stifling the warm fillings. The sauce was a backup singer to the lead vocalists (batter, prawn, courgette). I don’t know for sure that they used the principles of umami in this dish, but I’m prepared to hazard a guess that they did so (successfully). A delight to eat.

Regal Salmon held an interested audience with a lively demonstration up front and passed around some really delicious plates for everyone – in particular, I relished what closely resembled a fresh Spring rose (sushi rice wrapped with fresh salmon petals and topped with a few bright pearls of caviar).

The table holding Lisa’s yet-to-be-sold-in-stores range of dips held a crowd who were immune to “please let us through” signals from the people behind. I have to admit that when I finally got to try the Moroccan carrot, I pretty much had to be shoved out of the way, too.

The Neat Meat Company Ltd sure lived up to its name…

And oh, Petal Cupcakes sure are a treat! I have often been of the view that cupcakes look a hundred times better than they taste (kind of similar to the way I feel about pancakes). Well, these ones taste infinitely better than they look (and they are very pretty, too). Loved the peach and red velvet buttermilk cupcake bits I got to try!

The People’s Wine let us all unleash our inner artist:

Oh and this doesn’t even begin to summarise it all. There was a champagne and oyster bar. Live music. Some beautiful wine from the Canterbury/Otago border – Pasquale. A zesty range of soap from Ecostore (try the lemongrass!). A pleasing medley of beautiful cooking aromas. A demonstration of how to make nasi goreng. Addmore’s very delicious elderflower cordial. Fudge. Spicy macadamias. Capsicum jam. Vintage blue cheese. Pear cider. Soy and ginger tofu. Venison.

Some of these I tasted, some I averted my eyes from. You will understand that if I ate everything there was to eat, I would have exploded and that wouldn’t have been a nice thing to do to the people around me.

As this limoncello lingered on my tongue and slipped smoothly down my throat, I realised I didn’t want any other flavour getting in the way of that beautiful, beautiful taste. Luckily, Emily was quite full too so we left shortly after this, feeling sated.

The Skycity was looking pretty glam, though my camera unfortunately failed to adequately capture this (it refused to focus as it was feeling sleepy)…

And that wasn’t the last I’d seen of food for the night…

I arrived home to a lovely surprise: homemade fudge! From none other than sweet Kath!) So my breakfast the next day was a sample kiwifruit I got given at Taste (juicy juicy loveliness, thank you Zespri) and Kath’s dangerously good fudge. How’s that for a balanced and delicious breakfast? :-)

Places to visit:
Cutie pies!
A supermarket takes everyone back to 1987
Cloud cakes, and a beautiful pairing of pictures and words
We really need more people like him around.

Pain d’epices au chocolat

Words are the voice of the heart.
~ Confucius

I am now reading my 8th book since September. It amazes me, the world of books. You think you know how to speak and write reasonably well, and then you chance upon all these books that use the same words and punctuation marks as you know… and yet… paint a picture you never could have created, show a world entirely foreign to your own, hint at possibilities you never would have considered.

Lately, I’ve been reading poetry and prose that have left me gobsmacked, retreating rapidly along a sentence and reading it again. Or laughing at jokes which have somehow spanned four chapters, building on and rolling off each other, funny as hell!

I guess I’ve answered my own question as to why, in a world already swarming with books, there remain books to be written (so many worlds to discover, minds to read). Everyone who wants to write a book should probably write one.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading a marvellous book that’s had me giggling on the bus and smiling inside my stomach – David Lebovitz’s “The Sweet Life in Paris”. I can’t hope to write a decent review about it, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be rushing to your kitchen midway (perhaps multiple times, as I have)… and if you live in New Zealand, you’ll be pretty grateful for our more generous kitchen areas too. I think you’ll be struggling not to fall into an entirely different world while reading it, looking up in time to feel amazed that you are not in fact right next to David, drinking amazing hot chocolate or struggling to set up a bank account in France. David also has a fantastic website, which I have mentioned before in previous posts.

So, in short: read the book! Visit the website!

Two days ago, I decided to make pain d’epices au chocolat – chocolate spice bread – from his book (page 119). I did use a mixture of muscovado sugar and caster sugar, as well as substitute the anise seeds with unsifted chinese five spice powder, using what I had on hand. I can still label it as neither cake nor bread, but in this instance, it doesn’t matter – all you need to do is (1) cut it into wedges and share it with your friends, and (2) cut yourself a neat slice, open your mouth and eat! Sweet and dense, the chocolatey taste and soft texture of this is all-encompassing; the proportion of spices is just right to give it a warming twist – like a firm whisper, if I may put it that way.

(It is also very fun and simple to make – what a bonus!)

Oh, and this picture? I was proud of how pretty my sink looked then – what do you think? Heheh!

Tartine Poireaux-Oeufs Brouillés

Food is, of course, a social thing, one of the most positive, primal ways of spending time with people, but eating alone is also an affirmation. It’s a way of enjoying me.
~ Molly Wizenberg, A Homemade Life

With half a leek, some eggs, two small fennel bulbs, and the house to myself this morning – I hopped on to one of my favourite blogs, Orangette

I cooked the fennel separately, following Molly’s recipe for braised fennel as closely as I could without using our awful chicken stock cubes at home. It was delicate and lovely, but I don’t want to write about that now… because the other thing I had for breakfast was wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I got distracted by the smell while it was cooking and forgot to add in the sour cream (my substitute for crème fraîche)…

And the best thing is, even sans crème fraîche, the Tartine Poireaux-Oeufs Brouillés (French-Style Open-Faced Sandwich with Leeks and Soft-Scrambled Eggs) was bloody good. The eggs were soft and comforting, like a hug from a trusted friend; the leeks were tender, fragrant and almost caramel-scented with the muscovado and salt. The toasted bread provided a lovely hearty base for all of this goodness. The only thing that could’ve made it better would probably be the addition of crème fraîche!

I’m going to post the recipe below, with my changes (mainly to do with leek amount, one substitution of olive oil for butter and my accidental omission of crème fraîche). Please visit Molly’s blog for the original recipe (link below) which, followed exactly, will likely yield results even more delicious than what I had today, if such a thing is possible!

    1/2 a big leek
    A nub of butter
    1 tsp muscovado sugar
    A pinch of salt
    Olive oil
    2 large eggs
    2 tsp water
    1/8 tsp salt
    A large slice of country-style crusty bread, toasted
    Freshly ground pepper
    Begin by preparing the leeks: trim the root end off each leek, and slice them across their width into roughly ¼-inch-thick coins. Use a salad spinner to wash them if you have one; I don’t, so I just washed them carefully and shook the excess water off them.
    In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, the sugar, and the salt, and stir to mix. Cover the skillet to allow the leeks to begin to sweat a bit, and, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as necessary if they begin to cook too quickly, allow the leeks to cook for about 15 minutes, until they are fragrant, soft, and almost melting. [Here is where you add the crème fraîche if you aren’t distracted like me, and cook the leeks for another minute or so!] Set the skillet aside.
    In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, water and salt. In a small saucepan, heat a dribble of olive oil over low heat. Pour the egg mixture in and whisk constantly (I used a wooden fish slice). When the mixture begins to coagulate ever so slightly and form tiny oatmeal-like lumps, begin a little dance of removing the pot from the heat and replacing it so that the eggs don’t cook too quickly, and reach all over the corners and bottom of the pot with your whisk. The eggs are ready when they resemble loose oatmeal; the process should take between 5 and 9 minutes.
    Place the slice of toasted bread on a plate, and spoon the scrambled eggs on top of it. Top the eggs with a layer of leeks. Serve immediately, with salt and pepper as needed.
    Serves one, with leftover leek.

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!

Dancing Babka

Dance is a song of the body. Either of joy or pain.
~ Martha Graham

The word ‘yeast’ is still a mental hurdle for me. Something about it sounds complicated, out of my depth, like it’s something for professionals (not me, anyway). My one direct encounter with it came earlier this year when I made some pitta bread at home for a flat dinner. I remember marvelling at it then; but subsequently, the old apprehension came back each time I glimpsed it in a recipe.

I’ve been reading a very inspirational book over the last few nights though, and somehow – I think that led to me walking out of New World with a bottle of active dry yeast last night.

I woke up early this morning, and decided to kick off my day off work with some babka baking from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#57 Bobba’s Babka – Page 246

I was apprehensive about the yeast. I mixed it with the oil and tepid milk and for two long minutes, nothing seemed to ‘activate’… and then, suddenly, it looked like something bad out of my old biology textbook? Alive, gurgling like a deep sea monster, ugh! – it was at once fascinating and very unappetizing…

I waited some more before I poured it doubtfully into the flour mixture, and then it looked like a mini volcanic snowstorm.

Actual bread making. I fell into a sort of happy/painful trance kneading the dough. It was reassuring, of course, to knead like mad while reading “the dough should be thick and a little difficult to mix, even with the mixer”. (although even if I had a mixer, I doubt I would use it in my first few instances of making bread – how else to get in touch with your food, to know it, touch it, sense it – own it??)…

When I added the egg and worked the sticky dough, it squelched like a pair of rain-drenched shoes the whole way and I really thought I would never get to the next stage, which was “so that it is still very sticky but not actually sticking to your hands.”

As it is, I got there, and as my fingers repelled the sticky, springy dough, I exclaimed and promptly forgot about my aching wrists. Wow! If Tessa Kiros had been here in person I would have knocked her over with a huge embrace. :-O As it is, she was spared on this occasion :-)

After 1.5 hours of being placed by the heatpump, it had enlarged to a giant puffy dough:

Muscovado sugar. Deep and luxurious, I measured it out carefully, trying not to spill any. Then I leaned over the cup and gazed at the rich colour, inhaled the delicious flavour… mmmm.

Even better smelling with the addition of cinnamon…

Butter on the other hand, I was much more lavish with today – I didn’t measured this, just dug my knife into the box and took out a random soft pile of it.

I rolled out the bread into two (near) rectangles, and spread the butter and muscovado on to them.

Finally, it was time to plait the bread.

The whole process of baking this was really… seductive. I’m not sure how else I could possibly describe it. My hands were gooey, and bread dough is hardly a sunset, a silk dress, or whatever your normal icons of romance might be – but the emerging flavours and feel of the process pretty much had me walking on air.

So much so that after I brushed egg yolk and milk on the babka and shoved the tray into the oven, I put on some music and danced on my toes. THE AIR SMELLED WONDERFUL.

Babka, done – I gave more than half of it away to a gleeful Malinda and retained the rest of it for my poor flatmates. :-)

PS. Haidee and I were at one of my favourite cafes today – and out popped a mouse! While I was a little concerned about the presence of a mouse in an eating place, I was temporarily distracted by this amusing thing: saying “oh! mouse!” and watching the women around me gasp, kind of shriek and scramble to get up and run. I mean, it’s just a mouse……?

Octopus – Version 2

My first direct octopus experience paved the way for a second the very next night (Sunday). A substantial half of the octopus remained in the fridge for use… (a 3kg octopus feeds around 9 people as a main course, fyi!)

Mandy had some reservations regarding the initial look of dinner in its uncooked state (she is the unlucky friend I invited to join us). ;-)

All turned out well, however.

We had a jolly time manning the barbeque, Dad, Mandy and me, cooking zucchini and eggplant slices, mushrooms, veal with lemon & herbs, and of course, the octopus (recipe courtesy Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”):

#45 Grilled Octopus with Oregano – Page 88

This required barbequing the octopus whole, then cutting it into smaller chunks, quickly pouring a simple dressing over it, and serving it immediately.

When we finally sat down to dinner, we were in for a pleasant surprise too – Dad’s rosemary & raisin bread… which I would have been happy melting into for the rest of the year. Yes, it was bloody delicious.

Thoughts on cooking octopus: watching octopus cook is pretty spectacular – it’s almost like watching a sunrise, as the grey slowly brightens up by several shades until it is a beautiful rosy pink. It’s easy to cook, and doesn’t take too long.

Thoughts on eating octopus: it is nice and sweet even on its own, a spectacular variety of seafood. Its appearance can be a little unsettling though, if you stare too long at the tentacles…

I really like both of these recipes from Tessa’s book!

I forgot to bring my camera USB cable back with me, so pictures will have to wait…… I will upload them when I can!