Monday 24 December 2007

Skiing on the Zugspitze at Garmisch

I went skiing earlier this week on the Zugspitze ski field in the Bavarian Alps. It was a beautiful sunny day, no clouds, unlimited visibility, warm, no queues and good snow. Despite no fresh powder, the small amount of powder was nice, and it was nice not to be skiing on ice!

In terms of finding out details about how to ski at Garmisch I found details to be lacking a bit on various websites, so here is my attempt to explain some of it from my experience.

The Zupspitze is the highest mountain in Germany and the snow (according to the guy in the snow rental shop) is the best up there, as opposed to the numerous other ski areas around. I hired skis, boots and poles from a place on the corner of Alpspitzstraße and Sankt-Martin-Straße called Thomas Ski Schule or something like that. I don't know if it's the cheapest but the the gear was good enough (€28). I was also wanting to hire goggles but they unfortunately don't hire them so I bought some instead (my other ones are a bit old anyway). They also didn't hire helmets for adults, but this wasn't a biggie for this field (imho) unless you're wanting to hit the terain park.

In order to get to the ski field I took the Zupspitzbahn (cost ~€38 including access to all lifts on mountain) which is a cogwheel train that goes up to the ski field (the Zugspitzplatz area), from it's station next door to the main train station. There is essentially nothing at this station expect for a ticket office and the train (of course). I took the first train (8.15am) and about an hour later arrived at the ski field which was practically empty. I actually took a taxi to the station it left from because I didn't want to walk with skis, boots, poles etc 1km to the station (cost ~€9). I got there early and found no queue at all. It was very easy to buy a ticket and the guy in the counter spoke great English (like most people in Germany). I then put my skis on the side of the train and went inside to the nicely heated interior with my poles and boots. At this point I hadn't put my ski boots on, but many others had. The trip was very scenic with snow everywhere.

Once off the train, I went to the outside area and put on my ski boots and put my other shoes in my day pack. I think there was an area with lockers but my bag was so light I ended up skiing with it on. The ski area starts from this area (I recommend heading left and down for intermedia and above skiiers/boarders, to the right is essentially the beginners area although it can be a good place to start for others too) and there are a couple of restaurants here with reasonably high prices; it would be worth taking a little bit of stuff up with you. A super small tube of sunblock also set me back €9.20 so it would be worth taking that with you too if it looks like it will be a sunny day. In terms of the runs, they're well marked, and fairly self explanatory in terms of how to get back to this main area (although it might take a t-bar and a chairlift to do so). Incidentally there was only the one charlist and every else was a t-bar.

The vast majority of people on the field were skiiers, not snowboarders which was something different. The field is nice and wide and a great place to practice turns, but not much in the way of things to jump off or walls to back up (that I saw anyway). I did lots and lots of runs. It is actually quite a fast field, whereby there were a number of times when you need to go at a decent speed in order to make it up the next hill, but this didn't pose a problem at all for me.

In terms of getting back down I decided to take the cable car down from the summit to the Eibsee. Whilst I had heard this was faster, in my case it definitely wasn't. The other option is to simply go back on the Zugspitzbahn (which I would recommend). I changed back to my walkign shoes at this point, but many didn't. In terms of the way I went, there is a cable car up to the summit from the main Zupspitzeplatz area which left about every 15mins (and I'd just missed one). Once finally on (standing room only) this only took a few minutes to get to the summit, where there was about a 10min wait for another cablecar down to the Eibsee (NB: you need your ticket, from the journey up the mountain, here to get through the turnstiles). This was also standing room only and took 5-10mins and went down a long way rather quickly (quite exciting). At the bottom there was a short walk (~2min) along a path covered in snow (which was just ok in my shoes) up to the train station where there was a 35min wait until the Zugspitzbahn arrived, which I then boarded (NB: you need your ticket, from the journey up the mountain, here to get through the turnstiles) and eventually (~30mins later) arrived back where I started at the Zugspitzbahn main station.

So that was my day. Great fun and good snow!

and coming up...

Tomorrow we leave Garmisch. We're now so familiar with the German train system and so delighted with it's efficiency that we're quite happy to turn up the Hauptbanhof 15 minutes before our train is due instead of our usual hour.

From here we head to Munchen, where we will be met by Georg and escorted to Moosburg where we will spend christmas eve with family friends. It will be excellent to experience something like christmas with locals and we're both thoroughly looking forward to it, although have no idea what to expect!

Until next time, Seasons Greetings all.

of Fairy Tale Castles, Narnia and unknowingly crossing borders

I believe it is time I gave up on my ideal of blogging the entirety of this holiday. It simply isn't going to happen. At least today I've beaten the computer into submission and actually convinced it to change the keyboard to english. Phew!

Thus, today I'm simply going to write about what we did and saw yesterday, or at least in part given that we jammed in over 270km yesterday!

9am-ish we picked up a rental car, which we were a little suprised to discover, once we got to it a block from the office, that it was still completely covered in ice which we had to scrape down before we could even consider going anywhere. At 72 euro for the day, I'd have thought Avis could have actually prepared it for us. Perhap I expect too much. Ah well, you've been warned. There is my protest, online for the world to read. :-)

From there we headed north towards Munchen and Augsburg and within about 5 minutes of driving we were greeted with the incredible, icy beautfy of snow encrusted trees, fences, houses and blanketed hillsides. It is so amazing to be confronted with something completely outside of my usual experience. So often when we travel we are seeing things that are a variation on the familiar. This however was something completely new and splendid for me. I was completely in awe of it all. Absolutely amazing. I'm not even sure that we really got photos, although expect we managed to gather our jaws up and contain amazement for long enough to get a couple of shots towards the end of the day. Truely, I felt like I had walked through the back of the wardrobe and emerged in Narnia.

20km or so along the road, we turned off to Oberammergau (sp?) where we had a bit of look around. I saw a cool carved frog prince in the middle of the street that I photographed, then a little further on we found a strange ice scupture of, hmm, what on eart was it. Half of a pipe standing on its end? Something like that! Anyway, when we returned back past the frog, I idiotically declared to Simon 'Oh! That's carved from ice too!' Duh! Silly girl! I had thought it carved from stone when I photographed it. :)

From Oberammergau we headed further up the road, turning in to the final part of the Romantic road towards Schwangau and Neuschwanstein castle. Wow! How completely surreal! You're driving along this road surrounded by the most amazing winter wonderland, gazing at the many mountains that surround you on all sides, and then all of sudden notice this vainglorious edifice on the hillside! What an incredible indulgence - never completed and lived in by Ludwig for only 170 days! Astounding! We eventually found the road up to it, but were the only car amongst hundreds of walkers and several horse and carts. I felt somehow we weren't meant to be there given the lack of other cars or even tyre tracks. However there were no signs, and when we did get to the top there were a few cars in the carpark. We marvelled at just how far people were trapsing up a hideous hill in freezing conditions to visit the castle. True to our usual form, we declined to go in (this is a habit we should perhaps consider getting over at some point, but personally I find the natural beauty of a place to be what I find the most inspiring and calming part of travel). We did however take several photos. The panaromic view over the valley from that height was quite incredible, but impossible to photograph. I've snapshotted it in my memory instead. :)

From there we crawled our way down the hill and back out the main road, past Fussen then headed for Reutte in Austria. And crossed the border. With no fanfare or acknowledgement other than the street markings changing to a slightly different format.

We tried and failed to find somewhere for lunch in Reutte then proceeded towards Innsbruck, however obviously missed the one crucial sign as we discovered ourselves heading towards somewhere entirely opposite to Innsbruck, requiring Simon to perform one of his favoured u-turns. :)

Eventually we found the correct road, and then pulled in to the grounds of the Erhard (???) castle ruins where we found a most unassuming little pub/cafe to have lunch at. As we walked in and found a table, the occupants of the only other table in use each greeted us! So nice! We had a very hearty meal!

From there we continued on towards Innsbruck but decided we would continue on the shorter route, directly back to Garmisch. At some point, we have no idea when, we crossed back into Germany. Still very odd.

The mountains were truely incredible. I took several photos of what we thought was the Zugspitze (where Simon skiied the other day) while in Austria, only to turn a few more corners and discover the Zugspitze in all it's glory, leaving me to dismiss the other mountain as 'some puny other mountain'. In such abundance are they!

I am left with the most incredible images of white, crisp, magical countryside. Never did I think I could enjoy winter so very much.

Saturday 22 December 2007

Whirlwind catchup (and Merry Christmas everyone!)

Oh my goodness, I cannot believe that we are almost 2 weeks in to our holiday! It´s going insanely quickly and already I feel like I am forgetting things and unfortunately I have not been keeping a diary of things at all!

We have had absolutely splendid weather, with only a very light drizzle the night we arrived in Frankfurt and then a tiny bit of rain on the following afternoon when we arrived in Wurzburg. Since then it has been quite beautiful. Yes, cold, but beautiful clear skies throughout.

So, since ROBT where I last blogged from, we have had 3 nights in Nurnburg, 2 in Regensburg and have now had 2 nights in Garmisch, with plans to hire a car tomorrow and go for a drive up to Neuchwanstein castle and probably back via Austria, just because we can. :)

I wasn´t overly enamoured by Nurnburg. The Christmas markets there were certainly the largest we have seen, but also felt quite commercial and it was also about the only place we´ve been where it seemed that there were more foreigners than Germans. Most of Nurnburg was destroyed during the 2nd world war, however much of it has been restored using the original stones. Beautiful buildings, but I personally didn't get the same atmosphere from Nurnburg than our other destinations in Bavaria.

We did however find a splendid Italian restaurant - which confused the hell out of language skills - speakings bits of German, Italian AND english. Oh my goodness! Fabulous atmosphere, divine food, and then we went back the following night. :)

Regensburg I fell in love with during the taxi ride from the Hauptbahnhof to our hotel. Oh my word, another place where words simply cannot do sufficient justice in describing it. I will try at a later date when I also have the advantage of adding some photos to aid my story. Our Hotel alone was quite delightful, with a 4 poster bed and antique furniture everywhere.

Beautiful Bridge in Regensburg

Ok, I´m rushing this far too much to do anything even a semblance of justice, so shall leave it at that for now and endeavour to restrospectively update at later dates.

Merry Christmas to you all - I don´t expect to be writing again until after that!

Wednesday 12 December 2007

The most beautiful place in the world

Ok, so perhaps that's a slight exaggeration, but its certainly right up there. :-)

We're in Rothenburg ob der Tauber at the moment, and truely, it is quite magical. (Forgive me the odd typo - the keyboard is German and I don't have access to the control panel to change the input).

It is certainly a little on the cold side and I am glad for all of the merino wool we stocked up on, but it's quite a delicious, crisp cold, rather than the damp, icky cold we get a home over winter.

I honestly do not know how to do this place justice using mere words. Our hotel alone is like stepping back in time, and is just so magical. Its all dressed up in its christmas clothes, but so tastefully done. The window displays in all the shops along the street are fabulous, with fresh pine sprigs all around them, candles, Father Christmas' of all shapes and sizes, and mistletoe - which I'd previously only ever seen on TV or in photos!

The bakeries are a feast for the eyes - all with their own various renditions of the Schneeballen (once you've had one you're unlikely to require another!). The delicatessans (or perhaps they have a different name) are fair bulging (pun slightly intended) with all manner of sausages and salamis and a variety of other things that I don't have a hope of identifying - but may just buy anyway so we can find out!

We've been quite suprised, but equally delighted with the sight of people in restaurants with their dogs on the floor beside them - and I don't mean little Paris Hilton style dogs either, I mean alsatians, and others of similar size! Quite different!

Our host here at the Goldener Hirsch is quite a delight all of his own! Simon thinks he's a bit like Basil Fawlty - and I don't disagree! He's quite wonderful and has an unexpectably effusive sense of humour.

Ah so much to see and take in! I'm in my own private heaven surrounded by so much medieval history, buildings, monuments, roads, and on and on. Ooh, and with impeccable timing, a horse and carriage just rolled past the window. Hehe. Bliss. I could stay here forever. Or at least enjoy dreaming about it forever.

Friday 7 December 2007

The Day Before

Right, my inbox is empty, my to do list is all but ticked off (only 1 item left and it's only a priority 3 so it can stay unticked at this point). All that remains is to drop the cats off to their grandparents, wash all my clothes (damn), tidy the house (bugger), change the sheets (or not if I can't be bothered), grab my passport (argh! nearly forgot!), and jump on the plane. In 30 hours and 29 minutes. Yes, and counting.

Hopefully we'll get to internet cafes regularly enough to keep updates here, we'll see how we get on. Probably no photos until we get back though, at which point I can assure you there'll be plenty.
Watch this space!

Sunday 18 November 2007

Jafa Cafe

We were very happy to hear that Tim and Jon (who previously owned Benediction) had opened up a cafe at the far end of Richmond Road called Jafa. We headed along last weekend to check it out.

The staff set the expectation with us up front that they were ridiculously busy and that food was taking about an hour to come out. This was fine with us, and I really appreciate being told this as we were going into the cafe and not finding out until after we had ordered. Setting expectations is so important, it's easy to do, but so many places fail in this regard.

True to the form of what we came to expect from Benediction, the food, coffee, service and overall vibe were great. There were a number of the old favourites on the menu, but there were also a few new entries or a slight twist onthe old ones. I went for eggs benedict on a kumara mash and this was beautifully done. I can't recall what Jane ordered, but that's not as huge surprise as I tend to focus on my meal... but I recall that she did enjoy it.

I would definitely go back, and in fact Jane has gone back there for brunch today with Trudy. Somehow I think their brunch might be a bit better than what I cobbled together.

Altar Cafe

Altar Cafe in Mt Eden has been one of our more recent finds. We have been here twice within the last month for brunch and had a great experience both times. The menu sports more than the same-old same-old brunch items. On the first occasion I had corned beef hashcakes with the equivalent of eggs benedict on top, and on the second occasion I went for a Nicoise sytle salad. Service was neither slow nor sloppy (and we're very picky when it comes to good service). The quality of the food has also been consistently good as has the coffee (Allpress).

Thursday 15 November 2007

Summer, Salsa, Sausages

I am so delighted that we've finally been blessed with a stretch of BBQ weather. What a joy! I don't think I've lit any of the gas hobs for weeks! The BBQ is seeing so much action, even the weta's haven't found time to rest on it for once!

I've been enjoying making delicious fresh salsas of late. Mostly tomato, coriander (which I used to hate and now adore), wine vinegar, olive oil, chillis and seasoning. Last night I removed the chillis from the mix as Simon had doused the potatoes in chilli before introducing them to the bbq, and then added avocado and switched Lemon juice for my usual wine vinegar. Oh my word, how delicious, and beautiful to boot! (No photos sorry).

Asparagus grilled directly on the bbq is another of my favourites at the moment. So easy and so tasty. Of course, in my opinion its not often that asparagus isn't tasty.

Back to coriander for a moment - I am indebted to the Hay Hay it's Donna Day bloggers for introducing me to the Donna Hay magazine. I have recently started purchasing this and was excited to find her simple (embarrasingly simple - one of those 'now why didn't I know that' moments) instructions for storing fresh herbs. I love having herbs growing in the kitchen, but invariably coriander, whether growing or picked, wilts and yellows on me within a couple of days of buying it. So this time I followed the Donna Hay instructions - wrapped it in a damp paper towel, sealed it back on its tray in glad wrap, and proceeded to use one bunch of coriander for over a week and a half - when it was still succulently green and crisp and delicious. And now I've run out. Argh!

Wednesday 12 September 2007

Food for thought (not about food at all)

I don't often post anything here that's a direct reference, despite reading a lot of blogs and articles on a daily basis. This one however is near to my heart, and puts rational expression to something that I'm passionately frustrated about at the moment. Any way, am at work and need to get back to it, so will paste and update later.

the Friendless 21st Century (my title)

Thursday 30 August 2007

Visiting and flowers

Simon had a big weekend at work a couple of weeks ago (did I mention I was behind in my posts?) so I took the opportunity to go and visit Charlotte & Kevin and Astrid.

Charlotte sent me home with some of her beautiful freesias and hellebores and they did a wonderful job of cheering up my dining room, and the cats have even been good enough to leave them alone! The vase also happens to be the one that C&K gave us as a wedding gift, and looks fabulous with any manner of spring flowers. (Flower arranging is by no means my strong point, but I was quite pleased with this!)

Chicken with Risotto

Yay! I'm slowly catching up! And I'm far too busy to cook at the moment, so there's no risk of me queuing up even more posts! (Hmm, although I have at least 2 more ready to go and another 2 sitting on the camera. Argh!)

This meal was the night after the Cauliflour swirl soup, and I used the remainder of the cauliflour part of the soup as my stock base for my risotto (a little unorthodox, but waste not want not). The chicken I did in a style that we usually use to cook veal - coating it in flour, frying (which I rarely do to be honest) in butter and olive oil, then pouring over lemon juice and a dash of vege stock to make the most delicious sauce. And it worked so well with the risotto, I was quite delighted! (The lovely yellow around the edge is mostly lemon juice, not butter!)

I should comment on these bowls too - they were a gift from one of Simon's aunts a couple of christmases ago. There are 4 in the set, each one hand painted with a different pattern. And we absolutely love them! As you can no doubt tell from the number of meals I present in them! They've inspired me to paint some more of my own.

Wednesday 29 August 2007

Cauliflower Swirl Soup

I am soooo far behind in my posts its now getting beyond a joke! So I'm stealing 5 minutes to start getting some of the delicious meals I've cooked recently up on my blog!

This I made during Simon's manic week of working long hours, when I found it quite relaxing to spend my journey's home in the car on my own (we usually drive to work together) planning what to concoct for dinner.

I had purchased a new box of veges from Naturally Organic a couple of days earlier, so I chose 5 ingredients (although once I got to the kitchen I think I only used 3 of them) and compiled this little number.

Before:and after (yes, I finally used a real camera instead of my cell phone):

So the final result is a cauliflower and swede soup, swirled with broccoli and leek soup, both with loads of seasoning, but it was so long ago now I can't remember which ingredients went into which pot, topped with Parmesan crisps. I enjoyed making this, and was reasonably pleased with the end result, although to be honest, I didn't particularly like the flavour of the broccoli component - I think broccoli soup requires blue cheese to actually work. I'm open to being convinced otherwise though!

Tuesday 28 August 2007

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2004

Usually I find that Gewurztraminer has Turkish delight flavours that are too strong for my liking, but I was pleasantly surprised to taste this wine from our cellar last night. We purchased this wine from the vineyard when touring around the top of the South Island at New Years a couple of years ago; this was one of my favourite vineyards we encountered and we did go to quite a lot of them.

This wine is currently in perfect drinking condition, has a lovely golden hue and a beautiful aroma. It is a big wine with strong flavours throughout and lingers long on the palate. Rose Water and Ginger are what I deem as the dominant aroma and taste, but a slight acidic undertone breaks it up beautifully and avoids an overly powerful bouquet.

We drank this wine with a summer Italian style dish consisting of a Homemade Coriander Salsa, Garlic Ciabatta, and Fresh Salmon with a touch of Fennel, and it worked surprisingly well with this herb induced set of flavours. It was the challenge of finding an appropriate wine match for this meal that resulted in this bottle escaping the cellar last night.

I thoroughly recommend this wine and look forward to drinking the one remaining bottle we have in the cellar.

Monday 13 August 2007

Vegetable Fiesta as promised!

Well, true to my word, I did in fact cook a meal last night! Amazing! It took a while to decide what I was going to do, and I started by listing all the lovely fresh veges I had in the fridge, then chose 5 and finally composed an idea of what to do with them in my head! Although I must confess the end result saw me use only 3 of the 5 veges I orginally selected.

I have been finding my copy of 'Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book' absolutely invaluable of late! I bought this while I was in London in 1999. With a name so very close to my own I simply had to have it as a souvenir! So last night's meal featured some variations on ideas in her book. (Simon is always a little pertubed by the way I cook - whereby a recipe is simply a source of inspiration, NEVER a list of instructions. Hehe.)

My masterpiece! (Sorry about the hideous quality of the photograph - I really ought to use our camera more often and stop using my camera phone, better than nothing though).

The beautiful creamy looking dollop on the left is my rendition of skordalia. Kahla's mum introduced me to this years ago and she had made it with (as I recall) potatoes, garlic and almonds. So I was quite suprised to discover (from Jane G) that the traditional recipe doesn't have a potato near it! But rather is made with old bread, soaked in water! Well, needless to say, I took her recipe and the memory of Lynn's Skordalia and came up with my own rendition - which I might add I was really pleased with. It consisted of potato, almond flour, garlic (loads of garlic!), olive oil (thank you village press), maldon salt and white wine vinegar.

The Brocolli is warm (intentionally) and served with (again, my take on an inspiration from Jane G) a greek dressing called Lemonolatha. This had olive oil, dill, spring onions, white wine vinegar (this was mean to be the lemon - but I couldn't find any - until I opened the fridge after I'd made this! Bother! Next time). More garlic and the judicious use of my trusty blender. Again, I was quite pleased with the result on this one too - and I have a little pottle of the dressing left over in the fridge for later in the week. Apparently this is a dressing which is traditionally served over warm vegetables.

The salad is simply rocket, spring onions, lentil sprouts and homegrown (a la me!) mung bean and alfalfa sprouts.

Predictably Simon wondered where the meat was. :-) But I still think he enjoyed it. Or so he told me. Wise man really. :)
I'm still puzzling over what to do with the swedes. All ideas welcomed! I'm contemplating gnocchi at the moment, although I don't know if they'd be starchy enough (or if it would taste that good).
Wine and Food Society meeting tomorrow night, so no cooking. Oh, and tonight I took the opportunity to cook steak and kidney while Simon was out. The cats thought it smelt pretty good!

Sunday 12 August 2007

Domestic Sunday, cooking at home

Tonight we're finally going to cook something at home. Hmm, it's about time I took a photo of a home cooked meal and blogged it too - just to prove we do still in fact know how to cook!

Charlotte inspired me some months back and I've been buying the odd organic box of fruit and vege from Naturally Organic (it's just like christmas coming home of an evening to my delivery and unwrapping all the items and pondering what on earth I'm going to make with some of them! Swedes are my main challenge this week!) So it will be a vegetable fiesta for dinner tonight - I've found this has also been a great way to restore my pleasure in cooking.

Both Simon and I had been getting a little bored with cooking of late, and I've found that by having to research vege's that I wouldn't usually buy and having to get really creative with my cooking has put much of the spark back in it for me!

Speaking of home cooked meals, we made an absolutely delicious meal the night Simon's folks came up from Wellington to stay for a weekend at the end of July. hmm, although I've just had a mind blank on the starter. But for main course I made a beautiful lemon, rocket risotto (I don't order risotto when we dine out now, as I usually conclude that mine are better), which we served with a trusty Veal in Lemon dish that Simon made. This is absolutely to die for and takes all of 15 minutes (tops!) to make. We'll make it again soon and the photograph it and put the recipe up here.

Right, the remainder of domestic Sunday awaits (my way of getting all the household chores done without thinking of them as evil hateful chores!)

Strawberry Alarm Clock & La Cigale - Parnell

We've been to the Strawberry Alarm Clock in Parnell several times now, but never actually written about it. We went and had lunch there today, and once again had an enjoyable visit. The food is good, the setting is rustic, homely and yet very funky - both inside and out the back in the courtyard. We've had consistently good coffees - and yet again today, and we've previously ordered and enjoyed their smoothies (although I still think Revel do the best smoothies I've had).

We wandered along to La Cigale on St Georges Bay Road today, to pick up some french cheeses for Kevin for his birthday. We didn't realise that the fromagerie is not really open on a Sunday, however the guy from the cafe was extremely accomodating about this, allowing us to sample the cheese we were interested in and even making some suggestions for us (along with recommending we come along on a Wednesday when they have all the cheeses available for tasting!) Certainly another nice find.

Andiamo, Jervois Road

After much searching on dineout and many phone calls to fully booked restaurants, we finally decided to go to Andiamo last night. They did warn us that the only available tables they had were outside, but knowing that we went prepared - me with my trusty pashmina and Simon with icebreaker merino wool. :)

So they seated us under a very pleasing heater, side by side so that neither of us was sitting in the wind and it was actually very pleasant! Especially once they filled up a bit in side - it was clearly quite noisy in there, while we had our own private dining room, and a fabulous vantage point for watching passer-by.

What we ate:
  • Jane - Veal Sweetbreads with chorizo and beurre blanc - really nice, beautiful chorizo
  • Simon - Grilled marinated Lamb Fillet on a salad of vine-ripened tomatoes,
    goats cheese, pickled garlic and roquette leaves.lovely smokey flavour

  • Jane - Oven roasted crisp Pork Belly served on a Polish red cabbage choucroute
    with mashed kumara and crackling.- this was lovely, an appropriate serving size (which is always important with pork belly), lovely crackling and mash, wasn't quite so fussed on the red cabbage
  • Simon - Confit of duck, toulouse sausage, white bean cassoulet - something different for Simon to order, but he was really pleased with this.

  • Jane - Pannacotta of Valrhona chocolate served with poached seasonal
    fruit and Mascarpone- this was quite divine! A very smooth, thick pannacotta, not too sweet.
  • Simon - Lemon mousse on sablé with mint coulis, stone fruit compote and
    passionfruit Sorbet.. Oh my word! Its not often that we rave about desserts, in fact more often than not we find them a bit of an anti-climax to an otherwise lovely meal. But this was to die for! We'd go back just for this dessert! The Lemon mousse was so light and deliciously lemony, the passionfruit sorbet packed full of flavour. Fantastic!

What we drank

  • Jane - Dr Loosen Reisling - lovely and citrusy - this was a recommendation from the sommelier to have with the pork. Quite a bit of residual sugar, and definitely a good match. Lovely.
  • Simon - Menhir Primitivo Quota 29, from Puglia, Italy. Absolutely beautiful, served at the perfect temperature and had a very warm nose to it - which followed through into the palate as well. Also a recommendation from the sommelier
  • Coffees - not so good, but still drinkable (unlike the ones we had at Chevalier point in the morning). I expect their brunch coffees are better, and we don't tend to judge a restaurant on the quality of their coffees at an evening meal.

The Decor and Atmosphere

As noted above, we were outside, and it was quite perfect.


Fantastic! Excellent attention to detail, fabulously knowledgable sommelier. Despite being the only people sitting outside, we were really well looked after, with only one slightly longer wait when we were ready to place our dessert order - by which time inside was absolutely packed.


We paid just over $150 for 3 courses, a wine each and coffees. For the quality and overall experience, this was good value for money.

Overall Impression

Lovely restaurant, we'd most definitely go back.

Saturday 11 August 2007

Our Hit List

We keep hearing great things about some restaurants we haven't been to, but when we come to think of somewhere to go out to dinner, we can never remember them! So here is our hit list:

  • Canton Cafe (Kingsland)
  • Soul Bar (struck off after Simon visited recently with work)
  • O'Connell Street Bistro
  • Rocco
  • Number 5
  • Dine
  • Chamber Wine Bar
  • the Grove
  • Rice

We've been out a bit lately, but haven't made the time to write things up.

A few summaries:

  • the Engine Room (again!) - fabulous as always
  • Der Metz - HUGE portions, but otherwise nothing special (and quite slow)
  • Mozaik Cafe (Albany) - brunch - some different, mediterannean style items, really nice, we'd go back
  • Latin Larder - fantastic coffee, great brunch
  • Grand Harbor - always reliably great yum char
  • Chevalier Point Cafe - quite stark, a bit slow, coffee not so good, food ok. will go back for an afternoon soda simply because of the lovely location (but note I didn't say food or coffee)
  • The Williamson Cafe - excellent new find for weekend brunch
  • Nada - STILL (and always!) the best bakery in the country. Shortbread to die for, mudcake like you wouldn't believe and the best breads around. And the personal deliveries from Johnsonville are always a treat! (cheers Michael!)

Tuesday 20 March 2007

The Engine Room

We had a fabulous, spontaneous, 'I can't be bothered cooking' meal out on Friday evening. The Engine Room is beautiful, and both times we've eaten there have been great (we ate there when it was Pearl as well, although far too long ago to remember and kind of irrelevant at this point anyway!)

What we ate:


  • Entree (Shared): Rare beef salad with pomegranate, pine nuts, fresh mint, dates - TO DIE FOR! I literally savoured every single mouthful of this. Wow. Oh - and it was an attractive dish as well! (see sneaky cell phone pic - not quite so attractive as we'd devoured half of this before I remembered to take a photo. But it was beautifully presented.)

  • Main: Kingfish on Saffron Risotto with Spinach and Fennel Salad & Tapenade - beautiful. The salad was lovely - I think this is the first time I've actually eaten Fennel! My goodness!

  • Dessert (shared): Panacotta, Roast Peaches, Praline - wow - the panacotta was so rich and milky and smooth and delicious! The Praline was fabulous - not too cruncy, but not soft, and deliciously nutty.


  • Main: Harissa Roast Chicken with Pearl Barley, Aubergine and Tahini - this was beyond words delicious and I sooo want the recipe for the pearl barley. Everything was in wonderful balance, bursting with flavour and nothing too overpowering. I'd order this if I went back. My fish was good, but this was truely rave-worthy.

What we drank:

Simon - Muddy Water Chardonnay 2004 - buttery, French oak nicely burnt; not over powering
  • Jane - Craggy Range Kidnappers Chardonnay 2006 - once again, I didn't really profile this, but wasn't raving over it. Although I wouldn't complain if I was served it again.

  • The Decor and Atmosphere

    Lovely as always, very simple and clean. The smell of fresh mint hit me as soon as I walked in and it was divine. The music was really nice, quite contemplative adn atmospheric, most appropriate, and a good volume.


    Excellent. As always, very professional, helpful, not stuffy. It wasn't what I would call 'stand-out' service, but excellent all the same - if you know what I mean by that subtle distinction. (I still tipped them - so it was better than average!). Oh yes - and it was encouraging hearing the staff describing dishes and wines with knowledge and confidence.


    Mains up to $30, starters $16-$18. Simon thought the starters a little pricey, but I expect to pay this in a classy restaurant. No complaints though.

    Overall Impression

    Yes, this is also one of our favourite restaurants. :) Interestingly, we went to Ciao the following evening - this has previously been one of our very highly rated restaurants, however it very much paled in comparison with The Engine Room. More on that later (and that's not to say it was bad, but it is an indication of the quality of The Engine Room.)

    Tuesday 20 February 2007

    Varekai and Red - Again!

    Mum and I went to Cirque du Soleil's final NZ performance of Varekai on Sunday - oh my goodness! I am SOOOOO pleased I made the effort to see it. What a fantastic show. The sheer strength, agility, flexibility and passion of the cast was breath-taking in a 'I'm completely lost for words but will happily whoop and cheer' sort of way. If you have the opportunity to see Varekai, or for that matter any Cirque du Soleil performance - do not hesitate! See an early session so that you have time to see it again before the season is over!

    After the show we headed up to Red for dinner, and met Simon there. We wanted to go to One Tree Grill from a location standpoint, however they're closed on Sundays. :(

    Ok - last time I blogged Red, I commented that Simon was including it on his list of favourite restaurants. This time - I have now decisively placed Red at the top of my list and hereby name it my favourite restaurant. Fantastic meal, great service, really friendly, really helpful, excellent attention to detail. Ooh, and gorgeous wine.

    What did we eat this time?
    • the shared tasting plate of the hummus (with a delicious lemony twist), olives (full of flavour), duck pate (sooo smooth and delicious) and a variety of breads.
    • the Venison again. :) And a delicious red wine that he can't remember what he ordered. Oops!
    • Lamb rump on mint and sweet pea risotto. Fantastic - the lamb was beautifully smoky and the risotto a really nice match with this.
    • Calamari - this was quite honestly THE most tender calamari I have ever eaten. I didn't know that calamari had the potential to be melt-in-the-mouth tender, but this was truly that tender. I'll be ordering it next time we visit.
    to share:
    • seasonal vegetables - beans and broccoli and delicious (but then I'm a bit partial to green beans!)
    Love Red. :)

    Thursday 25 January 2007

    Matakana Village Farmers Market

    We spent about 7 hours doing our grocery shopping on Saturday, and I think it was our most enjoyable shopping trip ever! ;)

    We got up early and headed up to Matakana, arriving at 9am, 1 hour after the Farmers Market had opened. What a fabulous market! Of course, I love ALL farmers markets (at least, I haven't found one I didn't enjoy yet!). The setting is fabulous, with the band, the stream, and the general hub-bub of every enjoying fresh air and friendly gathering of supplies.

    Some of our favourite finds:
    • spiced salad mix - wow! This was absolutely fantastic, and a real hit with the guests we served it to. An incredibly varied collection of edible leaves, flowers, pods and veges. We'll definitely be buying this again (sorry, can't think of the name of the business, but will check it this weekend when we return)
    • Simon had a whitebait fritter which was absolutely delectable - just like mum cooks them! Whitebait and egg. Nothing else to take away from the flavour. Excellent!
    • Although we didn't buy any, the vietnamese rolls looked lovely.
    • The coffee was great, and well worth the wait
    • Heron's Flight red pepper jelly - we've bought this before and already knew it was a favourite, but haven't had any for a few years. This is soooo tasty on bagels with a bit of tasty cheese.
    We're heading back up this weekend, mainly because we're buying an exposed aggregate garden bench from the other Matakana Market (up at the country park), but thought we'd take the opportunity to stock up again. Seriously, this is the best way to shop (assuming you have the time!)

    True enough, that alone didn't take 7 hours. So...
    • 1 hour to Matakana,
    • 1 and a quarter hours at the Village Farmers Market,
    • 15 minutes fighting our way OUT of the market (I thought bus must have arrived, there were throngs of people streaming in at 10am as we were leaving, madness!),
    • 1 hour or so at the other market (where a bought a fantastic shoulder bag (photograph to come...)),
    • next on to Ascension Vineyard to pick up our free bottles of Pintoage. Then we purchased a dozen wine as well. Such an expensive hobby! So that took another hour (or close to it)
    • 1 hour back to Auckland, then we went and spent
    • 30 minutes at the Fish Market, where we bought Blue Cod and Orange Roughy for lunch, Tuna for dinner and Scallops for another meal during the week, and also bought veges and cheese from the deli, oh yeah, and we bought organic venison and beef. All delectable. :)
    Hmm, that's only 5.5 hours. I'm sure we left home at 8am and returned at 2pm. Hmm, which would be 6 hours, not 7. Ah! I know, we got up at 7am! So I was counting that as well - it really does hurt getting up that early on a Saturday! (Please excuse the ramblings of the mad lady).

    Thursday 4 January 2007

    briefly - Melbourne! (and surrounds)

    Again - we haven't fallen off the face of the planet! Just a little bit out of reach of cyber space.

    We're currently in Melbourne, and have been in Victoria for the last week. And having a fabulous time! And yes, we have some fabulous restaurants to blog, including:

    Portofino on Bank - Port Fairy (OMG what a divine meal!!!)
    Knife Fork Bottle & Cork - Melbourne
    Queen Victoria Markets - Melbourne
    Essense - Docklands, Melbourne
    Spaghetteta - Lygon St. Melbourne
    Colonial Tramcar Restaurant - Melbourne (going there tonight)
    Sumo Salad - a franchise, but brilliant concept!
    Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man - Melbourne
    Ooh - nearly forgot - Beechworth Bakery (!!!!!!! YAY!!!!!!!) - Healesville
    Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary - Healesville

    Some of them will probably only get a couple of lines mention, and not right now - still too much to see and do!

    We were at the QV Markets this morning - what a splendid place! We made a point of getting up early (really early) and were there before 7:30am. They're predicting 34 Degrees today, so I'm planning on spending 11-3 out of the sun if at all possible. I'm amazed that the markets have been there for 128 years! That's incredible! And honestly, the quality and variety of products available is just fantastic - I don't know why anyone living in Melbourne would ever visit a traditional supermarket for their food shopping! Very cool.

    The other thing that has been incredibly conspicuous (and pleasantly so) is how friendly everyone is. And I'm not just talking about the hotel and restaurant staff who are paid to be nice (not that that's ever a guarantee they will be), but even people on the street. Everyone has time to say hi, they offer help if you look like you need it, everyone has a warm smile and a genuinely friendly hello. Amazing - it's been really really nice.

    Well, time is ticking on my internet access so time to sign off for now. Will be back soon with updates on the fabulous things we've seen, done and eaten and drunk.