Tuesday 26 July 2011

Gina’s Italian Kitchen, Auckland

We had another good meal out at Gina’s Italian Kitchen in Symonds Street last night; this was our second time in a few months. The restaurant was full, had a great vibe and was true to their description on their website:

You want quiet darling? Then you'll have to go elsewhere because we don't do quiet. At Gina's you will enjoy wonderful Italian food in a joyful and lively atmosphere that is unmatched in Auckland.

I had the Fettuccine Mari e Monti with prawns, chicken, mushroom in a tinted marsala cream sauce, roasted walnuts & Truffle oil topped with pecorino cheese. This was very flavoursome and whilst rich it wasn’t so overbearing that I didn’t enjoy every mouthful.

Jane had the T-bone steak special and she had it cooked to whatever the chef recommended, which was a little too blue for her. The steak was huge and did have a nice char-grilled flavour however it was a little tough.

Other people in our group had the Lasagne, which they absolutely loved, and a couple of pizzas that also seemed to be very well received.

For dessert I had the Tortino al Cioccolato dark chocolate mini-cake made with real dark chocolate, walnuts with a delicious dark chocolate runny centre, served slightly warm with Kohu Road vanilla ice-cream. This was excellent and I would definitely order this again. The Tiramisu was also very well received and a decent portion.

A good evening out and we’ll be back.

Sunday 24 July 2011

Teed Street Larder, Newmarket

We popped into the Teed Street Larder for lunch today in Newmarket and I had one of the best hot chocolates I’ve had for a while. There were three options of hot chocolate; Cadbury, 55% Belgian chocolate, and 72% Valrhona. I went for the 55% option and thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me a bit of Max Brenner in Australia whereby the chocolate was chocolate pellets that were put into a glass of milk which then needed a decent stir. It also came with a chocolate sprat and a lovely little macaroon wafer.

Before Stirring

After Stirring

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Jane had a decaf long black that had a lovely crema and tasted nice.

For lunch I had a Venison, Mushroom and Goat Curd pie that was lovely. The pastry was solid, the filling full of flavour and the goat curd on top tasted great.24072011137_003

Jane had a dish of snapper, that was accompanied with caperberries and olives that she enjoyed.24072011138_004

The food arrived in a timely manner and the service in general was okay. We will happily return.

Sunday 17 July 2011

Nishiki Japanese Restaurant, Freemans Bay

Located in Wellington Street, I have driven past Nishiki hundreds of times but had never been there. We dropped in without a reservation on a Saturday night and were very lucky to get a table. The restaurant was very busy and we got a sheltered table outside under a nice and warm heater as it poured down with rain.

Once seated the first thing we noticed was that the menu contained “A Suggestion on How to Order” which I thought was a great way to make it easier for people to order who are not familiar with Japanese food.

We ordered a selection of dishes and I had a warm sake. The food started arriving quickly and before long we had all our food. At this point we decided that we would probably need one more dish so placed the order and this also arrived in a timely manner.

The Sashimi Mori was very flavoursome and well cut. The Gyu Tataki Don, which was beef tataki, was beautifully tender. The soft shell crab was good and even though it was deep-fried the batter was nice and light. The Seaweed salad and Salmon and avocado salads were also both lovely and fresh.


The quality of the food was excellent all round and we will happily return. This is now probably my pick of Japanese restaurants in Auckland for a good, casual Japanese meal.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Product review - Lexen Healthy Juicer

I have a new favourite kitchen appliance.  And it doesn't require a power socket.

Last weekend, we went and chatted to Keith and bought some living wheatgrass and a hand juicer - you can read about that outing if you want some more background.  Suffice to say for the purposes of this entry, we now own a Lexen Healthy Juicer

What it is 
The healthy juicer is a masticating juicer - meaning it essentially chews the item being juiced, breaking down the fruit or vegetable and squeezing the juice out.
It consists of:
  • a base with suction grip and optional stainless steel clamp (I don't use the clamp when doing wheatgrass)
  • a hopper and juicer body
  • a busher and auger that slot into the body - the head (and the corresponding end cap) is stainless steel
  • an end cap, and an additional small end cap which can be used for wheatgrass to get a bit more force on the produce
  • a removable handle
  • a dish with cup and removable metal sieve for collecting the juice
  • a pusher that doubles as a lever for the suction cap lock/release knob
  • a plastic end cap spanner to be used to loosen the end cap once you've finished juicing
  • there are a couple of spare washers, an extra small end cap and a spare busher provided as well

In my experience, this is the most important factor determining whether or not I'll actually persevere with using a device - how easy is it to clean?  I've been using the juicer during the week to juice our wheatgrass, and it has worked really well, and is unbelievably easy to clean - you really just rinse the various parts under water.  It is honestly that simple.

The box only says it is ideal for wheatgrass and leafy greens - so I really wasn't sure whether or not I could use it for juicing much harder vegetables such as carrot and celery.  So I watched their video from Keith's homepage (the link on their own website wasn't working) and discovered that yes, carrots and celery can be put through.  The only preparation required is to cut then into thin sticks.  

What I juiced
I set about putting this to test, preparing the following:
  • 3 small carrots which I peeled, (you don't have to, but I don't like the bitter taste if you don't) and cut into sticks ranging from about 75mm square up to 1cm  square - and of varying lengths,
  • 1 leaf of cavolo nero (only 1 because I wasn't sure how strong this would taste!), 
  • 2 sticks of celery cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 small orange, which I cut the skin off (roughly) and cut in quarters
  • 1 tomato cut in quarters
(Note that I took the picture AFTER I'd juiced, but got out another set of the ingredients for the purposes of the photo! Which explains why the pulp is sitting in the bowl alongside magically unjuiced vegetables!)

When I'm juicing wheatgrass I don't bother using the mesh sieve that sits in the top of the collection dish, but for this juice I decided to.

I juiced the fruit & veges in a mixed order, leaving the tomato until last - the tomato generates a very thick, pulpy juice which I found I had to turn the handle backwards on the juicer to get it out of the auger and back into the drain hole, then I spread it across the sieve and forced it through with the back of a spoon as a final step. 

The Result
The resulting juice was absolutely delicious, of lovely consistency, and what I really appreciated is that it wasn't horribly frothy.

Comparing my experience with a centrifugal juicer
We have an electric, centrifugal style juicer which I used to use years ago and the resulting juice, regardless of what you are juicing, is always absolutely full of froth and has to be continually stirred while you're drinking it to stop it seperating out.  Not to mention that due to the way it works, everything gets somewhat heated in the high-speed process thus destroying some of the amazing nutrients you otherwise get when you juice, and finally, it was an absolute beast of a thing to clean - which is why I haven't used it for years.  And now that I know how easy it is to use the Lexen Juicer and how much I can do with it, I will be getting rid of the electric one.

The pulp
The resulting pulp still looked so good, and I hate missing out on the good fibre from the veges, so I set about making a pot of soup - I had some heads of celery leaf that I'd been saving for soup and used these as the base and tipped in all of the pulp from my juice as well.  Its cooling at the moment - initial taste tests have been very positive!

If you're looking for an easy to use juicer that is convenient - particularly as far as cleaning goes, this is an absolute gem.  I haven't bothered finding a home for it in the kitchen - because I am using it every single day.  And at about $90 this is a very economical way to juice. (I just checked and if I were to buy our Breville centrigal juicer brand-new today, it would cost over $250!)

Last but by absolutely no means least, because this is a masticating juicer, you really are getting the very best of the nutrients and vitality out of your produce.

Oh - and no I am not being paid to review this product! I'm just doing so because I absolutely love it!

Sunday 3 July 2011

Chilean Red Crab is HUGE – Our meal out at Jervois Steak House (Herne Bay)

We decided on the spur of the moment to go out for dinner mid-week and ended up at Jervois Steak House (after a quick phone reservation and consequently delaying our departure by 45min). The restaurant was full, with a great vibe and we were seated upstairs.

We have always found the service at Jervois Steak House to be outstanding and tonight was no exception. Our waiter was superb and very knowledgeable about the menu. We also noted how we had a story to tell to every table and made everybody feel very welcome.

To start Jane ordered the steamed Chilean Red Crab that came with three different butters (garlic, ginger and spicy). When this arrived, this was definitely a Wow moment. This was a huge (and I mean HUGE) crab leg that must have been about 60cm long, that had lots of meat within and was already cut along it’s length to make extraction easier. It tasted great on its own and we thought the butters all tasted similar; our conclusion was that they were really just there so that the crab didn’t look lonely.


I had the Sirloin steak for my main with a Porcini Jus. It was a lovely tender steak with lots of flavour, although it was rarer than I was expecting for a rare steak (which I’m okay with). I didn’t get a Wow that’s an awesome steak feeling that I’d had on a previous occasion when we got the T-bone for two.

Jane had another entree for her main, Lamb Wellington, that she was a bit disappointed with; the accompanying green chimichurri sauce was not to her liking and the dish didn’t meet her expectations as a delicious dish.

We accompanied our main meals with a Peanut Slaw and a Rocket lettuce salad w aged manchego cheese. Both were good although the slaw stood out as being an excellent accompaniment that is quite different than normal.

For dessert I had the Nougatine semifreddo “sandwich” w honey wafers & hot chocolate. The homemade marshmallow was lovely and the ice-cream beautiful and creamy. As for the hot chocolate, it was an odd accompaniment.


Jane had the Spanish chocolate fudge figs for dessert. The figs were perfectly ripe and the chocolate rich. A nice and simple dessert although you couldn’t eat too much of it, so I helped Jane out.

It is not a cheap meal out and there other other places around that I think are better value for money, but the nice ambience, superb service and a couple of different items on the menu will drag us back.

Flourless, sugarless pancakes

These are surprisingly good! You can't roll them, as the almond flour makes for quite a thick, stiff pancake, but they're still damn tasty! Adjusted slightly from something I found on about.com


  • 1 cup ground almonds (almond meal, almond flour - whatever you know it as)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 T oil (I used olive, but next time I'd use something lighter tasting)
  • 1/4 teaspoon himalyan sea salt
  • 1 T xylitol powder

Mix all ingredients together with a fork.  Heat a small skillet and use a little oil or ghee (I used butter because I don't have ghee yet) to grease, then cook at low heat - as for flour/sugar based pancakes.
Spread the mix out a little in the pan.  Flip when browned, remove then top with your favourite topping - I used xylitol and lemon juice. 

Even Simon approved! :-)

Makes about 4 small pancakes.

Revisiting travels - Advocaatje

The day after we cycled to Damme and back from Brugge, we went for a wander to find a couple of places, but in our usual way, we ended up somewhere other than where we were aiming for and found ourselves back at the ring road and the line of 4 old windmills up against the canal.  It was high time to eat lunch, so we found a little bakery and selected some bits and pieces and went and sat on the hill beside one of the windmills.  The following is something I've never come across before, and unless I can convince Simon's baker cousin to start making them, I doubt I'll see them ever again.

Called Advocaatje, this was a truely delectable piece of baking goodness (and I don't mean that in the healthy sense of the word!).  Wrapped in an almond icing, and topped with a shallow pool of some sort of advocaat based liquid, surrounded by whipped cream.  The whole thing was fairly well refrigerated, which was very nice, making the sponge (details to come) not too spongy and the cream not too soft or messy.

Turn it around and you can see, along with my teeth marks, the full strata of this little beauty....

So the base is a meringue, topped with (I think) whipped cream, then a layer of sponge cake and finally that generous dose of advocaat flavoured liquid - I can't honestly call it an icing, it was too runny for that, and had to be eaten carefully to prevent it running out and down the sides!  The combination of flavours - the sweet of the meringue, the fattiness of the cream, the alcoholic sharpness of the topping were all beautifully balanced, especially once wrapped in the almond icing.  Amazing.  Not even vaguely healthful, but what an experience!

On buying wheatgrass at Takapuna Market

We visited Keith of Keith's Wheatgrass at the Takapuna market this morning. First and foremost - he is fabulous! He knows a truckload about the product - how to grow it, how to consume it, benefits for the skin when you use it topically, cleaning the juicer, you name it! He's also incredibly friendly and easy to talk to, so if you have any questions about wheatgrass I'd encourage you to pop along (it's a great market too!) and have a chat with him.

I ended up deciding to just buy a tray of wheatgrass and a juicer from him for $100. Usually it would be $90 for the juicer and $15 for the grown tray of WG, if bought seperately. If I take my empty tray back next time, I'll get my next tray for $12. I may yet decide to grow my own, but thought I'd start this way for now.

I didn't realise that you do get a 2nd growth on the wheatgrass, however it should be noted that this typically has only 50% the nutrients of the first growth. And apparently once it starts getting a bit long and flopping over, you can harvest it all and place it in the fridge, ready for juicing. I think I'd prefer to cut, juice, drink on demand, but again, I'll see how I get on.

Note that Naturally Organic in Albany does sell Keith's trays of wheatgrass as well ($17), as does Wise Cicada in Newmarket.