Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The $10.90 Fries...

They were good. Kind of chewy (the playful kind) and fresh. The sauces were a delight, and I liked the cumin flavouring in the tomato salsa. Was it worth $10.90? in a way no because it was just potato (possibly one and a half), but in saying that I would very likely order it again because it was really good and that makes it worth it right?

Fries make me happy!
Eggs Benedict 
I ordered a laksa style mussel soup. It was very creamy and tasty without that heavy feeling that laksa sometimes has. Jack was boring and ordered the eggs benedict with bacon. Afterwards we had just enough room for a chocolate drink (I didn't really but you know...) and that concluded our lovely lunch at She Chocolat

Birthday Tart
Almond Tofu with Fruit Salad
It's my baby sister's birthday today! I did intend on making the cake but the chance of me being lazy and unmotivated was very high so instead, we ordered a birthday tart from YahagiAlong with the tart we also had a refreshing almond tofu that my dad made the night before (the tofu... not the canned fruit).

Happy Sweet 16 Baby Sis! 
Sunday, January 29, 2012

Jolin Shanghai Restaurant

Jack lived in Auckland for yonks so he knows where to eat. We were supposed to eat buns but due to navigational difficulties even though it was the same road (?!), we settled for dumplings instead. Apparently this place has some of the best dumplings so I was automatically excited.

Juicy Dumplings etc...
Back in the days I never understood the charm of xiaolongbao, I always ordered it at yumcha because of the name but never really liked them... that is until one day a new restaurant opened and when I bit into their dumplings, soup poured out of it. I was instantly enlightened! The broth was a bit rich in these dumplings, but probably more authentic and the fried dumplings were delish!

I was not expecting the drunken chicken to be in an alcoholic soup though because I'm probably more used to eating it the Cantonese way of being marinated in alcohol, served cold, soupless and garnished with spring onions and chilli peppers but it wasn't too bad. A lot of chicken, obviously couldn't finish because we also had soup... a lot of soup.

Crab and tofu soup. It had two crabs in it. More of a serve 4 option. The thing I love about going to Japanese restaurants is that they let you know if you have ordered too much and in some cases say no to me because I am being ridiculous (happens a lot), Chinese restaurants on the other hand... and because we were flying back that afternoon, I was not taking a doggy bag of crab and alcoholic chicken with me. I enjoyed lunch, a little on the fat and/or salty side but I think that's just the style of food.

Auckland... Up a hill somewhere then a garden? not the Auckland expert...
Enjoying a cool drink
I like flowers...
Not too long after lunch we went to Mission Bay and got Movenpick ice cream (I have a problem) and sat at the beach for a bit... honestly I wasn't too excited with the overcrowded small beach, made me miss home...however, the company was perfect :)
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Conference Dinner @ The Wharf

Jack sleeps really late so when he got up extra early the other day to help me change my bandage before I had to leave for conference my heart just melted.  I was only gone for a day but I knew he missed me when I got home and there was an extra blanket on the bed because he gets cold when I'm not next to him...

We stayed at Skycity this year. Breakfast and lunch were all at the hotel and boy do I hate buffets. Well, we have this love/hate relationship. I did behave a little this year... I didn't go back for seconds, only filled my plate up like silly and dessert (you have to eat dessert!). I don't normally eat like this (at least not from today I swear... well, I'll try...) but when it's all you can eat, you have to eat!

Jack: What did you eat for breakfast?
Me: I had 3 sausages, scrambled eggs, tomatoes, mushroom, hash brown, eggs benedict, bacon, smoked salmon and a bowl of fruit... because that's healthy...

He thought I was joking... If I hadn't eaten all those eggs I could have had more... stupid eggs.

My beef main
For the gala dinner we went to The Wharf. According to their website, they are Auckland's leading premier corporate, social and wedding venue. Very beautiful location especially with the sun setting on the water. Entrees were nice, the salmon flavours with the cous cous didn't blend that well with my palate though and texture wise, the chickpeas were a bit strange with the chicken. I still finished it all. I think I was the first at my table. No time to talk, too busy eating!

I chose the beef for my main because the waitress wasn't sure what the fish was and had a sneaking suspicion it was tuna and that kind of put me off. I like tuna but it's hard to cook and you can ruin a steak and it normally still tastes better than ruined tuna. The short rib was really good! The rest of it was okay because after Strawberry Fare you just couldn't compare. My beef was a little over done, the lady next to me had a juicier looking one but I guess when you have to cook for 70-80 people, consistency is hard. I'm glad I got the beef though... the tuna looked dry and colours were a lot blander than the description would imply.

Dessert was amazing though. Simple, but it worked really well. Visually it wasn't worth me taking a picture but it was the highlight of dinner. So, you can't judge food by how it looks (I know that, I cook a lot of tasty slop), except the tuna, a lot of people didn't finish theirs...

I came back last night and it's amazing what a day away of eating can do to you... but hey, now there's a little bit more of me to love right?!
Saturday, January 21, 2012

Strawberry Fare

The lesson for the day is to not hold the object you are trying to slice... and if the knife can cut through
meat, it's very likely that it is sharp enough to cut through the meat on your finger. Actually, the first lesson I learnt when I was young and had a knife stuck in the palm of my hand when my brother refused to cut an apple for me. I remember running around screaming and him ignoring me, but as I recall, there was a significant lack of blood,which is probably why I hadn't really learnt my lesson... until now. Or at least I hope... is it good to bleed so much before the Chinese New Year?

Hello Kitty handbag holder from Strapya World
I had a lovely dinner at Strawberry Fare the other night. Got to use my Hello Kitty handbag holder for the first time too, so cute. The only problem was with my handbag itself having such a long shoulder strap, so basically it was still sitting on the floor entirely defeating the whole purpose of a handbag holder. Nevertheless, I thought I was awesome and that rolling of the eyes thing Jack does, it must be some kind of eye disorder.

Mushroom Risotto
Beef Fillet on Truffled Potato Mash
I normally find it a rip off to go to a restaurant and pay so much for a dish made mostly of rice... but I have a thing for mushroom risottos, we go way back. Luckily it was good. Not as good as Jack's main though. I found myself scraping his mash every few seconds and boy was his beef fillet tender. I kind of felt bad for eating so much of his meal, but not really, I was just a bit annoyed that I was almost full and there was no way I was going to not eat dessert. You don't go to Strawberry Fare and not eat dessert. That's just insulting!

For dessert I got my favourite warm raspberry drenched chocolate cake. Three out of four times I come here I order that. Boring, but I can't help it. Jack ordered the tasting plate which was all part of my secret plan because I was going to eat bits (understatement) of his... unfortunately I had to order an ice chocolate as well so by the end of the meal I was happy but also in a lot of pain...why does milk not like me when I like it's creations so much? sigh
Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hello Kitty

Do I really need it?

Jack can be so negative when I buy things he thinks I don't need... He doesn't realise that I can always find a need for it... ALWAYS!

It's Hello Kitty?! and Sushi?! Two of my favourite things in one! What more can I ask for?!

Even the sushi is Hello Kitty?!
The detail is amazing! I want to eat them! If I were a child I would so get away with it too...

I don't really have anywhere to put it as yet, but it is amazing to look at. If I weren't "too old" I would be playing Hello Kitty sushi chef right now but no...

Baby, I needed these because our children will want to play Hello Kitty sushi chef one day (I don't care if I have to make them!)... and being the awesome future parent that I am, I am well prepared! 

400 Yen a box. Buy 6 to play your own Hello Kitty sushi chef @ Strapya World!  
Monday, January 16, 2012

The China Kitchen

"How was your meal? Good."
I had to laugh. It was very self assuring. In fact, what attracted us here was the fact that it says they have the Best Dumplings in Town. What was interesting for me was that they only really had one type of dumpling, different flavours but same really. I guess, if it's really good you only specialise in that one, right? The reviews online were full of praise, but to be honest, it's all personal opinion and not to be taken too seriously because everyone has different tastes. But sometimes it does make you wonder...
What makes good dumplings (for me) is the skin and the juicy filling. The condiments they provide are also very important. Joyful still has the best pan-fried dumplings (please hurry up and open again) in town, and even Zest Noodle House can probably claim to be better.
Spinach and Chicken Dumplings
Hot and Spicy Beef Noodles
When I was younger I never enjoyed deep fried wontons, they were so boring. Over the years with more competition in Chinese Restaurants etc, they got better and more exciting! You didn't just get over cooked wrappers with a dry smidgen of possibly pork, you can not always assume that it is pork because really, is that what pork is meant to taste like?! I thought I travelled back in time, those wontons tasted like they were from my childhood.

Disregard this little immature rant: /Start/ Reviewer who thought the wontons were very nice, what the hell?! Have you never had wontons before in your life or generally regard bad food as good?! I hate you! /End/ 
Actually, I hate myself (not really), I always fall for reviews even though I KNOW to not go with expectations and to make my own decision. Please don't go to places and judge food based on my opinion and then hate me (because I will hate you more! *evil death glare*), make your own mind and it's food, enjoy, don't like it, don't eat that thing (wontons grrr) again.

I mentioned before, skin of the dumplings is important. It was too thick. If you like doughy (I like my pancakes doughy, not dumplings... unless they are bready bun dumplings), then you are in for a treat aren't you?! The spinach and chicken dumplings were alright, the pork and chives were the better ones but they forgot them and by the time they finally came I just started eating, therefore no picture.

When I eat dumplings, I like to have a chilli and vinegar mixture for dipping. A lot of restaurants make their own chilli sauce which adds to the charm and flavour, it says a lot about their food and I generally know if I like a restaurant or not by their chilli sauce. I don't think they made their own sauce, it was a bit gluggy and thick (ha! like the dumpling skins) and not the type I like with dumplings. Good for making beef noodle soup though.

Originally Jack had ordered the zhar djan noodle but they said they were sold out and he was actually quite relieved because it's like me and tom yum soup, love it and have to order it all the time, but not many people can actually make it really well... it's a lot of trial and error. The lady suggested we order the hot and spicy beef noodle soup. It was decent. She said they stew it for two hours (I know that already because I've made it myself and observed many times my dad do the same), it wasn't melt in your mouth tender but good enough. Better than my beef noodle soup efforts (for now. Watch this space), I'll give them that.

Spring Onion Pancakes

The first time I cooked for Jack I made an epic six course Chinese dinner. Epic because prior to that, despite my dad being a chef, my cooking mostly consisted of food that came from a packet/can with the words instant or easy on it.

The six courses took me approximately six hours and there were a lot of carnage and casualties. But they say, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach and if I hadn't already stolen it with my cuteness and intelligence (haha), after that meal, he was definitely mine.

The dish he enjoyed most and probably took the least time and effort to make were my spring onion (scallion/green onion) pancakes. Tonight we decided not to over indulge and have a nice home cooked meal, so for my part of the effort I made these simple but yummy spring onion pancakes.

Nom Nom!
Spring Onion Pancakes
(makes 4-6 pancakes)

2 1/2 cup of flour and extra for dusting
3/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup cold water
2 stalks of spring onion (20g)
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tbsp chicken bouillon powder (optional)
Dash of sesame oil
Oil for brushing and cooking

Pour the hot water into the flour and mix quickly. Slowly add the cold water (you may not need all of it) and knead (kung-fu) into a ball of dough. Drizzle a little oil over the ball, pop a damp cloth or paper towel over the top and let it rest (much deserved!) while you get the spring onion mixture ready.

You should use only the greens of the spring onion, but if you are cheap or non wasteful (I am the former), you can tell yourself it doesn't matter. Chop and sprinkle with salt, bouillon powder and a dash of sesame oil and let it get a bit soft and slimey (mmm slimey).

Divide dough into 4-6 pieces and roll out on a lightly floured surface. I'm not an expert roller but good on you if you are, I don't even have a proper rolling pin so I think I do pretty well. Brush a little oil over the flattened dough and spread the slimey spring onion over it. Now if you did get cheapo with your mixture, break up the white bits of the spring onions so it's not a chunk. Roll up the dough and coil it like a snail. Flatten and repeat one more time. The finished result if you are awesome is a round pancake, but if you are even more awesome you get an odd shape which makes it all the more unique! Brush pancake with oil on both sides, cover to prevent drying and repeat process with the rest of the dough.

Heat up the frying pan with approx. a tbsp of oil on medium heat and fry one pancake at a time. Flip when the desired browness or crispness is achieved. When complete, blot with paper towels. Repeat with other pancakes. Eat immediately! Do it!

See, easy.

Slime + Dough = Snail?
I like my pancakes doughy but if you want them crispier roll them out thinner. If you don't intend to dip in sauce or eat with other things, add a little more salt. I added a lot more than a dash of sesame oil because I love the smell of that stuff. You can use vegetable or fish bouillon too, it's really because I like that stuff for that extra little flavour (emphasis on little) but not necessary. Don't be too stingey or scared of the oil, you blot after cooking anyway.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Flying Burrito Brothers

Ugh, being woken up by a 5.0... not cool. Had an early night yesterday after an exhausting two hour stroll along the beach. Body is soooo sore.

The Pier
It was hot and windy. The sand was painfully cutting at the skin. I stole Jack's sunnies and lent him my scarf... actually the scarf was for my protection against the sand but he decided he needed it more and yes he did walk along the beach like that... luckily I had his sunnies to hide my identity because people were staring.

Such a Fashionista
We decided to get Mexican for dinner. I recommended Flying Burrito Brothers because prior to the quake it had always been my favourite place for margaritas and Mexican food... I miss the old location, purely for the memories but this was the first time Jack had been here so it was a great way to start a new one.

New location  is at the old Pizza Hut restaurant, but apart from the shape of the restaurant (obviously), colour themes and decorations were kept similar to the old Armagh street branch.

Raspberry and Feijoa Margarita
Selection of Hot Sauces
Machos Nachos and Ceviche
Un Poquito De Todo
Ancho Chilli Pork Enchilada
There was a 30 minute wait for a table so we started with margaritas at the bar. Didn't realise the ceviche came with corn chips so with a double dose of them (not that we are complaining), we were about 70% full by the time the mains came. Which was a shame because we were really looking forward to getting dessert too. Flavours were delightful and Mr picky was very impressed. I was sad when I couldn't finish my Mexican rice though, as I had been craving it for so long, but because you always try to eat the meat or more expensive ingredients first if you can't finish your meal (habit), I was way too full to carry on. Jack suggested next time we only get one starter... but we'll see... they were so good!
Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Grand Cafe

The other day I drove past Strawberry Fare and saw they were opening again and got really excited (earthquakes spoil everything!). So much so that I spent the whole night thinking about it. To add  to my excitement, the new location is right next to Burger King and with my love of whoopers, how was that not a match made in heaven?!

So you can imagine my heartbreak when we got there, one building had been demolished and the other was closed temporarily for that one day. I was hungry and on the verge of crying. We had to find food quick, and with all the road blocks and alternate routes in town now, ended up at The Grand Cafe inside the casino.

I got a new app...

I'm not sure if I like four small pictures combined into one, or four big pictures. It's more convenient but I guess it's like food, one big meal or four tasting plates? When I cook, I like variation and I always have soup, at least two minor dishes and a main... anyway, ramble over, back to the subject. Got there, had to ask to be seated because the ladies at the counter didn't seem to care and got seated between these two other table in an otherwise empty restaurant. We ordered the soup of the day (potato and leek), a kiwi burger and the duck liver parfait. The food was decent and in their defence it was quite cheap so expectations aren't high. If there are chips with my order, I am generally happy...

After lunch we went to the park because Jack has developed an addiction to feeding ducks (and yes I know what we ate for lunch but they are different kinds... yes I keep telling myself that!). I on the other hand think they are evil and out to get me after one bit me the other week while Jack was on one of his highs and feeding them too close to me.

Jack and his fans
I had to drag him away from them, mostly because they were looking threatening towards me so we went to the other side of the park. Had to walk really fast because they were still following Jack. Found a bench to relax on and he had a nap while I played on my phone. Biggest shock of my life when one of his ducks waddled over to our bench like it was normal to say hi and where's my cheerios?! Yes I did scream and wake Jack up but seriously, how creepy and stalkerish is that!

Beware of ducks!
Monday, January 9, 2012


The last time I was here was well over a year ago, before the February earthquake. They opened a new Thai restaurant which I definitely intend to try one day (I am a sucker for tom yum) but sigh I am too much of a sucker for their fish and chips.

I grew up eating fish and chips (we had a shop so it was almost every day) and I must say, they do it really well.
Hoki and Hotdog Combo
Shellfish Combo

Next time however, probably wouldn't get the shellfish combo. I love oysters and scallops etc but more when they are fresh, raw and slimey and taste like the ocean (when you walk along the beach in Akaroa it actually smells like oysters, really...). The hoki fish was yummy and flakey, but kudos probably goes to the fish itself. Anyhoo, no complaints and our stomachs know we will be back. Might have to work on the appetite so we can fit in some Thai as well next time.

After the filling lunch we hired a paddleboat for an hour and did about 10 minutes of paddling and spent the rest drifiting in the water enjoying the calm surroundings and napping. No, that was Jack, I spent most of the time being eaten alive by sandflies and avoiding the HUGE spider on my side of the boat?!

Paddleboat instructions: Do not go past red boat or hit anything.

I normally do enjoy getting ice cream in Akaroa as well, but after the furious paddling to get back because ... something something but the guy pointed to the clouds so we had to go (he could have been courteous and towed us back with his speedboat), I was absolutely knackered and probably too eaten to be eating.
Sunday, January 8, 2012

Samurai Bowl

I love Japanese food! I love eating it, looking at it, taking pictures of it, dreaming about it, making it, studying it... actually... that statement applies to most foods but nevertheless, Japanese will always be my favourite.

Before the earthquake, Samurai Bowl was located in what I would describe as a hole in the wall. Walked past it many times but never really appealed. After the quake, to be honest, all new or reopened restaurants appealed, especially the Japanese ones.

Normally at a Japanese restaurant I take charge, drool over the menu and try to order as many things I can. This time I let Jack take charge because it was lunch time and he has more restraint than me... I had already ruined dinner all week by over eating at lunch time.

Jack loves dumplings. For starters he ordered  the negi mayo gyo-za dumplings (deep fried dumplings with mayonaise and spring onions) and takoyaki (octopus balls). I love watching bonito flakes dance on the hot takoyaki, it's like free entertainment... and "mains" we had the spicy miso ramen with a soft boiled egg (extra $1) and katsu curry on rice which came with a free miso soup! I love when things are FREE, but is it ever really free or just great marketing?


The starters were actually decent. The pork cutlets in the katsu curry were a little dry (my dad makes an awesome breaded pork cutlet seriously! this just couldn't even compare) but it wasn't too bad. I liked the ramen, Jack gave me all the fatty pork because he was disgusted by it and it probably was but I am disgusting and I LOVE fat!

Overall, I actually really liked Samurai Bowl and the 4.7 aftershock didn't even bother me because I was too busy concentrating on eating.

Let's see...

Sumner Beach

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