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Posts from the ‘Restaurant reviews’ Category

Little & Friday’s Chocolate Cherry Cake & New Residents

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Happy New Year Everyone!

I have a little obsession for Little & Friday cakes, fortunately I don’t venture close to their cafes often otherwise I may look as round as this chocolate cake. For those of you who live in Auckland you may have already visited one of their little cake shops and experienced their baking delights. They’re what I call ‘real’ cakes, they are cakes with substance, traditional in texture but modern in appearance.

I have not listed the recipe as I have not bought the book yet, although it is on my wish list. National Radio have the recipe here, permission given to publish by the owner. The recipe came out exactly how I had experienced them at Little & Friday, although I did use cherries instead of raspberries.

We have new residents at our house, Beryl, Thelma and Nerys. They are three adopted hens which had been abandoned and we happily gave them a new home…. well actually a very elaborate coop and free range of the garden. They were all a little scruffy and dirty when they arrived and we were told they weren’t laying eggs but we have big hearts and decided even if they don’t lay we would look after them. A good bath, yes we bathed them! A good diet and they are now laying and they donated the eggs for my chocolate cake.

If you come from Northern England you might recognise their name? They come from the cast and actors of a TV series called the Liver Birds which was set in Liverpool, my beautiful home town. The Liver Birds are also an iconic emblem that represents the city of Liverpool, dating back to the 1300s. Two statues can aslo be see towering above the port on the Royal Liver Buildings.

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Geisha Mary & Ebisu Restaurant Britomart

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A few weeks ago we went to Ebisu restaurant in Britomart, Auckland. There tag line describes it perfectly, ‘Ebisu offers something new, a sophisticated twist on the traditional Japanese izakaya style of informal drinking and dining’.

The evening started off splendidly with Geisha Mary cocktail served in a wonderful mini carafe. The Japanese twist on the Bloody Mary, it was more complex in its flavours, with a base of sake, wasabi, lime, Japanese chili and a touch of furinake I couldn’t resist trying to make my own version.
After such a great start we were not disappointed with the shared dishes that followed, all faultless and divine but my top picks where the sliced seared duck breast marinated in soy & ginger, served with pickled nashi pear, green tea salt, the soft shell crab, deep fried, with orange ponzu, wasabi tartare and the unassuming dish of warm eggplant pickled in chilli sake vinegar with sesame shiso dressing. Let’s not forget dessert, finishing off the evening with the most divine black sesame ice cream with as sour cherry compote and Japanese apple doughnuts and chocolate sauce which may have been on the special menu.

The only down side of the evening for me was the restaurants modern twist, is it a night club or restaurant? With JD music pumping by 7.30pm it didn’t compliment the exemplary food they served but perhaps that is the sign of our times and something to do with being the best side of forty ;0)
The food is certainly worth going back for and we will but at an earlier hour or lunch. In the meantime I leave you with my Geisha Mary Cocktail.

Ingredients
2 cups tomato juice
1/2 tsp wasabi paste
2 shots saki
Juice of half a generous lime
Pinch salt
Large pinch of Japanese chili
6-8 ice cubes
Furinake to garnish

Method
Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously to combine the wasabi.
Pour into serving glasses with the ice.
Sprinkle with Pacific Harvest Karengo flakes and serve

Breakfast of Indian Eggs & Cafe Gala Mt Eden

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This dish was inspired by the Gala Cafe in Mt Eden where I met up with a group of Auckland food bloggers the other week. Before meeting the girls I had a peek at the menu online to see what I would fancy for breakfast that day, always better to decide before going as the catching up and chatter is a little distracting from the menu. The dish Mother In Law’s Indian Eggs, what a fabulously named dish, how could one pass this choice up? Although I did hesitate briefly on the Spanish Sardines on Rye and the Arthur Reuben Madison Ave Deli Sandwich.

The eggs where served fried on Turkish bread with a Masala spice, freshly chopped tomatoes and coriander. I’m not a big fan of fried eggs but these were cooked perfectly, no tough crispy underside, just lightly browned and flipped briefly to cook the sprinkling of Masala spice on top. The most popular dish at our table was Eggs Benedict, very generous in portion with oodles of Hollandaise sauce. The coffee, Alpress, was excellent and the atmosphere was bright and airy with high ceilings and funky art covered walls. I would easily recommend the cafe and go there again.

My version of Indian Eggs is with slightly pan sauted tomatoes, spring onions and a few spices, letting the eggs steam in the same pan by placing a lid over everything and turning the heat down really low. Some of you may not like spicy food for breakfast, although I can eat it any time but it would make a good brunch or even a quick and simple dinner. I made mine in two mini frying pans but you can use one family size pan and place it in the middle of the table for diners to serve them selves.

Ingredients – for 2
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 spring onion, finely sliced
1-2 eggs per person
Handful each of fresh coriander and parsley, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp Garam Masala powder
Salt & Pepper

Method
In a sauce pan add a couple of tablespoons olive oil.
Add the sliced spring onions, cumin and mustard seeds and sauté for a few two minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook for a further minute to heat through (no longer as they will cook further once eggs are added).
Stir in half the chopped coriander and parsley and season with salt and pepper.
Add the eggs, one or two per person then place a lid on the pan and lower the heat right down. This will allow the eggs to cook through and steam a little.
Cook for another 5 minutes until the egg white is no longer opaque but the yolk is still runny. Or longer if you prefer harder eggs.
Sprinkle over the garam masala and rest of the herbs and serve.

Sunday Eggs with Babaganoush & Breakfast at Queenies Lunchroom

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Queenies Lunchroom seems to be my meeting place with fellow Auckland bloggers. We met there again a few weeks ago to discuss a few more ideas for the upcoming Food Bloggers Conference in November. I’m always pleased for an excuse to head into town and have breakfast, it’s a 45 minute drive for me so we only go if we have something planned or meet up with friends. Last time I was at Queenies I was torn by the menu choices, they offer dishes you wouldn’t see anywhere else like the Turkish eggs which are poached eggs served with babaghanoush, yoghurt, hot chilli butter and toast. That was my choice for the day.

The photo is my replica of the dish which I made for breakfast, I didn’t have the yoghurt in the fridge ( well I did but it was well past it’s best to eat fresh so I skipped this).

Below is Nigel Slater’s recipe for Babaganoush. Make a big batch and use it on sandwiches or as a dip as well as with your poached eggs. I used smacked paprika rather than grill the aubergine/egg plant which is the traditional way.

Ingredients
2-3 aubergine/egg plant
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp tahini paste
Juice of a lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of smoked paprika

Method
Grill the aubergines over hot coals or the flame of a gas hob till the skin has charred and the flesh is very soft. Or as I did bake them then add the smoked paprika.
Scrape the flesh from the charred skin and whisk with 2 crushed cloves of garlic.
Add the lemon juice, tahini paste and olive oil and paprika.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with poached eggs, toast or pita bread, a drizzle of chilli oil and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

Homemade Mozzarella & Slow Food Waitakere Group

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A Sunday doesn’t get much better than having a group of foodies over for a mozzarella making workshop at the Gourmet Gannet. Making Mozzarella is fun at the best of times but that increased ten fold with the bunch from the Slow Food Waitakere group. For those local to Auckland and interested in locally produced food its a great group to get involved in, our next outing we will be visiting Kazuyo and Eri (Eri is a Japanese chef) and the menu is based on Japanese high Cuisine as make in Nara.

So how do you top a fun morning making mozzarella? Well you all pop along to the newly opened Tasting Shed on State Highway 16 for leisurely lunch. There we enjoyed dishes such as rolled pigs head, braised lambs neck on a bean puree, roasted quail, cauliflower fritters with cauliflower a la Greque and for those of us who had a sweet tooth a churros con Chocolat and a citrus rice with brûlée crisp top. I’m glad it’s my local since there is so many dishes I would like to try.

Here’s the recipe for mozzarella in one hour. The key is to use pasteurized milk, it doesn’t work with ultra pasteurized or homogenized.

Ingredients
makes 3 medium balls
2 litre milk
1 tsp citric acid
½ tsp salt
½ tsp rennet (Renco brand from supermarkets) or 1/4 Mad Millie Vegetarian tablet
1ml calcium chloride

Method
1. In a pan add;
2 litres full cream milk (Meadowfresh farmhouse, A2, NOT homogenized)
½ tsp salt (not iodized salt)
1ml calcium chloride
1tsp citric acid (dilute with 1 tsp water)
2. Gently heat to 32C, use a water bath if you are not confident with the milk.
3. Add;
½ tsp rennet or 1/4 tablet of veg rennet (diluted with 1tbsp water)
4. Stir well and leave for 20 minutes to allow curds to form.
5. Cut curds into 1 cm cubes with a knife.
6. Heat gently to 41C slowly forming the curd into a ball with a slotted spoon. This should gradually come together into a ‘milk brain’ shape. Do not force or squeeze the curd together. Do not over heat. Remove from heat.
7. In a small pan heat some sterilized water to 70C.
8. Place a ball of curd into the hot water (inside a sieve for ease of lifting out) to cook & stretch the curd. Roll around with a wooden spoon. It should start to become stretchy/sticky.
9. Take the ball out of the hot water and stretch (do not pull, let gravity do the work) then fold, then shape into a ball shape.
10. Plunge into a bowl of ice cold water. This helps cool the cheese quickly and retain its shape.
11. Eat immediately or it can be retained in the fridge in a sealed container for a few days only. Remember, it has no preservatives!

(note; To acidic will be too stretchy. Not enough acid, will snap so use exact citric acid offered)

Truffle Hunting and Auberge de la Truffe

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It was a drizzly summers day in France, not what we were expecting at all for our holiday in Perigord in June but perhaps the perfect day to spend in the truffle museum in Sorges and then from there to the restaurant Auberge de la Truffe for a long lunch. Perhaps if it had been gloriously sunny day we may not have indulged in a long three coursMe lunch but we were in no rush this day to walk round in the rain so Auberge de la Truffe is where we stayed. Auberge de la Truffle is a Michelin rated restaurant so we knew we were in for a treat.
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They say the best ways to eat truffle is in a salad, omelet or risotto, or if you are feeling really flash just lightly fry as much as you can afford in butter. At €60 a hundred gram it may not be too much.

We chose an omelet at the restaurant which was beautifully light and served with a salad with local walnuts, this followed a soup of carrots and we finished with a walnut parfait and chocolate sauce and an apple Tart Tatin. Well we thought we had finished but when we ordered coffee we received a plate of sweet treat to accompany the coffee; macarons, frangipane cake and pate de fruit. The service was excellent and the maitre de was very encouraging and helpful with my little French. A wonderful experience if you go truffle hunting in Perigord.

The truffle museum is just along the road, where you can learn all about the history of growing truffles to the varieties as well as how to begin your own truffle farm. I did buy myself a very very very small truffle, enough to make a risotto for two people and hope to share this with you later. I dream about cultivating my own truffles but the north island of NZ is probably too warm in winter but maybe could try with just one tree.

Here’s a few pics also of where we stayed.
Our villa and pool and the local village Bourdielles.

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Jamie’s Fifteen Restaurant, Watergate Bay Cornwall

A trip to the west coast of Cornwall wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Jamie’s Fifteen ( http://www.fifteencornwall.co.uk/) on the beach at Watergate Bay. We booked months in advance of our trip to ensure our space and I counted the days till we went, it was to be one of the highlights of our trip and it didn’t disappoint.

A window seat gave us a view over the bay and we watched the surf crashing in and the sun setting as we grazed our way through our five course degustation menu. As the sun dipped below the horizon we thought about it rising in Muriwai and wondered how our house sitters and pussycats were fairing on the other side of the globe.

So what did we eat at Jamie’s Fifteen? Mussels with fennel and cherry tomatoes was our appetizer but I dived in so quickly that I forgot that I was going to take a photo of each courses. I didn’t take a menu either so I am going on memory for the descriptions so I hope I do it justice Jamie.

Veal Tartar with a lemon zest rocket salad (no photo)
Gooey Buratta, Italian smashed peas & little leaves

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Roast Duck Tortellini in a duck broth (no photo)

Crispy fillet of John Dory, crushed Cornish potatoes, asparagus and a Sorrel Aoli
30 day aged Angus Eye Fillet with borlotti beans

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Chocolate Nemesis Cake, Clotted Cream and Strawberries
Lemon Mascapone Cake with poached Apricots

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Handmade Truffles and coffee

I could eat this menu all over again, it was perfect in every way as was the service and the wine pairing. I have promised to recreate the buratta dish (mozzarella poached in cream) and the John Dory for family this week so I may even post my taking on these dishes if I get the chance to capture them. My family, not like my poor suffering hubby, aren’t used to my photographing their dinner so we shall see.

For those who don’t know Fifteen is a global social enterprise and charity founded by Jamie. Heart of it is a chef training programme with a mission ‘to empower young people and give them a second chance’.

Now on to France and a few local restaurants in Perigord.

Pilgrimage to Padstow

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Pilgrimage – as stated in the Oxford dictionary ‘a journey to a place of particular interest or significance’

My sister lives 20 minute from Padstow on Bodmin Moor which as you all can imagine was music to my ears while planning a trip to Europe. We decided to gather the rest of the family and spend a week in Cornwall together, it would give us all a holiday and I could make my pilgrimage to Padstow, or Padstein as it seems to have been nick named.

Padstow is a quaint seaside village with a small harbour and a few narrow cobble stone streets made famous in recent years by Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant. The Seafood Restaurant is one of many Rick Stein adventures in village, there is now Steins Patisserie, Steins Fish & Chips, Steins Deli, Steins Cafe, Steins B&B and he also owns the Cornish Arms in the neighbouring village. So you can understand why it has it’s nick name.

We went to his fish and chip restaurant with the family and I had oysters followed by grilled mackerel and chips and Chalky’s beer. The fish was all beautiful and fresh and the beef dripping batter hubby chose was delicious, I imagine only in England do they still dare use beef dripping in cooking. We browsed his Deli and bought the obligatory souvenirs like aprons and tea towels and a few treats to consume at home, then onto his patisserie. We had already sampled several Cornish pasties at this stage in our holiday but Rick’s traditional style pasty won our vote for the best tasted so far with light flaky pastry and the perfect filling combination of meat and potato. We didn’t stop at pasties of course, we filled a bag with meringues the size of dinner plates to be served later with Cornish clotted cream. Scones, jam and more clotted cream, sunken chocolate cake and mini macarons, it was going to be a feast of an afternoon tea which would probably just keep us going on treats till Jamie’s Fifteen in Watergate Bay the next day!

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Lombardi’s Cafe & Deli

I write restaurant & cafe reviews for our local Muriwai paper ‘The Gannet’ and this is the latest one, it is a few weeks old as I never Blog it prior to it being published in the paper but I am still a regular visit to the cafe and as yet nothing has changed.

61 Brigham Creek Rd, Whenuapai

29th August 2010

I have to confess, this is my ‘pit stop’ on the way to work every day, somehow I seemed to manage without coffee before Lombardi’s opened in May 2010 but now I find it difficult to drive by without popping in for the perfectly made flat white and a date scone fresh out of the oven at 7.30am!

Lombardi’s is located where Peas in The Pod used to be. Thankfully the premises has been taken over by people who believe in offering original, fresh, inspiring food rather than the regular processed variety sold not so far away. They have done a great job refitting the café giving it a light, modern look and staffing it with a welcoming team who have that barrister gift of remember everyone’s coffee preference.

The chiller cabinet is always stocked full of tempting seasonal sweet and savoury dishes ranging from homemade vegetarian or meat pasties the size of a large man’s fist, generous frittatas and risotto cakes to a range of beautifully made muffins, truffles, decadent cakes and tarts. And if that leaves you feeling full they always offer a selection of creative fresh salads and a wide range of gluten free choices.

Since I’ve sampled my fair share of the cabinet food I took the opportunity last week to check out their breakfasts and weekend service by treating hubby to brunch. The breakfast menu is relatively compact but not lacking and neither are the dishes they serve and their size. Between us we had the Big Breakfast ($19.50) served with your choice of eggs that lived up to it’s name and the Garlic Herb Hash Cake served with creamed Spinach, Bacon & Poached Eggs ($17.50), we fought over the last of the hash cake, it was so tasty sitting in it’s pool of creamy spinach. For a lighter breakfast you can choose a Bircher Muesli with Berry Yoghurt or a Fruit Salad, personally I don’t think I will ever get past ordering the hash cake it is that good.

So if you’re planning brunch with friends or just need a good coffee and a quality cake fix, I would highly recommend Lombardi’s.

Porcini Cafe – Bistro & Pizzeria, Helensville

5th June 1020

25 Commercial Road, Helensville. Ph: 420 8025

It was a wet Queens Birthday weekend and unusually our ‘foodie’ friends all found themselves with no major plans for the long weekend. This called for a group dinner but rather than trekking into town we decided to try Porcini in Helensville since we had heard along the grapevine that it was getting rave reviews.

It was Saturday evening, we dolled ourselves up knowing we could possible stick out like part of a dogs anatomy in Helensville and headed up North with mixed expectations of what was to come.

We opened the restaurant door to a very welcoming smell of food being lavishly cooked in garlic. There was a cosy European style bistro atmosphere that gave off a vibe of punters really enjoying their evening.

The menu offered a range of mains, pizza & pasta dishes. We had eaten a few nibbles before dinner so we decided to share a main dish of raviolli filled with Porcini mushroom, baked in a bacon, garlic, spinach cream sauce ($21.50) as an entrée between 5 of us and ‘he who shall remain nameless’ had an Avocado baked with mushrooms and scallops ($17.50) to himself. I did get a taste of the avocado entrée which was an absolute winner. The warm avacado gave a sensational creamy base for the scallops, I would pick this one again next time all for myself

The mains we chose were Twice roasted duck with a rich Grand Marnier jus ($36.50) , which gave us all a chuckle when it arrived since half a duck filled have the plate but it mean there was enough for to sample. It was beautifully tender, with little fat and a crispy aromatically spiced skin. Both the Pork Fillet Marsala with a garlic mushroom cream sauce ($29.90) and the Scotch Fillet Steak smothered with mushroom & red wine jus, served on horseradish mash ($35.50) were cooked to perfection and hearty portions like the duck. Athough the steak was a little more cooked than requested it did not deter from the enjoyment of thevdish. I chose from the specials board, having worked in the industry I know this is often is an outlet for the chef’s creative flair from the regular menu. The medium rare venision served with a pan jus ($36.50) was perfectly cooked and the rich pan jus would put any flashy restaurant to shame.

Feeling rather full after our mains we shared desserts of sticky date pudding, crème brulee, tirimisu and pecan & honey tart. We enjoyed them all except the tirimisu which was a little liquidy. The coffees came with a divine homemade almond and chocolate toffee which I felt outshone the desserts.

The menu is certainly city prices unless you plump for the pizzas, and even though it may not be up to city presentation and plating the standard of the dishes was certainly on a par and the portion size was a lot more generous.

All in all an excellent evening, I would highly recommend a visit and we would certainly go again.

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