Archives for Writing

Profiling three Kiwi Chefs in New York in the Listener

  As a result of my travels in the US earlier this year I’ve had a piece published in this week’s Listener on three Kiwi chefs making a go of it in New York, including the big guy Matt Lambert whose restaurant holds a Michelin Star. The others are Pauli Morgan of the Nelson Blue bar and restaurant and Mark Simmons of the Kiwiana Café in Brooklyn. A pleasure to talk to all of them.
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Dragonfly intrigues and delights

Oddly for a Chinese style restaurant (and also for me) I thought the dessert was the best of the three courses we ate. Not that the others were bad – they weren’t, but the apple pie was particularly special. Dragonfly is riding the crest of a wave of popularity, which taken at its peak leads on to the restaurant equivalent of fame and fortune. It was named as one of David Burton’s twenty best modern restaurants in Wellington – a list which includes the very over-rated Charlie Nobel’s where the food is only average and where staff may deign to serve you if they can be bothered. Popularity is not a reliable guide to quality or authenticity but Dragonfly doesn’t seek the label of best genuinely Chinese restaurant. On the contrary it is determinedly modern and innovative, which is precisely why it resonates with the younger dining out regularly set that filled the bar and tables on the Saturday night we visited. Our little party of two shared the spring rolls which were three long rolls in a firm case
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Loretta good; Rockyard not.

Ethnic restaurants operating in New Zealand have a choice: either they can be true (or as true as possible) to the cuisine of their country of origin, or they can “Kiwi-ise” their food so it is more acceptable to local tastes. Rockyard, the Vietnamese restaurant in Allen Street in Wellington, takes the first option and suffers for it, even though it seems temporarily popular. It’s an unfortunate choice because Vietnamese food is not so strange or so chilli hot that it needs to be blanded down, unlike Thai or Indian food arguably needs to be. Personally I am a believer in and advocate for the ‘keep it authentic’ approach, but some modifications can be either necessary or popular. In Auckland I once had a tom yum soup for lunch which was rated as medium on the restaurant’s scale but was so blisteringly mouth numbingly hot that my palate was out of action for the rest of the day. Some Indian restaurants dare diners to eat their hottest curries at their own risk. Those rare instances aside I firmly believe Kiwis
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Front Room Disappoints: food was bland

When four old friends gather for lunch there is much talk, laughter and enjoyment. That’s what meetings of old friends are about; a catch up over food, coffee and whatever other liquids we fancy. So the Front Room (www.frontroomcafe.co.nz) on the beachfront at Waikanae seemed ideal; casual, not likely to be too crowded, a good reputation and we had all been there before, and enjoyed it. To be blunt this latest experience was disappointing and perhaps even a bit overpriced. We agreed to share the Spanish tasting plate ($18), because we just fancied a nibble to start. There was one croquette, three small pieces of fried chorizo, some almonds, some piquillo peppers, a small pot of pesto, a couple of slices of manchego cheese, about enough for one biscuit each, some ham, and four small pieces of coca bread. The list makes it sound more generous than it was. So among the four of us, a nibble it was. To follow two of us had the pork sandwich, ($19) and two choose the salmon stuff on toast. In the sandwich
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Cooking memories from childhood

One inescapable fact influenced every aspect of our domestic life when I was growing up. My father was diagnosed as a type one diabetic when I was four years old. According to the medical practices of the day this meant that he had to avoid certain foods high in sugar, and seek a balance of protein and carbohydrate in each and every meal.Meals were to be taken at the same time each day – which suited his temperament anyway. He tested his blood sugar three times a day and injected insulin twice a day. Adjustments to food intake were made to take into account physical work, alcohol consumption, the test results and variations in meal times. In practice this meant that he ate meat, or a suitable protein substitute like eggs, three times a day, ate only certain vegetables and avoided others entirely. Broad beans were out. Peas, pumpkin, potatoes, kumara, parsnip were allowed in regulated quantities. Silver beet, carrots, beans, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, lettuce and other salad ingredients were all fine. We ate what he could eat. There
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