Monthly Archives: September 2013

Currently Coveting: Shirts

In the past I’ve never seen the point of wearing shirts, I thought they were too conservative and boring and they didn’t inject enough of my personality into my outfit.

Recently, I’ve noticed shirt in the shops in beautiful fabrics with interesting design features.  I’ve found myself looking at shirts more and more often but had been hesitant to purchase one as I wasn’t sure whether I’d get the wear out of it.

In July, I finally found the perfect Equipment shirt that made me change my mind.  It is navy blue with a mustard yellow collar and white cuffs.  I’ve been converted.  I’ve found that shirts work during the day and are also the perfect item of clothing to wear in the evenings now that my nights out consist more of dinners out rather than drinks, bars and clubbing.

I’ve now got two silk shirts, have my eye on several others and am constantly on the look out for more to add to my (currently small) collection.

Pictured below are some of my favourites that I’m trying to find budget for so I can add them my wardrobe.

The Scott top from ALC, the tuxedo style colour blocked front panel makes a real statement and looks smart for day and night, to see more click here

a.l.c. top button-alc scott silk layeredeffect colorblock shirt

Equipment Bret Blouse with contrast metal collar.  A classic black shirt with an edge.  The collar would look amazing peeking out from under a crew neck jumper.  To see more click here

Helen Cherry Jemima Blouse.  A sheer handprinted chevron silk shirt with a pussy bow which can either be worn loose or tied at the neck.  To see more click here

Ruby bird shirt, an oversizedshirt with a drop shoulder, this also comes in a black and white polka dot option. To see more click here

http://www.shopbop.com

http://www.workshop.co.nz

http://www.rubynz.com

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Mekong Baby

I finally got the chance to try Mekong Baby in Ponsonby the other night. I’ve been wanting to go there ever since it opened a few months ago in the space previously occupied by GPK.  The South East Asian food sounded like just the type of cuisine I love.

This type of dining definitely suits groups as most of the dishes are designed for sharing and it means you get to sample a wider range of the dishes on the menu.

I started with a rose and lychee martini which was one of the best cocktails I’ve had in a long time.  It was sweet without being cloying and I could taste the delicate flavours of both the rose and the lychee.  We then moved onto a bottle of the Murdoch James Savignon Blanc.

Now onto the food!  We ordered a large range of dishes including the betel leaves with crab, kaffir lime and chilli; the crispy rice flour crepes with fried tempeh, mushrooms and chilli jam; wok fried squid with nouc cham and Vietnamese mint; shredded chicken, ruby grapefruit and coconut salad; fire chicken, pickled daikon, cucumber and iceberg lettuce; duck with pineapple, potatoes, shallots and peanuts in massaman curry; pad see ew, braised wagyu skirt, kai lan, shallots, and rolled rice noodles; lamb shoulder slow cooked with soy, lemon and garlic and finally some roti and jasmine rice to accompany our food.

I thought the standout dishes were the rice flour crepes which were light and crisp and the filling spicy and tasty without being overbearing, I also really enjoyed the duck curry which was rich and flavoursome with a hint of sweetness from the pineapple and the salads were light, fresh, delicious and refreshing.

We also ordered three desserts to share, the palm sugar ice cream sundae with peanut praline and kaffir lime syrup, the black rice and orange tart with clotted cream and the papaya lime meringue pie. My favourite was the palm sugar ice cream sundae.  The crunchiness of the peanut praline perfectly complemented the creaminess of the ice cream and the tartness of the kaffir lime syrup.

After eating at all three of the modern Asian fusion restaurants on Ponsonby Road (the other two being The Blue Breeze Inn and Moochowchow), I’d rate Mekong Baby my favourite with Moochowchow a close second and The Blue Breeze Inn a distant third.

http://www.mekongbaby.com

Slow Cooked Pork Belly Bao Pockets

I’ve been to The Blue Breeze Inn  in Ponsonby, Auckland a couple of times and the menu item I’ve enjoyed the most is the slow cooked pork belly Bao pockets.  The idea for the Bao pockets originated in David Chang’s famous Momofuku restaurant in New York.

We recently discovered that Bao pockets are now available at Chinese supermarkets, so decided to make our own version.

We filled our Bao pockets with hoisin sauce, cucumber slices, pickled carrots, shredded iceberg lettuce and slow cooked crispy skinned pork belly.

They were delicious, the Bao pockets are soft, light and fluffy, the hoisin sauce sticky and full of flavour, the pork tender and melt in the mouth with the contrasting crunch of the crackle and the pickled carrots provided a crisp texture and perfect amount of tang.

Chinese Eggplant, Tofu and Black bean Casserole

Whenever we eat out at Chinese restaurants, I always enjoy ordering the casserole dishes but have never tried cooking one myself.  Tonight I had a spare eggplant and thought I’d try cooking a casserole at home.

After a search of ingredients that I had at home and recipes online, I decided to use a recipe I found on Slice of Rice as a guide and make some modifications of my own.

Ingredients

4 tbsp of oil

1 eggplant cut into 2 cm cubes

1 packet deep fried tofu, sliced

2 cloves of garlic minced

1cm piece of fresh ginger, minced

2 spring onions finely chopped

1 cup of chicken stock

2 tbsp of black bean sauce

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1/4 cup cold water

1 tsp cornflour

1 tsp sesame oil

Heat half of the oil in a wok and stir fry the eggplant until it is golden brown.  Remove from the wok and drain on a paper towel.  Heat the remainder of the oil In the same wok and stir fry garlic, ginger and half the spring onions for 30 seconds.  Add the chicken stock, black bean sauce and soya sauce to the wok and stir. Mix the cold water and cornflour together in a separate bowl then stir into the sauce mix in the wok.  Add eggplant and simmer gently for 5 minutes.  Add sliced tofu to the wok and simmer gently for another 5 minutes.  Stir in sesame oil.  Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle remaining spring onions on top.

Preparation time: 15 minutes.  Cook time: 15 minutes

Serves 4

O’Connell St Bistro

O’Connell St Bistro is an intimate fine dining restaurant located on O’Connell St in Auckland.  It has been running for 16 years and regularly features in Metro magazine’s Top 50 restaurants.

The dining space is cosy and intimate but with enough room between tables to allow a sense of privacy when talking to your dining companions.

We arrived early and took a seat at the bar, ordering a couple of pre dinner drinks and also receiving a complimentary plate of olives marinated with garlic and rosemary.

We ordered a range of entrees to share including the crispy fried squid with pickled vegetable, herb salad and wasabi mayo; brik pastry wrapped crayfish with braised leeks, smoked leek and creamed potato; chicken liver parfait with calvados jelly, apple and fig chutney and warmed brioche loaf and the oyster special.  All the entrees we delicious but the standout was the crayfish dish, the pastry was crisp and light, the crayfish perfectly cooked and it was all offset by the creamy texture of the potatoes and smoky leeks.

For mains, we ordered the fresh market fish (line caught snapper) with scampi risotto, fennel and lemon beurre blanc; braised short rib of beef with agria mash, baby carrots and swedes and panko crumbed shortbreads; eye fillet of beef with pomme galettes, snails, red wine confit shallots, mustard and kawa kawa butter, white bait fritters and the seared new season scallops with almond purée, chorizo, crispy Serrano ham and Pedro Ximenez sherry reduction.   My line caught snapper was perfectly cooked and the risotto and beurre blanc rich and creamy but I really enjoyed my taste of the braised short rib, the meat was so meltingly tender that it just fell apart when stabbed with a fork.

For dessert we again ordered some dishes to share and got the dulcey chocolate mousse, salted caramel and banana ice cream; dark chocolate fondant with orange jelly and earl grey ice cream; and the warm rhubarb and mango with vanilla ice cream, puff pastry lattice, macadamia and strawberry champagne sorbet.  Our waiter recommended the wine match for each dessert and my glass of Cloudy Bay late harvest Riesling 2007 perfectly complimented the sweetness and saltiness of the dulcey chocolate mousse.

O’Connell St Bistro is a very special restaurant with excellent wait staff and outstanding food.

Petit Bocal Part Two

I enjoyed dinner at Petit Bocal last Friday night so much that I had to go back this week to try out the lunch menu.  See my post on dinner at Petit Bocal here.

Petit Bocal has an extensive brunch and lunch menu that includes all the usual offerings such as eggs benedict, eggs florentine, bagels, baguettes, salads, crepes and omlettes.  There are also a few more unusual dishes such as JP’s marinated sardines, Shashi’s eggs and sourdough tartines.

We ordered the crepes with lemon and sugar; a baguette with champagne ham, emmental cheese, tomato and salad; the sourdough tartine with home cured salmon gravlax, dill mayonnaise, red onion and capers; the sourdough tartine with pulled chicken, capsicum, red onion, corgettte, basil and coriander and a bowl of the thick cut rosemary salted fries with homemade aioli.

All the food was delicious once again, fresh, light and tasty. The breads in particular we’re especially good, both the baguette and the sourdough had chewy crusts and soft, fluffy insides.  The only thing that was slightly disappointing were the crepes.  They were well cooked and beautifully presented but I felt that $12 was a bit expensive for two crepes, a little dish of brown sugar and a two wedges of lemon.

The service was very good with the waitress even bringing over coloring books and crayons for my two little ones.

Elmo Birthday Cake

One of my daughters had a birthday this week and it was my turn to make the cake. She chose one of her favourite characters for her cake, Elmo, or Mo Mo as she calls him.

I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to make a large cake in the shape of Elmo’s head or some cupcakes decorated to look like Elmo.  After a lot of thinking, I finally came up with the idea to make mini Elmo heads out of fondant for the cupcakes. I wanted to try something different and I’ve never worked with fondant before.

One thing led to another and I ended up making a two large fondant Elmo’s and 12 mini Elmo heads for cupcakes.  The fondant was reasonably easy to work with and the results were really cool.

I made one large white chocolate mud cake for the main birthday cake and a batch of chocolate fudge cupcupcakes.  I had a lot of batter left over from the cupcake recipe so I also made a batch of mini cupcakes, which unfortunately crumbled when I tried to take them out of the cases.

I had a whole bowl of cake crumbs left over which seemed a waste to throw out so I thought I’d try making some cake pops.  Another first for me, the cake pops were reasonably straight forward.  I made a batch of cream cheese icing, mixed it in with the cake pops and rolled into balls.  I put the balls into the freezer until firm, then pushed sticks into the balls, rolled them in melted chocolate then decorated them with sprinkles and pebbles.  Finally I stood them in a block of polystyrene to dry.

The cake pops turned out really well.  They looked amazing all clustered together and the kids loved to eat them.  I’ll definitely make them again next time I have some left over cake bits or a cake that doesn’t turn out properly.