The Federal Delicatessen

The Federal Delicatessen (The Fed) is the new Al Brown restaurant on Federal Street. After dining at Depot next door last weekend (and the recommendations of several friends) I was keen to try The Fed as soon as I could.

We went on a Friday night and luckily managed to get a table straight away.  The vibe in The Fed is very 1950’s diner cool with booths, seats at the bar overlooking the food preparation area and the wait staff in cute retro style uniforms.

We decided to try a range of dishes to share so we could try a little bit of everything.   We got the smoked Kawhai fish cakes; the pastrami on rye with ballpark mustard; the turkey meatloaf with pecans, celery heart, Granny Smith and whole grain mustard; the poutine, which is fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy and the slaw.

The Kawhai fish cakes were amazing, crispy on the outside, soft, creamy and delicious inside.  The pastrami was also delicious, loads of tender juicy pastrami stacked on soft rye bread and perfectly complemented by a hot mustard.  The meatloaf was a bit bland and dry and although the poutine was OK the gravy was a bit bland and there wasn’t quite enough of it.

At The Fed they have NY style cheesecake the menu.  Cheesecake, especially New York style cheesecake, is one of my favourite desserts so I couldn’t go past this.  The cheesecake was outstanding, smooth and creamy and accompanied by fresh cream and tangy berry compote.

They also have a really good selection of drinks at The Fed.  I started with a glass of prosseco, a light bubbly white Italian style wine and then followed up with a soda jerk for grown ups, a lemon and lime Rickey with Ketel One vodka.  The soda jerk was light, refreshing and not overly sweet.  There is also a wide selection beers and other red and white wines, including some wines on tap.

Although I enjoyed our meal at The Fed and it’s a really fun place to eat, it’s fairly pricey for the kind of food you get and I’ve had better food for the same price at other restaurants around Auckland.  I’d definitely go back for the cheesecake again and to try some of the other desserts but I don’t think I’d hurry back for another main meal.

http://www.thefed.co.nz

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Currently Coveting: A White Dress

The only white dress I’ve ever owned is my wedding dress.  I’m not usually the sort of person who can do a lot of white clothing.  Even though I have the best intentions and try to be really careful, I still spill food and drinks with alarming regularity.

With summer getting closer and closer, I’ve been thinking of getting a white dress.  I’ve seen quite a few images of white outfits and they look fresh and cool for the hot weather.

I’m looking for a casual dress so I’m not worried about looking too ‘bridal’ but a white dress still needs to have the right fabric, light enough for summer but heavy enough to not be see through and the right cut, I’m picturing something grown up with a sweet edge.

Both of these dresses from Workshop fit the bill perfectly.  The white broderie anglaise fabric and scalloped edges give the dresses a sweet appeal while silhouettes of both the t shirt style dress and the sleeveless dress are thoroughly modern.  My only dilemma is deciding which one to get!

Available from http://www.workshop.co.nz

Depot

I finally tried Depot this weekend,  it first opened all the way back in 2011 so has been around for a while.  The no bookings policy makes things a bit tricky as we’ve got two small children at home and we usually don’t want to spend our precious nights out without children waiting hours for a table.

We were told on Sunday night that a table for four would take 30 to 40 minutes (which is a much better time than the hour and a half we were told last time we tried to go) so we took a seat at a spare outside table and started with some beer and cider.  We were pleasantly surprised when we were called inside after only 15 minutes.

Depot is always busy and its easy to see why, the wait staff were friendly and full of personality and the food was amazing.

We tried a range of dishes including the Tio Point oysters and Tuatuas from the raw bar; the turbot sliders with pickled lemon mayo and watercress; cumin battered warehou tortillas with slaw, tomatillo sauce and corriander; fergus bone marrow, wood roasted with parsley and shallot salad; mini yorkshire puddings with slow roasted lamb; crisp pork hock with apple and horseradish salsa verde and the potato skins with gouda and porcini salt.

Of all the dishes, the bone marrow was the only disappointing one, being very greasy and rich without a lot of flavour.  However, everything else was outstanding, the sliders were probably the best dish of the night, soft, fresh white buns, crispy fish fried to perfection and creamy, zingy mayo.  I also loved the tortillas, the fish was perfectly spiced and complimented by its accompaniments.

We moved onto dessert and decided to share two,  a sugar pie with cream and an Eton mess.  The sugar pie was nice but a bit boring, really sweet and a light caramel flavour but I found it a bit of a nothing dish.  However, the Eton mess was delicious, crunchy meringue, cream, ice cream and fresh new season strawberries.

The service we received was a bit patchy.  Our waiter was friendly, attentive and charming, they ensured our drinks were always topped up and even put a candle in one of the desserts and sang Happy Birthday for one of my friends. On the flip side we received a dish we didn’t order and one of our sides, the slaw was missed.

Overall, we had a very enjoyable night and I am definitely keen to return, maybe for lunch or mid week when the wait hopefully isn’t too long.  Although the good news is that if a table isn’t available at Depot, the new Al Brown eatery The Fed is just next door.

http://www.eatdepot.co.nz

Beauty Department: Benefit Brow Zings

Benefit Cosmetics, a beauty brand from San Francisco, USA, recently launched in New Zealand.  A counter opened at the Auckland International Airport a few months ago and a counter at Smith and Caugheys Newmarket just opened on the weekend.  I was obsessed with Benefit products about five or six years ago when I was doing a lot of international travel and would buy as much as I could whenever I came across their products.  Benefit has a focus on fun with a retro feel to their packaging and adorable product names such as Badgal Lash (mascara), Dr Feelgood (a complexion balm) and Sun Beam (a bronze liquid highlighter).

I visited their counter in Smith and Caugheys Newmarket on the weekend and one of their makeup artists applied their eyebrow kit Brow Zings for me.  I’ve never really done my eyebrows before.  I have black hair and reasonable sized brows that I keep in shape with regular plucking.  I’ve only really used the odd tube of brow mascara to brush stray hairs into place but have never really stuck with anything.

A good friend recently recommended that I start defining my eyebrows, in her words; it will change your life and you’ll never go back.

The Benefit makeup artist was a bit more heavy handed with the Brow Zings than I would probably be at home and every time I caught sight of myself in the mirror, I did a double take at my big thick, well defined eyebrows.

I had to take a couple of days to think about it but yesterday went back to purchase the kit.  Brow Zings come with a coloured soft wax for keeping hairs in place and a matching powder for filling in gaps.  You also get two little brushes for application and a mini pair of tweezers.  I tried the product at home by myself for the first time today and am thrilled with the results.  I applied a lot less and the result is sharply defined eyebrows that frame my face a lot better.  It also didn’t add much more time to my morning makeup routine.  Maybe only another minute or so.

Its only been one day, but so far I’m a convert and will be adding this product to my daily makeup routine.  It looks like my friend was right, now that I’ve started, I can’t go back!

Brow Zings by Benefit Cosmetics – $57

https://www.facebook.com/BenefitCosmeticsNewZealand

Best Cheap Eats in Auckland

Metro’s recommendations for the Best Cheap Eats in Auckland (under $20) came out recently in the September 2013 issue and I’ve been trying to work my way through as many of the restaurants as I can over the last six weeks.  I thought I’d do a quick round up of the places I’ve been to so far and how they were.

Bun Hut (Dominion Road) – we had the steamed pork buns with cabbage and chives as well as the pan fried pork dumplings with cabbage and chives, a bowl of noodles with gravy, a chive pancake and a chive and egg pancake.  The restaurant is very bare bones but the dumplings and pork buns are stuffed full of delicious juicy meat.  The pancakes were soft and tasty and the noodles were smothered with a tasty gravy and really good value for $5.

Mamak Malaysian (Chancery, Central Auckland) – I had the chicken murtabak which is a roti stuffed with meat, then pan fried until crispy.  It comes with chicken gravy, fish gravy, Dahl and cabbage.  My friend had the seafood laksa.  The murtabak was delicious and crispy with tasty gravy, although a little bit meat heavy for me, next time I might try the vegetable version or go halves with someone else in two dishes.  My friend enjoyed his laksa too, saying it was very tasty and not too coconutty as some laksa can be.

Sanchun Bamboo (Commerce Street, Auckland Central) – I had the vegetarian Bibimbap, which is a rice based dish which comes in a hot stone bowl with a variety of vegetables, chilli bean paste and a raw egg cracked on top. When the food is all mixed up, the egg cooks and the rice goes crispy from the heat of the bowl.  It came with a variety of Korean side dishes including Kimchi, bean sprouts, potatoes and an egg dish.  The food was all fresh and delicious and I was offered top ups of my side dishes even though I couldn’t finish my Bibimbap.

Selera (Khyber Pass, Newmarket) – this place has in my opinion the best laksa in Auckland.  The char kway teow is also delicious as are the curry puffs and the rotis.

Sri Puteri’s (Queens Road, Panmure) – offering a combination of Indian, Chinese and Malaysian dishes.  We had the seafood laksa, the char kway teow and the roti with chicken gravy, fish gravy and dhal.  The roti was amazing, probably the best roti I’ve had, soft, light and crispy, the laksa was tasty but the char kway teow was bland and disappointing.

Tanpopo Ramen (Anzac Ave, Auckland Central) – A large menu of many different types of ramen.  All contain the same fresh, homemade noodles and there is a range of soup bases to choose from.  I had the Miso Tonkotsu Ramen which is a pork and miso based soup with noodles, BBQ pork, vegetables, bamboo shoots and dried seaweed.  The soup was rich and hearty, the noodles fresh and the whole dish warming and nourishing.

Wok N Noodle Bar (Normanby Road, Mt Eden) – A lot more modern and westernised than the majority of other Asian places around.  The menu is huge and the size of the meals even bigger.  The food is more fusion style and they serve a mix of Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian.  I had the Pad see u which is thick rice noodles with chicken, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and egg in a homemade sweet soya sauce.  The dish was filling, fresh and tasty.

Velvet Burger (Fort Street, CBD) – Velvet burger is a gourmet style burger franchise that originated in Dunedin.  The burgers are huge and they pride themselves on using fresh, locally sourced ingredients.  We ordered a range of burgers including The Squawk Dawg (standard beef burger), Velvet Burger (venison with pineapple and chilli mayonnaise), Homegrown (lamb with either chutney or a minty yogurt sauce), The Babe (crumbed chicken with pineapple and bacon) and the Animal Rights (a kumara and coriander patty with beetroot and a minty yogurt sauce).  All the burgers come with salad, aioli and Velvet relish.  We also tried their wedges, kumara chips, hashies and fries.  Our burgers were a little bit cold by the time we got them home to eat but they were still delicious and would have been even better if we had been able to eat them fresh and hot.

Tiffin (New North Road, Kingsland) – Tiffin cooks excellent North Indian curries with the usual suspects such as butter chicken, chicken tikka masala and korma all covered.  They also do a few more unusual dishes including a mango chicken curry.  My favourite is the mushroom saag, mushrooms cooked in a thick, rich spinach gravy, usually accompanied by a garlic naan.

Renkon (Ponsonby, Parnell, Takapuna and the CBD) – an old favourite with fresh, healthy Japanese style donburi meals available.  All dishes are available on either rice or udon noodles and all main dishes are priced at $11.50.

Ramen Do (Symonds Street, Auckland) – Fresh, homemade ramen noodles which are worlds away from any instant ramen you have at home, these noodles are tender but still chewy and incredibly fresh.  This is the place that changed my perception of ramen noodles as a cheap unhealthy snack.

Han San Vietnamese (Newmarket, Panmure, CBD and Glenfield) – another old favourite that I’ve been going to for many years.  Fresh, healthy tasting Vietnamese food.  The vermicelli salads with either lemongrass chicken or fried pork spring rolls and shredded pork are my favourites.  Although I’ve been a bit disappointed recently and have been finding the food a bit bland.  They could do with using more fresh herbs like many of the Vietnamese restaurants overseas do to liven up the food and really bring it to life.

Cronuts

Cronuts are one of the latest food fads to explode in Auckland.  They are said to have originated from chef Domonique Ansell of The Domonique Ansell Bakery in New York.  Described as a doughnut – croissaint hybrid, they are not actually made by deep frying croissant pastry but are in fact a type of laminated dough that is made using a proprietary recipe.  The dough cooked then sugared, iced or filled.

It seems like almost every cafe in Auckland is currently offering a cronut on their menu in a range of flavours from cinnamon sugar to chocolate and vanilla custard filled.

I’ve tried cronuts from a couple of different places and have found that the product varies wildly depending on where you buy from.

The first cronut I tried was a cinnamon and sugar flavour (below) from Petit Bocal which is a French cafe in Sandringham.  See my posts on Petit Bocal here and here.  The others food I’ve tried from Petit Bocal was top rate but their cronuts were disappointing.  Although it had the croissant like layers, it was small, flat and really just tasted like a doughnut.

I next tried cronuts from Coffee and Donuts, the latest addition to Britomart, located at the back of the Laudromat boutique.  These were entirely different, although they looked like a doughnut, they were about twice the size of a regular doughnut and light but dense at the same time.  The layers inside were clearly visible and feather light  and the outside crisp yet chewy.  One cronut was iced with chocolate and almond flakes and the other switch a caramel sauce and hazelnuts (as seen in the image at the top of this post).  The caramel one was by far the best.

Although the cronuts from Coffee and Donuts were delicious, they were also incredibly rich and sweet, I could virtually feel the fat oozing into my mouth with each bite.  I’m not sure how anyone could get through a whole cronut on their own.

Although I don’t think I’ll be rushing back to get some more cronuts, the bottom line is if you want to indulge (and they are most definitely an indulgence!) in the cronut craze, be careful where you buy your cronuts from as they’re not all created equally.

Currently Coveting: Ingrid Starnes SS13 Collection

Ingrid Starnes is a New Zealand fashion designer who launched her first collection in winter 2010.  Her clothes have a vintage feel but are thoroughly modern.  Current fashion fads won’t be found in her collections either with the clothes tending to have a classic, ladylike appeal.

The new spring/summer 2013 range is apparently inspired by Norwegian Wood, a novel by Haruki Murakami whose title in Japanese is Noruwei No Mori, the standard translation of The Beatles song Norwegian Wood.  I’ve read Norwegian Wood is an outstanding book that I’ve read many times and never tire of, so maybe this explains why this collection has so many pieces that I’m in love with.  I have included images of my favourites below.

The Katey shirt in Oriental Poppy Print

The Darmin trench in olive and the Milford dress in olive.

The Clancy top in cream.

The Delores singlet in pine.

The Basil pants in olive and the Odette cardigan in carrot and lemon

http://www.ingridstarnes.com