Tuesday, September 09, 2008

City Of Sails

Back from the City of Sails in the Land of Sheep. For the record, I did not see a single sheep in Auckland. We arrived in Auckland on Friday afternoon, dropped off our bags, sorted out our sleeping quarters and dashed out to Stark White, an art gallery owned by G's friend, Dominic who had to jet off to Shanghai the following day for the Shanghai Art Fair.

We ended up in Zipangu, a Japanese restaurant on Ponsonby Road, which was to be the restaurant strip on which we had many of our meals during our stay in Auckland. In between sashimi, ebi gyoza and tofu steak, G, Dominic and Kirtsty polished off 2 bottles of wine and a few more bottles of sake, while I stayed dry, being responsible for the lives of these 3 loud, wisecracking (sufficiently high and happy) crazies subsequently when driving them home. The food was good, I had merely wet my lips with the plum sake and concluded it tasted like plum cough syrup. Not my cup of tea. The next dinner was the big (blended) family dinner at Pastis, a traditional French brasserie. I knew I should have followed my instincts and gone with the duck confit for my main course but instead I went with the cassoulet because it had the duck, AND the braised pork (too too fatty) AND the traditional sausage. Obviously greed overcame good sense and taste. And I had a wee moment of regret when I saw the lovely duck confit sitting in front of Denice who was next to me. The entree of escargot did not disappoint, it was garlicky and buttery and yummy. I traded for one of G's delicious scallops and it was a good trade. His fishy main course was better than my cassoulet.

As there was crepe suzette on the menu, I had to have that since that is such a hard to come by dessert. Even my usual no-brainer dessert of choice, creme brulee had to take a back seat. However, the alcoholic fumes remaining after the flambe died down, overcame me as I took the first bite. Disappointing.

In between eating, we managed a couple of touristy visits to Mount Eden, a dormant volcano in the middle of the city, Piha, a black sand beach about 40 minutes' drive out of Auckland in quite threatening weather which cast a surreal shadow over the scenery, and a quick stop at the casino in the Sky Tower where I had no choice but to cave in to my Chinese genes and blow $20 in approximately 2 minutes, on 2 bets on the "Big/Small" table. We also had a run of the Auckland Museum and saw interesting things like the Moa, largest bird to ever walk the face of the earth

And back again to the food. We were recommended the Richmond Road Cafe for brekkie and so we duly went. I had mushrooms on sourdough which was tasty but a tad too creamy for breakfast. My other cafe (of an unpronounceable name) brekkie of a toasted bagel with lemon curd was just nice, a balance of tanginess with the sweet. I also tried a cake which holds a place of fond memories in every Kiwi child's childhood, the lolly cake, which was really not so much a cake but a soft ginger snap type confectionery with colourful sweet stuff of no real discernible flavour or taste apart from sweet, embedded in it.

We were invited back to dinner by Jo and Kelly at their house on our last night in Auckland. Kelly had whipped up a spinach soup, 3 main courses - beef stroganoff, a fish pie and a chorizo pasta and had bought a berry tart. I chose to have all 3 mains, in reasonable portions of course, as they all looked so tempting. They tasted as good as they looked and I had seconds of everything.

SPQR, a trendy Italian restaurant where we had one of our last lunches at, was overrated in our opinion. Expensive, with attitude, and food which was underwhelming. My tagliatelle did not taste freshly made but more out of a packet, and did not have the taste of fresh and simple ingredients that it was supposed to have. G's complaint was that his basil and tomato pizza, again a simple and clean dish, came overladen with cheese, and the tomatoes were of the canned variety rather than fresh ones, and 2 basil leaves were all the greens he got.

The holiday was relaxing and unrushed. Meals were occasions where we ate with friends and family. Apart from the fact that we love our food, we also enjoyed the hanging out. But because we "hung out" so much during my 5-day trip, we are now back on the Nazi diet...

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