Category Archives: Culinary Adventures

Giraffe by Simon Gault


As a family, we eat out a couple times a week for dinners and a few lunches here and there.

We visit Asian restaurants a lot, mainly for dumplings and noodles, as it appeals to all in the family (and the in-laws). My Instagram page is a testament to that.

Proper western restaurants (think formal setting and white table cloth) not frequented as much in the years since J was born, and out of habit, never regained its previous standing in our favourite choices.

I guess you can say our needs have changed. When J was little, going out for a three-course dinner was stressful with bath, story time and bed time to be done by 7.30pm (and no, the two of us have never, in the 9.5 years since J’s birth, left her with a nanny/parent/relative and go out for dinner.) It’s not that we follow the routine to military precision. It’s just that when you change the routine, there’s no telling whether J would settle to sleep as usual. As a young family, we recognised the importance of consistency.

When we do, we reserve such long, multi-course meals for special occasions. We have spent quite a number of birthday’s at Masu, (J loved it so much when I celebrated my birthday there that she proclaimed hers that is five months later would be at the same Japanese restaurant. We were more than happy to oblige. Read my experience here.) Seeing that we’ve had consecutive birthday celebrations at the same place for two years, we decided to try a new place.

I noticed Giraffe by Simon Gault is newly listed on First Table’s website, which offers patrons 50% off food when you book through their site, for a $10 booking fee. The menu was on the small side, but with plenty of variety to please anyone. Not the least pretentious, (how could it be when the menu suggests diners to shout the kitchen staff drinks?) it offered things that others don’t.

Our booking was at 5.30pm, and I had the distinct feeling of walking into someone’s residential hallway and greeted by the host who hadn’t quite finished their meal but happy to see us, none the less.

We were seated by the ‘patio’ facing the Viaduct, and it was a cool night. Lucky we had jackets as the warmth from the indoor heaters couldn’t quite reach us.

Our waitperson patiently guided us through the menu, and we settled on something we looked over on first glance – the pig tails. (Tip: always ask how an unfamiliar dish is cooked, to get an idea what it would taste like. If you salivate, it’s a go!) Although not the typical Asian style, it’s sous vide cooked with Asian spices. They were then grilled to render some of the fat off. Don’t be shocked when it arrives at your table, with the tails sitting unceremoniously on a sizzling hot plate. The staff took it apart for us, removing the vertebrae and hard tips. We were advised to mix the fatty bits with the meat and eat with the accompanied lettuce cups and dips. There were two dips: a nuoc cham-like, bright sauce with red chillies, palm sugar, garlic, salt and vinegar. The other was a spicy green dip made with green tomatoes, garlic, coriander and jalapenos. Both sensational and I will try my hand at replicating them at home.

Highlight of the night, announced the adults. Finger-licking delicious, literally. I did take a momentary pause just as I was lifting the lettuce parcel with my hands: am I really allowed to use my hands to eat at Giraffe? I didn’t care anymore after that first bite. I was already mentally planning on when to come back just for this, one day for lunch, as it’s so close to my work.

The second dish was the Cured Salmon Salad with Fennel and mandarin. This was J’s choice as she loves salmon. We planned on sharing this, but she ended up having two-thirds of it. (She could have easily finished it but I had to try it 😝.) It was cooked perfectly with the smears and blobs matching harmoniously to the salmon. I particularly liked the pickled vegetable and tiny vinaigrette jelly cube. I had to restrain myself from licking the plate clean!

I hadn’t planned on getting steak and chips for my birthday dinner, after all, steak is something we cook a lot of, and also served as a shared dish at home, so why order it when we are out?

The menu had painted a picture of sophistication and I certainly had high expectations when we ordered the scotch fillet for two. It’s served with mushrooms, hazelnut, buffalo salsa verde butter. The meat was cooked perfectly (medium, for J or else I would have gone for medium rare). Unfortunately the dish overall was a slight let down from the rest. Maybe our expectations were set high from the start? It deviated from the clean cooking (and plating) that were the other dishes, and as J puts it, the flavours were a bit jumbled and lost. I felt it needed something to balance out the heaviness (like the spicy dip to the fatty pig tails). Still very delicious, but more a 7 out of 10 when the others were 9s and 10s.

For carbs, we ordered the Triple-Cooked potatoes. These duck fat-fried thick batons were wrapped individually with a thin strip of crispy pancetta around its middle, and served with clumps of truffle ricotta. These were glorious, the best example of duck fat cooked potatoes that I have come across. I dreamily wondered whether Heston Blumenthal’s version at The Fat Duck were like these or not.

My verdict of Giraffe: relaxed and welcoming, serious about good food, adventurous. Casually smart. Super family friendly. You can however still expect techniques usually associated with fine dining here. We will be back. (Chef, can I have the Kids TV dinner please?😉)

It was Easter weekend and they also had banana smoothies served in chocolate bunnies for the kids!

This post is not sponsored by the restaurant nor First Table, I had the good fortune of winning a dining voucher from an Instagram competition by First Table and paid for the difference myself. All opinion expressed are my own.

MASU by Nic Watt – exceptional Japanese Robata style dining


One of our family’s favourite cuisine is Japanese. From sushi to ramen, fresh raw sashimi to grilled takitori skewers. We love them all.

Japanese cuisine offers clean and distinct pairing of ingredients, bold flavours and all prepared with traditional techniques. MASU does exactly that. We’ve been to the Sunday Nichiyo Brunch several times now, where traditional robata style of cooking over an open charcoal grill, is offered.

The brunch starts with a continuous selection of sashimi, fish tacos, maki rolls, small dishes and salads, all available from the counter. Constantly refreshed and replenished, the lunch starts from 11am till 2pm, so you can book for anytime during the session.
For the main course, you can choose one from the robata grill or kitchen.

The mains cover a great range: chicken, lamb, pork, beef, and yet more fish. This is their current menu items:

  • half chilli miso roasted baby chicken
  • robata grilled kingfish, nitsuke sauce, burnt tomato salsa
  • prawn, white fish, pumpkin, broccoli, kumara
  • assorted seasonal vegetable tempura
  • mount cook king salmon, grapefruit miso, pickled cucumber
  • lamb cutlets, gochujang, pickled cucumber and carrot
  • robata grilled chashu pork belly, karashi miso, pickled cabbage
  • beef fillet, red chilli garlic soy, sesame, spring onion
  • black cod, saikyo yuzu miso
  • 100% japanese black wagyu beef

We chose the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly and grilled kingfish. The clever flavour combinations of the sauces and textural component continues to surprise us at each visit.

For the kids, they can have the okosama bento box. The box has a skewer of grilled chicken, broccolini stems, salmon sashimi, sushi rolls and a tempura prawn. They’re also invited to eat from the buffet as well (for J that meant all the sashimi salmon and udon noodles she can eat).

Dessert platter is a large shared platter for the table with house made sorbet, meringue, ice cream, fresh fruit and the most amazing sweet chawanmushi with lychee, mango and passionfruit – every spoonful was heavenly.

Perfect light dessert to end the meal with.

I love the fact that whenever we go to the Masu Sunday brunch, we leave fulfilled but not overfilled.

This post is not sponsored. All opinions and photography are my own.

Taste of Auckland 2017


On a beautifully warm November evening, I attended my third Taste of Auckland, in partnership with Electrolux, at Western Springs. Held over four days (16-19 November), this festival is a must for foodies for a weekend full of good food (and wine). The festival showcases some of Auckland’s best and newest restaurants. Dotted around an enormous outdoor arena, spacious marquees are set up for these restaurants in pop-up fashion. Each restaurant offers 3-4 dishes, costing between 6 and 19 crowns (the festival’s currency), and an ‘Icon dish’ (between 12 and 35 crowns).  More about the way paying works here but 1 crown equals $1.

This year’s restaurant line up includes: Artwok, Baduzzi, Saan, Eat NZ Kitchen with The Cult ProjectEuro, Miss Moonshines, Paris Butter, Tok Tok, 1947 Eatery, and Vodka Room. Check out the restaurant menus here. From contemporary fusion to traditional, you’ll find something you love. Perfect way to try out new restaurants you haven’t had a chance to visit, I would say.

Taste of Auckland in partnership with Electrolux operates like a restaurant with a lunch and dinner service. Taste sessions lasts for 4-5 hours, enough time for you to enjoy your restaurant dishes, shop the artisan stalls and chat with the many chefs that are roaming around the festival. Tickets are sold for each session and are only valid for the time and date indicated on the ticket. Generally the sessions are from 12 to 4pm and then 5:30pm to 10pm.

Your ticket entry to Taste also includes trying new and existing food products from all over New Zealand, watching your favourite chefs cooking in action, as part of the Electrolux Taste Theatre and lounging on sun chairs while listening to live music.

Restaurants

Artwok

Miss 9’s pick as she loved these from the restaurant in Takapuna.

Rou Jia Mo

Slow braised shredded pork belly served in homemade pita pockets

Baduzzi

Icon Dish: 1/2 Karitane crayfish

grilled and smoked over Totara

These were cooked right in front of you!

Saan

Honestly could have ordered everything on this menu, but I had to save space for other things! These were my favourite dishes at the festival:

Lon Phu Nim

Crispy fried soft shell crab with pickled crab and coconut sauce, dill and coriander

Icon Dish: Ka Nom Jeen Gang Gae

Te Mana lamb rump with rice vermicelli, Asian eggplant, grilled chilli, coconut sauce and pickled cucumber

Artisans

Bostock’s Organic Free Range Chicken

Have you watched their happy chicken video? Watch it, it will make you happier.

Their chocks are on a diet of certified organic, lush, green grass and juicy organic apples as well as their home-grown feed, including corn and barley.

Cook & Nelson

Purveyors of fine food products, they source the best sauces and pickles from around the world (Think NOBLE maple syrups and Lillie’s Q barbeque sauces.)
They used Amola salts from Canada to season these beef cubes, cooked on this hot fire. Couldn’t stop eating this!.

Hogarth Chocolate

Handmade from bean to bar, Karl and Marina hand sort, roast, crush and clarify, winnow, grind and conch, age, melt, temper and mold, before hand wrapping the lovingly made chocolate bars. Love what they do and it’s people like them who inspires me to search for more, aim higher and also be curious.

Their chocolate is internationally awarded (you would have read me raving about them in an earlier post). Love the Gianduia – Dark Hazelnut so much!

Karl was recently in Seattle for another show and brought back the newly released Dandelion Chocolate book, which is on my wish list! Had to look through it.

Six Barrel Soda Co.

These syrups are used to make sodas in some of the best bars and cafes in New Zealand and Australia. The company started in 2012, where they experimented with flavours and best natural ingredients.

My favourites so far are the Creaming Soda (which I’m going to use to make a jelly for my cheesecake macarons!) and the new seasonal Grapefruit & Hops. Fresh and inspiring, set up soda stations with these at your next event, your guests will love you.

Miss J liked the experimental chocolate syrup in this Chocolate Float very much.

The next thing for me to do is probably sign up to their soda subscription for new seasonal flavours.

The Chocolate Bar

When the owner of the company that you’ve just signed up for a monthly subscription service rings to thank you (the kind of thing that My Food Bag would do), you know you are on to a really good thing. I stopped by to meet Luke and to have a peek at what the next month’s subscription might include. I may or may not have picked up another bar of Dandelion Chocolate, which I’m obsessing over.

Puhoi Valley

Award-winning cheeses and delicious milk – need I say more?

Kenwood New Zealand

Kenwood has released a very limited edition range in rose gold – so beautiful!

Electrolux Chefs’ Secrets

These are intimate cooking and dining sessions, where you have the opportunity to create mouth-watering food, up close and personal with the country’s culinary superstars, where you’ll learn how to cook one of their signature dishes. Following the hands-on session, the meal will be enjoyed together with a glass of matched wine, followed with a dessert surprise.

I must emphasize here, that to book your spot, you need to head straight to the Electrolux Chefs’ Secrets when you get into the festival, left of the entrance. Make sure your crown card is topped up as well. This popular, intimate masterclass experience is 15 crowns per person, and is restricted to guests on a first come, first served basis. We were the 9th and 10th in the queue, but with someone booking for 8 people ahead of us, we just missed out on Chef Nic Watt‘s session. Gah! (lesson learnt – use my blogger credentials!)

Electrolux Taste Theatre

This year we didn’t get to go to the Taste Theatre to watch my favourite chefs cook up a storm live on stage (mainly because I had planned on going to the Chefs’ Secrets) but the highlight for this year’s festival is George Calombaris! George will be demoing on Saturday afternoon and evening sessions. This is included in your ticket purchase and is based on a first come, first served basis. Go early and grab a seat to watch him live!

Taste of Auckland

Dates Thursday 16 to Sunday 19 November 2017
Times Saturday (12pm to 4pm & 12pm to 9.30pm) and Sunday (12pm to 5pm)
Venue 731 Great North Road, Western Springs
Tickets Online ($17 for general admission, otherwise $32 at the entrance)
Parking Limited $5 parking at Western Springs (look out for signs on on Old Mill Road), lots of free road side parking, $5 direct shuttle from downtown to Western Springs, or use the Auckland Transport Journey Planner for plenty of public transport options.

All opinions are my own and this post is not sponsored. However thanks to the generous people at Taste of Auckland and Lemongrass Productions who provided our entry.

The Chocolate and Coffee Show 2017


It was like candyland gourmet version: decadent chocolates everywhere and almost all the great brands and artisan chocolate and coffee producers in NZ were at this weekend’s Chocolate and Coffee Show at the Cloud.

I think this is the only time I told Miss 9 to eat as much chocolate as she would like – we burst out laughing at her “what are you saying, mum?” reaction as I named the brands that are at the show. We simply couldn’t contain ourselves.

As we only had 2 hours in between other appointments in life, I was worried we wouldn’t have enough time. Truth be told, I was worried I wouldn’t get close enough to the stalls to sample all the things I wanted to.
None of that turned out in reality, as the Cloud was a beautifully lit space (thank you natural light my camera loves that) and the show was very nicely run. Stalls were large and well spaced so there was plenty of room.

Our first stop was Macho Mini cupcakes. Perfectly cake to icing ratio! There were so many to choose from: Rocky Road, Mint, Oreos and even one inspired by Moustache cookies!

Machomini cupcakes

With the list of winners from this year’s Academy of Chocolate award and NZ Chocolate Awards in mind, we visited some of the NZ winners:

Hogarth Chocolate

Nelson based chocolatiers, Karl and Marina source the highest quality cacao beans from around the world to create small batches of chocolate. From bean to bar, they sort, roast, crush and classify, winnow, grind and conche, age, melt, temper, mold, and wrap by hand to produce these beautiful products.

Their chocolates are exquisite: Gran Blanco and Acul du Nord won silver in the Academy of Chocolate.

These here are our favourites:

The chocolate logs are a crowd favourite – Miss 9 later confessed she ate more than what I would approve while I was chatting with Karl. It must be really delicious!

Solomon’s gold

They work directly with their network of cacao growers to produce organic single origin chocolate. Selection and grading of cacao beans take place in the Solomon’s Island, while the hand roasting and crafting of chocolate bars happen in their bespoke New Zealand factory. Their Smooth Dark is my go-to chocolate for ganaches and cakes. It also won a silver in the Academy of Chocolate awards!

Honest Chocolate

Nico and Emily, creates beautiful chocolate bars and bonbons in Snells Beach. They use organic, sustainably sourced, single origin chocolate with no artificial flavourings, preservatives or palm oil. My favourite is the cacao nib bar, so moreish and smooth.


They will shortly be opening a shop in Matakana, right next to the markets. Their Salted Caramel and Buckwheat milk chocolate tablet took out the supreme award at the NZ Chocolate Awards this year.

Kako Chocolates – my chocolate box
Have you signed up? Monthly subscription to 9 kinds of mystery chocolates, a great way of getting everyone to try something new.

My Chocolate Box, Kako Chocolates

Metters espresso martini

This is my new favourite drink 🍸
So easy to prepare – chill, pour out 2 servings. Screw cap back on and shake to make the crema – pour! I will be on the look out for their coffee liqueur and other delicious products in their range.

Despicable cupcakes


With names like Despicably Chocolate and Nuts for Nutella, you can guarantee the cupcakes will blow your mind.

Harpoon cold brew coffee
There are two product available:
The concentrate which you can use to mix with milk to make a milk based coffee.

Or drink straight out of the bottle!

There are many more stalls to see and taste, make sure you don’t miss the ones below!

Milse pop-up
Milse pop up

Urban Blended – Spiced chai

House of chocolates
House of Chocolate

Hope you enjoyed the show like I did – I’ve started my Christmas shopping!

Kohu Road – creamiest dairy-free coconut ice cream  


If I am going to indulge in a treat, my motto is to go for the best that I can afford. I reckon if I am going to use up my calorie quota on ice cream, it should be an indulgent experience in itself. One of my favourite is Kohu Road, artisan ice cream made locally, in West Auckland.

Kohu Road uses natural ingredients to make their award winning products. You might have come across their Peanut Butter ice cream that was launched earlier in 2017. My favourite is still Dark Chocolate, made with 72% cocoa dark chocolate making it the most decadent ice cream you can buy. I gave up making my own chocolate ice cream when they first launched in 2007.

For the past three years, they have been secretly developing a new range. Finally, launched in July 2017, is their new Dairy Free coconut ice cream.

“We’ve cut out the dairy to leave our customers feeling lighter, healthier and wanting more.” Charlotte Stein, Marketing Executive of Kohu Road gushed as she passed me the new 500ml packs.

Made with coconut cream, the ice creams are creamy and smooth. Look at that shine! Far superior than any other dairy-free desserts I have ever tried. After tasting these, I would in fact choose these over the normal range. Ice cream identical in both taste and texture, yet with less calories, sugar and fat. Why wouldn’t you?

This is one of the only products in the world to use monk fruit as a sweetener. Monk fruit is 200 times sweeter than sugar, meaning a lot less is required to sweeten the ice cream.

The ice creams are also 100% pure, containing no additives, preservatives or stabilisers – only natural ingredients.

So what did we think after tasting them?


Vanilla

These are so light and smooth – they picked up a gold medal at the New Zealand Ice Cream Awards: ‘Dairy-Free’ category with judges commenting “clean and refreshing, with a good texture”. Very coconuty and made with vanilla extract and seeds, this is a very nice palette-cleansing ice cream.


Chocolate

At first taste, the deep cocoa aroma fills your senses. Next the creamy coconut glides smoothly around your tongue. All the same smooth sensation of the Dark Chocolate dairy ice cream, but without the heaviness. Earlier in the year they hosted a sensory experiment with food bloggers and journalists and the majority were unable to tell that this flavour was dairy-free.


Strawberry

The burst of freshness and lightness surprised me – this flavour is our family’s firm favourite. Judges at the New Zealand Ice Cream Awards commented “creamy texture and well-balanced strawberry and coconut flavours”. This was a gold award winner and ‘Best in Category’ in the ‘Dairy-free’ category. With 22% strawberries in each tub, it reminded me of the strawberry ice creams at berry farms. Super fresh tasting and I would not have believed it to be a dairy-free dessert.


Green tea

The distinctive flavour of Japanese matcha green tea sings out, just like their dairy range. I love matcha and am very happy that I now have more ways to consume matcha.

Where to find:
Exclusive in Farro Fresh for the month of August and will be in select Countdown and New World from October 2017.

I dare say Kohu Road makes one of the best ice creams in the world. Now I have even more choices for the ‘light’ dessert days!