Category Archives: Culinary Adventures

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.

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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.

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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.

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

Taste of Auckland 2017


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

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.
Baduzzi

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
Art Wok - 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
Baduzzi

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
Saan - Lon Phu Nim Crispy fried soft shell crab with pickled crab and coconut sauce, dill and coriander DSC_9227

Icon Dish: Ka Nom Jeen Gang Gae

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

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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.
Bostocks

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!.

Cook & Nelson

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.
Hogarth Chocolate

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.
Dandelion Chocolate book brought back from Seattle by Hogarth Chocolate

Six Barrel Soda Co.

Six Barrel Soda

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.
Six Barrel Soda

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.
Six Barrel Soda

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

The Chocolate Bar

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.
The Chocolate Bar

Puhoi Valley

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

Kenwood New Zealand

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

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.
with Chef Nic Watt

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.

Taste of Auckland 2017, Western Springs

The Chocolate and Coffee Show 2017


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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

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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:

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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!

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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!

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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. 

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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
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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
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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.
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Or drink straight out of the bottle!
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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

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House of chocolates
House of Chocolate

Hope you enjoyed the show like I did – I’ve started my Christmas shopping!
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Kohu Road – creamiest dairy-free coconut ice cream  


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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.

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“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?

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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?
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Dr Feelgood: Humble beginnings


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Have you ever wondered how the ice pop brand “Dr Feelgood” came to be?  We certainly have. Imagine our excitement when we were invited to tour their workplace and see the operations of the humble ice pop brand that launched into the food scene two and a half years ago.
Lomo. Tree lined path. Treehouse.

As we drove down the leafy path of their long driveway, passing sheep and horses roaming leisurely around, we wondered how in the middle of the rural countryside, could there be a magical ice pop factory?

We were greeted by some Arapawa sheep with twin, 3-day-old baby lambs (now go by the name of Thelma and Louise) and a nudge from Louie, the friendly dog of none other than Dr FeelGood himself, or Jacks.

Meeting Fred.

With much excitement and curiosity, we geared up for the tour. Not even the downpour could dampen our visit as Jacks spiritedly told their story.

It all started with an attempt to make probiotic drinks, mid 2014. They couldn’t keep the drinks stable enough and it was all looking like a destined fail. They were ready to move on, until Mel, his partner, made pops from the drinks for the kids and their new product was born.

During early testing, the pops were made in Zoku moulds. Today, they are made on a much larger scale. Master pop maker Jane, who has been with the company from the beginning, showed us how the Chocolate Jelly Tip was made. Jane is meticulous about quality control – sticks were checked for smoothness, and ensured they were lined upright to avoid wastage.

Dr Feelgood factory tour. Ice pop making.Dr Feelgood factory tour. Ice pop making.

We were given the task of inserting wooden sticks to the holders before they were fastened to the ice pop moulds. This was then placed in a large industrial freezer at -30C.

“The faster they freeze, the smaller the ice-crystals. That’s what makes it creamy and delicious.” Jacks told us.

Dr Feelgood factory tour. Ice pop making.Once done, the pops are released from the mould carefully. The sound of that was music to my ears!

Dr Feelgood factory tour. Ice pop making.

There were other flavours when the brand started, slowly replaced by the current flavours, always trying for the perfect pop.

After careful market research and advice from key influencers like Lewis Road Creamery’s Peter Cullinane who can always find just the right Winston Churchill quote, in this case “When going through hell… keep going.”

“It’s been a steep learning curve and at times a bumpy journey but a lot of fun, getting the good Dr to the world.”

The first thing that catches your eyes is their colourful design and witty tag lines.  I think it’s pure creative genius at work. Both Mel and Jacks have 25 years each in advertising working on brands for others. It was time to try something on their own. Jacks credits the award winning design to his partner Mel Bridge, who has a day job as an award winning commercial director. Together they are building a brand that is gaining popularity with each passing week.

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When you pick up the pop, there is a certain nostalgic feeling evoked from their brown paper boxes. Something about it brings me back to happy memories of the olden days and some degree of familiarity.

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The boxes are made in a local factory, just 3.5km from Dr Feelgood’s factory, with eco-sourced materials that are tracked through the PEFC system (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, the international non-government organization dedicated to promoting Sustainable Forest Management), making it sustainable and trackable. They are also compostable.

These artisan, handmade frozen treats of delight came at a time when people were becoming more aware of food ingredients and eschewing foods with refined sugar.

“We value eating good honest food and feeding our kids things that haven’t got weird stuff in it, and like it to be fun.”

New Zealand ingredients are used as much as possible.

Organic milk from Lewis Road Creamery, the premium dairy company that has grown a cult following is used for all dairy pops. The creaminess is just beyond exceptional.

You will not find refined sugar, artificial flavourings or colourings in the frozen pops. Instead, natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar and brown rice syrup are used. Beetroot powder is used for colour. Everything is kept as close to nature as possible. Just like the natural, rural setting we found ourselves in.

Dr Feelgood frozen pops
This premium product is stocked far and wide: Farro Fresh, Moore Wilsons, an ever growing number of New World and Countdowns, select stores in the South Island and some Four Squares. They are also in places like the Waitakere Arataki Visitor Center and Shot Over Jet, Queenstown.

Jacks’ passion and creativity is infectious. It is obvious to us on our short visit that he loves his product and is proud to have created a sweet treat that doesn’t invoke guilt.

In fact, I am no longer surprised by the rural nature of their creative space; it is precisely that which is the source of inspiration for the all natural, “no weird stuff” pops.

“Dr Feelgood isn’t just a name, it should also be the outcome of everything we do.” – Dr Feelgood

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Now the only thing to do is to choose which flavour to lick first.