Friday, January 25, 2013
We're currently in the sweaty throes of a tropical Auckland summer, and the post-lunchbreak pink tinge is thankfully eased with air conditioning. It's shaping up to be a glorious week ahead, and lucky for us up here we've got a three day weekend to enjoy it over. With sunshine inevitably comes basking and drinking, and this summer I've embraced old drinks as well as tried new ones.
Beers are always a good option, and it appears that cider is too, given the saturation of variants currently available. Pear, berry, dry, sweet; it's usually the first couple in the sun that go down well before you have to move on to something else. I've had some crisp whites and some blushing nighttime reds, and I was in absolute heaven on new year's day, which was spent with a bunch of mates on the manicured lawn of Mission Estate in Hawke's Bay. We drank them out of their delicious rosé, which was the best way to see in 2013.
It's shaping up to be a goody, and in the meantime here's a few tasty beverages I've been enjoying lately.
1. the pink g & t
I served this as an aperitif at my December dinner party, and it's become a firm favourite since. It's reminiscent of a negroni, one of my favourites, but is slightly sweeter, and with less kick-you-in-the-face strength. Aperol is something I've only recently discovered, and it's similar to Campari, but not as strong. A couple of these at the beginning of an evening will set you up very nicely indeed.
1 shot Aperol
1 shot Tanqueray gin
a cross section, circular slice of orange
Quina Fina tonic
Put ice and orange slice in your glass, add the booze and then top with a little tonic.
2. the bloody mary
If you haven't seen me harping on about it on other social media forums yet (twitter and facebook for example), or seen me enthusiastically tell you about it in person, you might not know that I'm thrilled to have a new monthly column in Metro magazine called 'searching for perfect'. Each month I'll be looking at a drink or dish around town, and writing up my experience, along with a recipe. December's quest was for the perfect Bloody Mary, and I had some boomers around the city. I love this traditionally layered cocktail, especially with brunch. And whilst the key attributes are vodka, tomato juice, and plenty of tabasco, my full recipe is available in the latest issue. The magazine has all sorts of other excellent Summer reading in it, including reviews and columns by three of my favourite food writers. Get into it.
3. the boysenberry smash
One of the best things about Hawke's Bay in the summertime is the abundance of amazing fruit. In Napier we stopped on the side of the road and on the 31st of December I made what I declared my 'best purchase of 2012' when I handed over $10 for a kilo of fresh, plump, juicy boysenberries. Into everyone's drinks they were smooshed as we saw out 2012 - great with bubbly and the shining star to my new year's cocktail. We, in a harkback to the glory days of the sixth form, bought vodka to see in the new year, and this fruity drink was a hit.
Double shot vodka
Fresh mint, roughly torn
Wedge of lime
Soda and ice
Put ice, mint, berries, and lime in a glass. Muddle slightly, or just stir together. Top with soda.
Note: you can sub out the soda for ginger beer, which is basically the same as the raspberry ginger fizz, below.
4. the summer Pimms jug
One of my favourite friends was back from London briefly, and I was lucky enough to get in some quality time with her, whilst testing out my new maxi dress, at a barbecue she hosted on Sunday. Initially I planned on wholeheartedly embracing the sabbath day and resting my liver, but alas, Shannon had made Pimms jugs and that idea went out the window. It took me back to not only the time I first tried it at Wimbeldon, alongside strawberries and cream and plenty of tennis, but also of the time my friend Harriet donned a wedding dress, and I became Princess Kate, for our Royal Wedding party. One beweddingdressed guest ended up eating our orange garnish seductively in the corner, but before things descended into the completely debaucherous, Harriet and I drank a bottle of Pimms. Naturally.
Into a jug: plenty of ice, plenty of Pimms, some freshly chopped strawberries, slices of orange, some stalks of fresh mint, and ginger ale.
5. the raspberry ginger fizz
I've blogged about this one before, but it is just always such a hit. Fresh raspberries, if they ever reduce in price, are just so good in this fruity number, but frozen are a good out-of-season substitute. It's based on a Jamie Oliver recipe from an old Delicious magazine, and it's become a summer staple of mine, especially if wanting to impress visitors or friends. This year for our work Christmas shindig we had a pizza picnic in Albert Park. There was swing ball, and Toto's pizza by the metre (incredible), and these cocktails. Add a party straw and you have yourself a party. Perfect.
Ice, fresh mint, a lime wedge, fresh raspberries, Vodka (absolut raspberry works well if you've got some) into a vessel: top with ginger beer.
Long may the balmy evenings and the summer of delicious drinks continue.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
A while back I ambitiously declared that I just wanted to throw dinner parties and bake cakes for a living. An exaggeration? Only very slightly.
I'd heard a bit about supper clubs, and pop up restaurants. People throwing dinner parties for strangers in their home, or a chef taking over a warehouse for a week or so. I liked the idea, and thought I could perhaps do something similar: bridge that gap between a dinner party at home and a restaurant outing. Back in Wellington I would find myself at endless BYOs, paying a fair amount of money for an average meal, simply so a massive group of us could get together and get boozy. Don't get me wrong - I love a good BYO and I love getting on the hammer. But after yet another email asking around for yet another suggestion of a Thai/Indian/Malaysian joint to invade and pester staff and punters at for someones birthday or farewell, I thought - man, if all my friends gave me that $30 I bet I could do something awesome.
I had my first for my farewell in Wellington in March. It was a very special evening involving a Mexican-inspired feast in the Aro Valley community hall. The amazing Lu and I transformed the room, and for $20 and it being BYO, everyone (all 64 of them) got great food (I mastered pulled pork), some photo booth pics to take home, and a damn good time. When I arrived in Auckland, friends up here wanted me to do something similar.
adios wellington, aro valley, march 2012
I welcomed myself back to the city of sails in May with a sprawling, chaotic, massive, 3-course dinner in the city. Thanks to some virality on facebook, 84 friends and friends of friends came, and I cooked all day, wangled all the help I could, and then put my parents through probably one of the most stressful nights of their year by having them execute the meal in the tiny little kitchen. Just for fun. The pea, prosciutto, and pecorino pasta entree was a highlight. Affogato for dessert in a kitchen without a freezer? Not so much.
hola auckland, high st, may 2012
After breaking my wrist over winter and generally being a bit miserable, it's like in late Spring I suddenly woke up. I had decided the time had come again, and, although nervous, on a Friday in December at the Minnie St Studio I had another dinner, this time with limited numbers and a refined concept.
A chance (drunken) encounter with The Grove's Ben Bayley at the Taste of Auckland launch, meant that menu collaborating for the dinner was done with him, and his 22 year old superstar commis chef Samir. I've not yet been to The Grove, but I hear nothing but excellent things. Ben is also a Good Morning cook, and he'd also recently done a promotion with the Silver Ferns, and had met my little sister. We got chatting, and he liked my idea (and, incidentally, my homemade, photocopied, extra-professional, blog business cards). An email and a phone call later, I found myself at the restaurant before their lunch service receiving an enthusiastic education on the intricacies of lamb shoulder.
Samir had the Friday of my planned dinner off from work, and he joined us on menu collaboration, and then ended up coming along and doing the food. He was amazing. It was especially great for me because it meant I could attend to the details, and play hostess, and generally sift around making sure people were happy. And they seemed to be (I had enticed people into coming on the basis that I would cook three home cooked courses. They instead got a twist on fine dining, so that was lucky for them). I threw around the idea that if people were dancing on tables at 3am then I would consider it a success. I got home at 4am.
People walked into the transformed Minnie St on this sunny Friday evening, and were welcomed with a pink g & t, and Mali Mali (so awesome!) playing live. I'd invited a mixture of people, a few good friends and some new ones too. After some requisite mingling, everyone took their seats. Bread, olive oil, and Lewis Road Creamery butter awaited them, before a plated entree, and family style large plates for the main. I can't really articulate how delicious the food was without sounding gushy. The lamb, with the couscous, and the toasted almonds, and the pomegranate seeds, and the tabbouleh and labneh and baba ghanoush - delicious. The chocolate jars were accompanied by homemade rosewater marshmallow, fresh raspberries and strawberries, freeze dried peanut butter and strawberry cream. It was just so good.
So The Grove collaborated on the food. Moa beer came to the party, and provided beer matches for each course. The pale ale and the blanc proved extremely popular. As a fervent gin and tonic lady, Alex from Quina Fina provided me with some of his excellent tonic, which, added to Tanqueray, Aperol, and a slice of orange, made for a positively delicious aperitif cocktail upon entry. And it's not a party without party straws. Eleanor, my very talented artist friend, responsible for stencilling my heartbreak pie header way back in 2010, whipped me up a menu and name tags in her handwriting (with about two days notice and in between caring for a toddler and a new born. Love you Ellie!). Emma leant me 40 of her vintage plates and cutlery and my very talented modern-day penpal Tash designed me the original email invitation, and held my hand through navigating web-based dramas, all the way from London. Alice took some photos. Ben strung fairy lights, and his girlfriend helped set the table. Olivia poured the drinks while I cut roses (I'm sure I've told you before that I used to want to be a florist).
Dinner parties are my favourite, I had an amazing night and I can't wait until the next one. I'm extremely grateful to everyone who contributed, and to everyone who simply trusted in the process and paid and came along. The challenge for me now will be to make each one completely different, and to ensure people just trust in the process that they'll have a good time. I have a sneaking suspicion that shouldn't be too much of a problem at all.