fancy plans and pants to match: hanging ditch, part III

Well hello there, and welcome to another instalment of Fancy Plans and Pants To Match, a regular-ish segment on this blog where I self-deprecatingly-ish acknowledge that sometimes I get to do cool stuff because I am that most deserving, worthy, and merit-filled type of person: a blogger. The title of this segment comes via a quote from this generally forgotten 90s sitcom that I adore called NewsRadio, you should definitely look it up if only to wrestle with the odd sensation of having a crush on a young, handsome, Joey Tribbiani-esque Joe Rogan, who starred in it. Oh, and you can read the Fancy Plans and Pants to Match archives here. 

So here’s the thing: In October of 2015, which was, appallingly, a year and a half ago, a charming bar called Hanging Ditch opened in the Hannah’s Laneway precinct. 

The pitch: Hanging Ditch makes lush as hell cocktails and are going through a bit of a menu update. Having been there for their previous menu update and being an extreme fan of drinking alcohol, writing, and enthusiastically supporting my friends, I returned on Tuesday to try some of their new drinks and then pass on my predictably delighted thoughts to you. 

  Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

What happened: Since I last wrote about this place they’ve expanded the team via the presence of immensely talented bartender Dave McAvoy (best qualities: 1, is extremely easy to roast, 2, puts up with being roasted with admirable Canadian affability) and there were some new contributions from him to try, as well as drinks from co-founder and general sparkling gem of a human Benji Irvine. Also I’d like to acknowledge that I was wrestling with the aperture on my camera the entire damn time I was sitting there drinking and as such some of these photos aren’t totally brilliant, but ignore that and just concentrate on my glowing praise instead. 

The drinks I tried included:

One Night In Bangkok (Beefeater gin, kaffir lime leaf syrup, muddled fresh ginger and Thai basil, lime, and a green chartreuse rinse). This starts off dazzlingly refreshing with the one-two punch of kaffir lime syrup and actual lime, before tickling the back of the throat with the warmth of the ginger and Thai basil. The chartreuse rinse is subtle and adds a little richness to an otherwise astringent mix. The power-of-a-thousand-limes limeness of the kaffir lime leaves used in the syrup is spectacular and if you’ve never sniffed one, do yourself a favour. This is one of Dave’s submissions to the World Class competition and guys, it’s a damn lovely drink. Also it reminds me of one of my favourite songs of all time, which adds an extra layer of deliciousness. 

  One Night In Bangkok: makes a hard man humble

One Night In Bangkok: makes a hard man humble

The Preacher Man (Makers Mark Bourbon, Amaro Angostura, Fernet-Branca, cherry bitters, sugar, flamed cinnamon) Being a bartender it’s obligatory for my eyes to light up any time the words “Fernet-Branca” are uttered: it’s fiercely herbal, throat-scrapingly minty, eye-bleedingly intense and we love it. Here it’s used in an impressively understated way, adding the slightest shy nudge of Fernet-ness to this lush, layered, and punchy cocktail. I only tried Amaro Angostura recently and adore it – imagine Angostura Bitters but imminently drinkable (I’m not saying I haven’t done shots of Angostura Bitters, I’m just not sure how sustainable it is on several levels) and it works magic with the classic sweetness of the bourbon and the smokiness of the cinnamon. 

  The Preacher Man: the only one who could ever reach me

The Preacher Man: the only one who could ever reach me

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Reposado Tequila, grapefruit shrub, Yellow Chartreuse, honey, lemon, orange bitters, shaken in a smoked shaker) This was spectacular, somehow zingy in a sour-candy type way but with backdrop of smoke softly overlapping with the inherent and beguiling smoky pepperiness of tequila. A shrub is a kind of fruity syrup preserved with vinegar and is also, I feel, a highly underrated way of adding flavour to a drink. Here the grapefruit’s bitterness and sourness – which is partly where I suspect that candy vibe comes from – is gently imparted to gorgeous effect. It took all my willpower, of which I repeatedly and demonstrably have precious little to begin with, to not slam it back in one mouthful. Bravo. 

  Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: welcome to the party

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: welcome to the party

The Best Bit: The whole bit. Extremely delicious cocktails made by aggressively competent bartenders, charming banter from at least one of them, and just generally getting to bask in their current creative endeavours. Oh wait, the BEST bit: Hanging Ditch has a newly installed FERNET AND COKE ON TAP! This is immensely exciting as well as a slightly hilarious novelty and a blessing to the hospitality community and if you don’t hear from me it’s because I’m lying on my back underneath said tap with my mouth open drinking their entire stock dry. 

On a Scale of 1 to Is This The Real Life, Is This Just Fantasy: As I say every time I do these write ups for Hanging Ditch they get a 1 out of 10 but only because it’s actually extremely accessible and anyone can just walk in and order a cocktail: this is a good thing. 

Would I Do It Again For Not-Free: Can, will, have, going to, you should too.

Earnest Thanks For Making Me Feel Fancy To: The goodest boys at Hanging Ditch, which can be found next to Goldings and opposite Shepherd in the Hannah’s Laneway precinct down Leed’s Street. They’re open daily from late afternoon until midnight and have a notably good hospo night on Mondays.  

Want me to come take better photos than this and write almost troublingly enthusiastic words about your event, new menu, whatever? Giz a yell at 

looking good when it comes to the crunch

When I was a child I joined, for some odd reason since I really only loved dancing – although I do remember saying loftily, at some point, that “I want a busy life” – an organisation called Brownies. It was like a pre-Girl Guides/Scouts activity group for sprightly, do-gooding young gals and you’re welcome to google what their aspirations are but my main memories of it are as distinct as they are strange – a billowing brown sack of a dress that was the uniform; performing an elaborate song and dance about snails as some kind of occasional treat; going away on camps that had the inexplicable themes of Snoopy; Wombles; and Rock’n’Roll respectively; and the constant working towards getting badges for various exploits, such as Planting A Tree or Something. 

There was also, however, access to Girl Guide biscuits. If you’re in America I know you’ve got Girl Scout cookies of all different flavours and permutations because I’ve like, seen movies, but here in New Zealand we had but one, plain, vaguely sugary round mass-produced cookie to push onto the masses, damn it. I still have, at my parents house, a Girl Guide Biscuit box that’s used as a storage container for old stage show programmes and booklets, the vessel itself by this point providing as much nostalgia as that which it contains. 

Anyway so where I’m going with all this is that during Girl Guide Biscuit season everyone had an overabundance of them because New Zealand is small and there’s only so many people you can palm them off to before the degrees of separation means that literally every third person is your aunty and yes they’ve already bought three boxes and no they don’t want any more. 

So you made Girl Guide Biscuit slice: crushed up biscuits held together by an appealing buttery, sugary, cocoa-y gunge. It’s magnificently delicious and so much better than just choking down another plain dry biscuit for no discernable reason whatsoever (seriously, why would you eat these biscuits? They’re SO PLAIN. NO OFFENCE IF YOU LIKE THEM, YOUR OPINION IS VALID AND I RESPECT IT.) 

I recently came into possession of an unmarked shopping bag full of packets of biscuits very similar to these – the kind of nothing-spectacular biscuit that you’d make a cheesecake base out of. It was just some leftover stock from work, in case I made that sound far more excitingly illicit than it is. I’d held onto them for a while, just knowing that the perfect use for them would present itself to me. And lo; I started making batches of this Crunchie Bar Slice, an incredibly souped up version of the original Girl Guide recipe, and bringing it in for the people I work with at the bar on Fridays or Saturdays to provide some kind of sugary boost to get through the long shift. 

And then I kept making it every week. Smashed up biscuits, which I stirred into a buttery, sugary, cocoa-y mixture with milk chocolate melted softly into it and topped with sparkling golden smashed up Crunchie bar honeycomb dust. And it got to the point where I was like, well this is cute and I’m going to take some photos of it and blog about it. 

And then I realised I kind of buried the lede here: the people I’m making this slice for aren’t just my colleagues, they’re…my staff. Because I have become General Manager of the cocktail bar I work at. Large and in charge, queen bee, those kinds of words, y’know? Isn’t that exciting? Isn’t that nice? Not to undersell myself but if you were all “Laura, quick! Describe yourself!” I’d be like “…despite all my rage I am still just…a rat…in…a cage? Am I doing this right?” but here I am, with all this responsibility and a wonderful little team to look after and nurture and a fancy cocktail bar to run. I’m going to be straight up with you, I’ve never been in charge of ANYTHING in my life and I really thought this was how I was going to live out my days, always the bridesmaid never the manager; so obviously I’m determined to learn everything immediately and be a spectacular juggernaut of a success by approximately forty minutes in to my first day on the job otherwise I’m a complete failure. I’m also trying really hard to be nice to myself and let myself learn stuff slowly and go with the flow. Literally both these things at the same time. 

More importantly though, this slice tastes incredible and is so easy to make. It’s a textural triumph – the bite of the biscuits against the soft, fudge-like chocolate, ever so slightly gritty from the grains of sugar and the bursts of crisp Crunchie bar dissolving on your tongue. The chill from the freezer and the (once more for the people in the back) plainness of the biscuits counteracts any oversweetness, although by all means feel free to put, I don’t know, chocolate chips or drizzled white chocolate or something on top.  

As per, my recipe is really long and over-explainy but I strenuously assure you, this is easy to make. Actually the only real effort involved is reading through the recipe without being put off by how wordy it is. 

crunchie bar slice

a recipe by myself

  • 150g butter
  • one cup sugar
  • 50g milk chocolate (this is generally the size of a chocolate bar) 
  • one tablespoon of cocoa
  • one egg
  • one packet of malt biscuits/plain cookies/the sort of thing you’d make cheesecake base from
  • one regular-sized Crunchie bar or similar honeycomb style bar. 

Get a rectangular tin – the kind you might bake brownies or slice in – and have it sitting there along with a large piece of baking paper to line it, while you make the slice. I sometimes put it in the freezer if I’m in a hurry so that the mixture starts to cool as soon as I spoon it in. Whatever!

Using a rolling pin or something heavy, carefully bash the unopened packet of biscuits on all sides so that you can feel them crumbling beneath the surface of the packet. You don’t have to have created dust, just attempt to smash them up a bit. 

In a large pan, melt the butter gently over a low heat. Stir in the sugar and the milk chocolate, allowing the chocolate to melt into it. Remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa, then open up the packet of biscuits and tip them in, using your hands or your spoon to crush up any larger bits. Finally, stir the egg in as quickly as possible – the mixture will still be warm so you don’t want the egg to cook against it – and then spatula the lot into your waiting tin. Use the back of a metal spoon to press it evenly down into the corners. Finally, give the unopened Crunchie bar a bit of a bash as well, then open it up and sprinkle the golden chocolatey dust evenly over the surface of the slice, using the back of that spoon to push it in. 

Freeze for at least an hour, and then use a large knife to cut it into slices. 

As you can see from the recipe it’s really just a couple of pre-packaged things held together by not much at all, but a thick slice of this, straight from the freezer in the middle of a busy shift or indeed, any time at all, can leave you feeling briefly invincible. I accidentally typed invisible just now instead of invincible but same difference, all things considered. 

If bopping about making things that can be sliced up and received with happiness are your thing right now, may I also recommend my recipes for Ginger Crunch Slice and/or Peanut Butter Chocolate Caramel Nut Slice.  

PS: I’m honestly so excited about this sudden career trajectory, definitely come visit me.  

title from:  Neneh Cherry’s perfect song Buffalo Stance. 

music lately: 

will I ever stop listening to Disappear by INXS? Will you ever stop asking me stupid questions? 

Kill Em With Kindness by Selena Gomez sounds aggressively of this moment, but wow it’s so good. Your lies are bullets, your mouth’s a gun? Hello. 

next time: I have some frozen prawns in my freezer. So maybe something prawn-y. 

Hi friendly people, I have some massive personal life stuff going on right now, so I’m gonna be gone for a minute. While I normally find it excruciating to do anything without telling as many people as I can about it, this one requires some time and privacy and other responsible things like that. But, I will be back blogging before you know it. In the meantime, read all my old posts or hug your loved ones or something.

Laura xx

everybody loves a winner, so nobody loved me

Thanks heaps to everyone who took part in my cookbook giveaways. I wish I could give cookbooks to all of you, but that probably wouldn’t be very good business practice (have also been known to say “Tim is so lovely it’s a pity EVERYONE can’t marry him” so make of this what you will.) If nothing else, all the super-nice comments on my Instagram and on this blog have been endlessly good for my soul and ego and smile occurrence. Especially in this very strange week where I dropped my precious cellphone down an eighth storey lift shaft, and also got sent home from work after a very big, scary earthquake.

And the winners are: Alice and Georgia Rose! Please send your details to and I’ll send you a copy of the book right away.

For the rest of you, it’s less than a week till my cookbook is out! Fathom THAT!

Also for the rest of you, here are some guinea pigs I saw in a pet shop a couple of weeks ago. Couldn’t leave you with nothing.

title via: The achingly perfect Maybe This Time. By Liza. 

next time: Fancy plans and pants to match at a Hippopotamus degustation!

put me to work, you would think that by now i’m allowed, i’ll do you proud



Look, at some point when I’m more emotionally stable I’ll write something deep and meaningful that convinces you that I’m up to the task, of the task that I’m about to tell you that I’m up to, but in the meantime, know this. I’ve kept a secret from you since January 19. That day I got an email. Which resulted in hours and hours and hours of work. And some tears. And so much waiting. And then a phone call this afternoon.

The phone call which means that I, Laura Vincent, food blogger, am going to write a cookbook. A REAL COOKBOOK. For you! And you! And you and you and you you and you!

I’ve barely slept over the last few days and poor Tim (although, let’s face it, lucky Tim), it’s all I’ve talked about, and¬†today was nothing but a strange blur (although dazedly asking if anyone wants to volunteer “as tribute” instead “for chair” during an important meeting that I myself was chairing kinda sticks out). I can’t say just yet who’s publishing it but you know them! You’ve totally heard of them and of course I’m going to say good things about them because they’re being so cool but I promise you: couldn’t have asked for a more exciting name behind my name. And of course they’re awesome, right? They’re publishing my cookbook! Who else had the foresight, the patience, the risk-take-ivity? This as-yet-unnamed publishing house, that’s whom!

This is me after I found out, panic-stripped, and found myself wearing my shiny gold party dress. (I’m now back in trackpants, so you know.) That is the smile of someone who has wanted this for so, so long, with the fiery burn of a thousand French fries. This is the smile of someone who has had intense, self-worth-damaging disappointments along the way. This is the smile of someone who has kept a secret since January and has finally been able to share it with her parents and with the best friends in the world, who I’m totally dragging to the top with me to share in the joys of whatever being a cookbook author is like.

This is the smile of someone who sat on a bed this afternoon while waiting for the phone call and listened to Defying Gravity and cried and then wondered if someone who would do such a thing was suitable for a book deal. After giving it some thought I decided someone who does that absolutely deserves a book deal! I then watched the finale of Parks and Recreation again and cried again because I felt like what happened to Leslie Knope was a sign that everything was going to work out for me. Then I watched Defying Gravity (the Tony Awards show version) and cried again. Then I listened to Die, Vampire Die from [title of show] and looked at photos of capybaras and at a gif of Vince Noir and Howard Moon pashing. Then I watched Over the Moon from RENT. Finally, I started watching Donna McKechnie performing Music and the Mirror from A Chorus Line. It got to the bit where she’s sings the amazing line, “I’ll dooooo you prouuuuuud”. And then the phone rang.

And I got it. I GOT IT.

I promise, as well as this being one of the most important things to ever happen to me, I will make sure it’s something that makes your life more amazing too. I think a cookbook can do that. I think my cookbook can do that. There will never have been a cookbook like this before!

I mean, I hope so. Even as someone given to panic attacks and an I’m-sure-delightful personality mix of absolutely sure of myself mixed with nauseating insecurity (hey there, publishing house!) I do believe in myself. I know I can do this.


reach out your hand, and I’ll be flying home


I’m back!
We’re back, more specifically (that is, I didn’t lose Tim in a bin somewhere in Warsaw or anything.)
Tim and I were really, really lucky. Our trip was amazing. We ate so much ridiculously delicious food. We felt real California sunshine in Santa Monica and spoke broken Polish in Warsaw and went to this reggae gig in Brixton and drank good whisky for cheap in Berlin and climbed a church tower in Oxford…and we were shown massive amounts of hospitality (manaakitanga, the word I try and keep in mind whenever people show up at home) by complete strangers and we managed to lose neither our expensive camera nor my expensive phone. There were some stupid times, like when we got stuck on a bus at 4am in London with three guys that seemed paralytically drunk at best and needing only the fleetingest of eye contact to start a fight. We escaped greatfully from the increasingly claustrophobic bus completely unharmed but it felt like a long, long time between stops. There was a dire moment at the Berlin zoo when the capybaras refused to show their faces. We did a fair bit of hiking round in pursuit of something very particular only to find it closed, or long gone, or actually twelve blocks in the other direction, but that kind of thing can be smoothed over like a flat-bladed palate knife by the all-applicable phrase “it’s an adventure”. And it was. We spent most of the time floating on a bubble-strewn bubble of happiness. Apart from that afternoon with the no-capybaras. But still.
We were picked up by mum and my godmum Viv at 5:30am from Auckland International Airport having thankfully made it safely through NZ’s prickly border control with our duty free liquor and food-related purchases intact (though it’s a little hard to take the entry card seriously when foreign visitors are asked to tick a box if they’re going to the Rugby World Cup this year…I mean really?) and had an amazing weekend at home catching up with family and the cats (although the cats are, of course, family) and sleep. We’re still completely dozy though so I’ll leave it here while we still have a fine smattering of motivation to unpack our bags, and I’ll be back tomorrow to resume blogging proper.
While I’ll miss traveling I’m seriously looking forward to bonding with my kitchen, reacquainting myself with my favourite spatulas and mixing bowls and and ingredients and then talking about them on here, while also exploiting any opportunity to talk about the trip. I missed cooking and I missed blogging (not to the extent that I was miserable or anything, just a bit of a twinge every now and then) and hopefully I remember how to actually do it and you all retain some enjoyment from this place after my lengthy absence. Cheers for your patience!
Title via: the wildly talented and prolifically excellent Jason Robert Brown with the penultimate song from the beautiful musical Songs For A New World, called Flying Home.

Next time: a real blog post with an actual recipe. It was my birthday on the 17th and Tim gave me the beautiful Ottolenghi Plenty cookbook, it’s hard not to want to cook everything in it at once…but I’m sure I’ll be able to settle on one thing.

i want the one i can’t have


Today after a three and a half hour meeting I was reading through CLEO magazine and found the list of CLEO/Palmolive Nutra Fruit Wonder Woman nominees. OooOOOooo, I thought, I wonder if there’s any cool new bloggers to discover in the blogger category. Then I saw my own name listed. What! I’m a woman who is potentially wonder-ous! I made my manager read it to me to make sure I hadn’t just imagined the whole thing.
Okay, I’m not quite sure what being a Wonder Woman means, but the winner gets $5000.
Let’s be cold: There are some seriously brilliant and famous women nominated for this, people out there doing really cool, creative things. Within the blog category alone there are some high-profile sites that I, a more-or-less unknown and I’m pretty sure the only food blogger, am up against. Spose the fact that I think my blog is basically the awesomest blog in the whole of New Zealand doesn’t count for much against established networks and fanbases.
Every time I stop to tell myself this isn’t a big deal and it’s fun just to see my name there and I don’t even really know what it all means anyway, the glint of the money gets into my peripheral vision and I start to get all hopeful and hyped up and imagine the wonderful things I could do with that money. The harder I daydream the more I want that $5000 and the more I tell myself I’m pretty stupid when there are all these other high profile people in the running. I’m teetering wildly between “what is this anyway?” and “I WANT THIS!” Look at what money makes us do – maybe you shouldn’t vote for me after all?
For what it’s worth, if I did find myself $5000 richer, here’s the two things I would do:
1) Throw a big dinner party and cook for all my friends – maybe make a vat of pasta and an equally giant pan of rich, slow-simmered homemade tomato sauce and let everyone help themselves, with a huge bowl chocolate mousse for pudding (and maybe some partying in there, I don’t know, homemade chocolate mousse is pretty exciting to me).
2) Travel somewhere with Tim. Tim and I met overseas in 2005. When we moved in together once back in New Zealand in 2006 and started university, it was pretty well settled in our minds that as soon as our graduation-hats were thrown in the air we’d be boarding a plane to travel again. Since that confident decision we have travelled…literally nowhere…which is not so much a bad thing as realistic, but all the same 2005 feels impossibly far away, and sometimes it seems like I spend far too much time observing Broadway shows open and close and change casts from afar. We could go to Poland – I loved it so much during my brief time there – go back to London, visit people from the performing arts school we worked at, go to New York to see a Broadway show, see what the Baby Sitter’s Club were on about in Super Special #6 New York, New York, maybe (while I’m being indulgent), Idina Menzel will have some kind of live gig happening and I could finally, finally see her in person. I could buy a pet capybara! A bouncy castle! The capybara could live in the bouncy castle on our roof! (Err, $5000 would stretch as far as all that?)
With your help, this could be what my roof looks like!
I guess this blog post has demonstrated that maybe I’m not quite Wonder Woman material, I mean look how out-of-hand I get when just presented with the opportunity to simply daydream about getting $5000.
If after all that voting for me is something you want to do, then please email with WONDER WOMEN in the subject line, and “Voting for Blogger: Laura Vincent –” plus your name and contact details in the body of the email. I feel a bit funny asking, but not so funny that I won’t ask, you know? Gigantic thanks to anyone who does vote!
Title via: The Smiths, keeping me honest (although I did consider quoting “god I hope I get it” from A Chorus Line, there’s no real way to do this without the wanty-want-want selfish overtones is there?)

there’s no business like show business

The time has come once more for me to assume the authority (authority that I don’t really have, hence “assume” instead of, say, “gather”) of writing up the Wellington Food Show. You know how some people really get into things like the Superbowl? The Food Show is my Superbowl. And it comes but once a year. Between working full time and growing older the year sweeps by alarmingly quick, the upshot of which is that this year the Food Show approached a lot sooner than I thought it would.
The following is a selection of the foodstuffs we sampled on Sunday. (And the drinkstuffs. At one point I remember telling Tim “I like margaritas. They help me make decisions.”) There are some points you should bear in mind as you scroll purposefully through them.
1) I’m mad useless at composition on the fly. Sorry, companies (and readers).
2) While I only talk about the good stuff, it’s not the definitive list. There were 185 stands, so out of practicality not all of them will be mentioned below.
3) I may or may not be half asleep while I’m writing this. Apologies for any inaccuracies or metaphors that go nowhere.
Firstly a massive “cheers” to The Wright Sprouts who actually sent me a pass to the show, which was both unexpected and very cool. It is entirely without agenda that I reiterate my genuine love for The Wright Sprouts’ products (their sproutput, if you, um, will). A wide range of nutty, crunchy, juicy organic sprouts that you can easily polish off by the handful straight from the bag or use in actual recipes. I know sprouts don’t necessarily spring to mind when you contemplate awesomely delicious food, but friend, let them spring.

The Wright Sprouts
Contact: (the lovely)

One of the hugely exciting highlights of the day was seeing Ray McVinnie’s cooking demonstration. He’s become a lot more well-known lately as a judge on NZ Masterchef but I was there in the front row simply as a long-time fan of his writing for Cuisine magazine. His Quick Smart column has always been a favourite of mine and it was nice to see he’s every bit as excellent in person as he is in paragraph form.

Total rockstar. Seriously. He made these two stunningly excellent sounding dishes, one a chicken dish sweetened and soured with damson jam, red wine and moscatel vinegar, and the other a chorizo and prawn dish. He was engaging, thorough, sensible of advice and humorous of anecdote. He even quoted Nigella Lawson. I know. He even kind of gestured at Tim and I at one point and asked if we could smell cinnamon, I seriously couldn’t but nodded eagerly all the same, not one to let the truth stand in the way of a good story.
To the food!
Freedom Farms
Sunset Free Range

We were so happy to see the SPCA stand back once more to raise awareness of the importance of free range eggs and meat with their mighty omelets. I made the decision a while back to only purchase free range eggs and meat, for all those obvious reasons (like feminism – gotta look out for our feathered sisters and their wellbeing) and the deliciousness of the bacon and omelets we tried at this stand only further backed up my happiness in this decision. I realise it would be even more humane and actually just much better to just not eat eggs or meat at all but…not yet. Just love them too much really, and I’m happy to support people striving to get me those eggs and that meat in the best way possible.
Essential Cuisine

There ain’t nothing wrong with a little getting someone else to make your stock. Essential Cuisine has the goods, light years away from the murky, salty, 2-minute noodle sachet type stuff donning a mask and calling itself stock these days. They make mighty fine pesto too and all their products come in these alluringly prod-able, jewel-coloured pouches.
St Andrews Limes

These guys have been around for a year or two now, so it was more of a perfunctory visit to their stand that I made. However I shouldn’t have been so presumptuous as their “Just a Dressing” – the stuff in the ramekin on the right – was so deliciously mustardy and sharp that I wanted to devise an elaborate plan to distract the people in charge of the stall so I could quickly swipe the bottle and drink the lot.

Lisa’s is another company that has been around for a while, but still shaking up the hummus scene with her ridiculously delicious new range. The above was roast kumara and chickpea hummus topped with glossy pumpkin seeds. It was lusciously silky and nutty, an amazingly good combination. We spent some serious quality time with it.
The Collective Dairy

I LOVE this yoghurt.

What to say. It was wonderful stuff – cold, thick, creamy and swirled with fruit. Their halloumi was so delicious – salty, squeaky, soft but solid. Actually that makes it sound kind of awful, but trust me it was genuinely heavenly. Top ranking stuff all round.

Sweet Smart

These guys did sugar-free sour cola bottles that tasted real. Well, as real as actual sour cola bottles could get. They have an awesomely comprehensive range of sugar-free products online and were really friendly. Considering it was day three of the Food Show and all.
Lindt Chocolate

One of their reps was strangely cold-mannered, they didn’t seem to have any business cards to hand and there’s not even an NZ website to speak of. From this cavalierness I would assume Lindt clearly don’t need me to promote them on my blog. Still, I kind of liked this picture. And their chocolate is just so knee-bucklingy delicious, particularly those legendary Lindor balls which are solid on the outside and meltingly truffly on the inside. It sells itself. You can find it in most supermarkets. I ended up buying a bar of 85% dark chocolate which I look forward to eating eventually – I’ve never had chocolate quite that dark before, maybe if it gets any darker it just turns into a charcoal briquette.
Loaf Handcrafted Breads
One of the perils of going to the Food Show on the last day is that some people might run out of food. Like these jammy dodgers from Loaf, whose shelves were nude but for what you see in the photo above when we got there first thing in the morning. While I love to make my own ginger slice, their take on it was pretty darn exquisite – soft, fudgey, and dark with gingery heat. Between the quality of their product and the disarming friendliness of the guys at the stand I’m not surprised at all that they were completely fleeced and ready to go home after our first lap of the stadium.
Orcona Chillis’n’Pepper

Just the perfect thing to awaken the tastebuds mid-afternoon. Orcona has a fabulous range of chillis and chilli-related products. We were particularly taken with their harissa and their chilli feijoa relish – strangely sweet and hot at the same time and very moreish. I haven’t got tastebuds that can really stand up to the bullying heat of chillis but if yours can then look these guys up for sure.
Orcona Chillis’n’Peppers

Moana Park of Hawkes Bay

This was the wine used in the aforementioned Ray McVinnie cooking demonstration and I felt obliged to show them how their advertising dollars had paid off handsomely in brand recognition. While I drink wine here and there I can’t say I know an awful lot about it in the technical sense, apart from what you pick up from listening to other people and reading and so on, but I really did like their Malbec – it had a good, robust, confident flavour. I then tried something called a “sticky” which frankly isn’t the name I’d choose to classify a wine but again, what know I? It was very good but awfully sweet, the sort of thing that would be nice with stone fruit or perhaps poured over a cake of some kind. The man at the stall was very nice, which is always appreciated when bumbling your way through this sort of thing.
Lemon-Z Limoncello
Lemon-Z is first an foremost a fabulous locally made limoncello, smooth, resiny and incredibly lemony. They also make a brilliant ice cream out of such reassuringly familiar things as cream and egg yolks. I felt a bit bad as I made a massive hash of all my photos of their drink, but not toooo bad as they’re doing alright for themselves without my awful photos – their international awards are many and prestigious.
Soprano Limoncello

The Soprano limoncello was rich and fragrant, deliciously sour and with a sprightly liqueur-y kick. They’re relatively new to the limoncello party but clearly know exactly what they are doing. I liked it a lot.
I love it when people do the dinky shot-glass lineup thing, because it looks so pretty in photos. Look at them twinkle! Rejuva’s aloe juice is so strangely delicious that you won’t even think about how scarily spiky the actual aloe vera plant is, or how strangely gluey the sap encased within its spikes. Rejuva’s range of juices include Pomegranate with Aloe and Green Tea with Aloe. The flavour is a little hard to pinpoint – a little cucumbery, a little grapey, but overall light-textured, refreshing and delicious. And really, really good for you.
Lighthouse Gin

There’s a really long and complicated distillation process that makes Lighthouse gin a cut apart from the rest of the gin-peddlers out there, but the one thing I can remember is that they use hand-cut orange rind to flavour their gin, instead of the rather more pith-bitter dried stuff that most other makers use. Which appealed to me, as did their robustly delicious product, full of the evidence of that hand-zested fruit and whole spices.
Honourable mention to the following –
Martinborough’s Coney Wines, from whom I sampled two incredibly good Reislings. Their wines are named after music references and the people at the stand were incredibly friendly. I took advantage of their deliciousness and good value and bought myself a bottle. It was pouring with rain and the endless walk out of the stadium is completely unsheltered. The paper bag that the wine was in grew soggy, broke, and the wine smashed onto the ground. Aaaaaargh. Began to hate whoever designed the walkway out of the stadium (seriously, this walkway it’s about forty kilometres long, no roof at all, in Wellington of all places). Nevertheless, I’ll still be looking out for them in shops, only if it’s not raining.
Coney Wines – contact
Las Margarita Restaurante Y Cantina from Lower Hutt, who were serving icy margaritas and wonderful hot-sauce doused, cheese-filled rolls called flautas, and the girl serving margaritas complimented me on my hair.
Contact: 04) 566 2646/
Piako Gourmet Yoghurt – another incredible NZ dairy product, unfortunately by the time I got round to them I was completely over taking photos. Wonderfully thick, delicious yoghurt in such alluring flavours as coffee walnut and lemon curd. Really, really gorgeous stuff.
Oxfam, who were collecting signatures to petition supermarkets to stock more Fairtrade products. Fair deuce, said I, and signed up happily. Then he gave us a whole block of Whittakers chocolate to say thanks. I could not have been more filled with love for the Food Show at that moment.
And that, good people, is it, more or less. Less, rather than more, as I really only captured a bare sprinkle of the goods on display, but there you go.

Title via: the formidable, deeply talented Ethel Merman (they don’t name ’em like they used to).
Music lately:
Notorious B.I.G feat Method Man – The What from Ready To Die You sure don’t need me to tell you why this is good but one day when I’m more awake I might just do it anyway.
Best Coast, When I’m With You. I don’t know much at all about these people but I love this song – its lethargic, foot-dragging guitars and Hole-ish vocals are very appealing.
Next time: Cheers for reading, everyone, I realise it’s a bit of a hike. So much new food to eat now – can’t wait. Maybe by the time the next one rolls round I’ll have my own cooking demonstration or something. Am secretly tempted to look at flights to Auckland for their leg of the Food Show…

ceci n’est pas une new post

This is a bit of an interim thing. The equivalent to those four songs in the middle of a teen pop album from the late nineties. We’ve officially moved into our new stomping ground on Cuba Street and I’ve started cooking again, with a gas-top stove and an expel-air, oh untold joys abounding. But, if my free time were a pizza, right now unpacking boxes and arranging the objects that represent our lives to fit in this new space is eating nearly every slice of my time-pizza, not to mention my side order of headspace-fries with aioli.

To tide you all over – because I will start posting with soothing regularity asap to assuage the palpitations of the heart that surely start in my prolonged absense – I thought I might do a round-up of all the restaurants and cafes that I’ve reviewed since starting this blog in 2007 so that they’re in one nifty post. This idea may fall flat, especially considering my international readership, but whatever. This is my blog, I’ll openly pad it out with recycled filler material if I so wish. And if you should ever find yourself in Wellington – and why not? It’s easily the best city New Zealand has to offer the world – consider this a starting point for where to eat.


Read about what we thought of Auckland’s Wagamama – back in the dark days before a branch opened in Wellington – and the Wendy’s burger joint: click HERE

Read about Alleluya Cafe on K’Road, home to an excellent Jewish Ginger Cake: click HERE


Read very briefly about Satay India, which deserved more of a review than I gave it because it was delicious: click HERE

Read about the faint-makingly fantastic chocolates on Featherston Street’s Melting Perfection chocolaterie: click HERE

Read about the Black Harp Irish pub, where wonderfully hearty meals are served daily and where we have dined several times with family and friends: click HERE

Read about Kelburn’s as-seen-on-TV Red Tomatoes cafe, where the pizza is flipping brilliant even if the service is a schmeer patchy: click HERE

Read about the Maranui Surf Cafe which doesn’t even need my endorsement because it’s always packed, rain or shine, and with good reason: click HERE and also HERE (this one has pictures)

Read about Deluxe cafe, which is so cool that I felt as though it was my fault when I didn’t enjoy it that much, Roxy Cafe on Cuba Street which has the BEST hash browns, and Casablanca, a cheap and cheerful BYO: click HERE

Read about Rise Cafe on the Terrace, where a good coffee and excellent service can be found: click HERE

Read about the gorgeous La Bella Italia on The Terrace, which has utterly marvelous food and is infuriatingly not open on weekends: click HERE

And there it is, friends. A rough guide to eating hither and yon across Wellington and a competely understocked guide to eating out in Auckland. A little something to let you know I still am very much in existence.

On Shuffle whilst I type:

Horehound, the debut album by The Dead Weather, ie how much more wine can Jack White squeeze from his mind-grapes? The man is relentless! As is the seriously brilliant album. Jack White, you genius, you’ve done it again.

Next time: for one thing, an actual post with pictures and recipes. I’ve got a whole mess of baking planned for this weekend, and our espresso machine has finally entered the world so I also predict affogatos every which way to Sunday. On top of that there is something quite bewitching about living on Cuba Street. I’m noticing things I’ve never seen before. Like the Babylon Kebab shop – why didn’t they just call themselves Kebabylon? Or, for maximum flair, Babylon Kebabylon? There is a quilting supplies shop just down the road from me that I never knew existed. At Moore Wilson’s the other day (now divinely close to our house) Tim didn’t even twitch when I bought tofu and actually actively suggested that I buy Israeli couscous. This from the fellow who once thought there was no discernable difference between canola oil and extra virgin olive oil. There may have been salty language employed to let him know the difference. You know what I’m saying.