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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

eleven meals with mom

When someone comes to visit, you go out and eat and drink.  When someone comes to visit when you’re living in a foreign country after no one has visited you for six months, you go out and eat and drink A LOT.  This is what happened when my mom came to visit for eleven days.  Food didn’t stand a chance.  My liver was played by Sandra Bullock and was blindsided by Pinot Noir.  It may have won an Oscar.  I’m not sure.  I probably ate it.   

Back in the 80s when I was so very small, I had this beach towel with this scantily clad hippo in a bikini on it.  Below this sexy fat mammal were the words, “If you got it, flaunt it.”  I don’t know where I got it or why I had it or why my mom would let me, a so very small girl in the 80s, have such a beach towel but I had it.  And I never really understood it.  I used to think, “If I have what?  What am I supposed to flaunt?”  I was clueless.  Not anymore.  New Zealand is that sexy hippo and it is totally being flaunted out here.  The fresh produce.  The clean food.  The just-caught fish.  The smaller portions.  The endless vineyards.  And a real nice proper cup of coffee. 

And Mom and I had it all.  Seems only right that I now flaunt it.  Unbutton your pants.

1.  Prawn risotto with zucchini and topped with rocket.  Friday lunch at Alphabet Bistro.  Mom flew in from LA this morning and this was her very first meal in New Zealand.  It was important that it didn’t suck.  So I took her here and ordered the prawn risotto.  Even though I was at this restaurant the day before for lunch with my husband and ordered the very same thing.  He thought it was redundant.  I knew it was a sure thing.  It was.


2.  Steamed New Zealand green lipped mussels in chardonnay, garlic and fresh herbs.  Saturday night family dinner at Iguacu.  Which we call Iguana because we’re not quite sure how to pronounce its actual name even though we’ve only eaten here about five hundred times since we’ve moved here.  The mussels were unbelievably fresh with sauce you would drink out of the bowl if people didn’t judge you for drinking sauce out of the bowl.  (Please note this picture was taken about ten consumed mussels and a bottle of wine too late to properly represent this yummy dish.  Sorry, Iguana.)

3.  Smoked chicken, brie and caramelized onion panini with some sort of relish.  Sunday afternoon lunch stop on our way to Piha beach.  The most beautiful beach ever.  Just a sandcastle away from the beach where “The Piano” was filmed.   We bought this sandwich at a dairy.  Tiny little market with a little bit of everything.  Including a delicious smoked chicken, brie and caramelized onion Panini with some sort of relish. It didn't win any beauty contests but it did win our $9.50.  Food is not cheap, did I mention that?

4.  Salmon and avocado on a sunflower roll with tomato chutney.  Monday lunch at Milk.  This is a little café in my husband’s office building.  Which is down the street from the school where Mom and I volunteered all morning in Max’s class.  They were making masks for literacy week.  Everyone had to pick out a character from their favorite book and then make a mask to parade around in front of the whole school on Friday.  Max chose the blue penguin from Club Penguin.  Club Penguin is not a book.

5.  Waiheke Snapper with mussel croquette, butternut, pine nuts, broad beans and FLOWERS!  Mudbrick Winery on Waiheke Island.  This restaurant is described as one of the most romantic places on earth.  And it was.  But since Mom and I aren’t romantically linked, we choose to describe it as one of the best drinking places on earth.  And it was.  I ordered the Waiheke Snapper and not only was it awesome, it was beautiful.  It was stacked and arranged and drizzled and flowered and topped with a pile of foam.  I’m sure the waiter told me exactly what the foam was but the Mudbrick Sauvignon Blanc refused to let me bring home that information.

6.  Breakfast salad with bacon, poached egg, tomato, avocado and mesclun dressed in fresh herbs, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.  Wednesday lunch at Café People.  Charlie turned four on this day.  Mom and I celebrated by sending him to school and having this amazing salad.  If the breakfast salad could’ve ordered lunch, it would’ve ordered the breakfast salad and ate itself. 

7.  Nachos with homemade tortilla chips and everything that’s good in the world:  cheese, guacamole, margaritas, the Pacific Ocean.  Thursday lunch at Dos Amigos in Mission Bay was perfect.  There is not much Mexican food in New Zealand but what they do have is off the charts fresh and mighty.  Hola.

8.  Ravioli with Jerusalem artichoke, sage and walnut brown butter.  Friday night dinner at Coco’s Cantina.  Coco’s Cantina is one of those places where adjectives such as hip, dark, small, cool loiter about like the people standing at the bar waiting for a table.  If you want to eat here, you will have to wait.  A long, long time.  But if you can stand it, literally, you will be rewarded.  With this dish.  Because.  Oh.  My.  God.  C-razy good.

9.  Dinosaur cake.  Saturday birthday party for Charlie 4th at Seedling.  A super cute kiddy craft store that sells super cute kiddy crafts.  This making of this cake involved a lot of assistants.  Mixer lickers (Max and Charlie), homemade frosting whipper (Mom), dinosaur body carver (me), expert froster (my husband).  This delicious quadruped was reduced to crumbs as the last verse of the Happy Birthday song still lingered in the air. 

10.  Trim flat white.  Sunday morning coffee from Mink Café.  This little brown takeaway cups may not look like much but the coffee from here – Mink and the entire country of New Zealand – is THE coffee.  I know other places say they have the best coffee in the world but they’re liars.  I’ve been to Spain, France, Costa Rica, Starbucks.  The moment the first New Zealand trim flat white hit my lips, I was besotted.  

11.  Maketu Prime Beef and Blue Cheese Pie.  A random meat pie Mom and I picked up at the grocery story eleven days ago.  Mom took the 1:05 pm Quantas flight from Auckland to LA on this day.  At 1:06 pm I realized we never got around to that pie.  It had 2,095 kilojoules (kilowhat?) of energy.  I decided I couldn’t consume all that energy without her so I didn’t.  Plus, it expired sometime between meal one and the 1:05 pm flight. So instead of using a picture of an old expired meat pie, here's a baby goat.  We went to a farm after we dropped Mom off at the airport.  We didn't eat the baby goat.

And there you have it.  Eleven meals with Mom.  I hope I made it very clear you have to come to New Zealand.  With or without my mom.  If not for the in-your-face beauty and the clean air and to visit me and the relentless hills and the ridiculously cute baby goats and the kind people and the charming accents that make you sound like you belong in a barn and the way “man oh man, is it pretty here” feels rolling off your barn tongue then come for the food.  And the wine.  And the COFFEE!

Someone please tell Starbucks we're through. 


  1. Crew, I feel like I am there already. Love your descriptions of all the food! Sounds and looks fantastic. I like the names of all these places, too. "Cafe People"--cute! My favorite pic is still the dinosaur cake; it's a masterpiece. I hear you about the coffee; I have discovered that the coffee at Tavern is better than anywhere else (except New Zealand's) and now I don't want to get coffee anywhere else. Oh--what is this "trim flat white" business?

  2. You are terribly funny! Love the way you describe your adventures with mom...and the food looks downright decadent! Thanks for the laugh...and for the drool running down my face.