Friday, January 15, 2010

Dappled pork and apple

My buddy Chris says he's discovered a new trick at restaurants: telling the maitre d' which table you want. He tried it at Takapuna Beach Cafe today and it worked pretty good, although once you get to a certain class of place, um, internationally, they might have reservations (in both senses). Chris reckons our table outside in the combined sun/shade was 40% better than anything we would have been given by chance. Further, he thinks that wait staff intentionally seat everyone in the same area of the restaurant so that they have less far to walk during their shift. I'm not so sure about that one.

He was shouting me lunch, because he's been staying at my house all week. It's pretty hard to quantify how much three nights on someone's slightly lumpy spare single bed equates to in dollar terms, but apparently in culinary terms it equates to one Pork Belly, Beetroot, Granny Smith and Watercress Salad.

Pork belly needs to be eaten hot, because once it cools down all the fat gets a bit congealed. Maybe that's why it arrived under a little canopy of watercress (see photo). So maybe it was that little trick, or maybe it was our sun/shade dappled table, but the belly stayed warm and edible until the last mouthful, and it tasted very very good.

Matching foods with each other can be a tricky business for both chef and customer. That's why it's good when you strike on a combination where everyone agrees that the sum is greater than the parts. Pork and apple is one of these combinations, no matter what cut of pork and what form of apple. This was crisp Granny Smith (their were flecks of red on the skin, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt) rather than the traditional cluggy apple sauce, and if you're looking at apple to cut through the fatty pork then the crisper the better, right?

There was some fennel-like spice, I think rubbed into the pork skin, and that was doing mighty things for the apple and beetroot too. For a while there a couple of years ago when I was working an office job in town I would make myself indian fried potatoes for breakfast and follow it with an apple eaten on the way to work. If ever I had a cumin seed stuck in my teeth and dislodged it with a bite of the apple, I would get this massive fantastic combination wave of taste. So I'm well into the whole spices and granny smiths.

In conclusion, my lunch tasted good,and if you don't believe me ask Lily Allen, who dined there the day before us (true). I dined in the same restaurant as her on the same day once, but that's a story for another time.

Takapuna Beach Cafe isn't the cheapest cafe in Auckland, but then pork belly isn't the cheapest cut of meat. Oh that's right, it pretty much is.