Monday, June 30, 2014

Paying for Lunch

It’s ironic given the subject matter of this blog that I’ve lately been starving it of content. I blame TV – House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Game of Actually I Haven’t Watched That One. Every spare hour is devoted to watching another 60 minutes from some other fictional world, while the fictional world in which I regularly create content for this website becomes less believable by the day.

I get sent a lot of food, by PRs who should know better. “Maybe you could write about it on your blog?” they ask via follow up email, and I don’t reply, because I know I probably won't. The other day a PR sent a box containing a raw duck, a packet of ham and a bag of prawns, which the courier left at a little known gate at the bottom of our house. Ten days later I discovered it, the quivery meat now cooked in its own bacterial steam. The PR apologized profusely but I couldn’t help thinking it was punishment for not plugging some gluten-free crusket she’d sent me in the past.

And then there are events – long lunches at fancy restaurants, sitting between Masterchef Chelsea Winter and the guy who tells you to buy ecobulbs during the news. They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but what they should really say is there’s no such thing as a guilt-free lunch. You don’t have to pay for it, but there is an emotional cost which lasts well into the opening titles of Homeland.

But you can’t do a blogpost about the Cloudy Bay Pinot and Duck Tasting Trail when you haven’t written about anything else for six months, no matter what a fantastic opportunity it is to enjoy the classic pairing of duck and pinot noir throughout July at 24 restaurants throughout New Zealand. It’s not enough that you can win your next meal for free by using the hashtag #duckdate. My readers demand a certain integrity.

Well here are a bunch of things I’ve eaten in the last few months, supplied for you without charge or commercial endorsement. Take what you like from it and if you don’t hear from me for another 12 weeks, do what I do and blame Lena Dunham.

This is a gourmet cheese roll from Josh Emett's very excellent Rata in Queentstown. It's pretty good - with liquid melted cheese inside, truffle oil and all manner of garnish, it succeeds in everything but the most basic test: if I was hungry would I want this more than an actual cheese roll? Almost everything else on the menu is good and the restaurant is super classy, so I really don't want to lower the tone by pointing out that unlike standard cheese rolls, this one costs $15.

Without even considering the health and wellbeing benefits, the best casual lunch on Ponsonby Road is anything you order at the Unbakery, well hidden just off the strip in Summer Street, but not well hidden enough. Owner Megan opened this raw cafe to help with the spillover from her packed out debut in Kingsland, but although there are 46 seats in the new place, they're all full all of the time. On one of the posts is a little blackboard where they write down the names of the people waiting. I'm secure about the fact that it usually says something like Tamsin Eva Clemmie Rose Tabitha Nikki Esme Jesse. Pictured above, the Korean special - nothing on the plate is cooked and it all tastes bloody fantastic.

Of course, you can always try the same sort of thing at home. This isn't a show off photo, but I did want to show you that I've got a new spiraliser - perfect for turning courgette's and beetroot into long pasta-like spirals. That's a raw peanut sauce on top, but before you all write in, yes, that's a properly boiled egg. As far as I know there is no way to get an egg like that without cooking it - unless maybe you take the chicken home when her tummy is still full and invite her to take a hot bath.

Speaking of busy places, L'Oeuf in Mount Albert never seems to have a spare seat either. The brunch menu is small, offbeat and good and you can see why the locals would be so happy to have something in the suburb to talk about other than the wave pool. Seek directions before you visit, as it's not very easy to find; though I suppose it would be if you'd spent $800,000 on a three bedroom house nearby and had been waiting two years for somewhere to take visitors for lunch other than Muzza's Pies.

I love Ima restaurant in the city so much, I asked the owner Yael if she would cater my wedding in April. this is one of the things she came up with: snapper ceviche, one per guest, stuffed inside a half Meyer lemon. Yum.

Not being funny, but how hard is it to cook a fucking burger? I love just about everything these people do, but this burger at St Helier's Bistro was overdone - and they asked if I was okay with it medium rare. Then a couple of weeks ago I went to Ostro - the rest of the meal was great, but again the burger was overdone, again with what would prove to be another redundant question about the medium rareness. It makes me very, very angry ordering an expensive burger and having the chef ruine it; no wonder everybody is so excited about Ponsonby Central's amazing Burger Burger, where everything costs about ten bucks and the meat is pink and moist. You had your chance, bistros of Auckland, but you ruined it - I'll never buy a twenty dollar burger again.

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