Tag Archives: fish

New Zealand: Cafes and Chocolate

26 Jan

Mmmm iced coffee

Lily demonstrates how to eat a chocolate fish

Hello again. So one of the reasons I have been so very lax in blogging is that my winter break wasn’t quite as relaxing as usual– after a few days in England with the family, I flew to Wellington, New Zealand to be a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding. Upon arrival, my friend Lily and I were very quickly put to work as slaves willing helpers. We were pretty much busy the entire week, and as a result were living off take-outs and chocolate (though you won’t find me complaining too much about this, as I was very eager to reunite with cheap take-out curries and the amazing Whittaker’s chocolate).

I also enjoy a chocolate fish

Wellington, however, is famous for its multitude of cafes, and we were not going to spend a week there without doing a bit of cafe-hopping. So in between picking up fabric to make a veil and searching for ties for the groomsmen, we stopped off at Fidel’s, which became my favourite of the Wellington cafes when I was living there. Located on Cuba St, Fidel’s is filled with communist memorabilia, but more importantly has excellent food and lots of outdoor seating (it was, after all, mid-summer).

Sipping ice cream-y coffee requires this face.

As soon as I walked in I remembered what I had to get– an iced chocolate. I first discovered these delicious drinks in Australia, but they also abound in New Zealand with the addition of the all-important chocolate fish (resulting in the series of photographs seen in this post, because Lily is incapable of seeing a camera without posing). An iced chocolate is basically chocolate milk poured over scoops of vanilla ice cream, with whipped cream on top. Simple, yet delicious. What’s bizarre to me is that in both countries if you order an “iced coffee” you will get the same concept– iced coffee with ice cream. My inquiries as to what you would order if you just wanted a cold coffee were met with somewhat blank stares. Apparently it’s just not done.

Chocolate cake was also consumed. The bride could not wait for a photo to be taken to dig in.

I also, of course, ate plenty of Tim Tams when I was there. These chocolate biscuits are (I believe) technically Australian, but thankfully you can get them in New Zealand, because they are amazing. I was very sad when the packet I brought back with me to DC ran out so quickly, but have ordered a fresh delivery with Lily’s impending arrival in the US. If you are ever in the area, I recommend picking up a good supply of the double-coated variety, though the traditional are also excellent. Overall, I think I managed to hit all the classic New Zealand junk foods while I was there, and I highly encourage you to do the same. Especially if it’s chocolate-related.

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An Ode to British Food

2 Jan

The best fish and chips and mushy peas around

British food gets a bad rap, and I am here to correct that.  Many people may not think that England has

Delicious bakewell tart, a sponge tart with jam and almonds

much exciting food, and that we are constantly eating fish and chips and basically nothing else.  This is not true, although I am very partial to a good fish and chips.  England has a much more diverse food scene than many places, including America, which, while containing many different food cultures, is not in my experience particularly adventurous in its eating.   You can look no further than London to find the multi-cultural array of food available in Britain- for example, London (and most of England), has many fantastic Indian restaurants, and Indian food is readily avaliable in take-out form, and in all the mainstream grocery stores across the country.  I love Indian food, but it is sadly very hard to find as easily in the US.

Bangers and Mash! These ones are pork, apple, and black pudding and were amazing

Apart from all of the foods brought from other cultures in England, I would say food most classically identified as “British” is pub food.  And I’m not talking about greasy fish and chips or bland chicken dishes, but real pub food- bangers and mash, steak and ale pies, fish cakes, full Sunday roasts, sticky toffee pudding, treacle tart, I could go on and on.  Pubs started in England as mainly social meeting places where the locals would meet to have a drink and catch up each evening.  My small village in Devon once had over 30 pubs, so local that you wouldn’t be welcomed in a pub that was the next street over from you.  This village now has about 10 pubs still up and running, which are thankfully not as locally-prejudice, and many now serve excellent food along with the traditional ale and cider.  Good pub food is delicious, and you will find a much wider array of meats and fish than in many restaurants in America there.

Some of the offerings at Darts farm, including duck, pheasant, and pigeon

I am always upset when I come back to the US and find myself faced with endless portions of chicken and

Ox cheeks and mash I had for lunch at a modern-looking pub

beef, but no good sausages (because we don’t have local butchers here), Cornish pasties, meat pies or clotted cream.  One would be hard-pressed to find good game meat in the urban US, which is a shame as birds such as pheasant, duck, goose, are much more flavorful than chicken (also, plucking pheasant that has been shot is surprisingly relaxing, you should try it sometime).  Lamb, which is one of my favorite meats, is also much more widely consumed, and since most towns have their own butcher, a wide variety of fresh meat is always available (my town has both a local butchers, Arthur’s and Darts Farm Shopping Village down the street, which used to be a small shed selling vegetables and is now a huge complex with award winning butchers and fish and chip stall. Darts Farm is run by the Dart brothers, and my mother’s first job was canning vegetables there). Another advantage of living in the middle of the countryside is that fresh fruits and vegetables are also all around- and, since they have not been modified like many American fruits, they are much tastier. For example, British strawberries are not large and perfectly shaped like American ones, but very small and therefore much more strawberry-y tasting. Darts Farm sells its own seasonal freshly picked vegetables, advertised as coming from the field to shop in 48 minutes, and we also have Richard’s Greengrocer in the center of the village (Richard himself was my mother’s paperboy when she lived there growing up. It’s a small town).

Traditional cream tea- scones, clotted cream, and strawberry jam, with a pot of tea

All in all, I am very well-fed while in England, and I’m sure if I move back there someday I would promptly gain a lot of weight from all the delicious food, cakes, and Devon cream teas that I adore (also because, at my aunt and uncles for dinner the other night we were fed Polish dumplings, accompanied by a bowl of hot goose fat with pancetta. Hey heart attack).  While at boarding school there, we were served 5 meals a day, including “break”, toast and tea/coffee at, well, break time (in between breakfast and lunch), and “free-tea”, which consisted of a different cake or pastry everyday, with more tea, at tea time (in between lunch and dinner).  Of course, if you were in trouble you had to do “breakers” as punishment, and run the mile down to the river and back during break time and sadly miss your tea.  Luckily I never had to do these, as I do not enjoy running, and do enjoy tea and toast.  If you are ever lucky enough to go to England, do me a favor and make sure you eat a good fish and chips while you are there, don’t be shy about trying new meats, cheeses, etc, and bring me back a Cornish pasty and some Cadbury’s chocolate please.

Christmas with the Spices

27 Dec

Our Christmas cookies!

Hello everyone, we hope you’ve all been having an excellent Christmas! We’ve had a rather adventurous few days, filled with lots of eating of course.

Roxie shows off her piping skills

As Roxie has said, we were delayed in Washington by two days, and so decided to make Christmas cookies to fill up the time. We realized we hadn’t done this in years, as we’re always traveling for Christmas—it was fun, but hard work! We followed the instructions put up by the Pioneer Woman (using Baked at 350’s cookie recipe but an egg white royal icing recipe). Of course, we didn’t have all the fancy equipment she did… but spoons and forks did almost as well as squirt bottles and toothpicks, though our free-form stars were a little wonky.

The wigilia table

We wrapped up the cookies to bring over to England, and finally made it on Christmas Eve, just in time for the traditional wigilia dinner at our aunt’s house. This is the big Polish fish dinner that is eaten on Christmas Eve (after opening presents).  Traditionally the wigilia is about 10 courses with 12 or 13 types of fish, which differs by family, according to our uncle Tony.  But we do a slightly abridged version, with 6

The borscht with a hard boiled egg

courses and 4 types of fish in total, by our count at least.  Basically it means we get two Christmas dinners… one Polish one on Christmas Eve, and one traditional English one on Christmas Day! The wigilia starts with the singing of Silent Night in three languages—the original German, English, and Polish. We all thought we might have gotten a little better at the Polish over the years, but it is a very difficult language to pronounce, and we basically rely on our uncle and cousin to carry that verse. The first course is a borscht soup (a brightly colored beetroot soup), traditionally with hard boiled egg or sour cream. Then we moved on to smoked eel—a new addition this year, and extremely tasty. Our aunt had made her own horseradish to go with it, which was proclaimed excellent by those of us who enjoy horseradish (I do not, but Roxie slathered it on everything). The next course is the pickled herring, cucumbers, and buckwheat. Not exactly something I eat every day, and I remember finding it pretty weird

Two very fat carp!

the first time I had it, but I’ve come to really enjoy the herring, and the cucumbers in dill are excellent accompaniment. The next course is thestar of the show—stuffed carp, and this year we had two! I’m still unconvinced by carp as a fish—it definitely has a very distinctive flavor, and it is basically impossible to get a piece without bones in it—but the stuffing is delicious. And if that isn’t enough, we had only a short break before the muck was

The Stilton (and the controversial Stilton spoon)

brought out! (Can’t guarantee that that is the correct spelling, but that is definitely how it is pronounced.) This is a poppy seed mixture with almonds (I think) and lots and lots of alcohol. It’s served alongside dried fruit also stewed in alcohol (and all served with port, of course). Last but not least was the huge wheel of Stilton (accompanied by a lively debate over the correct way to slice or scoop Stilton)—a course I was rather relieved to opt out of due to my hatred of bleu cheese, I was so full after all that food!

Can you pronounce those Polish words?

But then of course we were at it again the next day—and this time our family had to do the cooking! Our Christmas Day dinner is a little more casual though, especially as we had three boisterous children joining us. We cook almost the same exact meal as we do for Thanksgiving—substituting kale for sweet potatoes this time, though. And the dessert, of course, is the traditional Christmas pudding with brandy butter, though now that Roxie and I are no longer the youngest we don’t get the pound coins hidden in it anymore!  All in all, we’ve had an excellent few days and are looking forward to some more good British eating to come.

Maximilian enjoyed his brussel sprouts