Actually, I was tempted to rename this post “This week’s small pleasures: the food edition” because that is what it appears to be. I make no apologies….it is just what the focus of this week seems to have been. There have been some other small pleasures, but this week has been mostly all about the food.
I’m going to start with this little pot of homemade raspberry jam. A colleague has just left work, and as a parting gift, put a little jar of jam for each of us on our desks. It was such a lovely thing to do, and you may like to know it is extremely good (I had some for Sunday breakfast, slathered on nice bread).
Saturday saw two feasts of very different kinds. First up, the most perfect comfort toast for a chilly morning, the maple butter and cinnamon toast at my usual Saturday morning cafe, Squirrel. You’ve seen this before, but here it is again. Honestly, this is such a delight.
My birthday is coming up, and a couple of months ago I booked a table at Hiakai. The restaurant, fronted by chef Monique Fiso, began as a series of pop ups in 2016, and is focussed on “the exploration and development of Māori cooking techniques and ingredients”. It was with great excitement and high expectations that we headed there on Saturday evening, and we were not disappointed.
I had booked the eight course menu with matching drinks as this was a special treat. The light was not conducive to photographing the dishes, which was fine by me, as we were there to eat, to enjoy and to experience and not get perfect Instagrammable pictures. I would suggest you check the website and this article to get an idea of what the place and food is like.
The dinner began with snacks, served with a rather good gin and tonic, and consisted of gorgeous bread with two sorts of butter (honestly, the best bread and butter I have ever had), oysters with a topping of something delicious that just formed a divine combination, a sort of ceviche on crisp crackers, a mini cassava galette and the fish wings below, which were crispy, crunchy and ever so good. A nice touch – warm towels to clean up with after the fish. Next up was a puree of broccoli and clams, quite luscious and green. I was most curious to find out what was described on the menu as ‘potato, green lipped-mussel ice-cream’, which actually turned out to be one of my favourite dishes. There were cubes of Māori potatoes, topped with a sort of broth with the ice-cream in the middle. It is impossible to describe the contrasts of textures and tastes, but believe me, it was so good. This was followed by sword fish, not my favourite fish, but this was still presented nicely .
The duck that followed was sublime. The meat just melted, and the cavolo nero was soft and succulent, and there was a little Jerusalem artichoke purée as well. This was well up there as one of our favourites of the evening. The first of the desserts came next, a crisp, apple and feijoa based dish, served with a cider based drink, putting apple on top of apple. The second dessert sounds simple – a hokey pokey ice cream bar – but this was an ice cream bar like no other, decorated with gold leaf and covered with a chocolate that gave a satisfying crunch when crushed with the spoon. With our coffee we had a selection of petit fours. Do have a look at the link I mentioned above for a picture of the mānuka-smoked chocolate truffle, which was presented with a flourish under a dome of smoke. The whole evening was wonderful, and a fantastic start to my birthday week.
A non-food small pleasure this week was on Sunday, when I went to the cinema to see the Bolshoi Ballet. I enjoy going to these ballet performances on film, as you get to see things you would otherwise never get a chance to see. This session consisted of Carmen Suite, choreographed by Alberto Alonso (brother-in-law of Alicia Alonso for the balletomanes out there) and a new version of the classic work Petrushka, choreographed by Edward Clug. The dancing was stunning, the stage settings interesting and dramatic, and some lovely colourful costumes for the female crowd members in Petrushka. I hope we get to see what is coming up next season, as I have spotted a few things I would like to see.
Today is Monday, and I am having a ‘staycation’ all week. The goal is to enjoy myself, having nice lunches, reading, clearing clutter and so on. Lunch today, Monday (see, there is a focus on food this week) was at Hillside Kitchen and Cellar. I had a Jerusalem artichoke pâté (I am obsessed with that vegetable at the moment) with pickles on the side and some lovely sourdough toast, and then a dish based around cauliflower, barley and braised lettuce. It was gorgeous, and what a treat it was to spend ages over lunch.
And that’s it for this week. What were your small pleasures of the past week?
Thanks to Mani over at A New Life Wandering for the original idea.
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