Please excuse me. I am fresh from an evening of fine booze and delicious, oh so delicious food.
Quote of the night: When did we become so wanky?
Seriously. Between the “That’s not jam, that’s couli.” or trying to identify the six flavours of the Fisher & Paykel experience — which by the way, I tasted barley, marjoram, maple syrup, black garlic, coriander and black olive — it was sure as hell wanky but so much fun. I saw a few “World famous in New Zealand” food bloggers and food personalities walking about too. Taste of Auckland is like Disneyland for foodies.
My friends Coco and Livvy, two fine foodies came with me on opening night (again) and we shared a bunch of dishes (again). I could visit Taste of Auckland every day (mentally, not economically). I’d go back or seconds, thirds even.
The weather was divine, sunny, even warm at times and the 5.30pm to 9.30pm session a good amount of time to eat and drink your way through various restaurants, vineyards, liqueurs and food producers. Sal Valentine and the Babyshakes provided a great soundtrack the first part of the evening.
I suspected that Everybody’s Izakaya was going to be a major drawcard and it was the first kitchen to be ticked off our bucket list. Each restaurant offered about three dishes and this was the only one where we felt compelled to sample all on offer. Babyfaced chef Nick Honeyman heads Everybody’s Izakaya and The Commons. Overachieve much? Both these menus were highly coveted.
I couldn’t give a first prize not knowing the criteria to judge to. Should it be, “This is so comforting that I want to eat a bucket of this and fall asleep in a stupor” or should it be, “This is freaking delicious, why is this the first time I’m hearing about this?!?” Because two dishes from Everybody’s fulfilled these criteria.
Everybody’s Izakaya Karaage duck leg, yum yum (mayo) and boiled egg cabbage was a taste sensation. If you have ever eaten duck, you will know that it’s like a pimped out, rich and luxuriously fatty chicken. If you have ever had fried chicken or karaage as well, hopefully you can begin to image what deep fried duck is like. It’s amazing. A tasty snack, good to share, maybe not to have say, a family feast bucket load of.
Everybody’s Izakaya Baked eggplant, spiced chicken mince, saikyo miso custard dish was ultimate comfort food. Savoury and a little sweet, very mushy and served on rice. This reminded me of a luxurious version of the protein-rich don buri I would breakfast on in my student days to vanquish a hangover on my way to work. Super food. Super yum.
The third dish from Everybody’s Izakaya was the Pork & crayfish dumplings, yuzu miso, tuna tartare. It wasn’t quite as stunning as the others but still delicious.
As a good Chinese girl who is close friends with congee (rice porrige), I had to witness The Common’s Scallop congee with black truffle vinaigrette, bisque tuile and bitter cress. Congee is usually a peasant dish, reserved for the poor, elderly or sick. Not ordinarily gourmet. Sometimes congee appears as rice floating (or drowning) in soup rather than rice porridge. The Common’s version was a creamy, custardy, comfort. The paper thin scallop was unusual (was it really scallop?..we wondered) but the truffle congee was an umami hit. Coco dubbed it “Mushroom crack” and it was mushroomy, savoury and addictive. I scraped up every last smear. If you love congee, mushrooms or truffle, make sure you try this dish.
Nick Honeyman set the bar very high. Perhaps we ruined ourselves by starting off with four dishes from his restaurants.
Next up, a good comparison actually, was the dumpling dish from new restaurant in town, Mandarin Dumpling & Bar. If there could be any dish to compare to bar setting Honeyman’s dish it was be this head to head battle: In the red corner would be Everybody’s Pork and crayfish dumpling. In the blue corner would be Mandarin’s Prawn, crab and squid ink dumpling. Coco picked the red, I picked the blue. The decider, Livvy um…weighs up both and…and…(she’s actually laying on the couch beside me) she can’t decide. We have a tie!
From Mandarin, Coco tested the tofu dish. Based on the dishes coming from the kitchen, quite a popular dish. The menu entry: Fried home-made tofu with fragrant sweet spiced sauce and coriander really doesn’t give much away with only 2 ingredients from what I’m sure is a long list of complex but complimentary flavours. I tasted sweet, spice and also vinegar. It was surprisingly silky and delicious and piping hot. This isn’t a good dish for vegetarians. It’s a good dish fullstop.
Livvy popped next door to Non Solo Pizza and grabbed the Wagyu beef tartare. Tasty and perfectly seasoned with 2 crisp wafers. A bit more wafer would have evened out the ratio but it’s better to have too little wafer than too little Wagyu.
A few cocktails from Tickety-Boo and Stolen Rum had us in high spirits. Free hugs from Ticket-Boo and not to be outdone, Stolen Rum also came up with the goods. I never really thought that cocktails went well with hugs but every day is a school day. Bartenders that give out excellent hugs in equal potency. It’s a thing!
I ended the evening with a plate of Taste’s 5th birthday cake. Strawberry served five ways pleased this strawberry fanatic.
Taste of Auckland runs from Thursday 14 to Sunday 17 November 2013. General admission tickets are $25 online or $30 at the door. Check out the menu here or for tickets and more info, visit http://www.tasteofauckland.co.nz/
- Session times are 4 hours long. Get there on time and/or go during the day/week to avoid crowds.
- Look for show specials.
- Have a squiz at the menu early so you can plan your path, but be flexible enough to change your mind if something else looks better.
- Sharing with a friend/s means you can taste even more dishes.
- Wear sensible shoes. It’s a park and Auckland spring weather can turn the grounds into a chocolate dessert. A small umbrella would be wise too.
- Take a camera (you won’t be the only one), bring a shopping bag and an appetite.
- Catch a bus or a taxi so you can enjoy the delicious tipple.
- Don’t buy an empty glass for $8 at the door as you can get a free glass with any $6 drink.
Taste of Auckland
14-17 November 2013
Victoria Park, Auckland city