I last left you on the gorgeously fertile island of Waiheke in New Zealand. Having taken in the highlights of Oneroa in just under 19.5 minutes, you’ll recall that my friend, Josh, and I, zoomed out of town in our little red beater rental car, anxious not to be late for our noon lunch appointment at Te Whau Vineyard. In our hurry, we headed in exactly the opposite direction of the winery. No matter, with the entire island only 12 miles long, the detour didn’t delay us much.
We drive back through town, across a flat marshland, past a typically pastoral New Zealand scene of sheep grazing on a grassy hill, and eventually take a right turn up a road full of twists and turns that brought us to higher ground and stunning views of the bay. We all know that New Zealanders are keen sailors and judging from the number of sailing boats moored in the water, it seems that everyone owns a boat. Suddenly we are in an olive grove, and then just as quickly the vista turns to vines growing up and down hillsides with unspeakably amazing views. There are no words to describe this beauty. And here, right atop of what is surely God’s country, is Te Whau Vineyard.
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Sometimes life hands you a dozen red roses and you just have to inhale deeply and smile broadly. On this particular Valentine’s Day (which thankfully passes with barely a mention in New Zealand) I got my metaphorical dozen roses with the chance to end a whirlwind work trip to Auckland – two days in the air and three days on the ground – with a trip to the beautiful Waiheke Island.
Whenever I arrive in a new place, I ask a local “If you could do one thing here, what would it be?”. I asked Aucklanders this question a number of times and the answer was always the same: “Take the ferry and go to Waiheke. It’s beautiful. Just go. In fact, if you can go for more than one day, do that.” Well, I had a hard time believing it was going to be all that great, but I had a few hours to spare and a business colleague, Josh, who was game, so to the ferry we headed.
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I’m always on the lookout for consistently great places to eat that aren’t too far from home. Places with chefs who know how to make the most of the amazingly fresh, organic produce that abounds around here. And when I say not too far from home, out here that means anywhere within a 20-25 minutes drive. The Spinster Sisters, on the outskirts of Santa Rosa, standing proudly on the corner of quiet back street just off the 101, fits the bill.
I first discovered The Spinster Sisters a while back, thanks to Lia Huber of Nourish Network. We met for lunch and what I remember most was the brussels sprout chips. Individually fried brussels leaves, topped with a wonderful lemon aioli that cuts the slight bitterness of the greens with just enough salt to round it all out. Every dish needs salt, fat and acid. Make it crispy and I’m a fan for life. I was tickled pink to find these still on the menu on a recent visit.
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I was going to call this post ’5 Ways to Survive a Detox’ but realized that sounded rather negative and not at all inspiring. I mean, who wants to survive anything unless it’s a near-death experience like an avalanche, and while the idea of a detox/period of “clean” eating may sound like a near-death experience to many, the reality is it can be a great opportunity to unload all sorts of c**p, both literally and metaphorically.
I don’t mean to sound preachy, but truly, if you can embrace a detox, letting go of some of the comforts and shortcuts we afford ourselves just to ‘get through’ life, can be a revelation. Who hasn’t needed that glass of wine, or two or three, after a long work week? Or that
piece bar of chocolate at 10pm at night after the kids are in bed? Or grabbed a nutty Kind bar instead of eating lunch because you’re just too busy to find real food to eat? We’ve all been there, in fact, that’s where some of us, including me, live most of the time.
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If you’re an enthusiastic home cook who’s just as likely to devour a new cookbook as a NY Times bestselling novel, then you’ve probably heard of Ottolenghi through his popular books: Plenty, and the recent Jerusalem, or maybe even because of his restaurant, Nopi, and various delis around London.
With roots in Middle Eastern kitchens, and as a successful restaurateur in London, Yotam Ottolenghi, has a knack for teaching those of us who aren’t familiar with exotic herbs and spices to combine them with simple ingredients to create stunning, tasty dishes. On a recent trip to London, I made a long awaited pilgrimage to eat at Nopi in Soho, London.
It was New Year’s Eve, so rather than being able to choose from the regular menu, we were offered a (rather pricey) set menu, but that didn’t deter us. Our party of six comprised three different generations of my family, including perhaps the most discerning diner among us, Monkey. We arrived for an early dinner, fresh from seeing a West End show: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Tucked away in a small road behind Regent Street, Nopi has an unimposing façade, it’s location marked by a golden O. Inside, the place glowed gold: big urns held festively colored chrysanthemums, on a large table were huge platters of cold vegetable appetizers, the napkin rings too were golden Os and the two-level space is rich with warm, cream and rust colored marble. The overall feeling is one of soothing opulence.
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