Sep 16, 2022 Metro Eats
It’s been a moment since I’ve been able to send a normal version of this newsletter out, and I didn’t think I would miss it… but I do. Sometimes it’s easy to get disillusioned with, or cynical about, dealing in promoting (or, at least supporting) an aspirational food lifestyle, which Alicia Kennedy successfully explores here. (“A question I’ve been grappling with is whether to show a life is to sell a lifestyle.”)
But, as it turns out, I really enjoy being able to sort through my thoughts about something – whether it’s the mundanity of food-box cooking, or the impact of TikTok on food criticism, or that thing I ate for dinner two days ago. Having this newsletter to write is a reminder that there is something interesting about the everyday; that not every meal has to be groundbreaking. I enjoy writing about the non-groundbreaking meals a lot.
I recently watched one episode of the new season of Chef’s Table, pizza edition, about Ann Kim, a Korean-American immigrant who owns a couple of restaurants in Minneapolis, where she grew up. There, she sells pizzas inspired by her Korean background, as well as pizzas alongside more traditional Korean dishes. While me and my [also Asian] flatmate were watching this, we joked that we should set up a Bingo card for every time Chef’s Table did an episode on an Asian-American immigrant chef. Some suggestions: the lunchbox story; the internalised racism story; the defying what my hard working parents wanted for me story; any mentions of being an accountant and/or doctor and/or engineer; the clip of the chef making something traditional with their parents; the story about how food was how their parents showed love; the story about introducing a cuisine to a very otherwise-white community. These are all genuine stories, true to the individual, and yet in its ubiquity it also creates something very troubling in its predictable nature. When they get boiled down to the bare basics, squeezed into 30-minute episodes with the goal to hit the safe, narratively-expected beats, it becomes something else; it becomes an easily digestible, emotionally devoid product primarily for people outside of the group that can directly relate. It’s lazy. It’s boring. It’s not for us.
I wonder if my initial reaction to this episode, and the lack of comfort I took in it, is representative of the fact we’ve reached past the peak for that discourse. I no longer want for people that “look like me” to have to reach inside themselves and pull these stories out for mass consumption. In Eater, Jaya Saxena writes about the rise of ‘chaos cooking’ – a kind of “fuck you fusion” that has emerged, she says, “as a backlash to the backlash to the backlash. Chaos represents a freedom from standards of aesthetic perfection and authenticity. Frankly, authenticity is boring now…” It’s an astute observation that I think rings true of what I know about where food is heading. “What these chaotic menus recognise is that there is a vast gray space between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange. And that chefs of color shouldn’t always have to be on the defensive, “educating” and “introducing” and protecting their culture’s cuisines from interlopers with bad intentions when they could be the ones having fun with it.” Let’s have fun!
p.s. We have a new issue coming out next Thursday, and it is the RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR ISSUE. I wrote a lot in it. Get one, please!
At my last flat, the cast iron skillet was the most used cookware in the house: a workhorse that we flamed frozen dumplings, seared steak, and grilled naan on, and I miss it deeply. It’s a favourite, too, of top Kiwi chefs: head chef and co-owner Dariush Lolaiy, of last year’s Best Restaurant in Auckland, Cazador , is the third generation to use his cast iron skillet after it was passed down from his mother, and her mother before her. “The skillet is coming up to 100 years old now, and I still use it everyday,” he says. Obviously, it ages well, with just a bit of TLC and oil.
OG cast iron producers Lodge have just launched a new cookbook featuring dishes from chefs like Dariush, plus Glen File of Onslow , Olivia Galletly (The Hungry Cook) and more. It also includes tips and tricks, and will come complimentary with every Lodge purchase from September for a limited time online and at all major homeware retailers.
To celebrate the launch, we have a lil’ giveaway for you, which includes a Lodge cast iron 26cm skillet, the accompanying cookbook, and a $250 voucher to Cazador. To enter, please email me with the subject line ‘Lodge Giveaway’ and let me know who you’d take to Cazador with you. Entries close Sunday 18 September at 5pm, and we’ll draw the winner randomly.
Annabel’s is hosting a pop-up with food (pickled plates) by Kylee Newton (the Modern Preserver) and wine by Metro fave Halcyon Days tomorrow, on the 17 September. There’s two sittings, email to book. Speaking of Annabel’s, the cakes are back now – every Saturday. Follow Fundraiser to see what flavours/types are available.
Gin purveyors Hendricks are putting on an undersea, nautical pop-up with Milenta (at its sister venue, Shy Guy) which will include oysters, tiradito, octopus, crayfish and more, plus, of course, cocktails by Hendricks. Tickets are $120pp, in tables of two or fours.
You can now nominate your choice of Iconic Eat. There have been 200 dishes nominated in the past two years, so I’d recommend a quick scroll to refresh your memory and avoid any double-ups. (Is someone going to nominate the pho at Try It Out this time, or do I have to, lol?)
If you have a food-related event you’d like me to know about, you can flick me an email.
A lot of my eating has been related to the Restaurant of the Year judging, which I can talk about at length when the awards have been revealed on Monday night. In the meantime, here is what else I think has been good. (Sometimes I get a bit weird about the fact I’m always mentioning the same place, but then Alicia Kennedy’s newsletter – linked in intro – reminded me that that’s how most people eat and it should, in fact, be acknowledged and celebrated.)
There is always a part of me that somewhat internally relaxes every time I go to Florets , whether that’s because of the very calming space, or because I know I’m about to eat the Best Bread in Auckland (as determined by us in the last issue). I had a coffee and a toast (whipped beans of some sort, and a pickly thing) there a couple weekends ago, in the otherwise-empty upstairs space, and it was very nice.
I went to Star Cafe Seafood Restaurant in Wairau Park for my dad’s birthday, which is a particular dying breed of yellow table-cloth Cantonese restaurant. It’s not the most amazing execution of this style of food, but I’d recommend the yum cha during the day if you’re in the area.
I feel like someone needs to write a story on why there are three BBQ Duck Cafes within a two minute walk of each other – it makes for wanting to meet up with someone at one extremely confusing. I ended up at the one closest to Aotea Square last Thursday before a Basement show, and was surprisingly really into the salt and pepper squid
When people talk about the best dumplings in the Dominion Rd area, I always throw my hat in the ring as a big stan for the ones at Mr Zhou’s, which are a very good size, with an almost too-salty filling that I find extremely satisfying, especially when paired with the not-fancy-at-all chilli oil. I find them better than New Flavour / Barilla et al.
I had the birria taco plate from Broke Boy Taco’s pop-up at East Street Hall. I don’t know why I always find good tacos to be a somewhat transcending experience – they are close to the perfect food for me. These ones are good.
Simon likes the chicken pie at Glorias. He “enjoys the genre of chicken pies, and it’s been a while since I’ve had a good one.”