Oct 7, 2022 Metro Eats
There is nothing that will get people more heated than a story about what others spend on food. Bon Appetit’s series The Receipt, which documents how readers eat and what they spend on it (anonymously), always gets a million comments on how unrealistic it is, how privileged the diarist is, how the platform needs to cover someone on a low income (which they have), how joyless the reader is (if they don’t eat out often) or how wasteful they are (if they eat out a lot). These food diaries are detailed, often excruciatingly so – a revelatory play-by-play of someone’s daily lives, an entirely too-intimate interior view into a stranger’s world. I always click on them.
And so do a lot of people, it so happens, if they keep on doing them. The number one story on Stuff on the day I’m writing this newsletter is titled How does the price of Costco groceries compare to our supermarkets? There is a TV show called Eat Well For Less, whose sole purpose seems to be to make people feel better about themselves for how much they personally spend on food. (The only episode I watched of the latest season was off my mum’s recommendation. “It’s crazy how much they spend!”) We hate talking openly about money, but we are all unrepetent judges when given the opportunity.
Though I too enjoy judging (that’s basically half of what I do), my favourite part of reading food diaries is the detail, care and attention given to the extremely fleeting moments in someone’s life – the sort of shit you experience but will never think about again. Meaning given, meaning made; a way of holding memory in your mind. It’s so banal, so relentlessly mundane, but it always makes me half-infatuated with people after reading one. It reminds me of the instinct in Chinese culture to ask friends “Have you eaten?” in lieu of saying hello. We start every conversation by telling each other exactly what the last thing we ate was. It is so endearing to me.
The money stuff is interesting too. It’s interesting to everyone, don’t lie. I’m all for talking transparently about money, but it’s been quite a revelation to experience the ways in which this very much tapers off once people start making more of it. Like, if someone asks me how much I make, I don’t really consider this rude, and I’ll usually tell them. And if you were really curious about how much I spend on food a month, I’ll probably tell you (because I’m obsessed with the data of my life, I track my spending). But, also, I’d tell you to keep in mind it might be much more than what you spend, because food makes me, like… very happy. I actually have very few other hobbies.
Tendai, our new-ish Arts Editor, was into the Cajun-style seafood boil-up bag from The Taco Bar on the top of Karangahape Rd, near Symonds St. He likes it much more than the tacos there, calling the seafood boil-up “buttery and moreish”.
Henry’s children have been away and he has done a lot of dining out as a result. He had the miso chicken at Udon Works , which he says he “both liked and would not order again”. (I myself went to Udon Works this week, when it was rainy and bleak, and had the kakuni, which is udon with a braised pork belly that’s very comforting, herbal almost. I would order this again.)
He also went to Omni , in which the highlight was the steak tartare (“so, so good”). The next night, he went next door to Ooh-Fa, in which the best thing he ate was the ‘nduja pizza. Highly recommend.
I had the mapo tofu at the Chinese place in Lim Chhour, which I would describe as extremely delicious. It’s like pouring your entire existence straight into a spicy and reassuring bath. I kept some of it for leftovers and had it with scissor-cut noodles (the best doughy accompaniment in a pinch, it’s literally just flour, salt and water and requires very little kneading) for dinner.
Bar Martin has a mushroom and truffle chicken parfait (NOT vegetarian, as they warned me) that upon first bite is very weird, because it’s so mushroom-forward, but then turns into being weirdly addictive and a great little bar snack. Served with sourdough, of course.
My North Shore correspondent (aka mum), had the steamed blue cod dish at Hunan restaurant Me & Chef, which she describes as “pretty good” (high praise from her). She ate this at the Albany version, but there are a couple other branches, including on Dominion Rd.
Sometimes I really question my life decisions when I choose to shell out $8.50 for a filter coffee, but the one I had at Daily Daily from this week, from La Cabra Coffee, was particularly excellent. So juicy.
This week, I did some baking! I baked Australian MasterChef contestant Reynold Poernomo’s burnt honey basque cheesecake, which I was initially sceptical about because it’s baked at 200c for 28 or so minutes (in comparison, the well-known Bon Appetit version bakes at that temperature for 60 minutes). But it turned out to be ideal for my personal preferences, with a lighter, mousse-like version that felt less dense and heavy when eating it. I also made Melissa Weller’s Chocolate sugar cookies from her cookbook A Good Bake, and though they did NOT crackle for me (which I found endlessly frustrating) they are indeed A Good Bake.
Giuilo Sturla (previously Roots, now Mapu) is visiting from Lyttleton to cook with the team at Paris Butter for one night only. The dinner is on 18 October, with seatings at 6.30pm and 7.30pm. $190 includes 2 snacks from each restaurant, 2 courses from each restaurant, a collaborated dessert and take-home gifts.
A reminder that the first Saturdays series from Honest is on this weekend. The line-up includes Honest Rum, Unkel Wines, Ragtag and Mor Bakery. I tried to get pastries from Mor Bakery a couple of weekends ago at Ozone and the last one had just left the cabinet when we walked in the door. Hot property. It was, like, only 10am. Sad.
There is a new vegan French patisserie open in the unofficial capital of veganism in Auckland, the Grey Lynn shops, called Maison des Lys. French pastries without butter, you say? But the croissants somehow look flaky and buttery? Anyway, I’m intrigued. I did see pretty stacked queues of people waiting on the weekend it opened, so perhaps go early.
It looks like there’s a new restaurant due to open out west (in… Helensville?) called The Butcher Baker. I don’t know much about this place except for that I a) saw people sharing it and b) there are a lot of easy-to-love restaurant descriptions in its bio, like “farm to table”, “wood fire” and “simple things done well”. Classic. Coming soon!