How did it become December already?! This year has gone by so quickly for me and now Christmas is round the corner! I haven’t done any of my Christmas shopping yet so I’ve been having a look at some of my favorite NZ online stores for ideas. I hate going to malls at this time of year, its all too stressful fighting for parks and dealing with crowds so I buy all my presents online.
Check out my top picks below:
I’m a sucker for anything called a ‘Fair’, if I stumble across one I always have to go and have a nosy! Fairs bring a sense of nostalgia as I have great memories of attending my old primary school annual fair growing up. There would always be yummy home-baked cakes and second hand bargains to be found. Local art and craft fairs are becoming quite popular and one of my favourites is the Auckland Art & Craft Fair. The fair is on tomorrow (Saturday 30th November) from 11am till 3pm at the Aotea Centre in Auckland. Its perfect timing to source crafty Christmas presents!
Here’s a little peek at some of my favourite artists that attend:
Takazawa has yet to gain any Michelin stars however don’t let that discourage you from making a booking. Just from looking at their photo gallery on their website, I knew that we were in for something quite special on Day 3 of the Ultimate Tokyo Food Tour. Takazawa is a French Japanese fusion restaurant that is run by chef Yosiaki Takazawa and his wife Akiko who looks after the front of house. When it initially opened in 2005 there were only 2 tables available, now the restaurant seats a maximum of 10 people hence why it’s extremely difficult to get a reservation.
You probably wouldn’t expect to find one of the top French restaurants in the world in Tokyo but to my surprise there lives a 3 star Michelin restaurant in Shinigawa called Quintessence. The head chef, Shuzo Kishida, had trained in top French restaurants in Japan for 7 years and then moved to Paris to work at Pascal Barbot’s L’Astrance for about 3 years then came back to Japan to open Quintessence. We were booked in for lunch on our third day of the Ultimate Tokyo Food Tour, I was excited to see and taste Kishida’s take on French food.
Sushi Mizutani Class of 2013 (L to R: Che, Toby, Me, Hachiro Mizutani and Nick)
Dining at Chef Hachiro Mizutani‘s 3 Michelin star Sushi restaurant for lunch in Ginza was one of the most amazing yet terrifying experiences of my food eating life.
The experience was amazing because each piece of sushi seemed like a work of art, so gently and precisely made. Chef Mizutani would make each sushi himself, right before your eyes and then place it directly on our plates as we watched in awe from the counter. This way of eating sushi is so rare in this world today where most people are used to picking ready made sushi themselves in a sushi chain restaurant or on a conveyor belt.
It was also very terrifying as I felt that Mizutani was sussing us out from the moment we walked in the door. It seemed like he was making sure we were worthy enough to dine in his restaurant. We had been advised a set of etiquette guidelines by Rebekah the night before which I think put even more preasure on us to not offend Mizutani.
The Ultimate Tokyo Food Tour kicked off with a kikizake (sake tasting) at Akaoni (Red Demon), a traditional Japanese Izakaya. Izakaya’s are where people usually go to drink and can order small plates of food. Akaoni may not look like much from the outside but it is known as one of the best Izakaya’s in Tokyo due to it’s extensive range of sake, they stock over 100 different labels!
We were lucky enough to be joined by fellow Kiwi, Rebekah Wilson-Lye who moved to Japan over 10 years ago. There was no English on the menu so it was great to go with a Japanese speaking local who took care of all the ordering. Rebekah has a huge passion for sake and is a Certified Sake Professional who provides sake recommendations for restaurants all over the world, basically she gets to drink as part of her job. Her knowledge of each sake was mind blowing, she knew exactly where each was made and which ones would go best through out dinner. Check out her blog, Ichi for the Michi, for Tokyo restaurant and sake reviews.
Upon arrival, Rebekah informed us that whenever you see the dark brown ball of straw hanging in the front of an Izakaya it means that the sake is ready. Akaoni had one of these out the front and so we entered.
I arrived back from Tokyo on Tuesday and have been basically sleeping a lot to recover from the jet lag. I’m starting to feel normal again so here’s the first post of many of the Ultimate Tokyo Food Tour! The flight over was pretty empty so I managed to get some sleep on the plane despite being so excited, I’d been to Japan 3 years ago and have been dying to get back there. On arrival I was reminded just how cute everything is over there including going through customs, there’s cute sounds and images for instructions at immigration lol, not the scary/cold faces you usually encounter. Once through we picked up our JR rail passes and jumped on the Narita Express to our hotel in Shinjuku.
To ease us into Tokyo life, our host Nick suggested we check out Gonpachi Restaurant in Rippongi, this is where the inspiration for the Kill Bill Volume 1 restaurant fight scene came from. This is its selling point so it is quite touristy but the food is not too bad and you get a free shot of sake on arrival – KANPAI!
Image from Orleans.
I’d been dying to go to Orleans down at Britomart for awhile but with so many new restaurants popping up in Auckland these days it’s hard to keep up with them all and find the time. I finally made it there over a week ago with Lani, we were both not feeling 100% and just felt like some comfort food so it was the perfect excuse to go.
Upon arrival we were seated straight away without a booking which was lucky. There’s a bar located at the front and also middle of the restaurant which is handy I thought if heading to a concert at Vector and wanting a quick drink before hand. Located at the back of the restaurant is a stage where they have live jazz and blues bands playing every night.
Gogo Yubari and the Crazy 88 / Image by Leilani
My favourite time of year is coming up – HALLOWEEN!!
My mates know that I don’t need much coaxing to join in on dress-up days in the office or to attend a dress up party. I love getting creative and putting my costume together. For Halloween last year, I dressed up as Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill. Che is in the background also in theme, dressed up as one of the Crazy 88 gang. The costume was quite simple to put together, for the outfit I just found what I had in my wardrobe already and then made the spiked chain weapon with a spray-painted styrofoam ball which I got at Spotlight and the chain was from Bunnings. A bunch of us got dressed up and then headed to Spookers on the night of Halloween, fun times! This year I’m going to be in Tokyo for Halloween so need to suss out a plan for over there, maybe I’ll check out Disneyland for their Halloween special!
Anyways, I thought I’d put together this lil post to give you some ideas on costumes, some scary and some just quirky:
I’d been meaning to check out Blue Breeze Inn at Ponsonby Central for a while, anytime that I’ve walked past it has always been packed so I was intrigued to find out why it was so popular. I headed along last week with Che, Katherine and Ben before we all went to the launch of Dan Aykroyd’s vodka, Crystal Head Vodka (more on that later).
The menu is described as Pacific Chinese, a kiwi twist on Chinese food by chef Che Barrington who previously opened MooChowChow. The atmosphere is energetic and the set up allows natural light to just pour in, perfect on a warm sunny evening. Meals are made to share so ideal if going with a bunch of mates. I think this will be the go to spot for many during the summer months.