Tag Archives: Festivals

Sunday Smiles: (Don’t) stare into the sun

We’ve been treated to every weather multiple times every day for the past couple of weeks (so just like Scotland, but warmer).  We even had hail on Monday (it was 16°C outside, so I’m not sure what that was about).  Spring weather in Auckland isn’t turning out to be as lovely as I’d hoped.  According to my labmates this seems to be a particularly damp year and one of our technicians has been complaining that it’s November and she’s still in jeans instead of shorts.  Never mind El Niño and La Niña, I’m pretty sure my presence in a country is enough to attract all the rainy weather systems.

So in order to ignore the current simultaneous sunshine and downpour situation happening outside my window, on to this week’s Sunday Smiles:

  • I heard what may well be my favourite ever description of Boris Johnson on Russell Howard’s Good News: “How can you hate Boris Johnson?  He’s like a human bumblebee that’s swallowed a thesaurus.”  A very good point.  And also a brilliant mental image.
  • On Tuesday we were treated to a partial solar eclipse (you had to be in northwestern Australia to see the full eclipse).  I find eclipses terribly exciting, and since this one rather conveniently lined up perfectly with our coffee break we spent a good half hour looking at it through bits of x-ray and camera film that we’d scavenged from the lab and (unsuccessfully) trying to project it onto a piece of paper using various microscope lenses.  Obviously at no point did any of us look  directly at the sun, because that’s a really silly (and dangerous) thing to do.  Ahem.  This may well be the only time I’ve ever been happy about there being clouds since they decreased the brightness enough for our phones to be able to take photos.

  • I know the US elections are well and truly over, but I only just came across this Gangnam Style (you know that really annoying South Korean song that seems to be number 1 in the charts everywhere) spoof this week: Mitt Romney style.  It amused me, though having the tune stuck in my head was not quite as amusing.
  • I came across these photos of a winter light festival in Japan.  It looks utterly stunning, particularly the second one, and the fourth one which has dolphins (not real dolphins, just to clarify).  Just wow.
  • If you’ve ever pretend-thrown a stick or a ball for a dog then you’ll be familiar with the adorable look of doggy confusion.  I know it’s mean, but it’s a look that never gets old…  (Source)

  • Have you seen this new library in The Netherlands?  Apparently it’s been named ‘Book Mountain‘ and it looks rather amazing inside (it does look a little weird from the outside) and is full of natural light.  And books, obviously.
  • Speaking of books, I finished reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel this week.  It’s the prequel to her latest book Bring Up the Bodies which was awarded this year’s Man Booker prize.  Wolf Hall actually won the Man Booker prize in 2009, so no pressure for her next novel…  It follows Thomas Cromwell during Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn and of course the huge schism with the Catholic church that resulted.  I really enjoyed it – it makes you think through what’s happening in the story since some thought processes aren’t explained straightaway and you do have to keep track of the characters and their various names and titles which are used interchangeably (it probably helps to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of that period of history) but I like that because it means you actually have to pay attention and think as you read.  I just had one gripe – I didn’t really like the tense that the book was written in.  I found it rather frustrating and a little confusing at times.  Despite that, I’ve added Bring Up The Bodies to my to-read list.  Have you read Wolf Hall?  What did you think?
  • After finishing such a tome, I started something completely different: Michael Pollan’s Food Rules which is a short little book and a quick read.  I was aware of Michael Pollan’s quote “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” since it gets bandied about a fair bit, but I’d never actually read any of his books.  Food Rules seems to sum up his general advice on eating well (I believe the nutritional science bases behind his statements are covered in his other books), though I must admit that so far, it’s mostly been common sense – don’t eat super processed foods, etc. – but he writes well so it’s an enjoyable read, and refreshing, too.

What made you smile this week?

10 Comments

Filed under Sunday Smiles

Honey, wine and more wine: Auckland Food Show 2012

On Saturday I went to the Auckland edition of the NZ Food Show, held at the ASB Showgrounds.  Having never been, I wasn’t too sure what to expect so decided that I would assume it was along similar lines to the Edinburgh Foodies Festival, which is really my only other experience with a food show or festival.  And indeed it was along similar lines, although much bigger, indoors (excellent idea in winter!) and with significantly less gin, but a heck of a lot more wine – it seemed that about a third of the stands were wine stands.  There were also masterclasses (although they cost $50 to attend, so I passed) and free cooking demos organised.

There range of products on show and on sale was impressive to say the least – honey, wraps, wines and liqueurs, breads, meats, etc. etc. etc.  But there were also non-edible products such as Tupperware (since when is it all so pretty and colourful?!), knives, Skoda cars (no idea what they were doing there) and Kenwood had a huge show area that I didn’t venture into too much because everything was shiny and tempting (and expensive).  There were some very large and commercial companies there (Kenwood, Tupperware, etc.), some that I recognise from the supermarket (Hellers, Dilmah tea, Farrah Wraps, etc.) but also much smaller producers, which I was most eager to discover.  Uhm, I should probably mention at this point that I got a little distracted by all the samples and wine tastings so I have hardly any photos.  Woops.

There were plenty of chutney and jam stands, but they’ve all more or less merged into one in my memory, as have the wine stands (taking notes might have been a good idea since the number of wine stands there made things a little hazy…), and to a certain extent some of the honey stands.  The producers that really stood out for me were:

  • J Friend & Co Honey – I made a beeline (badum-tschhhh!) for all the honey stands, but this is the one that stood out for me.  All their honeys were fantastic, but I particularly enjoyed the pōhutakawa one.  They also had honeycomb available, which was wonderful.
  • Lighthouse Gin – a NZ-made gin and wonderfully smooth.  Also the only gin stand (sad times).
  • Shott fruit syrups – I love fruit-syrup based drinks, but outside of France it can be difficult to find good syrups.  These, however, were fantastic.  My favourites were the honey blackberry and the lemon, ginger and honey (have I mentioned that I love honey?)
  • Genevieve’s Cuisine pâtés – wonderfully smooth and delectable French-style chicken liver pâtés (or parfait as they call it) in a few different flavours (original, black pepper and truffle).  I hope they’ll expand their range from just chicken, because they certainly know what they’re doing.
  • Moreish butchers – a bit of an unusual butcher in that it’s entirely online, but all their meats are free range and organic.  I prefer to see what I’m buying, particularly when it comes to meat, but since I’m still looking for a good butcher here, I might give this a go, depending on their prices.  Their sausage samples were certainly excellent though.
  • Lewis Road Creamery butter – creamy and heavenly and quite possibly the best butter I’ve ever tasted.  Oh, and makes really good butter sculptures, too, in case you were wondering.  Amazing!

So there you go, that’s my little round-up of the NZ Food Show, Auckland.  If you get the chance, I’d highly recommend going along to get a taste for what’s available in terms of local products – the next edition is in Christchurch from 14-16 September, then in Wellington from 24-26 May 2013, and then back in Auckland in August I should expect (all details are on the website).  I think there might be a bit of variation in producers across the different food shows, depending on which producers are local and so on, although I’m not 100% sure about that.

Were you at the Food Show?  What were your highlights?

Wherever you are in the world, enjoy the rest of your day!

10 Comments

Filed under Reviews

Gin before lunch. AKA The Foodies Festival Edinburgh 2011

To put it mildly, August in Edinburgh is rather jam-packed.  Between the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the International Festival, the Art Festival, the Book Festival and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, there is an astonishing amount going on in the town.  The number of people that descend on the town is also astounding, and I’m pretty sure that the population at least doubles.  To throw one more festival into the mix, the Foodies Festival Edinburgh was held in Holyrood Park last weekend, from Friday 12th to Sunday 14th August.

I went to the Foodies Festival two years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  However, I hadn’t really seen anything about it since then, so I’d assumed that it had stopped or something.  And then, out of the blue, I saw it mentioned on Twitter last week.  Craig was just as eager as I to investigate, so we decided to go along on Saturday (I even managed to come across a voucher for 2-for-1 tickets.  Win!).  Who said Twitter and BBM were just for instigating riots?  (Bad taste?)  Anyway, thanks to a couple of days of monsoon-like rain, Holyrood Park had turned into a bit of a mud bath and they had to delay the opening of the Festival on Friday whilst they put hay down everywhere.  It was still thoroughly muddy on Saturday, but nothing that a good pair of wellies couldn’t handle.

There were rather more drinks exhibitors than I remember there being two years ago, and gin seemed to be particularly well represented.  Which is perfectly fine with me.  Within about ten seconds of our arrival we’d already managed to find ourselves at the Hendrick’s stand, which I think wins the prize for most elaborately decorated stand.  They had a bath-tub of rose petals, cucumber slices and “gin” (I assume it wasn’t actually gin – I feel that would be a bit of a waste), shelves of bottles and other curiosities and a 6 litre bottle of gin (which I’ve since been informed was empty – gutted).  However, whilst Hendrick’s is utterly delicious, it is a well-known brand, so we ambled off with our taster G&Ts to explore the rest of the Festival and in search of some new discoveries.

I was happy to see that Edinburgh Gin had a stand, although I suppose that’s hardly surprising considering that we were at a food festival in Edinburgh.  A relative newcomer to the ranks of gin (I believe it was launched a year ago), I first came across it in June, and have since noticed it in a lot of high-end bottleshops (the fact that I’m in Edinburgh probably also has something to do with that).  I love the gin itself – it’s full of botanical flavours – but I also love the packaging.

Another newcomer to the gin scene is Darnley’s View Gin, which I’d read a review of on The Gin Blog a few weeks previously but hadn’t yet had the opportunity to taste.  The first time we were at the stand they were doing straight gin tasters, which is not my usual way of consuming gin and, I’ll be quite honest was a bit too strong for me to actually taste anything except the fact that it was gin.  The second time we went to the stand, they’d added tonic to the tasters and I was able to ascertain that it had quite a floral taste and that I rather liked it.

I think that’s enough about gin (I should probably add that this post isn’t chronologically accurate – we did start off with Hendrick’s, but didn’t quite do back-to-back gin tastings before lunch.  We had wine in-between.).  There were quite a few wine sellers there as well, including The Vintner who were there in their Citroën van called Hugo.  We tried their prosecco, and two different whites, one from Southwest France and the other from Spain (if I remember correctly – this was towards the end of the afternoon) both of which were surprising in that they weren’t really what we were expecting.  They were both lovely and fresh, and very drinkable…

We also discovered that apparently we look like we can each afford to spend over £200 in one go on a case of wine.  (I can assure you that this most definitely is not the case.)  This became clear when we accidentally managed to end up having a full-on wine tasting from an importer whose name I forgot to write down (I need to be more organised!), tasting whites, reds, prosecco and champagne.  They were all very good, particularly a German red that we tasted (I’d love to give you the name, but I forgot to write it down, too.  Fail.), which was very interesting because although I’d never really tried German wine before I didn’t really have a great impression of it.  The wine that intrigued me the most was a sparkling German red, but unfortunately they didn’t have any with them at the festival.  So that still remains a mystery.

There was also a huge variety of food exhibitors – from cakes to flavoured oils to meats to chocolate, there was a bit of everything!  There were a lot of tasty samples available (and some not so tasty) which kept us going for most of the day, and the only non-taster-sized food we ended up having were crêpes as a semblance of lunch and an absolutely delicious venison burger towards the end of the afternoon.  I feel Simple Simon’s Pies deserve a special mention though, because they are absolutely delicious.  I first discovered them at the Foodies Festival two years ago and I was desperately hoping they’d be there again this year, which they were, hurrah!  I’m very picky about my pies, but these come in a huge range of flavours and are made from the freshest ingredients, always locally-sourced where possible.

There were, of course, a few exhibitors whose offerings weren’t really “my cup of tea.”  A fruit wine producer from Wales, whose wines weren’t exactly fantastic (actually, the one I tried was gross.  But he came all the way from Wales so I feel bad being overly critical).  He also had fruit liqueurs, some of which were palatable.  There was also a fudge producer offering passionfruit fudge – not a good combination, although their other flavours were yummy.  A few cake stands with unappetising cakes were also present, but then everybody has cakes they like and don’t like, so that’s just me being picky.  We only went to one of the “masterclass” events, which was a wine tasting done by the Edinburgh School of Food & Wine, but it was rather disappointing – I wasn’t really a fan of any of the wines chosen and I didn’t feel that it was all that informative either.

Overall however, I thoroughly enjoyed the Foodies Festival!  I love that it showcases local producers and food-related businesses of all sorts, and I think that can only really be a good thing.  If I’m ever in Edinburgh again whilst it’s on, I think I’ll definitely be going again…

Oh and in case you didn’t believe me about the mud, this was the state of our wellies by the end of the day (apparently I’m better at getting muddy than Craig):

Enjoy the rest of your day (mud optional, but gin recommended)!

1 Comment

Filed under Ramblings, Reviews