Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Good One: more like "great one"

Located in what was once a warehouse in Ponsonby, the Good One coffee shop is famous not only for the brews they make, but also for their large collection of National Geographic magazines.  It is the flagship of the Supreme coffee brand.  Another one under this umbrella is the Supreme Seafarers.  For my blogpost about that coffee shop, please click here.

Overall grade:  4.5/5.0

Unique charms:
  • It was once a warehouse, which has been renovated into a coffee shop
  • The posters on their walls show the customers the coffee making process
  • "Bare bones" industrial, minimalist decor; this style enhances their brand image.
  • Free water options: bubbly or still
  • There is a coffee tasting room that is open to the public on certain days of the week.  Good for new product test-runs.
  • The large National Geographic collection
  • Friendly staff

However, if you're someone who doesn't like the cold, you might want to take your coffee back to your office or accommodation, because after all, it is a warehouse, and the high ceilings mean a cooler indoor temperature - almost as cool as it is outdoors.  Nonetheless, don't forget that in summer months, this place would be cooler than outside, because of the very same high ceiling.

Impressive in its own right, but not quite reaching the same level as Kokako due to their lack of food options, but maybe they aren't aiming for that.  For my post about Kokako, please click here.

The National Geographic collection

A poster showing how different styles of coffee are made

The shop's tasting room

Pastries made by little and friday

Fill your own cup

Steel stools and steel tables

Street-side drinking

This is the flagship shop of the Supreme coffee brand

little and friday: no longer little and now everyday

The chain of cute pastry shops called little and friday has a humble beginning.  It was in a small place that only opened on Fridays - hence the name.

Nowadays, the shop has two main branches and the Good One coffee shop in Ponsonby also stocks and sells their products.  little and friday has become a local institution and the lines of people are often long; both for dine-in and take-away.

(For my blogpost about Good One cafe, please click here.)

My impression of the Belmont branch of little and friday is so:

Overall grade:  4.0/5.0

Unique charms:

  • Quick and friendly service
  • There is a warm-up option available when you order sandwiches and pastries.
  • Other places give you a small sign with a number on it so that the service staff knows to which customer they should bring an order.  At little and friday, they have small animal statuettes that are spray-painted yellow.  So instead of "Chocolate croissant for #43," it becomes "Chocolate croissant for the customer with the giraffe."
I had a small lemon meringue pie from here.  The meringue was fluffy and the crust had a bit of crunch to it.  However, I find most Kiwi pastries too mellow.  Normally, I prefer the flavours to be quite distinct.  Even though the New Zealanders don't make it the way I'm used to (as a Thai who studied in USA and France, I prefer bombastic flavours), I must say that overall, I can appreciate the style and flavour profile of a Kiwi baked product.  In that regard, little and friday nailed it.  A local would find the lemon meringue pie very tasty.  Perhaps the same could also be said of a visitor who isn't partial to big flavours.

The shop is in a small corner of a home decoration shop where you can buy things like cutlery.  This is the branch in Belmont.

A very packed vitrine

The mini lemon meringue pie I had.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Kokako: hands-down the best coffee shop in Auckland!

In my opinion, the best coffee shop in Auckland is Kokako.

It is so good that I went there twice during my 10-day sojourn in Auckland.  The first time was on a Sunday morning, and the second time was also in the morning, but of the following Saturday.

Located on the Great North Road in the Grey Lynn neighbourhood, this trendy indie place is neither in the heart of the city nor is it near a famous tourist attraction.  You will have to "go off the beaten path" if you want to visit this coffee spot.  This cafe is loved by Aucklanders, especially by those who live in the surrounding areas.

The cafe is named after a bird species - the Callaeas cinereus - which is one of three species of New Zealand wattlebird.  If you're into bird-watching, this bird is famous for its distinct blue wattles (the parts under the the beak on each side of its face similar to a human's jowl).

Below is my evaluation of the place...

Overall grade:  5.0/5.0

Unique charms:

  • Casual, minimalist interior decor
  • Casual, friendly service
  • Arguably, this place serves the best cold-brew coffee in Auckland
  • Breakfast menus are available from an open-kitchen - humble dishes like rhubarb rice porridge start from NZD14.00, while more elaborate ones like scrambled eggs with avocado start from NZD17.90.

Tasting notes of the Ugandan Mt. Elgon brewed coffee which I drank on my second visit:
Nose  earthy, with a hint of red beans
Palate  slightly acidic with a solid earthy backbone even despite a thinner body
Finish  medium-short taste finish, but the aroma lingers at the back of the throat for 20-30 seconds.  The finish has notes of oranges, followed by smokiness.

Also, as I was enjoying the Mt. Elgon coffee and rhubarb rice porridge, I noticed that I was sitting next to David Shearer, the Labour Party MP for the Mt. Albert area.  He was there to enjoy his breakfast and get in touch with his potential constituents after his morning jog (I assume this because he was wearing tracksuit pants with a hoodie).  The September 2014 elections resulted in Mr. Shearer retaining his office.  Out of respect for his privacy, I have not taken any photos of him.

The shop's sign is very indistinct, so it's easy to walk or drive past this cafe without noticing it.

Baked goods, sandwiches and wraps.  A very pretty vitrine, indeed!

This bottle costs NZD5.00, slightly above market prices for cold-brew coffee.

The cafe's open kitchen that prepares extremely tasty menus!

The barista team at work

Just one niche of the dining area of this indie cafe

The Ugandan Mt. Elgon brewed coffee

Rhubarb rice porridge with the cup of Ugandan Mt. Elgon brewed coffee

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bledisloe Cup: Trans-Tasman rugby union rivalry

As former prefect of Cuthbertson House of Geelong Grammar School, I should technically be rooting for the "wallabies" (Australian rugby union national team).  However, while still a student there, Ireland was the team I rooted for in the 2003 Rugby World Cup, and never picked any union or league club to support.

My recent trip to Auckland has shown me "the flip side of the coin" regarding the trans-Tasman rivalry between New Zealand and Australia.  I must admit that the former appeals to me more; the nature, the cuisine, and in particular: the mutual respect and peaceful coexistence of native and settler cultures.

Therefore it was a real treat that my host bought me a ticket to the final match of the annual Bledisloe Cup - a rugby union competition between the two nations Down Under.  My trip happen to coincide with this game and I consider myself fortunate to experience an international match at the place that pretty much every New Zealander considers as "The Temple of Rugby": Eden Park.  In particular, it was because I got to see the pre-match haka by the All Blacks live!

If you don't already know, and are curious, please click on the following link to learn about the differences between rugby league and rugby union.

For those of you who are wondering...  The All Blacks beat the Wallabies by a score of 51-20 and captain Richie McCaw got to lift the Bledisloe Cup yet again.

I still keep the ticket stub in my wallet.

Pre-match report

Betraying my secondary school education - I pledge allegiance to the Silver Fern.

Unfortunately this buggy had to be used.  A fireworks shard cut the forehead of a woman as it fell from the sky.  She was rushed to a hospital.

The tastiest stadium food I've ever had.  The traditional beef pie was actually filled with quality beef chunks in a stew akin to boeuf bourgignon.

Each ticket sold contributes to the Cure Kids charity.  Their symbol is the red clown nose.  They encourage you to wear this during the match.

Richie McCaw lifting the Bledisloe Cup

Coffee General: the commanding presence in North Harbour

Across the bridge north of Auckland, there is a small coffee shop called Coffee General.  This gem is hidden at the far end of Birkenhead's high-street.  However, if you do get a chance to go outside New Zealand's largest city, please don't forget to put this on your list of places to get your caffeine fix.

Overall grade:  5.0/5.0

Unique charms:
  • Small and cozy
  • Friendly staff who like to share knowledge with you, particularly about the processes of making their different specialty drinks such as drip coffee.
  • Art is present in all parts of the coffee shop, from the front-of-house to the bathroom.
  • Service with a personal touch - the staff are curious to get to know about you and why you, as a tourist, made the trip from shining Auckland to sleepy Birkenhead.  Because of Coffee General coffee, of course!

Yet another coffee shop that has such a small sign.

Art on the bathroom wall

The friendly and welcoming barista

Advising a new staff member on the tricks to brewing drip coffee.

A complementary mini chocolate in the shape of a coffee bean

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Blue Elephant: an adapted Thai modern cuisine locale behind Parnell Village

Blue Elephant is located behind Parnell Village if you are walking from Parnell Road.

This place is very popular amongst the locals.  The restaurant's menus are thus presented and cooked to suit local palates.  If you're a true-blue Thai, you will find the food rather bland, quite sweet-ish at times, and might not be used to some of the ingredients that seem out-of-place in certain menus.  However, that being said, I loved how their food was presented on the plates, and also how they innovate Thai classics.

Overall grade:  2.5/5.0

Unique charms:

  • Some wines are available in "tasting sizes" (in small aperitif glasses).  So if you are dining alone and want to taste several different ones, you will not burn a hole through your wallet here.
  • Traditional Thai furnitures and fabrics decorate the dining area and give an ambience that you're eating a quick dinner in the old town of Krung Thep (that's "Bangkok" for all non-Thai speakers) if you factor out the winter chill.
The name is inspired by the famous culinary institution in Bangkok, but it is unaffiliated.

Tasting size Pinot Noir from Otago

Shrimp cakes with the same reddish tint like traditional fish cakes with tidbits of scallops in individual spoons

Crispy almond chicken in red curry sauce.  The vegetables have been parboiled and have no flavour.  The sauce was watery and insipid.  Finally, the crispy chicken was dominated by the oiliness of the sliced almonds which have been "toasted" in vegetable oil.  This dish has a lot of room for improvement.