Bonny Doon Cellar Door

This isn’t a particularly good photo so it certainly won’t support the high rating I’d give our dinner at the bar at the Bonny Doon vineyard’s cellar door in Santa Cruz. When we were having coffee at Verve Coffee Roasters I overhead a couple of locals talking about how great the restaurant was with a new chef and that they had a very cool community table idea. A bit of quick Googling we found they did a couple of sittings each evening, being Saturday we weren’t sure of our chances but as it was just out of town on the drive back to San Francisco we thought we’d call in hoping to be in time for the early sitting so we could get on the road for the 1.5 hour drive back.

When we got there the restaurant was fully booked but the greeter lady said we were welcome to do a tasting at the bar and try something from the limited bar menu – just a few items from the full menu. We looked at the menu and it might’ve seem limited to ordinary folk but for me it had the only couple of things on it I’d want anyway – pizza and potatoes.

Plus we love sitting at the bar. We got up on the stools and had a very knowledgeable chap run us through a wine tasting and bring us a selection of dishes from the menu. Roasted fingerling potatoes & aoili, some kind of speck, cheese & onion pizza and green salad with crumbled hazel nuts. Also I got to drink something non-alcoholic from the vineyard which gives them a huge thumbs up – they had some recently harvested grape juice – delicious!

Bonny Doon Vineyard

Bonny Doon Vineyard, 321 Ingalls Street, Santa Cruz

Kiwiana

Friday night we went out to Brooklyn with Cousin Grant to a new restaurant just opened, Kiwiana. By it’s name you’ll guess it’s a New Zealand-themed place. Someone had tweeted about it a month or so ago so I emailed Cousin Grant and suggested we try it if it was open by the time of our visit. It was further into Brooklyn than we’d been before and when we got there the place was jam packed. When we walked in I expected to be overwhelmed by Kiwi accents but I only heard it once or twice as we were shown to our table at the back nearest the kitchen.

I’d seen the menu before we went but wasn’t sure what to have – all I knew was I needed to save room for a lamington! We had an American waitress who figured out we were all from New Zealand pretty quickly so she didn’t need to explain to us what milo or lamingtons were! I chose the vegetable pie and it was DIVINE! Lovely light pastry with a filling of slightly minted peas, zucchini and potato. Yum. The boys had a kiwi burger and ribs – both reported excellence. The only dampner at the point of ordering was that they didn’t have their liquor license yet so The Mister had to run to a wine shop down the street to get a bottle – while we understood the situation, it would’ve been nice to be told that when we rung to make the reservation so we could’ve brought something with us.

After our dinner the waitress brought someone over to meet us – Mark Simmons the chef. Felt famous like we were back at Capitol in Wellington when the chef sometimes stopped by our table! After hi’s and names and compliments on the food were given, The Mister surprised me by saying to Mark “Where do I know you from? Have you been on television?” After Mark saying “mabye” The Mister did that wagging/pointing finger thing he does and said “Yes! You were on Top Chef!” Mark seemed surprised it had aired in New Zealand. The Mister impressed him even further “Yes yes – you made that deep dish and used marmite.” I remembered that but how he did right in that instant I don’t know! Anyway Mark seemed pretty impressed.

Then it was time for dessert – of course I was way too full because the lamingtons came served in threes. However, Cousin Grant came to my rescue and volunteered to eat what I couldn’t manage. Yaaaaay! The waitress seemed bemused by my excitement. My god they were good. It’s been years since I’ve had a lamington and they were lovely and soft which I was quite surprised by – I’d seen them bringing cake boxes out of a pantry from time to time and assumed the sponges were made offsite and if made by Americans using American ingredients I thought they might be a little more solid. I managed to eat one.

When it came time to pay the bill we realised how reasonably priced the meals were – not New York prices at all! And my lamingtons were free seeing as I’d been so excited to have them :)

lamingtons

Photo from Kiwiana’s Facebook page. And more pictures on the Here’s Park Slope website including one of the shelf at the back of the resaurant with all sorts of New Zealand items on it including a set of collector tea spoons, a jar of marmite and a tin of Edmond’s Baking Powder.

Marlowe

Last night we went to Marlowe for dinner – was a bit of a blind date really. One of Xero’s investors who lives here wasn’t able to catch up with us due to being out of town so he introduced us to his good friends, one an ex-Kiwi, over email. They emailed us and suggested early drinks and dinner at Marlowe.

It was a lovely rustic dining room in the bottom of a brick warehouse-type building – dark wooden chairs and rustic wooden tables – some long shared tables, a high table with stools and a bar. I’d already checked out their website and menu and was pretty sure that Anna in the couple we were meeting owned the restaurant – turned out she did! She’s an ex-Kiwi, opening her 3rd San Francisco restaurant shortly so we sat at the high table drinking wine and eating the first of their specialties – fried Brussels sprout chips. I know … sounds gross right?! Actually surprisingly edible … the fleshy stalk bit tasted slightly vegetabley otherwise they were blacked and salty. The Mister was addicted – so Mother, there’s hope!!

Marlowe

We met a rather gregarious investor in the restaurant – a fairly rich man who owns planes and has been the CEO of various tech companies that I recognised – felt like rather a socialite! We were joined by James after a while, Anna’s husband, who works in tech so we chatted another hour or so before they had to take off and invited us to stay on without them and eat at the bar – we had a couple of their second specialty – the Marlowe Burger. OMG – really good! Not too big, nice moist meat, tasty sauce that wasn’t too spicy hot, and great fries with some skin still on. I couldn’t manage it all but we noticed a couple of plates going out with half burgers so maybe I could order that next time! Have to admit not quite as good as Shake Shack to my taste – just can’t go past the sweet potato buns and small meat patties.

Marlowe

They had one of those wall wine racks, wooden with slanted down holes in rows where normally wine bottles would slip in neck first – but they had lemons stuck in the holes – looked really cool but couldn’t get a photo without leaning all over people (we’re too new in town for that kind of behaviour) and it was quite dark. Only confusing part of the evening was when I went to the ‘Restrooms’ – I couldn’t figure out why the door was locked and huffed and puffed and shoved at it before realising it was locked … wondering why someone would lock the hall door through to the restrooms … later I discovered that was the bathroom, right there through that door, 1 toilet, so the’RestroomS’ sign was a bit misleading! When Craig asked for the check the maitre d’ told us that Anna had taken care of it – our mouths practically dropped open and we felt SUPER special – we’ve never met a restaurant owner who’s shouted us a meal at their restaurant – we’ve made it in this town!

We’ll definitely be back there when we’re in San Francisco again – somewhere great to take friends and family to feel like a local.

Marlowe, 330 Townsend Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 @marlowesf

Flash food

I’m not really one for posh foods and fancy restaurants (even those that don’t have foreign muck). I never feel quite right in them, mostly because I’m already anxious before we get there that everything will have crab fluff or truffle somethingorother and that I’ll be dreadfully under dressed – my wardrobe is either jeans and Chuck Taylors or long black dress fit for a black tie event. So my attire and desire for a plate of mashed spud always makes me wonder if they look at us and think we’re not really ‘supposed’ to be there – never mind that we can afford that $50 main course and do know what a Julienned carrot or taleggio cheese is!

Anyway, last night it was The Mister’s birthday so the choice of restaurant was not mine and not made with me in mind and I had to look as though I belonged and behave like I enjoyed every moment there (god I sound like a nightmare to take out to dinner …. SHUSH now … ) So we turned up at Martin Boslely’s (SEAFOOD) restaurant and I strutted to the table with an air of ‘I-have-a-thousand-in-100-dollar-bills-in-the-pocket-of-these-faded-fraying-jeans’ – yes I’m sure the diners at the other 9 tables in the 10-table restaurant were looking at us in our Chuck Taylors, jeans and blazers but with me wearing no make-up, clutching my iPhone with my sunglasses still on my head I hoped they thought we were the nouveau riche and had every right to be there with them all in suits entertaining their Japanese business men, or for mother’s birthday, or investment bankers yapping on their phones slurping oysters (yes simultaneously) or the special degustation treat that a rather down-trodden husband was taking his very yappy wife on (don’t forget I have hyper-vision when I’m driving and hyper-hearing when I’m dining!)

The menu was full of stuff I don’t like (knew that was coming), nothing vegetarian and lots of choice for The Mister. We had a couple of glasses of champagne (and had enough class not to ask the guy if he was coming back as his bottle had clearly run out seeing as the glasses were only half full and surely we weren’t going to be charged $30 a piece for that?) and The Mister had the most enormous plate of whitebait. He was in heaven! Yaaaay it was his birthday after all :) Then he had a medley of venison, pork pie, beef and quail, more heaven apparently and I had the fish n chips. Hopefully the fact that The Mister was ordering from the upper end of the menu meant that no judgment came my way when I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, in my jeans.

And now to the point of this post. Wow. Best fish n chips of my life. I chose snapper as the fish (yes, poshness of the restaurant meant you chose from fish caught that day) and it came as 4 battered logs with a takeaway box of chips (to be honest this was the most exciting part of the dinner for me!) The batter tasted a bit like the $4 slab of battered shark from the local fish n chip shop but so much more refined, pure and soft and healthy. Fish n chips and champagne is one of my favourite meals so I too was in heaven!

Fantastic fish n chips

Hope we get to go back there but despite our act for the evening … I made sure I didn’t take too many photos of the meal and did a bit of uninterested-in-the-pomp-just-here-some-dinner phone tweeting … we’ll have to save it for very special occasions!

Why we love Capitol

Some people might think going to the same restaurant all the time is pretty boring and not really making the most of city living or getting out of your comfort zone. We don’t care and this is not our experience – we love going to Capitol and this is why:

  • the food is excellent. Always.
  • they know our names
  • we often get our favourite table at the front in the window
  • the Head Chef stops by our table for a quick chat (surely that’s a sign you’ve ‘made it’ if the chef comes out to see you when you dine in their restaurant?!)
  • we always get wine in the special big glasses
  • if I order whatever it is that has whitebait on it, without the whitebait, the whitebait comes out in a little side dish from the chef for The Mister
  • I am happy to go there on my own, the staff take turns at chatting with me to keep me company
  • we’re never made to feel bad if there’s a huge line of people waiting and we’re almost done
  • on special occasions we’re allowed to ring up with advance warning of a visit as strictly not allowed to make a reservation but we’re welcome to give a head’s up
  • sometimes, if I’m really lucky and if the menu doesn’t have anything on it that I like (actually has only happened once) they’ll do a special sauce to go with the pasta, just for me
  • did I mention the food. Consistently delicious and is just as it says on the menu.

Last night I took a rare break from the risotto currently on the menu (pumpkin and mascarpone) and had leek ravioli, without the whitebait, and it was divine. They do the best beurre blanc I’ve ever had, just a tad on the lemony side which doesn’t make if feel so naughty. Because let’s face it, that’s a lot of melted butter to eat in one sitting.

Capitol, 10 Kent Terrace, Wellington

Fratelli

Last night before Ignite Wellington we decided to have a quick dinner somewhere we hadn’t been before. Very hard to pass up a chance to go to Capitol and always hard to find somewhere that fits my criteria … deep breath …

  • No curry (any nationality)
  • No Japanese
  • Not a seafood place
  • Bit dubious about Chinese
  • No spicy Cajun, Mexican etc
  • Somewhere that has vegetarian choices or something I’ll eat that’s not chicken
  • Not too loud
  • Don’t want to leave with hair smelling of grill
  • Mid-price

Basically a cafe or Italian restaurant.

We were joined by a colleague who we don’t know very well who thankfully was happy to go along with our decision so that the choice of restaurant didn’t become awkward.

The Mister recalled seeing or reading about an Italian restaurant on Blair or Allen streets and we found it: Fratelli. And it was feast night that night – basically a limited, almost set, menu with a choice of a few mains and pizzas. Loads of the choices were something I’d eat!

I went for the semolina gnocchi with broccoli and red onion – man it was devine! The gnocchi was the most delicate thing ever! And the portion size just right. The others had pork tagliatelle and spinach risotto – reports that both were excellent. We’d let them know we only had an hour and the service wasn’t rushed and we had time for bread and mains. Fitting in dessert might’ve been a push but we didn’t want it anyway.

The restaurant was about half full, not bad for a Tuesday night, and I really like the idea of feast night. We’ll definitely be going back.

Fratelli, 15 Blair Street, Wellington

Felix

Have not been to Felix for coffee or lunch or dinner or anything for years! I lost my patience with the cafes along Wakefield Street some time ago when they all seemed to close so early on week nights meaning there was nothing cafe-ish in that part of town. Back in the day when I was at university Lido and City Limits (where Finc is now) used to stay open quite late and you could always get a hot chocolate and a piece of cheesecake on the way home from the movies after 10.30pm.

When Felix opened I went a few times because of the orange. Of course. Last night we had our apartment Body Corporate AGM on Cuba Street and decided that we’d give Finc a go for a quick, light cafe meal, but they were closed. Sigh. So Felix it was. The orange teddy bear light is still there and the orange roof :)

207 - 26 July 2010

I had a bowl of minestrone with toasted ciabatta and The Mister had a burger. Both were excellent. It was a bit chilly in there, I could only see one heater, and as inviting as the bench seat long the windows or high stools around a communal table looked, they were just too cold to sit at being so close to the windows. So we sat at the back at the bar. Which was OK, we like sitting at the bar, except there were no foot rests on the stools or the bar and even The Mister’s feet didn’t touch the ground so you can imagine how high up in the air my feet were swinging! Wasn’t particularly comfortable but as we were there for a quick meal, it was over pretty quickly.

We might add it to the list of options for dinner on the way home when it gets a bit warmer.

Balthazar

Last week we went to Balthazar for dinner after work – I was a little bit nervous that it would be full of skinny trendy Soho people and me with my laptop in my Bloomies bag and jeans looking a bit too start-up would stick out, but it was so busy and crowded that I don’t think anyone noticed. Although a few people would’ve seen us in passing because we were seated right near the front door at a table that some discerning diners up and left from claiming they ‘didn’t like the menu’ – more like they didn’t like everyone coming in the door and looking right at them. We grabbed it to save having to wait an hour and it was rather entertaining watching everyone arrive and picking from their body language and bags whether they were tourists, locals, with reservation or without!

It’s a French restaurant and the food was pretty spectacular.

Menus were like those we’d been given in restaurants in Paris

118 - 28 April 2010

I had duck cottage pie (something rather different for me and it was delicious although not quite enough mash!), The Mister had duck confit (also delicious apparently)

Balthazar

I had pavlova (not usually into pudding but wanted to try it, it was excellent), The Mister had profiteroles (delicious)

Balthazar

And while we were there Ewan McGreggor stood close to our table (we were by the door remember) waiting for someone to find him a table. We kept calm and didn’t get out the camera – trying to blend in a be aloof in a French/Soho kind of way!

Balthazar, 80 Spring Street (between Broadway & Crosby), Soho, New York

Green Parrot

You have to see it to believe it. I knew it was a diner/grill place with great plates of meat and chips with a stack of white bread and that’s just what it was, a step back in time.

b_grparrot

Again I was amazed by going somewhere different and seeing a whole other set of people, different to the people you’re used to seeing – not necessarily familiar faces that you see over and over again, but as a population, they’re familiar to you. The crowd at Green Parrot was totally different – mostly in their 50′s I’d say, in groups of 4 or more, good hearty folks in for good hearty meals.

And what meals they were. I’d see the website beforehand but seeing the meals in the flesh (ha ha) as a sight. Huge white plates filled with piles of chips, rough cut iceberg lettuce salad, great slop of potato salad and a big piece of meat of your choice. I had a ham steak, the Mister and enormous fillet steak and Short Dark Friend had chops (on recommendation from the waitress that it was one of the smaller meals … yet it was 5 big chops!!!)

b_grparrot1

When we left to pay we saw the grill behind the counter, god there was a lot of meat on it. One steak looked like it was off a brontosaurus! The Mister said his steak was one of the best he’d had in Wellington for a while – I’m not surprised – those guy probably really know how to grill – not really any prep or other cooking methods!

All my clothes and hair smell of fry-up and I am very full.

Who likes rocket?

Yick – I don’t. Too wierd for a lettuce variety (if that’s what it is). Except if it’s in the gorgeous rocket and fresh herb risotto served up at Capitol.