2019 tastes to remember...

New Zealand food memories from an outstanding year of eating and drinking.

It's that time of year when the food media lists have been rolled out and we are inundated with the top restaurants for 2019, the top nine most-liked Instagram dishes or the most loved recipes of 2019. At Cuisine, we've already given you our picks of some of the best restaurants and chefs across New Zealand within our Cuisine Good Food Guide for 2019 and I have been privileged to have had some of the most incredible meals and experiences at the restaurants that were chosen as our category winners this year. But it does not always have to be about the winners. Almost all of my happiest memories involve food. Little snapshots, stored away in my mind of a taste and a smell, a mood or a conversation where all elements combine to become unforgettable. That moment that every great chef strives to create for us, and sadly, is not always recognised for. In this post, I want to showcase some of the tastes that I instantly recall when I think about good times and being either excited, curious or insanely comforted by a dish. Whittling it down to just nine has been excruciating, but all of these stay forever with me as magical food moments plucked from a year that has involved a monumental amount of dining out in New Zealand.

Apologies in advance that these snapshots from my phone do not do justice to the food. No professional photographers involved here, my art director will no doubt roll her eyes when she sees these!

Depot (January 2019)

A big morning of back to back meetings and a need to factor in a quick lunch found me perched on a stool at the counter at Depot with this bowl of squid ink linguine & Cloudy Bay Clams. For me, Al Brown and the Depot team nail the formula for fresh Kiwi food, served quickly, with an element of slick and a nod to the casual pulse of this terrific city. The linguine was hand-cut, the ‘Salash’ chorizo added a hint of smoke and bled-out some of that bright red-orange oily goodness that seems to always marry so well with shell-fish. A crunchy slice of Olaf’s artisan ficelle to mop up all of that enchanted sauv blanc sauce and there was no need for company or conversation. No small talk, no sharing, just me and those sweet, juicy little clams…
Depot: 86 Federal Street, Auckland.

The Sugar Club (March 2019)

Although my first taste was in 2018, I went back again and again to The Sugar Club for these wicked little Kaipara oyster cream sandwiches made with pearl barley wafers, topped with bronzed fennel and electric blue, wild, West Australian scampi caviar and served alongside homemade pringles with cured hapuka roe taramasalata. I could smell the fresh ocean spray and taste the luxuriously creamy texture of the oyster meat in those clever sandwiches. It was almost like getting dumped by a wave. During his time at the Sugar Club chef Josh Barlow delivered an exciting menu and these gorgeous snacks always induced an interesting conversation starter that preceded a meal that would be the perfect combination of both thoughtful and clever ingredients. Josh has now moved on and as we wait to see where he will land it is exciting to see Chris Will stepping in to head up Peter Gordon’s excellent team. I’m also thrilled to see talented young chef Giada Grilli hitting The Sugar Club pans and the super slick Stefano Baldin leading the team superbly from the front. I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings for this iconic Auckland restaurant. But I do miss those little oyster sandwiches Josh… 
The Sugar Club: 72 Victoria Street West Level 53, Sky Tower, Auckland

Ampersand Eatery (April 2019)

Oh how I love a good bit of recipe lineage. The last time I was at @rockpoolbarandgrillsydney I asked them what was the one dish that had been on their menu forever. They said they had tried to remove the goat's cheese tortellini with burnt butter, pine nuts and raisins but customers made their lives so miserable that it was reinstated. I too have always loved that dish. Fast forward to this sensational goats cheese tortellini with artichoke, dates, mushroom and nashi pear by Mikey Newlands at Ampersand Eatery. This dish was one helluva combination of flavours and texture and leaves no doubt that Mikey is an outstanding chef (who can also spin a great yarn). Over a lunch that included these pillowy little parcels of goats cheesy happiness and a tart that should be definitely on your lemon tart bucket list, I discovered that Mikey’s tortellini talent developed while working with Brett Graham at legendary London restaurant The Ledbury Notting Hill. Turns out Brett picked up his tortellini inspiration from Neil Perry and so it goes...
Ampersand Eatery: 4/228 Orakei Road, Orakei, Auckland.

Mills Bay Mussels (May 2019)

For me, a good seafood chowder is a big beautiful bowl of love. I watched my mum making her version until she was well over 70, lugging huge stockpots around her kitchen and sharing the results not only at her restaurant tables but with all of the strays that she fed along the way, wherever she lived. Widowers, ageing couples, kids who had just left home, divorcees, all of them gravitated towards mum and her seafood chowder, always served just like this one in a crunchy cob loaf straight from a warm oven. A trip to the Marlborough region for Feast Marlborough (a festival that highlights not only the much-loved wines of the region but also the glorious food and the people who grow it and cook it) had me booked in at Mills Bay Mussels for a bowl of their famous mussel chowder. It felt so familiar I could almost feel my mum sitting next to me. Apart from the mussel focus, it had all of the usual ingredients including white fish, potatoes, parsley, leek. onion, butter. cream and white wine. I’m not sure if it was the slap in the face of that brisk morning air on a perfect blue sky day or that peaceful table overlooking the boats on the water, but this steaming bowl of comfort wrapped its arms around me in a huge hug that almost made me cry…

Watch this video and the team at Mills Bay Mussels will let you in on their best-kept mussel secret.
Mills Bay Mussels: 23a Inglis St, Havelock 7100

Field & Green (August 2019)

Visa Wellington On A Plate had kicked off and festival director Sarah Miekle picked me up and took me off to my first lunch at Field & Green a chic Wellington favourite that usually delivers European cool, NZ style. For two weeks only (as a result of extensive research by co-owners Laura Greenfield and Raechal Ferguson) the restaurant had transformed into 'Campo & Verde' offering the distinct cuisine of 'Cucina Ebraica Romanesca', crafted in the Jewish ghetto of Rome and 2,000 years in the making. I reckon Laura had whipped this beauty up in her kitchen a little bit faster than that, but it was perfection. The thought of this dish brings back memories of a terrific week that had me immersed in the ever-evolving and highly competitive Welly restaurant and bar scene and put some fabulous hospitality players on my radar. Stretchy pants were on and I was ready to take quite a few for the team, but OH MY this was one to-die-for baked @zanyzeus ricotta and orange zest soufflé served with an almost sinful marmalade and choc sauce. Sarah was not getting me out the door before I had finished every bit of this spectacularly puffed tower of fluffy decadence…
Field & Green: 262 Wakefield Street, Te Aro, Wellington.

Giulio Sturla at The Grove (August 2019)

It was an emotional night for all of us as Giulio Sturla produced a taste of his former restaurant Roots at The Grove on 14 August. The team lead by host Michael Dearth and executive chef Kira Ghidoni delivered some of the very best dishes to have been served at the original Roots restaurant in Lyttleton. 7 sensational courses showcasing New Zealand flavours and textures as only the brilliant Giulio Sturla can. I found it incredibly frustrating to hear so many people at this event lamenting the fact that they had never made a visit to Roots while it was open. Too little effort, way too late, they were privileged to have this final taste of a small independent restaurant that had been making a gigantic effort to share a magnificent NZ food story with the world. I sat next to Amisfield Bistro’s chef Vaughan Mabee and we both agreed that this superb mushroom dish was the dish of the night. In Vaughan’s words “A tapestry of perfectly combined autumn flavours”. As I ate, I could almost smell the forest floor, a testament to the skills of both Kira and Giulio working together in The Grove kitchen. I thought back to some of the fabulous meals I had eaten at Roots and the tremendous stories that were always shared of the people behind the ingredients on each plate, and I felt immense respect for Giulio and all that he has done so well. When he brought out the very last of the honey from the Roots hive to share with all of us in that room, my heart felt as if someone had reached in and grabbed it, slowly squeezing it until it ached. I can’t wait to see the next steps taken by this humble, kind chef…
The Grove: Saint Patricks Square, Wyndham Street, Auckland CBD

The Hunting Lodge (August 2019)

That right there was like eating a big ray of much-needed sunshine during what had been a very grey week! So much intense flavour and a sure sign of a great chef that is happy, relaxed and loving what he does. A mid-week lunch at The Hunting Lodge turned out to be a welcome respite from the grind of deadlines and way too many lengthy degustations. Chef Des Harris is a bit of a legend having lead the way during the early days at much loved Auckland restaurant Clooney (now sadly closed) alongside one of my favourite NZ restaurateurs Tony Stewart. I headed out with trusty business partner Vanessa Stranan and we were treated to a tasting of their very approachable wines with winemaker Pete Turner, followed by a zip around the kitchen garden with Des and property manager Philipe Stack. Philipe used to be at The Sugar Club before heading down to work with Sean Connelly across The Grill and Gusto and he gets my full vote for being the very best in hospitality schmooze. The combined skills of these two remarkably talented industry players now make The Hunting Lodge a serious destination for those of us in search of great service, delicious food and a side serving of fun. Having both worn the relentless stress and grind of the fine-dining circuit and all that goes with it Des & Phil are now in their happy place and it shows. This cold-smoked salmon with salt-baked golden beetroot was the opening act for what turned out to be a glorious lunch, peppered with outrageous stories (which we all know are always the best ones). As I’m writing this I’ve just had a text from chef/food writer Grant Allen saying he thinks tomato salads are so very last year. I think he might be right. Bring on the year of the beets…

Although, this was, and still is, one hell of a tomato salad by Fiona Smith, Aaron McLean Fiona Lascelles and Curious Croppers for Cuisine.

The Hunting Lodge: 305-307 Waikoukou Valley Road, Waimauku, Auckland.

Aosta (September 2019)

This stunning beauty, flame-grilled, stuffed with pickled shaved fennel and topped with Cromwell dried cherries and pine nuts has thankfully erased forever the memories that haunt me of my dad’s soggy, tinned sardines on toast.

Ben Bayly has been the darling of the Auckland fine dining set for years having carved his illustrious reputation by landing senior chef roles at Michelin starred restaurants, The Ledbury & The Square, London; Restaurant Jean-Paul Jennet, France; and earned 3 Hats from Cuisine while at Auckland restaurant The Grove. He’s also headed up some tasty casual spots in the form of Baduzzi and The Grounds in Auckland, but it is at his newby ‘Aosta’ in Arrowtown that I think Ben has found his sweet spot. Nestled in the main street of a delightful gold-rush village, this 50-seater is casual, relaxed and steeped in history. It is where traditional Northern Italian becomes New Zealand cool. Working alongside him, Ben has the outstanding talents of chef Mike Shatura, Steven Sepsy and a skilled team that is smashing it. The gorgeous Vicki Onions leads a floor that is welcoming and great fun as she sweeps everyone in her path into her intense agenda for making Arrowtown a destination for serious food lovers. I ordered a Sgroppino and watched the magic unfold at the open kitchen pass. These boys are cooking so straight from the heart I can taste the love in this sizzling, smoky little mouthful, the pickled fennel cutting through the glorious richness of a great sardine. I think about why sardines have been considered the Spam of the ocean for so many years. This one doesn’t just taste like the sea, it tastes so clean that you can visualise the pristine water that must have surrounded it. Ben’s menu showcases many attempts to get us eating outside of the usual comfort zone and embracing sustainable. A braised ox tongue arrives. The whole tongue laid out on the plate with no attempt to hide it other than some horseradish, spring garlic, parmesan and a sprinkling of tiny yellow cornflowers. “Just roll the whole thing up and eat it with your fingers” he says. And I did. And it was sooooo good!
Aosta: 18 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown.

Harbour Society (October 2019)

The big finish! Desserts are probably one of the things that disappoint me the most when it comes to New Zealand restaurants. This one almost had me for a moment! Caviar for dessert? It was the final course of an impressive 12 hands dinner at Harbour Society SO/ Auckland where chef Marc De Passorio worked alongside five international Michelin-starred chefs to showcase their considerable skills while using New Zealand ingredients. A week of dinners and workshops by each chef culminated in an exquisite hands-on dinner where Marc’s ‘Illusions of Caviar’ with its light creamy base tasting of mint and mojitos and Japanese pearls made from tapioca, natural NZ algae and yuzu took the final bow with great grace and aplomb. After 5 intense courses, this dessert was a perfect conclusion, a zing in every bite at a stage in the degustation where I am usually dragging myself to the finish line. I was proud to know Marc that night. Over the next few weeks I watched every one of those chefs (all culinary stars in their own countries) posting photos of New Zealand restaurants and ingredients on their social platforms and planting a seed for us as a premium dining destination. Bravo Marc!
SO/ Auckland: Corner of Customs and, Gore Street, East, Auckland

May 2020 be an amazing year for all of us.

Cook and eat well,

Kel xxx

Please do share these little morsels with people who love food and share your bites with me at any or all of these social servings.

Instagram @kellibrett @cuisinemagazineFacebook @KelliBrettCuisine @cuisinemagazineTwitter @kellibrett @cuisinemagazineLinkedin @KelliBrett

Hats, snacks and a date with the devil.

Because there's more than one way to stuff an egg...

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s been pretty full-on around here. As I write, team Cuisine is coming up for air after what is unquestionably the most challenging few months of the year for us. The awards, and their many layers of planning and execution, are a mammoth task. The assessment period is for me a time of great anxiety as we work our way to announcing our Cuisine Good Food Awards winners, followed by immense pride as we celebrate excellence within our New Zealand hospitality industry and the allocation of our coveted hats to the restaurants that we feel are stepping up and helping to make Aotearoa a top dining destination. Of course, with all of that comes the task of having to provide feedback to those restaurants and chefs that did not make our list this year. No one working at the premium end of this competitive and sometimes cut-throat industry would think of themselves or their restaurant as anything less than excellent and deserving of recognition; they work way too hard to be in it for anything less. So I do understand their disappointment and I take the responsibility of our decisions when allocating our awards very seriously.

Having said that, the monumental list of requests for feedback on our restaurant assessments is overwhelmingly positive, proving that these awards are very much valued as a respected benchmark by the industry. Now I can’t wait for our guide to be published. A great restaurant can provide a very special and emotional experience through its offering and although dining in New Zealand is sometimes hard to define, the constant is an ability to present excellence across a diverse menu. You are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out and so having someone you trust to advise you on options, someone who has already ventured out on your behalf, knife and fork and chopsticks at the ready, well that’s a useful tool to have to hand. And that’s where we come in with the 108 restaurants in our 2019 Cuisine Good Food Guide that showcases the names and the places that should be on your radar for the next year. Keep an eye out for it in our January issue, on sale Dec 16. Here’s a sneak peek of the stunning cover to look out for. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone… #curiouscroppers

(Photograph Aaron McLean, recipe & food styling Fiona Smith, art direction Fiona Lascelles for Cuisine)

Speaking of chefs…

For me, the chef’s snacks are often the most exciting part of a menu. Spectacular little bites served at the start of the meal according to the chef’s selection alone, and offering a cheeky glimpse of the level of creativity and style of the chef. With that in mind, I asked some of our Auckland culinary stars to put their best seafood snack hats on and share a recipe that can be easily achieved at home and will amuse the bouche out of the most jaded canapé crowd.

These Green-Lipped Mussel Beignets from Leslie Hottiaux at Apéro are my faves. The mussels are stuffed with grated zucchini, garlic, shallots, lemon zest and fresh herbs before being dropped into the beignet batter and rolled in hot oil until puffed and golden. One crispy delicious bite of New Zealand in one hand, an icy cold beer or bubbles in the other. Now that’s a party starter!

(Photograph Jason Creaghan for Cuisine)

Click on these sensational chef’s seafood snacks for more party inspiration. Sid Sahrawat’s Oyster Pakora with Tomato Kasundi & Sorrel, Gideon Landman’s Thinly Sliced South Island Squid with White Beans & Samir Allen’s Trevally Tartare with Preserved Lemon, Pomegranate & Sumac.

Kiwi Classic or Cultural Cringe?

A Facebook post by Auckland caterer, food writer and superb dinner-party bad boy Grant Allen caught my eye recently and the ensuing debate over the relevance and taste of the classic Kiwi mayo (made from sweetened condensed milk, malt vinegar, mustard powder and salt) was both educational and highly entertaining, resulting in this fabulous article by Grant who insists it should still have its place in the pantry. Do have a read, it’s a good’un…

(Anna Crichton for Cuisine)

I love to pursue stories that provoke food memories and take a look back at the tastes that have shaped our food culture. Grant also included his recipe for Stuffed Curried Eggs and I wish he hadn’t as it sent me down a rabbit warren of research on the weekend when I really should have been doing something else. Problem is, I am a sucker for a good stuffed egg and I’ll take them whenever I can get them in almost every conceivable variation. It’s hard to imagine you not knowing how to make one but just in case… the eggs are medium to hard-boiled, then split and the yolks removed. After mashing the yolks with ingredients such as mayonnaise, mustard, paprika and other flavors, they are replaced inside the egg whites to become devilled eggs.  The devil bringing the kick from the paprika, mustard or chilli sauce.

I Googled to see what the current status of the stuffed and the devilled egg is in the recipe world. Up came the 38 stuffed egg recipes you MUST make. Nothing much out of the ordinary here, the classic, Romesco, smoked salmon, herb crumb and bacon and blue cheese versions all still looking very much like the essential ’70s American cocktail canape. A further Google presented information claiming that devilled eggs have been with us since the Roman Empire, becoming a popular party menu item in the ’40s. At this point, my Aunty Shirl’s back yard soirées under the Hills Hoist came flooding back and 1970 called to me, I desperately wanted my hors d’oeuvre back, but has the stuffing of eggs evolved or is it best left in the past?

(Eva Kolenko for Bon Appétit

Food mag heavyweight Bon Appétit claims that theirs (pictured above) is the greatest devilled eggs recipe ever. And, of course, the Americans do have a lot of experience with stuffing their eggs. In Appetites the late, great and so very-much missed Anthony Bourdain offered up versions of his caviar eggs, anchovy eggs, hot & spicy eggs and Mediterranean eggs saying a good devilled egg improves everything, particularly a party. “Because who doesn’t like devilled eggs?”

The NY Times delivers theirs 5 ways, my favourites are pickled with rice vinegar, light brown sugar, kosher salt, peppercorns and red onions, or pesto filled. Rachel Ray Magazine loves their devils Greek-style or loaded with beetroot. Jennifer Chase at the Washington Post says devilled eggs take to a Middle Eastern treatment so well these hummus-spiked eggs might become your new favorite way to enjoy them, while Epicurious offers an authentic Indian-flavoured devil, with the inclusion of mango chutney and garam masala. Aji Amarillo gives these Peruvian eggs a bit more than the average bite and the soy sauce in this Chinese variation is interesting. While we are on soy sauce, these beauties from David Chang’s Momofuku are not stuffed but I love them; they are great for keeping in the fridge to use in a multitude of ways and his kimchi bacon devilled eggs sound like definite winners.

Chef Yves Camdeborde is making sure the French still take the stuffing of their oeufs seriously with his whites marinated in soy sauce and pomegranate vinegar and a filling of crab meat with apple, avocado, and chives at his stand-up bar L'Avant Comptoir de la Mer in Paris and David Lebovitz writes of a devilled egg at Le Mary Celeste, Paris, filled with mayo, fresh ginger and topped with deep fried wild rice, saying it is the one dish he refuses to share. Unfortunately, there is no recipe for this dish, but I’m willing to experiment as it sounds delish.

The British, although not as devoted to the devil as the Americans, are still partial. Nigella Lawson says there are not many recipes that will get her squeezing a fancy-nozzled piping bag, except this classic using English mustard, tabasco & chives.
“As many as I make, I never have a single one left over.”

You can make all of the fancy canapes and snacks you like but there must be good reason for the fact that you never see a leftover stuffed egg? To finish up, this idea from the lovely White On Rice Couple with their devilled egg bar. I think I might take a little inspiration from all of the ideas above and make my own version for New Year’s Eve…

Deviled Eggs Recipe for Deviled Egg Bar Party! | @whiteonrice

( whiteonricecouple.com )

Interestingly, research commissioned by the British Egg Council has discovered that a person's favourite way of eating eggs can predict their personality type, their job and even their sex drive. Sadly they only considered, boiled, scrambled, fried, poached or omelette lovers. No stuffed. A grave error in my opinion.

Random Bites…

According to the latest Waitrose food report seafood is slowly catching up on the more traditional meats with ‘Seacuterie’ being the trend to try in 2020. I think our Cuisine Good Food Awards chef of the year Vaughan Mabee at Amisfield Bistro is leading the way here with his magnificent paua salami. Pickling, fermenting, smoking and/or ageing seafood has definitely become a new playground for chefs.

How far does your asparagus travel? Not so much of a problem for us when in season in NZ. But how as a consumer can we navigate the many ways our food purchases affect the world around us? A question tackled by National Geographic in this great article by Tamar Haspel. A terrific chart of carbon emissions for common fruits and vegetables shows that in the USA asparagus bears a significantly higher carbon footprint than other vegetables (six times higher than avocado).

And while we are on veges, at the edge of the French capital, an urban farm is being built that will supply residents with a tonne of food a day. Currently being renovated, the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles is set to become home to the world’s largest urban rooftop farm next year.

And I’ll leave you with this absolute gem unearthed by Sam Sifton at the NY Times. It was written by the great Washington Post critic Phyllis Richman in 2013, responding to a letter she received from Harvard in 1961, asking her a personal question about her application to graduate school. To give you a bit more context:  In 1961, Phyllis Richman applied to graduate school at Harvard. She received a letter asking how she would balance a career in city planning with her ‘responsibilities’ to her husband and possible future family.

Fifty-two years later, she responds.

Please do share these little morsels with people who love food and share your bites with me at any or all of these social servings.

Instagram @kellibrett @cuisinemagazine
Facebook @KelliBrettCuisine @cuisinemagazine
Twitter @kellibrett @cuisinemagazine
Linkedin @KelliBrett

Guilt-free with well-disposed muscles

Oops mussels...

Anna Chrichton for Cuisine.

Coming to terms with guilt…

I can’t stop thinking about an uncomfortable cab-ride situation in Queenstown last week. The driver was an affable bloke. Somehow we got onto petrol prices and I mentioned that my husband would like to get an electric car. It was here that the conversation took a turn. Similar to that moment at a dinner party when you realise that you are going to need to respectfully disagree with the person sitting next to you and that you may have to forfeit dessert. “That’s an interesting point you make, but…” My driver segued spectacularly smoothly from the absurdity of electric cars to the ridiculousness of climate change and the ‘fact’ that it is all scaremongering. He reported on scientific research that ‘proves’ that the weather crisis is cyclical and that in 2050 it will all reverse. He then wrapped it all up neatly by telling me it was just plain silly to worry about the polar caps melting because if you fill a glass with ice and then fill the rest of the glass to the rim with water, no matter how long the ice takes to melt, the water will never overflow the rim of the glass. In his mind, “It’s all just designed to make us panic,” and he is “mightily pissed off with it all.”

“Umm… I’m hearing that this is a topic you feel strongly about. How many more kilometres to Arrowtown?” 

A few nights later I watched and read with the rest of the world as politicians and business leaders announced new steps to fight climate change at the United Nations Climate Action Summit. Don’t know about you, but for me, a lot of questions still remain unanswered. As 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg and other children filed their complaint charging that their human rights had been violated by Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey, Greta’s “How dare you?” question became pretty hard to ignore and her interview with Daily Show host Trevor Noah gave us a glimpse of the pure exasperation she feels for the rest of us.

*If you are feeling outraged around about now, please scroll to the helpline in the video below.

The ABC has responded with this new service to help grown adults deal with their rage against the 16-year-old activist…

In December 2018, Cuisine decided to draw a line in the sand and take a stand on encouraging our readers to make informed decisions when choosing their seafood. The response gave me just a teeny tiny bit of perspective on how Greta Thunberg might be feeling. The arguments between those for and against the climate crisis continue to erupt on social media where the ‘perceived’ facts are endlessly thrown back and forth. Cynicism seems to be becoming generalised as everyone becomes a critic. Technology increasingly encourages us to believe that we can all have first-hand access to the ‘real’ facts, and it’s not only climate change that we are arguing about. As an editor, I find this piece on why we can’t agree on what the facts are anymore by The Guardian very interesting. “Let us be clear that an independent, professional media is what we need to defend at the present moment, and abandon the misleading and destructive idea that – thanks to a combination of ubiquitous data capture and personal passions – the truth can be grasped directly, without anyone needing to report it.”

Meanwhile, The Economist has released an unscientific survey identifying 12 climate capitalists that have put some serious money into climate-friendly investments. All doing the right thing by the planet and all expecting to see great returns on their investments. 

With regards to our beautiful planet, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and slip into the “I can’t do anything to change any of this” mentality, or even worse, that place of denial where my Queenstown cab-driver mate currently exists. I admit I find myself constantly feeling guilty because I don’t do enough. Guilty because I don’t always make the right decision. Yes, I do sometimes purchase products that are over-packaged. No, I haven’t yet tried to make a chocolate cake with used coffee grounds and yes, I shamefully bought zucchini two weeks ago because I really wanted to try a dish in a new recipe book and in my excitement I didn't think ‘seasonal’ first. I am breaking into a deep sweat as I type these words, but I try, dammit, I do try! If you too feel like this (when no-one is looking) this little undepressing newsletter about how to fight climate change Minimum Viable Planet (by Sarah Lazarovic) might be your godsend. I suggest reading “What’s guilt but a secondhand emotion”.

Speaking of second-hand emotion how good is 79 years old Tina looking?

Image by Charlie Gates for The New York Times

She has been retired for 10 years, and she is still basking in all of the nothing she has to do. “I don’t sing. I don’t dance. I don’t dress up.” Amanda Hess looks back with Tina at the strength of her voice and the power of her story in this terrific interview for The New York Times.    

The Guilt-Free Recipe…

To make up for buying those damn out of season zucchini, I’m sharing this recipe for our delicious chilli green-lipped mussels. It’s time we start eating more of these rich and meaty New Zealand beauties and the chilli and paprika make them absolutely sing. They can sit in your fridge for up to a week and will be perfect for those beach picnics or bach weekends that we are all desperately counting down to. A loaf of crusty bread and some fresh parsley and job’s done!

Recipe, photography & styling The Next Meal for Cuisine.

There’s also a great little recipe for potted smoked fish with citrus butter and some pickled paua which will all go well in that picnic basket.

Random Bites…

The first episode of My Restaurant Rules NZ aired last night on TVNZ. Auckland ex-restaurateur Judith Tabron teams up with Colin Fassnidge (My Kitchen Rules) to discover New Zealand’s best hidden gem. Did you watch it? I’m so curious to hear your thoughts…

Congrats to Tino Passano, head chef at Waiheke Island’s Tantalus Estate Vineyard, who has been named the Australasian Tapas Champion for 2019, earning a spot at the World Tapas competition in Spain later this year. I seriously needed the stretchy pants for the judging! You can check out the incredible array of tapa that was served here.

This exhibition is rather important.
Designers Speak (Up) made an open call in early 2019 to all designers, artists and educators from the Directory of Women* Designers to design a red poster using the medium to explore and address any social, cultural, or political issue of their choice. These very beautiful posters are now on display for the month of October (changing every week) on Custom Street, Auckland, giving visibility and voice to the unsung diversity of Aotearoa design. "We aim to establish a contemporary, historic and perpetual index of Aotearoa New Zealand designers who *identify as women, womxn, non-binary, of any gender experience*, living and deceased, of all diversities — social, sexual, cultural, ethnic — anywhere in the world.”

Poster Design Fiona Lascelles (Cuisine Art Director)

This video is rather beautiful. In an abandoned castle in the south of France, a dancer becomes lost in the colors of a giant painting…

Oh, and I thought you might like to know that a court in Frankfurt has defined hangovers as an illness. This information would have been very useful to me in the ’90s.

Please do share these little morsels with people who love food and share your bites with me at any or all of these social servings.

Instagram @kellibrett @cuisinemagazine
Facebook @KelliBrettCuisine @cuisinemagazine
Twitter @kellibrett @cuisinemagazine
Linkedin @KelliBrett

Sexy Chooks, Zesty Chefs & Kiwi Dip

For people who like to think about food...

As the editor of Cuisine I am constantly thinking about what we eat or drink and the people who grow, produce and cook it. And yes, the question of where a passion becomes an obsession is regularly asked by the husband on the rare occasions when I can spend an evening at home on our couch, watching food documentaries while I scour social media for inspirational food stories. A lot of information comes my way and not all of it makes it onto our beautiful pages. I’ve curated a few bits here that have caught my eye over the past weeks that I would have loved to have had delivered to me in one easy list, just like this...

Illustration by Anna Crichton for Cuisine


As we become more and more aware of the dangers of a rapidly warming planet, food companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are grabbing headlines while forging deals with fast-food giants for their plant-based meat imitations. Environmental researchers are sceptical saying plant diets are healthier and less carbon-emitting than producing processed plant-based products.

This announcement by KFC was interesting. The chicken chain wants us to know that they have been working behind the scenes to meet what they call a “staggering plant-based protein demand”, to become the first quick-service restaurant (note the deliberate move away from the term fast-food) to jump into the plant-based space on the chicken side. It’s interesting because they have prioritised putting Kentucky Fried textured vegetable protein on their menu but have not shown any sign of offering a premium, free-range chicken option. One would hazard a guess that decision has been determined by cost, however, the demand for premium meat that has been ethically produced is on the increase as meat eaters start to make more informed decisions on the meat they consume.

I waded in to find out the state of play for chooks in New Zealand while musician/food writer and self-proclaimed burger nerd Samuel Scott was asking if real meat is in danger of becoming old school. A suggestion that New Zealand hospitals should lead the way by cutting out meat had an outraged Rod Slater, CEO of Beef + Lamb New Zealand Inc, insisting that red meat, eaten in moderation still has a role in a healthy lifestyle. And to top it all off the British Medical Journal is suggesting that people who eat vegan and vegetarian diets have a lower risk of heart disease but a higher risk of stroke. Sigh…

The message for everyone is it makes sense to have a well-planned diet and to eat a wide variety of foods. If you’d like a brilliant read that challenges both vegans and carnivores in the battle for a new ethics in eating, you must read Matthew Evans new book On Eating Meat. I am still devouring his confrontational and yet compelling look at our food choices. I don’t think I’ll ever stop eating meat, but the time has come to stop eating it thoughtlessly. 


Photo Aaron McLean, Food Styling Fiona Smith, Styling Fiona Lascelles for Cuisine.

Now to that sexy roast chook recipe that you absolutely need to have in your repertoire. Our latest issue of Cuisine is all about vibrant Asian flavour and this FIVE-SPICE CHICKEN WITH SICHUAN AROMATICS with its side serving of SPRING CUCUMBER & ASPARAGUS SALAD by Fiona Smith is a keeper. As for drinks inspiration, on a recent trip to Singapore at Spago in the Marina Bay Sands I discovered the signature Wolfgang Puck cocktail ‘Rough Love’ and I am still trying to squeeze the authentic recipe for this gorgeous concoction out of executive chef Greg Bess so that I can share it with you. Meanwhile, in anticipation, I am gathering the ingredients that I know are definitely in the mix and along with Champagne, gin and peach bitters, Japanese plum wine (umeshu) is one of them. Brilliant booze writer Tash McGill gives you the lowdown on plum wine and more Asian inspiration if you’d like to stretch beyond your usual cheap beer on the beach in Bali or taking a guess at the sake menu of your local Japanese joint.


News that rockstar and all-round bad-boy chef Marco Pierre White is heading to  Auckland at the end of October had me fangirling and thinking we might try to produce a little one-on-one in the same vein as this one where I took Heston Blumenthal to lunch at The Sugar Club.

I’m actually a little relieved now that I didn’t pursue this train of thought. Old Marco has not been swinging his sizeable influencer powers in the smartest way in recent weeks, re-igniting a feud with Jamie Oliver and blasting Oliver over his failing empire. Jamie previously called Marco a “Mafia-don-type character” after he was described as “A fat chef with a drum kit” by Marco. Of course, this could all just be part of a click-bait grabbing media scheme but Marco’s recent comments about women being too emotional and unable to handle the heat in a commercial kitchen have left me cold. The Guardian succinctly describes him as a rambling dinosaur and I’m afraid I don't get quite the same school-girl crush buzz when I look at him anymore. I’d much rather listen to chef Dominique Crenn talk about her earliest food memories, the first time she kicked a guy’s ass and why her three Michelin stars matter.

Speaking of Michelin-starred restaurants, have you heard that we have five internationally acclaimed chefs heading to Auckland from 30 September to 5 October for an amazing array of fine dining events at SO/ Auckland? I-CAN’T-WAIT. How often do you get six chefs under one roof who have worked in restaurants that have earned Michelin stars during their tenure? In Auckland! 


The nostalgia factor and the role that food memories play within our evolving food culture are ever-present when I’m creating and curating content. I find the history of food and the way that we can tell our story through cooking fascinating. The Spinoff writer Hayden Donell takes us on a journey to find the person who invented Kiwi Onion Dip. It’s a ripper. 


Before I go, this tenacious little tomato plant caught my eye and the ensuing speculation on how it came to be. 

And for something totally non-food related (apart from the disturbing references to chocolate and vanilla ice cream) who can resist an article titled  “A High-End Dry Cleaner Spills Everything About His Filthy Rich Clients” 

Tune in to our podcast Cuisine Bites for more food for thought.

Oh, and make these crispy fish wings. The butter-chilli sauce is a revelation.
You’re welcome!

Recipe Chef Darren Lovell, Photograph Sam Stewart for Cuisine.

I’ll wait now to see whether you’d like to receive more musings from inside Cuisine HQ.
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For people who love food...

Hello and welcome to Editor’s Bites with Kelli Brett. As the editor of Cuisine (New Zealand’s premium food and lifestyle magazine) I receive a lot of great information about the world of food and drink. I’m going to personally curate some of the interesting bits for you here.

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