Mini Auckland break

The whole reason I initially booked flights back to NZ was to attend the Justin Timberlake concert with my brothers. I was lucky enough to extend my trip and fly home to the rest of my family as well as spend some time with friends along the way!

I spent the first time with Alescha, Laura & Mark and my God daughter, Cadence which was great as I don’t get to see them enough! I even went to Cadey’s swimming lesson where I was more than happy to stay and watch after seeing her gorgeous instructor. He was so sweet with the kids and his Tshirt was clinging in all the right places.

My brothers flew in and I’d tricked them saying that I’d booked a fancy hotel when I’d really booked the Skycity casino. They didn’t even believe me when I checked in and told them we had been upgraded!

Funniest part of the trip, hands down was Daniel attempting to eat chicken feet and gagging in the restaurant. Even the staff were having a giggle!

We had an amazing dessert at a Japanese restaurant and some umeshu wine to try shake off the horrible feeling Dan had from the chicken legs!

The next day we checked out Auckland Art gallery and their light exhibition. Was cool to see that they had some social interactions too. Worth a look if you’re in Auckland!

That night we stayed at the Pullman and walked to Vector Arena for JT. The DJ did a good job to hype the crowd up and everyone was amped. Of course, being NZ, I walked straight into a mate from home!

JT put on an awesome show. Dan, Luke and I danced and sang the whole time. He is an incredible performer and had amazing graphics and stage productions to go with it!

After the show the boys and I chilled back at the hotel and quickly realised the whole crew from the concert plus JT were staying at the same hotel! We spent ages watching crowds of them disappearing into the elevators with glasses and bottles of wine. Wish I got an invite!

Dan had a chat with one of the guys in the crew, he was saying they ha the next day off – hence the partying!

We flew back to welly the next day, some awesome memories made!

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What a week!

I arrived in Brisbane on Sunday and started work on Monday. It’s been an absolute whirlwind but I like life like that.

After watching the rugby in Wellington until 1am Sunday morning, having to be up 3 hours later for check in, a late taxi that had me worried I’d miss my flight, then upon arrival at the airport finding out the check in system was down and they were checking us in manually which would take 3-4times as long as usual, I was so damn happy to be in my tiny seat on the plane so I could get some rest!

When I arrived my best mate Benny told me to grab the train and meet him in the city for brunch. We hadn’t seen each other for 18 months and I couldn’t have been more excited. I was heading up to the train station talking to Ben on the phone arranging where to meet when I realised he was actually behind me on the escalator! I actually screamed, not often someone can get that reaction out of me!

Sunday was crazy, we had brunch in Hamilton, chocolate in Bulimba then my friends left the wrong key out for me so I couldn’t get in with my luggage. Luckily Ben could take me along for a lovely lunch with his Aunt & Uncle before dropping me off to see Lisa. Lisa and I visited Daran then she dropped me at the Eat Street night markets where I finally met Celia and Gemma and they took me back home so I could unpack. I was exhausted but looking forward to starting my new job the next day.

This week has been crazy.

First off, I hate public transport. The buses don’t come, I can never work out where I am or where I’m going and there’s no app! Get on it Translink. So I’ve had a few near misses this week, luckily I’ve been saved each time. I cannot wait to get a car!!

Secondly, my clothes didn’t arrive from Melbourne last week. What the?! Cue a rush around in NZ to buy a weeks worth of clothes and shoes as I was travelling with a carry on!
I was not a happy chappy with that company but they got it sorted and they arrived on Tues evening.

I am loving my new role. The Team is great and everyone is so happy to be there. I have a big office and the building itself is fantastic.

I managed to fit in dinner with Ara but otherwise I have been getting home after a 90 minute commute and crashing as I’m exhausted after a massive week. Next week will be different however, I am seeing people every night – wish me luck with the public transport!

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What’s happening?!

Sooo a few thing have happened of late, hence my absence.

Firstly, I got a new job! Yay me! After looking for months it’s easily the one I wanted the most and I think suits me the most. Super excited to start on Monday.

Secondly, new job is in Brisbane – so I’m moving! Four days notice to move interstate is not easy. My luggage was supposed to be picked up on Monday and seeing as tomorrow is Thursday, I’m not holding my breath for a swift arrival.

Thirdly, yes four days! Seeing as I had a trip booked to go to the Justin Timberlake concert with my brothers in Auckland I decided to extend my trip and see my family in NZ before I start working full time again and have limited leave available.

Fourth, I’m in NZ. You may have gathered that from above but I’m at home and making the most of being with my family instead of telling you lot about my life. This leads me to why I’m blogging at nearly 1am in bed..

Further explanations to come soon :)

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Weekend combo update

I’m wayyyy behind on my weekend updates. And by wayyyy behind, I mean the last two. So you’re getting a combo. That’s right, two weekends, one blog post! Boom!

So the weekend before last began with dinner at Matteo’s in Fitzroy. Awesome place, I highly recommend going there. Not only was dinner fantastic but Matteo himself joined us for a quick drink after our fantastic meal. Next thing you know it’s 2am! We had some others join us and Matteo shut the restaurant while we all kicked back and enjoyed the company. We had a fantastic time! Afterwards we headed to St Kilda for a boogie then home to bed. Late. Or early.

Saturday was the AFL grand final. My first grand final in Australia! I’ve always been out of the country, it was great to enjoy the festivities in Melbourne. I met the girls at Holliva in Richmond where we drank a few jugs of punch and smashed some pork (on a spit!!) burgers. We cabbed to South bank and watched the flocks of fans past by from a restaurant patio. An early evening was had after the big night before!

Sunday, Fred & Sammy picked me up for brunch but it was so late (2pm) we had to have the lunch menu at Phamish in St Kilda. Lunch was long and we wandered down to Riva to watch the sunset and have some cocktails and snacks. That turned into dinner at the Pier Port Melbourne. There goes Sunday! But what a great way to spend it.

Last weekend was much quieter. Lisa and I chilled Friday night and met Cheena for a cabaret in Port Melbourne. It was part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival and involved a variety of acts. My fave was the silks performer. The girl was stunning and I was in awe of her aerial skills. We hit the beach… Well, the pier in Port Melbourne and just lay down to watch the clouds and pass time after lunch.

Saturday night we headed out in Fitzroy but it wasn’t really for us. I did however find an amazing cocktail at the Alchemist. It literally came with a shot of crackle lollies!! The ones that pop in your mouth. The alchemist wins cocktails.

Sunday was brunch at Einsteins Relative in South Yarra where I’ve also been meaning to go for ages. Fantastic brunch menu and almond milk – whoop! We explored Fitzroy markets and shops afterwards then crashed at home, exhausted from another weekend

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Hunky Dory, Port Melbourne

Couldn’t decide what to have for dinner tonight until I had a look on Urban Spoon and found the Hunky Dory menu.

The Caribbean caught my eye immediately. Mango & fish, yes please!

We didn’t get there until 9pm and I was starving! I actually couldn’t think properly I was so hungry.

First up, great tunes. I danced the entire time I was there. Secondly it was packed the whole time, always a good sign. Thirdly, lovely staff – and we hadn’t even ordered yet!

The guy at the counter read my mind when he suggested a glass of wine. A beautiful pinot noir, It was all I could do not to drink it all before my meal arrived.

When my meal did arrive I couldn’t believe how big it was! Two massive fillets of grilled fish topped with a mango salsa, huge serving of spinach salad and chips!

The fish was absolutely cooked to perfection. It melted in my mouth. I was full but I still kept eating. Perfect.

Chips were good, not fantastic and salad was basic but a great with the fish.

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Hunky Dory Fish and Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Pier Port Melbourne

After a great day roaming St Kilda, Fred, Sam and I finally made it to The Pier in Port Melbourne. We’ve been meaning to make it there for months now!

I ordered an amazing cocktail, a strawberry & chilli caipirinha. I can’t describe to you what it tastes like.. Lolly like but not sickening sweet. Cachaca, strawberries, chilli, sugar & lime. Very unusual and definitely worth a go!

Entrees were oysters (yes I adore them, leave me alone) and a cucumber and tomato salad.

The owner, who is a lovely man, suggested we order the calamari salad and the meatball pasta. He should know, right?! So of course we ordered them both to share.

For the main I had the char grilled aged eye fillet, Sammy had the pan fried barramundi and Fred admitted food overload (our third meal out that day) and stuck to the sides!

I think I ate half the the meatball pasta on my own. It was not what I expected, it was a thousand times better. Beef meatballs with orecchiette, kale & pinenuts. Give it a whirl!

My steak was perfectly rare and the owner sent over a bottle of Pinot noir (Rabbit Ranch) that washed it all down just nicely. We had a lovely and attentive server too.

These pictures aren’t great, but their website is! Check is out HERE.

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The Pier Hotel on Urbanspoon

Phamish, St Kilda

It all started with brunch. Somehow it ended up as lunch.

We missed the brunch menu as they had sold out of everything. Nothing left. It was 2pm but I’ll definitely have to try it. It’s either a sign that it’s awesome or poor inventory management. Let’s hope it’s the former.

Bloody Mary and champagne all round to begin.

I was left to do the ordering for the table. I love it when people let me pick!

I chose:

  • Natural oysters with shallot and red wine vinergarette
  • House made dips and sesame bread
  • Cheese board for two with the blue & Camembert
  • Porcini and pecorino arancini with truffle oil
  • Grilled haloumi with lemon
  • Middle eastern lamb cigars with yoghurt tahini
  • Pan fried prawn salad with eggplant and pearl cous cous

The food was delightful however I can’t say the waiters were very attentive.

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Phamish on Urbanspoon

Baby Pizza, Richmond

Monday night and it’s packed. Got to be good right?

Operates the same as Chin Chin in that it takes no bookings. This is probably because it is from the masterminds of Chin Chin itself!

We started with a beautiful bottle of chianti while we waited half an hour for a table at the bustling bar.

Stage night started perfectly with a beautiful cured meat platter with the softest buffalo mozzarella cheese and warm baked focaccia.

We let Fred choose the pizza since he’s Italian and should, in theory, know better than us! He chose the Melanzane pizza which is topped with fior de latte, San marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced eggplant and a little chilli. Bellissimo!

I chose the beef carpaccio salad to piece the meal together. It was beautiful.

To finish we ordered the salted caramel pizza. It took forever to come out, I actually had to remind the server and I do think they had forgot. I wasn’t impressed when we finally got it. I don’t think it rang true to salted caramel. It was just like a gluey caramel topping.

Other than the dessert the meal itself was lovely. I’ll be back as I can’t wait to try the duck ragu – it smells freaking amazing. I had food envy over my neighbour.

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Baby Cafe & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

The Art of Eating – La Cucina Di Sandra

I had the absolute pleasure of joining a northern Italian cooking class with La Cucina Di Sandra in Richmond, Melbourne recently. As you all know, I love Italian and I love to cook and learn, so you can imagine my excitement building up to the evening! Sandra casually takes you through an entire meal in her kitchen, teaching you about products, techniques, recipes and serving. Her witty quips and vast knowledge makes for a fantastic evening.

As you walk into Sandra’s house you feel immediately inspired. It’s bright, it’s beautiful and there’s a great vibe. Italian music floods your ears as you are introduced to the others (three lovely ladies in my case) and seated at the kitchen bench where your notes are waiting and you are poured a glass of beautiful wine and offered some delightful, freshly baked polenta cookies.

Then it’s go time! Sandra wants to demonstrate that Italian cooking isn’t just pizza and pasta. It’s much, much broader than that. So with that in mind the entrée we learnt was was tortellini nudi, or tortellini meatballs. It was very different to anything I had ever tried. A different texture too and when combined with the chopped pistachios and baked pasta sticks it made for a really different sensation in your mouth. I would never have thought to put all those different ingredients together!

Sandra has pre-prepared a lot of the meal. Everything is measured and ready and waiting for her. This saves lots of time so you can focus on the exciting parts and chat more about Italy; the food, the culture, the music. She then put’s everything together while you watch, explaining the process and you have prime position to watch her cooking on the element. She has so many hints and tricks, I know I said it earlier but her knowledge on Italy, cooking and ingredients is amazing. Would you believe she has over 500 cookbooks sitting around her apartment?! 500! She uses an online directory to help her find specific recipes. Blew my mind.

The next entree is gamberi alla fonduta di gorgonzola, or prawns in gorgonzola fondue. Now, I’m not sure if I have told you about how I feel about gorgonzola but my goodness, it has to be one of my favourite cheeses. Again, this is a dish that wouldn’t have ever crossed my mind but I would happily serve at a dinner party!

Sandra was born in the centre of Italy, about 1.5hours from Rome, and has been in Australia 40-ish years. These classes have been her dream for about twenty years. Her passion shines through.

We consume the entrées at the bench while Sandra starts on the main. Maiale in crosta di pancetta, or pork fillet rolled in pancetta. She dices up vegetables and fries a pork strap in some cream before taking it out, wrapping it in pancetta and finishing it in the oven while the asiago cheese sauce is bubbling away on the bench. All this with such an air of enjoyment and relaxation. You can tell it is her true passion.

Sandra started the classes at the end of June and soon needed to add more on to keep up with demand. She now runs two classes per week and sometimes an extra for bespoke events. Keep an eye out for her finger food classes which will be on their way soon!

We are shown how to serve the dish and ushered to the table to enjoy the meal together. Sandra’s husband has arrived home and adds to the great mix of people we have in the group. I think he must time it perfectly to get in for the main meal – smart man!  The pork is tender, the prosciutto crisp and the vegetable flan finishes it all off. The sauce is to die for. Asiago cheese base and generously poured. I’m practically drooling at the memory.

Back to the kitchen bench, Sandra demonstrates how to throw together quick tiramisu. She chooses her recipes keeping in mind a number of factors and having the time to be with your guests during a dinner party is one of them. Even though I was full I still managed to eat most of it! The mascarpone mix with the quality choc and cocoa was unreal. Unlike many tiramisu’s the coffee flavour (I don’t like coffee) wasn’t too empowering.

We sat around chatting for quite some time after dinner about not only the food but our backgrounds and passions.

All in all it was a phenomenal evening and I would definitely suggest it to anyone in or visiting Melbourne.

I will leave you with a few of the tidbits I learnt from Sandra during the evening. I won’t tell you them all though because you need to go find out for yourself!

  • Mediterranean Wholesalers on Sydney Street in Melbourne have pretty much anything you could want to cook with at a great price and best quality
  • Dolce means sweet, picante means savoury in Italian
  • Mortadella is called bologna in Italy
  • Prosciutto comes from the leg of the Pig
  • Cucina means cuisine or kitchen in Italian

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Guest bloggin’

I must say I’m a little excited to have done my first guest blog!

I went to Twitter (naturally) to find activities for a rainy day to take my visiting friend to around Melbourne. Really Melbourne jumped to the task and rounded up a bunch of responses for me from their followers as well as providing some themselves. They then asked me to share my experience of the weekend with a guest blog on their site. Thanks, Team! :)

You can find it HERE.

Really Melbourne