Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yum Yum Yum Cha

They have a great thing here that isn't unique to New Zealand, but apparently I was unaware of it's pure genius in the States.  It's called Yum Cha and it could possibly be the best hangover food ever - aside from Ann Sather's diner on Broadway of course.  The idea is very similar to tapas only at lunch/brunch in a Chinese restaraunt.  In the US this is called dim sum which actually only refers to the dishes versus the style of eating with tea (at brunch, lunch or afternoon tea).

For those that have not tried dim sum or yum cha, this is how it works:  The wide range of food is prepared in the kitchen with 4-8 servings of a single dish on each plate, for example: BBQ pork dumplings or egg rolls, etc.  The dishes are then brought out and circulated through the restaurant by the wait staff.  As they come around they ask if it's something you would like.  When you request one of the plates, they check it off on the price sheet at your table, then set it in the center to be enjoyed (for larger parties there is a lazy susan to get the food all the way around with very little effort - perfect).  I was there with a large group which meant I was able to try a lot of different dishes: steamed dumplings, fried shrimp, pork, egg rolls, rice, chicken.  It was all delicious!

Now, many of you may be thinking that I must have been in the dark to have missed out on this fine treat.  Well, I hate to admit but I would have to agree.  However, in my defense when you have Ann Sather's cinnamon rolls to look forward to, it's just not something that seems necessary to try.  So to all of my friends and family that have yet to try yum cha...that should change.  (Please note: I suggest avoiding the plate of chicken's feet.)

Things to be Thankful for:
Since I'm on the topic of food, I should say that I was finally able to try my first mince meat pie and I was definitely not disappointed by the savoury bite sized pie.  Despite my reservations, it was delicious.  And for the record, so was the chicken, cranberry, gouda pie that accompanied it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Two Paths Diverged; Then Reunited

Over three months ago I got on a plane leaving Los Angeles on its way to Auckland.  After the flight took off I clammered up to find a new seat in a row with less people.  I came across a set of three seats with the window open and middle ones open.  Little did I know at the time, I had just chosen to sit next to the first of many great friends I would make on my journey. 

Alison came to New Zealand by herself with the plan to experience the country by working her way around.  Like me, she's a 30-year-old just trying to figure out what direction she wants to go with her life.  Two people, the same age, with similar backgrounds, and a lot in common - but with very different paths for our time in New Zealand. 

Over the next three months we exchanged emails occasionally and even tried to meet up a few times - to no avail.  Alison was sending back stories of the great people she met (hot American boys, goofy Israelis, a crazy German kid that clearly became a bit too attached) and the pictures of the places she was visiting.  She was living in people's homes while she worked on farms, staying in hostels, meeting other backpackers and changing plans on a whim to try something new. 

Back in Auckland, I was travelling some on a few of the weekends but mostly on day trips around Auckland, finding a job, buying a car, moving into a posh flat in the city and making wonderful new friends.  I was spending time with Kiwis and a few Internationals, while Alison found it hard to meet many people that weren't Internationals.
This past weekend our paths came full circle again as she came back through Auckland on her way home.  She came in on Friday night and I was very happy to have her stay with me and my awesome flatties until her flight left on Tuesday night.  Our three months apart found us slightly changed: a bit more comfortable in our surroundings, overflowing with stories, and stuffed with great Kiwi food and drink (but that didn't stop us from continuing that trend while she remained in the country).

I did my best to make sure she hadn't missed a thing on her trip, there was some ground to cover:  I took her to the best ice cream place (Movenpeck), ate the best pizza (Hell Pizza), bought scorched almonds and pineapple lumps (candy that everyone should have while they are here),  took her to a friend's house to hang out with some Kiwis and watch Rugby, woke her up at 6am to head to a bar for the US v England game, and laid around watching flicks all day while chatting with friends.  We even made time to visit Waiheke Island (just off the coast of Auckland) for some lunch and wine tasting.

It's funny to think about the choices we make and where we end up because of them.  We both have had a wonderful time in the country, but it's hard not to think about what would have happened if I had chosen the same route that she did.  The stories would definitely be more foreign, but would they make my experience any better or worse?

Things to be Thankful for:
- Meeting great people in the strangest places (like on a plane)
- Great friends who equally like meeting new people
- Gracious Kiwi hosts who help make sure visitors see the best of New Zealand

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sorry Chicago, I'm Going to Hell

Deep dish Chicago-style pizza: "a buttery crust up to three inches tall at the edge, slightly higher than the large amounts of cheese and chunky tomato sauce, acting as a large bowl"... of goodness.  Lou Malnatti's, Giordano's, Pizzeria Uno...it's all part of what makes the city great.  But I'm sorry Chicago, I have found a new love:  Hell Pizza.

Mayhem, Mischief, Pandemonium, Pride, and other sinfully good pizzas are on the menu.  My latest favorite is the Grimm:  Chicken, cream cheese, pine nuts, cheese, spring onions, apricot sauce and rosemary.  Mmmmm.  Matched with phenomenal chicken wings and surprisingly good BBQ sauce (and this is truly a compliment considering I'm picky about my BBQ), I'm slowly converting to a life of sin. 

Fortunately for Chicago they still have the market on hot dogs.  Even the "American" dogs here can't come close to a nice plump Chicago hot dog with all the toppings.

Things to be thankful for:
- A new addiction to the gym that helps me afford an occasional pizza indulgence