Thoughts: A Weekend in New Plymouth *updated*

Katherine needed to be in New Plymouth for work today so we decided to make a long weekend of it and see what this place has to offer.

I have roots here. My grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins lived here so I remember as a child being bundled into the Holden Kingswood and coming up from Palmerston North to do the visitations. EVERY holiday (it seemed). The weird thing for me is that I have strong memories of certain places – Pukekura Park, the miniature railway enthusiasts club on Gilbert St, the building where Bennetts (?) Bookshop once inhabited (and I was unjustly accused of shoplifting by an undercover store detective – oh the outrage of a 7 year old boy) and yet I have little or no memory of the waterfront.

I wonder if my parents were just doing the family thing and the idea of taking us kids out and exploring was a bit much? Who knows. I might ask them next time I see them…

Ah the reminiscing.

OK. What was I talking about? That’s right: exploring New Plymouth.

First recommendation. Don’t get a hire car. Catch a taxi into town and then get amongst it all on foot. We would have missed so much if we drove everywhere and we would have developed a much different perspective.

We walked along the Coastal Walkway. We hired bikes and rode along the Coastal Walkway. We found pop-up markets, and farmers markets, and were able to get a good feel for this place. People were/are friendly. You couldn’t walk past someone without a smile or a ‘good morning’. People were chatty.

img_1177img_1183 img_1184 img_1185

We walked from the CBD to Paritutu Rock. We climbed Paritutu Rock. I was determined to do this as I don’t recall having every done it in my youth.

img_1313 img_1314

We were taken by the Len Lye centre at the Govett Brewster gallery. I loved the kinetic sculpture on display as well as the other exhibits. Definitely a must-see.

img_1173 img_1175

We managed to see the last evening of the annual Festival of Lights at Pukekura Park. It was cool seeing what they create and nice to see the locals getting out and about.

img_1210

One thing that struck me is that there is a pride here. And a definite style. Many shops had fantastic interior fitouts and the eateries looked great and served up equally great food. We didn’t have one bad experience.

A quick review:

Joe’s Garage – as you’d expect. US diner fare in a cool setting. Good coffee.

The Black Harp – Irish pub. Good food, drink, music and sports on the big screen.

img_1200

Peggy Gordons – Irish bar. Same deal. Good food, drink, music and sports on the big screen. This one definitely is one for the locals.

Frederics – Bar. Good food, big craft beer selection. More than one type of gin. Nice vibe.

Kathakali – Southern Indian fare. Great vibe. Authentic flavours. I was really impressed by this restaurant.

Monica’s Eatery – we went here for breakfast on two days. Loved the ambience and the food was good. Excellent coffee too.

Manou’s CafĂ© – If we had not been walking we would not have found this place. It’s awesome. Rustic. Nautical. Views of the boat ramp and is right on the water. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in town. It’s right next to a hire company where you can obtain SUPs and Kayaks and go explore.

img_1321

Prohibition – I loved this burger joint. Everything about the decor and the food was terrific. It would certainly give the best of Auckland burger makers a run for their money.

img_1201 img_1203

And my favourite? Social Kitchen. This was utterly fantastic. It’s meat. It’s social dining and shared plates. It’s flavours. It’s ambience. It’s great music playing. We had their spiced goat (I’ve not eaten goat before) and it was sublime. I like my food and this restaurant ticked all my boxes. It could even be making a run for my ‘favourite ever place to eat’ trophy. It’s that good.

img_1331 img_1332

We realised early on that New Plymouth eateries are popular, probably because they’re excellent. You need to book. Otherwise you won’t get in to the places you’ve been recommended.

We stayed at the State Hotel. It was really nice. The decor was eclectic and the weird thing was you never really saw anybody unless you happened across the cleaning staff. Its central location was perfect for us. Definitely recommended.

img_1181

I have really enjoyed my time in New Plymouth. That’s now two of my childhood towns visited in recent weeks, and quite frankly New Plymouth makes Palmerston North look even worse. I’m now not sure why my parents left here and didn’t return.

New Plymouth has so much to offer, and it was nice seeing that even the youth here are excited about their town.

I haven’t mentioned the housing prices – they’re really good – so if you’re considering getting the hell out of Auckland you could do a lot worse.

Not bad, New Plymouth. Not bad at all.

UPDATE:

All flights out of NPL were cancelled yesterday so we had to stay another night. (terrible, I know!!).

The State Hotel was fully booked so we went to the King and Queen Hotel Suites. This place is magical. From the second we arrived we were transported to relaxation. I am so impressed with its decor, vibe and staffing. All top-grade.

I have no hesitation in recommending this as a quality place to stay.

The hospitality group behind much of the redevelopment and establishment of hotels, bars and restaurants in the West End of New Plymouth need to be acknowledged and applauded. Their investment in this town is invaluable.

 

 

 

Thoughts: Cooking

  

Sometimes you find a cookbook that inspires. I have to say, I’m a little addicted to printed cookbooks despite having accounts with Jamie Oliver and with Big Oven (both digital platforms are highly recommended) there is something special about leafing through pages of recipes and food photos.

One of my recent obsessions has been to dive into Chinese cuisine. This stems from a life-changing journey four years ago where I visited China on a 12 day tour. 

I have learned to experience destinations through their culture and food. In China I loved walking down the alleys watching locals cook street food, as well as visiting their fine-dining restaurants. 

Anyway, this book is awesome. I obtained it because I’d started to obsess about how to make dumplings. It adds so much more.

Tonight’s effort is Taiwanese Beef Rice. The liquid is basically a stock of ginger, garlic, onion, carrot, soy, oyster sauce, rice wine, caster sugar, vinegar, star anise, five spice and beef stock. 
  
If you guys could smell this… Wow!! 

Thoughts: The Joy of Food and Wine

Yes. I really like food and wine. And food and wine people.

I posted about The New Zealand School of Food and Wine a week or so back and about their Wine and Food celebration. On Sunday I went along.

And it was AWESOME!!

IMG_1759When you walk into a room and this is your view, you know it’s going to be great!

So many vineyards were represented, all talking their wine and being generous with their tasting.

There were some standouts for me:

Black Estate – Riesling 2014

Dog Point – Vineyard Section 94 Sauvingnon Blanc 2013

Elephant Hill – Le Phant Blanc 2014

Kumeu River – Pinot Gris

Mt Difficulty – Bannockburn Rose 2014

Osawa Wines – Prestige Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Prestige Chardonnay 2013 and their Sticky was delicious.

Trinity Hill – GG Chardonnay 2013

Villa Maria – Keltern Chardonnay 2013, the Attorney Organic Pinot Noir 2013 and the Braided Gravels Organic Merlot 2013 were all outstanding.

And of course my current favorite vineyard, Misha’s. Their High Note Pinot Noir 2013, Starlet Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and the Limelight Riesling 2013 was simply superb. I’m glad I’ve finally managed to try the Riesling.

IMG_1758

I love talking to the winemakers and getting a sense of their passion and craft. One thing I’ve noticed is that Chardonnay is definitely making a strong comeback and some of those I tasted were stunningly good.

Exciting times ahead for wine!

But this event wasn’t just about wine. It was about the wonderful world of food.

I enjoyed sitting in on a 1hr seminar, where chef Philippe Meyer talked about fermentation of food. How to make sauerkraut or kimchi. How to make ginger beer. It was great getting an insight into curing meats. This is something I’ve thought about and have never been brave enough to try. Perhaps now I will.

There was also an artisan food producers showcase.

Some of the exhibitors include:

IMG_1753

Curious Croppers – I’ve never seen tomatoes like this. And they tasted amazing.

IMG_1752

Love Cake – If you suffer from allergies but have a thing for cake then these are the products for you. The baked result doesn’t have a cardboard texture. They taste great! Definitely check out their website for more detailed information.

IMG_1751I’m not usually a fan of oatcakes or crackers etc. but these by Bonnie taste amazing. A little bit of brie on a cake with your coffee and your executive breakfast is done!

IMG_1749Waiwera Spirits were showing off their rums, vodka and gin. I love the idea that they’re developing these products as standalone ‘sippers’. You don’t need mixers with them. Savour them as you would a fine whiskey or tequila. Delicious.

IMG_1750Now these sauces are seriously good. I’d not come across Culley’s before. I do like trying hot sauce and I have friends that are collectors so I paid a little bit of attention. The heat, the flavours, the aftertaste – all were divine. I’ll be purchasing some of these in the near future.

IMG_1748

This brand of Danish crackerbread, Line’s Knaekbrod is also a new discovery for me. It was brilliant talking to the makers. Line was a winner in the 2015 Cuisine Artisan awards and you can see why. Having tried these, I’ve already purchased more from Farro Fresh. It’s so good.

Other discoveries:

IMG_1757IMG_1755IMG_1754

This event really was a fun way to spend a Sunday late-afternoon.

I’ve been giving it some thought. I am loving what this school is creating here, not only with the courses they’re providing, but especially the way they’re supporting local producers of incredibly high-quality food and wine. We are lucky to have them I think.

^sd

 

 

Thoughts: Father’s Day 2015

And another Father’s Day is done and dusted.

I’m always a bit leery of this annual day of recognition. The build-up usually annoys me – I hate the gratuitous advertising ahead of the day as I think it detracts somewhat from the importance of the Day itself.

I use this day as a day of reflection and consideration. It’s been over six years now since my marriage ended, and I have been focussed that the decisions of my past don’t impact on the relationship I have with my kids.

And you know what? I think I’m doing OK.

My kids actually want to spend time with me. It’s not grudginly enforced. They want to create cards for me. They love joking with me.

Today’s efforts included cards: “Happy Farters Day”… or referencing Destiny – mu current gaming obsession. They gave me Star Wars diescast models. Awesome!


I picked them up and we went hunting for food. I like avoiding the regular places such as McDonalds or mall foodcourts, and I also like supporting locals. We parked at Ponsonby Central, and ended up at the Street Food Collective in Lot 3 (off Ponsonby Road, behind the Golden Dawn. Miss Moonshines is there as well). Many food options and the kids decided on tacos from The Lucky Taco.

Of course, I made them order, pay, and collect. The tacos were great (I do recommend them if it helps). Then I got the kids to order our hot drinks. I have realised that they’re a little under-experienced with regards to commercial transacting! And yes, I’m always up for teching them stuff.

Further fun was had down at Wynyard Quarter – great icecream and lots of things to do.


All up a great day. Summed up by something Master 12 wrote in his card to me: “You must be doing something right”. I think I am.

AidanFD2015 CaitlinFD2015