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August 22nd, 2016

08:08 pm: Cooking diary
Tuesday: Soy simmered pork, shiitake, bokchoy, rice.
Cooking diary
The prep:
Cooking diary
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August 21st, 2016

03:29 pm: Congratulations to the 2016 Hugo Award winners!
Results here.

The nominating & voting statistics here and this year it's more interesting reading than normal. I've typically viewed the longlists (works that didn't quite make the final ballot) as a good place to find up & coming creators, and works worth checking out. This year is no different.

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August 17th, 2016

07:29 am: "Now that's a proper introduction."
"Arrival" full trailer.

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August 15th, 2016

08:42 pm: "Kaleidoscope World" from The Chills reissued.
The classic Kiwi alternative album is being re-issued. The music of The Chills taught me that New Zealand was a different country to the one I grew up in. (We didn't have this sort of music in Malaysia)

Classic (to me) tracks like...

Pink Frost


Bee Bah Bee Bah Bee Boe

...informed my experience of growing up into a Kiwi.

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August 14th, 2016

03:04 pm: Orphans Kitchen
Tom Hishon the chef of Orphans Kitchen received Cuisine Good Food Guide's Innovation award this year, and Orphans Kitchen has been getting lots of attention since it opened last year. They do both lunch & dinner, and given lunch is the cheaper option, that's when we went.

The pictures...Collapse )

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10:39 am: Lokanta: Aegean & Eastern Mediterranean
Unlike Australia, New Zealand doesn't have a substantial Greek population, and consequently, we don't have many (if any) Greek restaurants in Auckland. There are a few that do Greek dishes, but they're typically as part of a greater Mediterranean menu, also including pizzas & pastas in the mix. Lokanta opened earlier this year describing themselves as doing "Aegean & Eastern Mediterranean Cooking". We went for dinner.

We shared a couple of starters,: the taramasalata was excellent as was the chargrilled octopus. The mains were also tasty, the eggplant was vegetarian & has a lovely combination of hearty flavours, and the goat (a house specialty) was even better IMO. The portions were so generous, we had no room left for dessert.

Lokanta looks a good fit for their location: a neighbourhood restaurant doing honest homestyle food with hefty portions, in a cosy setting. I wouldn't mind coming back to try their other dishes.

The pictures...Collapse )

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August 13th, 2016

08:45 pm: Cooking diary
Looks like the theme this week was comfort food.

Monday: Grandma's chicken stew (contains cinnamon)
Cooking diary
The prep.
Cooking diary
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11:07 am: Guess Michelin is changing its criteria.
Also, yay for street food! A Singapore hawker (street food) stall gets a Michelin star.

It's got me craving "Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle."

(Michelin doesn't do Australia or New Zealand, which is why the Australians started the 'hat' rating, which New Zealand's Cuisine Good Food Guide also recently adopted.

Via swampers

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August 9th, 2016

06:57 pm: Cuisine Good Food Guide Best New Zealand Restaurant 2016
The results were announced last night.
Congratulations to the Cuisine Good Food Guide winners!

(Adds more options to list of places to try out.)

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06:27 pm: Kung Fu visualization video
It's mesmerizing.

Via andrewducker

Kung Fu Motion Visualization from Tobias Gremmler on Vimeo.

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August 6th, 2016

07:00 pm: Cooking diary
It's midwinter, & the proper cold has arrived; it's been a very mild winter so far. And I'm getting to the "running low on meal ideas" part of the season. Winter vegetables are much less varied than summer vegetables.

Monday:Chicken kon loh mee
Cooking diary
The prep:
Cooking diary
The other meals...Collapse )

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July 31st, 2016

08:21 pm: Vintners Brunch 2016
Today was the Hospice North Shore's Vintners' Brunch. It's a charity fundraiser for Hospice North Shore and typically our bigggest single food & wine spend, and this year was no exception. Ten Auckland restaurants provide a dish each, matched with a New Zealand wine, all for a great cause. What's not to like?

This year, we had a few new restaurants participating, and let me tell you, catering for 460+ diners is no trivial task. We had some excellent food & wine matches today and got a taster of a few places we have pencilled in to try out in the near future.

My top two food/wine matches were the Cazador rabbit sausage with the Kim Crawford Chardonnay, & the Kazuya duck & onion icecream with the Mills Reef Merlot Malbec (which was the eventual winner as voted by attendees).
Click for pics...Collapse )

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July 30th, 2016

04:11 pm: Blade Runner quiz
30/31. Guess that makes me a Blade Runner tragic.

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09:14 am: Cooking diary
It's a combination of slow-cooking & using up the cabbage this week.

Monday: Beef in red wine, steamed cabbage, scalloped potatoes.
Cooking diary

The prep:
Cooking diary

Tuesday: Chicken, mushroom fettucine.
Cooking diary

The prep:
Cooking diary

Wednesday: Cassoulet, lemon butter cabbage.
Cooking diary

The prep:
Cooking diary

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July 29th, 2016

09:33 pm: Apero redux
It's Friday & the start of a big weekend of eating, drinking & catching up with friends. We kicked it off at Apero arguably the best winebar in town.

It's always good to try some new excellent wines, and even better to share the experience. We tried a variety but two wines that impressed were a table white made from Pedro Ximenez grapes...
Apero winebar
...and a Pinotage from Israel.
Apero winebar

And the food...
Clams steamed in cider with chorizo.
Apero winebar

Lamb sweetbreads.
Apero winebar

Potato Gnocchi, Mushrooms, Pine nuts & Truffle.
This is the dish that won chef Leslie Hottiaux the Pacific regionals of the San Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year 2016. We're lucky we got the opportunity to eat it. It was outstanding.
Apero winebar

The gnocchi tortellini & pinenuts are revealed when the thin slices of white mushroom covering are removed.
Apero winebar

Burrata on a bed of puy lentils & smoked eggplant. I'd happily eat this all day.
Apero winebar

They do a house-made sausage they sell by the quarter metre (we ordered a half metre), with pickled gherkins, roasted garlic, walnut mustard & salad leaves.
Apero winebar

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08:51 am: "The Lord of the Rings", "The Hobbit", "The Silmarillion", summarised in a haiku
By anna_wing
Via andrewducker

Tolkien haiku
Both "The Silmarillion" and "The Lord of the Rings", simultaneously summarised in haiku form:

It is rarely wise
To attach such importance
To your jewellery.

If you think about it, also simultaneously summarises "The Hobbit"!

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July 27th, 2016

06:01 pm: "17 habits of people who cook dinner every night"
I don't cook every night but do use many of the tactics described.

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July 24th, 2016

05:00 pm: Cooking diary
It's two week's worth because last weekend we were away visiting with family for a long weekend & this week I only cooked two meals at home.

Monday: Chicken, rocket, spaghetti
The prep:

And the rest...Collapse )

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July 23rd, 2016

10:28 am: Jaffa races down world's steepest residential street

Prompted by [insanejournal.com profile] swampers who posted World's steepest street becomes a mind-bending Instagram craze.

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06:31 am: Lichen is not a couple but a threesome?
From The Atlantic

"Lichens have an important place in biology. In the 1860s, scientists thought that they were plants. But in 1868, a Swiss botanist named Simon Schwendener revealed that they’re composite organisms, consisting of fungi that live in partnership with microscopic algae. This “dual hypothesis” was met with indignation: it went against the impetus to put living things in clear and discrete buckets. The backlash only collapsed when Schwendener and others, with good microscopes and careful hands, managed to tease the two partners apart."

"In the 150 years since Schwendener, biologists have tried in vain to grow lichens in laboratories. Whenever they artificially united the fungus and the alga, the two partners would never fully recreate their natural structures."

Toby Spribille [raised in a Montana trailer park, and home-schooled by what he now describes as a “fundamentalist cult.”]...
"...has shown that largest and most species-rich group of lichens are not alliances between two organisms, as every scientist since Schwendener has claimed. Instead, they’re alliances between three. All this time, a second type of fungus has been hiding in plain view."

And here's the primary source.

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July 19th, 2016

04:29 pm: Auckland's best restaurant 2016
Best Auckland Restaurant 2016
Link to JPG.
Link to PDF (better for printing).

Disclaimer: I have tried to be as accurate as possible but cannot guarantee it, so if you spot any mistakes, do let me know.

I made the Venn diagram using data from the TripAdvisor top 60 Auckland Region (a snapshot from June 22), Cuisine Magazine's Good Food Guide Awards, and Metro magazine's Top 50 restaurants.

What I said last year*:
Why not other crowdsourced restaurant review sites like Yelp, Zomato, Menumania, or Dineout? Because they don't rank restaurants and TripAdvisor does. I'm going somewhat on trust though, because it isn't entirely clear how the TripAdvisor ranking algorithm works, but it is what it is.

*Since last year, Menumania has been bought out by Zomato & is no longer. And as of February, Dineout has ceased operations, though the website is still accessible.

TripAdvisor ratings can be volatile & being crowdsourced, tend to include more cheap & cheerful yet popular places, especially if they are located in the CBD or tourist hotspots. I used 60 restaurants (10 more than the top 50 the first time I compiled one of these) to mitigate some of these effects.

Tastes are personal & there are any number of restaurants not listed here that provide an excellent dining experience so I wouldn't be too hung up about this Venn diagram being definitive. Think of it as a fun conversation starter.

Current Mood: accomplished
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July 15th, 2016

09:24 am: "Half of all US food produce is thrown away, new research suggests"
Worrying if true.

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08:22 am: Idumea Arbacoochee fanfic fragment
#201 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2015, 07:10 PM:
1. Concerning Gnomes

This book is largely concerned with Gnomes, and from its pages the Reader may discover much of their character and a little of their history. Further information will also be found in the selection from the Beige Vellum of Hosting* that has already been published under the title of The Gnome. That story was derived from earlier chapters of the Beige Vellum composed by Idumea, the first Gnome to become famous to the world at large and called by Idumea Tales from the Backend as they were adventures from the depths of website hosting and fora maintenance: adventures that had a small but significant influence in the great events of that Internet Age that are here related.

Many however, not possessing the earlier book may wish for a few notes and brief summary of what has gone on before.

Gnomes are an unobtrusive but very ancient people, whose numbers have never been counted properly; for they are stealthy, loving good conversation and troll-free threads; a well-moderated forum was their favourite haunt. They do not or did not understand or like those who comment in bad faith, griefers or hatemongers, though they were skilful with the Tools of Moderation. Even in ancient days, they were, as a rule, shy of 'the Big Folk' as they call us.

As for the Gnomes of Making Light, with whom these tales are concerned, little is known of their origins. Some experts surmise that they they were already present in the era of Electrolite, before the founding of Making Light...

*The Authorities, it is true, differ on whether said vellum was calfskin, lambskin or something else. Despite the impossibility of a definitive answer, as the original has been lost to the mists of history and only copies remain, much spirited debate continues on this matter.

------------- part of article, seemingly a fragment of the Foreword to a much larger work, retrieved from the Recycle Bin of a Public Library computer in Auckland, New Zealand. Author unknown.

(With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien)

[It's a bit of silliness that would take too long to explain but here goes anyway: Idumea Arbacoochee is a whimsical persona adopted by one of the moderators at Making Light whose functions include releasing comments stuck in moderation, repairing malformed URLs in comments and other activities mostly behind the scenes that help keep a website running. At first posters whose comments got stuck in moderation would talk about visiting the gnomes & possibly offering them tea, cookies or anything edible by way of passing companionable time while waiting for comments to be released. It wasn't until later that Idumea made their name & presence known that we had a name for one of the gnomes. These inhabitants of web infrastructure seem to be refined, polite & detail-oriented so I (and others) got to wondering what gnome society might be like. I don't normally do pastiches nor do I do filks. But once in a long while, it just seems to happen. So this is a copy of a work of fiction (originally posted at Making Light), based on a work of fiction (the Lord of the Rings), about a character that is imaginary (Idumea Arbacoochee). See what I meant about 'silliness'?]

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July 13th, 2016

06:44 pm: Slice, Dice, Chop Or Julienne: Does The Cut Change The Flavor?
I always thought it did, because:
- it changes the way they look (and we eat with our eyes)
- simple physics (smaller pieces increases surface to volume ratio & changes flavour absorption)
- changes texture too (cutting meat across the grain vs with the grain changes tenderness)

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July 12th, 2016

05:57 pm: That vocabulary thingy currently doing the rounds
My Vocabulary Size is about: 【30325】! What about you?


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July 10th, 2016

08:30 am: Cooking diary
You can tell that I bought red cabbage & beetroot & then tried to find ways of using them up during the week. Also, I know you're supposed to eat lots of colourful vegetables because they tend to be higher in antioxidants, but there's this...

Monday: Blackened salmon, red salad (cabbage, beetroot, onion, pickled ginger), lemon quinoa.

The prep:

Tuesday: Simple roasted vegetables (beetroot, parsnip, mushroom).

The prep:

Wednesday: 'Kebab-spiced' lambchop, hummus, tabouleh, shredded red cabbage.

The prep:

Thursday: Bacon & chicken breast, & leftovers from earlier in the week.

The prep:

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July 3rd, 2016

11:24 am: "What Brexit means for British food"
Not that I'm food-obsessed, but, "What Brexit means for British food"

More locally, before the UK joined the EEC, the UK took 90% of New Zealand's butter production. Historically, the UK was New Zealand's largest export market, taking half our exports in the 1950s. These days, it's fifth, only accounting for ~5% of New Zealand exports. Basically, when the UK joined the EEC*/EU, Commonwealth countries like New Zealand that used to export most of their products to the UK lost out & had to find new markets. It was a painful experience creating new markets; it had to be done, and it was. Now New Zealand's top four export markets are Australia, China, USA, Japan, which is quite a diverse group countries that take from 5-20% of New Zealand exports.

New Zealand exports are no longer as dependent on one country, the UK. If the UK leaves the EU & wishes to rekindle the old Commonwealth trade relationships, I suspect it will have a hard time doing so. I suspect it will find that since the UK joined the EEC/EU, the Commonwealth countries have found their own way in the world. Though there is still a warmth toward the UK, economic realities being what they are, business is business and I don't expect the UK to get much in the way of special concessions due to historical ties, especially given that those were ties that the British chose to sever.

*I wasn't around at the time but some felt it was a betrayal by the 'mother country'.

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10:57 am: Cooking diary
Monday: Vegetable curry with rice

The prep:

Tuesday: Spicy pork mince & tofu. Cabbage & carrot stirfry. Rice.

The prep:

Wednesday: "Spaghetti bolognese"

The prep:

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July 2nd, 2016

11:49 am: Australian election day
It's Election Day today in Australia, so best wishes to Aussie friends.

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11:27 am: Frost & Lichen
Last night was the coldest night of the year so far with a predicted low of 4C. There was heavy fog this morning & ground frost. After the fog began to clear, and it got lighter, I got my camera out & had a play at taking macro shots.

Album link.


The rest of the photos...Collapse )

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June 28th, 2016

07:43 pm: Yes Minister — Why Britain Joined the European Union
It's "gone viral" as the Young People say.

Via athgarvan

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07:39 pm: For those who remember THX sound


Via andrewducker

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06:42 pm: Cooking diary
Tuesday: Salad made with leftovers from Sunday's roast pork dinner
(Didn't cook on Monday as we went to The Grove for dinner)

The prep:

Wednesday: Chicken curry laksa
(Made the curry on Tuesday night as the Tuesday night salad took hardly any time to make)

The prep:

Thursday: Lemon honey grilled chicken breast with a "no mayonnaise" 'slaw

The prep:

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June 27th, 2016

07:15 pm: Post-trailer bonus.
Why do a post-movie scene in the credits when you can do a post-trailer scene in a, uh, trailer? Also, features Deadpool.
Via Gizmodo.

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June 26th, 2016

03:13 pm: The Grove: Blind Degustation
We went to The Grove with work friends to do the 5 course blind degustation on Monday. It's NZ$65 for five courses as chosen by the kitchen, compared to five courses you choose yourself the rest of the week for NZ$89, so though a bit of a gimmick, represents a good deal too.

We started with the complimentary house bread with cultured butter. Is anyone not doing cultured butter these days? (AIUI the cream is allowed to begin to ferment, like overnight, before it is churned so the butter has more flavour)

The waitstaff recommended to add a side dish per two diners with the choices being a bowl of fries, or green beans with almond & garlic. I also opted for the recommended wine matching which was an additional NZ$50 i.e. $10 per course. The pour size was about a half-glass, enough to go with the food without getting the diner completely drunk by the end of the meal.

Autumn oysters, granny smith caviar, smoked celeriac & flax seeds.
w/ Cloudy Bay NV Pelorus, Marlborough, NZ.

Terrine of roasted rabbits, wild & farmed w faux foie gras & tamarillo chutney.
w/ 2009 Vinoptima, Bond Road, Gisborne, New Zealand.

Snapper w yellow fin tuna, braised black rice & coconut yogurt.
w/ 2014 D. Seguinot Chablis, France.

Wild shot red deer, pickled red cabbage puree, black walnuts & wild mushrooms.
w/ 2013 Oliver Moragues Manto Negro/Callet Blend, Mallorca, Spain.
(This was not the original wine match, which was a 2008 Destiny Bay 'Destinae' from Waiheke Island, but when the waitperson realised it was yet another wine I had tried before, he was determined to find one new to me. So after a brief wait while he consulted the sommelier, he came back with the Oliver Moragues, a Spanish red wine from grapes grown on the volcanic slopes of the Canary Islands. It was seriously good.)

Raspberry soufflé w raspberry meringue & tonka bean ice cream.
w/ 2014 Moscato d’Asti Michele Chiarlo, Piedmont, Italy.
The tonka icecream had a vanilla-like flavour. It seems that tonka beans have been illegal in the USA since 1954.

Overall, it was a delightful night out, and it's not surprising that The Grove has such a high reputation.

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June 24th, 2016

05:18 pm: The times...


June 23rd, 2016

04:49 pm: Best wishes to British friends. #brexit
Best wishes to British friends. #brexit



June 20th, 2016

04:26 pm: About the "Cooking Diary" entries
When I first started them, it was for a bit of a lark; fun & it gave me something to post that's not just links to interesting stuff found online. I also thought it would be interesting to document the dinners we were having on week-nights/work-nights. Besides, cooking is something I enjoy & find to be mostly relaxing.

One original aim was to see what sort of dinners I could come up with that took no more than 40 minutes from the time I stepped into the kitchen & and dinner being ready to eat. It should be doable & I think a more realistic target than Jamie Oliver's "15 minute meals". I think those are mostly bollocks myself: unless you discount the prep time, they're more aspirational than realistic. The preparation is undoubtedly part of the cooking process IMO.

At first, the meals were generally things like simple pasta dishes, or simple stir fries, the sorts of meals that are quick. But after a while I tweaked it by doing some weekend slow-cooking (stews, curries, tagines) so that on the weeknight, it was just reheating & adding some accompaniments. That certainly helped to expand the repertoire & prevent things from getting boring. These days, I'm no longer that strict with the 40 minute time limit. If it takes a bit longer, I don't stress about it, though majority of meals still clock in under 40 minutes.

When I started, I assumed that the meals would be roughly evenly split between Asian & European meals, but the last time I did a tally, it was more like 60/40. Though I cook a diverse range of dishes, I guess it's hard to get away from one's own upbringing! Overall, I think we eat well, and though the meals aren't terribly healthy, they aren't terribly unhealthy either.

A big chunk of the planning happens at the weekend when I do the grocery shopping. That helps a lot as it means I can get home from work & head straight for the kitchen and not have to waste time figuring out what to cook or if I have the required ingredients. Also, because the week's meals are pre-planned, I can shop to the menu and only buy the items I need. This has resulted in very little wastage. More often than not, by the time the weekend arrives, the vegetable drawer in the fridge is empty. I count that as a win. Another deliberate tactic is to buy fruit & vegetables that are in season as they're cheaper and better quality. So I won't buy tomatoes in winter: not only are they two to three times more expensive, the hothouse-grown winter tomatoes have little flavour. We also have a tiny section in the garden for easy-to-grow vegetables & herbs that are a useful addition to the available ingredients, though right now being winter, it's looking rather sparse.

I'll keep posting these cooking diaries as long as I enjoy doing them.

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June 19th, 2016

11:22 am: Cooking diary
Monday: Penang Hokkien Mee (Prawn noodles soup).
This is technically leftovers. I made this at the weekend because I had a craving for it: we'd recently been to a Malaysian place that had it, but their version was sub-standard IMO. This online recipe is pretty much the way I do it, so you might appreciate that it's not the sort of thing I cook on a week night because of the time it takes.

The rest behind the cut...Collapse )

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11:01 am: The rainbow connection
"Sex, gender, and gender orientation are not black and white."

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