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Friday, 15 November 2013

Taste of Auckland turns 5 and has become more fun than ever!



One of the highlights for spring is Taste of Auckland in Victoria Park in Novemeber. It's a wildly popular event for Aucklanders and other food lovers from across New Zealand. It's got everything for a great day or evening out with friends, work mates and family. There's an impressive line up of fine dining heavyweights like Baduzzi (I love Baduzzi!), The Grove, The Commons, Bracu, Everybody's Izakaya, The Depot and top vineyards and breweries like Epic,Hallertau, Mount Riley's, Stolen Rum and Mission Estate. 


Victoria Park is the perfect venue because it's spacious and you can feel relaxed not having to weave through the crowd. Also love the fact that there are 2 sessions per day so it's never overcrowded and stressful. Everyone is in a jolly good mood. Who wouldn't when you have great selection of great food, music and great selection of beers and wines in a park! The best part of Taste of Auckland is the beer and wines on offer.

I was very keen to try something from The Commons and bought a Scallop congee, black truffle vinegrette, bisque tuil,bitter cress and it was disappointing. It was too salty and oily and I didn't even finish my small portion. Chef Nick Honeyman is one of the biggest talent and I had incredible experience dining at Cru at Sale St and Everybody's Izakaya before but maybe his team didn't taste that particular batch of Scallop Congee before serving and it was unpalatable.

The 'official' currency used are crowns, 1 crown =$1. In the past you have to purchase the crowns in chip form at the entrance to use it and it was a pain to carry 50 crowns and dropping it and still end up short. I didn't go to the event last year but this year you can load your crowns onto a card and there are many crown sellers in pink shirts that you can top up and it's super convenient because you can find one in every other corner. They accept cash and eftpos. Of course cash is widely accepted but the crowns are awesome when you run out of cash.

Fisher & Paykel Kitchen



The Fisher & Paykel Kitchen was serving up roast lamb and there was a contest for guessing all the 6 ingredients to win a pretty posh oven.



One of the highlights of my day was the luxe selection of gins and the lovely guy made me an amazing 'Red Snapper' for only 8 crowns! 




The lovely lady at the Real Good Brownies was so kind to feed me with so much brownies so I end up buying a few to take home because I had become an addict by then. You can find them at Elliott Carpark on the weekends.

 Mad Hatter Tea Party at the Kenwood stand


The gourmet French instant dinners from Tomette were amazing and I bought a few for one of those nights that I am too tired after Crossfit but want a lush dinner. I have tried the NZ lamb provencale and it tastes home made.


Two Stolen Rum for $20( sorry for the chopped photo!), what a bargain!

This has to be the best Taste of Auckland so far. It's way more organised than it has ever been and the selection of of food and drinks are endless. 
If you haven't got any plans this weekend, do consider going to Taste of Auckland. Bring a couple of your food loving friends and enjoy a great day out wine good chatter, amazing food, drinks and some great music. Just remember to bring a big bag for all the food you are going to buy. I was struggling to hold all my shopping and wished I had a bag. Please don't bring a shopping trolley though although it will be very convenient  you will look very odd and un-relaxed. I will probably go again on the weekend to haul buy more wines, Cloudy Bay clams and F&P Chef Series that I missed out because I was too busy sampling food yesterday.
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Thursday, 31 October 2013

3 sleeps to Auckland Half Marathon and some nerdy route elevation analysis


All I could think of in the last couple of days is the Auckland half marathon this weekend! All the training over the last few weeks are going to be put to test. After running a few races, I have learnt to stay positive and not get too nervous but it still gets you anyway. Having said that, I was dead calm with at the North Shore half  and had a blast! Reason that I was so calm was because I treated it as a weekend long run with a big crowd. I had no expectation plus the weather was made for running. Since the Auckland half is my last race for the year I am eager to run it like a race and give it my all. I don't have a specific time in my head and it's maybe good so that I don't get too stressed out. 

As I was curious about the new route this year, I did a  elevation gain analysis of  the route 2012 vs route for 2013. The most significant part is after 9km mark when we have to run on the motorway. Last year we had to run on Northcote Rd and Lake Rd before ending up on the Harbour Bridge and this year the route will have us running on Akoranga Busway all the way to Harbour Bridge. It's going to be a boring route running on the motorway for about 5km but the pro is that since it's so flat, it would be a great opportunity to gain some time before slowing down on the run up to the Harbour Bridge. I think a lot of people will be speeding off at this point to gain some advantage.

I am looking forward to picking up the race pack tomorrow and check out the expo a little bit and hope for pleasant weather and lots of energy on Sunday.


Are you running the Auckland Marathon?

What is your race plan?

What gets you going during the last few kilometres?

How do you treat yourself after the race?


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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Making your own preserved lemons in 5 minutes or less

Spring and summer is always an exciting time to enjoy the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. It's also the cheapest time of the year to buy and preserve them for using them in winter. I started preserving my new batch of lemons as my last ones were really good and it's super easy to do. All you need are some clean airtight jars,water and salt. I cut my lemons into wedges but not all the way through so that you can fill it with salt and keep the lemons whole. Add the lemons into the jar and fill it up with water and and salt. I used filtered water to ensure that the water is as clean as possible. I made one jar with just salt and water and the other with some cloves, juniper berries and cinnamon. You could also use bay leaves and other herbs you have or like.


Once you filled the jar up with water, just screw it tight and store the jars in a cool dark place. I store mine in the bottom of my pantry cupboard. Remember to write a date on it to know when they are ready for use. It should take at least 3 weeks and only gets better with time. I use mine in Moroccan stews, dips and seafood. It's so easy to make and makes no sense to buy them from a shop because it's much more difficult to buy than to make your own. I love using my own sauces/ ingredient because I know exactly what went into the process.



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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Why do I look like I am not running anymore

An old friend recently asked why I am not running anymore and I was quite surprised by that comment because I am still consistently running 3 times a week. The difference is that I don't want to talk about it on Facebook as much any more. No particular reason but maybe I just don't like to post about every run that I do because apparently that's what you do if you are 30 and beyond, according to Buzzfeed. Yeah, I base my decisions on Buzzfeed because that it's a very intellectual source of opinion and findings.
I have been running a little less this year but am doing more tempo and speed work and it’s been good to me. My speed has increased a little more than last year and my body and mind are happier because it’s under less stress. If I have learnt anything from the last few years of running races is that the mind must not be stressed out during the preparation of the race. It takes all the fun out of running and it’s the essence of running for me, personally. Of course finishing with a great time is awesome and rewarding but when I ask myself the reason why I started long distance running, it’s because I love doing it. When you put yourself in a situation where every training is just a number and a “task” it takes all the fun out of it. I am not saying that you should not have a goal. You should. It makes training more fun and meaningful. But there should a goal that is realistic that is going to push you further but at the same time not to be disappointed and self-imposing on what you can or should do. I was bitterly disappointed when I did not reach my goal finish time as I bonked in the Auckland Half Marathon last year and that put me off from running for a couple of weeks. I ran another half marathon recently and I treated it as a training run instead of a race and I swear it was one of the best runs I have had in years! My mind was relaxed and my body felt light and willing. This is how running is supposed to feel like. Compete with yourself, not only in terms of time but also how happy you were whilst you were at it. I finished that race in my best time ever. And I even stopped for a few minutes because I tripped and scraped myself. Yes, the run was so awesome that it didn’t bother me one bit.

I am going to do the Adidas Half Marathon in less than 3 weeks’ time and I am trying to stay focused on being relaxed about it. I will run as hard as my body and mind would and enjoy the rest of the journey. A great race is also about feeling the electric of the day. I have to admit that I enjoy race days because you get to run with thousands of other people and it’s the safest way to run because you don’t have to watch out for traffic and all you do in that  few hours is concentrate on running and listening to what your mind and body tells you. Actually for me, my Garmin tells me what I should be doing. But it’s all good. I will be focused on staying healthy and happy until race day. Maybe a trip of indulgence to Lululemon. 

Sharing with you some great running related finds on this post.

Happy running everyone!









Are you training for a race now? What is your strategy?

What motivates you to run?

What is your favourite tune to run in?



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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Mid week dining at Libertine

I've recently rediscovered the joy of midweek dining. Real dining, not just a quick eat and go in a noodle bar, foodcourt or Chinese eatery which I am so accustomed to during the week. I almost bail out from going to Libertine if it wasn't because I have already promised a friend to meet there. So glad I didn't. It was a Wednesday night and I expected some crowd and booked a table for 8.30pm. Got there and it was very quiet. A little concerning when you expect the place to be heaving.

The decor is gorgeous and makes me feel I want to stay here all night. Our friendly waiter lead us to a table big enough for 10 when there were just 3 of us.


I love the decor and atmosphere here. You feel like you are in someone's luxurious home. It's spacious but very cosy and relaxing.


Snapper cevicher with mango was delicious !! So refreshing and good sized portion too!


Buttermilk squid with jalapeno jam. Such a refreshing choice from the boring salt & pepper squid you get every where else. Just a wee too greasy but still pretty good.


Cumin battered fish tacos. I would have preferred a non battered fish 


Toffee apple glazed pork cheek with seared scallops. Very weird combination but the flavours didn't work together. It feels like two separate dish on a plate. Each component is well cooked but just didn't work as a team.

Scorched baby beets with blue cheese was a very hearty dish with lots of different texture and flavours.


Barcelonian chorizo pate was an interesting dish but I thought the pate was a bit on the dry side.


It was an enjoyable night for all of us and we vowed to be back again on weeknight. The food is good and quite decent portion for its price.There are so many places in Auckland now that are charging you an arm and a leg and you still feel hungry after spending $50.  Service was attentive but not rehearsed. All of us left happy and very very full. 
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Monday, 16 September 2013

My PB at North Shore Half Marathon!!!

Let's talk about running. I know I haven't posted anything about my running for quite a while but today
I feel like it anyway. So bear with me. I ran my third North Shore Half Marathon on 2 weeks ago and it was my best race and the most fun I had running this year! I can't believe how awesome I felt throughout the entire race. T be honest, I haven't train much this year for the event and only started with my weekend long runs 3 weeks ago. I have been running consistently but not long in the past couple of months since I started Crossfit which I really enjoy. Running the race today reassured me that I should never consider stop running because I am too fatigue from other activities.


                                
The race was perfect. It was everything anyone can hope for a perfect race day. It was cool with light breezes but the air was nice and cool and not too crisp to breathe in. This is my third time doing this race and this was the best I had so far. Last year's conditions was great too but I bonked because I was running my first few kilometers too fast , I didn't have a Garmin at that time to tell me what pace I was running and I was dehydrated because they ran out of water. None of the problems this time. Garmin charged, well dehydrated and there were plenty of water at the drink stations and I was in a very relaxed mood except for the first 5 minutes after the gun went off for the women's half marathon. I ran with my friend for the first 1-2 kilometer and taper off and told her to just enjoy her race. She went ahead and let me work on my own pacing.


Here's the screenshot from my Garmin connect comparing the only 2 races I have done in the last 12 months. My pace was more even/ conservative for the Adidas half but the condition was less forgiving because it was really hot on the day.




So here is the break down of my race

1-5km:

We started off on Takapuna beach, I was in the mid pack and let others run ahead of me and tried not to get too excited and until my body gets into the rhythm. A bit nervous as always because you know you have 20 odd kilometers to run. Just trying to keep my shoes dry while running on the beach for the first km. At around the 3-4km mark I noticed a girl in pink shirt who was running a pace that I find that I could follow with ease so I ran before here for a wee bit. I like having 'aims' but making mental notes of who was running around me at which point to have a feel of how I am pacing myself. I usually don't aim at the ones who runs down a hill very quick and then stop when ascending the next hill. I like doing a steady pace so that I don't have to stop at all except for drinking. There was a drink station at 4.5k mark and I love seeing drink stations because it's usually after stopping at a few of them and then you are almost finished! I have been feeling really comfortable throughout the first 5km. No discomfort. Good.


6-10km:

The highlight of this race for those who'd done it before is running up North Head at around 7km which is a nice 42m climb.It's gradual but still challenging. I was hoping that my hamstrings and glutes were ready to pound up the hill. About 1k of sandy run on Cheltenham Beach before we ascend to North Head and it was a bit challenging because the running on sand tires me out. Someone I know passed me on the ascend and I wonder if I will see her again on the way down.Stunning view when you get on to the top of North Head but I was so focused on not let the hills get to me and just want to keep the pace. It must be all the wall balls and box jumps that I have been doing in my Crossfit sessions that helped me run up the hill without too much drama. The run back down is fun and feels great because I know that I have completed one of the toughest stage in this race. 8k in and I am still feeling fresh. Good sign.
I ate 3 pieces of my favourite Clif Shot Blok Strawberry. They tastes so good and much easier to consume when you are running than gels and you don't feel as thirsty after. I can never go back to gels now. I usually only start eating after 60 minutes into a race but I have learnt my lesson and just do it before anyway. Listening to my body now.


10-15km:

My legs and whole body is feeling really strong. No discomfort at all and it was really surprising because when I go out for my weekly long runs I usually have niggly knees and ankles. My legs are also feeling really light. I haven't worn my Saucony Fastwitch for long runs in a while and so glad I picked it for the race. Legs are feeling awesome, views are stunning and I was having the best time. Must be one of the best runs I have had. Stopped for a drink station at 13.5k and kept going. I don't want to stop to walk at all. Some rolling hills and I managed to keep my pace even throughout without too much of a spike. Average pace is around 6:20 to 6:50. Maybe I was a little conservative on how much I could push myself but when I realise I was doing quite well in time, I didn't want to get too excited and hit the wall like I did before. There were a girl who overtook every time we run downhill but I caught up and overtake her when there's a hill ahead. I am feeling relieved that I can focus and keeping my pace even and comfortable.

15-20km:

Once I saw the 15k mark, I decided to push harder until 18k. This is a tip I got from my ex personal trainer who is a very strong and seasoned runner herself. She also told me to ease off a little between 18-20k mark and go hard out for the last kilometre and finish strong. Makes good sense to me. I picked up my speed and still feeling quite strong at this point. A little tired but everything's good. My mood is incredible. I was smiling to every volunteer I saw. When I saw that it was only 1.5 hours into the race at 17k mark, I was so excited. This is all very promising.

At around the 18k mark, I tripped over the concrete pavement and landed on all fours. My knees hurt a bit. A few runners checked if I was fine and I just waved and put a thumbs up sign. I got up and walked for about 10 seconds and started running again.There was a sting on my knee but I don't want to think too much and keep running at a slower but comfortable pace for a few minutes and keep checking my Garmin for time. The fall has rattled me a little and I know I need to refocus as there's only another 3km to go. At this time, I saw there was a cut on my right hand and I was bleeding. Not much but it's annoying. I stopped to walk for a minute just to gather myself and then I quickly decide that since I am bleeding I might as well run as fast as I can to the finish line. Picked up some speed and ran as fast as I could. 


Last km:

Every time I see the 20k mark, I get really excited and happy that the pain is going to end very soon. Around 400m from the finish line I had a glanced at my Garmin and I was shocked that I was going to make it under 2:15 if I don't stop running. I got a little emotional right there because it would be the best time I've ever done. I push a little harder and put every ounce of energy I have to run up the finish line. 
I did it in 2:14!


I came to the race with so little expectation and came away with huge satisfaction. I was really really happy. I was not too sore and had lots of energy left in me. I need to race like this again and every time. Don't stress myself out about the time that I am going to do and trust my training will take me to the finish line. Of course, fuelling properly as well. I have about 7 weeks to go and I am going to make every training run as purposely as I can and see where it takes in the Adidas Half Marathon.





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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Vegan Pumpkin and Broccolli Curry


I made an amazing pumpkin and broccoli curry from scratch for dinner last night and have to share it here. This recipe is gluten-free,vegan and vegetarian friendly. The curry is so creamy and sweet because of the pumpkin. I know a lot of people who doesn't like eating pumpkin because they find it incredibly bland and boring. I personally love pumpkins as they are nutritious, cheap and you can store it in the pantry for a very long time plus it is very versatile.

Ingredients:

Half a pumpkin (about 1kg or a little more), skinned and cubed
1 large head of broccoli
1 large Spanish onion
A stalk of curry leaves (optional)
400ml can of coconut milk
Cooking oil
Salt
Pepper


For the curry paste:

1 large red onion, cubed
2 stalks of lemongrass stem roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic
2 large red chillies
2 cm of turmeric or 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
4 kaffir lime leaves (optional)

1. In a blender, blitz together all the ingredients for the curry paste. It doesn't have to be very fine but fine enough so that you don't bite into chunks of lemongrass.

2. Set aside the curry paste and heat about 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a saucepan or wok.

3. Fry the curry paste  and curry leaves until fragrant and and then add in the cubed pumpkins and onions. Stir fry for until they become semi soft and add coconut milk.

4.Add in broccoli and let it simmer for a 2 minutes. Season to taste.

I don't like my broccolis too soft. If you feel the same you can leave it out until the very end too.
Serve with brown rice or indian roti if you can find them in Asian stores.












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Friday, 16 August 2013

Eating in Kuala Lumpur, Stuttgart ,Hong Kong, Copenhagen

This is a very overdue post when I finished my long exhaustive trip in May but there's just too many good food memories not to post so here it is. After hours scouring through hundreds, if not thousands of holiday photos, I have picked out some to share. Be warned that this post is picture heavy!!

First stop was Kuala Lumpur to eat like there's no tomorrow visit family and friends.Like many other Asian cities, you can't walk around Kuala Lumpur without succumbing to food temptations. My favourite haunts are usually in the old style restaurants where you get genuinely good food and not just fancy decor and menus. A good friend took me to Petaling Street aka Chinatown for dinner and it was one of the best food I have eaten during my stay in Kuala Lumpur.



                                 Claypot Loh Shee Fun (rice noodles shaped like mouse tails)


'Siu Yok' (Roasted Pork)Noodles. In true Malaysian style, all noodles are to be accompanied by fresh bird's eye chillies and sambal belacan. Heavenly combination!




Smorgasbord of delicious Malay food

My all time favorite Nasi Lemak

Nasi Padang feast

I don't know how I survived eating so much gorgeous food in my two weeks stay in Kuala Lumpur but I did, which is amazing. These photos represents only a fraction of what I ate. The rest of the time I am too engrossed in eating that I forgot to take photos until it's all gone.

A healthy breakfast of rolled oats with abundance of tropical fruits. Eating a rainbow of goodness - dragonfruit, mangoes,goji berries and almonds.
Sotong Kangkong - Cuttlefish salad with water convolvulus and crushed peanuts.

Yong Tauhu -stuffed vegetables with fish mince on broth


These are the frogs in the fish tank before they were fished out to be cooked.

Hong Kong

I've lost track of how many trips that I have made to Hong Kong and the food has always been the most rewarding part and I keep going back for the food, and the shopping. One of the must try dish in Hong Kong is Wonton Noodles. It's quintessentially Hong Kong cuisine and my favourite is from Tsim Tsai Kee in Wan Chai. Each element: broth, noodles and wontons are just perfect. They have been awarded one Michelin star for their effort.





Ginger Milk Pudding so ridiculously soft you'd think that you're eating clouds.

Charcoal grilled pork neck cheese noodles -quirky and tasty

Dinner @Yung Kee Restaurant. This is one of the most esteemed food establishment in Hong Kong and it's well-knowned for their roasted goose. It was my sis' shout and we got greedy and ordered a whole goose for 4.


Street food galore...





Huge mango dessert ordered by sis to share



Pig trotters cooked with preserved plums in Wanchai



 My all time favourite tea time food Hong Kong - freshly baked Bolo buns from Kam Wah in Mongkok 


I can't remember what these were but I think they were pig offals that my sis ate. I ate some too. I know you shouldn't really eat anything that you don't know but that's part of the fun when you travel in Asia.
After I left Hong Kong, I stayed a few days in Germany with my husband's family and then traveled to Copenhagen for 3 days and had the most fantastic time there visiting an old friend and just sucking in all the beauty of this city. The buildings, designs and people. I would love to come back soon during summer time. 










I started this post with the intention of fitting all my food photos but I realise it's getting a bit too long. I will write another post of my foodie experience in New York and San Francisco.



















































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