I Set Fire To the Rain …

I set fire to the rain,
And I threw us into the flames
When it fell, something died
‘Cause I knew that that was the last time, the last time.

Last night was one of the most amazing concert experiences.  Ever.  And I’ve been to a lot of concerts.  Shortly after arriving back to NZ, my sister told me she’d bought tickets to the Adele concert when the seats were released.  Of course the concerts were sold out within a few hours.  All three of them.  I was disparagingly disappointed.  I knew this would be a concert of a lifetime.  A few weeks before the show, I started checking for people selling tickets they couldn’t use for the show.  I spent hours and hours (and then some more) raking over the ticket options, as well as which night to go.  She was playing three concerts in Auckland:  Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday was out because I was #1 Chief Babysitter for my sisters children while they went.  So, it was going to be Thursday or Sunday.  My mum and I thought that Sunday would work best.  So, I found the perfect pair of seats.  And I missed out on them.  Again.  And again.  Then, I found the seats that I really wanted and got them.  Hurrah!  They were emailed to me the next morning once the money had gone through.

I kept watching the long-term weather forecast.  Seven days out: Rain on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.  Four days out: Fine Thursday, Rain Saturday and Sunday.  Two days out: possible rain Saturday, Rain bomb Sunday.  The weather predictions were right.  Thursday: Fine.  Saturday:  Fine.  Sunday:  Rain Bomb.

I was pretty pissy.  I so easily could have chosen Thursday.  Really?  A Rain Bomb.  On ‘my’ night?!  I got all my gear sorted:  really good raincoat, three ponchos, trash bags, three sizes of Ziploc baggies (and multiples of each size).  I was all set.  And, I needed every single thing I had with me.

The rain started probably about as she walked out of her dressing room.  And, it came down with a vengeance.  The skies opened and it came down in bucketfuls.  As if that wasn’t pleasant enough, there was wind, too.  So, the rain was sideways.  I was mummified in layers and layers of plastic.  She didn’t have any protection.  Within minutes, she was engulfed with clean, green, Kiwi rain.  Even if there was a roof to the stage, it made no difference.  The rain was coming from all sides.  Partway through the concert she even said that if she sounds funny it’s because when she opens her mouth to sing the next line, a big gust of wind and rain gets pushed into her mouth and she has to get rid of it.  Her two hours of hair and makeup were worthless.  She looked like she’d just stepped out of a shower (her words, not mine!)  She maneuvered around the stage as though it was the brightest star-filled night ever.  She didn’t hide under cover.  And she sang her heart out and gave all 40,000 of us the performance we were hoping for x 10.  I’ve been home for 24 hours and I’m still feeling all the love she gave to her audience.

If tickets went on sale tomorrow and I knew with 100% certainty that we would have a ‘rain bomb’ the night of the show, I would buy tickets again in a heartbeat.  The rain made the lightshow look like little fairy lights were lighting up the whole stadium.  It was worth every piece of plastic I wrapped myself in.  And, the ironic part, is that I left the stadium completely dry!  Most of all, I loved that I got to share it with my awesome mum …who, while I was mumbling and grumbling and being pissy about the forecast, just stayed calm and collected and never had an opinion about it. I love you, M. xoxo



A fish a day …

I had the pleasure of going fishing with an old friend, his girlfriend and one of their friends tonight.  The 6pm launch time was a little later than and I’d thought and it was absolutely perfect.  Charlie has a great 18′ motorboat that he tows with an old red tractor.  A red tractor.  Old school. And awesome.  The boat was in the water and we were off on our adventure before we knew it.

Did I catch any fish?  No.  Actually I did.  It was too small to keep.  I’m normally the one who always catches the most fish.  They flock to my hook.  I was okay with standing in the back on this trip.  Time and time again, I threw my line over the side andpulled it up to an empty hook.  The bait would go on.  The line would go over.  Pull it up.  Bait it again.  Replay and repeat.  It made no difference if I caught fish.  The sunset was one of the loveliest I can remember, the company was impeccable and a few more fish are in the sea!

American Craft Vodka

I was lucky enough to spend most of last Summer interning in the editorial department of Saveur magazine. While there, I worked on so many fun projects which were both interesting and educational. We were planning on doing a huge craft distillery story, so I spent weeks researching craft distilleries throughout the US. Shortly thereafter, I was receiving boxes and boxes and boxes of hooch; vodka, gin, absinthe, tequila, rum, bourbon, whiskey, eau de vie, bitters. You name it, they sent it.

We had so much alcohol that writing one big story about it seemed to be a crime because we had enough content to cover each one individually. I was lucky enough to write the one on vodka and here’s what I had to say …


Brasilian hooch …

The cooking school I attended a few years ago, The French Culinary Institute, regularly has culinary demos for students and alums.  I was lucky enough to attend a demo a few days ago which was run by Leticia Schwartz, a former student who is from Brasil.  Cachaca, a distilled alcoholic drink made of sugar cane in Brasil, was the topic of her demo.

She used cachaca to incorporate the flavors of the national drink, the caiparinha, into each of her dishes: lime, sugar and cachaca.  She whipped cream with a little bit of sugar, then added lime zest and cachaca at the end.  A buerre blanc is delicious with a touch of lime and a hint of cachaca.  Zucchini is quite spectacular marinated in lime juice, olive oil and olive oil.

Cachaca is even quite tasty just on its own, too …

Texture …

Texture modification day at the French Culinary Institute today.  After the motherload of short ribs yesterday, I am looking forward to something lighter today: fish, chicken and fruits.  The vacuum machine used in sous-vide cooking can be set to take various amounts of air from the bag which create various textural changes in whatever is in the bag.  It also means that other flavors can be pushed into the empty cells …pears infused with elderflower cordial and yuzu; apples infused with curry oil; cucumber infused with vermouth; watermelon infused with salty lime.  Yum!

Pretty tasty additions to a cocktail, for sure …

What is this?

Today is Day 1 of a sous-vide class at The French Culinary Institute.  Wow!  What fun.  Just when you think you know how to make the *best* something, there is now another *new* way to do it.  Take the air out, cook it at 57C …for 48 hours (yes, forty-eight).  We had 15 tastings of short ribs: cooked at variable temperatures, for variable times, with variable variables in the bag …and then, in case there weren’t enough things changing, they added a few more, such as pre, post and no sear options.  Some of them had the flavor of short ribs and the texture of chewing gum.  Some had the texture of traditional shorts ribs with only moderate flavor.  They were all good enough that I wouldn’t have sent it back had I ordered it, however a few were so delicious that I would have ordered it in a heartbeat had I not felt like I’d just eaten a cow.

What was my favorite? Temp: 60C …Time: 48 hours …Searing: pre and post …in the bag: just oxtail + red wine redux

Tomorrow is texture modification …

Barley, Malt and Hops …take 2!

…turning point for beer was University.  I was never much of a party girl, however Frat parties were just downright boring without some sort of intoxicating lubricant.  It was certainly then that I decided beer was pretty gross, however a necessary *evil* to get me through a Friday and Saturday evening without being the sober one amongst a sea of drunkards.  In saying that, I played the *designated driver* card as much as possible …

Shortly out of University I tried stout …is this really beer?  I quickly fell in love.  Yet another thing that was first met with disdain, was now a new friend.  I think that it was sweet enough to mask the bitterness that lay beneath.  From there came all the others, one at a time …didn’t love most of them at first, however with persistence, I’ve grown to like something unique about each and every one.

Barley, malt and hops …

Beer in another of those things which has been slow to develop on my palate.  As a child, my mother used to drink shandy’s …a drink served in most Commonwealth countries and consists of beer and 7-Up (aka – lemonade).  She would come in from a hot afternoon of mowing the lawns and yearn for something to quench her thirst.  She would always offer my sister, Penelope, and I a child-sized portion.  We would always feel so grown up and important when we were offered one.

When I look back, she probably put in about 2 tablespoons of beer to 1 cup of 7-Up, thus the reason it always tasted so good and sweet.  Spring forward 15 years and I thought beer was revolting.  It was this savory, bitter drink that made me burp after I’d had it.  Yuck.

The tortoise or the hare …

So, I’ve found that some of my favorite things (and people) in life weren’t quite that way to begin with.  Some of my best friends were met with raised hackles upon first glance.  The same is true of many of the foods I love as an adult: wine, beer, coffee, dark chocolate, kumquats, beef …the list is endless.

When I was a few days more than 21, and far from being a wine lover, I was invited on a business trip to Napa Valley.  The group had booked tours and tastings at some of the most exclusive vineyards in the area. Cakebread Cellars was number 2 on the list and there was such a hype leading up to the tour.  To this point, my experience of wine was Boone’s Strawberry Farm, the sweetest, cheapest wine we could find at the supermarket which always did the trick of not tasting like beer and providing sufficient alcohol content to feel no pain.  Being naive and not wanting anyone to realize my ignorance, I, too, exclaimed my excitement.  So, we started the tastings with a white which was tasty enough, however certainly lost on my untrained and unsophisticated palate.  Then, we got to the reds.  ‘Delicious, lovely, full-bodied’ were all words that I’d heard from the first vineyard, so I mimicked them when it came time to *describe* the reds at Cakebread.  One of the fellow travelmates was elated at my enjoyment and bought me a case …’what the hell do I do with a case of wine which I think is atrocious?’ was all that could cross my mind.  Thankfully, my parents had taught me well, so my knee-jerk reaction was an overwhelming ‘thank you!’

It wasn’t until a few years later when I was introduced to wines gradually (white wines first!) and learned that they actually can be delicious, lovely and full-bodied.  It was then that my interest in wine was piqued and I slowly and surely have entered into a lifetime of self-education.  My love for wine certainly didn’t develop quickly, however it has developed in a way that makes me chuckle every time I think about my experience at Cakebread.  How could I ever have thought that such a well-structured wine was nearly worth spitting out?

When looking back through, I find that the things I hold dearest are the things I reach slowly.  As for my love of wine, I think I’m more like the tortoise …tap, tap, tap on the shell.