Life is good

Certainly all this travel is the sign of a wonderful life of privilege, for which I am mightily grateful.

Nonetheless, the greatest privilege of them all is having friends, and it is there that I am truly blessed.

Monday night, I had dinner with Micky and Linda.  Yes, they followed me all the way here just to have a meal at the O’Connell Street Bistro.

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Gail and I have traveled the world with these two, not mention the dozens of regionals and nationals Mike and I competed in.  Last year we surprised them in Tel Aviv.  I can’t get away from the guy.

Okay, in truth they were here to board a cruise ship for a trip to Australia and Bali, the timing was just Mike’s usual good luck.

David flew home Monday morning, and I’m encamped in a slum of a dump of a hovel they laughingly call a hotel.  I’m saving all my bad words about them for the Trip Advisor review.

Mike had a list of five great Auckland restaurants he got from a friend of his, and I chose this one.  We had a table outdoor, along a walking road (with a few taxis cheating)  The weather was balmy and delightful, the early evening just right for dining al fresco. 

Although the menu had quite a variety of dishes, with beef, lamb, chicken, fish and rabbit choices, all three of us ended up with the identical dinner.

We began with the amuse bouche.  A small piece of Tandoori chicken served on a yogurt raita.  It was delicate and perfectly designed.  The service included a tiny fork and spoon to match the serving plate.

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Nest was the gazpacho, which promised considerably more than it delivered. The presentation was lovely, with first a dish of the solid elements:

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There’s melon, pepper, jicama, tomato, cheese and a few unidentifiable things there.

The server then poured the soup over the fixings:

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Things now went downhill–there was damned little soup in the bowl.  I told the waitress, and that seemed to amuse her.  I convinced her I wasn’t kidding.  They brought out a little more soup for us, but the portion was still insufficient, especially for a dish that cost NZ$24, or sixteeen bucks US.  The waiter came out and explained that the chef want the cheese to be the hero of the dish, which is an odd choice for a soup.

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This is the tiny amount of soup even after they added to the serving.

And then the soup wasn’t all that good, anyway.  The texture of the raw vegetables was antithetical to the dish, and the chef’s attempt to model molecular gastronomy with “olive oil caviar”, tiny balls of microencapsulated olive oil, was a failure.

All was forgiven when the main dish arrived.  You come to New Zealand, you gotta order the lamb.  My first meal here was dreadful chops in a cafe, this meal had the finest lamb chops I’ve ever enjoyed.

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Heaven on a plate

There were two perfectly roasted chops, a piece of braised lamb, some “Parisian” Gnocchi, minced peas with mint and feta and a crispy thing.  I wasn’t crazy about the crispy thing.

The minced peas and feta will be finding a way to my kitchen soon.  I grew up on canned peas, and still like them, but this is an entirely new world.

This dish is the work of an artist.  Everything was cooked perfectly, everything went together. It was a masterpiece.

I thought I should have dessert since the soup didn’t excite me.  Skipping the fancy words in the menu, I had salted caramel pudding with ice cream and butterscotch sprinkles.

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It was sweet, and salty, and smooth, and crunchy.  The ice cream was aaaaaallllllmost melted.  The plate was clean when I was done.

The bill for all this was about the same as it would be in San Francisco. The soup was expensive, the lamb was more reasonable.  You can’t get a glass of ice tea in this country. The service is included, so what you see on the menu is what it costs, no tip.

Micky and Linda are off to Bali, I’m on a plane home tomorrow.  Next adventure on Friday.  Life is good.

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