Food Travel Postcard: North Island, New Zealand

Wrapping up our trip with a few days in the Rotorua area of the North Island!

tui glen jetty

We’d planned to head down to Hamilton for one night so we could do a dawn hot air balloon ride, but the weather didn’t cooperate so we headed straight to our rental house on Lake Tarawera, about 20 minutes from Rotorua. It was dark when we arrived, but early the next morning Sarai and I took our coffee down the hill to our little jetty and watched the sunrise.

tui glen deck

Our deck had a great view! We were totally off the grid out there—no cell service or wifi—so we lit the fireplace, sat on the deck, drank wine and talked. It was so relaxing!

rotorua champagne pool

rotorua highlighter pool

The Rotorua area is famous for being a “thermal wonderland”. One day we visited Wai-o-Tapu, probably the most well-known of the thermal areas. The gorgeous Champagne Pool, with its “artist’s palette” came to life for us, and this highlighter-yellow lake was unbelievable! But everything smelled like rotten egg, which was really gross—I haven’t been up for eating eggs since then…

brioche ricotta

We found this awesome cafe called Capers in Rotorua. They had all sorts of great stuff, so we stopped there twice for brunch. The second time I had this amazing toasted brioche with ricotta and local honey. [Read more...]

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Food Travel Postcard: Nelson/Tasman Region, New Zealand

We spent the last eight days in the Nelson/Tasman region of the South Island. We’d rented a lovely little house in Richmond and based ourselves there for various food and beverage explorations, as well as attending the Feast of Tabernacles. Nelson is one of the bigger cities in the area, about 46,000 people. It’s about an area from the Abel Tasman National Park, which has gorgeous coastal tracks and kayaking and seals and beaches. It and the Marlborough region are also acclaimed for their local wines and beers, so it was the perfect place for our foursome to stay!

jess beach reflection

The scenery in this part of the South Island was so different from where we were previously. Golden beaches, turquoise waters, green hills—it was like Hawaii up in here.

split apple rock

Split Apple Rock in Abel Tasman. Not an actual apple.

pinchgut trail

We hiked Pinchgut Trail in Nelson Lakes National Park, up Mt. Robert…it was crazy steep and we just about died. We rewarded our delirious, exhausted selves with a giant dinner and beer at The Vic.

abel tasman boat ride

We took a boat ride along the Abel Tasman coast and then had an awesome dinner of lamb and good wine at Ford’s in Nelson.

jess wine tasting

This area is particularly known for its wines, so I put on my comfy wine tasting skirt and got down to business… [Read more...]

Food Travel Postcard: Lake Tekapo/Mt. Cook/Aoraki, New Zealand

Greetings from the future!!!

No, really, it’s tomorrow here. I’m in gorgeous, sunny New Zealand, soaking up the unbelievable scenery, talking to awesome Kiwis (the people, not the bird), and hanging out with three cool friends. We’re here for the Feast of Tabernacles, but since we were coming so far (and spending so much money!) we wanted to cram as much awesome into our trip as possible. As always when I travel, I am also super excited about trying all kinds of local food and drink!

sawdon station house

We spent our first few days in the Mackenzie region, after flying into Christchurch and then driving a few hours down to Lake Tekapo. When we arrived at our first rental house, we were utterly charmed, and visions of coffee and wine in front of the fire danced in our heads.

lake tekapo

We immediately set out to explore, taking in the gorgeous turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo before heading into the village in search of sustenance.

oyster stout

We had decent pizzas and good local beer. Great, interesting beer is one of the things New Zealand seems to offer in abundance. This is a local oyster stout, and when I asked the waiter if it had oysters in it he said no, but then the internet told me otherwise. Oops… :S [Read more...]

Balsamic Pasta with Toasted Garlic & Pine Nuts

Sometimes it’s the simple answers that are the best.

Balsamic Pasta with Toasted Garlic & Pine Nuts

I can be guilty of getting too fancy with pasta sometimes, trying crazy combinations of ingredients or always trying to think of something new. Pasta is the blank canvas, the starting place for a thousand meals. And sometimes I think I’ve tried them all. But when I saw this recipe, I was struck by its simplicity and also how all the flavors complemented each other so well.

Balsamic Pasta with Toasted Garlic & Pine Nuts done

It starts, as many things do, with a base of sauteed shallots and garlic. From there all you do is add balsamic vinegar for depth and bite, toasted nuts for protein and crunch, and some parmesan cheese to top it all off. It all comes together in about 15 minutes, and is a warm and comforting dish any time of the day or night. [Read more...]

Heirloom Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

I have to squeeze in one last burst of summer!

Heirloom Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

I got these beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market and I wanted to do them justice. After thinking about different ways to use them, I decided that the best way to taste them would be a simple tomato and mozzarella salad.

heirloom tomato & mozzarella salad tomatoes

A burrata would have been the best cheese choice, but it’s basically impossible to find. So good ol’ buffala mozzarella did the job. I would have liked basil in there but couldn’t find any at the store so I chopped up some spinach instead—for color as well as a little healthiness. [Read more...]

Chocolate Stout Cake with Ganache…Birthday Celebration Part 2!

Let me start by saying that this cake is way easier than it sounds. There’s something about “ganache” that sounds so fancy and unattainable.

Chocolate Stout Cake with Chocolate Ganache

This was the birthday cake I picked out this year, something kind of fancy but also quite simple—just good chocolate and good beer. (Although I’m sensing a theme of chocolate + alcohol birthday cakes…). This is a Smitten Kitchen recipe and it’s basically perfect. The cake itself has a dense richness, a little bittersweet from the combination of the stout and the darker Dutch-process cocoa. I also went a little scant on the sugar so the sweetness wasn’t overwhelming. I went ahead and frosted mine right away, which made the inside moist and fudgy, which is how I prefer my cake.

Chocolate Stout Cake finished

I’d never made a ganache before and thought it was going to be complicated and temperamental, but it was really quite simple and very fast. You want to use good quality chocolate to get the smoothest, creamiest texture and rich flavor. Overall, I would make this cake again in a heartbeat!

chocolate stout cake jamie bottle

And then there was this gloriousness. That’s right, my co-worker wrapped my birthday wine bottles with the one and only James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser. They get me. They really get me.


Chocolate Stout Cake w Chocolate Ganache

Okay, back to the cake… [Read more...]

Smitten Kitchen’s Whole Lemon Tart…Birthday Celebration Part 1

A few years ago I decided that, for my birthday, I’d make myself a dessert that’s just a little fancier than normal. Something I’ve been lusting after but required more time or effort than I’m typically willing to put into things. Since I don’t tend to like store-bought desserts that much, it was a way of making sure I got something I’d really like. And, boy, has it produced good results so far?! Two years ago I made these amazing vanilla almond cupcakes with peach jam filling, and last year I tried out Smitten Kitchen’s red wine chocolate cake.

Whole Lemon Tart

This year, since it’s a “technicolor” birthday (as my co-worker says), I decided that I didn’t have to pick between the two desserts I was eyeing. So this is part one of 30th birthdaypalooza, and Smitten Kitchen has once again done me a solid.

Whole Lemon Tart done

This lemon tart is absolutely jam-packed with flavor. While I love lemon things, I am often turned off by lemon flavor that’s cloying or fake tasting, which is always a danger. But this tart is so bright and fresh and in-your-face with its real lemonness. Lemon-ity?

whole lemon tart lemon slices

What’s also fascinating is that you throw the entire lemon into the filling (not whole, that would be weird…). I don’t know why that makes a huge difference, but it does. And while it looks like there are a million steps in the recipe below, it’s really not that difficult or time consuming. As long as you have time during a couple parts of the day (so you can make the tart crust and let it chill, then freeze a little, then bake), you’re golden. And the butter—oh, the butter! This tart is lemon-y, creamy, tangy, rich, custardy goodness. [Read more...]

Chocolate Chip Granookie

I did it all for gra-nookie!


Yeah, I couldn’t resist.

Basically, this is just a giant, semi-healthy cookie. One cookie. Or, if you’re super nice, one you can share with your friends. (Spoiler alert: I’m not nice)

Granookie done

The cookie base is coconut oil and a little butter, then the main ingredients are granola and whole wheat flour. So while it’s a dessert, it’s full of whole grain, fiber-y goodness and can be a nice breakfast treat to get you through the week. You can also customize it however you want—I used vanilla granola and dark chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. But the sky’s the limit. You could use banana nut granola and peanut butter chips, mocha granola and milk chocolate chips. If you can dream it, do it. [Read more...]

Pan-Caramelized Salmon

Salmon is one of my favorite simple, healthy dinners. It cooks quickly, is super versatile, and is such a nice break from boring chicken.

Pan Caramelized Salmon

This recipe can be made either entirely on the stove or finished off with a nice broil in the oven. Besides the salmon, everything else in this recipe is a pantry staple, and you can throw it together in like 10 minutes total. [Read more...]

Peanut Butter & Jelly Ice Cream

I found a way to make something awesome EVEN BETTER.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Ice Cream

I raved about the peanut butter, honey, & sea salt ice cream I made a few weeks ago. It is seriously the best. So naturally, peanut butter & jelly was the logical next step. Take sweet, peanut butter-y creamy goodness and cut strips of tangy strawberry jam through it, and you have the world’s best lunch update. [Read more...]


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