The mousse that will torment me 4 eva

Whenever I feel bored with my blog, I find the thing that works well enough to unbore me is changing the WordPress theme I use. So say hello to Twenty Fifteen, the most recent default WordPress theme.

I went to New Caledonia in June. I think it’s one of my favourite places, probably because it’s only a couple of hours’ flight from New Zealand but it’s all exotic and French. Not that I got to put my two years of high school French to much use. I’m currently deep in the midst of learning Swedish (more on that later?) and I found it had pretty much taken the place of what French I knew. I could happily order en kaffe, snälla, but not un thé, s’il vous plait. Fortunately most hospo staff there knew how to recognise the look of panic on an English-speaking tourist.

Who needs friends when you have a menu to dine with?

Best experience – Au P’tit Café in Nouméa. This is the deal – it’s only open four days a week, Tuesday to Friday. It’s not open on weekends because the owner wants to keep his weekends free. The menu changes every week based on what’s available, which is quite a wise choice when you live on an island. Each week the menu only has four main meal options and four dessert options. And that’s it.

The food is OMFG-so-good quality and – this is the crazy part – the prices are not insane. Like, they’re average for a Nouméa restaurant and a lot less than what you’d expect to pay for food of this quality in New Zealand (and the exchange rate was a lot kinder back then). The restaurant building itself is not at all fancy – a small (petit!) building with a large covered deck where all the tables are. In fact, from the outside it’s a really ordinary looking café in a really ordinary neighbourhood.

It was so good I went there three times. This is the chocolate mousse I had once. It actually makes me feel a bit sad when I see this photo because I know that I will probably never again have something as perfect as this. But what do you do in a situation like this? Don’t be sad that it’s over, be glad that it happened, I guess. But still. (Crying face emoji)

Down the sink it goes

So somehow I ended up on this Coca-Cola New Zealand mailing list and a couple of days ago they informed the masses that “One of New Zealand’s favourite beverages of the 80’s [sic] is back by popular demand to quench your thirst this summer.”

It turns out this “favourite beverage” is Mello Yello, which was such a favourite that they stopped making it in the late ’80s.

The only thing I remember about Mello Yello was the TV ad, which featured a lady with giant frosted blonde hair (like Princess Diana, but sluttier) at the beach, who sculled back not one but two bottles of Mello Yello, with each drink preceded by a rhyme. Then the voices sang, “Mello Yello makes you feel so good so fast from your head down to your toe. Mello Yello makes you feel so good so fast. You just can’t drink it slow.” This was, like most ads, a dirty lie. It was also not a cool ad, because I remember it being mocked in the playground at my school.

I don’t remember drinking much Mello Yello in the ’80s. Soft drinks were a special occasion drink, and when I had a choice, I would have probably gone for Fanta or the more grown-up, sophisticated choice, Coke.

But not only is Mello Yello being brought back (for a limited time only), it’s also being promoted with an ’80s nostalgia angle. There’s even a MySpace page for it where Mello Yello’s favourite TV shows include The A Team, Knightrider, The Dukes of Hazzard, and CHiPs.

This morning I noticed Mello Yello in the fridge at my local dairy so I bought a bottle. It seemed to only be available in a 600ml bottle, which is ridiculously large and even more than the two bottles the ad lady sunk back in rapid succession.

I drank a bit and it was not a the magic liquid nostalgia experience I seemed to have been promised. It just was this cloyingly sweet, murky yellow fizzy beverage. It didn’t even have a pleasing citrus tang.

But maybe I’m doing it wrong. Maybe the only way to properly enjoy Mello Yello is to rapidly drink it, to slurp back 302 kilocalories in mere seconds and get so high that all your worries disappear and then enter a parallel universe where it’s like the ’80s but without bad coffee, sexism, shops closed on Sundays or that prime-time TV show about dogs herding sheep.

So I won’t be buying any more Mello Yello. It can happily retire to the land of unwanted ’80s nostalgia. And besides, Mello Yello didn’t even accept my MySpace friend request, so, really, it can just piss off.

Dairy food

I was thinking about dairy food today when it occurred to me that New Zealand might be the only place in the world to have dairy food.

I’ve been googling and indeed the only websites I can find that have “dairy food” associated with that stuff in the supermarket fridge near the yoghurt (not describing cheese and milk products) are to do with New Zealand. Calci-yum, Calci Strong and Vigueur appear to be it. They don’t even seem to have dairy food in Australia.

I’ve tried to find out what it’s called in other countries, or indeed if it exists in other countries. From what I’ve been able to figure out, the yoghurt-like thing for children tends to be either fromage frais or sweet yoghurt. Stuff that resembles dairy food is more likely to be called a custard or pudding, and sold as a dessert treat for adults.

So where did this mysterious dairy food stuff come from? Based on info from my high school home economics teacher and some oral history from my mum, the story is something like this.

It was the 1970s and yoghurt was a trendy health food but New Zealand yoghurt was rubbish. It used to ferment and go off in the pot. You’d buy half a dozen pots and only one of them was good enough to eat. So a kind of fake yoghurt was invented that didn’t rely on those unpredictable cultures. Then a concerned citizen looked at it and said, “Hey! This is not yoghurt!” The relevant people investigated and indeed it was discovered that it was not yoghurt and was, in fact, goopy sweet stuff. It was declared that yoghurt had to be that goopy less-sweet, slightly sour stuff made from a culture, while the goopy sweet stuff was renamed dairy food.

Interestingly enough, Calci-Yum has a flavour trio called “Kiwi”, which is milk chocolate, hokey pokey, and milkshake (as in those Milkshake lollies!). But if, as indeed appears to be the case, dairy food is unique to New Zealand, then surely any flavour of dairy food is a Kiwi flavour?

Póg mo thóin 2: Fiddle-dee-dee potatoes

The caff at work were serving various St Patrick’s Day themed food. This seemed to follow the American style of celebrating St Patrick’s Day by dying everything green. I didn’t mean to but I consumed the following:

– A green lamington (!)
– A spinach salad.
– A ham, cheese and salad in a green tortilla thing.
– A piece of mint-chocolate cake with green icing.

I was feeling kind of bad about celebrating my Irish heritage by eating crap, so I decided to cook some traditional Irish food – the sort of thing my ancestors left Ireland so they could stop eating.

I made champ, a potato dish. It goes like this – get a couple of potatoes, peel them, boil them whole until they’re cooked through. In another pot, biff in a bit of whole milk (not trim or reduced fat – get the stuff with the glob of cream floating on top), chop up some spring onions (or other flavoursome greens) and cook them in the milk. Drain the potatoes, mash ’em, mix in the spring onions, and as much milk as you need to make a nice mixture, add season with salt and pepper. Make a little hole in the top and add a blob of butter and serve with a glass o’ milk.

Yum.

Then I had a glass of Guinness. I got the last four-pack in the chiller at Foodtang today, narrowly beating two guys who seemed really upset that that they couldn’t find any.

I’m into this ethnic heritage celebration thing. I could celebrate my Scottish heritage in Dunedin on Robbie Burns’ birthday and celebrate my English heritage by having a tikka masala.

Peace for Ireland.

– Roibín Ó Gallchobhair

The Food Show 2004

Oh, no. It’s the 2004 Food Show. Unlike last year, where I showed great restraint, this year I had but one goal: To get my money’s worth for the $15 entry fee. Oh dear. I did all the things I’d vowed not to do.

  • I picked up toothpicks and speared them in cheese cubes.
  • I sampled bits of meat that all tasted identical.
  • I took microscopic slivers of chocolate.
  • I dipped bits of bread into olive oil, and – in a new twist – dipped those oiled bits of bread into bowls of herbs and spices.
  • I tried samples of ice cream.
  • I felt horribly ill and had to sit down.

I realised that there is a good reason why people usually eat while they’re sitting down – because it’s physically uncomfortable to eat a lot in a vertical position. I found took a seat in the back of the cooking demonstration area and attempted to digest the previous hour’s samples, but just managed to felt like a gluttonous fat-arse, not unlike Governor Phatt from Monkey Island 2.

The cheese and ice cream demo guy was halfway through mixing up some cheesy stuff when I realised that a) I am sooo over cheese and b) I wasn’t feeling ill anymore, so I got up off my not-so-fat-anymore arse and got back to the food show. I can report the following:

  • I feel sorry for people with a gluten intolerance. The gluten-free breads I tried were either dry and crumbly or damp and spongy. I don’t feel sorry for people who just go gluten-free as a last-ditch weight loss attempt.
  • At the Vanilla Direct stand, I overhead one of the Vanilla guys saying that they were planning on changing the company name to The Natural Vanilla Company because, apparently, company names that are “[Product Name] Direct” are old and gimmicky. Whereas “The [Product Name] Company” isn’t?
  • I remember at the Food Show about four years ago when all the organic food was a bit freaky and hippyish. Now it’s getting very very ordinary and mainstream.
  • I scored a chart showing when fruit and vegetables are in season because, y’know, it’s more ethically sound to buy things in season and minimise environmental damage caused by international shipping.
  • It’s interesting to see how Cadbury were discretely pimping their Mother Earth and (ahem) Natural Confectionary Company brands. “It’s so good that someone is making food without all that muck in it,” said one overexcited show visitor.
  • Cyclops have this new liquorice-flavoured yoghurt that is unexpectedly delicious.
  • I bought an oven cloth. I’ve never actually been able to get my oven to work, but, um, it was only $1.
  • I also got some Nick’s Pasta fettucine for $1. I believe Nick himself sold it to me.
  • I was in the midst of pilfering two sample boxes of Special K when the Kellogg’s lady said, “Would you like a sample of Special K?” “Yes, thanks,” I politely replied in the midst of stuffing the boxes in my bag and walking away.

Cheese is evil

I’d heard about cheese nightmares. A friend of mine claimed that if he had cheese before he went to bed he’d end up having really freaky nightmares, but I didn’t think too much about it.

Last night I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep. I was sort of in a half awake, half asleep state. I was thinking about various things, and sometimes my thoughts turned into dreams. I was thinking about walking along the side of a harbour. Suddenly Christopher Walken appeared in my dream and his face suddenly became hideously disfigured.

The cheese!

About two hours before I went to bed I’d had a fairly small about – only about 25 grams – of Kapiti gouda with cumin seeds. It was messing with my head!

I lay in bed wondering what to do. Every time I closed my eyes I kept experiencing weird sensations. I decided that the best antidote for this evil cheese was some berries. I trudged into the kitchen and finished off the blueberries, raspberries and boysenberries in the fridge then got back into bed.

The weird dreams stopped.

I have decided that cheese will no longer play an active part my diet.

Pancake Porno

My feet have high arches. Normally this doesn’t mean much when I’m buying shoes, unless I’m buying slip-ons. About three years ago I bought a pair of slip-on shoes. They seemed to fit ok in the shop, but when I wore them for the first time on the street, I discovered, to my horror, they they were not able to stay on my feet. The sharply sloping tops of my feet were not able to stay under the band across the shoe, meaning that my feet slid back in the shoe.

Today, wanting to avoid this, I tried on four different styles in different sizes. I did fast-paced laps around the shop, trying to put my feet through the paces. Two styles wouldn’t stay on my feet, another one stayed on, but my heels were sitting on the outer edge. Finally I found a style with a nice high heel that forced my feet to stay in place. And they were $20 cheaper than the price sticker.

I did my shopping out at the Botany Centre. It was such a lovely day that I didn’t want to spend it inside a mall, so I did the next best thing, and spend it outside a mall. The giant carpark was almost full, and there were heaps of cars circling for parks close to the shops. I knew the easiest way to get a park was to drive to the furthest part of the carpark. It worked, I got a space and enjoyed a lovely walk in the sunshine – and I had entertainment thanks to the 30-something guy walking in front of me wearing a pair of lavender trousers pulled right up his bum with a droopy cream polo shirt tucked into them.

The Pak’n Save supermarket there sells petrol. It’s totally self-service, requiring payment be made with a credit card with a PIN. It was a vaguely novelty, but as I was driving home I noticed that the nearest BP (and it’s BP who provide the petrol for Pac n Save) was selling petrol for exactly the same price.

When I got home I decided that as it was Sunday, pancakes with banana and maple syrup were in order. It looked so good I took a picture:

pancakes

Low voltage

I had dinner with my Dad tonight at La Porchetta, which I picked based on other people’s positive comments in LJ.

I discovered that La Porchetta is part of an Australian-based restaurant chain. It’s very much an Australian Italian restaurant, which is different from American Italian restaurants and, of course, Italian Italian restaurants.

From what I can tell, the Australian La Porchettas are going for a kind of warmer, friendlier family restaurant, but the ones in Auckland are a bit more urban and sophisticated. The decor at the Hobson Street one was quite stark with lots of flat surfaces, so the sound was bouncing off everything, making it kinda noisy.

The food was good. I had fettuccini with a salmon and sundried tomato sauce and a side salad. I got the appetiser size and that was really filling. I’d hate to have to tackle the main size. For dessert I had a baci bombe, which was (I think) a chocolate and hazelnut ice cream concoction. It’s good food at cheap prices. And the best thing was I didn’t leave the restaurant feeling like my pants were going to burst.

Vanilla yoghurt

If I were a stereotypical LJ’er, I might write a journal entry like this:

Today I had coffee with Emma and Alex. It was really good to see them and catch up. Later Jacob and I went to see a film festival film about a Slovakian prostitute. It was very moving. Jacob and I are thinking of getting a puppy, or going to Melbourne for the weekend.

But because I am Robyn, I will instead write about vanilla yoghurt.

Something that’s caused me much woe is the lack of vanilla flavoured yoghurt in New Zealand supermarkets.

I’ve never really been into the whole idea of combining dairy products with fruit. This probably stems from a traumatic childhood incident involving the uber grandma dessert treat of Wattie’s tinned fruit salad served with a scoop of rock solid, icy Tip Top vanilla ice cream. After the fruit and ice cream have been eaten you’re always left with a soupy mess of melted ice cream mixed with the fruit salad syrup and a few rogue pear and peach chunks. No wonder people fast.

At the other end of the scale, I’ve dined at a few restaurants that have items on the dessert menu involving fruit and dairy products that do seem really nice. Sneaky spoon attacks upon the plates of my fellow dinner companions have shown that sometimes the fruit ‘n’ dairy combinations do taste ok. But all the time, I still prefer desserts to be either dairy/chocolate/caramel/cream-based or fruit based, but not both*. Keep that cream away from my strawberries.

Yoghurt has never brought me much joy, simply because most yoghurt has some kind of fruit flavouring in it. Fruit of the forest? Wildberry? Autumn harvest? Mango Passion? No, not with yoghurt, ok?

But today everything changed. I was at Foodtang browsing in the ghost-faced chilla when I noticed a new six-pack selection of Yoplait Lite called Morning Break. It offered two pots each of three flavours called Caffe Latte, Vanilla Honey and Vanilla Creme. OMG yes. So I picked up two six-packs and I have the following to offer:

Café Latté: Coffee flavoured yoghurt seems wrong, but this is surprisingly ok. Unlike an actual latte, this won’t actually kick you in the pants, but I certainly don’t demand that of yoghurt. As for the name, well café is French for coffee and latte is Italian for milk, but I’m guessing that if Yoplait is “French for yoghurt”, then Café Latté must be French and/or Italian or “coffee flavoured yoghurt.”

Vanilla Honey: It actually tastes like honey flavoured yoghurt. I imagine that if I did yoga I’d sit cross-legged in my yoga leotard and eat this from a small white china bowl. Oh, but it’d probably be soy yoghurt sweetened with real honey. But, as I’ve previously established, my yoga fantasy will never come true, so I’ll stick with the Vanilla Honey Yoplait.

Vanilla Crème: I can accept Franglais when the word creme is involved, especially when the grave accent is used. It’s a packaging description shortcut, used to describe something creamy that has no actual cream. Oh yes, Yoplait Lite Vanilla Crème is excellent. It’s everything supermarket vanilla yoghurt should be.

* The one fruit I will have with dairy is banana. Banoffi pie = yes.