Lucy Corry: A year in delectable eats
Lucy Corry looks back on the year’s culinary highlights: best recipes, best at-home achievements, and Wellington’s (arguably) best pastry.
The year of 2022 has turned out to be a bit of a curate’s egg of a year, hasn’t it? This expression, which dates back to a 1895 Punch cartoon, refers to something that’s ‘good in parts’, but overall slightly unpalatable. In the interests of festive cheer, here are some of my culinary highlights.
Walking a dog is a great way to learn about your neighbourhood. When construction started in earnest in a long-dormant space on Kent Tce, Cosmo and I kept tabs on it on a regular basis. When the doors opened and I learned that Jacob Brown and Sarah Bullock were behind it, I couldn’t get in there fast enough. Everything at Myrtle is gorgeous, but I’ve developed a particular fondness for its almond croissants. One of these is the perfect start to a Saturday morning.
Honourable mention: It’s not often that you have a breathtaking food experience in a retail centre car park, but it’s not often that you come across a French bakery selling Paris-Brests, either. If you find yourself with time to spare in Queenstown, get to Ma Boulangerie in the Remarkables Park Town Centre. The baguette sandwiches are great, but the Paris-Brests are even better.
BEST AT-HOME DINING EXPERIENCE
In mid-July, we invited some dear Francophone friends to celebrate Bastille Day with us. This involved smoked mackerel rillettes, David Lebovitz’s incredible duck confit, my husband’s equally famous potatoes, and a classic salade verte. There was lots of wine and cheese, and my sister-in-law made coffee creme brulee that we all brulee’d at the table. Such good fun in the midst of a dark, damp, Covid-laced winter.
BEST ASIAN FOOD
While my passion for Wellington’s iconic KC Cafe hasn’t waned, I’ve had less time to dine there this year (or perhaps it’s a good sign that I’ve needed it less as an emotional crutch). In the meantime, I’ve made a late (re)discovery of another local institution: the Basin Noodle House. Take it from me, their mapo tofu (cloud-like tofu in a rich, spicy, numbing ‘gravy’) is one of the best things I’ve eaten all year.
BEST FOOD TV
When I asked an ex-chef friend if she’d watched The Bear, she said she couldn’t face it. “Too soon,” she said. “Too triggering.” I’m not surprised. This gruelling, gritty, brilliantly conceived show should be compulsory viewing for anyone who thinks they’d like to work in hospo. The Bear follows successful chef Carmen ‘Carmy” Berzatto as he tries to turn his dead brother’s chaotic sandwich shop into “a respectable place of business”. Drugs, fires, sharp knives, doughnuts, veal jus, clever dialogue and a cracking soundtrack make this a true feast.
Honourable mention: The School of Chocolate (Netflix). Sure, it perpetuates all the tropes of reality TV, but watching a diminishing number of skilled pastry chefs manipulate chocolate under the guidance of the impeccably groomed Amaury Guichon turned out to be strangely compelling.
BEST ICE CREAM
When we went to Queenstown in April, it was so cold that as a feeble North Islander I had to wear all of my clothes on top of each other (note to self: next time, take a better coat). However, neither cold nor rain stopped me from sampling a ‘majestical’ chocolate and hazelnut ice cream from Patagonia Chocolates. Tourism, after all, is hungry work.
Honourable mention: I’m probably the last person in the world to discover it, but Kaffee Eis’ Indian Summer, fragrant with cardamom, ginger and turmeric, is joy in a cone (whatever the season).
Is there any better pie in Aotearoa than a West Coast pie? I was thrilled to see this small business receive some overdue attention at the 2022 Outstanding New Zealand Food Producer Awards, thanks to their collaboration with Chatham Island Food Co. If you’re on the Coast over summer, make sure you stop into the cafe in Westport (next to the New World), which sells their superb wild game pies and an impressive array of viennoiserie.
Honourable mention: If you happen to be driving through Murchison this summer, I highly recommend stopping at Tutaki Bakery (look for the little caravan in the grounds of Murchison Museum on Fairfax St). Baker Lee Morgan makes delightful pies, with creative fillings encased in tender sour cream pastry.
In June, I discovered the ultimate caffeine fix: a ‘milk tea meets coffee’ from Gemini Cafe on Wellington’s Tory St. This is a modern interpretation of yuen yeung, a hybrid drink popular in southern China and Hong Kong that blends three-parts black coffee with seven-parts condensed milk-laced black tea. At Gemini, it’s served as a tall glass of iced black tea and blue-top milk topped with a signature teddy bear-shaped coffee ice block, accompanied with a double shot espresso. The idea is that you pour the espresso into the iced milky tea to reach the strength you need. Since I seldom drink coffee, drinking one of these was like having an adrenaline shot, only more delicious.
Honourable mention: Remember Chi, ‘the drink that knows its own name’? I’ve rediscovered it this year and it is an absolute tonic after a long run, or a stint in the garden. Drink in a deckchair with lots of ice and a slice of lemon for maximum enjoyment.
BEST NZ LIFE & LEISURE RECIPE
A totally shameless category, this one, but please indulge me. Of all the things I’ve made for NZ Life & Leisure this year, this raspberry and lemon zuccotto is my favourite. Like a lot of ideas, this one came to me one day when I was running (don’t you think about pudding when you’re exercising?) It took several goes to get it right, including one disastrous attempt where I accidentally dyed the sponge blue by using a blue serviette to line the bowl), but I’m inordinately proud of the results. And Carolyn Robertson’s wonderful photo absolutely does it justice.
Honourable mention: I can’t wait to make these curry butter snails with spinach and feta from Sam Parish’s book Cook With Me.
BEST AT-HOME ACHIEVEMENT
In September I made my first-ever marmalade (I know this probably doesn’t seem like much to readers of thisnzlife but to me it was a huge achievement). I made a few rookie errors (next time I’ll use a bigger pot, so it doesn’t boil over – twice) and I’ll reorganise my timing so I’m not anxiously testing it for setting while simultaneously cooking dinner. We’re down to our last jar already, so I’d best hasten and make some more.
Honourable mention: Last weekend we had about 30 people over for drop-in festive drinks. We fed them sausages, tomato sauce and white bread, and it was a triumph. If you need a reminder that the company is more important than the catering this Christmas, this is it.
Let’s all hope for a sustaining 2023. Meri Kirihimete!