Lucy Corry’s Blog: The best things I ate in 2021
Ah 2021, a year of unpredictability — at least Lucy Corry has had consistently great food to lean on.
What a year, eh? We’ve had the best of times, the worst of times, and a whole lot of stuff in the middle. I’ve often felt completely shattered by constantly spinning plates (not to mention loading them in and out of the dishwasher), but mostly I’ve felt lucky and grateful. Here’s my look back at some of the delicious things that have come my way in 2021.
BEST ASIAN FOOD
Some people go to therapy to smooth out their rough days, but I go to KC Cafe on Courtenay Place. Eating at this Wellington Chinese institution, where shiny lacquered roast ducks await the chop-chop-chop of the cleaver and woks scrape against blackened gas burners, soothes my soul like nothing else.
After developing a serious hot and sour wonton soup habit over the winter, I’ve since tried to branch out (though discovering just how good KC’s deep-fried squid is has been a fatal error). Given that there are more than 160 dishes on the wall-sized menu to choose from, I’m unlikely to run out any time soon.
BEST BAR SNACKS
Bravo to the cheekily-named El Culo del Mundo, which has taken over what seemed to be a doomed site on Wellington’s Majoribanks St and turned it into a thriving little Latino-inspired joint offering great cocktails and – even more importantly – fab food in a charming setting.
El Culo’s juicy chargrilled lamb cutlets, accented with piquant chimichurri sauce, are one of the best bar snacks I’ve eaten this year, followed by the oh-my-god-this-is-good hot smoked provolone cheese.
BEST RESTAURANT EXPERIENCE
Not only am I probably the last person in New Zealand to discover the bone marrow ravioli in beef juices and salsa verde at Mister D’s in Napier, I only tasted it because my 12-year-old daughter ordered it.
This dish, which she generously let me sample back in July, is one of the most outstanding things I’ve eaten in a restaurant in 2021.
Mister D’s is a gorgeous place with fabulous service and interesting and inventive food. If visiting Hawkes Bay is on your to-do list in 2022, make sure you add this to the itinerary.
BEST ICE CREAM
Wooden Spoon Freezery’s Sriracha ice cream – a special one-off flavour created to celebrate Halloween – is one of the craziest things I’ve eaten all year.
It’s a complete mind-bender of a frozen treat because your brain registers cold and ‘hot’ – or rather, spicy – at the same time.
It’s the sort of thing you have to keep eating to figure out what’s going on (at least, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).
Honourable mention: Kāpiti Fig and Manuka Honey Ice Cream is my most beloved big-brand ice cream flavour of 2021. It reminds me of an incredible ice cream I ate in Italy in 2018, which is no mean feat.
BEST FRIED CHICKEN
It’s been more than 30 years since I last dined at chez Colonel Sanders, so I wasn’t among the people queuing up to go to KFC post-lockdown.
I can’t claim any moral high ground though because in 2021 I have developed a worrying fondness for the spicy, crispy fried chicken on offer at Winner Winner on Courtenay Place. A hot-dipped white barbecue chicken and bacon burger might not be exactly what the doctor orders, but it is incredibly delicious.
This is a truly tough category (I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed that my phone is full of photos of superlative pastry experiences). I think the top prize must go to the kouign amann I ate at The Clareville Bakery, just outside Carterton, in July.
A kouign amann is a kind of super-croissant, laminated pastry gilded with caramelised butter and sugar. I’d only ever eaten one before (in Paris, in another lifetime) and I think the Clareville Bakery one was better.
Honourable mention: As soon as Wellington went into Level 3 lockdown I ordered one of Kate Marinkovich’s famous ‘pillow’ doughnuts from Tomboy. My only mistake was not ordering two.
BEST AT-HOME ACHIEVEMENT
In May, I made my daughter the iconic Swimming Pool Cake from the Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book. This was an engineering feat involving three layers of cake, a ‘pool’ of blueberry jelly, a ladder constructed from skewers and liquorice bits and a vast bowl of white chocolate meringue buttercream icing, plus a chocolate finger fence (safety first!).
Honourable mention: I wrote nearly all of Homecooked while sitting at my dining table, so surely that counts as an at-home achievement? All the photographs were taken at Carolyn Robertson’s home (in the midst of a major kitchen renovation), so she deserves a special mention here too.
Hope you’re able to look fondly back on 2021 (even if some parts were a bit grim). Mere Kirihimete!