My 5 picks for the NZ Comedy Festival 2015

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I am a big fan of this time of year, when comics flock to New Zealand to create the NZ International Comedy Festival. Just take my money. Last year Edd and I left for Europe right at this time (sob) and so missed out on seeing much action, I plan to remedy this in 2015 by going to as much as I can. For those who may not know where to start or what to see, the comedy festival website has kindly broken it all up into some handy sections (accompanied by cat pictures) so you know which shows will not be appropriate for your young sister and her very conservative, religious friends too (one time, 1 bad decision). I wanted to share 5 shows that I would pick, either because I have seen the comedian before or just ’cause it sounds great.

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Wilson Dixon – For the first time again

I have seen this talented cowboy a few times at various comedy shows and Wilson Dixon never fails to disappoint with his drawling stories from the mid-west. Throw in a few catchy and hilarious songs and you have an hour that flies by, full of laughs.

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Best of the Billys – Hosted by Ben Hurley

This kind of comedy show is a great way to get the most for your money and see a few different comedians in one night. Best of the Billys features a few favourites like Rose Matafeo, Cori Gozalez-Macuer and Guy Montgomery, and will no doubt be a hilarious night for a very reasonable price. A perfect introduction to some of New Zealand’s best.

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One Man Breaking Bad – The Unauthorised Parody

As soon as I heard that there was a 1 hour show where 1 man acts out all 5 seasons of Breaking Bad and its amazing characters, I knew I had to be there. Enough said.

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Rose Matafeo – Finally Dead

I love Rose’s unique style of comedy, she always puts on a good show and I just relate to her awkward stories more-so than any other standup comedian. She is one of New Zealand’s best acts in my opinion and definitely worth fitting into your comedy calendar. In this show she stages her own funeral, which sounds weirdly appealing.

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The Green Effect – Hosted by Brendon Green

The Green Effect is a show featuring different funny people on the two different nights who all put their hilarious minds together to come up with a way to save the world. I don’t know much more about it but will be going along to see what they come up with! Visit the website to find out more.

Will you be going along to any shows this year? If so let me know what your picks are (not that I can afford to go to all the shows I would like to see!).

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Best for Brunch: Okra

Okra Menu Cafe Review

So I have done you all a great disservice. Somehow, despite being a regular at Okra for a couple of years now, it has managed to slip past a blog post. Let me remedy this now because, spoiler, this place is one of my favourite spots in Auckland for a relaxing weekend brunch. Its where I go when I need somewhere to unwind. Its where I go for a bit of time together with my husband. Its where I go when I want to take visitors out to somewhere reliably delicious. For me, Okra ticks all of the boxes and that’s what keeps me coming back despite the plethora of options we are lucky to have in Auckland.

Okra Cafe Review

Coffee here is a bit of a flat debate. Personally Edd and I both love it. It’s one of the few places where I can enjoy a long black and their lattes are still strong and full of flavour. My flatmate is not such a fan, so you will just have to go and try it yourself!

Okra Cafe Review

The good news is that it’s not just their coffee that is on offer, they also offer a selection of delicious smoothies and fresh juices. Their morning slap isn’t just random abuse (their staff are incredibly friendly in fact) but their orange, lemon and ginger juice which I order without question every time I visit. When I’m not feeling so healthy, their salted caramel smoothie is equally as mouth-watering.

Okra Cafe Review

This is me trying to show how much I love juice but actually just being a bit awkward. Sorry.

Obviously I eat when I come here. In fact I usually eat too much. The first 10 minutes or so are me debating whether I should go for something savoury, like the perfection that is their vegetarian big breakfast, or for something sweet, like their pancakes which are sandwiched with lemon curd, smothered in maple syrup and served with a side of yoghurt (to make it easier for me to pretend I’m not eating desert for breakfast).

Okra Cafe Review

This is the perfection that is their pancakes. Perfection I tell you.

Their menu is simple yet satisfies all of my tastes (check it out over at Zomato). There are full on brunches, light snacks and delicious lunch choices as well as a newly added nigh time menu so that you can spend all day here if desired. And everything is delicious. Their creamy mushrooms are to die for, I could live off their hash browns, their hollandaise is creamy and light and their eggs are always cooked to perfection. In other words, the food is reliably amazing.

Okra Cafe Review

The very delicious Eggs Royale (i.e. my constant brunch envy)

The cafe has a few different seating areas; outside in the sunshine, out back in the sheltered courtyard, inside where its busy or upstairs in the peace and quiet. Okra just has it all for me, friendly staff, delicious food, strong coffee and lovely surroundings. I see many more Sunday mornings spent here and I don’t mind at all.

Okra Cafe Review

Check out their Facebook page and keep them in mind for a free morning where you crave something local and delicious.

Okra Cafe Review

 

What are your favourite local brunch spots? 

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A Mexican Feast at Flying Burrito Brothers

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to my first Zomato meetup where I got to try enough Mexican food to last me several weeks.

This meetup was hosted at Flying Burrito Brothers in Newmarket, which had opened a little while ago and had a menu to delight any foodie with Mexican tastebuds (my hand is firmly in the air).

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Virgin Mojitos and dark lighting, sorry in advance for all the other photos

We started with a virgin cocktail; mine was mint and agave and all kinds of refreshing – which was much needed after dealing with Auckland traffic after work. We were then given a tasting board of their starters (bocaditos) to share around whilst we all were introduced to one another. Highlights for me included the Jalapeno Relleno (corn crusted jalapeno) as well as the Quesadilla De Queso, a delicious cheese, chilli and coriander quesadilla which went perfectly with their fresh tomato salsa. The highlight of this platter was the hot spicy cheese dip, Chilli Con Queso. I could live off the stuff (not for long though).

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The Starting Platter

After gorging on starters, plate after plate of delicious dishes came out until our table was creaking. There were enchiladas, fajitasand burritos, but the highlight for me was the mushroom quesadilla (Quesadilla de Hongos) which was cooked to perfection and came with generous amounts of guacamole, sour cream and salsa. I must mention the Holy Mole Enchilada. Filled with chicken, I didn’t really try this but couldn’t resist tasting a little of the mole sauce which was rich and delicious.

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Enchiladas, Burritos and Fajitas, Oh My!

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Mushroom Quesadillas, perfect for any cheese loving vego

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Luckily we had a bit of a break before desert, the conversation was pretty lively and the white sangria came out and was light and tasty. When the deserts arrived they were quickly demolished. We tried the Banana Chimichanga, tortilla wrapped fried banana served with ice cream and cinnamon sugar. Good but in my opinion, not as good as the Churros which came with three different dipping sauces. Yum.

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Never too full for desert. Never.

 

It was such a fun night and an amazing way to sample some of the delicious dishes offered by Flying Burrito Brothers. I now can’t wait to go back with more friends and eat so much I can’t get home.

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What the table looks like at a foodie meetup.

What are your favourite Mexican dishes?

Review of 2015’s Laneway Festival

So it’s been just under a week since Laneway, and I figured it was probably time I shared my experience after reading quite a few others. Spoiler alert: I had an amazing day.

Overall, Laneway 2015 was organised amazingly well. It was sold out and yet the crowds didn’t bother me at all. I waited no longer than 5 minutes for the bathroom and enjoyed about 11 different acts. I’ll run you through my day:Laneway 2015 Silo Park

We made our way to Laneway pretty early, getting there for Princess Chelsea at 12.00pm and let us walk around and explore a bit before the crowds arrived. We then found a spot on the grass, in the shade of the silos, to see Princess Chelsea put on a beautifully sweet and charming show. I think one reviewer put it perfectly when they compared her to Lena Dunham hosting a kitten kissing competition. It was pretty adorable, and she played my favourite song of hers, Cigarette Duet. It was a pretty perfect start to a gorgeous day.

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Princess Chelsea in the midday sunshine

 

We then ambled over to see the last 20 minutes of Tiny Ruins, a New Zealand artist who was captivating in her soft voice and quiet hold over the crowd. We also enjoyed a delicious vietnamese cold coffee to battle the sunshine. Conan Mockasin took the stage next, and put on a show that was weird but nonetheless entertaining in its 70s psychedelic rock vibes that had everyone dancing.

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Connan doing his thing. Whatever that is.

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Angel Olsen was someone I was looking forward to seeing all week, and she didn’t disappoint, playing a bunch of my favourite songs in a very effortless way. I was pretty much captivated for the entire 40 minute set and didn’t want it to end. New girl crush by the way. The moment her set ended, Courtney Barnett started on the stage next door so we grabbed a quick cold drink and then watched her take over the stage, obviously having just as much fun as all of us who were watching her.

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Angel Olsen a little bit crooked. I blame all of my dancing.

Royal Blood’s rock performance was one of my favourite moments of the day, with a huge number of people all yelling out the lyrics and dancing along to their high energy tracks. I am not a dancer but I don’t think anyone stood still throughout their songs. There was a lot of head banging and I didn’t even care.

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British Duo, Royal Blood

After a couple of hours of dancing around in the heat our energy reserves were pretty depleted so we grabbed a delicious meal at Bird on a Wire who were selling giant bowls of their delicious salads, topped with fresh chicken or crispy tofu. It was exactly what we needed to prepare ourselves for the next few hours.Auckland Harbour Laneway 2015

Jon Hopkins played a beautiful techno/synth set in the sunshine in front of the silos, with people dancing along to his seamlessly hypnotic electronica tracks. We then made our way to see some of Angus and Julia stone, where for the first time all day I found the crowds a little overwhelming.

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Crowding in beside the Silos to catch a glimpse of Banks

The crowds packed in for Banks, who despite some technical issues, had everyone enthralled with her quiet, shy demeanour but her beautiful voice and big beats. It took a bit of work making our way up close so with Little Dragon up next we decided to hold our ground amongst the pulsing crowd who were crammed into the small space. Probably the most memorable moment of the whole 11 hour day was watching the sun set over Auckland harbour during the Little Dragon set. It was spell binding. Dancing along with hundreds of other fans to some of their best songs made me forget about the heat and my sore legs and the crowds and just enjoy the moment.

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Little Dragon putting on one hell of a show as the sun goes down

After an hour of full on dancing, I needed a bit of a rest before St Vincent took the stage dressed up like some kind of gorgeous alien model. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to watch much of her but once she had started I was hooked on her quirky synth sounds and awkward dance moves. St Vincent was one of the best performers of the day, with her crowd in the palm of her hand hanging on to each and every sound that came out of her mouth.

St Vincent Laneway 2015

Before heading home, slightly sunburnt and totally exhausted, I wanted to see some of Flying Lotus who was finishing off the evening with his amazing 3D show. I only knew two of his songs so once I had heard them both, my weary legs demanded I take them home. As a small sidenote, Silo Park looked just as beautiful in the dark, lit up spectacularly, as it did in the gorgeous summer sunlight. What a beautifully charming venue to spend the day in. Sunset over Auckland Laneway 2015

I know some people complained about Laneway; the crowds, the long lines for the drinks/bathrooms etc. etc. I had a totally different experience and so I think this is up to the individual. We decided not to bother with alcohol because I paid a fair bit for my ticket and wanted to get my music’s worth out of it. After drinking at Big Day Out last year, I found that I had more fun this year, danced just as much and didn’t need anything extra as I was pretty giddy just on the experience of the whole day. The heat was at times pretty unbearable but there was free water all over the place and spots of shade to cool down. The clashes were minimal (for me) and the only act I missed was Belle and Sebastian. We went in wanting to make the most of our day, and got way more than we bargained for.

Auckland Laneway 2015

If you made it to the end of all that congrats, your reward is my 5 lessons learnt at Laneway 2015:

  1. If you are wanting to see lots of new amazing acts, get there early. More space, more relaxed atmosphere and heaps of wonderful music.
  2. Listen to a few of the acts before hand to help plan out who you would like to see and make the most of your time
  3. If you want to get drunk, go to a bar. The more you drink, the more time spent in lines, less spent experiencing great music.
  4. Reapply sunblock. Turns out that 1 application at 11am does not prevent you looking like a lobster at work on Monday.
  5. Take advantage of the free water and stay hydrated.

What was your experience at Laneway 2015?

Strawberry Fields Forever

Summer Strawberry Picking in AucklandWith Summer in full swing and the weekend hours more precious then ever, I have been trying to tick off various things from my Summer Bucket List. One of these was to gorge on strawberries at a pick your own farm, and with my two little brothers over for the day we had the perfect opportunity for it.

Summer Strawberry Picking in Auckland

With a few recommendations from friends, we decided on Garelja Bros Strawberry Gardens and spent a wonderful half hour or so filling up buckets and containers (and our mouths) with the most beautiful and delicious strawberries I could imagine. The boys had a great time and I was busy thinking of all the wonderful things I could do with the bounty we had picked. The hot sun was shining (we were slathered in sunblock), despite its popularity we never had to share our area with any other pickers and the strawberries were plentiful. Within 20-30 minutes we had more strawberries then we knew what to do with.

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The best part about Garelja Bros was when we came to pay, and found (to our surprise) that the mountain of juicy strawberries was only $15. We had expected to part with much more cash (rather happily) in exchange for our few kilograms of fruit. Unlike some other Strawberry farms, Garelja Bros doesn’t do their own strawberry ice cream, but their friendly staff recommended a spot called Juicy on the way back to the main road (turn left, left, left and its on your left :)) that specialised in fresh strawberry ice cream, as well as Coffee, smoothies and gelato. Somehow we found room in our bellies and sat on some beanbags in the shade with a monster of an ice cream to devour. I’d like to say that it was so big I couldn’t finish it..but I’d be lying.

Summer Strawberry Picking in Auckland

Both of these spots were cheap and friendly and provided the 4 of us with a highly enjoyable afternoon in the sunshine. Even better, I now have 4 kilos of strawberries in my fridge and freezer.

Summer Strawberry Picking in AucklandSummer Strawberry Picking in Auckland

If you haven’t been yet, Garelja Bros may only be open for a little while longer (check their Facebook page for details) but I highly recommend them if you get a chance between 10am and 3pm. They charge a very reasonable $5 a kilo and if you can, bring a flat tray to lay the strawberries on in the car so they don’t get smooshed.

Let me know if you have any favourite strawberry spots in Auckland and what else is on your Summer Bucket List!

Summer Strawberry Picking in Auckland

You can see Mr 7 eating on the job here. Cheeky.

Summer Strawberry Picking in Auckland

Introducing: Auckland Food Tours

So my dream day is to be driven around to different delicious destinations where I can eat and buy as much food as possible and then nap the afternoon away. This came true last Saturday when I went along to one of the Auckland Food Tours with Edd and Mr 12. Dreams really do come true.Auckland Food Tours


I am a big fan of food. I am also a big fan of not having to put in a lot of effort in order to eat a lot of food. It’s a dangerous combination (just ask my waist line) but for those food-inclined, a food tour is like a mini miracle. Food tours obviously are a thing that have always existed outside of my imagination, yet somehow I have just never successfully encountered one until last weekend.

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Needless to say, when asked if I would like to come along on one of the food tours I did not take a lot of persuading.

All the details on the tour set up are located over on the website for Auckland Food Tours so I’m just going to mention a couple of my favourite places and then show you a few delicious photos.

Monsoon Coffee

Our first stop, Monsoon Espresso, was one of my favourites although my love of coffee may make me biased. We were shown the coffee roasting process whilst we got to down the good stuff in their beautiful roastery showroom, and whats even better is that they have a cafe in the city! The rest of the tour included Lebanese, Russian, German, Italian and Middle Eastern style cuisines and the type of stops varied from the cafe to a cheese maker in Dairy Flat, with everything delicious that you could imagine in between. Monsoon Espresso 1

There were several places that I will definitely go back to again, one of which is Barakah Foods, the Lebanese supermarket in Wairau that was full of hidden treasures for a super reasonable price. The little unassuming store is packed full of the most delicious things like pomegranate molasses, rosewater, tinned charcoal roasted eggplant, relishes and jams, fresh olives and feta. I’ve only scraped the surface of this shops offerings and I will be back there before Christmas to spend all of my money.

Barakah Food

Along the way we met a variety of incredibly friendly foodies who talked us through their passions in food and let us eat many delicious samples (we definitely did not need lunch). At one point I had a delicious German pastry, warm and doughy and full of creamy poppyseed paste (which does not sound as good as it tasted). As it was thrust in to my hand, still warm from the oven, I think I had some form of delicious bread related epiphany (perhaps along the lines of “oh my god, bread! Delicious!). I also tried Russian dumplings for the first time and may have eaten far more than my share (not my fault). I also ate a lot of cheese, but what else is new?

Massimo Lubisco

Overall Thoughts

Would I do another food tour again? This seems like a silly question because I would happily do one every weekend if I could. These would make such a great gift (oh hey there Christmas!) or the perfect experience for someone visiting Auckland. It was such a fun way to get to know some of those secret places that people discover and with the amount of tastings we received it would be well worth the price. Anne-Marie, who hosted us, was amazing and did a wonderful job of sharing her obvious love for food with each of us. Even Mr 12 was totally obsessed with the day and could not stop raving about how much fun he had.

Auckland Food Tours

Me. Eating Cheese. Because that’s pretty much what I do in every photo

 

Napoleon Pastry

In case you haven’t eaten a Napoleon before, you definitely should.

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My Big Little City: Waiheke Island

Hey Guys!

Is it just me or does this week feel like it is taking forever? I swear I woke up today and thought it was the end of the week then realized I had many more days to go. It was a devastating moment I think we can all agree.A while ago Edd and I took a day trip to the rather wonderful Waiheke Island that lies off the coast off Auckland. It was Edd’s first time going over and he took some great photos so I thought I would share them and tell you about my favourite NZ island (although I may be biased due to the wonderful people who live there).

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So yeah the weather wasn’t looking so good when we left. And then it started raining. The city totally looks like it could be some sort of Gotham city with a kiwi Batman running amok though right?

How to get there:

There are two main ferry companies (Fullers and Sealink) and both run pretty regular ferry services from either Half Moon Bay or Auckland CBD. The ferry takes about 40-50 minutes and will cost you around $36 return for an adult or $20 for a child. You can also pay to take a car or motorbike. The ferry ride over is beautiful with amazing views of Auckland harbor and so definitely try to grab a seat outside so you can enjoy it properly.

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Pirate ship? Maybe not.

For us the trip over was nearly a nightmare in that it was pouring with rain 90% of the time and I was pretty sure the day was going to be a disaster. Luckily there were atmospheric photos to be taken and then much to our surprise the weather changed its mind once we arrived (ah, even on Waiheke one cannot escape the crazy psychopath that is Auckland weather). There is no doubt Waiheke and it’s ferry rides are nicer in the sunshine but there was something quite peaceful about sitting out and experiencing the ride in the rain.

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What to do there:

Our first stop was to get something to eat. Luckily the weather was clearing and the bus takes you straight from the ferry to the main shops at Oneroa Village where there is a plethora of cafe’s and shops to wander through. We ate at a Turkish cafe called Delight which has the best views possible over Oneroa beach. A gorgeous setting to eat brunch and the food was delicious too. Edd had their lamb pita and I had a Turkish lunch plate. It was all very tasty and delicious although their breakfast options looked even better.

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Tasty…although not as tasty as their Turkish tea which I think I could live on.

After brunch there are a bunch of really lovely gift shops to explore (which was handy seeing as this visit fell just before Christmas).

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In my opinion the best part about Waiheke is the beautiful beaches. As we were limited transport wise we just visited Oneroa Beach  however my favorite would have to be the more wild Palm Beach (although be warned, there is a nude beach just a few rocks away so don’t go exploring too far without this in mind).

 

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See what a stunning day it turned into? I think we were a little lucky.

Arguably competing for first place with the best thing on Waiheke are the huge number of incredible vineyards with tastings and incredible views all around.

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On our trip we visited two, the first being the ultra modern, classy Cable Bay vineyard. The wine tasting was $10 per person for 5 wines (the price was deducted from our purchases at the end) and took place in a modern looking cellar (which I found a bit strange as the views from the outside garden area and restaurant were seriously breath taking and would make for a much nicer tasting experience in my opinion).

 

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The second vineyard we visited was the extremely popular Mudbrick which although is just down the road from CableBay is a complete polar opposite. The buildings look like they were plucked from Tuscany and dropped on a beautiful Island, hence why it is a favourite spot for wealthy Aucklanders to get hitched. Unfortunately for us Mudbrick was just closing for a marriage ceremony when we arrived (a common problem so get in there early). Despite not actually doing the tasting I would go back in a heartbeat (hopefully next time to drink some wine) due the amazing setting. No doubt it is one of the prettiest places in Auckland to visit.

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Seriously. Mudbrick is one stunning location.

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So if you are looking for a day trip or a weekend away Waiheke is a perfect spot to get away from the smoke of city and enjoy some good food and wine. Check out this website for a lot more information (most more useful than mine) on things to do and places to stay. Next time I go I think we will take a full weekend and maybe try out the archery… You can just call me Katniss from now on.

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Thanks as per usual to Edd for his gorgeous photos of a gorgeous island