Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Food Show 08

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  • Russell Brown,

    Hallelujah.

    After three weeks in at Espresso Engineers, our Domobar machine is finally ready to be picked up in half an hour. I had been getting a bit tetchy about it ....

    But I am very glad I took the plunge on day one and bought a Presso non-electric espresso maker on day one, on the recommendation of the EE guys.

    You just add grounds, then boiling water, and squeeze.

    It took a day or two to refine the process, but it really does make a convincing cup of coffee. Our will be coming on holiday henceforth. It's actually light enough that you could take it tramping if you wanted to be a flash bastard.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    British food culture has always been more diverse that the sterotyipical boiled cabbage of the Mrs Beaton variety. I reckon Britain became more 'Un British' long before NZers returning from their OE cottoned to the trend but if you want to live with blinkered stereotypes then ...

    I know what you mean. We had a very established tapas bar around the corner from us in Vauxhall in the 80s, before tapas arrived in NZ. But New Zealand certainly made up for lost time.

    But by the same token, New Zealand was serving much better brasserie-style food than most places in Britain at the same time -- I recall some real horrorshow meals. It was another 10 years before British restaurants broke out of their rut, I think.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Lynda Johansson,

    I think I know the cafe you're talking about in Dargaville and the coffee, food and garden bar there are great. I've spent many a happy afternoon there when visiting my elderly mum. Interestingly, my parents left that part of the country to run a coffee lounge in Customs St (long gone), in the seventies. It was called the Cadora (I think) and was notorious at the time for the prostitution ring and drug peddling that used to operate out of it. A rather rude awakening to life in the big smoke for my rather sheltered mum and dad, straight off their small farm. But it had a magnificent espresso machine which they learnt to operate. There was a regular clientele of Europeans and I can only assume there were other similar businesses although most would have been in Wellington. Does anyone remember it?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2007 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Before we had *$s in London, coffee was either instant or (worse IMHO) from a filter jug.

    In about 1998 some people came back from a trip to Seattle and started a Starbucks clone called the "Seattle Coffee Company". They rapidly opened 60 stores (this *was* the late '90s) and sold them to *$s for Sixty Million Quid. That's right, three million dollars for a coffee shop in rented premises.

    I'm a mocha drinker, me. Schoc in Tory St does the best mochas in NZ in my book. The quality of coffee is usually proportionate to the freakishness of the barista - the more outlandish their clothes, tats and piercings, the nicer the drink. This is not only empirically true, there is a mechanism - N2O.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Robert Fox,

    I recall some real horrorshow meals. It was another 10 years before British restaurants broke out of their rut, I think.

    I've not been home for 5 years but I'm sure there are still places in the UK that you can get served up Horroshow and chips and still get change out of a five!. And dont even get me started on the the pies. I suppose my point is that alondside the bog standard dross that british cuisine is always associated with there were always gems to be found as your Tapas bar experience shows.

    Since Nov 2006 • 114 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    I found Italy pretty good, France very variable. Germany surpisingly good (I think because they have grasped the consistancy thing).

    The British vaguely like StarFux I think, because the alternatives there are still like NZ was up until about 10 years ago.

    I don't actually drink coffee, but my coffee-drinking relatives found London better than they had expected, coffee-wise, although definitely inferior to Paris. The best coffee on the trip, IIRC, was in a wine shop/cafe in a tiny but heavily-defended medieval village south of Tours.

    Singapore, OTOH, was dreadful; we had to resort to Starbucks, and at one point I was served tea with "non-dairy" creamer in it. That was...memorable.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    quite how bad American food is once you get even a small distance from a major immigrant-based centre

    I was going to leap to the fore and defend American food, but then realised that I was basing my love on a) Cajuns and Creoles (immigrant-based cuisine) and b) Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex (immigrant-based cuisine). However: barbeque. Barbeque is *awesome*. That's... all I got, really. Oh, and Louisiana coffee is good. It's filter, but it's good. Must be the French influence there...

    (It should also be noted that even small towns in Texas and Louisiana have wonderful food. Tiny little taco stands and hole-in-the-wall seafood joints.)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Before we had *$s in London, coffee was either instant or (worse IMHO) from a filter jug.

    Part of my payday ritual in London in 1986 was going to Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden and selecting beans and having them ground for me. I was just brewing coffee on the stovetop, but the mocha java beans seemed nice and exotic.

    And there was espresso in the West End too -- notably from Bar Italia, which always seemed authentic and exotic. I dragged a bunch of people along there straight off the plane when I was back in 2000. Sadly, it became evident that if Bar Italia ever had made great espresso, it certainly didn't do so by 2000.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I was going to leap to the fore and defend American food

    Anthony Bourdain made great play of doing that in his first book, but when it came down to it, he was basically defending dull food.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Singapore, OTOH, was dreadful; we had to resort to Starbucks ...

    Me too. That was after trying Coffee Connoisseurs, where I was made to wait ages for a very expensive and completely hopeless long black.

    Oddly, the Starbucks coffee around the corner was actually okay.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    Hmm, I dislike SB in the way I dislike most franchises however they employ lots and lots of people and, importantly, train them. I worry about 700 workers who'll have to find work.

    And by the way, I don't agree the Financial Times take on Sydney coffee-culture. It's rubbish (Melbourne's is great however). Most of the coffee sold in Sydney is weak, weak, weak (I'm ex-Wellington). There's only a handful of places in the city to buy coffee and the best place is in the suburbs - this little beauty

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I was going to leap to the fore and defend American food, but then realised that I was basing my love on a) Cajuns and Creoles (immigrant-based cuisine) and b) Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex (immigrant-based cuisine).

    I'm Italian so, in a way, all your goof coffees are belong to us. Except not really, we hardly invented coffee, and what is known today as Italian cuisine too is certainly not the result of centuries of stubborn preservation of a purist tradition. We went from ruling the continent to becoming the doormat of Europe and the constant was always immigration, not just of people but also of recipes. So likewise defining what "American" cooking is will remain hard, and really the only test is whether you can eat well and find good ingredients to cook a range of different things. Based on my week-long experience in the US, I'd say yes, whereas for Scotland in the early nineties it would be a resounding no on both counts.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    even small towns in Texas and Louisiana have wonderful food.

    there was a place in east texas i went to that served catfish and fries. the closest i could get to fish and chips...

    damn good with plenty of hot sauce.

    and jim, forget the finishing school. they don't teach you to recognise when someone has put a little love into what they're making for you.

    the main problem with your argument is assuming that fast food has well-served the masses. but it hasn't. if anything, it's taken the ability to cook out of the hands of most of the population, and moved it to spotty students following a gantt chart.

    and 10 points to someone who can name the cook-by-numbers method macdonalds and other fast food places follow.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Eleanor,

    Last month in New York I ordered a cafe au lait, in the vain and desperate hope that it was similar to a flat white.

    The "barista" filled an enormous cup almost to the top with hot milk, and topped it up with filter coffee from a jug. Soooo... that's a cafe au lait then.

    Re Bar Italia, the funny thing about Italian coffee makers in London is that they seem to really believe that by birthright they are fabulous. Yet in my recent experience their brew is bitter, burnt, foul & over-extracted and they seriously need to wake up their ideas.

    There are a couple of Kiwi owned cafes there now, and also a Kiwi coffee cart in the heart of Soho that is doing a roaring trade, and pissing the Italian cafe owners off no end.

    wellington • Since May 2007 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Darlington,

    I don't actually drink coffee, but my coffee-drinking relatives found London better than they had expected

    Boston Tea Party in Bristol and Bath were about the best for us, we never made it into Monmouth in Covent Garden though.

    Singapore, OTOH, was dreadful;

    We managed to get hugely expensive double shots in the restaurant at our hotel which were actually ok. Weren't game to try it anywhere else though.

    Nelson • Since Nov 2006 • 949 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    the cappacino could then have a *pile* of froth on it, like a little cinnamon-dusted pyramid

    Yeah! I thought I was the only person who remembered when cappuccinos used to be made like this! There'd be some suburban cafe, usually with a name like Aromas, and they'd do those crazy cappuccinos.

    The foam mountains and lattes in bowls are a couple of quirks that somehow became standard in cafes in New Zealand in the '90s. They're slowly being replaced by properly made coffees, no doubt fuelled by customers who demand them.

    But I miss the foam mountains. Can someone open a retro Kiwiana '90s cafe that serves them?

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    also a Kiwi coffee cart in the heart of Soho that is doing a roaring trade, and pissing the Italian cafe owners off no end.

    I might have banged on this subject here before, but I recall that a few years back they staged a world championship of coffee making in Trieste and I don't remember who won - except that he wasn't Italian, might have been a Swede - but anyhow a Kiwi came second. I was outraged we couldn't even manage to rig the competition.

    And the availability of good coffee was a fabolous surprise when I joined y'all in 1997. My sweetheart had left NZ in 1990 and there was no such thing back then.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Darlington,

    I'm Italian so, in a way, all your goof coffees are belong to us.

    We were in northern Italy last month and found the espresso to be routinely pretty fine and even better, it was cheap. About 80-90 Euro cents per cup drunk at the bar.

    Nelson • Since Nov 2006 • 949 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    plenty of punters used to ask for a "cup of chino".

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    plenty of punters used to ask for a "cup of chino".

    Fantastic!

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Darlington,

    My sweetheart had left NZ in 1990 and there was no such thing back then.

    There was actually, I think the Havana boys opened Midnight Espresso in 1988 or 89, Wellie coffee culture took off very quickly from there.

    Nelson • Since Nov 2006 • 949 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    "...I was outraged we couldn't even manage to rig the competition..."

    Don't worry, with the rise of Fascism in Italy they'll be doing that in no time, and blaming the gypsies.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    In Hamilton, from 1992 until 1997 when I left, I enjoyed numerous mochaccinos from the brilliant Metropolis cafe, and others. There was a well established cafe scene there.

    The first Starbucks there didn't open until the early 2000s. There are currently only two (2) Starbucks in Hamilton.

    In Wellington, my impression is that the four downtown Starbucks are frequented mainly by tourists.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    There was actually, I think the Havana boys opened Midnight Espresso in 1988 or 89, Wellie coffee culture took off very quickly from there.

    we've had this argument here before.

    filter-coffee houses started in wellington in the 1950s, and converted across to expresso machines in the early to mid-80s.

    by the early 1990s there were a few well-recognisable places that are still there.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    but anyhow a Kiwi came second

    Who was that - was it Silo from (what was) Masi in Wellington? Does anyone know?

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

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