THE ALTERNATIVE HAMPER
For last-minute Christmas presents, head online to Willow & Wolfe. Here you'll find a curated selection of boutique hampers to cover off all kinds of recipients, from discerning coffee drinkers to chocolate lovers and even pampered pets. Truly fussy buyers will love the custom-create option, which lets you hand-select your own package. Prices vary.
TRIED AND TOASTED
The humble toastie doesn't get much print time, yet its power as a comforting meal shouldn't be ignored. Our new picks are The Botanist's savoury and sweet grilled sandwiches, with drool-worthy fillings like pulled pork with mustard, swiss cheese and spinach, or chocolate with poached pear and crystallised ginger - a sticky dessert sandwich. An evolution of the classic toasties served around the corner at Brothers Beer, co-owned by Anthony Browne of The Botanist.
• City Works Depot, 90 Wellesley St West, City.
Those in need of a free Christmas lunch are kindly invited to Satya's four locations this December 25. The South Indian restaurants owned by Swamy Akuthota have previously offered a similar service, with owner Akuthota saying the meals are for "tourists, visitors and the needy"; those "who need a meal when every food outlet is closed". Lunch will be served from 12-2pm and dinner from 5.30-8.30pm, for locations see satya.co.nz
The White Rabbit. Picture / Supplied.
HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT...
The latest addition to the Britomart precinct? In what was previously The Crown, one of Auckland's oldest pubs, is now The White Rabbit, a new venture from chef Sean Marshall and restaurateur Mark Keddell. The duo have transformed the heritage space into a modern bistro, with daytime dining downstairs and a snug upstairs space that opens in the evening.
• Cnr Customs St East and Gore St, Britomart.
What we're loving around town right now ...
• The decadent deep-fried apple pie with dulce de leche icecream from Siostra in Grey Lynn - Zoe Walker
• Flat iron steak on wild rice at Toru in Ponsonby Central. It comes with a salsa verde that goes straight to your veins with its "greenness"! - Nici Wickes
• The cacao and raspberry brownie at Little Bird. It's like Nigella teamed up with the clean-eating Hemsley sisters. - Sophie Burton
Torrons Vicens nougat; Smashing Plates. Pictures / Supplied.
Nougat masters Torrons Vicens have collaborated with Spanish pastry chef Albert Adria on a selection of bars. The special recipes are inspired by desserts from older brother Ferran Adria's former restaurant, El Bulli. Our favourite is the raspberry and violet marzipan, a new spin on traditional Agramunt nougat. $39.50 from Sabato, ph (09) 630 8751.
5 THINGS WE LEARNED FROM...
Smashing Plates by Maria Elia
1. How to prepare an octopus for cooking without making a black,
2. That capers are particularly moreish when pan-fried until crisp.
3. Baklava, the sticky honey-baked treat, doesn't need to be sweet. Elia makes savoury baklava pie with tomato and runner beans and another version featuring rabbit.
4. Mastic is the resin of the evergreen mastic tree, which can only be harvested on the Greek island of Chios because of its microclimate. Sold in crystal or liquid form, it has the unique aroma of pine trees, and is used to make icecream, turkish delight, breads and pastries.
5. The glowing endorsement from renowned chef Ferran Adria on the book cover is 100 per cent accurate. This is a lively read that banishes outdated notions of Greek cooking via a series of modern delectable dishes.
• $55 from Flotsam & Jetsam. Ph (09) 361 3831.