Cooking the Mo’ rockin’ (Moroccan) Spice Trail

Awhile ago my parents gave us a gift certificate to Hipcooks and we finally put it to use for a Moroccan cooking class – I always try to be more adventurous at cooking classes to really learn something new, and this menu looked pretty yummy.  Plus we have a tagine we received for our wedding that we haven’t used yet, so we were hoping this class might inspire us a bit!


There were 12 people in the class and chores got divvy’ed up around the group – first up for everyone was picking parley leaves off their stems for our parsley salad and grinding up spices.  Added to the salad later was red onion and a simply vingrette – it was good, but a lot of parsley.



Along side the parsley salad we ate Bastiya – a Moroccan spice pastry with beef and/or lamb, cinnamon, raisins and pine nuts.  We made the filling, then rolled the mixture up into phyllo triangles to bake.  These were yummy – it seemed weird to top a savory meat dish with some powdered sugar, but it worked!

WP_20141017_010   WP_20141017_017   WP_20141017_018

Our main course was Tagine of chicken with melting onions, saffron, preserved lemon and green olives over cous cous.  Because of the large group we could this in a giant oven-proof pan versus a traditional tagine.  the saffron gave it a great color, and we used the liquid from the dish in the cous cous as well to give it extra flavor.  The preserved lemons were a nice touch and BK already has a couple jars of his own stewing in one of our cabinents now that he knows how to make them 🙂




Dessert was the one item I was a bit leary about but it turned out delicious:  Beet, olive oil and spice cake.  Its even gluten free!  You barely taste the beets and I loved all the cardamom we put in it.  Alongside the cake we had Poached apricots stuffed with mascarpone and pistachio.




Delicious date night!

Dinner at Beppi’s

When Tom & Bette visited Sydney their favorite dinner was at an Italian joint, Beppi’s, which has been a Sydney Institution since 1956. For Christmas they treated us to dinner at Beppi’s and luckily the restaurant was just re-opening from their holiday break as we arrived in the city.


They sat us in the wine cellar, and kicked things off with some bruschetta and a Barbera:


Then we shared a couple appetizers:  Fiori di Zucchine Ripieni con Ricotta e Funghi Porcini – Home grown Zucchini flowers with a ricotta, basil and Porcini Mushroom filling and Ravioli di Zucca – Ravioli filled with roasted pumpkin & amaretti served with burnt butter & parmesan:



The squash blossoms were nice and piping hot.  The ravioli pasta was perfectly made but the filling needed a little kick.

For mains, BK got the Filetto di Vitello alla griglia con Burro Tartufato e Funghi Porcini  – Veal fillet grilled and served with truffled butter, porcini mushrooms and potatoes roasted in duck fat:


while I chose one of my favorite fishes from a previous, Barramundi:  Filetto di Barramundi Selvatico alla griglia con Peperonata  – Barramundi Fillet grilled and served with Peperonata, mint & garlic


We also shard some cauliflower:


and finally for dessert we shared the Crespelle con Fragole liquore D’Arancio alla Fiamma  $20
Crepes with strawberries & Grand Marnier flambé – fire!



A delicious way to celebrate our big vacation AND the fifth anniversary our first date 🙂  Thanks Tom & Bette!


Cooking class at Auckland Seafood School

Yesterday we did a lunchtime cooking class at the Auckland Seafood Market which was super fun.

IMG_5368 - Copy

First they gave us a glass of wine and then we watched a demo of what we would be making from renowned chef John Campbell (he was the Exec chef of the America’s Cup when the Kiwis hosted).
IMG_5356 - Copy

On the menu today was Salt & Pepper Prawns with a citrus mayo and Seafood Risotto. After the demo we were sent into the kitchen to recreate it on our own!

IMG_5361 - Copy

IMG_5367 - Copy


We got partnered up with a couple funny ladies from Tauranga, a couple hours away. They tackled the risotto while we took on the prawns. Making mayo from scratch is hard! whew, our arms were tired from whisking.



IMG_5362 - Copy

The end result of both were delicious though!

IMG_5370 - Copy

IMG_5371 - Copy

Dinner at Soul

For our last dinner in NZ, we scouted the Harbor area of Auckland and picked what seemed to be a popular spot, Soul Bar and it turned out to be a good choice. Their cocktails were great and the food delish.  First some bread:

IMG_5398 - Copy

Then we  shared the Kingfish tostada, fresh herbs, fish sauce vinaigrette, toasted peanuts:

IMG_5402 - Copy

and the South Island whitebait fritter, lemon butter sauce (more like an omlette, the most disappointing dish of the night):

IMG_5401 - Copy

Next was Grilled snapper, green papaya, coriander and mint salad, mango dressing, toasted peanuts:

IMG_5405 - Copy

Caulifl ower and cumin fritters:


and our fave dish of the night, Blackened hapuku with marinated tomatoes and almond skordalia:

IMG_5404 - Copy


Dinner at Public

our last dinner in Queenstown, we walked down to the wharf and spotted a place right away, Public Kitchen, that looked good – luckily there was a table for two available near the water so we snapped it up. This place was similar to Local 360 in Seattle – a variety of locally-sourced dishes meant for sharing. We went protein heavy – calamari to start:


then, salt cod croquettes:


Pork Loin:


and coconut chicken:


Everything was delicious and a good value as the portions were all pretty generous as compared to most “shared plates” places.

Dinner with Greeks

Sadly not with our favorite Greeks in Seattle, but we still chose Greek street for our final dinner in Melbourne J  I think when I was here last there was more of a Greek Town, but similar to Little Italy in Manhattan, the Greek area in Melbourne seems to have shrunk due to an increasing Chinatown next door.  Nonetheless, we found a cute Taverna and popped in for dinner.


First we shared their trio of spreads, two which were nothing like I’d had before:  and eggplant dip that was chunking with onions and one called Tarama, a red caviar dip –both were good and new so that was fun.  The third was tzatziki, always a fave 🙂


Next we got a Saganakii which did not come flaming to the table but was still delicious as fried cheese always is.


For entrees, BK got lamb and I got grilled calamari, both served with Greek potatoes and a small salad.



Overall, pretty delish and fitting way to end our stay in town.

PS:  this red Greek wine we shared was nice to, very light and fruity:


Dinner at Girl & the Goat

The one place I really wanted to go for dinner in Chicago was Girl & the Goat and it did not disapoint – I think we all enjoyed everything we got and it was great to spend time with C & A.

First they have different bread & spread options – we got one with goat cheese & sweet corn (plus one other):


Next we shared a bunch of plates –

  • roasted cauliflower with pickled peppers . pine nuts . mint
  • sweet corn goat cheese wontons with sungold tomatoes . apricot . ratatouille
  • squash blossom rangoon with crab . chive yogurt . toasted almonds


grilled baby octopus with guanciale . favas . radish pods . pistachios . lemon vinaigrette:


ham frites with smoked tomato aioli . cheddar beer sauce


Papparadelle Sugo:


we also had some goat empanadas and the piece de resistance for the boys, somethign called Pigface:


Fun in Portland

Rather than going extravagant in Portland we wanted to try a few casual joints we’d been hearing about.  First, we had a groupon for a tour & tasting at Eastside Distilling which was fun.  We had walked to the distillery but now with some bottle purchases we decided to try out our Car2Go card to get to stop #2, Big Ass Sandwiches, which is run by friends of friends but we had also seen on Man vs. Food.  The sandwiches were huge and delicious.


From there we squeezed back into the Smart Car and headed north to Salt & Straw for ice creams (and where BK expertly parked the tiny car into a tiny space):


There was a long line at Salt & Straw, and lots of interesting choices – I sampled the goat cheese marionberry habanero and then the birthday cake blackberry whch were both intriguing but chose the almond brittle with salted ganache for my cone – what was most interesting was that the chocolate ganache was in chunks.  BK went with a stumptown coffee/burnside bourbon combo but decided he could make it better – I agree.  Mine was good, but BKs are pretty awesome.

In the morning, our last stop of the trip was Slappy Cakes where you get to make your pancakes (and when you think about it is a genius business plan since folks are paying you to cook their own breakfast).  We got some bacon, apples, goat cheese pecans and sausage to play with – the results were pretty delicious!

WP_20130825_001 (2)


Dinner at Backyard

Another recommendation from Mark, another small town restaurant, this one Backyard, in Forestville.  Not quite on the level of Glen Ellen Star yet, but will probably be a wait to get into within the year.

On Wednesdays they do a special fried chicken dinner so of course we indulged in that for our anniversary. but first we had to try the local cheese plate with a sangria:


Next came salad:


then the chicken, mashed taters and kale:


a bucket of biscuits!


and a plum panna cotta  to close things out:


I was so full at the end but it was so good!


Dinner at Glen Ellen Star

On the recommendation of Mark & JJ we spent our first evening in Sonoma driving about 25 miles down the road to the small town of Glen Ellen where we found a small wood fired spot of deliciousness, Glen Ellen Star.  So many charred fresh veggie options!

We started with the cast iron quick bread, zataar oil:


followed by romano beans,  brown sugar-bacon marmalade:



corn kernels, mayonnaise, cotija, chipotle, fresh lime:


and wood oven roasted zucchini, sheet music, shaved radish, tzatziki:


Then we shared the fresh fish, today was dorado from Cyprus:


and ended things with salted peanut butter ice cream:


All of the veggies were amazing – wood firing really perks them up!  The zucchini and tzatziki was especially good, and of course bacon always makes beans yummy.  Overall, a great diner!