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Posts Tagged ‘coffee’

So it was one of those random afternoons when the holiday season festivities and dust was settling down, mum and I went shopping for a birthday gift for my nephew “I”. So famished from all that window shopping in between we just had to stopover at our local café  Muffin Break to enjoy a cup of Joe.

To my surprise our flat whites were served in these festive takeaway cups which I just had to comment on. I wanted to share how awesome it is when corporates embody the spirit of Christmas or any other Holidays for that matter. It certainly brightened up my evening.

As a former marketeer I have got to say I loved your Holiday message and fun Crossword on your takeaway cups Muffin Break. Such an awesome idea!!!

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Having reached ahead of me, Brody stood on an un-parked spot as if to reserve the spot for me. I got off the vehicle with my pawed friend in tight leash. Grimacing about the agonies of containing my mad canine especially when passing or stopping by an eatery, I walked with Brody till the front of the cafe.

He turned around and asked what he could order for me. I told him – “Just a strong hot Flat White, no sugar would be great. Thanks”. Brody went in to order while I found a table for 2 and settled down Molaga who started eyeing the cafe and back at me, begging with his pitiful ‘Poor Me’ whine and soulful eyes. I was just deciding whether to treat Molaga or not when Brody came with a packet of Biscotti and settled onto his chair.

Molaga on his best behaviour

And of course one can guess who Molaga’s new best friend would be. The traitorous mutt! He sat erect in his most well-behaved posture in front of Brody as if to say -“Hi! I’m a good dog on my best behaviour. So I deserve a treat!!!” Brody asked if it was OK for him to give the Biscotti to Molaga. And I just nodded my acquiescence. He smoothed Molaga’s golden head while the mutt munched and grunted on his treat relishing it every bit. Brody asked what his name was -?

I replied saying that his name was ‘Molaga’ meaning ‘Chilli’ in my mother tongue Tamil. He found that amusing and repeated the word ‘Molaga’. Molaga looked up as if we both were nuts to keep calling out his name while he was very much there. He turned around to look at me, as if to say -“Duh…”

After a few awkward moments of silence, both Brody and I broke into speech at almost the same time. I asked – “So are you from around here…” and he came with -“So do you like living in Auckland?”. And I told him I’ll answer first and replied that “Yeah. I do like Auckland. It’s a melting pot. Love meeting people from different walks of life! It’s been great so far. Knock on wood!”. He leant back and said “In reply to your question, yes actually. I have lived here pretty much my whole life. Best thing about this particular suburb is one gets the best of the country and city life”. I nodded and lapsed into silence.

View of Auckland

I observed him quietly sitting across me. There was something about him. He seemed to be on edge yet I could sense an inner struggle in him to act normal and relaxed. Up close, I sized him up concluding he probably would be about 5’10 – 5’11, toned & athletic looking, nice features with chestnut-brown hair and bright hazel eyes. A boy next door type.

He moved his chair forward a bit, and leant his elbows on the table joining his hands as if in prayer. He said -“About what happened just now, I am not like this…you know!!” I shook my head and replied – “Hey look, let’s just put that behind us and go our own ways. It’s no Biggie! You did buy me coffee to make up right?”

He started replying -“But you don’t deserve….

“Here’s the lady’s Flat White and the Gentleman’s Caramel Latte. Enjoy your coffee”, said the waitress smiling nervously hedging around Molaga. If only she knew Molaga up close. He was such a marshmallow once he gets to know someone.

“As I was saying, I shouldn’t have turned on you when all you were doing was try to help”. He took a deep breath and exhaled, looked up at me and said -“I had one of my panic attacks. I normally get them when there is lightning and thunder”.

My expression softened with understanding and said ‘Oh! I understand.” I was unsure if I could ask the next question and wondered if it would get too personal. But I went ahead anyway, -“So do you take any counselling and do you try to avoid wet weather outings?” For a moment he looked mortified and as if he was not going to answer it then he shrugged saying -“Tried both, been there, done that. What else can I say?”

I thought to myself, ‘Well that was short’. But didn’t answer any of my questions that were running at the back of my mind. ‘What made an adult like him be scared of thunder and lightning’. I mused to myself – ‘Perhaps a bad experience in childhood!!!’.

After we both took a few swigs of coffee, he straightened his spine as if to gather some strength. He spoke in a demurred voice -“I hate thunder and lightning, coz my dad died on one such night. And I get these attacks because it reminds me of that night…..images of a heavy downpour, flashing lightning and the horrendous sound of cracking thunder….fills my ears”. I didn’t want to interrupt him looking at him lost in painful memories, his eyes losing a bit of the brightness it had earlier.

Fear of lightning and thunder

 

He looked up with a drooping sad smile and pulled himself together saying – “Look at me telling my life’s story to a complete stranger”. I thought to myself that some of his behaviour at least made some sense. And my hand reached out to him on its own to comfort his palm, I squeezed his hand gently as if to reassure him.

He seemed embarrassed by his opening up to me the way he did and his cheeks flushed a bright tomato red. He withdrew his hand from mine.

I told him, “This is perfectly fine. Did you know it helps if you actually talk about your issues”.  He nodded accepting I was right but I knew in my heart that he didn’t buy that philosophy one bit.

 

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Fuming at myself for putting myself and Molaga at risk, and all for what – an unknown stranger??? I decided I was not going to do such a stupid thing again. I told myself I should thank my stars that I will never be seeing him again and that I should be glad he walked off the way he did. Cursing myself and asking what I was trying to prove out there, I gathered up Molaga’s leash and tugged him along. The rain had slowed down to a light drizzle. Huffing a sigh of relief that I was almost at the top of the track and sighting my car only a few yards away, I scanned the area for the urchins with the fear coming back to niggle my mind that they may come back to attack.

I reached my car glad that there was no one else about with the exception of an SUV. I loaded Molaga into the rear seat of my vehicle, shut the door and turned to open the driver seat door only to find the jogger standing right next to the driver’s door looking at me as though in anticipation. I was quiet and looked at him directly in his eyes questioningly – “Now what?”

 

The Olive Branch - Picture Courtesy http://www.decorativetileshop.net

He held out his hand saying, “Hi, I’m Brody!!! I am really sorry I behaved that way. And I just wanted to say thanks for coming to my rescue. I really don’t know why I behaved like that…I really appreciate what you did out there….I…I….” He was a deluge of words all of a sudden and he was hanging around unsure what to say next because all the while he was apologising, I still had not shook his hand and I was giving him a stern impatient glare.

I saw he was indeed sorry but my ego within struggling whether to give in or not. I looked around everywhere but him and then grudgingly nodded my head in acknowledgement, held out my hand and said -” Name’s Dhriti. That’s OK”, my good manners coming to the fore.

And Brody smiled a slow uncertain smile which turned into an apologetic expression of not having caught my name. He replied -“Nice meeting my saviour. Sorry I didn’t quite catch your name….”. I spelled it out for him – “D-H-R-I-T-I” and pronounced my name again. He mimicked my name and almost got it right. So after the name practice, I signalled pointing to the car plastering a fake polite smile that I had to head back.

He stepped back giving way and let me board my car, with him still hovering near my car. I wound down my window and called out a “Bye” and started the vehicle. He bent over the driver’s window  and asked – “Do you mind joining me for a cup of coffee…err..you know…just as a…. emmm… just as a thanks??? There’s a decent cafe just up the road ahead of the round about.”

I did not see that coming….uh uh. I hesitated my expression uncertain what to make of it and what to do about it. I didn’t want to sound reserved and at the same time understanding his need to offer his thanks in the form of a coffee and call it quits…which is exactly what I would have done myself had I been in his situation. I asked him “Now…???” And he nodded his head eagerly. I said “OK…a hot coffee would be nice.”

The Unexpected Coffee

He pulled his keys from his jacket, gave me a sailor’s salute and jogged back to his SUV. I looked at him belting himself confused by his reactions. I thought to myself, just when I was thanking my stars that I never would be seeing him again, this happens. I conclude I can’t seem to grasp the ironies of my life sometimes and that I just had to go with the flow really.

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Yes, yes, I know! I am talking about food again.

Well today, I am going to talk about my recent discoveries in terms of food and a list of food haunts I have enjoyed most. Maybe you could all try out and let me know how you liked these places! If I don’t love it, it wont figure on my list below.

Mecca/ Mission Bay Cafe –
I am unforgiving if coffee doesn’t taste good. Don’t we all love to kickstart our day with the most enticing and hot cup of well brewed coffee? Imagine the hot brown liquid steaming around the rim of the mug, the warmth of the mug seeping through your palms and the rich aroma of the ground coffee beans doused with milk and sugar and at first sip swirls through your senses to give that warm hug feeling. Pure poetry and what a spine lifting shot for starting your day!

For that perfect cup of Coffee-Picture courtesy-www.elev8.com

Well I have tried various places for that evasive “perfect cup” of coffee. I recommend only 2 places for really good coffee.

If you are in Auckland, a must try will be Mission Bay Cafe previously known as Mecca. I still like to call it Mecca! They make a wicked flat white. While you are there, do try some of their newly baked baklavas and sigara berogi. Well baklava by now you will know from my previous post. Sigara boregi happens to be another phyllo masterpiece rolled in the shape of cigars (hence the name ‘sigara’)filled with a mix of mashed potato, feta cheese and herbs served with 2 different varieties of hummus -roasted capsicum hummus and original hummus and garnished with a sprig of parsley.

Rapaura Water Gardens & their “Dam” Good Coffee
The second place, best by far and remains unparalleled, but not so accessible or affordable only because you need to travel miles away from Auckland. But this dream place called Rapaura Water Gardens in Thames have their own brand of coffee and they pride themselves in serving “Dam” Good coffee which lives up to its name and is also very much part of their marketing campaign. This to me is by far the best ever coffee I have tasted in my entire life. No other coffee shop can ever hold a candle to the Dam Good Coffee they serve. I highly recommend this.

Wagamama –
Unusual name? Well sure it is! A Japanese restaurant. Never in a million years did I think I would appreciate Japanese Food after being brought up on flavourful rich Indian food! Well, this is not what I would exactly call authentic, more a fusion of sorts, but they can cook up a storm with surprising flavour and blissful presentation on your platter. With tones of ginger, coconut, citrus and a lot of greens, one can never feel guilty when you eat here.

I am predominantly a vegetarian and draw my line with chicken as far as non veg food goes and maybe some sea food varieties, but that is a rarity in itself.

The Yasai Katsu curry is the best on their vegetarian menu served with steamed rice with spicy curry sauce accompanied by eggplant and kumara slices deep-fried in a batter with a crumby texture and green leafy salad with a yummy tasting seasoning that adds a zing to the salad.

And their dessert menu is something really unique. You gotta try out their Ginger and Lemon cheesecake and Banana Katsu with vanilla bean ice cream. If you think the ginger flavour is going to be overpowering, well you are going to be in for a surprise. The blend of the flavours are so perfect they are in perfect harmony. And this is indeed something very delicious.

As far as banana katsu goes, ripe banana is halved into two lengthwise, coated with breadcrumbs deep-fried and served with vanilla bean ice cream and dusting of cinnamon garnished with mint. This was a masterful stroke of genius in terms of execution. The vanilla bean ice cream with cinnamon is a delight and the ripe sweetness of the banana is a pleasant surprise oozing through the crumby texture of the deep-fried banana.

Sher a Punjab-
For those homesick Indians, this is a place that offers solace to those who miss the genuineness of the flavours of Indian cooking. They whip out authentic and hearty Indian food. The portions and food are generous in portion and spirit. The aroma of spices cooked flagrantly reminds us of home and eating at a street side Punjabi dhaba back in home soil. The colour, aroma and taste is simply beautiful. If you are looking for an ultra stylish interior, you will be disappointed. This place has a typical dhaba feel to it. Sher a Punjab’s signature item is their paratas. Oh the paneer paratas are so mouth-watering and the hot factor is not for the faint hearted. The paneer pakoras on the menu are simply delicious and have proper chunks of paneer fried in a batter mixed with spice powders.

Authentic Indian Food-Picture courtesy-www.expressentree.com

Punjabi Dhaba-
Another jewel in the Indian cuisine world in Auckland. Overall menu and food is delectable and rich catering to different crowds. The restaurant setting has an old palace like interior. Their USP and most memorable item is the Amritsari Kulfi. Not even in India, have I tasted this sort of heaven on earth. The richness of the dairy and the dry fruit and nuts awash in the kulfi is something that can be understood only when it is experienced.

NZ Natural-
Ice cream haven. The variety of flavours in NZ Natural is simply mind-blowing and puts other major players in the market to shame. Unique and simply marvellous. And not just that, you get to try out the ice cream before you can decide which one you want. It doesn’t happen in all stores!!! One can find an array of flavours such as boysenberry, raspberry with white chocolate, walnut and butterscotch, english toffee, green tea, rocky road, cookies and cream, rum n raisin etc and these are just from the top of my head. The ice creams are so unique and very creamy in their consistency leaving you wanting for more. Another one of the must haves in New Zealand.

Ammamma-
I have saved the best for the last. We all call her ammamma, an elderly Telugu lady who has the power to infuse taste and flavours in her food with just the wave of her hand. Had the privilege of meeting this wonder woman through my husband who was boarding at her house during his bachelor days. And of course he always was in awe about her food. And what I respect most about her is the openness of her mind to experiment and try out new things. My most loved item from her magic wand is called a “Padarpeni”. These are sweets that are made from flour deep-fried in the form of mini discs that are layered and soaked in sugar syrup and kept aside to dry, crystallize and harden. This remains my most favourite in her menu. Her “adhirsam” is also quite special and executed quite well. Her food is traditional in spirit, execution and taste. And reminds you of your grandmother’s cooking. If you want some catering done by her, let me know I can email her business phone number.

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