This story sums up what i love about eat and greet (can i say that?) - Amazing people, amazing stories, family, culture, AUTHENTICITY and the role food plays in relation to all of those. Family and food are everything. I grew up with parents that insisted on dinners around the table every night and i honestly believe that is why i can have this little project with my sister and class my family amongst my closest friends. The Aasaf family have not had it easy; packing a bag and leaving your homeland takes guts.
I FIRST KNEW ABOUT HUMMINGBIRD WHEN I WAS AT UNIVERSITY. I WON’T TELL YOU WHEN BUT LET'S JUST SAY I MAY HAVE DANCED TO DARUDE'S 'SANDSTORM' AT SPORTS CAFÉ A FEW TIMES IN MY FIRST YEAR. I NEVER frequented HUMMINGBIRD BACK THEN, AS THEY DIDN’T HAVE $4 MUDSLIDE SHAKERS on a wednesday. Through no mean feat Hummingbird is still around13 years later and that IS A TESTAMENT TO JOHN COLEMAN, WHO RAN THE RESTAURANT FOR 12 YEARS.
The day I went to interview Tom Kirton of Tommy Millions was the first day of the Sevens in Wellington. Sexy bananas, cowboys, pukekos all over the place. But you know come 2am that morning those nanas aren’t going to be so perky. Tom may be the man behind the name and face on the pizza boxes, but HE always works the graveyard shift, not for the stories (THOUGH my god, he has a few) but because that is their busiest time.
There has been a lot of talk about street food on Eat & Greet - I’ve also eaten my fair share of street-side delights around the world: takoyaki in Japan, hot dogs in USA, roti in Malaysia and... purely for the story... deep-fried scorpions in China. Hang around with me long enough and you’ll hear me (and others I’ve interviewed) MOAN about the lack of street food culture in NZ. However, a chance meeting changed that opinion.
Matterhorn needs no introduction. This place has been around for a long time and is an institution in Wellington. Many a celebrity and hipster band have checked in on facebook and tweeted their twats off about it and rightfully so. This place is unashamedly cool, a little dark and mysterious but not dingy, fancy but not pretentious and utterly approachable. The chef Dave Verheul can pretty much be described by all of those adjectives above as well! This guy knows how to cook and I’ve heard him being described as the best chef in Wellington. I’m not going to argue.
This next story comes with a bit of a content warning – mum I’m sorry there are quite a few swears coming up. But if you have ever met Vicky Ha of House of dumplings, you would know that if I was to censor this interview, I wouldn’t have much left and it would also be taking away what is truly great about her! She is sassy, honest and incredibly fun to be around. I have no doubt that when Vicky was born she didn’t cry, she laughed her almighty laugh and said “about fucking time” and walked straight out of the womb.
I’ve been having a little love affair with Wellington recently. A stark contrast to after i graduated from vic nine years ago and I couldn't wait to get on a plane. I came back after five years away thinking I’d probably move to Auckland... Because, you know, I’d had a taste of ‘big city life’ overseas and Wellington felt a little too dinky. i could remember walking down Cuba Street and knowing pretty much everyone and it was at a ratio of 5:3 - people you wanted to see and people you didn’t want to see. Although maybe that says more about me than it does this city!
When I first met Anton Legg it was just a few days after he had severed his little finger, had it sewn back on and was back in the kitchen. He was a semi-finalist for the Monteith's Beer and Wild Food Challenge after all, and had work to do. That pretty much sums this guy up perfectly.
You know that now infamous hummus story in the 'about us' section? Well, Ma Brash was ahead of the trend on something else too - Elderflower cordial. We would scour the back roads for the elusive white florets every spring and make litres of the stuff. Combine that with our sodastream and it was the perfect summer treat.
I feel like you can really judge a place by their fries. I mean it is essentially three ingredients - potato, oil and salt. Yet how is it that something so simple and so basic can be so different across the board. It levels the playing field - a local fish and chip shop can be right up there with a top restaurant.