28 Feb // bon iver, wellington, magnificent

It has been, unusually, for all sorts of reasons, but maybe just because it was in the stars, or maybe a bit of saturn returning, an emotional few weeks. Needless to say inspiration in the kitchen has not been running high, and dinners more frequently than not lately have featured a microwave, a toaster, and something out of a tin (creamed corn, garnished with cheese a favourite, occasionally baked beans and maybe if hungover, spaghetti).

An especially emotional Friday lead to much-needed friends-surrounded drinks on the deck that evening, and then a very sociable weekend. Amongst all the eating and drinking, I did manage to whip up and write up my first lot of Good Morning recipes for 2012 - I'll be hitting your screens on Monday 5 March!

Some good friends and my little sis were down this weekend too, especially for the Bon Iver concert last night. As part of the NZ International Arts Festival, this one-man turned 9-piece musical outfit from the States, fronted by the rather delightful and very incredible Justin Vernon, was something I was never going to miss. The contrast, the songs, the atmosphere, that voice. It was one of the more incredible things I've ever seen, and with many of the songs I could just about track my life in Wellington. With Skinny Love to Sunday afternoons playing 3 hour scrabble battles in Mt Vic. With Flume to a lonely loft bed in Oriental Bay. With other songs: to cracked ipod screens, to gin filled nights, to walks along the waterfront, to drifting off to sleep.

I've had many many conversations about just how awesome live music is, but this gig, like no other, lifted the songs, brought them to life and unfolded on stage in a way that left me dumbstruck. The 9 guys singing the "my my my" and the floor shaking drums in Wolves (Acts I and II) and numerous other occasions saw me pretty much lose it. This review gave me goosebumps, and the two drum kits, the trumpet and trombone, the voice range and the standing ovation and shouts of encore, all made it something I won't forget in a hurry.

So with visitors for the weekend we visited mostly old favourite Wellington eating and drinking spots. And so, since I'm often getting asked, here is a short list of excellent places to take out of towners. You'll no doubt have your favourites, and this is in no way a comprehensive or full proof list. But for some good eating and drinking, here's a smattering from recently:

Monterey, $10 Tuesday burgers. Have some beers and write on the tables and talk smack while you wait.

Fidel's (cuba street), still can't get past a savoury muffin with butter and relish, and a banana thick shake. Consistently good coffee, much friendlier staff than years gone by, and quite tasty hash browns (I may or may not have gotten heavily amongst my little sister's friend's shake and hash brown - me: "can I try your hash brown?" him: "I thought you'd never ask"...we weren't really on steal-food-off-each-others-plates terms yet, but over a hungover brunch at Fidels friendship was cemented...)

Sweet Mother's Kitchen (on Courtenay Place) have delicious po boys (baguette sandwiches: the creole fish is really good, washed down with a ginger beer) and they're also notorious for quite epic sauce alongside their curly fries (although our shared basket the other day was stingily half the usual sized portion). Beignet doughnuts dunked in coffee are also recommended at any hour of the day or night.

Deluxe (on Kent Terrace) has inspiring counter food of the vegetarian variety, and good and strong coffee. I can't go past their oaty slices filled with fruit and slathered with yoghurt. Ever. It's a problem.

The Cambridge (is a pub on Cambridge Terrace). There were Jager-bombs. There was the Backstreet Boys alongside Cold Chisel. Saturday night. Enough said.

Ancestral, is a much classier establishment, and colloquially known as the Courtenay Place Matterhorn. It has a sweet sweet outdoor area and delicious beverages of all kinds.

Queen Sally's Diamond Deli is closed on Mondays (nein!) but just around the corner is the equally delicious Maranui (blogged slightly here). Well worth a trip in the sun out to the beachy 'burb of Lyall Bay.

The Tasting Room which is no longer a Monteith's craft bar, and in fact has many many delicious beers on tap and in bottles, will always be a favourite. We couldn't, for old times sake, go past a jug of Monteiths Golden in the Sunday arvo sun, but their awesome platters and a bottle of wine go down a treat any time. They also have quite the gourmet meat raffle on Friday nights.

Cuckoo Cocktail Emporium (here on Queen's Wharf) has vintage furniture to sit on and for sale, so the furniture rotates providing an ever changing couch for you to sneak in a sunny daytime coffee or an afternoon beer.

Kreuzberg summer cafe - which I've blogged about before, has an adorable caravan, great coffee, a bargain happy hour featuring pimm's cups and a killer sounding menu. Get thee there while the sun still shines (corner of cuba and webb streets).

I do have a few recipes up my sleeve, and a wedding cake yet to blog, so stay tuned for buttercream, raspberry cupcakes, a giant bag of Martinborough black doris plums, a piping bag, cupcakes, couscous, creme caramel and much more. Now though, catch up on sleep and sweet sweet dreams.