Mexico

Mérida you’re so charming!

The best city for tourists is the one that puts locals first.  Any good holiday should be part escape and part experience, but too many places in the tourism-dependent Yucatan peninsula focus so much on the former that there’s no chance of the latter.  Mérida’s charm is that it caters to the locals, and as a tourist you feel welcomed into the city. 

Mexico

If you feed your body properly, youll be dancing until youre older…

Restaurare (Tulum’s vegan restaurant serving traditional Mexican dishes) was a food highlight for me during my time in Mexico, but owner Robbie Terrazas stopped me as I talked about the local restaurant scene. ‘You know, maybe it’s just a language thing between Spanish and English, but here we always talk about the food, not the restaurants.” And that is one of the reasons that his restaurant is so great. Wooden tables are tucked away in a jungle of chit palms. Hanging lanterns provide the lighting and the air is filled with the smoke from copal, a tree resin long used by the Maya for its cleansing properties. Restaurare’s setting feels mysterious, other-worldy, but the food is entirely grounded in Tulum — plant-based, organic and local produce. In this interview I talk to Robbie about creating a traditional Mexican menu without meat, and Tulum, the town where people live from love.

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Restaurare, vegan heaven at Tulum playa. Photo by Najva Sol.
USA

Los Angeles, the northernmost city in Latin America

My sister Lauren picks me up at Los Angeles Union Station and makes fun of me when I stress about where to pay for the airport shuttle.  “People here just don’t care,” she says.  “This is the frontier.  We’re the easternmost city in Asia and the northernmost city in Latin America.  This is your soft entry to Mexico.” 

Having just come from New Zealand winter, it’s not just the warmth of the temperature that’s shocking but also the overt warmth of the people.  Complete strangers will give you advice about which juice to get while you’re in line at Jugo Azteca, or discuss which model has the nicest butt at the Mapplethorpe exhibit at LACMA.  In NZ you’re seen as slightly crazy if you talk to strangers, in LA you’re seen as crazy if you don’t.

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View from the roof at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
New Zealand

Veggie Dumplings (Pot Sticker Dumpling Bar)

In this three part series I travel Christchurch in search of the best vegetarian dumplings, assisted by guest expert (and real vegetarian) Netta Egoz.

It’s nearing the end of our investigation into veggie dumplings and the competition is fierce.  The service at Pot Sticker is questionable – they’ve got my order wrong most times I’ve been here, including serving us pork dumplings while doing vegetarian dumpling research – but once the dumps make it to the table it’s worth it.  

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Pot Sticker dumps.
New Zealand

Veggie Dumplings (China Kitchen)

In this three part series I travel Christchurch in search of the best vegetarian dumplings, assisted by guest expert (and real vegetarian) Netta Egoz.

China Kitchen’s frontage states ‘No MSG’ and ‘Best dumplings in town’.  Netta jokes that we might not even need to try them but in the end our rigorous investigation methods win over.  No one wins the supreme veggie dumpling award that easily.

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China Kitchen. Photo source Trip Advisor.
New Zealand

Veggie Dumplings (Welcome)

In this three part series I travel Christchurch in search of the best vegetarian dumplings, assisted by guest expert (and real vegetarian) Netta Egoz.

Our first stop is Welcome in Upper Riccarton.  The lighting is bright and the music is soft enough that you can hear the conversations at the surrounding tables.  They’re known for fresh vegetables and bubbling sauces in the hotplates and clay pots.  No one comes to Welcome for the dumplings.  Neither of us had ever had them, this was uncharted territory.

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Welcome restaurant, Upper Riccarton.
New Zealand

Waiheke Top 5

This is the best of the best, the top five things to do on Waiheke Island. Thanks to the lovely Carmel / George Sand Studio for helping me out with all that eating and drinking, I relied heavily on her expertise when I put this piece together.  Carmel and I met at a restaurant where she was Maitre ‘D and I was bartending.  Before we reconnected on Waiheke, a mutual friend asked if Carmel was ‘still the same, like some magical creature?’  I can answer definitively, yes, she is still a magical creature.

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Waterfall near Bach Winery. If I were a mermaid, this would be my secret hideaway.