Foodlovers Mexico Tour with Helen Jackson

Our Mexico trip in 2019 was so much fun with amazing food, awesome sights, so much colour, a bit of dancing and great people and I felt I really needed to do it again.
This trip was initially designed with a group of friends in mind but once completed I knew I just had to share it with you.
And, I also need more time to practice my Spanish!
This will be my 3rd trip to Mexico and even though this year was wonderful, I know that this next trip is going to be even better as I have tweaked it all yet again.
Group size is small – maximum 10. We travel in a Mercedes type small bus, just perfect for our group.
Our Mexican guide is just adorable, he has a wonderful sense of humour, loves to sing and works tirelessly to make sure everything is perfect.
This trip is queue free, easy travel, we are whisked past the crowds and everything is planned seamlessly to give you a stress free holiday!

“The itineraries that Helen comes up with always have a lovely balance between sightseeing/cultural/ culinary activities and periods of relaxation coupled with some free time for shopping etc. Helen also tries to get away from the usual tourist traps and seeks out more authentic experiences.”

Shelley (4x traveller with Helen)

Price $7690  p/p (twin share in NZ$)

What to look forward to:

    • Stay at charming 5* boutique hotels plus one eco hotel
    • Explore the old and new of Mexico
    • Snorkel with giant sea turtles
    • Visit stylish Roma in Mexico city, made famous by the film of the same name.
    • See a selection of Frida Kahlo and Rivera Diego art
    • Visit the home of Frida Kahlo
    • Explore the charming and colourful towns of Oaxaca and Puebla
    • Learn to make Mole in Puebla
    • Hit the beach (and the shops) in Tulum
    • Eat amazing food.
    • Sip mojitos made with fresh sugar cane & limes
    • Experience a walking food tour in both Mexico City and Oaxaca. One being new food the other more traditional.

Helen is well organised and very obliging to accomodate everyone on her tours. Because of her friendly nature she has a good relationship with the guides in the countries being visited which in turn makes the trips more enjoyable. I now consider her a very good friend.
Kate (3 x traveller with Helen)

Day 01/Sunday 26th April. 

Late arrival into Mexico City (flight arrives in around 11.30pm). Our guide will be at the airport to meet you and then transfer you and check-in at our charming hotel – The Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico (to be confirmed closer to the time).

Day 02/ Monday 27th April. 

Breakfast at hotel. In the morning we will head out on a walking tour in the Historic Centre of the City, including some of the most important sights around “El Zocalo”, the heart of the city. Today, you will get to soak up the atmosphere of one of the world’s biggest cities! Also listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Site. Our tour will include “The Zocalo”, where we will visit the Metropolitan Cathedral – one of the oldest and largest of the Americas, and (if open due to Federal agenda) the National Palace – home of the famous murals of Diego Rivera. You will also see the ruins of the Templo Mayor – an important temple of the Aztecs in their ancient capital city of Tenochtitlan.

Lunch at ‘El Caifan’, a local ‘taqueria’ to taste exquisite options, like ‘tacos al pastor’. We continue our walking tour, visiting other Colonial buildings, like the Fine Arts National Palace, the Palacio Postal (a ‘must’ visit, due to its interior beauty), as well as some alleyways.
There will be time to freshen up at the hotel before dinner. Knowing that most of us will be feeling a bit weary we will head out for an early dinner is at one of the oldest, most popular and classic ‘salones’: ‘Salon Corona. Founded in 1928, it has been a reunion place for many generations. They offer many delicious dishes and drinks to choose from!

After dinner, return to hotel.
Overnight: The Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico (tbc)
Meals: B/L/D

Day 03/Tuesday 28th April

Breakfast at hotel. After breakfast, we start our day with an early visit to the ‘Central de Abastos’. This produce wholesale market, the world ́ s largest of its kind, is where you can literally find all the ingredients that mark the Mexican cuisine. We will explore different kinds of typical Mexican ingredients.

Next stop of the day is Coyoacan, a beautiful and tranquil quarter of the city, with Colonial architecture and the atmosphere of a small bohemian quarter. It was the first seat of the Spanish Government, established by Hernan Cortes in 1521. While visiting Coyoacan, it is we will visit Frida Kahlo’s house, known as “La Casa Azul” (Blue House). In this adobe painted in blue house, the famous modernist, Frida was born, and she lived here for 25 years with her husband, the muralist, Diego Rivera. Artworks, as well as unique pieces of folk art and dresses belonging to Frida Kahlo may be seen here.

Lunch in Coyoacan.
On we drive to the Colonia Roma- Condesa, (think of the film Roma) two cosmopolitan neighbourhoods, one of the most vibrant areas of the city, full of new gastronomic developments, such as Mercado Roma, Food Trucks, and trendy restaurants and bars. Time to walk & shop.
At Mercado Roma we might sit for a while to enjoy a refreshing drink prepared with ‘chile ancho’ liquor with fresh grapefruit juice (excellent!), a one of kind sorbet or a delicious fresh brewed coffee. 
Early in the evening we meet to to start our ‘modern Mexican chef culinary adventure’. A unique way to submerge into the modern-cosmopolitan Mexican cuisine culture, which is quite different from the street-food culture (no ‘tacos’ tonight). For dinner, we will savour unique food & drink specialties prepared by creative Mexican chefs with very Mexican ingredients. The tour is approximately 3 hours and involves tastes and sips in various restaurants. We end in the heart of Colonia Roma and then return to our hotel.
Overnight: The Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico
Meals B/L/D



Breakfast at hotel. Today we leave Mexico City behind. We travel to Puebla, Mexico’s fourth largest city, passing the photogenic, snow-capped volcanoes Popocatepetl (Smoking Mountain, 5464m) and Iztaccihuatl (Sleeping Lady, 5230m).
We will visit Santa Maria Tonantzintla with its gorgeous temple decorated by indigenous people. After a very interesting tour, we continue to Puebla, one of Mexico’s culinary capitals, is especially famous for its ‘mole poblano. We make a stop at the famous Talavera Pottery Atelier “Uriarte”. The biggest ceramic factory in Latin-America that exports the exclusive and renowned Talavera pottery to the whole world. The beautiful Talavera pottery is a symbolic, which makes and defines Puebla inhabitants, as well as their culture & traditions.

After lunch, we will have a walking tour in Puebla to explore the beautiful historic centre of the city, which has been listed as World Heritage Site. Visit the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral, and the breathtaking ‘Capilla del Rosario’ in the Santo Domingo Church.
Enjoy some free time to further explore the city, before going to our Boutique Hotel Meson Sacristia. 
Here at the hotel we have our Mexican cooking class, watching how the make the world-famour ‘mole poblano”.

We get to enjoy the mole poblano for dinner with some sides as well.
Overnight: Boutique Hotel Meson Sacristia.(tbc)
Meals: B/L/D



Breakfast at hotel. Morning transfer from Puebla to Oaxaca. Upon arrival, you will see why Oaxaca is considered one of Mexico’s most beautiful Colonial cities. Oaxaca’s colourful historic centre has been well preserved and it has been listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Site. Check-in at the hotel, freshen up and then, on we go to visit the renowned artist Francisco Jesus Hernandez Perez. Walking distance from our hotel, at his workshop, we will have the opportunity to chat with him and have a closer look to his little shop and interesting collage art.

We have then planned a walking tour through the pedestrian roads surrounding the Santo Domingo Temple & Museum quarter, a lovely area to shop or simply, enjoy the ambient. For lunch we enter a close by ’loncheria’ or restaurant to have something tasty. We continue our walking tour in the Santo Domingo area.

Early in the evening we meet our local expert guide Nora, with whom we will experience a dinner tour through different local stands tasting many delicious finger foods, like ‘tortas, esquites, elotes, quesadillas’ and other street-food-delicacies. Time at leisure to explore the nearby areas. When the group is ready, we walk to the trendy minimalistic restaurant ‘La Olla’ with its lovely rooftop with great evening views! Here, we will share some time enjoying local mezcal cocktails accompanied by salt & sweet finger food specialties to the centre of the table. Our hotel is just over the road.
Hotel: Quinta Real Oaxaca (tbc)
Meals: B/L/D


Breakfast at hotel. The town of Coyotepec is famous for its ceramics production, standing out the black clay “barro negro”, among other types. We will learn about the different stages, from design to production and sales. We return to the city and the Zocalo (main square) of Oaxaca. This is the starting point of our walking tour on this quarter of the city. We will visit the local markets, with plenty of time to look around, shop, explore and get adventurous tasting many delicious ingredients and foods. Lunch at the market, so we have all time necessary to enjoy this magical place, while shopping, or shopping while eating. Any way you want to experience the ‘mercado’, it is an excellent opportunity to submerge in the local culture and folklore. Oaxaca’s markets are Mexico’s most interesting places to visit. On due time, we will meet at a fish & seafood Restaurant ‘La Red’ (The Net) in the historic centre for dinner. Evening at leisure to walk in the main plaza enjoying its’ charm. Perfect ambient and mood to sit by the arches of the Zocalo to drink a beer!
Hotel Quinta Real Oaxaca (tbc)
Meals B/L/D
** Please note: tomorrow morning, after breakfast, we leave Oaxaca to travel to Merida. Make sure to pack all your belongings.


In the early morning we will take a snack box breakfast and transfer to Oaxaca Airport to fly to Merida (with connecting flight in Mexico City). Upon arrival in “The White City”, (approximately 12.30pm) we transfer to the hotel to register and get ready for our walking city tour. Merida is a gracious modern yet traditional city, with impressive Colonial architecture, a delicious gastronomy, and a strong influence of Mayan heritage. Merida is the capital and largest city in the Yucatan state, as well as the cultural and financial capital of the region. The city boasts the second-largest historic centre in Mexico; only Mexico City’s historic centre is larger. As a result of its strong Spanish influence and isolation from other parts of Mexico, Merida developed a very particular cultural identity and pride. The unique traditions and culture we will have the chance to experience while staying in Merida, are overwhelmingly visible in the local dresses, mainly with women, language, cuisine and celebrations. We will tour through the most representative sites in the ‘White City’. The city of Merida was founded by the Spanish military explorer Francisco de Montejo in 1526. In the main plaza, we will visit the Cathedral, Casa de los Montejo (Museum & Cultural Center), pass by the Government Palace and visit the Town Hall. Today, we will learn a lot about Merida. This trip is for sure a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the city in a different way. During the walking tour, a chocolate store (Ki’Xocolatl) is always a great stop to rest and drink a refreshing, original cocoa beverage, either cold or hot. We will have lunch in the downtown area.

There will be some time out late afternoon for a siesta or swim.
We will meet and walk to the restaurant for dinner.
After dinner we walk to the square and have a delicious sorbet at ‘Dulcería y Sorbetería Colón by the cathedral.
Hotel: La Mision De Fray Diego (tbc)


Breakfast at hotel. Enjoy a day to explore Merida City. The central area is very safe and it is so easy to find your way around.

Some of the more picturesque streets are closed to traffic this morning, there are bicycles to rent everywhere (or you might like to walk) and you can make your way around the city without worrying about traffic.
There is also a local ‘Sunday market’ at the Plaza Grande where you can easily find a lunch/dinner spot although there are also plenty of other cafe options.

Often in Merida there is an option to go to a symphony orchestra or see a ballet.
Helen will assist with any requests.
NB: Hammocks are from Merida so this is the place to buy one if that is what you are looking for.
Hotel: La Mision De Fray Diego (tbc)

DAY 9 | MONDAY 04th MAY 


Breakfast at hotel. Please make sure you have your swim suits in your hand luggage.
In the morning, before leaving our first visit of the day is just great, to a local chocolate factory! Founded 12 years ago by Chef Patrik, born in France, he speaks seven languages, travelled the world, until he decided to settle in Merida. Chef Patrik changed the classic chocolate taste and presentation into more than 30 varieties of flavours, with ginger, oregano, chile, vegan… he puts all his passion and love into this delicious and fantastic art of chocolaterie using organic ingredients, as well as pre-Hispanic preparation technics to cultivate, toast, grind over stone tablets and process the cacao seeds/grains. Chocolate tasting is included!

We continue to another exciting place, Izamal ‘magic town’, known also as the ‘Yellow Town’. Once we arrive in Izamal, we go on a walking guided tour.
Next we head to Yokdzonot Cenote/Sinkhole, a natural wonder. Open to the public in 2007, Cenote Yokdzonot is today a Mayan Wellness Resource and Eco-Adventure site. It all started in 2005, when a group of women from the rural community of Yokdzonot, Yucatan decided to transform their community and organized themselves into a cooperative “Zaaz Koolen Haá” (‘clear water’, in Maya). Their vision was to create a sustainable and communally owned source of employment that would replace their dependence on poorly paid agricultural labour, preserving their environment and natural resources. Time to swim, relax, mingle with nature and the jungle surrounding the cenote. After a refreshing swim, time to enjoy a lovely lunch. On we drive to Chichen-Itza. Arrival at the hotel, which by the way is a great former Hacienda. There will be time to swim and relax before having dinner at the hotel.
Hotel: Hacienda Chichen

DAY 10 | TUESDAY 05th MAY 


Very early morning coffee & sweet rolls at hotel and then we will beat the crowds to Chichen-Itza archaeological zone, just when the day is dawning, giving a more enigmatic and magical ambient to the place.

A few minutes walk to enter Chichen-Itza site.
At the end of the Early Classic Period, around the year 600 AD, Chichen-Itza was one of the largest and most prominent Mayan cities.
Nowadays, Chichen-Itza is undoubtedly the best-preserved Mayan site on the Yucatan Peninsula, and in 2007, it was declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Various different architectural styles may be seen here. Some of the most famous landmarks are the Temple of Kukulkan (“El Castillo”), the Ballgame Court, the Platform of the Skulls, the Temple of the Jaguar, the Observatory, the One Thousand Columns, and the Sacred Cenote.
Return to the Hacienda to have breakfast at the hotel.
We leave Chichen-Itza travelling to the Gran Cenote, another natural wonder in the Yucatan Peninsula. Make sure you have bathing suits in your hand so you can swim in the cenote.
After our refreshing swim we will head into Tulum beach to Helen’s favourite mojito cafe (freshly squeezed sugar cane), lunch and a spot of shopping at a lovely boutique, for those keen.
We then head to our hotel at Tulum beach, by the Caribbean Sea, incredible turquoise warm waters to enjoy! Afternoon at leisure. The beach strip at Tulum is lined with beautiful boutiques and many cafes. You can pick and choose what you do and where you go to this afternoon.
Hotel: Eco Coco Tulum


Breakfast at hotel and make sure you have your bathing suits ready.
Today we will snorkel with turtles in Akumal. They are huge and just amazing. Please remember though that they are in their natural habitat so although I have seen them for 2 years in a row, there are no guarantees.
Akumal is part of the second largest coral reef in the world, which runs along the Riviera Maya coastline. It is a Natural Protected Area, which in Mayan means ‘Place of the Turtles’. Akumal is a little beach community located 75 miles/120 km south of Cancun, and beautiful destination home to many wild sea animals such as the marine turtles, rays and colourful fishes.
Continue to the hotel to check-in and enjoy the free afternoon.
Lunch is at the hotel.
In the evening, we will walk to the downtown area of Playa del Carmen to have dinner at ‘El Fogon’ taqueria to dine the famous and typical “tacos al pastor”. After dinner you may remain in the downtown area to walk around and enjoy night life, or walk back to the hotel.
Hotel: Mahekal Beach Resort (TBC)



Breakfast at hotel. Free time all day. Lunch at the hotel. At the agreed time, we meet at the hotel lobby to walk to tonight’s dinner restaurant. Evening at leisure.
Hotel: Mahekal Beach Resort (TBC)

DAY 13 | FRIDAY 08th MAY

Breakfast at hotel. Morning at leisure to get ready to fly back home. 
We will depart from Cancun International Airport.
It is mandatory to be there 3 hours prior to departure at the airport.

Price $7690 p/p (twin share)
Single supplement price available on request
$600 deposit required on receipt of booking.
Full payment required 70 days prior to departure
Tour needs a minimum number before confirmation.
Payment by bank deposit (sorry at this stage I cannot process credit cards).


• 12 nights accomodationin 4-5*hotels (pretty much all 5*and they are lovely!)
• 12 breakfasts
• 9 lunches
• 9 dinners
Bilingual guide
• Internal flight from Oaxaca to Merida
• Cooking class as listed in itinerary
• Walking  food tours as listed in itinerary
• Entry to Cenotes
• Sight seeing and entry fees as listed in itinerary
• Private group transportation (flight is obviously public)

Not Included

• Optional activities, sightseeing and entry fees notl isted in the itinerary
• Meals not listed in the itinerary
• laundry, telephone or any other room charges
• some tips and gratuities, to advise
• international airfares and departure taxes
• Travel Insurance (compulsory)
* any visa costs if needed.

The weather in Mexico will vary from warn to hot. 

We shouldn’t encounter any rain and if so only a little.

Merida does get very hot (mid 30’s) as does Chichen Itza, therefore it is best to plan activities for early in the day.

Over the past few years the Yukatan coastline – Tulum and Playa Del Carmen – have been struck with a seasonal problem of sargassum seaweed deposits on the beaches.

This alters the colour of the water and also makes the beaches less desirable.

These areas are doing their best to control this situation and hopefully by May 2020 the beaches will be clear. If not then the hotel pools are the best option.

Keen to come with me?  
Email now for a booking form [email protected]

Due to vehicle size and boutique accommodation, numbers are restricted. :)

20 Ways with Sauerkraut and Kimchi


While fermented foods were once the domain of alternative lifestylers, the bug is super catchy and is now finding its way into homes (and supermarkets) everywhere.  From kimchi, kombucha, sour doughs, sauekrauts and keffir, fermenting is the new buzz word.
What is the fuss all about and why should we be eating them?
Gut health is something that many health professionals are focussing on, complementary to the old phrase “you are what you eat”.   Proponents of fermented food believe that these foods are loaded with the essential living goodies eg probiotics, that you need for good gut health.
And, aside from the health claims is that they taste delicious and in the case of sauerkraut and kimchi, they add great texture, flavour and sometimes colour to food.
The uses for sauerkraut (German) and kimchi (Korean) in the kitchen are vast, check out our list below and your will be forking your way to deliciousness and good health.

This feature is brought to you by Living Goodness, New Zealand-based creators of fermented, raw sauerkraut and kimchi.
At Living Goodness, we pride ourselves on making premium quality and tasty fermented foods.


20 Ways to use Sauerkraut and Kimchi

1. Poached, scrambled or fried, eggs any which way are enhanced with a good dollop of sauerkraut or kimchi.  We personally love it with Living Goodness Sumyum Kimchi.

2. Teriyaki Chicken on rice is a perennial favourite and a delicious combination of sweet and salty.  Give it an extra flavour lift with a sprinkle of kimchi.

3. Smashed avocado on toast is a cafe feature and it really does come down to the toast being a good quality sourdough or a heavy seed bread such as Midnight baker.
All that creaminess just cries out for the addition of something crunchy and piquant such as a spoonful of sauerkraut or kimchi.
Try this with Living Goodness Heartbeet Kraut.

4.Next time you are making/serving Sushi, instead of pickled ginger try adding a little kimchi to each roll. Mmm….

5. The Reuben sandwich is famous in New York where it is made with thin slices of corned beef or pastrami, Swiss (Emmental) cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and rye bread.  It is then toasted and interestingly served with potato crisps along side.
Swiss cheese is popular in NY but we are happy with something mild and creamy such as Edam,  Rye bread isn’t essential and nor is the Russian dressing.  Crisps alongside are hard to forego though.  :)
Try Sassy or Naked Sauerkraut in this.

6. .Another US favourite is the Hot Dog and a good dollop of sauerkraut can take it to a whole new level.  Try making these using a good quality frankfurter and Living goodness sauerkraut…

7. Pop a good spoonful of sauerkraut onto a hot bowl of vegetable soup (leek and potato is particularly good), gently mix and taste the flavour lift that it gives the soup.

8. Add sauerkraut to your favourite quesadilla.  We think chicken, cheese and sauerkraut quesadillas are amazing.

9. People have all sorts of interesting combinations with their peanut butter on toast so how about a little sprinkle of sauerkraut?  Try it and see just how good it is.

10. Baked potatoes with sauerkraut are sensational.  Top your baked tatie with a good dollop of sour cream and then your favourite Living Goodness sauerkraut.
Our favourite combo is Heart Beet Kraut.

11. A Cheese Board with farmhouse cheeses and bread is made even better with the addition of sauerkraut.  Sauerkraut is so often interchangeable with other pickles and sits so well on top of open sandwiches.

12.  Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagel is wonderful with a sprinkle of sauerkraut.  As with the baked potatoes we think that Heart Beet Kraut is particularly good with this flavour combination, smoked salmon and beetroot being one of foods perfect marriages.

13. Next time you make a Superfood Salad Bowl with your favourite ingredients, add a spoonful of sauerkraut or kimchi for a great flavour zing.

14. Add some life to your Stews or Casseroles with a few spoonfuls of sauerkraut stirred through when serving.  We recommend Living Goodness Naked Sauerkraut.

15. Bangers and mash with gravy and then sauerkraut on the side is just sensational.  The better the sausages the better the dish will be.

16. Add some sauerkraut to your favourite pizza.  Cook the pizza first and then sprinkle with sauerkraut prior to serving.  The flavour, texture and temperature difference is sure to enhance.

17. Fried Rice is an ideal base for some spoonfuls of kimchi.  You can either add it during the cooking process or once the pan is off the heat. We like Living Goodness Sum Yum Kimchi with this.

18. Asian Style Noodle Soups get a great flavour lift with the addition of kimchi.  Just make your usual recipe and then stir through some kimchi when serving.

19. Hot Smoked Salmon Canapes on blinis, crostini or rye are made even tastier with a sprinkle of sauerkraut.

20.  A spoon and a jar!  Once you have got this far then there is no doubt that you will be a fermented foods fan.  Feeling peckish?  Take a clean spoon and grab a jar from the fridge….

Living Goodness Fermented Foods are sold around New Zealand.  Check out their stockist list to find your nearest retailer.


Don’t forget to enter into the draw to Win a pack of two jars of Living Goodness sauerkraut or kimchi.
(prizes delivered to NZ addresses only, sorry no RD addresses)

August 2020

We must be experiencing one of the wettest winters ever, although according to my husband I say this every year.
I am now already getting exhausted about our newly launched Foodlovers Mexico Tour
departing late April 2020.  The itinerary is just amazing and I know we will have an incredible time.  This will be my 3rd trip in as many years so I think I am getting a good feel for what works. Remember trip size is small – no big tour buses for us and the trip has been polished to make it just perfect.
We will have another trip (or two) in 2020 so keep an eye out or email me to be on our trip email list.
Happy Cooking!

Warming Winter Curries

As the rain pours down and the wind howls, my nest is warm and cosy and the aroma of a chicken curry is wafting around the kitchen.
While curries do originate in hot climates and are suited to the heat, there is nothing more soul warming on a cold winters’ day than a thick luscious bowl of curry.
In winter I hanker after curries thick with coconut cream and chunks of potato, kumara and pumpkin.
I pretty much always have curry staples on hand, the pastes are in the fridge (I like using Valcom), coconut cream/milk in the pantry, coriander in the garden, kaffir lime leaves on the tree and chopped up lemongrass in the freezer.  The pantry always has the essential sauces e.g. fish and oyster.
Yellow chicken curry (image above) is a family favourite,  we load it with lots of chunks of potato and kumara and also add green beans and broccoli, making it a meal in a bowl.

For a vegetarian option Roasted Cauliflower and Eggplant Curry is also delicious and a lovely rich winter style curry.

Another favourite vegetarian curry is Pumpkin Spinach and Chickpea.  Yes you can of course serve it with rice but we often just heat some roti instead to mop up the sauce.

Lamb Shank Massaman style Curry is such a treat but if the price of lamb shanks make it off putting then try it with lamb shoulder chops instead.

When we are passing an Asian BBQ meat shop then a barbecue duck is often a treat, Red Duck Curry is glorious and just about the only recipe that I like to have sweet and sour as the addition of fresh pineapple is really delicious.

And while this isn’t really a curry, I can’t leave this Vietnamese lemongrass Beef out.
It is an ideal aromatic cosy winter dish.

What is your favourite winter curry?

Thanks to Valcom for sponsoring our feature.

Kung Pao Chicken

This is such great fried chicken, a real family favourite.
Some of the ingredient list may be different to your regular pantry items, they are worth seeking out as once you make this you will be asked for it again and again.
Szechuan peppercorns have a mouth numbing ability,  use a little to start with and then add as you like.
I find that chicken thighs seem to disappear a bit when cooking so do make sure you don’t skimp on quantity.

Chinese Black vinegar is a little like balsamic vinegar however they are not interchangeable.  To get to an acceptable substitute you could mix equal quantities of rice vinegar and balsamic vinegar although it isn’t as good as the real thing.

Bali with Our Teens



Warning:  If you are a family that likes riding elephants or zoos, apologies you won’t find that here.

There is an eager air of anticipation as our boat is loaded with guests, dive gear and a reassuring ratio of staff.  We putter out into the calm turquoise Lombok strait (between Bali and Lombok) where the water is so clear that the bright yellows and purples of coral gardens can be seen without even getting your toes wet.
The aim was to dive with manta ray but the seas at Manta Point are too rough and it is not to be.
I day dream my way through schools of beautiful tropical fish, particularly at Mangrove Bay, where despite the traffic (there are lots of boats and tourists), it is easy to find your own pathway, just you and the tickly sound of thousands of fish munching.
The divers in the family are lucky that by the next day the swell settles enough for them to get up close and personal with manta rays (and turtles) with some bucket list big ticks.
We booked Planet Nomadas dive school before we left home, it probably wasn’t essential but we didn’t want to miss out. Their care, thoroughness and also friendliness would be hard to beat.  Our 17 year old doesn’t have her Padi dive certificate yet but some time spent learning the basics in the pool meant she was able to dive with a buddy by her side.

I instead opt for a huge island walk and then recline on the deck of our cliff hugging villa in Nusa Lembongan and watch the surfers navigating the often turbulent coral surf breaks.
Nusa Lembongan is just over half an hour ferry ride from Sanur and is part of an island with Nusa Penida and Ceningan.
Lembongan has the most infrastructure and where we base our island time.  Ceningan is connected by the yellow bridge (scooters, cylcles and drivers are easy to find) and Penida an easy ferry ride.  The teens are keen to tick of the Instagram essentials e.g. Devils Tears.

Nusa Lembongan has an interesting mix of the stylishly cool and very local fare.  The former are beach front or hug the steep cliffs above the surf breaks, the sunset views making happy hour even happier.

The local warungs (small restaurant or cafe) are tucked away in random places but all easy to find by asking around, we have delicious takeaways from Ketut’s Warung.  This family essentially open up their home each night, creating delicious Thai/Indonesian favourites for a minimal price.
For convenience we often find ourselves at The Deck, a few steps from our villa.  While modern and stylish, it still has many Indonesian favourites such as Nasi goreng and satays.


Wanting to also support local businesses, we vary our meals between little warungs that are akin to dining in someone’s home and the more stylish (possibly Australian owned) cafes.  According to one of our chatty drivers, around 60% of businesses in Seminyak are now owned by Australians.
Life on the island is easy and Freddie (14) soon gets chatting and hires a board from a rental store to head out to the surf break with an older and wiser “mate” who is doing the same.
The only disturbance in my day is when hunger calls and it is time to go in search of yet another delicious meal.
I am blown away by the food choices in Bali. Travelling to tropical islands is often a time when you need to compromise on food expectations with both price and quality. Not so with Bali.  Every meal, every dish and every mouthful are to be savoured.  And, there is something for everyone, even the 14-year old whose vegetable preferences are shamefully limited.
Our Instagram obsessed teenage daughters are excited to have endless “gram” worthy smoothie bowls, mocktails and food with a view, while this reluctant omnivore is delighted with the vegetarian and vegan meal choices.

My vegetable intake is almost enough to make me smug although the daily consumption of Bingtang beer and peanuts (or Pringles) negates any sense of virtue.
When you travel with a family, cost is usually an issue but Bali is unbelievably cheap. A meal out is generally around $7 NZ per person.  Never have we eaten so well for so little and this in undoubtedly adding to the growing appeal of Bali as a family holiday destination.
Bali as an island is east to west approximately 153km and 112km north to south, with most of the tourism concentrated in the south west.

80% of the population are Balinese Hindu, in contrast to the other islands of Indonesia where Muslim is the main faith.
The people are warm, gracious and friendly.
While geographically the island isn’t that huge, getting anywhere in Bali requires a lot of time and patience.  The traffic is hideous and within Seminyak we were often told that it would be quicker to walk than to get a taxi.

Despite the prospect of traffic we do have a day in the hills of Ubud. Leaving Seminyak at 7.30am means a straight forward trip, coming home mid-afternoon is nowhere near as pleasant.  Many times I contemplate abandoning the car and walking – surely faster.
The teens spend the morning at the reputable Casa Luna cooking school in Ubud, learning to make some of the classic dishes of Indonesia.  The recipes are tasty and while the kids have a good time, they would have preferred to be more hands on.

Ubud is lush and green, it is renowned for beautiful rice paddies and yoga retreats with many villas available for holiday rentals.
Accommodation in Seminyak is also easy to find, we prefer villas over resorts and there are plenty to choose from. There doesn’t seem to be right or wrong areas to stay in but it probably is worth thinking about what you like doing most and plan where you stay accordingly.
For those that like the hustle and bustle of the shopping around Seminyak square then you perhaps will want to stay nearby.  We had a fleeting visit, vaguely perusing shops but the heat, constant hawkers, lack of room on the pavement (July school holidays for NZ and Australia) and the endless shops selling the same beach wear, soon had us fleeing back to our peaceful villa in Petitenget (would highly recommend) with its pool and quiet neighbourhood.  It’s handy to be walking distance from restaurants and the Beachclubs are worth a look.  Our sunset drinks sitting in the colourful beanbags at La Plancha on the beach, are a novelty for one evening.

The teens have good intentions of a day at Potato Heads Beach Club but the cost of a day bed saw them instead heading to a place next door where you could sun lounge for free.
The restaurants in Seminyak are internationally interesting, we tend to eat local flavours or close to it but you can easily find Japanese, Italian, Vietnamese (highly recommend Saigon Street), Mexican (Motel Mexicola is a teen dream) and great Indian (Sarong).  Shelter Café is a personal favourite (the teens raved too) for breakfast or lunch.
Few people travel to Bali without having a massage (I’m an exception).  From the basic local businesses to those with white towelling robes and slippers, Seminyak is the place to have your stresses and worries rubbed away. Instead I opt for a pedicure and laugh when the person seated next to me is a friend from NZ.  Her husband and friends have a daily massage for the week that they are there.
Big and little kids seem to love Waterbom Park in the Kuta area.  We happily send ours (14, 16 and 17) off in a taxi from Seminyak, allowing us time to enjoy a peaceful lingering cafe breakfast.

Our keen 14 year old surfer finds Bingin beach at Uluwatu awe inspiring, we find a guide to take him, the waves are big, the surf is mean and the rips can be serious.
205 steep steps down the cliff towards Bingin beach is Bingin Ombak Warung, recommended to us by friends.  The coffee is good (actually all of our coffee is good) and the beer battered mahi mahi tacos are so damn delicious that we head back again for the same lunch 3 days in a row.

Aside from sitting at Ombak watching surfers, there is a resident dugong who surfaces close to shore with regularity and it becomes a game to look for him amongst the waves.  Freddie isn’t so sure when one surfaces beside him on his board as “not all vegetarians are friendly”.
There are many holiday villas along the cliff front and as the ocean views are so outstanding, I think next time we will brave all those steps (with luggage) and stay here, although I do love our own oasis next door to the popular Cashew Tree café and fitness school.  The Cashew Tree is home to great coffee, delicious food (although dinner can be fairly slow to arrive) with an awesome cooler displaying bliss balls, carrot cakes and other delights. They also have the best coconut based gelato ever.
Just along from Bingin Beach is the popular Padang Padang beach and then further from there is the famous cliff top Uluwatu temple.  Padang Padang beach is usually completely over crowded with people – and the fringes are over populated with cheeky monkeys intent on a free meal. As the tide comes in the beach gets even smaller and the monkeys bolder.   Many of the Uluwatu beaches are tide dependent in terms of whether there is a beach or not.  High tide literally takes over the beach but this may be due to the full moon as well.

The monkeys at Uluwatu temple are equally – if not more – annoying than Padang Padang and are known to steal anything not glued on, including shoes.  Thankfully we are there in the middle of a hot day and the adult monkeys are too hot to do anything but lie languidly in the trees while the younger entertain us by playing in small swimming pools that seem to be purpose built for them.
(I will post video when I work out how :) )
The grounds of the temple are interesting in themselves and the high cliffs provide dramatic ocean views.

The temple offers a little view of another culture, something that is easily missed in the fun of a hedonistic holiday.

Bali is an easy holiday and one where the whole family can get to enjoy it without compromise.
We leave feeling happy and satiated, having had 2 weeks of endless sunshine, warmth and wonderful experiences.

We would all come back again in a heartbeat.

*This trip was fully paid for by Helen Jackson and family.
*During the winter months you can fly direct from Auckland to Bali with both Air NZ and Emirates.
*This trip involved 3 Bali destinations, Seminyak, Nusa Lembongan and Uluwatu.

The Great Toastie Showdown









31 July 2019
Finalists named in search for New Zealand’s top toasted sandwich


With the first round of judging complete in the annual Great New Zealand Toastie Takeover, one thing’s clear: the competition behind those sandwich grills is fierce.

Now in its second year, this popular celebration of the not-so-humble toasted sandwich has introduced a compet

A massive 10,000 toasties have been served up over July, with the participating eateries vying for a spot in the competition’s final round.

Now, those 13 finalists have been announced in a group made up of two finalists per region (with the exception of Auckland, where there was a tie for points during judging).

The competition criteria requires sandwiches to be toasted between two slices of bread and able to be eaten by hand. The toasties also need to contain cheese and McClure’s pickles, with all the other ingredients entirely up to the entrant’s imagination.

And a glance through the finalists confirms the imaginative Kiwi take on this beloved snack knows no bounds. And the finalists are:


Luncheonette by Culprit – Macaroni and Brisket Burnt End with McClure’s Pickle Toastie.

Fed Deli – Pastrami ‘n’ Swiss Melt – A toasted hot dog bun with pastrami, Russian dressing, McClure’s Pickle Spear and Swiss cheese.

The Apothecary – “Dagwood” Reuben sandwich.


The General (Mount Maunganui) – A toastie featuring Golden Harvest Organic Sourdough and packed with all kinds of goodies, including 12-hour braised beef brisket and McClure’s Sweet and Spicy Pickles.

Hayes Common (Hamilton) – Ol’ Smoky – The toastie that almost got away – Smoked kahawai, creamy mustard béchamel, smoked and vintage Meyer cheeses, McClure’s Sweet and Spicy Pickles, hot sauce, potato sourdough and a fried pickle.


The Federal Store Cafe & Deli (New Plymouth) – 12-hour slow-cooked corned beef with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, pickles and dressing on toasted, herb-buttered dark rye.

Replete Café (Taupo) – Kiwi Cuban – Ham, pulled pork, McClure’s Pickles, habanero mustard and Swiss cheese on Vogel’s bread.


Goods Manufactory and Café – Roasted cauliflower, garlic kale, Taleggio and McClure’s Spicy Pickles.

Park Kitchen – PK’s Tuna Melt – Tuna, mozzarella, spicy sliced pickles, red onion, garlic aioli and fresh basil on brioche.


Joe’s Garage Riccarton – Pulled lamb shoulder and Havarti cheese toastie.

Otto Delicatessen – The French Dip – Provolone, cheddar, onion and mustard aioli with McClure’s Pickles, hot beef jus and potato crisps.

SOUTH ISLAND (Excluding Christchurch)

The Hokitika Sandwich Company (Hokitika) – The Detroit – Corned beef, sweet and spicy McClure’s pickles, red onion, Havarti cheese, house-made special sauce, mixed greens served on toasted ciabatta.

Vines Village Café (Marlborough) – Little River Duck Toastie – Slow roasted aromatic duck with Sweet & Spicy McClure’s Pickles, Sour Cherry, Little River (Nelson) Cumulus A2 cheese and caramelised onion on crusty white bread.

Head judge Kerry Tyack says New Zealand’s love affair with toasted sandwiches shows no sign of abating – and fans of the snack have been in for a real treat during the Great Toastie Takeover.

“Cooks have become more adventurous. No longer is it sufficient to slap slabs of cheddar and ham between slices of white bread,” he says. “Artisan breads, piquant pickles and richly braised meats are all being carefully compiled to create exotic treasure troves of taste.

“Consumers are also more discerning and demanding a high standard of toastie preparation. Out is the fatty, greasy, under-seasoned stodge of old and in is the artfully layered, beautifully presented and multi-textural sandwich, especially one that pays homage to local and regional produce.

“The Kiwi toastie is no longer simply comfort food – it’s become a thing of culinary art.”

The final round of judging will also see Joe McClure of McClure’s Pickles in Detroit hitting New Zealand to taste the finalists’ creations – and he’s looking forward to sampling their efforts.
All 13 finalists’ toasties look incredible,” he says. “It’s great to see how our pickles have been used in each sandwich and have been combined with such amazing flavours. I can’t wait to come over and try them all and also to see some of New Zealand’s spectacular scenery while I’m on the road.”
Each toastie will again be judged on presentation, effectiveness of preparation technique, eatability, taste, innovation and originality, with the nation’s top toasted sandwich set to be revealed on Monday, August 26.

For more information about the Great New Zealand Toastie Takeover, check out And for more about McClure’s Pickles, see #toastietakeover.







Tatua Unveils Fresh New Packaging with a Third Less Plastic!  

Waikato, Wednesday 2nd July 2019: Tatua Dairy Company’s Waikato-made specialty creams have always tasted delicious, but they’re now sporting a brand-new look in the form of resealable pouch packaging

Up to 35 percent of Tatua pouch packaging now consists of chalk, which acts as a filler to allow the dairy company’s lightweight packaging to comprise of less plastic while still providing incredible strength and durability.

Compared to conventional packaging concepts, Tatua’s premium cream pouch range—which is produced in Ecolean film and has just hit supermarket shelves — also offers lower environmental impacts in terms of energy consumption, waste generation and emissions to air and water.

Susanne Rolfe, Tatua GM Marketing and Sales, says the new packaging was designed with value, convenience and waste minimalisation in mind.

“Inside, you’ll find the same amazing taste Kiwis know and love, but on the outside, our products are better in every way for the environment, supermarkets and consumers,” says Rolfe.

 “Replacing approximately a third of our plastic use with innovative natural minerals like chalk is a small yet significant step in the right direction,” says Rolfe. “We’re the first company in New Zealand to use Ecolean packaging and it has been approved for soft plastic recycling.”

Tatua’s new pouches stand up steadily on supermarket shelves. In response to high demand, all Tatuaspecialty cream pouches are also resealablemeaning more convenience and less waste.

“Because they’re made from thin film, our pouches let you squeeze out every last drop and fold the pouch flat for minimal wasteless than three percent, to be exact. The controlled opening slot and air-filled handle also mean the pouch is easy to grip, hold and usemaking cooking a breeze.”

 “Our packaging artwork has been refreshed with delicious new photography, which we hope will inspire Kiwis to get creative in the kitchen,” Rolfe explains. “Products like Crème Fraiche may seem gourmet, but we want to show people how easy it is to add these delicious goodies into their daily lives. Using Tatua Mascarpone instead of cream, for example, is an easy way to enhance the flavour and add a delicious creaminess to their favourite recipes.”

Tatua Culinary and Whipping Cream, Mascarpone, Cheese Sauce and Sour Cream are available in 1kg pouches through Foodservice outlets and distributors. Cooking Cream, Crème Fraiche, Mascarpone and Sour Cream are now available in 500g pouches to ensure there’s enough Tatua deliciousness to last the week!




Chantal Organics – Organic Apple Crumble Granola

Chantal Organics is currently one of the fastest growing organic brands in health and wellness in NZ grocery according to the latest data from IRI Aztec. A significant part of that growth is the increasingly popular range of Chantal Organics Cereals and Grainolas. Chantal Organics introduces a new Cereal called Chantal Organic Apple CrumbleGrainola.If Apple Crumble is one of your favourites, you’re going to love their Grainola. This is worth getting up for on a cold winter morning, for a delicious, nourishing start to your day!
Enjoy crunchy grainola clusters made with whole grains, organic NZ apple pieces and warming cinnamon spice. Crunchy clusters of organic whole grains meet apple and spice for a breakfast cereal the whole family will love. Chantal Organics Apple Crumble Grainola uses one hundred percent organic NZ apples, dried in their DriedFresh™dryer to preserve the flavour and nutrition of freshly picked apples.

Chantal Organics Apple Crumble Grainola is packed with superfoods including buckwheat, chia, linseed, coconut and psyllium-for a real power packed start to your day. For this cereal Chantal Organics use a special blend of virgin coconut oil and their own organic apple syrup to create grainola clusters with a naturally sweet flavour, a hint of cinnamon and just the right amount of crunch.

Chantal Organics Apple Crumble Grainolacomes in a generous, economical  family sized 700g pack RRP $11.95 available from participating supermarkets and health food stores nationwide, for more information on the Chantal Organics breakfast range visit


About Chantal Organics

Chantal Organicshas been feeding Kiwis the best organic products for forty years. A family business since its inception, they have always believed organic foods are better for our people and the environment. One of the oldest organics companies in New Zealand, Chantal Organics’goal is to take organics to every pantry in the country and make quality organic food affordable.

They source ingredients from trusted organic local and international suppliers to produce their vast range of products. “We believe in sustainability throughout the supply chain and we hold our suppliers to these high standards as well”,says Bailey Palmer, Chantal OrganicsMarketing Manager.

Chantalalso brings several international premium organics brands to the New Zealand market, such as AlterEco chocolatesand Clipperteas. “The products must taste great, and come from companies that respect the earth as well as their employees”.


Clevedon Buffalo Co Tartinade


Clevedon Buffalo Co launches creamy buffalo Kiwi twist on classic French tartinade

Clevedon Buffalo Co is bringing a tempting taste of France to dining tables this month with
the release of three new spreadable buffalo cheeses.

The trio of tartinades, which are farm fresh and handmade, come in three delectable flavours
– Smoked Paprika, Herb & Garlic and Truffled Porcini & Pepper.

These buffalo cheese spreads have been created by Clevedon Buffalo owner-operators
Richard and Helen Dorresteyn, who have been farming riverine buffalo in Clevedon,
Auckland, for more than a decade.

The couple are long-time fans of the regional flavoured soft cheeses found in France, so
were keen to create their own fresh take on the product.

“Richard and I have been experimenting at home with our exquisite salted curd and we
discovered that it combined beautifully with herbs, spices and vegetables to make a
delicious spreadable cheese,” Helen says.

“It’s taken the best part of two years to perfect the balance of flavours of the three tartinades,
but we couldn’t be happier with the end result.

“These versatile tartinades are great served with crostini or crackers or enjoyed as part of an
antipasto offering. They also make a fabulous addition to any cheese board and can add an
extra bit of deliciousness to meat and vegetable dishes.”

The Smoked Paprika Tartinade is particularly good for adding creaminess and a smoky
aroma to homemade burgers, while the Herb & Garlic Tartinade is delicious with mushrooms
or beef. Meanwhile, the Truffled Porcini & Pepper Tartinade makes a truly divine ravioli filling
when combined with field mushrooms.
The tartinade range is Clevedon Buffalo Co’s seventh innovative buffalo cheese option, with
the company also offering up mozzarella, cherry mozzarella, bocconcini, ricotta, marinated

buffalo cheese, Mexican Oaxaca (pronounced wah-hah-kah) cheese, as well as their
delicious range of yoghurts.

All of the products in the Clevedon Buffalo Co range are natural, hand made and suitable for
those who have difficulty digesting cheese or yoghurt made from cow’s milk.

Clevedon Buffalo Co’s Tartinade is available now from Farro Fresh, Auckland-wide and
Moore Wilson’s in Wellington, from today, Wednesday June 12. The full range of Clevedon
Buffalo Co products is also available from the Clevedon Village Farmers Market, every
Sunday, 8.30am – 1.00pm at the Clevedon Showgrounds.

RRP: $10.50 for a 150 gram jar.

About The Clevedon Valley Buffalo Co.
Just south of Auckland on the shores of the Hauraki Gulf is a farm unlike any other in New
Zealand. True pioneers of the buffalo farming scene locally, Richard and Helen Dorresteyn
own and operate 200 head of buffalo and were the first to farm buffalo in New Zealand in
2007. A family-run business, collectively they produce award-winning fresh buffalo
mozzarella, bocconcini, ricotta, yoghurt and marinated buffalo cheese. The company’s
buffalo dairy factory has won multiple awards and gold medals at New Zealand’s national
cheese and artisan awards.

How to use Yuzu


The Yuzu is a citrus, although quite different to citrus that we are used to here in New Zealand.  Looking a bit like a large bumpy mandarin they are anything but.
Originally from Japan, the yuzu is a hybrid between the Satsuma mandarin and the Ichang papeda, a slow-growing wild citrus.
With little flesh to speak of, the yuzu is prized for its aromatic flavoursome rind and juice.
If you had to describe it you would probably say it is most like a cross between a mandarin, grapefruit and lemon.
In Japan the fruit is used to flavour many dishes including the famous ponzu sauce, its uses are both sweet and savoury.
Way back in time the yuzu was originally from the Yangtze River region of China but was brought to Japan hundreds of years ago where it was prized for not only culinary uses but  also medicinal and for bathing.  Being a winter fruit, a yuzu bath is traditionally taken on the solstice day, seemingly as a preventative for warding off ills and chills.  Hot yuzu and honey drinks are known to alleviate cold, aches and flu symptoms.
In places such as the island of Shikoku, locals and tourists flock to have a hot bath containing yuzu skin.  Much more than medicinal this thought to also increase good fortune.
Here in the Western world, yuzu is prized for its culinary attributes.
The fragrant citrus is wonderful when paired with rich fish dishes such as salmon, try sprinkling yuzu zest over the fish.  Zest is also delicious sprinkled over many meat dishes, noodles, salads and soups. It is often added to mayonnaise and aioli, once again adding fragrance as well as flavour.
My first play with yuzu was to make a delicious yuzu curd with both the juice and the zest.






In terms of growing, yuzu is more cold hardy than most citrus and according to NZ Yuzu grower Neville Chun, it is not necessarily the ideal plant for the home gardener.  Chun’s commercial crop is in the Horowhenua.
Yuzu has a tendency to grow prolifically (around 3.5m high) and its extremely sharp 4cm long thorns are a hazard for anyone trying to pick fruit or prune. The tree has glossy green leaves and flowers in summer.  Fruit is usually harvested from mid May through until July. 

For more information connect with  Neville Chun
Orchard image credits to Neville Chun