2012 - it was a very good year

Well, nearly the end of another year's extremely successful eating. I started 2012 in Christchurch, having had an excellent meal at the Cornershop Bistro in Christchurch, among all the containers in Sumner on New Year's Eve. I availed myself of that largely Cantabrian delicacy (well, within New Zealand, anyhow), a souvlaki from Dimitris in the Cashel Street container mall. And from there - the world was my oyster. Or burger, rather.

If the defining event of 2011 for me was the All Blacks bringing home the Webb Ellis, then 2012's signature event, where I was concerned, was Burger Wellington for Wellington On A Plate. For 15 days and nights, I ate little other than burgers, in the company of some of my most trusted eating allies - 25 burgers, with 25 fellow diners. It was less arduous than you might have imagined. I even ended up on telly because of it (my parents - so, so proud...)

There was also the not-inconsiderable disruption of the kitchen renovations.

I ate high end. I ate down and dirty. I went to Queenstown and Wanaka. I went to Auckland, several times. I saw some excellent gigs, and celebrated them with some excellent meals. I ate one of the best meals I have ever eaten at the Garage Project Parks Up At The Larder dinner. I helped judge the burger-off. I helped judge the "Pie Vs Cake" bake off.

I thought a lot about food. I wrote a lot about food. I ate - a lot of food, and shared with you my findings. I befriended some other food writers; Simon Farrell-Green (of Eat Here Now), Delaney Mes (Heartbreak Pie), Beth Brash (Eat and Greet)- it turns out the "food community" is much better at doing the caring-sharing thing than those in music-world, where things are still a bit competitive. I interviewed Sophie Grigson and Monica Galetti. I took a cooking class at Ruth Pretty's cooking school in Te Horo. I even went to a couple of events where I had a badge with my name on it, which was pretty spesh.

And, of course, throughout, three times a week, I have written this here blog. Sometimes I feel inspired. Sometimes I feel a bit knackered. Even so, as per the direction of the breathtakingly prolific Simon Sweetman - Stuff's music blogger at Blog on the Tracks - I always turn up. I have to. It is my obligation. I said that I would.

Because, as I am occasionally reminded by people who I see out and about, some people do, actually, read the stuff I write. I am heartened when I hear that a restaurant or café that I have enjoyed and written about has experienced an upswing in popularity after a mention herein.

But for today, I thought I would cast a glance back over some of my favourite things from the year just past...

1)    Best meal of the year

A no-brainer, really - The Larder Parks Up At The Garage Project for Wellington On A Plate was, I would estimate, one of the five or so greatest meals of my life. Honourable mentions, however, to Depot in Auckland, and to not one but two magnificent degustation menus at The Matterhorn.

2)    Best thing I have cooked

A toss-up between the wagyu scotch fillet I made recently, and the belly-rolled pork shoulder I took round to our friends the JVH's house the night before LVH gave birth to their little boy - some meals just stick in your mind.

3)    Best new(ish) cheap restaurant

Little Penang. God, I love it. Their claypot rice has to be the greatest comfort food since - mac 'n' cheese? And their Assam Laksa is unique and so flavourful. Everything they produce is so full of love, and pride. I am counting the days until they reopen (Keith and Tee have gone back to Malaysia for the holidays).

4)    Best milkshake

Snickers thickshake, at Fidels. Don't believe me - ask Adam Page...

5)    Best burgers

Given that I couldn't justify having the Boulcott Street Bistro's Burger Wellington-winning T-Rex Burger every weekend (at $29 a pop, even if it was actually permanently on the menu), the run-of-the-mill Esther burger (beef/cheese/salad/sauce) at the Ekim Burgers caravan in Lyall Bay is an absolute classic. Ditto their hand-cut chips, with homemade tomato relish.

6)    My favourite shop

...is the incomparable On Trays, in Petone. It's run by my favourite South Africans, Steven & Valda Scheckter, who have taught me more about what is good to eat than I could ever even express, and have been endlessly supportive of this Omnivore's aspirational eating. Maybe almost a little too supportive...

7)    My favourite café

By a nose, my favourite Wellington café is Milk Crate, in Ghuznee Street. Impeccable coffee (no matter who makes it), superb sandwiches and the most delicious choc-chip cookies this side of my Mum's. Runner-up would be Petone's Go Bang.

8)    The best bakery?

Willis Street's Le Moulin. Head and shoulders. It is magnificent. And their baguette - phenomenal.

So there you have it. My best of the best. I would like to thank everyone who has fed, and watered, and humoured me this year - in particular Plus One (who at least garners some benefit from all this food obsession!), and my workmates at Slow Boat Records, but also to my most prolific dining companions J Des, DL and The Mexican - all of whom joined me yesterday for the last Scopa margherita pizza of the year. It was a humbling reminder of how special it is to share good food with good friends. On ya. All of ya.

I would also like to thank anyone who has read or commented or contributed to The Omnivore in any way throughout 2012. It means a lot - it really does.

One more blog for 2012 - I have an idea brewing...

What have been your food highlights in 2012? Have you taken on board any Omni tips - an Ekim burger here, a Snickers shake there? What was the best meal you cooked or ate this year? And what was your favourite Omni culinary exploit?

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