Tuesday, 13 November 2018

NZL Travelogue: Auckland & Shakespear Regional Park

 Hey people! Finally, the #miagoesnzl travelogue series is getting started! But before you move on to my Day 0 and Day 1 of my 9D8N Jucy Campervan road trip in the North Island, do check out my posts on Leasany (and how you can get a 20% discount off their rental services) and Jucy Chaser campervan review too! :)

As our Airasia X flight is scheduled to touchdown at the Auckland international airport at 510pm and the last slot for Jucy Rentals' collection is 430pm, we had no choice but to check ourselves into one of the airport hotels, and ibis budget airport hotel it shall be! 

-credits to https://www.accorhotels.com-

Conveniently located within 20 minutes' walking distance from the Auckland international airport, and near to a selection of eating places like your ever so trusty McDonald's, Carl's Junior, KFC, cafes, restaurants, and Countdown & Warehouse, the ibis Budget Hotel is also the most affordable of all the airport hotels you can find. Rooms are small, but clean, comfy and definitely good enough for our one night's stay after our McD dinner and with some Halo Top ice cream (why aren't you available in SG?!) & chips for our late night snacks from Countdown just opposite the road.

That entire pint of Halo Top is only 360 kcals! 

And is it me, or do they get fluffier buns at their McD? Well, they have way fancier takeout coffee cups, that's for sure!

After a good night's rest, we started our day early and left for Jucy Rental's after our McD breakfast (they have bagels here!), which was another 20 minutes walk for collection of our Jucy Chaser, scheduled at 9am. We would have walked back to the airport and wait for their shuttle service, but it won't make much sense as that would be a 20 minutes walk as well (though that might have saved us the 15m hardcore uphill walk to Jucy's entrance gate).
And well, we did expect a bit of waiting, but surely didn't expect to wait for nearly 2 HOURS before we were brought to our campervan, and the entire walk-through for the CV only took us... 5 to 10 minutes. Anyway, all was good and off we went to PAK'nSAVE Mangere to stock up on our food supplies for the trip, before heading into Auckland City to meet up with my Uni mate, R, (who's currently working in Auckland) and his wife.

-credits to www.paknsave.co.nz-

R initially planned to bring us for Tanpopo ramen, but sadly, they were closed. So Mexican food it shall be, at Mexican Cafe located in the Auckland CBD.

I got the Quesadillas (15 NZD) and BF got the Burritos (15 NZD). 
I'm not at all familiar with the Mexican cuisine, hence I have absolutely no idea of how authentic their food taste, but they were definitely yummy and not that damaging on your pocket. Love their complimentary serving of salsa and tortilla chips too, so yummy! 

-credits to http://www.mexicancafe.co.nz-

They also have a covered veranda "alfresco" seating area, which would be lovely on a cooling day to dine in. 

After a hearty lunch treat from R, we walked around Queen street, Auckland's equivalent of our Orchard Road, but with just a fraction of our crowd, and also.... a fraction of what we have to offer. No offence, but nobody travel all the way to New Zealand to shop, right? Anyway, while walking towards the viaduct harbour, we came across Uncle Tetsu Japanese Cotton Cheesecake, which apparently originated from Japan.... but after visiting Kansai and Hokkaido, I've never seen any Uncle Tetsu shops. But can't deny the fact that they're ridiculously cottony, soft and fluffy, and not overly moist. Those "angel hat" cakes looks super cute too!

And so, after sharing a whole Uncle Tetsu cheesecake among the 4 of us while enjoying the view of the viaduct basin and harbour bridge at the viaduct lookout (while keeping a close eye on the annoying, greedy seagulls), we heading off to the viaduct harbour and silo park!

According to R, they made a museum out of one of the silo (which he has visited). 

The sky was rather gloomy that day, but still it didn't change the fact that the views here was simply awesome!

And after yet another yummy sweet treat from R (I actually forgot what flavour I've gotten, but it sure was good!) before we say our goodbyes. T.T

And off we go for Shakespear Regional Park, which was about 1.5 hours' drive from Auckland CBD. 
Located at the top of the Whangaparao Peninsula, the park is named after the Shakespear family, who bought the land back in the 1880s from a local Maori. This massive park is home to three walking trails, the Heritage Trail, Lookout Track and Tiri Tiri Track.

And see who's there to welcome us! There were TONS of Pukeko birds and a handful of peacocks roaming free around the park's area, by the beach. R reminded us to keep a lookout for Kiwi birds as well, and I've also read reviews on the park stating they spotted Kiwi birds, but we weren't so lucky. 

But there were so many sheeps there to entertain us! Haha, they weren't very entertained by us though. On paper, the park closes by 9pm and we were there at 6 plus, nearing 7pm, so it seemed like a safer choice to give all the walking trails a miss as the estimated time to complete the trails is at least 2 hours, and we aren't sure of the sunset time, nor the lux level (we believe that there's no source of lights available after sunset) on the trails. 

And here's a short, unedited clip taken at Shakespear Regional Park, using my OPPO R9s on the Osmo Mobile 2 from Leasany.
The gimbal makes the video so stable, omg!

So after a quick walk among the grazing sheeps, chasing some pukeko birds and peacocks, and a leisure stroll along the beach, we hopped back onto our Jucy Chaser and headed off to our campsite for the night, which is a free campsite located at the Gulf Harbour Car Park, located at the end of Laurie Southwick Parade, which is about 20 minutes drive from Shakespear Regional Park. 

And here's our very first campervan one-pot dinner for the trip, white wine garlic mussels and lemonfish with baby spinach and buttered wholemeal toasts. YUMMY! 

Till then,
Mia Foo

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Althea Korea Petal Velvet Sunaway [Advertorial]

Scared of the unforgiving sun, but even more terrified of the ghastly white cast that your thick, sticky and heavy sunscreen gives you? Now, Althea has got you covered!

-credits to althea-

Made to be ultra lightweight, this translucent sunscreen is formulated with hyaluronic acid and Damask rose extracts to make sure that our skin stays fresh and hydrated throughout the day without any streakiness or the dreadful ghastly white cast. 

Armed with the highest sun protection of SPF 50+ and PA++++, the Petal Velvet Sunaway is actually a non-chemical formulation, with an advanced non-chemical UV filter that has a more transparent formula, helping it to apply evenly and smoothly onto the skin without leaving a white cast behind. 
Combining the effect of a micro powder barrier system, which absorbs sebum and excess oil from the skin, and the moisturising & hydrating effect of hyaluronic acid, the Petal Velvet Sunaway not only helps to control excess sebum on the skin, but also ensures that the skin is kept hydrated throughout the day. 

Suitable for all skin types, the Petal Velvet Sunaway is retailing at only $13 (55ml) HERE
Even better, you can now pair your purchase with your choice of Althea Petal Velvet Powder (now comes in 3 shades) and get 10% of the petal duo!

Visit sg.althea.kr for more product information. 
ps. do you know that Althea is also on shopback.sg now? Check out how you can get up to 5% cashback on all your Althea's purchases HERE

Till then,
Mia Foo

Friday, 2 November 2018

Food Tasting: Artichoke

Seated right in the middle of the busy Middle Road, yet ironically, located rather inconspicuously while being in the heart of Singapore's Arts and Heritage district, is Artichoke, a Middle-Eastern inspired restaurant set up in 2010, with a backdrop setting of street art, 60's soul and 90's hiphop.

Bjorn Shen, chef-owner of Artichoke and also author of the Artichoke cookbook, shouldn't be a new face to all, for he was very recently featured as one of the resident judges on MasterChef Singapore. Over the 14 years of his culinary journey, he has accumulated an impressive list of industry accolades, including ‘Chef of the Year 2013’ ­ SC Global,
‘Rising Chef of The Year 2015’ finalist ­ World Gourmet Summit, ‘Best Local Chef 2016’ ­ SG
Readers’ Choice Awards, ‘Singapore's Best 20 Chefs 2016’ ­ World Gourmet Summit, and 'Chef of The Year 2018’ finalist­  World Gourmet Summit. 
Other than being featured as judge on MasterChef Singapore, Bjorn has also participated in programmes such as MasterChef Asia, Secret Eats, and has taken up lead roles on Eat List Star Season 2 and The Ultimate Brocation.

Artichoke is probably the least authentic Middle-Eastern restaurant you would have encounter, for the food is fun and creative; drawing inspiration from the Middle-Eastern flavours and ingredients rather than being traditional. So here comes what truly matters; food, oh glorious food!

The first round of food, Mezzes and taster, that was served to the table was actually enough to fill our tummy and leave us satiated, no joke.

Mezzes (from top, clockwise): Turkish Toast, Iraqi-spiced Mushrooms, Burnt Miso Hummus, Samphire (sea asparagus, lebneh, shallots), Beetroot Borani (yoghurt, pistachio dukkah, dill)Babaganoush (smoked eggplant, pomegranate teriyaki sauce, pomegranate and sesame seeds)

I have to give a special shoutout the those two bags of Turkish toasts. They are so good, omg.
I tend to secretly judge a restaurant by the most basic food, bread, for I'm a huge bread-lover, and Artichoke has totally aced it. Specially served in paper bag to keep them warm, these toasts has a lovely crust on the outside and chewy on the inside, typical of a gourmet artisan bread.

My favourite of the lot has to be the burnt miso hummus, for the addition of miso has added so much more depth to the flavour of an otherwise normal, standard hummus. The rich and creamy texture of the hummus, paired with the crusty, chewy Turkish toast was definitely the best combination, ever.

Taster (middle): Devils on Horseback
wagyu ham with dried apricot, labneh, mint, almond

It's probably a shame that I have to give this a miss (I don't take beef), for this was very well received at the table. It was a new dish that has yet to be launched officially on their menu though. But judging from how much the rest of the bloggers (and their +1s) loved this, I'm pretty sure this would make it to their menu pretty soon, so do keep a lookout for this!

Jerusalem Salad
crumbled falafel, tofu tahini, mango amba

This is probably the kind of salad you will not choose to eat when on a diet. 
The tofu tahini gave the salad a creamy, rich texture and the mango amba helped to tone down the richness with a "pickle-y" mango flavour. I personally felt that it's a waste that the falafel (deep-fried ball/patty made from ground chickpeas/fava beans) was so thoroughly crumbled that I hardly tasted them. 

Fried Cauliflower Salad
fried cauliflower, 5-min egg, miso hummus, labneh, Isreali salad, tahini, skhug, mago amba, toast

Yet another cheatday-worthy kind of salad. Those fried cauliflower got OYHZ going for seconds when she's usually not a fan of her veggies, and there's nothing surprising about that because they were so so so good! Imagine a vegetable that taste almost like... chips! Although not exactly crisp and crunchy like your typical deep fried food, the cauliflower florets were definitely fried till the point where they have the charred flavour that is so addictive. 
This is THE SALAD you absolutely have to give it a try, even if you usually hate salads. I'm not even exaggerating. 


I know, they look exactly like some pan-fried taukwa, but haloumi is actually a semi-hard, unripened, brined cheese made from a mixture of goat's and sheep's milk, and sometimes cow's too. As it has a high melting point, haloumi is usually served fried or grilled. 

My first taste of haloumi cheese, and frankly speaking I felt a little.... cheated? This is not your typical rich, creamy and oozy goodness, which I was totally expecting of a cheese. Well, any cheese. Instead, the texture of haloumi deviates more towards fishcake and taukwa (firm beancurd), albeit a more savoury and chewy version. 

Squid Ink Couscous
with squid, clams and preserved lemon 

Yet again, my first taste of couscous, and they reminded me of barley. The blackness probably makes the dish seems a little too funky, but overall the taste of this dish was pretty mild and manageable. This was like the child that came out of a marriage between paella and risotto, if you can get what I'm trying to say. 

Golden Pomfret
charcoal-grilled locally farmed pomfret, with sweet onion chermoula & barbecued lemon

I was so loving the fish, for they were so well grilled. The skin were nicely charred but the flesh still tender and juicy. Even though the fish was pretty flavourful on its own, pairing it up with the sweet onion chermoula just brings the entire dish up to a whole new level. 

Hot Skillet Prawns
with green harissa, split cream and charred onions

The prawns were obviously huge, and extremely fresh. Nothing beats a mouthful of thick-fleshed, juicy prawn that's generously doused in an amazingly flavourful spicy condiment (green harissa). And you know what's better? Green Harissa is also supposedly to a real metabolism booster. 

Smoked Chicken
smoked chicken with toum garlic whip & pickles

I have to be really honest about this, that I did not bother with tasting the pickles, nor the toum garlic whip. And that's because the chicken itself was just so damn good on its own, and it seems like adding any other condiment to it will not be doing it justice!
The flavourful flesh was so tender and juicy (yet not to the point of being slimey) that it got all of us hooked at first bite. Definitely a seemingly simple and basic dish that totally swept us off our feet.

Lamb Shoulder
twice cooked lamb in milk sauce

The twice cooked lamb are so soft and tender, that the flesh was literally just falling apart with just a poke of the fork, I kid you not. I'm quite a big fan of lamb/mutton to begin with, so the usual gamey-ness doesn't really bother me. But honestly speaking, even though this dish was definitely very rich and rather strong in flavour (it's lamb in milk sauce, do you expect anything mild?), it's not that particularly gamey. Well, at least, not for me. I just loved this!

Lastly, let's not forget the most important thing that sweeten up the deal. Desserts!

Soft Serve Ice Cream (Sea Salt Burnt Honey)

This was like salted caramel soft serve, but better! I always find that the sweetness of caramel comes with a sickly-sweet aftertaste, which was absent in this burnt honey flavour. Moreover, the sweetness of honey also has more depth to its flavour, giving this soft serve a more subtly exquisite taste.

Date Pudding

I always "eat" desserts with my eyes first, and I'm not going to lie that the appearance of this date pudding did disappoint me a little. But people, the existence of this date pudding is to teach you a very important (albeit cliche) life lesson: do not judge a book by its cover.
The date pudding was more of a bread pudding, sponge cake texture, that was obviously drenched (or rather, partially submerged) in a concoction of smoked milk custard sauce with sea salt and bits of coffee jelly, and then topped with cashew caramel and cocoa powder.
Sweetness level of this dessert was definitely on the high end, so if you're the kind of person who enjoys "not-so-sweet" sweet dessert, then the rich flavour of this date pudding might be an overkill for you.

Malabi Split

Now, this is the kind of dessert I would first feast with my eyes, then feed to my camera, before getting them all into my belly. However, the coconut vanilla pudding was very coconuty, which I'm definitely not a fan of, but would have gone well with the subtle peppery flavour of pink peppercorn and tangy flavour of the strawberry ice. I personally love the strawberry ice though. I mean, strawberries with a popsicle texture, what's not to love about that, right?

Artichoke is located at 161 Middle Road, Singapore 188978
Opens Tuesday to Friday from 1600 - 2230 
Saturday & Sunday from 1130 - 2230

For more information, visit their FB page or Instagram  

Till then,
Mia Foo

Saturday, 27 October 2018

NZL Travelogue: Jucy Chaser Campervan Review

Hello, lovely readers! As y'all should know by now, I've just returned from a 9D8N campervan trip to New Zealand North Island recently. So before I get started from the long long journey of my NZL travelogue series (I took ONE year to complete my Hokkaido travelogue), I shall first get y'all started on the campervan we've chosen as our home-on-wheels for the trip.
The Jucy Chaser
The JUCY Chaser has everything you need for a road trip for three. Featuring two double beds, a fully-equipped kitchen and its very own shower and toilet, the JUCY Chaser is up for any adventure!The Chaser is fully self contained with a toilet, shower and grey water tank.
Using Toyota Hiace 2004 or newer model, Jucy has remodelled the automatic transmission van into a 3m high campervan (CV) with an interior height of 1.92m, with an 80L fresh water tank (two separated tanks, one for the shower and one for the kichenette tap) and 85L grey water tank.

And here's how the interior looks like. Pictures were taken on the very last day of our trip, hence things are a little messy. HEH!

The CV comes with blinds on all windows (with the exception of sun roof) so privacy will not be an issue. The Jucy Chaser does not come with air conditioning in the main cabin (air-con only available at the driver's cabin) but since the weather was pretty cold (10+ degree Celsius) at night, it wasn't any issue at all. 
We've tried sleeping on the sun-roof bed on the "upper deck" once, but felt that it was considerably less comfortable than sleeping on the lower bed, which we had to set up using an L-shaped board and cushion (the two pieces you see slotted in behind the driver's and passenger's seats) every night. And so, we ended up using the upper deck bed as storage space for our luggage, pillows, duvets and bath towels. 
There was only two of us, but since the Chaser is supposed to house 3 pax (technically, you can sleep 4, but maximum allowable capacity is limited by the number of seat belts), we had a total of 4 pillows, 2 duvets and 4 bath towels. 

The bench seats here provided more storage space, where we kept the portable heater (only usable when CV is hooked up to main 240v power at powered sites), portable table (which stands right at the "hole" you see in the picture above), and our grocery items which do not require to be refrigerated. 

On the other end of the CV is our toilet/shower stall and a "kitchen". The Jucy Chaser also comes with DVD player, that also requires hookup to 240v main power to be switched on. Rental of the CV does not come with free DVDs, but there is a shelf of "pre-loved" items, probably left behind by other tourists, which included a small selection of movie DVDs, and other foodstuff (spreads, oils and I even saw others taking canned food and fresh produce like onions). 
The big, long bags on the floor is the set of picnic chairs provided by Jucy, which we totally didn't use at all, and only served to take up more of our precious space. =.="

The "kitchenette", though extremely tiny, was still pretty well equipped with a 2-burner gas hob running on a mini (was it 2L?) LPG gas tank. However, due to tight space, and standard pot & pan sizes, we could only use 1 burner at a time. 

The whole kitchenette comes well equipped with cooking equipment like pot, pan, spatula, ladle, glass bowls, pasta strainer, chopping board, tea towel and dishwashing brush. 

The necessary crockery and utensil like fork, spoons, knives, can opener and peeler are also provided.

Up above the hob and sink are more storage space, where you can find your plates, small bowls, ceramic mugs and wine glasses. 

Last but not least, there's also a kettle for you to boil some hot water on the hob, and a toaster, which once again, will require hookup to the 240v main power to be used. 

By the side of the crockery/utensil tray are two electrical sockets (require 240v main power), which you can use to get the portable heater and toaster going. There's also our 50L compressor fridge and a fire extinguisher. 

Though looking rather tiny, the fridge (both the chiller and separate freezer compartment) was more than enough for us to stock up our 8 nights' worth of dinner ingredients. 

And right opposite the fridge are the switches to the 12v battery system, that charges up while the engine is running, and also while the CV is hooked up to 240v main power. So on the 12v battery, you'll get lighting in the main cabin, power to the fridge, water pump (that serves both the hot water shower and sink) and ACC, which allows you to charge devices on the USB port and also switches on the stereo in the driver's cabin. For the 1st night of our trip, we drove for merely 2 hours, and the battery lasted us.... 30 minutes.

The toilet and shower stall is unbelievably small, but still decent. Hot water shower can get pretty hot (for me), and the water pressure is rather strong. But do note that due to the tiny space, privacy will be an issue because there is no way can you manage undressing and dressing up inside the shower stall itself. Just soaping myself up in the stall makes me bump into the walls here and there. 
The toilet bowl can be turned to one side to give you more space to shower, but it's actually quite negligible.  

As for the cassette toilet, we only used it for number 1 when the need arises (usually only in the early mornings at free campgrounds), plus there's this blue powder that came along with it, that helps to keep the cassette smelling like some hardcore chemical factory "fresh". It also stains all your pee (not sure about number 2, because we didn't use the cassette toilet for number 2s at all) blue, so it feels less dirty while you're pouring it away at the public dump stations (PDS).

And here's how we did it.

Always make sure that the toilet cover is closed before you can remove the cassette, and you can just twist the cap open and tip it right into the black water pipe opening at the dump station. Using the water hose provided at the dump station, give it a good rinse before empty another sachet of the magic blue power into the cassette, pour a little bit more water in, squish it around to mix, and replace the cassette back into the slot. 

Emptying the grey water tank is much easier, as you only need to attached the hose (provided in the CV), place the other end at the grey water pipe opening, pull the valve to the tank open, and wait until the water runs dry. 

Jucy requires us to return the CV with fully filled fresh water tanks and emptied grey water tank & toilet cassette. But you do not need to worry about locating a PDS on the way back, as there's a PDS located right inside their compound. 

Apparently, they also have after hours return service available. However, I'm not sure if it's also applicable to CVs, or only for car rentals. 

And here's some snippets of where our Jucy Chaser has brought us to over the course of 9 days, covering a distance of almost 2500km across the North Island. 

Compared to other MotorHomes providers like Wilderness, Maui and etc, Jucy is definitely more affordable and gives you a bigger bang for your buck, providing you with a no-frills CV that's fully equipped with all the bare necessities for a manageable and enjoyable campervan road trip.
Our rental of 9 days (for their spring season) only set us back by 900+ NZD all in, inclusive of insurance, which is quite a good deal.
One issue to note will be the estimated fuel consumption as stated on some rental websites though. It was stated on some rental websites of about 10 - 12L /100km. But we found that a full tank (of 70L) only lasted us at most 500km, which makes it at least 14L /100km.

Jucy also has some awesome relocation deals for their rentals, going for as low as only $1 a day. Find out more on such steals HERE

Till then,
Mia Foo
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