Journey to NZ- Auckland Day 1

Kia Ora! 5 months ago I received an Instagram message with this greeting (meaning hello and good fortune) and the news that I had won two free flights from Houston to anywhere in  Australia via Auckland through Air New Zealand! I had attended an Aussie by Air NZ event in Houston in October that was promoting their new direct route from Houston to Auckland. If you posted a picture from the event, you were entered to win the flights. When I opened the message I figured it couldn’t be real but I am now back from my journey across the world still pinching myself. 

Evan and I arrived in Auckland  two weeks ago after a 15 hour direct flight on Air NZ from IAH airport in Houston. The flight left at 8 pm Wednesday night and after watching movies and reading for the first half, and sleeping for the second half it went by relatively fast. A few perks about Air NZ: endless movies and TV options for free, in flight games with other passengers or messaging which is fun if traveling in a group, alcoholic drinks are free in flight and wine = better sleep in the air, they serve you two meals, have spacious  foot  and back recliners even in economy, and the friendliest in flight crew I’ve ever experienced. Upon landing and checking in we were in search for a classic New Zealand brunch. 

We stumbled upon Federal and Wolfe which was a colorful organic  cafe with endless brunch options.  We split Eggs Florentine which came with haloumi cheese (the best) and Dukkah Eggs with chorizo and both were equally delicious. Their fresh squeezed juices were a perfect way to get in some vitamin C after a long night of travel. 

Auckland reminded us a lot of Seattle with the serious coffee scene, popular fish market, rainy weather, and beautiful rivers and mountains as the backdrop of the city.  We stayed at a great Hilton along the waterfront which had beautiful harbor views, live music in the hotel bar, and a delicious cheese platter.  It was in a central location to walk to several areas and we found it easy to navigate the city. 

For dinner we were craving fresh seafood and landed at Harbourside on the Auckland harbour. It was a bit upscale but it was our only night in Auckland and got rave reviews. The fresh sushi and sashimi was the highlight of the meal.


After dinner we headed to The Gin Room for some craft cocktails. They had a speakeasy vibe and they feature gin from across the globe. My cocktail was topped with beet root foam and rosemary. 

At this point we were pretty tired from the flight and walking around throughout the day so we called it a night. 

We couldn’t leave Auckland without one more amazing brunch and we loved Ortolana so much that we compared every other brunch we had on the trip to this meal. I think this was our favorite from the trip which says a lot because breakfast down under is taken very seriously. 

The ambiance was amazing, they serve strong yet creamy flat whites, the fluffiest whipped yogurt we had ever had, and dreamy avocado toast with a perfectly poached egg. 

I wish we had more time to explore Auckland but with the rainy weather and plans to explore Rotorura we had to hit the road. Stay tuned for my next post about our drive through the beautiful New Zealand countryside/sheep land to get to Rotorura- a geothermal quirky tribal town!

CourseHorse Cooking Class- Sur La Table!


I’m finally back from my whirlwind of a trip to New Zealand + Australia and I’m excited to catch up on some blog posts! Soon I will be posting a recap of our adventuress.

A few days before the trip I went to an amazing Tour of Italy: Tuscany cooking class at Sur La Table with my friend, Stephanie.  I was contacted by CourseHorse , a company that offers a wide variety of courses and learning opportunities. CourseHorse is essentially a discovery and booking tool for local classes.  I was amazed at the wide variety of classes they offer including: fitness, languages, life schools, tech skills, professional skills, and cooking.  I was excited about the unique range of cooking classes they  plan to offer in Houston and have been wanting to try a class at Sur La Table so it was the perfect opportunity.  While my class was compensated, all of my opinions are my own and I have already signed-up for another cooking class since I loved the experience so much.

We attended class at the River Oaks Sur La Table location. I knew we were off to a good start when I saw this magical sunset upon arriving.


The class was small and personalized with only around eight people which really allowed us individual attention with our insightful instructor, Chef Monica Tapia.  In addition to making a three course gourmet meal, I learned tips along the way from Chef Monica about proper knife skills, the best way to cut veggies and meat, how to create the perfect base for soup, and many other kitchen prep tricks.


When we arrived, everything was already set-up  in portioned out stations with all the ingredients. We each received name tags, aprons, light refreshments, and quickly started working in teams on the first course. I would recommend going with a friend if possible since you do typically work in teams of two, but everyone was also very friendly if you did go on your own.


Did I mention the class was BYOB?! We brought a lovely Pinot Noir that complemented our Italian feast perfectly. The first course was my favorite with the hearty and healthy ribollita Tuscan soup paired with a pecorino and shaved fennel salad. This soup was seriously to die for and could easily be a meal in itself.  We learned that this soup used to be considered a peasant soup based on vegetables that were easily grown in the garden and made with day old bread. The robust flavors of tomatoes, white beans, a parmesan rind, garlic, pancetta, and onions all made a rich and complex broth. We stirred in kale at the end to get in some extra greens. I already made this soup again since it was so easy and tasty, perfect for a weeknight meal. I also fell in love with this simple salad of freshly shaved fennel with greens. We made a light and zingy lemon garlic vinaigrette which was made for a refreshing side salad.


Next up we seared Bistecca alla Fiornetina on small grills. These steaks were lightly seasoned with herbs and lemon.  We were pretty full from the first course but these steaks were perfectly seasoned and grilled so it was hard to resist! It was fun getting to taste our dishes throughout the class and it definitely turned into a full dinner, make sure you go hungry!


We couldn’t end the class without a sweet treat and these indulgent chocolate hazelnut filled donuts were SO delicious.  I had never had Bomboloni before (which is probably a good thing because these are dangerous), but they were so fun to make.  These Tuscan-Style mini yeasted donuts are a great dessert to impress friends with or to enjoy for a special meal. I had never made doughnuts from scratch before and will have to find another excuse soon to whip these up.

I am so glad CourseHorse offers such great cooking classes in Houston and am excited to continue trying more classes. Keep in mind that they are currently in beta mode for Houston.  More classes will be coming soon and be sure to sign-up with your email address to receive more info once classes are live! Stay tuned for details on my next class at Sur La Table where we will be making homemade pasta 🙂