Zomato – a new way to find where to eat

Did you know that Auckland has 3,500 restaurants? Not only that, I’m amazed how many new restaurants seem to pop up each week and or how many restaurants reinvent themselves. It’s impossible to keep up.

As someone who eats out regularly (okay, I eat out a lot), restaurant review sites are my bibles. I read all of them, including newspapers and magazines, plus I canvas my foodie friends. However, I typically find that newspapers and magazines focus on the latest celebrity openings (read “expensive” restaurants), with some more popular eateries scattered among these. I understand these; readers want to know what’s new and trendy in town. Unfortunately, review sites are generally not moderated, which can lead to false and even revenge reviews.

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What New Zealanders eat; how (un)healthy are we?

You probably know that the government tracks what we eat. That’s not a surprise. All governments track what their citizens eat in order to inform food regulation, nutrition guidelines, social and health policies and to fund research.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) runs Nutrition Surveys; the last Adult Nutrition Survey was conducted in 2008/09 where 4,721 adult New Zealanders (aged 15 and over) provided detailed information which formed the basis of the understanding of the nutritional (and health) profile of our country. This was the fourth population-based nutrition survey (previous were 1977, 1989 and 2002, so we are probably another 5 years away for the next one). There were smaller focused surveys done in intervening years. These surveys are hugely expensive to run well, the data gathering (screening of potential respondents, then selection and questionnaires, interviews, blood and urine sampling) takes a year, and the analysis can take a further year.

MOH and Plant and Food Research maintains and updates the New Zealand Food Composition Database, which samples 2,600 of the most common food products, analyses and validates them for 76 different nutrients. The sampling methodology composites products purchased from different geographical locations, batches and brands. This information is then used to provide the nutrient levels for the Nutrition Survey.

What did the survey tell us? Continue reading

What is the definition of a foodie: are you one?

The term ‘foodie’ has been bandied around for a long time, but the definition is confused, and so loaded with polarising connotations that, depending on who you ask, it can be considered either a compliment or an insult.

When exactly the term first came into the vernacular is also under debate. The first print use was by former New York magazine food critic Gael Greene in 1980, and author and food journalist Paul Levy came up with the term independently in 1982. The term really took off when Levy and Ann Barr wrote ‘The Foodie Handbook” in 1984, a satirical piece on the nouveau riche. They mockingly call a foodie an aficionado of food and drink but a gentler version of gourmet (which they claim denotes snobbery).

Most people refer to foodies in the positive; it is anyone who enjoys food, and is interested in any aspect of it, be it cooking, eating, photographing, gadgets or food culture. To them, it is an inclusive term. Continue reading

On being a foodie* and still (afford to) have a life

There was a time when enjoyment of food was a simple affair; you learnt to cook, how to choose fresh ingredients and which neighborhood restaurants served consistently good food.

Now, the pursuit of food is so elevated, it has become an trendy pastime. Farmers market used to be where local growers sold their produce direct to consumers cheaply; but now there are artisan markets and boutique farmers market where you know your farmer by their first name, they have a webpage and everything is organic, free-range and costs twice as much as the stuff on the supermarket shelf.

The pursuit of culinary and foodie perfection has been exulted to a frenzied level. New Zealand, still heavily dependent on primary production but with a high labour cost, cannot afford to feed the common masses. Our production is geared to feeding the wealthy classes. We pride ourselves on growing the best apples, our dairy cows produce the best milk, our lamb is the most succulent and our king salmon is famous.

All these comes a cost though. NZ is an expensive place to live well; dining out is exorbitant, and costs of produce goes up every season. I have always known that my food bill (groceries plus dining out) sometimes amounted to nearly 20% of my take home pay. It is a ludicrous amount to devout to a pastime. Recently, I had an accountant take a detailed look at my spending habits, and she gave me the hard word; – reduce my food bill to about 10% of my budget, and put that into my mortgage. Over 10 years, I could save $100K of interest on my mortgage. Yikes! And that doesn’t even include my overseas eating trips and the myriad of culinary gadgets that fill every nook and cranny of my kitchen.

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