Puhoi Valley Cafe and Cheese Store Review

Puhoi Valley Cheese Store and Cafe is a good escape if you are in Auckland.  The cafe is about a 45-minute drive if you are departing from the CBD and is tucked in a small town up north called Puhoi (as the cafe’s name entails). People travelling to Matakana, Goat Island, or anywhere north of Auckland are highly recommended to grab a bite at the cafe before getting back on the road.

The cafe boasts a lush green scenery and a beautiful water feature. We consider the cafe as typical when it comes to the food and the drinks option, but what sets it apart is its ambiance and (of course) the abundant selection of dairy products, particularly cheese.

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Pumpkin Soup
Top: Seafood Chowder | Bottom: Pumpkin Soup

Puhoi Valley Cheese Store and Cafe will not be complete without the cheese! Here are some of the cheese selections available to order or purchase in-store.

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An enclosure full of cheese!

We definitely recommend the Vanilla Bean Custard. Try it as a filling, together with a generous amount of Nutella and sliced bananas, in a croissant.

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Custard, yogurt, cheese, and milk.

On some days they offer customers a free 500ml milk to take home for every purchase of $50.00 at the cafe.

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Dad trying to figure our which milk to get.

 

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Puhoi Valley Cheese Store and Cafe
275 Ahuroa Road, Puhoi
Open everyday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

 

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Chop Chop Noodle House and Ben & Jerry’s (Ponsonby) Review

Featured Image: Photo credits to the Chop Chop Noodle House Website

Because it’s SaturDATE, it only means one thing,… eating out !!! On this day, we’ve decided to skip the usual Sushi Train lunch date and since winter is starting to creep in, we thought that it would be the perfect time to get some ramen. One of our favorite noodle places is Chop Chop Noodle House. It is among the many food places located in Ponsonby Central – a hub composed of cafès, bars, restaurants, and a fresh produce market.

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Chop Chop Noodle House has an Asian “kung-fu/beach bar” vibe. Patrons can select a seat around the bar, or on one of the independent tables out front. We always prefer the former option because we enjoy watching the chef prepare our meals.

 

The main reason why we keep coming back to this place is the unique and rich flavor of their ramen. There are five different options, pork, chicken, beef, vegetables (tofu, mushrooms, kimchi), or a combination of almost everything; we haven’t tried the chicken and the vegetables on their own, but all the other three are just superb. A single order guarantees you a very generous amount of noodles, flavorful broth, and your chosen protein.

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Cobra Kai Super Mega Ramen – Crispy Fried Chicken, Pork Belly, BBQ Pork, Kimchi, Mushrooms, and Rye Noodles | $25-

Another good thing about this restaurant is the fact that since there are limited items on the menu, it’s not overwhelming or confusing when it comes to selecting a dish. And you know that the dishes are always flawlessly executed because the chefs can focus on just a few recipes that they’ve perfected over time.

The bar also offers a range of  alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages which compliment their dishes quite well.

And because we were already in Ponsonby, we didn’t want to miss the chance to grab some dessert at Ben & Jerry’s. It ended up being a good and bad experience for us. It was GOOD because the combination of the ice cream, hot fudge/ caramel, brownies/ fresh-baked cookies, topped with whipped cream was absolutely perfect! And BAD ( well, not really…) because we didn’t know how big the servings were and we ended up getting two HUGE sundaes that neither of  us can even eat halfway through. Thankfully, it was quite a chilly night so we managed to take the rest of the ice cream home without it melting, popped them in the freezer, and ate them all the next night.

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Brownie Special and Cookie Cookie Sundae.

Chop Chop Noodle House
140 Ponsonby Road, Auckland

Ben & Jerry’s Ponsonby
160 Ponsonby Road, Auckland

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Mentatz Japanese Noodle Restaurant and Bar Review

Mentatz is one of our go-to restaurants whenever we are in the city. It is strategically located in one of the busiest streets in the CBD, Lorne Street. It offers a wide array of Japanese food and drinks at very affordable prices (from $8.00 and up). The food portions won’t let you down either, thus, customers really get the value for their money.

As for the food rating, it differs based on a variety of factors like the type of food, the customer’s preference for flavors, and the number of customers in the restaurant at the time of dining.

First of all, we can both attest to the robust flavors of the restaurant’s ramen. Our go-to selections are the Wafu Tonkotsu Ramen and the Seafood Tomato Ramen. The balance between the quantity of noodles, soup, and meat/ seafood is just right especially when you visit the restaurant on a quiet day; which is rarely the case.

Wafu tonkotsu ramen @ mentatz
Wafu Tonkotsu Ramen

Secondly, the side dishes/ appetizers are just as good as the mains. The serving size for some of them are big enough to pass for a meal. We’ve tried the Salmon Pot, Spicy Shrimp Salad, Gyoza, and Takoyaki; and the ingredients in each dish just complement each other really well.

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Salmon Pot – Salmon chunks with tofu and some vegetables in miso (?) soup.

Third, the rice meal that we usually order, which is the Teriyaki Chicken, in our opinion, is average. The taste and the serving size is really good and satisfying, however, the chicken isn’t always tender. We always get this issue during the busy hours — dinner time.

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Apart from the aforementioned information (as based on our dining experiences), the pros still triumph over the minor cons. This is a restaurant that travelers must dine in when visiting Auckland especially this winter season.

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Sushi Train, Chancery Lane, Auckland

Like every normal human being, we too live very busy lives, which primarily means working most days of the week. Amidst this reality, we try to spend as much time together as possible especially during our times-off that fall on the same day.

Saturday mornings mean pancakes and coffee for breakfast, a bit of vacuuming and mopping, then off we go (Gelo goes to the gym and Kay wanders around the city). And because this is the only day that our restdays jive, we often splurge and go for a late lunch at the Sushi Train in Chancery Lane. It is one of the best places to eat in Auckland, in our opinion, because they serve a variety of sushi options which are freshly prepared, their staff are incredibly friendly and accommodating, and every plate, regardless of the colour, is $3.50 (unlike in the other branch which is located near the Viaduct where prices vary depending on the colour of the plate). On a normal day, we often end up with ten plates in a stack; however, during those rare instances wherein we are incredibly famished, the stack becomes doubled.

And to share what our enthusiasm is all about, here are some of our regular sushi choices:

Top left: Tiger Roll, bottom left: Grilled Pork Sushi, bottom right: Grilled Salmon, middle right: Grilled Scallops, top right: Grilled Beef.

Some of the “fried” food options:

Left: Takoyaki, top right: Spicy Chicken Karaage, bottom right: Calamares.

Options that we have tried only once:

And because we do not eat them often, we are unfamiliar with the names, except for the one on the top left hand corner which is the Volcano Roll.

And you can also get desserts like Creme Brulee, Tiramisu, Chocolate Mousse, and Gelatin.

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The highlight of every Sushi Train visit! 🙂

So if you are ever in the city and are looking for a great sushi place, Sushi Train in Chancery Lane is a must-try.

Sushi Train
201A/32 Courthouse Lane, Chancery, Auckland
PH: (09) 368-7200
Sunday to Thursday | 11:30 am to 9:30 pm
Friday to Saturday | 11:30 am to 10:30 pm

Safe Travels,

Kay  & Gelo

Hidden Treasures of the North Part 2: Sandy Bay Retreat

To complete our trip, we booked a cabin in a place called Sandy Bay Retreat. It was one of the highlights of our itinerary. After contacting Coastal Holiday Homes and finalizing the reservations, we were sent a rather long list stating the things that we need to bring (including bed linens, rubbish bags, etc.), the directions to the cabin and how to enter the property, and the garbage disposal instructions (which involves driving to the waste disposal area). We had to read thru the email a million times just to make sure that we didn’t miss anything.

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Sandy Bay Retreat is very suitable for travelers who are after “peace and quiet”. It is also a place to “disconnect”. Network coverage is very limited (which means you have to climb a hill to get network access), DVDs are your best friend, you only see your neighbor if you bring some type of telescope, and the background music is of birds chirping, some ducks quacking, and insects trying to carry a tune.

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Staying at this place clearly outlines what holidays should be about: bonding with loved ones, appreciating nature, relaxing and breathing in fresh, clean air, and simply disconnecting from all stressors.

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Breakfast is served!

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Pros:
It is a very peaceful location. The cabin and some of the other amenities are well maintained. You get value for your money. Although the retreat has 2 other cabins and a camp ground, no other people will be booked in if a person, couple, or a group has already made a reservation, thus, you get your much deserved privacy.

Cons (which aren’t really a biggie):
We weren’t able to use the outdoor tub because it hasn’t been cleaned for quite some time. It is located quite a while away from the shops; so if you are planning to cook, it is better to purchase all your supplies before heading to the retreat.

Safe Travels!

Kay & Gelo