A weekend ritual

Get up late, walk to the end of Oriental Parade, get halfway back before realising it’s 3pm and we haven’t eaten lunch, lose pace due to sheer hunger. Eat all the things.

Oriental Parade
Oriental Parade
Oriental Parade
Oriental Parade
Oriental Parade
Oriental Parade
Oriental Parade
Oriental Parade

Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

I never thought the Tongariro Crossing was something I’d be capable of doing even if I wanted to. I guess 11 years in Wellington have trained my legs well.

When Kate decided she’d like to hike the crossing I signed up without much hesitation and I’m so glad I did! We spent the weekend at Discovery Lodge in National Park with views of Tongariro and Ruapehu and had the most glorious Saturday for the climb. I was prepared for crazy alpine weather if it hit us, but was quite pleased to not be blown around, rained on, or burnt to a crisp.

I owe a lot of my success and enjoyment of the 19.4km hike to walking poles. They were worth every single ounce of dignity I may have lost by looking so uncool, cause who was still able to lunge the next day? Me! (And then a couple of days later my knees gave out and I couldn’t walk well for two weeks, so I suppose the poles were worth even more than that because they kept my knees from giving out while I was actually on the trail.)

Tongariro Crossing - 29 March 2014
Tongariro Crossing - 29 March 2014
Tongariro Crossing - 29 March 2014
Tongariro Crossing - 29 March 2014
Tongariro Crossing - 29 March 2014
Tongariro Crossing - 29 March 2014
Tongariro Crossing - 29 March 2014

New Orleans’ Sunday Jazz Brunch, Logan Brown

Logan Brown

It’s that magical time of year when Wellington on a Plate is back in town. Last year we went to the fantastic Whisky Breakfast at Arthur’s, this year we decided on the New Orleans Jazz Brunch at Logan Brown. It was an obvious choice, and having never been to Logan Brown a chance to experience food usually priced out of our reach.

We were seated upstairs in the private dining area. Only four tables are up that narrow winding staircase, thankfully Sarah-Rose, Laura, and Tim were seated next to us at the balcony edge, rulers of the land. I have no idea how the staff manage to carry hot plates up those stairs.

Logan Brown

The $70 ticket included coffee & beignets to start, a cocktail, main, and dessert. Everything was incredible, the beignets were soft and lightly dusted with icing sugar, the coffee good. Our cocktails – one each of the double rum Hurricane, and the mint julep – were strong. I don’t like to be coddled with my cocktails, I want to taste the alcohol, so these were perfect.

Our choice of mains: seafood and sausage gumbo, eggs crawkitty, and sticky fried chicken seemed like perfect New Orleans choices. My gumbo was rich, the sausage added spice and I tried what was potentially my first oyster. Par cooked in the gumbo it was sour but excellent, the texture however left me glad I’d never had one raw!

Though I’m avoiding sugar at the moment it would have been rude not to eat the pecan pie dessert.

Logan Brown

Logan Brown

The service at Logan Brown was some of the best I’ve ever experienced. Our waiter was attentive & kept our water constantly topped up. When our food started to get cold because we were with the tarot card reader our dishes were sent back to be made again!
Even the bartender took time to point out all the sea creatures in the rock pool built into the bar.

Unfortunately for you the event sold out ages ago. If you didn’t manage to get a ticket you should absolutely give Logan Brown’s Dine menu a chance. Your lunch or dinner may not be accompanied by the Valley Stompers Jazz Band but you should be able to catch a glimpse of the wee cray hanging out at the bar.

Logan Brown

Logan Brown

Logan Brown

Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown
Queenstown

What a beautiful part of the country!

It’s unusual flying into Queenstown for the first time. Growing up I constantly saw images of our epic landscapes; snow capped mountains with streams running between them and not a person in sight. Exposure to these images increased in the years following New Zealand’s transformation into Middle Earth. But now, making the sharp right turn toward Queenstown’s airport, those images are very real and present.
So real I heard that pilots flying into Queenstown have to be good enough to ignore warnings coming from the safety systems telling them they’re going to crash into a mountain. (Nervous collar pull.)

Air New Zealand Wellington to Queenstown

I always expected that these sorts of landscapes could only be accessed with a lot of money, a helicopter ride, or a two day trek in the snow. Not the mere act of standing on solid ground with Lake Wakatipu on one side and Queenstown’s low profile city centre on the other side.

A large number of Queenstown’s population is transient, travelers there for a few months, a few weeks, a few days. It’s easy to become a local, just stay put for a couple of years. I wonder if everyone is so nice because they know they’ll be gone soon…or you’ll be gone soon.

We ate some incredible food in our four days. The coffee wasn’t half bad either.
If you can afford it then Amisfield Winery is well worth the visit. We loved Kappa for more affordable Japanese food. I was impressed with the coffee I tried at Vudu in Queenstown, Espresso Love & Cafe Mondo in Arrowtown, and Kai Whakapai in Wanaka.
All of the rumours about Fergburger (and Fergbaker) are true: huge cheap delicious burgers and fast friendly service. And if you’re a sweet tooth like me go try some of the many fudge varieties at one of the Remarkable Sweet Shops.

See all of my Queenstown, Arrowtown, and Cromwell photos on Flickr.

Fergburger, Queenstown

In the end it all comes back to the view. Wander around the gardens at the lake (try not to get hit by frisbees on the frolf course), take a trip up the Skyline gondola, and if you’re as lucky as I am get your friends to take you over the Crown Range and eventually on to Cromwell for a classic Southland Cheese Roll next to Lake Dunstan.

Arrowtown
Cromwell
Cromwell

Amisfield Winery: We tasted some wines at their cellar door and then sat in the sun to share a charcuterie board with wild rabbit rillette & apricots, dried venison sausage, chicken liver mousse with pistachio crust, pickled vegetables, and sourdough; huge slices of pork belly with barley and blood orange; and a spiced kumara tart with caramel walnuts and vanilla ice cream for dessert. I loved the noble sauvignon blanc so much I had to bring a bottle home with me.
We got out just in time to cross the road and catch the bus into Arrowtown.

Amisfield Winery, Lake Hayes
Amisfield Winery food
Amisfield Winery, Lake Hayes

Our first night in town was a bit cold, but still fine enough to eat our burgers down by the lake. For the most part though we were totally over prepared, the sun shone and we found ourselves having to strip off coats and thermal layers.

Cromwell
Cromwell

Queenstown Gardens and Lake Wakatipu
Queenstown
Queenstown
Queenstown
Queenstown
Queenstown
Queenstown

Skyline Gondola
Skyline Gondola, Queenstown
Skyline Gondola, Queenstown
Skyline Gondola, Queenstown
Skyline Gondola, Queenstown
Skyline Gondola

Lake Wanaka
Wanaka

Arrowtown and the Millenium Walk
Arrowtown
Arrowtown
Arrowtown
Arrowtown
Arrowtown

See more of my Queenstown, Arrowtown, and Cromwell photos on Flickr.

365 in 2013

Tuesday, May 7: J Walter Weatherman doing a good job.
Tuesday, May 7: J Walter Weatherman doing a good job minding the weather.

Wednesday, May 8: Back at Caliente for farewell drinks. They forgot to make my cocktail so made it double strength as an apology (we know the manager). 'Twas very strong indeed!
Wednesday, May 8: Back at Caliente for more farewell drinks. They forgot to make my cocktail so made it double strength as an apology (we know the manager). ‘Twas very strong indeed!

Thursday, May 9: Jerk! I'll be sending this over to Made It on Victoria St next week.
Thursday, May 9: Jerk! I’ll be sending this over to Made It on Victoria St next week.

Friday, May 10: Life in hospo. At least the Thunderbird crew have a sense of humour!
Friday, May 10: Life in hospo. At least the Thunderbird crew have a sense of humour!

Saturday, May 11: Flying to Queenstown was worth it just for the magical view from the plane. Snow capped mountains and crystal lakes.
Saturday, May 11: Flying to Queenstown is worth it just for the magical view from the plane. Snow capped mountains and crystal lakes.

Sunday, May 12: Chris & Diana picked us up from Queenstown & acted as our tour guides for the day. We drove over the Crown Ranges and stopped for photos & a chance to ward off car sickness.
Sunday, May 12: Chris & Diana picked us up from Queenstown & acted as our tour guides for the day. We drove over the Crown Ranges and stopped for photos & a chance to ward off car sickness.

Monday, May 13: A long walk on the Arrowtown Millenium Trail was a bit painful with a belly full of delicious Amisfield Winery food, but well worth it.
Monday, May 13: A long walk on the Arrowtown Millenium Trail was a bit painful with a belly full of delicious Amisfield Winery food, but well worth it.

Legalised Love

On Wednesday night New Zealand MPs voted 77-44 in favour of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill.

It’s been a long, nerve-wracking nine months since Louisa Wall’s bill was drawn from the ballot. A long wait since that first support march in August 2012. But it’s here, it’s done, and I couldn’t be more proud of how far this country has come.

While I’m overjoyed that we have elected politicians that have been supportive of these changes their whole lives I also think it’s worth mentioning those that changed their previous nos to ayes. It takes some courage to actually listen to the debate put in front of you and realise you were wrong.

Get pickled

Holy moly. Last night we went to Pickle with Brendan’s family.
We were lucky enough to try the Pickle Dinner Party which we’d seen on the menu last time we were there. Basically you choose either the $35 or $45 option and talk to the chef about what you particularly like on the menu, what you dislike, and declare any allergies. The $45 menu gets you some fancier ingredients and a couple of extra treats.

Our table of six was easy, the Pickle menu is always amazing so we all took turns reading things out and exclaiming yummmmmm. The chef could do what he liked as far as we were concerned.

It was pretty much amazing. You get to try an incredible number of dishes without getting overfull and the price makes it easy to give it a go.

Here’s what we had, all food was shared on the table, except for when it obviously couldn’t be.

  • Frickles (whole fried pickles)
  • Sliced raw vegetables with avocado and ash salt - Pickle

  • Raw sliced vegetables to dip in avocado and ash salt
  • Asian salad with pulled pork - Pickle

  • Individual Vietnamese salads with pulled pork
  • Soy soba
  • Carne salada with rocket and parmesan - Pickle

  • Carne salada with rocket and parmesan
  • Kingfish ceviche
  • Crumbed fish sliders with tartare
  • Clear tomato soup - pickle

  • Clear tomato soup
  • Salmon with cucumber balls in a butter sauce - Pickle

  • Warm salmon with cucumber balls in butter sauce
  • Lentils with fried cheese and grilled vegetables
  • Duck on black rice with orange and sesame - Pickle

  • Duck on black rice with orange, and sesame crackers
  • Chicken with basil pesto - Pickle

  • Chicken with basil pesto
  • Mini creme brulee in egg shells - Pickle

  • Creme brûlée
  • Jars of chocolate mousse with salted caramel fudge - Pickle

  • Chocolate mousse with chocolate crumbs
  • Salted caramel fudge
  • And a white chocolate, raspberry, and peppercorn chocolate bar to take home.

Phew!

(sorry about the photo quality dropping dramatically as the sun went down.)

Wayward, Newtown

Wayward Newtown

Smoked meats and giant chunks of bread, American whiskey, outdoor dining. Joe and Mike nail it again at Wayward with a small, perfect menu. Everything is affordable and unpretentious, so much so that some of the beer is offered in cans and probably what you were drinking 10 years before craft beer became a thing. (If you’re really buggin’ for a wider range of craft beer you can head inside to Monterey.)

My favourite was the spiced rye – a $6 shot of Wild Turkey Rye with spices added by the Wayward crew. It was sweet and almost worryingly easy to drink.

The fries were crispy, the smoked brisket tender and smokey, the sauce and coleslaw added moistness to dip the giant chunk of bread in. Everything served on wooden boards which made for easy cutting and scooping, and thankfully with the outdoor setting I didn’t feel too bad for being an incredibly messy eater.

Wayward Newtown
Wayward Newtown
Wayward Newtown
Wayward Newtown
Wayward Newtown
Wayward Newtown
Wayward Newtown

Wayward Newtown

29 August 2012 – Marched for Marriage Equality

That’s me in the photo I stole from Stuff being squinty in the sun wearing a lei I was given on the way.

In the hot sun at the very end of winter we marched from Civic Square to parliament to celebrate and support the first reading of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill.

If this bill passes through the many hoops it needs to pass through it will mean that 2 people, regardless of gender, sex, or sexual orientation will be able to marry in New Zealand.

Arthur’s Whisky Breakfast

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the Arthur’s Whisky Breakfast since booking tickets back in June.

On arrival at Arthur’s we were taken up the stairs and shown to our designated seats…not with our friends. We hadn’t booked tickets together but had naively assumed we’d be able to sit wherever we liked. Thankfully the team at Arthur’s (and Martha’s!) know service well and didn’t let it register on their faces just how annoying we were being messing up their seating arrangements. It was all okay in the end, Brendan and I sat at “the best table in the place” with Laura, Tim, and Paul.

Cranachan

A menu sat at on our plates showing us what to look forward to and coffee orders were taken (not included in the price but rich and delicious). An introduction to the Whisky Breakfast and Arthur’s was made by co-owner Anita (McLeod, wearing the McLeod tartan) and we were given a brief history lesson on the building. Courtney was introduced as our taste master for the morning and our first course of cranachan was served with Macallan whisky.

Kedgeree

Next the kedegeree was served with a Japanese whisky. We’ve been wanting to try Japanese whisky for a while and this one bought out spiciness in the kedgeree beautifully. Courtney told us to save out money for something better though. The Yamazaki has taken advantage of recent awards won by Japanese whiskies and flooded the market. I loved the smell of Yamazaki, it reminded me of fruit mince, and the taste was fine if a bit sharp. But Courtney suggested us buying one less bottle or saving a bit longer to get something better like Nikka Yoichi.

Rabbit Pie

A rabbit pie with whisky onion jam was served with the Islay classic Laphraoig. I love Islay whiskies with their strong smokey peat flavours.

Finally we were served a whisky hot chocolate with shortbread. Ardmore whisky mixed with dairy milk chocolate that we just didn’t want to end.

Despite the incredible food and whisky on offer the highlight was hearing Courtney talk about the whiskies and her job as the spirits equivalent of a sommelier.

Selling spirits for Moore Wilson’s she sometimes had a few hundred open bottles sitting on her shelves, Courtney refused to let a customer spend big money on stock without having tasted the product. Likewise she said she doesn’t approve of people selling spirits if they don’t like drinking themselves, and she’s sick of bar staff at good establishments knowing long histories of their cocktails and nothing about the whiskies behind the counter.

Arthur’s Whisky Breakfast tickets sold out weeks after going on sale but if you’re attending on either of the next two Saturdays you are in for a treat!

Whisky Breakfast menu