Samples of Food Thoughts From New Zealand—February, 2005
(Note: entrée is what we call an appetizer)
February 15, 2005: It’s an hour’s drive back to Nelson—and Jeff falls asleep about as soon as we get back and naps until we leave about 8:00 for our dinner reservation at the Boat Shed.
It’s semi-organized mayhem and chaos at the restaurant, a small establishment that hangs over the water. Jeff, with his good sense of direction, finds it like a shot. After about 15 minutes of standing around, a waitress takes us upstairs out of the din into a small room with only a few tables and a single window looking out on the water and the setting sun. A nice couple from Ottawa sitting at the table by the window lets me come over there to take some pictures. Jeff goes down to the street and shoots some wonderful shots of sunset and the moon. I know that I am not supposed to go into details about what we eat, but this rates a change. Our entrée is steamed mussels, cockles, scallops, and clams, all in the shell. We have ordered the special for the evening which is supposed to be a “gourmet size” (read that as “pretty small”) crayfish (what we would call a rock lobster, but different in taste), some prawns, and new potatoes. What we are told later by the waitress is that they took a huge crayfish out of the tank (and I mean huge) and gave us each half. Besides more crayfish than you can imagine, there are four or five huge prawns. We have our bottle of sauv blanc (a local Nelson vineyard) and dig in and dig in and dig in and… It’s almost too much to eat. The tail meat is more than I have ever seen and there is tons of meat in legs, claw, body. The taste is somewhere between lobster and Dungeness crab. Andy would be in hog heaven eating this. Of course we have to have a rich dessert to cut the richness of the crayfish…and a short black.
February 17, 2005: The B&B, Misty Peaks Boutique Accommodation, is a few blocks from where the tour headquarters are. We drive over, meet our hosts Dave and Lea, and move into our wonderful and huge room right off the living room. The room is really the master bedroom where our hosts live in the winter, but rent out in the summer. The place holds 10 altogether and I think we have the biggest quarters. There is a couple from Wisconsin (the wife loves visiting Branson), two couples from Germany, and a couple from the UK (somewhere near Portsmouth and they had a cottage on the Isle of Wight). The hosts serve complementary wine and cheeses at 6:30. There is a menu to choose from (and a nice wine list). Jeff and I split a whitebait fixed in eggs. We each have a rack of lamb. We split a Pavlova for dessert. Also, we drink a bottle of nice pinot noir. Dinner is really excellent—restaurant quality in all respects. Imagine doing this for your guests during a whole six-month tourist season.
During dinner, we talk to the British couple. The American couple has gone out for cheeseburgers or the such. All the other eight guests are at the table. We have a lovely conversation that covers new laws outlawing hunting in the UK, train trips we have taken, their part of the UK, and they try to explain cricket to us. Even for a second it did not make sense to me.
We marvel over the fact that our hosts are really running a restaurant beside a B&B. There are about four choices for entrée and another five or six for a main course. Since the menu is dated today, they must change what the offer daily. And they cook it while we watch and serve it. Besides the main course, the offer a salad with homemade dressing and new potatoes. And they hang around to converse with the guests. All of this goes on from November pretty much through April. Lea also runs a café a few km from here.
February 24, 2005: Around 7:45 or so we go downstairs and ask the woman at the front desk where to go to eat. She directs us toward the river (Avon) and “the strip.” We go down there (it’s only about three blocks or so) and look at menus to choose where to eat. We decide on The Boulevard. The manager tells us there will be a 30 minute wait because the kitchen is backed up and they don’t want to put any more orders in. But he gives us a table and we order a bottle of Bascand sauv blanc `04 and begin drinking. They give us menus in less than the 30 minutes they had said. We order a whitebait omelet to split as an entrée. It’s huge and delicious. I have lamb rump smoked in manuka and over an eggplant puree. Jeff has salmon stuffed with wild rice, macadamia nuts, and mangos with a side of potatoes. We split a pear tart tatin over gingerbread with flan and whipped cream. Naturally, I have a … We walk back to the hotel and take some pictures of the square at night. This city’s bars (like the place we ate) will go until 5:00 AM or so with nightlife. As we were finishing dessert, the staff was taking all of the tables out of the bar area for the crowd to come into the wee hours.
February 25, 2005: Around 5:30 we leave to get some CDs of music from NZ that others have recommended to Jeff. Once that is done, we walk north on Colombo for about six or seven blocks and check out the menus on two restaurants, settling on The Seafood Kitchen. We split two entrees: a sashimi plate with salmon, kingfish, and waiharu and a calamari and peanut salad with cilantro. Both excellent. We have two entrees instead of splitting one given the advice we get from our waitress about our main course: a whole grilled crayfish with chips and a salad. She says we should split it instead of having one each and splitting an entrée. She is right. It’s a lovely dinner consumed along with a `02 Pegasus Hills sauv blanc/Semillon. Dessert is a warm dark chocolate pudding with berry sorbet, fresh berries, and crème anglaise. Jeff likes it so much he runs his fingers over the plate to get the very last crumbs and drops. And, of course, the two of us have a … I am sorry if there are readers who do not want this much food detail, but if the food is this good, it deserves to be described. One of the things we have noticed about all fried food here (chips, beer battered fish, etc.) is that they know how to make it really crisp but the outside is not dark brown to accomplish this. And nothing is greasy.
February 26, 2005: We go downstairs about 6:15 and ask Andreas, the person on the front desk, where the best place in Christchurch is to have rack of lamb—it’s our last night and we want the tops. He says to go to Hay’s on Victoria and gives us walking directions. It’s only a few blocks away. While they seem to have lots of reservations, they quickly find us a table. We have a Mount Edwards Susan’s Vineyard 2003 pinot noir, split a whopping bowl of mussels in Thai broth (lemon grass, cilantro), and each have the rack of lamb. Oh my God! It’s wonderful. We purr, we moan, we gnaw every morsel from each of the tiny ribs. It’s decedent and we love it. Of course, there is always dessert—crème brule with fresh fruit.