Archive for ‘New Zealand’

February 29, 2012

Chef Sherwood

by Anna

As Johnny mentioned in a previous post, we lucked out timing-wise on the New Zealand portion of our trip to see his brother Jay! Having just returned home from a three month cooking stint in Northern Italy, Jay was only in California for a couple of weeks when his fellow chef and friend Vaughan, a Kiwi whom he had met while cooking in San Sebastian, Spain, called him to see if he’d be interested in moving to New Zealand to work at Amisfield, a winery just outside of Queenstown. And with that Jay became a temporary New Zealand resident three weeks ago!

Since we had just missed Jay’s move to Italy by a couple of weeks on the European leg of our trip back in October, we were ecstatic that we’d finally have the chance to see him…and in New Zealand to boot! We were looking forward to lots of quality time with Jay once we got to Queenstown, but upon realizing that our drive from Lake Tekapo to Te Anau would take us right past Amisfield, we decided we had to make a surprise visit.

It was a rainy day, and Amisfield was packed. Once the friendly host, Tom, discovered that we were related to Jay, he gave us a wink and nod and told us he’d finagle a table for us just as soon as we’d tasted some wine. After 10 months, we couldn’t have been happier to see Jay’s face, and it was especially cool to get to see him in his element – the kitchen! He took us on a quick tour through the kitchen, garden and vines, and then used his employee perks to get us six bottles of the delicious wine that we had just tasted. We then proceeded to have the most delicious lunch of all time with a fabulous bottle of Pinot Noir. Everything was amazing, but the best part was obviously getting to see Jay!

It wasn’t too sad to have to say goodbye, because we knew we’d be seeing much more of Jay once we got to Queenstown after a few days at Te Anau and Milford Sound.

Chef Jay!
Hungry men Ladies who lunch
Zucchini bruschetta
New Zealand lamb is simply the best!
Before After
Johnny and Jay post-lunch with our bounty of wine
February 28, 2012

Mackenzie Country

by Johnny

After a great couple of days in Kaikoura we packed up Big Red for our longest driving day of our South Island tour.  One thing we’ve quickly realized, though, is that travel days in New Zealand are kinda awesome.  The scenery everywhere is just stunning.  It’s definitely one of those “the journey is the destination” type places.  After driving south for about an hour we cut inland via the Inland Scenic Route 72, a beautiful drive through the region where the Canterbury Plains meet the Southern Alps.  We passed friendly farming town after friendly farming town, stopped for a great lunch in Oxford, and finally arrived at our next home base at Lake Tekapo in the heart of Mackenzie Country.

The town of Lake Tekapo is basically a gas station, a tourist information office and a couple cafes…in fact, we brought the town’s population up from 315 to a whopping 319 during our three nights there.  But whatever Lake Tekapo lacked on the cultural front it made up for tenfold with its natural beauty (are you noticing a theme, here?).  We rented an awesome cabin located a couple steps from the lake and just around the corner from the town’s famed Church of the Good Shepard and collie dog statue.

The sediment left behind by the stony-bottomed glacier that formed Lake Tekapo causes it and other lakes in the region to display an incredible icy-blue, turquoise color.  It’s like no lake I’ve ever seen before.  We spent our first afternoon admiring our new surroundings and BBQing some burgers in our cabin.  On our second day we hiked up to Mt. John for some lunch at the Astro Café, where we took in views of the entire Mackenzie Basin before coming back to our cabin and running into some serious New Zealand “traffic” on the one-lane bridge.  Later that night the clouds parted, and we were treated to some of the clearest skies and brightest stars we’d ever seen.  The entire Milky Way was visible…pretty awesome.  I’ll run out of adjectives if I keep talking about how beautiful the area is, so here are some pics.

On our last day in the area we drove an hour to Mt. Cook National Park.  At 3,755 meters Mt. Cook is New Zealand’s tallest peak, and it’s where local legend Sir Edmund Hillary would prepare for his summits of Everest.  We hiked into the nearby Hooker Valley, which took us across a couple swing bridges and up to the end of the Hooker Glacier.  Unfortunately it was a little cloudy that day, and we weren’t able to see Mt. Cook in all its glory, but it was cool to see it jutting up into the sky and living up to its Maori name, Aoraki, meaning “Cloud Piercer”.

February 25, 2012

Cray Crazy Kaikoura

by Anna

After a lovely two days in wine country we headed to the coast where the mountains meet the sea on the rocky peninsula of Kaikoura. Crayfish, which resemble small lobster, are a big deal in these parts (Kaikoura is a Maori name which literally translates to ‘meal of crayfish’) so crayfish and another regional specialty, greenlip mussels, were first on our agenda. After stopping to watch some playful seals, we pulled off the side of the beautiful coastal road heading into Kaikoura at Nin’s Bin for some fresh seafood. Johnny had read that Nin’s Bin was a must-stop, and we were not disappointed. The menu and set-up were simple: a bin of crayfish (caught that morning) marked with prices, a couple pans on a stove-top and fresh mussels. We picked out our crayfish, had it prepared with garlic butter, grabbed some mussels in white wine sauce with lemons and settled at a table by the sea. Topped off with some Sauvignon Blanc that we had brought from Marlborough, it couldn’t have been a more perfect lunch.

After our delicious pit-stop we made our way to our cottage in Kaikoura, where we transitioned from chickens and sheep at St. Leonards to a pasture of cows for neighbors. We checked out the small town and the beautiful vistas of mountains and coastline before settling in for dinner and a movie.

We awoke the next day to a torrential downpour…not the most ideal weather for our scenic walk along the peninsula that we had planned. We made the best of the weather with seafood chowder and local brew at the historic Pier Hotel followed by a viewing of National Treasure 2 (always a crowd-pleaser!) at our cottage. Nicholas Cage had just made his final one-liner when we noticed that the rain had started to clear. We grabbed our jackets and set out for the Peninsula Seal Colony and Walkway. This amazing walk took us along the tops of sheer cliffs, past pastures full of the happiest and healthiest looking cows we’d ever seen and down to the shoreline where seals lounged inches away on the rocks. The views along the peninsula were spectacular, and who couldn’t love being up close and personal with basking, barking seals?

February 23, 2012

Marlborough Wine Tasting

by Johnny

We took a windy but beautiful ferry from Wellington across the Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds to Picton, where we picked up Big Red, a 2003 Nissan Wingroad (huh?) and our primary source of transportation as we tour the South Island for the next couple of weeks.

Our first stop was Blenheim, a town that is nothing to write home about but that is located smack dab in the middle of New Zealand’s Marlborough wine region. Marlborough produces about three quarters of the country’s wine and is world famous for its sauvignon blanc, so we had our work cut out for us. We tasted wines at Allan Scott, Bladen (our favorite), Hunter’s, Saint Clair and Wither Hills (great view), and while they were all yummy, our favorite part of Blenheim had to be our accommodation at St. Leonards. St. Leonards was recommended to us by my old SF roommate Kyle who had stayed there while traveling in New Zealand before working a crush at Amisfield (which, coincidentally, is where my brother Jay just took a job as a chef…more on that soon). Anywho, St. Leonards was awesome!  It’s basically an old farm that has been converted into five charming cottages…Anna and I had the Old Dairy and Pete and Susan had the Shearers Quarters…complete with a tennis court, a petanque court, sheep, chickens and friendly hosts Paul and Daphne.  In the morning we would cook some farm fresh eggs and toast with homemade lemon and lime marmalade…so good that we had Daphne write down the recipe for us.  In fact, we liked St. Leonard’s so much that we made all our meals there.  Breakfast, then wine tasting, then a picnic in the garden, then more wine tasting, then a BBQ at night…safe to say our South Island tour has gotten off to an awesome start.

A little windy on the ferry over… …but the views were worth it
Big Red off to a rocky start Big Red made it!
Wine tasting at Wither Hills
The view from Wither Hills
Lunch at Allan Scott Wine tasting at Bladen
Our front yard at St. Leonards
The Woolshed

The Shearers Quarters

The Old Dairy
Our neighbors
Farm fresh eggs for breakfast Breakfast in the garden
Big Pete BBQing in the garden Weeeeeee!
Anyone for tennis? Check out that form
Big Pete; Hen Whisperer Just hangin’ out
Picnic at St. Leonards
February 15, 2012

Happy Valentines Day from Wellington!

by Anna

♥ I couldn’t think of a better Valentine’s Day present than my parents ♥

Lambton Harbour, Wellington

After saying goodbye to my mom and dad at the train station in Avignon nearly nine months ago, we were finally reunited two days ago in Wellington, New Zealand! Since then we’ve been enjoying our cute apartment on Mt. Victoria, with Johnny and I especially loving the opportunity to make some home-cooked dinners, and exploring our first New Zealand destination, with the very cool and interactive Te Papa Museum and the Wellington Cable Car being the top attractions. We’ve also been feasting on long delicious lunches and then working them off on treks up to view points of the city and the uphill climb to our apartment.

Tomorrow we’ll bid the North Island ado as we make our way to the South Island via a three-hour ferry ride. First stop: Marlborough wine country!

The ‘Colossal Squid’ was my favorite exhibit at Te Papa
Johnny’s brew sampler at Mac’s Brewbar Mac’s was conveniently next door to the museum
En route to Mt. Victoria Lookout
Looking left from the Lookout Looking right from the Lookout
We made it to the top!
A fun ride on the Wellington Cable Car
Enjoying another great view of Wellington
Mt. Victoria Getting a glute workout walking home