Saturday, March 26, 2011

Meal Memories...

Its a month since the quake and since we visited South Australia. I still can't get the best meal we had whilst over there 'out of my head' (to quote Kylie Minoque).  It consisted of 5 courses (each shared by both of us).  It was at Fino - a small and tidy looking restaurant down in the McLaren Vale (in a town called Willanga).  The wine matching and hospitality were amazing.  But it was the food that got me - popping with  colour, seasonal and local, the menu took great produce, and classic dishes, and then pimped them up with tiny nuances - that made them Fino's. Nothing showy, nothing pretentious (potentially how this paragraph sounds) -  just really good.  Here is the meal we shared:
 Venison Carpaccio with pickled veges (carrot, beetroot, radish), watercress and parmesan. 
 Salt cod (done with snapper), blended with potato and topped with a perfect poached egg and parmesan.    This was so comforting, and fun, and colourful and unctuous and full of a salty and mellow flavour.
 Fried gar fish - with a fennel, free olive and raddish salad. 
 The larger than life's owner's dad's secret recipe above: rabbit bollatine sitting on shreds of confit-ed rabbit thigh - forming a salad (can't remember which herb was mixed with it).  The sausage had quite a bit of kick in it, as well as pine nuts to give texture, and it was cased into the skin from a duck's neck.  Superb.
 This is one of their signature dishes - Duck (so beautifully cooked), with fresh as fresh broccollini, beetroot and lentil salad. I forget what else formed the red wine based sticky jus.  The dish was so simple it made you think you could do it at home - but so clean and cooked with restraint - I'd be pretty chuffed to make the replica of this!
 Above - this quite simply is my favourite desert of all time.  Hands down. Another signature dish, it was homemade vanilla bean ice cream, set as a terrine with layers of brandy snap styled caramel and rock hard dark chocolate (think florentine layers), and accompanied with quite a tart poached rhubarb and syrup. 
Al went for the Creme Catalan. These guys so knew what they were doing. Such happy eating. Great company and they were so accommodating - letting us share a wine glass so we could try as many wines as possible and the driver could taste a little along the way too. Thank you!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Back at Sockburn Service Centre

You can tell from what I chosen to have for lunch today that I'm back at Sockburn Service Centre for work for the time being. I'm grateful to have a desk with the current situation. And having been here once before for 6 weeks after September 4, I know whats good in these parts!  For the first time, my food posts are actually being read for advice before crossing the road to the truckie stop!  Hope can handle the increased traffic coming its way!

Porcini Hunting in Waipara

I stayed out in Waipara Valley last night for a good night's sleep and time with family.  My hosts were 'up at sparrows' this morning, searching for these fuggly, but delicious treats.  There appears to be some stealth gathering going on down in the valley this Autumn - and the competition for the best harvest may get fierce! (Check out Al Brown's experience).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A day in the life at Civil Defence HQ, Christchurch

Each morning I get on the bike and head into 'work' - (soo many people bike since Feb 22nd to get around more easily).
Through the liquifaction in our neighbouring park..
... past Knox church and what was the Christchurch food institution, Saggio d'Vino, opposite this gaping church. (already kocked down just 3 weeks on).
Past the army trucks, tanks and soilders guarding this cordon - often accompanied by the soilders toe tapping to hip hop coming out from the tank and entertaining themselves with the cross word!
Through Hagley Park - where 35 of the 100 year-old trees have been felled - or simply uprooted by the quake like this one.  Ellerslie International Flower Show's container didn't fare too well at the time!
Into the Art Gallery which accommodated up to 750 people at the peak of the operation. You are forced to sanitise hands every time you walk in - and sign in and sign out.  This place is full of rules.  And men in orange vests. 
The galleries have each been transformed into Civil Defence 'departments'.  No more Van Der Velden this month - rather 'Public Information Management' for this gallery!  Not exactly attractive or interesting art works on the walls.
This is where I turn in - its one of the back desk is below.
I have been set up in Special Projects to handle the Memorial Service event on Friday. I work with people from around the country and with some of my team.
I secretly want to be in the Intelligence Area.  How cool is that vest. 
And am not too keen to be in this team.  They are pretty busy unfortunately.
If nature calls - I step out to this structure as no sewage or water or power is on yet in the CBD.  We come self contained!
And with copious amounts of powerade and water supplied, as well as 3 meals a day - (think camp food), we are knocking through piles of work. I've never seen such tired hard working people.  
They even have real coffee continuously being made for 10 hours a day -  good for outdoor event planning meetings in the park.
And if it all gets too much (which to be honest it does!)! you can grab a massage at the top of the art gallery's stairs.

Russell Crowe visited yesterday.  What an underwhelming celebrity spotting that was.

Maybe Prince William's visit on Friday will be more exciting. Wonder if I should wear my earthquake outfit. 
These are crazy times where it simply is what it is, yet feels like you are in a movie, and you don't know what tomorrow will bring. How lucky am I that I get to go to my own house each night with water and power  and a toilet.  Simple pleasures.

A golden break for 10 days

This is an out of date post - but before I write about the last 8 days on the trot, I thought I'd tell you about the well timed holiday that Alistair and I took 3 days after the earthquake, around the Adelaide Fringe Festival.  The South Australia region in total is magnificent. Adelaide - t'was little too close to home in layout and manner to ChCh just 3 days after our huge jolt - but it hosted a fine festival (the Fringe is a whopping 50 years old!),  that made us laugh and shed some crazy quake tension (you don't realise you have it until you get out for a while).  We felt very priviledged to be able to unwind. Here's a summary of our times.

Day One, we made a b-line to RHD - a jean store Al has been following via blogs. They are the only place in this part of the world that hem jeans with the old school sewer for denim. He has jeans sent from as far as Malaysia for hemming (!) and sells some great threads himself.

The owner also makes these great lamp shades.

The first morning our new friend/denim retailer wrote us a list of where to go in Adelaide - and mentioned that that afternoon some wine makers were bringing a goat down to feast on with some Adelaide Hills Pinot. 
We didn't realise it was a 'hot pants tour'!
The afternoon was set outside a great wine store, with decks in place with spinning wine glasses...
spit roasted goats...
transformed into amazing yellow chilli, yoghurt and coriander tortilla things.
What a great start - we felt like refugees, in therapy, and our Adelaide cousins were truly looking after us!

Some other sights seen over the 9 days were...
Great Aussie pubs...
The Wheatsheaf had THE most amazing selection of beer and whiskey in a pub that was in the middle of an industrial suburb.

And the Adeaide Fringe Festival and its crazy garden was home to some of the funniest, most magical and friendliest times.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Back Home

I've been away from Christchurch since 25 February.  I got back early this morning, and whilst the city has obviously overcome some massive hurdles in just under 2 weeks, the city is overwhelmingly changed. I don't know why I thought it would all be 'better' on my return. Some streets actually look more mountainous since we left. I headed into the cordon area, and into Civil Defence with my boss today.  Where there were pockets of destruction from the Sept 4 quake that made you gawk, there are too many streets this time round to even count that display 'blow outs', twisted, wrangled or completely combusted buildings. Below is a discrete photo taken at the Civil Defence HQ this afternoon.  While in September 'it' took over the Christchurch Art Gallery's meeting rooms and foyer, 'it' now infliltrates the whole building - with people squished into gallery spaces as well as offices etc. It is its own organism - and a whole new organisation that doesn't unfortunately look that temporary in the short term.