Sep 042012

while staying here in omakau i discovered there was a bespoke knife maker here, peter latimer makes superb chefs knives on order for chefs in NZ and internationally, he has his workshop in the village of omakau and i went down and chatted to him about knives in front of his forge.

after some discussion i ordered a 20cm chefs knife and a herb knife he makes.


the chefs knife has a handle made from recycled puka and the herb knife’s is made from kowhai.

while they are not cheap, they are a work of art, with hand forged blades from austrian D2 steel and handles made from local timber.

their balance is amazing, i have been using the chefs knife this week and its an absolute pleasure to use, holds a great edge and just sits in my hand so well. i have been cooking dishes that require lots of chopping just so I can use them!

his website is HERE

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Sep 012012




if you have been following our blog of our little trip round the south island, here is a map showing the trip we did with the stopovers along the way, over 2000k’s of wonderful scenery!

if you want to look closer and fiddle around, here is a link to the actual google map of our route, CLICK

we are now just having a few quiet days with Aidan, Lisa and the kids before we go over to Queenstown and fly home.

 Posted by at 7:44 pm  Tagged with:

Sep 012012

our tour around the south island of NZ has allowed us the opportunity to taste the best the ‘mainland’ has to offer in culinary and vinicultural delights, and the summary of my report is that the wine is very good. lots of variety, a fair amount of experimentation with styles and grapes, high level of consistency and reasonable pricing.

i dont think we have had a wine that we didnt enjoy to date.

but now we have done the wine, so on to the whine.

south island cuisine is non-existent, its 80’s pub food, prawn cocktails and deep fried camembert – and thats at the up market places.

we tried what was supposed to be the best place to eat in wanaka, the Spice Room – it claimed to be an indian restaurant, it was truly awful, no spice at all, no heat, no flavour. in fact it was almost bizarre – a so called butter chicken that appeared to be chook cooked in some sort of italian tomato sauce!

we also tried Hopgoods, the pride of the north, winner of multiple awards and meant to be nelson’s best eatery, a boring menu, the equal of a good pub meal in australia at best – yet they had to pull the flying ducks off the walls to fit all the award certificates for fine dining. the food was bland, the elements didnt harmonise into a cohesive dish and by the end of the meal we were glad just to scurry out the door.

we tried a lot of other places in between and either side, we tried places with glowing online reviews, we tried places on the recommendations of locals, and we tried to find ANYWHERE that offered what might be an interesting and creative meal!

here are some questions for those that claim to be restauranteurs in the south island, where are your local products? bluff oysters, scallops, kina, rock lobster, kumera, seaweed, native vegetables, anything other than the few staples that appear in every pub across the island.

i suggest you all hire a big plane and fly to tassie for a week and discover what can be done with great local produce, a bit of imagination and a decent palate!

the disappointment of our culinary adventure leads me to consider why this might be so, there is much to suggest it should be otherwise, a large tourist influx every year, plenty of quality fresh produce, great wine to accompany the dishes, no history of an established food culture to hamstring creativity…

the only reason i can imagine is the lack of cultural diversity, the south island has a very large white anglo saxon population, very few maori, not many islander, asian, african or other ethnic/cultural groups, even worse many of those that are here are descended from those less than renowned for any form of culinary excellence, the scots, the english and the irish!

i wonder how much is missed with the lack of large migrations like those that australia benefited from, the greeks, italians and eastern europeans after the war, the vietnamese after their war and others, it changed the landscape of australian cuisine for ever and is probably the biggest single factor in our rich food culture. it also allowed the development of our fusion cooking with the blending of mediterranean and asian foods.

contrast that with australia, where i do admit there is little doubt that the world’s best food culture is on display – based around a hugely successful program of multi culturalism. we dont have to look to the culinary capitals like sydney, hobart and perth to find much better dining than the south island of NZ, darwin – a tiny ‘city’ has literally dozens of better places to eat than anything we found here, huge variety from world class asian like the Hunaman restaurant to wonderful Mediterranean fusion like served at Lido’s.

honestly, even the food at the Arnhem Club and Walkabout, in the tiny, very remote, small mining town we live in, serve comparable food to the best we have had here so far – and that is a shocking indictment.

luckily i held back and didnt post this when I wrote it – in the hope that we would have an epiphany meal and our opinion would be changed!  as chance would have it, lunch in the former french colony of akaroa was the meal that showed south island kiwis were capable of great food. we had a superb meal of blue cod and chips with mushy peas. the batter was as good as I have ever tasted, the fish was cooked to perfection, the mushy peas were a delight and the tangy tartare sauce was freshly prepared. the chips were also just right, crunchy, golden bites of yumminess.

just to test that it wasnt a fluke we ordered a dessert, Crème Brûlée with mulled wine sorbet and honeycomb – i think the photo probably tells the story!

still, one memorable meal in nearly a month does not a food culture make, plenty of room for improvement here NZ, and a fantastic opportunity to capture a discrete tourist market that tends ot have high disposable income and are likely to leave plenty of their dollars in the shakey isles.


Aug 302012

here are the panorama shots,

 Posted by at 5:51 pm  Tagged with:

Aug 302012

last night we made an inspired decision to run out to akaroa on our way back south to omakau and the reilly family, it meant basically an 85km trip out there and then a similar backtrack to the main road to run down to timaru for our last night away.

it was inspired because akaroa turned out to be one of the most beautiful spots we visited on this trip, not just the picturesque little former french colony, and its quaint shops and buildings, but the incredible scenery around there. we drove up into the mountains behind the town that are the rim of the extinct volcano and they were some of the steepest roads I have ever driven.

i suspect the cows and sheep have longer legs on one side to enable them to stand upright, none of the photos do justice to the vertical drop offs, often we could not see the terrain on the downhill side, it dropped away so sharply from the side of the road that it was as good as vertical.

from the top we could see the whole harbour on one side and the east coast bays on the other, the scenery was simply breathtaking.

i am going to make a separate post of the panoramas i shot of the area, they deserve a viewing on their own!

 Posted by at 5:43 pm  Tagged with:

Aug 292012

christchurch may have been devastated by earthquakes over the last 12 months as well as terrible floods and liquification this winter, but it has bounced back to restore its place as the clayton’s melbourne – the melbourne you are having when you are not having a melbourne.

i am sure if i put a location somewhere in kew into the gps it would tell me to ‘turn left in 200m, arriving at destination on left’.

anyway, last night we went over to maureen and gerry’s place in kew  st albans for dinner, we met them in nhulunbuy when they were visiting their son, and our friend, john. we had a couple of great days with them at home, one out on the granite islands and another big dinner at john & tomoko’s.

gerry is recovering very well from john pushing him down the boat ramp in gove, his hip and elbow are healing up well john, no need to beat yourself up anymore about such a mean spirited assault on your own father.

back to the story at hand, maureen cooked us a huge meal, kai ate 3 bowls of dessert and some icecream to boot, gerry and i put down a few cans of speights as real men do and a lovely night was had by all.

we were shown numerous embarrassing pics of john from a baby onwards which will provide hours of teasing entertainment on our return home.

having got over all of that we headed out this morning to the antarctic centre and went for a mad ride in the hagglund which is a crazy snow vehicle with tracks that can climb walls, cross canyons and probably fly to mars.

we also ventured into the cool room where the temp is a cozy -8degs and then they turn on the air con and take it down to -18deg which is a ‘wee but chully’ even for kiwis.

there was a huge amount of other displays, films, penguins, information and so on, it was all brilliant and very entertaining and informing for all age groups, a must see if you are in melbourne christchurch.

we also went to the orana wildlife park, which was about as exciting as box hill – and a similar amount of wild animals. i wont harp on, suffice to say, dont bother. kai did say the playground was good, but at $65 for entry its a rather expensive playground.


 Posted by at 6:45 pm  Tagged with:

Aug 292012

yesterday we did the trip from blenheim down to christchurch, another amazing coastal drive in the south island, i think the so called ‘great ocean road’ has been relegated to about 4 places down the list to “quite a nice ocean road”.

whinging victorians can call me when there are snow capped mountains on one side, the beach and ocean on the other, baby seals swimming in a pool underneath a waterfall, 250m up a fresh water stream and a caravan beside the beach selling fresh crayfish cooked in garlic butter.

the baby seals at ohau point are amazing, they only started this behaviour about 12 years ago, they come up the beach, enter the stream and clamber their way about 250 m upstream to a big pool under a waterfall. the incredible thing is no adults make the scramble up the stream, in fact only pups about 3 months and under do it!

once the pups reach about 3 months they return to the beach and behave like every other seal!

 Posted by at 6:13 pm  Tagged with:

Aug 292012

as explained in the previous post, we headed down from picton to blenheim to pick up young ben, who was staying at his nanna’s.

ben is jeremy’s nephew and for those that dont know, jeremy is one of our best friends, a former resident of yirrkala, a yidaki (didgeridoo) master, a crafter of maori musical instruments, a carver, a musician, a rolling stone gathering little moss, a ‘number 2’ father to kai and many other things to many people. he has been staying in our house while we travel NZ, something he does every few months on his travels back and forth.

jeremy’s sister, rachel, her partner mike and their son, ben, live in a special corner of marlborough country out of blenheim, a little place called waihopai valley.

raych & mike had to go up to nelson for the day, hence us picking up ben on the way thru, kai was jumping out of his skin with excitement – not just the prospect of a playmate around his own age, but also with the prospect of meeting mister pig pig – ben’s pet pig, a kune kune cross pig of mythical proportions!

as you can see above, they live in a lovely old weatherboard house, reminiscent of ‘the elms’ where i grew up as a teenager in western victoria, they grow feijoa commercially on the property and have also done an amazing job landscaping the garden with lots of rocks.

we thoroughly enjoyed our couple of days on the farm, the boys played minecraft till they dropped, we ate and drank the evenings away in front of the fire!

i cooked up my seekrit balsamic chook recipe which was a hit as usual, the gurls went shopping in blenheim and a great time was had by all!


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Aug 282012

i just realised that i missed posting an update about Nelson, beside the rugby game. we had 3 days here and really enjoyed it, such a pretty town with lots to do and see. we finally found great coffee in NZ, like australia there are very few cafes that have any idea about really making a good coffee.

but a little cafe called kush certainly pulls it off, great coffee, nice old “Has Garanti” roaster in the shop, friendly and very skilled baristas, wait staff and roaster makes for a memorable cafe!

kai most enjoyed his friendly neighbour, Kaye who runs an electric bike hire business and let kai run riot on her little electric scooter.

we stayed in a cute little 2 storey apartment in south st which is the oldest complete st in Nelson with rows of pretty little workers cottages, after pulling out from Nelson we drove across to havelock for mussels for lunch and then along queen charlotte drive to picton which is another amazing piece of coastal driving in NZ.

after a good look around picton we drove down to blenheim and picked up ben, jeremy’s 6 year old nephew, from his nanna and went back to their farm in waihopai valley to have a few days with jeremy’s sister raych, her partner mike , ben & mr pig pig.

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Aug 272012

in case casual readers are under the misapprehension that this holiday is all fun and frivolity, let me assure you that it has also involved serious scientific evaluation in the interests of cross tasman research into the heady subject of hop, yeast, malt and water optimisation – otherwise commonly known as beer brewing.

i have forced myself to try as many of the boutique beers across NZ as possible, this has been dirty and difficult work, but someone has to do it. I shall save my formal summary of research until the end of the project, but as an interim finding I present a slideshow of labels of beers tasted to date.


 Posted by at 5:46 pm  Tagged with:

Aug 242012

one of my items on the list of things to do in NZ was to go to a rugby game, tonight the local team in nelson, where we are staying, the Tasman Makos were playing Canterbury so we rugged up in all our winter woolies and walked down to the end of the main street to the Trafalgar Stadium and managed to fluke seats in the first row of the stand, about 2 metres from the sideline!

thats my boof head watching the scrum pack down, I wore my Waratahs hat just so the locals had someone to throw their empty Speights cans at (and so Aidan would be able to spot us in the crowd, he claimed I was hogging the camera!)

it was a fantastic game with the lead see-sawing thru the game until Canterbury got a late try to go ahead, all seemed lost for the home side but they managed to work the ball up to the other end, got a crucial turnover on the line and then ran a try in under the posts to get up 23-18 as the siren went!

sal, kai and I had a ball, despite being frozen to the bone by the end of the game. I had sneakily parked the car right outside the stadium earlier in the afternoon so we didnt have to walk home in the cold anyway.


 Posted by at 7:51 pm  Tagged with:

Aug 232012

last night we stayed in the little west coast port of westport, we picked a B&B to stay at this time as that was something we had not done before on this trip, once again our choice was inspired – a quaint not so little cottage owned by a lovely dog named Toby.

Toby’s parents, Helena & Duncan do all the hardwork while Toby runs around playing with the guests, teaching them to throw his ball, getting patted and other doggy delights.

due to my laziness and the brevity of our visit I have no photos of the house so I pinched these images from their website.

we had a lovely evening chatting with Helena and Duncan, Helena was borne in Prague and moved to the US as a young woman, living there before coming to the land of the long white cloud. Duncan made his way here from England and both are very well travelled and fascinating companions for a chat round the wood heater!

Helena is a very talented photographer and many of her beautiful images adorn the walls of the cottage, Duncan is an artist and his paintings are also hung through the cottage for your pleasure & inspiration!

a highly recommended stopover if you find yourself driving up or down the west coast of the south island.

in hindsight it would have been great to spend a couple more nights around the fire chatting about travel, culture, places & people, but after a hearty cooked breakfast we took our leave and headed further north, to the jewel of the north – Nelson.


 Posted by at 4:27 pm  Tagged with:

Aug 212012

kaininja posing in franz joseph, a cute little village at the foot of the glacier. we have been staying at the rainforest retreat which is rather nice! we had to get two tree lodges because they had no 2 bedroom tree huts vacant and we wanted kai to have his own bedroom!

so he has ended up with his own lodge, complete with balcony, kitchen, bathroom, TV, queen sized bed – and door key!

the two lodges are in one building and back onto each other so he is not too far away!

they are very cleverly designed, from inside and on the verandah, you cant see any other buildings in the retreat, so it gives the impression of a private hut in the rain forest. they are nicely built and appointed and very peaceful.

this is the view from inside our one and below you can see what the outlook is from the balcony, we have been very comfortable here for a couple of nights, tomorrow its time to pack up again and head up north towards nelson and the top of the south island.

 Posted by at 6:35 pm  Tagged with:

Aug 212012

today was an amazing day, on what has been a fantastic holiday! we got up early and after a hot breakfast we headed across to catch our helicopter to the glaciers.

I have been on a few helicopter rides, I have even done some flying lessons in a chopper, but this was something else, sadly there is no way the photos can do justice to the experience of flying a chopper past those vertical walls of rock, snow and ice as you fly up from the bottom of the glaciers, up to the neve where the snow forms into ice to start the glacier, and then across and around the peak of Mt Cook.

it was breathtaking, magnificent, awe inspiring, slightly scary, humbling, fabulous and incredible – yet that doesnt start to tell you the story of just how amazing it was, right up there as one of the best experiences of my life!

I could just put 50 photos up and try to let them tell the story – but it wouldnt work, it truly is one of those moments where I can honestly say, “you had to be there!”

I will get the rest of the images up on our web gallery here, i think Sal & Kai had just as much of a fat time as me!

we spent about 10 minutes up on top of Fox Glacier and with a nice fall or fresh powder snow overnight it was lots of fun!

somehow we managed to add to the day by spending the rest of it at the hot pools in franz joseph, sal had an hour massage and kai and i enjoyed the various hot pools until sal joined us after her massage. although the pools themselves are fibreglass with local rocks incorporated, the setting in the ferny rain forest made it memorable.

 Posted by at 6:16 pm  Tagged with:

Aug 202012

a short video tour of the house we rented in wanaka for a few days,

we drove over the haast pass today, from wanaka to fox glacier and then on to franz joseph. one of the truly great drives in the world, stunning scenery.

we are now over at franz joseph for a couple of days, tomorrow we are doing the helicopter flight over the 2 glaciers, around the summit of mt cook and a snow landing!

 Posted by at 7:01 pm  Tagged with:

Aug 182012


so yesterday we loaded up the cars and drove the 30kms or so up to the slopes at treble cone, one of NZ’s premier ski fields. the drive alone is pretty incredible, winding along the side of lake wanaka and then up the mountain, winding up through switchback corners to the carpark.

we spent an hour or so fitting ourselves and the kids with all the required gear and booked everyone in for beginners lessons.

the kids had a group lesson – but there was just the four of our kids signed up so that was perfect, we adults also had a group lesson and the four of us were joined by a columbian guy & his venezuelan girlfriend.

progress at first was pretty slow for all of us except lisa & sal who showed their skiing pedigree fairly quickly (ie they had actually been on skis before even if it was 30 years ago!)

we were also joined by a guy filming for the treble cone ski resort, so there will be a video of us learning to ski and being interviewed about the experience.

here you can see me carving up the powder on my snow board after a couple of hours lesson,

ok, so its not me, its some other random who actually can ski.

no one got a photo of my most spectacular incident, a high speed crash into the side of the beginners slope – actually a carefully designed move to terminate my uncontrolled descent.

the kids all got the hang of it and had a ball, although they were pretty shattered by the end of the day. lisa carved the slopes up like a pro, sal wasnt far behind, aidan went up the top of the beginners slope to prove he was slightly less out of control than me and I demonstrated why there are no mooneys in the winter olympics.

all in all a fantastic day and an experience not to be missed – all the better for doing it with the reillys.

 Posted by at 7:12 am  Tagged with:

Aug 162012

well here we are in wanaka, this is the hut we have hired for a few days. we got over here this afternoon and enjoyed a yummy lunch and the best coffee in NZ to date, in a local wanaka cafe.

the hut is awesome, 4 bedrooms, rumpus room, huge kitchen, facing north, sky TV, BBQ, blah, blah, blah.

this is the view from the smaller, double bedroom, across lake wanaka to the snow capped mountains. I have a feeling we are going to enjoy our time here!

tomorrow we head up to treble cone for a days skiing.

 Posted by at 2:18 pm  Tagged with:

Aug 142012



Well here we are in god’s own, the land of the long white cloud, puha & pakeha. We are settling in at Aidan & Lisa’s, the kids were very excited to catch up!

The photo above is the view out the lounge room window, it’s hard to see the snow on the hills, because the cloud is so low and just about covers it.

So far the weather has been a bit bleak, drizzly, windy & cold – but hopefully we will get some clear days soon.

The lovely big fire in the lounge keeps the house warm, and a few glasses of the local Pinot noir don’t hurt either.

Next weekend we are all going up to wanaka to have a few days there and to hit the ski slopes.

 Posted by at 6:14 am  Tagged with: