Qué rico sabor

On the one hand, a perfectly ordinary meal at a neighborhood Mexican restaurant (La Paloma in San Bruno, CA).

On the other, a wonderful superlative orgasmic delicacy because you just can’t have it in New Zealand.

Mmm, yummy

I found myself in an Asian grocery the other day searching for something to take to an Indian colleague recovering from a recent operation. As you do.

I didn’t find anything useful for the visit (so ended up with some wonderful baklava from a different shop) but I did find the two surprising items above.

It turns out that Japanese curry is a thing… including apple and honey Vermont curry.

And it also turns out that Couques d’Asse sorta kinda exist… and if they’d spelled it like that (which means cookies from the Belgian town of Asse) it would still be kinda sniggery in a Beavis and Butthead kinda way. But as it is spelled here, those Asses are even funnier and serve as an important lesson in why grammatical niceties like pluralization can matter.

Hot enough for ya?

These Korean wings were advertised as “dangerously hot.” But here in NZ, I’ve learned not to worry too much so I told them to bring it on.

The cook came out to say “are you sure?”

Game on.

Sweating, flushed, coughing, snot running from my nose, I finished the whole plate. They brought me more (un-spicy) chicken to honor my courage and fortitude.

We exchanged a ceremonial bow and went back to our respective days.

Everything’s hotter with scotch bonnet on it



And after…

Scotch bonnet peppers are a favorite in the Caribbean, and they’re crazy hot, comparable to a habanero on the Scoville scale. I love the flavor of those Caribbean hot sauces, so when we found a scotch bonnet plant at the nursery we decided to give it a go.

The plant has done well and the peppers really are that hot. Lee made two different recipes, one with a bit of fruity taste, and both are knock-your-socks-off good!

Get out of here you dirty hippie

Last weekend’s trip to the market netted us both mung bean sprouts and hemp seeds. Either one is probably OK, but together I fear they represent some sort of consumption turning point.

The predictive polling algorithms would probably identify us as Bernie Sanders supporters based on that single purchase (not correctly, as it turns out… I’m hoping for a ticket where Bloomberg gives his billion dollars to Buttegieg).


Everybody told us we had to eat at Queenstown’s famous Fergburger. But the lines at lunchtime were ridiculous. No burger is that good.

But if you’re willing to eat a burger at 9 AM, and we were, you can walk right in.

Apparently Fergburger has been around a while, but Lonely Planet named them as some sort of global best burger and it really blew up after that.

I still wouldn’t stand in a long line for it, but it was pretty damn good and we went back, again at breakfast, on our last day.

Pie-pun’ hot

I often make some sort of a pun in the titles of my posts. ‘Pie’ shoulda been easy material to work with, but I’m traumatized… the New York Times did a little year-end quiz of famous faces, and one of the people I got wrong was a famous YouTuber called PewDiePie. Never heard of him till then, which is apparently a stark OK Boomer dividing line… I’m officially an Old. My first pie pun ideas were Sweeney Todd, the Beatles, something about how pies r round, not squared. Weak stuff.

And how you relate to pies in NZ matters… pies are the national food, along with fish and chips. A politician got absolutely shamed last year for eating a pie with knife and fork at an event. Man of the people my sweet patooty.

Of course, a pie here is a savoury thing, mostly, and of a size to be eaten (messily) with one hand. If you’re a tradesman, you can reasonably eat a NZ pie while driving down the motorway and at the same time explaining to a customer on the phone why you’re a few days late.

Anyway, the pies at the Pie Shop in Kumeu are really good.

Tutukaka market

The Saturday market outside the only store in Tutukaka caused me to question my assumptions about the ‘authenticity’ of the whole farmers market thing. Specifically, in my mind, the actual farmer is supposed get up early, harvest only the things at the peak of ripeness, wash and bundle it all, load the produce into crates and boxes and drive into town to stand humbly before me hoping for a few dollars. But that model only makes sense for farms at a very particular scale… if “the farmer” is actually a person or a family. But if in fact the work is done by a dorm full of migrant laborers, overseen by professional supervisors, and the landowner is a body corporate of some sort, who’s the farmer anyway?

At farmers markets we’ve been to, I’m pretty sure some of the stands actually operate like I romantically expect them to. In Parnell, it’s the honey lady, some of the fruit stands, the sausage seller. But others are probably retailers who’ve never set foot on the farm in question. Hmmm.

In Tutukaka, a single van full of Indian guys pulls up and unloads crates of every fruit and vegetable you can reasonably imagine. There’s no way it all came from a single field or greenhouse! Predatory shoppers, most of whom are holidaymakers (like me) who would not be uncomfortable at a Junior League meeting in Amherst or Millbrae, wait with carefully disguised eagerness. Money changes hands, and nutritious fresh meals are prepared for all the above-average children.

In fairness, the plastic crates were stamped with something about a growers cooperative… so maybe the whole farmers market concept as I imagine it is actually operating in the background… but it’s a distribution system, only cutting out the actual physical store, rather than a 1:1 connection between a farmer and a market stall.

And in even more fairness , nobody said it was an actual farmers market… maybe it’s actually just a fresh produce market in a town that would otherwise be too small for fresh seasonal veggies… In which case, awesome!!! And we got exactly the fresh herbs we wanted… so the system works!

Diwali lunch

It was a treat to join a bunch of my team for Diwali celebration the other day. Lots of people dressed up, as you can see. We ate at the same restaurant I ate at my very first day of work here.

Warkin’ It

We are in Tutukaka this weekend planting trees. En route yesterday, we stopped in Warkworth for some fried chicken. Walking around we found this clock tower, presented by the local Jaycees in 1967.

And we got to witness the free market in action at a local op shop. Supply of cricket books outpaces demand, resulting in depressed prices…

Back home again

16 days, four countries and seven different sleeping places including a plane. Glad to be back. We saw a lot of cool stuff, ate and drank and shopped and massaged pretty much all we wanted. But the really good memories are the visits with Chuck and the Provs, both of whom we miss a lot.

Since there wasn’t anything in the fridge, we headed out for dinner. Good to know that things haven’t changed… people still dump their broken umbrellas on the street.

At Non Solo Pizza, one of our go-to places in the neighborhood, we had a lovely dinner under the watchful gaze of a light fixture that clearly descended from another planet.

Fish ball noodles, satay sticks, halo-halo, and Singapore slings

We ate and drank really well in Singapore. The giant food halls are the most exciting, with dozens of tiny stalls and communal seating. I love eating that way and would grow fat and hypertensive if I lived there.

I had a bowl of fish ball noodles soup for breakfast, an experience I don’t regret but wouldn’t necessarily repeat.

After seeing this guy tuck into a giant bowl of shaved ice, fruit, and custard goo, I ordered my own. Just right for a 95-degree day.

The famous Raffles Hotel bar is closed for renovations, so we settled for Singapore Slings at a waterfront tourist place… tasty but not the same.

Crazy Rich Gringos

This guy Chris Salans has ridden the Ubud tourism wave to some significant successes. This picture is his cookbook for sale at the airport gift shop.

Chuck’s ex’s daughter went to school with Chris at Tufts. We ate at his second restaurant, called Spice, hoping to say hello. But he doesn’t actually show up much any more apparently.

The food was fine, with creative combinations, on a par with good resort town restaurants in the States,,, and US prices to match.

Warung de Koi

We were hungry after all that coffee, and so we followed Kadek’s recommendation to lunch at the Warung de Koi. As a professional driver, he seemed to know the spots that would take care of us and also take care of him. Win win.

We sat in a little raised pavilion, open to the sides under a thick thatched roof and watched the rain fall into the koi pond. We enjoyed both the Western and Indonesian food. I couldn’t tell one Mie Goreng (fried noodles which I ate at least once each day) from the next, but they were all pretty good.

Have another cup

Lee hadn’t seen a coffee plantation, and Chuck and I were both willing to do it again, so Kadek took us to one. See, said the guy who showed us around, like the Hollywood sign!!

The tour was pretty similar to the previous one, but a little better overall. Here’s some specimen plants, here’s the coffee processing, interactive this time…

Hot work and a hard life. I would not want to bet which of us is older.

Then on to the tasting, including a cup of the Kopi Luwak, the famous civet cat poop beans. For the record, it was a good cup of coffee, but I’m not gonna be shelling out the $50+ per pound on a regular basis.

We got to pet a sleepy (probably drugged, now I think of it) civet, and then exited through the gift shop.

Woulda bought a poo hunter t-shirt, but all they had was an Asian medium size… which I definitely am not.

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