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.

Coffee plantation

Yesterday Chuck and I went on a “downhill bike tour”, more about that in the next few posts.

The tour included a stop at a coffee plantation, where we got a perfunctory tour of some plants,

a peek into the traditional methods of producing coffee,

a viewing of the beans in various stages (including freshly pooped out by a luwak or civet),

and a tasting of all the things we might choose to buy on the way out.

It was fine, in a cruise ship attraction kind of way.

Balls

We did not actually eat Wayan’s Raw Balls for breakfast with our fresh papaya-lime juice and Balinese coffee. But the picture was too good to pass up.

Third time’s a charm

Last night I officially beat kitchen gadget expectations by using the pasta maker for the third time. And the noodles were my best effort so far.

Some years back, Lee and I both enjoyed a series of mystery / police procedural novels set in Venice. Inspector Brunetti’s wife is always whipping up fresh pasta for lunch. Even considering that it’s an old-school 2-hour Italian lunch break, there’s no way I would be even close. It’s more of an all afternoon thing for me.

New Year’s Road Trip Stop 2: Esk Valley Winery

After leaving Taupo, we continued toward our first night stop in Napier. There are many wineries along the route, and we stopped in one at random. It turned out to be fairly well known, and winner of multiple awards. We got the standard tasting patter (from a guy with a very strong Chinese accent… hard to understand for us, but catering to Chinese tourists is an absolute necessity here) and bought a few bottles.

Most of the driving was on two-lane roads that make Vermont’s byways feel downright spacious by comparison. So a swig of wine was certainly welcome by this point, only a few coastal km from the destination.

Martha’s Backyard

“The American Store”.

We’d heard about this place, and so when we happened to drive by the other day we stopped to check it out.

They have a lot of food and drugstore stuff that is not easy to find here. Plus a bunch of stars and stripes stuff for people having parties.

We don’t lack for good food here, but we did buy some things anyway: the local mac ‘n’ cheese is terrible, and the tomato soup doesn’t taste right. One reality that doesn’t sit easily with some red-state voters: most of the food we miss from America is Mexican.

Goat Island

Our plan for last weekend was to dive Goat Island on Saturday before continuing up to the Poor Knights on Sunday. Goat Island is about as easy a dive as you can do… leave from shore, not much over 20 feet, in a marine reserve area with lots of fish. Perfect for the first time in the water for a while.

But the weather was uncooperative, so we rescheduled the dive for Thursday. Our friend Astrid was off work, so she came along and snorkeled with Lee.

The spot is pretty nice, and the dive operator very friendly, although it took them/us a surprisingly long time to get geared up and begin the dive. GoPro still not working.

The dive itself was pleasant… nothing too memorable, but it was fun to swim around in the kelp and explore all the volcanic fissures. Perfect place to go with a buddy, not much need for a guide after the first time.

After, we had lunch at the Leigh Sawmill Café. It is just about exactly the country roadhouse I would want to own if I owned a country roadhouse. It’s actually an old sawmill, with a great garden courtyard. Good food, a nice craft beer selection, a few rooms for tourists who want to hang out a day or two. And a reputation for good music… in addition to the published lineup, apparently it’s a place where big names show up unannounced from time to time and play a set.

Christmas dinner

We had a sumptuous Christmas buffet dinner with Alicia and Nat at the Stamford Plaza hotel. It cost a ton, but not actually compared to cooking. These cute gingerbread houses were out in the lobby.

Among several helpings of everything else, I did a thing I’ve only done once or twice before: truly ate all the oysters I wanted to.

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