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.

Fergburger

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Vin de Bourgogne

The Bistro des Gourmets, a brand new French restaurant, has opened up down the road, run by actual French people. We had a magical meal there with the Provs, and so we decided to try out their monthly wine pairing menu.

The place was packed for this dinner, and the three owners were clearly run ragged by the time we started eating about 8 PM. Still a good meal, but everything was a little overdone and too heavy for a summer dinner.

We know how tough it is to open a restaurant and particularly how tough it is to scale from, say, 10 covers on Tuesday to 60 on Wednesday. We hope these guys can smooth out the rough edges and find a good rhythm so it can become a haunt for us instead of just a novelty.

I’m a Soul Man

It was wonderful to see ex-neighbor Brian this week as he passed through on a work trip.

We had a great dinner at Soul, which is one of the places that perennially gets a spot in the xxx best restaurants lists. We had cocktails beforehand, and more than one bottle of Central Otago pinot noir (that’s my only NZ wine phrase, and probably elicits the same reaction real wine snobs as “merlot” did in Sideways). As a result, I don’t remember as much about the food as I’d like , but it was good, the service was also good, and the company was better. 

Just Desserts

We walked to Woodpecker Hill restaurant for our first really good fancy meal in Auckland last weekend, celebrating our 27th anniversary. Yay! Super cool place, great food (I was actually tempted to write about the bok choy, but who writes about bok choy), really nice service… attentive yet unobtrusive. 

We chose the top dessert, and it actually might have been my least favorite course…. too many delicious things all rolling around together. Still scraped every milligram off the plate, however. 

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