Grater Goods…A Vegan Revelation.

Grater Goods Deli & Butchery

Hound #2 had a list of Friday errands to run so we hopped in Gertie the 1975 Series III Land Rover on a bright, crips sunny day & toddled off into town (Christchurch). Lots of very basic, boring things to do like pick up dry cleaning, visit the new, monstrous Durham Street New World (our life is so exciting) & then we had planned to check out a mate’s pre-auction warehouse viewing session but we had more than an hour before that kicked off.

So…lunch!!!

For the month of June, Hound #2 is going vegan for reasons I won’t get into but it creates a bit of an eating quandary…but I had read about Grater Goods (vegan deli & ‘butchery’) in several local publications & I had just missed out on their amazing Mushroom Market the prior Saturday. So this lunch option was proposed & readily taken up…

The Blackboard Menu

Grater Goods is housed in an old industrial building hidden away at 105 Orbell Street & conveniently located round the corner from Junk & Disorderly (always worth a squizzy). We perused the blackboard menu & queried “How can you have a Rueben sandwich without corned beef???” to which Flip Grater offered a very acceptable explanation of exactly how they do it with vegan ‘meat’ and vegan ‘cheese’…so we took the bait – with fries.

Inside Grater Goods…

Man oh man…what an awesome sandwich! I would seriously have a blind folded meat eater taste it, and mos def not be able to say if it was not a real (with meat) Rueben sandwich. And the fries were top notch too & I have no idea how they make the mayo or aioli but delish just the same.

The Vegan Rueben – Estupendo!

So if you are in the neighbourhood…or not, do yourself a favour & take a chance & have the vegan Rueben…you will not be disappointed.

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Déjà Vu Melbourne…

We were in need of a pre-winter break so we packed our bags & headed to Melbourne to catchup with several friends and, of course, eat & drink! Melbourne is not too bad a town to spend a week or two…I often say it is Australia’s version of San Francisco with an overall awesome, energetic & creative vibe across multiple fronts – food & wine, culture, music & art, history, etc…

And we could not have lucked out anymore with the weather as most days it drifted into the low 20’s with beaming sun & the bluest of skies. And since we are serious walkers, it made our exploration all the more enjoyable to be free of many layers & no rain gear.

The Big Metropolis; St. Kilda’s Luna Park; Shrine of Remembrance

One of our first target destinations was one of our regular favourites when we lived in Melbourne – the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria in Fed Square). A stunning space to have a wander and experience a serious collection of art – and about 95% is FREE! And if the NGV ticks your boxes, then you need to toddle over to the NGV International just a hop, skip & a jump down St. Kilda Road (and it’s FREE! – except for special exhibitions).

National Gallery of Victoria

National Gallery of Victoria International

Besides revisiting our old friend the NGV, we made a point of checking out some of our food stomping grounds that left us with a vey warm & flavourful memory when we departed Melbourne for the UK. We are not really the ‘fine dining’ types, but rather prefer excellent quality food, cooked well, in a relaxed setting & so our big splurge was to lunch @ Cumulus Inc. Andrew McConnell knows a thing or two about food & restaurants & this is our fave out of his bevy of joints (Cutler & Co, Builders Arms, Supernormal & Canteen, Marion, Meatsmith, Cumulus Up wine bar). And it is always a delight for us to be seated at the kitchen bar & get a first hand, close up & personal view of the food proceedings. We had some fun chats with the staff who, despite a busy lunch hour, had plenty of time to answer our questions and offer some insights into Cumulus Inc.

Cumulus Inc.

Bundarra Pork Cutlet & Pickled Witlof & Butcher’s Sauce; Tuna Tartare, Goat’s Curd & Crushed Green Pea

Excellent Juice from Stephen Pannell – Tinto

And of course when in Melbourne, you must visit the markets…it is a habit we have no matter where we be to have a good squizzy at the local market whether an established fixture (e.g., Queen Vic or South Melbourne or Prahran) or a farmers market (e.g., Vegout, Abbotsford).

Prahran Market

I was always impressed & amazed at the range of goods on offer at the Melbourne markets. I swear there is a better selection of European goods like olive oils, vinegars, olives, etc…in the Melbourne markets than I could ever find in most of Europe.

Queen Vic Deli Section

And of course where there is great food, there’s great drinks…so we made the rounds of most of my old wine haunts (Cloudwine – fave for hard to find vino & great prices, Prince Wine Shop, Blackhearts & Sparrows various establishments with extensive choices, The Wine House, City Wine Shop – small but excellent selection & food is great too & Wine Republic – amazing selection & best new find) & scooped up a solid half dozen (New Zealand’s limit) examples of Australian’s finest. Yum…

Melbourne’s Wine Stores…

Another Andrew McConnell joint – Marion Wine Bar

One of the things on our ‘To Do’ list was to have some top notch ethnic food as Lyttelton/Christchurch New Zealand is not as solidly blessed with such an extensive immigrant community as Melbourne does in spades.

We had an interesting Turkish dinner at Tulum with mates from Balaclava but one of our go to places is Don Don, a Japanese restaurant that is fast as and super cheap (by Melbourne standards) and damn good! I ordered our 2 lunches & before I could put my change back in my wallet, 2 steaming bowls were before me!

We had also read some good write-ups for a place called Paper Plate (Vietnamese) where the kitchen was manned by one of chef Geoff Lindsay‘s ex-fellas of Dandelion fame, but at a far cheaper price point. Super crisp & clean flavours – you could see & taste that everything was made from scratch…

Paper Plate in Richmond; Vietnamese Chicken Salad & Vegetarian Pho; Hanoi Beer

One Sunday morning we met some mates for breakfast @ Industrial Beans in Fitzroy – excellent food but busts the wallet @ $90+ for 4! But post breakfast, our friends said we had to see the mural of our Prime Minister (Jacinda Adern) painted on a silo in Brunswick. So we piled into their car & off we went…very touching & excellent job.

Industrial Beans & Grace, Fitzroy

New Zealand Prime Minister Mural in Brunswick

Melbourne Street Art; Melbourne’s Booming Skyline; Melbourne’s Infamous Laneways…

So if you have never been to Melbourne – GO!!!!! It is a city that has so many nooks & crannies to explore you won’t get bored…and if you do get bored of Melbourne, head out to the country to visit the Yarra Valley wine region or the wonderful Mornington Peninsula or hit up Daylesford or Kyneton for a savoury food experience.

A Fish Down South…

Head Waters of the Oreti & the Road to the Von River Valley…

With the regular trout season coming quickly to an end, coupled with me having had a guts full of house projects, I made the executive decision to go for a decent, final fish with my mate Chester in Southland. So I packed up Gertie my 1975 Series III Land Rover & toddled South…and I mean toddled, as it was a long 9 hour road trip. After a delicious Sunday night feast & a decent catchup, we headed for bed to get a good night’s sleep so we could do battle with the Southland trout.

Southland Waters…

We awoke to a day that, weather-wise, could not have been any better – no clouds, blue skies, decently warm temps and NO WIND. So we hustled our bums out the door as New Zealand weather can change in a, well, New York minute.

Looking at the water flow charts & post a quick river inspection as we left Mossburn, we decided to fish the Upper Oreti to start the week off – hopefully with a bang. All kitted up, we fished our way up stream with modest success – a 6+ pounder to the net, but very few fish spotted in what were perfect conditions. Chester & I both thought something was definitely amiss, as our usual fish count was more in the 30-40 fish range in that amount of fishing time.

The Oreti had a wee bit of excess water in it & it had a smidgen of colour, but not enough to put fish down or off their feed. A week or so before it had had a bit of a fresh, so we decided to explore a different section of slightly calmer water on the idea that they may have migrated there to escape the rough waters.

As right decisions go, we could not have been any more righter. We found stable pools with decent water flows (not any sign of flooding like the Oreti) & best of all – trout! Working our way up the these series of perfect pools with deep cut banks was a joy – first fish took a blowfly from the surface & set off on a leaping frenzy & looked to be about 8 pounds. A beautiful take it was too — as happens with many good things as well as bad, it all seemed to happen in super slow motion. I saw him rise from the bottom, silver head shining as he opened his jaws to gulp the fly & turn & return to his post. The day finished out with 4 more fish in the 6-7 pound range – now that’s a start with a bang!

Southland Waters Continued….

The Basque Boys Off for a Fish…Wearing Our Berets (Boinas in Spanish) I Picked Up in Spain…

We awoke Tuesday to yet another stunner of a day (the rest of the week would be ditto) & decided to hit the Upper Oreti again, but work upstream from where we’d finished the day on Monday. And as good as Monday was, Tuesday & the rest of the week was as dead as a door nail. And we could not figure or sort out why…we postulated that since it was spawning season for the browns that maybe they’d gone off the feed & were just looking for sex. Or maybe the previous week’s decent flooding had pushed them to other parts of the river. We saw no fresh footprints on either day, so we could not put it down to other anglers thrashing the water before us.

Yet Another Beautiful Pool to Thrash….

Given Tuesday’s blank trout day, we opted to make the Mararoa River our designated destination as it holds a decent population of rainbows who were not ready to spawn until May, and therefore might offer us a better chance of a hookup. But we’d misread the water flow charts & it was a raging torrent when we pulled up to its banks. Oh well…we had already come this far, so we drove on to the headwaters of the Oreti in hopes we might have access to some decent water which we did, but we were also buffeted by almost gale force winds. So we retreated to another Oreti access point & Chester saved us from another blank day with a 4+ pounder to the net.

Wily Southland Trout Spotted, Cast To & Hooked!

On Thursday we decided to attack a couple sections of the middle Oreti (we had done an inspection the day before & water was crystal clear) but it proved to be as devoid of trout as our 2 previous outings. Always a bit of a puzzle – perfect weather, stunning water with loads of character but no trout. I did spot one – a weird one @ that – sitting on his belly in about ankle deep water with his dorsal fin in the air.

Gotcha!!!!

For our final day we decided that rainbows needed to be found so the Waiau River was the pick of the day. Our first section of the river was a dude, with neither one of us, despite fishing hard, touching a trout. After a great fish & chip lunch, Chester said we were going to a spot where some rainbows were guaranteed – a section of the river where a backwater joined the main river flow making it an excellent spot for rainbows to hold…positioned in the slow, zero current back water but poised to make a quick dash into the main flow for any passing comestible. And Chester fished it hard for half an hour with a streamer, throwing his entire fly line down to the backing out into the main current & letting it drift, and then swing round before stripping it back. Zilch…zero…nada. I guess that is why it’s called fishing…

P.S. – I know I ended this post by saying I guess that is why it’s called fishing, but I wanted to comment on the tragedy of the state of our waterways. In just a short 10 years our freshwater waterways (and salt water too I imagine) have witnessed severe & serious declines to the extent that many waterways are unfishable, unswimmable and certainly undrinkable. And in my opinion & I think many scientific opinions & evidence state that it is primarily because of dairy, intensive agriculture and forestry. Federated Farmers & Fonterra will scream they are not to blame for much of it, but methinks doth protest too much as the reports show, 40% of our waterways flow through rural agricultural & dairy land while only 1% flow through urban areas. I see photos almost daily of cows standing in rivers, streams or lakes having a big piss & poo fest, algae blooms in waterways from low water levels (over irrigation extraction) & massive fertiliser & chemical runoffs and massive sediment clouds in waterways from poorly planned developments & outright idiotic forestry works. And it boggles the mind that New Zealand could have and still does treat its most precious resource – fresh, drinkable water – so tragically bad and to add insult to injury, even sells it to the Chinese for pennies on the dollar to be exported. How much dumber than a fence post do you have to be to not only permit that, but promote it? They say water is the new oil & I think they are right. New Zealanders have a history of passivity but  I can only hope the average punter in New Zealand is finally getting mad & will not take it anymore and gets up off their arse and does something…even if it is just to write an email or letter & let the morons in charge know that you care and want things to change.

Fishing New Zealand’s High Country Lakes with UK Charlie…

Lake Georgina…

I kept getting tagged by mates in a Facebook post by a local Lyttelton woman who was in search of fly fishing folks to take her visiting UK Dad out for a New Zealand fish. I decided to offer up my services if time & plans allowed & was shortly in communication with UK Charlie.

One minor hiccup was that UK Charlie is a ‘lake person’ whilst I am pretty much a 99.9% ‘river person’. Not that I wouldn’t mind at all taking him to a lake it was just that my lake knowledge & expertise is next to non-existent so I had not a clue as to where & when to go. Hit up a mate of mine who is not only a serious lake man but had spent the better part of this season fishing the lakes that surround Lake Coleridge. He messaged me with some serious details on each of the lakes & with those facts in hand (coupled with a Fish & Game notice of two 15 pound rainbows recently released), we made a bee line for Lake Georgina….

Stunning day @ Lake Georgina…

UK Charlie & I could not have asked for a sweeter day – the drive up was a stunner with UK Charlie regularly blurting out – “This is real New Zealand scenery…” and a day that was near on perfect – blue sky & sun, no wind and fish!

As we kitted up we were both a bit amazed at the level of trout activity already in progress – in any direction you cast your eye fish were jumping…lots of wee to mid size ones but quite a few big boys too. All morning long UK Charlie & I were into fish & it did not seem to make a damn bit of difference what fly you had on…I started with a Parachute Adams, caught fish. Switched to a Blue Blow Fly, caught fish. Put on a Yellow Humpy, caught fish. And UK Charlie was having the same success with a succession of oddly named UK flies like Boobies & Buzzers (?). UK Charlie was the first to connect with a couple of respectable fish – a decent 3-4 pound rainbow that I was able to capture in the photos below.

Fish On!

We decided to sit down for lunch @ 1:30pm and as we ate & talked, we noticed the surface activity has slowed considerably. So I re-rigged by shortening up my leader to 5 feet & putting on a bead head Wooly Bugger streamer to probe the deeper part of the lake centre. I had no action for the better part of an hour, hurtling my heavy rig to the lake centre & stripping it back…when all of a sudden there was a sharp tug & then nothing. A guide mate of mine taught me that when fishing streamers, many times the big fish will hit the fly hard to try & stun what they think is a fish & then circle back to eat it. So your best plan of attack is once you have the first big tug, stop stripping & let the fly sink…which is exactly what I did & all of a sudden there was another BIG tug & an anchor on the end of my fly line. And it was an anchor that made straight for the lake centre despite as much pressure as I could muster & my rod doubled over. UK Charlie just kept saying “That’s a bloody big fish…” but we never did see it – after just a minute or so of struggle my streamer came free with a chunk of lake moss the size of a rugby ball attached. One of the 15 pounders I do believe…

Lake Marymere…

UK Charlie was keen to go out again before his return to the UK in early March, so again a conundrum – what lake??? Just by pure accident, I’d had an reupholstery fellow visit my house to quote on some work & we got to chatting as he was a serious fly fisherman and he told me the story of his daughter. She was having a bit of a rough patch so he offered to take her fly fishing for the first time. He took her to one of his favourite lakes – Lake Marymere – where just after her 3rd or 4th cast with a fly rod she managed to hook & land (on 4 pound tippet) the fish pictured below.

Typical Lake Marymere Trout….

Reading up a bit about Lake Marymere it is a lake known for its big trout – both browns & rainbows. UK Charlie & I had yet again a perfecto day for fly fishing & we were just hoping the fish would co-operate…

Well the fish are there alright – we saw at least a dozen or more like the fish above, cruising about 2 rod lengths off shore & not wanting to give us the time of day, almost thumbing their fins at us daring us to make a cast. Which we did, and which they completely ignored. I am not at all sure how you actually might catch these fish – as well as we seeing them, they could clearly see us & there is next to no cover to hide behind except along one shore.

Lake Marymere & UK Charlie…

But it was still an awesome day out all the same, with typical New Zealand scenery making the day and a gorgeous memory for UK Charlie…until next time Charlie!!!

The Noble Merchant Opawa…

Thr Noble Merchant Opawa – Bagel Sundays!

The Hounds keep a fun-things-to-do-list ready @ hand so that whenever we read or hear about something that would make a decent distraction, we put it on the list & then try & check them off ASAP. So I’d read about this fairly recent cafe/store opening that was just through the Lyttelton Tunnel called The Noble Merchant & for the month of July (it may be extended if it achieves success) they were trialing a Sunday bagel breakfast.
So off we toddled @ just after 8am (the web site & Google said it opened @ 8 (Monday-Sunday) & promptly arrived there at about 8:40am only to find out it was clearly still closed, apparently ready for a weekend opening of 9am – no worries…took Hound #1 for a nice stroll along the Heathcote River and we rather like Opawa anyways compared to many other Christchurch suburbs on the flats…some beautiful grand old villas & houses & lots of park space in view of the lovely Port Hills.

Baked Goods from the Bellbird Bakery – Yum.

We headed back to deli @ exactly 9am and it looked open, but the owner/barista was still milling about & the footpath signs were not out yet, but a couple of local yokels could clearly be seen inside, so in we went…Hound #2 made a joke with the owner (who was British born but grew up in Christchurch) about his opening times and that we were keen  to try the bagel breakfast & he fired back straight away “2 free coffees!!” for being the first through the door for bagels…you do not get shouted much of anything in New Zealand so good on him.

The owner had a good dose of the British banter and his bagel maker was on site to put together the bagel platters & he told us he was from Israel and a very good bagel maker, but a very bad Jew :-). A good bit of amusing & convivial chat was a wonderful way to start a Sunday…

There were 3 bagel options – a traditional smoked salmon & cream cheese (Hound #2’s choice), a venison salami & Dijon infused cream cheese (my choice) and a roasted red pepper & cream cheese  – all for the mere sum of $9.50 and served with sides of olives, pickles, caper berries, cheese & pesto.

Bagel with Salmon, Cream Cheese, Pesto, Caper Berries & Olives….

The final verdict? Excellent bagels, super toppings & sides and an A+ for presentation! And besides the bagel Sundays, The Noble Merchant is also a well stocked deli & grocer if you happen to be in the neighborhood & need to stock up.

The owner also has a cafe & gourmet food store in Lincoln called, funny enough, The Lincoln Pantry, which we had seen on one of our other Sunday outings to Lincoln that I wrote about in one of my other blog posts

So if you want an authentic bagel experience, head to The Noble Merchant on Sunday morning & give your taste buds a thrill….

Bagel with Venison Salami, Cream Cheese & Dijon Mustard, Olives, A Cheddary Cheese & Pickles…

Hello Sunday Cafe…

Hello Sunday

We had yet another ‘chore day’ last Friday with the most boring task of buying a new mattress. Our current one has gone past its ‘use by date’ by…ummmm…a decade or more & is possibly a contributing source of numerous body aches & pains in the morning. And our usual modus operandi is to mix the good/fun with the bad/not fun so we decided to check out & possibly have lunch (if we could get in) @ Hello Sunday. We keep a list of the fun things we’d like to do & we make a concerted effort to check as many of them off our list as we can & Hello Sunday was at the top…

Sweet Decor….

And just like our good luck with The Bicycle Thief, we once again struck gold & scored a 2 top table in the main part of the cafe. A space designed & decorated very much in line with my own personal aesthetics with a wonderful use & mix of old and new…its got a good dose of class & atmosphere. Also had a bit of an extended squizzy before we ordered & made it to the very back where they have a micro-greens garden in full bloom and a very sympathetic (with the front room) back room eatery. Ah…the food order…

Backyard Green Garden…

We had not checked out the menu beforehand so it was all new to us, but it all looked great with a seriously good mix of food on offer across a nice price spread – sandwiches & salads @ $10-$12 all the way up to the Thai Fried Chicken Burger @ $24. Oh so tempting…

Hound #2 struggled with her choice but ultimately decided to give the Beef Cheek Hash (very curious to see how they do this) & Poached Eggs ($22) a whirl. I too was a bit torn but liked the sound of the Spicy Pork Belly Salad ($20) as pork belly is something I do not often cook @ home.

Beef Cheek Hash & Poached Eggs…

What a wonderful & inventive concoction this Beef Cheek Hash was – well done chef & oh so tasty…I will order this on our next visit.

Spicy Pork Belly Salad with Crispy Shallats & Bok Choy & Some Heat!

But that is not to say I was not as equally thrilled & pleased with my choice – a perfectly put together Spicy Pork Belly Salad that had just the right touch of heat & loaded with flavour. No complaints here…

So if you are bumping around Sydenham or parked up @ The Colombo, do yourself a favour and a taste treat & have lunch @ Hello Sunday. And if you are more of a dinner person then maybe it is worth the try to dine @ their new sister establishment – 5th Street, which is just around the corner. It’s going on our fun-things-to-do list….

The Bicycle Thief…A Winter’s Day Lunch

Birdlings Flat, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

It was the Sunday of the long Queen’s Birthday Weekend (only in NZ  – not the UK – go figure) and another dull gray, wintery & chilly morning greeted us. But we stuck to our plan – drive over to Little River via Gebbies Pass for a coffee & a quick squizzy at the sweet art gallery & local crafts station and then a drop in @ Birdlings Flat for a walk on the beach so that Hound #2 could harvest some sea water (for the joints).

But in the same vein of our Lincoln tiki tour, we were also keen to re-visit Tai Tapu (as we had been before & remembered going there – unlike Lincoln) which means ‘sacred water’ in Māori. There is not much to Tai Tap (as the locals call it) as it is a wee rural town with just enough (i.e., pub, cafe & dairy & gift shop – The Store, auto mechanic, petrol station, etc…) to be of interest & serve the locals & Sunday drivers like us.

We had a bit of a wander through the drizzle, up & down the town’s main street & ducked into The Store to have a quick look but equally to have a few minutes out of the piss. Then, since it was past noon, it seemed we had crossed the definitive line where a pint or two might be in order, so we made a bee line for the Tai Tapu Hotel (also called The Tap & proudly serving food & drink since 1856). Satisfyingly beverage refreshed, lunch was next up & we decided to take a bit of a gamble & head over to the Bicycle Thief to see if we could score a table (can be a bit hard on a Sunday as it is VERY popular). 

We had always loved & enjoyed the CBD version of the Bicycle Thief, but par for the course, the earthquakes altered their plans. Fortunately, they were able to re-invent themselves in the old Rossendale Winery space (which is now next door & called The Vineyard) and they seemed to have never skipped a beat. And just like the old CBD location, they have done a superb job of making it a very cosy, warm space to relax & hang out in with great lighting, wee booths & secluded spaces. And we lucked out – upon arrival we were quickly shown one of the excellent 2 top table booths & had menus in hand.

The Very Cosy Spaces @ the Bicycle Thief…

The Bicycle Thief does a lot of food & drink really well, but our pizza cravings had returned so that was how we were going to roll. Hound #2 took about 2 or 3 seconds before declaring that the Fungi (field mushroom, caramelised onion, gorgonzola + truffle oil – $26) was the bee’s knees while my pizza of choice was the Agnello (san marzano tomatoes, house cured lamb prosciutto, black olive, confit garlic, artichoke – $26). And it was all washed down with a pint of Founder’s ‘2009’ IPA ($10.50)…super yum for a Sunday arvo. 

The Fungi Pizza…

The Agnello….

We will be back to The Bicyclce Thief for a more substanital feed…maybe once we have turned the corner on this dastardly weather and Spring is in the air & outdoor seating (which they have) is a decent possibility…or another set of winter days could see us back in a cosy booth to be tempted by the rest of the menu…