Tag: food

New Zealand, Day 2: Christchurch, Lyttelton

This post is Day #2 of a series of blog posts documenting my road trip to New Zealand from 12/23 – 1/2. For deets on the actual trip itself, click here.

For all you travel junkies like myself, you’ve probably seen the New York Times’ “52 Places to Go in 2014“. If you haven’t, the article itself is well worth a read for the travel inspo alone, despite the fact that I can’t get over Indianapolis being on that list. As a former Naptown resident, the idea of anybody — let alone a travel writer for the New York Times of all things — finding my old stomping grounds a place worth visiting is probably laughable at best. 18 years of Midwestern living have left me jaded and turned into the 80-year-old cranky guy who barks at people to get off their lawn. Anyway, throwing shade at my old hometown aside, perched at #2 is Christchurch, New Zealand, which is being heralded for its revival since the 2011 earthquake.

Many of the iconic establishments that made Christchurch Christchurch had been destroyed in the earthquake, like the Timeball in Lyttelton and the church. The damage still lingers even to this day — as we walked around the Central Business District, we saw rubble where there had been tram lines and sectioned-off empty lots where they had once been hotels. Of all the restaurants and businesses I looked up, many of them had since relocated from their original locales and still had moving notices up on their websites and voicemails. Much of the central city feels like a concrete ghost town of sorts, with the damaged church serving as a solemn testament to the past — which isn’t even that long ago in the grand scheme of things. I was still a senior in college when it happened! Of all the cities I had been to, this one was easily the quietest, with hardly any cars or pedestrians or the background noise that often comes as a prerequisite for any city.

This is, of course, not to say that Christchurch was a big ol’ snoozefest by any means. Quite the contrary — from the moment we landed from our flight in Auckland that morning to the next day, there was hardly a shortage of things to do.

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We first stopped by the Botanic Gardens located in Hagley Park (Christchurch’s version of Central Park) for a stroll through the flowers and a chance to tinker with the macro function on my lens. When 3 out of 4 members of the family are avid photogs, it goes without saying that we’ll leave with 3 memory cards worth of amateur flower macros. You’d think that I had just gotten a DSLR for the silly season.

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A late lunch was had at Addington Coffee Co-op, a super hip cafe stocked to the brim with coffee (duh) and sandwiches.

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Now that we had a car to our name, we decided to take it out for a spin and go driving along the Cantabrian coast.

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It was within the first few minutes of driving down the scenic route towards the Banks Peninsula where I knew that yep, the beauty of South Island was a natural-born killer. Actually, scratch that — every single road in South Island is a scenic route. Look at all that green. As we drove to Governors Bay and along the edge of Lyttelton, we were treated to gorgeous waterfront views and massive green hills dotted with rocks poking through the grass.

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Um, water should not be that shade of robin’s egg blue.

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Afterwards, we headed back to the central city of Christchurch, the business district and the area that had (symbolically) taken the brunt of the damage in the earthquake. Almost three years after the fact, the cathedral that had served as Christchurch’s namesake remains destroyed and sectioned off to all signs of life, save for the birds that occasionally hawk through the stone debris. It’s strange and rather disconcerting to see something that had long stood for something iconic stand in ruin, like a relic of the past.

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Here’s another shot of the central area of Christchurch — for a downtown area, it felt like a ghost town. Little to no traffic, cars parked in makeshift parking lots that once belonged to hotels and towers, buildings that had been deemed unusable and thus boarded up, etc. There’s something humbling about being in the midst of all this quietude and knowing that you’re witnessing a new period of history.

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As we walked some more along the business district and passed by a lone caroler in the park, we headed over to Strawberry Fare for a Christmas Eve dinner, to cap off a long — but fulfilling! — day.

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Duck confit

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Pan-fried fish with potatoes and asparagus

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Californian Sunshine cake with orange coulis and almond sorbet

New York, I Love You.

Remember when I told myself I was going to update more regularly? Remember when I totally failed at that?

Anyway, hi. I’m digging myself out of yet another hole, because the long and short of it is, I miss blogging. Despite the fact that I’m absolutely pants at it. I guess I’ve had a bunch of photos piled up on my hard drive that one day I finally went, enough is enough and finally got around to writing this.

So what have I been up to these days? I’m still in San Francsico, and I hit my one year milestone of becoming a California resident (and a Googler!) in July. I still blatantly refuse to forfeit my New York license, partly out of my love for the state and partly because the amount of patience I have with DMVs is nonexistent. In fact, I went to New York twice — the first time in August to help my brother move into college and the second time just last week, mostly to visit friends, Comic Con, and J.K. Rowling.

Yeah, you heard me. J.K. Rowling.

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We’re biffles now. Don’t be jelly.

Backtracking a bit, J.K. Rowling was at Lincoln Center in New York last Tuesday to discuss her new book The Casual Vacancy. Considering I paid $43 for my ticket including all the extraneous convenience charges and I got a free copy of The Casual Vacancy ($35) and she signed autographs for everybody at the event and I got to see her live/in-person with the possibility of projectile fangirling her — the net price for all of this was — what, $8? Real life, what are you even. Get out.

To clear up a few things: yes, J.K. Rowling is a very classy and humble lady, even when she was talking about porn and Fifty Shades of Grey (which may or may not have been my favorite part of the talk). Yes, she is quite nice, even when she spent at least two hours patiently signing autographs for her fans. And yes, I somehow resisted projectile fangirling myself off at her. Somehow, I don’t fancy myself a restraining order.

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JKR and Ann Pratchett (of Bel Canto fame)

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JKR reading an excerpt of The Casual Vacancy

The interview was more like an insightful back-and-forth dialogue between JKR and Ann Pratchett, as they discussed the book as well as other general topics, such as the editing process of writing a book and children’s literature. (If you’re interested, the full video of the interview is here.) Afterwards, they called up each row to wait to get their book signed, and while I might have waited two hours to get my book signed, the chance to meet JKR in person was so worth it. I feel like I should give myself a congratulatory pat on the back for not being a blubbering mess of emotions like I thought I would be.

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The line for autographs. They were really hustling us out there.

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I was able to snap this photo right after I had my book signed, as it was my only window of opportunity, but right after the shutter clicked, the security guard waved his hand in front of me and said, “Ma’am, you’re good.” and pointed me to the exit. NO, I GOT A BLURRY PHOTO OF MY FAVORITE AUTHOR WHOM I JUST MET TEN SECONDS AGO DO YOU THINK I’M GOOD.

All capslock aside, though, I’ve made it a new life goal of mine to have a conversation with J.K. Rowling that’s longer than:
ME: I’m a big fan. Thank you.
JKR: Thank you very much!

Hold me to it.

JKR aside, New York was still all kinds of fun, and while I feel like I should be utterly appalled that I’ve already made three visits in the span of five months, I keep staring back at these photos and wishing I was back already. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

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Despite the ridiculous lines and crowds, I still managed to collect some free Avengers-themed swag at New York Comic Con.

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No trip to New York is ever complete without my fix of chicken and rice from the halal cart on 53rd and 6th.

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Green apple sorbet at Chikalicious

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Pistachio, peanut butter & strawberry, and pumpkin cupcakes from my favorite bakery, Sugar Sweet Sunshine

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Meatball sandwich at — where else? — the Meatball Shop

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Shrimp and grits at Peels

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Biscuits and gravy at Peels

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Banana walnut pancakes at Georgio’s Country Grill

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Banh mi at Xe May Sandwich Shop

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Fig and ricotta tartine at Le Pain Quotidien

Until we meet again, New York.

A what-yard?

One of the perks of living in California is the abundance of scenic routes; having driven from San Francisco to San Diego via Highway 1 many years back, I can personally attest to the beautiful mountains, valleys, trees, and waterfronts that go on for miles. However, seeing as I’ve been living in cities ever since, I’ve become extremely averse to driving, and thus, opportunities to leave the city seem few and far between. So when my friend visited California two weeks ago, who were we to pass up a drive up to Napa?

For those who have no clue what/where Napa is, you should watch The Parent Trap (yes, the Lindsay Lohan redux) and jog your memory.

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Anyway! We were hungry (surprise, surprise), so we first grabbed lunch at Bottega:

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polenta under glass

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butternut squash caramelle with bosc pear, pecorino, crispy sage, brown butter emulsion and amaretti – poppy seed gremolata

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This was so amazingly good that you’re going to have to suffer through a second photo. Sorry I’m not sorry.

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Am I the only one who finds it kind of hilarious that there’s a Bouchon Bakery in Napa of all places? I had always associated the place with the very shiny Columbus Circle back in New York, so to see it in the middle of Napa was a bit of a pleasant surprise!

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Chickens from the French Laundry farms — cluck cluck!

Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, I took my friend around the city, where we went to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown:

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…the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, where we got a French toast and a halibut sandwich from Rose Pistola:

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…and — of course — In-N-Out. (I still prefer Shake Shack any day, but hey — I’ll take the next best thing if I can’t have my Shackburger-minus-the-tomato.)

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Anyway! On a related aside, I will actually be heading back to New York, my favorite city in the history of ever, the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, next Wednesday. I’ve missed that place something fierce, and I’ll probably express my nostalgia with my mediums of choice being retail therapy and eating ALL OF THE THINGS. It’s like performance art! Kind of!

And yes, I will be eating Shake Shack.