Sawa and I were lucky enough to get to go back to New Zealand for Christmas - the first time back since we arrived in Canada. Although our time there was short, we managed to fit in plenty of the special things we've been missing since we left in August 2009. Most importantly, we got to spend lots of time with my family and with Sawa's family, who also flew over from Japan. However, of more relevance to this blog is that we got to have some of the delicious food and drink that NZ does so well.
Of course, NZ wine is world famous, and deservedly so. But one of the other great things about NZ is the glorious outdoors, and people there love to take advantage of the beautiful summer to get outside and enjoy food and wine al fresco. My philosophy is that everything tastes better when it's enjoyed outside. Sawa's stuffed Siberain huskey, Shibe, seems to agree.
Although not as widely known as its wine, NZ coffee and cafes in general are also amazing. It's not that NZ grows its own beans, of course, since it's too far from the equator. But even the lowliest cafe, restaurant or bar in my hometown of Wellington can almost invariably make an excellent, or at least passable, flat white. Here's one of the baristas at the 2009 NZ Barista Championship showing how it's done.
On the other hand, in North America you're generally lucky if you can find a cafe with an espresso machine, and even when you do the "baristas" often don't really know how to use it. I know I sound like a snob, but that's what it is. On the plus side, this forced us to buy our own espresso machine, ultimately saving us hundreds of dollars, since we drink several bowl-sized lattes a day. In the morning, I make one bowl for me and Sawa to drink, then make another bowl's worth to put in my thermos and sip through the day, making life just that little bit better.
However, it's not just the coffee that makes the cafes amazing, it's also the food. In particular, the brunches are just amazing (as I've mentioned in previous posts). While we were back there, we went to the Maranui Surf Lifesaving Club Cafe. It burnt down in a fire days after we had a last brunch before leaving NZ in 2009, but it was so awesome that the community made sure it was rebuilt again. It still looked and tasted just the same when we ate there this time. Unfortunately, it was too crowded to sit out on the deck admiring the glorious Lyall Bay surf while we ate, but the big breakfast was still as delicious as ever.