Christmas Eve, part deux

Posted: December 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

We packed our Christmas Eve with food and drinking adventures, knowing that everything would be closed for Christmas tomorrow.

We headed down into the town of Havelock North and bought a whole chicken and some sausages for our Christmas feast at a local butcher shop. (We found a beautiful and huge rosemary bush growing in the yard, and lemons grow here, too…so we’ll have a rosemary-lemon-garlic chicken for our holiday feast.) There was a terrific gourmet food store nearby that sold mostly Italian food products, but also local and organic vegetables, coffee, cheese, olive oil, etc, to round out our Christmas meal. I talked to the store owner and coincidentally, he’s originally from Huntington, Long Island, where my sister Nida and her family now live. He caught my American accent right away.

Once our food shopping was done, it was time to check a few of the better reviewed vineyards in the area. We had lunch at Elephant Hill, the place where I managed to get wi-fi for the previous blog. It’s located close to the Pacific Ocean, which would be the eastern coast here in New Zealand, and the food and wines were spectacular…probably the best Syrah I’ve ever had to accompany my beef carpaccio appetizer. Kelly had a stuffed zucchini blossom appetizer, and we shared a delicious salmon entree. Our plates were each paired with different Elephant Hill wines, and we enjoyed them immensely.

Interesting note: the terminology used in the food world here. For example: an appetizer is an entree here. An entree is a main course. Coffee here is huge…people love it in all forms. Iced coffee, which is our favorite, can be found, but it’s made differently wherever you go. Some take regular coffee and shake it with ice. Others make more of a 1000-calorie frappucino thing out of it, loaded with cream. We try to avoid those, since we save our calories for real food! A common coffee drink here is a “long black.” (I’ll keep my non-PC comments to myself.) But it’s basically an espresso that had some hot water added to it.

After Elephant Hill, we headed back toward our cottage, stopping at two wineries along the way. The first, Black Barn, had some interesting wines in the tasting, but we wound up buying a more expensive Montepulciano on faith…it was not available for sampling.

One the way back from Black Barn was the winery where we had our amazing dinner last night: Craggy Range. We bought about case of wine there, and we’re not sure yet if any of it will make its way home to the US…after all, we have two full weeks of vacation left!

Man can not live by wine alone, and I was very happy to find my old standby, Mount Gay rum, available here. That, some Diet Coke, and a fresh-picked lemon will make me very happy.

So now we’re back at the cottage…just met Van Howard, the owner of the place, who is an older gentleman and seems to be a really cool guy. We talked a bit about how this cottage and the other were old sailors cabins that were moved from the town of Napier to their current locations back in the 90’s, and they restored them to their original state. The structures, and the gardens surrounding them, and the views, are amazing.

Van mentioned that he’s spending the holidays with his children (who are now grown up with families of their own) and his grandchildren. I guess he hasn’t seen many of them in a very long time. That was all I needed to hear to whip out my first bottle of Krupnikas, which I presented to him. I hope they enjoy it gathered around the family table.

As you may know, Krupnikas is a Lithuanian honey liqueur that I’ve been making for over 30 years now, based on my Uncle Kazys’ recipe. That recipe has changed a lot over the years and I now have what is totally my own creation, and I bring three 375ml bottles with me on every vacation Kelly and I take, with the intention of giving them away to the three people we meet that we feel most deserve, and would most appreciate, the drink and the work put into making it. (This vacation was the exception since we actually brought four bottles, knowing that one would go to our friends Angela and Richard right away.) But Van was the first person on this trip to receive it in the tradition we established many years ago. I’m sure we’ll meet two more people along the way that will fit the bill as well.

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