Holy smokes, I Live in New Zealand.

Holiday Two: Zoo, Kebab, Private Karaoke Room.
March 23, 2008, 12:05 am
Filed under: Food, Happenstance | Tags: ,

Day two started with another fair sleep in: 8:30 AM. That’s pretty good for me. I was still feeling grody from Thursday so the day started with some downloaded videos (old “Doctor Who” reruns and the latest episodes of US sitcom “How I Met Your Mother”), some e-mail banter and a complete breakfast. Around Noon, I finally got my act together and had a shower, then looked up bus directions for my next tourist stop.

The Auckland Zoo.

The Zoo was officially founded in the 1920s, when the Council bought a ten year old private zoo that was driving the residents of an area suburb insane (the noise, the crowds, the smell). The legacy of that Council intervention is the current zoo, which has been operating out of Auckland’s Western Springs Reserve since 1922. One of their first attractions were four chimpanzees trained to perform at a daily tea party. One of these chimps is still alive, Janie, and she appears in my Zoo photo album.

auckland zoo 006

I had some ice cream and wandered around for a few hours. There was an Australia zone and a large African exhibit (called “The Pridelands”). Presupposing your next question, yes, there was a kiwi building. However, kiwis are nocturnal so the room was very dark and lit only in red, so the video I took was useless. There are some kiwi videos on Youtube worth checking out if you want to see how kiwis look and act. I also saw two sleepy tigers and two even sleepier lions – all four were on their backs or on their sides when I wandered by. Not too exciting. I watched a demonstration involving an alligator. Alligators look to be very cranky animals. There was also a hippopotamus showing off to the audience and five very noisy sea lions. The penguins were less interesting than I thought they would be.

I took the bus both ways. After returning downtown I visited a new, Turkish takeaway that I often talk up to my friends here in Auckland. I picked up a chicken kebab (like a pita from any take out joint back home, only it’s a wrap, not a “filled” sandwich), some “hot chips” (NZ for French fries, although I’ve heard both used here) and Fanta and brought them home for dinner and a movie. But I wound up reading the news instead. The weekend papers back home help combat homesickness. By the way, my sauce choices are always, without fail, mayonnaise, hot chili and barbecue.

I’d wish today got more interesting but I spent the evening running to the grocery store for this week’s provisions (tortellini, salad fixings, OJ, milk, etc) and playing video games. Plus I set up the photo album above for your viewing pleasure. Zooomr is a nice photo sharing site, but the usual glitches that frustrated me so much when I signed up are still there. Without boring you with technical details, sharing photos publicly is a real pain if you aren’t willing to pay for the service. Which I am not. Which is why I’ve gotten into Youtube as of late.

Tomorrow isn’t shaping up to be much more exciting. But I will summarize that bridge once I get there.

I have been forgetting to use my Canadian zeds in place of New Zealand esses lately. Summarise that bridge later. Z. Eh.

When the videos weren’t playing, I had a private karaoke party for myself.  It’s fun to sing when there is nobody to critique you…or maybe even say “Geez, that wasn’t half bad!”

A summary of tonight’s music includes:

  • The Wallflowers: Sixth Avenue Heartache
  • BNL: Aluminum
  • Avril Lavigne: Hot
  • Bananarama: Robert DeNiro’s Waiting
  • Alexisonfire: Pulmonary Archery
  • The Coral: Cobwebs
  • Tegan and Sara: Monday Monday Monday
  • The Brunettes: B-A-B-Y
  • The Hippos: All Alone
  • Athlete: This is What I Sound Like

March 17, 2008, 8:25 pm
Filed under: Food | Tags: , ,

Sorry it has taken me so long to get around to this.

Celeste asks, “What’s the milk like there? And have you tried Milo?

Milk here is just like home, except I have seen it offered in tetra packs (like a giant juice box). Just like home as well, 1L cartons, 1L jugs (7-11 style) and 2L jugs. The 500mL I usually buy (as in I have bought maybe four of them over six months) costs NZ$1.90, or about Cdn$1.30. Decent enough.

What is different is the range of milk you can buy. We’re used to skim, 1%, 2%, homo, cream, right? You can get cream here, but beyond that things are different:

  • Super trim, which is marketed as “99.9% fat free.” This is equivalent to skim.
  • Trim, which is what I buy, is 99.5% fat free. I like it.
  • Lite or Light is 98.5% fat free.
  • Blue Top, or Family, which is the most popular and where the “fat free” references stop. This hovers at a bit under 97% fat free.
  • And a whole range of fortified and specialty milks, including one company making a very rich “farmhouse” milk.
  • There are also several brands of milk one can buy in one grocery store, unlike the Nielsen’s/Sealtest monopolies in the various grocery stores back home.

I am world famous for my love of chocolate milk. Doing a napkin calculation right now, I estimate that I probably put back 3L of chocolate milk a week. Unfortunately of the two chocolate milks I can normally choose from, both of them are very chalky. So I have consumed maybe 2L of chocolate milk in the last six months, and both of those were on my surprise Christmas vacation. I didn’t notice the withdrawal period. So chocolate milk in New Zealand…big disappointment.

UPDATED: I have taken to drinking chocolate soy milk a lot down here.  It seems to be on sale a lot, which helps.

Alternate link.

As for part two of the question, a little history first. Milo is an ovaltine-esque, malt granule that you add to milk (hot or cold) to get a delicious, hot chocolate kind of drink. It’s fairly popular in New Zealand. Work keeps an open tin of it in the kitchen. They are little granules of malty goodness.

I think what is really neat is that they make a chocolate bar out of Milo. Milk chocolate, the little granules and a strip of nougat. Let’s take a peek, shall we?

Alternate link.

Sorry, I didn’t realize how dark it got in my apartment at night. Here is Milo‘s strangely corporate looking Wikipedia page.

Pavlova on jPod.
March 7, 2008, 8:24 pm
Filed under: Food, Television | Tags: ,

Not that you would have noticed, as I am the only person in the world who watches jPod (downloaded the night it airs), I am proud to report that Carol Jarlewski is making pavlova next Sunday to thank Kam Fong for burying Dwight’s corpse and not telling Jim.

Pavlova – food of the gods.  And also a New Zealand creation (don’t let the Aussies tell you otherwise).

March 5, 2008, 8:30 pm
Filed under: Ask a Canuck, Food | Tags:

Celeste asks: What can you make with kiwifruit?

First, a quick history of New Zealand’s namesake fruit.  Kiwifruit‘s ancestors evolved from plants in China.  In fact, the kiwifruit is the national fruit of China.  The sister of a missionary there brought seeds back to New Zealand after a visit and planted them here.  Further agriscience occurred and the version of kiwifruit you and I are most familiar with was first planted in New Zealand in 1924.  They are now grown all over the world, and New Zealand is not the world’s leading producer of the fruit.  That would be Italy (bravissimo Italia!).  The name of the tree the commercial fruit grows on is called “New Zealand Hayward.”

Now, as for things you can make from kiwifruit:

  • sliced up raw;
  • scooped out of the flesh and eaten raw;
  • bite into it like an apple…or peach;
  • as the ubiquitous garnish on everything, including cocktails;
  • as an ice cream or sorbet;
  • as a cheesecake;
  • as a jam or jelly;
  • in salads (I found a recipe mixing turkey and kiwifruit);
  • as a pie (the recipe in particular was a frozen yogurt pie);
  • in a fruit smoothie (mixed with banana and milk…I guess citrus can mix with milk in small doses);
  • I saw a fruit salsa recipe that had kiwifruit in it;
  • juice; and,
  • fruit spring rolls and crepes and kebabs and such.

And of course, in New Zealand’s national dessert, a Pavlova.

Footnote: I keep saying “kiwifruit” because there are so many things “kiwi” that, down here, the items need to be further described.  Kiwi bird, kiwi fruit.  “Kiwi” is a default for all things New Zealand, including its people.


Feer Bestival.
February 24, 2008, 7:01 pm
Filed under: Food | Tags:

The rain didn’t slow up much yesterday, but that failed to stop me from attending the 2008 New Zealand Beer Festival at the Ellerslie Racecourse.

The name is self descriptive. Beer, noise, music (not live), portable toilets, fast food, and everybody crammed inside due to the ceaseless rain.

Alternate link.

Alcohol representation included the usual international brands with New Zealand distribution deals (Miller, Carlsberg, Amstel, …), not-all-but-most big New Zealand brewers (Monteith’s, Lion), and a wide range of small brewers that none of my friends had ever heard of.

Everybody was given a ballot to vote for their favourite beer on the day (a People’s Choice Award). I was torn between two choice beers but, much like any election, a decision had to be made. My choice beer of the day was…

Sunshine Brewery‘s Black Magic. It was nicely mild, not too bitter but definitely the heavy finish I want from a stout. The coffee flavour was a nice way to enjoy java without the caffeine fix, too. I think they only sell it in bottles at the liquor stores.

My other choice was the Epic Pale Ale from Epic Brewery. It has won a tonne of awards. There was a lot of flavour in it. Certain pale ales back home should learn something from these guys.

There was a third beer I liked too but not for winning best in show. West Coast Brewery‘s Good Bastards Dark Ale. I’m all for cute branding, but it’s a previous award winner for a reason as well.

There were also $40 t-shirts. I did not buy one.

Alternate link.

Pies. Updated.
February 9, 2008, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Food | Tags: ,

I wrote this back on Saturday but I’ve since received some questions on what I wrote, plus I’m generally just not very happy with it. So instead of a new post (and I have lots of ideas but little energy right now) I am updating this one.


It was something like Day Two in the country when my boss (and then-landlord) brought me back a pie from the shops. I’m not talking apple or lemon meringue, though you can’t go wrong with either of those, I reckon.

I’m talking mushroom and cheese.

At the office it became a mid-morning break routine to head across the street and pick up a pie from the Fonterra Building Cafeteria (I’m sure it has a name, but I could not tell you for the life of me what it would be). Steak and cheese led to mince and cheese led to Mexican led to pepper steak led back to Mexican.

Oh right – I forget to actually tell you that the GREATEST New Zealand snack food is the pie! But these aren’t big pies. These are fist-sized pastries that are served hot. The “fresh batch” is supposedly supposed to be released for sale around 9:30 or 10:00 every morning, but of course you can get them anytime. The best ones always sell out quickly.

What you get is a little pastry, fist-sized, full of a savoury (New Zealand English for “not sweet or sugary” but does not necessarily mean salty) filling that feels soooooo good going down. You certainly don’t think about the cholesterol your ingesting as the gently spiced filling warms your heart and your tummy when the 10 AM stomach grumbles kick in.  The pastry is a little thicker and more doughy than a typical pie crust, but it’s the same principle.

I’ve been boastful to people back home about how much my eating habits here have improved in the past 4.5 months. Yeah, well, one week I ate five pies. One day times two pies and three days times one pie. Don’t worry; I ran off all the calories the following week. I’m still not hyper-obese!

Canadians have the doughnut…Timbit…cruller…double tall latté. New Zealand has the pie. Except that you can’t get a pepper steak cruller in Canada (not even Barrie!).

Here’s the Dad’s Pies product information website, complete with promotional video showing you pies being made. The accent in the background, by the way, is Dutch. Here is an even better article on that company.

My coworkers tell me stories of, as children, going to the dairy (New Zealand for “corner store”) to pick up a Big Ben pie during a break at school. I have only sampled their frozen fare, which of course just isn’t the same as one made fresh that morning.  It’s like the difference between a pizza from a restaurant and pizza from the freezer case.  The “fresh” one came in a plastic wrapper and just wasn’t nearly as saucy as the “actually” fresh pies from the cafeteria across the street.

I mean, it’s all good, really, but to varying degrees of good.  Outside of the pepper steak pie I had yesterday (being Monday) morning, I have yet to meet a pie I did not like.  And they say there is no such thing as New Zealand cuisine…

(Oh man, am I ever hungry now…)

The Power of Random Internet Posts.
January 3, 2008, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Food | Tags: , , ,

Wow wow wow!

I’m not exactly blessed with having a lot of random visitors to my site.  I get the occasional hit from somebody searching for Saskatchewan Roughriders information or trying to find out about paying the departure tax at Auckland Airport.

But today, I get a surprise comment from a Massachusetts-based surfer (a WHOIS query generally verifies the location) on my Things I Miss post.  Turns out there is an American blogger here writing as “Wilderness Wally” who provides links to all things Americana and where to find them in New Zealand.  One of his posts deals solely with root beer, with another focussing on Mexican food such as corn chips.

I learned today that many of my lifestyle choices probably do, in fact, fall under that broad, unenviable label of “Americana” but I am definitely tired of too thick chips and boring cola products (Phoenix Cola not included because it is delicious and truly New Zealand).  And thanks to a random person from Massachusetts and somewhere on the North Island, I now have a few more places to explore for those can’t-find-items I can’t find anywhere else.

At the least, it will be an interesting adventure out into the suburbs looking for a Mexican food importer should I be bored some upcoming Saturday.