Saturday, October 31, 2009

Beauty is Where You Find It

I was in Pasadena California on business and woke up very early on Friday morning. I drew back the window coverings and had a chance to watch this spectacular sunrise.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two Dishes to Try

We had guests over for dinner on Sunday and I wanted to try something different and came up with a couple of ideas based upon stuff I'd done before or seen on TV with some alterations.

The first was a fish pate and the second was a gratin of swiss chard.


This is all about making use of what you have hanging around because I made it from with the leftover fish I had from a whole baked fish with a parsley garlic oil that I made for Wife the night before.

Leftover fish

Anyone who made some simple fish fillets and had leftovers could do the same thing (though probably not if they were battered).

I didn't have quite enough fish so I cooked up some frozen shrimp with the same olive oil, garlic and parsley flavoring and then added the leftover fish to meld the flavors.

Fish and shrimp warming up in flavored oil
All you do next is put the whole thing in a food processor and blend with a little half and half.

Blended fish and shrimp
I added some finely chopped onions soaked in water to get rid of the sharpness and put it into a serving container.

Finished product
Served it with french bread and tortilla chips as a nosh before the sit down meal started


I like making mini portions of things to serve as a first course because it allows for portion control. I like working with vegetables because you can be lighter and save room for the main course. I especially like Swiss Chard. It has a lot of positives of spinach with less of the negatives. It's a bit firmer. Less bitter.

Processing any of the greens is a bit of a pain.

First you wash them real well to get rid of any dirt

With Chard you need to separate the stems and the leaves because the stems have to cook longer
Parboil the stems in a big pot of water for about 4 minutes then add the leaves and boil for another 4 minutes. Drain. Then put into a big bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain again. Grab handfuls and squeeze out the water. Then chop it up.

This is what you end up with
Make simple cheese sauce by making a roux of flour and butter, whisking in milk, then adding small pieces of cheese - the cheese choice is yours. I like fancy schmancy cheeses but to be honest I'm sure a good quality cheddar would be just fine. Put your Chard into a large bowl and add enough of the cheese sauce so when you taste it it has a nice flavor but is not all soupy. Put it into little oven proof ramekins - in this case these are creme brulee dishes.

Sprinkle with some bread crumbs and olive oil

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Wonderful Realization

New Zealand was a fabulous place. So much beauty.

We're back home now and into our day-to-day life. Always tough to get back to real life when you've had a great vacation right?

But as I have been going around town here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I've looked at our mountains, our vistas, our beautiful clear blue skies, our fantastic weather. And I've looked at the beautiful house we created for ourselves. And I came to this realization. Yes there are beautiful, beautiful places out there like New Zealand. And yes there are lots of lovely, wonderful houses with views and everything out there.

But every day I actually live in one of those beautiful places and get to live out my daily life in it. I live in one of those beautiful houses with vistas and views and everything.

How cool is that?

How wonderfully fortunate am I?

And I feel very grateful indeed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Blogged Out

After all the intense blogging of the three weeks in New Zealand, I find that I am just not getting to the ole posting page with alacrity. I like to blame it on work and the time I need to focus on that. And I certainly have had things that I would normally write about. But the truth is I think I'm just a little burnt out. I'm sure I'll be fine in a few more days.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Camera Sherpa and the Photogarpher


Purpose of the Camera Sherpa is:

To facilitate the photographers desire to achieve their true artistic goals by fulfilling the mundane activities a photographer needs done to physically take pictures

such that the photographer overcomes obstacles inherent to any photographic effort that are preventing them from achieving their true personal goals,

so that the photographer is able to accomplish their artistic goals and a satisfied photographic experience results.

Camera Sherpa Functions:

  • Be responsible for the transport of all camera gear whether my mechanical device or by bodily transport
  • Assist in the setting up and take down of gear as appropriate
  • Be prepared to protect photographer and equipment from elements
  • Provide food and shelter for the photographer
  • Provide reconnaissance for all potential places to ‘pull of the road’ in order to ‘catch the shot’
  • Research all meteorological information so the photographer can adjust the itinerary as appropriate to have the best light
  • Be aware and make suggestions of potential shots – keeping in mind your position and never forgetting who is the artist

Three Weeks in New Zealand Seen Through the Photographer

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Final NZ Foodie Post

For our last meal, I asked our B&B host to recommend a restaurant that had excellent lamb for me and excellent fish for Wife. She made a reservation for us at a Pedro's, a Spanish restaurant.

We started with seafood appetizers - for once modest sized portions appropriate for just tempting the appetite. I went with their version of small eels which is the whitebait I've tried in omelets twice before. Wife does garlic shrimp. They do the whitebait in the same manner. The shrimp were excellent. I'm not sure what the huge uproar is over whitebait. Just doesn't seem to have much flavor to me.

Whitebait in Oil and Garlic

Garlic Prawns

Then we went on to the main courses. Wife had a filet of hake. It was very good but after our meal at Fleur's Place it was just a little less. The lamb I had was a whole roasted shoulder. It was HUGE...and DELICIOUS!

It was very different from other lamb preparations. Since I live safely a hemisphere away, he gave me the recipe. You cook the lamb at a low temperature with a few herbs, garlic, olive oil and white wine for a long time - 5 hours or so. Then you finish it in a 500 degree oven for about 20 minutes to give it an extremely crispy crust. The result is a lamb that is tender like a pot roast surrounded by a crispy exterior. It was addictive.

Filet 'o' Hake

Lamb Extrordinare!

Because of driving and our different dishes we were drinking wine by the glass. For the lamb our waiter told me to leave the selection to him. He chose a syrah from Hawkes Bay that had a great nose - almost like a cabernet - but that characteristic dryness I've come to enjoy with New Zealand wines.

It was a great end to our dining in New Zealand.

New Zealand 2009 - Tales of the Camera Sherpa - Home

We're back in Albuquerque. Getting home was not without its adventures. Of course the weather was absolutely perfect the day we're leaving just for fate to give us a laugh.

I don't like to tempt the fates so I tend to get to airports on the early side. We arrived before our flight a couple of hours early around 10:30 AM. We find that the entire Air New Zealand international computer system has crashed and they are checking in all flights manually. It's chaos. We stand around for almost 2 hours while the time for our flight comes and goes before there is word of what our status is. Then we have to go to the international departures area to check in (fortunately we are on the ball and get into our queue early) and have to go back to the domestic terminal to catch the flight.

Except it is still an hour from arriving. But Air New Zealand has a lounge for members of the Star Alliance Gold which I qualify for because of my status on United Airlines. This lounge is good! Free food - real food. Free booze, beer, wine. internet. Finally our plane arrives and we are escorted from the lounge to the plane to board first - nice touch. Another piece of good luck - I have boarding passes I downloaded ages ago with bar codes and therefore I can actually get us on early and to our assigned seats.

We get into Aukland and we have to walk around a half a mile to get to the international terminal. We only have an hour and a half. Should be enough time. Not to worry. The flight to LA is 2 hours late. Problem - that is going to make us miss our connection in LA to Albuquerque.

We're waiting in the business class lounge (just as good again) and I notice on the flight board that our flight has a stop at some island in the Pacific before going on to LA. That hadn't shown up on any of the information that I'd gotten on the flight previously. There is also a direct flight that even with lateness will get us in with plenty of time. Wife asks if I will request them to change us which I do. The first answer is they can't do it because I'm flying on a United issued ticket. But then the guy says he'll check. Good news they can do it if they can pull our bags. Better news, they successfully pull our bags. Even better news, the flight we're on now has the fully reclining seats which the other did not.

Finally we go off. Not much to report other than it was a good flight and we had no further problems getting home. 26 hours later it feels great to be home again.

NZ Photos - 11

Scenes on the Otago Peninsula

View of and from the High Road

Scenes from the Penquin Sanctuary

This gives you and idea of the layout of seen from above.

Picture of a Nesting Penquin
(maybe you'll see if if you blow the picture up)
Wife will have much better ones she took with her telephoto lens

On the way back - another shot of a ranbow

This sign means -
"Please stoop over and walk with purpose when crossing?

The Moeraki Boulders

Buildings in Oamaru

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Zealand 2009 - Tales of the Camera Sherpa - Part 17 & 18

Friday morning we awoke to cold and dark weather again. In fact it was the coldest to date with the high not getting above 44 degrees. There was also a cold wind off the ocean which made it seem even colder. We drove north from Dunedin on our way to Christchurch, our final destination. Our big event of the day was the stop and Fleur's Place that I wrote about last. We did stop at a place called the Moeraki Boulders which were these interesting perfectly round rocks on the coast line (resulting from a complex geologic process. But it was just too cold to spend too much time on the beach.

We also had a long drive to Christchurch. There was one other interesting site along the way, the town of Omauru which has some great late 19th century architecture. But the bulk of the drive was through the only boring countryside that we've run into in New Zealand. So at least if we were having the bad weather we weren't wasting the drive.

We stayed at another really great bed and breakfast located in hills just outside of the city. Though we didn't see it until late the next day, it had an awesome view of the city, the ocean, and the Southern Alps. We were the only guests and we sat and drank wine with the hosts for a number of hours before turning in.

On Saturday the morning broke with it still be cold and wet. We went into downtown Christchurch which has some nice buildings and a great botanical garden but it was too wet to walk the garden. After grabbing a bite from a street vendor, we decided to take our hosts advice a drive to a small coastal village about an hour and half out of the city. The drive was a bit harrowing because the 'National Cross Country Relay Championship' was taking place on the same road (a typically windy mountainous NZ road). So in addition to dealing with the normal narrow roads, tight turns, and no safety guards, we were dodging runners. Plus we had a yo-yo in front of us for about 20 kilometers who evidently was looking for a particular runner and would literally stop and swerve over each time we passed some one. Its considered polite here to let people by on the narrow roads if you're driving slowly. It escaped this fellow.

We finally made it to the town. I set Wife out for picture taking while settle down with a good NZ beer to recuperate from the stress of the drive. Our luck turned at this point. The bad weather blew out. The sky cleared and it got warm. Wife got pictures of a lighthouse something she had wanted the whole trip but had been unsuccessful in locating. On our drive back all the congestion was gone so the drive was much easier. Plus the sky was totally clear and for the very first time we caught the full horizon to horizon view of the Southern Alps climbing up from the eastern plains - breathtaking. No pictures. Too far away for our cameras.

The day ended with a fabulous meal (I will be making a separate foodie post for this) at a restaurant suggested by our host followed by more conversation and drinks with them.

Tomorrow, is the long flight home.

Friday, October 9, 2009

NZ Foodie Special Post

As mentioned previously this has not been a food oriented trip. However, we were recommended by three different sources in a two day period to try a particular fish restaurant that is on our way from Dunedin to Christchurch in a little fishing village named Moeraki. The name of the restaurant is Fleur's Place.

The location and look says nothing.

But you look at the menu and the board of specials.

All the fish is locally caught and sold almost immediately. Wife and I opted for a whole baked fish each. She had a fish called Gurnard and I had a sea bream (a type of flat fish. Each was extremely simply prepared with a simple sauce on the side. Fish that is of the freshest quality is beyond explanation. It is nothing like what one gets typically at a store. And whole fish takes that to another dimension. Yes you have to deal with the bones and skin but the succulence, juiciness, cleanness of flavor is unsurpassed.

The gurnard is a firm white fish.

The bream was almost buttery in flavor and texture.

What else can I say. It was great.