"Come, come," said Venables. "I really can't go along with this modern playing down of th evil as something that doesn't really exist. There is evil. And evil is powerful. Sometimes more powerful than good. It's there. It has to be recognised - and fought. Otherwise..." he spread out his hands. "We go down to darkness."
- The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
About a month ago someone (oooo, that was me, pick me!) had a very important birthday (well, all birthdays are important, but some are more important and exciting than others). And what do birthdays always call for (well, in my world anyway)?
Why yes, that is a dirty concrete floor. Thank you for noticing.
CAKE! The chocolate cake from Bhakti Cookti Bookti in fact. It was so ridiculously rich and chocolatey that we had to eat it with ice cream lite licks hokey pokey is the BEST!). Not exactly surprising considering it basically has an entire large block of chocolate in the icing!
After the usual wintery Wednesday Night run (basically a group of us meet up on a Wednesday night to go running in the Port Hills together) M and I tempted everyone back to where we were staying to help devour the cake. Cake is pretty much the perfect post-run food right?
The cake is filled with delicious jam as well as copious amounts of chocolate icing. Yum!
In case anyone was concerned (although I can't see why) M and I did actually eat some real dinner which even included vegetables!
Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie and Olympic rowing. Perfect!
But he could not move. He could not make the effort. He lay there with his face turned into the gentle stream of falling water and did not stir again.
- Angel - Seeker by Sharon Shinn
...otherwise known as Saturday in Christchurch.
It started with coffee...or, more specifically, since I've never drunk a cup of coffee in my life, a ginger chai latte with rice milk from The Orange Tree.
I then wanted vegan pancakes and nobody was going to stop me...I doused them in maple syrup and they really didn't last long at all. I love pancakes (oh, and they can make them gluten free too if you so desire)!
I've only just recently started climbing again after various injuries and events got in the way. Unfortunately winter is not really the best time for climbing outside so we just hit up The Roxx. Just so you know, I don't normally climb in socks (or polypro pants for that matter) but my feet were too cold.
There was an emergency peanut butter sandwich consumed partway through (well, not partway through a climb because that might be a little crazy).
Yes, I have chalk all over my hands...they don't normally look that weird.
Climbing makes me hungry so we went exploring for a stop of lunch/afternoon tea. And what did we find?
Yep, it's Eternal Delight - a raw vegan cafe. I didn't even know they existed (well, in New Zealand anyway). It was all terribly exciting but I had to remember we were going out for a fancy dinner so we couldn't eat too much so we decided to split a main and a dessert. B chose the Italian pizza and salad.
Seriously this was amazing. I don't know how they did it but just looking at the photo right now makes me want it again real bad. The salad especially was very impressive (yes, the pizza was great but there was something about that salad...).
As a sweet treat I picked the Superfood Black Forest Cake which uses goji berries instead of cherries. The guy gave us a discount because it had fallen over. He said that normally it stands tall and proud. Again it was pretty awesome. We decided we'd have to come back here for their Friday night fine dining next time I'm down.
And then we raced home to check trademe (like eBay I guess but specifically for us here in New Zealand). You see, I had placed an auto bid on a road bike as the auction was going to close while we were out so I had no idea if I'd won or not. But guess what?! I won!!! This is exciting news number 1 (more to follow in the next post). I will probably post photos of it everywhere at some point. It's awesome!
Anyway, moving on! Dinner was a special occasion made even more special because B and I were joined by my beautiful cousin D and her boyfriend. So basically, it was dinner with my bestest friends in the whole world and it really can't get much better than that. We decided to go to The Lotus Heart because it's fancy and they do awesome food.
Fries first...you can't really go wrong with that (plus their homemade tomato sauce is real good...they should bottle and sell it 'cause I'd definitely buy it). B ordered tea and I had to take a photo...I want this tea set.
D and I went with their homemade ginger beer...you also can't go wrong with that. I order it every single time.
For our mains B and I decided to order a couple of different things and share (D and her boyfriend did the same). We got the vegan pizza which had their special cashew vegan aioli on it...I have to try this 'cause it tasted super cheesy (well, at least my memory of cheesy).
We also ordered the curry of the day. Somehow I have managed to delete the photo I took of this...oops! Anyway, I can't remember now what it was but it was tasty which is really all that counts. I think the waiter was quite impressed that we polished off all this food with such ease (and then casually asked for the dessert menu too).
Dessert...raw pumpkin pie with raw ice cream. Oh my god! This was really REALLY good. So good that I was very surprised. It was also a ridiculously large portion and I couldn't even finish it which is quite a rare thing for me. I had to take the leftovers home (there was no way I was letting it go to waste!).
And to finish off an awesome night? We went to live comedy...a perfect night (especially because B and I tried to book too late so they'd sold out but somehow 2 people cancelled right before the show was about to start so we got their tickets).
When he was in this sort of mood, Chacko used his Reading Aloud voice. His room had a church-feeling. He didn't care whether anyone was listening to him or not. And if they were, he didn't care whether or not they had understood what he was saying. Ammu called them his Oxford Moods.
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
I finally got back on Monday after 3 weeks in the South Island for Christmas and the Oceania Orienteering Champs.
Christmas Day was spent with J's family in Christchurch where I had made another tofukey (this one much more successful than the last one) as well as another chocolate trifle for my contribution and flown everything down on the plane with me the night before.
We spent Boxing Day with lunch in town...how could one possibly pass up a souvlaki?
Then we headed off to Sumner Beach where we played in the sand digging tunnels and exploring the caves by the sea. It wasn't quite inviting enough for a swim although one of J's friends did go test the water out. He didn't stay long so I'm guessing that said something about the temperature!
One of J's relatives was celebrating her 60th birthday at a fancy restaurant just out of Ashburton so we got to dress up for the evening. I got a very fancy vegetable stack...
...and green apple sorbet in a brandy-snap basket among other delights.
Christchurch is probably New Zealand's most cycle-friendly city so we did quite a lot of biking around town in the perfect summer weather (which naturally arrived a couple of days after Christmas as usual...it pretty much always rains here on Christmas Day despite being apparently summer!).
Christchurch is a beautiful city with heaps of lush green parks and lovely gardens...but it's just so flat!
We also fitted in a fair amount of training with several events coming up in the new year. J was taken out for an epic bike ride over Okuku Pass into Lees Valley whilst I ran up to the top of the pass and back as the summer sun really began to beat down before moving the cars around to meet the riders at the other end.
As I said before, Christchurch itself is really flat...but if you head out far enough into Canterbury you will find some pretty big hills as I discovered on my way up to the pass!
J and I celebrated the new year with brunch at The Lotus Heart. We were a bit late to try out the breakfast menu (we got there after midday) so had to settle for lunch food. I got the Bengal Burger with fries ('cause who needs to be healthy on New Years Day and choose the salad?!). It was awesome...but I was starving by then so potentially anything would have done!
Did I mention that I got a new compass? It was my belated Christmas present from J and is truly awesome (sometimes I really am an orienteering geek)!
But often the essential is indeed a smile. One is paid by a smile, repaid by a smile, quickened by a smile. And there is a kind of smile, too, that is a death warrant.
- Letter to a Hostage by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Flying in from Auckland where it had been drizzling and windy the week before we left, we got quite a surprise to find that Christchurch was positively tropical! Flowers were in bloom and there were monarch butterflies everywhere in the botanic gardens.
We made the most of the gorgeous weather by trailing after J's parents for a hand at geocaching. This is basically like one huge worldwide treasure hunt with a GPS. Good fun but the heat was wearing us out by the late afternoon.
As far as eating in Christchurch goes, you really can't go past a falafel souvlaki from Costas. After one of these, kebabs can no longer satisfy!
Last time we were in Christchurch we tried to go to The Lotus Heart restaurant in Cathedral Square but it was closed for some unknown reason (we made it to their cafe though). This time I was determined we would get to eat there so on a Friday night (after checking the website several times for any hints that they might be closed again) J, my friend B and I headed off in search of good food. Thankfully this time we were in luck...
After much decision I ordered the dal and a side of roasted seasonal vegetables (I think it was kumara, potato and beetroot). It was so delicious, especially the vegetables which J kept stealing off my plate!
Dessert was a must since it's not every day I can eat anything from a desserts menu. We all seemed to think alike and all ordered the Banana-Nut Pie for dessert. A bit too healthy tasting for my liking since I was, well, feeling decadent enough for dessert! But full marks for presentation!
On the way out I got an oaty energy cookie to take away with me. Warmed up the next day it was delicious.
We actually managed to venture further afield than Christchurch this time but that is still to come otherwise you would go cross-eyed from staring at your screen for too long.
It is a known fact that nothing gets done properly in our house unless I do it.
- The Secret Diary of a Grumpy Old Woman by Judith Holder
One of my earliest vegetarian cafe experiences was at a place on Dominion Road called The Blue Bird, one of several Sri Chinmoy cafes in New Zealand. To be perfectly frank, these places creep me out. I don't know a great deal about Sri Chinmoy and his religion but from what I have read it seems impossible to work out what's really going on. Their meditation centre is across the road from my apartment, in the charming red light district of Auckland (okay, that was just a random aside but it never seems like the most relaxing place to attempt to mediate at) and we have a HUGE banner of his face on the side of our neighboring building (sometimes I feel like he's watching me, and not in some pleasant way). If anyone does know anything more about these guys then I'd be fascinated to hear.
Anyway, I've taken to getting my order to take away these days (hence the photos below being taken in our kitchen) since the place can have a tendency to make my skin crawl especially when I'm in a foul mood and don't want to listen to the constant sound of gentle woodwind instruments while I'm eating. Yes, foul moods are not uncommon if I've ventured out that far in the traffic. One thing that keeps me going back again and again is the possibility they might have these:
These, my friends, are Kumara-Chip-Topped Tofu Spinach Pies (that is one hell of a mouthful to try and say in one go) and are the most amazing thing I have ever eaten (okay, that's a fairly bold statement and possibly not strictly true...let's just say they are ridiculously delicious). I love them so much that I even attempted to replicate them myself with fairly successful results. Next time I make them (I feel them calling me!) I'll post the recipe.
In the winter they have soups. Always different but always delicious. This is some kind of roast vegetable soup with a name I cannot pronounce and I won't even try to spell. It was good. Plus they give you a generous slice of bread which I topped with my homemade hummus and spinach pesto (it's what you have to make when you buy a huge bag of baby spinach and haven't even got through half by the time it's starting to get old).
They also have sweet treats like a damn good apple crumble (available with soy ice cream too!!) and cake...delicious vegan cake, and who in their right mind could pass on that?! Usual flavours are banana, chocolate or apple, walnut and date (the best but also the least commonly available). Below is the good old banana cake.
One Saturday, while we were biking around (clearly this was before the accident so I haven't been riding in several weeks), and spending too much money at the Parnell Farmer's Market (there are NO farms anywhere near Parnell so it's all rather amusing...but we did manage to pick up the odd bargain - 2 large bags of roasted unsalted cashews for $10, 2 big bags of homemade muesli also for $10, feijoa jam and some extremely hot homegrown, homemade potato crisps...J decided we ought to try the chili ones...I could barely get one down without gagging!) we picked up lunch to eat outside in the sun from the other Sri Chinmoy cafe in Auckland, The Sweetness-Joy of the Unknown Beyond.
I got some tofu and brown rice loaf with mushroom sauce which I downed with a fresh, coconut milk smoothie.
The food was good but I ate too much (I still can't believe I ate the whole lot!) which meant biking afterwards was on the more painful side! We're into winter now here so that was probably our last truly sunny weekend for a while! Auckland has a tendency rain every winter weekend (well, it also seems to rain half of summer too and if we have a Christmas without a drop of rain then it will be a miracle!).
When we were in Christchurch a few weeks back we visited another of the Sri Chinmoy cafes (as mentioned here). Again it was a similar experience to those in Auckland but at least you will always find good food. Actually wait, the girl serving us there was a little bit different to anyone I've met at the Sri Chinmoy cafes in Auckland in that she was really chatty and full of energy and jokes (mostly at my arm's expense). Hmmm...
J brought up an interesting point the other night. He thought it was interesting that out of all the purely vegetarian cafes and restaurants we've been to half of them have been Sri Chinmoy ones. I don't know what this means other than that, well, there aren't many vegetarian cafes and restaurants in the meat and dairy loving country that is New Zealand (despite our large immigrant population, especially in Auckland). We also found it interesting that Raw Power, another vegetarian cafe I always seem to be raving about, appears to be run by a group of Asians and yet is one of the more western style vegetarian cafes here. These are all rather random facts at this point and I don't know what they all mean but they did cause us quite some discussion!