I’ve said before and I’ll say it again … dealing with Air Vanuatu is as good as it gets. I booked a ticket … yep, I’m outta here on December 20 for Christmas in the tropics … and everything about the airline is how it should be … n.b. Qantas and Virgin. No request is too much trouble, right down to claiming an emergency exit seat (I’m a tall unit) alongside my son, Liam, who is on the same flight. And let’s not forget, Air Vanuatu is a full-service airline. I wrote about it last time I went there … the food was the best I’ve ever had at 35,000 feet and the wine bottle makes a re-appearance regularly. It’s all included in the cost of the ticket. I talked a couple of times with Liam during the week and he is pumped in more ways than one. He’s so excited about the new house. “I had to fill the pool,” he said, “and I reckoned it would take about 50,000 litres, so I went and bought a pump, dropped a hose over the cliff and filled it with sea water. “At five the next morning I was swimming in it. “I bought a new surf rod, so the next thing it to crack a beer on the deck and try my luck.” His mate, Johnnie Bangalulu, lives in a village not too far away and he gave the place the thumbs up. Johnnie and his mates fish quite a lot in the area and he suggested that the place is live with heaps of crays and the line fishing is great too, with lots of tuna to be had. And he also said it’s an area from which the boys get lots of coconut crabs. Johnnie, by the way, was so enamoured of Cathy Freeman’s performance at the Sydney Olympics that he called his new daughter Cathyfreeman Bangalulu. Yep, Cathyfreeman … one word. And she’s a beautiful kid. I met her last time I was there. Tuna steaks, anyone? Perhaps fresh cray? And don’t forget the coconut crab. At that rate, we’re only ever likely to leave the house to buy something to drink.
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
The trip and the prospect of some warm weather have me motivated to get into … well … let’s call in summer shape.
I usually walk a couple of kilometres a day, but I’m now a month or so into a weights program of sorts. A few sets with dumbbells every morning and every night, salad lunches most days and not too much in the way of beers is helping to turn back the clock a bit.
The weight (that’s mine, not the ones I lift) has dwindled to 86 kilograms. It’s long been a target to get back to 84, somewhere I haven’t been for years and that was when I hit the gym five days a week. So I’m pretty pleased that 84 kilograms is not out of the question. Yesterday I even hit the (home) gym for a short, sharp session. Hope that becomes a daily thing too.
Part of the weight-loss program has even included a haircut. Reckon it’s the shortest it’s been in quite a while. That’s a small price to pay, given that the hairdresser (OK, I call him a barber) again introduced me to the six others in the salon as “This is Michael. He’s one of those weird heterosexuals”. Yeah, thanks again Chris.
The healthy kick will continue at a rate of knots this afternoon. My friend Gaynor and I are heading to Sunbury to see Angelo, the hypnotist, and give up the smokes. Guess I’ll write plenty about that later.
GREEN WITH …
After an early start to the day yesterday (yeah, I was up and at ’em at about 6.30 … remember it was Saturday morning) and after the usual domestics, emails, twittering, lots of tea and a weights session, I headed to the market to see what was good for dinner.
The market ritual is one of life’s pleasures … talking to my favourite stallholders, seeing what looks good in the fruit and veg bits … not just buying willy-nilly. I’m the sort of pain in the arse who, for example, picks up a bunch of coriander, smells it, checks for any sign of wear and tear, puts it back if there is, and then checks another bunch and maybe another until I get one that looks and smells just right. You get what you pay for.
I popped in to see Chris, the Tattslotto man (he’s married to Anna, who runs a stall just across the way), for a chat and to buy a ticket. He handed me a bottle of 2006 Coolart Estate pinot from the Mornington Peninsula. “You’ll enjoy this,” he said. How about that for service?
He was right. It had plenty of fruit, but was really soft and, well, round.
Dinner was looming as a green pawpaw salad. I found a beauty at the Chinese grocer, along with some fresh ginger (it took five minutes to find the piece I wanted), some Thai basil, a couple of limes, some kaffir lime leaves and some chillis. I already had whatever else I needed at home except a feed of prawns, but they would be the last thing I bought before heading home.
And anyway, there was beer and wine to taste at Swords.
The beer, Holgate Brewhouse Road Trip, was an absolute beauty at 5.8 per cent. My mate Dave, who runs the shop, knows his beers (he tweets as @vulgarbeerman) and said the hops were what made it great. He wasn’t wrong. It was gonna be perfect with the salad. I wasn’t a fan of the new chardonnay … too much sugar for my liking.
A couple of bunches of fresh flowers for the house from Lou, the flower man, and it was time to scout the fish shops for the prawns. Finally, I found the ones I wanted. I told the bloke how much I wanted to spend and he grabbed a heap and held them up to me. “Nah, better throw in a few more,” I said. He did and then charged me the original price. I’ll be back.
For the record, I reckon I was the only person in the whole market who was wearing a Remembrance Day poppy. That was a bit sad.
Dinner was a cracker (yeah, I know I say that a lot). I shredded the green pawpaw, threw in some beanshoots, a few strips of tomato, ditto some cucumber, ginger, chilli (it was a firecracker), some deep-fried shallots, diced spring onion, lots of torn Thai basil and Vietnamese mint (from the garden) and some peanuts that I dry-roasted and the crushed a bit. The dipping sauce/dressing was veg oil, fish sauce, a splash of wine vinegar, lime juice, spring onion, kaffir lime leaves shredded, a bit of sugar and some chilli. I tasted every time I added something and reckon in the end I got it right. I piled the salad onto the plate and whacked a pile of prawns around the edges. The deal was, dip the prawns, drain it onto the salad to dress it, and get amongst it. And the Road Trip beer, with lots of Chinook hops (among others) went perfectly with the tucker. I probably could have got a meal such as this on Victoria Street for much less than it cost me, but there’s something about making it yourself. Self, I said, you’ve done good.
ME IN A NUTSHELL
- G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.
Sunday, November 4, 2012
How good is it to have a long weekend every week? Pretty bloody good, actually. The hardest part is finding enough things to do. Yeah, there’s always a trip to the market, the domestics to do, car washing (yeah, like that’s ever gonna happen), have a haircut (there’s only so many you can have), whatever … and then there’s the time after lunch. I mean, this getting up early crap is playing havoc with my life Day off? Yeah, why not get up at six and do stuff. Seriously though, getting up and at it is great and already there has been a dividend. I actually took the time to read my local newspaper and found an ad for the Wine Box Warehouse (wineboxwarehouse.com.au/), which is not too far from my joint. And given that I’m running low on quaffing wines, it was a must-do trip and, as it turned out, a productive one. It’s a seriously big, barn-like joint, stacked from arsehole to breakfast with cases of stuff to drink ... and rows of bottles on the counter, all waiting for tasters like me. There were just two of us there, the bloke behind the counter and me. He was chatty (maybe he was just pleased to have someone to talk to). “Have a look around, find something that interests you and have a taste,” he said. Not a problem, I thought, the idea of tasting wine at 11am is as good as any other time. It was a bit daunting given the volume, but I’m a good shopper. No messin’ about. I made a beeline for the pinots where there were lots of familiar labels. Then I saw Ketu Bay pinot on special at $9.99 a bottle by the case. There are some pretty decent pinots coming out of Marlborough and I thought I’d have a crack. It tasted all right. The tasting notes say: “A very good example of Marlborough NZ pinot noir. A bright clear and engaging deep ruby red colour with exciting garnet hues that promise all good things are coming your way. “A wonderful toasty nose, showing lifted dark red fruit, with hints of cherry ripe strawberry, cranberry, raspberry, tamarillo and some intoxicating cinnamon spice. “The entry is soft and generous, with delicious fresh summer ripened cherry and dark savoury raspberry building on the mid-palate. The tannins are a key part of the structure; although nice and soft they still add a hint of slight vanillin, making this an ideal all year round drinking style. “Perfect for tapas, pasta, chicken and when the kids are away and you unexpectedly get a moment to yourselves!” It weighs in at 14 per cent. “I’ll have a case of this, ta,” I said. Given that there are outlets selling single bottles of it on the dark side of 20 bucks, it seemed like a wise choice. It was. OK, so I have the quaffers covered for a while, now it’s off to the market to buy what I need to make chicken, pumpkin and sage risotto for dinner. I started the ute and pointed it in the right direction but had to pull over to take a call from my eldest son, Liam, in Vanuatu. He has just organised to rent a house. It’s a smart move, given that he wants to buy the place, well the house, not Vanuatu, and he figured that living there for a couple of months would give him a chance to weigh up the pros and cons of travelling (it’s 15-20 minutes from the centre of Port Vila) and work out how much dough is needed to renovate. “It’s a crackerjack house,” he said, “It’s on a cliff looking out to the ocean. There are steps cut into the cliff to get to the water. It’s got four bedrooms, a big deck, a tennis court and an infinity pool leading up to the cliff edge. And there’s a bungalow for the old man. “You can walk down to the water at low tide and set your cray pots or sit on the deck and cast a line and snag a tuna. The snorkelling’s good too and I just got a new spear gun. Waddya reckon?” “Reckon I’m in.” He’s coming to Melbourne in December for a wedding and will be heading back on the 20th. “Why don’t you and Joel come back with me and we’ll do the Christmas thing, a bit of fishing and whatever?” he said. “I’m in,” I said. “I’ll put it to Joel and see if he can get the time off.” Joel’s still working on the time off. Hopefully he can snag it. Well, that’s the quaffers sorted, the holidays sorted, now to get dinner sorted. To market, to market. The goodies for dinner were soon in the fridge and it was time to catch up with a friend, Ed, for coffee, which was a good thing given that he told me about some Nikon photographic gear that was up for grabs. I called my fiend Louise to ask her about it. “I’ll get it to you on Monday, via Ed,” she said. Roll on Monday, cos I’m very keen on Nikon gear. I have a D40x, which I bought new about three years ago and I love its work. I have about 10,000 photos on a hard drive … I’m planning to spend a week of the holidays editing and sorting them. But some new gear will certainly get a workout in Vanuatu. Another coffee (that’s two for the day … enough already) in the sunshine, shooting the breeze and soon it was time to pull up stumps. Well, time to go home, grab a jacket and head off to meet friends at Lina’s for a quiet glass or two. There was even a bite to eat involved, so the risotto would have to wait until Saturday. Saturday dawned and I was getting up at 6.30 just as Joel arrived home from work. We’d planned a shopping trip in Footscray later in the day at about noon. It was gonna be a tough ask for him given the hour. I have a friend, Pauline, who works at Savers there and she told me that they had lots of cowboy boots for sale and that it seems no one in Footscray wears them. The shopping plans were put on hold when a mate, Aussie Dave, messaged me and suggested we have a quiet drink or three, a bite to eat and perhaps a flutter on the horses. Why not? It’s been years since I’ve spent a Saturday arvo in a pub. We met at the Emerald in South Melbourne, surely one of the great pubs, with meals served all afternoon, and a good crowd in. Oh, and you can also have a bet there. And while we didn’t have a collect all day, it was good to catch up and solve a few of the world’s problems, all punctuated by the constant shrieks of a girl who was obviously having a good day on the punt. There aren’t too many pubs around, I reckon, that send around plates of freshly made sandwiches free for patrons later in the afternoon. It was a nice touch. I can’t remember better all-round service. The staff was fantastic. So too was the risotto later in the day. I didn’t quite prepare the way I perhaps should have, but the result was worth it. To wit: finely diced shallot, finely diced garlic and torn sage leaves. I cooked the chicken and the pumpkin in duck fat, which gave both a new dimension in taste (well I reckon it did). Then I did the usual with the Arborio rice and hot chicken stock until the rice was as creamy as all get out. I didn’t have any dry white opened for the cooking so I used a splash of vermouth. It worked well. I made sure that I didn’t eliminate all the liquid before stirring in the chicken and the pumpkin, sage leaves and a big dollop of butter before grating some aged parmigiano reggiano over the top. I washed it down with some Ketu Bay pinot. Job done. Earlier in the week, I revisited two friends. Chalkboard pinot (available at Vintage Cellars) and Full Fare pinot (from Swords). I’ve talked about both wines elsewhere on the blog. Both are worth the price of admission. I did also enjoy a 2008 Henschke Keyneton Euphonium shiraz, cab sav, merlot, cab franc blend (thanks Sue), which was drinking beautifully … it was complex with rich, dark fruit flavours and fine tannins and weighed in at a robust 14.5 per cent. That’s it. A blog post done and it’s time for Joel to surface and then we’ll head off to maybe buy some cowboy boots or whatever.