Shoppin’ in the summertime: SHOPWATCH special food n’beverage edition

Shoppin’ in the summertime: SHOPWATCH special food n’beverage edition
With Christmas and New Year excess abandoned and a healthy, dry January stretching ahead – oh, who are we kidding? Whether you’re planning a virtuous fruity detox or still polishing off the last of the cake and biscuits with no end in sight, you’ve still got to eat and drink, right? Check out a few of the goodies around town right now that are sure to make summer drinking and dining that little bit more fun.
Mmmm, ginny.

Sours are slowly infiltrating the beer mainstream, and there’s not much more refreshingly, er, sour on a summer’s day than one of these. If you’re not used to them, they take some lateral thinking. Less beer, more sauvignon blanc, but without that grapey, winey quality one would naturally expect from wine. Tuatara’s special release GnT Citrus Summer Sour is an accessible starting point; cloudy and quaffable, with echoes of its spirituous namesake, but nowhere near as boozy. Trust me: sours are great.

Heading up a mountain but unwilling to face life without cocktails? Has vacuum flask inventor Stanley got the product for  you! The Stanley Adventure Happy Hour System – available at good old Ballys  – comprises a sturdy cocktail shaker, jigger, citrus reamer and two steel rocks glasses, meaning you can toast your triumphs in style, provided you leave enough space in your backpack for the scads of booze you’ll require to build your drinks with. The cups are doublewalled, so I guess theoretically you could use them for hot drinks as well.

Ballantynes also stocks ruggedly styled Stanley hip flasks – for emergencies, naturally -and rather cool steel shot glasses in a case that you can clip to your pack with a carabiner. As to how sensible it is to get cracking into the shots in the wilderness, I cannot possibly say, but these are certainly good looking sets.


For the tramper who has everything, and possibly also a drinking problem.

Refreshed and ready for use at last, Carlton Courts is gearing up to house several new hospitality spots. Sun Dog Diner’s appealing logo and promise of “hoity toity comfort food” caught my eye in particular: it’s run by the owners of Mamacita’s Mexican food truck and looks set to be worth checking out. Like a lot of new businesses, it  has a gorgeous website without much actual information on it yet, so for updates, visit the Sun Dog Facebook page. Plans are to open later this month.

Also refreshed in that area is Kanniga Thai. now known as Mama Ree Thai Street Food. I’m yet to try it since it changed names, bur new customers are raving about it on TripAdvisor, and its new signage is certainly cute. Street food seems to be the hot thing in Christchurch at present, which is why I also urge you to visit Delhi Belly in Victoria St, which is worth it for the starters alone – and not pricey, either. Like the decor, the food’s a little different to what we’re generally used to in Indian restaurants, but it’s very worth expanding your horizons.

It’s become almost obligatory for cafes to serve a pile of ingredients so you can put your own sandwich together – deconstructionism is so mainstream now – and sometimes it is a bit annoying. But Vespa, beside Strange’s Lane, is getting it right when it comes to serving its (delicious) affogato. If there’s one thing you do want to control, it’s the moment the hot espresso hits the cold icecream.

Coffee poured and ready to scoff.

Speaking of affogato, you can make it with gelato too. Jed and co at  Rollickin do. You can enjoy their superior gelati, coffees and  other dessert delights late into the evenings now at their cute cafe in the former Auricle space on New Regent St. What better excuse?

Stay tuned!

Shopwatch is an occasional shopping column focused on the central city of Christchurch, New Zealand. All reviews are independent and unsolicited. Any WordPress advertising is unrelated to content.

I was a beer wanker. No wait. Make that AM

I come from a family of wowsers*, but my father – a member, at least in theory, of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association  – was a hard-working man and not averse to an occasional beer on a hot day. We would line up to sip the froth off the top. Thus began my love affair with the brown beverage.

I don’t remember what brand Dad’s beer actually was, only that it came in large brown bottles and, to my infant tastebuds, seemed slightly bitter with a sweetish aftertaste. I can be 100 per cent certain that it was made by either Lion or DB, because that was all you got in New Zealand in those days. It was probably DB Bitter or Double Brown. It was quite a few years before I actually started drinking alcohol in earnest, and while I gravitated towards gin and tonic, fluffy ducks and the infamous Pink Chardon like other girls, I always had a sneaking soft spot for beer.

In London in the 90s I traumatised young men by ordering pints. Apparently women were not supposed to drink them. I stunned them more by drinking pints of bitter. I figured that if I was in England I should at least try their famous warm beer and it tasted all right to me. But before long I was back on the lagers like everybody else, though the power of a good advert won me over to Boddingtons, and obviously I drank Guinness, because it was food and better for you than chips.

I returned to New Zealand to find everybody drinking Speights – formerly of “drink Speights, lose your mates” renown – and something called Canterbury Draught which had apparently been drunk in my province since the dawn of history. Close perusal of the label revealed that CD was in fact Wards. Wards was what old drunk men in pubs had sipped while we pranced about quaffing our trendy Rheineck. In the late 90s, marketing made the least cool beers very cool indeed. But something else had come to the party by then. Proper wine.

Now, I do not have a particularly good palate. My sense of smell is compromised and I can barely tell a fine pinot noir from a scuzzy merlot out of a box. Still, I like a nice tasting drink, and most red wine is palatable enough. (Unless it’s Veluto Rosso. That stuff shouldn’t still be allowed.) So I went through a wine phase. But wine is not low in alcohol and sometimes gives one a headache. It’s also horrible on a hot afternoon. So beer was always an alternative. And just at the point where wine was starting to pall, beer hit back -with a thing called craft.

The rise of genuine craft beers in New Zealand coincided with a rise in my bank balance and a job that kept me out till the wee hours. Primed by pilsner and the occasional foray into Weird Stuff They Have At The Supermarket, I was soon devoted to IPAs and APAs and just about anything hoppy. I revelled in red ales and forked out for $15 pints of fancy things. Beer with chilli in it. Chocolate beer.  Beer that tastes like an Anzac biscuit.

A recent change in fortune means no more $15 pints for me, at least not right now. Frugality is my new buzzword. But nobody should deny themselves completely. A couple of days ago I completed a couple of new, unfamiliar classes and, on a post-teaching high, decided that, much like That Man, I deserved a DB. As it happened DB was all that was available, so I went the whole hog and bought a pint of draught.


It was hideous.

At lunchtime today I ordered a mainstream red ale. It was also hideous.

I’m sitting here looking at an empty bottle of Mike’s Vanilla Coffee Porter and there’s a Rex Attitude in the fridge to enjoy later.

I may have a little bit of a budgeting problem.


*OK apart from all of the ones who are not

Approval needed

They say that in some cities, a chat with the checkout operator is the only conversation some people have all day. An automated checkout not only takes away jobs, it  silences the small talk that holds back  the grave: “Have a nice day.”

At least, that’s the theory. I like self-service, even though I feel guilty because of the employment thing. There, but for automation – and probably age discrimination and overqualification, too, let’s face it – might I be, come the day my job is automated away. Standing all day, swiping tins against the bar code reader with a satisfying “bip” and  stuffing things into too many bags because nobody wants their cat food and their yoghurt to touch. I figure I’m getting practice. It’s like the way putting together flatpack furniture with an Allen key lets me pretend I am a skilled tradesperson.

It’s nice, though, isn’t it, to do the job yourself. The traditional checkout  may be the last  place one can have one’s existence acknowledged by a human, but it’s not  a place for  conversation. Sometimes you don’t want to muck around explaining what kind of pears these are, when you’d rather quiz the teenager at the till about her Instagram eyebrows and whether or not she wears those false lashes to school. Or the bag kid about their oh so not-Anglo name and features. Where are your parents from?  Are you Hazara? Did you  come on the Tampa? What was that like? Can you remember it? What’s it like growing up here between two cultures? What are your goals in life?  It’s frankly not appropriate. Besides, I like putting my cat food and my yoghurt in the same bag. Nobody needs that many bags.

Self-service is never entirely a one-person affair anyway.

I place my bag on the narrow counter beside the machine. How green and responsible I am, I think, shoving my hands around in it in a desperate attempt to make it stand up ready to receive my meagre goods. It teeters uncomfortably.

“Unexpected item. In bagging area,” says that lady. (You know that lady. She welcomes you to every supermarket in the land. I picture a young white woman in a dark recording booth, cans on, eternally repeating her catchphrase, “approval needed”. She has a monopoly right now, something I think needs addressing.   We might like the option of a male voice. Or one that says “please put your items in the bagging area” in  Gagana Samoa or Te Reo or Urdu or French.)

I take my bag off and put it on again. Nothing happens. I look around for help, see none and decide I can surely sort this out myself. I repeat my action. This time the self-service screen asks me whether I have my own bag. I do. To confirm this, I must now touch the screen.

Touching the screen at my supermarket used to be a dangerous act. A couple of years ago they installed a new floor  that, while shiny, somehow caused customers to become electrical conductors. We were getting zapped all over the place until they put special anti-static chains on the trolleys to earth us. To this day I can’t reach for a tin of tuna without inwardly flinching. Same goes for the first screen touch.

But it goes off without a hitch this time and my bag is placed.

“Unexpected item. In bagging area.”

This time a kindly young staff member is at my side immediately, swiping their special bunch of keys and pushing a few buttons to allow me to proceed. I’m an old hand at this and I ask them to stick around for a second while I swipe through my wine.

“Approval needed.”

I am 52 years old and my days of being asked for ID for alcohol purchase are long, long gone, but every time, I kind of wish they wouldn’t  push the “date not needed” button with quite such certainty. I got ID checked when I was 40 you know. Young people of today are dyeing their hair this colour. I could just be prematurely aged from all this cheap-ass wine.

Liquor purchase safely stashed, I continue, putting through a tin of salmon. Now the self-service station questions the weight, and with it, my integrity. It implies that I’m lying, that somehow I have replaced the tin of salmon with a tin of much more expensive salmon, or caviar, or an entire roast chicken. Once again, the key-swiping staff member comes to my aid.

I make my final purchase, a small tray of celery.

“Approval needed.”

Key-Swiper looks sheepish. “It’s because it’s on special.”




Black mood

I think I was ten when my mother adopted a particular outfit that would become my lifelong style inspiration. It was the early/mid 70s, so the outfit comprised a tight-fitting knit top and a pair of gigantic loon-style pants, to be worn, naturally, over enormous wedges or platforms. The pants had a yoke and cuffs – I remember this because my mother sewed, and the pattern was reused at least once – and the top had a 3D-look embroidered rose on it, but these were not the things that made it stay in my mind.

The outfit was entirely black. It got many compliments from Mum’s friends and I remember distinctly thinking: “When I am an adult I’m going to wear black all the time.” In my 30s I realised that I had done it. And I still do.

Black is my favourite colour to wear. Periodically of course one tries to adopt a “new black”, for a change,   or just wear some colourful skirt or dress because a piece of pretty fabric or aspirational fashion shot has urged one to. But without fail, that coloured garment winds up living in the wardrobe. Clothes I actually wear spend more time on the floordrobe. The fact that every single one of them is black makes it quite hard to sort through. But at least I know they all match. (Well, to a point. All black-wearers know there are hundreds of blacks.)

It may be no coincidence that I also started drinking my coffee black at 11. I don’t remember what time of year it was, but I do remember that it was a weekend, and there was no milk in the fridge. My parents had been drinking their (instant) coffee black for as long as I can remember, and because it was the 70s nobody had yet informed people that children should not drink tea or coffee, so I was given the option of taking mine black too, or having none at all. I piled in the sugar and discovered a new taste sensation.

I gave up sugar in hot beverages a few years later (for Lent: Catholicism is useful for cold-turkey quitting) but I’ll still add sugar to coffee if I’m feeling unwell. And to Arabic/Greek/Turkish coffee of course, because cardamom coffee sludge just ain’t the same without it.

I started dyeing my hair black at 18, kept it some variation on very dark brown for decades, and committed to natural platinum (ahem) at 42 or 43. What that decision made clear was that the time of messing round with non-black garments was also over. Nothing sets off my hair better than black. Since then I’ve travelled to foreign countries with just cabin baggage and an all-black capsule wardrobe. Bliss! Living through a natural disaster – which saw me turn up in Timaru for three months with  a duffel bag containing several pairs of tights and undies, plus one bra, a cardigan, a pair of leggings, boots and my leather jacket – reinforced for me how far one can stretch a personal uniform with a few cool accessories. (OK, and more than one bra. And a dress or several.) Black allows one to disappear, yet make a statement at the same time. It’s protective, and practical, and effortless. Jewellers put pearls on black velvet for a reason. It allows you to glow, quietly. It enhances your creamy depths.  It carries you from office to cocktail party to funeral to scuzzing round in the garden with a simple change of shoes. And it also carries with it a suggestion both of authority and discreet servitude, which is why , black-clad, you occasionally get mistaken for bar or retail staff. But this is a small price to pay.

Of course it annoys me that rugbyheads have stolen black on the fragile premise that “the All Blacks wear it”, but I’ve never worn black to be cool. Even though black is cool, of course. I know full well that not so many years back, these people sported double denim and polar fleece when they went to the Church in London and attended their so-called “games” of “sport”. Their adoption of black can only be a good thing for our nation’s sartorial reputation abroad.

Now if only we can do something about their shoes.