Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chili Chocolate Pavlova

Kiwi's are proud of their Pavlova, their baked meringue dessert. They claim to have invented it but for my money, they should let Australia take credit, because they are invariably oversweetened to the point of making my teeth hurt. The things are in stores everywhere and even our kayak guide brought one along, 'lovingly' accented with canned fruit cocktail. It was a perfect compliment to my chicken sandwich, the one labeled 'vegetarian.' Okay, maybe the chickens were vegetarian.

I made eight of these little desserts in Queenstown after I found my yoga friend Peggy. QT is where people do all the adrenaline sports, or at least where they were pioneered. Peggy's trying to balance all the hyperactivity by teaching yoga at her new project, Studio Sangha.

When I arrived, she was living in the master bedroom of a luxury executive home on a hill with a view of the mountains and lake, one she was renting from Liz, the owner. Peggy and Liz were gathering some friends for dinner and since this was my first time in months to play in a fully decked kitchen, I agreed to make dessert.

I planned to make my famous-in-yoga-school chili chocolate cake, but an egg failure meant I had to modify the recipe. In this case, I cut way back on the chocolate and, sans springform pan, made what became fluffy little cakes using a muffin tin. Then I decorated them with just-picked cherries, mint from Liz's garden, a dollop of whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle.

The labor paid off. The treats were delicious and not too sweet. Liz and her friends were suitably impressed, one of whom offering me 'any kind of woman you want'. Apparently middle-aged men who are skilled beyond the barbecue are in high demand. Alas, I thanked her for the generous offer, then did the dishes. I've long said that if there is one room a man must be confident in, it is the kitchen.


ANCHORAGE, NEW ZEALAND - This is just a little joke for my Alaskan friends. While they were enjoying sub zero temperatures, this was a scene from the kayak meeting point. There may well have been 50 boats lined up on this beach, waiting for a water taxi. Other visitors hiked in (tramped, in kiwi-speak) along a track into the Abel Tasman Park.
This park gets a lot of use, easily several hundred kayakers a day. It was the busy season and the water taxis were maxed out. The captain of my vessel said his record was 13 boats. "Never again," he said.


One of my favorite outdoor activities is one I stole from an artist named Andy Goldsworthy. This amazing fellow spends hours and hours building stuff, creating, using just the stuff he finds around wherever he is.
I started creating this when I was kayaking in the Abel Tasman Park. I went out for a two day, one night experience and had a few hours before I had to board my houseboat at Anchorage.
To be honest, this is only half mine. I found it on a walk to Cleopatra's Pools, a series of pleasant drop pools in a small river. After walking about an hour, I passed two German hikers who decided that since they'd hiked the requisite 60 minutes, the water they were looking at must have been Cleopatra's Pools. They shrugged as it didn't look much like a pool to any of us, but I decided to keep on going. With a week of New Zealand parks under my belt, I figured (correctly) that there would be a sign. Sure enough, ten minutes later, I found the sign and made the detour up the side trail. Soon after, I came upon this rock decorated with round stones along its top rim. I decided to play along and run the spine up the middle. It was tricky because I couldn't place round stones on a sloping rock, so I had to find flat stones. I began at the top with larger stones and after placing a few, the slope of the host rock increased and it took quite a while to find stones sharp, flat and balanced enough to stand on their own and not slide off. I had several failures, but since I was working from the top down, I avoided any domino effect that would have taken out the whole run. As I worked, the stones became fewer and fewer until all I had were small ones. That's why I tapered their size along the route. I quite liked the vertebral effect that contrasted with the round stones above. For more of Andy's work, check out: