In these catch-up posts on my four months in New Zealand, it's worth including an update on the coffee shop I endorsed so highly back in October after a weekend in Raglan. My friends and I returned to their bach for New Years weekend and we were all very excited for stops at the distinctive artsy Tongue & Groove as often as we could justify needing coffee in one day.
As it turns out, we walked right by the entrance to the cafe and then stopped at the doors to the next store, confused and bewildered. (I was the one more so bewildered as my confidence in how well I had learned the blocks of Raglan's main street in my last visit were now in question and my generally reliable sense of direction also up for examination -- at least internally, for, upon stopping, the rest of my company immediately understood that this familiar spot had simply been replaced. That's right, entirely gutted and replaced.)
While we all shared in a healthy dose of mourning for Tongue & Groove as we sat down in these new surroundings, it didn't take long for us to appreciate what was before us: The Shack. A bright white sunny old beach house turned cafe with less grunge than its previous resident and a bit more swank. The wide wooden boards lining wall and ceiling had been entirely painted over in clean white and uniform paper globe lights hung high over our heads. Apart from the warm-hued wood trim still around windows and doorways, the only other prominent colors came in striped fabric in cheerful oranges, yellows, pinks, and whites that covered a low L-shaped bench running along the back wall and part of the length of the room.
I have no critiques of their redesign. I think they created a lovely new space that I would be happy to live in. However (if I must point out a negative), it did seem awfully chick-y, though that didn't keep the place from staying full all weekend long with both men and women...my sister and I even sat next to some high school age boys while waiting for a take-away order of curly fries.
Somehow I neglected to get any pictures of the food and don't remember anything too distinct about it. Except those fries. Kiwis seem to live their fries (most often referred to by the British term chips) because I really don't think the amount of fries I'd eaten the previous five years amounted to the quantity I consumed in New Zealand...especially if you count Burger Fuel's kumara chips, which have already received one mention of affection on this site.
Anyway, back to The Shack's fries. We got a rather late breakfast our first morning in Raglan, so my friend took it upon himself to jump straight into lunch fare and order curly fries. At 11am and paired with my morning coffee, I was not drawn in and let the rest of the table pick away. However, every time we walked by the sidewalk-lined tables outside the cafe throughout the weekend, every table seemed to have at least one large bowl piled high with the cute curly fries complete with a bright sprinkling of fresh parsley. So on the last day the craving got to me, and as we were heading out of town, my sister and I made one final stop and placed an order for the road and grabbed a cold sweaty bottle of ginger beer. I won't blow these fries out of proportion by saying that they were the best I've ever had, but they hit the spot on that summer afternoon. Their batter was crisp and lightly coated each pure white spiral, hitting that spot of salty and starchy that many of us wish we could stifle.
As for the rest of the holiday season, my sister and I got to spend Christmas day
with dear old family friends and feel truly welcomed as family. This was in Tauranga, a city we only spent a few days in and that I remember most strongly as the place with the Wild Life Park...a quirky experience recorded on my 35mm, which reminds me of all the rolls of film in my closet nagging to be developed.
Between Christmas and New Years we were in Taranaki near New Plymouth having a wonderful time at our friends' dairy farm. I kept procrastinating on pulling out my camera during this time and sadly realize now that I have very little to show of the spectacular views we saw and even less of the dear faces of people we grew closer to. I'll offer what little I have.
Stay tuned. Just one more post on NZ, and then I'm jumping into the exciting happenings of my present life in Bellingham, Washington. Truly, they are exciting! I can't believe the opportunities that have opened up to me recently and can't wait to share.