Thursday, January 17, 2013


The two girls sat close, touching hands in a gesture of both familiarity and affection. They were similar in age but not in attire. One was all blonde ponytail and Juicy track suit, the other, her mother's clothes. I would have guessed them to be around seventy years.

They were talking, as girlfriends do, about boys.

Miss Ponytail: “I need a break from Lenny.”

Miss Drab: “You should meet Don.” “He's nothing like Lenny, you'd like him.”

Miss P: “Is he fat? I don't like fat.”

Miss D: “He's not fat.”

Miss P: “Does he have hair? I like hair.” Her voice trailed off, lost in the image of her ideal man.
“You know, she continues, switching back to Lenny, “it's not that he's not a good man. “He calls me twice a day.

Miss D: “Twice a day?”

Miss P: “Twice a day. But what I don't like is his obsession with money. It has to be the best restaurant, the most expensive coat. You know, it's just too much pressure.”

Miss D: “Pressure?”

Miss P: “All I'm looking for is a nice, normal Jewish man. Is that too hard to find?”

Miss D: “It's not too hard to find, but I think you're being fussy.”

Miss P: “Fussy?”

Miss D: “You can't afford to be fussy at your age.”

Miss P: “What do you mean, 'my age'?”

Miss D: “Oy vey, you're no spring chicken. How often does a man come along with his own teeth and hair?”

Miss P: “Lenny doesn't have his own teeth.”

Miss D: “But Lenny can look down and check that his shoes match his belt. That's no mean feat in this day and age.”

Miss P: “His shoes have to be the most expensive shoes.”

Miss D: “I don't think your trouble is men.”

Miss P: “What do you mean?”

Miss D: “So take Lenny. There's nothing wrong with Lenny. Plenty of girls would like Lenny.”

Miss P: “What are you saying?”

Miss D: “But it's all 'Lenny's got problems'. 'He's too obsessive about money...'”

Miss P: “'You don't understand.”

Miss D: “What do you mean, 'I don't understand?”

Miss P: “You're not with Lenny.”

Miss D: “Who said I want to be with Lenny?”

Miss P: “If you were with Lenny, you would know what I mean.”

The train pulled up to their station and they both got up to leave.

Miss D: “And if it doesn't work out with Lenny, come meet Don.”

Miss P “I'm not interested in Don.”

Miss D: “How do you know?”

Miss P: “You said he was nothing like Lenny.”

© 2013 Jackie Maw Tolliver 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


If New Zealand's not on your bucket list, it should be. Google it's gorgeousness. I was back there recently, this time the location was Queenstown, Adventure Capital of the World. I stopped off at the legendary Amisfield Winery...

There are few moments more seductive than sitting outside on a summer's day, overlooking a stunning landscape while tucking into the finest seasonal food and wine on offer. That's why you come to Amisfield Winery, the views are rugged, the hospitality is not.

Located just outside the gold miners village of Arrowtown, Amisfield Winery is revered by both local and an international clientele. Last time I dined here, we shared the restaurant with the late Colonel Gadaffi's son and his eclectic entourage.

I was seated and watered by a cheery young thing, who at first glance looked like she had suffered a wardrobe malfunction. However after seeing the other waitresses dressed similarly, I realized the dungaree look was meant to be 'off the shoulder'.

Having studied the menu, I opted for 'Trust the Chef' as recommended online and by the wait staff. It was a good choice. Chef Jay Sherwood decides what he'll cook you on the day, based on what's seasonal and what's good.

I ordered a glass of the 2009 Fume Blanc to start. More Chardonnay than Sav thanks to the aging in oak barrels and it pared well with the first two dishes. The first being the duck roulette, served on wood with grilled sour dough and plum jam. Smooth, tasty and devourable like a rich man's marmite.

The second dish was gazpacho. The chilled soup was perfect for a hot, still day and I discovered the silky oily- ness was caused naturally by the tomatoes being left overnight with salt on before blending.

First glass down, I opted next for a three glass wine taster and chose the Saignee Rosé, the award winning Rocky Knoll Pinot Noir and for dessert, a glass of the sweet Noble.

The third dish was cooked salmon with crispy capers and shaved fennel accompanied with a garden fresh salad and manuka honey dressing. Again served on wood, it was light and full of flavor and a perfect pare for the Rosé.

The fourth dish was roasted ribeye with crème fraiche and horseradish served with an ample side plate of minty potato salad. The benefits of being early I suppose, but I was fortunate enough to get a good number of roasted end slices – char grilled and delish. The Pinot Noir was a good complement.

Dessert was a light panna cotta, the intense berry jam sitting underneath the fruit was a wonderful kick of flavor.

Some two hours and $98 later my leisurely lunch at Amisfield Winery came to an end. It was every bit as pleasing as I had hoped and wild horses won't stop be returning next time.

© 2013 Jackie Maw Tolliver 


As a Brooklyn-based, New Zealand writer, I am excited to be jumping on a plane home to Christchurch. The locals call it 'the quaky aisles.' They've had over 13,000 earthquakes since The. Big. One. which hit on February 22nd, 2010. The ground shook so hard it claimed 182 souls and took most of the inner city with it. The ground has stopped shaking and the rebuild is underway. I am keen to see it.

After landing at Christchurch's new terminal, the first order of business is breakfast. If you're a coffee lover, you'll appreciate New Zealand baristas. This small country has had a huge influence on the New York coffee culture. 

I head to Black Betty's Cafe; My eggs benedict is served on toasted ciabatta with hollandaise sauce mixed with grainy mustard and crispy shards of bacon. Thoroughly delicious with the standout being the eggs. As I slice into them, they burst into flowing rivers of molten orange. Free range heaven. My flat white coffee (more espresso, less milk) has the obligatory dark crema reserved for the realms of only the most knowledgable coffee wizards. 

Fat and happy, I am now ready for the grim task of checking out my ripped and torn city. Nothing prepares you for the shock of what you're about to see. Entire blocks have disappeared, and all that is left are piles and piles of rubble. Crocodile tears well up at the brutality of it all. 

Despite this, Christchurch is still such a beautiful city. Lonely Planet recently named Christchurch the 6th 'Must See' destination on the planet, a hat tip surely for the beautiful, resilient Kiwi spirit and a rebuild that still caters for the numerous visitors coming to the 'Garden City.' Filming the trilogy 'Lord of the Rings' in and around these parts hasn't hurt either.

However you choose to fill in your day, the Re-start Village (check out the creative way they use shipping containers), punting down the Avon, shopping at any of the large retail Malls and of course, eating, and drinking some of the world's best wine, there is something for everyone. New restaurants and cafes seem to be opening daily, and the list is growing. Check out Restaurant Schwass in a Box, the Bodhi Tree, Pedro's Lamb Box and King of Snake, and you'll be left in no doubt as to the legitimacy of just some of Christchurch's talented resident chefs. 

Picking a hotel in Christchurch is easier now too, there are a lot less of them. For me however, they don't come much better than The George, a contemporary, boutique hotel overlooking the Avon river with plenty of free parking.

Coming home this time has been very emotional but also hugely heartening to see the innovativeness and the progress going ahead. Christchurch and New Zealand should be on everyone's bucket list because the natural beauty is so spectacular, and the friendliness of its people legendary. And if you're lucky, you just might even meet a Hobbit or two. 

© 2013 Jackie Maw Tolliver