Somehow it is already February and I am only just downloading our summer holiday snaps. Ed is back in the kitchen unrolling a new menu with ingredients that have grown over the summer vacation. I’m back to the grind and focused on producing a 2×4 metre billboard project for Wellington. But that doesn’t involve food, so I won’t speak of it here.

This is post about stepping away and what we experienced when we were rock-pooling, snorkeling and walking in Northland. It was lovely to have Ed’s parents visit New Zealand and enable us to step away and reflect: thank you Sarah and Simon! We sat around various dinner tables of various baches and talked of the year just-been. But more importantly, we talked of the kind of year we wanted to have in 2014. We’re both glad we began our year the way we intend to continue: more time in nature, and more time in the ocean. A highlight for us was being in the magnificent water around Poor Knights Island. It felt great to take a step towards our diving certification, which is a goal for 2014.

It was also inspiring to have so many conversations about ecology and sustainability in relation to the restaurant industry. I have a background in organic horticulture and am a hobby botanist. I’m also outspoken on my views about compost, food waste, sustainability and local production centres. I’m thankful that Ed is equally passionate about these things or else we might have some very heated debates. Two experiences during our holiday generated the most discussion between us: one involving samphire and one with salmon in polystyrene. We live in a suburb teeming with the delicious plant samphire, which is unsafe to eat because of the poor water quality. I’ve tried to cultivate it at home in sandy, rocky beds and made many trips with buckets to collect salt water – but to no avail.  We were so happy to find vast patches of it in Northland and lie together by rockpools, enjoying samphire’s plump, salty crunch. We did not have the means to catch fish ourselves, and we lamented that our option was buying farmed salmon from the South Island, packaged in Auckland and then sent to Northland. Hopefully next time we travel North, we will have more means and skills to enjoy kai moana gathered together.

Working with local growers, planting kitchen gardens, and an increased awareness of the environment are restaurant trends I’m glad to see flourishing. Stafford Road Wine Bar is about to release a “Kitchen Philosophy” statement to accompany the daily-printed menu. My favorite part of this statement is the list of seasonal produce we have grown or picked from suppliers’ Auckland gardens. I’m eager for a spare day to photograph the development of the kitchen garden and the unusual plants Ed has been propagating there! At least I have finally selected some special moments from our holiday…. Enjoy and Happy New Year from us!