Terrible times in Christchurch, New Zealand...Timbits in Western Australia???
It's horrible to hear about natural disasters anywhere in the world. Somehow, it seems tougher when you know a little about a place or have visited.
I just returned from a glorious trip to New Zealand, and now I find myself terribly occupied with the earthquake in Christchurch. I didn't get to Christchurch on my trip, but I flew into the airport and spoke with many people on my trip who were on their way or had just come back from the city.
It sounds pretty awful according to the latest reports in the New Zealand Herald, and apparently there are 100 or more people buried in the rubble of many of the town's buildings.
Oddly enough, I spent a day last week in the city of Napier, which is famous for a 1931 earthquake that killed some 200-plus people. The town reinvented itself after the quake, building quickly in entirely Art Deco style. It's now considered the Art Deco capital of the world, with nearly 150 well-preserved buildings in the central business district.
The Edmonton Journal today has a story on an Alberta couple, Betty and Jim Deeks, who were at the airport in Christchurch when the quake hit.
“It was so loud, and everything just started shaking,” said Betty. “I never want to live through that again.”
Betty was on her laptop updating their Facebook for their grown children at home when bits of glass and dust started to shower down on their heads, the Journal reported. They fled to a nearby cement pillar. Then evacuated to the middle of a parking lot outside. The airport did not collapse, but it was shut down for the remainder of the day.
Betty spoke from her brother-in-law’s home in Timaru, a two-hour drive south of Christchurch.
After the 6.3-magnitude tremor, she and Jim hiked two kilometres back to where they had dropped off their rental car a short time before. The agency re-rented them the car and they drove home. Their luggage remains at the airport, and they’ll have to rebook a flight.
If you're considering a vacation in the next while, I'd strongly consider giving New Zealand a try. They could use the lift from foreign visitors, and it's an absolutely glorious place to visit, with fine weather this time of year, an incredible array of attractions, scenery that ranges from alpine mountains to sandy beaches, plus fabulous food and wine. And the friendliest people you'll ever meet.
On an entirely different note, here's a great report from the Star's Richard Ouzounian, who finds himself in Western Australia...
PERTH - When you spot a Timbit on your plate 18,000 km from Toronto, you can bet that a Canadian is in the kitchen.
I was having a sumptuous Valentine's Day dinner with my wife, Pam, at Opus Restaurant in the wonderful Richardson hotel here in Perth, when the cheese course arrived. Okay, the menu called it "Cinnamon Donut Holes with Warm Brie, Glazed Fruit" but I know one of Tim Horton's tiny tots when I see them.
Sure enough, the Executive Chef at the Hotel is Todd Cheavins, he's from Yorkton, Sask. and we had a very pleasant chat with him. He got hooked on cooking thanks to a teacher in high school, spent his apprenticeship at Chateau Lake Louise, and then hopped around the world, from Beijing to Dubai, before finally settling down in Perth, Australia. It's such a fantastic city, you can't blame him. We've had three straight days of 30+C weather with bright sunny skies and some of the best beaches anywhere.
Cheavins admits that he goes home every now and then at Christmas and still loves Canada, but doesn't miss the weather. His cuisine at Opus has won him and the Richardson Hotel several awards and I can speak highly of his work. He's great with Australian fish like Red Emperor and Marron, but he hasn't forgotten his Canadian roots, as I noted from the maple syrup jelly that accompanied his "Dry Chocolate Cream, Yoghurt and Orange Ice Cream" dessert.
One night, in fact, Cheavins created an entire Canadian menu for a special occasion, even finding a way to create a "Pemmican Carpaccio" to get things started. And dessert that night featured three mini Canadian treats: a butter tart, pumpkin pie and - of course - a Nanaimo bar!
We discussed the fact that a lot of the greatest Australian wines never get to Canada and he volunteered the information that - on his last visit home - he checked out what was available at the LCBO.
"The cheaper Australian wines they sell aren't really a good indication of what we can offer, but the ones in the middle price point should give people a good impression of us."
I loved Perth, Opus Restaurant, the Richardson Hotel and Todd Cheavins.
And I plan to lobby Timmy Ho's on my return to include "Cinnamon Donut Holes with Warm Brie, Glazed Fruit" on their breakfast menu. My wife said it paired perfectly with a Yalumba Hand Picked Viognier 2008 from the Barossa Valley in Souther Australia, but I think it would be just swell with a large double-double.