Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Holiday weekend.

Monday was the Queen's Birthday Holiday (in all States - and New Zealand - except Western Australia, where it is celebrated on 27 September). Go figure, the actual birthday of Queen Elizabeth II (the Monarch, not the ship) is 21 April.

Any excuse for a gin and tonic.

So. Three wet, rainy days on the coast. I wouldn't call it miserable, I'd call it perfect weather for long walks along the ocean beach clifftop culminating at the cafe where dogs frequently outnumber people. Well you do enjoy the walk more when you know there's coffee at the end of it. Or in the middle in this case.

It wasn't all that cold, we were able to sit outside and watch the massive black rainclouds scudding across the sky and the waves crashing beyond the ti-tree. Against the clouds, four pelicans - such ungainly looking creatures when not in flight - hovered in formation on the wind, before being joined by several more, whereupon they all wheeled off together in some other direction, maybe to their nests in the cliffs somewhere along the craggy coast.

Goldie had an eye on the other dogs. There was the usual bundle of Golden Retrievers and Labradors, a couple of Irish Water Spaniels, a Boxer or two, several terriers, assorted toy dogs and a couple of Cavaliers.

Then Frank the Fat Dog arrived. Frank lives locally. He is a Staffordshire crossed with maybe a Labrador and maybe something else. White with a large black patch over one eye, Frank is very fat, very well-mannered, and very happy with his lot in life. Every day, his owner allows him to wander around to the cafe, where he ambles from table to table. He can recognise food, probably by the plates being delivered. So he will completely ignore you if you order only coffee.

Once orders have been delivered, Frank will sit close by your table as if a member of your party, and wait patiently until he is given a morsel. A piece of the house-made sausage from the giant all day breakfast with the lot, maybe a slice of smoked bacon from the egg and bacon foccaccia, perhaps a crust from the blueberry cheesecake on a chocolate biscuit base. If you ignore him he will wander away to the next table. And the next. And the next. Frank is living in a world in which food never ends.

One day, Frank will die of heart failure. Ah, but the quality of life! What lonely dog, tied up in some suburban back yard, would not trade their life for Frank's?

Coffees finished, we left the cafe to continue our walk, leaving Frank lusting (politely) after someone's gourmet burger (foccaccia, rocket, tomato, bacon, poached egg, cheese, beef pattie, house-made chutney in a little pot on the side).

Later, the black clouds could hold their contents no longer and the heavens broke open. There's nothing like watching a heavy downpour over the sea.

In the early evening, we visited the local cinema where The Day After Tomorrow was playing. Couple of hours later, we emerged, glancing anxiously at the glowering sky.

Home late to grilled porterhouse steaks, rare, with braised mushrooms as a sauce and colcannon on the side.

The rain beat down on the roof. Goldie snored on her tartan rug.

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