Hangovers aren’t just caused by beer, they are caused by everything that surrounds drinking. Food, wine, partying and having a good time are all causes and here at My Aching Head we are slowly documenting having a good time.

Sharing candy with a stranger

Having just read Tammi’s post on the role that food and eating out takes in Italian social interactions got me questioning our own society. How do we interact with others during food. What about these so-called “share” plates? Or perhaps the “communal” tables? Do we actually share? Is food or even wine a great social lubricant here in Australia?

Eating – and dining are a very personal thing here. Going out to dinner for a birthday, cooking dinner as a show of thanks, the family roast, a romantic dinner for 2. These are all ways in which we share our emotion and our friendship with each other through food. Each of these examples though are an inherently private experience. Having a stranger crash a birthday party would be construed as rude, a housemate inviting themselves into the thankyou meal may be alright, perhaps a little awkward and even an overly friendly waitress may strange during a romantic dinner.

And there is nothing wrong with feeling any of that. But couldn’t it – shouldn’t it be so much more than that? Isn’t eating a way of bringing in new friends and acquaintances? A shared meal with a new flatmate, going to the inlaws for dinner or having coffee as an initial business meeting. Each a common practice so why not with a complete stranger? Why are we so protective of our food when we are eating out?

But are we as a society afraid of taking this to the next step? Is having the only 2 spare seats at the communal table a little bit strange? Do we move the newspaper off the seat to invite someone to take a seat? Do we make eye contact? Say G’day? I don’t, but I should. Why not? Are these rituals so entrenched that other people entering in them is foreign and unwelcome. I know my mother would love the idea of the communal seating. Her super friendliness would have her knowing the life story of all her fellow diners in minutes.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was eating at Cumulus enjoy a late meal of cured meats. We had lucked out and scored a seat at the big communal table across from 3 people. As they were struggling through the lamb shoulder I asked them how they were enjoying it. They loved it and they offered for us to finish it. It felt awkward as we finished the piece of meat and though we thanked them for their generosity that’s where our relationship ended. This was the perfect peace offering, a breaking of bread, an offering of the olive branch and yet we didn’t converse. We shared no wine nor even a good bye.

We often think of bars as a place to go to meet people (though how good it actually is is debatable). There is a certain casualness, the bar forms a shared ground and naturally strangers will meet. Add a little bit of wine and conversation can flow and friendships may form. And now as restaurants are sharing more and more features with bars; will this same social dynamic occur?

This idea of sharing your meal with strangers isn’t that foreign when staying in backpackers. Often enough someone you don’t know will offer you a cup of tea, a plate of pasta or even a beer. It breaks down the barriers – it’s easy to enjoy a beer together with no common language. In fact, I learnt a lot about loving food from strangers in hostels. But where do we draw the line? Why is it that when we are out of our comfort zone we will let someone in, but at a restaurant or cafe perhaps not?

I’m really curious to learn more about how other cultures are affected by this. Is sharing eating experiences with strangers common elsewhere? Is there a shift towards social or anti-social eating?

I suppose it all begs the question. If a stranger offers you a lolly, do you accept?

Luciano’s, Queenstown

Luciano’s can be described quite simply, great meat cooked brilliantly. If you take away the mobster theme; the walls covered in quotes from gangster films, the Tommy gun mounted on the wall near the entrance, and the blues brother’s car that drives around town; then the food can stand on it’s own. I believe Luciano’s is the best restaurant in Queenstown – the food isn’t quite as refined as a couple of other places, however the price is great and the vibe is familiar.

The origins of the food As the menu suggests (see picture) the produce is all sourced as locally as possible and is as fresh as possible. The menu is italian, pizza, pasta, and meat. I haven’t even considered the pizza or pasta – the “3 hour slow roasted 90 day aged Hereford rib-eye baked gratin, seasonal veg, whole garlic & pinot jus” or “Wild fiordland venison, bacon arancini, Sicilian caponata & cherry balsamic” are far too tempting. To make matters even better, the prices are great – any one of these mains for $30  would be a steal but the entire menu is downright outrageous. Couple this with the fact that the portions are quite large and not only do you have brilliant food, it is at great value.

The food isn’t thae only thing going for it, the service is great; friendly, prompt and courteous and the wine list is well considered, a good range of prices and varieties but nothing over the top or pretentious.

What more can I say? Luciano’s probably isn’t going to feature on the list of New Zealand’s best restaurants but it damn well should. It encapsulates everything that the south holds dear – great food, good produce and a warm friendly atmosphere.

Duck & goose liver pate

The duck and goose liver pate. I’m not normally a fan of pate however this was sweet and rich but not the flavour wasn’t too overpowering.

Slow cooked wild rabbit & hare, grilled brioche, quince c

Slow cooked rabbit and hare ragu with brioche and chutney. I’m a sucker for ragu and this didn’t fail to impress. The gamey meats are perfectly suited for slow cooking – it falls apart perfectly but still maintains a great texture in your mouth. Served with brioche and chutney what more can I say?


Half a duck w baked kumara & leek, green beans, toasted almonds & caramelised orange sauce. I only tasted a little bit of the duck and the meat was beautiful but the skin was a touch too fatty. As far as I’m concerned this was the only blemish and perhaps hard to avoid.


The main attraction. Wild fiordland venison, bacon arancini, Sicilian caponata & cherry balsamic. If I didn’t like all the other food so much, I’d say this was my favourite dish. There’s something about venison that makes me wish for a baby’s bib so I don’t have to hold the drool in my mouth. This was no exception. The sweetness of the balsamic reduction cut through the weight of this dish brilliantly.

Rhubarb & hazelnut crumble, berry sorbet

Rhubarb crumble with berry sorbet. Warm, comforting rhubarb. Sweet, acidic sorbet. Almond meal crumble. A well-balanced almost savoury dessert.

Adventures in Queenstown

Northburn Station - Central OtagoOver the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time in Queenstown. I lived there for about 18 months and have been for a couple of holidays before and since. Needless to say, I love the place; it has a unique combination of good food, great bars, plenty of things to do and see and a truly amazing surrounds and that is without mentioning the wine. Having just spent the better part of 8 weeks in Queenstown juggling eating, drinking, snowboarding and working I’m happy to be home yet sad to leave – it has been a great 2 months.

I don’t think I could say that over the 2 months we’ve eaten at every good restaurant in the resort – but we’ve damn well tried and I think the only restaurant on our list that we didn’t get to was closed for a private booking on our final night in town. There has been lots of meals, plenty of wine, a few photos and about 67 hamburgers to write about so it might span a few posts.

A few of the highlights from this trip have been:

  1. Northburn Station: Spending the afternoon talking to Tom and Jan about the young winery and function centre that is Northburn Station.
  2. Botswana Butchery: I’m a sucker for massive pieces of roasted meat so the slow-cooked lamb shoulder took me hook line and sinker.
  3. Eichardt’s Private Hotel – Far and away my favourite place in Queenstown, the cocktails are always great and the whole place makes you feel like a king.
  4. Motogrill – Being treated like a regular after not having been there for 18 months.

Gone camping


Posting may be a little slow over the next few weeks as we are in Queenstown snowboarding. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of eating and drinking.

Here’s a photo…

Bruny Island Oysters

8:30 am is too early to be eating oysters. Well so I thought. Sometimes you have to take a hit for the team and given the opportunity to “research” the freshest oysters possible – 8:30 doesn’t sound good, but it could be worse.

Bruny Island OystersPeople rave about Get Shucked at Bruny Island but this outing was so much better. You see, Andrea’s dad knows a guy from the pub who runs an oyster farm on Bruny Island and he was happy to take us out on the boat and show us the farm. In this case “show us out” is french for, we can tag along while Jeff gorges himself on oysters. Happy to oblige.

Oysters are the sort of thing that most people probably have no idea how they are farmed, but the process isn’t complicated and seems to be extremely gentle on the environment.

Bruny Island Oysters The farm is in a reasonably protected bay on the “open” side of Bruny island. It consists of a series of baskets suspended on frames about 30cm above the low-tide line. This is the most common way of raising oysters and provides the best way to access the oysters for grading and harvesting. The oysters aren’t attached to anything, they are just kept loose within the baskets.

Bruny Island Oysters

Oyster Baskets

There are also a few “deep lines” which are a set of similar baskets hanging from a float out in the middle of the bay. The baskets are suspended 2m-5m below the water and the oysters grow much quicker on these lines however smaller oysters can’t be grown in them as they get washed out of the baskets and there is a lot more work involved hauling the oysters out of the water.

All the oysters start their life on the farm as small 10c piece sized oysters and are raised in small baskets standing in a protected area of the bay. Over time, these oysters get larger and every 8-12 weeks are graded and sorted into larger baskets with other oysters of similar sizes. As they get larger they get moved into a more open area of the bay. Water flow is important for the growth of the oysters and as the day progresses the swell picks up and sweeps through all of the baskets.

Bruny Island Oysters It was quite a surprise to me to learn that it takes approximately 18 months for an oyster to grow to a saleable size. There isn’t a lot of complexity in the actual growing of them but there is a constant maintenance aspect of grading, monitoring the health and making sure they aren’t growing too large – if they do the shell can be chipped back. There is a limited market for over-sized oysters (generally Asia) so keeping them to a standard size makes them much easier to sell.

While we were there the oysters across the farm had just finished spawning. This is their mating period and the oysters lose all of their fat and go from being a lively pearl colour to a pale translucent colour. During this time the product is barely sellable and for these 6 or so weeks business for an oyster farmer isn’t great. It’s definitely something to look for when purchasing them yourself.

Giant OysterThankfully the oysters had started recovering from this and we were able to sample a good range of different sizes and take home a good lot ready for some kilpatrick deliciousness that evening. I think I might be forever scarred from seeing Andrea’s father having to take 3 bites and a good amount of chewing on 1 particularly large, steak-sized oyster.

The majority of the oysters from this farm are shipped off weekly, unshucked to Christies seafood in the Sydney Fish Market.

Have a look at the rest of the photos. I reckon there’s some crackers.


To eat: Baked Beans courtesy of Tresna.
Now, Two Metre Tall cider (more on this later).
Next. Some Young Punks “The Squids Fist” Sangiovese/Shiraz.
Later. Running with Bulls Tempranillo.

(this order may vary)

I’m Turning Vegetarian

Well ok, I’m not. That title is just a sensational attention grabbing headline. But, this week’s dinners are going to be pretty much exclusively vegetarian. The only meat products we bought at the market today were 2 snapper and some bacon (for breakfast.) We are also trying to step away from our regular carbohydrates of pasta and mashed potato and experiment with a few other “fillers.” There’s going to be beans, lentils, quinoa and perhaps some barley. I’m going to try and avoid rice as well, but I think that’s probably unlikely due to the likelihood of atleast a couple of curries.

Why you ask? Well I think our cooking revolves too much around pasta and stewy casseroles. I love them, but it’s pretty unimaginative and uncreative so placing some restrictions on the menu should help us think outside the box.

Anyway, what recipes do you suggest?