New Zealand Muscles (and Mussels)

Green Lip Mussels in a Blue Cheese- Sauvignon Blanc Bath

Green Lip Mussels in a Blue Cheese- Sauvignon Blanc Bath

Planet Earth flexes her biceps in New Zealand’s South Island – oh those salaciously shifting teutonic plates!

The above photo is one of a trillion I’ve been taking on our Oceania voyage, the trip I’ve always dreamed of taking; the landscape more salubrious than the Green Lip Mussels I purchased in a Kiwi run-of-the mill grocery store, pictured to the right bathing in locally produced blue cheese and Sauvignon Blanc.

I planned our itinerary in early Spring of last year; we’re in summer on the South Island and the best, most reasonable, accommodations are snapped up fast. My plan was concocted after reading dozens of travel forums, Trip Advisor reviews, and studying a well-reviewed hiking book. Certainly there are countless ways to approach this landscape based on what one prefers on a vacation – ours is suited to our love of hiking, wildlife and my desire to have a small kitchen at most of our stops. As well, aside from Queenstown, we wanted to avoid the the cities and large organized tour groups.

After a brief respite on Kauai, we began our journey on the Otaga Peninsula then onto the Catlins; both areas dripping wildlife, eye-candy allure. Environments of fur seals basking on rocks; sea lions fighting on the beach; Royal Albatross swooping above; hector and bottle-nose dolphins dancing in the Pacific waters…all yours to be had, if quiet, down under. Then, traveling counter-clockwise, we headed to the Fiordlands, our base for hiking various “legs” of the Kepler and Routeburn tracks. Here are a few pics, to date, from some of our hikes (my highlights from the Catlins in the penguin slide-show below). Sadly, we lost our “good” camera the second day of our trip, as mentioned.


Flew into Christchurch; connecting flight into Dunedin;and followed the coastline, clockwise. (Blue ink is flight; yellow highlight is driving in rental car.)


Kauai, Hawaii was our half-way to NZ, jet-lag combatant stop. Stayed at VRBO "tree-house" in the jungle.


The wave after this lashed at us, unexpectedly, inhaling Richard, destroying his camera, and giving both of us a good scare.


At last in New Zealand, blue, so blue, waters on the road to Milford Sound, intriguing shades of blue.


Greens dripping green, pictured here on the Kepler Track.


Around the next switch-back, tumbling down the mountains, there seems yet another waterfall to admire.


The Milford Road entrance to Routeburn Track (one of the "Great Walks".)


Key Summit; the view worth the long, strenuous climb up the mountain (off-shoot of Routeburn Track).


No worries of poisonous snakes or vines as we tramp across the island.


The Homer Tunnel carved into a mountain; the official gateway to the Milford Sound.


The clever Kea parrots - Homer Tunnel mascot – charm and annoy; this one posed for me as if wanting me to catch its best angle.


The Milford Sound; one of the most photographed landscapes in New Zealand.


In Fiordland, we stayed in a cottage in Manapouri (the gateway onto the "Great Walks" and the Doubtful Sound) on an alpaca farm.


Clear waters of Lake Manapouri; the heart of Fiordland.


One of the winding fiords cutting into the south of the South Island.


The trip through Doubtful Sound had an eerie magnificence.


Onto Queensland, where adrenaline-junkies peppered the landscape.


We can think of better ways of spending hundreds of dollars to hang from a rope in a bungee jump...


…like sampling the amazingly complex Pinot Noirs in Gibbston Valley; a bike ride away from the bungee jumpers, outside of Queenstown.


Then al fresco at a Waitira Creek "church". Warming into the New Zealand landscape, so far.


At the top of the Queenstown Hill Walk. What they call a "walk" here never ceases to amaze. Note this is not photoshopped enhanced; the lake is really that shade of blue.

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The endangered yellow-eyed penguin mama.

The endangered yellow-eyed penguin mama.

But for me, most enchanting of all (if enchantment can be quantified) was sitting on a stump in a petrified forest in Curio Bay, watching the rare yellow-eyed penguins in there native habitat of water, bush and nests.

Far better than prime-time, we watched a family drama unfold – well over an hour:   a mother returning from sea, a belly full of fish to feed  her fledglings. What could be more thrilling than sitting in an ancient, petrified forest in the South Pacific ocean, with penguins chattering several feet from your feet?

As they say on the South Island: Sweet ass!

Here’s a “Penguin Prime Time” slide-show imagined after reviewing my pics, accompanied by a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc. It’s far better suited to a pre-schooler personality, so please forgive me this indulgence keeping in mind that it’s the wine channeling Penguinese!


I've hunted the waters all day to catch a belly full of fish to feed my chicks – Penn & Gwen.


Waddling to our nest, I can't wait to see my kid-guins!


Exhausted after a hard day, I return to the bush to whines and pleas: "Feed me first," screeches Penn.


"No me!" cries Gwen.


"He always eats first" Gwen continues.


"Gwen's molting, losing her feathers. See how chubby she's become! I deserve to eat first!"


"Time-out! " cries Mama, sad they are so spoiled. "Back to your nests, without any supper, the both of you. Remember that your selfishness leaves you both with an empty belly."


"OK, you two. Let's see what the sea gull has to say about this matter."


Mother listens to sea gull, who says that if a penguin is molting and losing their feathers, that penguin must eat first – but save some fish for Penn! (The End)

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Recipe: Mussels in a Blue Cheese-Sauvignon Blanc Bath


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil, or a combination of both
  • 2-4 teaspoons minced garlic*
  • 2 cups Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 cup seafood stock
  • 2 cups packed crumbled blue cheese
  • 3 pounds mussels, (green lips, preferred) rinsed and scrubbed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly sliced bread


  1. Scrub shellfish under cold water, debearding for aesthetics, if desired.
  2. In a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat butter or oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until just fragrant, taking care not to burn; 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in wine and stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in blue cheese and whisk until melted and combined into a sauce. Cover pan and raise heat to medium-high; stir in mussels.
  4. When mussels have opened, remove pot from heat, discard unopened mollusks, and stir parsley into pan. Serve with bread for sopping sauce.

*The garlic I’ve been using in New Zealand is less pungent and more sweet then what I’m used to using in Michigan. I’ve been doubling up.

Number of servings (yield): 3-4

Time: 25 minutes

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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