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Last Sunday, on the final day of the Auckland Food Tour I asked everyone what their favourite experience or most delicious dish was and no-one replied.
We all agreed every single moment was a pure delight. Everywhere we went, people welcomed us and we were privileged to peek into their world of farming, hospitality or manufacturing. The warmth of the locals, diversity of food, profusion of fresh produce, variety of restaurants, individuality of cafes and abundance of spectacular views combined to make this tour completely magnificent. How could you not have fun when you’re with people like this – look at those smiles!
We had an action packed itinerary and were guided by a local all the way. From the moment we met Elle Armon-Jones we knew she was a bit special. Funny, generous and immensely well informed she introduced us to a multitude of her really cool food friends!
We learnt how to shuck oysters plucked fresh from the water, in the sunshine on a lovely old vessel (with local wines to keep us from getting thirsty) in the sheltered bays of Mahurangi.
Matakana honey was lifted from the hive, scraped straight from the comb and we licked it off our fingers with the bees buzzing overhead.
Sauvignon Blanc vines were first planted in NZ at Waimauku. New owners have grand plans for the Hunting Lodge Winery with a brewery addition to compliment manicured grounds and stylish cellar door. Wine tasting at this vineyard was an honour.
The Can do Kiwi attitude is refreshing and magic. Never done before, 30 years ago, planting olive trees on this land with such high rainfall was a risky business. But with trial, error and persistence, superb oil was pressed and we are all now benefitting.
We dined on a feast of totally unique dishes at Aucklands newest and most exciting restaurant, watching as our dishes were created in the tiny open kitchen. Chef and part owner, Kyle Street explained how to smoke yoghurt so we could make his ‘Ugly Carrots’ in our home kitchens. Pure New Zealand openness and generosity.
Food is exciting, innovative and very, very fresh. Tiny warm doughnuts with Duck Liver Parfait and Pinot Noir Syrup. Tania Cheese made by a 72 year old, lady dairy farmer, with milk from one of only four cows.
Smoked mushrooms soaked in barrels of red wine. Venison Meatballs with parsnip puree and thinly shaved raw cauliflower florets, drizzled with rich meaty concentrated gravy. Light and creamy oyster mousse. Handmade milky Mozzarella with basil and tomatoes, simply served knotted as it wanted for nothing more.
I could go on and on, but I’m going to stop here.
In 2018 we are returning. The food capital of Wellington will surpass our expectations I have been told and Hawkes Bay boasts the best Farmers Market in NZ as well as being the ‘food bowl’ of the country. I know there is so much more to discover.
Travelling home, as always after these tours the group is inspired and filled with a longing to cook for loved ones. Whether it’s something newly discovered or an old family favourite, someone, somewhere will be delighted.
Are you a curious, food-loving traveller who enjoys learning, maybe you’d like to join us next time.
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