New Zealand: A Culinary Journey

These days, the First-Years are bundling up and getting ready for the spring semester. Fending off the jetlag and remembering to drive on the right side of the road in the US has been challenging at times, but we have our recent Kiwi memories to keep us company. This blog post takes a bit of a departure than posts of the past in that we reflect not on plants and gardens, but rather on FOOD.  It is in absolutely no particular order that I present to you our most memorable New Zealand food experiences.

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Pavlova at the Novotel Hotel, Wellington.

  1. Pavlova: The national dessert of New Zealand. Given its prestigious title, it was extremely hard to find on a restaurant menu. I was determined to try it, and we managed to find it at two places. Although I was not blown away with these examples of pavlova, I still feel sufficiently inexperienced to pass judgement. I am willing to try additional pavlovas for research purposes and will welcome any opportunity to return to do so!

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    A delicious, golden kiwifruit!

  2. Kiwifruit: Don’t simply call it “kiwi” because you’d be referring to the bird! In New Zealand, the fuzzy brown fruits with green interiors are called kiwifruits. We also discovered a new treasure: the golden kiwifruit! Similar in size to the green variety, golden kiwifruits are nearly hairless, with a thinner skin and a golden interior. We found them at local produce stands and they were delicious.

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    Beer-battered chips, served with aioli and sweet ketchup.

  3. Fish & Chips (emphasis on the CHIPS!): Britain may have created New Zealand’s founding document, but their influence doesn’t stop there. Beer battered and deep-fried fish is a staple at most restaurants, served with a delicious tartare sauce unlike that which we’re used to in the States.  However, the chips are the real stars in this duo and I beg you, if you are ever in New Zealand, order beer-battered chips. At every restaurant, they were consistently amazing. You won’t regret it!

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    I simply could not stay away from the savory meat pies… walking past a storefront in Auckland.

  4. Meat Pies: Delicious, warm, savory, and palm-sized, the ubiquitous meat pies are the New Zealander’s perfect portable lunch. Every restaurant has its own version – even McDonald’s. Steak, lamb, minced beef (aka ground beef), and roasted vegetables are just some of the possible fillings.
  5. Lamb: In order to embrace the New Zealand food culture, I tried lamb several times. It has a unique flavor but tended to be tougher than I would have liked. On one of the last days of the trip, I was pleasantly surprised with the best lamb dish of the entire trip and possibly the best meal, period. I ordered the lamb steak at The Curator’s House in Christchurch, which was served with Israeli couscous and lemon crème.  Superb!

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    Speight’s Ale House, Dunedin.

  6. Speight’s: Dunedin, on the South Island of New Zealand, was a standout in the dining category. One of our dinners was at Speight’s, where we enjoyed Dunedin’s own craft-brewed beers. Full disclosure… I am less of a beer fan and more of a cider fan, but I am in good company with Dr. Lyons, and Speight’s had an excellent apple cider. I hear the ales were just as good!
  7. Dinner at Larnach Castle: Although the food was delicious, this line item was truly all about the experience: beautiful dining room with an elegantly dressed dinner table, candlesticks and more utensils than we knew what to do with. Our 3-course meal culminated with tantalizing tale about the family of Larnach, complete with allusions of ghosts Hands down, one of the most fun dinners we had in New Zealand.

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    Green-lipped mussels at Gusto Restaurant in New Plymouth. Delicious!

  8. Green-lipped Mussels: These vividly green shellfish are well known in New Zealand. They are delicious, which I discovered while dining at Gusto in New Plymouth. However, they are also apparently known for their additional curative benefits, including arthritis and asthma relief.

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    Gary Shanks and Kevin Williams testing the L&P in Auckland.

  9. L & P: L & P, short for Lemon & Paeroa, is a uniquely New Zealand soda best described as a carbonated, lemony drink that tasted like carbonated lemon Nestea. It’s also a common mixer at New Zealand bars and infused into white chocolate for a creamy, lemony candy treat. (I speak from experience on the L & P chocolate.)

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    Hokey Pokey and licorice ice cream cones in Oamaru.

  10. Hokey Pokey Ice Cream: One of my favorite discoveries! I am usually not a big ice cream person, but this creamy vanilla ice cream with crunchy honeycomb candy pieces was delightful.  After several scoops, I was hooked. We also had some other exciting ice cream flavors on our trip, including licorice, Bailey’s, crunchy hazelnut chocolate, and plum!

Overall, the class of 2015 thoroughly enjoyed this exciting culinary adventure. Do you have any recommendations for delicious foods that we should try here in the US? Send them our way!

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