Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New Zealand - South Island culinary adventures

Cakelaw has just returned from travelling for a week in the South Island of New Zealand or, as the Maori people call it, Aotearoa (roughly pronounced Ay-oh-tay-ah-row-ah), meaning "Land of the Long White Cloud".

It was absolutely wonderful, and you can read about my non-food related experiences here.

However, as this is a food blog, this post will focus on my foodie experiences in the South Island. As I was travelling with my mother and brother, who are strictly non-gastronomes, I wasn't able to partake of any high falutin' food and wine experiences, although New Zealand as a whole has plenty to offer in this regard. However, within the limitations of my circumstances, I tried to experience as much on the local food front as I could.

For those who are not acquainted with New Zealand, it is a beautiful land, filled with:

mountains and lakes;

sheep (blurry and taken at high speed from a bus, but you get the idea);

cattle (also intensively farmed);

deer (forgive the bad photo taken through a bus window);

and, erm, sheep (in fact, there are 39 million of them in NZ!).

I did not get the opportunity to try many restaurants while on the South Island. However, one restaurant which I did try was Sticky Fingers, situated on the restaurant strip end of Oxford Terrace in Christchurch. I sampled a delightful Thai green fish curry there, complete with prawns and kumara (sweet potato). There is no photo of this dish, but it was devine (and sinus-clearing!). The only odd part about it was that I ordered "Fish of the Day" - I didn't expect to receive a curry when I ordered this! Fitting in with the theme of the restaurant, we sat at a table under this great carved lamp in the shape of a hand:

and we could have ordered a beer from the coppery "sticky fingers" beer taps:

My only other restaurant experience was at The Willow, the restaurant situated at our hotel, Holiday Inn on Avon, which is at the opposite end of Oxford Terrace from Sticky Fingers. With all of those sheep, New Zealand is famed for its lamb, so I ordered the lamb shanks:

This dish was delicious - the lamb melted off the bone, just as it should, and the sauce was wonderfully rich, but there was way too much food for me to finish. My brother managed to polish his off, but was stumped soon after being given some of my mother's pork to finish off.

In my travels from Christchurch to Queenstown, the Intercity Coach stopped off in a gorgeous little town in the province of Canterbury called Geraldine. There is a travellers stop there containing a brilliant cafe called The Berry Barn, which serves a fantastic range of cakes and slices. Below is a photo of some of those slices, including New Zealand favourites such as lolly cake, ginger crunch and Belgian slice.

On the way back from Queenstown, I took the opportunity to buy a couple of slices to take home. Here is a close up of the ginger crunch and the Belgian slice, a little the worse for wear after being stuffed into my day pack:

I loved the ginger crunch, which
I have made myself, but was none too keen on the Belgian slice, which is a dryish type of cinnamon cake sandwiched together with jam and topped with pink icing.

I am a huge lolly and chocolate guzzler, so I also took the opportunity to sample some NZ sweets.

In Queenstown, there is a terrific sweet shop called The Remarkable Sweet Shop. It is filled with all kinds of sweets, some of which are peculiarly Kiwi, such as Eskimos (pastel coloured, hard marshmallowy sweets in the shape of Eskimos), Volcanoes (vibrant blue pyramidal foam sweets with a red jelly top) and Deltas (large jellies in the shape of fighter jets). A sample of these sweets is shown below:

I purchased a packet of marshmallow sweets shaped like
tuataras. In Queenstown, I also purchased a Perky Nana, available all over New Zealand. A Perky Nana is simply a large, chocolate-coated banana sweet.

From a corner shop (known as a "dairy" in NZ!) in Christchurch, I purchased a chocolate fish, which is simply a chocolate-covered marshmallow in the shape of a fish. All of these sweets are good fun, and the chocolate fish tasted great!

One of the local New Zealand ice-cream brands is Tip Top. (Interestingly, Tip Top is a brand of bread in Australia.) Tip Top makes many different types of ice-creams, including the Trumpet (a cone like the Drumstick or Cornetto available in Australia), the FruJu (as the name suggests, a fruit ice) and the one which I purchased, the Jelly Tip (vanilla icecream with a frozen jelly "tip" and all coated in chocolate).

While the Jelly Tip claims to be uniquely Kiwi, I know that I bought a similar icecream in Australia as a child, which came in a blue wrapper with a picture of a pink wobbly jelly on it. I had to buy this icecream after seeing its great television ad, which queries the fine line between togs (in this case, men's racers - I love the fact that the Kiwis use the word "togs" for a bathing costume, just like Queenslanders!!) and undies (for the uninitiated, underpants). You can see the ad on YouTube, if interested.

On the beverage front, I did not get to try the beer (a local brew made in Christchurch is
Canterbury Draught) or the magnificent Marlborough region wines - these will have to wait for another trip.

However, as a self-confessed ginger addict, I tried a local ginger beer made by Phoenix:

and a very sugary (60g of sugar per 600ml bottle!) but refreshingly lemony ginger beer-like drink called Lemon & Paeroa:

The L&P drink cheekily claims to be world-famous - in New Zealand!

In all, I enjoyed my light-hearted foodie trip through the South Island landscape, and look forward to returning soon.

No comments: