The Antipodean Food Tour 2010

Ok, so here's my food-focused vacation slideshow from our recent trip New Zealand (and a little bit of Australia)!  I only wish we could have made it all the way out to Perth to see Peta.

Since meat pies and fish 'n' chips are about all that come to many people's minds when they think about cuisine from the land down under, you might be wondering - what would the veggie-obsessed find? Actually, they have an amazing range of Asian food that we don't often see in the US, and even everyday cookbooks there have more Asian and Middle Eastern influence than typical American cookbooks. I bought an awesome New Zealand Vegetable Cookbook!

Our first stop was Melbourne, to visit Dave's college friend, Ann. We spent a few days just wandering around the neighborhoods, checking out art galleries and restaurants in all the crazy laneways of the downtown area. We had an amazing lunch at Gingerboy, the more casual and affordable of two restaurants owned by celebrity chef Teage Ezard. The "upscale street hawker" menu included such delicacies as Crispy Chili Salt Cuttlefish with Lemon and Sesame, Soy-Cured Ocean Trout with Turmeric Coconut Caramel, Fried Whole Baby Snapper with Hot and Sour Banana Flower Salad,
and Bangalow Pork Belly with Salted Prawn and Fennel Salad. 

A trip to the grocery store was fun - we checked out the selection of Greek yogurt (mmm, so thick and creamy), Devonshire cream, passionfruits - which are just coming into season...

and "Mexican food." Sadly, Mexicans have yet to conquer the Southern Hemisphere, although one of the most popular restaurants in Melbourne right now is a Mexican place called Mamasita, run by a New York-educated Aussie.

We also visited the famous Queen Victoria Market to revel in the glorious array of produce, meat and fish - I've never seen such huge cabbages and fennel!  Lemon myrtle-flavored macadamia nuts were one of the highlights.

Dave was brave enough to try driving on the left, so we could see some cool Aussie critters at the Healesville Sanctuary in the Upper Yarra Valley. On the way, we had a fantastic lunch and saw some great contemporary art at the TarraWarra Estate.  I can't wait to try recreating the Chestnut Linguini with Wild Mushroom Sauce, Jerusalem Artichoke Crisps and Pecorino, and this incredible Duck, Pinot and Prune Pie with Radicchio and Blood Orange Salad.

On the way out of Melbourne, we had some of the best airport food I've ever encountered - a Tandoori Chicken Pie, washed down with a Victoria Bitter and a Little Creatures Pale Ale.

Next, we visited New Mexico peeps Andy and Jordan in Auckland for some hiking, boating, and city funtimes. Within one block of their place, dining options included curry, sushi, Peking duck (at the excellently titled Love A Duck Restaurant), and Tokyo Ramen...

For a weekend adventure, we headed up to the Northland, a rural, agricultural area with miles of gorgeous coast on both sides, and a balmy subtropical climate. All kinds of citrus trees were fruiting everywhere, including some very odd-looking ones:

We took a cruise around the Bay of Islands (unfortunately no dolphins) and out to Russell, once known as "the hell-hole of the Pacific" for its abundance of whorehouses and shady dealings. We shared a kilo of New Zealand green-lipped mussels, before taking the ferry back to Paihia. Then we went out for a second dinner in Kerikeri, at The Black Olive, an upscale pizza place with such funky toppings as kumara (New Zealand sweet potato), pumpkin, banana, and roasted peach chutney!

On the way home, we accidentally stumbled upon New Zealand's oldest building, the Stone Store. And just up the way, we had a fabulous lunch on the beautiful garden patio of FOOD at Wharepuke. The spinach-ricotta gnocchi and locally caught fish and chips were absolutely perfect. The Lemongrass Panna Cotta with Stewed Tamarillo was spectacular.

We'd never heard of a tamarillo before, so we asked about it, and she brought us a plate of them to try!  It's a subtropical fruit, also called the "tree tomato" that's not commonly seen anywhere except New Zealand, and probably South America, where they originated.

They taste kind of like a combination of kiwifruit and tomato - odd, but good! They're dessertlike with sugar sprinkled on them, but I think they would be great as a sweet/savory sauce for meat.

The final leg of our journey was a visit to Wellington, where my college friend Ken lives with his wife (a Kiwi!) and 18-month old son. We had a wonderful time wandering around the waterfront, visiting the amazing Te Papa museum, and shopping on Cuba street. The pastry case at Fidel's was irresistible - the raspberry-custard brioche was amazing with a long black (down-under coffee lingo for an Americano), and a lovely fresh lemon and ginger tea.

Luckily for us, the first annual Wellington on a Plate festival was going on while we were there, with fine dining restaurants all over the city offering specials. We had some perfectly-cooked local fish at Ortega's Fish Shack, and on our way home from visiting Ken's bache (Kiwi for holiday house) we stopped at Bar Salute in Greytown for some tasty treats. The Moroccan lamb soup was delicious, the blue cheese pizza was great, as were the lemon fritters with pomegranate molasses, but the real showstopper was the Moroccan cabbage and chorizo slaw with blackcurrant and lemon dressing.

All in all, it was a pretty amazing food tour of the Southern Hemisphere!


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