Tuesday, January 08, 2008

tasting New Zealand

Monteith’s Radler bier

It’s got to be hot for me to want a beer. Let’s be honest, when I say ‘beer’ it’s inevitably a shandy – a lager with just a dash of lemonade. I don’t know why as I am not that keen on sweet drinks but there is something about the lemony-ness that I enjoy. Hot days in Wellington are a rare thing. Surprisingly we had quite a string of these delightful days. The first of which found us in the small courtyard of a suburban brewery bar. The sun beat down on us and it was declared ‘beer o’clock’ but what to drink in this foreign land?

The unusually efficient barman told us to not worry – he’d bring us a sampler to the table and thus begun a pleasant relationship with the Radler. A fruity lager, with a hint of lemon and lime and just a dash of sweetness. I liked it so much that I sampled it on many occasions, to the point that “I’m Radled” became a constant cry.

Another Wellington surprise

When having a drink in the sun (Monteith’s Khandallah, St John’s Bar) at some point a barperson will appear with sunblock. You need it too, with sun that beats down stronger than the thermometer implies. A great twist on ‘drink responsibly”.

Schoc chocolates

Oh boy – I need to discover a new chocolate obsession like I need a hole in my head. I was a little nonplussed when I approached the cute cottage on the outskirts of Greytown offering ‘chocolate therapy’. I admit it, I am a chocolate snob and I really doubted that small town New Zealand would be able to deliver something other than sickly little callebaut knock offs. But just one look at the single country of origin tablets in varying percentages of cocoa mass (including one 100%) and a taste of the vast array of dairy-free 53% flavours and I was hooked. (Sure they do truffles and dairy milk ones as well).

Favourites included: Limechilli, Lemon and Cracked Black Pepper, Rose, Sea Salt and toasted coconut but really, I could eat the lot.

Oh dear – I’ve just discovered Schoc chocs are available in this part of the world.


Not up to Schoc standards but purely for nostalgia I gave into a Whittaker’s peanut slab now available in a dark, dairy-free version. At high school I could nibble a peanut slab through recess, stringing it out for 20 minutes. On the nostalgia trip I took over 24 hours to get through one. Thanks for the memories Whittaker’s.

Fish and Chips

It begun innocuously enough on day 2 when I popped in for a quick visit to see some friends who produced a bag of fish and chips for afternoon tea. Afternoon tea?! I had a little nibble of the very passable chips and a bit of fish from a place in Karori. Unfortunately a couple of days later, after helping another friend move house, all that was on offer on a public holiday in her neighbourhood was a much more inferior version. Strangely 1 serve of fish equalled 3 pieces, quite a common thing I was to discover. Despite Island Bay being by the sea, it’s fish is nothing to write home about. But worse was to come. I won’t even utter the name of the local ‘fisherman’s’ chain that I was taken to the next day. The salad bar comes in a boat and under such circumstances the old faithful fish and chips or burger was a marginally better option.

For a dairy-free, no-meat girl in NZ fish and chips becomes the default option. So many vegetarian dishes are laden with milk products, it is a nightmare. Fortunately the final dose of F&C, once more the only thing I could eat on a bar menu, came at the upmarket Martinborough Hotel, perfect chips and a good tartare sauce which I washed down with, you guessed it, a Radler.

Hopefully I’ll not have to face a plate of fish and chips again this year, or at least til my next trip home at Easter!

More smoked seafood than you can poke a stick at

New Zealand is smoked food heaven (though smoked tofu still isn’t readily available). In most good supermarkets there is a wide variety of seafood lovingly smoked – mussels, eel, kingfish, cod, NZ salmon and much more.  It always inspires me to make kedgeree.

I discovered Chow, a better than average chain of Asian restaurants which I have previously mentioned, has a great smoked fish salad which I managed to make a fair copy* of for New Years Eve, though the smoked eel rolls packed less of a punch.

On a less fishy note, another discovery at Chow was the Kaffe Eis sorbet served with saffron syrup. The passionfruit was a real stand out.

One last bit of food nostalgia

The Significant Eater did a valiant Tour of Duty, helping me with my family visit. I think after his recent effort I am to be replaced in the will. My parents are committed carnivores, while their surviving offspring are not. The SE however jumped at the chance to make them a roast with premium kiwi lamb. Scouring the ’70’s era cookbooks he came across a simple marinade of a scant amount of olive oil and red wine, then slowly cooked the lamb the next day at 160c. Complete with spuds, kumara, onions and pumpkin caramelising in the juices of the roast (us vegetarian girls cooked ours separately) he added the Italian touch of a heap of simple salads on the side. Mum knocked up some fresh mint sauce (mint, sugar, malt vinegar) while I resurrected a decades old skill by making the gravy - it was perfect and looked so good I only just resisted sticking my finger in for a taste. It turned our smooth and glossy, with a perfect lump-free texture and all that stirring was a pleasant, therapeutic almost, experience. It was a memorable meal.

* Kiwi New Years Eve Smoked Fish Salad

smoked Kingfish fillets (or similar firm fish)
a generous handful of Asian herbs eg: coriander, Vietnamese mint (or mint and basil)
rocket or salad mix
cucumber, sliced
cherry tomatoes
spring onion, sliced on the diagonal
red chilli, finely sliced

Toss together with a dressing made from fish sauce, lime juice and a little palm sugar.

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Blogger Lucy said...

Loved your sunset photo on Healthy Philosophy. Weather was stunning the whole time we were there - yours looked great too.

Smoked Fish! You are right that NZ is smoked food heaven - it's unique and delicious. The hot smoked salmon has always been a favourite but this time I fell in love with smoked tuna (with some wasabi mayo made with tofu - utterly divine) and smoked roe. I cannot believe that I have never tasted smoked roe before...I ate so much that the in-laws were stunned. My bloke's uncle brings suitcases (well, not literally) full of the stuff home to Australia each time he visits. I will be doing so now too (unless you know where I can find some here...).

We managed to avoid the fish and chips. Something tells me that was very wise!

Happy 2008 to you.

1:18 pm  
Blogger purple goddess said...

I learned to drink beer in London. At the first hint of my accent (yes, I was doing the obligatory "12 months backpacking and nannying' thing), someone would always want to buy me a Fosters.

I know it's uncool, but I simply don't like it. Boutique beers aside.. it all tastes like fish pee to me.

But then there's that once-a-year craving. Mine is usually after the first really hot day of Spring, when I've been working in the garden.

I've found a shot of Bickfords lime cordial makes it go down a treat.

Classic English pub-style Larger-And-Lime.

3:16 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

PG: Oh yes lager and lime - that's the backup drink when I am in must-drink-beer company. In England I drank a bit of Real Ale, warm yes but it suited the climate.

Lucy: no probs bringing the smoked fish into Australia? Must try it next time.

3:36 pm  

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