Perhaps it is because New Zealand is at the bottom of the world that we tend to be very well travelled. We long for connection to a bigger global story – after school most of us head of for what is known as OE – Overseas Experience. Those that come back (and not all do) bring with them the tastes they have savoured overseas.
When I grew up the 60s only non English cuisine was Chinese and Italian. Now recent immigrants have brought much more variety – Thai, Turkish, Israeli, Mexican, Spanish restaurants now abound, and most standard menus include flavours that originate from around the world.
These days we grow our own wines which win prizes around the world and we bottle our own Pure Virgin first press Olive Oil. Most towns have crowded Farmers’s Markets where fresh local produce is sold, and there is a focus on seasonal, fresh and local food.
There are some tour companies that focus on discovering food in an area – Finding Flavour is one of my city based favourites. But there are others such as First Light Travel who offer New Zealand self drive food and wine experiences.
For coffee – Starbucks has never gained ground here, because we like our own boutique free trade organic blends.
Not chains, but boutique cafés where the uniquely antipodean Flat White is a favourite.
There are some excellent restaurants with ‘fusion cuisine’ bringing together the best of different cuisines. Locals like Al Brown have opened unique NZ eateries – one of my favourites is The Depot behind Sky City in Auckland.
I stayed with a friend in New York who took us out to some fabulous meals, and I suggested I cook for us one night – she did not even have salt and pepper or olive oil in the house.
While New Zealanders enjoy eating out, we also like to cook at home – not formal dinner parties, but good friends relaxing around the table with good food, wine and conversation. If you are lucky enough to be invited to a meal – grab the chance you will not be disappointed.
Cuisine Magazine is a uniquely NZ based take on food and wine – with no fuss recipes, restaurant reviews and food products, it is one of my favourites. It is a great place to get a bit of a feel for the NZ food scene, and a subscription is a wonderful gift for any NZ foodie.
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