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Special Edition: New Zeland

NEW ZEALAND: When calling from the US, the country code is 64.

Quick Links: NORTH ISLAND | SOUTH ISLAND

NORTH ISLAND:
Where I stayed:
Quest Parnell (www.questapartments.com.au; look for the Jump Direct section, then scroll down to click on Quest Parnell, 09 337 0804). Parnell is an upmarket suburb of Auckland and, as far as I’m concerned, a great place to stay. These apartments contain a kitchen and washer-dryer, a nice plus. A two minute walk, if that, to the nearest restaurants, grocery store, and The Link bus system, a great way to get around. Comfortable accommodations in a generally quiet location; efficiency combines here with a desire to conserve resources. Friendly and professional staff.

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What I saw and did:
—Food Tour. Phillip Parker, Insider Touring, www.insidertouring.co.nz, 09 849 4519. Phillip is genial and very laid-back. His tours are quite expensive, but he has the local knowledge and contacts to get you to some good places.

  • The Albany Olive Press, 88 Burne Road, Albany, 09 427 8194, www.olivesnewzealand.co.nz. Located in a beautiful setting. The First Cold Press Extra Virgin Olive Oil was too peppery for me, but the Lemon Olive Oil was absolutely delicious. Naturally, as the character of the olives changes from year to year, so does the olive oil!
  • Kapiti Fine Cheeses, 136-142 Fanshawe Street, City, 09 377 2473 (and other locations), www.kapiticheeses.co.nz. Great fun! Many kinds of condiments and conserves are sold here, as well as cheeses and some very good ice creams. Make sure you sample the Kikorangi Triple Crème Blue; you might also try the the Port Nicholson Washed Rind and the Mt. Hector Chevre. The fig and honey ice cream is notable.
  • Seamart, Corner Packenham Street and Market Place, City, 09 302 8989 (also two other locations), www.seamart.co.nz. A fish shop and seafood resturant, very popular with those who recognize that truly fresh seafood is the only way to go. Whole fish, fish steaks, marinated fish, seafood kebabs, etc., and a deli with fish-based foods (such as seafood lasagne, sushi, and smoked fish tortellini). Also condiments related to fish.
  • Bees Online, 791 State Highway 16, Waimauku, 09 411 7953, www.beesonline.co.nz. A small café here features ethnic Maori-influenced dishes. As well, there’s as a shop selling a selection of honies, honey cosmetics, and other honey products (such as their “honeygar”). You can try honies before you buy them. A very enjoyable place.
  • Sabato, 57 Normanby Road, Mt. Eden, 09 630 8751, www.sabato.co.nz. Dishes, cookware, and cooking ingredients, including olive oils and their own line of relishes, many designed by noted foodwriter/chef Julie Leclerc.
  • Cook the Books, 405 Mt. Eden Road, Mt. Eden Village, 09 638 4628, www.cookthebooks.co.nz. Although this shop isn’t large, it stocks an impressive array of cooking and food books. A great place to browse!
  • Epicurean Workshop, 6 Morrow Street, Newmarket, 09 524 0906, www.epicurean.co.nz. Cooking equipment and some sweet and savory foods. Knives and pans in names you’ll recognize, also cooking classes.

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—Parnell Road. If you’re into shopping or food, you’ll like this thoroughfare. Souvenirs, fashion, and so many restaurants/cafes you’ll be spoiled for choice. Check out the Chocolate Boutique (323 Parnell Road, 09 377 8550, www.chocolateboutique.co.nz), with many types of chocolate products, including sauces, ice cream, hot chocolate, etc.

—Auckland Museum (Te Papa Whakahiku), (www.akmuseum.org.nz). Unbelievable! Even if you think you’ve never had any particular interest in the culture of the South Pacific, this place will change your mind. Room upon room of stunning Pacific Island artifacts. Ornamental objects, weapons, incredibly ornate canoes, items of daily life and those reserved for ceremonial occasions—they’re all here. A must for anyone headed to the region.

—Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater Adventure (www.kellytarltons.co.nz). A ride in a snowcat takes you past several types of penguins; Kelly Tarlton’s is part of a breeding program for them. I think the best exhibit here is the walk-through “tunnel”, where live sharks, stingrays, etc swim overhead and all around you. Particularly good for kids, as you might guess.

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—Ponsonby Road. A number of interesting shops and cafes.

  • City Cake Company, 186 Ponsonby Road, 09 376 3985, www.citycake.com, also three other locations. Some lovely-looking cakes and pastries. Try the Parisien, a pyramid of genuinely moist chocolate sponge cake covered by chocolate icing and decorated with edible gold.
  • Powder, 266 Ponsonby Road, 09 360 9804, Intriguing menu, including a vanilla risotto with poached fruits as a breakfast option. Recommended dish: ravioli of pumpkin, silverbeet, and cheeses. Laid-back neighborhood café.
  • Rocket Kitchen, 234a Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, 09 360 8834, www.rocketkitchen.co.nz. Beautiful takeaway food, including excellent chocolate raspberry tartlets.
  • Bambina, 268 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, 09 360 4000. One large communal table is orbited by a handful of smaller ones here, with a little outdoor seating. Recommended dish: corn fritters—2 large corn “pancakes” sandwiching Canadian bacon-like ham, with greens, tomatoes, and a small cup of relish on the side. All-day breakfast and lunch menus. Locally popular.
  • Total Wellbeing, 145 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, 09 378 2020, www.totalwellbeing.co.nz. Foods and cosmetics (including some nice cheeses), with an emphasis on organics.

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—Karangahape (“K”) Road. I don’t get this place. Everyone talks about the funky atmosphere and shops, but none of the places looked interesting except a hole-in-the-wall restaurant called “Revel”, and unfortunately I wasn’t hungry. I did find a cheap internet place here, though.

—Devonport. A rather touristy seaport, but pleasant enough. A ferry ride from Auckland (get a Link pass and you can ride the ferry as part of that), a lot of shops and restaurants. Look for the Devonport Stone Oven Bakery and Café for good sandwiches; Devonport Handmade Chocolates are OK.

—Auckland Art Gallery (www.aucklandartgallery.govt.nz). Have I mentioned that modern art and I don’t really get along? For those who love the stuff, here’s the place for it. Best artwork I saw: a “portrait” of a cheese in the initial stages of fragmentation, entitled (I swear) “Exploding Cheese”.

—Auckland Zoo (www.aucklandzoo.co.nz). The only zoo I’ve ever seen with free-range poultry; there are chickens pecking contentedly about the grounds. Joking aside, this is a very nice zoo, with a lot to see; I got to watch a keeper training the keas. Crowded on weekends.

—Sky Tower (www.skytower.co.nz). Unexpectedly cool. Jaw-dropping views of Auckland and environs laid out at your feet, as it were. Also open at night, although I didn’t get to go then. I don’t often do well with heights, but I had no problem here.

—MOTAT(Museum of Transportation and Technology), (www.motat.org.nz). I really like MOTAT, which is split into two parts in two locations. MOTAT I is a “time capsule” of the earlier days of transportation in New Zealand; I was fascinated to read about the aviatrix Jean Batten, of whom I’d never heard. MOTAT II is all about aircraft and their uses in wartime and peacetime. Interactive exhibits, as well as some touring exhibits. A tram takes you most of the way between the two locations.

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Other Food:
—Gault at George, 144 Parnell Road, Parnell, 09 358 2600. An upmarket, though not stuffy, restaurant. Where possible, local foods are used here. Recommended dishes: chilled green pea and truffle soup; smoked Akaroa salmon with gingered cucumber, rocket salad, and Champagne lime mayonnaise; panzanella. Nice atmosphere, friendly service. Don’t sit near the fireplace if you’re bothered by cigarette smoke, which unfortunately drifts in from the adjacent bar.

—Milano Cucina Italiano, 111 Parnell Road, Parnell, 09 379 0906. A very “neighborhood” feel predominates here, and there are obviously clients of long-standing. Recommended dish: South Island cod with artichokes and lemon, which was not wonderful visually but tasted very good. Just off the main drag, this place can get noisy.

—Alligator Pear Restaurant, 211 Parnell Road, Parnell, 09 307 2223. This restaurant is below ground level and simply furnished and decorated, which I liked very much. Short menu. Recommended dish: a special of tarakihi (a local fish) grilled with fresh herbs and limes and served with a lime hollandaise sauce. One of the specialty coffee drinks here is called “What’s Under Yer Kilt”. Hmmm…

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SOUTH ISLAND:
Where I stayed:
—Strathern Motor Lodge (www.strathern.com, 03 355 4411). Despite being located directly off a main road, the bedrooms here are quiet. Very nice owners, who I trust now know a bit more about their surroundings (they’d only taken over two days before I arrived.) Bus stop located in front of the hotel. Not fancy, but relaxing and rather charming. Those electric mattress pads are great on a cold night! Well-situated for walking or taking the bus both to Christchurch and the upmarket suburb of Merivale. Laundry facilities on premises. A good alternative to the cookie-cutter chains in Christchurch.

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What I saw and did:
—Rachel Scott’s breads and chocolates. This wasn’t an activity so much as it was a quest. Ms. Scott has a reputation as an excellent bread-baker. I was unable to meet her, but I believe she bakes and delivers her breads only twice a week, and then only to selected locations, such as the Nor’wester Café (see below). She’s also begun to make candy (her truffles and chocolate-covered caramels are delicious). If you get a chance to try any of her breads, please let me know how they are!

—Food Tour. John and Jo Carter, Vin de Pays, www.vindepays.co.nz, 03 357 8262. Normally, they do wine tours, with a bit of food thrown in, but you can arrange for a customized tour, which I did; as of this writing, those cost $50 NZD per hour. John, who drove me around, is a lot of fun and seems to know a great many food people. Highly recommended. Among the places we visited:

  • Divine Taste of Canterbury, Blakes Road, Off Trents Road, Templeton, 03 349 4442. Located in a hazelnut orchard, this little shop offers oils, nut products (especially those with hazelnuts), chutneys, mustards, and dukkah. A great setting with friendly proprietors who offer a good variety of products.
  • Nor’Wester Café, 95 Main North Road, Amberley, 03 314 9411, www.norwestercafe.co.nz. The day we dropped in, the café was closing early; there was going to be a celebration in honor of their having won an award for their preparations of wild game. Due to time constraints, we didn’t get to eat here, but I’d certainly have loved to do so. Great menu (not just wild game), plus bread and a new line of chocolates from the mysterious Rachel Scott (see above).
  • Athena Olive Groves Ltd., 164 Mackenzies Road, Waipara Valley, Amberley, 03 314 6774, www.athenaolives.co.nz. A gorgeous greenish olive oil, which was complex but not peppery.
  • Havill’s Authentic Mead, Fernside, Rangiora, 03 313 7733, http://www.nzcentre.com.mead.htm. Gabrielle and Leon Havill produce at least ten distinct kinds of mead, each made with a varietal honey. Try the Medium, Manuka, or Black meads (the Black was my favorite); they will taste different if served warm or cold. Call to ask about availability; I’m not sure where it’s sold locally. Worth checking out.
  • de Spa Chocolatier, 1013 Perry Road, Ferrymead (and other locations), 03 384 5285, www.despa.co.nz. Walk into this address (billed as the “factory and showroom”) and you’ll be pleasantly overwhelmed by the range of chocolates. A champagne truffle, perhaps? Oooh, look at that coconut crème in white chocolate! And a milk chocolate Orange Heaven sounds like it would hit the spot right now, don’t you agree? Flavors both traditional and more modern await you here, and the quality of the chocolate is very good. My picks? The peppermint crème and cognac & coffee, plus the unusual apricot center in dark chocolate.
  • New Zealand Honey Farm Ltd. , 235 Buchanans Road, City, 03 349 9532, www.nzhoneyfarm.com. Honies unique to New Zealand, also honey wines, candles, and honey cosmetics. In the process of revamping as of mid-September, but a pleasant visit nonetheless. The tastings really give you an idea of the differences between types of honey; make sure you try the Rata!
  • Karikaas Natural Dairy Products, Loburn, Rangiora, www.karikaas.co.nz. Yoghurt, goat gouda, maasdam, leyden, and more. As you might have guessed from the name, they specialize in Dutch cheeses.

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—The Arts Centre (www.artscentre.org.nz). Formerly a university campus, now home to a multitude of craft shops and cafes. The weekend craft market held here is very popular. I think some of the shops here have decent deals, and there’s a very good selection from which to choose. Fun to browse.

—Christchurch Art Gallery (www.christchurchartgallery.org.nz). Even if you don’t go inside, you can’t miss the ultra-modern exterior, which is eye-popping and worth a snapshot or two. Mostly modern art but a few older works. Some interesting prints.

—Southern Encounter Aquarium and Kiwihouse (www.southernencounter.co.nz). If this will be your only opportunity to go to a zoo or aquarium in New Zealand or Australia, go for it. Otherwise, I’d probably hold off. Well-presented for what it is, but it’s also small and there’s just not that much to see.

—Christchurch Gondola (www.gondola.co.nz). I had a blast with this. I normally don’t do that well with heights, but the views are so beautiful the only thing you’ll be thinking about is getting photos, and the gondolas don’t move terribly quickly, which is helpful. Terrific panoramic views at the top, too, and you can actually walk down to the town below, if you wish. Look for hang gliders floating down over adjacent hills.

—Willowbank (www.willowbank.co.nz). You can feed the eels here—no kidding. You can also feed several other kinds of animals, luckily. Multiple kiwis in the Kiwi House, a tuatara, goats unique to an island off New Zealand’s coast, keas, and a lot more. The emphasis here is on indigenous animals, and if I had to choose I’d go here rather than to Orana (see below).

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—Canterbury Museum (www.artists.co.nz/museum.html). As a collection of information on the history of the area, it’d be hard to beat the Canterbury Museum. The ground floor has a pleasing collection of Maori artifacts, plus intriguing accounts of how Europeans came to New Zealand and how difficult their “pioneering” lives were. The second floor is a collection of European artifacts from the mid-1800’s on, while the third floor is a mix of Antarctic expedition information, the area’s geological makeup, indigenous and introduced fauna, and a dinosaur history of the region.

—Orana Wildlife Park (www.oranawildlifepark.co.nz). A very low-key, rather sprawling complex. There’s definitely an African slant in the wildlife here—cheetahs, springboks, lions, meerkats, and more compete for your attention. If for no other reason, the gift shop is worth going into because of the three birds kept there; one, a corella, will “dance” if it hears music, bouncing up and down and sidling along its perch.

—Science Alive! (www.sciencealive.co.nz). Unless you’re a kid or have one in tow, I wouldn’t bother with this. The day I went, many of the exhibits weren’t working or being offered, and the place is small to begin with. I liked the forced-air ping pong ball maze, though, and be sure to check out the amazing instrument in one corner that can produce dozens of sounds of other instruments.

—Antarctic Centre (www.iceberg.co.nz). I had no real interest in Antarctic exploration until I went here, but this is so well done it’s impossible to be bored with the subject. A special “cold” room with simulated Antarctic conditions (yes, you can go in), exhibits on wildlife (lots of penguins), and tons of information on what scientists are doing in this area of the world and their daily lives there. The Hagglund ride (an additional charge applies) is great fun, too. Go!

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Other Food:
—The Fudge Cottage (in the Arts Centre), City, 03 363 2836. Candy Central! They make their own fudge and even have a tour where you can see how it’s done. Most of what they sell I found too sweet, but they do have some Van H. chocolates here which are worth getting. (Van H. chocolates are also sold from the Mary Gray kiosk in Merivale Mall on Papanui Road.)

—The Organic Food Caravan, outside the Court Theatre, Arts Centre, City, Saturday and Sunday only, 03 960 2075. Muffins and more. Nice people with a smallish variety of good-quality foods.

—Copenhagen Bakery (Armagh Street, close to Cathedral Square), City. Good range of baked goods, sandwiches, and drinks. Great for lunch or a snack; try a date-wholemeal scone or the very light chocolate-orange gateau.

—Anathoth Jam, Anathoth Marketing, Ltd., Upper Moutere, Nelson, 03 543 2849, www.anathoth.com. I had a sample of this given me by the proprietors of the Strathern, as they liked it and knew I write about food. The blackberry jam is terrific.

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—Canterbury Cheesemongers, 44 Salisbury Street, Asko Corner, City, 03 379 0075. Saturdays and Sundays, these folks are at the Arts Centre Market, but you can find them in their store Tuesday through Friday. They do not make cheese; they buy it from cheesemakers and age it properly, then sell it to happy consumers. A beautiful little aging room and knowledgeable staff. Also chutneys, jams, honey, sweet and savory pastries, herbs, coffee, and their own breads.

—Traiteur, Corner of Aikman and Papanui Roads, Merivale, 03 355 7750. The best takeaway food in the area! I got dinner here for a couple of nights. Some vegetarian entrees, and you can always find something interesting, though I didn’t think the cakes were stellar. Some condiments, olive oils, etc., too, as well as Eight Moon Saffron (didn’t try that).

—Honey Pot Café, 114 Lichfield Street, City, 03 366 5833. A fine spot for people-watching, this is also a place for relatively inexpensive food. All-day breakfast as well as lunch and dinner. Very informal. My “Galeforce” was a mix of grilled French toast, grilled bananas, very fatty bacon, maple syrup, and a bit of dry granola on top—an intriguing combination, but too sweet for me. Still, I’d go back here—perhaps with an eye toward the lunch menu.

—Ciao Bella, 131 Victoria Street, City, 03 371 7288, www.ciaobella.co.nz, City. Small menu but the best service I had in New Zealand—friendly, polished, and very well paced. Tiny restaurant but pretty and atmospheric, though perhaps a bit crowded for a romantic dinner. Recommended dishes: rocket-Parmesan salad and the shredded duck crepe.

—Saggio di Vino, Victoria Street and Bealey Avenue, City, 03 379 4006. Another small restaurant with a small menu, but, blessedly, it was smoke-free, at least when I was there. Recommended dishes: fresh breast of duckling (oven roasted, served with pommes Anna and sauteed cherries in a Cabernet sauce). Also a tapas menu. Expensive for the area. And portions, which were about right for me, would be too small for most people.

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Stephanie Zonis provides the above information to anyone, but retains copyright on all text. This means that you MAY not: distribute the text to others without the express written permission of Stephanie Zonis; "mirror" or include this information on your own server or documents without my permission; modify or re-use the text on this system. You MAY: print copies of the information for your own personal use; store the files on your own computer for your personal use only; reference hypertext documents on this server from your own documents.

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