A Day with Auckland Food Tours
Saturday arrived... 'Food Tour Day' (just like 'Dumpling Day' did in my diary) camera - check, wallet - check, basket of fresh heritage tomatoes - check (a trade for fresh honey comb with Anne Marie - Owner of Auckland Food Tours). And I was good to go.
Smales Farm was the meet point - lots of all day parking, so a really easy start point - except there will be future fine tuning of 'exactly' where.... but all accounted for and first stop is a personal favourite - and no secret at all for the true cheese lover!!!!!
As Dave from 'The Cheese Room' was expecting us - there were plates of cheese samples in the cheese 'vault' and a true cheese guru to answer all our questions. How should you store cheese? How long do you keep it?... Amongst the "what camembert should be like".... camembert questions - he opened a beautifully ripe Whangapeka Brie to demonstrate what a white mould style cheese should really taste like.....
The store is gorgeous and interesting artisan product everywhere - cheese straws - really strong cheesiness - flaky pastry - perfect - were the newest of the products.
lots of little cheese parcels were bought - wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string...
Second stop - Monsson Coffee. Freshly roasted coffee stop.... this was not a pit-stop on the way - this was a destination!!! And honestly fresh coffee and perfectly ripe cheese mid-morning - I could have been in beloved Europe!
We were greeted with our coffee of choice (this had been pre-ordered at the beginning of the tour). Then my favourite - out the back to see the coffee being roasted, buckets of green beans being carefully weighed, intense 'coffee roasting' aromas and a 101 on how it all happens....
The most intriguing snippet for me was the pictures of the coffee trees laden with white blossoms - all simultaneously dropping their petals to completely carpet the forest floor - sounds completely romantic - it apparently can't be planned, no one can say exactly when they will drop - but the white carpet of coffee-blossom petals through the forest is only for a day or so.
Standing there, espresso in hand, listening to the journey of the 'exact' beans in the coffee you are 'actually' holding was a little profound, in that it reality hits you, the effort involved and the hands it has passed through, on its way to your Saturday morning coffee.
It didn't finish abruptly there - we were each given our own freshly roasted bag of beans to take home, so I had a gentle reminder all week of the carpets of blossoms, with my morning coffee.
Next stop - I did not know existed, or was even on my radar to look for..... Barakah Food
Stacked floor to ceiling with 'food curiosities', and I say this in a way that I start to feel, when presented with any new cuisine 'elements' on mass!!!
Having Anne Marie there was a blessing, she quickly guided us around the store - then armed with a platter - we each tasted and then scurried off to add to our collection of shopping, then back to the platter - it resembled a childs party game involving a treasure hunt, with Anne Marie providing clues to each, individually, on where we might find our goodie.
I left armed with a random collection, that included Orange Blossom Water, Halva, a jar of Eggplant Ikra, and sweets.
I am however going back to the store, in the near future, specifically, for the white sultanas and the Carob Molasses - I have no idea how to use it the carob molasses, but intrigued by its promise.... although I know I will not be leaving the store with just those two items. Not buying them at the time left me with that little voice (nag actually) "you should have bought them" "now you have to go back" !!!
Diehls Bakery - again hidden away off the main track, down a long driveway in an industrial setting - yet another secret.
Sourdoughs, Pretzels, Blackforest loaves, Farmers loaves, Wholemeal, Rye it was endless Artisan heaven. We were greeted with yet more platters of breads, pretzels, and very European cakes and cookies - This was an award winning Artisan Baker - quietly making outstanding loaves, with a tiny little bakery store, with a constant stream of people trickling down the driveway, ordering 'specific loaves' that were not to be seen on the shelves, in the way only a local would know what a local baker makes.....
Marusya was expecting us - no platters this time - we were out the back again ( the actual kitchen is always my favourite place to be) a beautifully set table in the middle of a stainless steel kitchen - bliss.
Four flavours of dumplings cooked two different ways, with two different dipping sauces, seafood dumplings, roast chicken dumplings that really tasted like roast chicken.
The store was again, was delightfully small, but utterly cram-packed full of gems - Russian this time. Three different kinds of horse-radish, hand made cookies that looked 'exactly' like walnuts in their shell, and incredible selection of teas with names like 'Spring Melody'.
This is the very definition of a specialist deli.
When we arrived at Pioneer Pie Co. I was thoroughly relieved that in the tradition of the long running TV series - Friends - they had a large super comfy sofa - not something I usually rate at a pie store - but the effect of eating all day was having an impact!!
I sank into the sofa and inhaled that beautiful fresh baked pastry smell... platters of gorgeous individually made pies.... appeared, classic steak and cheese, slow roasted chicken with mushroom and tarragon, homestyle bacon and egg. But honestly the pastry maketh the pie.
okay last stop, Blackforest Butchery and I had enjoyed being met at every stop by platters, but at this point even without having had breakfast - I had slowed, and was desperately off the pace. Unfortunately the opportunity to try their range was overwhelming. So while Anne Marie recommends to skip breakfast before her tour - you will also be skipping dinner!
Pates, Biersticks, Salamis, Smoked Meats, Blackforest Ham, Lachsschinken, Smoked Speck, Kransky, and Wurst (Bratwurst, Knackwurst, Bockwurst and Bavernbratwurst) If you are not sure of the differences - here is your opportunity!!! and some Meyer Cheese if you have a spot left - if not buy it for later (best cheese ever).
Anne Marie has a badge of honour in my 'know your foodie spots' I started the tour not entirely convinced I would be much that I didn't already know - Boy, was I completely wrong!!
So even a seasoned foodie will benefit from this trip - as for a visitor to Auckland - you simply wouldn't stand a chance of finding all of this on your own. Seven visits in four hours - ALL with 'tasting' platters pre- organised. I think I mentioned this - DO NOT EAT BREAKFAST - or you will put yourself in a food coma, and that was a legitimate comment from fellow tour-mates - not poetic license on my part.
So even a seasoned foodie will benefit from this trip - as for a visitor to Auckland - you simply wouldn't stand a chance of experiencing all of this on your own. Seven visits in four hours - ALL with 'tasting' platters pre- organised (and I say tasting in a very loose way - think about how you feel after Chrismas feasts and then try to refer to it a a tasting event). I think I mentioned this - DO NOT EAT BREAKFAST - or you will put yourself in a food coma, and that was a legitimate comment from fellow tour-mates - not poetic license on my part.
Can't wait to see what Anne Marie conjures up next.