Wow, it's been almost five months since my last post. Eesh. I had some projects going on, but now I'm back. Hopefully. If only to tell you about our amazing 3-week honeymoon in New Zealand and Australia.
Why those destinations? Well, we wanted to go somewhere once-in-a-lifetime. A place that could sustain a lengthy trip. A place that mixed nature, food, relaxation and adventuring. So it was down under for us.
I'll share some of our excursions, but for now, I'll get into what you're probably interested in most: the food!
New Zealand and Australia might not come to mind as top food destinations. You'd sooner think of other popular honeymoon spots like Tuscany or Southeast Asia.
But what Aussie/Kiwi food lacks in rhapsodic buzz it makes up in quality, diversity, and creativity. Plus, some interesting takes on iconic dishes. Here are some of our fav bites:
Pavlova is my type of dessert. Named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, the dessert is typically a ring of meringue filled with cream and fruit.
This one at The Landing Bar in Franz Josef opted for a softer, more marshmallow-like meringue, and a hokey pokey ice cream. Hokey pokey is also known as honeycomb candy, an excellent way to make use of New Zealand's prized Manuka honey.
Weird how we *saw* all these animals at the Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas...and then the next day we sought to eat them. I'll deal with carnivorous guilt another time...
I've had all these meats before, but with the exception of croc in the Florida Everglades (revolting, cartilaginous and slimy, with red veins coursing through), all those meats must've been shipped from far away. The patties at Mason's Cafe in Cape Tribulation were hand-formed, lightly packed, and fresh. Of the three burgers, the croc tasted the best!
This dish was from our favorite meal of the trip, at Salsa Bar & Grill in Port Douglas. Paperbark-smoked kangaroo loin with goat cheese marshmallow and guava pulp. The meat was tender and silky -- like filet mignon but with more flavor. (Random trivia: This is where Hillary and Bill Clinton were when they found out about 9/11. I think the staff tells every American that.)
Side note: if you're in New Zealand you also *must* have lamb. We had shanks, a burger, and a lamb salad before we officially ODed.
I drink wine and have basic knowledge, but I'm not really a wine person. I regard wine like I regard eyebrow threading and expensive artwork...someday, but not when I have other things on my plate.
But! My go-to wine is always always Pinot Noir and New Zealand's Otago region is the place for that. We enjoyed a Pinot tasting at No 5 Church Lane in Queenstown and this Pinot and Otago cherry bon-bon at Patagonia in Arrowtown.
You can tell a lot about a person from their AIM screenname. Mine? Mauibamba. I take to the tropics...even if my hair doesn't.
I loved the musky sweet taste of pressed sugarcane with ginger and lime. Post-hike, we drank from a fresh coconut, then returned to the stand so it could be split with a machete and shredded with a table-mounted reamer.
Another fav: a selection of ice creams from Daintree Ice Cream Company, a farm shack that rotates flavors from their orchard. We had jackfruit, soursop, passionfruit and wattleseed (a flavor that D astutely described as chocolate root beer).
Side note: the apples are also really good in New Zealand. Galas, of course, but the best was a new variety started in NZ called the Smitten, a cross between Gala, Braeburn, Falstaff and Fiesta apples. So crispppy.
A lamington is a spongecake, coated in chocolate and pressed in shredded coconut. Sometimes they sandwich jam or cream. How delightful is that?
I loved how pillowy light they are -- less sinful than a cupcake, more substantial than a macaron. I'd have a lamington over either of those any day.
Barely needs mentioning, but I will just to round out this list. Common fish we ate/saw on menus: mackerel, barramundi, grouper (which they spell groper), and some new-to-me fishes like gurnard and gem fish.
If you're in Sydney, check out the Sydney Fish Market, the most diverse fish market outside of Japan and eye-popping good fun and better eats.
You may have heard that Australia is "taking over the NYC restaurant scene". Even if you don't know the origins, you know the vibe. Airy interiors. Flat whites. Acai bowls. Muesli. And of course, AVOCADO TOAST. These are Australian imports (as far as you can track these things).
Breakfast dishes usually bore me. Eggs get old and I've never been a pancake or waffle girl. I prefer bacon as an accent, not as the main attraction.
But on our honeymoon, breakfast was my favorite meal. A few of my favorite breakfast dishes: cauliflower hash with agria, spinach aioli, mango chili chutney; coconut chia pudding with rambutan and passionfruit; probiotic salads with poached egg. And a flat white always.
GENERAL CARE & CONSIDERATION
Ok, so this is just a basic picnic lunch. But it was prepared and assembled on-the-spot during our Dart River Funyaking expedition. Our river guides brought fresh vegetables and bread on their kayaks and then sliced them on-site. This really shocked me. We also had coffee, tea, cakes and fresh fruit -- all built up and broken down in the middle of nowhere. It was so... civilized.
Now, you may argue that perhaps this was a "luxury" experience and we paid for such care. Maybe. That doesn't totally explain why they didn't just bring sliced bread. To me, this felt like a real respect for food and the eating experience.
I felt this all over New Zealand and Australia. From the lack of to-go cups, to natural nourishing ingredients rather than gut-bombing cheap shots, to plates that spoke to all the senses. We ate every well.
THE RECS - PLACES WE WENT TO & LIKED
Have you been to New Zealand or Australia? What were your favorite bites?