For the uninitiated, the best place to start experiencing New Zealand cuisine is at one of the frequent national and regional food festivals that offer a wide range of gourmet food and boutique wine. These, along with farmers markets – held regularly in most towns – highlight the abundance of fresh produce available.
A growing movement of organic, wholefoods has brought a new awareness of food origin and quality. As mentioned, farmers markets display a variety of fresh produce along with homemade preserves, bread, wild honey and free range eggs. Many New Zealanders do their entire weekly shop at these kinds of markets where an emphasis is placed on raw unprocessed ingredients at a reasonable price.
New Zealand’s laid back culture is reflected in the way food is prepared. Summer means barbeques outside while winter equals hearty meals by the fire.
Although upmarket eateries and fine-dining establishments continue to focus on gourmet gastronomy, kiwi home cooking is proving popular – and many boutique lodges and bed and breakfast establishments are offering an authentic kiwi food experience with foods such as roast lamb, fish and chips, pavlova, and a traditional Maori hangi.
Early New Zealand food stems from a British Colonial heritage - meat, vegetables, pies and fish & chips were the original family fare, until an influx of European and Asian immigrants arrived in the 20th century, leading to an expansion of the kiwi palate.
Up until the late 1960’s families rarely went out for dinner – so fine dining in New Zealand is reasonably new. And although British meals are no longer a staple, fish and chips wrapped in yesterday's newspaper have remained a classic kiwi go-to and are served across the country. Other foods such as hokey-pokey ice cream, mussels, and pavlova, are considered kiwi favourites as well as a famous local drink Lemon and Paeroa.
Although best described as Pacific Rim, New Zealand cuisine is a fusion of cultures. Synonymous with fresh quality food, its gastronomic reputation is one of innovation and excellence and renowned globally.
While New Zealand lamb is seen in fine dining establishments worldwide this isn’t the only thing Kiwis do well. Fresh produce and just-caught seafood are staples in any restaurant, and enterprising chefs are continually finding new ways to treat ingredients.