Friday, July 16, 2010

Central Otago goodies

My recent requests for Central Otago eating recommendations, relayed to my friendquaintances across various social media, were greeted with an icy silence. So, for anyone interested, here's some recommendations I discovered by myself over the last couple of weeks roaming through that part of the country (which was rather icy and silent itself).
The cosy and casual Cinema Paradiso in Wanaka bakes chocolate chip cookies during the first half of your movie and serves them warm and melting at intermission. Amazing.

Butchers who don't work on Ponsonby Road are invariably friendly, and the two guys who run The Fridge butchery in Alexandra are no exception. One of them reluctantly parted with a beautiful piece of standing rib roast and a container of his own personal grain mustard so that I could eat well that night, while another greeted me with a saucy saveloy on a return visit. And there was a sign promising an appearance from Spiderman during the school holidays. Why are you still buying meat at the supermarket?

Fergburger in Queenstown is apparently famous. The staff are very good, coping with the twin challenges of a heaving school holiday crowd and my girlfriend's special requests for ingredient additions and subtractions. The burgers themselves weren't much chop though – cheap, unseasoned meat, relying on salad and sauce for its flavour.

Ida Valley on the rail trail is famous for its national curling competition, for which the ice is deep enough only about every three or four years. But Ida Valley saffron arrives every year, and a pinch of it can be purchased for $13 from New Zealand's oldest operating general store in Oturehua. I haven't tried mine yet, but I'll get the girlfriend to review it down the track; she's exquisitely qualified as she once yelled at a backstreet Moroccan spice dealer for trying to sell her the substandard stuff, and somehow lived to tell the tale.

Botswana Butchery in Wanaka (with a sister restaurant in Queenstown) serves tasty, topshelf grub at Auckland prices. The French Onion soup and the Lamb Shoulder are recommended, although the wine list is sub-Cobb and Co, and the service was patchy on the night we visited.

I somehow got tricked into riding part of the Central Otago rail trail, so was mighty pleased to come across a handle of Speights and a legendary “Biker Burger” at the Oturehua Tavern. Their thermometer had got to minus 11 degrees the night before we visited, so they didn't have much sympathy for my harrowing tale of the day my dehumidifier broke down in Herne Bay during Autumn.

Some guy named Stu sells delicious blue cod out of a truck at various locations. I spotted him in Cromwell, and failed to write down his number thereby denying myself the opportunity to find him again later in the trip. I dipped the cod fillets in milk then breadcrumbs and shallow fried them in a little rice bran oil. I think they might be deep fried at the Chatto Creek Tavern, also on the Rail Trail and also a top place to go for lamb shanks and Tuesday euchre night.

Provisions Cafe in Arrowtown is the home of the relishes and chutneys you'll find at posh delis around Auckland. Their products are about half the price when you buy them from the source, and you can get lunch there too. I can definitely recommend the lamb sausage roll with harissa and almonds, particularly as it inspired a scintillating piece of wordsmithing on my part. “I love that old time Moroccan Roll!” I rejoiced to the patient middle aged woman behind the counter, who showed no signs of sharing my lexical euphoria.

“Gonna have a good time tonight, Moroccan Roll music gonna play all night!” I sang, this time louder, in case she hadn't fully grasped the pun first time around. With still no sign of mirth at her end I relented, and asked for a sticky bun as well, considering but then almost immediately rejecting the potential of this next menu item for a little further comedy double entendre.