At last. A sunny day, at the edge of winter’s end. Yay. Katikati bound, with high hopes of of blue skies, heading towards the aptly named Bay of Plenty region.
And plenty there was, indeed. Plenty of real New Zealand food, including wonderful smoked Tauranga fish, raw milk cheese, macadamia nuts, and local honey.
Some say the first stop on any food journey should be for a good New Zealand flat white. And so it is. At Stop & Eat, Ngatea. It’s easy to follow simple instructions. And here, eager compliance is definitely worth it. Grab a toastie, while you’re at it.
Moving on, pass the town of citrus and its giant drink bottle - time for a brief stop and one of those wonderful world famous in New Zealand moments, surrounded by the main ingredient, dazzling winter lemons.
A journey to Katikati takes you through oodles of green pastures, scenic gorges, cycle trails always nearby, an abundance of roadside rest areas, and some real New Zealand rural towns.
You’ll know when you’re there. Hedgerows, fruit trees and vines galore, and glimpses of the beautiful Tauranga harbour. It’s a region renowned for its orchards and, in the height of fruiting season, you’d see a great show of produce. Spoilt for choice, you might say.
Those glimpses of the harbour quickly turn into a perfect seaside pozzy for a thermos stop - another great kiwi tradition. Or get moving to start enjoying some of the treasures from fabulous local artisan food producers.
First stop, fish
Smokey Smokehouse, smoking good indeed. Follow the signs, you won’t get lost, to find yourself at the home of an artisan smoked fish producer that makes naturally manuka smoked fish with nothing but a spot of salt. Excellent.
Next stop, honey
Just around the corner, following a few more hedgerows, and there’s a premium New Zealand honey producer, BeeNZ. Door sales are at the home of their honey processing facility. Park the car and spot the giant honey drums at the back. And meet some charming honey hosts in the shop at the front, filled with all things honey and bee.
Meet the maker
And then, beyond the shopfronts, a chance (by appointment) to meet two local producers. Jill and Chris, the Mt Eliza cheesemakers with their sensational raw milk cheese. And Wyn and Chris, the orchardists producing delicious Harbourside Macadamias.
There’s nothing quite so special as a chance to have a chat with the people behind such great authentic products, and to see how they do it all. It’s no mean feat.
Mt Eliza Cheese
In the hills behind Katikati there’s the Mt Eliza creamery, a spot producing seriously seriously good cheese.
Red Leicester, Farmhouse Cheddar and Eliza Blue (their “red”, “white” and “blue”) are now “in season”. They’re available from the Friday afternoon Katikati plant and produce market and other selected markets and cheesemongers throughout the country. If you get a chance to try them, you really should.
It doesn’t take long to work out why Harbourside Macadamias is such a perfect name, right on the side of the Tauranga harbour.
The orchard has been there for a wee while (say, three and a half decades), with avocados, kiwifruit and citrus too, and it turns out an impressive yield of rich round macadamias. It’s one true sustainable operation, with the orchard owners fully involved in the tree to package process. There’s an array of macadamia nut products including, how clever, a creamy, nutty and warming macadamia liqueur.
And then the local market
If you are there on a Friday afternoon, the local Katikati plant and produce market is a good and easy find. Here’s the place to buy, direct, a great selection of the town’s food treasures.
All of these treats become so many different weekend pleasures. A bowl of dry roasted Harbourside macadamias, Mt Eliza Friday pizza (and macadamia nut liqueur with affogato to follow), Smokey Smoked Fish Saturday lunch and, one for all the family, Sunday night Mt Eliza mac’n’cheese… click here for a simple mac’n’cheese family favourite.