On a day that feels like spring is nearing, it’s so tempting to head from cities to fields.
For those who find themselves in and around Auckland, here’s a very do-able loop for a real kiwi lunch, followed by a cross-country drive collecting some wonderful real New Zealand food. Pies and chocolate anyone?
Pies to be proud of
Only a little way north of Auckland is Old Albany Village, an urban rural village on Dairy Flat Highway, where you’ll find a family business specialising in the iconic New Zealand pie, and delivering a real kiwi experience. Get yourself to Pioneer Pies, for fresh as fresh pies of all descriptions.
Today was a day for roast chicken with mushrooms and tarragon, and roast veggies with cheese mornay. And they were mighty fine. Perfect pastry, delicious and packed full of fillings.
There are plenty of choices for all the meat-eaters out there, not to mention dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan offerings. And the piemakers are there on site, busily filling pie tins and whipping up pastry and fillings to deal with the demand.
There’s a low key and very comfy collection of couches, stools and tables to perch on and at, if you want to eat there, with the traditional classic tomato sauce bottle and colourful potted flowers. Option two - head down the way to find a countryside lane to stop and take in some greenery. Either way, lunch done.
What goes after pies… well, chocolate of course
There’s a drive past green fields, with daffodils popping up their golden heads - a sure sign of a nearing spring. On the way, you might pass chickens pecking roadside - yes, definitely free range... And, when the season’s right, berry farms and artisan cheese makers are close by.
Find a Swiss treat
Next stop, time for some chocolate decadence. Hello Swiss Bliss, at Waitoki.
This boutique chocolatier is owned by a Swiss family, with a long history in food. There’s a rustic and charming chocolate kitchen (the best kind of kitchen), where the makers are hard at work with their glorious creations (chocolate raspberry wafers the order of that day). And, the best part, there's a shop down the gravel driveway.
Open the door and take in the powerful, rich and intoxicating chocolate aroma. You'll definitely be tempted. It’s the kind of place you can get a bit hooked on, having visited more than once ourselves. Their celebrated Swiss Kisses and other goodies - there always seems to be some new treats on the go - can be found in many outlets through New Zealand. But there's nothing like visiting them at home.
Rural roads and a city view
From there, weave cross-country back roads - it’s a chance to see rural New Zealand - to get yourself to Kumeu. You’ll know when you are almost there - punctuating the sky in the distance is the Sky Tower, the tallest man-made structure in the country.
Along the way you’ll see fruit and veggies for sale in roadside stalls with honesty boxes - daffodils and limes were the seasonal offerings today. You’ll pass hedgerows, protecting the orchards the area is famous for, and plenty of cyclists training furiously.
Surrounding Kumeu, another urban rural town, are more rural spaces, sporting an array of farm animals - cows and sheep, of course, and then the more exotic for these parts. Alpaca, goats, and other less recognisable creatures as we buzzed past...
Orchards in abundance
A final stop, find Boric Food Market, with its orchard supplies, grown in the region since the 1940s. It’s a compulsory stop for the “new season, grown here” fruit. And the shop contains an abundance of other produce and foodstuffs from local New Zealand producers.
Apples were the order of the day, with many lesser known varieties available. Cider apples on offer, if you are so inclined. Deliciously crisp, these new season local apples are a good palate cleanser after earlier treats of the day.
The apples are so good, it seems a waste not to eat them just as nature serves them up. So some other seasonal produce, carrots and oranges, and some great New Zealand made peanut butter, were the take-home for an evening meal. For an excellent seasonal nutty carrot soup, click here.