The sticky date and ginger cake is winking at me.
It’s a chilly Saturday morning and my partner and I have just devoured some delicious mini bacon and egg pies at Rangiora’s Good St Deli. I’m longing to enjoy the cake with the remainder of a very good long black.
The deli is the first stop on a gastronomic journey of some of the highlights of the North Canterbury Food and Wine Trail which features forty food and wine producers, cafes, restaurants and accommodation providers from Waimakariri, Hurunui and Kaikoura.
Well-known local foodies Peter and Fiona Bersani own the Good St Deli. They do a great line in tasty cabinet food and excellent coffee. There are nice cheeses, good quality meats and a large selection of interesting specialty food and products to take home. It is a great place to pick up some locally produced olive oils, mint syrup and fruit pastes.
I regretfully resist the cake, and we head east to the small town of Woodend, home of Prenzel of Canterbury. The company’s literature suggests that we should ‘start off with a Rigid Richard’. I’m intrigued.
Prenzel has a fantastic range of multi award-winning, naturally-made products such as liqueurs and schnapps, gin, infused olive oils, wine vinegars, vinaigrettes and ‘drunken’ dessert sauces.
The Rigid Richard turns out to be its signature drink, a combination of butterscotch schnapps and butterscotch cream. Delicious. Prenzel’s delightful manager Debbie Ambler is a generous pourer. Before long we’ve also quaffed award winning gin, Citron Ice, and limited edition liqueurs.
Culinary products are among Prenzel’s biggest sellers. Debbie says the bright, cosy retail store tucked just off SH1 is a popular stop-off for visitors on the way home from the Waipara wine trail, especially if they’re a little “wined out.”
Food now beckons. We head 20 minutes north to The Mud House Cellar Door and Café, a must-stop on any visit to Waipara. Nestled in a rolling valley and surrounded by vine plantings, the grand Mud House Wines building is an impressive landmark.
We settle in by the (real) fire and peruse the menu. I choose the Fresh Salmon with a tartlet of caramelised onion, tomato and basil finished with lemon scented hummus, while Richard selects the Flintstone Steak with braised leeks, roasted field mushrooms and red onion jam.
Before our lunch arrives we are treated to tastings of the Mud House’s fabulous wines by its cellar door co-ordinator, Blake, who is extremely friendly and knowledgeable. The food is beautifully cooked, presented with flair and is enjoyed with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and a chat about the state of the All Blacks with manager, Jenny Anderson.
After lunch we venture to the Omihi Hills Vineyard where the stunning vista across the rolling valley to the Kaikoura ranges is only eclipsed by the classically structured, hand-crafted wines produced there since 1986 by Daniel Schuster Wines.
Danny is one of the region’s characters and it pays to allow plenty of time when making a visit. His winemaking abilities are easily matched by his conversation skills and he is generous in the time he allows for a tour and tastings. With a twinkle in his eye, classic quotes like, “wine should be strict and sisterly, not like a mother-in-law who brings tears to your eyes” slip easily off his tongue.
Taste Danny’s wines and the love that goes into them is evident. International judges seem to agree. His Omihi Selection Pinor Noir 2006 was awarded the Best New World Red Wine at the Japan Wine Challenge this year.
As we leave Omihi for Christchurch we agree that afternoon tea at Pukeko Junction in Leithfield will round off a wonderful day.
Penny Wenlock’s home-made delights attract crowds of diners to the café. With a cooking philosophy based around combining food colours rather than ingredients, the food cabinet offers a visual feast as much a taste sensation. Today we will bypass the appealing savoury food for something a little sweeter. The apple, apricot and filo tart, muffins and slices beckon, but in the end I choose a lime and lemon tart, and Richard a huge slice of carrot cake, accompanied by another couple of long blacks.
Learn more about the North Canterbury Food and Wine Trail at www.visitwaimakariri.co.nz
Copies of the guide can be ordered by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
By Jo Bailey