The first Waiheke Island post was mainly about mussels and oysters. The experience of harvesting plump, juicy oysters and mussels off our own beach warranted that. Because I got carried away raving about oysters and mussels, this post is basically about the rest of my rich Waiheke experience. Given the amazing produce from the beach and in Rosie & Terry’s garden – eating out didn’t feature highly on this trip. However, as a treat, we did make it out once – for lunch at Stonyridge Vineyard’s Verandah restaurant.
The restaurant extends out onto a wooden deck that overlooks the lush green vineyards and olive tree groves. We ordered a bottle of Stonyridge’s Airfield; a cabernet savignon, merlot and cabernet franc combination and the little brother 2nd label to the more recognised and expensive, Larose. We sat in the sun on the deck, savouring the wine and surrounds whilst chuckling about the wine’s tasting notes like “hints of pencil shavings and tobacco”. Yes, they might be valid wine notes but they don’t sound too appetizing!
We ordered entrees to share: two versions of caesar salad, one original and one with prawns; and the smoked salmon bruschetta with parmesan and capers. I love a good caesar salad and these I’m afraid were not quite to scratch. Where was the anchovy? You can’t have a caesar salad without anchovies. It’s just not right. The bruschetta was much better and the portions both large and tasty if maybe slightly on the oily side. (Note: On the co-pilot’s behalf, bruschetta should be pronounced broos-ketta not brush-etta; and whilst we’re at it, porcini should be pronounced por-cheeni not por-seeni as Simon Bryant insists on calling it in The Cook and the Chef).
Right – after that minor digression, we had our mains. The co-pilot and Rosie both ordered the grilled tuna with summer risotto, which the unfortunately came with slightly overcooked pieces of tuna – otherwise tasty. I had the Stonyridge rack of lamb with watercress salad – the lamb rack was moist, sweet and sticky and the simply dressed watercress salad providing a spicy bite to cut through the sweetness. Terry had the interestingly named “Time magazine top 10 foods for longevity” which included salmon, broccoli, red wine, spinach, tomatoes, nuts, oats, garlic, green tea, and blueberries. Terry commented that the salmon was surprisingly quite good as normally New Zealand salmon can taste quite waxy. By this point, our meal enjoyment was being severely hampered by the hothouse effect occurring on the verandah. We shuffled off, wide-eyed with heat into the shade of some cool palms and had out desserts there. Rosie and Terry shared the ginger cheesecake which they thought was nice, but could have been more gingery in taste – possibly improved by adding small pieces of crystallised ginger throughout. We had the sticky toffee pudding with vanilla icecream and there were no complaints from us. It was as promised, sticky, sweet and moist. We decided that the meal was good – not fantastic – merely good, and went off to admire the view of Onetangi beach instead.
The next day we were to go sailing and fishing around Waiheke with Terry, but first, helped Rosie bottle a batch of her Attitude Foods balsamic vinegar infused with rosemary. We helped pour in the hot sticky vinegar into bottles, cap them, stick on labels and expiry date stickers and pack the gleaming finished bottles into boxes ready for shipping. Rosie has been doing this for so long that it might be a chore to her, but there was something very satisfying about watching all the pieces culminate as the final product. In going through her neatly stacked products on shelves, snooping around her ingredients and tasting some of her prototypes in progress, I felt a sense of achievement (even if it was on Rosie’s behalf). Satisfied that we’d done some “work” we trundled off to play on the yacht, the Eden Express, with Terry as our trusty skipper. Sailing peacefully around the coast admiring the beautiful scenery, stopping to swim in beautiful secluded bays and fishing the plentiful waters (we caught six fish – but threw them all back) – I remembered how taken with New Zealand I was the first time I visited, about 5 years ago. It really is a quiet, unassuming piece of paradise.
After a full day’s sailing, we were greeted with delicious freshly made pizzas, courtesy of Rosie’s friend Mike who runs Beyond Pizza and catering on Waiheke Island. We had the Veggie Supreme, with plenty of mushrooms, zucchini, rocket and sunflower seeds, and the Mideast Magic, which was similarly vegetarian with additional dukkah, basil, avocado and feta cheese. They were a welcome sight for hungry sailors who’d come home fish-less. Mike’s pizzas aren’t what you’d immediately imagine when picturing a pizza. I’d describe it as gourmet noveau pizza. Over the course of 5 years, Mike developed an ultra crispy base which he has termed “the delicato crisp“. An apt name as I bite into a crunchy slice – a textural experience not unlike a taco – particularly when we added some of Mike’s salsa to the pizzas! The delicato crisp base is made using a combination of spelt, rye, wholemeal wheat, seven grain and ground linseed. His dedication to his cause was admirable. I’ve tried making pizza dough. I’m not sure I’d persist 5 years until I was happy with the fruits of my labour. In fact, I know I wouldn’t have the patience or determination. Producers like Rosie and Mike show a passion for food and flavour that puts a non-productive mere eater like me to shame.
Our last day on the island we wandered into town and into a cafe called The Lazy Lounge. It happened to be Pancake Tuesday, so I ordered the pancakes with grilled banana, streaky bacon and passionfruit syrup. It was interesting – sweet and savoury, and sourness too from the passionfruit. It was tasty in a strange way. I know the Canadians have their pancakes this way, but I’m undecided on whether I’m a fan. The co-pilot had eggs benedict with smoked salmon and seasoned mash – rich, tasty and filling.
Lastly, I couldn’t bear to leave the island without sampling one (or two) last oysters. Still delicious. As I bent down at the water’s edge to wash off the briny goodness, some pipis washed into my waiting hands. And that’s when we noticed them. Pipis so plentiful that they wash themselves ashore. What IS this place??! You have to dig for pipis – they don’t just launch themselves out of the sea into your waiting hands! Hang on – I’ve died and gone to food heaven haven’t I?
As we leave on the ferry out, I am taunted by the retreating silhouette of Waiheke and stories of scallops in the bay, lobsters caught on long lines, fish of edible size and yet more monster oysters and mussels. I understand why the locals don’t want to leave. I don’t blame them.
I guess I’ll just have to visit more often and make point of sampling all the foods I missed out on this time. Choice!
Addresses and details:
Stonyridge Winery Verandah Cafe
80 Onetangi Road, Waiheke Island, New Zealand. (+64) 9 372 8872
The Lazy Lounge
139 Oceanview Road, Oneroa, Waiheke Island. (+64) 9 372 5132