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Snacking in Auckland
New Zealand is no place to deny yourself: the freshest ingredients, simple preparations, and excellent bakeries and cafés abound. While you won't always get food that is cooked with finesse, most good places use unprocessed, pure, often locally sourced foods to turn out good honest fare that can surprise and delight.
Many of Auckland's best sit-down dining options are in its residential neighborhoods, enclaves that are part of the city, but, with their leafy streets and tony shops, seem like a trip to the suburbs. Break away from the tourist-laden cafés on Viaduct Harbour and pull up a chair in a hidden Parnell garden, or a shaded Ponsonby sidewalk café for an alfresco meal enjoyed the way Kiwis do it, with good wine and friends.
English influences are everywhere but with a modern sensibility. Your afternoon tea just might be a slice of passion fruit cake and a flat white. Nearly every street with shops has a few eateries, a fish-and-chips shop, and several places for a great coffee.
Auckland's parks, with impressive native trees, beckon for outdoor dining, and gourmet shops make a perfect picnic a piece of cake. Jones the Grocer on Newmarket is like the Antipodean Zabar's with everything you could want from upscale cheeses (they are known for their walk-in cheese rooms), to freshly made sandwiches, dips, and flavored oils, even hampers to carry them in.
Faster food is already wrapped and waiting at Wishbone, a unique elegant take-out chain with creative daily soups and special salads, and light sandwiches, like chicken, Brie, and cranberries.
Hokey-Pokey Ice Cream
Yes, you've had butter brickle, the cousin of this summertime childhood favorite, but you've never had any dairy as fresh as New Zealand butter or cream. Go for the full-fat version of this vanilla ice cream dotted with toffee bits.
Guilt-free snacks, kumara fries—packed with potassium and fiber—are delicious, and the kumara, or sweet potato, has a rich heritage as a Maori food staple. Red, gold, and orange varieties are plentiful in New Zealand today. Orange is the sweetest, especially fried and served Kiwi-style with sweet chili sauce and sour cream. These fries are soft rather than crunchy.
Like the ballerina for whom it was named, this national dessert is feather light—a meringue topped with fruit, sauce, and fresh cream. The confection is essentially hollow, but it forms the tough core of one of the many culinary Kiwi and Aussie rivalries: who invented it first and named it for visiting Anna Pavlova? So far, Kiwis have the edge: a recipe predating the Australian one by six years. Look for the treat on the menu around Christmastime.
The Kiwi passion for this seafood, a smeltlike fish caught as juveniles as they head upriver to spawn, is so intense that the media reports the start of whitebait season. Find the pancake-sized fritters at markets or as a daily special in cafés. Strict controls and popularity make it a delicious delicacy, despite the main ingredient.
While Auckland is known as the City of Sails, some say it is home to the cafferatti—those who live for coffee. Aucklanders happily tick off lists of go-to coffee shops and joints to avoid. The top sin is employing an inexperienced barista; decoration and food don't factor in. In fact, some follow baristas from café to café.
The big international companies are established in Auckland, but locals prefer small independent shops that often operate in tiny spots with room for little more than a coffee machine, a small food cabinet, and a few stools. Aucklanders drink on the run, so you may see people present their own cups to be filled.
To blend in with the cafferatti, order a flat white —thicker and less milky than a latte, with a smoother, richer flavor than cappuccino—or a short black (espresso). And true members of the cafferatti never order flavoring, so save your caramel craving for when you return home.
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