Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, samples New Zealand's organic blueberries and succulent beef.
Ten minutes outside of Cambridge is the Monavale organic blueberry farm where a Dutch family produce 100 tonnes of organic blueberries a year both for both the local market and export market. "The reason why we do well is because we are known for our sweet blueberries” the direct and brusque owner Marcus says.
Originally the farm started with his parents who started farming organically in 1985 because they lived on the premises and didn’t want the chemicals near them. It was through a lot of trial and error and soil management that they have managed to achieve a sweet berry and 40 per cent of their crop is exported, much to Australia marketed under the Irresistiblue label. However, since it is all fumigated upon entry into Australia, they can’t call it organic anymore.
During the months of November to February people can ‘Pick Your Own’ berries and after doing so can stop for a drink or something to eat in their cafe opened two years ago. Kath, Marcus’s wife tells us about the various blueberry products they have on offer from the jams, wines, sauce, ice cream, sorbet, liqueur as well as two types of juice including a pure blueberry juice which sells for $8 for 250mls and is said to have three punnets of blueberries in each bottle as well as the apple and blueberry juice which is $4.50 for 330mls.
Tasting plate $20
If you want to try some of the products there is a tasting plate for 1-2 people that gives you a small taste of the jam, chutney and spread along with toasted bread and a salad that you can dress with the blueberry dressing. There are also shot glass samples of the pure blueberry juice, apple and blueberry juice, ice cream and sorbet.
The pick of the cafe for the eat-in food is the buttery blueberry pie with the crumble topping which is moreish and has a solid biscuitty pastry base, sweet blueberry filling and crumble topping.
We take a little tour of the blueberry bushes – each bush has blueberries that ripen at different stages and they are picked when firm but dark blue. There are lots of blueberries per branch and Marcus tells us that when they have eight pickers picking in a row, they will not get the row finished in a day.
Waitomo General Store
I’m looking around for hobbits. I’m not mad (ok yes I am) but I’m not imagining things. After a drive, we have arrived in the town of Waitomo and they are in the midst of filming The Hobbit. We pull up to the Waitomo General Store that opened in January 2011 after being in a long period of disrepair. It was the original general store for the town and has been taken over by English born couple Guy and Christobel Pilgrim who are cattle farmers. They wanted to open up a farm shop to sell their product which is what they tend to do in rural areas of England.
The charmingly outfitted cafe has the shop to the left and an eating area to the right. Vintage mismatched furniture and quirky touches abound. The shop itself stocks all of the household basics for locals but they also do an excellent range of New Zealand boutique brands which are worth checking out. There is the Glasseye wild meat sauce, their own three week aged Angus beef at excellent prices, New Zealand soft drinks, smoothies, chips and goodies.
Te Anga Beef Burger $10
Sometimes you intend to eat lightly. And then something is presented to you and then suddenly all good intentions fly out the window. The burger was an example of this. I wanted to try something unique to the shop and all of the beef used and sold in the store is from their nearby farm. Now I’m usually quite against hard buns on burgers – after all I’ve hurt the roof my mouth on many hard buns. Instead this is an excellent crispy ciabatta that really melts in the mouth. It’s a simple burger with red onion, lettuce, tomato, cheese and mayonnaise as well as bbq sauce but the thick beef patty and the excellent bun really elevate it. And before you know it I’ve finished it. Oops!
Apart from their steaks and burgers they also sell sausages to eat at home. Their sausages contain no water or cereal fillers (except for one) and are "99% meat” Guy says confidently. We try some of their beef sausages and they’re fantastic-full of flavour and succulently juicy.
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