We meet Phil a bit earlier today, it’s a 9 am start for this food tour and we begin our culinary journey at Point Chevalier Beach Cafe. No donuts for breakfast today, instead it’s an almond croissant and a peppermint tea. The croissant is flaky and sweet, but not too sweet which is good. I have to pace myself, we have a day of eating ahead of us.
Our next stop is Phillipe’s Chocolates. Here we find a delectable selection of pastries, chocolates and truffles. We are each allowed to choose 4 chocolates to take away with us. Deciding on the flavours is a tough decision, there is a big selection. I will enjoy these later.
After our sweet start, we make our way to Sandringham Village, the Auckland center for Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan food. As soon as I step out of the van, I can smell the spices. The aroma in the air brings memories of our time in India flooding back. Smell is such a powerful sense. On this stop we get to choose a savory snack to sample. I go for a samosa and Daniel selects a lamb roll.
We then head to Sabato, a store importing oils, spices, vinegar, sauces and more from the Mediterranean. Mediterraneans do food so well. Simple, fresh ingredients make the tastiest meals. They understand that food is meant to be enjoyed, savored. Not eaten in a rush on the go. I loved browsing in the store, there was lots to remind me of delicious meals I had eaten in Italy. We left with some spices, dukkah, aged balsamic vinegar and truffle powder. Since returning home I have made fresh pasta by hand and enjoyed eating it with a simple dressing of extra virgin olive oil and truffle powder. It’s not quite the same as having pasta in the hill top towns of Tuscany, generously garnished with slices of fresh truffles, but it’s pretty good.
Our next stop is Soljans Estate Winery. This is another small, family owned vineyard, started by Croatian immigrants and another of my favourite vineyards. On the walls of the tasting room are large, old photos of the vineyard and the family home in Hvar, Croatia. There is so much history in this little room and it’s the only vineyard in New Zealand with 5 generations of family involved. It was much more than just a wine tasting. After purchasing more wines, we head next door to their restaurant for lunch.
Phil has been running tours in Auckland for over 20 years and this is evident in the relationships he has with the families at the vineyards. He has been visiting these places for many years and is greeted as an old friend. It’s an open menu for lunch, which means Phil is paying and we can order whatever we like! This has been one of the great things about the tour, everything is included (except all the wine Daniel is purchasing) It makes for a very relaxed, easy tour. I have gnocchi again and then share a dessert with Daniel.
By now I am rather full and we still have 2 more stops on this food journey around Auckland. We make our way to Kumeu River Winery and Phil shows us around. We see the testing lab (a first for me) and the cellar which is filled with oak barrels, aging all their wines. This place is renowned for their Chardonnays and there are 3 in the tasting line up. A few more purchases are made by Daniel. His favourite wine is Pinot Noir and while he did purchase some, the majority of the purchases were other types. Across the 2 days we tried a huge variety of wines, some that I have never heard of before. That’s one of the great things about wine tours, it encourages you to explore different wines.
Our last stop of the day is Boric Orchard Markets, a multi-generational food market than began as a humble road side fruit stall. Our tour concludes with a New Zealand ice cream from the market.
We had a wonderful time exploring Auckland over the 2 days. Our previous experience of Auckland has always been a quick trip up and back for a concert or a few hours stop over on an international trip. On our 2 private tours with Phil, we got so see so much more. The rural side of Auckland, the wild, rugged coastline and we meet some of the families who have help shaped the agriculture of our country.