Wairarapa Delights

This trip happened just before Christmas in 2020, I just haven’t had a chance to write about it until now.

Would you drive an hour for some cheese?

I did. Let me share the story.

Back in September, Daniel and I stayed a night at the luxurious Wharekauhau Estate in Cape Palliser. One of the many delicious meals we had contained The Drunken Nanny Black Tie Cheese.

It was sensational.

A creamy soft goats cheese that left my taste buds wanting more. The pyramid shaped cheese is coated in a dusting of ash made from grape vines, imported from France. It looks stunning on a plate and I knew I just had to have it for my Christmas cheese platter.

I tried a couple of local stockists without any luck, so I decided to take my mum on a day trip to get the cheese and try some local delights.

We set off with Martinborough on our radar. Our fist stop is Olivo, the oldest commercial olive grove in Martinborough, with over 1200 olive trees. As we head down the long, stately driveway, surrounded by Olive trees, I say to my mum that this time (I was here about 10 years ago) I am not going to buy any infused olive oils. As fragrant and delicious tasting as they are, I lacked imagination on how to use them and in the end, they went to waste.

We are welcomed into the tasting room by the host who starts to tell us about the oils they produce and the olive trees that they grow. I love hearing the stories of farm to table by local food artisans.

First we try the extra virgin olive oils. There are 3 varieties, Koroneiki, these trees originate from Greece, Tuscan estate oil, made from a blend of Frantoio and Leccino olives, originating from Italy and Estate Extra, a blend of Barnea (Israeli) and a touch of Manzanillo (Spanish) olives. They each have a distinctive taste and all utterly delicious. I make sure to get lots of oil on my piece of bread. Fresh bread and olive oil is one of my favorite things!

We then try some of the infused oils; lemon, smoked paprika, fennel, porcini and more. But my favourite had to be the vanilla. I couldn’t help myself! While I did get some of the extra virgin olive oil, I also walked away with a bottle of the vanilla oil. It was too good to pass up. They call it their dessert olive oil and this time, I will be sure to use it!

It was a really interesting and informative tasting session. Although not running that day, Oilvo do run tours of the grove which I would love to do one day.

Lunch was up next. It’s a lovely day and while walking past the shops, deciding where to go for lunch, we pass a sign at The Grocer advertising, fresh homemade Christmas mince pies. Well, we couldn’t turn that down so lunch became a picnic in The Square under the tall shady trees.

After browsing the boutique stores, we make our way to The Martinborough Sweet Shop where we are booked in for chocolate tastings. The store is beautiful, colourful, enticing and any sweet tooth’s dream.

We are led out to a back room which instantly feels cool. They can’t let the room get too warm or the chocolate will melt. We are seated at a bar table with china cup and saucer and our host prepares some lemon and lime tea. Not only does this warm us up a little, it also works as a pallet cleanser between tastings.

There are bars of chocolate lining the walls. The Martinborough Sweet Shop doesn’t craft their own chocolate, instead they showcase a variety of artisan delights from around the country. There are a couple of brands I have heard of before, like Schoc Chocolate, but most them are new to me.

We are presented with a plate of 15 chocolates, ranging from white to milk through to dark. We begin with the white chocolates. Sweet and creamy they get the taste buds watering. We make our way around the plate, from light to dark, sipping tea and learning about the different chocolates and the chocolatiers who create these delectable treats.

We try some expected flavours like salted caramel and single origin milk chocolate, some fruity ones like white chocolate lemon and white chocolate raspberry. We tried something I have never heard of – ruby chocolate. It is naturally pink in colour and has a similar taste to white chocolate.

There were also some rather unexpected flavours; buttered toast. (Yes it tasted exactly as it sounds. I love buttered toast but I am not sure I was a fan of this one) and curry and poppadom!! Some people are so creative! My favourite though was a collaboration with a local wine maker, Moy Hall. Their Pinot Noir chocolate was absolutely divine!

After an hour of chocolate tastings, it’s time to move on. But not before spinning the wheel to find out what our bonus prize is. I won a white chocolate passion fruit bar. (And may have also purchased a bar of the Pinot Noir chocolate to take home with me.)

We have one last stop before heading back to Wellington, C’est Cheese – the whole reason for our trip. They stock a huge variety of cheeses, chutneys, relishes and other delights, including a well stocked fridge of The Drunken Nanny, Black Tie Goats cheese. Yes!

Was it worth the hours drive? Lets just say, it didn’t last on the platter long enough for me to get a photo of it. I did get to eat some though. My husband bought me a slice, not served on a cracker, but on a couple of squares of white chocolate. Sound weird? I thought so too, but think ‘white chocolate cheesecake’. WOW. What an excellent combination.

No doubt, I will make that trip again for the cheese. It is that good!!

Car Sauna, a Swanky Macca’s and Dancing under the Stars

Hawkes Bay, it’s one of those places that, whenever I visit, I am left pondering why I don’t live there. Don’t get me wrong, I love Wellington, but the weather is often far less than favourable. But in Hawkes Bay, the sun shines, vineyards are plentiful, fresh produce abounds and everyday life looks like a beach holiday.

Napier is where we are heading today. I am looking forward to the promise of a sun drenched weekend. The car is packed, we are ready to go, but first we have to drop Frank and Ed off at the pet sitters. Somehow, Frank and Ed have more luggage as us. Yes, my dogs are spoilt.

Napier is a 4 hour’s drive from Wellington, but it felt so much longer! The aircon in our car doesn’t work and OMG, it was such a hot drive up. (My husband wants me to mention that it hasn’t worked for years because I didn’t want to pay $800 to get it fixed. I made my bed and now I am sweating in it!) I was so happy to finally arrive and get some water and an ice cream, even if it was from McDonalds.

Believe it or not, our McDonald’s experience was actually pretty cool.

In 1931, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Hawkes Bay region, completely devastating the area, including Napier. When Napier was rebuilt, it was done in the current fashion of the era – Art Deco style. Everywhere you go, you will see an amazing variety of art deco styled buildings, including the McDonald’s building. I don’t think I will ever see such a swanky McDonald’s in my life – stained glass windows, ceiling rosettes, décor in the typical 1930’s design and art work, depicting the way of life in this bygone era. If you’re in Napier, be sure to check out the Taradale McDonald’s

Every year in February, the city holds an Art Deco Festival Weekend. People dress up, ride around in vintage cars, attend Gatsby picnic’s and much more. I love how the city has embraced the era.

Writing about it now, I think it needs to go on my bucket list.

The reason we are in Napier though is not to go to and Art Deco Mcdonald’s or attend Art Deco weekend. We are here to see Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminal’s concert at Church Road Vineyard.

Every year, Napier holds a variety of concerts in some of their beautiful wineries. They have had a multitude of famous artist such as Elton John, Michael Buble, Sting, Eric Clapton and more, filling the vineyards with songs. This is my first time attending one of these events and I am really looking forward to it.

We arrive as the doors are opening and find a spot on the lawn to set up our picnic. (You can take your own food in.) There are a number of food trucks you can purchase meals and snacks from, as well as wines from the vineyard and beer.

The atmosphere was great. A warm summer night, dancing barefoot in the grass under the stars. A delectable picnic on hand, wine and some great music.

What more could you want?

Things did get a little awkward as the day turned to night and picnics turned into a concert as wine filled people started tripping over picnic baskets. I wouldn’t recommend setting up your picnic right in front of the stage!

We spend the night out at a friend’s batch at a remote beach called Waipataki. The night air is filled with the sounds of the ocean, chirping crickets and a house party singing ‘don’t go out in the pouring rain’

Away from the city and light pollution the stars are magnificent. I have always had a fascination with stars and it has been a long time since I have seen a night sky this clear, the Milky Way is stunning.  I was disappointed I didn’t think to pack the camera. My cell phone camera won’t pick up this incredible moment.

Next time.