After a good 12 hours of decent sleep, I headed out early into the chilly morning, filled with sun and pockets of fog, to find the car completely coated in heavy frost, evidently the first major freeze of the region. Without any de-icing implements, I let the car's two ample defrosts do the work, and soon headed north toward the rural highlands between Auckland and the peninsula comprising the Northlands. My destination was Matakana, to a rustic kitchen I had read about that served hearty brunches. The drive started out very urban, but the city quickly faded away, as did the lanes, and soon I was on a two-lane highway that was the major artery for this region.
Along the way was wonderful scenery, and fields filled with sheep, about 1 in 10 being lambkins frolicking in the frosty dew. Owing to the narrow roadways, there were few opportunities to pull over and get pictorial evidence, but I'm sure there will be other opportunities. The road was quite twisty and turny, and the radio station overrun with R&B slow jams or talk radio, mostly talking about regional politics, so the hum of the tires on the road seemed preferable for a Sunday morning amble.
I don't blog much about food, since what I find tasty doesn't often appeal to others, and due to my picky eating, I often stick to safer foods, but this morning's picks were definite winners. I started with a Flat White, New Zealand's contested contribution to the world's coffee lexicon. It's a tasty concoction with a base of espresso, topped with a thick layer of microfoamed milk. Australia thinks they created it, too, hence the contention, but now that Starbucks serves them in the States, the squabbling might die down.
I had then seen at every place I've been delicious-looking brioche muffins, and the Matakana Market Kitchen had a variety of them, but the Cinnamon one called to me, and after heating it and putting a pat of grass-yellow local butter on top, oozing its way in to the spirals, I knew I had made a wise decision.
The entree was to be Welsh Rabbit, which I remember wondering about as a kid, reading my mom's copy of The Joy of Cooking. The wonder came in the fact that Welsh Rabbit is a totally vegetarian dish that has nothing to do with fluffy animals. It's basically good hearty bread that has been generously topped with a lusciously rich cheesey bechamel sauce, often with Worcestershire Sauce and/or onions added for that renowned "Welsh" flavour. The Kitchen prepared theirs with local bread, local cheddar cheese, local ale and paired it with smokey bacon, and was topped with superfine julienned beets that were pickled until crisp, and studded with chunks of apples, and finished with a balsamic-Worcestershire glaze. It was one of the finest meals I have had in my travels, so much that it got its own photo in the gallery.
The rest of the day was spent reminiscing about the meal while I meandered East toward the opposite coast, and made my way up into the Waitakere highlands, a mix of mountains and rainforest, with views of bays, the Tasman Sea and even Auckland, some 20 or 30 kilometers away.
With a little extra time before sunset, I found a brand new large grocery store in town, and enjoyed perusing the selection, and was amused to see the sign telling shoppers where to return their "trundlers" after shopping was complete. I've also been amused every time I've heard a television or radio presenter pronounce the word 'debut' as if it rhymes with 'taboo'.
Another early night, so I can hit the road early tomorrow to make my way to the thermally active area known as Rotorua, but first will be a stop to visit some very famous round-houses where hobbits may have once lived...