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Wine and Dine Your Way Through New Zealand
By A. Van Houten
An extreme sports mecca, New Zealand is home to a city that proclaims itself the adventure capital of the world—and for good reason. One day in Queenstown will show you how frighteningly easy it is to hurl yourself from bridges and planes willy-nilly. Whether it’s from the exercise or simply out fear, burning off that many calories means there’s no need to feel guilty about digging in to the (other) best part about traveling in New Zealand: the food. From freshly caught seafood to lamb-meat everything, the delicious yet frequently underrated cuisine the country offers should top your travel bucket list. These five spots are some of the most uniquely kiwi ways to wine and dine your way through Aotearoa.
1. Feast on Green-Lipped Mussels in Coromandel
Farmed for use in arthritis-alleviating supplements, the endemic New Zealand Greenshell Mussel comprises a huge chunk of the country’s exports. However, they’re also tasty as hell, and luckily they’re so plentiful in the gorgeous northern Coromandel region that you can feast without hurting your wallet. A hotbed for green-lipped mussels, the Coromandel Peninsula is home to the one and only Coromandel Mussel Kitchen,":http://www.musselkitchen.co.nz which offers up not only mouthwatering mollusks but also house-made beer, a nice selection of New Zealand wine, and live music outside. In addition to cultivating and harvesting their own mussels, the Mussel Kitchen also grows many of their own herbs and veggies onsite, including the hops used by MK Brewing Co. Although you can purchase MK beer all year round, the restaurant is only open during the summer months. That’s for the best, however; the outdoor seating is the best in the house, and it’s no fun if you’re sopping—New Zealand rainfall is no joke.
2. Indulge in Second Breakfast at Hobbiton
"The Green Dragon Inn":http://www.hobbitontours.com/TheGreenDragon is the pit stop of choice for J.R.R. Tolkien’s hobbits in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and now it can be yours too. Situated on a family farm outside Matamata, the Hobbiton film set was created under the direction of Peter Jackson, complete with a village of 37 hobbit holes, fruitful gardens, a frog pond, and more. After geeking out on your walking tour —you can walk the same path Gandalf travels in the opening scene of the film franchise—retire to the authentically decorated Green Dragon, a rustic tavern where guests can tuck into classic, hearty pub fare like meat pies and imbibe complimentary pints of Oatbarton Stout or Girdley Fine Grain Amber Ale. Although the hobbits are not exactly known for being teetotalers, the inn also offers non-alcoholic Frogmorton Ginger Beer (as well as Sackville hard apple cider).
3. Dine at a Shipping Container in Christchurch
Situated devastatingly close to the seismic "Ring of Fire," Christchurch has been repeatedly leveled by earthquakes. From 2010 onward, a string of violent convulsions has rattled the city’s European bones, including the iconic cathedral that gives it its name. However, this has only inspired more creative rebuilding efforts, such as "Thai Container":http:// www.thaicontainer.co.nz , a Thai-style restaurant that serves out of a tanker-sized shipping crate. Businesses like Thai Container and even whole shopping centers, like the Re:START Mall in the city center that's built entirely out of shipping containers, have sprung up throughout the city as a means of coping during the ongoing infrastructure restoration process. On top of the toothsome food, Thai Container provides a fascinating perspective on the creativity bred out of tragedy.
4. Do a Craft Beer Crawl through Wellington
An urban metropolis, the capital city is a hot spot for not only art but also gastropubs and microbreweries. The burgeoning craft beer scene boasts a plethora of hip watering holes all within a fairly short radius. Like any big city, it can be a pain to drive, so ditch the car and hit the streets on foot. Start things off at "Little Beer Quarter,":http://littlebeerquarter.co.nz a self-proclaimed "beer geek heaven" tucked away on Edward Street. With a copious variety of beer on tap and a pleasantly cluttered aesthetic, LBQ’s the perfect place to observe the youthful culture that makes Wellington so dissimilar to much of New Zealand. Once you’ve had your fill, head out and keep your eyes peeled for street art as you head east. Sample some funky local brews at "Goulding’s Free Dive,":http://www.goldingsfreedive.co.nz/page/home.aspx a kitschy dive bar on Leeds Street that stocks a wide range of awesome ales from both New Zealand and the U.S. If you’re up for it, head on to "Black Dog Brewing":http://blackdogbrewery.co.nz and close out the night at "Hashigo Zake.":http://www.hashigozake.co.nz
5. Try Fergburger… and Fergbaker… and Mrs. Ferg’s
Day or night, "this Queenstown burger joint":http://www.fergburger.com/fullscreen.html is bustling, and one taste is enough to know why. Opt for the Little Lamby, a lamb patty with mint jelly, tomato relish, and all the fixings; or try the Sweet Bambi, wild Fjordland venison with plum chutney; or anything with roasted burgundy beets on it. (Fergburger also has several vegetarian options, including the Bun Laden.) Despite the seemingly eternal line out the door, hitting Ferg during the off hours will help you avoid the queue. They’re open from 8:30am-5am seven days a week, so go around 10pm-12pm when the masses are out making Queenstown’s rowdy bar scene what it is, or else in the morning between re-opening and about 9:30am. Did we mention the breakfast sandwiches are to die for?
And if you haven’t jumped on the meat pie train yet, there’s no better place to try one than Fergbaker, the scrumptious bakery located right next door. After the wild success of Fergburger, the owners bought out two neighboring units on Shotover Street for their other culinary enterprises, which include the bakery as well as a gelato shop named Mrs. Ferg’s.