Consolation Prize


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Oceania » New Zealand » North Island » Bay of Islands » Russell
December 31st 2015
Published: September 30th 2017
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Geo: -35.2616, 174.122

Poor planning - that's why we ended up in a small town like Kerikeri on New Year's Eve, because some basic research led us to plan an additional day in the area, for some wine tasting around the town of Russell. Had it not been for Russell, we would've made our way down to Auckland one day earlier, which surely would have a fairly substantial celebration to ring in the New Year.

The plan was good in theory, but in reality, it wasn't the best choice - while Russell does have a couple of decent wineries, there really isn't much wine tourism compared to NZ's more famous wine regions. Russell really isn't a place to plan a full day's worth of wine tasting - only an hour or two, at most, was enough for us to hit up both Paroa Bay and Omata Estate. We did receive a good tip at Paroa Bay's cellar door, which led us to a little oyster shack down on Orongo Bay.

Beyond that, there wasn't a whole lot more happening in the town itself - while cute and quaint, there wasn't a whole lot of interest for us there. One of the lowlights was the local chocolate shop, seemingly of the tourist rip-off variety, whose high-pressure sales tactics were off-putting, but we somehow fell for it. Having finished up our tour of Russell and its surrounding area much quicker than anticipated, we decided to cut our losses and head back to Kerikeri, for some shop browsing there.

Today wasn't a complete loss, however, as we had pre-booked New Year's Eve dinner at Provenir, the restaurant at the Paihia Beach Resort & Spa. Even though we did miss out on New Year's Eve in Auckland, our quiet little evening in Paihia was still a more-than-adequate consolation prize, with a stellar gourmet tasting menu that was surprisingly reasonably-priced, at least when compared to Calgary standards.

We had planned to take in the fireworks display down at Paihia's waterfront, but alas, with a super-early departure to Auckland scheduled for tomorrow, we decided just to head back to Kerikeri and finish off our bottle of wine in the fridge. With New Year's Eve ending up being such a quiet affair, missing out on Auckland's New Year festivities didn't matter, in the end - wine and chocolates in bed wasn't exactly an inferior option.


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Briny Mineral Oysters From Orongo Bay ...Briny Mineral Oysters From Orongo Bay ...
Briny Mineral Oysters From Orongo Bay ...

... fat and creamy, they don't get any fresher than this, purchased directly from the oyster farmer's operations right on the water. Not the best, and the ultimate oyster sin was committed - they didn't have any hot sauce! But that didn't stop us from having a second dozen oysters.
Hokey Pokey Ice Cream ...Hokey Pokey Ice Cream ...
Hokey Pokey Ice Cream ...

... vanilla ice cream with chunks of honeycomb toffee, the Kiwi version of sponge toffee. Apparently, it's a must-try while in NZ.
Longboarder Lager ...Longboarder Lager ...
Longboarder Lager ...

... NZ has been all about the wine for us so far, but tonight was the time to sample some of the craft beer.
Decent Little Buns to Start ...Decent Little Buns to Start ...
Decent Little Buns to Start ...

... cakey and crusty, but they could've used a little bit of salt.
More Orongo Bay Oysters ...More Orongo Bay Oysters ...
More Orongo Bay Oysters ...

... this time a bit more gourmet, served with jerez vinaigrette and banana shallots.
Smoked Roe, Salmon Caviar, Rye, Creme Fraiche ...Smoked Roe, Salmon Caviar, Rye, Creme Fraiche ...
Smoked Roe, Salmon Caviar, Rye, Creme Fraiche ...

... along with some dill. It was essentially a light, airy salmon mousse, with some surprisingly-good bits of crunchy rye crumbs, making for a very unique presentation. Rich, savoury, and good is how to best describe this dish.
Serrano, Grilled Melon, Cevre, Black Olive ...Serrano, Grilled Melon, Cevre, Black Olive ...
Serrano, Grilled Melon, Cevre, Black Olive ...

... with grissini and verjuice. We never knew what the hell verjuice was until today - unripe grape juice, that had a bit of a fresh, grassy taste to it. The Serrano was excellent, and the grilled melon surprisingly tasty, making for a unique spin on this classic pairing. The column of goat cheese was perhaps a bit unnecessary, and the grissini was chewy like a stale ice cream cone. Still, it couldn't take away from the excellence of the Serrano and melon.
Kingfish, Coconut, Kaiataia Fire Jelly ...Kingfish, Coconut, Kaiataia Fire Jelly ...
Kingfish, Coconut, Kaiataia Fire Jelly ...

... coriander, lime, and cucumber. Apparently the Kaiataia fire jelly is a well-known local product, and added a nice hit of sweet and spicy to the dish. As usual, the fish quality was excellent, but all of these components were not very distinctive, with all of the individual tastes blending together, in a good way.
Beef, Bone Marrow, Duxelle ...Beef, Bone Marrow, Duxelle ...
Beef, Bone Marrow, Duxelle ...

... confit heirloom tomato, white anchovy butter - the tomato was a bit odd, seemingly spiced with cinnamon, and the anchovy butter was a bit overpowering. But the beef ... sweet and tender.
Berries, Pains d'Amande, Floating Island ...Berries, Pains d'Amande, Floating Island ...
Berries, Pains d'Amande, Floating Island ...

... lavender ice cream, and fragoli tea - definitely a unique spin on the classic iles flottantes, substituting crème anglaise with strawberry tea, and including almond cookies along with the meringue. A nice light finish to the meal, that nicely summed up the tasting menu - extremely creative cuisine.


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