While you may have come across many show items before at a gourmet food store or local market, if not a supermarket, the Food Show also lets you watch your favourite New Zealand celebrity chef in action, taste test something you wouldn't normally buy, and get a discount on products you already know you like. Theoretically, you have a chance to chat to the local producers as well, but I didn't feel comfortable doing this, especially at popular stalls where everyone is trying to get to the food and you just have to dive in and out quickly to avoid holding everyone up.
Going through the hundreds of stalls, you start to glaze over and stop really paying attention to everything on offer. Here are some things that stood out for us though.
- Cultured butter from Lewis Road Creamery. Actually, I discovered these guys a little while ago, and already knew their butter was an excellent local version of my previous favourite butter Lurpak (which I have been known to eat thick slices of on bread, as if it were cheese). The main reason for us coming to the Food Show was so we could sample Lewis Road's artisan butter without going to a high-end restaurant. It's made from 100% Jersey cow milk, unlike their supermarket premium butters, which are just made from the usual Fonterra mix. Unfortunately, I wasn't really able to taste the difference, mainly because the bread they served the butters on was so flavourful.
|Butter sculptures advertising Lewis Road Creamery.|
- Curried lamb pies from Leelands. You might have to wait a bit before they are heated through, but they are oh-so-delicious! It's a pity we have no idea where you would be able to buy one of these after the Food Show, but here's a list of Auckland's best pies.
- Festivals, or Jamacian deep fried corn bread from West Indies Spice Traders. These hot and tasty delights with a crunchy crust were only there to help sell the sauces, but they really stole the show for us. Freshly shaped and fried at the back of the stall, they are apparently made from equal amounts of corn meal and plain white flour, and mixed with a bit of sugar, milk and eggs. The man I spoke to claimed the recipe was on their website, but I couldn't find it. Their stall also stood out for generating a lot of smoke from cooking their chicken on the side.
|The sauces are the things for sale, but it was the corn bread from the man in the background that blew me away.|
- The artisan alley, set up with wooden stalls and great food, including fresh oysters from Mahurangi Oysters (only $2 each!), fennel sausages and olive oil from Salumeria Fontana, and crisp greens from The Fresh Grower.
- Discounts on quality ingredients, for instance $6.50 for 1kg of fresh clams from Southern Clams, $10 for a halloumi and feta combo from Zany Zeus, and $15 for 1kg of my favourite peanut butter from Pic's Really Good Peanut Butter.
Here are some suggestions on how to enjoy the Food Show as much as possible.
- Work out your schedule beforehand. Make sure you see all the cooking demonstrations that you want to see, and visit all the stalls you particularly care about.
- Don't turn up starving hungry. You want to be able to be discerning in what you try, not stuff yourself full of the first packet biscuits or bread and dips that you see.
- Hold on to your largest cup. Walking around can be thirsty work. You may want to help yourself to some water and discover that every dispenser has run out of cups.
- Bring cash. Queuing at the ATM is not a particularly fun activity. You have plenty of opportunity for queues already.
- Bring a large bag, maybe even one of those tow-along ones on wheels. There are some good offers at the show. You won't be able to take full advantage of them if you are unable to carry the products out with you. Drinks and bottled sauces start feeling uncomfortably heavy, and you might also want a special holder for the purchases you want to keep cold (butter, clams, icecream).
- Be nice to others. In those mad crowds, it's easy to bump into somebody by mistake, or get impatient at someone loitering in front of a stall. Just be polite and laid back about it. Everyone is here to have a good time.
- Be careful what you eat. Just because something is free doesn't mean you should have it. By all means give items the benefit of the doubt, but you could end up feeling sickly from too much sugar or alcohol, or even, as one member of our party found, mild food poisoning.