Where: Mount Maunganui, New Zealand
Plate of Food: I went on a – wait for it – DATE with my husband while in New Zealand this past month. And to honour such a rare, special, no high-chairs/spilled drinks/bag of things to entertain the kidlets kind of a night we went to a wonderful restaurant, The Mount Bistro. You should not read the following on an empty stomach. Go have a cracker and come back. I’ll wait.
I told you in my last post about my menu-stoppers. As soon as I opened the menu at Mount Bistro, I saw PORK BELLY. Done. Menu shut. My dear friends, you will never, ever regret ordering pork belly. Ever.
This particular dish was deliciously composed: tender, succulent pork belly on a bed of julienned green apple, with pork crackling (Amen) and “cider pearls”. Say what? These were translucent beads of apple cider, much like caviar, that burst on your tongue to release their tart, fresh flavour. Oh, man. I don’t know what magic they are doing in the kitchen to make those pearls, but keep doing it!
My main course was salmon which although pleasant, it could not compare with my husband’s meal of rack of lamb. As we always do, we swapped a small portion of our meals so the other could taste it. (You do that, don’t you?) The unfortunate thing was that his was so much better than mine. I then spent the rest of the meal gazing longingly at his plate until he finally relinquished another lamb chop.
The rack of lamb was perfectly cooked and cut into individual thick chops. Alongside was a pea puree with a hint of wasabi, baby potatoes, shiitake mushrooms and spiced, roasted whole macadamia nuts. Everything on the plate had been prepared with such care and creativity. It was simply fantastic. Why didn’t I order that??
For dessert (because when you only go out once a decade, you need to maximize the experience) I did not hesitate to order another of my menu-stoppers: Crème brûlée. This dessert sent me into orbit with how gobsmacking good it was. My spoon tapped on the top and I swooned at the dense sound – the caramel was thick and golden. I broke through to the custard which was cool, smooth, and delicious. At the bottom of the ramekin were some hidden treasures of poached cherries and strawberries. Normally I’m a Crème brûlée purist, but these soft, sweet fruits were a welcome addition. I would eat this every day, for every meal…if elasticized pants weren’t so taboo.
If you are in New Zealand, go directly to Mount Bistro and order the pork belly, lamb and Crème brûlée. If you are not in NZ, don’t worry about the price of the plane ticket, this meal is completely worth it.
The Best: Walking up The Mount. Yup, believe it or not, Mount Maunganui has a mountain. It is actually an extinct volcano, now covered in dense bush, and it sits solidly at one end of the glorious beach. There is an easy walking path up to the summit which I have done a few times. It is not too demanding of a hike, but enough of an effort to warrant Eggs Benedict at one of the cafes after you come back down. You see how this works for me?
It is the view from the top that gets me every time. Stand facing the glittering blue ocean and on your right you see miles and miles of perfect white sand stretching off into the distance. The beach is sandwiched between grassy dunes and white frothy waves. There are the streets and houses all arranged in tidy blocks. Behind you is the bustling port and the quiet blue expanse of Pilot Bay. Off to your left is another peninsula reaching across to you, dark and shadowy with trees. Basically spin me in any direction and I am happy…well, don’t make me so dizzy that I fall off the top. Geez, take it easy.
Story that needs to be told: There is no earthshaking story that comes out of my many visits to Mount Maunganui, but let’s just have a couple of humdingers…
- A group of Dutchmen were dining at Mount Bistro that same night as us. They obviously had menu-stoppers too, but they were all on the WINE menu for they were heavily intoxicated. Their evening ended with one of them shouting and gesticulating to his fellow countrymen, then drunkenly swinging his arm directly into the face of the guy next to him and – get this – knocking one of his teeth out. The tooth and the mouth from whence it came were shown, with what could only be pride, to the staff of the restaurant. Photos were taken. Now, imagine if that had been how my night ended. Do you ever do that? Imagine the most embarrassing possible circumstance and then snicker…no? Just me then? What if I had delicately licked the last of my creme brulee from the spoon and then shrieked at Matt, “Who?! Me! Who, who, huh? Me! Me! Me!” (this is a direct translation of what the man was shouting. No joke). What if I had followed that eloquent gem with a backhanded slap across the face for not sharing more of his rack of lamb, then stumbled out the door, but not before veering dangerously into the plastic curtain wall of the patio (this, too, happened. I thought the whole place was coming down.)…? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time…
- Years ago, we were enjoying an afternoon on the main beach at the Mount. The day was hot and sunny, and the water was so inviting. A girl from the Prairies, however, does not know what to do when faced with a wave. Cow tipping? Yes. A wave? No. So I was promptly knocked over by a wave and then dragged up onto the beach in a seated position by the force of the wave. This deposited approximately 3 tonnes of sand inside my bikini bottoms. Not wanting to be stranded up on the beach with what appeared to be an unfortunate bowel movement, I crab walked back into the surf (yes, I would have paid money to see that, too). I crouched in the sea and waited for the swirling waters to remove the grit from my nether regions. Ahem. Like I said, Prairie girl.
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure.
There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” Jawaharial Nehru