Wellington is a funny place, in world terms it's barely even on the map and many people might assume Auckland was the capital of New Zealand. But it punches above its weight and as well as being the political and business capital, it is also considered the culinary capital. Here are a few of my favourite local liquids, products with their origins a long way from here but which are undoubtedly world-class examples:
Beer from Garage Project & ParrotdogI really am falling for these two rather excellent local breweries and you can expect that they will get many more mentions in this here blog as the year progresses. They say that beer is best drunk in the shadow of the brewery (technically the two breweries are in my shadow, as I live on the hill and they're in the valley, but I digress), but to say this is the only reason their beer tastes great would be doing them a serious disservice. Garage Project make a diverse range of beers, many with a American-influenced hop slant but what I love about them is that they are far from being a one-trick pony. They have the art of balance in a beer down to a tee, despite usually going for big flavoured beers; tropical fruity hops, cocoa nibs or even spicy chillies. The sheer variety and numerous different beers they have made makes me wonder when they actually get around to doing things like sleeping and eating. Parrotdog make some excellent beer too, Bitter Bitch is rapidly becoming one of my favourite beers. Big grapefruity hops balanced with full-bodied malt, with a very bitter edge makes it a great beer to linger over.
My favourite places to enjoy said beers are in town either in the cool Japanese-style bar Hashigo Zake, or the more homely English pub-style Little Beer Quarter. I also recently discovered that our local bottle shop Regional Wines & Spirits has 20 'Fill Your Own' taps, making drinking local craft beer at home an absolute bargain.
There are a surprising amount of coffee roasters in Wellington, too many to mention, and the city is synonymous with good coffee. There are myriad places to grab a great cup but far and away our favourite place is Deluxe Cafe, check out this video by The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra filmed there. They serve the perfect long black made with Havana beans and make awesome vegan snacks, we can't get enough of their 'savoury balls' and tempeh wraps.
Wine from MarlboroughI can't write about quality beverages made in New Zealand without mentioning wine. The country is famous for its wines from the Marlborough area, and rightly so. While I'm a beer drinker first and foremost, I love a peppery Pinot Noir or the tropical fruit qualities of a sweet yet dry Sauvignon Blanc. Not quite as local but only a short journey across the Cook Straight, and easily the least food miles of the lot since it is grown and produced on home soil.
I realise that from a pedantic point-of-view coffee and beer aren't technically all that local with ingredients such as malt, hops and coffee beans mostly sourced from abroad (with the exception of New Zealand hops). But at the very least they are taking relatively non-perishable foodstuffs which can be shipped around the world in bulk with ease and mixing them with local ingredients and craftsmanship to make something top-notch. And to anyone who's snob-radar has been activated by this post I say, is it so bad to seek out the best of something you enjoy? I'll take quality over quantity any day.
I know I'm stating the obvious, but I reckon its always worth seeking out local solutions for one's nutritional needs and treats. It's certainly something worth thinking about before reaching for a favourite international brand off the supermarket shelf. You hopefully end up with something fresh and unique, even if it does cost a little more. The environmental impact will likely be less and it's always good to support local businesses, so everybody wins!
The inspiration for the title of this post came from a Gogol Bordello song, but I'm not quite sure they were talking about the same thing...