Every time I've asked anyone in Whangarei where to go for good bread, at best they've wrinkled their brow and said "The bakery at Pak'n'Save?" or at worst they have promptly answered "Pak'n'Save". My response has been along the lines of "No, no, I mean real bread". I did try the Pak'n'Save bakery once in desperation but it was just the kind of white spongey nastiness I expected from a cheapo supermarket. So aside from homemade bread my sojourns in the North have been bread-mediocre.
Until now! My dear friend Ellis and her husband Paul have just opened Whangarei's only European-style deli and Pandoro bread is being delivered from Auckland three times a week. Don't think about the food miles, just get your teeth around some real chewy sourdough. Being Dutch they also stock big wheels of Gouda cheese to be sliced into wedges for making the bread into sandwiches.
There are also the obligatory jars of Dutch licorice and I asked Ellis today, 'What is it with salty licorice? I don't understand.' She responded by encouraging me to try some 'salty-sweet' licorice as well as the sweet variety. The salty sweet is like training wheels for salty-licorice doubters. It's sweet enough to make sense to my taste buds, and it's just a little bit salty so the part of my tongue that wants to eat potato chips can get in the act too without trying to take over my mouth. I think I'm starting to understand, but I'll stick to my training wheels a while before wobbling off into salty-salty licorice land.
At the opening party on Saturday there were sixty or more people crammed into the shop (which is not tiny) enjoying complimentary wine and nibbles and some teenage opera singers strutting their stuff very competently (at least according to those who know opera- unlike me). Ellis and Paul have done their research with the European ex-pats in Whangarei. Most of the crowd were happily chatting to each other in languages other than English and people were lining up to buy armfuls of delicious treats from home. I was particularly attracted to the almond cookies, various vinegars and oils and some weird chocolate ribbon stuff which apparently goes on top of white bread, according to the picture on the packet. We ended up with a jar of pickled curly kale and were advised by various Dutchies to have it with mashed potatoes- which turned out to be just the thing.
So if you are in Whangarei, check it out at Taste of Europe on James St, opposite the Food Hall. Its got a classy comfortable decor which makes you want to hang around asking Ellis to explain all the mysterious items without translations or illustrations on the labels. She's looking forward to making your tastebuds tingle with everything from German sausage to Italian vincotto. See you there!