I am eating freshly made wood-fired pizza with a glass of wine on Megan and Henri Saurat's deck. As we sit admiring the view of Bowentown in the distance we discuss everything from the controversial food bill to the wine cellars under the cobbled streets of Cambridge. Ahh, this is the life.
It's a Friday, which is a great day to discover the gourmet delights on offer in Katikati. Our morning started with a guided tour at Incredible Edibles. Owned by Andrew and Fiona Boylan, Incredible Edibles supplies nurseries around the country with edible plants, from the exotic and tropical, such as bananas, sugar cane and coffee to the Kiwi backyard favourites feijoas, blueberries and lemons. The variety is huge and they are all grown at the Boylans' nursery in Katikati. The couple has started planting an edible garden that will soon be open to the public. In the meantime Fiona is happy to show groups around the working nursery and garden and can tailor the tour to suit. ``You can graze to your heart's content,'' says Fiona as she hands us a fresh mulberry to try. ``Any time of year there should be something fruiting or flowering.''
As we wind through the garden, Fiona explains how new varieties are created and trialled, how cuttings are taken and grafts made. We learn about the sex life of plants and get to see, among other things, what a carob tree looks like. Ninety minutes fly by and we finish at the office, which is surrounded by fruiting plants all in pots.
We bombard Fiona with more questions. She says, with some care and attention, as well as good fertiliser, we too can have a mini-orchard in pots. It looks like my next trip to the garden centre may need to include a trailer.
Enthused with new-found horticultural knowledge we visit Chris and Wyn Daniell at Harbourside Macadamias. It's not quite lunchtime but somehow I have found myself sipping the most gorgeous macadamia liqueur. This is the Daniells' latest project and has been three years in the making. The Daniells have been on their Matahui Rd property for 31 years. Originally a kiwifruit orchard, in the 1990s the couple sought to diversify and, after much research, planted macadamias. With slightly fewer than 1000 trees in four varieties they harvest the nuts from April to December. Wyn tells me I have to come back when they are flowering: it smells like Hawaii.
I have picked up Harbourside's dukkah at the Tauranga Farmers market before and always find a tasty use for it. So loaded up with goodies we say our goodbyes. Mt Eliza Cheese is another regular at Tauranga Farmers Market. I've met a few cheese makers lately and they all seem to have a scientific background. Chris, a former industrial scientist, says if you put an occupational therapist, which his wife Jill is, and an industrial scientist together you have the perfect cheese makers, ``it's inevitable''.
Mt Eliza cheeses are impressive big round blocks, which are aged in cloth, not covered in wax. This means the cheeses can breathe and results in beautiful mature cheeses. We end our cheese-making tour with a taste and the debate continues as we drive out which one was the best. Our next stop is Glenda at Backblocks. Here I find myself again with a glass in hand admiring the gorgeous view, and then the pates arrive. Glenda, another scientist, has lived in Katikati for 13 years and has her own catering business. The pates are a new venture and are available at the Tauranga Farmers Market or direct from Backblocks. The range started with smoked kahawai and now includes smoked mussel, wild rabbit and venison. Glenda is experimenting with a vegan one, which we happily offer to test.
With still more to fit into our day we swap one great view and fine company with another and head to Megan and Henri at Breadnz. Henri, a true Frenchman, loves his bread. In 1993, after years of living in New Zealand, Henri decided to return to France and learn the art of breadmaking and bring that skill back to his adopted home. Using the simplest ingredients: water, organic flour, salt and air, Henri makes the most gorgeous breads, croissants and pizzas, in his wood-fired oven.
The couple also run one- and two-day courses in making sourdough bread and make to order and install wood-fired ovens. When we arrived the smell of freshly baked croissants wafts through the air as Megan and Henri are baking for the Katikati market. Megan tells me they already have several loaves for the market pre-sold. It seems they sell out quickly and the locals are keen not to miss out. And it is the market that interrupts our lovely lunch on the Saurats' deck, it's nearly 4pm and Megan and Henry need to get to their adoring fans.
I have heard a lot about the Katikati plant and produce market, held every Friday from 4pm-6pm. It's one of those lovely country gems with a real sense of community.
There is a great range of fresh local produce, home baking, plants and a queue for Breadnz's breads and pizza.
Vicki Ravlich-Horan is the editor of Nourish magazine, www.nourishmagazine.co.nz