From avocados to cherries, olives to oysters, if it tastes good, it's worth celebrating this spring and summer, discovers Danielle Wright.
For me, the best thing about a food festival is always the people you share it with, so get organised, get a group together and plan your summer food festivals now. Nothing tastes so good as a meal shared with friends and here are some festivals to choose from that offer local flavour, as well as great tastes.
Te Matuku Bay Oyster Day
Man O' War Vineyard, RD1, Waiheke Island (eastern end of the island). Today, August 25, bookings essential, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or ph (09) 303 9677. $60pp including a glass of Man O' War Tulia (Methode Traditionnelle Blanc De Blanc), a dozen oysters, live music, free tastings and return bus trip from the ferry.
"You can't get much fresher than oysters farmed from the property next door," says Man O' War Vineyards' Sophie Shin. "The day is a showcase of local produce and Te Matuku Bay oysters, which are absolutely delicious."
Toast the onset of better weather (hopefully), surrounded by pohutukawa trees and views of white sandy beaches as you indulge in "the creamiest, plumpest and tastiest Pacific oysters", say the Te Matuku Bay Oysters folk.
Whitianga Scallop Festival
Whitianga Marina Reserve, The Esplanade, Whitianga. Saturday, September 15, 10am-5pm. Tickets $40 adults (or $50 on the door), $10 children.
A sirloin steak stuffed with scallops, a macadamia chilli crumb scallop on a corn hotcake with Pernod cream sauce and even a beer-battered scallop kebab - just some of the creations on offer at the Whitianga Scallop Festival.
There will also be scallop shucking demonstrations and competitions, as well as "scally shots" (scallops in chardonnay), live music on three stages, a choice of 60 eating establishments and 22 craft stalls.
'it' Festival of Wine & Food
Village Green, Paihia. Saturday October 20, 11am-6pm. Earlybird prices adult $35, child $10, family pass $85.
Stick to Kiwi favourites such as whitebait fritters from the Duke of Marlborough Hotel, or try international foods such as French crepes, German bratwurst or Austrian cheesekrainer sausages.
It's billed as a family-friendly festival, with a children's area and parents can be entertained by the Jordan Luck band or competitions such as kina sucking, oyster shucking or pie eating.
"Hawkes Bay grows [more than] half of New Zealand's olives," says NZ Olive Festival organiser Vicky Rope. "Our festival is about educating the public about everyday use of olive oil and will give them the chance to sample, taste and buy."
Alongside the exhibitors, there will be children's entertainment, demonstrations and workshops. It's a family festival, one of 56 events under the F.A.W.C banner.
Bay of Islands Pastoral & Industrial Show featuring "Savouring the Source" Food & Wine Festival
Waimate North Showgrounds, Kerikeri, Saturday, November 10. $10 for adults and over-12s, doors open at 8am.
This is New Zealand's first P&I Show and has been popular for 170 years, with descendants of many of the original pioneer families still involved as competitors or organisers.
Alongside the equestrian events, live sheep dog trials and the like will be a food and wine marquee with cooking demonstrations and products for sale including Christmas cake and limoncello liqueurs.
Local vineyards will showcase their wines and there will be live music, talent quests and competitions for children and adults, including photography, drawing, baking cakes, flower arranging and cooking.
Taste of Auckland Festival
Victoria Park, Auckland, November 15-18. Evening and afternoon sessions. Earlybird tickets, email updates at tasteofauckland.co.nz. Tickets from $55 (until Sept 30) or $70 (includes $40 of spending "crowns"); VIP and day of entry tickets also available.
Celebrate the start of summer in style at Auckland's most glamorous food festival in the newly refurbished Victoria Park. With masterclasses and demonstrations, signature dishes from the city's finest restaurateurs (Al Brown, Simon Gault, Des Harris, Warren Turnbull, Kermadec Fine and Toto), whisky, coffee and cocktail demos and selections from over 140 hand-picked artisan producers, this is a celebration of our local food, city-style.
Great Barrier Mussel Festival
Port FitzRoy, Great Barrier Island, Saturday, January 5. $10 entrance fee, 10am-midnight.
The tiny community of Port FitzRoy welcomes the summer boatie crowd for its annual Great Barrier Mussel Festival with mussels presented in imaginative ways, family entertainment, live music and craft stalls.
"It's a relaxed, friendly space right on the water's edge. Not too crowded," says David Spier, secretary of the local ratepayers' association. "Boaties walk up to the festival from the beach or you can get a Fullers Ferry from Auckland for the day."
Katikati Avocado Food and Wine Festival
Uretara Domain (A&P Showgrounds), Major St, Katikati. January 19. $20 adults, children free with adults.
"Ten years ago, the festival was for the upwardly mobile crowd, now it's for families," says organiser David Crispin. "Sit under beautiful old trees, sample great food and wine, as well as music and dancing - it's a wonderful country day out."
Katikati is the centre of avocado growing in New Zealand and the festival, started 10 years ago, aims to make more people aware of this. There will also be avocado competitions and demonstrations set within a carnival atmosphere perfect for families. Last year, a Make a Mr Avocado Head competition was a hit with the younger festival-goers.
Kawhia Kai Maori Food Festival
Omiti Reserve, Omiti St, Kawhia Harbour, Saturday, Feb 2. Adults $10, children $5, from 9am.
Beside the Kawhia wharf, Maori foods will be showcased, including delicacies such as koki (shark liver) made into pate, kaanga wai (fermented corn left in running fresh water for around a month and eaten like a porridge), and mussels (kutai) as fritters, chowders or simply steamed. The festival attracts 10,000 visitors each year.
"It's a good day to try Maori kai," says organiser Hinga Whiu. "There are also Maori art and crafts, such as local artist paintings of local scenery and wooden or stone carving and weavings, not to mention kapa haka groups."
Great West Coast Whitebait Festival is a celebration of the most sought-after whitebait from the cleanest rivers. There's a poets' corner and a whitebait debate. An auction will also run to benefit the Christchurch Earthquake Relief Fund. Cranmer Square, 10am-5.30pm, October 20. Earlybird tickets $27 for adults, kids free.
Cherry Festival, The Mall, Cromwell, Jan 4. Celebrate cherry season in the fruit bowl of the south, Cromwell, with small-town summer fun. Try your luck at cherry spitting, cherry pie eating or a cherry ping-pong ball race.
Hokitika Wildfoods Festival is full of the weird and wonderful for those adventurous enough for wasp larvae icecream and cucumber fish. Next event is on March 9.