Go gourmet these holidays

By Amanda Laird

Just when you begin to dreamily imagine blue skies, jandals, summer holidays and heading out of the big smoke - packing up the car, sorting out clothes and which music to take ... please spare a thought for the food.

We are all too well informed and dietary conscious to survive on hot and salty fish 'n' chips and lemonade iceblocks for more than two days at least - unfortunately the charm does wear thin...

And while the local beach dairy may be helpful for milk, sunscreen and the paper, put in a bit of effort to pack the chilly bin beforehand so you and any guests who happen to drop by will be generously rewarded with fantastic food to survive the holidays.

First up is the pre-arranged Christmas hamper from your local gourmet food store. Shop online or choose for yourself - stores such as Sabato in Auckland have a fantastic variety of vinegars, cheeses, organic olive oils, beautiful hand made pastry and Valhrona chocolate.

Farro Fresh can supply jersey benne potatoes, large and creamy avocadoes, broad beans and cherries as well as punnets of gorgeous edible flowers to scatter over a platter of salad greens. While you are there, check out the "Little Boys" saussies from Te Aroha - small, juicy, meaty, gluten-free and made from natural ingredients so they taste brilliant on the barbie.

Cheese is vital for a quick sammie or to top grilled sourdough - perfect to appease the little ones. Flag the cheddar, cheese must be good quality. Check out Meyer Cheese who make divine vintage gouda - versatile because it can be used by itself or in place of parmesan. Jones The Grocer also has a fantastic cheese selection.

What else adds to the quintessential feeling of summer?

Gorgeous ripe ruby cherries can arrive on your doorstep before you even begin to pack the car - by calling Orchard Fresh Cherries from Cromwell, you can even select according to variety if so inclined; such a beautiful fruit they should be enjoyed simply as is.

In my family, everyone moans about the lack of decent bread when on holiday, so unless you want to take the yeast and flour to make it from scratch, find a good bakery, swing by on your way out of town and when you reach the bach all you need to do is slice and freeze the loaves. Perfect at any time for toast with jam and coffee or at lunch - grilled for bruschetta or even torn and baked to go with dips and a G and T.

My favourite bakery is Boulangerie l'Epi in Ellerslie, Auckland - absolutely authentically French - they produce the most beautiful organic breads and pastries and with the sweetest smell of fresh-baked bread wafting through the neighbourhood air - who could possibly resist?

Pasta may not be the most obvious holiday staple but Pasta la Vista is worth a mention. The beautiful hand-crafted Argentinian pasta can be bought fresh, packed away or frozen if necessary and then quickly cooked when needed and enjoyed drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a tangle of salad greens. They supply plump, handmade ravioli filled with ricotta and walnuts, estofado sauce to spoon over the catch of the day or flaky pastry covered empanadas with beef, olives and egg - ready to throw in the oven after the long haul.

One more thing - do stop when you see the signs on the side of the road. Free range eggs, fresh veges, corn and avocados - the sweetest tomatoes and even new potatoes. Buy it all and enjoy because these small producers make everyday eating so worthwhile.

- NZ Herald

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