If you cannot get around the country in the next few weeks, the country has now come to you - the edible bits anyway. Taste at The Cloud, located, yes, in The Cloud on Queens Wharf is open daily through the Rugby World Cup 2011.
Global Kiwi chefs Josh Emett, Annabel Langbein (her books and TV shows are now in Europe), Sydney-based Justin North and Warren Turnbull have created 16 dishes that showcase the diversity of the tastes of New Zealand. Seventy wines from an initial list of more than 350 were selected after blind tasting by six qualified judges.
Each of the four food zones in Taste at The Cloud - seaside, urban, winery/orchard and rural - has four food options, accompanied by a specially selected New Zealand wine (there are non-alchoholic drinks too).
Oysters, clam chowder and steamed mussels are paired with sauvignon blanc in the seaside section. The urban menu features beef and kumara pie, kingfish ceviche, a lamb cutlet or smoked kahawai, offered with pinot noir, while the winery/orchard section showcases grilled vegetable bruschetta, hot smoked salmon or boutique cheeses with a selection of chardonnays or sparkling wines. Beef brioche burger, venison tataki or a lamb shank croquette with syrahs feature on the rural menu. Desserts include Kiwi favourites icecream, pavlova and crumble. Vegetarian, dairy and gluten-free options are available. Dozens of chefs backstage and 32 servers will keep crowds - limited to a comfortable 200 at any one time - fed and watered.
Design is not forgotten: a natty passport includes recipes, chef and wine profiles and more, while each zone features evocative graphics, photographs and cool designs by the likes of Dick Frizzell and Tim Wigmore.
Count down over the 41-day period:
* 45,000 people are expected to consume about 360,000 tastes and beverages
* 110 food and beverage companies are involved
* 16 menu items featuring more than 135 individual ingredients
* 5 tonnes of seafood and 8 tonnes of beef and lamb
* 85 pallets of beverages including 20 pallets of wine
* 1.6 tonnes of kumara and 6700 oysters
Entry into Taste at The Cloud is free. Ticket packages to sample the food and beverages range from $17 (2 tastes, 2 drinks) to $54 (8 tastes, 8 drinks) per person.
Weekdays 11.30am to 6pm, Weekends and school holidays, 10am-6pm (may close early on game nights).