There's something quite nostalgic about the Howick Village Market - and it's not the town crier calling "Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!" (Yes, really!)
The essence of shopping at markets is to get back to old-fashioned values of hand-picked or handmade products and talk to the people who know the origin of what you are about to eat. That sense of authenticity has been swallowed up by supermarkets and strip malls. It's the norm now to not talk to the person who picked the crops, or baked the lunchbox treats, or used their grandparent's recipe to make their dips, jams or sauces.
So it was a wonderful surprise to head east to Howick. Much like Milford on Auckland's North Shore, this is a self-contained suburb with as many independent brands as there are chain stores. And you really feel like you're in a neighbourhood, not part of sprawling Auckland.
Right on the main street sit approximately 25 stallholders - including handmade soaps, garden ornaments and even a local chiropractor.
So, if I was town crier for the day, here's the things that would ring my bell:
OH YEAH, OH YEAH, OH YEAH: Kohkoz - I fell in love with these Lebanese foods after being introduced to them at Clevedon. Natalie Fakhoury uses her family's recipes to make the smoothest hummus imaginable, a For the Love of Garlic concoction and a rich Smoky Baba Ghanoush. She rattles off ways to use her pita breads and has an infectious personality. They are now fridge staples for me (and I love her tip of keeping Kohkoz pita in the freezer, popping them in the oven and breaking them up for healthier chips to go with that hummus dip).
CRUMBS, THEY'RE GOOD
: Remember weekends spent filling the baking tins for the school lunchboxes? Glen Innes-based Cheltenham Cakes' shortbread squares remind me of my grandmother, afghans and melting moments take me back to my primary school days, and its lemon loaves are reminiscent of my mother-in-law's. These biscuits and slices start at $6 a bag.
LOVELY JUBBLY! Remember Del Boy - Derek Trotter from Only Fools and Horses? Howick's self-professed Del Boy sells English-style sausages - pork and leek, Cumberland ... and my pick, Maharaja - beef and chutney. Five for $10, they are gluten-free and have delicate Indian spice flavours with a subtle fruity finish. I know they were made fresh that morning as they were more robust when cooked the next day.
ANY MAN WORTH HIS SALT: Remember the TV ad with the slogan "I love Mum, because she brings home the bacon"? She most definitely would have got Sam's Butchery's dry-cured rib-eye. It is brought down from Whangaparaoa - and I would drive up there to get it too. I bought up the three remaining packets of this bacon that is sliced slightly thicker so it doesn't dry out.
SONNIE AND SHARE
: Sonnie's Sensations is a range of jams and jellies in flavours of old, including Guava Jelly and Crab Apple Jelly. My Apple and Cinnamon Jelly is the perfect texture and delicious on fruit toast.
FAMILIAR FACES: Among the market circuit regulars was Pukeko Bakery (prolific, and always good at what it offers) as well as the Waiuku Vegies, and Clevedon Herbs and Produce.
TAKE A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE: With many barista-style offerings in Howick Village, it's understandable that you won't find one within the market. Walk to the other side of the road, to Wild Wheat, which has rich, smooth BE (Barista Empire) coffee and an impressive range of sweet and savoury treats. Try their smoked fish pie, and take a chocolate and hazelnut profiterole for a picnic later at Musick Point.
CHILDREN: Yes, being mindful the market is on the main road.
EFTPOS: Bank ATMs are in the village.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: It's an hour on a bus, or a train (to Panmure) and bus combo. Or catch the city ferry to Half Moon Bay and it's 15 minutes on the bus from there.
VERDICT: Use the market as the impetus and once you've filled up your basket, stroll down both sides of the street to get a sense of how shopping used to be, before the advent of malls.
Howick Village Market, every Saturday 8am-12.30pm