Chef Luigi Explores the Banks Peninsula
Apr. 3, 2010 10:57 pm
Updated: Apr. 9, 2010 12:31 am
Today, Chef Gino takes me around the Banks Peninsula, the area outside Christchurch where the Hilltop Café is. Onna the map, the Banks Peninsula (by the way, that’s pronounced “Pen-in-shu-la” in Kiwi-speak!) sorta sticks out like a weird growth on the Eastern coast offa the South Island.
That means they catch a lotta the rugged weather – the southerlies and gale force winds comin’ uppa from the Antarctic, or the hot Nor’Westers comin’ over from Aussie.
The Peninsula issa the result of two extinct volcanos from 11 to 8 million years ago. The two remaining craters form Akaroa Harbour and Lyttleton Harbour which is the important shipping port for Christchurch. This picture from space by NASA shows the craters and the rugged terrain.
Now, back inna the colonial days, the French, they landed inna Akaroa Harbour and thought it would be a good place for a whaling station. They made a dubious deal with the local Maori to buy some land and went back to France to form the whaling company and gather settlers. Inna the mean time, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the Maori and the British, giving the British sovereignty to the whole of New Zealand. When the British got wind of the French deal, they rushed to Akaroa and raised the British flag just days before the French arrived! Otherwise, the South Island would be a French Island instead of what was a British Colony! But, Akaroa was still established by the French peeps, and the streets and peeps still all have the French names. Every year, on Bastille Day, the re-ennact the French Landing.
Akaroa, which means ‘long harbour’ inna the Maori language, is pretty much a tourist town but it’s very nice. It is quite a seasonal destination. There are maybe 800 permanent residents in Akaroa with about 7600 onna the whole peninsula. There are a lotta holiday homes, orra what the Kiwis call ‘Baches’ (as inna ‘Baching it’) or onna the South Island ‘Cribs’. There are lotsa pretty beaches, some good for campin' or surfin’, but Akaroa is the only village with a small grocery store, bank and a few shops and cafes.
There’s fun stuff to do inna Akaroa, especially in the summertime. You canna go swimmin’ with the Hector’s Dolphins – they are the world’s smallest dolphins and they live inna the Akaroa Harbour. You can also see the Fur seals and other New Zealand wildlife on the Blackcat Harbour Cruise. There is some good boutique shopping in Akaroa especially iffa you like the Merino Wool or the Possum wool. Si! They make wool outta the fur of the possum here. It’s native to Australia but itsa pest in NZ, so they try to put it to the best use. Itsa very soft and warm fur – apparently, the hairs are hollow and add extra insulation!
Now, iffa you are lookin’ to get hitched, like Gino and Barbie, or you wanta good corporate team building thingy, Mt. Vernon Lodge is the place. The bossa lady has done a lot of catering up there. She loves it! The view is spectacular, the peeps are usually nice and she gets a kick outta looking after them.
On the hillside just before you gt to Akaroa issa big olive grove called La Casa Toscana. They grow Manzanillo olives for their oil. It must be as good azza the great Italiano olive oil cuz they just won Best in Show at Olives New Zealand national olive oil awards.
Near Akaroa, is Barry’s Bay, home of the Barry’s Bay Cheese Factory! They make fabulous cheese using the fantastico New Zealand milk. They make Massadam, Gouda, Edam and lotsa other cheese, but they are best known for their rinded cheddars. I want to try Avon's Anadama Bread with that!
I hope everyone is havin' a grande Easter and enjoying the beginnin' of Spring! It's startin' to get cold in New Zealand, so we are stayin' inside by the fire and I'ma makin' a big Italiano Feast!