A secret foodie's paradise – Matakana, New Zealand

Matakana – Lauraine Jacobs

By Louise Johnson
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Matakana by Lauraine Jacobs

Matakana by Lauraine Jacobs [©Random House NZ]


I sat next to Lauraine Jacobs at a Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and gushed. She is one of New Zealand’s best know food writers and a mad fan of good produce and great cooking.

We were watching Australia’s doyennes of the kitchen – Alla Wolf-Tasker and Patrizia Simone – and she seemed delighted to find a fellow kiwi sitting next to her, especially one so excited by her recent book Matakana.

And I am excited by Matakana. It’s a great guide to a secret foodie’s paradise.

I visited the region once, long ago, camping at Snells Beach and gathering pipis at low tide. Pipis are small bivalves, similar to cockles, which we roughly rinsed them in seawater, steamed open and spent a long evening slowly munching our way down to the sandy sludge in the bottom of the pot.  Delicious.

Matakana is about an hour’s drive north of Auckland in the North Island of New Zealand. There are two sheltered bays, Kawau Bay and Omaha Bay, on the east coast and the area is famous for amazing citrus fruit and even more amazing seafood. In the last 20 years a thriving boutique wine industry has developed in the area.

Lucky Lauraine has a home in the region and spends her Saturday mornings at the Matakana farmer’s market, which is quite possibly the best direct produce market in New Zealand. A dedicated building in the Matakana Village houses the market, complete with a certified kitchen for food produced on site.

Matakana talks about the region’s history and also Lauraine’s history in the region, and includes a great chapter of recipes inspired by the fresh local produce she buys on her weekly market visits. It’s a personal story with direct references to the people who make these products.

For example, sausages made by Greg Scopas and Jeni Quayle’s bright-yellow-yolked eggs are essential ingredients if you want to reproduce Lauraine’s spinach and sausage frittata. However I found fresh eggs and some pork and fennel sausages at the Prahan Markets in Melbourne that were suitable substitutes. The photo of the giant beefsteak tomatoes used in one recipe confirms how essential farmers markets are if you really want to taste the best of a region – nothing this bright and ripe comes from a supermarket.

 A Local Heroes section profiles the artisan producers of the Matakana district – blueberry growers, heirloom tomatoes, mandarins, coffee roasters, olive growers, a smokehouse, and a mustard maker feature.

But what’s really exciting  is the wine industry and the excellent cellar door experiences in the area. The predominant varietals in the district are pinot gris and flora for white wines, and cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and malbec. which produce Bordeaux-style blended red wines. Some of the main winemakers are profiled, including Brick Bay Wines and its famous Sculpture Trail, Omaha Bay Vineyard with its amazing views, and Ti Point Vineyard run by three generation of female winemakers.

Matakana concludes with chapters covering other attractions in the area and an essential Eating and Snacking chapter full of places where you can taste the best of the regions produce.

I’m drawn to Matakana because it is a little piece of home for me. I also love that it does in a printed form what we do at VisitVineyards.com – highlights to essentials to a great culinary adventure in a unique wine region. But most of all it makes we want to go back to Snells Beach, though this time I'll wash down my sandy pipis with fragrant local pinot gris.


Matakana by Lauraine Jacobs is published by Random House New Zealand, RRP A$39.95. VisitVineyards.com Members and subscribers can purchase Matakana from our online book partner Seekbooks at 12.5 percent discount off the recommended retail price.




  • Auckland (NZ)
  • NZ North Island (NZ)

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April 07th, 2009
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