When you think of New Zealand, what comes to mind? Hobbits? Lamb? Good wine? Kiwi cuisine is made up of so much more!

The restaurants take special pride in using local products. Pizzas are bursting with heirloom tomatoes, local calamari is fried to a lovely crisp, and roast lamb with potatoes is on most menus. Lunch at Little Creatures in Hobsonville Point was the perfect first foray into local food.

fried calamari, pizza, brewery, shrimp tacos
roast lamb

Lunch at the Riverhead Tavern's Landing Restaurant was truly memorable as well. The local flounder was adorned only with a delicate lemon caper sauce but perfectly prepared. The Parmesan fries on the side were a revelation. Paired with a rich truffle aioli, they were crispy, salty, creamy, and addicting all at once. If you're in Auckland, you simply must go to the Riverhead Tavern and learn all about the history of the region as a waterway.

flounder, lemon sauce, capers, Parmesan, fries, truffle aioli
pavlova, raspberries, sorbet, cream

The climate in New Zealand is just right for some gorgeous fruit. Citrus, apples, peaches, figs ... you name it, they grow it!

figs
citrus fruit, oranges, grapefruit

I was lucky enough to stay close to wine country, just outside of central Auckland. Our Airbnb host provided a lovely breakfast every day including kiwi favorites like Marmite and Manuka honey. A local award-winning Brie proved to be silky smooth and unbelievably creamy.

Marmite, manuka honey, fig, local Brie, ham

Some of the best dishes are available at the grocery store. New Zealand is famous for its green mussels, and they're incredibly cheap when you buy them and steam them yourself. If you get the chance, buy a ready-made pavlova and top it with whipped cream and fruit. Heaven!

pavlova, raspberries

Even the takeaway spots have a unique flair to them. At Kiwi Roast, you can get a whole roast dinner including succulent pork with crisp cracklings, sublime roasted potatoes, and local kumara sweet potatoes. If you prefer lamb, roast beef, or chicken, they've got that, too. Sunday dinner was never so easy!

roast pork, roasted potatoes, roast beef

Asian influences are everywhere. The Scoop, a small gelato shop in Orewa Beach also served fresh poké for an outstanding seaside lunch.

The Scoop, gelato, sorbet
poke, The Scoop

If Auckland is on your bucket list of vacation destinations, be sure to try all of the local specialties and the regional wines. I wish I'd had the time for a traditional Maori hangi feast or a trip to Hobbiton for the dinner banquet at the Green Dragon Tavern ... maybe next time!

*All photos in this article are by Sarina Petrocelly.

Have you been to New Zealand? What were some of your favorite kiwi dishes? Let us know in the comments below!

Do you like dishes from other cultures? Check out this recipe for khao poon, a Lao curry noodle soup!