We next headed to Whangarei Heads, a stunning area on the eastern coast of the northern island, about 2 hours drive from Auckland, where our friend, Maria Dallow, has a beautifully charming beach house.
Our weekend at Maria's "bach" was a total heaven. We went swimming in the stunningly clear sea, trying to catch the shoals of dolphins that make regular appearances, alas, without much success, despite Maria's Maori dolphin call.
It was also a culinary wet dream thanks to Maria's friend, Tanah Jane Dowdle, an expert in anything food and wine related, and to the constant flow of seafood supplied by Maria's generous neighbours.
From the freshest kingfish imaginable (see picture), Tanah prepared Ike Mata, a kind of ceviche originating from the Cook Islands and consisting of whatever was left of the fish that we didn't eat while Peter was filleting it, coconut milk, lime and chilli. Superb!
We were also thoroughly introduced to the local clam, Pipi, that we picked ourselves from the water bed during low tide, shucked and then ate as the most sensational spaghetti vongole Tanah made using kamut pasta.
The seafood extravaganza, always accompanied by the finest New Zealand wine or Tanah's cocktail of choice, just didn't want to end. The highly popular Kiwi delicacy of whitebait fritter was probably the pinnacle. (By the way, New Zealand whitebait is a completely different kettle of fish, excuse the pun, from what we have in the UK and absolutely fantastic!)