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New Zealand: The Views from Auckland’s Orbit Restaurant in the Sky Tower

New Zealand Take the Auckland Explorer Bus to Get Acquainted

Orbit is Auckland’s revolving restaurant inside the Sky Tower. We were able to get lunch as part of our Aucky Walky tour. The Sky Tower is said to be the tallest building in the southern hemisphere.

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New Zealand: Saving Money on Food and Gifts at the Grocery Store

New Zealand foods from the grocery store including chocolate and cookie time

I underestimated the budget required for food while in New Zealand. A meal for one person runs about $30 NZ for an entrée and a drink. You can save about $5 NZ if you opt for tap water, which is free at every restaurant and available even if you’re not ordering a meal. (They provide water free to encourage people to bring their reusable water bottle with them and avoid buying bottle water.) Dinners may be more expensive at about $50, and breakfasts can be less expensive at about $10 NZ. You can split meals if you and your travel companion are light eaters, but we found we would be hungry again just before we went to bed. Two people eating out three meals a day and sharing should expect to budget about $70 NZ minus any midday snacks like Hokey Pokey or chocolate fish.

Finding a grocery store can help, especially if you have a hotel room with a kitchenette. Because grocery stores cater to Kiwis rather than having tourists as their target market, they are more likely to offer reasonable prices (and you can get a variety of fresh fruits there). The other advantage to grocery stores is that, at least at Countdown and World Market, they accepted my Discover card, which meant I had a little extra cash for the many places that did not accept Discover. (Visa and Mastercard are almost universally accepted – just be sure that you get a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.)

If you do go to Countdown, grab a discount card before you enter the store. The clerk can use this to ring up your groceries, which will give you some immediate discounts. If you spend $200 NZ, you’ll get an $15 NZ in credit loaded onto your card. Our first purchase at the store without the card amounted to $92 NZ. We were in New Zealand long enough that we probably could have used the $15 NZ. At World Market, the friendly cashiers use a card they have at their station, so you don’t mis out on the discounts and you don’t have to sign up for a card. (We did not make it to Pak’nSave, allegedly the least expensive grocery store in the country, because we did not find any within walking distance of our hotels.)

Grocery stores aren’t only a good place to get groceries, they’re also a good place to get gifts for the people back home. You can find a lot of New Zealand foods here, especially chocolate and coffee, for less than what you would pay in a tourist store. Cookie Time anyone!

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New Zealand: Take a Spin over Auckland with Orbit Restaurant

New Zealand Take the Auckland Explorer Bus to Get Acquainted

Orbit Restaurant, in Auckland’s Sky Tower, features good food, service, and views. We booked our lunch as part of the Aulky Walky Tour we had taken earlier in the day. The Sky Tower is the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, so on a good day, diners can see from sea to sea as the restaurant revolves during the meal.

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New Zealand: Rotorua’s Alpin Motel and Conference Centre Provides a Great Place to Stay

Alpin Motel and Conference Centre

Rotorua’s Alpin Motel and Conference Centre was our favorite motel in New Zealand. It had all the comforts of home and added a hot tub filled with geothermally heated and mineralized water. The room was large, had a kitchen, and the couple in charge were really nice. The motel was the only place we stayed that provided a French press, or plunger, and ground coffee to go in it. (Everywhere else had instant coffee.)

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New Zealand Visit Bohemein Fresh Chocolates for Amazing (Chocolate) Fish

chocolate fish from Bohemein Fresh Chocolates

Checkers Penguin posted a picture of himself with a chocolate fish on Instagram, and I thought, “Eh, chocolate and marshmallow? I don’t know.” Then I saw these chocolate fish on different YouTube videos about New Zealand snacks, and I was still unimpressed. Marshmallow just isn’t my thing. They’re all right; they’re good for s’mores. I just, generally, won’t choose to eat them as a part of another dessert. Then, we went to Bohemein Fresh Chocolates.

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New Zealand: A Short Survey of New Zealand Foods

new zealand

On “Gordon Ramsey: Uncharted,” Chef Ramsey visits Chef Monique Fiso in New Zealand to see how Maori cuisine gets combined with fine dining. He chops his way through the forest to get to “bush asparagus.” His mouth burns with the flavor of horopito, a bush pepper tree. He scales a Fuschia tree to get to the bright purple berries.

I don’t think we’ll have to go to those extremes if we get to New Zealand. The country is full of food delights and local cuisine.

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Eat at the Top of Waikiki

Carrot and Pickled Beet Couscous

Billed as Hawaii’s only revolving restaurant, the Top of Waikiki delivers breath-taking views with food to match. We were able to have our meal and enjoy the sunset from our table, which rotated with the floor to get us front and center for nature’s show in paradise.

We started our meal with goat cheese rangoons. These five pockets of bliss explode in your mouth, so heed well the warning. They are hot.Of course, if you’re like me, you won’t worry about the warning. They are great plain, and the five-spice dipping sauce adds another element to them.

The ginger pesto crusted monchong was the hit of the evening. Firm, well cooked and flavorful, the fish did not disappoint. It was beautifully presented atop a bed of vegetables, and we added wasabi mashed potatoes to the order. Believe me, those mashed potatoes were amazing.

The pickled beet and carrot couscous was beautiful to look at. However, it was served cold and the pearl-sized couscous was chewy. There were a lot of textures, and a few of the bites revealed a deft touch in playing with spices. The almonds made the dish better.

The baked Alaska delivered cold beneath a fluff of meringue. Strawberry sorbet with cake and cream made for a delicious ending. However, it was the coffee that delivered the final flavor for the evening and it was delicious.

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The Honolulu Cookie Company Experience

Penny Penguin, Jenya and I at Honolulu Cookie Company

The Honolulu Cookie Company is almost as ubiquitous as the ABC Stores. While not quite on every block, the stores are spaced out just far enough from each other to provide a nice place to duck inside and grab a sample of their delicious cookies. And they are delicious. The stores are clean and the employees are friendly.

The shortbread cookies with the distinctive pineapple shape come in a variety of flavors that change with the season. Inspired by the islands, pineapple macadamia, white chocolate dipped coconut, and dark chocolate dipped Kona coffee are just a few of the flavors available. At Christmas time, you’ll find white chocolate dipped ginger spice, and peppermint. My favorites were the Kona coffee, and the chocolate dipped triple chocolate macadamia.

So, put your walking shoes on, and head down Waikiki’s main street. Make a game out of collecting cookie samples on the way. Because if you’re looking for a taste of the islands, the Honolulu Cookie Company has you covered.

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Oahu’s Cheeseburger in Paradise

Penny Penguin at Cheeseburger in Paradise with a California Cheeseburger

If you’re not familiar with the Jimmy Buffet song, a Cheeseburger in Paradise can still be tempting. Not affiliated with the singer,the signature cheeseburger is billed as a juicy, messy burger that you’ll need five napkins to clean up after.

When it arrived in front of me, I was not a believer. A patty with cheese on one half and tomatoes, lettuce and onion on the other. The juice was nowhere to be found. There was no drippiness. It was a burger, and those thoughts were my mistake. I assembled the burger, squished it a little so it would fit in my mouth and bit down.

Hamburger juices went squirting out everywhere. They ended up on my plate, on the table and on my pants. I can’t say I wasn’t warned. I have no idea how they seared so much juiciness into the patty, but I definitely needed two napkins, two wet wipes and a sink to clean up afterwards. Worth every bit of sacrifice? Cheeseburger in Paradise indeed.

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ABC Stores: Go Local, Go Less Expensive

If you’re on a budget in Oahu, then the ABC Stores should be your best friend. Some say that “ABC” stands for “All Blocks Covered,” and like Starbuck’s in Seattle, ABC Stores are everywhere. Not only are they conveniently located, they are reasonably priced for Hawaiian tourists. Stores carry many of the same items though selection depends on the store’s size. From ready-to-eat hot meals to fresh cut fruit and from flip flops to ukuleles, ABC Stores are ready to help you with almost every need. “ABC” may stand for the store delivering everything in the alphabet.

The staff is friendly and happy to see you. They greet with “Aloha!” and end the interaction with “Mahalo.” The fruit in the refrigerator section is sweet and local (and better than what we got at Safeway on the island). You can eat relatively well for between $3 and $6 depending on your needs. Breakfast burritos, musubi, wraps, sushi… If you see the Mac-Nut Pesto Pasta, I recommend that as one of the best offerings. You don’t have to compromise on culture or taste because of your budget.

ABC Stores are locally owned. They promote from within and attempt to keep their employees through retirement with exceptional benefits according to an article in “This Week Oahu” (Nov. – Dec. 3, p. 28). Before choosing a national chain, shop local. Save your receipts and, if they total to $100 or more, you get a gift! Maybe “ABC” stands for “Aloha Brings Customers…”