The Taste of Central Otago

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The Taste of Central Otago is the name of a cookbook that I purchased at the restaurant, Saffron, in Arrowtown, New Zealand.

Our meal was spectacular there. I enjoyed a beet salad, followed by lamb with sweetbreads.


Even though the food was exquisite in its quality and presentation, it was not an upscale, stuffy dining experience. One would almost call it “pub-like.,” which I prefer.

When we were leaving, I spotted the cookbook for sale at the bar, and bought it on a whim.

Had I made time to actually look through the book, I might not have purchased it. Now that I’m home and perusing it, the recipes take me back to the many times I looked at my Charlie Trotter cookbook, called Meat and Game. I’ve not yet made anything from it, and never will. Everything is way too complicated!

The chef at Saffron, Pete Caron, and the author of this, his second cookbook, takes his food seriously. He’s a forager by nature, and chooses the farm-to-table approach, which makes sense with all that New Zealand has to offer.

But I had no idea how crazy involved his recipes would be in this cookbook. Like this:

Green Tea Creme Brûlée with Spirulina and Seaweed Biscotti and Crisp-Fried Lichen

Many of the proteins I have no access to as well, like Boer goat, mutton bird, red deer, butterfish, and Bendigo rabbit.

The book just isn’t for a home cook like myself. I don’t want to make Vichyssoise Spheres, or Cabbage Pearl Caviar, or Chamomile Foam, or Passionfruit Tissue with Mint Dust. Okay, you get the idea.

But I’m keeping the book, because looking through it reminds me of our lovely experience visiting New Zealand – especially the South Island. Otago is highlighted in the map below.

Most of the pages are gorgeous photographs from Otago, taken by photographer Aaron McLean.

If you want this book, I know it’s available on Amazon’s AU site.

37 thoughts on “The Taste of Central Otago

  1. New Zealand, especially South Island, is one of my favorite destinations. During my working years I was blessed to travel there (Invercargill) twice a year. Always spent a couple of extra days so I could explore.

    • This was our one and only time, and what a delightful visit it was. So lucky for you to have been more than once!

  2. Very interesting. I visited NZ about 15 years ago, and as much as I loved the scenery, I can’t say I had any great culinary experiences (to put it mildly!), especially in the southern island. It’s good to know things have dramatically changed since! :)

  3. I have so many cookbooks I love that I’ll never cook from and that certainly doesn’t take away the joy. Have you looked at the Noma cookbook? Sheer inspirational beauty on every page, but there’s no way could I ever pull off even one small dish. But it’s fun to think I might… GREG

    • They must be more about ego – self-indulgent projects to show off with? No idea. But the restaurant was impressive.

      • An old one – probably 30 years ago and in French. I needed a foreign language for my Masters Program and on a trip to France bought it. Mistake as everything sounded foreign – which it was :) I was taking conversational French and thought a French cookbook would help me. I have a number of modern ones and love them.

  4. I’ve visited New Zealand several times (South Island), in fact we left Christ Church the day before the big earthquake hit 7-8 years ago! I don’t mind complicated recipes but this cookbook looks a little but too complicated for me!

    • I’m positive you could cook his recipes, but I’m not sure you would want to! Glad you missed the earthquake.

  5. So many chefs seem to write for other chefs, so their books are hard for many of us to read and use. Fun to look at, though. :-)

  6. Certainly on the someday maybe list of places we’d love to visit. How wonderful that you got the chance. We have family in several countries and we tend to end up there mostly, which is still pretty great. I too have some cookbooks that are more souvenir than anything, but it’s a house built of bookshelves.

    • Well, traveling is still fun, whether you’ve already visited the country or not. I’ll never quit going to France!

  7. So envious that you visited New Zealand and brought back some memories. I wish we had when we were in Australia about 15 years or so ago. I doubt I’ll be able to make that journey now, long haul flights I cannot handle anymore.

  8. I do love cookbooks and sometimes take them into a bath with a glass of wine, never intending to make the recipes so I get this! I love fab food but some dishes are just not worth trying to recreate!

    • I took my daughter to Chicago for her 18th birthday and we went to Charlie Trotter’s, where they layed out the welcome mat for her, quite unexpectedly. After the incredible meal, we got a private tour with him, and he even allowed photos in his kitchen. He pulled her aside for a pep talk, as she was just about to go to college, which was very cool. Although she ended up graduating phi beta kappa, summa cum laude!!! He seemed so kind, and I’ve been told since that he was. His premature death was very sad.

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