Gastronomy; the active study of food within culture and the delight of many a traveller. Also known as the fancy way to say, “I love food!”
When first heading across to New Caledonia, I had no idea what to expect when it came to food. Imagining the local produce mixed with French influences just left me confused. What a happy discovery this was.
The good people at Arc en Ciel Voyagers were well prepared for a day of delights, warning me not to over do it on the sumptuous breakfast buffet, and off we went to begin where so many good journey’s begin; with chocolate.
Anyone who follows my Instagram will know I am no stranger to a sweet treat or two, so it will come as no surprise that the aroma of fresh chocolate is a bit like a drug to me. Toton Jules is the prime example of a small French chocolate shop, filled with colour and trays of glistening crafted treats. Each morsel perfectly aligned in rows like shiny, seductive soldiers. Red hearts that kept the secret of their sticky insides close, professing their love for me before they’d even touched my lips. Yes, chocolate does make one a bit poetic.
The tea geek in me fell instantly in love with the bright antique design of these gorgeous canisters. A tea originally made and owned in Russia, now the preserve of a French company and matched perfectly to your afternoon delight. Brightly coloured sugared almonds lined the shelves, looking less like something to eat and more like beads to match my outfit. That must have meant I’d reached my sugar limit; so then……..
We are no strangers to good wine here in Australia. So much so that growing up, my bedroom window looked out at the vineyards in the distance. My wine cellar at home remains amply stocked at all times of year. But you know what it isn’t full of? French wine! How could it be that it never dawned on me that coming to New Caledonia there would be French wine (and cheese, but my goodness how much heaven can one take?).
Unlike the menus in Melbourne, the prices of French wine here had me double taking. No I didn’t need to earn another days wage for a bottle, but was instead tempted to see how I could fit an entire case back in my luggage. Some people get like this in jewellery stores, with me it was here as I looked upon rows upon rows of red and golden hues.
Taking a trip to New Calendonia is worth it for the wine stores alone.
After treat upon treat, it is only right that I show you some of the actual sit down dining experiences.
There are two types of Gastronomes who will enjoy New Caledonia. The type of who are able to sit back savouring every mouthful, discussing in their best Master Chef speak, the merits of each dish. Then there are those who are extremely glad that there is a local fashion for Muu Muu’s, as every mouthful is so good it brings tears to your eyes. That is me. (Yes, you’ll see the Muu Muu I bought in another post)
See these gigantic creatures? These are snails. Not your garden variety or even five star restaurant variety. These are the most giant, delicious creatures you can only ever experience when you visit The Isle of Pines. So delectable and limited in supply, these fellas may not be taken out of the country. In fact, I’m told that serious snail aficionados come to the Isle of Pines with the sole purpose of eating these by the plate full.
Our group was extremely privileged to have these platters prepared in our honour, and I personally, was even more so when many declined their second serving. This made it all the more enjoyable for me as I had the happy task of ensuring they went to a good home. With fingers glistening in melted butter and garlic, I assure you, I gave them a good send off. I cannot express enough praise for the Chef at Le Meridan Isle of Pines; his choices and execution are simply sublime!
Heaven, just simply heaven.
New Caledonia is the place that you dream about while sitting at your desk. Whether that is dreaming of lunch, sand, sunshine wildlife or even just napping with a belly full of wine as the sun goes down. But don’t just dream, wake up and go there!