This September sees the second Port Chalmers Seafood Festival take place, following the huge success of the first one held in 2011 (check out the clip on their website). It will hopefully become a regular biennial event.
Port Chalmers, as the name suggests, is a seafoody sort of place. It’s just 15 minutes by road around the harbour from central Dunedin. The Maori term for seafood is kaimoana, food from the sea, and it is a wonderfully descriptive name for the bounty harvested from the sea around New Zealand.
The essence of the day is, of course, seafood. And being a southern city Dunedin is likely to dish up delectable treats such as blue cod, whitebait, crayfish, mussels, shrimps, scallops, salmon and good old fish and chips. Whitebait, if you’re not familiar with them, are juicy little fingerling-type fish that come up the estuaries from the sea. They are netted during a defined season through the year and are at their very best in fritters, served between big slabs of buttered white bread.
Crayfish (or rock lobster as it is known elsewhere) is another local favourite. They make a fine meal halved and eaten from their shells, drizzled with melted butter and a hint of garlic. Shellfish, such as mussels, cockles and scallops are always a favourite, and are likely to be highlighted during the various cooking demos held throughout the day. Local celebrity chefs feature their specialities and give tips on how to prepare these delicacies to perfection.
But there are lots of other local foods like artisan breads, cheeses, and smoked goods like bacon, baked goods and sushi – although sushi isn’t a local food as such it becomes very local when rolled with smoked salmon. Dunedin is known for its craft beers and the world-class wines from Central Otago.
However one of the real specialities of the area are the southern cheese rolls. There’s nothing fancy or exotic about these rolled cheese sandwiches but they are delicious grilled and eaten from a serviette. And they are not made as good anywhere else in the country.
Other attractions include fishing off the wharf for the kids, musicians, buskers, kapa haka (Maori dance) and magicians. And on festival day you can travel by excursion train, boat, Dunedin Airport car rental or free bus from the city.