Lauraine Jacobs – Taste the Matakana Coast

Lauraine Jacobs loves the Matakana Coast so much she wrote the book on it – twice.

From her childhood holidays at Christian Bay on the Tawharanui peninsula, to watching her children and grandchildren play on the beach in front of her Omaha holiday home, the renowned food writer has been a champion of the Matakana Coast and its rich food scene since, well, ages ago.

‘My grandchildren think Omaha is the best place in the world,’ smiles Lauraine. One gets the feeling she agrees.

The Cordon Bleu-trained chef may be the author of 10 books, the former president of the prestigious International Association of Culinary Professionals (where she served alongside Julia Child), and a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the food industry, but her deepest passion lies in celebrating food provenance.

For Lauraine, that means knowing where and how the ingredients are grown, caught or harvested and where possible, eating locally and in season.

Small wonder then, that she loves the Matakana Coast. ‘When we’re on our way to the beach I don’t bother stopping at the supermarket because I know I can find everything I need at the market, or the local farm stands,’ says Lauraine. ‘The soil on the Omaha Flats is very special. There’s an incredible range of quality produce for sale by honesty box and that’s unique in New Zealand.’

Lauraine has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Matakana Village Farmers’ Market from its earliest days. You’ll still find her there every Saturday, filling up her basket with fresh fruit and veg, free range eggs, cheese from Whangaripo Buffalo Cheese Company (their ‘very special’ haloumi is a current favourite) and salmon from the Matakana Smokehouse.

Lauraine says there’s a sophistication to the local food scene that one might not expect to find outside major cities. ‘That sophistication is driven by the architecture of Matakana Village. From the cinema to the market, we have these amazing buildings. No other rural town has that.’

She cites The Glass House at Brick Bay Winery, Rothko at Sculptureum, the Smoko Room at the Sawmill Brewery and The Farmer’s Daughter among a number of outstanding local restaurants with a focus on local and seasonal food. ‘Like any hospitality scene it’s constantly changing, but we’re so lucky to have passionate chefs working with incredible local ingredients.

‘Leigh Fisheries’ small boat, longline method serves up a fish that is so much better in texture and flavour.  And one thing you cannot find anywhere else in New Zealand is a Mahurangi oyster,’ says Lauraine. ‘Every oyster has a taste unique to the place where it grows. Mahurangi oysters are an expression of the harbour and highly desired.’

As for Lauraine’s recommendations for a day out on the Matakana Coast?

‘The Matakana Village Farmers’ Market is a not-to-be-missed experience. Go with an empty tummy and bring a bag, because you’re going to want to put a whole lot of goodies in it.

‘In the afternoon, head out to Omaha and walk along the beach from the surf club carpark to the south end, to see the incredible pouwhenua. A gift from Ngāti Manuhiri, these five carved sculptures pay homage to the history of the area and represent key tupuna of local iwi and te ao Māori.

‘In the evening, the Matakana Cinemas is a special experience. We’re so lucky to be able to see the latest releases and arthouse films in a world class theatre environment.’

Lauraine Jacob’s latest book, It Takes A Village: a guide to Matakana and its surrounding districts, is due to be published by Massey University Press on 9 September 2021.