New Cal is the surprising foodie island you need to know about!

Who would have thought you can eat French cuisine on an island paradise without the 26-hour flight to France?

Isle of Pines, New Caledonia

Foodies, welcome to New Caledonia.  The chic foodie island is Australia’s nearest neighbour, closer than Fiji, even closer than New Zealand!

A two-hour flight from Brisbane, the island is a tasty spot to spend a long weekend or a long-term vacation with a whole lot of unmistakable French charm teamed with local rich flavours.   

We know New Caledonia boasts Instagrammable sandy beaches.  The clear lagoon waters, still untouched from the ravages of overcrowding, are amongst some of the best swimming spots on earth.  But what people may not know about New Cal is that it is a diner’s dream.

Here is the ultimate eats guide for your 2019 trip to New Caledonia:

Food festivals  

Anyone keen on an out-of-the-box culinary sensation should experience a New Cal food festival. Bright and beautiful is an understatement.

A standout is the Bancoule Worm Festival celebrating a local specialty: large edible larva. The September event sees locals and tourists forage tree trunks for the bugs before sampling the harvest.  

Scientists predict that in 100 years we will all be eating bugs for protein so New Cal is actually ahead of the pack when it comes to sustainable eating.  Visitors can get involved in the worm-eating competition or sample the delicacy sautéed with parsley butter.  
 

The Bancoule worm festival, new caledonia

The Sacred Festival of the Yam, the most important event on the Kanak calendar, is coming up in March. Elders from local Kanak tribes pull the yams from the ground and present the vegetables to the older clansman, beckoning the start of the harvest. A delicious way to experience the beautiful Kanak culture.

We’d do a lot of things for cheese, so jumping on a two-hour flight to the heart of the Pacific for a Cheese Festival sounds like a ‘hard yes’ from us. Held every June in Noumea, a “Maître Fromagier” (cheese master) delights by unveiling a buffet of 130 cheeses paired with vino.  Think Mini Clac goat's milk cheeses, Brillat Savarin with truffles, and plenty of pungent French treats.

French Cheese Festival, New Caledonia

Other festivals to put in the diary are the Avocado Fest, Giant Omelette Fest, Gastronomy Fest, and the Beef Fest to name a few.  

French Cuisine

French cuisine, new caledonia

Let a French chef teach you the tricks of the trade during a two-hour cooking class in Noumea before heading the city’s Port Moselle Market for fresh French baguettes and cheese. Chez Toto is a quaint bistro in the "Quartier Latin” (Latin Quarter) serving Parisian favourites like steak-frites. The crème brûlée is one of the best on the island.

An excellent choice for a treat-yourself dining option is Marmite et Tire Bouchon. The chef does a mean fall-off-the-bone lamb shank and steak tartare. 

Gastronomy, flavour, new caledonia

The French nail a good meat dish so carnivores will rejoice in New Cal’s stockman tradition. The area is known for farming excellent beef and deer and there is a solid cowboy culture in the center of the island. Le Refuge du Cerf in ‘the bush’ serves a delicious venison dish.  

Seafood

New Caledonia is surrounded by the biggest lagoon in the world so the abundance of seafood on the island is no surprise. Along with a special local blue prawn that is native to New Cal, the island produces fish, coquillages, bénitiers et trocas, crayfish and coconut crab.

Kanak

Immerse yourself in the core of the Kanak culture by visiting the island’s east coast, a totally different topography with lots of indigenous experiences. Stay with a local tribe and help cook Bougna, a native dish made from tubercles, coconut milk and fish.  The ingredients are placed on banana leaves, wrapped up and then cooked under hot stones. A Melanesian delicacy!

bougna, culture kanak, new caledonia

Whether it is feasting on BBQ items with the French cowboys, experiencing Kanak food, or dining on fancy escargots with beach views, New Caledonia is a foodie must-do for 2019.

 

This article first appeared in Yahoo Lifestyle; it was written by Carly Williams.