Kiwi Cool: Shopping For New Zealand-Made Souvenirs

When you go to the other side of the world, you want to bring back a few things to show for your trouble. Visiting New Zealand with my 1-year-old daughter, and with nephews at home in America, I became obsessed with finding them something actually made in the country. A stuffed kiwi bird or lamb toy, a merino wool baby blanket, or a fun T-shirt would do nicely, and I wouldn’t mind some jewelry or something small for our apartment either. In all of the cities I visited in New Zealand, I was impressed to find stylish, playful and innovative boutiques and vendors creating beautiful and unique home design, fashion and other Kiwiana. There’s enough Kiwi cool shopping that you might end up wishing you had a bigger suitcase.

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Flotsam & Jetsam (Auckland) – A cross between an antique store and a hipster Restoration Hardware, this collection of colorful and covetable home items will make you contemplate a move to Auckland. Visitors from farther away might find interesting vintage, repurposed and retro home wares from New Zealand and all over the world. Check their Facebook page for details on the latest stock.Nelson Saturday market (Nelson, South Island) – New York City has street fairs and markets pretty much every day of the year if you look hard enough, but all too often, you find the same cheap tube socks, fried cheese and dough concoctions, and hodgepodge of junk. My expectations weren’t high for the weekly market in the arty town of Nelson on the top of the South Island, but after a quick walk through, I was glad I didn’t have too much cash to spend, as there was so much to buy. On a given weekend, you might find model airplanes crafted from soda cans, gourmet gluten-free tacos, and more knitwear than you can shake a sheep at. Local band performances, cooking demonstrations, or even a flash mob add to the festive atmosphere.

Pauanesia (Auckland) – This small shop is loaded to the gills with all things antipodean (a Brit term for a place on the other side of the world), with an emphasis on home textiles such as Polynesian-print tablecloths. If you have a little one to shop for (or just enjoy stuffed animals), consider one of the charming Kiwi “chaps” made from vintage and salvaged fabrics and send them a photo of your bird out in the world. You can also find a nice assortment of Paua shell jewelry, key chains, and other odds and ends much more thoughtfully and well-made than your average gift shop.

Iko Iko (Auckland and Wellington) – What drew me into the Wellington store was a window display of Dear Colleen‘s cheeky “Dishes I’d rather be doing” tea towels with “dishes” like Ryan Gosling and Mr. Darcy-era Colin Firth (get it?). I could have easily spent hours inside poring over the whimsical items, like a kiwi bird cookie cutter, Buzzy Bee cufflinks, or a CD from the Wellington Ukulele Orchestra. It’s full of things you don’t really need but really want, plus fun takes on everyday items.

Abstract Designs (Wellington) – You might call these artisanal cardboard cutouts. Abstract Designs makes creative sculptures and jewelry with a very local flavor. Perhaps you’ll pick up a 747 plane kit for the airplane nerd in your life, a pop-up building replica to remind you of your stay in Wellington, or a cruelty-free moose trophy head for your wall. Their designs are sold in many museum gift shops as well, but there’s a full selection at their Wellington studio and online.

Hapa (Christchurch) – Pop-up businesses have become the foundation for the new Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake. The Re:START mall is the best example, built out of shipping containers and housing a mix of “old” Christchurch shops in temporary digs and new shops. There are several stores in the mall selling New Zealand goods, but Hapa stands out for their many beautiful and clever items, like a bear bean bag chair or a knitted “fox stole” scarf. Best of all, many goods are made or designed in Christchurch, so you can feel good about supporting the local economy.

Texan Art Schools (multiple stores in Auckland) – Don’t be confused by the name, it’s a play on the fact that it carries work from graduates of “tech(nical)s” and art schools. Texan Art Schools acts as one-stop shopping for dozens of Kiwi artists and designers, with an eclectic mix of home items, fashion and jewelry. You’re sure to find something unusual and authentic here like a set of Maori nesting dolls or a retro camper wall clock.

Photo from Auckland’s Queen Street shopping arcade. More “Kiwi Cool: New Zealand for the Unadventurous” to come.

Alice in Wonderland pop-up restaurant opens in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

alice in wonderlandAnd, you probably thought Alice in Wonderland was just a fairytale. Not anymore, as Swallowtail Canada presents their pop-up restaurant, Down the Rabbit Hole, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, from November 24-December 17, 2011.

Diners will not just enjoy delicious cuisine, but will actually experience the world of Alice in Wonderland. The night begins just outside an enchanted forest where guests will be greeted by a frantic rabbit who will lead them “down the rabbit hole”. Does this sound familiar?

Once they reach their destination, attendees will get to interact with their favorite Alice in Wonderland characters, such as being served tea by the Mad Hatter, and have unique experiences like enjoying soup from a bottle that is labeled either “Big” or “Small”. Choose wisely, because the bottle you pick determines what you’re next course is.

The pop-up restaurant is predicted to be so bizarre that it has even caught the attention of Celebrity Chef and Food Network Star, Bob Blumer, who is currently on the hunt for the “World’s Weirdest Restaurant”.

From what it sounds like, Down the Rabbit Hole has a great chance of winning.

Tickets are $129 per person and include five Wonderland-themed courses, a cocktail creation by Swallowtail, and the interactive show, which is performed by actors from In the House Festival. The location of the venue will not be disclosed until a week before the reserved date. Dates and times that still have tickets available include:

  • Saturday, November 26: 4PM and 8PM
  • Saturday, December 3: 4PM and 8PM
  • Saturday, December 17: 4PM and 8PM

To reserve your spot, e-mail theswallowdive@gmail.com or call 778-319-9453.

From the Bay to Brooklyn: San Francisco, California, Japanese restaurant pops up this November in New York

japenese pop up restaurant in new york Chefs James LaLonde and Ryoji Kajikawa of the Mojo Cafe in San Francisco, California, love creating Japanese-by-way-of-California delicacies for their pop-up restaurant, SloMo SF. On November 18, 19, and 21, 2011, New Yorkers will also get a chance to experience their cuisine through a series of pop-up dinners at Sweet Deliverance in Brooklyn.

These pop-up dinners cost $90 per person and include a seasonally-inspired 7-course Japanese meal with drinks. Some menu and drink items you can expect are:

  • sake-steamed clams
  • Japanese fried chicken
  • ramen with housemade stock and noodles and seasonal garnishes
  • beer
  • sake
  • persimmon cocktails

For more information and to order tickets, visit Brown Paper Tickets.

Sweet Deliverance is a two-level commercial kitchen space located at 1287 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.