Wow, I don’t know where 2023 has disappeared to but there’s just 12 days until Christmas and 19 days we welcome 2024 – that’s just scary!
But that also means it’s summer holiday time and it’s time to share delicious food and drinks with family and friends, especially on Christmas Day. For me there are a few places I love to shop for gifts and treats for the foodies in my life. Places like Prego in Collingwood Street where you can buy outstanding imported treats from Europe as well as a range of locally made cheeses, pates, salamis and other goodies.
Another favourite shop that has only been open a few years and continues to develop the range of products available is The Junction at Old Factory Corner in Appleby. The Junction is absolutely packed full of outstanding food products, and they have expert advice to help guide you through the exceptional range of local, New Zealand and international cheeses they stock.
When I stopped in last week I was surprised at the quality of the food they have for you and me to buy. The cheese section is the star of the store, but it only slightly overshadows the meat and condiments section, both of which feature lots of local products.
I had a chat with Dave Barrett who owns the store with his wife Sue to find out more about how this delicious business is going during these tough times and to talk about the products they have in store.
He told me that trading is difficult for everyone but working hard, increasing their product range and more positivity as we get closer to Christmas means The Junction is doing ok. “We work really hard to make sure we have outstanding products and that our staff are really engaged with the business. We put a lot of time into training and upskilling our staff, especially with our cheese selection which is our real specialty.”
Since opening in a much smaller space in 2018 The Junction has evolved into a store unique to Nelson, “very much like a Euro deli”. While there are a couple of specialty cheese shops and plenty of places stock a range of artisan cheeses and deli meats The Junction is the only store in New Zealand I am aware of that has such an intense focus on local and New Zealand products that are enhanced by a small selection of premium international treats.
Places like La Fromagerie in Auckland, Sabato in Auckland, Mediterranean Foods in Wellington and Christchurch, Moore Wilson in Wellington along with stores like Prego in Nelson all stock international produce with some local things added in. However, the range of cheeses at The Junction is unsurpassed, then add in the charcuterie products, specialty meats, locally made sausages, pate’, black garlic, artisan chocolates, ice cream, sorbet and so much more, this is a one-stop foodie heaven.
While Dave and Sue own the Junction (as well as the Little River and Thorvald cheese businesses) they have handed control of the exceptional range of cheeses to Virginnia Thomas an internationally recognized Cheesemonger (the person who looks after the cheese in the shop or restaurant)
Having spent more than 20 years working is some of the finest cheese establishments in Australia Virginnia developed her own high profile in the cheese industry and in 2012 she was recognised by the Guilde International des Fromagers in France for her work with French cheese in Australia. In other words – she knows her cheese!
As artisan cheese producers themselves Dave and Sue make sure their shop supports other outstanding artisan producers in New Zealand. The Junction is one of the very few specialty cheese shops where they cut and wrap cheese to order; sure others do this in a small way but none with such a huge range of cheeses to select from.
Dave told me that people talk about cheese being quite expensive “and this is true to some extent, but there’s not a lot of margin in artisan cheese making. We are specialty producers not bulk producers, we use Oaklands A2 milk with a high in milk solids content. That enables us to produce creamy cheeses like camembert, brie and cumulus (a 50/50 sheep/cow’s milk cheese) to a very high standard and as good as any similar cheese from Europe.”
Artisan producers don’t have the ability to buy milk in bulk as producers like Mainland do so it makes sense that handcrafted artisan cheeses are more expensive, but in this case you most certainly get what you pay for and “you don’t need to buy a kilo at a time, just buy enough beautiful fresh cheese to enjoy over a day or two. Just buy what you need so you don’t have waste, and then come back for more when you need it.”
I think my favourite blue cheese as to be the Mt Eliza Blue Monkey, Mt Eliza only make three chesses and they are all exceptional, but the Blue Monkey is on another level again – and you can buy it cut fresh for you at The Junction.
The staff at The Junction are also exceptional, they understand customer service and spend a lot of time learning about the products they sell so can give you great advice. Whether it’s tasty sausages and salamis from The Sausage Press in Upper Mouther, succulent veal from Pearl Veal in Golden Bay, handcrafted Aroha Chocolates, cured meats from Peter Timms in Christchurch, Black Garlic from Upper Moutere, local olives and olive oils, fresh sourdough bread, soft rolls of liquorice, the perfect cracker to have your cheese on or even which gift box would suit the foodie in your life, the staff have the expertise to guide your decision making.
And if you need something while you browse the cabinets you can have a scoop of Roma Gelato made from Oakland’s milk to cool you down, or buy a tub of Appleby Farms ice cream to take home.
The Junction is without doubt one of the very best specialty food shops in New Zealand and is the perfect place for you to buy everything you will need to have a tasty summer in Nelson.