12 May 2009

the show must go on

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Take a deep breath. If you were at the Wellington Food Show over the weekend, you'd be needing the deep breaths anyway, because no doubt all the pesto and organic ice cream and free range bacon has rendered the passage of air from the heart to the lungs and back again a little slow and laboured. And if you weren't there, you'll need the extra oxygen because this is going to be one heck of a post: it's my annual Food Show Review (well, I did one last year, and in these uncertain, Gen-Y-ruled, recession-at-your-heels times, doing something more than once is quite enough grounds to call it a tradition.)


Perhaps a little ill-advisedly, Tim and I turned up at to the Westpac Stadium - known affectionately/derisively as "the cake tin" due to its severely grey round shape - at about 10.30am and stayed there until 6pm. You could say we got our money's worth out of the place. You could say we are lunatics. You could say many things. We wouldn't have answered, because our mouth would have been too full of food samples.

Here's a few of my favourite things (and my apologies to any of the following businesses, I'm no Ellen Degeneres so don't expect a wild upturn in sales of your product as a result of my grainy photography and almost-witty comments...on the other hand I think my blog is awesome and frankly you could do worse than to be recommended by me.)

In order of how the photos were stored on my hard drive...
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I'll be honest. I don't have an ice cream maker, but I make ice cream all the time. I'm sure there is some kind of pact amongst ice-cream-maker-makers, to convince you that you can't possibly create something worth eating if you haven't churned it in an expensive piece of machinery. Bollocks, I say. They just tell you that so you buy their products. And further to this, I think the ice cream I make at home tastes better than any shop-bought ice cream I've ever tasted, even better than the well known, celebrated gourmet brands in New Zealand as well as the more commercial juggernaut types.
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Except... Kohu Road ice cream is the very best, non home-made ice cream I've ever tasted. And so it should be, at $17 a litre (luckily the samples were free and plentiful!) and I know it's crass to mention the price when they are a small company, who use local produce and are commited to the environment but...that's very expensive. But - how do I put this - you can taste every dollar. You can taste the golden syrup, the bergamot, the subtle differences between their milk chocolate and dark chocolate flavours. Buy this, savour it slowly, perhaps with one other lucky person, don't for goodness sake eat it while watching TV, and you'll realise that there is some merit in having a little of something astoundingly delicious rather than 2 litres of something cheap, full of colouring and preservatives and unnatural fats and not much else.

As well as this, the people at the Kohu Road stall were lovely, including the highly pleasant Greg Hall who was more than happy to allow me to photograph the ice cream, and the rest of the people working there who never so much as glared at me even though I returned multiple times to sample all the delectable flavours...
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Many a nip of this utterly delightful New Zealand made lemon liqueur was had on our travels round the stadium. The friendly people at the Lemon-Z stall were more than happy to refill our tiny glasses and also added a splash of cranberry which made a delicious drink of complex tanginess. But my favourite was just the limoncello on its own - this particular brand is smooth, not in the slightest bit acrid, and delightfully, utterly lemony. And also triumphant - you can see on their website how many awards this has won internationally. I long to pour it over vanilla ice cream...



I don't like beer. Can't stand it. I haven't yet found the best way to explain what it is I don't like about it - the harsh taste, the strident bubbliness, the weird after-bitterness, I don't know.

I kind of loved this stuff though. I don't think I could drink huge amounts of it, but that is no indication of its quality - as I said, I'm just not a beer person. If you are a beer person, however, please look them up. Not only is it made without additives or preservatives, it's made with certified organic Artesian water and comes in such alluring flavours as Manuka honey and Feijoa, as well as classic Artesian. And the people at the Mata Beer stand were fantastically friendly. It made me wish I could drink more beer, which is honestly not a thought I often entertain...(that's a compliment by the way)





Look at all those jams lined up, twinkling like jewels...Barker's as a brand has long been associated with fruity things in New Zealand, but of particular interest to Tim and I at the food show were their range of no-added-sugar jams. According to the website this means they can't legally be termed jam, to which I say: oooh, subversive! With 99% fruit content, a card-carrying diabetic like Tim and a gal like me blessed with the most sluggish of metabolisms can hardly go wrong. As well as being worthy these jams are also delicious, but with all that fruit in there taking up the space that sugar and artificial flavours take up in other jams, how could they not be?




I only tried this briefly, but was entranced. Normally I like to make my own marinadey-rub-saucy stuff but I realise not everyone is as militant as I. At Raymond's stall was a range of flat mushrooms, each swimming appealingly in its own individual marinade for the tasting. I tried the Persian one and it was gorgeous - enticingly warm and spicy, which contrasted beautifully with the juicy, meaty mushrooms.





Avocado oil is special, and this Grove Avocado Oil is some of the finest avocado oil that I've had the pleasure of dipping a piece of bread into. It's actually delicious stuff - rich but not cloying, mellow and flavoursome and, you can hardly tell from my hastily taken photo, the most gorgeous, luminous verdant green colour.

7. The Wright Sprouts (so organic that they don't even have a website!)



I guess it goes without saying that I'd be into sprouts. Since I'm also a known lover of the rolled oat and the lentil. But whatever, I say, these are really, really good. And I don't mean just "good for, you know, sprouts", I mean good. Crunchy, wholesome, light, crisp, juicy, leafy tasting sprouts are what the Wright Sprout people do and they do it well. And they gave me an extra bag for free (now I have five bags of sprouts!) so in my mind they can do no wrong.



As I said earlier, I'm one of those cooking freaks who likes to make their own stuff, but if you are like the 99% of people who don't have the time or the inclination to make lime curd, then I can wholeheartedly recommend the stuff that St Andrews Limes makes. The lime curd itself is wonderfully tangy and full-flavoured with a particularly beautiful texture, that so many other commercial brands get wrong. Also in their impressive lineup of products is a saffron infused lime curd - intense in flavour and deeply golden in colour - and Lime Burst, which they describe as an "eggless aioli". It is sour and salty and seriously addictive (you're allowed to sample the products at the food festival but I wanted to run off with the jar and drink this stuff.) All products are gluten free and made without additives or preservatives - bravo! And their website features all manner of enticing recipes.
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I ate about a kilo of each type of sausage that they had on display. I don't think they're organic or sustainable or anything like that but their sausages are ridiculously good and sometimes that outweighs everything. Don't hate me.
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Also there's something about the word "smallgoods" that makes me giggle. We were there for seven hours, okay?
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I left this till last because frankly, words fail me when it comes to even attempting to describe the deliciousness of the Canaan cheeses and yoghurts. The yoghurt surpassed any I've ever tried - including in Europe - thick, soft and voluptuous in texture and creamy yet tangy in flavour. I ended up buying four pots of the stuff. Don't even get me started on their halloumi. For those of you who don't know, halloumi is a special type of cheese that holds its shape when pan-fried. And as with the yoghurt, the Canaan brand is quite the nicest I've ever had, quickly fried on the spot in front of me and handed on a toothpick by the charming people at the stall. All the cheeses are Kosher, made with vegetarian rennet and without preservatives. I have nothing but praise for this company and frankly there's little I'd rather do right now than lock myself into a room with nothing but a vat of their strawberry yoghurt and a spoon for company. Buy some, and soon!
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Honourable mention must go to the Petone House of Knives, whose lovely representatives managed to charm me into buying a potato ricer when I wasn't even entirely sure that I needed one; the fantastic Freedom Farms bacon being given out by the good people at the SPCA; Tim was happy as a clam with his 5 containers of Kono Mussels for $10 (including Manuka Smoked ones); and the good people at Lindt who were handing out the faint-makingly wonderful white chocolate Lindor balls with gay abandon; the fragrant LemonFresh Pantry Essentials stall who handed out beautiful little cakes and whose stall I could have stood by inhaling all day; and the SeJuice Feijoa juice which was just...perfect.
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We also managed to take in a presentation by charismatic NZ fabulosity Peta Mathias, who enrobed shrimps in yoghurty marinade and potatoes in ghee while telling us tales of the cuisine of Rajasthan. She finished by singing La Vie En Rose by Edith Piaf to one of the event organisers, which was bewildering but also touching...I was disappointed that my favourite Cuisine magazine writer, Ray McVinnie, was only presenting on the Friday and Saturday, but perhaps next year...I was also disappointed that we didn't win the Electrolux fridge. I just was.
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So there you have it. This is by no means a comprehensive review - (it's ad hoc, as I say when I'm at the office) - and there were many other fantastic companies presenting food. It wasn't perfect - it felt as though there were slightly less exhibitors this year, although I'm not one of nature's gaugers so I could be wrong. In spite of heaters blasting at intervals (usually near wide open doors) the venue was pretty freezing. And again, the lack of Ray McVinnie on Sunday was a little dampening. But on the whole it was one heck of a day, opening my eyes to a range of new, exciting products and of course, enabling me to partake in one of my favourite hobbies, sampling free food.
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On Shuffle while I'm writing this:
For once, no Broadway, but instead a mix of Okkervil River tunes as we're going to see them tomorrow night and I want to get in the zone.
That said, I have also listened to Birdhouse In Your Soul, by the beautiful Kristin Chenoweth and Ellen Greene, from the soundtrack to the equally beautiful Pushing Daisies soundtrack, oh, 18 times this evening...
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Next time: I make my own butter. Lovingly.

6 comments:

  1. I love the thought of voluptuous yoghurt. And Lindt chocolates! My absolute favourite chocolates of all time!
    I hope all these companies find out about your free advertising for them and shower you with more of their goodies (and a percentage of their increased profits). I'm certainly interested in investing in $17.00 ice cream after your description.

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  2. I am so going with you next year! Sounds like you were in your element. How was the hangover? I am sooo shattered you didn't critique my masterpiece creation of 'sausage-roll-and-hummus'

    Try it folks. Really.

    See you round!

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  3. Mum: I know, right? Apparently someone in America purchased some Lemon-Z limoncello after reading about it on my blog so I guess I'm a good person to know after all!

    Scotty: Is that a pity comment I see from you? If it is...thanks, I needed that. Wasn't hungover in the slightest the next day, I actually only had about three glasses of wine at your place. Was a fab night though, great to see you again! Next year for sure, with sausage rolls and hummus!

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  4. Great post!

    Hehe, "smallgoods".

    xox Sarah

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  5. Sorry for my lateness on commenting, but I wanted to say that was a fabulous overview of the food show! That yoghurt sounds sooooo good. I love yoghurt and ice-cream. Seriously, that ice-cream sounds to die for! I am always on the lookout for new things to try. Wonder if I can get any of this stuff imported? Maybe I will just have to schedule a trip to NZ, perhaps at the time of the next Wellington food show, just so I can try all this stuff!

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  6. BARKERS *bounce* my hometown *pines* I really need to be getting me some lemon and ginger cordial for winter... mmmm. Made in Geraldine. :D

    That made me happy... I'm disappointed there wasn't anything about Addmore Elderflower Cordial or drinks, they're devine. Also brewed in my hometown - you can buy them at Moore Wilsons. I reccommend the rose water and elderflower - and drink it out of a champaigne flute - soo lovely.

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