The time has come once more for me to assume the authority (authority that I don't really have, hence "assume" instead of, say, "gather") of writing up the Wellington Food Show. You know how some people really get into things like the Superbowl? The Food Show is my Superbowl. And it comes but once a year. Between working full time and growing older the year sweeps by alarmingly quick, the upshot of which is that this year the Food Show approached a lot sooner than I thought it would.
The following is a selection of the foodstuffs we sampled on Sunday. (And the drinkstuffs. At one point I remember telling Tim "I like margaritas. They help me make decisions.") There are some points you should bear in mind as you scroll purposefully through them.
1) I'm mad useless at composition on the fly. Sorry, companies (and readers).
2) While I only talk about the good stuff, it's not the definitive list. There were 185 stands, so out of practicality not all of them will be mentioned below.
3) I may or may not be half asleep while I'm writing this. Apologies for any inaccuracies or metaphors that go nowhere.
Firstly a massive "cheers" to The Wright Sprouts who actually sent me a pass to the show, which was both unexpected and very cool. It is entirely without agenda that I reiterate my genuine love for The Wright Sprouts' products (their sproutput, if you, um, will). A wide range of nutty, crunchy, juicy organic sprouts that you can easily polish off by the handful straight from the bag or use in actual recipes. I know sprouts don't necessarily spring to mind when you contemplate awesomely delicious food, but friend, let them spring.
The Wright Sprouts
Contact: (the lovely) firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the hugely exciting highlights of the day was seeing Ray McVinnie's cooking demonstration. He's become a lot more well-known lately as a judge on NZ Masterchef but I was there in the front row simply as a long-time fan of his writing for Cuisine magazine. His Quick Smart column has always been a favourite of mine and it was nice to see he's every bit as excellent in person as he is in paragraph form.
Total rockstar. Seriously. He made these two stunningly excellent sounding dishes, one a chicken dish sweetened and soured with damson jam, red wine and moscatel vinegar, and the other a chorizo and prawn dish. He was engaging, thorough, sensible of advice and humorous of anecdote. He even quoted Nigella Lawson. I know. He even kind of gestured at Tim and I at one point and asked if we could smell cinnamon, I seriously couldn't but nodded eagerly all the same, not one to let the truth stand in the way of a good story.
To the food!
Sunset Free Range
We were so happy to see the SPCA stand back once more to raise awareness of the importance of free range eggs and meat with their mighty omelets. I made the decision a while back to only purchase free range eggs and meat, for all those obvious reasons (like feminism - gotta look out for our feathered sisters and their wellbeing) and the deliciousness of the bacon and omelets we tried at this stand only further backed up my happiness in this decision. I realise it would be even more humane and actually just much better to just not eat eggs or meat at all but...not yet. Just love them too much really, and I'm happy to support people striving to get me those eggs and that meat in the best way possible.
There ain't nothing wrong with a little getting someone else to make your stock. Essential Cuisine has the goods, light years away from the murky, salty, 2-minute noodle sachet type stuff donning a mask and calling itself stock these days. They make mighty fine pesto too and all their products come in these alluringly prod-able, jewel-coloured pouches.
St Andrews Limes
These guys have been around for a year or two now, so it was more of a perfunctory visit to their stand that I made. However I shouldn't have been so presumptuous as their "Just a Dressing" - the stuff in the ramekin on the right - was so deliciously mustardy and sharp that I wanted to devise an elaborate plan to distract the people in charge of the stall so I could quickly swipe the bottle and drink the lot.
Lisa's is another company that has been around for a while, but still shaking up the hummus scene with her ridiculously delicious new range. The above was roast kumara and chickpea hummus topped with glossy pumpkin seeds. It was lusciously silky and nutty, an amazingly good combination. We spent some serious quality time with it.
The Collective Dairy
I LOVE this yoghurt.
What to say. It was wonderful stuff - cold, thick, creamy and swirled with fruit. Their halloumi was so delicious - salty, squeaky, soft but solid. Actually that makes it sound kind of awful, but trust me it was genuinely heavenly. Top ranking stuff all round.
These guys did sugar-free sour cola bottles that tasted real. Well, as real as actual sour cola bottles could get. They have an awesomely comprehensive range of sugar-free products online and were really friendly. Considering it was day three of the Food Show and all.
One of their reps was strangely cold-mannered, they didn't seem to have any business cards to hand and there's not even an NZ website to speak of. From this cavalierness I would assume Lindt clearly don't need me to promote them on my blog. Still, I kind of liked this picture. And their chocolate is just so knee-bucklingy delicious, particularly those legendary Lindor balls which are solid on the outside and meltingly truffly on the inside. It sells itself. You can find it in most supermarkets. I ended up buying a bar of 85% dark chocolate which I look forward to eating eventually - I've never had chocolate quite that dark before, maybe if it gets any darker it just turns into a charcoal briquette.
Loaf Handcrafted Breads
One of the perils of going to the Food Show on the last day is that some people might run out of food. Like these jammy dodgers from Loaf, whose shelves were nude but for what you see in the photo above when we got there first thing in the morning. While I love to make my own ginger slice, their take on it was pretty darn exquisite - soft, fudgey, and dark with gingery heat. Between the quality of their product and the disarming friendliness of the guys at the stand I'm not surprised at all that they were completely fleeced and ready to go home after our first lap of the stadium.
Just the perfect thing to awaken the tastebuds mid-afternoon. Orcona has a fabulous range of chillis and chilli-related products. We were particularly taken with their harissa and their chilli feijoa relish - strangely sweet and hot at the same time and very moreish. I haven't got tastebuds that can really stand up to the bullying heat of chillis but if yours can then look these guys up for sure.
Moana Park of Hawkes Bay
This was the wine used in the aforementioned Ray McVinnie cooking demonstration and I felt obliged to show them how their advertising dollars had paid off handsomely in brand recognition. While I drink wine here and there I can't say I know an awful lot about it in the technical sense, apart from what you pick up from listening to other people and reading and so on, but I really did like their Malbec - it had a good, robust, confident flavour. I then tried something called a "sticky" which frankly isn't the name I'd choose to classify a wine but again, what know I? It was very good but awfully sweet, the sort of thing that would be nice with stone fruit or perhaps poured over a cake of some kind. The man at the stall was very nice, which is always appreciated when bumbling your way through this sort of thing.
Lemon-Z is first an foremost a fabulous locally made limoncello, smooth, resiny and incredibly lemony. They also make a brilliant ice cream out of such reassuringly familiar things as cream and egg yolks. I felt a bit bad as I made a massive hash of all my photos of their drink, but not toooo bad as they're doing alright for themselves without my awful photos - their international awards are many and prestigious.
The Soprano limoncello was rich and fragrant, deliciously sour and with a sprightly liqueur-y kick. They're relatively new to the limoncello party but clearly know exactly what they are doing. I liked it a lot.
I love it when people do the dinky shot-glass lineup thing, because it looks so pretty in photos. Look at them twinkle! Rejuva's aloe juice is so strangely delicious that you won't even think about how scarily spiky the actual aloe vera plant is, or how strangely gluey the sap encased within its spikes. Rejuva's range of juices include Pomegranate with Aloe and Green Tea with Aloe. The flavour is a little hard to pinpoint - a little cucumbery, a little grapey, but overall light-textured, refreshing and delicious. And really, really good for you.
There's a really long and complicated distillation process that makes Lighthouse gin a cut apart from the rest of the gin-peddlers out there, but the one thing I can remember is that they use hand-cut orange rind to flavour their gin, instead of the rather more pith-bitter dried stuff that most other makers use. Which appealed to me, as did their robustly delicious product, full of the evidence of that hand-zested fruit and whole spices.
Honourable mention to the following -
Martinborough's Coney Wines, from whom I sampled two incredibly good Reislings. Their wines are named after music references and the people at the stand were incredibly friendly. I took advantage of their deliciousness and good value and bought myself a bottle. It was pouring with rain and the endless walk out of the stadium is completely unsheltered. The paper bag that the wine was in grew soggy, broke, and the wine smashed onto the ground. Aaaaaargh. Began to hate whoever designed the walkway out of the stadium (seriously, this walkway it's about forty kilometres long, no roof at all, in Wellington of all places). Nevertheless, I'll still be looking out for them in shops, only if it's not raining.
Coney Wines - contact email@example.com
Las Margarita Restaurante Y Cantina from Lower Hutt, who were serving icy margaritas and wonderful hot-sauce doused, cheese-filled rolls called flautas, and the girl serving margaritas complimented me on my hair.
Contact: 04) 566 firstname.lastname@example.org
Piako Gourmet Yoghurt - another incredible NZ dairy product, unfortunately by the time I got round to them I was completely over taking photos. Wonderfully thick, delicious yoghurt in such alluring flavours as coffee walnut and lemon curd. Really, really gorgeous stuff.
Oxfam, who were collecting signatures to petition supermarkets to stock more Fairtrade products. Fair deuce, said I, and signed up happily. Then he gave us a whole block of Whittakers chocolate to say thanks. I could not have been more filled with love for the Food Show at that moment.
And that, good people, is it, more or less. Less, rather than more, as I really only captured a bare sprinkle of the goods on display, but there you go.
Title via: the formidable, deeply talented Ethel Merman (they don't name 'em like they used to).
Notorious B.I.G feat Method Man - The What from Ready To Die You sure don't need me to tell you why this is good but one day when I'm more awake I might just do it anyway.
Best Coast, When I'm With You. I don't know much at all about these people but I love this song - its lethargic, foot-dragging guitars and Hole-ish vocals are very appealing.
Next time: Cheers for reading, everyone, I realise it's a bit of a hike. So much new food to eat now - can't wait. Maybe by the time the next one rolls round I'll have my own cooking demonstration or something. Am secretly tempted to look at flights to Auckland for their leg of the Food Show...