Lauraine Jacobs

Food & Wine Writer

13 September 2014


Last night, a dinner that added to the rich cauldron of eating experiences my life has dished up. A tiny jewel of a restaurant in a narrow cobbled lane in the historic Portuguese town of Evora is where Domingo Canelas and his wife Florbela cook for just ten diners at lunch or dinner, five days a week. No reservations so we arrived at 6.45pm to claim our place in a small queue.

Seated at the counter, with a wall of wine to gaze at, the evening was personal, exciting and friendly. Very like a true experience in a backstreet secret sushi place in Tokyo. The chef does not speak English but a real rapport is established immediately. He suggested what was good and that sounded perfectly good to me

We ate thin slices of dark rosy pate negra ham, roasted mushrooms filled with local olive oil and crunchy salt, then shared a stunning whole grilled sea bass with a simple salad of tomatoes, cucumber and finely sliced white onion. A glass of white wine for me, red for him. To finish, a Portuguese custard tart for me and fresh sliced mango for Murray. Perfectly simple but breathtakingly delicious.

But for me this experience reinforced just what a new book I have contributed to is all about. 1001 Restaurants to Experience Before You Die is due out at the start of October. The restaurants are chosen for their authenticity, their food (of course) but above all for the special experience they deliver. Botequin da Mouraria is one of those places. A genial host, simple fine fare and an unforgettable atmosphere.

There are 13 New Zealand restaurants in this book which reaches around the world. You may never get to Evora but we do offer heart stopping dinners at home in NZ too! I will surprise and delight you hopefully with my choices - just as I was surprised and delighted last night.

11 September 2014


Presently I am in Portugal. I have survived the most amazing week in Beaune.

I was with an intimate group of eight fellow wine and food aficionados, led by the remarkable Richard & Lynley Bunton from Dunedin. They took us on a journey through the Burgundy region, savouring and devouring everything that is worthy in that remarkable region.

Highlights were a 90 minute exploration of the historic Hospices de Beaune museum ( I am not a museum lover but this, led by local guide Annie, was spectacular and I hung on every single word Annie uttered), a wine tasting of three grand Crus in the vineyards they'd grown in, and some spectacular meals in the fine restaurants of Burgundy accompanied by more great wines than I thought it possible to drink in a night.

Foie gras, gougere, Abbaye Citeaux and Epoisses cheese, tender lamb, rich flavoursome beef, desserts to die for, girolles and other mushrooms, truffles, langoustines, tomatoes at their peak with burrata, jambon persille, and not much salad!

Perhaps best of all was a 25 km cycle trip on the route des Grands Crus and a superb cooking lesson and lunch at The Cook's Atelier with Majorie Taylor.

Please go to my Facebook page for the photos and much more.

22 August 2014


It is not often, in fact never before, that I get a press release and rush to post it on my blog.

I am usually an early adopter but for some reason, the amaaaaazing Gianpaolo and Anna Rosa of Giapo Ice Cream in Queen St Auckland had not been in my sights. What a culinary crime on my part.

These guys are geniuses and not only is their work stunning, their philosophy of fresh, organic seasonal ingredients is pure and admirable. So don't expect to see summer fruit flavours right now, nor will you get grapefruit in March! The texture, the taste, the edginess of their ic ecream is stunning.

And now this. An All Black ice cream creation for this weekend's Bledisloe Cup. Perfect!

You can get Giapo ice cream at their store adjacent almost to the entrance to the Civic Theatre on Queen St. Just look for the queue and join it. Just do it!

16 August 2014


Open the fridge, scour the pantry, twenty minutes later; lunch!

I love cooking at the beach, even if it is winter and there's slim pickings in the farmer's market until the weather get warmer (and drier.)

This was our lunch today. A riff on the Genoese classic, cappon magro. Traditionally this is a cold seafood dish, cooked as a Christmas treat. Italy is weathering winter around late December so this is appropriate for mid winter in New Zealand.

Carrots and cauliflower star in the dish. So that's where I started. There's no need for exact quantities. I included a small cauliflower, chopped and blanched and about half a dozen baby carrots, halved and blanched. I layered these with an assortment of lettuce and mesclun leaves plucked from my pot plants, one large acid free tomato chopped, two hard boiled fresh free range eggs from Jenny Quayle at Matakana Farmers market, a chardonnay vinaigrette with freshly chopped mint.

The piece de resistance? A tin of ALBO pulpo - delicious octopus in a salty olive oil which I always keep in my pantry. (Sabato import). YUM!

31 July 2014


I love meeting new food producers, tasting new products and seeing old friends. I went to the food show today and my first stop was the Auckland on the Menu precinct. Huge congratulations to ATEED for pulling this showcase together and assisting some of our local innovative food heroes to put their products to the market under their organisation.

Do not go past that area without checking out Greg and Kath of Salumeria with their new pork and leek sausages, the fabulous Tringhams of Curious Croppers with their amazing pasta sauce they have created with Sean Connolly’s help, Rob and Lisa Hay of Mahurangi Oysters, Genevieve’s stunning mousse she has made with their Mahurangi Oysters, the Black Garlic Aioli made by four young enterprising students from Manurewa High School, Dollop, Hot Samoan Boys and so much more. Here are my top picks of the show:

Best of the Show:

• The brand new West Coast Cocoa Merchants. Everything was fantastic from the packaging and the presentation of the booth, through to the totally knock-out cocoa to the flavours of silky rich chocolate drinks and The Chai. The Chai. The Chai. I loved it all. My top pick of the year.

More Great Stuff:

• Salumeria Fontana’s pork and leek sausages – the most meaty, flavoursome, sophisticated sausages ever.

• Chantal Organics four flavours of tahini, their new rice syrup, some amazing peanut butter and organic kale powder, ready for your smoothies.

• Satya’s new Indian spice range; the picks for me were the dark roasted cumin and their garam masala mix, ready to grind in a purposeful jar.

• Heilala Vanilla Virgin Coconut Oil – more coconutty flavour than every other coconut oil

• Giapo tiramisu ice cream – smooth, creamy and brimming with the very best ingredients. The stuff of dreams.

  • Genevieve's new Creamy Mahurangi Oyster mousse - sublime on thin hot toast. This woman does everything so well!.

• Urban Bakery’s Ginger and dark chocolate cookies

And it was also good to catch up with Wilcox potatoes from Pukekohe, the happy team from Uncle Joes with their Walnut oil of Marlborough and other newly awarded oils they’d claimed in a London exhibition, Cloudy Bay clams, genuine organic Urban Hippie miso from Nelson, and full marks to the Heritage who had their chef Jinu Abraham cooking the remarkable raw and vegan food you can experience in the hotel. Loved his raw cocoa nib truffles!

And don’t miss the food from Brazil and all the lovely folk on the large Korean foods stand. And stop by and chat with the guys at Taste mag, Food mag, the Healthy Food Guide and the effervescent talented Mike McHugh of Mindfood.

30 July 2014


We love our pies. We eat them on the road, as a snack, for lunch and dinner, and whenever we are hungry. Our favourite is the mince and cheese of course. Especially when crowned with a buttery flaky pastry top.

Last night at the Bakels Supreme Pie Awards the Supreme Pie of 2014 was the Lamb Cutlet & Kumara Mash pie, baked by Michael Kloeg at his Clareville Bakery in Carterton. A fine example of kiwi food innovation as no two ingredients could be more iconic than NZ lamb and NZ kumara.

Too bad about broadcasters Sean Plunket and Marcus Lush who are so unsophisticated they declared this morning they couldn't even imagine how good this pie might be! I would happily travel the roundtrip to the Wairarapa just to try this pie.

More than 4000 pies were entered and some of this year's more exotic entries included rabbit and wild boar, caramelised rhubarb and wildberry, chilli con carne, spiced duck with bacon, and a ‘cheeky cheese’ slow cooked beef cheek and cauliflower cheese pie.

The gala event at which I was hosted was a bit of a circus; amazing circus antics from some very double jointed artists who had the audience enthralled. The best bit however was to see how humble gold medal winners were when presented with their awards. Many of these superb bakers are recent immigrants and they have truly embraced the Kiwi traditions of baking and are producing many amazing award winning pies. It was a privilege to be there to applaud their success.

24 July 2014


Over the past three weeks I have had one only alcoholic drink. That was yesterday and it was a small glass of Dom Perignon 2004. It would have been extremely rude not to accept that as I was invited to an exclusive preview of the Dom Perignon Room, a new initiative at Clooney. (Very exclusive as there were just six of us.) But I am participating in Dry July so drinking anything much apart from water, tea or the occasional coffee is out for me.

My motivation was not to lose weight (I would go on a diet to do that) nor to wake up with a clear head (I always do that), and neither was it to support the Dry July charity (apart from my own generous donation, of course.) My reason was purely and simply triggered by the sign in the entry foyer at Auckland Hospital I spied while visiting my mother, inviting me to go a month without an alcoholic drink, and hopefully raise a little money to support the gifting of extra equipment and some treats that would make cancer patients lives more bearable. So, yes. I could be that strong!

I have been shocked and hurt by the response from the booze industry. Many who work in wine, spirits and associated promotion seem to have lashed out in wrath like a ton of bricks. It seems they believe their livelihood is threatened, despite the fact only 5,800 kiwis signed up which is a mere fraction of one percent of the two and a half million or more adults of drinking age in New Zealand. Some even suggested we could give up dairy for a month “The Cheese Freeze” or eat no lamb in September “Embaaargo” (sorry Rebecca, lambs of 4 weeks old are too young to eat in September anyway.) How silly. Yet there’s a huge movement called Meatless Mondays headed up by Sir Paul Macartney and family and I have never heard a single person bleat about that.

So I am completely puzzled as to why the poor souls who make our wine, sell hard liquor or produce drinks for public consumption believe their livelihood is threatened by Dry July and have even gone so far as to attack the Dry July Team’s administrative practices (“Do you know where that money ends up?” one critic asked.)

Dry July has not stopped me going to restaurants, not stopped me opening wine for friends and not stopped me buying wines to stock our cellar. But it has enabled me to make a couple of really important observations that I want to share, and believe me this month has really woken me up to:

• Never drive even after one drink.

• And never post anything on Facebook or Twitter after a night drinking, at home or out in the company of others.

(And also thanks to the one anonymous person who donated to DRY JULY in my name!)

24 July 2014


Why does FOOD not have top billing on our tourism agenda? The fastest growing area of any tourism thrust around the world is Food Tourism. Yet New Zealand with some of the world’s freshest and cleanest food and wine, seems to be ever so slowly waking up to the possibilities of promotion.

Ireland (Good Food Ireland) and Ontario (Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance) have long had exemplary programmes to attract and encourage tourists to indulge in the superb eating opportunities. Australia has just announced a major initiative for food tourism which they’ve called Restaurant Australia. So why is our tourism focus on hobbits, thrill seeking adventurers and stunning scenery? When did you last see a tourism posted exhorting traveller to visit for food and wine?

Our food and wine are rarely publicised and rather understated, just like much in the kiwi psyche. We base much of our working economy on the export dollars earned by sending our food products overseas, so why not encourage the world’s food lovers to visit and indulge in our excellent cuisine here in the very place it is grown and harvested.

Elle Armon Jones, an energetic and enthusiastic food lover started a food tourism business in Auckland, The Big Foody. Armon Jones is out almost every day with food tourists as she designs bespoke food tours to showcase the Auckland Region and beyond.

“Clients find me on the web, email with requests for my tours but also want to know everything connected with food. They will pay around S165 per person for five 5 hour tour, and certainly forgo flash hotels so they can spend more in our very best restaurants. They are curious for the stories, the tastes and to experience the food production side of our country,” she explained. “Once they finish my tour they will have introductions to other producers throughout the country, have lists and reservations for the restaurants I recommend and know exactly which specialty foods to look for. I take delight in giving them a ‘braggable’ experience. They return home talking about unique experiences like a visit to the Whangaripo Buffalo farm, seeing the herd being milked and tasting the cheeses, or picnicking on goodies bought at a local farmers market under the shady olive trees at a large olive plantation.”

Visitors to New Zealand also want authentic Maori experiences with genuine activities, so she arranges to gather clams and cook them over an open fire by the beach, helps them make Maori fried bread or spend an hour or two out on a waka in the harbour with a feast to follow. She knows that the dollars tourists spend have a far greater impact when they go direct to local producers. Visitors spend on memorable tastes, unique edible gifts and take the stories home with them.

Armon Jones focussed her sights on bringing the World Food Travel Association’s summit to New Zealand. Working with the assistance of ATEED (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development) and NZ Tourism, she has landed the rights to the 2017 conference to be held in Auckland. This will be a serious opportunity to showcase the best food and wine of all our regions.

The time has come for the vision for a food and wine trail to stretch from North Cape to Bluff like the cycle trail currently under construction. Apart from a few places where regional pride in food has established an advertised pathway around the district such as the very good Hawke’s Bay food and wine trail, the Central Otago wine trail, or a stunning fortnight-long event like Wellington on a Plate, we’re hiding our most shining light from the glare of possible publicity. Every region has food specialties and what better to seek them close to where they’re grown – it wouldn’t be hard to create and co-ordinate a blueprint for a trail of all things delicious and to promote that internationally.

This piece was published in the Listener as part of my cover story on Kiwi Kai.

24 July 2014


A well-designed modern facility in the maze of roads surrounding Auckland airport stands out from the other industrial sheds. It is the Foodbowl, a state of the art resource where our people are leading with some of the world’s food innovation and development projects. With gleaming stainless steel benches, modern high tech equipment, a highly developed security system and access to experts and food scientists, it provides a national web of science and technology resources created to support the growth of food and beverage businesses.

We all hear mutterings of new foods, but the New Zealand Food Innovation Network is forging ahead helping small producers with great ideas to get some clever products into the international and local markets. As Angus Brown, manager of the Foodbowl explained, New Zealand can’t feed the world from our tiny islands, but we can provide premium products that will earn more export dollars than simply exporting the raw materials we grow so well. It is all about adding value and providing the food solutions the world seeks.

Products like the healthful beverages of the Homegrown Juice Company which are raw-cold pasteurised so that taste and nutrition are not diminished and the natural flavours seem to leap from the bottle, or Genevieve Knight’s smooth gourmet pâtés and her latest creamy Mahurangi oyster mousse, Henry McKenzie’s IAMSAUCE, a tasty seasoning sauce relatively low in salt with no additives, preservatives or added sugar and a two year best by date, and the superb Fresh As range of freeze dried fruits have all been developed here. And a host of others as both large and start-up food companies take advantage of the facilities during the development stage of their new and exciting food products.

Additionally there are experts to assist and advise with food safety requirements, documentation, packaging and export marketing. Most importantly confidentiality is guaranteed so that no-one else can gain from the intellectual property that is the result of the development process.

Food Innovation Network, funded by regional councils, central government and Callaghan Innovation, is the umbrella for work being carried out at Food Waikato, Food Hawkes Bay, the Food Pilot at Massey University and the associated Riddet Institute, and Food South Island. Each of the territories and four regional food product development centres has a different focus depending on the needs, maturity, strengths and capabilities of local businesses. Between them, they offer a complementary suite of services. The Innovation Network also works alongside Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to get our value added foods into overseas market - proudly supporting New Zealand grown and made.

1 July 2014


The Great New Zealand Cookbook, published this month, celebrates the emerging diversity in our cuisine. Leafing through the pages you will not blanch at the variety displayed in the range of recipes from 80 of our best cooks, chefs and bakers. That’s our food!

Vibrant cuisines of immigrants and travelled chefs have stamped bold influences on the way we eat. Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Thai and Polynesian recipes inspire the fare we savour and devour every day.

I am honoured to be part of this book; it is an amazing slice and insight into the contemporary food scene of New Zealand. That's my page and there's no prize for guessing what season my recipes represent.

The team that pout this together are amazing and were such fun to work with. thanks Murray Thom Music for including me!

On sale everywhere now but please buy your copy at your local New World as they have been so generous in support of this terrific project.