Lauraine Jacobs

Food & Wine Writer

14 July 2017

FISHY TALES PART 1 DORSET AND DEVON

A trip to the southwest of England to seek local seafood in late June, early July, before British School hols was a great time to beat the crowds and traffic. We flew into Gatwick to rent a car with GPS (absolutely essential if you want to drive away from the main routes) and three hours later arrived at Lyme Regis. Accommodation was booked for this two week trip, along with most of our dinners, as even at this time of the year, there’s huge pressure on good hotels and excellent restaurants in sleepy Devon and Cornwall.

Our first night was spent at Lyme Regis’ Alexandra Hotel, a comfortable old English establishment where you imagine they could easily have filmed Fawlty Towers, although the efficient friendly staff were a far cry from the enigmatic, awkward Basil and Sybil. We had great ocean views as the hotel sits close to the cliff top with a grand carefully mown lawn reaching out to the waterfront garden park. It was only a ten minute walk to Hix Oyster Shack for dinner where we were in heaven. The fishy menu is great – freshest of oysters, local fish and shellfish, all overseen by one of Britain’s hero chefs, Mark Hix. The view from the deck is even better to the charming little port (see pic above.) Briny oysters, sparkling fresh cod with cockles, lemon sole and a stunningly simple local tomato salad and interesting wines like gruner veltliner and vino verde set us up for the journey ahead.

Next day to Dartmouth, a beautiful town clinging to the bank of the River Dart and a centre for seafaring, as the Britannia Royal Naval College towers over the town and numerous yachts, boats and vessels ply the river mouth. Apparently two cruise ships call into the port each year and as luck (or not) would have it one was anchored smack bang in the midst of the moored boats the very day we arrived. The town was filled for the afternoon with cruise passengers, shuffling around and scoffing the food specialities of the region – rich creamy fudge, battered cod and chips, Devon cream teas and stacks of Cornish pasties. When I was young a traditional Cornish pasty was a thing of wonder with its crusty crimped pastry and filling of chunky vegetables but latterly it has transmogrified into such weird emanations as Balti lamb pasty or the ubiquitous Butter Chicken pasty.

Dartmouth is also famous for its steam railway excursions. I’m not quite sure just why British men are so fond of the railway – maybe it harks back to those metal die-cast models they grew up with that chugged around model railway tracks set up in their bedrooms. There’s probably no hope for the next generation either, due to their preoccupation with Thomas the Tank Engine. Anyway I’m married to an engineer so on our second day we headed off on a return journey on a gleaming steam engine, powered by coal, along railway lines that clung to the coast. The guy responsible for all this is the esoterically and lyrically named Isamabard Kingdom Brunel who masterminded many railways, bridges and other feats of nineteenth century engineering. Brunel become a fascination on our journey as he was a brilliant and prolific engineer with works throughout the south west.

If you get to Dartmouth, stay at the Dart Marina Hotel. The new rooms are lovely, - spacious and modern, which seemed almost revolutionary in this old town and across the river you will spot the steam train tooting along every hour, saving you from taking the trip along with half the kids from the local primary schools, like we did. And you can eat the arguably best kipper in the whole of the country for breakfast.

Dartmouth is home to the centre of Mitch Tonks’ empire. We ate at his signature restaurant Seahorse. It was one of those lovely old fashioned dining rooms with a lengthy expensive wine list and masses of freshly caught fish. He specialises in cooking over fire and the roasted scallops in the shell were sweet and tasty, the marinated halibut was citrusy and our woodfired roasted fish main courses, perfect. The next evening we chose to eat Mitch’s fish again but this time at Rockfish, one of a chain he has introduced. We ate a substantial crab cocktail followed by more lovely roasted fish at half the price (and half the refinement) of the previous evening. At Seahorse we’d enjoyed the company of a couple at the neighbouring table. The chatter was erudite, discussing politics, art, property, economics and everything else. The next evening we loved the old birds at the next table who told us they had “left the husbands behind as they don’t like fish” as they tucked into a feast of huge crab each, licking their fingers clean. “Tomorrow night,” they boasted, “we’re going to eat with our men at one of the oldest pubs here. We can have steak and a bottle of red wine each for twenty quid!”

1 July 2017

VIENNA TO SALZBURG

“High on hill was a lonely goat herd, yodeleee, yodelayee….” You haven’t experienced Austria until you have passed by acres of green hills and pine trees surrounding intricately built wooden houses with terraces fringed with flower boxes blazing with colour.

It would have been easy to take the train from Vienna to Salzburg, but everything would have flashed by and some of the most picturesque places would have been obliterated by the dark tunnels that carve paths under the mountains. So we drove. Two of the areas we passed were breathtakingly beautiful.

Leaving Vienna we headed north in Lower Austria and drove through the Wachau region. From Krems to the west you drive through Durnstein, Wessenkirche, Spitz and other pretty towns along the banks of the Danube. This is a wine region, where the lovely floral gruner veltliner and Riesling grapes flourish, clinging to steep terraced hillsides that drop dramatically to the river. It is a UNESCO Heritage area. Plenty of wineries offer tastings and food.

We stayed the first night in Emmersdorf an der Donau, a charming village that you don’t even notice from the road. From here we could cross the Danube river to explore the stunning Melk Abbey, and eat typical stodgy food in any number of cafés. The best food was actually in the Stiftsrestaurant within the Abbey.

Next day we decided to quickly cover the miles across the countryside so we could enjoy the lake region in the Salzkammergut and Upper Austria, and after an hour or two we left the fast lanes of the motorway at Gmunden. We were now passing along spectacular roads where every turn presents an even more amazing view of sparkling lakes and spectacular mountains. We were headed for Hallstatt, another UNESCO protected site. We loved it, despite being one of the most touristy towns in the world (see pic above.)

Hallstatt Heritage Hotel was excellent and my trout for dinner there was probably the best meal I had in the entire week. And you can take the funicular for magnificent views and a trip down into the salt mines.

Next day to Salzburg, but not before we meandered through tiny villages and meadows, with more wonderful views. If you get to Salzburg, a great town for exploring on foot as the old area is devoid of cars apart from the taxi that drops you at your hotel, pop in to the Goldgasse Hotel in the ancient street of the same name. The food is delicious and a nice take traditional fare.

The Salzburg Museum is a must do, and the Castle, along with narrow lanes filled with laughter and music. This is Mozart town. His birthplace is a golden house in the centre of town, there are Mozart shops everywhere, but best of all is Schloss Mirabell across the river where every day there are Mozart concerts.

Our biggest regret was not allowing enough time to visit Hangar, near the airport, with a private collection of cars and a stunning restaurant, all owned by the owner of Red Bull! And then again there will always be the Sound of Music Experience, for another time perhaps.

29 June 2017

VIENNA

Despite the 35C temperature in the shade (!) I fell in love with Vienna. Not the food, as it hadn't changed much since I last visited this glorious city in the 70s.

What I truly loved was the elegance, the cleanliness, the magnificence of everything inside the Ringstrasse and the transport options around the city. A stunning tram system, clearly marked cycle ways on every street, and the central area of the city cleared of traffic and devoted to those who choose to walk.

Do not miss the Sisi Palace with its royal collection of silver and gold, and dedication to Empress Elizabeth who was a unique spirit and feminist. Or the Secession building with its Beethovenfries created by the city's artistic star Gustav Klimt. Or the collection of Klimt paintings including The Kiss, in the wonderful Belevedere Palace. Or the Kunthistoriche Museum and St Stephens church in the centre of town. Take the Ringstrasse tram for its entire route and wonder at the impressive buildings enroute.

For eating go to one of the traditional old cafes, despite the tourists, such as Cafe Central or Cafe Sperl, where the food is almost as old as the decor but a little dowdiness goes a long way to capture the spirit of the 19th century. And eat a healthy lunch behind St Stephens at Miznon, an outpost of the famous Israeli cafes, where it's self-ordering but the Roasted Golden Cauliflower is not to be missed. Take an afternoon break in the luxury of the Palais Hansen Kempinski Hotel lobby and eat the best apple strudel in town. Take a taxi out to the vineyards for dinner at one of the famed Heurige restaurants where you can drink local gruner veltliner with your roast chicken or schnitzel and listen to corny live music. And make a reservation at Freyenstein in Thimiggasse for a very delicious set menu meal that is worth the taxi fare.

And finally the best. Music. Search for one of the concerts that Vienna is famous for. If you haven't booked before you leave home, the concierge at your hotel may land you, at a price, the best seats in the house for a concert in the Musikverein Golden Hall. We did this and it was the BEST concert I have ever been to. Vienna Symphony Orchestra and a 120 strong choir playing Beethoven's Ninth. A true life- changing experience.

6 June 2017

FOOD AND WINE CELEBRATIONS AT CREATIVE MATAKANA

CREATIVE MATAKANA popped up on the arts and culinary calendar recently. Talented tutors arrived from around New Zealand in the rural town of Matakana, to stage Creative Matakana, a week of workshops and events that included textiles, fiction writing, glass kiln work, sculpture, harakeke weaving, walks and inevitably, parties and social gatherings.

Wine and food has been central to placing Matakana on the map so it was imperative a series of lunches to showcase local artisan products, wines, beer and cider were included on the programme. Four top chefs from around New Zealand were invited to cook with locally sourced and foraged food for an audience of foodies that journeyed from as far away as Wanaka, Wairarapa and Wellington.

Below you can see the menus from the four events, Vines, Sea, Fire and Earth with our four participating chefs, who cooked with fabulous local produce and offered a fabulous range of local beverages. I am so honoured to have curated this section of the Creative Matakana programme, and worked with so many helpful and generous people.

6 June 2017

DAY 1 VINES: BEN BAYLY AT BRICK BAY AT CREATIVE MATAKANA

Everyone’s favourite chef, Ben Bayly of The Grove and The Grounds worked with produce from Brick Bay’s farm to create a very special menu to begin the four dasy of food and wine celebrations at Creative Matakana.

It was shared gig as local chocolate maker Nicolas Bonnaud and artist and sometime chef Morgan Haines assisted and played their part to create a fabulous interactive feast in the Didsbury’s home at Brick Bay. Phil from Whangaripo Valley Buffalo arrived with still warm fresh buffalo milk to taste too. A lunch locals are still talking about!

TO START Chicken & Mushroom Leigh John Dory roe with cracker Freshly shucked Mahurangi oyster

Wine match: Brick Bay Rosé 2016

ENTRÉE Terrine of Whangaripo buffalo curd & wood fired piadina

Wine match: Brick Bay Pinot Gris 2015

MAIN Crépinette of Brick Bay Suffolk lamb Roasted Brick Bay Tamworth pork shoulder

Wine match: Martello Rock 2014 & Brick Bay Pharos 2013

Pre dessert Brick Bay Rose wine pops

DESSERT Honest Chocolat pave, Brick Bay honey roasted macadamias, Matakana satsuma, Whangaripo buffalo crème fraiche.

Wine match: Polish off that Brick Bay Pharos 2013

6 June 2017

DAY2 SEA: WITH GIULIO STURLA OF ROOTS AT CREATIVE MATAKANA

All the way from his award winning Roots Restaurant in Lyttleton, Giulio Sturla arrived to create a stunning seafood feast with local seafood. The famous Hays of Mahurangi Oysters shucked their shellfish on the deck, overlooking Omaha Beach, before the fishy feast commenced.

Giulio had brought a few surprises from his kitchen, yet foraged for local produce too. surprises, food, chatter and love.

To start: Freshly shucked Mahurangi oyster, fermented capsicum sauce, watercress and verjuice dressing Jones Road Cider

Entrée: Fresh Lee Fish Kahawai Escabeche, broad bean miso, Lime cured Kahawai, Duck Breast Prosciutto With pickled radish, gooseberries, cherries and local Red Globe grapes Plume Bakery Bread with Salumeria Fontana new season’s unfiltered extra virgin olive oil Wine OBV Pinot Gris 2015

Main: Roasted and smoked hapuku, with hazelnut milk and black garlic. Local runner beans with almonds. Wine match OBV Montepulciano 2013

Dessert: Matakana Feijoas roasted on the bbq, goat cheese ice cream, buckwheat crumble with Matakana honey comb

6 June 2017

DAY 3 FIRE: DARIUSH LOLAIY OF CAZADOR AT CREATIVE MATAKANA

Dariush Lolaiy, Metro Magazine’s Chef of the Year came from his restaurant Cazador in Dominion Road, Auckland to create a fabulous feast at the Sawmill Brewery Matakana. Dariush demonstrated how to deal with a duck, and presented all his courses matched to the Sawmill’s fabulous boutique beers, ably assisted by his wife Rebecca Smidt. Other local artisans were present, talking about sausages, bacon and buffalo milk. It was a fabulously casual and friendly lunch event with some of the tastiest food ever.

Pre Lunch Matakana Bacon Company Beer Match Sawmill IPA

First course Charcuterie plates to share – Salumeria Fontana pork and leek sausages, Cazador parfait & duck terrine with pickles & chutneys Beer Match Sawmill Pilsner

Main course Smoked duck breast salad, hummus, dukkah & pita Beer Match Sawmill Red IPA Wine Match The Gabion Matakana 2010 “Rachel’s Block Cabernet Franc/Merlot”

Dessert Dark Chocolate Mousse with Otaraia Omaha Flats Figs in Cognac Beer Match Sawmill Baltic Porter

6 June 2017

DAY 4 EARTH: WITH MONIQUE FISO AT CREATIVE MATAKANA

Monique Fiso of Hiakai, a pop up venture she has created to develop modern Māori cuisine got up at 3am to get her hangi fired up. Totally unique, modern and inspired with stunning handwoven harakeke baskets for every portion of food. an experience that you had to be there for.

Thanks to Cathy Gould for fabulous hosting in her stunning garden and home and husband Roger Donald for assisting, digging and supporting Monique through the rain!

CREATIVE MATAKANA MENU EARTH | WHENUA

PARAOA Rewena Flatbread, Nasturtium Butter

KAI MOANA Mahurangi Bay Oyster, Horopito Mignonette, Apple Gelee Tuatua, Kawakawa Butter Wine Match: OBV Pinot Gris 2015

HĀNGI & PUNGAREHU Pork Belly, Puha, Urenika, Pork Jus Local Greens , Kawakawa Berry Dressing Kumara Wine match: OBV Syrah 2015

TIO Gould Garden Ice Pops

KAI REKA Burnt Sugar Hāngi Pudding, Kaanga Wai Ice Cream, Rhubarb and Apple

12 May 2017

NZ OUTSTANDING PRODUCERS AWARDS

Recently I was privileged to be the head judge for the inaugural Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards 2017. Even though my whole food writing career has been dedicated to and inspired by the fabulous food we produce in New Zealand, I was still stunned by the quality of the entrants. More than 150 products were represented in eight categories that spanned through horticulture, aquaculture, dairy, butchery and numerous creators of premium crafted products.

The Supreme winner Absolute Angus Porterhouse, raised by East Cape farmers Sean and Jodi Brosnahan developed for their pure NZ Angus stud that they sell online via www.absolutenzmeat.com was a standout, with our judges smitten by this delicious steak from the very first bite. The pair’s commitment to sustainable management of their East Cape farm and the online business they have created is worthy of this recognition. It is a joy to see the hard work of our farming sector being carried out in such an exemplary manner.

Other winners:

  • Jersey Girl Organics, Jersey Girl Organic Whole Milk - Outstanding Producer Dairy Primary

  • Whitestone Cheese Company, Vintage Windsor Blue - Outstanding Producer Dairy Crafted

  • Farm Eighty4, Heirloom Tomatoes
- Fresh.co.nz Outstanding Producer Earth Primary

  • Fix and Fogg, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter - Fresh.co.nz Outstanding Producer Earth Crafted

  • Absolute NZ Meat, Absolute Angus - Outstanding Producer Paddock Primary

  • The Prodigal Daughter, Spicy Sicilian Sausages - Outstanding Producer Paddock Crafted

  • Cloudy Bay Clams, Wild Harvested New Zealand Diamond Shell Surf Clams- Label & Litho Outstanding Producer Water Primary

  • Keewai New Zealand, Live Freshwater Crayfish - Spirit of New Zealand

  • Runners-Up recognised were Clevedon Valley Buffalo’s Buffalo Mozzarella, Wooden Spoon Boutique Freezery’s Movie Night Ice Cream and Paneton Bakery’s Flaky Puff Pastry.

People's Choice awards were: * Fix and Fogg peanut butter makers - L’affare Outstanding People's Choice Producer * Otago Farmers Market - Outstanding People's Choice Farmers’ Market * Farro Fresh Food - Outstanding People's Choice Specialty Food Store or Supermarket * Hawkes Bay T&G Global Outstanding People's Choice Food Region

You will know Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards winners and finalists, as they will carry a gold or black sticker that guarantee the promise of product quality and an acknowledgement that it is the best of the best that New Zealand offers.

We’re so lucky as Kiwis to have so much amazing local produce in all our regions. Kudos to Marvellous Marketing and NZ Life & Leisure for their organisation and support of the Awards.

31 March 2017

HAWAII THE BIG ISLAND

I hadn’t been to Hawaii for about fifteen years. Waikiki may have been a paradise in the past, but now it is a frenetically busy crowded beach and the best thing around is the Ala Moana shopping mall. I actually hate shopping so that is quite generous of me to say that. If you do go try the Kona Abalone on the edge of the food court there where I had a bowl of miso with three baby abalone for $2 on our way home this trip. Bargain of the year.

So the invitation to join good friends in their apartment for a week on the Big Island sounded great. We negotiated our way through US Customs, hopped over to the nearby interisland terminal and after a 40 minute flight arrived at Kona airport. Easy as, and I can thoroughly recommend Hawaiian Airlines – the service, food and beds were great, especially on the NZ/Honolulu sector.

The Big Island is spectacular. Successive eruptions of the active volcano have sent flows of lava across the island which makes for an intriguing and interesting landscape.

We didn’t get to see the actual fire as it would have been an twelve hour round trip from our base at Mauna Lani but I loved the feel of the ‘new’ land. There is an amazingly diverse eco system too, as there are numerous pockets of differing micro climates, many of which host horticulture and agriculture.

Mauna Lani is about thirty minutes’ drive from Kona and is one of several resorts on the drier side of the island. The land has been built up so three storey apartment complexes, private homes and the lovely Mauna Lani Bay hotel sit amongst palms and tropical gardens, complete with swimming pools and grassy spaces. There are sandy beaches and two amazing golf courses. Every morning we sat on the lanai (terrace) and ate fresh pineapples and papaya from the market in Kona and watched the whales cavorting off the coast in front of us.

Mauna Lani has historic traditional fishing ponds where for centuries the locals have captured fish to sustain them. There are wonderful coastal walks and a very good shopping centre with a superb little supermarket and a Tommy Bahamas bar. And the two golf courses, although pricey by NZ standards (US$175 per round) were groomed to within an inch of their life and had some spectacular holes. The Japanese restaurant at the golf club was fantastic with fresh sashimi, fish and best of all, an amazing seafood salad.

You need a car and the driving is easy for sightseeing and adventures. Not to be missed:

• A day trip to historic Kona with lunch at the Coffee Shack a few miles further south and a windey trip down to Captain Cook Bay where that great adventurer met an untimely death, and there’s a farmers’ cooperative store and coffee factory.

• A road trip to Hawi, an arty hilltop town with old wooden buildings and lunch at the legendary Sushi Rock where they have truly reinvented sushi with every flavour under the sun, and creamy coconut icecream at a parlour over the other side of the road. Enroute the landscape changes dramatically as you leave the lava flows and climb through the grassy hills to find a tropical jungle.

• A round of golf at Big Island Country Club, high in the hills, where on a clear day you can see forever.

• Waimea Farmers Market on Saturday morning where all sorts or fantastic produce and treats can be purchased.

• Also in the area, ‘world famous’ doughy malasadas at Tex Drive Inn, and the spectacular Waipi’o Valley which is well worth driving 20 minutes to view.

• 20 minutes north from Mauna Lani is Da Fish Shack where we bought fresh fish carried in by local fishermen and there’s a great little food truck in the rough and ready carpark.

• If you have time the new highway takes you up and over a saddle in the mountains to the other side of the island to visit the lush but often wet town of Hilo, the most populated town on the Big Island with easier access to the active volcano.