Lauraine Jacobs

Food & Wine Writer

22 December 2019

MATAKANA UPDATE

Thinking of heading to Matakana this summer? Only 55 minutes if you get a great run, and so much to do.

EATING – The Top 3

The Farmers Daughter, Omaha Beach Causeway. The best café in the area by a country mile, with fresh, imaginative modern food cooked by no less than Jason van Dorsten. Superb service from a tight team overseen by owner Kate Rose. Gardens, playground, and the best view in the region. Rumours are they may open for dinner, but who knows?

Rothko at The Sculptureum, Omaha Flats Very upmarket fare to match a sensational international wine list, plus Sculptureum’s lovely chardonnay and rich reds. Surrounded by an eclectic collection of sculpture and intricate gardens, this is a family excursion not to miss.

Brick Bay’s Glass House and Sculpture Trail, Arabella Lane, Snell’s Beach A wonderful experience from the carefully curated sculpture trail that winds through vineyard, farm and outstanding native bush, to the stunning Glasshouse for lunch, casual meals, wine tasting, and events by arrangement. Make a booking if it’s lunch you’re after. And don’t miss the annual folly exhibit.

The Sawmill Brewery and Smoko Room, Leigh Rd, Matakana Presently closed due to fire, this friendly casual restaurant and beer tasting bar will hopefully reopen before the end of the summer.

ALSO NOT TO BE MISSED.

• The farmstands on the Omaha Flats for corn, eggs and fresh vegetables and fruit. In fact, Omaha Flats should be renamed Potato Flats as the spuds are so good. My favourite? Quail Farm and the accompanying curio shop, Collectibles.

• OOB on Jones Rd, Omaha BEach for blueberries and amazing icecreams

• Country Park and Bramble Café to take the kids for miniature train rides, pony riding, Smiths Bar, and The Stables for good old country fare.

• Matakana Village – no other country town has such a classy development as this with its excellent shops, cinema, Ringawera bakery, and Saturday Farmers Market.

• Omaha Beach for swimming between the flags

• Tawharanui for possibly NZ’s best regional beach reserve. Camping by permit.

• Goat Island Reserve, near Leigh for snorkelling and diving

• The Smokehouse (smoked fish) and Green with Envy (Gifts and houseware) on the corner of Sharp and Matakana Rds

• Charlies, Sharp Rd for gelato and fresh strawberries

PIC : Cake at the Farmers Daughter

22 December 2019

BETTING ON THE FARM

Is meat bad? Is plant-based food good? What’s the real story about farming in this country where the economy has traditionally been based on the produce of the agriculture sector for the past 150 years? Can we clean up our act? Are we doing enough to ensure that climate change goals are met while preserving our position in feeding ourselves and still export great food to the world?

Lynda Hallinan-Hinton was the moderator for the second keynote session of Food Writers NZ at our recent annual conference. She’d prepared thoroughly for the topic - Realness in the Farming Sector - having trawled the internet to find the top farming headlines of the past year. With nine out of ten of the stories published in mainstream media taking a negative approach, it appears that Kiwis (the media anyway) have fallen out of love with the rural sector. Our dairy and meat farmers are the current whipping boys rather than the poster boys of Aotearoa’s traditional farm-based economy.

Stepping up to share their views on the panel were regenerative Taupo Beef farmers Mike and Sarah Barton, and Auckland based Daniel Eb who is a thoroughly modern thinker from a North Auckland farming family. He has set up a farm oriented communications business, Dirt Road. (In a wry twist these panellists were sporting blue checked shirts – is this the Kiwi Rural uniform?) The session promised so much food for thought.

Of course the real story is not as black and white as many journalists would have us believe, and food writers are under pressure to seek the truth while continuing to write columns, books, recipes and blogs to influence and aid people to seek healthy balanced diets. As our panellists told their stories it was revealed that for the large part our farming story is more than the story of our food. It’s about our waterways, the environment, sustainability of our land, animal food production that’s efficient and regenerative and more recently, the meat vs vegetable dilemma.

We learned that vegetables too can often cause pollution of our land and waterways (where are those stories?) The discourse needs to be changed to include all sectors of agriculture and horticulture (and even forestry.) Food has traditionally brought us together so why is it dividing us now?

It would seem we all need a greater understanding of food production. The disruption of our age-old traditional ways and stories is key and truly necessary. There needs to be a system of incentives, not punishment and disdain, to make the changes we need. Now.

City dwellers need to appreciate the good farm stories and changing practices (and there are many.) To that end it’s worth knowing that Eb's Dirt Road is currently setting up a great initiative 'Open Farms.' This grassroots initiative will reconnect rural and urban Kiwis through a nationwide Open Farm Day on Sunday March 1st 2020. As Eb says, “60% of urban Kiwis don’t visit rural New Zealand, farmers are trying to tell their story and too many of us feel separated from our food and the land. Open Farms is about building a place in the middle, where we can all reconnect with a genuine on-farm experience. We need farmers to reach out with us and invite urban New Zealanders back onto the land.”

Put it in your diary!

10 September 2019

A ROAD TRIP IN SOUTHERN IRELAND

We chose to fly into (and out of) Dublin, and planned a ten day trip by rental car that took us to the west coast, around the Ring of Kerry and then up the east coast. Highlights: the seafood everywhere and …..

GALWAY This was really special as we connected with the fabulous Jessie Murphy, a terrific chef who grew up in Wairoa on the north island of NZ and has opened a stunningly simple restaurant, Kai in Galway with her Irish husband. (See the previous blog below.) Be sure to book at Kai!

• Galway Food Tours -A two hour walking food tour visits many of the innovative and delicious businesses in the city with stops for generous tastings of food, coffee and local Irish whiskies and beverages. galwayfoodtours.com

• Sheridans Cheesemonger & Wine Bar - Downstairs, a true cheesemonger with a terrific selection of boutique Irish cheeses. Upstairs, a sophisticated wine bar offering wines by the glass and platters of cheese and/or locally made charcuterie. sheridanscheesemongers.com

• Ard Bia at Nimmo’s - Fresh snacks, salads and cakes served by day and a fresh ethically sourced dinner menu in this quaint historic building by the Galway waterfront. ardbia.com

• Tig Neachtain’s - Slap bang in the middle of the main street with small nooks and crannies and a history going back to 1896, the perfect old pub to try a pint or more of creamy Guinness. tigneachtain.com

THE WEST COAST • Inishmaan Suites on the Aran Islands – a totally remote resort and refuge away from the rest of the world. Bookings for the five rooms open in October for the following year and you can stay two, three or five days. A truly rocky island that’s windswept, lonely and has a harsh climate and one pub. But a true adventurer’s experience and lovely hospitality from owners with superb food (Elemental Eating means a stunning breakfast box delivered to the room for breakfast, a thermos of soup and bread in a backpack for lunch and dinner with the other guests at night. All sourced from the island and surrounds.)

  • Moran's Oyster Cottage only 20 minutes drive south of Galway for a feed of oysters and fish beside the water.

• The Cliffs of Moher – top tourist attraction not to be missed where I guarantee you will be blown sideways

• Kilkee – a small seaside town with a great seafood/pub grub place to eat Naughtons.

• Cahersiveen for an overnight stop on the Ring of Kerry to see the entry point at which the transatlantic cable stretches to America from, and to eat and stay Quinlan & Cooke’s elegant town houses.

• Wharton’s Fish and Chips in Bantry for the best piece of freshly cooked fish in batter I have ever had in my life.

• Inchdoney Island in Clonakilty is a modern resort, a fabulous sandy beach and hot saltwater baths.

• Ballymaloe Cookery School and Ballymaloe House – not to be missed. The school is energetic and fabulous, the House is the place to stay and dine (the dessert trolley is to die for.)

• Dungarvan – stay and eat at The Tannery, and spend a day biking the Waterford Greenway.

• Dublin – Want a change from Irish soda bread? After a walk across St Stephen’s Green and through Trinity College’s hallowed campus, visit Bread 41 for some gorgeous fresh sourdough and coffee. Eat at Michael’s Mount Merrion for seafood and his adjacent Little Mike’s Wine Bar (book for both before you leave home.)

• And it would not be a visit to Ireland without the very touristy Guinness brewery tour. Take the hop on/hop off tourist bus which goes right around the centre of the city, complete with singing drivers and stop for the self-guided tour and an enormous glass of freshly poured Guinness.

15 July 2019

KAI AND THE EXTRAORDINARY JESSICA MURPHY

Jessica Murphy must be the current darling of the Irish food media as three of the weekend newspapers we picked up on a recent trip through Ireland carried stories of, or featured recipes, from this extraordinary New Zealand chef who grew up in Wairoa on the North Island’s east coast and moved to Ireland 14 years ago.

With her Irish husband David, Jess established Kai Café, an award winning restaurant in the heart of Galway in 2012 and has since garnered attention and won many awards for her fresh interesting food, her championing of outstanding local producers and for embracing the food community with sympathy, love and a huge heart. She writes a regular column for the Irish Times, sits on various committees related to Irish food, and travels to food events and gatherings all over Europe.

Kai Restaurant sits at the end of a row of joined-up shop fronts. Like almost all quaint ‘high streets’ in Ireland, each property is painted a bright colour and Kai presents a soft green façade to the street. On Sundays the queue for Kai’s brunch marches past the print and design shop, the laundrette and the excellent food emporium Ernie’s, all of which Jess patronises for her business. It’s a very close community, and with limited space in the Kai kitchen, it’s likely that the ice cream and other frozen specialties will be stored in a neighbouring shop.

Customers arriving for coffee, lunch or dinner at Kai, experience a great Irish welcome, albeit with that pronounced Kiwi accent that Jess has never lost in her 14 years in Ireland. “Hāere Mai” proclaims a sigh over the kitchen door, and a large photo of a beautiful wāhine has pride of place on the restaurant wall. It’s a portrait of her great-grandmother Marguerite Lockwood of Ngati Porou, taken in 1895 when she lived in Tolaga Bay.

Earlier this year after working with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, on the 2018 Refugee Food Festival, Jess had agreed to travel to Lebanon and Jordan to meet with refugees to document some of the food heritage that risks being lost after eight years of war. After the Christchurch terrorist attacks she was more determined to go than ever, thinking, “This could happen here too.”

Her experiences there were profound, strengthening her belief that food is the one subject that transforms and transcends borders. After sharing stories, recipes and meals with many exiled people, she’s put a book she was writing of her own recipes on the backburner, and is working hard to collect refugees’ recipes for a fund-raising book and hopes to publish it by Christmas.

We shared dinner with Jess, eating from her delicious menu of fresh, tasty fare including some great Irish fish garnished with tiny local mussels. Kai’s menu changes each day, hand written by Jess herself every evening just before service. Almost all restaurants in Ireland serve soda bread. Kai’s version was the best we had in almost two weeks of touring. The dark, moist chewy bread is really easy to make but is best eaten the same day. It can be made into delicious crunchy toast. And it wouldn’t be Irish unless accompanied by lashings of the sweet, salty butter that is so, so good.

KAI CAFE AND RESTAURANT, Sea Road, Galway, Ireland

15 July 2019

SUNNY HAWKES BAY

On a recent trip to the Hawkes Bay we were reacquainted with so many delicious food and wine experiences on the local trail…

Eat and taste wine at:

  • Elephant Hill. An impressive winery restaurant with superbly styled sophisticated fare, served overlooking vineyards, the ocean and with impressive views to Cape Kidnappers

*Terroir at Craggy Range. Chef Casey MacDonald has returned home from a stellar international career to work in this revamped winery restaurant. The buildings are world class, the kitchen gardens truly impressive and his use of local produce almost unequalled.

  • Clearview Estate. A rustic setting to this indoor/outdoor winery restaurant not far from the sea, where tables are set under shady trees and the food beautifully cooked to match wine made from some of the oldest vines in the area.

Dining in Napier:

  • Mister D. The kitchen opens early for some of the best breakfasts in the Bay and Chef David Griffiths bakes superb bread daily and is well known for his doughnuts served with coffee or as dessert after a fresh lively lunch and dinner.

  • Pacifica A humble building on Napier’s Marine Parade is home to one of NZ’s most iconic restaurants. Chef Jeremy Rameka captures the spirit of local Kai with his five course degustation dinner. Choose the seafood focussed menu – a real bargain.

Tasting Wines:

  • Te Mata Estate This classic Hawkes Bay winery has a history that goes back more than 100 years. Do not miss the Elston chardonnay and the bold red, Coleraine.

  • Supernatural Wine Co Tucked into a hillside on the site of Millar Road luxury accommodation is a winery that concentrates on making wines in the popular and ever growing ‘natural’ wine styles. By appointment only.

  • Esk Valley Wine making has shifted to the Villa Maria’s Te Awa winery near Maraekakaho, but it’s still possible to taste this lovely range of wines on the balcony of the old building overlooking the famous Esk Valley Terraces.

  • For Coffee and Bread:

Don’t miss Brown Dog Espresso coffee cart on the waterfront at Te Awanga, or Red Bridge Coffee at the Tukituki and Waimarama Road junction. Rapidly gaining fame is OM Goodness Bakery in Hastings, serving up gluten free bread and shipping bread mixes around NZ.

1 March 2019

EATING FEBRUARY : AUCKLAND

Some of my highlights of eating out this month. The first of a new monthly series. All in restaurants are in Auckland.

• Red Wall 1939

With every bite of this almost Imperial food I felt my dinner to be an experience unmatched in any other Chinese restaurant in town. Presented almost formally in a beautiful room in the historic homestead overlooking Parnell Rose Gardens, it delivered a parade of nine exquisitely styled dishes. From the tiny hors d’oeuvres through to a splendidly sweet fresh crayfish tail with Oolong tea glaze, everything seemed consistently light and full of flavour. Highlights? A stunning chicken broth, and the excellent wine matched with every course. $$$$ (but great value.)

• Clooney

At a time when we’re all earnestly thinking about the very roots of food we eat in Aotearoa, along comes chef Nobu Lee to work with the passionate Tony Stewart at Clooney. I really loved their five course canape menu, preceding dinner, which absolutely nails the history of our food, with well thought out playful nods to Māori (tender mussels), iconic fish and chips, homegrown vegetables, innovation in aquaculture and the future (insects – not really my thing.) That room’s so dark I almost tripped up, but this is precision cooking and the focus is all about the food. I could happily eat all of the courses of dinner again too. Highlights: a slice of rare Pekin duck – (that skin!!) and superb beverage matching. $$$$

• Orphans Kitchen

For impromptu dining it would be hard to beat Tom Hishon’s impassioned and enthusiastic cooking that embraces everything that’s seasonal, simple and good. The seating is never that comfortable but the fresh light fare make this a fine place to go to for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I loved my fish (always thoughtfully sources and expertly cooked) with grapes and charred fennel, and the garden salad was exactly what any such touted salad should be – crisp, fresh and as green as green. Highlights: that fish and the excellent wines by the glass $$

• Farm to Table at Gusto

I don’t think there’s ever been such an amazing dinner with so much seemingly casual, delicious food as Sean Connolly’s collaborative dinner at Gusto. I keep on forgetting about this place, as it’s buried in the Sky City Grand Hotel. If anyone ever needed proof of the excellence of the produce from around Auckland’s city fringe farmers, this was a dinner to really show it all off. From the starter of Kaipara oysters to the absolutely perfect finish of a pure ice-cream made by Giapo with local buffalo milk, this was a contender for Dinner of the Decade. Who knew Auckland had such fabulous vegetables; fresh cauli, spuds, onions, eggplant, basil, cavolo nero, pumpkin, walnuts, mushrooms and of course Curious Croppers tomatoes (well we all knew them!) Highlight: The intense flavour of everything, the friends who gathered and the Value for Money. $$$

• Royal G, at Eastridge

As my wise 3 yr-old grandson said as we drove past Eastridge Shopping Centre in Orakei, “Look at all those dinner shops!” Such an exciting addition to the Eastern suburbs which almost rivals the North Shore for a dearth of really good culinary excellence. The best stop there in my opinion is Royal G, the brainchild of Javier Carmona who is an expert on pre-Hispanic cuisine, but here produces a play on Indian street food. It’s awesome Indian casual fare and every bite comes with a huge hit of flavour that will have me returning as often as I can. Highlights: the Fijian ceviche with fermented pineapple (pic above) and the Bombay street Sammy with its dirty butter chicken sauce. $

23 January 2019

TRUTH LOVE & CLEAN CUTLERY - GILES COREN

With a stunning website, and several beautifully produced editions for UK, USA, Australia and the World, this new guide gives diners every reason to think about spending their money in restaurants that care, that are sustainable and are mindful of locality and community.

I interviewed the UK and World editor around the time of the series publication last month:

Giles Coren has been a restaurant critic for almost thirty years. He lives in London and writes a weekly restaurant column in The Times. He editor of both the UK edition of Truth Love & Clean Cutlery, which identifies 350 sustainable establishments, and the World edition (which I contributed to as NZ editor.) He’s seen the London culinary scene, which is central to British eating, move from being what he calls “rubbish” when he first wrote in the 90s to a vibrant diverse landscape of eating that is currently the envy of New Yorkers.

He attributes this to the exciting new wave of young restaurateurs who have come to the industry without traditional training or apprenticeships and are not bound by old rules and attitudes. The hipsters, the folk with no job security, those who are adventurous and willing to set up bars, small places only serving one thing and highlight healthy, approachable food.

Coren was an obvious choice to edit TL&CC as back in 2002 he wrote a famous review where he scored a restaurant zero out of ten. He was enraged, when curious to know whether the fish on the menu was farmed or wild caught, and enquired of a server, “Do you know where the salmon comes from?” A minute later the server returned from the kitchen looking sheepish and offered, “The chef says, ‘Who gives a f***?’”

That was a turning point for Coren as he saw that the job of a restaurant critic was not to swagger into fancy joints, peer at dishes, show off how much one knew about classical French cuisine and pick holes in the chef’s techniques before awarding a mark out of ten and swaggering out again. He knew he had to hold places to account for the way they treat not just their customers, but their meat and fish and the animals who provide them, their fruit and vegetables and the soil and water that grows them, the staff who work for them and the community in which they ply their trade. Suddenly for him, “information became the currency of restaurants, not just food and drink.”

So how did he assemble the 350 places in TL&CC? Coren confessed to having spies and great contacts around the country. He wrote the whole book, working from extensive surveys the nominated establishments provided and admits to having only visited around two-thirds personally. But it has made him aware of so many intriguing and dedicated restaurants that have gone on to become the focus of his weekly reviews and has not been disappointed to date when visiting them.

The extent of the British entries is interesting for farm shops and food events are included, along with three-Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saison where Raymond Blanc has led the way in the importance of provenance of food, and the Bakehouse Café, a brilliant little coffee shop in Forres, North Scotland.

He has no time for the World’s Best 50 annual restaurant competition – “restaurants where the customers include a high density of rich idiots” and eschews the Michelin star system – “leave the stars to the clip joints,” he says.

I asked him where his current favourite restaurants are in London. He explained that all the action is currently in East London, and shared three very sustainably focussed places: Cornerstone, a casual fine dining restaurant offering the best seafood of the day in sharing plates, Ikoyi with its Nigerian menu where nothing is familiar and everything is brilliant, and Western’s Laundry with pristine sustainably caught fish and natural wines. And for the more conventional diners, Coren suggests Portland in Great Portland Street, W1 which he explains is a proper grown-up restaurant with simple, imaginative food in a calm setting.

https://truthloveandcleancutlery.com

27 October 2018

THE 'PAVLOVA' SPONGE CUPCAKES

this recipe is ideal for using up leftover egg yolks after making meringues or pavlova. It's an oldie but a goodie my mother always made.

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 75g flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla essence
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 4 tbsps boiling water
  • 1 lemon, grated rind only

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until very thick and light. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and fold this into the egg and sugar mixture with the vanilla essence. Melt the butter and fold this through with the boiling water and grated lemon rind. Spoon the mixture into paper baking cups. Bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden. Cool and decorate with cream or icing as follows. Makes 7-8 large cupcakes or 16 small cupcakes. Can also be made in a 20cm cake tin. Store for up to three days in an airtight tin.

Pic by Liz Clarkson

30 June 2018

KARENA AND KASEY’S CREATION DINNER

It seemed appropriate as Matariki loomed to accept an invitation from Karena and Kasey Bird to attend their Creation Dinner. This sassy pair of sisters won their way to fame through the Masterchef series, and immediately published a cookbook. I looked through it then, and remember being disappointed that they had not seized the opportunity to turn the heat up on their Māori culture in that book. But they were young, eager and without any culinary experience. Their second book Hungry really impressed me. Two years on they had blossomed and although they still had not really immersed themselves their heritage, they’d tripped around the world, made two television series and were fast developing a unique style.

So this impending dinner was exactly where I wanted to be, to see if they were now where I hoped they would head. And Karena and Kasey did not disappoint. They brought their whole flock of Birds (including Mum and Dad) with them. We arrived at a downtown bar where their younger sister Michaela greeted us. We took a bus to the mystery destination (not an AT bus thank heavens as we’d probably still be in transit.) We headed to the Te Mahurehure Marae near Western Springs and I could see we were in for a treat.

The dinner was based on the Creation story according to Māori lore, and as my husband said, it’s a far better religious story than we’d been brought up with. There were perhaps 30 guests seated at a long candlelit table, and a minimal light show displayed the menu on the ceiling above. The deep booming voice of Scotty Morrison explained the steps of that Creation story as each of the seven meticulously developed courses took us from Dark to Light with the central characters being Rangi and Papa. We were served by some beautiful wahine from the Bird’s home town of Maketu, Michaela was a great emcee, and some well-chosen and appropriate music quietly played in the background.

Those oysters pictured above were the first course. Te Kore (Dark) was represented by a black garlic vinaigrette on the right and a charcoal tempura batter cloaking the oyster to the left. Te Ra (Light) finished the dinner and the Creation story with a light and bright passionfruit and Heilala vanilla pannacotta. In between there were five courses that featured Wakanui beef, Cloudy Bay clams, Ngati Porou crayfish, an incredible miso glazed Kaipara kumara, Origin South lamb and Premium Game wild pork, and “Roimata” – Maketu kawakawa with sago and apple. All indigenous ingredients, all carefully thought through and beautifully presented and all matched to wonderful Aotearoa wines or non-alcoholic drinks. And even better, their mum had been in the kitchen all day helping and had made the rewena bread. It was superb, like everything else we ate.

I am very proud of these young women and it truly was a privilege to be asked to the dinner. Karena and Kasey are taking this feast and the accompanying story (all food has stories) to other centres around the country. Follow them on their Facebook page to find the dates. You will not regret it, in fact like me you may find it will take your breath away.

29 June 2018

RAMEN AT COCORO

The bowl of ramen pictured here doesn’t look very exciting; visually it’s lacking all the extra ingredients that are usually piled into the broth along with the noodles to make this favourite Japanese meal really attractive. But I need to tell you that this bowl of intensely rich porky broth was probably the most comforting food I have eaten ever. To the side, on a small plate, half a boiled egg, a couple of organic free-range pork slices, seaweed and chopped spring onions were there to be added. I didn’t. I simply slurped the broth and devoured the specially imported Australian noodles.

Ryo Yamazaki, a ramen master, had flown from his hometown of Saga in Japan to cook for this very special meal. Makoto Tokuyama, the chef and part owner of the revered Cocoro in Brown St Ponsonby also hails from Saga and it has always been one of his dreams to cook with his friend. Ryo Yamazaki arrived in Auckland on Saturday and the pork broth for the ramen was started the minute he walked into the restaurant kitchen. It simmered away for three whole days. Five days later that intense taste remains with me.

The evening was superbly orchestrated. All the ingredients that might have been in the ramen broth were served as a series of small tastes. A little slice of wagyu tataki, alongside kurabuto pork slices and Leigh snapper sashimi started the feast, followed by gyoza dumplings, a Marlborough storm clam with wild vegetables, chawan mushi with Hokkaido scallop, and some insanely good chunks of crayfish meat were served before the crescendo of that rich ramen broth. Absolute perfection. And a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a meal unmatched in the short history of Authentic Japanese dining in Auckland.

And the very next morning Ryo Yamazaki flew out on his return journey home. Such dedication and a privilege for me to be there to experience such mastery.