Snails prove a winning choice
The enemy of the veggie plot is a winner on the plate.
A starter of snails helped Greenlane restaurant The Abbey win the formal entry in the Auckland region Montieth’s Beer & Wild Food Challenge. The snail and blue cheese ravioli was followed by smoked pigeon and wild mushroom risotto.
Head chef Eugene Sokolovski says the combination was approached with caution by some diners.
“People are a little bit scared of it but once they got past that, they loved it.”
Mr Sokolovski, who won the best beer and food match last year, planned his entry months in advance.
The snails are farmed in Hawke’s Bay and because the season ends in May, he pre-made and froze his ravioli.
“I was thinking about it for a long time and wanted something not many people in this country eat, so I decided snails and pigeon,” he says.
“Pigeon, I think, is the tenderest meat I’ve ever tried.”
He says he likes the texture of snails, which he presented with spinach and sundried tomato puree and lemon walnut chutney.
Dishes qualify for the challenge by featuring food caught in the wild, or using an unusual combination of ingredients.
The annual competition attracted entries from more than 120 restaurants.
Mr Sokolovski says it’s a good way to encourage chefs to lift their game.
“Every competition brings up the quality of the service and the quality of the food, and chefs learn from each other,” he says.
Judging convener Kerry Tyack says The Abbey’s entry featured an excellent beer match and was presented with finesse.
“Rather than introducing any kind of fear factor into their meal, it was just so stylish and classy,” he says.
“On top of all that, their level of service, the way they encouraged people to try their dishes, and the way they explained the beer match, was superb.”
The Abbey competes against other regional winners at the national awards dinner in Wellington on October 6.
Garden grub: Chef Eugene Sokolovski tucks into snail ravioli at The Abbey.