Cuisine - - CONTENTS -

Ginny Grant feasts on the best of Marl­bor­ough’s var­ied food and wine of­fer­ings

SAU­VI­GNON BLANC, salmon and salt. It’s of­ten what comes to mind when you think of Marl­bor­ough. Of course it is much more di­verse than that. From the idyl­lic north­ern Marl­bor­ough Sounds to the be­gin­nings of the Kaik­oura Ranges in the south, the vast, wide plain of the Wairau Val­ley makes for var­ied ge­og­ra­phy and a wealth of wine, food and ex­pe­ri­ences.

Kelli Brett and I re­cently en­joyed Feast Marl­bor­ough – a four-day fes­ti­val that high­lights the food and wine of the re­gion and the sto­ries be­hind it. We were there to judge the in­au­gu­ral Rare Fare com­pe­ti­tion. Lo­cal cafes and restau­rants cre­ated a sig­na­ture dish that en­cap­su­lated the essence of Marl­bor­ough. There were two cat­e­gories; dishes cost­ing un­der $25, and $25 and over. All of the dishes were avail­able for the pub­lic to try over the com­pe­ti­tion pe­riod.

What were we look­ing for? Lo­cal in­gre­di­ents used cre­atively but treated with re­spect; each el­e­ment work­ing har­mo­niously as a whole and, it goes with­out say­ing, it had to be de­li­cious. Each dish was paired with a lo­cal wine. From around 16 en­tries, lo­cal judges and a ‘mys­tery shop­per’ left us with five dishes from four restau­rants. They were from Twelve Trees Res­tau­rant at Al­lan Scott es­tate, St Clair Fam­ily Es­tate Vine­yard Kitchen, Ar­bour res­tau­rant and High­field Ter­ravin Vine­yard Res­tau­rant.

Many of the top five in­cluded some of our favourite food prod­ucts from the re­gion – Cranky Goat cheese, Un­cle Joe’s nuts, Pre­mium Game meats – while Marl­bor­ough Noir, the fer­mented black gar­lic, fea­tured in four of the five top dishes.

The win­ner of the over-$25 cat­e­gory came from High­field Ter­ravin’s David Haase with his en­try ‘Camp­fire on the Beach’. Swiss-born Haase’s in­spi­ra­tion came from a nos­tal­gic mem­ory of a

camp­fire at Mar­fells beach not long af­ter he ar­rived in Marl­bor­ough nine years ago. We loved the back story, the care­ful ar­range­ment of ‘flames’ of crisp Ren­wick shal­lot and sage leaves, dot­ted ‘fire’ of pump­kin puree, ‘char­coal’ in the form of per­fectly turned pick­led beetroot which gave some much-needed acid­ity to the slow-cooked piece of rich, ten­der and moist pork shoul­der. The fire bed was a smoky, silken black-gar­lic and cau­li­flower puree. A rich, win­tery dish per­fect for fire­side din­ing in the Michael Fowler-de­signed Tus­can-style tast­ing room and res­tau­rant. Res­tau­rant man­ager, Stephanie Arm­strong, paired the dish with a rich and yeasty Ter­ravin Te Ahu Chardon­nay 2014

– a brave choice although we felt the del­i­cacy of the stone-fruit flavours were slightly hid­den in this pair­ing.

Pos­si­bly some­what con­tro­ver­sially, we have given the un­der-$25 award to Ja­son Brown of Twelve Trees Res­tau­rant at the Al­lan Scott win­ery, for his dish ‘Reg and Friends’. This is a cheese course fea­tur­ing the won­der­ful Cranky Goat cheese, ‘The Regi­nald’, and the ex­e­cu­tion of the dish was per­fect. A gen­er­ous slice of the soft-rind, ash-dusted cheese, served at room tem­per­a­ture and dream­ily gooey, was paired with some last-of-the-sea­son, lo­cally grown figs and blue­ber­ries. A light blue­berry com­pote and the thinnest flaxseed wafers made for a de­light­ful dish. But it was the lus­cious wine match of Al­lan Scott’s Gen­er­a­tions Gewurtz­traminer 2016, coun­ter­ing the tart­ness in the cheese, that sealed the deal.

What we noted time and again in many of the cafes and restau­rants we vis­ited was the great va­ri­ety of kai moana; King salmon and mus­sels from the Marl­bor­ough Sounds, a va­ri­ety of Cloudy Bay clams, for­aged sam­phire and coastal plants and sea­weeds.

If you are look­ing for a warm and en­gag­ing din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence then Ar­bour is the place to be, the only res­tau­rant

We were look­ing for lo­cal in­gre­di­ents used cre­atively but treated with re­spect; each el­e­ment work­ing har­mo­niously as a whole and, it goes with­out say­ing, de­li­cious.

in Marl­bor­ough to sport a Cui­sine hat. Chef, Bradley Hornby, makes use of the best lo­cal prod­ucts, and works with lo­cal grow­ers to make food that is de­cep­tively sim­ple look­ing but with depth and plenty of tech­nique. Part­ner, Liz But­ti­more, (our res­tau­rant per­son­al­ity of the year in 2017) runs the front of house with aplomb and en­sures that ser­vice is smooth. She’s also a pow­er­house in the com­mu­nity, help­ing to ex­pand the Feast Marl­bor­ough event to its cur­rent size. ar­

Ex-clam guy turned lamb guy, Dion Brown, is a co-owner in a new ven­ture, Ori­gin South’s sin­gle ori­gin lamb. With both a South­land farm and Marl­bor­ough’s iconic Flaxbourne Sta­tion (one of the first pas­toral sta­tions in New Zealand) the meat is des­tined mainly for the hos­pi­tal­ity mar­ket, so you’ll find it mostly on res­tau­rant menus. It’s worth look­ing out for; sweet and ten­der meat with a dis­tinct full flavour.

Aun­ties at Omaka marae wanted to share their knowl­edge of gar­den­ing and pre­serv­ing with the younger gen­er­a­tions. They re-es­tab­lished a maara kai (com­mu­nity gar­den) on the marae and cre­ated a range of food prod­ucts un­der the Manaaki brand. The so­cial en­ter­prise helps the marae to be self sus­tain­ing but also im­parts knowl­edge on tra­di­tional herbs and medicine. Cur­rently the range in­cludes a kawakawa jelly, horo­pito and lemon sauce, and kamokamo pickle. The beau­ti­fully pack­aged jars fea­ture a stylised de­sign of the marae’s tuku­tuku pan­els. Watch out for the Kai Kart at the farm­ers’ mar­kets where you might just find some pulled pork braised in the kawakawa jelly. taste­m­

Peter Koller trained as a butcher and chef in Switzer­land. While work­ing as a chef at Her­zog Win­ery he be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing with cured and dried meats and de­cided to open a butch­ery in Blen­heim. He uses min­i­mal ni­trates and no ad­di­tives in his de­lec­ta­ble meats. You’ll find his bre­saola, coppa and sausages on plenty of lo­cal menus, in his shop or at the Marl­bor­ough Farm­ers’ Mar­ket. theswiss­

Cranky Goat craft some the coun­try’s most in­ter­est­ing and de­lec­ta­ble goat cheeses. Va­ri­eties in­clude fresh, white rind and semi-hard cheese. Based in Linkwa­ter, the Lamb fam­ily source their milk from the Les­lies, their Saa­nen goat-farm­ing neigh­bours. Cheese is made ev­ery day while the milk is in sea­son. While we know that fruit and veg­eta­bles have a sea­son, many peo­ple are un­aware that cheese too is

What we noted time and again in many of the cafes and restau­rants we vis­ited was the great va­ri­ety of kai moana.

sub­ject to sea­son­al­ity and that not all cheeses will be avail­able at all times. Cranky Goat cheeses are gen­er­ally in pro­duc­tion from late Au­gust to mi­dapril. Look out for the spring ar­rival of some favourites; The Nanny, The Nag, The Regi­nald and the mild and creamy soft goats cheese. cranky­

Marl­bor­ough Farm­ers’ Mar­ket is on Sun­day morn­ings and is al­ways colour­ful. While the stall­hold­ers vary ac­cord­ing to the sea­son, look out for Wind­song Or­chards, Isobel olive oil, Cranky Goat, Nutt Ranch hazel­nut prod­ucts and glo­ri­ous Pi­noli pinenuts among many oth­ers. Try some of Pe­dro’s em­panadas or ev­er­chang­ing treats from Feast Mer­chants. marl­bor­ough­farm­ers­mar­

If you are pressed for time and can’t man­age to make your way around the many winer­ies (and oh, you should do as many of these as pos­si­ble – some such as Bran­cott have the most breath­tak­ing views) then do visit The Wine Sta­tion. Housed in the 1913 rail­way sta­tion and with more than 80 winer­ies rep­re­sented, it’s es­pe­cially good if you are want­ing to taste some

of the wines from vine­yards that don’t have a cellar door, and you can pur­chase to take away. thewines­ta­

One of the more ex­cit­ing new Marl­bor­ough ven­tures is Ben Leggett’s El­e­men­tal Dis­tillers. Leggett has spent more than a decade in Europe work­ing for lux­ury drink brands. Now back in Marl­bor­ough, he has a range of crafted bit­ters that are pro­duced lo­cally with the prin­ci­ple in­gre­di­ents be­ing the best he can find in New Zealand. He’s ex­pand­ing and hop­ing to have a pre­mium dry gin on the mar­ket later in the year and is look­ing to turn his hand to ver­mouth, amaro and liqueurs. el­e­men­tald­is­

And if, like me, you con­sider no road trip com­plete with­out a pie, then make sure that you get at least one Burleigh pie un­der your belt. Fan favourites are the mince with English ched­dar, or the rich and in­dul­gent Asian-spiced pork belly.

Ginny Grant trav­eled cour­tesy of Marl­bor­ & Air NZ. Ac­com­mo­da­tion cour­tesy of Giesen Es­tate

FROM TOP LEFT Cranky Goat cheese; vine­yard in au­tumn; Chelsea Rose cock­tail cre­ated by Ben Leggett of El­e­men­tal Dis­tillers and Ar­bour Res­tau­rant; horo­pito; horo­pito and lemon sauce by Manaaki; coppa by Peter the Swiss Butcher

TOP Al­lan Scott Fam­ily Wine­mak­ers BOT­TOM Stump Creek Vine­yard, Giesen

ABOVE Ma­tias Cac­ciav­il­lani of Viva la Vaca food truck ABOVE RIGHT The Shack at Cloudy Bay

The Fri­day Night Feast - one of Feast Marl­bor­ough’s many events

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT Rare Fare win­ning dishes: ‘Reg and Friends’ and Ja­son Brown of Twelve Trees Res­tau­rant at Al­lan Scott win­ery; ‘Camp­fire on the Beach’ and David Haase of High­field Ter­ravin Vine­yard Res­tau­rant

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