New Zealand

Open Source Bar

Having successfully avoided management roles in hospitality after more than twenty years in the industry, last month I accidentally opened a bar.  This time it just seemed right. Exchange Christchurch (XCHC) is a community arts space that supports people in the experimental stages of their creative development, what better place to trial out my ideas of what a wine bar might look like if I decide to open one of my own someday.

Photo by Jade Cavalcante.

New Zealand

Forage North Canterbury

“I’d never seen them before,” Chef Analiese Gregory said of the flax seeds that garnished her dish of crayfish, butterfish, kombu and wild plums. “You see flax plants everywhere, but it never occurred to me to open them up and take something out.” In a world that too often puts convenience over authenticity, it was beautiful to have a reminder that food is all around us.

Flax plants at the Boneline vineyard.
New Zealand

On indulging the imagination and the senses

I’ve always had a tenuous grasp on reality, I trust my imagination more than my senses. Before I started my sommelier training I used to think that they were mutually exclusive. In the past I’d go to wine tastings and wait for the host to tell me what I was experiencing. I was too afraid of getting it wrong to contribute to the conversation. Forest floor? Oyster shells? Wet rock minerality? I’ve been to enough forests, oceans, and rivers to let my imagination fill the gaps for my senses. I’m familiar with the taste of raspberries, mushrooms and plums; and the smell of violets, leather and tobacco smoke. I just never trusted those sensory notes in the wine unless someone told me they were there.

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Mid-summer. Black Estate vineyard in Waipara Valley, New Zealand. Where I fell in love with wine.
New Zealand

Milk Fight. Part Two.

Milk Fight was Gaby Montejo’s artistic expression of a political debate. Apart from being the most fun that I’d had in a long time, the event brought attention to the dairy industry’s role in New Zealand. It took place on 25th October 2014 as part of FESTA, and went on to be nominated for a national art award. In this (part two) of the interview I talk to Gaby about the dairy industry, the experience on the day, the critical response, and the sublime. 

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Milk Fight. Photo by Tom Phillpotts

New Zealand

Milk Fight. Part One.

Gaby Montejo’s ‘Milk Fight’ was part performance art, part Fonterra protest, and part simulated war. It was also one of the best experiences of my life. Armed with a bucket as a weapon and ski goggles as protection I spent an afternoon hurling hundreds of litres of milk at my opponents and getting drenched by them in retaliation. The event took place on 25th October 2014 as part of FESTA, and went on to be nominated for a national art award. In the approach to this year’s FESTA and my upcoming return to New Zealand, it seems like a good time to revisit it. In part one of this two part interview I talk to Gaby about the dairy industry, the set-up – conversations with farmers, Ngai Tahu, and FESTA organisers, and the significance of the event.

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Artist Gaby Montejo at Milk Fight. Photo by Chloe Waretini.

New Zealand

Veggie Dumplings (Pot Sticker Dumpling Bar)

In this three part series I travel Christchurch in search of the best vegetarian dumplings, assisted by guest expert (and real vegetarian) Netta Egoz.

It’s nearing the end of our investigation into veggie dumplings and the competition is fierce.  The service at Pot Sticker is questionable – they’ve got my order wrong most times I’ve been here, including serving us pork dumplings while doing vegetarian dumpling research – but once the dumps make it to the table it’s worth it.  

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Pot Sticker dumps.
New Zealand

Veggie Dumplings (China Kitchen)

In this three part series I travel Christchurch in search of the best vegetarian dumplings, assisted by guest expert (and real vegetarian) Netta Egoz.

China Kitchen’s frontage states ‘No MSG’ and ‘Best dumplings in town’.  Netta jokes that we might not even need to try them but in the end our rigorous investigation methods win over.  No one wins the supreme veggie dumpling award that easily.

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China Kitchen. Photo source Trip Advisor.
New Zealand

Veggie Dumplings (Welcome)

In this three part series I travel Christchurch in search of the best vegetarian dumplings, assisted by guest expert (and real vegetarian) Netta Egoz.

Our first stop is Welcome in Upper Riccarton.  The lighting is bright and the music is soft enough that you can hear the conversations at the surrounding tables.  They’re known for fresh vegetables and bubbling sauces in the hotplates and clay pots.  No one comes to Welcome for the dumplings.  Neither of us had ever had them, this was uncharted territory.

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Welcome restaurant, Upper Riccarton.
New Zealand

Kakanō Cafe and New Zealand’s culinary heritage (part 2)

Jade Temepara’s Kakanō Cafe is a modern initiative that is novel because it celebrates a return to the methods of the past.  She is teaching skills that have been forgotten and re-planting seeds that have been lost.  The cafe includes a seed to plate garden with heritage produce and an on site cookery school with workshops, classes, and speaker events.  In my former job with Life in Vacant Spaces I was involved during the cafe’s set-up and I saw the excitement build around the space.  The homeless men that hung out at Pete’s Landing across the street helped her build the garden beds.  “They think it’s their pad,” she says.  The librarians at the National Archive next door gave her their files and research of heritage produce and Maori food preparation.  Everyone got involved – backpackers, neighbourhood residents, Jade’s family members.  Here she tells me about her family, her ideas about New Zealand cuisine, and the future of Kakanō.

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Jade’s daughter at the Kakanō opening. Photo by Peter Langlands.
New Zealand

It’s just food, but sometimes it feels like magic on the spot.

Hospo family dinner is a beloved tradition in restaurants that actually care about their staff.  It’s an opportunity for the chef to trial new dishes that might be too experimental for the restaurant menu, and a chance for the staff to sit down and enjoy each others company with some good food and drinks.  Every Thursday, Chef Aliesha McGilligan puts on a Chef’s Table lunch where she opens that treasured experience to the public – anyone can come.  Each week she puts together meals above and beyond the cafe cabinet and creates an atmosphere where neighbourhood tradies sit next to artists working at the XCHC, backpackers and foodies and CBD office workers all share a table and pass the plates around.  Here, she tells me about Chef’s Table, her food philosophy, and what it’s like to be a chef in the middle of an arts space.

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Chef’s Table at XCHC. Photo by Peanut Productions.