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.
Mexico

Mérida you’re so charming!

The best city for tourists is the one that puts locals first.  Any good holiday should be part escape and part experience, but too many places in the tourism-dependent Yucatan peninsula focus so much on the former that there’s no chance of the latter.  Mérida’s charm is that it caters to the locals, and as a tourist you feel welcomed into the city. 

Mexico

If you feed your body properly, youll be dancing until youre older…

Restaurare (Tulum’s vegan restaurant serving traditional Mexican dishes) was a food highlight for me during my time in Mexico, but owner Robbie Terrazas stopped me as I talked about the local restaurant scene. ‘You know, maybe it’s just a language thing between Spanish and English, but here we always talk about the food, not the restaurants.” And that is one of the reasons that his restaurant is so great. Wooden tables are tucked away in a jungle of chit palms. Hanging lanterns provide the lighting and the air is filled with the smoke from copal, a tree resin long used by the Maya for its cleansing properties. Restaurare’s setting feels mysterious, other-worldy, but the food is entirely grounded in Tulum — plant-based, organic and local produce. In this interview I talk to Robbie about creating a traditional Mexican menu without meat, and Tulum, the town where people live from love.

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Restaurare, vegan heaven at Tulum playa. Photo by Najva Sol.
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.