“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.
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.
This is the best of the best, the top five things to do on Waiheke Island. Thanks to the lovely Carmel / George Sand Studio for helping me out with all that eating and drinking, I relied heavily on her expertise when I put this piece together. Carmel and I met at a restaurant where she was Maitre ‘D and I was bartending. Before we reconnected on Waiheke, a mutual friend asked if Carmel was ‘still the same, like some magical creature?’ I can answer definitively, yes, she is still a magical creature.
Cellar Belly. Winery staff often succumb to this dreaded malady when they are overly familiar with their own wine to the exclusion of all others. For just over a year I’d been working at Black Estate in Waipara Valley when I realised I was afflicted. Luckily, there is a cure to this condition. Familiarise yourself with as much wine as you can, from as many different places. With this remedy in mind I headed to Waiheke, New Zealand’s island of wine.
A mere half hour ride from Auckland’s city centre, Waiheke Island is New Zealand’s never never land – it’s hard to tell who actually lives there and what they do. Known for beaches and wine, the island attracts a combination of the super rich and eccentric hippies and is largely supported by travellers on working holiday visas. Evidenced by my friend Cat’s first comments when she picked me up at the ferry terminal. “Oh yes, I’m working barefoot here,” she said when she saw me staring at her muddy feet. She is a vineyard hand at the Italian owned Poderi Crisci on the island’s remote east side. “I need to show you the pictures of our staff party last week. It was on a super yacht, unlimited champagne.”