Archive for June, 2011

Bill Allan, butcher. Gipps St, Wellington

This photo makes Bill Allan look like a fishmonger. In fact, he’s a butcher but he likes to experiment. He makes fabulous all-meat coarse-cut sausages, prepares his own bacon and at Christmas time he smokes hundreds of hams. His ham smoker doesn’t see much action at this time of year so he figured he’d try smoking salmon.

He prepares the salmon in his special ham brine (secret recipe – I tried twisting his arm but he wouldn’t tell me) and then he gently hot smokes it over manuka chips. I’m probably alone in this but I don’t really like manuka smoke – I find it too strong and tarry but Bill had been lighthanded with the smoke and his salmon was really delicious. The brine had made it very moist; it wasn’t dry like a lot of the hot smoked salmon I’ve tried, and it was only-just-cooked – in the way that all fish should be.

You can tell from the photo he’s pretty pleased with the result – I just hope he’s not thinking of closing the shop to go fishing.

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Wellington sure can throw a good party. Last night’s launch of Wellington on a Plate was a cracker – and judging by the programme of events for this year’s food festival, the party has only just started. I went home clutching my WOP booklet and was up all night drawing up a list of must-dos that will keep me going through August.

(Check dates and details on programme)

Blind Dining at Capitol. I’ve been to a previous blind dining event at Capitol and it was brilliant. Like jumping off a cliff – a shock to the senses in the best possible way.

Capitol’s Wood-fired Feast  A roadside cookup on Kent Terrace that could start an interesting new trend in Courtenay Place.

Ferry the Oysters to the Bay. I would do this for the oysters alone – Tio Point ones (same species as Bluff) raised in the Marlborough Sounds by pioneering oyster farmer Bruce Hearn. Also includes an evening ferry trip across the harbour for dinner at Cobar, which I hear is fabulous.

Tongue-in-Cheek. Jacob Brown is one of Wellington’s best chefs. Last year his nose-to-tail pork dinner at the Larder was my favourite event; this year I’ll be in for the cranial feast – brains, ears, cheeks, tongue, but please not the eyes.

Tongue-to-Tail Duck. Duck specialist Pascal Bedel ruffles the feathers of his favourite bird. Duck, duck and more ducking duck at Le Canard.

Wellington Young Chef’s Dinner. How generous of Jacob to forego the limelight and hand his Larder over to a group of young chefs. He’ll be keeping an eye on things but this is a great chance to see what the next generation can do.

A Plate of Molecules: Chemical Gastronomy. Science in the kitchen. An American Professor and co-founder of the Experimental Cuisine Collective makes food do some weird things. Could be the quirkiest event of the festival. And it’s free!

Welllington Fisher & Paykel MasterClass. Wish I could afford this one. An entire day spent learning from some truly great chefs. Did I hear Justin North?

Foodie Zoo Safari. Ruth Pretty at the zoo? News that Wellington’s primo caterer is taking over the zoo kitchen has Wellington a twitter with what this could mean: lunching with lions? treats for the tigers? lamingtons with lamas or pavlova for the pandas? Expect to be fed at least as well as the animals.

The Dark Side of Coffee and Chocolate.  This will be a serious cross-sampling of regional chocolate and coffees run by people who really know their beans. I’m in.

Malaysia Kitchen Night Market. A culinary trip round Malaysia in a market setting. Imagine chowing down on nasi lemak and mee goreng at a roadside stall down Opera House Lane. Brilliant idea.

Pecha Kucha City Market: Imbibe.  Al Brown, Jonny Schwass and others promise to keep it snappy with something akin to a power-point presentation on speed.

Martini, Martini, Martini. Why stop at three? This is billed as a sort of interactive history lesson at the Hawthorne Lounge. The Martini through time.

Kiwi Bush Tucker for Kids. Bush tucker, sausages and bonfires at Staglands. You’ll need to take a child and your best marshmallow stick.

Vegetarian, Organic and Biodynamic Degustation. Travis Clive-Griffin is a fantastic chef and his omniverous feast was a highlight of last years’ festival. Well worth a trip over the hill to Saluté in Greytown

My list is a tiny snapshot of what’s on offer at Wellington on a Plate this year. More than 100 restaurants are participating in Dine Wellington. Each has a special cut-price festival menu and many are competing to win your vote for the best regionally-inspired burger.

It’s worth noting that no one makes much money out of this event and yet it’s incredibly well supported by the region’s restaurants, wineries and providores. Together they’ve created an annual event that puts Wellington at the forefront of the country’s food scene. Cheers to them all!

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