Most days lunch for me is on the run, or without ceremony anyway, leftovers of some description squished onto bread or rolled up in a wrap, or more than likely, toast spread with avocado or crunchy peanut butter and sliced tomatoes. Yeah yeah, I know that last one’s weird, but it’s delicious when you have decent bread, great peanut butter (like Pic’s) and homegrown tomatoes. I’d even go so far as to say it’s a favourite lunch – salty, crunchy nuts and sweet juicy tomatoes …think about it! Add a few leaves of mint or coriander, a sprinkle of chilli flakes, a squeeze of lemon, and, well, yep, I thought I’d get your attention!
But the other day was different. OMG yes, as different to munched-at-the-sink sandwiches could ever be. Lunch was a 5-course main-dish marathon with matching Church Road McDonald Series Hawke’s Bay wines, enjoyed on the veranda of the charming Kelliher Estate on Puketutu Island, Mangare. The occasion was to mark the announcement of this year’s Beef and Lamb Ambassador chefs: Reon Hobson from Pescatore at The George Hotel, Christchurch; Brad King from Bistro at The Falls Retreat, Bay of Plenty; Ken O’Connell from Bracken Restaurant, Dunedin; Marc Soper from Wharekauhau Estate, Wairarapa; Ryan Tattersall from Cobar Restaurant, Wellington. These five chefs were chosen out of a pool of 163 chefs who all received the 2015 Beef and Lamb Excellence Award, recognising, to quote, ‘the highest quality, most skilfully composed and superbly presented beef and lamb cuisine.’ Press releases always put things so nicely, don’t they, and rest assured I have read my way through a gazillion of them laden with trumped up praise and claims, but there’s not a word I would alter in this one. Each dish was stunning in presentation, superbly executed (no place for sinew or overcooking here), intriguing (confit gin tomatoes!), novel (crunchy brik pastry ‘cigar’ filled with creamy potato), or challenging (fermented oats anyone?), and all were simply good old fashioned lick-the-plate delicious, but none of the organically grown or foraged vegetables served ‘au natural’ or glazed, pea shoots or microgreens, seeds and nuts, vegetable dusts, salsas, jus, mousses and emulsions could outshine the star of the show: New Zealand’s finest lamb loin, slow-cooked blade of beef, braised shin of beef and marrow, rose veal, lamb rump, shank ballotine and eye fillet of beef. It was all spectacularly scrumptious!
Check out here for more on the chefs and their restaurants so you can indulge in these dishes, too.
And thinking, as you do, what could I pinch from these guys to make my meaty meals more impressive? Well, quite a lot really. Ken O’Connell’s brik pastry potato cigars for a start. Made with two of my fave things (potato and pastry) I can’t go past them. Brad King’s potato, parmesan and pancetta terrine with a gorgeous salsa verde with chopped gherkin was also a standout. As was his carrot, thyme and ginger emulsion thingy. Marc Soper’s olive grapes, toasted hazelnuts, wild mint and vanilla jus is a must – it was so exotic. Reon Hobson’s mushroom sawdust can’t be that hard to pull off, then I could introduce a little burst of mushroom flavour here, there and wherever. And Ryan Tattersall’s cauliflower mousse, tomato caramel and burnt onion would work with lamb as well as with beef.
Mmmm. Hey, thanks for the ideas guys!