The sight of jamon on the hoof sends a thrill down my spine. Seeing the cured meat as a distinct part of a beast is a stark reminder of where our food comes from - an animal that has given its life for us to eat. Forget about sterile plastic-wrapped packages of anonymous protein cubes. Meat involves death, and with it, responsibility and respect.
The themes of provenance (understanding where our food has come from), sustainability and championing local produce (locavore movement) are never far from my mind during our day out in Wellington, during our recent trip for Wellington on a Plate.
Nikau Gallery and Cafe
We start with breakfast of course, Billy, John, Peter and I meeting Brad Monaghan from Positively Wellington Tourism at Nikau Gallery and Cafe.
The best thing about Wellington? The amazing coffee. There are nineteen coffee roasters in Wellington, and the city claims to have more cafes per capita than New York. I tend to order a double shot of coffee in Sydney to get the robustness I crave, but in Wellington, a standard flat white has the strength and flavour of a double.
Porridge with medjool date compote and banana $11
Brad takes the nutritional high road with a bowl of creamy porridge. The rest of us have no such calorific qualms, ordering cooked breakfasts that groan with mushrooms, sausages and eggs.
Sage fried eggs, mushrooms and sausages $18
Sage fried eggs are an innovative and delicious concept, studded with sage leaves that are crisp and fragrant.
Mushrooms with sage fried eggs and Island Bay black pudding $18
The Island Bay black pudding gets our attention, and rightly so. The thick discs are seared on both sides, perhaps a bit too far as the flavour seems to have gotten a little lost in the process. Mushrooms are chunky slices sauteed with plenty of butter.
Mushrooms, Island Bay black pudding, spinach and toast $19.50
Scrambled eggs, sausages and spinach $20.50
Mojo Coffee Central
Lambros Gianoutsos, master roaster for Mojo Coffee
Catherine Cordwell from Zest Food Tours takes us to our next stop, the roastery for Mojo Coffee. The company began when Lambros Gianoutsos started roasting his own coffee beans to replicate the style he missed from his hometown in Greece. Today, he is the master roaster for a company that has expanded to 20 cafes open aross the country.
Roasted and green coffee beans
Roasted coffee beans
It's only 10am but I'm ready for my third cup of coffee. We stop at the Mojo Waterfront cafe next door for another caffeine hit.
The crockery strikes us immediately - jade green with gold trim that we're told is imported directly from Italy. We also marvel over the triangular-prism sugar packets that are sourced from Florence, Italy.
Shott Lemon Ginger and Honey drink
We notice quite a few people drinking hot beverages and find out it's a hot lemon, ginger and honey drink made by Wellington-based company Shott. One sip of this and we're in comfort drink heaven, an intense mix of lemon, honey and ginger that would be perfect for when you're recovering from the flu. The drink is sold as a bottled cordial syrup and we notice it on many cafe menus around Wellington.
Te Puna Wai Ora - Spring of Life
We split up into pairs, John and Peter off to Martinborough, Billy and I headed for Petone.
Petone is on the north side of Wellington Harbour, the largest suburb in Lower Hutt city. Our tour guide for the day is David Hancock from Hutt City Council, and our first stop is the local artesian water fountain called Te Puna Wai Ora, or Spring of Life.
The water fountain dispenses pure artesian water, underground pressurised water that flows from the Hutt River and through the atesian aquifer at Taita Gorge, slowly filtering through alluvial gravel and sand over several years.
There are two taps that dispense this water, and locals all come down with ten-litre bottles to take their fill. David says that he comes down here once a week to fill up water bottles for the family. I love that this precious water is available freely for locals - there are even two parking spaces dedicated specifically for fill-and-go water visitors.
Billy and I taste the water from a nearby drinking fountain - the water tastes clean, free of chlorine and soft with minerals.
New Zealand cookbooks
Who said feasting had to involve calories? We love the little stop-over at Bookfeast, an independent book shop dedicated entirely to all things food. Owned and operated by Yvonne Bassett, the shop is perfect for leisurely browsing and includes an impressive collection of books including an entire section focussing on New Zealand cookbooks.
We visit Wendy Adams at Cultured next. She and her husband Conrad both tossed in corporate careers and started Cultured after Wendy attended a cheese-making course in July 2009.
Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese is a delightful story in itself, the cheese made from the milk of a single cow from Cwmglyn (pronounced coomg-glin) Farm, in the Tararua Mountains near Eketahuna.
It takes 25-45 litres of milk to make one wheel of cheese, spending 1-3 days in a cheese press before placed in a storage room to mature. The maturing process takes anywhere between three weeks and six months, and the cheese is wiped and turned over every day. The cheese we're eating today is from Sally, the cow.
We're treated to a number of tastings, including Ngawi brie made from Jersey cow milk, manuka honey on yoghurt, creamy buffalo milk yoghurt and the most amazing dessert olives that tasted candied.
Ngawi brie made from Jersey cow milk in Kingsmeade, Masterton
Clevedon Valley Buffalo milk yoghurt
Lunch at Gusto
Gusto owner and head chef, Duncan McKenna
Gusto is our venue for lunch and we marvel at how this original dental surgeon has been transformed from an Indian restaurant into a warm oak-panelled bistro.
Keep calm and carry on
There's a sense of humor detected in the decor as we notice the "Keep calm and carry on" sign by the reception desk.
Gusto co-owner Duncan McKenna says they found an old waiting room sign and put it up in the corner where the original waiting room used to exist.
Parsley and ham hock terrine with warm pickled baby vegetables $16.50
Parsley and ham hock terrine is a generous entree, ringed with the prettiest garland of micro leaves and pickled baby vegetables.
Hawke's Bay lamb kibbeh tartare with minh labneh and pistachio dukkah $16
My Hawke's Bay lamb kibbeb tartare isn't as raw as I'd expected, and a little grainy with burghul, but the mint labneh is creamy, light and smooth.
Smoked eel with potato, leek, horseradish and pancetta $17
The winning entree is the smoked eel with potato, the plump chunks of eel are decadently buttery in the mouth with a lingering smokiness.
Fresh fish with young vegetables, saffron nage and potato $32
A dollop of foam perches on top of fish that has been crisped on one side. The fish has been cooked perfectly, resting on a bed of mashed potato and a tangle of micro leaves.
Veal saltimbocca, prosciutto and sage with polenta and spinach $31
Veal saltimbocca is tender, the tower stacked on top of wilted spinach and a lake of buttery viscous polenta.
Roasted vegetables $7
Premium Angus beef rib eye with Manchego butter and hand-cut chips $33
My premium Angus beef rib eye is a little more medium-well than medium rare, but the hand-cut chips are golden batons of fluffy and crunchy bliss.
A giant 85kg wheel of Le Francomtois French emmenthal
Now that's what I call a wheel of cheese!
Steven Scheckter takes great delight in wheeling out the biggest cheese in his shop at Ontrays, an 85kg behemoth of Le Francomtois French emmenthal.
We sample biltong and wagyu bresaola before exploring this Aladdin's cave of groceries and deli items. Husband and wife team Steven and Valda Scheckter started Ontrays as a small retail shop in 1999. Today they are known as the South African shop, although their range includes a comprehensive mix of elusive products from Argentina to Israel.
Biltong cured spiced dried beef
Jamon and smallgoods
Olives and stuffed peppers
Wines. olive oils and assorted groceries
La Bella Italia
Dessert? Of course there was.
We head to La Bella Italia, a cafe and grocery store founded by Antonio Cacace. There's a lovely sense of space inside this converted warehouse, with grocery shelves to one side and the cafe tucked down the back.
Antonio is the epitomy of a larger-than-life Italian patriarch, warm and welcoming with an undertone of quiet authority. He speaks warmly of his childhood in Italy and gestures proudly toward the wall plastered with family photos.
Flat white (coffee number four)
Cappuccino steamed pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla honeyed cream
For afternoon tea we're served a cappuccino steamed pudding, so moist it tastes like a sticky date pudding. The cake had been entered in a bake-off the day before and had won first prize. We're not surprised. It's divine.
Schoc Chocolates at Ciocca Chocolaterie and Espresso Bar
Santo Domingo hot chocolate and Cardamom and orange hot chocolate
"Is there anywhere I can drop you off?" asks David, as he returns us to the Wellington CBD.
And this is how we find ourselves outside Ciocco Chocolaterie. I always stock up on Schoc Chocolates here, revelling in its unusual flavours and Belgian tablet moulds. Billy and I take ages to decide, deliberating over tastings that are proferred from tasting drawers.
Eventually I come away with strawberry and black pepper; sea salt; geranium; lime chilli and a single origin 72% Ciocco Marrone.
We finish the afternoon with hot chocolates, made by pouring hot milk over spoonfuls of thick chocolate ganache. Gluttony and company - an unbeatable combination!
Nikau Gallery and Cafe
Civic Art Gallery, Civic Square
101 Wakefield Street, Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (04) 801 4168
Open Monday to Friday 7am-4pm | Saturday 9am-4pm
Zest Food Tours
PO Box 6030 Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (04) 801 9198
Mojo Coffee Central
Shed 13, 37 Customhouse Quay
Kumutoto Plaza, Wellington Waterfront, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (04) 385 3001
Open Monday to Friday 8am-4pm | Saturday 10am-2pm
Mojo Coffee Waterfront
33 Customhouse Quay
Kumutoto Plaza, Wellington Waterfront, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (04) 831 1308
Open Monday to Thursday 7am-5pm | Friday 7am til late
| Saturday 9am-5pm | Sunday 10am-4pm
173 Jackson Street, Petone, Wellington New Zealand
Tel: +64 (04) 576 0486
Open Monday to Friday 10.30am-5pm | Saturday 10.30am-3pm
185 Jackson Street, Petone, Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (0)27 269 8161
Open Tuesday to Friday 10am-6pm
| Saturday 10am-4pm | Sunday 10am-2pm
Gusto Bistro [CLOSED]
Ontrays Food Emporium
38 Fitzherbert Street, Petone, Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (0) 800 939 9925
Open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm | Saturday 10am-4pm
| Closed on Sundays except during December
La Bella Italia
10 Nevis Street, Petone, Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (04) 566 9303
Open Monday to Wednesday 7.30am-5pm
| Thursday and Friday 7.30am-late | Saturday 9am-late
| Sunday 9am-5pm
Ciocco Chocolaterie and Espresso Bar
11 Tory Street, Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (04) 382 8907
Open Monday to Friday 7.30am-5pm
| Saturday 10am-5pm | Sunday 12pm-5pm
< Read the first Wellington on a Plate 2010 post [Te Papa Museum]
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Devour Gala Dinner
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Fidel's Cafe
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Matterhorn
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Osteria Del Toro
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Petone Food Tour
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Wellington Pop-Up Restaurant in Sydney
FREEBIE FRIDAY WINNERS
Congratulations to Anita, Trixie, and KJ - you have each won a twin pack of Smirnoff vodka mixers in new flavours vodka and cranberry, and vodka and blood orange.
Missed out this time? Don't forget to enter the Freebie Friday competitions still open:
> Win two tickets to a molecular gastronomy dinner class
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9/27/2010 03:16:00 am