Our second presentation of the popular Pure Extravagance Weekend was certainly a fitting way to conclude our dynamic, autumn-winter annual events programme.
Foodies gathered for the weekend on Friday afternoon and the celebration of fine food and wine began with co-owners of Sabato, Phil and Jacqui Dixon, presenting a tutored tasting of premier Italian balsamic vinegar from Guisti. Exploring the unique complexity of these artisan balsamic vinegars led to the tasting of:
Balsamic vinegars aged in single wood casks – mulberry, chestnut, juniper, oak, acacia and cherrywood illustrated how each wood contributed a difference character in each case.
- Ricardo Giusti, a late-harvest balsamic, was then paired with Sabato’s Alpine Brown Cow Parmigiano.
- This taste sensation was followed by the Banda Rossa, which is very aged, drizzled across Chef Paul’s very delicious, simple Ferron risotto.
- Fresh strawberries were enhanced by the youthful White Label – a wonderful combination.
- Last but not least, a taste of Giusti’s Extra Vecchio Tradizionale from its special 100ml bottle. This is the prized, highest grade extra-aged balsamic that is submitted to the Consortium where it is selected, bottles and sealed by them before being returned to the maker. One drop is enough to experience the lingering, deep rich flavour.
In the early evening everyone gathered in the Lodge Room for pre-dinner drinks and canapés before dinner. This comprised a five-course dinner showcasing the finest local, seasonal produce by Executive Chef, Paul Froggatt and his kitchen brigade.
A relaxed and leisurely full country breakfast included a glass of the exquisite Louis Roederer Vintage Rosé Champagne, setting the scene for more fabulous indulgences to follow.
In the afternoon, Chef Paul, in collaboration with fellow chef Martin Bosley, talked about oysters. Martin is the Chief Fishmonger and General Manager for Yellow Brick Road, champion of sustainable and ethical seafood. Chef Paul and Martin shared their specialist knowledge around oysters – and how best to enjoy eating them, while also demonstrating how to shuck them. Guests tried the technique themselves with great success and were introduced to a delicious new delicacy, the exclusive and relatively new Kiwa oyster.
Pre-dinner drinks and canapés included a Giusti cocktail clinic to illustrate just how versatile this fabulous ingredient can be. This was presented at a cocktail station and drinks were made to order.
Guests experienced a complete departure from our normal dining style as the Lodge was transformed by Chef Paul, and his kitchen brigade. They had been very busy setting up a series of themed food stations and were on hand to present the stunning artisan produce to guests. This relaxed and informal style of dining encouraged plenty of engagement with the chefs, and boutique producers, as guests moved from station-to-station as and when they felt like it, taking food back to their tables to enjoy, before venturing forth for yet another culinary adventure.
- A Lady Butcher, Hannah Miller, presented her cured meats – New Zealand free range pork, Huka Lodge free range pork prosciutto (made especially for us), lomo that had been cured with fresh lemon zest and kawakawa, spalla cured with black pepper, pancetta cured with dehydrated mandarin and dried fennel), guanciale cured with Malborough garlic and horopito and lardo cured with citrus, allspice and chilli.
- New Zealand Wagyu beef bresaola, New Zealand lamb boneless prosciutto were also amongst the meats available.
- The Ice Bar presented freshly shucked oysters to order, live scallop tartare – with green apple and caviar, Ora King gravlax salmon sliced on request and kingfish cerviche.
- The BBQ station offered Bill’s cutlets with herb and mustard pesto, parsley crumb and buffalo yoghurt. Mini-burgers with a choice of herb, garlic, black olive, sesame or tomato buns were filled with Wagyu beef or crayfish with garlic, dill or spicy cucumber accompaniments. Guests feasted on New Zealand langoustine with garlic aoli and puffed vegetables and tempura of whitebait and mixed vegetables.
- The fresh chestnut pasta station featured a live demonstration of rolling the pasta and finishing it in a half-wheel of parmigiano.
- The artisan bread and cheese station showcased Chef Paul’s family sourdough, rye sourdough, baguettes, fermented sourdough, mixed sprouted and seeded sourdough – all complemented by infused olive oils and homemade butter. Twelve of New Zealand’s best artisan cheeses had also been brought together for the event.
- The Dessert station was a delight – with edible mini-‘lemons’ suspended from a lemon tree comprising blown sugar balls filled with – tropical fruit cream, passionfruit sorbet and poached pineapple, white chocolate cream, raspberry and pepper sorbet and raspberry and pepper sorbet. Other treats included a giant croquembouche with vanilla cream filling drizzled in sugar syrup, mini coconuts with Malibu liqueur centres and Huka Lodge honey caramels with edible papers and homemade candy floss.
Breakfast the next day was lively as guests chatted and exchanged culinary highlights from the past two days, inspired by the event and what they had experienced.
As one of the guests wrote in the guest book before departure “We came for the food extravaganza weekend and it was quite an exceptional experience. So nice to talk to the chefs and providers who are so knowledgeable and passionate. I learned such a lot”.
If you would like to be advised as soon as the date for the next Epicurean Weekend 2020 has been announced, please contact Reservations.