Karen Staples grew up in Auckland amongst a large family of foodies. As a child, she loved hanging around the kitchen reading cookbooks and experimenting with baking recipes which she trialled on her three bothers. Eventually she became the go-to person in the fam when it came to birthday cakes, or any event requiring something special from the kitchen. Some years later, she became the go-to person for people at her local farmers market for decadent Christmas cakes with a modern twist - which then developed into a seasonal business for corporate clients who also wanted festive home made goodies. Over time Karen developed a reputation for outstanding cakes and cookies even though it was a side project for her to raise some extra cash during the holidays. When a friend asked her to produce a breakfast cereal for their new retail store, Karen combined the same playful experimentation with recipes with top shelf ingredients to produce what would later become an award winning market leader in premium granolas. It seems to be her way with things.
By now, you’ve probably seen pure delish products at Raeward Fresh and other stores around the country. Over the last 10 years Karen and team have been cooking up all kinds of special hand made cereals, bars bites and slabs (my favourite being the ginger and walnut slab, extremely moorish), and of course, festive treats which have become known for being as dense in nutrition as they are in flavour and satisfaction. Originally though, I thought they were a bit out of my price bracket until I had a go and brought some home. Reading through the ingredients it’s not hard to see why the cost is there, or reading through pure delish’ web site to see how everything remains hand made and produced which such a high level of quality. But at the end of the day it comes down to flavour, satisfaction and sustenance.
In terms of flavour, pure delish products seem to me to have something of Karen’s original Christmas cake vibe to them. They’re dark and rich and packed with heaps of different textures and tastes that come together super well. As such they’re really satisfying and you don’t need heaps to feel like your breakfast is complete, or an elevenses snack is enough to get through to lunch. The dense nature pure delish’s cereals bar and bites (usually at least 60% nuts seeds and fruit) makes them rich and wonderful. In talking with Karen about her products, I noticed she’s keen on good health for her family and of course her products. It’s apparent in her choice of the best possible ingredients, paleo mixes and her own health choices, but to Karen pure delish seems to be all about creating foods that celebrate the best life has to offer while doing it for and alongside family/community. She’s still baking for the whānau.
The last thing I noticed about pure delish is that their foods are true sustenance. When you’ve had some serious breakfast cereal or snacks which actually cover most of the nutritional ground your body needs you can feel that both during and after the meal. This kind of food is very much worth the cost per gram especially if you eat reasonable amounts and spread out a bag of granola say, over a week or so.
At the end of our conversation I asked Karen what was next for her entrepreneurial self. She mentioned some cool new flavours coming up using ancient grains or making passion fruit granola, but what impressed me was her sticking with the knitting. She’s not looking at going super global, mechanizing the hell out of the operation or doing some line extension bid to create pure delish action figures (although yes, I do like a toy in my cereal box if they’re handing them out). Nope. Karen wants to keep focusing on what she loves. A recent health scare and a deep love for her community has helped refine her attention on those things she wants the most out of life. Creating a meaningful connection with her community, making the best possible foods and sharing life with her family, special events and all. Makes me feel privileged to be on the receiving end of that love, even through a bowl of amazing cereal.
Joe Swatland started his chef training at 16 years old in the UK. Originally from Leicester in the Midlands, he made his way to working at the Savoy in London. He went on from there to work at The Royal Garden, another 5 star restaurant which caters for most of the professional sports teams playing in the city, including the All Blacks. It was at here that Joe got first hand experience in catering for the needs of top athletes. He took note of their nutritional needs, personalities, food philosophies and what they ate day in and day out. Eventually Joe made it to New Zealand working at Queenstown’s Public restaurant where he was further exposed to a region full of athletes and adventurers. Keen to start up his own venture, Joe and his fiancé Leoni started cooking up some ideas.
The couple wanted to create a product that would capitalize on Joe’s love of sport and his connection to athletes while avoiding any of the less than healthy ingredients a lot of nutrition bars contain. They decided to design a food that would be refined sugar free, dairy free, gluten free and contain only those ingredients that had the most nutrient dense properties on the planet. Joe started a nutrient database with 150 ingredients covering 40 entry fields each. He spent a lot of time at the Raeward Fresh getting his head around Camu Camu (Myrciaria dubia) and other superfoods new to Joe’s experience but essential to achieving his goal of delivering a compact nutrition bomb for athletes (and anyone else wanting a snack that probably is as nutritious gram for gram as anything in the world). Thus Nutribombs were born.
Superfoods have been around forever of course, but it’s only recently that people have started to make them available in one form or another. Usually, they’re kind of intense in flavour and you wouldn’t want to just pop a handful of say, goji berries in your mouth. What Joe and Leoni have done is sussed out the highest levels of essential foods for our body’s highest performance and combined them in soft, bite sized balls that are easy to chew (unlike goji berries straight up), delicious and well rounded. For instance, some nutrition bars or snacks will boast a large amount of protein or iron say, but in order to absorb these nutrients, you need complimentary ingredients like vitamin C for iron or b6 for protein. Nutribombs have all this covered as Joe’s taken the database and put it to work in the mix.
Joe and Leoni continue to work with top athletes in the region to develop unique ingredient combinations that focus on performance, endurance, recovery and yoga. For instance, the Performance Nutribomb contains dates, cashews, sun dried apricots, linseed, almond milk, blackcurrant powder, Maca powder and chlorella powder, all specifically aimed at giving you the kick needed to get moving. I gotta say too, that their amazingly satisfying for being such small little bombs. I’ve been building an extension on my house for the last 8 weeks and there’s been a few times where I all I had was a pack of Nutribombs in my pocket, eating one every 10 minutes, which not only kept me going but kept me feeling great.
Rebel Foods is now focusing on other products that will put that database to work, designing specific foods that will meet the needs of Rebel Leaders (athletes and others who are helping to test the products and champion Joe’s cause). Keep your eye out for gels coming soon, and other cool foods from this highly trained chef who’s come to Queenstown offering us his deep love for both sport and nutrition. You can get Nutribombs at Raeward Fresh as well as Camu Camu for your own superfood experiments. You may just run into Joe there planning his next rebellion.
Now that winter is here, or supposed to be in Otago, I’m on the lookout for ingredients that are going to spike my ice creams with fresh fruitiness or flavour my lattes with intrigue or top my chocolate cakes with panache or garnish my huevos rancheros with roasted and fresh herbs… Problem is, it’s winter - or supposed to be - and I can’t get fresh blueberries, raspberries, black doris plums or kaffir leaves for these dishes. Not to worry says my Raeward Fresh pal Nathan at the store in Queenstown, Fresh As has got me sorted. These guys produce freeze dried produce that seals in not only the freshness and nutrition of the fruits and herbs they sell, but a fantastic twist to the original product that makes my ice cream for instance, a whimsical magical thing. I’ll explain.
Tommy Roff is a perfectionist who has been in the produce business for over 25 years. In his experience, when winter came around chefs and home cooks alike wanted access to fresh herbs and fruits but struggled to find them. Tommy decided then to freeze dry certain foods that would tap into the imagination of chefs developing new cuisines flourishing around the world (Fresh As now sells to chefs and retails stores in seven countries). Freeze drying food is a process that combines super cold temps and vacuum technology. It freezes the food, however instead of producing liquid the moisture turns to ice and is then vacuumed from the food leaving a distinct crispy texture. This means the Fresh As dried blueberries I use for my sweetened condensed milk ice cream reconstitute just a bit in the process of making the ice cream (see recipe below) but also maintain a chewy gooeyness that makes the ice cream amazing! Same is true for my Black Doris latte using Tommy’s plum powder in the steamed milk - AMAZING!
Tommy and the crew at Fresh As have created heaps of great recipes which you can see on their site but I wanted to highlight a few of my own creations, made with Fresh As goodness, to encourage you along the road of freeze dried discoveries in your own kitchen. I started out by getting a huge range of Fresh As gear, from herbs (kaffir and sage powder to tarragon and thyme) and spices, to some fruit powders (mango and black doris for instance) and then dried fruits (like lychee, blueberry, strawberries, whole cherries and plum slices) and started experimenting. Of course, the fruits are fantastic just popping them in your mouth (they melt revealing all their original freshness), but I’ve tried a few other recipes I’ll pass on here.
Fresh As Blueberry and Sweetened Condensed Milk Ice Cream
This recipe is a staple at my place which allows you to make any kind of ice cream you want without the fuss of an ice cream maker or the constance stir, freeze, stir… process. And now with Fresh As dried fruits, it's all gone up a few notches!
250 ml fresh cream (or Lewis Road thickened cream if you want to go hard)
200 ml sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla paste or essence
half a pack of Fresh As freeze dried blueberries
Simple As method:
whip the cream until thick
whip in the condensed milk and vanilla
stir in the blueberries
That’s it folks. Put it in the freezer and 12 hours later you have the most amazing ice cream. The texture is smooth and perfect and the blueberries become a chewy candy like thing which makes the whole affair fantastic. I’ve added some pomegranate syrup over the top in the pic below just to add a little kick to the dessert.
Fresh As Black Doris Latte
In the U.S. you’ll often find flavored latte’s on offer at interesting cafes. I’ve had Hawaiian Black Sea Salt Latte’s, Lavender Latte’s and of course, dark chocolate and chili… so when I saw the Black Doris plum powder from Fresh As, I thought the rich flavour would go well with a long black straight up or steamed in the latte milk. Both worked a treat. Have a go for your self and see what you think.
Fresh As Mandarin Chocolate Cake
We’ve been working on an extension at home and decided to treat the builders to this amazing coffee cake treat. Smiles all around especially with the candy crunch of the punchy mandarin slices.
1 & 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 & 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 generous tablespoons rice bran oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp Blue Frog Zesty Orange syrup
100 ml fresh cream
100 grams chopped dark chocolate
a pack of Fresh As Mandarin slices
Preheat your oven 160˚ C and line a lot tin with baking paper.
Mix all the dry ingredients well and then add the wet ingredients one by one stirring with a wooden spoon until well combined.
Pour into the lined loaf tin and back at 160˚ for 40 minutes or until your knife come out clean from poking into the middle of the cake. Allow 1 hour to cool
For the icing, finely chop the 100 grams of dark chocolate and set in a glass bowl. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring the cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Allow it to sit for 4 minutes and then stir to create the ganache. Allow to cool for another 10 minutes stirring occasionally and then pour over the cake.
Add scrunched up bits of the mandarin to the top of the iced cake and then artfully place the rest of the whole pieces. Serve warm with coffee. Yum!
I’ve been adding the coriander power to my quesadillas (see below), sage to my split pea and ham hock soups, kaffir to my salad dressings, and the list goes on. Fresh As herbs and spices really do take the flavour up a notch and the fruits have got me thinking anew about many of my old recipes. Have a go for your self at a Raeward Fresh near you and see what you can create.
Not to brag, but I happen to be an expert on popcorn. Growing up in the U.S., I’ve sampled hundreds of variations from Cracker Jacks to your standard movie going fare, to gourmet kettle corn popped in a large cast iron caldron on the spot. I’ve created dozens of variations at home from miners thyme and sea salt to coconut sugar and nutmeg, all in my quest for that buttery, sweet, salty, puffy, moorish treat. So yeah, I knows my popcorn.
Not long ago, I saw a new popcorn offering at the Raeward Fresh in Queenstown with a bear on the bag, peering back at me. Obviously, we were both very serious about this stuff. Back home, I rented a serious (mostly) movie - The Big Short - and worked my way through three different kinds of Serious Popcorn. In the first act, I got an education about the lead-up to the world financial crises of 2008 accompanied by the Serious’ Sea Salt popcorn. Both the film and the popcorn had subtle complexities and surprises. For instance, who knew that baby boomers were going to rip off the whole world, right? Even more surprising though, was how buttery Serious’ popcorn tasted. Especially seeing as there’s no butter in the popcorn.
In the second act, the humor, tension and insanity of the looming crises grows while I made my way through the second bag of Serious’ Sweet & Salty popcorn. Kettle corn is my all time favourite and this one is right up there on the balance of flavours. Again, really buttery too. Hmmm? Once the financial meltdown hit in the Big Short, it was time for some Coconut & Vanilla popcorn. Maybe a bit sweeter than I’m used to but that didn’t stop me from polishing off the bag in the midsts of watching the world melt down on the greed and insanity of the last decade.
Overall, this is some really good popcorn and being an expert I had to do my popcorn research so I called Serious Popcorn’s creator Roger Holmes to get the back story. Roger grew up on a North Waikato farm where his Grandfather first planted sweet corn, squash, asparagus and baby carrots… As a kid, sorting corn on the line, and watching the food go to market gave Roger a sense of quality, supply chains and the market overall. So after studying and working in London for a while, Roger got hit with the same financial crisis of 2008 and had to come up with a serious solution for work. Having a flare for combining flavours and produce in his blood, Roger developed the award winning Stolen Rum.
While promoting Stolen in Miami, Roger observed the U.S. obsession with popcorn which kindled his own connection with corn. Using that same gift for combining unique ingredients, Roger developed a recipe to achieve the essential buttery taste by using a fantastic organic corn from the Hawkes Bay and organic deodorized coconut oil to which he adds the other ingredients making up the flavours I described above. And watch this space, Roger is concocting even more flavours in his serious development to create a healthy snack that satisfies, delights and pleases the heart. And as an expert, I can verify that he’s seriously nailed it:-|
If you’re like me, you’ve probably tried your hand at making your own muesli or granola (granola being the baked version). I’m a cereal addict and there’s so many ways to make my own muesli, and to keep it healthy by being selective about ingredients, and to try new flavours. My problem is, once I make a batch and finish it off, I don’t want to do it again each week. So I always walk down the cereal isle at the market, looking at all the options (my grown up version of reading the cereal boxes over breakfast as a kid) to see if there’s anything as good, healthy and flavourful as what I could create (if I could be bothered - ALL THE TIME). After reading through a few boxes, I usually leave the isle disappointed and chiding myself for not making more at home.
This is where Mike and Chis Millar step into the isle of my cereal life. The couple have a similar passion for a great muesli (and other products) and a nice flare for mixing cool flavours (almond, spiced coconut and orange, for instance) with solid, healthy ingredients. Their range of muesli’s under the brand name Something to Crow About, fills my need for a great breakfast (or anytime) cereal; hand crafted in small batches for freshness, fantastic ingredients, all kinds of satisfying.
Their muesli range includes:
• ALMOND, SPICED COCONUT & ORANGE - Paleo Blend, Gluten free
• MACADAMIA, OTAGO HONEY & NUTS - Gluten Free
• NATURAL FUSION FRUIT & NUTS
• TOASTED MANUKA HONEY & NUTS
All made with a fantastic list of ingredients. For instance, the Toasted Manuka Honey & Oats has NZ oats from the Canterbury Plains, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, coconut, NZ linseed, whole cashew nuts, Otago manuka honey, apricots, dried cranberries, raisins, sesame seeds, coconut oil, olive oil, hazelnuts, spices. Nice!
Like most of the artisan producers for our Raeward Fresh stores, Mike and Chris were looking for a better product for themselves and their family and decided to take matters into their homemade hands. They came across an artisan business selling roasted seed mixes and nuts at the Dunedin Markets and decided to buy the company and take it even further. Mike had run his own business and worked for TradeMe before launching into this new venture and Chris added her marketing experience and a gift for combining flavours and diverse ingredients into her own muesli’s. They’ve recently had to move to a new location on the Hibiscus Coast just to keep up with demand.
Something to Crow About also make a range of Roasted Seed Sprinkles (like Warm Chili or Mild Garlic roasted mixes). which add an extra crunch and protein to sprinkle over soups, salads and roast veggies. They also blend their own LSA (ground linseed, almonds and sunflower seeds) as well as black and white Chia seeds - all of which add to your superfood diet. These guys are committed to keeping your breakfast, lunch or dinner all natural and with their kiwi made goodies. So next time you’re at the local Raeward Fresh, having not made your own muesli or snack mix this week, check them out and see if they can make your mornings something to crow about.
Breakfast tip and update
I love a bit of yoghurt on my muesli and I especially like what our friends up in Raglan have created with their creamy zingy coconut yoghurt. A couple of days ago I got to try their two new flavours which I think are fantastic. The Mango and Turmeric coconut yoghurt is bright (in colour and flavour), sweet without sugar, and has a wonderful fruitiness. The turmeric is there, but only as a flavour booster for everything else. The Blackcurrant and Heilala Vanilla (a great brand of vanilla by the way) has a candied currant vibe (again, without any added sugar) and a lovely texture. All this goodness mixed in with Mike and Chris' mueslis makes great start in the day.
The thing with cake mixes is that while they’re a flat out good idea (open box, bake cake…) they’re generally packed with too much sugar and preservatives, simple white flours and sickly sweet icings. On top of all this, the flavours on offer are usually pretty average. But the other day at the Raeward Fresh in Queenstown, I saw this gorgeous little box of gold and foodie goodness, which upon closer inspection turned out also to be a cake mix. On even closer inspection - of the taking it home and trying it kind (open box, bake cake) - I found it to be delightfully different from all the other cake mixes I’ve tried. The cake was of the delicious dark chocolate & hazelnut variety and came with a glossy dark chocolate icing and pralines (to which I added more roast hazelnuts). The flour was spelt (good choice), and the no-added-preservatives list of the other ingredients included; brown sugar, ground almonds, Belgian couverture dark chocolate, Dutch cocoa powder, baking powder and ground vanilla bean. Simple and decadent. I had to know more. So, I called The Caker responsible - Miss Jordan Rondel.
Seems Jordan is out to re-imagine the world of cake mixes. She intends to condense her formidable cake making skills (see instagram account) into a two step process by which anyone anywhere can turn her beautifully packaged cake mixes into, say, a wonderful lemon plum cake, or a coconut raspberry cake, or a banana crumble cake, to name a few. This skill of hers, to translate whimsy and great pairings, is matched by her commitment to use fantastic and healthy ingredients. So, when your friends come into your house - chocolate hazelnut aromas wafting enticingly through the air - they’ll be greeted by scrumptious flavours and a health-conscious treat to boot.
This desire of Jordan’s, to share her love of good sweet treats, runs deep in her psyche and experiences. Jordan grew up watching her Parisian grandmère make a wide range of pastries and treats for the family in France. The wonder and tastes of those times made an impression that stayed with Jordan right through completing a B-Com at Uni back in NZ, and eventually led her to start making her own cakes, blogging about them and sharing them with friends and a growing customer base in and around Auckland. Once her personal cake business started to take off, she decided to make all this even more accessible to people around the country in the form of a two step mix, made with all the cleverness and beauty of her shop cakes.
This is no small feat, and yet she has pulled it off with aplomb. The cake I baked was simple, gorgeous (see my pic below) and kept well in the fridge for four days while we enjoyed a slice (or two) with our afternoon coffee. It was also fun to make - probably because of the two step ease - but quite possibly too because I could employ whatever oil, butter or milk I wanted (dairy free, vegan, or good old fashioned whole milks), add my own roasted hazelnuts and decorate as I wanted, while still feeling as though the whole thing was a breeze. This is not your typical boxed cake mix. The complete experience from store isle, to unpacking and baking, to devouring, is a whimsical treat.
Jordan tells me she’s now working on some more flavours and mix ideas. She’ll be experimenting daily in her cake shop, seeing what strikes her fancy and then condensing it down to a well through out, beautifully designed box and taste experience. All from her non-conventional yet richly skilled way of seeing the world. It’s exactly this kind of soul that we’re super glad to support at Raeward Fresh. Her innovation, commitment to quality ingredients, and lovely results puts a smile on all our faces. Have a go for yourself and see if you don’t smile broadly too.
At 32 years old, Eliott Menzies and his Altitude beers are a bit of surprise. The man has an inordinate amount of brewing knowledge for a guy his age and his beers have an extraordinary depth of flavour and a refreshing balance for a craft startup of only three years running. Altitude’s presentation has all the markings of coming from a huge ad agency (nope, just a cool friend of his, Lisa Te-Awhitu) and you can find these hefty bottles in some of the best wine and beer bars in the country. On top of all this, Altitude Brewing has been wining awards over the last two years now, competing against more established breweries showing what it’s really made of. Which again, I find surprising coming from this bearded good natured young fellow who could just as easily be your local barista or graphic designer. After a pallet popping beer tasting Eliott deftly delivered at Kinloch Lodge a few weeks ago, I decided to follow him up and get the back story behind these amazing brews.
Eliott grew up around Nelson, mostly on land. His parents moved around a bit and decided at one point to live on a boat sailing around the Marlborough Sounds. So for two and a half years Eliott and his two younger brothers lived at sea. Being home schooled before and during this time (Eliott’s mum is a teacher), he learned to make stuff as part of his curriculum and life on the boat. One of the things he made for instance, was a ginger beer for a local home brew competition held at The Bay of Many Coves. There was of course, a few exploding bottles along the way but Eliott eventually mastered the brew, getting feedback from the local kids, all quaffing their ginger beer and sharing tasting notes in a hut on the beach. This explains much of Eliott’s early education.
From the sunny north (of the South Island) the Menzies moved to the snowy south (of Queenstown) where Eliott went to high school, continuing his appreciation for local brews with memories of great beers being served to his family at McNeill’s Brewery (now Sasso), a classic 1882 stone residence built by the Scottish James McNeill which was converted to a local brewery in the 1970s. After high school and before Uni Eliott went to Scotland where his craft beer experience went much deeper, working at the Clachaig Inn where they had 12 hand pumps of local beers on offer. One of the local breweries in the region, Atlas, gave Eliott a job a few days a month where he was able to get into the belly of the beast and see the entire old-world process, albeit mostly from the vantage point of digging out tanks and washing down floors. A home schooler at heart though, Eliott took this as a learning opportunity and soaked up as much as he could.
Returning to NZ for Uni in Wellington in 2002, Eliott started making his own beer recipes (and a few wines) which fermented away in the flat’s hot water cupboard. Spurred on by the odd craft beer experience - like his first Tuatara at Bar Bodega - Eliott saw the fledgling beginnings of the craft beer movement in this country, using kiwi grown hops and other local ingredients creating unique new flavours or re-inventing the classics. The craft beer scene in NZ really didn’t get going till around 2006 so Eliott and a few others around the country were just starting to brew these ideas within themselves, each following a different path with different backgrounds. For Eliott, this meant more time overseas in Colorado and the UK, then back to Queenstown running his own small business and working in various parts of the wine industry. In 2009 however, with recipes still fermenting in his brain, Eliott decided to make brewing his “full-time hobby”, taking a true amateurs approach to brewing where a love for the craft and a passion for quality drive the process.
The culmination of Eliott’s journey came in 2013 where he decided to lock himself away for six months in a small batch on the Kaikoura Coast perfecting an IPA recipe. Eliott wanted to strike the balance between a full flavoured brew and a medium alcohol content. Most IPA’s depend on higher malt contents for flavour balance but this pushes the alcohol level up too. For some this isn’t a problem, but for Eliott, the challenge was to create a beer you fully enjoyed alongside a great meal, or on it’s own after a big day on the hill - not getting sloshed, but instead soaking up flavour and experience. He wanted to mirror the best of beers he’s had around the world, but making it distinctly kiwi, hops and all. The result, The Mischievous Kea formed from locally grown Pacific Jade, Pacifica, Motueka and Nelson Sauvin hops and a range of malts that Eliott kept his eye on to reach that perfect balance he knew he wanted to share. And share he did, at an opening at Atlas bar in Queenstown, where they couldn’t get enough kegs to keep up and ordering more of whatever Eliott could come up with.
Applying the same passion for old-world craft and classic flavours, Eliott and Altitude came up with another five brews. Each one matching the makers heart for depth, quality, balance and flavour. I know this personally from my own experience but I decided to take them all to a local dinner party (German Food: Rosti, Sauerbraten and red cabbage) where some foodie friends and I could put these beers to work with an extensive meal. This is what we came up with:
Altitude Pale Ale: aka The Posturing Professional:
with Pepato, White castelli and vintage cheddar, Apples
Nose effect: citrus, pine, cheddar
Rich, malty down the throat with food. Super smooth with the pepato.
A little smokey with a citrus finish
Oak flavours with the castelli
Lager: aka The Goldpanners Profit:
Smells of apple & honey, caramel. Crisp and dry in the mouth. Light enough to whisk down the throat when really thristy. With this food though oaty with the cheese and hummus and bright with the castelli.
With the Rosti it turns hearty and quenching
I.P.A.: aka The Mischievous Kea
A beautiful rounded flavour with the overall meal, works on all levels, even with the dark chocolate Anzac pie!
Stout: aka The Moonlight Track:
Forgot to pick one up, got two Kea's instead. Doh!
Hefe: aka The Persistent High
With the sauerbraten: smells of ripe wheat as it should and tastes light on it's feet (helles as apposed to dunkles) and bright. Almost floral, banana with an effervescent mouth feel. With red cabbage it gains some legs and warmth. Brilliant! Our favorite of the night.
In congratulating him on beers this well made, Eliott is quick to remind me how grateful he is to the many people that he’s learned from and who’ve supported him along the way including Davie McKenzie and the staff at Atlas, the local Queenstown community, and more recently, Eddie Gapper, Eliott’s new business partner. As I said earlier, these brews are now showing up at some of the best wine and beer establishments in the country, not because they’re craft and therefore hip, but because they’re outstanding in flavour and experience. Especially the stout and hefe in my experience. Not over the top new flavours for the sake of being beer candy, but because Eliott has mastered, in his young life, the art of building on top of a great beer platform and made them distinctly South Island alpine in magical ways. This is exactly why we stock these beers at Raeward Fresh - celebrating the true locality and provenance of makers like Eliott who know who they are and where they came from.
Okay, so I’ve been sampling a bit of cider and that may have an effect on what I’m about to write. Especially since the coder, cider rather, has, um, is quite moorish and it’s been, difficult to pace myself and note down(s) some tasting notes. I just said notes twice. Fortunately, I’ve been pairing the cider with a great venison chili and it’s keeping things in balance, but only just. Damn, this stuff is so good! Okay, glass empty, ready to go.
I’ve started with Alex & Caroline Peckham’s cider with Moutere boysenberry to see what the potentially sweeter end of their offerings was going to be like. Most ciders in NZ tend to be heaps sweeter than the gold standard of ciders, which in my book come from the UK. Even the sweeter versions in Europe have a distinct fruit flavour followed by a sweet / dry finish. Balancing acidity, fruit and sweet flavours in cider is no easy task and I wanted to see how Alex and Caroline had done with the process. On the first pour of this boysenberry & apple cider, there’s a lovely dark ruby viscosity filling my classic tumbler. It flows like it’s going to be a bit syrupy, due to it’s volume and coating of the glass, but then on first sip, it runs smooth and free down the throat leaving a clear pop of boysenberry, cherry and green apple on the palate. Fresh, crips and honest. No water, no added sugar, no average fruit here. These people, hailing from the UK, know their cider. Now onto the next one!
Oh wait, I should tell you more about Alex & Caroline first, that would be the responsible thing to do. They met when they were 18 years old and have been together ever since. They did Uni together, started their own business (together coaching larger companies on interfacing appropriately with the environment) and have used their various skills (Alex as a geologist and Caroline in marketing) together on their projects over the years. On one of these years, Alex and Caroline grabbed the kids and headed to NZ for a three month holiday. The sun, lack of traffic (obviously, they were in the South Island) and pure beauty of the country and people drew them here to stay.
The first port of call was near Christchurch where the couple had extended family to connect with. Alex & Caroline lived next to an abandoned apple orchard and being just a bit put off by the commercial ciders on offer - nothing like their UK / French upbringing - decided to have a go with the trees next door. I should point out here that the Peckhams are not snobs when it comes to their cider. They’re traditionalists with an innovative and super hard-working flair. Next, they travelled the country looking for cider varieties - typically apples with more tannin and acidity to mix with a few of the sweeter types - and learned all they could from older Kiwi orchardists who had long grown a wide variety of apples. They got some high end gear (kidding! a food processor and some other bits and pieces from The Warehouse) and started making cider for friends and family.
On holidays and being keen trailer-sailor types, the Peckham’s regularly visited the Nelson area and found gently sloping north facing land full of great top soil and Moutere clay to start a proper orchard. 6000 trees and 30 varieties later (including Sweet Alford, Rosa du Perche, Cidero, Tom Putt, Sweet Coppin, Chisel Jersey, Browns, Yarlington Mill, Dabinett, and Cox’s Orange Pippin - of course - to name a few). And, it bears mentioning that these heritage varieties all had to be grafted onto root stock, lovingly cared for and protected from those damn bunnies, and nurtured for three years before fruit even started to show up. At 8 to 10 years on now, the fruit is perfect and plentiful.
This explains a bit about the cider range the Peckham’s have come up with. Like good vintners, the couple have taken their terroir and produce seriously and listened to what the land would tell them. The results in products, flavours and effect (on my heart) warms the cockles. Here’s what they're offering so far:
• moutere cider
• home block cider
• ice cider
• cider kir
• cider with feijoa
• cider with elderflower
• cider with cardamon
• lightly hopped cider
• cider with boysenberry
• moutere perry
• mulled cider…
…and when you check out the tasting notes, vintage and fruit used for each of these blends you can see the care and craft involved year after year. The Peckham’s gather all this fabulous fruit at the right time of year for each variety and process, chill and ferment each one properly and then deliver them in a simple brown bottle with an elegant and understated label for folks like you and me.
All this is no easy task in Nelson, where you don’t have the natural cold of the traditional UK winters to ensure a slow, natural fermentation. Adapting that Kiwi No. 8 wire thinking, the Peckham’s initially had to drape towels and drip feed cold water over the tanks to keep the right temperature. But now that the years and awards have confirmed the family choice to go hard out in the cider making business, the Peckham’s have moved operations from the old shed on the orchard to a purpose built cidery (still on the orchard) where they and their staff continue to refine what a great New Zealand cider can actually taste like.
These people are true artisans and in the best sense, amateurs (those who LOVE what they do). They have dug deep into their values and resources and cooperated with the land. They’ve researched and learned and worked their backsides off and have come up with something well worth sampling along side some great cheese, or pot pies, or drinking their ice cider alone as an aperitif. With 12 ciders on offer from a massive variety of heritage fruits, the possibilities for a good meal and a good time go on and on. Honestly though, I don’t drink that much. When I do, it must be extraordinary or it’s not worth my health and time. In extreme moderation and taking in only the best of quality and flavour, I allow myself to experience the deep craft and care of people like the Peckham’s. I feel enriched knowing their story and process and am glad Raeward Fresh makes this available in my little part of the world.
The human tongue can detect fine particles down to about 20 microns. That’s 20 millionths of a meter, or very very fine. Which is why certain chocolates for instance, taste grainy whilst others are super smooth. Typically, a manufacturer more interested in bulk sales will not conch & grind the cacao beans down to a fine size and not bother getting the sugar content or grain size down as well - resulting in a sandy tasting overly sweet chocolate where you can’t really taste the actual cacao itself. Think poorly made espresso - where you get the idea that coffee - or chocolate in this case - is involved, but you haven’t really experienced the bean itself. Those though who are very interested in sharing the complex and dynamic flavours of chocolate take extreme care to reduce their ground cacao beans to around 12 microns, and do the same with whatever sugars’ added. The results, along with a host of other crafty processes, will release a delightful combination of flavours and experiences, especially highlighting the cacao’s provenance and even it’s terroir.
Now, there aren’t heaps of people in NZ making chocolate like this. We’ve interviewed a couple in this blog, and more and more people are having a go around the world. But I recently came across an ex-fisherman from Nelson who for some compelling twists of fate and adventure, completely gets this whole fine-micron-craft-production-cacao-provenance deal. His name is Karl Hogarth and he makes an outstanding bean to bar range of chocolates. To introduce them to you, I’ll start off with what I tasted in each brilliantly produced and packaged bar:
• Akesson Estate, Trinitario - Madagascar: oak, prune, sour cherry, pinot noir, caramel
• Conacado, Trinitario - Dominican Republic: malt, raison, toffee, fresh apricot
• Gran Blanco, Criollo cacao beans - Peru: dried nectarine, raw almond, coffee, yogurt
• Carenero Superior, Trinitario cacao - Venezuela: rich cacao, tobacco, walnut, chestnut, lemon
It amazes me to not only find a world class chocolate like this in little ole NZ, but that it came from a man of the sea. If you take great wine for instance, it’s typically produced by the net knowledge of generations of vintners who refine their skills over the land and flora until they nail it, weather permitting. So how is it that a fisherman from the sunny northern south can turn his hand to the land, find outstanding cacao around the world and alchemy it into smooth as silk chocolate like this? I had to ask.
Karl grew up by the sea in Nelson where having left school at 15, took to fishing vessels where he spent the next 20 years catching Orange Roughy etc. As regards food, Karl tells me his mum was a stellar cook and he would often call on her for recipes to help him feed the lads when it was his turn in the galley. Like most kiwi’s Karl also grew up with an appreciation for honest, quality ingredients with which to work with both at sea and on the land. After this long stint fishing, Karl went back to uni to study (marketing and commercial law) and then went on his OE to South and Central America. It was there in Guatemala that Karl tasted chocolate like he’d never before. It was a fudge-like mixture of panela and cacao, dark and amazing, and it made Karl think about how different chocolate, made well, could actually be. The other outstanding experience in South America was meeting his wife in Argentina where the couple decided to live for a while before returning to NZ.
Once Karl returned to Nelson, his education in chocolate began in earnest. He studied techniques from around the world and learned that not only do you not need a huge factory (think; Willy Wonka) to produce a great bar, but that the more focused and refined you are in your process, the more the bean shines through. Of course, there were the typical No. 8 Wire approaches to production, like when Karl would for instance, start his day out back in a dressing gown and swimming goggles - hairdryer and large metal bowl in hand - winnowing the freshly roasted cacao nibs in the Nelson breeze while la esposa complained of the constant chocolate smells indoors. Undeterred (but a kind husband nevertheless) Karl continued on with the many iterations of machines for production, or designs to nail the moulds and packaging… all of which brought him closer and closer to re-producing that amazing experience in Guatemala, where you could actually taste how special the cacao bean really was.
This lead to sourcing the most amazing cacao beans the world had to offer. A steep learning curve in itself, Karl is mastering the art of forming co-equal relationships with farms and estates around the world where he can obtain in particular, trinitario and criollo cacao. Karl has tasted the provenance and terroir of these beans first hand and is committed to sharing these unique flavours with the rest of us in his production process beautifully outlined here. I will point out in this blog though, that his maturing process is brilliant. After all the sourcing, roasting, conching and grinding, temping and forming of his chocolate, Karl then ages (from 4 to 12 weeks) each bean specific batch to allow the flavours to fully develop. This is the mark of an artisan, to patiently cooperate with the ingredients in order to bring out their best, which is exactly what Hogarth Chocolate is about in my opinion. To know this for yourself, I suggest popping into one of our Raeward Fresh stores, grab a couple of these bars and sit down with a great flat white, or a Central Otago Pinot Noir. Break off a small piece of say, the Carenero Superior and let it dance on your tongue for a minute until your body temperature re-temps the chocolate. Then let your mouth tell you about the highlands of Venezuela, about sour cherries and apple pipe tobacco and how good it is to be alive in the days of craftsmen like Karl.
The other night I held a dinner party where we took a diverse range of fresh lettuces and edible flowers from the garden, washed them, kept the roots on and set them on the table. My guests loved trying the various chicory, spinach, and beetroot leaves for instance, paired with purple viola’s, blue corn flowers, orange calendulas and pink chives buds. But the stars of the ‘build-your-own-salad-sampler’ were the dressings. Saffron and orange vinaigrette complimenting the beetroot leaves, smoked chili vinaigrette punching up the spinach and a beautifully smooth blue cheese dressing toning down the chicory all made the evening super special. To the surprise of my guests, the dressings were store bought - but I couldn’t have done better myself, garden and all.
This is thanks to Genevieve Knights, who has somehow managed to create professional kitchen fresh dressings (and other products) and made them available at my local Raeward Fresh. I know that sounds a bit corny, or marketing speak, but trust me, this stuff is outstanding for a number of reasons. First reason; Genevieve is a qualified chef with an amazing resume, including working at The French Café where she learned how to create world class meat and fish pates, parfait’s and mousse. Secondly, knowing that she wanted to be a chef since the age of 13, she has obsessed on, studied and experimented with food for over two decades in both the fusion scene, and the in the classics. Finally, Genevieve has had an intense focus on using and preserving the freshest of ingredients in her kitchen, insuring it arrives in the exact same state in mine. This is no easy task, especially when it comes to dressings and meat parfaits, all preservative free. You really have to taste this to know what I’m talking about. The zing in these dressings for instance, due in part to the fabulous flavours she chooses, comes mostly though from her unmatched skill as a chef to keep the fresh taste of ingredients in tact on the fridge shelf.
Having worked in professional kitchens for years, for next to no pay, getting yelled at, learning the hard way, Genevieve decided to shift gears and focus on recipe and food writing / photography. Many well received articles, a few cookbooks and some great catering gigs later, she decided to put some of those tried and true recipes to good use at her local La Cigale French Market in Parnell. The rich, smooth texture of her duck liver parfait gained such a following that she decided to go full time and extend her range:
• Free range Chicken Liver Parfait (either peppered, original or truffled)
• Open barn raised Duck Liver Parfait (in either orange, original or Peaking spiced)
• Seafood Mousse (original prawn, original scallop or Mahurangi oyster)
• Classic French Vinaigrette
• Saffron & Orange Vinaigrette
• Classic Caesar Dressing
• Blue Cheese Dressing
• Smoked Chili Vinaigrette
• Sesame & Soy Vinaigrette
Each one of these products has required all of Genevieve’s chef skills to bring to market. Working alongside Massey University to maintain flavour, quality and a no preservative approach, the seafood mousse alone took over a year to perfect. I love the her commitment for this kind of kitchen to kitchen delivery. So has the NZ Food awards who have acknowledged Genevieve’s same skills.
My recommendation; bake some of your own bread or oatcakes, grab some veg from the garden and lay it all out for your friends and neighbors with a good sampling of Genevieve’s parfaits and dressings. Have people specifically pair different flavours and see how you can take your best and Genevieve’s best to create a good time for all.
Who we are
This blog is written by Patrick Dodson and is a collaborative effort from the entire Raeward Fresh team of purchasers, chefs, nutritionists, butchers, grocers, baristas and other food creatives.
Crystal Gardens Lettuce
Chef Dave Miller
Retro Organics Milk
Basil & Parsley
Jenny Lamond Cakes
Canter Valley Turkey
Wanaka Organics Eggs
Chef Anne Halson
Chef Jonathan Rogers
Off Our Tree Cherries
Goodies On The Gorge
The Raeward Fresh Queenstown Kitchen
Kim Malcolm on Coconuts
Cairnmuir Olive Oil
Provisions Jane Shaw
Fix & Fogg Peanut Butter
Make It Raw
Kokako drinking chocolate
Inch Valley Preserves
White Rabbit Cacao
The People' Bread
Weka Olive Oil
White Heart Hazelnuts
Karamaya Black Garlic
Muesli & Co
Soda Press Co
Dr Feelgood Frozen Pops
All Good Drinks
She Universe Chocolates
A Cracker Of A Nut
Raglan Coconut Yoghurt
Pinoli Pine Nuts
Bonnie Goods Oatcakes
Taste of Provence
Tom & Luke Bars
Pure NZ Ice Cream
Clevedon Buffalo Mozzarella
the Kefir company
Pure Wasabi Coppersfolly
Benneto's Drinking Chocolate
Blueskin Bay Honey
Hogarth Craft Chocolate
Something To Crow About
Fresh As dried Foods
Holy Smoke Salmon
Rebel Foods Nutribombs