Farmers market feasting
PHEW. Judging for the Taste Farmers Markets New Zealand Awards 2011! Such an honour, especially considering I was judging alongside some seriously well respected top New Zealand chefs (Al Brown, Jonny Schwass, Al Brown and Chris Fortune, although Chris stepped out of officially judging) and Taste Magazine editor, Suzanne Dale. Everyone was so friendly and genuine, it really elevated the day from “food blogger’s dream” to possibly the best day I’ve had all year! It was also great to meet Becs at Lovely Wee Days, another long-time NZ food blog. She kindly offered to help us the whole day and was literally indispensable! So onto it…She also sells Posh Porridge at Christchurch Farmers Market, which I really need to try one day when I get a proper morning at the market to just relax with a coffee in the sun. Have heard plenty of amazing things about it! Massive thanks also goes to my foodie friend Holly who also helped out on the day (and took the photo below)!
Yes, I did feel as giddy as I look in the photo :D I still have no idea why us girls are grinning like mad though, while the guys look super serious. L-R: Al, Brett, Me, Jonny, Suzanne, Chris.
Oh yeah, guess where we were? Awesome central. These guys also happen to have a ludicrously (!!) good value selection of treats that the hospo students whip up. It can be our little secret. Cheers CPIT for providing a great venue for the awards!
Holly busily writing down our comments to send back to all the entrants, surrounded by a some of the meat entries. There were a surprising number of meat entries (not shown). Meat wrapped in pastry, meat wrapped in bacon, meat made into sausages… I did some pretty meaty burps that night >.<
Meanwhile, here’s Becs, Brett, Suzanne and Chris checking out the honey collection from the “Kitchen Bench” category. I’ve never had so many honeys laid out in front of me all at once, but it definitely helps you appreciate how different they actually all are!
This post wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging some of my favourite products that I managed to try. Happily a lot of them come from Canterbury. My luck just keeps getting better!
Clevedon Valley Buffalo yoghurt is the first thing that made my eyes roll to the back of my head. Sorry Clearwater’s, I have a new favourite yogurt! Fortunately/unfortunately I’m not sure where to get the stuff (they sell a lovely buffalo mozzarella available at Canterbury Cheesemongers though) in Christchurch, and even if I did, at $10 a container I wouldn’t be eating much else the rest of the week! If you’re in New Zealand check out where else they sell. The vanilla bean was loved most by everyone, and it was great to see that they used no artificial thickeners and even NZ grown vanilla (who knew NZ grew vanilla? Not me apparently). Rich, thick and creamy, with a mild tang and not too heavy on the tongue.
Harbourside macadamias made this wonderful macadamia and karengo seasoning, packed full of local ingredients and flavour. It had a unique but fantastic flavour, was crunchy, and of course, nutty and moresome. It’s also fairly healthy when you think about it – certainly better than breadcrumbs! You can sprinkle it on all sorts of things, or use it as a decadent crust for the protein element of your meal.
Bellbird Croissants – classic and almond. Ooo, heavenly. Do yourself a favour and pick one up at the Christchurch or Opawa Farmers Market! The almond was magnificent – filled slightly with some sort of custard that made my toes curl up inside my boots.
Loved Fernando’s portuguese chorizo! I can’t find a website for them though unfortunately. If you know which farmers market they’re at let me know! While everyone was ooh-ing over the bacon (which I’m not really a big fan of to begin with), I was enjoying bites of this.
Cheviot hills rhubarb and fig jam was a really excellent example of what preserves should be like. This was a good flavour choice too – although anything with rhubarb in is usually a winner for me! The fruit was beautifully candied but you could easily spread it onto a delicate cream scone or mix it into yogurt. Made with their own home grown rhubarb too!
Kingsmeade sheepsmilk cheeses – what a delightful surprise! Not normally a sheepsmilk cheese fan, but these struck a wonderful balance. The manchego was my favourite, with a smooth, rich texture and sharp flavour that reserved itself to a tasteful, sexy tango on the tongue rather than going all ke$ha on me. Anyone know what I mean? No? Get this cheese. Tango.
EDIT: Just wrap it well for storing, or it will taste extra sheepy. Experience.
Rowandale homestead pesto, you amazed me. Ne’er shall I bypass your pesto again (I usually just get their eggs, which are also wonderful). Who would have believed I would ever like coriander pesto? I hate coriander! Or parsley pesto? I’m totally indifferent to parsley! However they really shone in these. I completely agree with Al when he noted that no flavour was trying to dominate another – everything that was in there made the pesto a perfect harmony of flavours. I wasn’t even bothered that the pesto wasn’t particularly salty. I was too startled by how beautifully green it was staying. Oh, and by how a simple refreshingly grassy pesto could be so moreish.
Wholesmoked cheese – these guys remembered me from an enquiry I made months ago, and packaged up some of their smoked parmesan with a note saying it was just for me. How sweet is that?! I still shared it for the purposes of judging though…not sure how I could have used two whole packages of cheese by myself! The onion and gherkin cheese spread was a bit strange for me, so I’d definitely stick to the smoked gouda and smoked tasty. It’d be nice if these were in slightly smaller blocks though.
I was a bit alone on this but I actually really liked Birch Hill Berries‘ dairy free “ice cream,” although I really just wish they called it sorbet. It wasn’t super refined or anything, but it tasted like someone made it at home with love and care. The slightly unconventional flavours of feijoa (although minus the walnut would have been better), and quince & honey, worked quite well too. If I were them I’d just ditch the canola oil and rice milk and just make sorbet in iconic kiwi flavours!
Finally, the most important thank you to cap off this wonderful experience…Actually, a big congratulations as well…to Chris Fortune, Chairperson of the Farmers Markets New Zealand Association, for making this happen! We’re really lucky in New Zealand to have such a passionate advocate for local producers and food, who works hard (I’ve received some emails at some rather late hours of the day!) and knows what he’s on about. I was really honoured to be asked to help promote and judge the awards this year, and work with someone so generous and considerate.
…now go out and sample some of these goodies at your local farmers market!