After 30+hours of traveling from the other side of the world, there I was seated at the head table (wearing clothes that were not mine) with internationally-renown winemakers Erica and Kim Crawford (Loveblock wine).
I had just arrived in Queenstown, New Zealand and was about to indulge in a 5-course degustation meal, part of The Rees Hotel’s Culinary Series Winemaker Dinners offered six times a year. This particular event was co-hosted by Marlborough-based Kim Crawford (Loveblock) and Executive Chef Ben Batterbury of the True South Dining Room at The Rees Hotel. As I am a wine lover, there couldn’t have been a more suitable kickoff to my round-the-world journey!
Upon arrival at The Rees, we were welcomed with a glass of 2014 Loveblock Moscato Brut, which was very enjoyable as an aperitif. It was fresh, bubbly of course, and had a bit of creaminess to it.
This was an intimate occasion, with approximately 50 guests seated together at 4 long tables in the True South Dining Room.
As part of the Culinary Series, the menu is kept a complete surprise to guests until the dishes are served. This menu wasn’t your typical “New Zealand” fare; instead Executive Chef Batterbury used his creative license and pulled together an impressive international fusion of ingredients and flavours and created masterpiece dishes. The creations came to life when paired with the Loveblock wines… and together they created a symphony of flavors on your tongue.
Just have a read through the menu below…. What inventiveness! (I apologize for the quality of photos; the lighting was dim and most shots were taken with my small camera or iPhone!).
Bluff Oyster: Oyster and lemongrass panna cotta/passion fruit gel/wasabi mayo/ pepper isomalt/bluff oyster/micro radish. Wine: 2013 Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc.
Salmon and Crab
Cured soft poached ora king salmon/black rice with crab, crème fraiche, coconut/pink grapefruit and Szechuan jelly/ salad of spring onion, Chinese cabbage, chili, thai basil, mint, coriander, bean sprouts/crispy noodles/Vietnamese dressing/chili glass. Wine: 2011 Loveblock Bone Dry Riesling.
Monkfish/apricot glaze/roast almonds/hummus/coriander and mint Israeli couscous/raisin puree/chickpea tagine. Wine: 2011 Loveblock Gewürztraminer.
Loin with Dijon mustard and herb crumbs/cider braised lamb shanks in oats/smoked beetroot couscous/burnt celeriac puree/baby kale/gooseberry fluid gel/lovage oil/lamb jus/puffed barley.
Wine: 2012 Loveblock Pinot Noir.
White chocolate cheesecake/caramelized honey jelly/caramel popcorn ice cream sandwich/roast peaches/peach, orange, hibiscus, rose water coulis/ popcorn granola/lemon sorrel.
Wine: 2014 Loveblock Sweet Moscato.
This was quite the incredible experience! Congratulations to Erica and Kim Crawford, Chef Batterbury and all kitchen and hotel staff for such a successfully enjoyable evening! It was a pleasure being your guest. The food, wine and company stimulated my senses, so much so that I had forgotten I had been awake for much of 40 hours by that time (with the exception of a sleep on the plane) and arrived in New Zealand sans luggage! (Which is why I was wearing clothes that were not my own! Luckily I had a friend who raided his 14 year-old daughter’s wardrobe to find something suitable to wear…. Thank you LM! I never knew I could get away with skinny jeans!)
Side note: When I travel to different places, I try to indulge in the local specialties as often as I can…. I knew coming to New Zealand that this was home to Pinot Noir (among other varietals of course), a type of wine that I never really cared for in the past….(or so I thought). When it came time for the Pinot Noir (paired with the lamb), I kept an open mind…. and it turned out that I loved it! In fact Loveblock’s 2012 Pinot Noir was my favorite wine served at the dinner! (Thank you Kim and Erica for expanding my horizons!) You should never avoid something just because you think you don’t like it….try it out, you just might be pleasantly surprised!
While many of you may recognize the name “Kim Crawford” (as a well-known New Zealand wine label), Kim sold his label in 2003 to Canadian wine giant Vincor, which was later bought out by Constellation Brands in 2006. For an interesting short history on the man behind the brand, visit here. The Crawfords’ next project was Loveblock.
Loveblock is Erica and Kim’s new label (for approximately 2 years); their organic vineyard is located in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley on New Zealand’s south island. Loveblock has not yet made its way across Canada, but I hope I will eventually be able to get some of that Pinot Noir in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories…so that I can relive the memories of this delightful evening! For more information about their wines, be sure to take a visit to Loveblock.
If you’re in the Queenstown area, and looking for a bit of luxury, I’d highly recommend The Rees Hotel and Luxury Apartments. The international staff are warm and welcoming and they make delicious cappuccinos in the lobby (and you already know the quality of food you can expect from the restaurant!).
All I can say is that I left The Rees Hotel with beautiful memories. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to New Zealand! For more information about the hotel or the Culinary Series Dinners (the next of which is planned for August 7, 2015, featuring Ora King Salmon from Marlborough Sounds, and Pescatore’s Chef de Cuisine Reon Hobson in Christchurch), visit The Rees Hotel and Luxury Apartments.
PS – I am a little behind with my posts, so if you’d like to follow some of my more immediate travels (I’m in Tuscany right now), visit my Tawna Brown Photography Facebook page. As always, feel free to leave a comment below. Ciao ciao!
Amazing food pics. Looks tasty. Glad you were able to be a part of what looks like a fantastic night.
What an amazing culinary treat! This whole trip will be an experience you will never forget, but this one night will remain vivid I’m sure.
Your writing is tops btw – you have a knack for words 🙂
Thank you Paula! Yes, it was such a delightful and very memorable evening! I appreciate you taking the time to read (I know I have not been so generous in that department! It’s a challenge enough for me to write these days, but now that I have a good chunk of time here in this small Tuscan village, with no car, bus or train… I have time to write, I just need to write!)
An absolute joy to read, and loved the pictures. The menu was exquisite. Kim Crawford is my favorite wine.
Thank you Nancy! Hopefully we will get Kim Crawford’s new wine (Loveblock) in Yellowknife one of these days…(Kim hasn’t been part of Kim Crawford wine since he sold the label in 2003…. I’d be curious what you think of his new label…. I personally loved the Pinot Noir as I mentioned…. but you’re a white wine drinker!) Fingers crossed that it will make its way to the far reaches of Canada’s Northwest Territories!
Great photos. Could you tell us more about your photo work shop, please? Will it be offered again? I lived in Sicily and spent lots of time in Florence and and many other places. Love your travel posts. Brings up tons of great memories. Cheers.
Ciao Mary! I don’t know if you will get a notification that I’ve replied to your comment, so I will send this to your email address also. I will certainly be writing a post about the workshop (yes, it will be offered again:) So stay tuned for that! I will also be writing much about Italy, as this is my favourite country!
I would like to visit Sicily in August most likely (I know, not the best time to go, Italians on holidays there, hot, etc…) I’ll have 2+ months in Italy in total…. Firenze is my base…I’ve primarily focused on Toscana in the past, but since I will have more time, I am going to try and branch out. I’d like to know more about Sicily from you… I’ll try to remember to get in touch when the time comes….(I have a few posts on my blog about Italy from last May also… I barely scratched the surface with what I posted, I just never got around to sharing photos and stories…. but I hope I will be more successful this time! I have NZ, Australia, Bali and India to write about, which have all happened in the past 2 months before my arrival in Italia. Yikes! Thanks for reading my post:)
awesome photos, you are very gifted
Informative with your usual impeccable taste in photos – will look forward to the next one
Not only you are a great photographer, Tawna, you are quite a word-smith, too. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.
Thank you Abbas for reading through my blog posts:) I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying them!