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!