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Where's Jonny? Care to dine with me? You would think that 11 years of daily food tasting for a living might put me off?......au contraire! Chomp away with me across 6 continents. Seduced like a bloodhound to the scent of good food, I anticipate the misty waft of steaming broths, the satisfying crunch of mudbugs and the vibrant aroma of freshly pulverised lemongrass. Buon appetito

I took the wild food challenge

NEW ZEALAND | Wednesday, 8 August 2007 | Views [2885] | Comments [1]

The best meal I've eaten in New Zealand.
If in Wellington go to the doctors for this.

The best meal I've eaten in New Zealand. If in Wellington go to the doctors for this.

Yes, I've crunched cobra in Cambodia and munched mouse in the Mekong but the wild food I refer to here is one of less extremes.

I am a staunch advocate of game.  Full of real flavour, free range, organic, low in fat, it's the antithesis of all that is mass produced.

Game animals even stand a sporting chance of avoiding capture too. (especially if I'm shooting)

"Monteiths," an iconic Kiwi brewery are responsible for hosting a "wild food and beer challnege," each year.  It obviously helps promote their beers but does so by challenging chefs to match beer with food.  The competition also promotes Nzs wild and locally grown foodstuffs and engages the restaurant community in a good sense of humour.

The challenge began in 1997 with just 12 restaurants taking part.  9 years later and there were 163 participants in 2006. 

Previous winning dishes include, "Prawnographic,"  "Piggin nuts," "Bambis demise," "Kina have that with beer?" and "Bunny brawn."

We ate in two excellent establishments (both in Welington)who were doing the challenge.  One was called, "The Tasting Rooms," which specialises in wild fare including a rabbit and wild mushroom pie.

The other where we actually ate the challenge menu was called, "The General Practitioner," - a revamped doctors surgery from the 1900s.  Opened in 2006 its an eye-drawing, colonnial building of painted cream stone set over three floors.  Downstairs pulls a noisy afterwork cowd whilst the top floor is the carpetted restaurant area.

This place oozes character and charm.  Somehow, showcases of macabre surgical equipment add to the intrigue (beware - some of it will make your hair stand on end - don´t go if you are having an operation) 

The General Practitioner describes itself as, "a prescription for fine ales and healthy socialising."

The challenge was named, "The three Kings." (starter) and "Schweine Koewnen Doch Fleagon" (Pigs can Fly) (Entree)

We shared the starter which comprised three parts. (The three Kings)   crayfish ravioli, a huge UFO shaped pasta shape with wonderfully soft lobster within and a rich bisquey sauce using the roasted shells.  A King for sure.  

On the same elongated plate were oysters which were fried in a thin batter using some of the Black beer.  They were plump, well seasoned and bliss to eat.  Another Regal eat.

The final part was a tad odd.  It was a smoked marlin sandwich!  Although the fish had a good oakey smoke the sandwich somehow looked limp in contrast.  Cucumber inside was completely lost by the strong smokey flavour and would have gone better with the pickled version.

The matching beer was Monteiths black, a stong, bitter, roasted coffee flavoured drink that seemed well suited to the lobster tortelloni and oyster but fought with the Marlin like an big game angler.

The much anticipated entree of braised wild pork with a "schweizer kasekuchen nach baurnart" (Swiss farmers pie) was not a disappointment.

Simply but enticingly presented on the plate, this dish of pig and pie was both right for the season and a winning combination.

A crispy, crusted, oval pie, containing sauercraut, apples, gruyere cheese and muttonbird!!!  The chef, who had worked in Europe was eager to show off what he had learned although I felt his Swiss terms added nothing to the food.

I wasn't sure the stringy gruyere was necessary in the pie; too many ingredients; but the apples, sauercraut acidity and salty muttonbird worked very well indeed.  Muttonbird incidently, is a duck-like bird which had been confied, providing a salty, tender, seasoning to the pie.

The pork was superbly tender and full of flavour although Maria claimed it was too gamey.  Nonesense, it was incredible. 

Matched with Pilsner I struggled to make the synergy.  You cannot tell me that beer is better with this kind of dish than a hearty glass of Shiraz or other gutsy red.  Likewise, the starter would have been fantastic with an oakey white from New Zealands ever-popular vineyards.

Sorry Monteiths.  I do rate your beers, but I'll be enjoying them in isolation. 

As wild animals feast on berries, so their flesh is best enjoyed with the juice of the berry.  Wild food for me harmonizes with wine.

The wild pork was the best meal I've eaten in New Zealand and just what the doctor ordered.




Tags: Food & eating



The event sounds like great fun! I'm not a big beer drinker at all - much prefer wine, but wild food and a good tipple is always a good thing as the following recent exchange on a discussion forum shows:

pebblemonkey wrote:
Last year we were collecting Rowan berries for our wine making. I understand it can be used for other things like Rowan jelly, but WHY, when you can make wine from them!

Fergus wrote:
Pebblemonkey - surely it's obvious. If you make the jelly to go with some food then you create the perfect excuse - if you need one - for drinking more wine!!

Pebblemonky wrote:
I like your thinking!

Anyway - loved the idea of the wild food challenge. We should do something similar here in the UK.
As an individual challenge, I have just finished a month of eating 100% wild food - and have blogged about it nearly everyday (http://www.wildmanwildfood.co.uk). The results were very good - particularly in terms of my post diet medical report which I received this morning. I plan to try eating 100% wild food for a whole year shortly.............

  Fergus Drennan Aug 9, 2007 7:40 PM

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