Stop talking and eat

Everywhere we look there’s food but much of it we can’t touch. There’s food on TV, in books, on blogs, in every magazine. There’s food on the radio. But we can’t taste any of it. It’s all talk.

What do people say? “Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink?” Same with food. It’s food-fatigue!

Who would have thought? Too much food in our lives! We risk losing balance and falling for the fantasy. What we all need to do is sink our teeth into reality. Crunch! Simple and easy.

Don’t label me locavore, sustainable, organic; of course I know where those vegetables come from! I don’t need to be slotted into a tidy box to prove my place. I always want to eat better and what I do in my kitchens is an extension of that.

My kitchen is a conduit between growers and eaters. That’s all. What’s fresh, in season, available. This with that. Nothing more. Enjoyed your lunch? Good. Over-analysing why is like dissecting the meal before you taste it.

I’m inspired to eat, and bored to tears talking about it. There’s a truth to what we do in the kitchen, and we hope you can taste it. Even naming it makes it feel thin and trivial. Your tongue can’t be free to really savour the flavour if it’s too busy chewing the fat.

But here I am adding to the prattle. Come in and eat. (I promise I won’t ruin it by talking.)

I like what Alice likes

“an ideal reality … where eating together nourished the spirit as well as the body since the food was raised, harvested, hunted, fished and gathered by people sustaining and sustained by each other and by the earth itself.” Alice Waters

Alice Waters began her Californian restaurant Chez Panisse in 1971. Inspired by fresh French market fare, and coming out of a 1950s childhood of frozen, fast and convenience foods Alice wanted to prepare and share local and fresh to her friends and patrons.

She says, “I was just looking for taste and I found organic and I found local”.

I understand that search and discovery process. We live in a market town, in the food bowl of New Zealand. You don’t have to go far to find food fresh out of the ground, off the tree, on the vine. We’re lucky but we don’t always see that.

On a gap year Alice lived in France and what she ate there inspired the rest of her life with food.

She “lived at the bottom of a market street” and “took everything in by osmosis”. Her search for fresh real ingredients was on.

I feel that here. But let’s face it, it’s not much of a search. What’s in season is at road-side stalls, the Farmer’s Market, farm, garden and orchard gates. Quite literally in our own back yards. Fast food here is fast because it’s fresh and convenient because it’s right there, on your door step.

Alice says her food is inspired by “What’s in my garden, what’s at the market, what is beautiful, what has a kind of life in it.”

In my kitchens that’s the vibe too. It’s real value. And that’s not a money thing, it’s the value of food and quality. Alice talks about the environment she came out of to establish Chez Panisse, “The cook was not valued and the farmer was not valued. It was just sameness.” I get that. When you eat from my kitchens you eat value, and you can taste it. Soil that is valued, growers who are valued, environment and animals and plants that are valued.

Fresh and pure ingredients and a market that is good, clean and fair to everyone involved.

And customers who are valued too. My kitchens are an extension of my home and I welcome people with the same warmth, generosity and attention to detail.

I am inspired so much by what’s around me, it’s the reason I live in Hawke’s Bay, and I hope the inspiration is passed on to the diner through the food.

Alice calls it “Environmental harmony and delicious flavour”. Harmony and flavour – what more could you ask for.

See more Alice here

Hear more Alice here

Here comes the Sun

Our FAWC 2014 offering at Smiths this November heralded the coming summer and everything we love to taste through those hot Hawke’s Bay months.

Sharing good food with friends and family is a common refrain but still has truth and honesty to it. That really is how we spend our summer time.

Our FAWC menu began with picnic food, cranked up a notch. No flies here! Mussels grilled on the half shell with a bacon crumb – yum – pickled pork and piccalilli of summer vegetables. Kingfish ceviche with fennel confit. Local buttery olive oil. Kick and bite, fresh and smooth, rich where it needs to be, sharp to cut through.

New season zucchini flowers are a delight. A natural gift that needs no fussing. Baby carrots. Healthy dark leafy greens. Lamb of course.

To bring all this together seamlessly, honestly, effortlessly takes considerable toil. We share our ideas with our local suppliers then go back and forth on exact requirements and ingredients. It’s an ongoing conversation considering each element and how it works for the greater good. There’s a nervous watch on the weather, one mistimed frost or douse of rain can force us to change direction. If there is a menu change it’s always for the best because no one wants half-pie produce on the plate: the cooks, the growers, least of all the diners.

So FAWC is done now for 2014 and we can get down to the delights of feeding people through the best Hawke’s Bay has to offer. From roudy family get togethers at Opera Kitchen and cosy catch ups with nearest and dearest at Smiths, to healthy food for everyday at Albion Canteen (our play on quick and easy): bring on summer with all its fruit, salads and seafood, outside cooking and fresh warm air.

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