If it wasn’t for the love of food, I wouldn’t have the excuse to wave goodbye to Auckland for 3 days/
Us Aucklanders have always had this haughty view of miserable + wet Welly but the annual NZ Food Bloggers Conference gave me a reason to put these prejudices aside. Conveniently, Welly on a Plate was happening at the same time- which over the past 5 years has built itself quite a reputation! While August is apparently the down month for restaurants, you certainly can’t feel it with the buzz all around.
Come Day 1 of the NZFBA conference. Hello New Zealand Chocolate Festival!
Chocolate was the recurring theme of the 2 days and we started both with a healthy dose of chocolate. Which has now left me classically conditioned with an irresistible urge to reach for chocolate whenever I hear *ding*. I’m sure fellow NZFBA conference goers will have no trouble relating 😉
As you can imagine at the Chocolate Festival, you will find all things chocolatey from gushing chocolate fountains, hot chocolate to cute cupcake earrings!
But before we had anything to taste, we were seated and tantalised by Juan Balsani’s chocolate tapas demo – Nayarit chocolate balloon. Famous at Kermadec Fine for his amazing desserts, I’ve always by intrigued by how Juan made his balloon desserts (click for review). There’s nothing like seeing liquid nitrogen and balloons in action. Kids don’t try this at home.
We must have seemed like a crazy anti-social group with cameras snapping away while tweeting on our phones. #fortheloveoffood was the official tag and by the second day we were second trending in NZ..not bad considering how little time we had in between tastings and masterclasses! Woes of a food blogger indeed 😉
Check out this album for the rest of the NZ Chocolate Festival photos and Juan’s finished masterpiece!
Buzzing and giddy with words flowing 100 miles ph after the sugary breakfast, we were shuttled back to the world famous Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy- our host for the rest of our time. What an honor to try out all the facilities before the school had even officially opened.
We were treated to talks from Jared Gulian from Moon Over Marlborough and Alison Brook from Harpercollins NZ who gave us valuable tips on writing and getting published. It was particularly fascinating to hear from Jared whose blog had him launching his own brand of olive oil – appropriately named after his blog Moon over Martinborough. Never underestimate the power of your blog!
Grumbling stomachs and shuffling bodies soon indicated time for lunch!
The catch? 10 restaurants were participating and we were sent in groups for 4 from names picked out of a hat. Talk about amping up the excitement!
Coco at the Roxy is a stunning venue oozing with personality. With two theatres, the whole place is set up with the glitz and glamour of the 1930s. Imagine elaborate paintings, lush red curtains and beautiful soft leather seats. All guarded by gilded statues recreated by Weta Workshop. I’ll stop gushing, you can see more photos in this album here.
For lunch – Silence of the lamb burger (appropriately named after the thriller) with a glass of Garage Project Beer or Julicher Chardonnay.
Now I’ve had some amazing burgers in my life but having flown down to Welly for the occasion, I caught myself a little disappointed to see burger on the menu. Boy was I proved wrong- very wrong. There are actually many ways you can go wrong with a premium priced gourmet burger, but Coco has completely nailed it with the lamb and haloumi combo oozing with Mediterranean goodness.
Between exclamations of “ohh I’m so full” followed by more giant mouthfuls – it was one satisfying lunch. We were entertained by the wonderful Valentina who took us through to see the whole place including the projector room of the cinema. Thank you for such a wonderful experience!
Next up, back to Le Cordon Bleu to brush up on our writing and social media skills with talks by Lucy Corry, and Sarah Miekle from GM Marketing.
The afternoon breakout sessions were broken up into 4 slots with a choice of 2. I opted for Food Photography taught by Viviane Perenyi then a mini masterclass by Alessandra Zecchini who taught us how to make beautiful fondant sugar flowers on cakes.
Class effort! Not bad considering some of us are complete newbies. I found the easiest way is to overlap three circles of fondant – then roll them together so they form the inside of the rose. After that it’s just a matter of adding petals and gentle reshaping.
The conference dinner info was hush hush until the very last minute on the shuttle there. Driving into Island Bay, the secret location was Floyd’s Cafe with Ben Barton from Pop Up Dining as our chef for the night.
Justin McKenzie from Liquid Winks did a mini masterclass with us and made us all delicious pre-dinner cocktails.
Course after course! It was great to have shared platters which worked well with the social pop dining experience. Also I didn’t feel obligated to clean up everything on the plate! It was one full-on eating day 😀
Bellies warm full of food- that wraps up Day 1! Everything flowed so seamlessly thinks to the superb organisational skills of Allison from Gourmet Gannet and Shirleen from Sugar and Spice. Cannot thank these 2 enough for organising the conference for all of us!
Day 2 will brings us more chocolate and even more hands on fun!