As the end of year comes rolling along, so does Taste of Auckland. Unlike the past 3 years, I felt the sun firm on my neck and we could finally leave the brolly and boots in the trunk. Clear blue skies that settled into a marshmallow sunset, I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend for this outdoors festival. I always look forward to this event purely for the idea of a walking degustation at some of Auckland’s most well-known restaurants without having to commit to a full dine-in meal. Drink in hand and live music to accompany you, there’s no need to rush. Sharing is caring, so always go with friends who love to try different things!
I loved the hāngi from two years ago and didn’t hesitate to try this year’s. The chimichurri and vegetables were light and refreshing – a perfect start to whet the appetite.
Tok Tok: Crispy quarter duck, orange, ginger, Vietnamese mint & spiced salt
Each restaurant has one icon dish. If you are one for food fomo and really like the sound (and smell!) of the icon dish, I would suggest you go for it. They often have limited quantities and can run out. This 1/2 Karitane crayfish was one of the icon dishes from Baduzzi. Seeing the crayfish being grilled and smoked, I couldn’t resist! Don’t expect to be full though, there wasn’t that much meat on the crayfish. This year I noticed the icon dishes were considerably more pricy across all the restaurants. The quantity wasn’t much more either, so choose wisely!
The eating trail can be nicely broken up with cooking demos. If time suits, I always enjoy going into the Electrolux Taste Theatre to catch at least one cooking demo. You can always pick up cooking tips and meet the chefs from your favourite restaurants. Dariush Lolaiy from Cazador was cooking up this beautiful duck dish. I loved how he talked about using all your senses when cooking – listening to the sizzle, looking at the change in colour, and of course smelling and tasting.
Another highlight is meeting the owners of some of my favourite brands while sampling their products. Sometimes there are festival specials and products that haven’t launched yet. I was rooted at the Chocolate Bar stand for an uncharacteristically long time, considering I don’t eat chocolate a lot. Chocolate Bar offers a monthly or once-off chocolate subscription where you are sent a box of different quality craft chocolate bars every month. The chocolate is never repeated and you receive chocolate from all over the world.
I adore chocolate packaging and I can still remember the black sesame chocolate I sampled. This would be a great to share around the team or office if there are like-minded chocolate lovers.
Duck Island has the best ice cream in New Zealand. Hands down. The fact that they are only in Hamilton makes it even more alluring. Strawberry condensed milk, cinnamon smoked Apple pie – they aren’t just fancy combinations, the team really makes it work.
There’s one sweet combo I can’t resist and it is hazelnut and chocolate. This dessert is exactly the reason why I like Ferrero Rocher. It has light crispy textures, and isn’t shy of hazelnut.
One thing I would highly recommend at Taste of Auckland is the Chefs’ Secrets classes. There are very limited spaces so I would head there straight away after you purchased your crowns (the currency at Taste). They are hands-on classes where you watch a famous chef cook their signature dish. There is an opportunity to taste it straight away and off you go to recreate it. Included in this, is a Famous Vodka cocktail on arrival, with a wine, and dessert from Miann to follow.
Sean Connolly was our very entertaining host and chef, creating his signature dish called Orgy of Mushrooms. I loved rolling out the ricotta gnocchi with my hands, being very gentle not to destroy it!
Another year, another Taste of Auckland. I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s festival and look forward to the surprises next year’s will bring.