Artisanal products tell a premium New Zealand food story

By Cuisine7 Minutes
December 14, 2018By Cuisine

Congratulations to the winners of the Cuisine Artisan Awards 2018, which were announced at a gala event at Sky City.


Marinated Fresh Buffalo Cheese with Roast Garlic and Thyme by Clevedon Buffalo Co

Runners up

Poaka Finocchiona Fermented & Dry Cured Salami from Poaka New Zealand

Yuzu Cold-Pressed Olive Oil from Lot Eight

It’s the tenth year of these prestigious awards and this year we joined forces with the New Zealand Food Awards to celebrate the makers of New Zealand’s best artisan food. Cuisine is proud to champion all those who work so hard to craft these exciting products. Cuisine magazine editor and co-director Kelli Brett says the artisan awards category is important for many reasons. “We believe our New Zealand artisan producers and their products contribute significantly to the telling of the New Zealand food story and the evolution of our food culture. All the products that made our finalists’ list demonstrated an exceptionally high standard, showing dedication to producing innovative products from top quality produce and continuing to bring the story of boutique New Zealand food to a wider audience.”

Clevedon Buffalo Co

After raising and milking buffaloes for more than 10 years, Helen and Richard Dorresteyn know a thing or two about these massive beasts and their pure white milk. “It’s so beautiful that it’s a waste to use it to make a cheese that could be made from any old milk,” says Helen. “You don’t want to chuck in too much flavour or you’ll mask the lovely taste of the milk.” It took six months of trial and error before they were happy with the marinated fresh buffalo cheese, trying to get the right texture, refining the levels of garlic and thyme (some of which comes from Helen’s own garden) until they got to the point of, “Wow, this is really cool!”

Our judges were certainly impressed. Fiona Smith, head judge of the Cuisine Artisan Awards said, “It’s a total delight to the senses, with an ethereal, cloud-like texture, luxurious creamy mouthfeel and delicate flavour that is enhanced, not overwhelmed, by the addition of thyme and garlic.”

Poaka New Zealand

Josh Hill started from scratch and developed a herd of heritage-breed pigs so that he could control his own free-range farming supply chain and ensure the very best pork. Today Josh raises Tamworth, Berkshire and Wessex Saddleback pigs on 40 hectares in Aylesbury near Christchurch, including a 10-hectare orchard of sweet Spanish chestnuts. From these pigs he produces Poaka handcrafted bacon, sausages and salami. “Tamworths are capable of looking after themselves and they can’t be beaten when it comes to foraging,” says Josh. This makes them ideal for finishing in the chestnut orchard during the autumn cycle, where they snuffle through the fallen nuts, deftly nipping off the green spiky outer shell and gorging on the sweet nut flesh. Josh says that the grass, herbs, and particularly the chestnuts result in a fat that creates the perfect texture for melt-in-your-mouth salumi.

Cuisine Artisan Awards head judge Fiona Smith says, “Poaka hand-crafted finocchiona salami is so reminiscent of the really premium salamis of Italy, you feel transported. The salami is traditionally fermented and matured, has the perfect fat-to-meat ratio and is delicately flavoured with fennel seeds.”

Lot Eight

Four years ago, Nalini Baruch, co-owner of Lot Eight with her husband Colin, was lunching at Auckland restaurant, Cocoro, when it was suggested that they could develop a yuzu-flavoured oil for chef Makoto Tokuyama. So, working purely on sensory analysis, Nalini began to experiment, searching for the way to capture that flawless real flavour of yuzu. “I taste, I smell, I play around with quantities until I get the flavour balance I like. But it is like Russian roulette: will the resultant oil yield the flavours that I want, what will happen to that natural flavour as it goes through each stage of processing?” she says. It’s Nalini’s understanding of how an ingredient will perform when pressed with fresh olives from their Martinborough property that is critical in developing new flavours and new combinations. Since the first pressing of 100 litres they have doubled production each year, making oil for chefs as well as for the local retail market. Next year they hope to export the oil to Japan.

Fiona Smith, head judge of the Cuisine Artisan Awards said, “Lot Eight Yuzu Cold-Pressed Olive Oil combines the top-quality  olive oil with a unique citrus taste of yuzu. It’s a highly fragrant combination that works extremely well together and offers home cooks a chance to capture the magic of high-end chefs.”

Congratulations to our top 3 artisan products and their producers. Keep an eye out for our stories on our top 20 finalists in future issues of Cuisine magazine.