By Cuisine9 Minutes
February 25, 2019By Cuisine

You never really need an excuse to visit glorious Marlborough, but for four days in May the region gears up for the Feast Marlborough festival, celebrating all that is fresh, local and good. The diversity of the landscape – ranging from the spectacular Sounds to high mountains and the crashing Pacific coastline – is reflected in the produce that flourishes there and the devoted people behind the top-notch food and wine.
Don’t be fooled by the bucolic surroundings though. Behind the farmers’ markets, cellar doors and gourmet festivals are growers, harvesters and artisans who work very, very hard to realise their ambitions of creating the absolute best. We look ahead to this year’s event by visiting some of the region’s makers.


Smoky, sweet and slightly chewy, black garlic has a milder, more delicate flavour than regular garlic and a taste reminiscent of balsamic vinegar, molasses or even liquorice. The long, slow fermentation process that produces black garlic (for the scientists among you, it reduces sugars and involves a chemical interaction between amino acids) turns the cloves a startling jet-black colour and creates twice the amount of antioxidants, too, making it popular in Korea and Japan for its supposed curative properties. As well as the noir nuggets, the Murphy family grow premium garlic and shallots in the Wairau Valley. Black garlic dishes will be on offer at the Friday Night Feast. / garlic.co.nz


How often have you heard, “Things don’t taste as good any more”? Fear not, Flaxbourne Pure promise you grass-fed lamb, the way it used to be. Lambs are raised on a coastal Marlborough farm where lots of sunshine, the briny coastal landscape and careful farming practices all combine to give the pasture-raised lamb unique flavour characteristics. Regulars at festivals around the region, a recent collaboration saw Kasey and Karena cooking up lamb tacos with salsa verde, and for Feast Marlborough you can sample this lovely lamb when Sid Sahrawat joins with Scotch Wine Bar for a Marlborough Underground event.


Working in the beautiful Mahakipawa Arm of Pelorus Sound, the Lamb family source goat’s milk from the 150 Saanen goats on a neighbouring farm, ensuring the very freshest ingredients go towards their award-winning cheese. Over the last few years their cheeses have popped onto our radar as our contributors and food editors have extolled their quality and flavour – Ainsley Thomas of Sherwood picked their white rind Pelorus Pearl to serve with wild thyme oatcakes in our last issue, and Ginny Grant described The Reginald as ‘dreamily gooey’ when it featured in Jason Brown’s winning dish in last year’s Rare Fare competition. / crankygoatltd.co.nz


Sandie Judge and Heather McAlpine of the Cultured Elephant brew up Banjo Brews, a range of craft-brewed kombucha. Not only do they use local ingredients where possible, but the kombucha is certified organic, too, and it’s not crammed full of artificial sugars, flavourings and concentrates. So, organic tea, organic real fruit, cultures and organic herbal ingredients go into flavours such as peach, chilli and turmeric, blueberry and elderflower and raspberry, lime and fig leaf, giving a low-sugar, refreshing fermented iced tea brimming with healthy probiotics to promote good gut health. / banjobrews.co.nz


Originating from Holland, the Blom family emigrated to New Zealand in 1996 where they settled in Southland and set about dairy farming. In 2015 the family fell in love with the Marlborough Sounds and made a permanent move to the top of the south where they were lured into the world of mussel farming. Farming, processing and distribution are all managed in house and 2018 saw the opening of the Mills Bay Store, a mussel-focussed café and shop located on the ground floor of their premises in Havelock Marina. Keep an eye out for their stall at the Friday Night Feast, where you can you can try their premium green-lipped mussels in many guises.


Wild hare, fallow deer and tahr don’t usually turn up at your local supermarket, but if it’s unusual game meat that you fancy then Darren, Sarah, Nick and Bekka Clifford of Premium Game have it covered, along with wild Arapawa sheep, wallaby, rabbit, goat, pork and venison. Small goods include innovative manuka-smoked venison bacon, wild game Russian kransky, venison pastrami, goat sausages and salami. Having roamed and grazed in the high country, the meat has unique, delicate flavours. Premium Game are collaborating with Arbour and Mark Southon for a Marlborough Underground dinner. / game-meats.co.nz


New kid on the block, Boom! Hot Sauce was launched just months ago, but is already making a name for itself among those who like a little heat. The creation of Irish-born Fran Nolan – who led the kitchen at Brancott Heritage Centre and more recently, the Vines Village Café, after working in kitchens in Ireland and Australia – these fermented chilli sauces, spice rubs, pickles and mustards will be shown at their best at Fran’s barbecue at the Friday Night Feast. If you miss out there you can catch Fran at Marlborough Farmers’ Market every Sunday morning at Blenheim’s A&P Showground.


Discover Marlborough in a four-day food extravaganza featuring the region’s most outstanding food and wine and the talented people and stories behind it all.

Feast Marlborough kicks off on Thursday 9 May, with the WK Gala Feast: a multisensory dining experience featuring outstanding Marlborough food and wine matched with music from talented New Zealand performers. The event is hosted by the brilliant Arbour team at Spy Valley Wines.

The celebration continues the following night at the Bayleys Friday Night Feast street party in central Blenheim, where visitors and locals can enjoy superb food, sterling entertainment and great company.

Dig up some of the hidden gems of Marlborough’s buzzing foodie scene with Marlborough Underground, a series of exclusive culinary experiences in unique locations, held on Saturday 11 May and Sunday 12 May. The 2019 programme will feature three of New Zealand’s top chefs, Sid Sahrawat, Ben Bayly and Mark Southon.

If you can’t wait for the main course, get a taste of what’s to come during April by seeking out restaurants participating in Rare Fare. This competition pits local eateries against each other to create a signature dish celebrating the essence of the region’s unique food. The Rare Fare winner will be decided by Cuisine magazine.