New Zealand switches sides for this year’s Food and Wine Festival. You’ll now find it waterside on the walk towards Canada.
The food items are the same as last year, though the Mussels and Venison are up a quarter each in price. The Frozen Wine Cocktail is new and Kim Crawford brings the Sauvignon Blanc this year instead of Mohua.
- Steamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter and Toasted Breadcrumbs – $4.25
- Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney – $5.25
- Seared Venison Loin with Wild Mushroom Marsala Sauce and Kumara Purée – $6.50
- Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc – $6
- Nobilo Icon Pinot Noir, Marlborough – $6
- Frozen Wine Cocktail featuring Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc – $6
Steamed Green Lip Mussels with Garlic Butter and Toasted Breadcrumbs – $4.25
The “green lip” in the title refers to the pretty turquoise edges of the mussels. Each arrives tasting largely of the garlic, butter, and breadcrumbs in the other half of the title. The mussels themselves taste sort of like mushrooms of the ocean working to soak up the other flavors while just giving off a hint of the sea that they came from. Very tender. It’s a good opportunity to try them and they’re easily shareable so long as you have three people interested.
Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney – $5.25
The Lamb Meatball is one of my five favorite returning items from last year’s Festival, so I took the opportunity to pick up this year’s version on my second day.
This is an incredibly flavorful dish that’s consistently executed – it’s also a surprisingly large portion of the mildly spicy meatball underneath the cool, chunky tomato chutney. The airy bread bowl underneath is soft and chewy and does an admirable job of soaking up all of the flavors from everything inside. It’s so good and as close to a must-try as you’re going to find at the Festival.
Seared Venison Loin with Wild Mushroom Marsala Sauce and Kumara Purée – $6.50
Apparently, I lied when I said that the food items were the same this year as the Venison now arrives with “Kumara Purée” rather than “Kumara Dumpling.”
Here’s last year’s.
And this year’s. “Kumara” refers to what we would call a “sweet potato. The purée ends up being silky smooth with a sweet flavor backed up by a lot of butter. The sauce has a rich dry marsala wine flavor with garlic and olive oil along with the meaty wild mushrooms that offer a nice chewy contrast to the denser meat. The venison itself is as tender as the filet in Canada and typically cooked to a nice medium, but it’s still not seasoned enough for my tastes and winds up a bit gamey. It’s still quite good and a little bit different than your the variety of beef dishes available elsewhere, but the portion is far from overwhelming.
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc – $6
Store Price: 51 cents/ounce
Festival Price: $3/ounce
Kim Crawford’s sauvnignon blanc is the least expensive of the varietals that the winery offers. It’s a lot less grassy than last year’s Mohua with a more tropical vibe, which is probably the way to go with the whole outdoor Festival atmosphere. It’s overpriced, but so is just about every other wine offered. Still, a ~500% upcharge is rough.
Nobilo Icon Pinot Noir, Marlborough – $6
Store Price: 86 cents/ounce
Festival Price: $3/ounce
The Nobilo is a better value proposition with a bit of spiciness up front before opening up to a fruity, earthy finish. Very good with the venison as the menu stipulates.
Frozen Wine Cocktail featuring Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc – $6
I enjoyed this much more than my smug personality would like to admit – it was incredibly refreshing in the summer heat. It somehow maintained the full flavor of the wine at an ice cold temperature and with the blended ice, made it “feel” like it was a much more substantial pour than the sad little cups that most Marketplaces offer. Consider setting your snobbery aside and enjoy.