Hard News by Russell Brown


Food Show 08

There was no competition for the most unusual new product at The Food Show this year: it's the paua pickle. It had never occurred to me that such a condiment might exist, but the products launched by Taranaki-based Toku Foods are apparently based on Katu family recipes that date back to the arrival of spices and vinegar with the European settlers of the early 1800s.

It was nice to be able to try some without having any idea what it would taste like before I put it in my mouth ("Everyone's been saying that," observed the Katu family member on the stand). I preferred the spicier sauce over the chutney: it was tangy and savoury, but not at all fishy. I hope it goes well for them.

I also liked the Gringo Killer Extra Hot Smoked Chilli Sauce. It's part of a large range of products created in West Auckland by Margaret Dagger, who organically grows (and in the case of the smoky sauce, smokes) her own chillis. I like her attitude. When the Back of the Y guys tasted that sauce during their bFM show last week, they praised its flavour, but observed that it was not as hot as all that. So she sent them her Big Cojones sauce, and brought in a radio to listen to the show while she kept her stand yesterday. Apparently, the Big Cojones sauce was hot enough.

One of the more useful things about the Food Show is that it provides an opportunity to check out convenience foods in search of handy meals that don't suck -- and, where appropriate, buy some at show prices. I tried the new lamb jus from Essential Cuisine (not yet in the shops, although their beef jus is): it was thick, sweet and savoury. I would totally use that to make my cooking appear more sophisticated than it really is.

I also like the Taste of India dhals, but it hadn't occurred to me that they could be used as sauces for meaty curries. The kidney bean dhal with mince was delicious.

I was actually there tagging along and scouting for Simon Pound and our cameraman Warren, who were making a report on foodie media to screen at some point on Media7. I found Paul Holmes, happily spruiking his olive oil and wearing large dark glasses inside. He gave Simon some old chat and cut me a sizeable discount on a couple of bottles of his frankly excellent oil. I won't hear a word against the man.

Daily product not stocked at my supermarket but for which I might actually have to go out of my way: the Yarrows breads. There's a story there too.

Non-daily product that I might have to start buying: the Tokyo Food company Gomawakame (seaweed salad), which comes in handy frozen packs. Shame they weren't selling anything at the show.

I also had a chat to the Freedom Farms people, who supply my local butcher with free-range pork. I like the fact that they've made non-factory pork products widely available at reasonable prices. I'm a meat-eater, but I draw the line at factory pork. Quite apart from the practices involved, the product sucks. The last non free-range pork roast I cooked left, literally, a bad taste in my mouth. Not so, tonight, however: I picked up a piece of epaulete de porc from the Freedom stand (eight bucks!) and I plan to braise the buggery out of it.

In order to make the magic of television, Simon and I were also obliged to stand up and sample some of the many wines on display at the show. I was quite taken with the Siebel Noble Semillion, which was a steal at $17 on the show floor. I also got a Tohu riesling and a bottle of the Clearview Estate unwooded chardonnay, which I don't seem to be able to find locally. The Clearview Reserve chardonnay is one of my favourite wines of all, and simple courtesy dictated that Simon and I should stick around and enjoy a good tasting portion of that. Of course.

Oh, and I kissed Alyson Gofton. Only on the cheek, mind.


On a related tip, will the shoe drop here too, after Starbucks' decision to close 61 of 84 stores in Australia? I was quite surprised to discover that we have more than 40 Starbucks outlets here. As the Financial Times put it:

The chain has been the victim of an ill-fated push in Australia, a market it only entered in 2000.

Starbucks was snubbed by many Australians, who have grown up on a diet of quality European-style coffee introduced in the last century to Australia by immigrants, especially from Italy.

It's interesting to see how differently Starbucks' present global difficulties can be viewed. US author Bryant Simon contends that Starbucks "sold not coffee but elevated status", and that had been a key to its consumer appeal.

Not here it wasn't: Starbucks has never been cool in New Zealand, except perhaps to kids who should really still have been drinking milkshakes. It might play its role in more meagre coffee markets, but here it's strictly for dorks and tourists. Its competition isn't Mojo, it's McDonald's.

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