On our second-last morning in Hawke’s Bay, Louise from Tourism New Zealand and I drove around the region to meet a number of food producers, with the lovely Sass, a Hawke’s Bay local, as our guide and navigator.
First, to Country Culinaire in Hastings where we met Trish Gibson, ex-commercial caterer, farmer’s wife and grandmother who began selling products made in her farm kitchen at the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market. Within a couple of years, she set up the Country Culinaire commercial kitchen to keep up with demand. The business has grown steadily and Country Culinaire frozen desserts can now be found in supermarkets across New Zealand, as well as selected outlets in Australia (though not yet in Western Australia, damn it!). Country Culinaire products are made from traditional recipes and contain no added colours, preservatives or emulsifiers.
Their award-winning pavlova roulades come in seven flavours: raspberry, chocolate mousse, hazelnut with locally roasted Hawthorne coffee, lemon and lime, blueberry with a hint of lavender, feijoa, and passionfruit, which we eagerly sampled. These frozen desserts are easy to prepare – you simply remove from the freezer, place on a serving plate and leave to thaw in the fridge. The roulade can be kept in the fridge for several days, though it’s unlikely it will last that long once you’ve tasted it! It’s a convenient party dessert that serves 10 to 12 people, the Viennetta’s country cousin.
Trish’s sticky date pudding is easy to prepare too, zapped in the microwave. Sticky date pudding can be quite stodgy, but I was surprised how light this pudding was – and seriously, if I didn’t know it had come out of a box, I’d never have picked it for a frozen pudding. The chocolate log was just as enjoyable.
We also tried some of Trish’s gourmet ice cream. There are 9 flavours which come in 650mL tubes – you simply remove the plastic end caps, unroll the tube and slice the ice cream into rounds with a hot knife. The ice cream can be rolled back up, caps replaced and put back into the freezer for another time. There’s the ‘ordinary’ chocolate and vanilla, along with more interesting flavours: liquorice and blackcurrant, passionfruit supreme, chocolate and chilli, tropical fruit salad, lemon de luxe, orange and Cointreau, and Calypso, with rum, spices and pineapple.
Country Culinaire also supplies ice cream and sorbet for restaurants, making flavours to order, including savoury and more unusual combinations requested by chefs – Trish told us about a couple of recent creations, avocado and Baccardi, and (my eyes lit up) bacon!
Orcona Chillis ‘N Peppers
I’d met Orcona co-owner Anne Prescott earlier in my trip at the Farmers’ Market in Hastings, where we spoke only briefly as it was so busy. Orcona Chillis ‘N Peppers was established in 2000, initially selling 12 varieties of fresh chillies to local restaurants, in local shops and at the Farmers’ Market in Hastings. Anne and partner Kevin Baker have since expanded the business to produce a range of chilli-based relishes, sauces, pastes, infused oils and dried chilli products, including their very special sweet smoked paprika flakes. The relishes and sauces are all made onsite in Orcona’s commercial kitchen with no added preservatives, bulking agents, artificial colours or flavours – they are gluten-free and 100% pure chilli-based with no added tomato. The chilli plants are grown in temperature-controlled greenhouses which have been constructed out of recycled metal from World War Two aircraft.
Orcona’s chilli sauces can be used for dipping or cooking and range from mild (Shark Bite, a sweet lemon sauce with just a touch of chilli) all the way through to blow your pants off (the cheekily-named Rings Around Uranus yellow habanero sauce). I’ve written before about what a chilli wuss I am compared to the chilli heroes I know, so I worked my way through the chilli sauces at the tasting table but deliberately stopped right before the three hottest sauces – Snake Venom (hot jalapeno sauce), Fire in the Hole (red habanero sauce) and Rings Around Uranus.
Orcona’s online shop only ships within New Zealand, but they’ll ship their products overseas by arrangement – though Anne agreed that international shipping costs can be prohibitive due to the weight of the bottles. It was a similar issue when Jac and I visited Waiheke Island in April – many of the wines we tasted at boutique wineries are not generally available in Australia, and we could only carry so many bottles home in our luggage. Shipping bottles proves an expensive exercise.
I carried two bottles of Orcona chilli sauce home to Perth: the wussy but delicious Mint n Chilli, specially selected for Jac, and the fiery Rings Around Uranus for my sister Juji and her hubby Jay.
Orcona Chillis ‘N Peppers
Napier, Hawke’s Bay
Telephone: +64 6 873 5083
Find them at the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market in Hastings every Sunday (fresh chillis available, as well as the sauces, relishes and other chilli products), selected retailers and via their online shop.
The Damson Collection
My first encounter with damson plums was as a child reading the Famous Five book, Five Fall into Adventure, where Dick challenged ragamuffin Jo to a damson stone-spitting competition (whoever spat their damson stones the farthest would win). Dick lost the contest and had to buy Jo an ice cream. I had never tasted damson plums until this trip to Hawke’s Bay, when we visited Margie and Tom Chambers at their home and orchard – it was my secretly thrilling Famous Five moment. No, there was no damson stone-spitting!
It all began when Englishman and orchardist Tom introduced Margie to damson plums and shared his family’s traditional damson recipes including jams and liqueur, sparking off an idea for a business involving damsons. After much research and planning, they launched The Damson Collection in 2009 with their friend and business partner Catherine.
While Tom looks after the growing of the plums, Margie’s in charge of the damson products and recipes. We sat down to morning tea with Margie’s freshly baked scones with lashings of cream and shiny damson jam. You can get the scone recipe and many more recipes using The Damson Collection’s products at their website.
We tasted the damson terrine, which is moist and rich, slow-cooked with damsons, walnuts, honey and a touch of lemon juice. It can be served as part of an antipasto platter, on a cheeseboard or with coffee, sliced like a piece of cake. The terrine was superb, but the handmade damson dark chocolates were sensational. When you bite into one of these beauties (it’s best if you pop the whole chocolate into your mouth), the chocolate shell cracks open to fill your mouth with a burst of sweet damson liqueur. It’s at this precise moment of surprise and pleasure that most people make a very distinct “chocolate face” – I know I did!
The Damson Collection also includes damson paste, jelly and coulis, and a damson vinaigrette that comes in a nifty fine spray bottle – you simply spray it over your salad before eating. I bought a jar of damson jam at the Farmers’ Market in Hastings. It didn’t take long for Jac and me to get through it all – I need to get some more. I was pretty stoked that all my Hawke’s Bay goodies – chocolates, damson jam, chilli sauce – made it home safely without breakage. I always worry just a little when carrying breakables home.
On Yer Bike Tours
That afternoon after lunch at Black Barn Vineyards Bistro (blog post to come), Louise and I met joined Vicky from Hawke’s Bay Tourism on another bicycle ride – this time, a taste of On Yer Bike Tours’ winery tours. Once again, I switched cameras, leaving my DSLR behind to carry my much smaller and lighter Panasonic G2.
The full winery tour route is a 20km circuit that takes in 9 wineries on weekends or 7 on weekdays. There are shorter routes available if you prefer to visit fewer wineries – it’s up to you. The Wineries Cycle Track is off-road, flat and takes you past vineyards, orchards and farmland – there’s just one 400m section where you’ll be on the road. On Yer Bike’s bicycle hire includes helmet and map, roadside assistance and a pickup service for any wine purchases you make.
We started with wine tasting at the Cellar Store of Sileni Estates, which also includes a gourmet food and gift shop. We browsed the shelves of local and imported food products and kitchen gadgets. There are New Zealand handmade chocolate truffles from Bennetts of Mangawhai and Van Heiningen (“VanH”), and a cheese larder stocked with New Zealand and international cheeses. We then got back on our bikes and made our way along the very scenic trail to the cellar door at Trinity Hill for another round of wine tasting. The last stop in our mini wineries ride was Ash Ridge Wines where we dropped the bikes off and tried another wine or two.
Riding a bike really is a wonderful way to experience Hawke’s Bay, though I had to pace myself so I was still fit to cycle and hold my camera straight after multiple tastings. Of course, roadside assistance will pick you up if you get too wobbly and need to call it a day.
2016 Maraekakaho Road
Hastings, Hawke’s Bay
Telephone: +64 6 879 8768
2396 State Highway 50
RD 5, Hastings, Hawke’s Bay
Telephone: +64 6 879 7778
F.A.W.C! Summer Series 2013
The Food and Wine Classic, referred to as F.A.W.C! (pronounced ‘fawk’, rhymes with hawk), will see over 50 food and wine experiences held over 10 days in Hawke’s Bay. It kicks off with a launch party at Craggy Range Winery on 1 November and finishes with the Carnivore Carnival at the Hawke’s Bay Races on 10 November.
Find out more about F.A.W.C! – tickets on sale now.
If you like the look of cycling in Hawke’s Bay, there’s The Wineries Ride at F.A.W.C.! – hire or BYO bike and follow an easy off-road route that will take you past 11 cellar doors, finishing at Trinity Hill for a wrap party with food and live music. Bikes can be hired from 6 local companies including On Yer Bike and Takaro Trails.
My Hawke’s Bay trip
I travelled to Hawke’s Bay as a guest of Tourism New Zealand.
Getting to Hawke’s Bay
I flew with Air New Zealand from Perth to Auckland, then flew via Mount Cook Airlines from Auckland to Napier in the Hawke’s Bay region. Mount Cook Airlines is one of three regional airlines that are part of Air New Zealand Link, connecting New Zealand’s regional centres and main international airports.
My Hawke’s Bay blog series
The posts so far:
- Welcome to Napier
- Pacifica Restaurant, Napier
- Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market, Hastings
- Te Mata Peak, Craggy Range and Terrôir Restaurant, Havelock North
- The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Part 1
- Elephant Hill, Te Awanga
- The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Part 2 – including the Kiwi Discovery Walk
- Cycling with Takaro Trails
- The Manse
- Country Culinaire, Orcona Chillis, The Damson Collection and On Yer Bike Tours – this post
We’re almost at the end of the series!