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Local Food and Beverage Heroes

Published in the Nelson Mail 24.10.18

Over the years I have written about some the wonderful food and beverage producers Nelson is lucky enough to have living and working in this region.

When you stop and think about it there are many world-class products made here, everything from craft beers to fine wines and superb products. Nelson has always been recognised as a leading producer of apples, hops, berryfruit, and seafood products so it is great to see a booming artisan producer base increasing production to be suppliers of excellent products to the world.

The obvious stars are companies like Talley’s, Sealord, NZ King Salmon, Pic’s Peanut Butter and Proper Crisps along with wine businesses like Seifried Estate and Neudorf Vineyards, and let’s not forget Peckham’s Cider along with Stoke Beer that is building on the foundations laid by founder Terry McCashin all those years ago.

Carl Hogarth from Hogarth’s Craft Chocolate

Then there are the emerging stars like Hogarth’s Craft Chocolate that has just been awarded the Best Chocolate award at the New

Zealand Chocolate Awards, not bad for a little company from Nelson that wraps every block of deliciousness by hand.

Others in the emerging star category are businesses like Chia and Appleby Ice Cream to name just a couple in the list of stunningly good producers in this region.

Many restaurants and cafes  use these locally made products and showcase them to visitors from around the world often introduce people to beautiful Nelson food and beverages for the first time.

In the last couple of weeks some of these producers have been recognised for the outstanding contributions they make to the New Zealand wine and food scene, two with awards that recognise the quality of their businesses and others recognised for their contribution to the industry over many years.

Hopgood’s & Co and Urban Oyster Bar and Eatery were both awarded two Hats at this year’s Cuisine Good Food Awards; Hats in New Zealand are awarded on a similar basis as Michelin Stars in Europe, Asia and America so being awarded two Hats recognises the outstanding quality of both of these quite different businesses.

Head Chef Aaron Ballantyne and Chef Patron of Hopgood’s & CoRestaurant, Trafalgar Street, Nelson
Photo by MARTIN DE RUYTER - Fairfax Media
Urban Eatery chefs Chase Tangohau, left, Riki Day, Jay Clement and Tyler Anderson.

Urban is a very cool bar that serves excellent food that is appropriate for the venue, but these awards are about more than just the food, they recognise the quality of the whole experience at the venue. Everything from the welcome you receive when you walk in the door to the beverage selection as well as the quality of the food and service is assessed by the judges and if you have been to Urban you will understand why a bar can get two Hats.

The Cuisine awards said “The energy and interest exhibited by head chef Riki Day at Urban Eatery is a delight, his willingness to share his ideas with customers is evident as he presents each dish from the well-resolved fusion menu. Combine that with owner Matt Bouterey on the floor and you are in for a very special experience. The portion sizes are generous and the drinks complement the food and showcase local producers. More than anything, the attention to detail in each dish, the concern about the quality of the ingredients and the experimentation and innovation in the execution makes for exciting eating.”

If you haven’t been to Urban yet then shame on you, you are missing out on a great time out.

Hopgood’s & Co on the other hand manages to deliver stunning food in a casual atmosphere, an atmosphere where you feel comfortable if you walk in wearing jeans or a suit, and that is something very difficult to achieve. There aren’t many restaurants in New Zealand that serve food of the quality of Hopgood’s & Co that is also accessible to almost anyone.

The Head Chef at Hopgood’s & Co, Aaron Ballantyne, also recently won the title of New Zealand’s Best Chef at the Silver Fern Farm Awards with a venison dish and has been named as one of five Silver Fern Farms Ambassador Chefs, the two Hats just reinforces the outstanding quality of the dining experience at the restaurant.

As the judges noted “From the moment you walk through the door you know you’re onto a good thing. The inviting dining space smacks of a warm welcome and the wait staff know what they are about, delivering informative, professional service with a friendly, welcoming air, without over-reaching. With Chef Aaron Ballantyne at the helm, expect beautiful-looking, fabulously flavoured, fresh, typical bistro fare. He really knows how to make Nelson’s delicious local produce shine, so no wonder the dining space is buzzy and busy, just as a great bistro should be. This is definitely a wonderful Nelson institution not to be missed.”

Not a bad way to celebrate ten years of treating Nelsonians and visitors to consistently great food.

Tim & Judy Finn from Neudorf Vineyards named as Legends of New Zealand Wine by being awarded The Sir George Fistonich Medal in 2018

Then we come to a couple of local heroes, Tim & Judy Finn who have just been named as Legends of New Zealand Wine, the highest accolade within the New Zealand wine industry, by being awarded the Sir George Fistonich Medal, an award that recognises the people who have played important roles in making the New Zealand wine industry the success that it now is.

Wine NZ says “Each year the New Zealand International Wine Show honours the person that has been selected for his or her outstanding contribution to New Zealand wine. To acknowledge that person, a special award has been created and named in honour of a man who unquestionably has made one of the greatest contributions to the New Zealand Wine Industry. The award will be known each year as The Sir George Fistonich Medal.”

Tim and Judy Finn, the 14th recipient of this ultimate industry award since it was established in 2005, and deservedly so I say.

Over the last 40 years they have not just built a highly successful small business )yes even though it has a huge reputation Neudorf Vineyards is a small family owned business) they have contributed to the development of the Nelson and New Zealand wine industries.

The Finns have had a focus on excellence in everything they do, they have shared their knowledge and encouraged (some would say dragged kicking and screaming) others to join them on the pathway to excellence, they have been industry stalwarts giving thousands of hours to the betterment of the wine industry through local and national organisations and simply helping others.

Tim and Judy Finn, Kevin Hopgood and Arron Ballantyne along with Matt Bouterey are true Nelson food and beverage heroes and richly deserve the awards they have received recently.

I have been writing a regular wine column for The Nelson Mail newspaper since 2000.

Unfortunately the column space is not big enough to include my thoughts on all of the many wines I taste. Hopefully this blog will fix that. It also gives me somewhere to archive the many columns I write. I will also include some favourite recipes from my dearly beloved who loves cooking and of course because wine and food simply go together. I will also point you in the direction of upcoming events and websites I think are great. Enjoy, Neil

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