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Christmas Wine & Food – Nelson Mail 22.12.15

I can’t believe Christmas is only a couple of days away; I know we say the same thing each year but it seems like only last week we were celebrating Christmas 2014.

Over the last year I have been writing about some of the people creating outstanding food and drinks in the region and have met so many inspiring people who have taken an idea or brought their skills to Nelson and established some fantastic business.

From bread and cheese makers to brewers, vintners and everything in between Nelson has some simply outstanding producers and their passion for what they do deserves your support. This Christmas we will be making a concerted effort to use as many locally produced products as we can and as I look back over the year it will be hard to choose just a few producers so here are some I have written about who will be able to add something special to your Christmas.

Ullrich Heck from Heck’s Butchery and German Smallgoods has a range of beautiful meats, including delicious hams; we like to bake our ham each year and have it both hot and cold, while buying a ham may put a dent in the budget a good ham will make many meals and feed a lot of people so is actually really good value.

Of course we will need some bread and for that we are spoiled for choice; the Swedish Bakery in Bridge St produces some wonderful Swedish speciality breads, biscuits and other treats for Christmas while L’Artisan Bakery in Montgomery Arcade and Don Rodrigo both produce exceptional sour dough breads. If you want a tasty treat pop in to The Baker’s Coffee Shop on Collingwood Street where they make the most delicious pastries you will find anywhere; very hard to say no to and a real treat.

Cheesemakers in the region use fresh, locally produced milk to make exceptional cheeses, both soft fresh cheeses and aged harder cheeses. The fresh mozzarella from Milk Drop is perfect for ripping up and tossing through a fresh salad or melting on a pizza. I haven’t written about Wangapeka Cheeses yet but we love their soft cheeses, the brie in particular and you can guarantee there will be some of that on a cheese board at our place sometime over the holidays.

To make all of these products come alive you will need some flavoursome condiments and whether you like rich and tasty or fiery hot sauces and chutneys there are an incredible range made in this region, products like Hellish Relish and Smoked Barrel House Mustard from Nelson Naturally to the sweet and fruit chilli jam from the West Indies Spice Traders are among the best artisan products you will find anywhere and are worth putting in your shopping trolley or picking up at the market.

I may not have written about Pic yet but his peanut butter is now the biggest selling peanut butter in New Zealand and every Kiwi knows you need peanut butter on your toast, that is if you aren’t using one of Moutere Gold’s handcrafted jams of course.

When it comes to beverages we are absolutely spoiled rotten in the Nelson region. Some of New Zealand’s finest wines are made her as evidenced by three trophies being awarded to Nelson Wines at this year’s Air New Zealand Wine Awards. These awards were just the icing on the cake for a fantastic year of awards coming the way of many Nelson wineries from all around the world.

It is hard to pick a favourite wine producer in the region because they all have something special to offer so we will be enjoying a range of wines over the holidays this year, from the pure-fruited aromatic wines from Blackenbrook Vineyards to the inimitable Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay, the powerful Brightwater Vineyards Pinot Noir, the bright fresh aromatic wines from Waimea Estates and the seductively delicious Sweet Agnes Dessert wine from Seifried Estate, we will be sampling them all at some stage.

Wellington may call itself the craft beer capital of New Zealand but they can only lay claim to that title because they are the capital city, Nelson has many times more craft breweries than Wellington does and they all make damn fine beers. One of my favourite characters in this particular industry is Dick Tout who produces fresh beers without preservatives so they need to be kept refrigerated and if you visit his tiny Lighthouse brewery in Echodale place you will come away with a new joke, a smile on your face as well as a few beers.

In recent months I have spent quite a bit of time travelling around the lower North Island and I can tell you without any hesitation that when it comes to dining out this summer Nelson has some of the very best dining options you will find anywhere in New Zealand. If you want something quick, cheap and cheerful then the pizzas at Kahurangi Estate and Stefano’s are unbeatable.

If you are looking for a touch of spice in your food then go to Nicola’s Mexican Cantina where you can add as much hot sauce as you like to their authentic Mexican street food. For stunning bar food there is only really one place to head to, Urban Eatery and Oyster Bar on Hardy St. Matt Bouterey is a Michelin star trained chef and brings his exceptional cooking skills to the bar scene.

Hopgood’s Restaurant and Bar was recently named one of New Zealand’s top five restaurants, I don’t need to say anything else other than go there and be treated to beautiful food and choose from a modest but exceptional wine and beer list.

However you are celebrating Christmas and the holiday season this year make sure Nelson products feature on your dining table, around the barbecue or on a blanket at the beach but most importantly leave the drinking to someone who isn’t driving. I wish you a very safe and happy Christmas and holiday season.

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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