Kiwi flavours leave US foodies 'gobsmacked'

ROB O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2011
gobsmacked

ATTENTION TO DETAIL: Executive chef Ben Batterbury's exclusive menu wowed critics.

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LUXURY QUEENSTOWN hotelier The Rees and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise have showcased the country's fine wine and cuisine at US culinary institution The James Beard Foundation, described by Time magazine as the "Oscars of the food world".

The event, dubbed "Flavors of New Zealand", was hosted by New Zealand's consul general in New York, and included a themed luncheon followed by an evening banquet featuring handpicked ingredients from 14 producers, matched with wine varieties from eight vineyards represented by Complexity Fine Wine Group.

The exclusive menu, created by executive chef Ben Batterbury of The Rees Hotel, has piqued the interest of some of New York's leading media palates. It even led to an appearance on foodie website Eat TV, where Batterbury rolled out his take on a Kiwi standard: strawberry pavlova with saffron custard and lemon verbena ice cream.

While the reviews have yet to arrive, Rees Hotel CEO Mark Rose said 50 prominent media attended a lunch session and a further 10 the dinner session, along with James Beard Foundation members. He said media included an editor of Conde Nast's Traveller magazine.

Interviews were given for Huffington Post and the feedback from both the media and members was that they were "gobsmacked" about the food and drink offered, Rose said.

"It is an honour to be at the James Beard Foundation with its culinary heritage and pedigree. Given the calibre of media and special guests attending, it shows the tremendous interest generated in the United States around niche products from New Zealand's food and beverage industries," said Batterbury.

New Zealand food and beverage exports to the US are valued at around $US1.8 billion annually.

Rose, himself a professionally trained chef, said New Zealand's pure environment, clean waters, sustainable practices and innovative people combine to make New Zealand one of the supreme food and beverage providers of the world.

Spurred by a visit to the institute a year ago, Rose won support from masters of ceremonies and Cervena international ambassador Graham Brown and wine sommelier Jesse Webster, director at Public Restaurant, which boasts the most comprehensive Antipodean wine selections in the United States.

James Beard was dubbed the dean of American cookery by the New York Times and Time magazine named him one of the Top Ten chefs. After his death at 81 in 1985, author, chef and TV personality Julia Child suggested Beard's townhouse in Greenwich Village be purchased and a foundation formed in his honor. The James Beard Foundation now issues annual awards to recognise excellence in culinary pursuits.

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