Celebration gets even bigger

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 10:09 14/02/2013
Food & Wine Festival
Peter Drury/FAIRFAX NZ

Cheers: Winemaker Jacob Nooyen, left, and chef Carl Houben will be exhibiting at the Waikato Times Food & Wine Festival’s new Claudelands location.

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Festival kicks off in brand new location, Jenna Lynch reports.

Waikato people love their food and wine and there is no greater celebration of this than this weekend's Waikato Times Food & Wine Festival.

Growing from a relatively simple program to a culinary extravaganza, the festival attracts chefs, winemakers, purveyors, food lovers and critics from across Waikato and beyond, and this popularity has this year driven the move to a new venue.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Claudelands Green will be buzzing with activity as the festival kicks off in front of the historic Hamilton landmark The Grandstand.

But the new venue is not the biggest superstar to grace the festival. Celebrity chef Josh Emett will also be cooking live at the event, along with various amazing chefs from around the region.

Pumice head chef Carl Houben said it would be a great experience to cook alongside Mr Emett, who went to the same high school as him.

"He was always someone that I looked up to," he said. "It's nice to see Hamilton talent succeeding on the local stage."

Mr Houben said he was looking forward to showcasing the way to cook healthy, fine-dining meals in your own home.

The boys from Vilagrad Winery have been exhibiting at the Waikato Times Food & Wine Festival from the beginning, but winemaker Jacob Nooyen was confident this year will blow the rest out of the water.

"It's great for the Waikato. It showcases Waikato food and wine - the best of the best of it," he said.

"We're really excited about the new venue. There is more space and you can easily see where everything is," he said.

Mr Nooyen said true to form, Vilagrads would be offering tastings of the new 2012 range, along with the increasingly popular new release Sparkling Charminer.

An added bonus of the Vilagrad exhibition would be free smoked tasters of the 150 kilogram marlin that Mr Nooyen's brother Adam caught off the coast of Raglan this week.

Festival organiser Bernadette Kirkham said the move to the Claudelands Green in front of the historic grandstand added even more character to the cultural event.

"It's really neat to use this building," she said. "Here, we've got the ability to grow the event, and it's in a great proximity to town."

The extra space has allowed for corporate areas along with extra seating and shade for festival-goers.

Souvenir wine glasses will be for sale at the event, with $1 from every glass sold being donated to the Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust.

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