The wineries involved in Forage North Canterbury for 2018 were: Bellbird Spring, Black Estate, Bone Line, Crater Rim, Greystone, Mount Brown, Pegasus Bay, Terrace Edge and Tongue in Groove. The chefs were: Alesha Bilbrough-Collins (BearLion), Alex Davies (Gatherings), Bob Fairs(Roots Restaurant), Hector Henderson (Gatherings), Simon Levy (Inati), Teresa Pert (Pegasus Bay), Jonny Schwass (Botanic Gardens/Ilex Cafe), James Stapley (Kika/Francesca’s Kitchen), Giulio Sturia (Roots Restaurant) and Dave Verheul (Town Mouse/Embla, Melbourne). They were assisted by Carlos Rodriquez (27 Steps).
For our group, our first foraging experience was to visit ‘Limestone Hills’ tuffiere, run by Gareth and Camille Renowden, who planted oaks and hazelnut tree thickets around 20 years ago, infecting them with truffle spores. At the time, much of what was understood about truffles was closer to legend and myth, but considerable scientific investigation has resulted in a much higher success rate for growing truffles and over a shorter period. Gareth talked about the concept of ‘truffle sex’ and described the four kinds of truffles they have: the Perigord black, bianchetto white truiffle, the Burgundy truffle and the winter black truffle. Their different seasons allow harvesting through around three-quarters of the year. They harvest approximately 15 kg of truffles each year, and are aiming for around 30 kg in time. Key to the truffling is beagle ‘Rosie’, with her keen sense of smell. In the period of about 10 minutes, she had detected nearly a dozen truffles, worth approximately $300.00 – $400.00 in value!
Here is the menu for the 2018 North Canterbury Forage Dinner held at Pegasus Bay restaurant. I list the dishes, the chefs responsible for each course, the wine served, and offer a quick note on my thoughts regarding the wine. In general terms, the food was more natural and even somewhat rustic, especially to those (me) who are used to food from more ‘refined’ ingredients and produce. However, the meal was very varied in flavours and textures, and showed creativity. All credit to the chefs who were under considerable pressure to impress their diners, and no doubt their colleagues. One conclusion by diners and chefs who had participated in previous forages was that the food was “lighter, probably reflecting the growing season of the region”. And importantly, the food represented its North Canterbury provenance. The wine matching was generally good as well, this being a little more subjective; there were no clashes at all.