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Cuisine awards 2012 recognise uniquely Kiwi flavours

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

New Zealand artisan food producers are being inspired by a host of international flavours but it is a distinctly Kiwi product from a Christchurch-based artisan that has been crowned Supreme Winner in this year's Cuisine Artisan Awards, announced today (15 Feb).

The fourth annual Cuisine Artisan Awards, proudly supported by Caffe L'affare, attracted a huge number of entries from small artisan food producers from around the country, with the judging panel of top food experts selecting 12 winning products. The winners range from a traditional English pork pie from Rangiora and French-inspired sea-salt caramels from Wellington, to Dutch stroopwafels from Waihi, and to Spanish sausage and Italian panforte from Christchurch.

However, it was a truly Kiwi flavour that took the Supreme Award - a humble pohutukawa honey from Christchurch-based organic honey producers J Friend & Co (run by Jeremy Friend and his partner Sharyn Woodnorth).

It's third time lucky for the company - J Friend and Co Wild Thyme Honey was a Cuisine Artisan Award winner in 2010, while 2011 recognised the Beechwood Honeydew variety. This year, the floral, pale golden J Friend and Co Pohutukawa Honey is the very deserving Supreme Award winner.

The judging panel praised the honey's butterscotch flavour, offset by a hint of salt and its creamy, slighty chewy texture. "It's one of the more difficult honeys to work with, but when you get it right it's lovely," says Jeremy. "The texture really sings and you get those wonderful floral notes."

Jeremy and Sharyn have changed the face of New Zealand honey by adopting an approach similar to winemakers - drawing on the distinct characteristics of the flowers, the vintage and the region where the honey is produced. The winning pohutukawa was harvested in the Coromandel's Ongahi Bay during the summer of 2010, which was a particularly good flowering season.

Runner-Up was awarded to artisan Barry Wade from River Estate Olive Oil for his traditionally preserved table olives, grown and processed on his family farm in Whitford.

Ten years ago Barry started curing olives as a sideline to his successful oil business. Self-taught in olive curing techniques, he says a traditional method of natural fermentation where the olives are brined for up to a year (modern "fast" techniques shorten this process to anywhere between 10 days and six weeks), has yielded the best results. The artisan tasting panel were particularly interested In Barry's home-grown table olives as many olives in New Zealand delis and supermarkets are imported.

Barry hand-picks all the spray-free table olives himself and has been tinkering with different brining techniques. He says his aim was to keep the process as natural as possible. "I'm teaching myself as I go, but I'm really happy with the olives now," he says.

Cuisine editor Sarah Nicholson says the local artisan industry continues to evolve, producing a diverse selection of quality products.

"Twenty-five years ago when Cuisine magazine first went to print, buying locally-made authentic Spanish sausage was unheard of, let alone traditionally cured olives grown and produced on the outskirts of Auckland. Now, as is highlighted by this year's winners, we have hundreds of artisans throughout the country producing excellent products, and although many are infused with international tastes, all are inspired by our local produce and environment.

"Products of this standard demand talent as well as sheer hard work, and they are a testament to the dedication of these people. They are making an invaluable contribution to the New Zealand food scene," she says.

This year's awards have firmly cemented Canterbury's place as the artisan capital of New Zealand, with four of the 12 winners from Christchurch.

The other Canterbury winners are Mowbray Fine Foods Traditional Pork Pies, Mariano Vivas's Malaguena Spanish Sausage and Traditionally Tuscan's panforte di Siena, whose award-winning products were inspired by traditional family recipes from their native homelands.

Another international taste that won over the judges was the Dutch delicacy The Distel Stroopwafels, made in the heart of Waihi by artisan Jeanette Distelbrink. Stroopwafels are thin waffle biscuits sandwiched together with syrup. Jeanette moved from Holland to New Zealand 30 years ago and was working as a teacher in Hamilton when, in 2009, she decided it was time for a change. She moved to Waihi, built a certified kitchen and started baking. Jeanette bakes, hand-cuts and packages the stroopwafels herself, currently producing around 300 each week.

From the Auckland region, winners include Genevieve's Cuisine Chicken Liver Parfait made using corn-fed Rangitikei chicken livers, and from Waiheke Island, Jenny's Medium Tamarind Chutney inspired by a holiday to Fiji. The Clevedon Valley Buffalo Company was in the winning line up again this year, this time for their Vanilla Bean Buffalo Yoghurt.

Te Mata Figs Just Fig Jam was another stand-out for the judges. The jam is handmade using figs grown on Helen Walker and Murray Douglas's orchard in the Hawke's Bay.

From the Wellington region, Otaki's Te Horo Raspberry Jam, made using raspberries from Tapawera and Wanganui, and French-inspired Bohemein Sea Salt Caramel Chocolates, made in Hataitai, impressed the judges.

Find profiles of the winners in the March 2012 issue of Cuisine, on sale 20 February. And taste the winning products - and meet the producers �- at the Monteith's CheeseFest event at the Langham Hotel, Auckland on February 29 from 5pm-9pm. Martin Bosley's Restaurant in Wellington will also be hosting a special Cuisine artisan lunch for the public on March 22 from 12pm-2pm, featuring all of the winning products. For more information visit:

Cuisine Artisan Awards - Winners 2012

? Supreme Winner J Friend & Co Pohutukawa Honey, Christchurch

? Runner Up River Estate Table Olives, Whitford

? Bohemein Sea Salt Caramel Chocolates, Wellington

? Genevieve's Cuisine Chicken Liver Parfait, Auckland

? Jenny's Kitchen Medium Tamarind Chutney, Auckland

? Mariano's Spanish Goods Malaguena Sausages, Christchurch

? Mowbray Fine Foods English Pork Pies, Rangiora

? Te Mata Figs Just Fig Jam, Hawke's Bay

? Te Horo Foods Raspberry Jam, Otaki

? Clevedon Valley Buffalo Company Vanilla Bean Yoghurt, Clevedon

? The Distel Stroopwafels, Waihi

? Traditionally Tuscan Panforte di Siena, Christchurch

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