This year’s VWOAP is very much about looking at how other cultures have played a part in how Kiwis cook and enjoy our food. Wellington’s diverse food culture is one of the things I love most about living in this city. We have unfettered access to a smorgasbord of international cuisines, so when you’re in need of a feed the options aren’t only delicious but also plentiful.
Go to L.A.
But let’s talk about another city for just a second. For anyone who has been to Los Angeles, you’ll know that it’s a city of extremes and contradictions. Get through the horrendous traffic and the sprawling chaos and you’ll find a rich tapestry of cultures, which is reflected in its often disparate neighbourhoods. L.A. is home to people from more than 140 countries, and about 48% of its population is Hispanic, making it a truly multi-ethnic city. You’ll see this not only in the faces on the streets, but in the vast array of ethnic supermarkets, stores and eateries dotted throughout the city.
L.A. Times food critic Jonathan Gold has built a career extolling the benefits that such a diversity brings to the city’s vibrant food scene, shining a spotlight on places that most other critics would dismiss. He’s the go-to man for knowing where to find the city’s best tacos or which food trucks to travel for. Although one of his reviews can translate into a marked increase in trade for a restaurant, many of which are small family-run businesses, for Gold one of the best outcomes is that people are introduced to new cultures and ways of life, peeking into another world that’s just a neighbourhood away.
The documentary City of Gold is an entertaining insight into the world of food criticism, following Gold as he explores L.A.’s rich and varied food cultures. You’ll leave envious of his job, though Gold sheepishly admits that being paid to eat and write about it feels like he’s “getting away with something”. (I couldn’t possibly comment.) The Roxy’s special Feast Your Eyes screening of the film is a rare chance for you to see it on the big screen and enjoy a private audience with Gold himself with a special Q&A session. It wouldn’t be right not to have anything to eat on such an occasion, so you’ll be served a ‘City of Gold’ cocktail on arrival and an L.A.-inspired dish both before and after the film.
Go Around the World
Closer to home, chef Chetan Pangam is looking to showcase some of the many cultures found in Wellington with a Wellywood Melting Pot Dinner at One80 Restaurant in the Copthorne Hotel. Like many of the previous events Chetan has out on for VWOAP, this promises to be a lively and memorable night filled with great food, wine and conversation. You’ll get to meet some of the suppliers behind the ingredients he’ll be using on the night, including the fine folk from Ora King Salmon, Lot8 Olive Oil, Awatoru Wildfood, Preston’s Master Butchers, Gelissimo Gelato, Schoc Chocolates, Martinborough Vineyards and Panhead Custom Ales.
The cultures Chetan has chosen to represent on the menu are Indian, Scottish, French and – of course – Kiwi. Familiar dishes will be given a unique twist and each course will feature a wine and/or beer match. He’s also hinted at some matching entertainment that will can-can kick this degustation dinner into full party mode.
Go to Samoa
Speaking of parties, the L’affare Roastery will be transformed into a multi-space party for Made By A Samoan. Each space will be designed to take you on a journey that showcases modern Pacific culture in all its various forms, using sound, cinematography, photography and light to make this a truly special night out. Hip-hop pioneer DJ Raw will provide the soundtrack and photographer Andrew Matautia will be exhibiting some of his stunning photography and cinematography, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at Made By A Samoan’s production process of its natural skincare range.
You’ll enjoy a fine feast of fresh eats prepared by Māori-Samoan chef Monique Fiso, incorporating quintessential Pacific ingredients and dishes, like fresh fish, taro and coconut. And with this being a L’affare-hosted event, it’s only natural that coffee gets in on the game too. Cocktail maestro Ray Letoa will have some beans up his sleeve on the night, serving up some perky coffee-inspired cocktails and mocktails.
Tourists visiting New Zealand want the full kiwi experience, from our Instagrammable scenery, the high of thrill-seeking activities and a taste of our kai. For many, that puts a hāngi high on their must-eat list. So if you’re new to New Zealand (or if you’re a local entertaining some international visitors during VWOAP), put some time aside for Urban Hāngi and its sister event the Urban Hāngi Masterclass. Whether you just want to eat or you’re willing to get your hands dirty and help with the preparation, these two events show off what puts New Zealand on the international food stage.
Here are a few other suggestions to get a taste of the world right here in our ‘hood during VWOAP:
- It takes two to tango, so El Matador’s El Gran Asado pairs slow-roasted meat with plenty of wine for a Argentinian feast cooked over an open fire.
- The Ramen Shop’s Festival dish is a kaimoana ramen packed with eel, mussels and a crayfish broth. I’m salivating just typing this out! And check out the description for their Haiku Burger – this poet approves.
- Red Mount’s Dine menu features a number of Chinese classics. Come for the Beijing duck pancakes, steamed egg custard (one of my family’s favourites) and tangyuan (rice balls in a sweet soup), stay for an epic karaoke sing-off.
- There are no walls in Wellington keeping you from Mexico and their fresh take on modern Mexican dining, whether it’s their Festival dish of pork and prawn albondigas (meatball) tostada or their spicy Fried Chicken Torta burger.