The winning burger, cocktail and Festival Dish
For the first time ever, the battle of the burgers, Festival Dishes and cocktails is open to the public! In previous years the announcement of the winners has been at an industry-only event, but in 2017 we've thrown the doors open and invited everyone to partake in the drama, the intrigue and the many delicious smells.
As the Welly On a Plate festival bloggers, the two of us have smashed back a lot of food over the last fortnight. Between the two of us, we've demolished 20 burgers plus many cocktails and Festival Dishes, and we're pretty excited to see some of our favourites stepping up to the plate tonight. All of the finalists are on hand to present their mouthwatering creations and tell us what inspired them.
There are plenty of very esteemed folk here to rub shoulders with; the Festival Awards evening is basically a game of Guess Who? of Wellington hospo stars. Does she have brown hair and own two cafes? Does he wear glasses and make outrageously good cocktails? As the audience start to flow in, the beers are cracked, the wines poured and the heat is officially on.
If you need a refresher, the finalists in each category are:
BEST FESTIVAL DISH
As each finalist presents their dishes, they get grilled by our MC about different aspects of their dish/beverage - the inspiration, the wine match, even what colour underwear they're wearing. Nothing is off limits tonight. There's some low-level good-mannered sledging between various local hospo legends, and plenty of brow-wiping, plate-perfecting and nervous glances in the kitchen itself. Even if they can't taste, everyone gets a chance to get up close with the finalist drinks and dishes - many cameras are whipped out for photos.
As we nibble on fancy fries, adorable salmon sliders, various cute little soups and macarons by the good folk at Le Cordon Bleu, the anticipation begins to grow. Instagram is blowing up and there is potential to break the internet here. After what seems like an eternity of chowing down on delicious canapes, Wellington Wine Country wine and Garage Project festival brews, we're finally ready to hear the final verdict on this year's champion cooks. It's as tense as the Leaders' Debate in here.
The Cocktail Wellington winners are first on the chopping block. It's a tight competition, with Mr Go's and Hawthorn Lounge announced as runners-up. CoCo at the Roxy manage to blaze into first place for the third year in a row. Jeez, Ray Letoa must be feeling pretty pleased with himself right now. His cocktail concoction was frankly magical AF - it involved smoke and levitation. Well deserved.
We hear the Festival Dish verdict next. Mr Go's and Coco at The Roxy are announced as runners-up, but it's longtime Welly icon Ortega Fish Shack that take out the top spot with their buttery, delicious risotto that has that perfect al dente bite,with prawn espuma and curry oil.
Finally, the coveted silver spatula comes out. It's time to hear the winner of Burger Wellington. Beach Road Deli and Five and Dime come close, but it's first-time entrant Mr Go's, who ended up a finalist in all three categories, come in first place with their Kiwi China, China Kiwi burger, with braised beef cheek, pickled kiwifruit and chilli jam.