Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Food Show: Auckland 2011

I went to the Food Show at the ASB Showgrounds in the weekend.  I hadn't been planning to go, as past experience told me that I would be paying too much money for the pleasure of subjecting myself to a lot of queues and advertising.  However, I discovered that I had won free tickets from an online restaurant review site, and who am I to say no to a freebie?  I figured that if I went to some cooking demonstrations rather than just wandering around the various stalls, it would feel more like a worthwhile activity.

I had planned to go to every single cooking session (!), but after two of them, I decided my weekend was more valuable than that.  Recipes and cooking tips can be had from a gazillion websites, and while I learnt some new things (did you know you can cure raw salmon by packing it in grated beetroot and copious amount of salt and sugar for a day or two?), I didn't really see myself making anything from the sessions.  For goodness sake, Anabelle White didn't even cook in her demo.  She just told funny stories and plugged her book and other products for sale, while her assistant Nancy did everything in the background without saying a word.
Cooking demonstration by Richard Till
I did take something wonderful away from Richard Till's demo though, quite literally.  By asking questions, I was awarded with some manuka smoked eggs from the NZ Manuka Eggs Company.  That you can smoke eggs is quite new to me, even though I have come across many types of flavoured eggs already, from Chinese salted eggs, to tea eggs, to century eggs.  While fascinating, I probably would not have bought these amazing looking inventions with their blackened tops ($5 for 6 at the show), simply because there were so many other products for sale, and it was unlikely that I would ever crave smoked eggs, or know where to buy them from once the show had ended.  So thank you, Mr. Till, for letting me taste the subtle flavour of these cold-smoked eggs at leisure in my own home, even though it seemed awfully wasteful of you to have thrown the whites away when you used the yolks for your aioli.  I would have appreciated having had a taste of said aioli to see if I could discern any smoky flavour, but I guess there is never enough for food to go around after a demo, so you might as well not start offering samples.

My award for asking questions
The manuka smoked eggs had blackened tops
The demonstrations at the baking theatre, in contrast, were less well attended (perhaps because seating was not available), more informal (you didn't get told off for leaving halfway), and also more interesting.  Sean Armstrong not only took us through the making of bread, but also passed around bits of dough which were at the right consistency, for us to squeeze, stretch and learn from.  Instead of a household oven, he and his assistants churned out a great number of loaves from a commercial setup, which in itself was interesting to be able to see.

Maybe I've talked myself around to the viewpoint that the show is worth the $25 entrance fee.  If you were not organised enough to attend demonstrations though, you would have to console yourself with trying to eat your money's worth in free samples from the various stalls. This is only a good idea if you have the self control not to eat too much of the supermarket biscuits and bread-and-dips type offerings, and instead save room for the more gourmet items, the meats and cheeses (and wines, if you are that way inclined, which I generally am not... but I recommend the Japanese plum wine!).

One of my gripes is that there were not so many things that were new and exciting.  Not only are Chop Chop Chicken and Easiyo products things that I have already seen in the supermarket, but why would I want to waste my calories tasting them, even if they were free (which they were)?  Seriously, a huge stall for Pam's products?  What's with all these packet soups and instant meals?  And Pic's Peanut Butter may be good, but I already knew that from trying it at the La Cigale French Style Market.

Other stalls served samples that tasted amazing, such as the paw paw salad from True Pacific, a programme being driven by the Pacific Cooperation Foundation.  They didn't have a shop, though, and couldn't tell me where I could buy their yummy food!  What's the point of raising my awareness if my only source of the item is at the Food Show?

I guess I am being a bit harsh.  There are definitely reasons for checking out the Food Show.  Many stalls offered good discounts for their wares.  For instance, the delicious Native Infusions drinks, which I first came across at Serafin, were available at $1 a bottle, or $3.50 for four.  That's a third of the usual price at New World.  I would have gone on a shopping binge if I had had a shopping cart, or stronger arm muscles.

Delicious drinks, at a third of the retail price at a supermarket

Perhaps my favourite stall of the day was at the Farro Fresh booth, where Neil Willman of The New Zealand Cheese School showed us how to make halloumi in less than 10 minutes.  I was unsure about his choice of Chux cloths for use as cheesecloth, as I have washed my dishes with those before and seen how the colours came out of them, but his halloumi was indeed delicious (yes, we got to taste it).  Unfortunately, we missed his other demonstration, in which he claimed to have made mozzarella in under a minute.

All in all, I think the Food Show can be worth a visit, but you have to put up with endless amounts of blatant advertising and borings bits before you find some good stuff.  And you need to be at the right place at the right time.  If patience is your virtue, if you love throngs of people, free samples and bargain hunting, then this show is for you.


  1. Hi there, cool NZ blog!
    I went to the food show in Welli, rather very predictable and dull cos most of them are available in Moore Wilson for many years already.
    The smoked egg sounds interesting tho, I would definitely love to give that a try.

    Sweet Greetings,

  2. Thanks, Pierre! The egg only had a little bit of smoky flavour, unlike the hangi I had at the Auckland Night Market last night in Pakuranga. I thought it was interesting, but it's not going to become a kitchen staple for me.

  3. I wonder if you can also buy smoked eggs which are free range? They are definitely nice to have once in a while, and are vegetarian-friendly, unlike most other smoked items.

  4. I tried The smoke eggs , the thing is the membrane in the egg on the inside of the shell is not permeable the smoke only enhance the shell not the egg inside


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