LATE at the Museum has been up and running for eight seasons so when a friend suggested LATE: Auckland Eats Itself, how could one refuse a midweek night of food, wine and debate; not to mention a cooking demonstration too?
People quietly milled about on the wide steps at the back entrance to Auckland Museum waiting for friends, before the doors opened just before six. There’s a sudden surge towards the bar to order wine and tasting plates. From tender, melt in the mouth peri peri pulled lamb sandwich and just seared, delicate furiyaki crusted Pacific tuna salad to a delightful mezze platter; long shared tables provided the perfect platform to mix, mingle and chat before the panel discussion.
Before long it’s time to move. Noelle McCarthy, a seasoned hand at wrangling a debate, superbly moderated a cohesive discussion about the food of Auckland – the restaurants, the ingredients, and the changing flavours of kitchens citywide. The panel brought a diversity of opinion: Connie Clarkson, Singapore-born author of Asian Flavours has an intricate knowledge of Auckland’s Asian cuisine; Professor Paul Spoonley from Massey University an expert on the social and sociological impact of food and migrant communities; Te Kohe Tuhaka, actor and chef of Marae Kai Masters fame; and Ben Bayly, executive chef at The Grove and Baduzzi, with a background working in Michelin-starred restaurants in London and France and local MKR judge.
The discussion transversed the relatively recent food truck phenomenon and food trends to fine dining restaurants, favourite dishes and what the panellists would request for their last meal ever; the influence of culture and immigrants on the Auckland food scene; reality television and the proliferation of social media; dining out and your responsibility as a customer and most importantly, the stories that formed and will continue to mould our own very personal food journey.
To hear the panel discussion firsthand, a podcast of LATE: Auckland Eats Itself will be available mid-November: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/smarttalk
The night culminated with Damaris and Renee Coulter from Coco’s Cantina sharing their inspiration, their commitment to melding food and community; and of course their love of tiramisu – an alcohol and coffee infused ladyfinger delight was the perfect end to a thought provoking evening. Thankfully chef Will Bezerra had earlier made enough tiramasu for all.
Season 8 of LATE at the Museum draws to a close very shortly, with one last event LATE: Auckland as an Island on Monday 9 November 6-9pm. Moderated by Bill Ralston, hear from some of Auckland’s astute minds as they explore how Auckland is being shaped for the future. For bookings click here LATE: Auckland as an Island but don’t leave it too long to decide, most sessions sell out before the night.
Me, I’m looking forward to season nine already.