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September 1, 2008 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Eye on the Monteith’s beer and wild food challenge

A food judge is expected to examine every dish very closely. In the recent Monteith’s Beer and Wild Food Challenge, there were two entries which looked right back.

Diners at Crazyhorse were confronted by a half pig head which had been lovingly braised with Monteith’s Pilsner and apple for hours. It was a jaw-droppingly spectacular plate of food. The cheek meat, in particular, was silky and so decadent.

Over at the Southern Cross, their wild boar loin was guarded by a “jelly which will stare you down.” Like a scene from Lord of the Rings, the plate was crowned by a single all-knowing sheep’s eye encased in Pilsner jelly. Suspending the eyeball exactly in the middle of the Pilsner cube is apparently no mean culinary feat. There may well be a thesis in there for a science student with a particular interest in jelly.

This year however, the eyes did not have it overall. The winner of the formal category in Wellington was the General Practitioner. While their Kiwi twist on the classic Marseilles fish soup was outstanding, the dish which flattened the judges was a pigeon braised in giblet stock and Monteith’s Black then set in nettle butter. It was better than the best pate the world has ever seen and it virtually danced across the palate with the accompanying beer.

The informal category was taken out by the Monteith’s Brewery Bar in Khandallah with their retelling of ‘Three Little Pigs’, a trio of wild pig dishes accompanied by Monteith’s Pilsner. Let’s just say it was not a good result for the pigs in this fairy tale. However, it was a happy ending for the diners because the funky staff made the Challenge a real occasion. That is not overly common in Khandallah, apparently.

After 11 years of this unique competition, it is clear that people are beginning to accept the concept of beer and food matching as a genuine culinary skill. What really makes the difference for the public is having staff able to explain how each match works – the contrasting flavours, the complementary flavours, the cut and the individual flavour hooks which tie a match together.

For me, the best introduction to beer and food was the crab tian from the Tasting Room – delicate crab, soft avocado, salty wakame (seaweed), basil caviar and a New Zealand Lager for $20. I had it twice just to be sure.


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