Avid foodies and restaurant aficionados will descend on Western Springs next week for the country’s biggest celebration of food and drink, Taste of Auckland in partnership with Electrolux, which kicks off Thursday 16 November.

A crowd of more than 20,000 is expected to devour over 40,000 mouthwatering dishes from top Auckland restaurants and sample the best locally-made products from over 100 fine food producers, wine makers, distilleries and craft brewers over the course of the annual four-day festival.

And with preparations now reaching fever pitch, suppliers will soon deliver more than 300 ducks for Tok Tok’s crispy quarter duck, 300 crayfish for Baduzzi’s signature ½ Karitane crayfish and one tonne of meat for Miss Moonshine’s open fire BBQ.

With a truly international flavour, the ten Auckland eateries serving up their signature dishes at this year’s festival range from European with Italian (Baduzzi), French (Paris Butter) and modern classic (Euro Bar & Restaurant), to Russian (Vodka Room), Southern American BBQ (Miss Moonshines) and various Asian cuisines including Northern Thai (Saan), Chinese (ARTWOK), Indian (1947 Eatery) and South East Asian fusion (Tok Tok).

Rounding out these global influences is a uniquely Kiwi offering from Eat New Zealand and The Cult Project which is bound to be a crowd pleaser.

Putting a modern twist on classic Kiwi favourites, dishes include The Cult Project’s take on ‘fish and chips’ featuring kahawai sashimi, smoked fishbone glaze, buttermilk mash and potato skin. There’s also ‘kiwi onion dip’ with salt and vinegar kumara crisps, soured cream and onion weed, a ‘sausage sizzle’ of pork sausage, Vienna style white bread, carrot BBQ sauce and Tom’s kawakawa mayo and mint, and a chocolate marquise and spiced pineapple ‘pineapple lump’.

Also among the restaurants on this year’s line-up is Taste stalwart head chef Nick Honeyman with French favourite Paris Butter. Bringing the French flare that fans know and love with dishes like citrus cured salmon, boeuf bourguignon, scallops, duck fat frites and strawberry daiquiri for dessert, Honeyman says he is taking a decidedly summery approach to this year’s menu which he describes as “clean, simple, bold and beautiful”.

Shaping up to be a truly gastronomic experience, the Gourmet H?ngi makes a return after wowing guests two years ago. Offering festival-goers a contemporary take on a traditional M?ori h?ngi, dishes range from beef with chimichurri and vegetables (Juan Balsani of Augustus Bistro), to miso and seaweed marinated goat with spiced two cake (Will Michell of Smoko Room at the Sawmill Brewery), pulled mutton and potato roll from Kyle Street of Culprit, h?ngi cooked octopus from Farina and Maketu seafood from 2014 MasterChef winners Karena and Kasey Bird, and ‘cheeky hangi’ in a jjin bhang by Ben Bayly and The Grove.

Chef, restaurateur and MasterChef Australia co-judge, George Calombaris arrives in Auckland on Thursday 16 November for his first New Zealand food festival appearance.

Bringing to Auckland, a taste of his highly-regarded Melbourne restaurant, The Press Club, fans can learn his tricks and tips as he showcases his Kiwiana creation at two live cooking demonstrations in the Electrolux Taste Theatre on Saturday 19 November.

Calombaris will also join long time pal, Ben Bayly and Bayly’s former My Kitchen Rules co-judge, Gareth Stewart, in the kitchen on opening night as they collaborate on a special VIP dinner for Taste of Auckland within the Qantas Hospitality Marquee.

With The Press Club executive chef, Reuben Davis, and his team busy preparing for the dinner, guests on opening night can expect one of the dishes to be a take on classic Kiwi fish and chips – “just don’t expect it to resemble fish and chips”, jokes Calombaris, with native New Zealand ingredients also expected to appear in the dish.

Joining Calombaris in the Electrolux Taste Theatre, for free live cooking demonstrations, is an impressive list of top local chefs including; Simon Gault of Giraffe, The Tasting Shed’s Ganesh Raj, Cazador chef Dariush Lolaiy, Kai Pacifica chef Bertrand Jang, Glen File from Baduzzi, Masterchef 2015 winner Tim Reid and more.

Those lucky enough to be part of the Electrolux Chefs’ Secrets will learn the tricks of the trade first-hand, creating dishes alongside some of the country’s top chefs including Sean Connolly from The Grill, Mark Southon of O’Connell Street Bistro, Fraser Shenton of FISH, Nic Watt of True Food & Yoga, Scott Gaskin from M Social and Vanessa Baxter of The Fearless Kitchen.

While the new ‘Good Taste’ at the Electrolux Taste Theatre promises to be the angel on your shoulder, celebrating all things nutritious and delicious with demonstrations from Julia and Libby Matthews, Be Good Organics’ Buffy Ellen, Little Bird’s Megan May, Ascension Kitchen’s Lauren Glucina, Kelly Gibney, Aaron Brunet, and Art Green and Matilda Rice.

As part of opening night celebrations, each official Taste restaurant will vie for the coveted ‘Best in Taste’ award to be announced on the Thursday evening. The awards will be judged by culinary authorities George Calombaris and Ray McVinnie.

The award is presented to the ‘most exceptional dish served at the festival that lives up to the values and experience offered at the actual restaurant with last year’s award taken out by Tok Tok and chef Cameron Knox with his Crispy Hapuka Dry Red Curry dish.

With a crowd of more than 20,000 expected over the four-days, Festival Director Rob Eliott says guests can sample sensational food from Auckland’s top restaurants and local artisans, learn tips and tricks from the best of the best, or just relax with a drink and great entertainment.

“It’s a fun day or night, rain or shine, and it’s our biggest line up of chefs and restaurants yet. Expect to hear lots of “Oh my god, you have to try this!”

Other key features of this year’s festival include:

  • More than 100 artisan producers showcasing the best of New Zealand fine food and drink including award-winning Hogarth Craft Chocolate, Dunedin’s Harpoon Cold Brew Coffee, Mama’s Brew Shop Kombucha, Scratch Bakers and Soda Press Co
  • Taster sessions and ‘meet the brewer’ talks from some of New Zealand’s best boutique breweries including Good George, Cassels & Son Brewing Co, Birkenhead Brewery, Tuatara, Ora Craft Brewery and Liberty Brewing at Brew Street
  • Wine tastings with top vineyards from around the country including No 1 Family Estate, Crafters Union, Man O’ War Vineyards, and brands like Lawson’s Dry Hills, Seresin and Tohu in the Wine Marlborough Marquee
  • A live music line-up curated by master of funk Peter Urlich, including Too Many Chiefs on opening night, Looking for Alaska and Afro Tropica Band on Friday afternoon, Nathan Haines Band on Saturday afternoon, The Rocking Roller-Coasters and Peter Urlich on Saturday evening, and John Tuala Band and Albi & The Wolves on Sunday evening
  • The very best of best of food, drink and hospitality in the luxuriously appointed Qantas Hospitality Marquee. A base for VIP Ticket holders at the weekend, guests will enjoy the spacious covered lounge, bar and additional conveniences, and a flute of the finest quality Methode Traditionelle from No 1 Family Estate on arrival
  • Very special dining events for corporate supporters in the Qantas Hospitality Marquee including a night with George Calombaris, Ben Bayly and Gareth Stewart on the Thursday evening A French Affair at the Viva Luxurious Long Lunch with Paris Butter and L’Atelier du Fromage on Friday and a special APAC dinner hosted by the chefs from Tok Tok, Lula Inn and the Langham.

Get your tickets to Taste of Auckland in partnership with Electrolux. For tickets and schedule information visit www.tasteofauckland.co.nz

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