Oenological dinner in Waiheke
On May 1, New Zealand will open its borders to international tourism – exciting news for those who find happiness among its countless beaches, coastlines and plentiful vineyards. Mine is Waiheke, an island in the Hauraki Gulf of the North Island that’s a 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland (or a very fun 15-minute helicopter ride, hovering over nearby Rangitoto Crater). It has around 30 small wineries in its 92 square kilometers, many of which also produce excellent boutique olive oils; and half a dozen or so have strong culinary experiences attached.
Among the new vineyards here is Tantalus Estate – 2014 was its first vintage – but it has what is, in conventional terms (and in my own experience), arguably the best restaurant in Waiheke. The menu includes relatively simple dishes – oysters, crispy pork, pastured lamb – meticulously sourced and beautifully plated. They grow their own olives, stone fruits, and macadamia nuts, as well as much of their produce (including edible wildflowers), and also make honey and preserves. The dining room is the real showcase: a dazzling clean and saturated with light, set against the vines.
Several miles to the southeast, in a less traveled part of the island, is Poderi Crisci – a bit of a drive down a bumpy, semi-paved road, but if you’ve come all that way, believe me, just commit. Antonio Crisci emigrated from Naples to New Zealand in the early 90s and opened a pizzeria in Auckland which is an institution to this day. Poderi Crisci’s exclusively ancient vines – Syrah, Merlot, Nebbiolo cuttings from Piedmont – are surrounded by olive trees, and next to the restaurant is a two-acre garden filled with flowers, produce and herbs, and bordered by cypress.
The dining room, in a converted barn, and its vine-draped terrace are rustic and unpretentious; likewise the resolutely Italian cuisine – cheese and charcuterie or lasagna al pesto rinforzato (basil pesto, green beans and potatoes) will always do you good, because the quality is there. There is a more sophisticated tasting menu for a more refined evening experience. But the thing here is the Sunday Long Lunch — starting at noon, ending around 4:30 p.m., and filled with a parade of antipasti, primi, secondi, and generous house pours. Sunday lunch NZ$95 per person, excluding drinks, tantalus.co.nz; podericrisci.co.nz
A Chianti classic
It is easy (and also somewhat easy) to regard the Chianti Classico region as having passed its saturation point – as it is for much of the world in name, if not also in actual geography – given the number of preeminent Italian families who produce here. Among those who have turned to excellent hospitality are the Mazzei family, whose Castello di Fonterutoli, long (as in almost 600 years) a historic proposition as a winery, is also a top gastronomic destination. . the town itself, just south of Castellina, is surrounded by hundreds of hectares of vineyards and offers breathtaking views of Siena.
The place to soak it up is on the terrace of Osteria Fonterutoli. Don’t let the little osteria in the name fool you; few things in this restaurant are rustic, apart from the traditions to which the excellent cuisine refers: this old chicken liver terrina di fegatini di pollofor example, gets a remake with “vinsanto” gel and green apple, while a vegetarian pici combines kale, lemon and breadcrumbs for a more indulgent effect. The wine list includes vintages from the Mazzei estates in Maremma, to the south, and Val di Noto in Sicily. Tip: the suites are lovely too, if you want to spend the night there. mazzei.it
Napa cool mid century
Ashes & Diamonds is deeply of Napa; but it’s not your typical Napa vineyard at all. Its creator, Kashy Khaledi – whose father Darioush emigrated from Iran in 1977 and founded his own cult winery north on Napa’s Silverado Trail, where he produces fine Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon – made a professional detour for years through the worlds of multimedia and advertising before coming to the headquarters of the family business. The edgy shine of this experience deeply informs Ashes & Diamonds: there is no neo-Tuscan or Tudor built environment, no excess faux patina.
No fake old world, in fact: from the cellar itself (by LA-based architect Barbara Bestor, who designed the Beats by Dre headquarters there) to the tasting rooms, to the bar (a real bar groovy) at the Members Club Lounge ($345 a year gets you access to special programming, pop-up tastings, and multiple bottles a year), A&D is synonymous with mid-century California nostalgia. You might hear the Meat Puppets or De La Soul on the sound system as you savor chef Ethan Speizer’s wood-fired specialties or kombu-cured tuna, heirloom vegetable sides or one of the cans of spades. picnic that you can park on the lawn with . ashesanddiamonds.com
A South African Culinary Adventure
Liam Tomlin left a budding celebrity behind when he decamped to South Africa from the award-winning Banc restaurant in Sydney in 2003. Within a few years, however, he was well in the ascendancy of the Western Cape, having launched his Chefs Warehouse concept, which evolved from a cooking school into a gourmet kitchen that, in 2014, was wowing international critics and travelers alike (if you’ve been impressed by the cuisine at any of the Singita lodges and safari camps, you have Tomlin to thank; he was the chief consultant there too). In 2016, in partnership with chef Ivor Jones, he opened Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia, a super-fine winery just across Table Mountain from Cape Town.
In a competitive and fluid market, it remains one of South Africa’s most impressive food and winery fusions (and there is no shortage of world-class versions of these in this country, so please take this statement at face value). Jones and Tomlin’s games with classic South African ingredients and international influences are adventurous in a good way and unfussy. The rigorously modern room and the open kitchen are total winners; and the good feeling comes from Jones sourcing seasonal produce from local farms and fisheries. beauconstantia.com