Fishy dish snares second festival award

The people have spoken, with Pāpāmoa café Pearl Kitchen winning a top award during the Flavours of Plenty Festival for the second year in a row.

Pearl Kitchen’s smoked fish pie and beer entry in the Plates of Plenty Challenge earned the most diner votes to win the annual People’s Choice Award and a $500 voucher from Southern Hospitality.

Pearl Kitchen manager Kirsty Moore says she appreciates everyone who voted for the dish.

“It’s great to be recognised by all of our customers, as well as our peers. It’s an amazing festival to be part of.”

A panel of judges from the hospitality faculty at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology noted the entry was a “standout” dish which showcased Pearl Kitchen’s ability to blend tradition with innovation.

“The perfect seasoning, memorable taste, well-balanced blue cheese and potato foam, and the unique smoked fish gravy were highlights that spoke to the culinary expertise at play. Additionally, the effective promotion and the visible enthusiasm of the team enhanced the dining experience, creating a vibrant atmosphere around the dish,” a judge said.

The expert panel selected a passionfruit parfait and kiwifruit curd dish by But First Dessert as their pick for the Judge’s Choice Award and a $1000 prizewinner voucher from Southern Hospitality.

The dish judge noted it was: “A great fusion of flavours, where sweetness was perfectly complemented by the citrusy tang of the passionfruit and a refined hint of gin. It was a party on my taste buds, a symphony of flavours. I really enjoyed every bite of it.”

But First Dessert owner Adele Hall says she “loved” the range of ingredients that were in the Challenge box.

“The ones that we chose for desserts, they were so different in flavour but when you had them all together they really complemented each other,” she says.

“It’s nice to be able to celebrate our chef’s creativity and using local produce, and just giving people something different to try that they wouldn’t make at home and wouldn’t usually have. That’s what we’re all about here and that’s what we love doing, so to be awarded for that is awesome.”

The two winning eateries beat 18 other entrants during the 11-day Plates of Plenty Challenge. Each entrant was tasked with choosing at least three items from a box of nine locally sourced ingredients to create a bespoke dish during the Flavours of Plenty Festival, which is a key annual project for Tourism Bay of Plenty.

The ingredients box featured blue cheese, microgreens, Earl Grey tea, curried onion chutney, golden kiwifruit and kiwiberries, passionfruit pulp, smoked kahawai, low-carb ale, and lemonade-infused gin.

“The Plates of Plenty Challenge inspires our region’s chefs to get creative, using an eclectic selection of produce that they may not have used before to make their unique festival dish shine. It’s a win-win for diners’ tastebuds and for the vital market exposure that participating food and beverage producers get during the festival too,” Tourism Bay of Plenty general manager Oscar Nathan says.

Diners who voted for the People’s Choice Award entered the draw to win one of three $100 vouchers to spend at a participating eatery of their choice.