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Wairarapa food to shine on our television screens

Four Wairarapa businesses are buzzing about featuring on chef Ben Bayly’s television show.

Greytown Gin, Epicurean Meats, Luna Estate, and Fernglen Farm are featured in tonight’s episode of the third season of ‘A New Zealand Food Story with Ben Bayly’.

Fernglen Farm’s Ben Ravenwood said it is an “awesome way” to showcase Wairarapa’s ‘food story’ and advocate for local food producers.

“Ben Bayly admitted he hadn’t been down our way, realising he was missing out,” Ravenwood said.

The family farm started in sheep and beef, then began producing and marketing sheep milk, yoghurt, and labneh five years ago.

Ravenwood said sheep milk is relatively new to the market and is often mistakenly compared to goat’s milk, which has a stronger taste.

He said the farm’s venture came after his brother Cameron discovered the nutritional profile of sheep milk – which has 60 per cent more protein and calcium than ordinary cow’s milk – at university.

It’s also more digestible for those who are lactose intolerant.

Luna head winemaker Joel Watson reckoned Wairarapa is a hidden gem that’s slowly being discovered and hoped the show will draw attention to it.

Watson said that although New Zealand has successfully branded itself internationally, it has room to grow the profile of its food and wine culture.

For example, he said, France is world-famous for its wide range of wine, but New Zealand is known on the world stage for its sauvignon blanc and “not much else.”

“In Martinborough,” he noted, “we grow world-class pinot noir – the area is rare in the world in being perfectly suited to the variety due to the soil and climate.”

Greytown Distilling Company director Adam Blackwell said Wairarapa is a major food bowl for sourcing seafood, farmed products, and vegetables.

The distillery is a boutique gin producer using ingredients that are either locally foraged or grown onsite.

Blackwell said one of his jobs during the show’s shoot was to make a complimentary gin martini while Bayly prepared lunch for the TV crew.

“I only had one shot at it, and I am not a barman or a bartender,” he laughed.

“I kinda guffed it up, but it still tasted good.”

Prodigal Daughter Gourmet Lodge and Epicoria New Zealand Charcuterie owner Rachel Priestley said it was a “no-brainer” for the show to be hosted locally.

Priestley said she found it a unique experience to host the entire TV crew at her lodge and cottages for two days while the show was being produced.

The show itself was an “integrated process” that included collaborative effort from the wider Wairarapa food bowl community.

Priestley has a background as a chef, and after arriving back from Italy 13 years ago, she imported and sold truffle products and Bayly as one of her clients.

She later expanded into curing and selling meats and started Epicoria New Zealand Charcuterie alongside her business partner Mike Tate.

In the ‘Food Story’ series, Bayly takes viewers on a journey across Aotearoa in six episodes to find fresh and innovative ideas for his menu at award-winning Auckland restaurant Ahi.

The show is screening today at 7pm on TVNZ 1, after which it will be available for streaming on tvnz.co.nz

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