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Paua foie gras to the people

Wairarapa musician Warren Maxwell with the burger named after him. PHOTOS/SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI

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“Classic, with a twist.”

That’s how the owner-chef of St Sebastian, Caleb Kloeg, describes his entries into this year’s Wellington On A Plate competition.

The Masterton restaurant is the only Wairarapa establishment with a cocktail on offer for the month-long festival, while Friday was its first day serving ‘The Warren Maxwell aka Home, Land and Sea’.

Musician Warren Maxwell with St Sebastian owner Caleb Kloeg.

The Burger Wellington offering included a homegrown beef patty with Tora Collective paua foie gras, American cheese, housemade pickle, onion, and special sauce in a Clareville Bakery black truffle-infused milk bun, served with handcut agria nori fries.

“I guess it’s one if those classic moments of you get the brief of the competition,” Kloeg says.

“You want to do something really cool, you can go outrageous, classic, or classic with a bit of a twist.

“In a burger competition you can’t really go past a cheeseburger, a cheeseburger’s the OG [original]. Making the cheeseburger epic was the goal.”

At the time, Kloeg had gone on a fishing and diving expedition with Tora Collective, his paua supplier, and became intrigued by paua hua.

“Essentially the guts, the stomach and the liver. A lot of people will probably just throw it away or use it as bait.”

Hua, a delicacy to some Maori, has a similar taste and characteristics to other liver-meats, Klog says, and he wondered, “Can we treat it like a duck parfait?”.

Experimenting with food is on brand for the restaurant, which has previously served jerk zucchini on its menu.

This was one of the challenges with preparing for the food festival earlier in the year.

St Sebastian chef Brandon McClure, bar manager Alex Sumenko-Bucknell, and owner-chef Caleb Kloeg.

“You’ve got to think about what’s available,” Kloeg says.

“Luckily, Lavender Abbey dries lavender there too.

“Paua reproduce in August so [Tora Collective] don’t fish them.”

The team had been fat-packing and freezing paua for the better part of the year in preparation.

Kloeg has been involved with the festival previously in Wellington and was part of the Ten O’clock Cookie team when it created the Philly cheesesteak pie which landed in the top five.

As a final testament to the buzz around St Sebastian’s first appearance in the competition, musician Warren Maxwell came in to try his namesake for lunch on Friday.

“A friend of mine, Jesse Aston, said doesn’t Warren Maxwell live in Wairarapa? Then why don’t you call it home, land and sea – which is a Trinity Roots song,” Kloeg says.

“When we first put it up on social media people tagged him in it, and he seemed pretty stoked.”

The Warren Maxwell aka Home, Land and Sea’ burger. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Speaking while his burger was being prepared on Friday, Maxwell said he was honoured by the association and had been “salivating” since he’d first heard about the creation.

“If it was a big corporation trying to make a profit then maybe not … but a local place like this, it’s just an honour. It’s a celebration of Wairarapa. The importance placed on the local ingredients, it’s made with aroha.”

Meanwhile, the ‘Lavendar Immortelle’ is a concoction of Reid and Reid native gin infused with Lavender Abbey lavender, lillet blanc, lemon, and absinthe, accompanied by beef jerky.

The cocktail is available throughout the month, and Kloeg says it’s been a hit so far.

“The cocktail is based on one of my favourite cocktails,” he said.

“The Corpse Reviver No 2 … I think there’s 5 or 6 and they’re all different.

“The Corpse Reviver No 2 is gin, cointreau, lillet blanc, and a couple dashes of absinthe.”

While trial versions of the Immortelle used New Zealand brand Scapegrace’s Black Gin. Kloeg decided the drink needed to specifically represent Wairarapa.

The ‘Lavendar Immortelle’.

As such, the end product involves Reid and Reid Native Gin, infused for 24 hours with Lavender Abbey lavender.

The lavender is ground into a powder in-house which helps keep the drink a Byzantium purple, rather than turning brown.

“The lavender is quite herbaceous,” Kloeg said.

“Plus, with Reid and Reid Native Gin there’s quite a lot of aromatics in there already.

“It lifts it really well and gives it a more floral flavour.”

The cocktail was created in conjunction with bar manager Alex Sumenko-Bucknell, who also helped name the creation.

“Immortelle is a flower that you leave at the grave, and they stay there, they don’t die,” Sumenko-Bucknell said.

“Which I guess is a play on that corpse reviver,” Kloeg said.

The final touches include a painstakingly hand-cut lemon-peel cross and misting the drink with absinthe.

  • Wellington On A Plate runs from August 1-31. For more info, visit www.visawoap.com

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