New Zealand foodies go wild for food festival
02 Feb 2012
Hokitika Wildfoods Festival
Saturday 10 March, 2012
Creative foodies with a taste for wild fare have put the small town of Hokitika - on New Zealand’s South Island West Coast - on the international culinary map with an adventurous food festival that attracts thousands of intrepid gourmets.
From a grassroots local celebration, the Hokitika Wildfoods Festival has evolved over two decades into one of the world’s quirkiest food events - a gastronomic celebration of the weird but tasty wild foods harvested from the Coast’s bountiful forests, land, fresh waterways and ocean.
When the 23rd edition of the Hokitika Wildfoods Festival takes place on Saturday 10 March 2012, the little seaside town (pop: 3400) will welcome the biggest crowd of the year - up to 15,000 eager stomachs to satisfy with a bewildering spread of food stalls purveying delicacies destined to exercise the tastebuds of both the discerning and daring.
On the menu
For the true gourmet, there will be fresh from the sea scallop kebabs, wild pork sausages and bacon, spit roast venison, tasty paua / abelone patties, kina / sea egg shots, marinated tuna, whitebait patties, whalebait, and deep-fried shark.
Festival-goers can also sample rare fare such as pukeko / swamp hen, smoked river trout and paradise
duck. And, for those game enough, there will be the challenge of snails, seagull eggs, grasshoppers, mountain oysters, and a choice of huhu beetle grubs served live, cooked, or chocolate-coated.
Even dessert gets a wild twist on the unusual Saturday lunch menu with colostrum cheesecake, mastitis mousse, or comb honey chucks and honey ice cream pancakes.
To wash the delicacies down, there will be Monteiths beer - the local brew of choice - not to mention rhubarb, rose petal and elderflower bubbly, honey mead, kowlua and milk, local moonshine, and fruit juice slug (not recommended for the fainthearted), and stallion semen protein shots of pure testosterone.
Bucket list event
Event manager Mike Keenan says the Hokitika Wildfoods Festival is a "once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list event".
"The Wildfoods Festival is unique and completely different to any other festival in the country. For many people, it is the opportunity to savour a rare delicacy, such as smoked garlic seared whitebait, or to try something they maybe wouldn’t have even considered eating before, like huhu grubs.
"But we also have stalls with good old-fashioned Coast food, like spit roast venison and sweets, and wild pork that may not be as easy to get hold of - or as affordable - in other towns and cities. And it’s all good for you - it’s natural, lean cuisine, without the additives and processing of many foods."
The 2012 festival programme will include a wedding, live entertainment, and cooking demonstrations by a well known Kiwi chef. There is a prize for best-dressed festival-goer, in keeping with the ‘wild time’ theme, and a photography competition.
The iconic festival has become an integral part of the region’s tourism strategy, according to Hokitika mayor Maureen Pugh.
"The festival celebrates the best of Westland, showcasing the stunning natural scenery that the Coast, and New Zealand is known for - stunning panoramas of looming mountains and lush rainforests, rugged seascapes, and an abundance of native trees and wildlife.
"It also introduces visitors to the friendly, welcoming hospitality of Coasters - we love to host people."
When a scaled-down version of the festival was re-run in Singapore as a demonstration of how a successful community-run festival is organised, the foods on offer were greeted with rave reviews.
Hokitika Wildfoods Festival has also been listed as one of 300 ‘unmissable festivals and events around the world’ by international travel guide Frommers.
The festival is endorsed by the New Zealand Heart Foundation, and the international slow food movement.
Background: Hokitika Wildfoods Festival
Known as the quirkiest food festival on the New Zealand culinary calendar - perhaps anywhere in the world - the Hokitika Wildfoods Festival is the epitome of weird and wacky.
In 1990, West Coast local Claire Bryant - who had a cellarful of home brew made from gorse flowers and rose petals - came up with the idea of a festival to celebrate the unique taste of the wild West Coast.
The home brew was teamed with local delicacies such as huhu grubs, punga fern, locusts, worms, larvae, sheep’s testicles, paua and grasshoppers - all fashioned into recognisable foods like sushi, fritters, ice-cream, kebabs and wraps.
Today the event is wilder and wackier than ever and come March each year, the local sense of humour and wild spirit bursts into life as West Coasters excel in culinary creativity.
As wacky as it might be, the event is also a phenomenal success. Numbers are now capped at 15,000, the festival achieves high profile international publicity and generates about NZ$3 million into the West Coast economy on an annual basis.
Weird and wacky New Zealand festivals
West Coast region
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