That is part of daily life at Otahuna Lodge, with passionate foodie and executive chef Jimmy McIntyre at the helm.
The Kiwi has carved a reputation amongst food reviewers during his five-year tenure at the Lodge and 20-year career in several of New Zealand’s finest restaurants.
Fresh local produce inspires dishes such as pan seared local venison with quince jus and Otahuna spring vegetables.
Or local black Perigord truffle and Otahuna porcini mushroom ravioli with parmesan cream – with mushrooms foraged from Otahuna’s own 12-hectare grounds during expeditions made up of Jimmy and keen guests.
For Jimmy, food runs in the family. His brother-in-law runs a restaurant and he followed in his step-father’s footsteps to become a chef at age 15, later working in Australia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India, Holland, Germany, Thailand and Portugal.
Jimmy is loathe to trade his job for a role in a big commercial kitchen. He has found at Otahuna a chef’s idea of heaven.
The best part is he has opened its doors to guests. With its own hens and pigs, vegetable and herb gardens plus an orchard of stone fruit and nut trees, Otahuna’s grounds yield abundant food. It’s foodie heaven.
“The garden is chemical-free and we have a vegetable gardener so we have really great quality fresh fruit and vegetables on the table every day,” Jimmy says. “Whatever is in season I work into the menu.
Towards the height of summer, we can source almost all of our produce from the estate – except for things like venison, which we’ll buy locally.
But we have our own eggs and chickens and lamb – now we even have our own pigs – so we can create a full menu. Every night we’ll add wines from Pegasus Bay or Stoneleigh and local cheeses like Whitestone pecorino.”
Days at the Lodge typically start with a breakfast in a big sunny kitchen overlooking a French courtyard.
Home-made muesli, Jimmy’s apricot or pear compotes and preserves, eggs fresh from the chook pen and local honey are on the menu.
Shelves are lined with house-made preserved lemons, home-grown herbs and jars of roasted tomatoes.
Later in the day, guests enjoy pre-dinner drinks and canapés in the drawing room, followed by a five course degustation dinner with matching New Zealand wines, served at the grand 16-seat table in the regal dining room or in a more private nook if they choose.
The Lodge is unusual in that its rates include breakfast and the degustation dinner is matched with a flight of excellent New Zealand wines.
Click here for more on Otahuna’s summer menus, special dinners and master classes.