The lightest pheasant liver parfait spread on buttery brioche greeted 20 guests on Monday evening as they arrived at the stunning Kouzina showroom for an evening of education and eating. A glass of Nautlius Cuvée Marlborough NV Brut in hand, they took their seats to enjoy a passionate cooking demonstration by Cazador's Dariush Lolaiy and Rebecca Smidt, presented by Dish Food Editor Claire Aldous. Each tutorial was enlivened with vignettes of a life centered around the game restaurant that Dariush's parents established over 25 years ago on Auckland's Dominion Road, that has been in the pair's extremely capable hands since 2012.
Rebecca is keen to point out that whilst Cazador has become heavily associated with its more extreme menu items - hearts, lungs, livers and whole roasted suckling pigs - it's not the result of a desire to shock or a fixation with novetly; it's about respecting the animal that has been hunted. When Dariush's dad Tony successfully shoots duck, the meat is beautifully cooked and the remaining fat rendered and stored for future use. It's also because offal can be delicious.
Rebecca urges us to "forget how your Granny used to cook liver - she's not in the kitchen now". Dariush is, and has the benefit of state of the art Gaggenau appliances to cook with, like a full surface induction cooktop that calculates the size of pot and heats accordingly which is utilised to fry rabbit hearts, lungs, kidney and liver to perfection.
After the demonstration, guests were invited to eat at the Long Table, and enjoyed two savoury courses - a tasting platter with babaganous, tabbouleh, labneh and rabbit offal (matched with Nautilus Chardonnay 2013), and roast hare saddle with beetroot, dill and walnuts - and the best truffle mash we've ever tasted - complemented perfectly with Nautilus Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010.
For dessert, Cazador patisserie king Sam Ali presented the classic English trifle with savoury notes of fennel to balance sweet plum and plum wine. It was an indulgent and elegant end to a suberb evening.
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