Usually I wouldn't think of Auckland as the sort of city where you can stumble down a laneway (or in this case, up an escalator) and discover something of an inner-city oasis. That's the sort of thing that happens in faraway cities that I'll visit 'one day', while Auckland is a city of routine, habit and solid plans. However last night a spontaneous trip to Scarecrow – a favourite eatery that had recently relocated to a new space – fortuitously saw a friend and I taking part in their one–off Modern Day Renaissance Feast. We'd just stopped by for an after–work drink but quickly found ourselves welcomed and seated for the dinner. That's the sort of place Scarecrow strives to be – on paper it's a café, artisan food store and restaurant, but it's also an inclusive haven of community that wholeheartedly supports local producers.
Lately Scarecrow has played host to a string of intriguing dinners aiming to strengthen the links and thought around where our food comes from. As part of their 'meet the maker' series this Renaissance Feast saw Gary Crabbe of Bald Hills Boutique Winery and Isabella Sullivan from the Matakana Olive Oil Coop speak about their respective products between courses. Encouraging us to give him feedback about his wine, Gary explained his winery's move towards organic growing and the complexities behind this. Isabella gave us an animated lesson in olive oil, how it's made and all the amazing things it can be used for; imploring us to only buy extra virgin variety.
The first course was a simple yet delicious vegetable soup drizzled in oil and seasoning, which was quickly devoured. This was followed by a deliciously crispy grilled porae swimming in a tasty walnut sauce, served on a series of mismatched Crown Lynn. This slightly unusual choice of fish reflects chef Ben Barton's interest in sustainable seafood. His love of fishing as a child sparked a passion for cooking and, later, an interest in economics and fishing regulation. A recent dinner saw NIWA and key members of the fishing industry come together to discuss the use of this undervalued resource.
One of our favourite dishes was among the shared course of roast veges, lamb and greens – a plate of unassuming charred cauliflower, so simple and delicious. We passed around the plates of hearty, comforting kumara, meat and spinach until we declared we were too full to move. And then we spied the dessert: chocolate tortellini in a sea of brandy cream, adorned with zesty slices of orange, accompanied by a delectably sweet 2015 Riesling.
Our plates disappeared and we were offered thick, rich shots of Kokako espresso and left to browse the shelves of produce that line the back of the restaurant. As the evening divluged into a discussion of food, wine and coffee it became clear much of the group was reluctant to leave. Eventually we did meander home, feeling incredibly full, a little more at home in the city and a little less interested in jetting off 'somewhere else'.