Friends and fellow foodies – the wait is almost over. The arrival of this year’s VWOAP programme means that August is just around the corner and once again we’ll be criss-crossing the city en masse, hitting up the more than 140 eateries, bars and food trucks that will be keeping us sated for 17 lip-smacking days.
You can be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed by the programme at first – VWOAP is a festival that gets bigger each year, and with more than 110 events, 40 cocktails and 120 burgers (!) you’re sure to find something to have your tastebuds buzzing. Some of us might have the money to invest in a human cloning programme to ensure we get to every single event; others, like myself, spend too much on smashed avocado (#noregrats) so we’ll just have to make some tough choices.
This year’s festival is a celebration of food as a part of New Zealand culture. You’ll see this theme popping up throughout the programme in all the myriad ways that we Kiwis enjoy our tucker, from pints and pies to an authentic hāngi spread. As always, our chefs and bartenders will be showcasing the best local produce and ingredients.
After a quick scan of this year’s programme, here’s what I’m personally looking forward to:
I’m so excited about this year’s Chef Collaboration series. Top Wellington eateries will open up their kitchens to host some acclaimed out-of-towners, treating Wellingtonians to some of the finest food New Zealand and the world has to offer. This is your chance to experience the likes of Melbourne’s Attica and Cumulus Inc, Shanghai’s Baoism, Auckland’s Culprit and Cult Project, and Lyttleton’s Roots right here in our own backyard. An old Wellington favourites will also be making a limited comeback.
Yum cha is something I have strong feelings about (usually to do with feeling very full) so I’m intrigued by Garage Project’s collaboration with Wellington institution Regal Chinese Restaurant. Garage Project beers will be paired with Regal’s classic Cantonese and Hong Kong cuisine, including some one-off dishes. Brews and dim sum? Say no more!
As for burgers – because I know that’s what y’all are curious about – if I had to pick just one based solely on descriptions in the programme, it would be Five and Dime’s burger with its “impossible” vegetarian patty. Impossible, eh? I choose to accept this mission. OK, OK – I can’t pick just one. If you can get over the idea of eating a punny rabbit, Müchen’s “Hop’d To It” could be one hare-raising burger.
Some of you might remember that I got into this blogging business by writing about Cocktail Welly’s debut three years ago. My love for a luscious libation has not waned, and this year there are a few temptations that have made me very thirsty indeed.
The writer in me can’t possibly resist The Library’s literature-themed cocktail list, which they’ll be serving throughout the entire festival. Will these drinks prove that the pen is mightier than the Chambord?
Elsewhere, Sterling’s Woodfire & Whiskey event is dedicated to exploring all things whiskey, and Hawthorn Lounge’s cocktail degustation will reveal how food has influenced the world of cocktails. For anyone who’s ever been confounded by wine, Le Cordon Bleu is holding Variety of Varietal Wines, pairing 12 wines with a five-course French degustation.
Two-time Cocktail Welly winner Ray Letoa of Coco at The Roxy will be gunning for a hat-trick, but from the looks of the Cocktail Welly entries there’s some stiff competition this year.
Good food and drink are essential components of wellness, but it also pays to feed the mind with new ideas and ways of looking at the world and what we eat. This year, there are a number of events that will be a feast for your brains and your eyes.
The ConversatioNZ Symposium 2017 will bring together some the industry’s leaders to share insights about the state of Aotearoa’s food scene. Speakers include Ben Shewry of Attica fame and acclaimed food critic Jonathan Gold (who will also appear at a special screening of City of Gold at The Roxy).
Wellington sculptor Rose Young brings her Tiny Portions to VWOAP with an exhibition of peculiarly satisfying miniature foods. Rose will turn some of Wellington’s iconic dishes into a pint-sized meal. Portion control has never been so fun or adorable.
Virtual reality is the next big thing not just in entertainment but perhaps even in dining. Virtual Dining is an event that will literally change how to look at your food as you’re taken on a VR journey of what has gone into the dish you’re about to enjoy. I’m still waiting for my hover board, but I guess this little slice of the future will do for now.
A big part of enjoying food is learning how it’s made and where it comes from. If you’ve ever wanted to make the perfect pastry, roast your own coffee or train your pet dog to hunt for truffles, there are plenty events just for you – check out the Hands On section of the programme.
Here’s a tip to help with planning your festival: get to know your way around the VWOAP website. This year, you can create an account and shortlist whatever whets your appetite, be it burgers, cocktails or events. This will make planning so much easier, and you can keep a track of all the events you’ll need to book tickets for. Once the festivities kick off on 11 August, you’ll be able to log in to rate each festival dish, burger and cocktail you try. Remember: your votes help to determine the finalists who will go on to compete for glory at this year’s VWOAP Festival Awards Evening, which is open to the public. (More on this in a future blog…)
If you prefer to plan your festival experience the old-fashioned way, check out the handy index and calendar at the back of the programme. These break the entire festival down into a few quick-reference pages – super useful if you find yourself in a particular part of town and want to know what’s happening in that ‘hood.
I could go on and on about all the fantastic things on offer but it’s time you get started on perusing this year’s programme yourself. Keep an eye out on the blog over the next few months – my fellow blogger Georgia and I will be on hand to give you the inside goss of what to eat and drink and where to go. We’ll go into the kitchens and behind the bars of your favourite places to introduce you to the super talented and dedicated people that help to make VWOAP the success that it is.
Lastly, don’t forget that the Visa pre-sale begins on Monday 19 June at 12pm, and general ticket sales open on Wednesday 21 June. Let the fun begin!