One of the coolest traits surrounding Kiwi ingenuity isn’t just the No.-8-wire-ability to fix or recreate something, but to do so in such a manner that it becomes a world-class solution. You can see this “couldn’t find it so I made it” mentality across the board from the brilliant Williams Warne mini brewery to the stunning America's Cup racing yachts. And now, thanks to the minds and hearts of the Kiwi-American collaboration between Parnell native Anthony Burt and Kenya, Singapore, South Korea and Boston native Kevin Law-Smith. You can add the world's best tonic waters right up there alongside Richard Pearce's (flying machines) and Bruce McLaren's (racing machines) gear. Hyperbole you say? I say you’ll have to try these tonics to see for yourself.
Perhaps the struggle to equate a tonic water with something as flash as a Formula One machine is that most tonics are boring as. Or, that they’re so much pop, fizz and sugar that they’re easily dismissed as inconsequential. This however would not have been the case upon their invention, when the jungles of Southeast Asia could kill a man via mosquito and quinine became an essential “tonic” or treatment against the disease. The invention that came next, namely, gin & tonic, became an essential way to cope with the bitterness of the cinchona tree bark from which quinine is derived, as well as coping with other life issues ever since. In fact, if you look closely at the original tonic accompanying those early gin mixes, you would find something quite extraordinary in both it’s history and affect.
In terms of kiwi invention, I think what Anthony and Kevin have recaptured here is the affect of gin and tonic. A lot of people have tried to create mixers that would blend well with an average gin, and have succeeded in making something equally average if not overly carbonated and sugared. What the boys from Auckland have managed instead, is to tap back into the original idea, recipes, ingredients and uniqueness of the historical G&T. How they’ve done this is really the backbone of their story.
As artisan gin’s started making a comeback in the last 10 years, Kevin and Anthony noted that there wan’t a proper tonic available which didn’t wipe out the distinct flavours - sometimes herbaceous, sometimes spirited - of these outstanding varieties. On noting the lack, Kevin was reminded that his great grandfather had a recipe dating back to Kenya circa 1903 which described the making of the tonic of his day. This core recipe became the basis of trial and error until the fellas settled on two heirloom quinine sources in Asia, artesian water from Nelson and a few other authentic ingredients to make up the range of tonics they perfected. The other aspect of their invention is a nod to the original by calling the company East Imperial, an homage to both the origin of the drink’s ingredients and a reminder that the word imperial, back in the day, referred to something exceptional, or the best you could find. What they’ve managed, I think, is a striking combination of both an exceptional - even imperial - product and a brand / communication which could not have been displayed in a better fashion. A reminder of something beautiful, almost forgotten, restored for the rest of us.
These two facts have not been lost on the bartenders of the world who by nature are nomadic and tend to share their secrets with the top five or six establishments they may work at around the show over a two to three year period. As a result, this little Kiwi company touting a historic comeback is now in over 32 countries and being poured at some of the worlds finest establishments from the iconic 28 Hong Kong Street in Singapore to the ancient Savoy in London. Places where the subtle juniper of Tanqueray or the botanicals of even our local Broken Heart Gin want to shine through, being well supported by a lightly carbonated, beautifully crafted tonic. East Imperial have not stopped at the first gate however and have gone on to create a line of tonics that are fabulous in a range of drinks. Having some friends over this weekend (South by 42below and Bombay Saphire from across the world) along with a few people to share, we took the range for a spin and were so delightfully surprised at the restraint, subtle invention and sometimes gobsmackingly bright (that would be the grapefruit tonic) that we reigned down praise on each other for our good taste in both gin and mixer, and of course, ultimately each other. We tip our hats to these guys, their wives, their friends and who have all joined in the bringing back of something special in the world, something almost lost to the habits of large manufacturers and thus the habits formed in us. Here’s to the reforming of our taste buds and of our celebrations.
I love finding out where great products come from, who makes them and why. Every time I walk by something new at Raeward Fresh I wonder how it came to be and what went on in the lives of its producers which made its way into that box or this jar. On top of this, the often outstanding packaging (usually made from renewables) and super nice graphic design tells me a lot about the consideration and care these makers embody. Once I get the newbie food item home and have a sample, I’m even more curious about why someone would go to this much trouble to make, for instance, a wide range of perfectly fermented living food sauerkrauts in a place so far away from Germany, or even the U.S. Midwest or Seoul (the other capitols of sour…)? So when I found out that the creators of all these super nice fermented foods met on the solar eclipse trail in China, things started to come together.
Peter Kearns grew up in Karori where his father owned the Gipps Street Butchery. He grew up working in the food industry and eventually made his way to another foodie mecca on the other side of the world in East London. Fiona grew up near London where she worked in energy efficiency and sustainability. After meeting in China, the couple lived in London for a while longer but became disillusioned with their jobs and decided to move back to NZ. They wanted to start something completely new but weren’t exactly sure what that might be until health issues forced them to look for fermented foods as part of the healing regime for pancreatitis.
This is where Peter’s food background came back into play. He knew what he needed health wise, which was a living prebiotic and probiotic food which he could enjoy every day as a way of rebuilding his gut health. Even more importantly though, Peter knew how to combine traditional and innovative approaches to fermenting ingredients which would stand out not only for himself, but a growing group of food and health enthusiasts around New Zealand. And thus, Living Goodness was born. For instance, his deft use of juniper berry and caraway seeds in their Sassy Sauerkraut is brilliant.
Now, it may be true that aside from a few Maori dishes, Kiwi’s aren't typical fermented food eaters (beer not included). But what is true is that we do like to try new things and make even more new things from what we’ve learned. For instance, when you look at Fiona’s suggestions for using their broad range of foods in your everyday eating, you can see fermented foods making a lot of delicious sense:
Living Goodness Sassy Sauerkraut
• Sprinkle on your salad or a simple avocado and toast open sandwich with olive oil and seeds
ª Mix through some boiled potatoes with just a little bit of butter just before serving
• Layer in a pulled pork warp or add to a veggie burger
• Make a hazelnut, salami, gruyere cheese and sauerkraut toastie
Sum Yum Kimchi
• Have it as a condiment to a Tofu and exotic mushroom bibimap
• Put some spice in your rice by adding Sum Yum Kimchi before you serve
• Mix through brown rice, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, chopped tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, your favourite herbs, olive oil & lemon juice
• Have as a side to grilled fish with garlic, lemon
I’ve done some taste tests of my own with some good old Southland Desiree red potatoes and Raeward Fresh Queenstown's Pork and Apple Sausages and came up with this for lunch:
Lovely depth, caraway comes through nicely. Blends beautifully with apple pork sausage. You know it when you strike a juniper berry though. Fiona recommends leaving them aside as they are there to flavour the mix.
Quick draw slaw
A punchy balance of celeriac, carrot and chili comes through. Again, mellows with sausage and creates a nice foil to the meatiness
Seaweed comes through immediately with the kale and cabbage complimenting. Spun my sausage towards a Korean direction, like it would have gone great in a gimbap or as a condiment with bulgogi
Super fresh and crunchy with a pert salty flavour. Perfect with sausage, especially warmed up like the Ze Germans would do. Warming up your Living Goodness Sauerkraut will kill off the bacteria but take the flavours in another nice direction.
Really interesting with the deeper red cabbage notes coming through softened by the sweet/earthy beetroot. With sausage, mellows to a red cabbage slaw which would pair well with venison.
I had this with dinner and having grown up with Kimchi in California, found it to be a bright, solid version of this ancient condiment.
There’s a growing awareness that fermented foods eaten daily have heaps of gut health benefits. What I learned recently from Fiona however, is that for probiotics to work, they need to feed off prebiotics in order to flourish and do their job. Living Goodness therefore use a prebiotic chicory root in their foods as part of the living system. Which I guess makes sense coming from a couple who met following solar eclipses around the world. Which is not to say that they’re hippies, which they might be, but that they are both visionary and deep in their understanding and appreciation of the world. You can see this in the ingredients and process behind each of their foods and we’re grateful at Raeward Fresh that their journey has become part of ours.
Who we are
This blog is written by Patrick Dodson and is a collaborative effort from the entire Raeward Fresh team of purchasers, chefs, nutritionists, butchers, grocers, baristas and other food creatives.
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