Monday the 17th May was a day nervously and excitedly anticipated by everyone in the Our Kitchen team. Due to the fact that we are spread over 2 sites (one in the South island, the other in the North) the team had yet to meet face-to-face, even after a year and a half of working together on the blog. Fortnightly video conference calls help, in part, to bridge our geographically challenged team. However we had long been anxious to meet in person, to spend quality time bonding over food and wine, the things which first brought us all together as a haphazard, long-distance team all those months ago.
Sara and I, the Auckland contingent, met bleary eyed as she pulled into my driveway long before the birds had even contemplated their sunny morning chorus. Pre-coffee, we both sat and contemplated the next four days ahead as the taxi speed through quiet Auckland streets.
At the airport the rain fell steadily and pooled on the tarmac and ran in rivulets down the plane windows. As we took off the morning light filled the sky and reflected off wings and clouds as the plane accelerated towards our destination. Trolleys and stewards came and went and soon our descent began. As the slick, cool underbelly of the plane broke through the layers of thick, fluffy cloud I was immediately taken by the landscape. My little window perfectly framed the scenes as they speed by below me and through the clouds emerged the jagged outlines of the Otago Peninsula, stretching out like a crooked claw into the Pacific Ocean.
We touched down just before 9am and the expectant Dunedin contingent were there at the airport to welcome us. At last we could put faces to names and celebrate our collective achievements! Day one was planned as an ice-breaker – an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other over great food and wine with Central Otago (wine country) as our backdrop. The day passed in a whirlwind of breathtaking landscapes, crisp autumn air, enviable amounts of Central Otago pinot and mouth-watering food. The autumnal colours are like none I have ever seen before – muted tones of orange, red, yellow, brown, green and slate-y blues.
The following three days were spent at the Dunedin office where we cooked, styled, shot and ate copious amounts of food. Our third day was awaited with trepidation as we were to take part in the butchering of a lamb, born and bread at Mike’s (the head of industrial design in Dunedin) place at the top of Saddle Hill. I have huge respect for people who raise, slaughter and butcher their own meat. It is all too easy to turn a blind eye to the process that occurs between paddock (picture if you might a cute fluffy lamb grazing spring pastures) and plate (lamb shanks, lamb roast, lamb rack). So, for me it was important to really be present in the butchering process (I mustered sufficient courage to wield a knife and take to the hanging carcass) so as to gain a better understanding of how meat arrives to be neatly packaged and stacked on our supermarket shelves.
And so our four days in Dunedin passed in a blur of food, wine, landscapes and laughter and the promise of more trips to come. Thank you to the southern-most members of the blog team, and also to all of those people down in the Dunedin office who went out of their way to introduce themselves, or say hello – you all made us feel so at home. Let’s hope that the next time we meet the Dunedin team will venture north so that we can return their generosity and warm hospitality.