Sunday 25 January 2009

Mushroom Magic in the Canterbury forests

The annual mushroom hunt is on!

An epicurean adventure in Canterbury, New Zealand
It's a recipe for perfection: a five-star chef at your disposal, a luxury country getaway, and pure New Zealand produce gathered that day in the most pristine of environments.
As part of the exclusive two-night Mushroom Hunt package at Otahuna Lodge, Executive Chef Jimmy McIntyre will escort guests on an epicurean adventure through the forests and fields of the Lodge in the picturesque Canterbury region. With a cooking lesson and five-star dining experience to follow, Jimmy's knowledge and enthusiasm will ignite your senses and arouse your passion for food.

This extraordinary seven-suite luxury property on the South Island, just a 20-minute drive from Christchurch Airport, is making its mark in food circles with its five-course degustation dinners, paired with perfectly selected New Zealand wines. The Lodge reopened in May 2007 after an extensive renovation by new owners, Hall Cannon and Miles Refo, who swept in from New York to transform this magical historic property.

The Mushroom Hunt starts with a foraging expedition in which expert Jimmy will track down porcini and field mushrooms, abundant on the Lodge's 12 hectare grounds until the end of March. He will then take guests on a personal tour of his extraordinary "potager", or kitchen garden – a one-hectare chemical-free oasis tended by its own full-time gardener. The potager is adjoined by an orchard, abundant with berries, apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries and quince, hazelnuts and walnuts. The Lodge even grows its own saffron – worth more than its weight in gold!

During a personal cooking lesson in the Lodge's charming country kitchen, guests will see how Jimmy's famous five-course degustation dinners are created – and how to make magic out of mushrooms! They will use ingredients almost entirely gathered fresh on the property, from leeks and artichokes to chicken and eggs.

Guests will then venture further afield on a "Taste Canterbury" food and wine tour, escorted by award-winning food writer Mavis Airey. From the Banks Peninsula to the Waipara Valley, guests will explore the workings of speciality cheese-makers and boutique wineries, tasting house-smoked salmon, single-flower honey varieties and hand-made chocolates.

New Zealand native Jimmy says the Mushroom Hunt package gives diners a rare opportunity to experience a culinary journey from paddock to plate.

"This is as far from the supermarket as you will get – what goes on your plate each night is determined by what is in season in the fields, the forests and the garden," he says. "It's the freshest food you could possibly find. We'll pair things like local venison with autumn vegetables from the garden and match this with a Waipara Valley Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir. It's a completely unique New Zealand dining experience."

The Mushroom Hunt Package, 1 February to 31 March, 2009

Otahuna Lodge's two night mushroom package, depending on the suite and based on double occupancy, ranges from NZ$4000 to $5200 plus 12.5% GST.  Rates include a two-night stay, daily breakfast, evening cocktails and canapés, two five-course degustation dinners with wine pairings, a cooking class and a 'Taste Canterbury' food and wine tour.

For further information or for reservations, phone Otahuna Lodge on +64 3 329 6333, email or visit


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