awardsNothing like a full on day of fabulous flavours combined with a bit of fun.

I had a great time judging the Cuisine Artisan Awards late last year and would like to congratulate not only the final ten winners and the Supreme Winner - the distinctively different and delicious Quina Fina tonic water - but all those who Fiona Smith, the chief judge, selected. It was a tough call to narrow it all down for us as there was a lot of close competition. Good on you all, you are doing some great things!

Who would say no to the chance to celebrate with the lucky winners, some of my friendly fellow judges and members of the talented Cuisine team, with a special breakfast using some of those fine ingredients on the terrace at Soul on the Viaduct? Not Phil and I!

A better spot for this lovely morning would have been hard to find and Gareth and his kitchen team showcased their own talents with the dishes they made (they then had to do something totally different for a fashion parade for 200 for lunch, so just a slightly busy day...).

huevosThe Aroha Wild Rose cordial over fresh fruit was a palate cleansing start and then there was a choice of the Moko smoked eel kedgeree or Huevos Rancheros featuring Javier Garcia's hot chorizo, Culleys Mexican Tijuana sauce and Zany Zeus smoked yoghurt. This is what I chose and it was stunning. An extremely tasty flavour combination atop a tortilla with chorizo, tomato and black bean sauce. The Zany Zeus smoked yoghurt just married all the savoury sweetness and heat together. Yum!

Get a bunch of foodies together and the chat is always interesting. It turns out that Richard Bullock from Pure New Zealand Icecream used to make three types of Valrhona chocolate icecream when he was a chef in Sydney. Seated next to Peter Cullinane, ex advertising chieftain turned butter man, I asked if he would be venturing further into wondrous adventures with cream. He will be. Think double and clotted for a start - this man is going to add excitement to the milk fridges of the nation.

javierThen it was back to the showroom where Javier cooked us and some of you, one of his magnificent paellas - this time including our latest product from the La Chinata fold: the mild smokey dried peppers. Oh my - occasionally, being next Mt Eden Prison, we can smell what they might be having for lunch. With the enticing aroma wafting out of our showroom the thought did occur to me that we might be encouraging breakouts!

Javier Garcia's fresh chorizo is definitely as good as if not better than most. Free of additives and preservatives and in natural casing, it is wonderful in paella and with the addition of the La Chinata peppers - which he generously declared the best he had tried, this was a paella of distinction.

He, himself, an ex- lawyer turned chef, is a warm and knowledgeable presenter and when he visits again, if you can, come along.paella In the meantime the recipe is on our website for you to experience - and his thoughts are turning to morcilla....

For Javier's paella recipe please click here.