With America’s Cup, New Zealand Cuisine Shines in San Francisco

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Along with one of the world’s most respected sailing competitions, Kiwi cuisine makes a star appearance on the West Coast

Located on San Francisco’s Pier 29 Embarcadero waterfront, Waiheke Island Yacht Club is in the middle of the action.

Waterbar: With the New Zealand team’s base camp just a five-minute walk away, Waterbar, a mecca for fine seafood dining in San Francisco, partnered with the sailing team to create an extensive New Zealand-themed menu and an offering of more than 30 wines from the country, which ranks as one of the coolest viticultural regions in the world.

Executive chef Parke Ulrich traveled to New Zealand to research farms, vendors, and purveyors. He found that, like California, the country emphasizes simple and sustainable foods, but he also encountered surprises. "The deer that creates the venison runs on a landscape so wild and rugged that they can only be wrangled by helicopter," Ulrich says. "New Zealand has seven species of clams. Compare that to the U.S., which has basically one." He encountered different types of apples, hand-planted vanilla, lean beef, lamb, and unusual fish, such as frostfish, which tastes similar to mackerel but more delicate. Parke takes these New Zealand fundamentals in unusual directions. He turns the Ora King Salmon into a salmon pastrami and serves the frostfish with an encrusted fried green tomato and pickled vegetables. Waterbar’s dinner menu contains at least seven New Zealand- based dishes, including New Zealand Wagyu beef, and that is not counting the oysters and clams in the raw bar.

Beverage director Steven Izzo uncovered revelations about New Zealand wine as well, discovering other varietals beyond its best-known sauvignon blanc. "They use clean and modern wine methods and 90 percent of the producers practice sustainable agriculture. But the wines are more akin to Old World wines — great with food, less alcohol content, and less fruit-driven."

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Waterbar will offer its New Zealand menu and wines through the end of the America’s Cup on Sept. 21.