Cameron Scott is the former editor of several community newspapers in New Zealand. He is now editor of the daily Cook Islands News, a position he has held previously. A former travel writer and features editor, he has operated an advertising and public relations company as well as a small publishing venture. Before moving back to the Cook Islands he worked as a freelance writer and relieving community newspapers editor for the Bay of Plenty Times in Tauranga, New Zealand.
The Islander Hotel previewed its new menu for 15 guests at the hotel restaurant last Thursday.
Among those invited were prime minister Henry Puna and his wife Akaiti, Cook Islands Tourism chief executive Halatoa Fua and Air New Zealand Cook Islands manager Marisa Newman.
Hotel managing director Rohan Ellis also invited George Ellis – not just because George is his father, but because he’s also a home cook of some reputation and could be relied on to provide some constructive feedback on the proposed new menu.
There were six dishes on the list to be sampled – seven if you count the fact that pork dumplings were cooked in two ways.
And proving that there’s still no such thing as a free lunch, guests also had to award each dish a mark out of 10, as well as provide comments on what they thought of the food.
Rohan Ellis said the dishes were inspired by a recent trip to Auckland, New Zealand, where he was impressed by the food presented at several Asian restaurants he dined at.
He particularly enjoyed the fresh, subtly-spiced food at a Vietnamese restaurant he visited and took note of the fact that many of the ingredients – including the essential fresh herbs such as lemongrass, Thai basil and Vietnamese mint are easily grown here.
He said the new dishes aimed to continue the hotel’s reputation for well-sized and value for money meals that would satisfy the appetites of both locals and visitors.
The “samples,” which were closer to the size of full entrees and main meals served in some restaurants, were accompanied by well-chosen red and white wines.
Subtly flavoured and in many cases accompanied by light, refreshing Asian-style sauces, the dishes included beef tataki, tuna Nicoise, pork dumplings, both fried and steamed, Hoisin sticky chicken, grilled game fish presented with a potato salad and a poached egg and finally, pork belly.
The lunch also served as a workout for the all-local serving staff, who did a great job through numerous plate and cutlery changes.
Look out for the new menu, which also retains a number of well-established favourites, at The Islander soon. - CS
Legendary Cook Islands musician Jon Lindsay made a brief visit to Rarotonga last weekend, performing a special one-off beach concert with band Kokojamaz at the Islander Hotel’s Hula Bar.