Unlike the past two years where the sun had shone brightly on the warm Kapiti soil, today Mother Nature spent her tears all about us. They fell onto the already lush green ground, and the rain pattered gently against the windows, as we sat chatting in anticipation of this year's cooking class commencing.
I was intrigued to see how this year's theme The Discreet Charm of a Country Christmas would play out both with the menu and the themed dinner to finish off the day. But I was also equally happy to sit and take everything in, letting the day unfold moment by moment.
Listening to Ruth, a consummate storyteller, weave her magic through the class is something you have to see and hear to believe. One particular story that stayed with me was that one staff member spends four months of the year day after day making the hundreds of Ruth Pretty Christmas cakes that are bought to be enjoyed or given away with love. This year one had even been sent off to a Captain in Afghanistan, and I can imagine it would be one of the tastiest treats someone could hope to receive so far from home on Christmas Day.
The famous Christmas Cake
We were fortunate enough to taste that famous cake during the morning tea break, and I savoured each mouthful knowing more of the care and attention with which these cakes have been so lovingly made.
Time spent wandering leisurely around the kitchen shop during the break is always a visual feast. It's hard to know where to look with so many beautiful preserves and amazing kitchen implements, and this year, Ruth's newly published book was also on display to tempt many a purchase. I couldn't help but notice on the front cover were the mouth-wateringly tasty savoury tarts we had enjoyed as a starter at last year's class.
The bubbly this year too, was rather special. Any wine from Margain Vineyard in Martinborough would be so, but upon learning that the bubbly La Michelle, a very small vintage, had been made especially by the owners for their daughter Michelle's wedding, every sip thereafter was somehow all the more to savour.
The market stall alongside the outdoor bar was just the right touch of country to go with the lavender lemonade and bountiful wine and beer selection.
And then, just as were getting comfortable in the now almost tropical outdoor air, the doors behind us suddenly opened onto a scene of rustic charm, so country and yet so quintessentially Kiwi at the same time.
From the Christmas tree - a punga fern glittering with baubles and lights, to the barely opening buds of agapanthus adorning the table, and the intricate screenprinted hessian about the walls, it was an absolute delight for the eyes.
We sat at tables each named after a famous racing horse, framed by row upon row of flax flowers sprinkled with the odd glittering bauble reflecting the hue of party lights.
And the best was yet to come.
Bacon Wrapped Turkey and Parmesan Sausages
Irene's West Coast Whitebait with Tarragon Cream Cheese and Salted Olive Oil Crackers
Roast Leg of Lamb with Lemon and Oregano
New Potatoes with Honey Mustard Dressing and Crunchy Sprinkle
Legumes with Minted Butter
Asparagus with Tomato and Caper Vinaigrette
Christmas Icebox Cake with Roasted Pineapple
I'd never heard of an icebox cake before but there is a definite appeal to making a no-cook cake that you can prepare in advance this Christmas. With layers of chocolate hazelnut biscuits held together with a soft chocolate ganache and a hint of Christmas mince, all delicately wrapped up in cream, marscapone and Frangelico, well let's just say it was just right combination to end a magical day on.