Chef Gordon Sutherland’s Pavlova, Cedar Lodge

by Scott Sadil

True or not, the Kiwis will all tell you their Pav puts any Aussie Pav to shame.

What’s all the fuss about?  The story, as I hear it around Wanaka, the picturesque resort town creeping into the foothills above the southern shores of its namesake lake, stretching into the shadows of the South Island’s Southern Alps, is that the flamboyant meringue-based dessert originated in New Zealand, in honor of a visit paid to the country, in the 1920s, by Russian ballet sensation Anna Pavlova.

The Aussies make more or less the same claim.

New Zealand rainbow

Scholarly research has gone to absurd lengths to settle the debate.  The fine print in most studies suggests that similar desserts were already being made in many parts of Europe and even the US, well before the divine Ms. Pavlova brought her tutus and pointe shoes to the southern hemisphere.  

Details of this sort, of course, have never prevented citizens of either New Zealand or Austrailia from claiming “firstness”—or any other measure of superiority—over the efforts of their island neighbors.   

I’m probably way out of line entering the debate.  But has that ever stopped me before?

Carl McNeil, Epic Fly Rods

My first encounter with a genuine Kiwi Pav came at the end of a long home-cooked dinner with Carl McNeil, celebrated designer of Epic fly rods, and his spirited wife Jeanie Ackley and teenage daughter Jessie. There’d been a bit of beer while companions Brian and Kevin and I tootled around Wanaka with Carl, including a look at the big eels and trout moving in and out of the shadows beneath the downtown public dock.  Then a regional white wine throughout the meal of grilled chicken and a tasty local sweet potato, and by the time dessert was served, a drastically falling level of Jameson from a bottle I could have sworn Carl had opened just moments before.

The pav was visually stunning – even if my senses may have been a wee bit impaired.

No question, however, how the light, sweet, creamy textures and layers of fresh berries and kiwifruit landed on the tongue and lit up the mouth.

Worried about calories?  My theory has always been that we’re capable of expending just as many of them enjoying our food as we are in consuming it.

You can look it up.

Breakfast fruit, Cedar Lodge

A week later, in the wake of more good trout rising to big dry flies than any angler could, or should, ever hope for, chef Gordon Sutherland, of Cedar Lodge, sets out another Kiwi Pavlova—a replica, perhaps, of the first, although by now I’ve been all but overwhelmed by exquisite meals, to the point that culinary judgment of any sort might have vanished entirely, along with all notions I might have had, prior to my stay, as to what constitutes good or even great trout fishing.

More to the point, I’m blown away.

A week in New Zealand has left Gray’s angling editor Scott Sadil wondering, like countless other visiting anglers, where the small trout live.