Travelling cities as a foodie is one of the highlights of blogging. I get to meet local producers of all things delicious, and listen to their fascinating stories. Talking to people who are so passionate about their work is inspiring, and reminds me of how fortunate I am to have launched my very own products. I share their drive for success, but more importantly, their love for high-quality artisan products.
One such producer was recommended to me by Wellington Tourism, who upon entertaining Mr Fit Foodie and I at Loretta’s restaurant, told me about this awesome hole-in-the-wall churning out the freshest peanut butter in town. I’m a little more than obsessive over nut butter, almond butter, tahini (in fact any nuts or seeds that ground to a thick paste just does it for me) so the next morning, we set out on our discovery.
Walking down a tiny laneway in the back streets of ‘The Coolest Little City’ Wellington, a small white flag simply stakes claim to ‘PEANUT BUTTER’ hung from the wall of a tiny white kitchen.
Three guys sporting flat caps and butchers aprons are working away inside, milling nuts with the sweet aroma of dark chocolate spilling out of their tiny window. After peeking in, the window pops open with one very happy-looking nut butter fanatic inside.
Roman Jewell is the owner of Fix and Fogg, who has been passionately hand-crafting his famous nut butters since 2013.
We’re immediately offered a taste of the newest additions to the F&F range - how could we resist?
Dark Chocolate : made with single origin Ghanaian chocolate and blended with their Super Crunchy peanut butter
Smoke and Fire: combining Super Crunchy peanut butter with New Zealand grown organic cayenne chillies, natural Manuka smoke from Central Otago and Spanish smoke paprika.
Mr Fit Foodie and I fall in love with both (obviously) and rather than suffer a Sophie’s Choice situation, we swiftly pay for a jar of each, throwing caution to the wind with our already-dubious baggage allowance.
I catch up with Roman to find out more about the brand, and just how it all started.
A little bird told us you used to work for a law firm in Sydney. How did you come to hand-crafting delicious nut butters in your Wellington city kitchen?
Ha! Yes, it's true. I worked as a commercial lawyer in Sydney before moving back to New Zealand a couple of years ago. Our peanut butter is really the result of an obsession I had to make the perfect peanut butter.I've always loved peanut butter but the obsession truly began in 2013 when I had a new year's resolution to become more 'horizontally skilled' (as opposed to 'highly skilled', which is focus of the legal profession), so I tried my hand a bunch of different things like cheese making, sewing ... and peanut butter was something that I couldn't crack straight away. I began investing more and more time trying to create the ultimate tasting peanut butter. I'd stay up late at night working on our roast or thinking about equipment that could help me improve the recipe.
I started selling peanut butter at local markets but found that I couldn't keep up with the demand, so I decided to take the plunge and quit my legal job and make peanut butter full-time. Today, we make our peanut butter in a tiny 'nut buttery' in Central Wellington tucked away down a laneway. We supply over 100 stores in New Zealand and a handful in Australia. I love our little nook in the city and it's neat to be able to serve people straight from our window. I'm really proud of the fact that despite our growth we've stayed true to some of our guiding principles – mainly centered around socially responsibility. We’re big fans of recycling and giving back to the community. We support a local food charity and supply peanut butter to the Ronald McDonald house, which houses parents who have sick children in Wellington hospital. We also have a jar holder outside our nut buttery, so people can also return their used jars to us.
What’s the deal with the ‘hi-oleic’ peanuts you use?
We source a particular type of peanut from Kingaroy in Queensland. I call it the Rolls Royce of peanuts because of its amazing taste, health properties and the fact that it's grown in such a great environment. It's the Runner variety peanut and is 'hi-oleic', which means it contains a high proportion of monounsaturated fats (that's the good stuff like the type found in olive oil). We actually had our peanut butter lab tasted to show how healthy it was - the monounsaturated count came back at 39% (olive oil sits around 42%).
I had the pleasure of sampling F&F peanut butter with tomatoes - an unusual but delicious combination! What are your favourite peanut butter pairings that shouldn’t work, but just do?
Not surprisingly, I eat peanut butter with pretty much everything ... I love the fact that you can add it to both savoury and sweet dishes. A lot of people know that peanut butter spread on a slice of apple is a winning combo, but I really like it on a slice of radish - the crunch and peppery taste of the radish works so well with peanut butter.
Tell us how you chose ‘Fix and Fogg’ as the brand name
Our name comes from two characters from the book 'Around the World in Eighty days' by Jules Verne (Phileas Fogg and Detective Fix). I was reading the book when I started selling peanut butter at local markets and I liked the idea that, like the book, I was also embarking on an adventure.
Your best peanut butter recipe
You’re granted one last meal. What would it be?
Geez, that's a tough one. I think it's the people that make a meal, so as long as I was with close friends and family I'd happily eat just about anything.
Favourite Wellington cafe or eatery:
Most-loved local producer:
Wellington is spoilt for local artisan producers - my top three would be Six Barrel Soda, Wellington Chocolate Factory and Urban Honey, who are working hard to introduce beehives into Wellington's CBD.
Not only is Fix and Fogg good for our tastebuds and tummies (check out health benefits here), they respect the environment and encouraging recycling of their glass jars. With a small wire rack hanging next to their kitchen window, customers can return jars for re-use. For every returned jar, F&F make a 20 cent donation to the Free Store on Willis Street - it's an amazing place doing amazing things for the city. You can read more about it here.
Lucky for us Sydneysiders, we can now get out Fix and Fogg fix at stockists Salt Meats Cheese. Phew! Will save me numerous flights back and forth for my fix. To get your hands on some (or surprise me with a gift #justsayin) you can also buy online, or check out other stockists right here.