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Monday, March 12, 2018

Traveling Cowboys: A Party in a Paddock at the 2018 Wairarapa Harvest Festival in New Zealand


Liz Pollock, the organiser of the annual Wairarapa Harvest Festival, referred to it as the party in a paddock. That was too modest. It was gourmet on the grass!

Sean Toohey of WilliamsWarn arranged with Liz for the last two highly sought-after media passes. The Cowboys were the lucky recipients. Now we could experience what rural New Zealand food festival life’s is all about. We were invited into the inner circle of rustic gastronomy. We thought we'd seen it all after covering countless food events around the globe. What we found was an absolute adventure in gourmet food and wine - in a paddock! It could easily have been a chef-hosted event on Granville Island. The produce, cooking and creativity were that good.


The event took place at the sheltered riverside setting known as “The Cliffs” on the banks of the Ruamahunga River. It is a remote setting, amongst vineyards and under ancient trees. Remote enough for a noisy pino-lubricated hunger party, but also close enough for Wellingtonians to make the trek up the road for a little culture. Masterton and Carterton are both a stone’s throw away.

If you go by the numbers, it is not a massive festival. Around twenty-three eateries and wineries participated in the day-long festivities. They hosted just over two-thousand hungry and thirsty patrons. The tickets are limited we were told, to keep the festival small and personal. Everyone is guaranteed a sampling of what was on offer. There indeed was enough food and wine for everyone. Chairs and tables were in short supply. Locals knew that, so they brought their chairs, blankets and picnic cutlery.

The event sold out within two hours of tickets going on sale. It happened months ago already. The Harvest Festival is not an event you will likely get to, as an outsider occasionally passing through New Zealand. As with many of these top-class occurrences, you have to rely on a local punter or sponsor within a secret food society, to part with a select few highly sought-after tickets for sneaking you into the inner gourmet circle of the best of New Zealand.

When it came to the food, they spared no expense. Only the best made it to the serving table. It offered nothing pretentious and everything hearty. Only the best fresh local ingredients made it into the dishes that included whitebait fritters, lamb pie, salted beef, spicy wedges and Pinot Noir. All were familiar favourites that came with a creative twist as the restaurants battled to outdo each other.


We've said it before. Food festivals must have lots of food. Far too often we’ve seen food festivals turn into taster festivals. At the Wairarapa Harvest Festival, they know how to throw a party with enough food and wine for everyone.

What stood out was the quality and variety of the produce and the lengths the businesses went to serve the perfect dish. Our favourite was the lamb cutlet pies and a little Pinot with the whitebait fritters and the Chardonnay a close second. It was simple and hearty and utterly the best of rural New Zealand.

Thank you for the invite Sean, and Liz. We would love to see you next year again!

Hendrik van Wyk
Food Festival Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too. If you want to see us do more of these, then please forward the favour. We will use it for the next episode promoting a local business or event.


Getting the Wine


More Food!


That Pie!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Two Cowboys: Never Again with the Travelling Cowboys in Canmore, Alberta, Canada

Never Again

We were flying back from New Zealand in the worse airplane seats imaginable, courtesy of Air New Zealand. Unfortunately, there isn't much choice in airline between Canada and New Zealand, so we had to suck it up, tuck it in, and ride it out to the land of the long white cloud.

When you feel discomfort, distractions are welcome. Our Scotch quota was limited, so we were cut off early by gramps, our in-flight safety officer and server attendant, so the trip became an early sobering experience - a time to reflect. The entertainment system had Anthony Bourdain featuring chefs in Japan, and the program threw out fashionable Zen quotes between scene changes. Then, I found what I was looking for. A straightforward, yet profound Zen quote caught my attention.

We were winding down our year two of the Two Cowboys. It was one last trip Downunder and we were taking stock of what we've managed to achieve since launching the brand. It couldn't have come at a better time. 


Someone once said that his biggest fear was reaching the end of his life, and meeting the person he could've been. This struck a profound chord with me three years prior, while on the corporate consulting treadmill in downtown Calgary, Alberta. Two things became glaringly obvious. What I was doing with my days held little personal value for me, and the days were passing alarmingly faster the older I got. I realized that I wasn't going to be the person I wanted or could be. Time for it was running out.

It spurred me to action that ultimately culminated in the launch of the Two Cowboys. My brother from a different father, my best friend - Braam Compton - and I launched the concept of the Two Cowboys in January 2016. My son Henry, the camera, joined us a few months later. (Hence, our website name as the Two Cowboys & A Camera -

The Two Cowboys experience is a means for us, to some important ends. There are key philosophies behind what we do. Firstly, it is an opportunity, after two decades of consulting and salaried employment, to call our career values and perspectives in question. For example, we question our commitment to the expected way of living as employees on a never-ending treadmill of financial dependence. Secondly, the Two Cowboys is an attempt to craft a flexible and more preferential lifestyle that allows us to get more out of the art of living. More adventures. More of the people we like. Better quality food, friendships and learning. More of the world. Thirdly, it is a chance to consciously choose every moment and personally weigh the merits of every action, interaction and opportunity.

Lastly, the Two Cowboys is a chance for growth. After publishing over three-hundred videos and blog posts in twenty-four months and producing even more for the people and businesses that partnered with us, we've inevitably learned a lot. We've learned about beer, brewing, hats, boots, soap, cooking, travelling, malting, art, goldsmithing, barbequing, baking, engineering, food trucking, distilling, fishing, filming, and the list goes on. We've met amazing people in Alberta, BC, Hawaii, Mexico and New Zealand. More destinations are coming and more experiences waiting. Most importantly, we've learned a lot about people with the 1,800 interviews we've done.

The most significant lesson we learned is to invest our valuable time in the people that reciprocate. We learned to care about the people that care about us.

The Zen quote I discovered that day on the flight back from New Zealand said, "Once in a lifetime, never again."


It struck me.

Because, while we were trying to achieve, build or understand, the ever-fleeting moments were still passing us by. In all the frenzy of activity, the days are still ticking, and we cannot confidently say that we are becoming more of what we can be. Ultimately, our moments are now just different moments with different activities, focus or motivation.

That is why we will be taking it slower in 2018. The Two Cowboys & A Camera will be more deliberate and more intentional. Every relationship we choose to have will be more valuable to us. Everything we do, more purposeful.

Because, it all happens once in a lifetime, then never again.

Hendrik van Wyk
Never Again Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Traveling Cowboys: Winging Wing Night in Canada - Finding the Perfect Wings and Beer with the Two Cowboys

Becoming Canadian

There are two ways how Canada let you in and accept you into its inner circle. No matter where you come from in the world, if you participate in these two sacred rites, you are Canadian! No, bashing the kid (Justin Trudeau) is not the way to do it.

The surest way to become Canadian is through a game of shinny (social ice hockey) with a few oldtimers. This is the hardest way to learn to understand Canada. Especially, when you are from a warm country and never learned to ice skate in the first place. With ice hockey, comes a unique language and an understanding of its people. An understanding that will continue to elude you unless you are willing to step into a stinky locker room, suit up with frozen hockey gear, lace up your skates and step onto the hockey ice. Don't ever expect to keep up. Instead, you are bound to become their comic relief in perpetuity. Canadians will respect you for it and you will have the bruises to prove it.

The second, and a less painful way (which is debatable) is when you are invited to wing night on hump day. This is a story about surviving wing night in Canada.


I realize that we may be using highly technical Canadian vernacular in this post. Therefore, before we go any further, we have to provide insight into the complicated concepts associated with the phenomena. Firstly, wing night is usually on hump day.

Hump day is the middle of a work week. It is usually Wednesday when your week starts on a Monday. The term is used in the context of climbing a proverbial hill to get through a tough week. After hump day, the weekend gets closer. Depending on your age and degree of attachment, it can also be your lucky day. However, if you do wing night on hump day, then your lucky day is probably on Sunday. The bottom line is, regardless of your luck, that hump day calls for a celebration. That is why you do wing night on hump day.

No one is sure when it started. I am not aware of any official society that sets policy or lay down the rules. However, it is commonly accepted that wing night is a ceremonial and sacred evening during which many chicken wings will be eaten by a gathering of gluttonous friends.

Each step of the preparation and consumption of the wings is carefully orchestrated and held holy. The recipes are kept secret by a devoted few man cave dwelling culinary experts that opt to prepare their own. Else, a local favourite watering hole is the likely destination of choice. Just because there is no formal fraternity, it doesn't mean there are no rules. Wing night comes with a rich tradition of ritual. Deviation from tradition is strictly and violently forbidden. For example, inviting your girlfriend, not eating until breathing is difficult and all wings are done, leaving early, not toasting the first wing, not getting everyone a beer when yours is finished or when you get up prematurely, bringing non-wing food to the gathering, de-winging during the meal are all unforgivable sins that can be punished through excommunication.

The only consumables other than chicken wings welcome at wing night are blue cheese dressing (ranch dressing for the weaker and cheaper amongst us), celery stalks, carrot sticks and beer - lots and lots of beer.

The wing of choice is Buffalo. A Buffalo wing is an unbreaded chicken wing section (flat or drumette) that is generally deep-fried then coated in a sauce consisting of a vinegar-based cayenne pepper hot sauce and melted butter, before serving. The texture of a perfect wing is crispy on the outside, soft and well-cooked on the inside. The secret is all in the sauce. It should come with plenty of heat and a plethora of rich and surprising flavours. The sauce distinguishes the successful wing from the rest.

You will also need the beer - lots of ice cold beer. Preferably, a lighter beer that can keep up with the cooling demands of patrons.


Every wing night bolsters and perpetuates in us an adoration for this land and its people. Canada and Canadians took us in and made us a part of them when they invited us for wing night. As a result, we are now Canadian. Now we can welcome you too to come with us for an experience of a lifetime.

Be prepared. You are going to cry and gasp for air at your first wing night. There is nothing you can do about it. It is a shock to any sane person's system to consume food that is blazingly hot and in such large quantities. As you settle in, the hurt will become familiar, and you will cherish the cooler soothing moments of the beer. In time you will come to look forward to the pain until it eventually turns bizarrely pleasurable. Then you realize that you are either crazy or adequately drunk. The morning after will tell. Come to think of it, wing night has a lot in common with the ordinary flow of life!

The only advice we can give is that you keep a big jar of Vaseline handy and the softest toilet paper you can buy. One can never have enough toilet paper.

We are taking the Two Cowboys Wing Night show on the road this Summer, to discover how this ritual event plays out across our towns in Western Canada, and maybe even the world. We are inviting you along for the journey and hope to meet you at your favourite spot for your beloved wings with friends.

Hendrik van Wyk
Hot Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.

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