Food News & Reviews

These are synopses of my past postings on food news and food-related reviews that don't fit into my other categories. Click on the links for the posts.

February 25th, 2010Bananas!Fifteen months ago the EU at last abandoned its policy of dictating the precise look of Europe's fruit and vegetables. As a result, new producers who couldn't afford the expensive machinery necessary for compliance entered the market, foiod waste was hugely reduced and the price of food was driven down. Now the rich protectionist farming countries are trying to reinstate that outdated, regressive policy. They must be stopped when it comes to the vote.
February 18th, 2010There's A Fire In My KitchenThe only thing I ever wrote about Mugaritz was a critical review of a meal there. I'd arrived on "a bad night at the office" - something I now appreciate after experiencing a good few of them myself in the intervening period. The news of Monday morning's fire came as a shock. A good friend of mine is working there as Pastry Chef and I was concerned for the safety of him and the rest of the crew. But I'm also concerned for the restaurant itself, as I now understand what an important contribution Andoni Aduriz has made to world gastronomy. I really hope that Mugaritz will rise from the ashes of Monday's disaster to become once again the great restaurant it surely is.
January 5th, 2010Ximo Canet - The Art Of FoodMost people who know something about food will know about Parisian chef Pierre Gagnaire, generally accredited with bringing art to food. But few will have heard of Valencian painter Ximo Canet, who brought food to art. Not only have I met Ximo, but I've have the pleasure of him cooking me a restaurant lunch. How come? Click on the link to find out.
April 01, 2009Heston Blumenthal Challenges Molecular Gastronomy To "Go Orgasmic"The global economic crisis has spawned some unexpected outcomes, but few as surprising as the coup reportedly being planned by Heston Blumenthal against the stuffy traditionalists of modern cooking. Arguing that ordinary people won't buy technical jargon, the radicals are calling for abandonment of the term "molecular gastronomy" and its replacement with ORGASMIC. Where does this acronym come from? Click to find out.
January 05, 2009Trends In FoodWhere America leads, Britain is sure to follow, or so they say. To mark the end of one year and the start of a new one I've taken a look at TIME Magazine's Top 10 Food Trends of 2008, to see whether I think this selection of US trends will find its way across the big pond and influence eating and drinking in the UK this year. Or whether the whole thing is just one big coffee-table filler for a no-news day.
November 19, 2008Am I An Undercover Michelin Inspector?Once is just lucky, twice is... Last year I chose Comerç 24 as a place of work just weeks before it was awarded its first Michelin star. One year on and I spent a great evening last night at Cinc Sentits - a restaurant I really admire and want to gain experience in one day. And today... Cinc Sentits gained its first Michelin star. Aw, shucks! It's just a whole lot of luck and a little bit of judgment.
November 09, 2008AbundanceThere's something very interesting going on, and it's happening all over the world. Urban farming - in all its guises from anarchist guerilla gardening to corporate-sponsored food development programmes - is taking off at an amazing rate. In Britain, various projects have led Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to establish Landshare, a UK-wide initiative to make land more productive and fresh local produce more accessible to all. The principle is simple - to grow fresh, seasonal, organic food in abundance for everyone to enjoy.
September 18, 2008Flavour Master Mohammad Tayyab Hits The Zagat HeightsOn New Year's Eve 2006 I took a prominent Sylheti Bangladeshi restaurant owner out for lunch to a Pakistani Punjabi restaurant with my family and wrote up our visit on my blog. The restaurant - New Tayyab - was recommended by my mum who works nearby, and she wasn't wrong in her judgment. Last week the community restaurant was ranked seventh in the top ten for food quality in London, ahead of Michel Roux Jr.'s Michelin 2* Le Gavroche.
August 25, 2008The Mysterious Case Of El Bulli And The Vanishing Gastro-GnomeYou save up for years and years to raise the funds to dine at every Michelin 3* restaurant in the world. Paul Bocuse sponsors your journey and arranges your tables. You arrive at El Bulli - 40th in the list of 68 - and enjoy a fabulous meal. While chatting to a local journalist, you apologise and pop out for a moment. And you vanish. Now what on earth is that all about? Click to find out.
August 11, 2008The Nano-Future Of FoodThere's a revolution on the way that's likely to be as significant for the development of society as the industrial revolution and global warming. Fifty years since it was first proposed, nano-technology is now attracting billions of dollars worth of investment. There are many areas where nano-technology is expected to have an impact - and food is one of them. Click on the link to find out more.
July 27, 2008Small Plates, Sideburns, Two Revolutions And A Kitchen CuriosityI wasn't quite sure where to file this one - it's got a bit of Professional Work, Experimental Cooking, Restaurant Reviews, Food Blogging and Celebrity Chefs... so I filed it here instead. To discover the connection between creative cooking, revolutions in gastronomy, sideburns and a curious young Englishman, click on the link. Especially if you can manage the fine art of Spanish double-entendre. I only hope I've got things roughly right here, or I could be in serious trouble!
May 29, 2008The Knives Are OutThe past few weeks have seen the biggest gastro-war break out in Spain since McDonald's opened up on the Avenida Pablo Neruda. Multi-starred chef Santi Santamaría has openly attacked Ferran Adriá and the molecular gastronomists of poisoning their customers with the use of emulsifiers, gelling agents and other chemicals. The response from the industry has been overwhelmingly hostile towards Santamaría, although the public has not been slow in writing to the newspapers in his support, demanding a return to tomato, egg, blood sausage and chips.
May 08, 2008Realising Your True PotentialI wrote about Foxes Academy a year ago, but when I saw the Channel4 documentary about it while in London the other week I just had to post about the place again. I know only too well just how hard it is for someone like me to achieve the level of discipline, focus and effort required to succeed in the hospitality industry. So when I see the achievements of this college for special needs students I am truly humbled. Watch the video clip for yourself - I'm sure you'll be as impressed as I am.
April 06, 2008A Cook's Tour Of Spanish Regional CuisineThe other week I published a review of the recent Channel4 TV series 'A Cook's Tour Of Spain', in which Tommi Miers and Guy Grieve explore the regional cuisines of Andalusia, Castile-La Mancha, Galicia and Cantabria. In this post, I offered some brief notes on the food of these four regions of Spain, along with that of the other 13 regions that together make up the 17 autonomous communities of the modern Kingdom of Spain.
January 03, 2008Love Food, Hate WasteLove Food, Hate Waste is a campaign by WRAP, a not-for-profit company created as part of the British government's waste strategy aimed at achieving a significant reduction in food waste in the UK. Around a third of all the food we buy in the markets, shops and supermarkets - an estimated 6.7m tonnes - ends up being thrown away. The vast majority of this food could have been eaten. Read this and see what you can do to help.
November 28, 2007A Bad Year For McLarensIt's been a terrible years for McLarens. That is, for McLarens in general. It started with the Formula 1 spy scandal and the McLaren racing team being fined, losing points and then losing their champion driver Alonso. Then Steve McLaren was sacked after England was knocked out of Euro 2008 by Croatia. And now it's the turn of McLaren Foods to hit the headlines. You'll never believe some of the addresses where they reportedly delivered unhygenic and unsafe meat products. Read my post for a big shock.
October 25, 2007Munching MothsThis was a story with a twist. Franco-Australian chef Jean-Paul Bruneteau, a leading advocate of an authentic Oz cuisine based on indigenous ingredients, recently urged Australians to eat Bogong moths. I was really pleased, because I had written about aboriginal tribal migrations in pursuit of this food source in my college gastronomy project report. But there was a sting in the tail when the issue of health hazards was raised. Read my post to discover why.
August 22, 2007Diet Doesn't Work? It's All Your Mother's FaultThere were two related food news items recently that caught my eye. The first was that a study report has concluded that early exposure to diet foods can lead to obesity and the second found that women eating junk food while pregnant can pass the taste for unhealthy foods onto their children. So if you don't want to become obese, don't eat too much high calorie food and don't eat too much low-calorie food. And don't have a mother who ate for both of you. Blimey! It's all enough to turn a chap to burgers and fries.
May 26, 2007The Food In This Zoo Is Terrible!There have been two separate cases recently involving orangutans breaking out of their zoo enclosures and "going on the rampage". What these incidents had in common was the escapees visiting restaurants while on the run. Clearly a case of animal frustration with zoo food!
April 24, 2007From A Poll To A Pole With No PoleThe latest S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list shows good fortune for London restaurants, with the exception of Gordon Ramsay's flagship which has slipped down the table. When I read that a man had gone beserk last night in a restaurant and sliced off his own penis, I was concerned. But not to worry, it wasn't Gordon but a Polish man with a mental problem.
April 18, 2007From Poles To Poles (With Musk Ox And Pierogi)Two 19-year old British lads have just started a Pole to Pole expedition. To help them at the North Pole I've reproduced a great Canadian embassy recipe for musk ox rib eye with wild rice. Meanwhile, Britain is experiencing an explosion of Polish food. It's all Poles in the news this week!
April 10, 2007Crap Food Gets EverywhereSome food in Britain, especially supermarket "value" and own brand offerings, are complete rubbish. Sometimes literally, as with teabags containing dust and powder. So I was pleased to discover that we are not alone. To find out what two Kiwi schoolgirls discovered, read on...
April 01, 200750 Shocking Facts About Your FoodCheck the date and then consider whether these food facts are true or not. Beer doesn't make you fat. Excess milk can damage the bones of older women. Spinach won't make you strong. Sugar is addictive. Too much soya can cause sexual dysfunction. Coffee and potatoes can kill you. Fruit is not as nutritious as it used to be. Lettuce can make you fat. For more... read on!
March 27, 2007Feeling The HeatI like a chilli or two in my food and regularly cook with Scotch bonnets. But when you hear what this woman proposes to attempt in order to set a new Guinness World Record for chilli eating you simply won't believe it. Just the thought of that visit to the toilet afterwards!
March 19, 2007End Of An EraThis is my spoof entry for the Fish & Quips meme created by Sam of Becks & Posh for St. George's Day. It's all based on true news about the demise of three classic British food brands - Ovaltine, HP sauce and Pataks. If these stories weren't true you'd never make them up. I hope my post makes you laugh.
March 04, 2007Proud To Be British - Ashamed To Be BritishPhillips Idowu was a student at Raine's Foundation School a few years before I joined the school. Last night he won triple-jump gold at the European Indoor Athletics Championships. He has been an inspiration to many of us growing up in the East End and makes me proud to be British. But a recent story about the treatment of migrant Portuguese workers in the food industry in Lincolnshire makes me ashamed to be British.
March 04, 2007Foxes Ability AcademyFoxes Academy in Minehead is an extra-ordinary catering college for students with learning disabilities. This doesn't stop them from running a successful college hotel and restaurant open to the public. And a few months ago the Academy achieved straight Grade 1 scores in its Ofsted inspection report, making Foxes one of Britain's most successful colleges.
February 28, 2007Even My Tears Are CryingGordon Ramsay is about to be replaced on "Hell's Kitchen" by the only man ever to reduce the "f word" master to tears - Marco Pierre White. MPW promises a "more gentle approach... inspiring people and helping them, not belittling them and putting them down". Maybe the winner's prize will be his or her own branch of McDonald's. Read this to discover why.
February 23, 2007Jamming The AislesAn 18-year-old from Edinburgh has won a deal to supply Waitrose with his range of home-made jams. He has taken an old-fasioned product and completely reinvented it by replacing conventional fruits with popular healthy "superfruits" such as blueberry and pomegranate.
February 15, 2007Food News And Food NudesI often refer to the UK food website CatererSearch, an on-line relative of the magazine "Caterer and Hotelkeeper". It provides loads of information on the hospitality industry. CatererSearch always has news items to amuse you or raise your hackles, or both. This was a piece about students raising the profile of their college by posing as "colander boys".
February 04, 2007Turkey's OffYesterday morning we had news of a massive outbreak of avian flu at the Bernard Matthews turkey farm in Holton, Suffolk, with 2,600 turkeys dying during the previous few days. Later in the day came the news that it was the deadly H5N1 virus, potentially fatal to humans. The incident raises all sorts of questions about factory farming, food hygiene and the threat of pandemics.
January 27, 2007Think First, Advise LaterThree days ago we heard that a team from the University of Florida had found that kitchen sponges and cloths could be sterilised in microwave ovens. The story was carried worldwide in newspapers and on TV. Yesterday came the first news of two Brits destroying their microwaves and setting fire to their kitchens after following the advice.
January 22, 2007Un Petit Peu Monty PythonDocuments have revealed that the French PM Guy Mollet proposed a "union" with Britain at the time of the Suez crisis in 1956. In a very funny radio interview, Michel Roux Jr. conjured up images of his uncle and father developing careers at Waterside Inn and Le Gavroche with a "unified" Anglo-French cuisine.
November 30, 2006The Truffle ShuffleA world-record price has been paid at auction for a rare White Alba truffle. It reminded me of the story of Andy Needham and the Paltrow truffle. The head chef at Zafferanos left an expensive truffle in the restaurant's fridge for several days whereupon it died, resulting in Gwyneth Paltrow and her co-owners incurring a cool £28,000 loss.
November 28, 2006Would You Like A Little Polonium With That?Poor Brian Turner, Executive Chef at The Millennium Hotel. The police are crawling all over the hotel testing staff and guests for further traces of the deadly polonium isotope that killed former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, following his meeting with Russian agents on the day he was poisoned.
November 19, 2006Bad EggsThe big food news this week has been up to 30 million battery farmed eggs being supplied to UK shops and supermarkets as "free range". Police have raided a wholesale distributor near Coventry. And the Food Standards Agency has estimated that salmonella is present in one in every 30 boxes of imported eggs on sale in England.
November 11, 2006Save The CodAccording to marine biologists, a total ban on cod fishing is the only way to prevent the species from dying out in the North Sea. Cod has long been Britain's favourite fish and is the key part of our national dish of fish and chips. But now the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea has called for a total fishing ban for 2007.
October 16, 2006You Say "Bruschetta" And I Say "Paratha"According to BBC Good Food, the Brits are struggling with food pronunciation as restaurants add eclectic dishes to their offerings or adopt fusion menus. Top of the list of difficult words to pronounce is bruschetta, followed by chorizo, tortilla and espresso coffee. And half of us are unable to order a bottle of Pouilly-Fumé correctly.
November 08, 2006Oliver Twist And The Twizzlers Of DoomTwo-thirds of British children don't like the new school menus and want a return to chicken nuggets and chips. Although the ones on school menus were poor quality and high on fat, they don't have to be. I recently made some great chicken mini-burgers & chunky chips with wakame & spring onion mayonnaise.
October 10, 2006Here, Piggy, Piggy, Piggy...Britain is officially the most obese nation in Europe. I recently heard the story of the webcam piglets, who have become global superstars with hundreds of thousands of viewers on YouTube. We sit on our rumps all day and spend our evenings gazing at digital pigs. No wonder we are obese.
October 08, 2006Shot PotPreparing a pheasant in college last week I came across some lead shot. This was banned in Britain in 1999 and has been banned in many other countries. Before the ban, many birds and animals suffered horrible deaths from the consumption of lead shot and lead weights left behind by hunters and anglers.
October 04, 2006A Medicine Cabinet In Your SaladIn an article published this morning, Madeleine Bailey put the health case for eating plenty of green salad. We need a balanced diet including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, but eating salad need not just be a health duty. Try something from Peter Gordon’s book "Salads: The New Main Course" and discover for yourself that modern salads can be a real pleasure!
September 12, 2006A Berry Exciting DiscoveryBelieved to be the healthiest fruit on the planet, the new super-food açaí berry is native to the Amazon rainforest. Açaí is a small, dark purple berry high in antioxidants, rich in Omega 6 and Omega 9 fatty acids, low in calories and with plenty of fibre, calcium and vitamins.
September 08, 2006Sexism In The WorkplaceSexism in the workplace is still rife. According to Caterer And Hotelkeeper’s survey, 42% of respondents had been the victim of sexual harassment or discrimination, with more than half of hotel employees suffering, saying this sector was where most of the offences occurred.
September 05, 2006School Meals - A Start, But Not EnoughBritish kids return to school to find that "junk food" has been banned from school menus and vending machines. We lag miles behind many European countries when it comes to healthy school menus. Belgium and France spend three or four times as much money per head on school food and restrict choice. Jamie has made a good start, but it's not enough.
September 04, 2006Dirty EatingAccording to the local paper, 80 catering premises in my borough have a zero-star food safety rating from the council. Inspection results of all 763 establishments in Hackney show that more than one in 10 fail to meet basic health standards. You want to hear what I saw recently in my local pub!
August 30, 2006Who's Really Spoiling The Broth?I was surprised by the latest lists published in Harden's London Restaurant Guide. Two restaurants that featured well for "Top Gastronomic Experience" list also did well in the "Most Disappointing" list. The Ivy came second in both "Favourite Restaurant" and "Most Disappointing" categories. I've got an idea why this happened.
August 25, 2006Vive Les Rosbifs!Food controversy of the week is Chicago City Council's ban on restaurants selling foie gras. Although I'm not a vegetarian, I am deeply unhappy with the methods used to develop this product. I believe animals should be treated humanely and in my opinion the production of both foie gras and veal involve significant degrees of animal cruelty.
August 21, 2006Ditchin' The KitchenBrits now spends more money eating out than we spend on home-cooked meals - twice what we spend as a nation on education. The question is: Are we becoming more adventurous when eating out or just going with the trend for fennel braised John Dory with truffled foie gras?
August 18, 2006A Eurocentric View Of CuisineAccording to Harden's Restaurant Guide, the trend towards "oriental/novelty" eating in London is ending and diners are turning back to more traditional (French) styles of eating out. I find these comments offensive. Asian cuisines are just as diverse as European cuisine and to lump them together as "oriental/novelty" is at best patronising and at worst racist.
August 16, 2006Marco Pierre White - Not Mad, Just SadMarco Pierre White trained at least 20 of this country's finest chefs, including Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal, Dan Clifford, Mark Edwards, Chris Galvin, Philip Howard and Bruce Poole. Listening to a radio interview with him today I was shocked by Marco's confession that it wasn't a burning passion for great food that drove him, but an obsession for Michelin stardom.