Spurred on by the American craft beer revolution, the same drinks category in the UK is on the up. Brewdog’s Punk IPA, for example, is a drink of choice for many younger consumers sick of bland, big-name lagers. However, real ale is definitely not dead. If craft beer is seen as an end in itself, or as a stepping stone to appreciation of the "real stuff", there can be no doubt that well-made beer is in the ascendancy. Recognition of the value of traditional styles, albeit with a modern twist, is a natural consequence of this.
This blog is a collection of thoughts about food and drink. Do have a look as well at the reviews and reports on my main website - The Write Taste.
I hope the ideas you read about on these pages inspire you as much as they have inspired me.
There’s been a good deal of talk recently in social media and newspapers about whether wine critics’ advice is worth its salt and whether food and wine matching makes any sense, has genuine scientific worth or is just a load of pretentious nonsense?
First and foremost, wine should be enjoyed, so if you happen to like drinking Château Plonk with your vindaloo, that’s fine. Yet certain combinations do seem to taste better than others and some combinations are really quite unpleasant. Consider the following. When you bite into a piece of meat or fish and take a sip or swig of wine from your glass, the chances are that some of the meat juices or even bits of fish are still in your mouth. Treat wine in a similar way to a sauce or gravy and all the flavours mingle together. Now, if you are lucky enough to be eating grilled fillet of sea bass, would you want it smothered in gravy? No – because it would be horrible! It would simply not taste right, the gravy ruining the flavour of the fish. This can’t be just a subjective observation, as surely most people would arrive at the same conclusion, so perhaps there is, dare I say, a more scientific reason for this.
I had some tasty treats at the recent Taste of London Festival. Many thanks to Scheckter’s Organics Energy Drinks for the complimentary ticket – much appreciated! The venue, in Regents Park, was huge and increasingly busy as the sun showed occasional glimpses in this poor excuse of a summer so far. There were many stalls and products to try and buy, so here are four short paragraphs with my pick of the bunch and a few photos …
The event could have had the strap line “Festival of Colourful Food Displays”, as anyone who headed over to the Thai area couldn’t have failed to notice the vibrant exhibits of Thai food available, especially the fruit and veg.
Purbeck Ice Cream and Simply Ice Cream are two of my favourite producers of the frozen stuff and it’s always good to see them and to sample their delicious flavours. Although they did not have their full ranges available, there was plenty of chocolate ice cream to try, so thanks for the sumptuous scoops.
Hungarian wine deserves to be better known in the UK, as the country produces some great examples and I tried a glass of Royal Somló J white at the JFK Wines stall. This was an unusual dry wine, the colour being reminiscent almost of a Sauternes. The minerality stood out for me (before I’d even sussed that the grapes were grown on volcanic soil) and there were subtle flavours of stonefruit with a touch of salinity too. This is a versatile food-friendly wine which, as I found out, is served in Michelin-starred restaurants.
The word “négociant” will be familiar to wine fans, being a French term for a wine merchant who typically buys in grapes from different vineyards, blends them and sells the resultant wine under their own name. Négociants are particularly commonplace in Burgundy, for example. Digby Fine English wines uses the négociant model to craft their own distinctive brand. They collaborate with quality vineyards in the South of England to produce fine and elegant sparkling wines from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, using the méthode Champenoise. The resultant wines have an unmistakeably English character, full of finesse and crisp acidity with an aromatic and fruity character. Deservedly, at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2013, Digby Fine English Brut Reserve 2009 won a Silver medal.
I know I moan about London from time to time, especially when stuck on the Tube, but surely nowhere is ‘Cool Britannia’ more in evidence than in our capital city. London has been totally transformed since the 1980s and must be one of the top culinary destinations in the world for pure choice. You can eat or drink anything in the capital and the London Coffee Festival illustrated how London has become a haven for top quality coffee. From pop-up stalls to sit-down cafés, you can really enjoy your caffeine-in-a-cup like never before. There are clearly too many coffees to mention, but I particularly enjoyed the strong and delicious Neapolitan style from Kimbo and the delightfully smooth Vietnamese coffee from The Saigon Coffee Company.
The question: should we choose natural and organic food over other produce? The answer: maybe yes and maybe no. I’m putting on my fence-sitting hat here, as for me there cannot be a straight answer. Financial, lifestyle or health choices, including dietary restrictions, often dictate our eating and drinking habits, but for me, the taste of what I’m consuming is of paramount importance. I dislike mass-produced low quality produce, as much as anyone, but just because something is produced on a grand scale and may not qualify as "natural", due to its list of ingredients, does not automatically void it of nutritional or organoleptic worth. However, could the Natural Food Show component of the "Natural & Organic Products Europe Fair" at London’s Kensington Olympia this week convince me to change my eating and drinking habits? I went along to find out more.