I’ve written about sake for Gin & It’s second issue. I’ve become enamoured with sake following a recent trip to Tokyo where I brought back as many bottle as I could physically fit into both mine and my wife’s luggage. Sadly, my supplies have long since disappeared. You can find Gin & It issue two in Books for Cooks, Foyles, Magma and a collection of other independent magazine specialist in various countries. Better yet, you can subscribe direct here.
At the time of year when enthusiasm for the Christmas meal runs high and the preemptive appetite seems almost insatiable, pressure in the kitchen inevitably begins to build. The cook (let’s not just assume it’s going to be mum) will deal with a volume of food that neither they, nor their kitchen are used to. It’s when we tend to make the most effort in feeding our loved ones, and beyond the perils of the still-frozen turkey or the Christmas pudding that explodes in the microwave, there is the added danger of just trying too damn hard.
Continue reading at The Guardian here.
As a child climbing trees in the Dorset woodlands, lichen regularly supplied my trousers with stains, and my mother the arduous task of removing them. The thought that the greenish-grey growth could ever be useful for anything never occurred to me, but encouraged to take a deep whiff of moss harvested from an oak tree, I instantly become intrigued…
Continue reading at The Times here.
As I walk into Calumet Fisheries, a thin man with a whispy grey beard is being handed his order. He’s opted for fried shrimp and a large chunk of smoked salmon. The women behind the counter have wrapped it up in white paper and, in blue biro, have written what’s inside. He’s obviously a regular as they know him by name. “See you Friday, Don,” they say in unison. The white washed wooden building sits deep in Chicago’s southside on the edge of the 95th street bridge. The same bridge that John Belushi and Dan Akroyd jump in The Blues Brothers movie. Completely out on its own, Calumet Fisheries doesn’t seem to be very local to anywhere, yet it has an army of loyal customers. “We never used to see young guys like you down here,” explains manager Carlos Rosas. “If we ever saw someone your age in here, we knew it would be for their mother, or their grandmother.” Things changed a little when Anthony Bourdain featured Calumet on his tv show and now young folk aren’t quite so few and far between.
Whilst I was working out whether to go for the black pepper and garlic smoked salmon, or the smoked catfish, Carlos came from out the back and offered me some salmon cheeks, still warm from the smoker. I picked one up by the crisp pectoral fin, which is placed just in front of the gill. It carried a healthy hit of smoke flavour and the fatty cheek had broken down into a deliciously tender chunk of flesh. Carlos gave me a knowing smile. I ordered both the catfish and the salmon and followed it up with an order of smoked shrimp.
Calumet smoke three days a week and I was lucky enough to have arrived on a Monday as a batch of salmon was nearing the end of its smoking. Carlos took me to see the brick smokehouse that sits just outside the back door of the main building. The smokehouse has two doors and during the 6-7 hour smoke, the doors are opened and closed to control the density of smoke and also the temperature. As I’m taking a look, the bottom door is open to let the temperature drop, but to retain a certain density of smoke. We chatted about the food of Chicago whilst making our way though a large piece of smoked sturgeon. It carried a subtle smoke flavour and had a real meaty texture.
Calumet only offer smoked or fried seafood and regulars take their paper wrapped goods a few yards away to the edge of the 95th street bridge. The thick, flat railings of the bridge make for an impromptu counter on which to eat their packages of smoked and fried seafood. On Carlos’ recommendation, Emma and I decided to take a two minute drive up 95th to Calumet park and ate our smoked seafood overlooking Lake Michigan. Unlike smoked salmon you may be used to in the UK or Europe, the smoked fish at Calumet comes in thick, steak-like slabs. I love Calumet because it’s rugged and has a medium to heavy smoke. It’s a bit of a drive down through Chicago’s south side, but if you have the opportunity to get down there, an order of black pepper and garlic salmon and some smoked shrimp are certainly worth your dollars.
3259 East 95th Street,
“My first encounter with insects at mealtimes was in Spain during the early Nineties. I’d taken a bite into a nectarine and as I sucked the juices from the soft, ripe flesh, I felt something tickle the underside of my lip…”
Read the whole article on The Independent here
I’ve written about Dave Muller and his amazing bread for Huck Magazine. Dave owns Outerlands with his wife in the Outer Sunset, a neighbourhood on San Francisco’s Pacific coast. The same conditions he is paying attention to for surfing; humidity, temperature and wind direction, are the same variables that affect his sourdough. If you’re heading out anytime soon, make sure you get over there. Pick up issue 34 of Huck to read more.
The Great Taste Awards provide a benchmark for quality and reliability in fine food throughout the UK. Now in its nineteenth year, the awards first came into being in 1994. “We completed all the judging in about two hours using twelve judges, each of whom worked on their own, tasting between fifteen and twenty entries,” explains Bob Farrand, Chairman of The Guild of Fine Food. This year however, The Great Taste Awards received 8807 entries that had to be judged over 45 days by 350 food and drink experts.” It is clear that not only The Great Taste Awards, but British food, has come a long way over the past nineteen years.
Continue reading over at Lovefood.com
When I signed up to attend the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery I imagined staying in an old boarding house with little wooden beds and a musty aroma filling the grand halls of the school. I pictured something a little like the school in Dead Poets Society and a lot like Harry Potter. These thoughts were dashed upon arrival to Oxford’s St. Catz, a modern collection of concrete and brick buildings full of straight lines and sharp angles. I collected the key to my room from reception and made my way to one of the accommodation buildings where I was met with a digital entry system. This really wasn’t shaping up to match my Oxbridge expectations.
The theme for the Oxford Symposium this year was ‘wrapped & stuffed’ and speakers ranged from David Thompson talking about religious ceremonial foods in Thailand, to Fuchsia Dunlop who delivered a paper on dumplings across the silk road. My favourite talk from the weekend was from Laura Shapiro. Her history of the Pilsbury Bake-off was engaging, fascinating and funny. In a sea of highly academic presentations, which at times bordered on the uninspiring, Laura’s paper was one of the most detailed and lively, it made me want to go back through the archives of her work. Another presentation of interest was given by Benedict Reade, Head of Culinary Research and Development at The Nordic Food Lab. Ben had brought along some bog butter, the subject of his presented paper, which is butter wrapped in moss and tree bark then buried in a peat bog for several months. The flavour that the butter takes on is, well, interesting. It divided the room, but I found it earthy and mysterious, I wanted more, but couldn’t quite place the flavours. On toast, certainly not, but with game and powerful meats, hell yes.
Of course, some of the highlights of the symposium, were the meals all of which have incredibly cool menus made and designed by Jake Tilson. I actually first became aware of the symposium from one of Jake’s books. His latest, In at The Deep End is fascinating and I urge you to buy a copy. He not only wrote the book, but produced all the pictures and actually designed and laid out the whole thing himself.
The Friday night’s meal was prepared by Rowley Leigh, which included a wonderful saddle of lamb wellington and a massive summer pudding. There was also a ‘sausage fest’ lunch organised by Ursula Heinzelmann which featured several different German sausages, potato salad and plenty of sauerkraut. I particularly liked the Distel Spezial beer from Taubertal, but after so much meat and potato, topped up with beer, I was left feeling pretty sleepy all afternoon. The Saturday’s dinner was a Gaizentep Turkish feast organised by Anissa Helou, full of stuffed vegetables and things wrapped in vine leaves.
So although, it wasn’t quite Harry Potter, my short time in Oxford for the Symposium was an enjoyable one. I met some really interesting people and discussed American barbecue at length with Raymond Sokolov, the coolest food editor The New York Times ever had. I also chatted with Charles Perry, but that wasn’t about food, it was about his tie which had that awesome picture of dogs playing poker on it. I still don’t know where he bought it, but I want one, for the handful of times in my life that I actually wear a tie. Funerals, weddings, I’m sure it’s appropriate for both.