jamie goode's wine blog

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Announcing the London Gastronomy Seminars

I'm helping out in a minor capacity with a very exciting new series of flavour-focused symposia, billed The London Gastronomy Seminars. The first event is later this month (30th) and features Herve This, the brains behind the molecular gastronomy movement. The website went live today, and you can book tickets through it directly.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

Amazing flavour symposium

On Thursday night I took part in a remarkable symposium on Flavour Extraction. It's the first of a series of events, escalating in scale and scope, that look to explore flavour from a multidisciplinary perspective.

These events come under the banner of London Gastronomy Seminars, convened by a group of four: Francis Percival (food writer), Bronwen Percival (Neals Yard cheese buyer), Dr Rachel Edwards-Stuart (who has a PhD in molecular gastronomy) and James Hoffmann (Square Mile Coffee).

They state:
We live in an age where the great communicator of French bourgeois cooking to post-war America only tops the best-sellers list after her story is reinvented as a heart-warming relfection on marriage and destiny. Coverage of food too often sacrifices an understanding of the food itself - what makes it good, and why - to an ecstatic testimonial focused on an imagined foodie lifestyle: all fluff and no substance.

Thursday's seminar was, for me, a stimulating evening of rich fare. Tony Coigliaro kicked off with a short presentation on his work creating novel drinks. He owns the bar at 69 Colebrooke Row, and illustrated his talk with a cocktail creation in which the eggs used in it had been kept in boxes infused with a straw-like essence (hexenol). He had been using egg whites in sours to bind flavours together, but ran into the problem of wet dog nose; this was solved by using essences such as the hexenol used here in the egg box.

I gave a talk on wine flavour extraction, and illustrated it with two wines from Les Caves de Pyrene, with a very different flavour profile (Romaneaux-Destezet Syrah 2007 and Minervois Les Aspres 2004). This prompted a fairly lengthy discussion on flavour perception.

James Hoffmann (Square Mile Coffee, and his blog) gave a brilliant presentation on some of the issues concerning coffee flavour extraction. There are three steps to great coffee. (1) Creation: 'everything good about coffee is how it is grown'. (2) Preservation: how much quality can be kept through the stages of processing, transport and roasting? (3) Extraction. There's a brewing control chart created by Dr Robert Lockhart in the 1960s, which plots strength against extraction. While strength, the ratio of solubles to solvent, is a matter of personal preference, extraction only works between 18 and 22%. We tried two coffees that were the same strength, but had different levels of extraction. The 19% extraction tasted much, much better than the 14.5% extraction, which tasted weaker, less complete and more bitter.

Finally, John Forbes from RC Treatt gave an absorbing talk on the manufacture of natural flavourants. His company produces 150 essential oils and 1500 flavour chemicals. These chemicals are used by the food industry, perfumiers and even the pharmaceutical industry. It was a window into a fascinating world of flavour extraction and aroma capture, and John illustrated the talk with a range of different aromas.

The next event will be on 30 November, and it's a public lecture on flavour extraction, to be held at the University of London's Senate House.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Top 10 Food Blogs, from the Times online

The Times today carried a list of Top 10 Food Blogs, compiled by Simon Majumadar of the excellent Dos Hermanos blog. He very kindly included this blog in his list!

Nice quote from the piece:

Food bloggers are the bane of every restaurant owner’s life — I know, I am one.
Two and a half years ago, when I started my food blog Dos Hermanos with my brother, Robin, we were part of what was a realtively small group of enthusiasts keen to record our cooking and dining habits in words and blurry pictures. Now, at the opening of any new restaurant you will see tables occupied by diners making detailed notes of each bite while snapping away with their cameras before rushing home to pontificate about their meal online.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

At last, the sun

Devon update. After unremitting rain, the last two days have seen the reluctant appearance of the sun. It has been lovely. We've been to the burrows a lot, for long walks with lots of running up and down sand dunes. Today we lunched on the beach, and our pasties were washed down with two very nice beers - Cooper's Sparkling from Australia, and Sierra Navada Pale Ale from the USA. The latter is perhaps a little more complex and full flavoured, but both are really good.

Tonight we are firing up the barbie, and I've made some bread. I guess I was inspired to try to make bread by watching the Hairy Bakers on TV the other day. It's an odd show. A bit like the Chuckle Brothers doing food.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

The F word

Just watching the first of the new series of The F Word. On one level, I should hate this: Gordon Ramsay's vulgar, celebrity-obsessed approach combines with a slice of The Generation Game (watching members of the public embarass themselves) to make entertainment that's perfect for for the ADHD generation. But on another level, it's drawing people into food, which somehow manages to stay at the centre of this program. If I'm being honest, I enjoy watching it, and Gordon is brilliant at doing TV. It works. You can watch this and enjoy it even if you have little interest in food, but by watching it you might begin to develop such an interest. This is the food equivalent of Top Gear, which my wife watches even though she has no interest in motors. I wonder if anyone could ever do the same sort of thing with wine?

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Chicken run, a museum Riesling and a fairtrade Shiraz

Three rather different elements are thrown into the pot to create tonight's blogpost.

First, an aside - this blog has a google page rank of 6, while the main site index page has a page rank of 5. That's a bit odd. Am I spending too much time blogging?

The first element is some telly. It's not often that I sit down in front of the TV - even though the last two nights have seen Fiona and I get through four episodes of the West Wing (we're on series 3) - but tonight I watched the second program of Hugh's chicken run on C4.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is on a mission to wean the nation off intensively reared chickens. But denied access to film in the 'battery farms', he creates two scaled down chicken farms of his own in adjacent sheds, one free range and one intensive. I enjoyed the program, and I'm highly sympathetic to its aims: I believe we have a strong moral duty to treat with kindness the animals we are going to eat.

But I think this program may backfire, in part because of the honest intent shown by the program makers. Because I'd expected battery farming to look a lot worse than the vision of it presented by Hugh.

My preconceptions: I had thought the chickens were kept in small cages, and had their beaks clipped to prevent them from pecking holes in their neighbours, and that many of them died and were left to rot in situ. Instead, they are just kind of crowded and never see the sunlight, and the weak or sick are removed and sacrificed. It's not pretty, but it's better than I had anticipated.

The emotional bit in the program is when Hugh breaks down in tears because he has to finish off two sick birds in the same day. Look, I would hate to have to kill a chicken. But this is the man who raises pet pigs for the pot. I thought he was made of sterner stuff.

Still, despite the criticisms, I'll continue buying free range chickens (which are reared the same way, but in less dense situations, with bales of hay, plastic footballs, suspended CDs and access to an outdoor area). But the program makers are spinning this one out a bit with lots of shots of Hugh in his red Land Rover and various contrived reality TV moments. Hugh is very good on camera, though.

The second element is a really nice Riesling.

Pewsey Vale 'The Contours' Museum Release Riesling 2001 Eden Valley, Australia
Intense, fresh, limey nose with a pronounced spicy quality, and a bit of honey and toast. The palate is bone dry and piercing with high acidity, a lemony zing and an attractive freshness. It's quite complex and not too petrolly, with a delicious, precise 'nervous' sort of quality. Not heavy or phenolic. 91/100 (RRP - £10.99 Stockists: Berry Bros & Rudd, Selfridges & Co, Australian Wines Online, Premier Vintners, Free Run Juice, Averys of Bristol, Layton Wine Merchants, The Wineman)

The third is a delicious, affordable, quaffable Chilean Shiraz.

Marks & Spencer Fairtrade Shiraz 2007 Curico Valley, Chile
From Vinos Los Robles, this is really appealing. It's vibrant, juicy and aromatic, showing red and black fruits with a nice spiciness, and a savoury twist. It's fresh and quite pure, and lacks that off-putting rubbery greenness that some Chilean reds show. This isn't a wine to beat you around the head: it's really nicely balanced. Savoury finish. 85/100 (£5.49 Marks & Spencer)

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Malbec and meat - a heavenly marriage

Did you know that the annual consumption of beef by an adult in Argentina is 68 kilograms? Incredible. Someone has worked out that this equates to a seven ounce steak each, every day.

Today I was one of the judges at the finals of the Malbec Made for Meat competition, held at the Gaucho, Piccadilly. The Gaucho is a wonderful Argentinean restaurant which also has a wine shop attached to it, Cavas de Gaucho. [Pictured are fellow judges sitting opposite me: Victoria Moore has her mouth full, Anthony Rose is reaching to select the perfect match, and Peter Richards is jotting down his.]

Our task was to taste 14 wines (the finalists) blind with three different meats: pork, lamb and beef, assiging a score to the quality of the match ranging from 1 (poor) to 5 (sublime). It was an interesting exercise, and even more so because there was a steak and Malbec masterclass sandwiched in the middle of the proceedings.

In this masterclass, Gaucho beef expert Ryan Hattingh showed us the different cuts, discussed their merits, told us how to prepare them best - and then we got to eat them. There was loads and loads of steak to munch, and it was lovely. Each of the five different steaks were then matched with a specific Malbec, and the pairing was brilliant in all but one of the cases.

I came away from the session full of meat, and impressed by how well Argentinean Malbec and steak works as a pairing. Malbec and rare Patagonian lamb also works well, but perhaps not as spectacularly, and Malbec and pork is merely an adequate match in most cases. A full write up on the beef and Malbec masterclass will follow promptly on the main bit of the site.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wine with cheese, again

Apparently, the best way to gain weight is to eat at night, just before bed. I remember reading this advice in an interview with Vin Diesel, normally a tough, shaven-headed, six-pack touting hard guy who had to put on weight (and hair) for the excellent Find me guilty. He snacked on ice cream, late at night, and his six pack became a two-tyre.

Now as a person who likes to eat and drink, but doesn't want to become a fat boy, I'm on a continual diet (of sorts). I don't eat as much as I want, most of the time. It's tough, though, because I do love food.

Indeed, one of the things I've noticed about fat people - and I'm not being judgemental here, because I truly believe that beauty resides within, and you should feel good about yourself whether or not you conform to society's shallow obsession with appearance - is that they do enjoy their food. Forget about all this talk concerning metabolic rates and leptin gene status: if you have a friend with a big belly, just watch how much they eat. It's an eye opener.

I digress. Anyway, I have a weakness. I like to snack and drink late at night as I work. I've never had a six-pack, and this is probably why.

Tonight, I'm nibbling on Comte and bread, along with two rather different wines, both of which work quite well with the cheese. The first is the remainder of the Karlsmuhle Riesling Kabinett 2005 I reported on here a few days ago. It's amazing how well these young Rieslings keep in the fridge. Off-dry Rieslings seem to be a good match for quite a broad range of cheeses.

The second is a brilliant young Alentejo (Portugal) red - the 2006 Monte da Peceguina from Malhadinha Nova. It's amazingly vibrant, with ripe, pure summer fruits complemented really well by some grippy tannins and good acidity. I think it's this sweetly fruited, vibrant, juicy character that makes this a red wine that works with slightly harder (but not hard) cheeses like Comte. It's a wine that bridges the new and old worlds.

Some more thoughts on wine and cheese. Wines that rely on tannins for structure work less well with cheese than wines that rely on acidity. This is why whites generally work better with cheese than reds. Unusually for reds, the Peceguina relies more on acidity for structure than tannin; therefore, it works quite well with cheese. Tannins and cheese are a bad match, generally.

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Monday, December 04, 2006


Just finishing off bits and pieces (an express column and an article on climate change) before my wickedly early start for Spain tomorrow. To accompany my writing, I'm eating a cheese that's new to me: Doux de Montagne, described as a mild cheese with a fruity flavour and a creamy texture. It's mid-way between a hard and soft cheese, and has nice mildly tangy flavour. One I think I'll buy again.

Had a gorgeous Comte last Friday evening at Teddington's L'Auberge. I love Comte, but this one was particularly good, with a lovely smokiness and loads of flavour. Other current favourites include Manchego and Cave Aged Gruyere.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wine on the telly: Oz and James part 2

Just half an hour of Oz and James tonight, and it worked better. The theme tonight was wine and food matching, which is a difficult topic because it reduces most wine commentators to either dogmatism or nonsense. The truth is, most wine and food combinations work sort of OK - while there are a few clashes, and a few real synergies, a lot of the time you should drink what you feel like with your food. After all, how often do you put wine and food in your mouth at the same time? I exaggerate: wine and food matching is quite interesting, it's just that so many people take it too seriously and end up looking silly. All IMHO.

The programme began with oysters, which are raised to a certain size, cemented to ropes in threes and then left in the water for a year before harvesting. James gets frustrated with Oz who is talking oysters with one of the growers rather than eating them. 'Talk about it, talk about it', he exclaims in frustration. 'After a while you think "why actually eat it?", why not just talk about it?' James continues, 'This is a wine programme? We're not turning into foodies are we? We'll end up with out of focus shots of oysters soon!'

James gets to choose a wine to match with oysters and comes up with a beautifully phrased analogy with baroque music. Oz is stunned: 'You make some sensationally intelligent comments sometimes'. James takes a step back in shock: 'I've turned into a ponce'.

The truth is, that when James is sincere, he's great. He's clearly a well educated, thoughtful sort of chap. But on the telly, sincerity is death. Telly demands insincere celebs saying silly things. Oz has been away from telly long enough still to have some sincerity about him, and he remarks that James has 'moments of lucidity in the midst of his bombast'.

The programme falters a bit with a Generation Game moment in a Michelin 2* restaurant when James gets to make a dessert. Then it's off to Pic St Loup (a region I have great affection for) where James gets to try his hand at food matching: the dish? Fried spam and beans.

As an aside, their guide in the Languedoc was Jean-Claude Mas, who once gave me an 'arrogant frog' beret and rugby shirt, which I still have.

It's great to see wine on TV again.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

River Cottage goes lame

You have to be careful when you’re preaching to others about what they should eat. I was uncomfortable with some of the content on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s program The River Cottage Treatment last night—quite apart from the fact that it was contrived reality TV that didn’t work very well. The basic idea behind the program is a good one: take some regular punters whose diet mainly consists of ready meals and take-aways, and get them to cook ‘real’ food. So Hugh gets these people to camp in a field at the bottom of the garden, and does food-related things with them.

Last night in the segment I saw they gathered blackberries and went to see a couple of Hugh’s sheep being slaughtered (he thought this was important—or maybe his producer thought it was important because it would make good TV—and much weeping ensued at the admittedly rather gory demise of the lambs, although to the credit of the punters only one of them turned vegetarian as a result).

The bit I was uncomfortable with, though, was where Hugh took them to some food safety officer to show them just how bad the food was eating. It was an unbelievably lame segment. They took a burger and the food scientist chap prepared a row of bottles containing the ‘chemicals’ that had been added to it. The punters were shown this row of chemicals (all of them white powders) and Hugh then asked a burger-eating chap how he felt about it. The guy looked fairly clueless, but on pressing by Hugh he sort of agreed how horrifying and disgusting it was. Hugh had more luck when the food scientist read the ingredients list on a Tikka Masala ready meal, because he found it contained E120 (cochineal). Hugh turned to a girl (whose intellect resembled Alice off the Vicar of Dibley) and triumphantly announced, ‘That comes from beetles!’ The girl obliged, a look of horror crossing her face, ‘I’ve been eating beetles, ugh!’ The irony that this is in fact a natural food colouring was lost on all of them. Look, I agree that it’s best to eat food that’s been messed about with as little as possible, but to use this sort of manipulative, fear-based propaganda about ‘bad’ food isn’t the way to go. It makes bad television, too.

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