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Everything posted by Marco_Polo

  1. Many thanks for this very useful update, William. We've experienced similar at the Cafe Paradiso - while the pizzas cooked in the wood fired oven are generally very good, more ambitious foods often disappoint. No matter then: stick to pizzas and simpler foods and enjoy what is undoubtedly one of the more atmospheric and fun venues in Exeter. As for Tim Martin's new mega-pub on South Street, I've also heard good things about it. I confess, I'm not a great fan of the Imperial (also Weatherspoons) near the university, though we do go from time to time - usually with a group of guys after Thursday evening sports activities. It's horrendously loud and crowded with young students, though the beer is ludicrously cheap (even Champagne is ludicrously cheap - during the summer, I think, they were serving Moet et Chandon n/v by the bottle, properly presented in wine bucket with flûtes for under 20 quid a bottle - we can hardly buy it for that from an off-license). If the Meeting Place is both quieter (or less horrendously loud) and serves half decent food to boot then it will be a useful addition to the city. Thanks for the tip on the oriental salad leaves at the Exeter Farmer's market. I've got a meeting in Exeter tomorrow morning, so I'll pop around seeing that it's Thursday. This Farmer's Market really does deserve to be supported - the range of stands gets better and better - lots of farm meats, plus of course the incredible dried chilies and chili chocolates from the South Devon Chili Farm - I'll pick up a bag of ajo amarillos tomorrow - my favourite dried chili at the moment. Country Cheeses has an ever-increasing range of cheeses produced exclusively for them. Gary and Elise Jungheim are absolutely passionate about cheese in all its magnificent variety, and their shops (Topsham and Tavistock) are true cheese lovers meccas - well worth a detour if you are anywhere near them. If you ever drop in on Country Cheeses in Topsham on a Saturday, our son is the handsome young chap who will serve you. Do say hello. I've heard about the Dinosaur Café - it sounds fun. Have you been to Blue Fish yet - just up the road on Queen Street. Another champagne bar here, sponsored by Veuve Clicquot. Good reports, though it is apparently quite expensive. I think they're linked to a place by the same name in St Ives. Anybody - slacker - know about it? Incidentally, my wife had a great Times 'Dine with Wine' lunch earlier this week at Michael Caines. This promotion is really one of the best deals around (and available at any number of venues in and around Exeter): 2 courses for a tenner including a glass of Bordeaux wine, or 3 courses for 15 quid. The Royal Clarence Hotel and MC Café Bar are in the midst of a big refurbishment but the latter will reopen later this month. Another place we've enjoyed recently is the Diggers Arms in Woodbury Salterton - have I mentioned it before? Superior and interesting pub food, good, friendly atmosphere, excellent wines by the glass or bottle, good local cask conditioned ales. Just about everything you want in a country pub not far from Exeter. Oh and if you are in Woodbury Salterton, another place not to be missed is the Kenniford Farm Shop between Clyst St Mary and Clyst St George - own raised organic pork is simply the best we've ever tasted. Plus a useful little farm shop with lots of goodies from our area. Don't forget, the Exeter Festival of South West England Food and Drink (what a mouthful of a name) is on again in Exeter's Rougemont Gardens March 18-20. Marc
  2. Guanciale is made from the guancia di maiale - pig cheek or jowl, salted and cured in a similar fashion to pancetta. For Romans, it is indispensable for making bucatini all'amatriciana. The best guanciale I've enjoyed, however, comes from Calabria, cured with lots of salt and plenty of fiery peperoncino.
  3. Pancetta can well be eaten uncooked and often is - sometimes the cured belly is rolled, then it is sold sliced, just like other salumi to enjoy as an antipasto, or stuffed in rolls. For that matter, lardo, pure white back fat cured in salt, garlic and spices (such as the outstanding lardo di Colonnata), is similarly eaten uncooked, simply sliced thinly, a delicious and favourite nibble with a good glass of wine. I'd actually say there is quite a lot of difference between American bacon and pancetta. Most American bacon, I'd guess, is more than likely industrially produced by some sort of wet brining, probably injected with lots of crap. No doubt there is good American dry-cured bacon and that is what most eGers enjoy. But when most of us think of 'bacon', it's probably the supermarket stuff sold in thin slices to fry up crispy for breakfast. I'd be very interested indeed to hear if anyone ever eats this stuff uncooked. By contrast, the best artisan produced pancetta is dry-cured in salt and (depending on the region) other spices or flavourings (garlic, black pepper in Tuscany and Umbria; peperoncino in Calabria) then left to age for a period of weeks or months. Make no mistake, a great pancetta is a thing of beauty: pancetta tesa (the term is used to indicate that the belly is 'stretched' on a seasoned, wooden board and left to mature for a period of months) from Eudoro in Umbria, is hand-massaged with wine, salt, garlic and black pepper then left for 60 days. It is exquisite. Pancetta is best purchased as a whole slab, to cut off as you need it. Those packets of cubetti that you can find in supermarkets are usually disappointing (but still almost always better than using bacon - British or American - which in my opinion rarely give satisfactory results for carbonara or amatriciana). I'd go so far to say that artisan-cured pancetta is just about as different from garden-variety American bacon as mortadella di Bologna - the real thing, massive, fragrant, delicious, to be carved by hand off its special trolley - is from Oscar Mayer baloney. MP
  4. Great post, RR. I often get 'stewed cabbage' on certain red Burgundies and indeed bottle-aged Pinot Noir seems sometimes to offer more vegetal aromas than fruity ones. Sounds disgusting, but actually I often enjoy the organic characteristics of such wines. 'Sweaty saddle' is a pretty self-descriptive term sometimes used for odiferous Aussie reds, or beefy Rhônes - funnily enough, again the term is not necessarily perjorative: leathery, animal aromas As for 'cat pee', I associate that a lot more with Sauvignon Blanc than with Pinot Grigio. Riesling, again with bottle age, sometimes offers a whiff of petrol (gasoline) mixed with honey, a potent but potentially delicious and intriguing mix.
  5. We revisited an old favourite for Sunday lunch yesterday that is worth noting: The Rock Inn at Haytor Vale. As any who have visited Dartmoor may know, Haytor is one of the most striking - and easily accessible - of all the many granite tors that are dramatic features of this weird and bleak landscape. I cycle out here from my home on the Exe regularly in warmer weather: the climbs, first over the Haldon Hills, then up from Bovey Tracey to Haytor, are always brutal and painful in the extreme, but the views from the top, on a good day across the gorse-and-heather-covered moor to the wide expanse of Lyme Bay almost to Portland Bill in the eastern distance and down the Teign Valley to Torbay and the so-called English Riviera, are truly outstanding. Most who arrive here (those with any sense at least) are likely to come by car. Park in the lower carpark, then trek up to the rocks and scramble to summit for an even better view over all of Dartmoor and the southwest coast. There are often rockclimbers and abseilers climbing up or bouncing down the sheer granite rock face of this massive natural feature. From the carpark to Haytor is but the merest of walks, ten minutes at most, but it is sufficient - just - to help work up an appetite and enable you to feel virtuously righteous about settling in for your ample Sunday lunch at the Rock Inn. On the other hand, you could arrive earlier and make a decent walk, say around to Hound Tor and back in part over the so-called 'granite tramway' and so truly earn your lunch... The Rock Inn, located just below Haytor in the sheltered hamlet of Haytor Vale, is a fine, atmospheric old coaching inn dating from 1750, the sort of picture postcard pub we like to bring visitors up to see: a huge open fire in the main bar, good cask-conditioned ales (such as local Dartmoor) and simple but tasty traditional cooking. Yesterday's Sunday roast, for example, was faultless: medium rare and copious slices of tasty beef, clearly carved off a large rib joint, served with Yorkshire pudding, superb crispy roasties, and perfectly cooked (still al dente) veg like green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and a puree of swede flavoured intriguingly with fennel seed. Plus plenty of good gravy and - very important - a quite pungent horseradish. What more do you want? A pint or two of that Dartmoor ale, or perhaps a glass or two of good red wine - the list is interesting and fairly priced. To finish, a selection of traditional English puds - bread and butter pudding with custard, treacle tart, Bakewell, sticky toffee pudding, etc. Nothing groundbreaking; everything well done and satisfying. Definitely worth a visit. The Rock has rooms so it would make an excellent base for walking on the moor. Marc
  6. I cycle up the Exe Valley and over Exmoor fairly frequently, but we usually carry provisions or stop at teahouses or pubs, of which you'll find plenty. We rode the tandem over the moor to Lynton a few years ago and spent the night at the Rising Sun - I agree with Slacker - it's a very nice, atmospheric harbourside inn. Can't remember the meal was anything to write home about. In fact, about all I do remember was the wretched 1:4 climb back out of town the next morning, definitely not the best start to the day... I know there are some good country house inns and restaurants dotted here and there, but unless one is near by, I'd forget about 3-star food and go for atmosphere, find a good thatched pub in the middle of nowhere, settle in for some local beer and simple hearty pub fare. Dulverton is an atmospheric little town at the foot of the moor. Lots of good teahouses. There used to be a half-decent pub in Simonsbath (on the right, descending down to the little stream). Dunster is another little town worth visiting (not too far from Porlock). I remember another good pub in Winsford, incredible beer. Sorry, my post is about as precise and helpful as Slacker's: these are places I usually pass through on my bicycle rather than head to as a destination in themselves. As Slacker says, the countryside is absolutely stunning, so don't discount putting together a really great picnic to enjoy in the fresh air (possibly very fresh at this time of year). Have fun, let us know what you find. Marc PS If you have time, don't miss the Valley of the Rocks, an extraordinary stretch of wild, majestic coastline just west of Lynmouth that plunges up and down along a tiny private toll road. There's a good pub along here called, I think, The Hunter's Inn (in fact the tiny hamlet is called Hunter's Inn). I remember it vividly: the road down to it was so savagely steep that the rim of my wheel overheated from braking and my inner tube exploded! A good excuse to cool down with a pint.
  7. Marco_Polo

    Wine consumption

    When my father-in-law, who is now 82, had some ailment or the other, he was instructed by the doc not to have more than one glass of wine per night. That's rather like telling a bear not to s**t in the woods. Even with the best will in the world, it just wasn't going to happen. But we thought, for the sake of assisting him in his probity if nothing else, we'd help out: managed to find one of those over-sized Burgundy glasses that hold damn near a whole bottle, yes, in a single glass. So that's about what he had every night. Very good claret of course. Didn't hurt him one little bit...except for the tennis elbow he picked up from holding the heavy sucker... As for ourselves, we do try to have one night off wine every month or two. However I can't say we always manage it.
  8. Hi Alexia, Dart's Farm for local and regional food and drink shopping; The Fish Shed for truly superior fish and chips; and The Bridge Inn, without doubt the best pub in the universe: three of my all-time favourite places. I'm glad you liked them as much as we do. In fact, a few of us from here (eG) have been discussing an informal evening get-together, possibly at La Petite Maison Restaurant, Topsham sometime in late Feb. Do PM any of us if you are interested in joining us. Anyone else, too, of course. Marc
  9. I've just returned from a flying visit to Le Marche to see my good friend Angelo Recchi and to explore and learn more about the foods and wines of this beautiful, often overlooked region. The highlight of my few days undoubtedly was a seafood feast at Angelo's house, cooked by his mother Letitzia. Angelo's father Antonio is a trawler fisherman out of Ancona and so the fish we enjoyed was literally straight off the boats: antipasti di mare, tagliatelle coi frutti di mare, alici coi spaccasassi and baby coda di rospo (the tiny monkfish too small to legally sell, so a fisherman's perk) cooked with a little tomato, peperoncino, and wild fennel - sensational! Best pasta I enjoyed anywhere was undoubtedly the tagliatelle (very fine, thin, slightly resistant homemade egg pasta served with a rich ragù di anatra) at Trattoria Alocco, a small family place just outside the walls of Offagna, a beautiful fortified town on the Cònero peninsula. One day we went high up the mountains nearly into Umbria to Campodiegoli, a village still trying to rebuild itself after the earthquake that destroyed, amongst much else, the Basilica of Assisi. There we visited a remote alpine baita where Diana Porfiri and Gaetano Gentiluomo smoke magificent trout over juniper from the surrounding woods. Le Marche is a region of contrasts, most notably between the extrovert seaside coastal resorts and the quieter reality of life in its beautiful and hilly hinterland. We have long enjoyed visiting resorts such as Portonovo, just outside of Ancona, not least to enjoy simple shellfish and seafood feasts in fisherman's restaurants literally on the beach. Angelo has his own favourites, but ours is most definitely Ristorante Emilia for the famous Portonovo speciality, spaghetti coi moscioli - spaghetti with mussels, followed by a fritto misto di mare, all washed down, of course, with Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. On returning home to South West England, I though I'd recreate the taste of Le Marche with this favourite dish. Here's our recipe. Thanks again, Angelo, ci vedremo presto. Marc
  10. Hi Eden, A really great, unusual thing to do when you're in Venice is to head out to the agricultural island of Sant' Erasmo, a good hour's boat trip, or maybe even longer, way out in the far reaches of the Venetian lagoon. (You can catch the boat from Fondamenta Nova.) This is the rich agricultural island where much of the fresh vegetables labeled 'nostrale' or 'nostrano' that you see in the markets come from: radicchio, tiny artichokes, peas, asparagus, lettuce and more, all in season of course. In truth it's a quiet, remote, peaceful place, far from the madding crowd, all the better for it if you feel the need to get away for an afternoon to experience the peace and beauty of the lagoon itself. The real bonus is that there is a simple farmhouse restaurant on the island - well, actually quite big now, and able even to cater for largish groups, but no worse for that. In good weather you eat outside; in winter, I would hope there would be a wood fire indoors. The place is called Ca' Vignotto and used to be run as an agriturismo though it may have now outgrown the restrictions placed on such establishments. Come out here to experience another island; and to feast on ample and simple country foods, the homegrown vegetables of course, homemade soppressa and other salumi, pasta such as wholewheat bigoli, followed by secondi of grilled meats, maybe a spezzatino, most likely polenta, perhaps a homemade tart to finish. Nothing at all noteworthy or fancy; everything all honest and homecooked, the unchanging diet of the Veneto. As a not inconsiderable bonus, the house vino sfuso, I recall, was actually quite passable (sometimes wines in such places, often homemade, can be unspeakably bad). Mind, don't come out all this way without booking. It's quite a boat journey. So ring in advance and make sure it is still here. I'd be very disappointed if it wasn't. Ca' Vignotto Via Ca' Vignotto (from the ferry stop, you walk straight up the only road there is!) Loc. Chiesa 30401 Sant' Erasmo tel 041/5285329 Incidentally, by chance I found myself in Venice only yesterday afternoon. I was flying back to Bristol from Venice having been in Le Marche for several days (more on that later) and fortuitously found myself with a few free hours. So I checked my bags and simply took the Linea 1 vaporetto from the Ferrovia to San Marco, then wandered back passing old favourite haunts through Dorsodoro, Rialto and finally Cannareggio, stopping here for a panino and a tumbler of vino rosso, there for an exquisite caffè. Venice was quiet, as if slowly building up to Carnevale; it was cold and bright, the air pale as it is at this time of year and stingingly cold to breathe so that it hurt your lungs: wonderful. Venice in the winter - even for just a few hours - is good for the soul. Marc
  11. Anyone else cheering for Exeter City tonight? Some of you may be contemplating what to eat on Super Bowl Sunday. Over here we're considering what's on the menu tonight for the most remarkable football (soccer) match (or mismatch) in many many years: our local team minnows Exeter City versus mighty Manchester United in the FA Cup replay. Go Grecians!
  12. Hey chef, you're almost as mixed up as me! But as my Mexican friends always say, una ensalada mixta is infinitely more interesting than just plain lettuce or tomatoes... I live in SW England, about as far away from Scotland as you can be. But (today at least) just as rainy... Gastro888, though these days for us all MSG may be an absolute no-no, I'm sure if used judiciously it could probably intensify flavour without the hangover effects. But it's still something we'd probably all prefer to avoid, right? Or maybe not. Does anyone admit to using it?
  13. I must admit that my Korean grandmother, who was the most brilliant cook, was of the generation that saw nothing wrong in using MSG, though always judiciously and in small doses. When we were writing a book about her we naturally spent a lot of time in the kitchen as she taught us how to cook. MSG for us is quite simply something we can't, we wouldn't ever use. But Halmoni would always try and slip a little in and giggle like a little girl when we caught her doing so. I can still hear her say to me, "No Aji-no-moto, no tastee good." It's true, her food always was sensational, tasted that little better than anyone else's, even my mother's. But somehow I don't think it was just the Aji-no-moto... And ChefZadi, I agree, sugar most definitely should never be the top note. Or even the top knot.
  14. I'm sure Ben is right: how much better to have it made for you and served with such style (did said gorgeous young lady feed the pancakes and duck skin to you as well, Ben, or am I just fantasizing?!). Be that as it may, from time to time I still like to play at making a sort of faux-Peking duck. The best tip I can pass on is to use a bicycle track pump to blow up the skin - simply insert the pump under the skin and pump like a madman (this is a two-man job and you may have to insert the pump in various places since they no longer make ducks like they used to do, and the skin is likely to tear here and there, though it doesn't really matter). This technique of course has the purpose of separating duck skin from the layer of subcutaneous fat beneath. Next pour over boiling hot water, stuff with spices, flavours etc, hang up on a hook, and baste with favourite mixture, then place in front of a fan to dry. Continue to baste at regular intervals (it may be a good idea to sleep on the kitchen floor to facilitate this important process: but whatever anyone tells you, you don't need to wake up more often than every hour to baste, that ought to be quite frequent enough). After a day or so of such treatment the skin will eventually take on the texture of a sort of dry and venerable parchment.
  15. Yes, sugar. Much of Korean food served in restaurants is way too sweet for my taste - sugar is a big ingredient that is often over-used in dishes like bulgogi. But a little definitely gives just the right taste. As for the coriander, you're right, it's not really a usual Korean flavour but my mixed background - Korean, French, born in Mexico, American living in England - results at times in a fusion of flavours that seem, well, just so naturally right. In fact, sometimes cho jang with coriander is so right (especially as a dipping sauce for meat fritters) that nothing else will quite do. Try it: it's really outrageously good I assure you!
  16. Not exactly. 'Jon' is simply batter fried food, whether vegetables, meat or fish. Just about anything can be made into jon. The most famous is pa'jon (pa = green onion) - you can of course add some kimchi to your pa'jon if you like. We make a family style pa'jon that includes strips of marinaded bulgogi meat as well as green onions, wilted strips of celery, and kimchi if we have any. It's sensational. The classic dipping sauce for such fried foods is cho jang - Korean vinegar dipping sauce. Mix rice vinegar and light soy sauce to taste (about 50/50), add a little sugar (not too much), some toasted sesame oil, and some toasted and crushed sesame seeds. Depending on the jon, we also add sometimes add some crushed chili pepper (I like coarsely ground piri piri I bring back from Portugal), shredded green onion or some roughly chopped coriander. MP PS As for the 'aroma' of kimchi in the fridge, try as you might, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, so why try? Halmoni used to wrap jars of kimchi in plastic bags tightly sealed with rubber bands, but frankly there is no disguising it. The smell of kimchi assaulting you as you enter the door; or even before the door is opened: the smell of my grandmother's house. On second thought, if you live where it is cold enough, you could just leave the jars outside the back door, an effective method no doubt to keep away unwanted wild animals, robbers or other pests.
  17. Can well understand that for those in the wine trade, January is the cruelest month (all the more reason to drown sorrows). Imperial China is a great idea (but what, William, is the wine list like?). A blow out lunch one day soon?
  18. Thanks, William, this is very good news indeed. We've been waiting 25 years for an even half decent Chinese restaurant in Exeter or surrounds, and if Imperial China is only just mediocre (or rather better, as your report suggests) then I'll be very excited. As for Petite Maison, it is a very good little restaurant indeed so I'm glad you liked it. Doug is a serious chef and he sources fresh and local ingredients and produce. Petite Maison is located about two minutes (or less) around the corner from where we live so you should have dropped in first for a glass of wine. Perhaps next time. Meanwhile our proposed eG rendezvous at Michael Caines at the Royal Clarence (with David/Slacker?) will have to wait: the hotel and restaurant closed on Tuesday for the start of the long-awaited and extensive refurbishment. The Restaurant dining room itself will not be altered, but improvements are being made in the kitchens, and the Cafe Bar/Boutique is being completely redesigned. The hotel itself - all bedrooms as well as public areas - is also being completely redesigned/refurbished, too, with full completion set for the end of August. However, the MC Restaurant should be back in business in about three weeks and the Well House Tavern remains open (though not for food, I would guess, until the main kitchen reopens). Marc
  19. Just received my order of fresh foie gras today - delivered from Chef Club Direct on the day and time specified, packed in styrofoam with dry ice to keep cool. I've just now separated the lobes of foie gras, deveined and it's macerating in Armagnac, salt and pepper. Looks and feels very high quality. Tomorrow I'll simply cook in a bain marie to make a terrine de foie gras as a pre-starter for the Christmas meal. Thanks for the suggestion, Moby. It looks like you came up trumps. Marc
  20. Hi Sun-Ki I've been meaning to reply to this wonderful post which I really enjoyed and thanks too for foodzealot's great recollections, too. As you know, my grandmother came to Hawaii in 1924 as a picture bride and my mother was born in Honolulu. Both later moved to the mainland where I was raised (though I myself was born in Mexico, but that's another story). My grandmother ferociously clung to her Korean identity, but nonetheless her foods were always the most delicious fusion of flavours (I'm not just talking about Thanksgiving or holiday foods). For example she made something she called chop steak which was really a variation of chap chae, a meat and noodle medley, though 'haole' style, with much more meat. She made a delicious 'Irish' stew, meat braised like kalbi tchim with soy sauce and garlic and ginger but with carrots and potatoes. And of course we always enjoyed for breakfast the most delicious Korean pancakes - chewy, crepe-like pancakes served with maple syrup and butter, American style. What makes them Korean, I always wondered? My guess is that her batter is virtually the same as used to make jon, true Korean pancakes such as pa'jon etc, here adapted to American tastes. This to me is true fusion cooking! So on holidays or every days, the foods I grew up eating were never really authentically Korean nor western: they were just home cooking, though no less delicious for that. And it seems to be the way we still cook ourselves. Just last night for example we had some nice sirloin steaks. Should I grill them and serve with a nicely reduced wine sauce? I know, I'll cut into strips, marinade like for bulgogi, then stir fry with tomatoes and onions and serve over shortgrain brown rice - a sort of Chinese-American beef tomato, but with a Korean accent - served together with a green salad. It occurs to me from your post, Sun-Ki, that Hawaii as a meeting place of East and West encapsulates in many ways the melting pot that is America. And though I live halfway around the world from you, I too am very much a product of this delicious island reality. Happy holidays to all, whatever delicious fusion of foods you'll be enjoying. Marc
  21. For something surprisingly full, rich yet bone dry, with complex caramelly, butterscotch, dried fruit, wood and more, and with a finish that can just go on and on, try and get your mitts on a bottle of good dry oloroso. Most usually oloroso is blended to make the sweeter cream sherries, but a pure bone dry oloroso can be a revelation. Lustau's almacenistas can be very good, but don't overlook wines from the big names like Domecq, Osborne and the like. Sip and savour with a handful of nuts in front of the fire. Or in bed.
  22. Hi Kristin, Great picture. You've made me hungry for Korean noodles. My Korean grandmother used to make magnificent pots of chapchae, and of course in summer I love naengmyon (who doesn't?!). But what I love best of all is a big bowl of kuksu which in our house we simply called 'Korean spaghetti': son myon (or Japanese somen) noodles (a sort of wheat vermicelli), swimming in a homemade meat broth and garnished with strips of bulgogi, lots of sharp, vinegary cucumbers, soy-dressed spinach or watercress namul, perhaps some kosari dried fiddlehead namul if available, and garnished with thin strips of fried egg, lots of toasted sesame seed and a pile of spring onions shredded on the diagonal. Come to think of it, it's one of my all time favourite foods on earth. Thanks for reminding me to make some this weekend. Marc
  23. Hi Alberto, the best I've enjoyed recently is Leone de Castris' Donna Lisa Riserva 1999. My notes read: Dark, inky garnet, earthy, rich, spicy nose with soft tones of oak (18 months in barrique); incredibly concentrated, muscular with well-knit tannins. This is a stunner: uncompromisingly powerful and pure Negroamaro, yet dressed in a velvet glove. Apart from the big names you've already mentioned, I have also enjoyed some stunning wines from a newcomer, La Corte, who are making some really classy Negroamaro and Primitivo wines using fruit from very old vines (upwards of 80 years old). Worth hunting down. Kevin72, my advice? Go! Who knows what the experience may lead to. Go and enjoy. MP PS Just remembered another stunner: Li Veli Pezzo Morgana 2001 Salice Salentino DOC Made by the Falvo brothers of Avignonesi, this is Salice with a super-Tuscan accent.
  24. Grazie, Alberto! What a great post. We spent some time in Puglia a few years back and it's nice to revisit, even if only virtually. Great observations and descriptions made more vivid with the excellent pics. Thanks for this: I've just returned from a cold afternoon cycling in the hills of Devon, and already it's warmed me up. And that's even without yet opening the Salice Salentino... MP
  25. Dear Ferran, What a provacative question that is worth considering for anyone interested in food and eating, even for those of us who are not personally familiar with your work but only know of it through the virtual pleasure of other's comments. The question implies within its own answer: that in fact there is no ideal gastronomy. We each carry within ourselves our own personal identities, our very tastes, weaned from our mother's milk and from every other individual experience that make us who we are. That there is in fact no single ideal gastronomy but an infinity of ideal gastronomies unique to each of us. Yet for many, the common act of eating transcends the individual. Indeed for possibly most of the world, there may well be any number of 'ideal' collective gastronomies - national, regional, local. My friends who live in the Barolo wine region eat an unchanging diet of traditional foods, carne cruda, tajarin, bagna caoda, brasato al Barolo, torta di nocciola and so on. They have no doubt whatsoever that this is indeed the ideal gastronomy, no, not the ideal, the *only* gastronomy. And they criticize harshly the way similar dishes may be prepared even in an area as close as nearby Asti, or in another neighbour's home. I love the purity, the authenticity of such traditional foods, and when I'm there I share their belief in the ideal. But only when I'm there. Then, fickle and inconstant as I am, I soon shamelessly move on to other tastes and pleasures. My friends in Andalucia, meanwhile, delight in taking me to tapas bars, to expose me to the wonder of perfectly fried mariscos in Puerto de Santa María and Sanlucar de Barrameda (what can be better?), and see nothing unusual about sitting down to dinner at 11.30 at night. How else, hombre, is one to eat, to live? In Korea, my distant relatives could simply not exist, could not enjoy a meal without an array of savoury and tasty panchan, the low table set above a heated ondol floor covered with dishes of this and that, not forgetting the many varieties of spicy, chili-tinted, fermented kim chis always on offer. And to finish: a bowl of steamed plain sticky Korean white rice, what else? Yet if we offered them in turn one of our own West Country dietary mainstays, say a slab of the most delicious mature local farmhouse cheddar, made from unpasteurised milk and smelling, yes, not just a little of the barn floor, well, it would make them feel literally sick... Most of the world, in fact, the traditional, unchanging world, does indeed believe in its own ideal gastronomy, however much we may dismiss the ennui of tradition. How I envy such certainty, such faith, such acceptance and unquestioning belief: the knowledge that the Chiantis from the Provicia di Firenze, or from a particular comune, or even single individual azienda agricola, are the only ones worth drinking, in fact the best wines in the world (notwithstanding that the world is a rather large place). The rest of us, meanwhile, are left to wander here and there, trying this, sampling that, adding of soupçon here, a dash there, seeking to create our own patchwork fusion of ideals in a world where anything can literally go. Your question, of course, is a rhetorical one: how can there be an ideal gastronomy any more than there can be an ideal diner? Or perhaps there can be? The person who truly is able to come to the table with no prejudices and preconceptions, who is open to new taste experiences not simply in the spirit of novelty but with real understanding and discernment, as a citizen of the world, eager to experience, to taste and savour that which makes us human. The concept of an ideal gastronomy in a Platonic sense implies food as art (as has already been touched on above), or at least as something that sets itself above the mundane matters of survival and the need for sustenance. Yet is not this very need, the daily requirement to feed ourselves, the basic primeval enjoyment we get from satisfying hunger, what makes us human, what defines who we are? Do we not, perhaps, lose something of our basic humanity when we come to the table not because we are hungry, but simply for the pleasure of novel experiences? If we are what we eat, then each of us carries within ourselves our own ideal gastronomy. National, regional and personal cuisines of course may help to define our identities. Yet however different we are, we still may be able to come to the table to try and seek a common ground, and through our senses share a common language, common tastes and flavours that we can all at least appreciate for a while, if not ever wholly understand. In seeking to push back the boundaries of any such common ground, the canon of, say, Western, French-inspired classic gastronomy for example, or any strong regional traditions, we may be invited to question what food and flavour is - and the answers may be different to each of us individually. An approach such as yours (if I understand it at all) may indeed help us to understand and realise more fully who and what we are. Or maybe not. Ultimately is the meal an intellectual experience that we consider and analyse in retrospect; or is it a hedonistic and sensual one that we absorb unthinking and with no need of conscience understanding? Or can it, should it be both? Either way, I thank God (if there is one - or, ¿quien sabe?, perhaps there are many) that my world does not have certainty of fixed belief, that there is in fact, no ideal gastronomy for me: we may suffer from lacking faith, the certainty of religion in a multi-cultural world that grows ever more confused and has fewer answers by the day, or the simple satisfaction and solidity of a cuisine that is the same today as it was last century, last night, tomorrow. Yet such freedom ultimately leaves us able to taste, to explore, to enjoy, to be open to experience a universe and more of flavours, however unusual, novel, foreign or amazingly different. To find out who, in fact, we are. Who you are. That to me, perhaps, is what an ideal gastronomy might be able achieve: to lift us out of our corporeal selves to some higher plane, to feel, to taste the wholly bearable lightness of being. But after such an uplifting experience, I imagine that I might be feeling rather peckish... With all best wishes, Marc
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