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Corinna Dunne

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Corinna Dunne

  1. I reckon that Delia's objective of getting people to cook and engage with food is more effectively achieved by the Sainsbury's ads/sponsored slots, whether they feature Jamie or not. Tasty, simple and plenty of repetition. But then, that's about selling food, not books.
  2. I don't see this as a demographic thing. Viewers of lifestyle cooking shows and purchasers of the accompanying gift books come from all sorts of strata. For me this is more about segmentation. By far the majority of consumers of books and programmes never cook at all so the recipes actually suggested are not so important. It's more about positioning the celebrity brand. What's happened here is that, by placing Delia in opposition to the undifferentiated food lovers (Jammie, Nige, Scrotum etc.) they are creating differentiation. All the other chefs want you make an effort, take time, care about food and have some kind of hedonistic enjoyment in it - see, no difference! No so St Delia who, by suggesting you take less time and stop making such a fuss about things like quality, taste and technique, instantly has a standout position. ← Tim, we’re on the same page here. I agree on the differentiation thing, and Delia making outlandish statements/recommendations for standout, which I’d be fine with if they had a real purpose. I’ve tried to have an open mind on her ‘not from scratch’ approach (thinking it may broaden the market and help to engage those who don’t normally cook as opposed to those who buy books and cook the odd recipe), but in reality, I think it erodes much of the good done by Nigella, Jamie, Nigel etc. I just don’t get it.
  3. Well if you can't afford free range it's battery or bugger all isn't it? I think we here tend to forget that we are better paid than many and so have better choices. S ← I didn't see last night's show, but I'm getting more confused at exactly what market is being targeted. It doesn't seem to be low income (high production values on the cookbook and not a giveaway price), more the middle class time poor sector. So the message is a bit muddy.
  4. I write the restaurant column for a leading women’s fashion magazine in Ireland which is highly dependent on advertising for revenue (the population in Ireland means that circulation doesn’t come close to the UK, not to mention the US). After visiting a newly opened, high profile restaurant in the city centre and requesting the menus by email subsequent to my visit, I was literally hounded by the PR with phone calls and requests to know who she should talk to about advertising. I had to physically pick up the menus and PR blurb and had a tough job getting out alive without meeting the PR. It was one of my earlier reviews with the magazine, but despite the restaurant taking out a full page ad, my editor let my copy run with barely an edit. It was far from a glowing review, but it was fair, based on two visits (which is very unusual over here, not having the luxury of the New York Times budget). For the main part, this separation of advertising and editorial is representative of restaurant reviewing in Ireland. However, the restaurant reviews in free-sheet neighbourhood newspapers aren’t worth reading; in general, they’re intrinsically linked to advertising.
  5. This NYT piece is just spin on a topical issue: diet and diabetes. The only difference here is a new ‘how to’ get obese angle. To be honest, it all sounds like pre-promotion for a book, although maybe that’s just me being cynical, tainted by my old PR hat from years ago. So here’s the new angle on an old told story: The history: Man loves food. Gets together with people who love food and starts a website. Food website attracts likeminded people, co-founder finds himself happily ensconced in a: A bit short on detail, but this journo won’t be the first to let it get in the way of a good story. So, the wonderful life of gluttony seems like heaven to our foodie… but it all goes horribly wrong and there’s a price to pay: The implication that everyone is blindly eating their head off is quite simply nonsensical. And just in case we’d missed the point: This makes great copy, but is a totally unsupported statement. And Fat Guy makes that point suscintly here: But hey, there’s the ‘new’ angle. “Time for healthier eating” is hardly (yawn) revolutionary, but if you work in some internet spin, you have a story and maybe a book (after all sick lit is the new chick lit, and with an ageing population, more relevant by the day). And of course there’s the blame game. Now we’ve got a new culprit. The internet; that delicious ‘it isn’t your fault angle’ (crowd pleasers = more readers). My opinion? Obesity, as we all know is on the increase and there is a clear link between it and diabetes. Obviously there are cases outside of this group also. To say that internet discussion groups contribute to this is a totally unsupported statement and the finger pointing about responsibility and culpability is just designed to reinforce the spin. The key culprit (as pointed out by many above) appears to be processed food and the increased use of the car. When I first visited the US in the early 80s, I couldn’t believe the huge servings of sodas and was fascinated by the whole fast food phenomenon. I did also notice that there were quite a number of obese people, a thing that was rare at the time in Ireland which was in deep recession. But Ireland’s recent prosperity and higher discretionary spend has meant that it is ‘catching up’ and time poor parents are looking for time saving options. So obesity is seriously and worryingly on the increase here too. However, the obesity problem is largely at the lower end of the social scale, with middle class parents being more aware of the need to avoid highly processed foods and ensuring that they and their families get exercise. So far there have been no reports of food discussion groups being a contributing factor, but plenty of comment about children sitting on their fat backsides watching television and playing computer games when they should be outside kicking a ball. Yes, some of the genetic evidence has been cited, but with previous generations of hard working, carless skinnies, it doesn’t hold much anecdotal water. So Henny Penny… Yeah, obesity and diabetes is on the rise (nothing new there). The internet is to blame…. Yeah, right… spin me another yarn.
  6. Belfast hits back but Giles Coren holds his own on the Nolan Show, a Belfast chat show, clickety.
  7. I thought it was a stroke of genius. It’s just a pity that every critic didn’t review it this weekend. That would have made a complete mockery of the whole libel thing. It will be interesting to see what happens at the retrial on the case. In the meantime, some best served cold bad reviews from the Grauniad here.
  8. Giles Coren, who suffered terribly following the initial ruling on the Goodfellas libel case is so relieved to have his freedom of speech restored, he ventured to Belfast to check out Goodfellas for himself. His conclusion was that it is just horribly bad in the regular sense of the word and didn’t offer much potential for his newly sharpened pen. His lawyers may have been checking his copy, but the subs would do well to have a look too. He incorrectly refers (on six occasions) to the original Goodfellas article as having appeared in The Irish Times when it was in fact The Irish News. But now he's on a mission. Good. I think more newspaper critics should be exposing what is simply unacceptable (neighbourhood ‘Italian’ restaurants being major offenders) and perhaps customers will start questioning the crap they are being served.
  9. The Travellan was gorgeous, my first time trying it. Wish my budget extended to exploring their wine list a bit deeper.
  10. Just to update this topic. Guilbaud’s - which was awarded its second Michelin star in1996 - got a bit of a facelift towards the end of last year and is Ireland’s only 2* restaurant. I had dinner there a few months ago, it remains solid, but not the most exciting place to eat in Dublin and the prices can bring on a serious attack of indigestion (the lunch is still relatively good value). Here’s the body of a review I did in December: Staying at this level is all about consistency. With a staff of 43, it ultimately comes down to the work of three people: Patrick Guilbaud, the astute, handsome restaurateur; Guillaume Le Brun, the talented executive chef and Stephane Robin, the outstanding maitre’d. The restaurant has two entrances: a dedicated one on Upper Merrion Street and one through the hotel. We take the latter and Stephane, the maitre d’, guides us though to the lounge. A waiter arrives and our orders are taken; we opt for “Dooblinn water” and avoid the still or sparkling expense. The wine list is deep and steep, so we ask for advice. Our sommelier is quick to recommend the most expensive wine in the white category we are considering (€105 Pouilly Fumé 2002) and suggests a red at around the same price (€115 Trevallon 99) telling us they are good, but not why and not offering any options. Perhaps we should have engaged with him a bit better. We move to our round, linen-clad table for four in the newly refurbished dining room. The room has a warm buzz of chatter; this is no dentist’s waiting room. It is now nicely broken up into sections with pale oak dividers (making service a bit trickier), the new carpet is graphically patterned in a post-modern way and the tableware has had a much needed update, leaving the yellow bordered plates behind which were beginning to look a bit 1980’s Noritake. When it is completed, the glass roofed terrace with large outside fire will be a stunning addition for pre and post dinner drinks. But one thing surprises me, our napkins are damp. I quietly mention it and they are immediately changed. Our amuse-bouche arrives. It is witty and delightful: a delicate gin and tonic concoction in a glass, with foam, jelly and all the molecular malarkey. A lovely start. The lobster ravioli (€42) which follows is very good: the pasta is perfect, the filling moist and fresh tasting, and the sauce, which is a lobster bisque with a delicate touch of coconut in the background, is nicely judged. The signature crubbeen starter - of which variations have appeared on Guilbuad’s menu for the past 15 years - is excellent. Thinly sliced, delicate rounds of pigs’ trotter meat are fanned out to cover the plate, tiny cubes of potato in sour cream are in a neat pile on top with a scattering of crispy pork (which is in fact pig’s ear, very Michelin) and the dish is finished with a poached quail’s egg. It is deeply ‘piggy’ in the nicest possible way which contrasts nicely with the fragile structure of the slices of crubbeen. This is a very strong two star dish. Our other starters are more straight forward, foie gras (€40) which comes with a particularly good sauce (best sauce of the evening) and three petit West Cork king scallops (€40) which really are unashamedly over-priced. And so to the mains. There are two ways of looking at pigeon: option one, it is dirt cheap, and unless it is bolstered with truffles or foie gras, offers a profit margin as handsome as Guilbaud, or option two, hehehe, this is where it could all go horribly wrong; lets see what they can do to justify €48. Well, here they do it admirably, albeit with the help of the dark art of sous vide. The pigeon is cooked at a constant low temperature for hours in a vacuum pack and then roasted in the oven, burnished with butter. The result is a deliciously succulent, evenly cooked piece of meat. The dish is finished with a mead and almond jus which has just a touch too much star anise for subtlety, but still, this is a great dish. The other mains have less to say for themselves. The rabbit, stuffed with cured lemon and herbs is nice enough (€48). But it’s farmed, which makes absolutely no sense since the country is over-run with the blighters and if I had two Michelin stars, I’d be avoiding farmed anything, to be honest. Not up to scratch. The roast rib of Irish dry-aged beef for two is a hefty €98; there’s a nice before and after razzmatazz as it’s presented just roasted and then, well, sliced on a plate with big, fat, very good pomme pont-neuf (chips). The beef is beautifully cooked, deliciously rare with a charred crust on the outside, but is lacking in depth of flavour, for which I am going to blame the farmer and not the chef. A green salad with truffle oil (the culinary blight) and excellent crispy onion rings are served as side dishes. And then potatoes and green beans arrive for the table. So plenty of food, without a doubt, it’s posh meat and two veg with a silver cloche on top, which appeals hugely to the older business clientele. The ones with the deep pockets. Our wine runs low, would we like another asks the sommelier? No, could we see the list we ask, but another €115 bottle is brought regardless. You need a hard neck to resist the up-selling. We finish with some very good cheese, nicely served by a well informed waiter and the ‘tropical trilogy’ dessert (€24): a macaroon with pink grapefruit and lychee sorbet, roast pineapple (sous vide again) with green tea granité and a soft coconut biscuit with fresh raspberries which is light and fresh tasting. We wrap up with some petits fours and a hefty bill. Head chef Kieran Glennan
  11. So it sounds like 'Irish' food isn't really the thing here. And serving dried up cheese is just pure rude. Good to hear things have improved, although, considering they were rolling out the apologetic red carpet for you, it would be shocking if they hadn't. Can't say I find the idea of the chef's table very tempting, but agree that lunch on the terrace on a fine summer's day would be nice.
  12. The latest details on the Roux Scholarship, here's the press release: 25TH ANNIVERSARY ROUX SCHOLARSHIP NATIONAL FINALISTS SELECTED Following the simultaneous regional finals at the end of last week, six national finalists have been selected for this, the 25th Roux Scholarship. Two past finalists have won through – Christopher Golding of Nahm, and Matthew Wilkinson of Martha & Vincent in Ilkley. They will be joined at Westminster Kingsway College on March 31 by Daniel Cox from the fine dining division of Compass Group (based at UBS) Adam Peirson of Claridge’s, Ryan Simpson of Winteringham Fields and last, but by no means least, Kevin Tew from Galvin at Windows. (which already boasts two Roux Scholars in its brigade). The regional finals took place at University College Birmingham and Thames Valley University . The finalists prepared their recipes for lemon sole, which had been their original entry requirement. They were also asked to produce a dessert from a box of ingredients given to them on the day itself – these ingredients included coconut, gelatine, eggs, dark chocolate, double cream, sugar and fresh raspberries. The standard this year was exceptionally high – not only with the lemon sole recipes but particularly with the desserts – demonstrating true innovation and technical skills. Alain Roux was constantly on the phone from Birmingham to his cousin Michel Roux junior (at TVU) to monitor progress and compare notes. Commenting on the cook off Alain Roux said: “We both felt that the presentation this year was well above average. The competitors have, of course, had plenty of time to practise their lemon sole recipe and perfect it. But when we saw the standard of desserts produced – with minimal time for planning and in the tense atmosphere of the regional finals – we were most impressed.” Eventually they chose two from the Birmingham heat (where they had eight) and four from London (where there were 11). “Those who were selected showed real potential, especially for this stage of the competition. All the judges agreed that all the candidates were a true credit to their respective establishments,“ adds Michel Roux junior, who was assisted by Andrew Fairlie and Steve Drake, the 2001 Scholar. This year’s guest judge Tracey MacLeod, who judged at Birmingham alongside Brian Turner and Alain Roux, commented: "All the dishes we tasted were worthy of first class restaurants. We have seen some plates which looked amazing, with a huge amount of attention paid to the visual presentation. However the competitors we sent through to the finals were those who struck the best balance between the flavours delivered and the visual presentation." The National Finals at Westminster Kingsway College will be judged by the full judging panel* and the winner will be announced at an awards ceremony at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park a few weeks later. *The full judging panel for this year is: Michel Roux; Albert Roux; Michel Roux junior; Alain Roux; Heston Blumenthal; Andrew Fairlie; David Nicholls; Gary Rhodes; Brian Turner and guest judge Tracey MacLeod.
  13. I love AA Gill’s writing. It’s got a wonderful flow and is particularly good read aloud, probably because he dictates it (it’s my bedtime story on a Sunday night!). I’ve no problem with the no wine aspect. In fact, if anything, it probably gives a better read on the food (although details aren’t always forthcoming!). Ferran Adria usually drinks water (not sure if it’s tap or Fiji) when he’s trying other chef’s food for this reason. An unsullied palate and all that.
  14. The libel case against the Irish News in Northern Ireland has been overturned So I’d say that it is highly unlikely that Ramsay at Powerscourt will pursue an action against Tom Doorley for his Irish Times review with this change of direction.
  15. I adore ponzu too, but I’ve only used it with shabu shabu and sukiyaki and use green onion and daikon as condiments. I’d be interested to hear what dishes you use it with and how you cook them. I make it with soy sauce, lemon juice, stock and mirin. Is this the recipe you use?
  16. I agree. This is unadulterated publicity for his product, a product he admits he has yet to establish a market for (clearly he is targeting home cooks as well as chefs to broaden the appeal). I couldn’t help thinking that he must have unbelievable media contacts to pull this off.
  17. Is Willie Harcourt-Cooze’s Venezualan Black 100% chocolate available on the market yet? A piece here from the Guardian. He says that he's targeting the most interesting chefs in the country, but from the tv programme it looks like a cookbook is in the works. Although the recipes don’t look too inspiring so far. Obsessive man married to a Tania with made for TV children makes chocolate spread at 5am in the morning before heading out to the airport, cooks gazpacho with chocolate with side show Ricky his Venezuelan employee, beans and chocolate with Ricky’s wife, hot chocolate and rum to finish off a hard day’s work in the sun and a chocolate marinated pig in an amazing wood burning oven for a cool party. It all feels weirdly colonial, a bit short on real content but I’m interested to see the factory end of things and dying to try the chocolate.
  18. Wonderful blog. Thank you so much. I was just bemoaning the fact that we don’t have a single good Japanese restaurant in Ireland to a friend yesterday. To compensate, I’m making shabu shabu tonight, although I can’t get chrysanthemum leaves over here which I had when I visited Japan years ago. Do you ever make the Japanese savoury custards? If you do, I’d love to hear a bit more about them. I adore the little secret ingredients hiding inside. I have just one recipe for the custard, which shamefully I haven’t tried yet but intend to soon.
  19. I’m all for unusual starting points for idea generation (‘get fired’ come up with an idea that will get you the sack) but less enthusiastic about ‘deep and meaningful’ artist-with-a-mission type statements, they’d quickly put me off my food. And this one just sounds so naive and unresolved, I’d hate to hear him coming out with more of the same. But I agree, the bottom line is how the dish tastes… I’ve never been treated to any back stories on the food when I’ve eaten in Thornton’s so hopefully all is well. Actually there's the makings of a variation on the menu game here. Pseud Food: here's the dish, what's the concept?
  20. There’s been much discussion on Heston’s philosophy on food, his interest in stimulating childhood food memories, his magic water and whether these elements add or detract from the dining experience. I am interested to know if any chefs in the UK have developed dishes that reflect a story or concept or if this approach by Kevin Thornton in the Sunday Business Post yesterday is a new departure. His description of the scallop dish is as follows: I enjoy Kevin Thornton’s column (a nice read last week on sea urchins), but this all sounds a bit ‘Painted Word’. However, the recipe, which lists 4 salmon eggs, 5g leek puree, 5g scallop roe powder, 5g trompette de la mort powder, 8g oscietra caviar and 1 gold leaf among the ingredients, certainly provides a welcome balance to Cheat’s Ingredients fatigue.
  21. Here’s a pic to rekindle fond memories, and here’s the website.
  22. I think that most people fully accept the impact of celebrity endorsement, it works, and for this reason it is a route that multiples and brands with deep pockets are going to continue to take. Unfortunately I’ve missed most of Jamie’s programmes, so am not sure about what may have been mentioned, surreptitiously or otherwise. But the case with Delia is different. She has selected what she considers to be the best larder loading ingredients and in reality, how different is this from say Fergus Henderson recommending M&S for pigeon breast and Tesco for minced beef in last Sunday’s OFM meat survey? The difference is the Delia effect. Her word carries so much weight that it has a huge influence on consumer habits, and it is equivalent to winning the lotto from a brand POV. If there is even a small shift in behaviour among people who would normally be getting takeaways or ready meals, I think it will be a good thing. There are plenty of people who really can’t cook and this entry level introduction is what is needed (accepting that not all of them will watch the programme or buy the book). However, I do have concerns about some of the quick and easy branded goods getting too much of a foothold in the larders of people who can cook, can make a cheese sauce, mashed potato and fry a piece of pancetta; people who have come up the Jamie and Nigella curve who may slip into Delia’s trusted apron to save ten minutes. And yes, I find this a bit insidious and I would be astounded if the multiples didn’t all get together to discuss the expected buying bonanza, if only to agree with the publishers on what label to use for the lauded ingredients (pick your reason to avoid a cartel discussion: wording, size of label, glue etc, it would all have had to be discussed in advance). Without a doubt, there’s a ‘Them’. ‘Them’ just got lucky because Delia doesn’t do sponsorship deals, but the impact is huge and it is certainly a model that will be pinned up as the Holy Grail for shifting product in the future.
  23. Apparently this series is actually filmed in her kitchen, not the studio set up in her conservatory, and I understand that we'll be treated to some docu day-in-the-life-with-Delia segments, since this seems to be the only way to make a cookery programme these days.
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