Saturday, 22 October 2011

Experimental Food Society

I went along to the Truman Brewery in Shoreditch today to have a gander at the displays on offer from the Experimental Food Society Spectacular.

I was quite sure what to expect but I seem to remember reading a fair amount last year about this unusual combination of food and art. I was expecting a fair amount to eat that would both delight and intrigue and challenge normal perceptions of food. One thing's for sure, I didn't quite realise just how "Shoreditch" and arty it was going to be.

For example when I walked in I wasn't prepared to encounter a full-size edible cake Dodo. I don't have the words to express how lifelike this was. The feathers were phenomenal. Each one individually crafted from a wafer of fondant icing (I think).

This normally quite impressive chocolate cake was next on the horizon.

I say normally, because I turned round and saw a replica Eiffel Tower made out of Curly Wurlys.

It turned out this was taken from one of Carl Werner's Foodscapes, which I had first seen on the walls in one of the cross-passages at London Bridge underground station. The Chocolate Express was also there. I managed to get my hands on a signed copy of Carl's book and am seriously considering getting a print (or two) for my dining room.

These quail egg cakes were one of the few edible items.

However, I didn't quite get it. Each egg shell contained a cake which had been made using the quail egg. I order to eat the cake you had to peel the shell away. I don't know about you but I think you shouldn't have to peel your cake before you eat it.

I didn't really understand why this massive Fabergé egg type sculpture was there to begin with.

But on closer inspection, it the crown itself was made out of some sort of nut brittle.

There were a few other crazy things there:
  • Sharon Baker's Bread Casts
  • Eat my Cake and their Halloween biscuits. (It looks likes they make great cakes too)
  • The Food Illustrator had some of the prints from the collection of illustrations documenting what he ate each day for a year
  • A display by the creator of 2011's "Best decorated cupcake" - Peggy's Cupcakes
All in all quite an eclectic mix of food-related displays from the more "traditional" to the completely ridiculous conceptual art. All of which didn't quite sit very easily with my conscience given there isn't enough food for all the people in the world...

PS Went to Galvin's Café a Vin afterwards and had a red wine and radicchio risotto. Which not only was very tasty but made me feel better about my duck risotto.

Friday, 14 October 2011

New Zealand

Having been in New Zealand for the last month or so the single most confusing thing was the food. Kiwi's don't seem to have a native cuisine. It seems to be an accumulation of things from all over the world. I guess that explains why so many Kiwi's are proponents of what was known as fusion cuisine (I'm thinking Peter Gordon and Anna Hanson). In fact, in terms of finding some where to eat, I would say it's more like England than anywhere else in the world, even down to pub menus with lamb shanks, burgers and pork belly.

One thing that is definitely Kiwi is Maori culture. Being the good little tourist I duly visited Rotorua and had my fill of Maori tradition including food.

I started off with some cord on the cob cooked in the geothermal hot water pools.

That floating silver buoy is a net filled with corncobs. Apparently the mineral content of the water brings out the flavour of the corn. I'm not so sure.

The warmth of the hot rocks is used to prepare a "hangi" which I tried at the Mitai Maori Village. A big pit in the ground is filled with meat and vegetables (including the ubiquitous kumara) then covered over and allowed to cook for 12 or more hours.

Essentially it was a roast dinner. Now don't get me wrong it was very tasty with an incredible unique smoky flavour.

I experienced a few other things of foody note whilst in NZ. I came across these Dole eco-pineapples

They have their crown removed. This allows for efficiencies in transportation (reducing carbon emmissions and costs) and also provides nutrient material for the farm in the Philippines (read more). I wonder if the appearance obsessed British consumer is ready for pineapples without crowns?

I sampled a "delight" unique to NZ: lolly cake.

Essentially it was a very soft cake (I'm not even sure it was sponge) enveloping soft sweets and dusted with dessicated coconut. It was strangely moreish although VERY sweet. I guess it's one of those cultural curiosities like Twinkies, which just don't translate from their native audience.

I also had a whitebait pancake whilst in Auckland (and yes, before you say it, I know I should really have had whitebait whilst on the east coast of the southern island). The problem here was really the ratio of pancake to fish i.e. too much package and not enough fish meant that the delicate taste of the whitebait was lost.

That was it really. Not the most gastranomic of adventures, but I feel a restricted budget held me back somewhat. Lucky the rugby was great. Oh, hang on...
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