COMPETITION: Win tickets to the Periodic Table of Cheese night at La Cave a Fromage, Brighton

I love this. This sounds like an utter geek fest and curd nerds are amongst my favourite geeks. But even if you just love cheese or want to know about it in a fun environment at the fabulous La Cave a Fromage in Hove then this will be a great event for you.

The Periodic Table of Cheese is a cheese tasting game. Apparently competitive cheese tasting events exist (!), but the way the PTOC is played you can score points for getting close. Which is great even if you are a novice cheese lover that.

10 mystery cheeses are laid out with crackers and you have an hour to taste all the cheeses, and decide which 'element' on the table you think they are. At the end of the hour, hand in your card and your choices will be checked and scored by computer followed by an onscreen gameshow! 

Sounds absolutely hilarious and there will be a prize for the winning team. 

For your chance to win one of two pairs of tickets for the game at La Cave a Fromage Hove on Sun 07 Dec 2014 at 7pm, enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway





REVIEW: VIP Pizza, Brighton


Currently I'm conducting an almighty Brighton pizza review post where I am visiting the main pizzerias to find out if anyone can make the darn things. As you can imagine, I'm kissing a lot of pizza frogs in search of a prince. Also what I'm finding is that there are few nice venues to eat pizza and fewer wood ovens, but this is one of them so I thought it deserved a post by itself.

VIP Pizza cropped up a little while back in the same location as Oregano, who also served wood fired pizza with a bit of a hit and miss reputation, more often missing on my visits to be honest. But VIP has transformed the space. Gone is the heavy wood and the daft huge tables that minimised dining space. They've successfully achieved a modern take on Italian tradition style with a little industrial edginess thrown in to boot. Good quality produce lines the shelves and the troughs of herbs behind the seating benches are a nice touch.


They also have a deli counter with hard to find meats like speck and I saw some regional Italian specialities like the coned arancini, smoked scamorza, jam crostata, ciabatta and some cakes that may be worth a look in, especially for impromptu summer picnics on the Old Steine lawns.


It’s been said that this is the place where Italians go and yes the place was positively bursting at the seams with Italian students. There were also a couple of Italian families and their beautiful babies who were gurgling away happily as they gnawed down their little pizza slices. The owners shouted out a few ciao’s to passing countrymen too. Quite a good sign.

The pizza menu is quite large with almost 30 choices, mostly good although was sad to see the Hawaiian and the chips and wurstel topping which is more popular with the Italian youth than would like to admit to. They also serve a panuzzo, which is a relatively new thing and something not really seen in the UK. It's a pizza base that's folded and stuffed but not a calzone but more like a filled sandwich pizza.


As I've said before I always opt for a Margarita on a first pizzeria visit. Mr GF went for a Diavolo, much the same just with some spicy salami and black olives on top. The dough was well seasoned and a good consistency (the cooked bit anyway). I still think there was far too much cheese, despite making a point when being served to lay off it a little, but the sauce was nice, the right amount and good quality.



I’m not one of these people that nods like a Churchill dog when asked if everything is alright with my food when I have a quibble, especially if I’m writing about it after. That just isn’t fair. When asked I did point out the pizzas were undercooked, mainly on one side as they hadn't been turned in the oven (burnt on the other), and I was told quite flatly that I was wrong, they were perfect. Instead of infuriating me I did have to chuckle as I then KNEW for sure I was in an authentic Italian place. That is precisely the reaction you would get over there! Despite half of it being slightly doughy and the cheese on Mr GF's not even melted, it had all been a figment of my imagination. Of course! God bless the Pope.

I did show the pictures to a professional baker I happened to be meeting and they did say the dough didn't look too bad, it had just been undercooked. Looking around at other people's orders I do think we got a swift cook as the other pizzas seemed just a little more crisp and had they been then it would have helped.

The arancini, shaped in a traditional cone rather than ball, were absolutely delicious. Nicely firm and filled with the classic pea and meat sauce combination, which was tasty and well seasoned. These really were as mamma would make them if your mamma was particularly gifted in making them. Be sure to grab one of these if you see them on the counter.

So, not altogether bad and the good outweighed it. There is a good selection of beer and wines, and San Pelligrino soft drinks, even Crodini which you don't see often too. They also do pasta dishes which looked popular and there is a selection of antipasti.

One thing though is that I would strongly ditch the mayo and ketchup from the tables. I was quite shocked to see them on there to be honest. If heathens request it they can jog on down to Dominos I say.

Clearly it's going to attract the students and a younger crowd in general due to the natural lower price point. Their money is better spent here on fresh produce than some chain fast Frankenstein food anyway. Prices start at just £5.50 for the basic to £12 for porcini and truffle toppings.

Service is friendly (as long as you don't complain about anything!) but can be a tad too slow for working lunchtime turnarounds. You can also just grab a slice to go too.

There's clearly been a lot of love and time invested in this place which you can't help but admire. If you want your pizza served in an Italian atmosphere by real Italians then this is the place for you in Brighton town centre.

VIP Pizza
19 Old Steine
Brighton BN1 1EL

Mince pie blind taste test 2014

Mince pies! Who doesn't love these?!

And it's not everyday you come home to a bag of them you have to taste test (poor me eh!). On unwrapping them from their plain brown bags, it was clear there were five very different pies.

Because you eat with your eyes too, they have been rated on their appearance and then blind tasted after. I said I would never be blindfolded again when eating food after the worst PR event of my life earlier this year, but hey, in the safety of your own home...

PIE A



Appearance
This is clearly a tin foil case mass produced pie but of a better quality than most I would say. Quite attractive top and crimping. Mincemeat was reasonably full although there was a little gap at the top.
Blind taste
The pastry has a shop bought flavour and texture. The mincemeat is juicy, well spiced and nicely textured. The overall pie is a little sugary though.
Rating
7/10

PIE B



Appearance
These look homemade, old fashioned and the thick pastry seems to be partially wholewheat.
Blind taste
These are not too sweet which is good and the pastry has an appealing crumble. But the filling is quite wet and there is a horrible synthetic oil taste which runs through the mincemeat.
Rating
5/10

PIE C



Appearance
Nice thickness to the pastry, not too thick or thin and very quaint. A Charles Dickens looking mince pie if that makes any sense at all!
Blind taste
Pastry was crisp and very flavourful. The mincemeat has a nice punch of citrus and a very unique malty taste. A pie with character; grown up but maybe not for everyone as it didn't deliver a sugar hit.
Rating
9/10

PIE D



Appearance
"Exceedingly" commercial in appearance, with the holly debossed lid.
Blind taste
Horrible, horrible, horrible pastry. Disintegrates on biting to a powdery mush which sticks to the roof of your mouth. Sugary and sticky and just disgusting. Money is that this is a Kipling or own-brand budget pie. Rankety rank, cheque book and pen.
Rating
0/10

PIE E



Appearance
Not a mince pie as we know it. A reinvented format that will either be a revelation or a gimmick. There was no pastry and filling, more of a cake brownie. Money on the fact that this is a Heston for Waitrose pie.
Blind taste
Overwhelming cinnamon spice to these and after that hit they are not unappealing, just a bit quite one dimensional and bland. No juice or texture to them really. Meh.
Rating
6/10

I later found out the results.

PIE A 7/10 - Marks & Spencer £1.80 / 6 pack
PIE B 5/10 - The Village Bakery Organic Mince Pies, £4.55 / 6 pack
PIE C 9/10 - The Hearth Bakehouse, Heritage mince pies with Harveys Ale, £3.95 / 6 pack
PIE D 0/10 - Aldi, 85p / 6 pack
PIE E 6/10 - Heston from Waitrose Spiced shortcrust mince pies, £3.50 / 6 pack

Obviously this isn't an extensive list. It was The Hearth in Lewes that dropped these off actually, I suppose to prove a point that their Heritage mince pies are up there with the best, but you would expect that. They are made by skilled hands using heritage flours with a splash of the local Harveys Christmas Ale in the mince meat. Then baked in a wood oven for goodness sake! Blindfold or not, of course they are going to taste better than a mass produced pie, although I had higher hopes for the Heston pie.

I would have like to have tried pies from Fortnum & Mason or Harrods as well as all of the supermarket brands and maybe a few more niche brands too. I have an account handler that positively swears by Forfars pies! Everyone has an opinion on mince pies so which are your favourites to leave out for Santa this year?

Victoria made Christmas cakes

What can you possibly say about the cakes of Brighton's Victoria Watkin-Jones? Sometimes an image is all you need. 


Just beautiful aren't they? I've featured Victoria's cakes creations before and here she is again with her festive additions. You may as well put the dried fruit packaging down right this second right? She's got such an eye for clean, modern style that somehow isn't stark or cold, or you think you've seen anywhere else before.

And after tasting a huge range of them last time, I can vouch that they taste as good as they look and you can save yourself the hassle of the Christmas centrepiece with one of these beauties or gift someone you REALLY like.

Victoria can make macaron, cookies, layer cakes topped with profiteroles and fruit, iced Christmas cakes, individual fondant iced cakes with Christmas decoration or seasonal cupcakes.

As always, her cakes are decorated in small batches with fresh ingredients (with local produce where possible) and everything from the toppings to all fillings is homemade.

Prices vary from £7 for an individual fondant iced cake with Christmas decoration and buttercream to £60 for the larger cakes.

Details are for the Brighton and area only but for other pricing/order sizes contact Victoria Made.

 http://www.victoriamade.com or call 07971427998.





REVIEW: MEATLiquor, Brighton


I know what you are thinking. You in MEATLiquor? It's brash, loud, disorientating and serves calorific fast food - the thing I'm always moaning about. And yes, the prim and proper part of me (yeah it exists) shouldn't like it; I mean for one there's no tablecloth or fine cutlery for goodness sake (the horror). Instead, food is served on a metal tray with just a sheet of greaseproof paper for company and a domestic kitchen roll to wipe your mouth with. Kitchen roll!

But I really like this place. MEATLiquor burst onto the scene as a totally different dining experience that others since have tried to imitate, failing miserably. The brand and interiors have been really well considered by great design studios, with sophistication in the face of the style of graffiti, collages of unsavoury women doing unsavoury things and fizzing neon signs.



This visit was the first time I had been in the day, and it actually is far tamer. The music is low (racked up to ear bleeding at night) and the lights were on. Being quieter, you could have one of the booth rooms to yourself and service, as I found before, was really friendly. There is also a really good value lunch deal of any burger, fries and refill soda for £10.



Sitting down in a booth, surrounded by metal chains and whipping off my MAC Russian Red as prep for what was in store, I thought it was lucky I was meeting an old colleague for lunch. Trust me, you need to go here with people you have spent many hours with. This ain't no first date territory.

Having not tried their signature burger, the Dead Hippy, before I decided to tick that box. This had two mustard fried beef patties, the Dead Hippy sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, minced onions. The burgers here are really juicy, drippingly so. And doubled up meant double the mess but actually, I did manage to eat this without it completely collapsing on me. They are the Southern-US style of burger that meltingly squelch down so they just about hold together.

Normally I prefer my burgers cleaner but there is something about the unashamed naughtiness of these that are quite a pleasure. The patties had a lot of flavour and the pickles were very thick cut, something this pickle addict appreciated very much. I'm not going to even attempt to figure out what was in the secret sauce but the acidity cut through the fat of the meat to balance it out really well.

The generous portion of fries were almost too much to finish, very thin, very crisp and very salted. I didn't have room this time for the fried pickles, shrimp or the monkey fingers (strips of chicken fillet doused in hot sauce) but they are very good too.

I can't abide fizzy cola or lemonade so the fresh lime and soda included in the deal was good enough to wash it down with. If it were post the watershed then their cocktail menu is definitely worth a look.

MEATLiquor don't buck the the trend of what some burger places do. They don't even attempt to  market themselves with sustainability, where the food is sourced from or their organic credentials. All of which I think is actually very important in the food industry. But sometimes, just sometimes, you need a bit of sin in your life and I guess that's what we have MEATLiquor for.

MEATLiquor Brighton
22-23 York Place
Brighton BN1 4GU

Autumn/Winter food events in Brighton

There are some cracking food events coming up in Brighton that are unmissable. Have a look at these...

Cin Cin Winter Feast
12th December, Velo Cafe


I've featured Cin Cin quite a bit on the blog but of course i would. 1. They serve great Italian food and 2. They serve great Italian food. Their first supper club was a roaring success and this one will be too I'm sure. Expect another four courses of interesting antipasti (baked ricotta, figs, honey & orange, Bagna Cauda dip, beetroot carpaccio with goat’s cheese, salamis and stuffed) followed by baked pasta of truffle macaroni, roasted pork loin with citrus glaze and caponata sprouts, spiced Panettone bread and butter pudding with Limoncello cream. Price includes a flute of Prosecco, pear Bellini or Italian mulled wine.

AND I'll hopefully be designing the amuse bouche! 

Price £37.50/pp. Book via http://tabl.com/events/40966




The Big Fat Food Quiz with Cantina Supper

Friday 5 December 2014 7.30pm, Brighthelm Cafe, Brighthelm Centre


Apart from me not winning (I HATE NOT WINNING), last year's food quiz was an absolute scream. Your brain and taste buds will be tested across different rounds of obscure ingredients, hilarious slideshows and quick fire rounds. And this time, supperclub queen Cantina will be serving a Middle Eastern festive feast as well.

The quiz is ideally for teams of four to six but other configurations can be accommodated. Tickets cost £32.50 per person by advance payment via http://www.brightonfoodsociety.com/2014/10/pop-up-christmas-dinner-quiz-with.html



Street Diner Night Market

7-11pm 18th December 2014, Brighthelm Centre Auditorium, Queens Road, Brighton



We all know Street Diner but this is with music and booze - after dark! Perfect foodie night out I say.

Free entry
https://www.facebook.com/streetdinerbrighton



Moshimo Vegan challenge 2014

7.30pm Thursday 20th November 2014


The fifth Moshimo Vegan challenge is back and always a fun night. Eight chefs across the city are invited into Moshimo's kitchens and challenged to create the best Japenese-inspired vegan food. The dishes are then voted for by the diner on the night.

This restaurant do so much to promote sustainable fishing practices and have even won the prestigious PETA "Proggy" award.

Price: £35 (£30 for Moshimo Members).
http://www.moshimo.co.uk/moshimo_members/sushi_restaurant_brighton_special_offers/#.VF63NPSsWzM



Brighton Pavilion Ice Rink
8th November 2014 – 18th January, 2015


Even a festive humbug like me can't fail to get in the mood here. I attended the launch last week which sees the ice rink back with the uplit Pavilion as a breathtaking backdrop. It's become THE Christmas thing to do in the city.

The food offering hasn't quite hit the mark in the last years going from too high end to casual but too expensive with Jamie Oliver's catering firm last year. This year a local catering firm have taken to the helm.

The children's menu is uninspired with the usual pasta, chips and fish fingers which is a shame (target audience - COME ON!!!), but for the adults there is a try-to-please-everyone menu ranging from curry to roasts to sandwiches. There is also a decent looking festive menu (pre-order for groups) which seems a bit more coherent and would be great for a Christmas do with a difference.

But day-to-day, it remains ideal for popping in for hot chocolate and tea in the day with plenty of space for the kids to roam and the bar is ideal for post work drinks. Entrance to the cafe and restaurant is free even for non-skaters.




Cafe Marmalade's first supper
15th November 2014


I love Marmalade (really should review it for you)! It has one of the best cafe interiors and recently a very nice mobile food van too, ramping up the cool in East Brighton for sure. This is their first supper which I'm sure will be beautiful in the cafe setting. There are only a few spaces left so hurry, hurry!

PRODUCT REVIEW: Tefal Ingenio range



For essentially a space saving pan system, I don't know why I was still amazed that the box the set came in was so small. Inside there were a whopping six pans and two sets of lids. I felt like Mary Poppins pulling out pan after pan!

NOTE: I apologise for my kitchen. We still haven't go around to scoping the design and think Mr GF is going to do one of his custom builds on it with lots of concrete worktops and clean lines. I can only imagine the previous owners wore beige a lot or were forced at gunpoint to have matching faux beech tops and units with turquoise tiles. I think I would have taken the bullet.

I was quite excited about this new Ingenio range from Tefal as my non stick pan from this brand has been the only one to stand the test of time. I have a large high-sided pan (a wok/pan hybrid) but use it for everything. And despite the abuse over a good seven years, it's as good and shiny as new.

The Ingenio range answers the issue that many of us have in storing pan sets, transferring them to the oven and stacking in dishwashers. They have created a space saving idea of detachable handles (two came with the set) and allowing all of the pans to be used in the oven and placed in the fridge for food storage with the supplied plastic lids.



I was immediately impressed by the weight. Nothing says quality more in a pan. They felt solid and the heavy base ensured even cooking. The non-stick coating had the box-fresh silkiness you would expect and yes, I had no trouble turning food with little or no fat.

So, here are the design features:



The handle
  • Feels very solid and secure to the pan
  • Easy to use with one click
  • Clicks with a very reassuring noise 
  • I did have concerns about handle damaging the non-stick coating

Spacesaver list
  • Storage is so much easier with the pans stacked one inside another without the handle (my pan drawer before and after, shown above)
  • No handles mean it is less cumbersome when using all the burners on the hob
  • Lids store flat as the butterfly style handles flatten
  • So much more dishwasher friendly as you can realistically fit the pans and lids in 

Design bonus
  • Saucepans and frying pans can be placed in the oven without the handles
  • You can get the food out of the oven with a guaranteed cold handle!
  • If you serve direct to the table, the handle-less look is a nicer
  • You can use metal on the non stick coating (no whisks or knives)
  • You don't have the food build up around the handle rivets that is difficult to clean
  • The Thermo-Spot lets you know when the pan has reached optimal cooking temperature
  • The surface is so easy to clean, I've actually used the larger pans to roast meat and potatoes or do bakes in the oven. I dare say it would also make for a decent cake tin too.

Negatives
  • Although clever, I'm not a fan of the look of the lids. Glass lids have never appealed to me for some reason and the rubber around the glass doesn't look secure, although turns out it is.
  • I did find myself getting annoyed when I needed to move the pan quickly and had to hunt out a handle. 


Testing
I've been using this set solidly for over a month now, putting my regular pans into storage. I have very few negative comments really, they have been very nice to cook with and I thought I would miss my stainless steel set but so far haven't looked back! The only pan I really do need is my huge pasta pot for a crowd.


All the food I've fried, boiled, stewed and roasted has cooked well and they are particularly good for use in the oven, far better than my enamel trays which I have to spend an age scrubbing afterward.

I really wish I had these years ago as my first flat was tiny. The kitchen was in a little nook and storage was very minimal (like, two cuboards!) and these pans would have been an absolute lifesaver. But even now with a bit more space (not much - this is Brighton) these really appeal to the neat freak in me. I love how they stack!

I will be updating this review in 6 months or so. If I'm honest, the handle gripper scratching the non-stick coating continues to worry me so will be interesting to see how these hold up and if there is any damage.

Until then...



I was sent the Tefal Ingenio pan set for review. Opinions, as always, are my own.