EVENT: The Experimental Food Society Spectacular

Fancy dining on butter and chocolate sculptures, jelly towers, cake and bread art or food landscapes, all whilst being entertained alongside a night of food related performance?

The Experimental Food Society Spectacular will run on Saturday 25th September 2010 as a daytime exhibition from 11am-5pm, £5, culminating in a banquet finale 7.30pm -1.00am, £75 where you can feast on the exhibited food arts.

The Experimental Food Society was founded "to front the UK’s most talented culinary creatives, showcasing a troupe of ground-breaking gourmet artists that demonstrate there is more to life than just swallowing." Indeed. Pushing food boundaries further than your wildest dreams (and possibly nightmares) the annual spectacular showcases the culinary industry's latest experiments.

If this pushes your buttons you may be interested in my Food Art post.

Experimental Food Society Spectacular
Saturday 25 September
The Brickhouse, 152C Brickhouse, London E1 6RU
Tickets available from The Experimental Food Society

REVIEW: Boho Gelato, Brighton

Brighton has a beach, a disposition for pleasure and the sun (ok, so not the sun). The only other thing missing is some decent gelato and, as London is seeing gelaterias popping up willy-nilly, Brighton hasn't had so much as a sniff of the action. That is until now. The beginning of July saw Boho Gelato opening in the Pool Valley area in Brighton (not a valley at all, a coach station) to the rejoice of the Brightonians.

There are 24 daily-changing flavours including some familiars (pistachio, vanilla...) and some not so familiars (avocado, carrot cake, brown bread, black sesame, pink champagne…). A massive USP is that the gelato here is made using local Sussex non-homogenised milk in a state-of-the-art vertical gelato machine.

The other USP is the infectiously enthusiastic (like really, really so) owner, Seb Cole, who fell in love with gelato on frequent business trips to Rome in his previous employment working for an Italian printer. His original plan was to open a pizza al taglio (heck - Brighton needs one of those too!) but his sweet tooth and love of flavour creations brought him to gelato. And jolly happy I am that he did.

The current house favourite is the amarena cherry, but with little tastings happily offered, I can imagine people will go for the braver flavours. Seb has also created flavours for local restaurants (a local thai restaurant has lemongrass and a poppy seed flavour on order) and will craft flavours for special Brighton events. Bespoke gelato can also be created for enjoying at home with a minimum order of 3.5 litres (I think from memory). Now that would be a brilliant birthday gift for a special someone (read me), no?

Whilst I was there, an unusual liquorice flavour was just coming out of the machine. I love liquorice so this was right up my street and worth waiting for. The texture was so soft, silky and smooth, having just been prepared, it was absolute heaven and just the right amount of sweetness to balance the bitterness of the liquorice.

I also sampled the avocado flavour which was surprisingly light and would make a delicious twist on the classic prawn cocktail for a starter. You can get the gelato to take away in handy polystyrene containers so excellent for dinner parties (or just gorging on at home). The brown bread flavour was very comforting and, as Seb suggested, could be converted to a perfect autumnal flavour with plum or apple, forming a kind of iced crumble, proving that gelato is not just for summer!

Also worth a mention is the branding and the design of all the cups, which have been designed to match certain flavours (and you know I love that sort of attention to detail). The interior, with just a few tables and chairs, has been nicely considered and would attract adults and children alike.

Pool Valley was formerly a bit of a crummy area but today you'll find a fashion boutique, an exclusive handmade shoe shop and (an old favourite of mine) The Mock Turtle tea rooms. Boho Gelato, with its colourful facade brings the street up yet another notch.

Hope to see them next year on Brighton beach with a mobile gelato unit. Until then, they'll be seeing my face a lot!

EVENT: Brighton and Hove food festival

This year's Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival, running from 1st September until the 7th October, is set to be a real winner. With a whopping 110 events, classes, markets and dining experiences, we have been truly spoilt rotten.

Here is my pick of the listings, but every time I look at it I see another 3 things I want to attend! Full events can be seen at www.brightonfoodfestival.com

Brighton's favourite vegetarian restaurant, Terre รก Terre, are hosting a Pop Up on Brighton Pier on Monday 20 September which will be very cool, and includes a ride on the dodgems! Book at pier@terreaterre.co.uk, price tbc.

Another pop up will be held in a beautiful central garden on the 3rd September, £25pp for 3-course meal with coffee. www.gardenhousebrighton.co.uk

Hotel Du Vin are proving quite a few wine tasting nights but my favourite event of theirs has to be the Cigar Dinner on the 10th September which is a 3 course meal that not only has wines to match but also cigars for each course. Champagne and whiskey is also included. Pip-pip! £75pp.

Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th September is set to be a very busy weekend with the Big Sussex Market and Live Food Stage taking place. Best bit is that the cuddly bear that is Antonio Carluccio may be giving a mushroom talk which I'm hoping to catch, although I am already booked on the L'Inferno d'amour: Wood fired bread baking workshop where we will learn how to make an array of breads but will also chop and build the fire too. Handy knowledge for my proposed garden pizza oven! £120 for 2 days www.communitychef.org.uk.

You can convert your home into a restaurant for the evening with Open House Dining. Apparently a lot of diners have booked spaces and more would-be chefs are required!

The very cool Moshi Moshi will be offering tutored sake tasting on 5th September, £35pp including zensai tapas and other sushi and sashimi platters.

Or how about the Regency Banquet (shown at the top), where you dress up in Regency costume before devouring Regency period food based on the menus of the famous chef, Careme. Although not held in the Brighton Pavillion this year, it is still set to be a real highlight. Saturday 11th September, £65pp.

Pick of the drinks is a Vintage Cocktail Night, inspired by the silver screen with a 14 piece big band held at the beautiful Brighton ballroom (formerly the Hanbury Ballroom) on Friday 24th September, £10 entry.

The Hanover Beer Festival, Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd October, which will be more of a happy hangover I feel.

I also quite fancy the Taste of Sussex menu at the Restaurant at Drakes, £40pp for a 4 course taster meal, highlighting the best of Sussex produce. Sunday lunchtime only on 26th September.

See you there!

Fork cable management

I know!!! This is probably the coolest little bit of product design I have seen lately, such a smile in the mind. Essential for any food blogger out there.

And it has heart too. Every purchase of this items provides one meal for a child in hunger via Save the Children.

Fork and cream sauce cable management $13 USD plus $4 shipping available from Lufdesign.

My wedding cake wreck!

Italians are not famous for their cakes. Pastries maybe, but cakes, no way. Italian wedding cakes tend to be a dull flat sponge cake, covered with cream and little else. Sometimes they are decorated with fruit or other strange things but I have yet to look at a cake and go "wow". That was until my wedding, where "wow" was one of many, many, many short words I uttered when I saw my cake:

My exploding head is just out of shot. To give you an idea of what I actually asked for, the picture below is what I tentatively showed the baker for "inspiration" who waved his hands above his head shouting "no problem!"

I should have known it was going to be a disaster from the increasingly odd phone calls I received leading up to the day in which the last one I was found repeatedly screaming "Make it like the photo, just make it LIKE THE PHOTO" down my mobile in a supermarket car park in Italy.

I mean, it was even freaking red on the inside like the armadillo cake in Steel Magnolias, who the bejeezus mentioned red sponge at any point?! Luckily this was the only food hitch and I did see the funny side of it (normally I would have launched it at the baker's head). The cake had apparently totally collapsed before being brought out and this was the frantic efforts of the entire kitchen staff and the "Manuel" type hotel owner. You can just see the edge beginning to blow.

I am totally posting this on Cake Wrecks.

In other cake disaster news, we ordered a one for Mr. Graphic Foodie's aunt while we were still in Italy, her name is Ruth. I even wrote R-U-T-H in capital letters for the baker so there was absolutely no chance of anything going wrong.

Rutu. Flipping marvelous.

The big (eating) day: An Abruzzo wedding menu

So we did it. We are married and it was fantastic, emotional, uplifting, exhilarating all all sorts of words like that from beginning to end. We all walked to the church together (apart from Mr. Graphic Foodie who was waiting in the church alone), we had buckets of rice thrown at us (found rice in all sorts of places, I tell ya), sawed logs (yup), threw money from balconies, traipsed through the pine forests (collecting grasshoppers under my dress - eek), fished some of our guests out of the swimming pool, danced like it was 1999 until were carried out of the reception on people's shoulders at silly o'hour the following morning.

But the main thing was we ate. A lot. As I was off duty from blogging for the day, I was so chuffed looking round and seeing friends and family taking shots of the food for the blog! You guys know me so well!

So really, I'd thought I'd share with you the typical eating at a big fat Abruzzo Italian wedding. Take a deep breath...

Before the wedding, people meet at the bride's house and get to eat a load of pastries.

All the women in the village make a tray or two which sounds like a lovely thing to do, but what it really is is an unofficial and highly competitive bake-off where they try and outdo one another. There can be only one winner. We had about 40 trays of pastries and cakes of all description.

Hence why we all need to walk to the church.

After the church ceremony, we go to the groom's "house" and do the same thing!

Then we head to the reception where we had bellini's and canapes. Sadly I didn't get to sample any but I did spy deep-fried, breaded olives - my favourite! All of the food, with just a few exceptions, had been sourced locally and is typical of the Abruzzo region, with quite a few of my beloved peasant dishes featuring.

The antipasto arrived in 3 separate parts, earning wide-eyed looks from our British friends who squeakily demanded to know if each of the 9 courses were 3 courses in themselves.

The cured meats are famous around here for a reason, and the hand carved prosciutto was a nice touch in addition to the machine sliced stuff because you have to have TWO different cuts of it for a decent antipasto. There was also a separate plate of bresola.

Not much to look at but I loved this baked artichoke the best:

The below was not a meatball but an unusual cheese and maize dumpling, served with a stuffed mushroom:

This was a mixture of fried lamb offal (Curatella di Agnello) in sauce to finish off the "starter". Delicious!

It 'aint no wedding without wedding soup. Our regional version is made with veal and pork meatballs in a hearty stock with just egg as its companion (they call this Straciatella). Always goes down a storm here, as it's ram-packed with flavour.

Kicking off the pasta courses was a nice lasagna primavera with spring vegetables, mushrooms and more pork and veal.

Spaghetti a la chitarra is made using a contraption like guitar strings (hence "chitarra") where the pasta is pushed through, creating square edge spaghetti. Always served with a classic meat ragu.

This Veal with a white wine sauce is a favourite dish of mine. We had loads of grilled vegetables with this one.

Lamb "scottadito" means lamb "burn your fingers" as it is so delicious that people can't wait for it to come off the grill, resulting in burned fingers! Wherever you go in Abruzzo, you will not be far from somewhere serving lamb like this. The roast potatoes dripping in olive oil and scented with rosemary were to die for. Squeeze of lemon juice and all is good with the world.

As I knew I wouldn't get a pretty tiered wedding cake in Italy, I constructed a sort-of tiered cake with local cheeses, the base being a half meter wide Parmigiano, the middle containing my favourite Pecorino cheese and a Caciocavallo. The rest of the cheese was brought out separately on trays as to make it all into a "cake" would have been like the leaning tower of freaking Pisa.

The five vegetarians were really well catered for I thought (tricky in this meat loving neck of the woods), and had replacement dishes for all the meat, not that they were needed. This would be a post in itself but artichoke pasta, risottos and grilled scamorza cheese were provided.

We waddled outside for the (disaster) wedding cake which will be a whole post of its own. Let's say it wasn't tiered but there was almost tears. I think I'm swearing in the picture below.

You have to have fruit to "end" the meal and the venue owner insisted on "Lui e Lei" pineapple. As I gave him zero input on the menu so far, I let him have this one. It turned out to be a whole quarter of pineapple per person, cut into slices and zig-zagged, hence "His and Her" (no I still don't get it either.)

A lot of arm-flaying, leg-kicking dancing ensued but people were kept topped up throughout the evening with about 10 meters of village-lady pastries and a 45kg porchetta spiced pig.

I had sensibly ordered a 20kg pig but my family, thinking everyone would die starving, changed it to this beast. Amazingly all that remained the day after was this, which I found in a box in the kitchen. Lovely:

Big love to Dave, Jyoff, Kate and Katharina for the pics of the food. And thanks to all our family and friends who came from England (and Singapore, Kenya and Tanzania) and coped with us arm-flaying, loud and emotional Italians. I was particularly proud of all of you for getting through this meal, you impressed my family no end!

Lastly, thanks to Mr. Graphic Foodie (shown above in the middle, being made to saw a log in the church garden in the blistering heat (surprise!) to prove his masculinity or something). You eat like no other and really are my best friend. And you're also pretty good at sawing logs in half it seems - you never fail to surprise me.