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Food News: February Edition

1.     Can you imagine…

…eating food in virtual reality? Samsung has created virtual reality headwear to be worn in restaurants, transporting customers to new dining locations through virtual reality. Trials have been undertaken in America, and they are keen to launch the product in the UK, creating a thoroughly new sensational experience for diners. Seeking to indulge all five senses, your meal may take you to remote locations or even under the sea. It seems there is no limit to where a dinner out may take you.


2.     Say goodbye to the Cavendish banana

Over 17 million bananas are consumed worldwide every day, most of which are of the Cavendish variety. Famed for being originally grown, farmed and exported for agricultural purposes worldwide in the hothouse at Chatsworth House, this banana has an illustrious history. Super-seding the ‘Gros Michel’ variety as of the fifties due to the rise of ‘Panama disease’ (also know as banana wilt), the Cavendish has enjoyed a disease-clean run for decades. However, ‘Race Four’ of Panama Disease has erupted worldwide, spelling the end of the Cavendish variety as we know it. In order to avoid a world banana crisis, experts suggest that a new, disease-resistant variety must be created as soon as possible.


3.     Let them eat cake

A school in Blackpool has banned parents bringing birthday cakes into school for their children. The school claimed that teachers did not have the time to check cake ingredients for allergens and were afraid of being held responsible if any incidents occurred through the consumption of unchecked products. Has health and safety gone nuts? Or should celebrations be kept beyond the classroom?


4.     In memory of Benoit Violier

At the turn of January to February, we heard the news of Benoit Violier’s late death. Held in regard by chefs and critics alike, Violier had been given the accolade of the world’s best chef by La Liste, a list of the world’s top 1,000 restaurants. His passion for seasonal produce led to an interest in game hunting and many of his signature dishes featured produce hunted in the regions close to ‘l’Hotel de Ville’, his restaurant located in Crissier, near Lausanne in Switzerland.


5.     Raise a Toast

The beer-makers at Hackney Brewery have developed an innovative way of using up leftover artisan breads, by turning them into beer. The bread is converted to breadcrumb, before being mixed with malted barley, hops and yeast to make a unique ‘Toast Ale’.  Rather unusually, profits from the production of Toast Ale go towards ‘Feedback’, an environmental organisation campaigning to end food waste. But you want to know the best part? They’re not keeping the process a secret. They will be publishing recipes soon on how to make your own bread beer at home.


6.     Love Potion

In celebration of Lord Byron’s 200th Anniversary of marriage to Lady Annabelle Millbanke, Speyside Distillery has created a limited edition single malt whisky for this Valentine’s Day. It is said that Byron gifted a cask of Spey whisky to King George III in commemoration of the event. With only 1,200 bottles in production and a retail price of £95, may the most romantic poet be remembered by the gift of whisky to poetry and whisky lovers alike.


7.     Convenient or just plain lazy?

The bean-to-cup coffee machine producer Jura has taken a technological leap this year, introducing a remote device so that people can control their coffee machines through a tablet device. The brewing device is able to control the size, strength, temperature and cup size of the coffee, making it the ultimate in convenience technology. (Now all we need it to do is the washing up).


8.     A flipping good tradition

Have you mastered the art of pancake flipping for this year’s Pancake Day? In the UK, pancakes were traditionally made on Shrove Tuesday (a day of feasting) as a means of using up rich ingredients such as eggs and milk before Lent. The world Shrove comes from ‘shrive’, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins in Christianity. Therefore Christians were ‘shriven’ on Pancake Day. It is said that in 1445, a woman in Buckinghamshire was in such great haste to be shriven that she ran to the church with pancake pan in hand. Hence the tradition of pancake races in Olney, Buckinghamshire began.


9.     Gourmet fast-food…at McDonald’s

McDonald’s has announced a new proposal to serve a gourmet burger line in 400 outlets nationwide. Having suffered sails over the last few years, it appears that consumer trends are shifting to healthier, more responsibly-sourced food. But how will McDonald’s Michelin-chef accredited ‘Signature’ line stand out in a saturated burger market? With competitors such as Byron, BK, Patty and Bun, Five Guys and Shake Shack, McDonald’s will have to do more than wrap their usual patties in a brioche bun.


10. Brits’ War on Waste

In the UK, we waste over 15 million tonnes of food per year. Although most of this can be attributed to supermarket and commercial waste, a recent piece of YouGov research commissioned by Sainsbury’s shows that UK families create twice as much food waste as they independently predict. On average, a UK family will waste the equivalent of 11 meals per month. It seems it’s time for us to start saving: both in the coffers and in our waste bins.

Join Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s War on Waste Campaign by signing the petition at this address:


11. Have you ever tried an oyster?

Research by Morrisons has found that approximately 60% of the population have never eaten oysters, despite their eminent history on British shores. In response, Morrisons is selling oysters this Valentine’s Day for just 25p; a highly affordable aphrodisiac. Pre-1970s, oysters were a peasant food, but then a shift began which gave them the prestigious association that they are known for today (and a premium price). Farmed off the west coast of Scotland and Ireland, why not pop the Prosecco and try some new haute cuisine at a price of a fishmonger this Valentine’s Day?


12. Would you say no to a wonky vegetable?

Jamie Oliver has set a war on waste, targeting supermarkets in particular and calling for them to relax their restrictions on the appearance, size and shape of vegetables. In response, ASDA has launched an ‘ugly’ vegetable box, giving customers the opportunity to buy a week’s worth of wonky vegetables for just £3.50. Selling in 128 stores nationwide (but not in Scotland), only 20 boxes will be available per week. ASDA has previously argued that stock purchases by supermarkets are driven by consumer demand, so we will have to wait and see if consumer behaviours can change and reverse these practices bottom-up.


13. The golden liquor that makes you rich quicker

In a surprise turn of events, rare whisky has outperformed fine wine and even gold as an investment choice in 2015. Scotch whisky has its own index, the ‘Rare Whisky Apex’, which rose by 14% last year beating the London Stock Exchange and Wall Street. Needless to say, the whisky market is booming, with an increasing population of drinkers and investors across Asia (the most expensive auctioned bottle of whisky sold last year for £81,560!). In short, the older the vintage, the better, with investors now looking to buy bottles from distilleries that have long gone out of business.


14. New generation of vending machines

In 2011, we saw the baguette vending machine, in 2015, the cheese vending machine, and now we introduce the raw meat vending machine. Florence Pouzol of L’Ami Txulette has decided to install the machine outside his Basque butchery to give his customers access to his produce at all hours of the day. Selling cuts such as pork chops, faux-filet de boeuf and beef carpaccio in vacuum-sealed packs, meat can be purchased by card any day of the week. However, in a society led by tradition (shops rarely open on Sundays), does this spell the end of social, personable shopping so commonly associated with vendors in provincial France?


15. Waste not want not

As of early February, supermarkets in France must, by law, donate unwanted food to local charities and food banks. In an attempt to prevent people foraging in waste bins, supermarkets have previously be known to pour bleach over produce, thus making it inedible and an unsafe practice. However, for some, this news is not enough. Calls are being made to extend the same practice across restaurants, bakeries, schools and company canteens in order to reduce food waste. Seems like Britain is not the only country at war with food waste.


16. Whisky Madness

The coveted Japanese ‘Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2016’ is causing uproar across the UK. 2,000 bottles were expected to arrive in Europe, but a disappointing 198 bottles have made it to London. The 2013 vintage won the World Whisky of the Year award and reportedly transformed the Japanese whisky industry overnight. Since then, whisky aficionados have been grappling to get their hands on a bottle, or even a dram. Even though produce has increased since 2013, it seems like this distillery’s going to have to produce a whole lot more to meet its global demand.


17. Do you know what is in your bread?

Brits have fallen in love with the humble sourdough, the San Francisco bread that contains nothing more than flour, water and salt. Requiring a ‘starter’ of well-fermented yeast, matured for up to a week, a traditional sourdough requires patience and time. However, rising demand has led to supermarkets creating their own versions of sourdough, with additional ingredients and shorter production time that are leaving a sour taste in peoples’ mouths. Campaigners have introduced the ‘Honest Crust Act’, seeking to conserve the integrity of proper sourdough and their producers, putting constraints on the terms supermarkets will be able to use to market inauthentic sourdough products. It seems that if you want the real deal, you need to carefully read the label, source an artisan baker or get that starter started!


18. Ethical, sustainable, delicious.

Introducing the Food Made Good Awards 2016, the new awards run by the Sustainable Restaurant Association, seeking to celebrate restaurants that serve sustainable and ethical meals. From field-to-plate, these awards make it easier for you to know that the food you enjoy when eating-out not only tastes good, but actively supports regional producers, embraces the wonky vegetable or unusual fish, and most importantly celebrates the power of ethical consumerism. The awards will be announced on 22nd March.


19. Ben and Jerry’s Go Vegan

You heard right. Ben and Jerry’s have introduced a vegan ice cream range, and they all sound delicious. Replacing cream with almond milk and coconut oil, they have turned the industry on its head and given vegan consumers something to sing and dance about. No more movie nights in with envious glances to your friends scooping Chocolate Fudge Brownie straight from the tub, you can now have your own. Having an almond base does reportedly make it less creamy than the original, but who cares when Ben and Jerry’s vegan ice cream is in store?


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