The week that was (12 November 2015)

Soap box -
- David Blackmore has withdrawn his application to Murrindindi Shire Council and is moving his herd elsewhere. I have told his story on these pages before. David is the kind of farmer we need more of. This is not just devastating for the Blackmore family (the Blackmore business will continue to operate with David handing the reigns over to his children) it is also devastating for the positive precedent his farm could be setting. Neil Perry quite rightly points out: "This could have been the beginning of many people going down this path, not only with Wagyu but with grain-fed cattle," he said. "It would've been a better outcome for the cattle, it would've been a better outcome for the diners and most importantly, I think for Australia, it would've been world's best practice." Click the link if you don't know the story. His innovative approach to free-ranging ration-feeding should be known and celebrated. 
- I enjoyed this op ed piece in the NY Times. It tells a sad tale for supermarkets and the world's big food brands about shifting consumer behaviour (that will make your heart sing): soft drink sales down 25% since 1998 (oj down 45%), packaged cereal down 25% since 2000, frozen meals are also down, conversely the sale of fresh prepared food has grown 30%. “The outlook for the centre of the store (where the non-fresh is found) is so glum that industry insiders have begun to refer to that space as the morgue.”

Cue scrambling ... The supermarkets are bolstering their fresh food offering, giving it greater space and pride of place, while the big brands are also making changes: “Consumers are walking away from America’s most iconic food brands. Big food manufacturers are reacting by cleaning up their ingredient labels, acquiring healthier brands and coming out with a prodigious array of new products.” This is all good news.

With all that in mind how, oh how, did this ad get through both Michelle Bridges’ and Woolies’ marketing departments??
- I also enjoyed this story in the LA Times explaining Dock to Dish, a program connecting fishermen and chefs. They look at LA restaurant Providence, who pay a weekly subscription of $750 to receive a guaranteed haul of at least 75 pounds of fish caught by 16 small fishermen. What is not guaranteed is what that haul contains. “That weekly subscription gives these small fishermen a solid economic basis from which to work. It offers a chance to give a little fine-dining exposure to what are often otherwise wallflower fish. And it connects restaurant kitchens even more closely with the sources of their ingredients.”

Not only do I love the link between chef and producer, but I love the traceability of this program, the human element, particularly in their email which: “… not only explains what fish is coming in, but who caught it, where and how. So, for example, Cimarusti's email that night told him that the halibut had been caught with a rod-and-reel by Morgan Castagnola aboard the Cecelia, and the whelks and lobsters had been caught in traps by Shane Robinson aboard the Miss Conception. It also detailed ocean conditions and some of the work that went into catching the fish.” Check out the Dock to Dish Instagram feed, it’s everything it should be - salty, raw and beautiful.

You should also check out Jonathan Gold’s little vid about Providence's signature dish The Ugly Bunch. It encapsulates the philosophy behind both Providence and Dock to Dish. It’s lovely.

- You will need to scroll to get there, and may get distracted by Gold’s video on his 101 best LA restaurants, announced last week. That’s ok, it's worth listening to. Gold talks vegetable forward restaurants, the rise in the standard of Mexican cooking in LA and “reverse fusion” restaurants. Incidentally, Providence was his number one.
- Have you seen the shorts for the Noma doco? If not, you can watch it here.

- Finally, to Switzerland and a little insight into the life of a cheese maker. Carmen Bateson wrote a lovely story for the ASCA website that chronicles her time with our favourite French cheese-maker Christophe. The romance of the traditions of alpage and the respect afforded to cheese in Europe just have to make you happy. "What is also interesting to observe during discussion with the cheese maker and alpage operators is that, despite their different roles in the production, they all understand that the cheese is an outcome of the landscape, the breed of cow, the herdsmen, the cheese maker and the natural caves used to mature the cheese at an altitude of between 1500m and 2000m." Be still my beating heart ... If you don't know Christophe, you should. He will be at Rootstock this year, you can buy a ticket to his talk here.