The week that was (23 February 2017)

Asia’s 50 Best were announced this week: Gaggan retained top spot; Narisawa, previously number two, fell to six (that hurts); while Restaurant André moved up to take its place. As for the Aussie contingent: David Thompson’s Nahm came in at five, Burnt Ends was number 10 (with all round nice guy Dave Pynt awarded chefs’ chef) and Waku Ghin was 20.

- The Tasting Australia line up was also announced this week. It’s an interesting one, I mean what is the taste of Australia? (If you don't know, go back to last week and read Huck on that.) There are some great names in the mix, a mélange that happily includes a decent number of women representing both food and wine (including international star Ana Ros). The gaggle of special guests is also a pretty fair reflection of the melting pot that is Australia. There are also some cracking events: collaborative dinners in the city centre, masterclasses with East End Cellars, a “fresh wine disco” with the juice from the 2017 harvest to be syphoned straight from the barrel, and a bunch of DJs to accompany the imbibing. 
Of course, the collaboration between soil and plate is an easy one in Adelaide, with the ocean 20 minutes in one direction and Adelaide Hills only 20 minutes in the other. And it appears the spirit of conversation and shared interest that characterised the ’80s is back (maybe it never left). This line up is indicative, with wine makers, chefs, restaurateurs, musicians and artists working shoulder to shoulder. You all know I’m mad for Adelaide and, with the impending vintage, what a wonderful time of year to be there.

- I loved India Knight in The Times talking food fetishism. “I struggle deeply with the idea of food being “ironic”. It seems a bit bleak to need to find excuses for still liking food that has fallen foul of culinary fashion. And the concept of culinary fashion is itself so silly: the cycle goes ironic, ironic, ironic, having a moment, passé, over, ironic, ironic, repeat.” Food fads? Trends? Yawn.

Pat made a similar point in his Cirrus review, praising Nick for “… unerring instincts and the palate to back them, always ahead of the curve, but never chasing novelty for novelty's sake, and never afraid to list the classics. If it's good, his rationale goes, it's good. Fashion doesn't enter into it.”
This all comes full circle to the natural wine chat inadvertently started last week, when Giorgio noted he seeks out wine that is as much a reflection of the person who bottled as it is about where the grapes grew. That led to a discussion of the word "natural", interestingly an idea that is still polarising. Perhaps that's down to the terminology? Should we use the word "natural"? If we do, does it make the other “unnatural”? And all this labeling talk, is it simply about fashion too? People jumping on bandwagons? Do we even need a label for it? A serendipitous conversation with Stu Knox led to his thoughts on “raw” as alternative terminology; James Hird suggested the lack of labeling (well, the lack of ingredients listed on wine bottles) is also a big part of the problem; Mike B is unsurprisingly insightful on the topic too. This is tip of the iceberg stuff - I am gathering thoughts - your ideas would be warmly welcomed in the mix.

- I really loved Observer Food Monthly’s 50 favourite things for 2017. It's a great example of a list that isn't about bending to fashions. Read about legend Michel Guérard and what it meant to our industry when we started plating at the pass; the people who repair Italian cult espresso machine Pavoni; those delightful curly haired Mangalitsa pigs; the importance of herding (we’ve talked about this); the joys of pasta; Elizabeth Luard’s  excellent book European Peasant Cookery – a longtime favourite and a lovely inclusion 30 years after publication. And, blow me down with a penis, there are a whole bunch of women on the list, like, actually, half the list. Who knew …

- Finally, a little breaking news (!!) … The Fair Work Commission have handed down a ruling on penalty rates for retail, hospo and fast food. Hospo reduction in Sunday pay from 175 per cent to 150 per cent, while casuals remain unchanged. These changes will be taking effect from July. What say you?