The week that was (29 June 2017)

- This week came with the very sad news that Darren Simpson has died. As you will all know, Simpson was a loveable rogue, a funny man. He was also an incredible chef, perhaps best known for his time as head-chef at the River Café, his CV is beyond impressive. You may want to read Terry’s obituary, I chuckled at: “the usual merry-go-round of celebrity appearances, KFC endorsements, and Facebook feuds with Colin Fassnidge.” For the nostalgia, you may also read Simon’s very lovely review of La Sala.

- Alain Senderens of L'Archestrate also passed away this week. One of the god-fathers of modernFrench cooking - that departure from the heavy reliance on butter; the first to introduce glass-by-glass wine pairing; and mentor to many, including Alain Passard, whose restaurant L'Argpège is on the site of L'Archestrate's original. 
- GT have released their hot 100 food trends for 2017. I'm not a fan of 'trends' but I am a fan of the GT team, they do a lot of getting it right - this list is no exception.
- Case in point, with the eloquent Paulette Whitney penning a note about the pitfalls of ‘trends’ in the same publication. “By all means, please hang on to the trends that do good. Buy fair-trade chocolate - as a farmer, I'm right into living wages for other producers. Choose free-range animal products - as an animal myself I can vouch for the joys of movement and sunshine. And bring your own basket to market, then you won't have sea turtles mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish, and you'll look so great riding your bike home with your "I liked this kale before it was cool" bunch of greens whipping in the wind, declaring your antipathy to passing fads for all the world to see.”
- The Fin Rev had a wrap up of their Top 100 awards, in part the predictable extension of the event, highlighting the producers and (Star) restaurants that provided the food, but it was made interesting with a couple of figures from our old mates at Ferrier Hodgson and the ABS on the state of dining in Australia. Their prognosis is good, with “… figures show food entertainment is now outpacing spending on general retail (which is everything except groceries).”

- The WSJ looked at food waste with the help of Bottura, Redzepi and Bourdain. Listen in, it's important. 

Postcards from Sicily:
I have departed Pantelleria for an interlude on main(is)land Sicily. Arriving in Trapani, I drove from one side of the island to the other, an incredible, if perilous, drive that took in much of the northern coast and then cut across the mountains to Etna. The danger was mitigated by the beauty as the winding track opened out to vast highland fields, where I shared the road with goats, cows and thousands of butterflies. The wild flowers, too, were everywhere, the air thick with the most astonishing perfume.
I am staying in Taormina, a beautiful coastal town, currently somewhat over-run by an odd combination of Eddie Vedder fans (he was playing a concert in the ancient amphitheatre), and those here to attend the Toarmina book festival. We dined in an excellent local restaurant in the old town, a delicious pasta with urchin and bottarga under a cloud of jasmine and, as the last in the restaurant, a little impromptu tinkling on the ivories by the owner.
Yesterday we traded the rocky beach for Etna's northern hillside. Paollina's pasta with bitter wild weeds at Il Dragone di San Giorgio was incredible, so too her rabbit stew with capers, olives and tomatoes. If the mob had turned up, they would have been right to take the cannoli. We chased this with a visit to Frank Cornellison’s vineyards, the vines sharing their terraced hillside with fruit trees and flowers, and a few drinks at the very excellent Cave Ox for good measure.