Blue wine? Okay!

Meet Gik, a Spanish wine producer that went against centuries of tradition by creating a bright blue vino. The blend of red and white comes from grapes in La Rioja, León, and Castilla-La Mancha regions.

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It was dreamt up by a group of 6 friends in their 20s. Anthocyanin, a pigment from the red grapes’ skin, and indigotine, which is derived from plants, give the wine its bluish colouring.

It was set to arrive to our shores but unfortunately this possibility has been dashed because of an advertising ban. Spanish authorities have told the company they can’t continue to market the drink as wine because it’s the ‘wrong’ colour. A massive disappointment on all fronts, not least for the PR and marketing wet dream.

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Spag Bol, but not as we know it

I love it when my imagination is tested by new food concepts. One brand doing just that is Explore Cuisine. They’re relatively new on the scene and revolutionising the way we eat gluten-full comfort foods like pasta and noodles.

Inspired by travels to the Far East, Explore Cuisine are not only alleviating the pasta void for the gluten-intolerant, they’re bringing protein into a food that, until now, contains negligible nutritional value other than a key carbohydrate.

I’ve have been given the honourable task of trying a host of Explore Cuisine foods and the first to our plates was the Organic Edamame & Mung Bean Fettucine. It was simple to cook at only 6 minutes in boiling water and topped with a delicious Bolognese ragu. While it boiled I took a bite on a raw shard, like I used to do as a child. I enjoyed it and reminded me of the flavour of wasabi peas but without wasabi and with a deep earthiness.

So, did it feel like an authentic Italian pasta dish? In a word, yes, it did. The pasta had a subtle flavour of the beans, which was a little too masked by the rich sauce. The texture, however, was a little spongey but pleasant enough. When we cook with it again, we’ll go for a lighter sauce with a base of olive oil and fresh herbs to enjoy the flavour of the mung bean and edamame a little more.

Plant-based fish dives into the future

The talk of meat replacements has been raging for years. Our forever blooming population will force us to change our eating habits for new culinary climes and they’re likely to come out of the ground. First there was Quorn. Then tofu. Then insects. All have shocked and are now accepted as palatable (well, some) forms of protein. But there is a new entrant on the scene. A fascinating story emerged this week that University of California Berkley have created the world’s first course focusing on developing plant-based shellfish.

With over 80 per cent of fish stocks across the world fully exploited, the announcement heralds a new dawn for our future subsistence. Fishing not only puts pressure on ecosystems but limits biodiversity. It saddens me to think that scallops and prawns will become even more scarce – they’re delicious. But if there was a way to reproduce them from another source then I no longer have to worry.  As highlighted in the article, the ability to recreate the texture of fish will be all important. I hope they crack it soon, for my own tastebuds’ sake.

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Letterbox consumption

First there was the opening of the door to Ocado’s bringing of groceries, then chocolate box gifts were left outside people’s front doors awaiting their arrival home. And then finally came the delivery through the letterbox and this model is building momentum as more and more people demand services that don’t mean a piece of card through the post with a request to pick up their post at the post office. Pact Coffee were one of the first to post people newly roasted coffee beans each week to ensure they could experience only the freshest notes. The letterbox delivery is now giving birth to the weird and wonderful.

The letterbox delivery is giving birth to the weird and wonderful. The newest entrant is unexpected and lip-smackingly novel. It’s a bottle of wine. Garcon Wines have created a flattened plastic bottle that holds the same 750ml as a regular glass bottle, but fits in a cuboid box. In order to fit through a letterbox, the bottles are two inches longer than a standard wine bottle at 13.5 inches, but they’re significantly flatter. It is likely to divide the wine experts out there and I can’t imagine the French across the Channel taking to such unorthodox practices of wine bottling. Garcon claim that taste is not compromised despite not being aged for a venerable number of years. I plan to take the judging of the taste very seriously when mine drops to my floor.

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Credit: Garcon Wines

 

Snack-satiated

Oh, the glorious snack. We have an insatiable appetite for it. And as consumers we expect the snack to serve many of our needs, not least our enjoyment.

A global report from Nielsen indicates that more than three-quarters people (76%) eat snacks often or sometimes to satisfy their hunger between meals or to satisfy a craving. And some (45%) consume snacks as a meal alternative—52% for breakfast, 43% for lunch and 40% for dinner.

And when it comes to ingredients of our favourite snacks, less is definitely more. Nielsen found that one third of people think it’s very important that snacks be low in sugar, salt ,  fat and calories. Conversely, roughly one-third are looking for beneficial ingredients, rating fiber (37%), protein (31%) and whole grains (29%) as very important attributes in the snacks they eat.

I am constantly on a mission to find new, wholesome snacks that satiate my appetite, are tasty and healthy but still feel like a treat’. Otherwise I will eat both the healthy snack and the red velvet cupcake. I stumbled upon new entrant Coconut Merchant‘s baked Coconut Chips and they ticked a lot of boxes. What surprised me was how crunchy they were – it’s like slicing through crisps. And they’re baked! I don’t understand why more foods aren’t baked as the cooking process brings out the natural flavour of the food better, and it’s deeper in taste. And it’s healthier. I recommend tucking into these.

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A New Way To Hydrate

Watermelon water is now a thing. It’s set to be a true hydrator this year. We’ve got pop superstar Beyoncé to thank for that. It  was announced last summer that she bought a stake in WTRMLN WTR, a cold-pressed bottled watermelon juice.

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Mello is a British brand in competition with Bey and it’s got a lot going for it. The brand has launched with three melon flavours for those who’d prefer the flavour subtleties of Cantaloupe or Honeydew. I love the fact that they’ve considered ways of utilising as much of the fruit as possible for consumption to limit waste. They’ve turned those pesky watermelon seeds, that always seem to creep into a bite of the slice, into a roasted crunchy snack. Genius. Another healthy snack to add to our list.

Amid claims that they’re packed with electrolytes and L-Citrulline (an amino acid that reduces muscle soreness and boosts performance), the melon waters are set to take over from coconut water as the new hydration drink of choice.

Super Fads and Foods

It feels as though there is an endless torrent of diet fads and phrases being thrown at us. ‘Clean eating’ is one such trend that has been bandied around by the foodie community and seemingly accepted by it as a sexy play on words. But this week saw influencers, including the Hemsley sisters, distance themselves from the concept. This feels all too hypocritical given they’ve helped to propel a litany of diet fads  – too many I care to list. Jay Rayner’s tweet put it rather eloquently:

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-18-24-47 Continue reading “Super Fads and Foods”

Vegan Is The New Black

This weekend saw Vegan Life Live take roots at Alexandra Palace for two days of pioneering vegan bonne bouche in healthy quantities.

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It was great to see some familiar products present with flocks of hungry patrons crowd round, pecking at their stalls. But there were also some new names that have emerged from the passionate and principled that are definitely worth looking out for.

Love Arctic is one brand championing the unique terrain and environment of the arctic Lapland to pick the precious berries that grow in the midnight arctic sunshine. Their berries and powders are packed full of antioxidants that give your porridge and smoothies the superfood impact they need. One tablespoon of their lingonberry powder equals on average 90 grams of fresh berries and it will also turn your porridge a beautiful pink hue.

Another star on the horizon is Optiat, which stands for someone’s treasure from someone else’s rubbish. That’s because their Arabric coffee grounds are used and sourced from coffee shops in and around London to make their selection of face and body scrubs. The grounds act as a natural exfoliator and match the pH of our skin so won’t be drying like other scrubs. Clever, tick. Sustainable, double-tick. And the lemongrass scrub left my skin soft and smelling divine.

Those vegans are definitely keeping the foodie industry alive and healthy.
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It’s a bug’s life on a plate

I never thought I’d see the day that I’d be eating bugs. But that all changed when I met the guys at Grub snacks. The brand offers a range of edible insects packed full of appetising flavours for the squeamish, who’d rather forget that they’re eating creepy crawlies. And let’s face it; insects don’t really ‘own’ a flavour for our palates.

Grub are one of many brands tapping into this relatively new category, offering people a new and sustainable source of protein. Edible insects always had the potential to be fad but it’s hitting the mainstream consciousness of culinary appeal. Even Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca started to introduce the alternate protein source to diners in 2013. There’s certainly evidence that suggests that millennials are increasingly experimental when it comes to food and far more concerned with their health. Recent findings from Mintel found that 60 per cent  of UK 16-34 year olds who cook like experimenting with new cooking.

When the opportunity arose to try some of Grub’s products I kept it safe and stuck to the Coconut & Cacao snack bar made with cricket powder, which was more mentally acceptable to me than crickets with their exoskeleton firmly in place. The Chilli & Lime roasted crickets will have to wait for another day.

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Wine served from a can? Yes it can.

Who knew prosecco could come in a handy can? I first found out about this brilliant news last summer when my bridesmaid smuggled a crate to my hen do from Germany. A new sparkling wine in a can brand has hit the UK market. Gigglewater is a “new lifestyle-led sparkling wine brand” aimed at millennials and female consumers that takes its name from a slang term for alcoholic drinks from Prohibition era America.

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Wine tinnies is a growing trend among millennials in the US, and it won’t be long before it reaches our shores too. MANCAN has done away with varieties and vintages to appeal to ‘soccer dads’ and millennials. The co-founder came up with MANCAN because “he wished he could order wine, but didn’t want a ‘sauvignon blanc’ in stemware when his friend had a can of beer”.

So, what are the benefits of this new packaging concept? Well, versatility is a prominent one. You can’t buy a bottle of wine for one (well, you could but that’s bordering on irresponsible!) and it provides a level of consumption control, which a bottle does not. And what about when cooking with wine? People don’t want to crack open a fresh bottle just to add a splash to a sauce. Cans also make sense at bottle-unfriendly venues like outdoor parties, concerts and theatres. And as MANCAN demonstrates, the new serve option is sure to grow the wine market, opening it up to people who may have not been regular wine drinkers.

And quite frankly, all drinks taste better in a metal tin.