The Italian Riviera: Italy’s vegetarian heartland: The beautiful, rocky coastline of Liguria – also known as the Italian Riviera – stretches from the French border in the east to Tuscany in the west, taking in fishing villages, famous resort towns and the historic city of Genoa. The maritime Alps separate Liguria from the northern Italian provinces of Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna, creating a narrow strip of land between mountains and sea. Olive trees stretch as far as the eye can see, and tiny ancient villages perch precariously on mountainsides.
Food as poetry: Massimo Bottura, the cultured chef at the top of the culinary world: When the World’s 50 Best Restaurants announced earlier this week that Massimo Bottura’s Modena restaurant Osteria Francescana had made it to the top of the list for the first time few in the culinary world were surprised. His rise to the top of the culinary world has been progressive and constant. What may have been surprising was the time it took for him to achieve the pinnacle of success.
OFM’s classic cookbooks: Lulu’s Provençal Table by Richard Olney: Having driven Richard Olney and our friend Jill Norman down the precipitous road that drops from Richard’s home into the village, his directions to the vineyard were vague: “This exit will do … nearly there … The gates are here.” All given while yakking in the back of the car. It is odd to be guided by someone who has never driven a motor car. But we made it and, after effusive greetings, calm requests followed from Lulu Peyraud, chatelaine of Domaine Tempier in the Bandol wine country.
Food shopping: Allez les verts: In the highest echelons of French cooking, the grands chefs are naturally obsessional about all their ingredients, not least their fruit and vegetables. Alain Passard, king of vegetarian elegance at his three-star Paris restaurant L’Arpège, has three kitchen gardens around France to ensure quality. Asafumi Yamashita, a Japanese market gardener based in Yvelines, south-west of Paris, supplies only a handful of select chefs, including Pascal Barbot and Pierre Gagnaire. His produce is so sought after that clients take whatever comes their way and Yamashita scrutinises use of his vegetables carefully; one chef saw his spinach quota reduced to two deliveries a year after he committed the faux pas of blanching it.
Dinner Theatre: What is a restaurant? For eleven years Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonos have been pondering that question. So if all you’re looking for is a delicious dinner, their flagship, Alinea is not the place for you. In the years since they launched their first restaurant, they’ve opened others. Next, The Aviary and most recently Roister. But their main playground has always been Alinea, and when they closed it for a complete renovation, everyone with an interest in the future of restaurants wondered what it would now be like. The answer: more theatrical.
Review of Mirazur in Menton, France: When Mauro Colagreco (b.1976) opened his own restaurant back in 2006, the world of gastronomy was a different place altogether. El Bulli had just taken over the number 1 spot from The Fat Duck in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list; legendary French chefs Michel Bras and Marc Veyrat were still very much behind the pots in their restaurants, and things such as social media, food bloggers and Tripadvisor, were only still emerging
Burgundy merchant raided over wine fraud: In April, the French media reported that the Burgundy negociant Maison Béjot was being investigated on suspicion of mixing Burgundy wines with those of other French AOCs; a practice which is strictly forbidden under French law.
The Grape Detective: Miguel A Torres was one of the most famous wine producers in the world when, in 1979, the 1970 Cabernet Sauvignon he made in Barcelona’s hinterland, Penedès, triumphed over the likes of Ch Latour 1970 and Ch La Mission Haut-Brion 1961. The competition was the Gault-Millau Wine Olympics, and some think the French gastronomic magazine organised the taste-off to re-establish French supremacy after California’s triumph in the so-called Judgment of Paris three years earlier. If so, it failed.
Top 10 Languedoc wineries to visit: Wine tourism in the Languedoc has been relatively undeveloped until fairly recently, but things are gradually changing, says Rosemary George MW, who picks her top wineries to visit.
Anson on Thursday: Why are Bordeaux châteaux holding so much stock back? It’s been a slow burn really. Châteaux have always kept some wine back for themselves. In the 17th century it might have been a barrel of their best grapes for the owner. In tough times, it was often the buyers who set the terms – a contract from 1916 between Château Margaux and a small group of négociants who agreed to buy the entirety of its crop for five years specified that the estate was allowed to keep four barrels back for its own use. Later, during the 1970s oil crisis, négociants would regularly refuse to take any wine at all and châteaux would be forced to keep stocks piling up in their cellars. So watching what is happening today must be rather surprising for some of the older guard in Bordeaux. All of a sudden it is increasingly fashionable for the region’s top châteaux to choose to keep back increasing percentages of their harvest to age in their own cellars and release at some later, usually unspecified date.