Thank you for your support. Some announcements

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Autumn colours welcome the new http://www.foodandwinegazette.com

The three months of this blog have been phenomenal. The following has been beyond my expectations, the ambitious targets I set myself were reached and surpassed every time.

I can only thank you all for the support and encouragement which have kept me going on, at times even late at night to keep coming up with new content.

I am satisfied with what has been achieved over the past three months and you may have wondered why I have not posted for the past few days. The reason is that the format of this blog is a bit limiting. I found, also thanks to some avid followers, that finding content was no longer easy because the blog format might not have been ideal.

Originally, I set http://www.ivanbrincat.com as a personal blog. At first it was an exercise in self-discipline particularly since the blog is and remains a hobby. At first I was not sure which direction to take. But as time went by, I started to write more and more about what I am really passionate about which is food, wine and travel.

I am therefore making the following changes which I hope will signify a new stage in the development of this hobby.

Firstly this blog will become a more personal account of things which I would like to speak about but which might not necessarily be related to food, wine and travel. I will for the time being still link to the new website for content related to food and wine and will from time to time continue to write about books  given that this is a topic that has been rather popular. This blog will be more personal from now on and will be updated less frequently.

My main focus for the time being, and my free time, will be spent on www.foodandwinegazette.com. I hope you continue to follow me on this journey. This is less of a blog and more of a magazine style website which enables users to access content in an easier manner. It is still very much work in progress and I welcome any comments you might have on how to make it better or regarding its functionality. You can either comment on the new blog or send an email to info -at- foodandwinegazette.com

This has been a completely new experience for me and one which has led to a few late nights to get it up and running in the shortest possible time. I hope that you like the results and bear with me until I get the site polished. But I am raring to go, in the little free time I have and promise that there will be more new compelling content.

The format allows for the sharing of content so I am looking for anyone who would like to write guest posts or to share blogposts on www.foodandwinegazette.com.

Thank you once again for your following and i hope to welcome you on the new website.

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What I enjoyed reading this week (6)

Here is a list of interesting articles I have come across this week. Enjoy your Sunday with these nice reads.

You will find a great article about wine fraud and counterfeiting from wine searcher here which is food for thought especially for the risk it involves of buying expensive wines. For those in the know, drinking wines from Fleurie or Morgon may no longer be considered as inferior pleasures.

Have you ever wondered in awe about wine sommeliers and their incredible depth of knowledge about wines. Here you will find what it takes to become a master sommelier.

Chablis is a fantastic wine region and wine that is excellent with seafood. Here you will find a great lesson about Chablis.

Fast food has a very bad reputation for health. However, eating in restaurants might not be any better according to a study.

If you are heading to Amsterdam any time soon here is a list of 10 pop-up restaurants or food hotspots you can find in this Dutch city.

What I enjoyed reading this week (5)

We are against war and tourist menu

 

It has been a depressing week in the news. The above photo which was shared by Gambero Rosso on their Facebook thread while being humorous pretty much sums up my feelings for the week.

Wherever you look in the media, whether it is the news on television, newspapers or even social media sites, you see photos of destruction. And you ask yourself why? Why is this happening? Why is there so much hatred?

Please stop to think about what is happening and what we could do to try and make a difference.

In any case, these are a few links to articles/video I enjoyed this week.

My readers by now know that I have a fascination with Massimo Bottura, who is considered as Italy’s most creative chef. Here you will find a fantastic interview about the creative process and evolution in his cooking. If you need some creative inspiration I recommend you watch it.

This is a beautiful piece of writing in its own way. In this article, Eric Asimov, one of my favourite wine writes looks at the wines of Irouléguy, in French Basque Country. It makes me want to go and visit. It also makes me want to look for the wines he suggests.

There is a lot of discussion about eating out solo in a restaurant. I must say that until a few years ago I would probably have thought twice about doing this even when travelling alone. Not any more. Read about the issue here.  why should you be deprived of a great dining experience just on the basis of the fact that you are alone. There could be 100 reasons for this and

Many of us still recall the horse meat scandal which rocked the food industry last year. Matters seem to be improving considerably but we are not out of the woods yet.

Barcelona is one of the top five cities I want to visit as soon as possible. Here you will read about some great places to try out if you are heading there.

Have a great weekend.

 

 

 

 

50th blogpost and counting: Thank you for your encouragement

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Next month watch out for the insider’s tips to Malta and Gozo

This is my 50th blogpost so I would like to thank all those who have visited this blog, left a comment, written privately or else posted comments and given me suggestions in various forms in these amazing first two months.

When I set up to write this blog I had one aim in mind. As someone with a passion for good food, wine, travel and writing, I wanted to first and foremost record things for myself because many friends come to me for recommendations of where to eat not only in the places where I live or have lived but also in the places I have visited.

While it is quite normal for me to remember what I have eaten even many years ago in a particular restaurant or even at a friend’s place, I start to forget the names of places I visit and which have left their mark.
So this is a great way to catalogue my discoveries.

Mostly, however, I also wanted to prove to myself that just by the power of habit, I could find the time, despite a busy schedule (a full-time job, a family with two young children) to pursue my passion.

In this trip, I have been extremely lucky to find the full support of my dearest wife Giulia who is a constant source of encouragement and suggestions.

This blog also came about thanks to two great experiences in May/early June which gave me both the drive and the energy to set on this adventure.

The first was an unforgettable lunch at Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana. His philosophy of following your passion struck a chord. The second was Rene Redzepi’s visit to Gent to promote the publication in Flemish of his new book. Both episodes allowed me to write about the experience and get me going. It provided the right source of creativity that I needed to get me going.

From there, ideas on what to write have kept flowing. The only real constraint is time. But I have managed to squeeze time to try and post five to six posts a week. When I look back to two months ago, when I started, I would never have imagined that I would reach 50 posts in such a short time. I hope to be writing my 100th post in two months time.

Once this becomes a habit, it just gets easier and easier. It is the same when you have not exercised for a while. You find that you no longer have the time. It becomes very hard to start. But once it becomes routine, then it becomes so much easier.

If you are aiming to do something, then I would fully encourage you to go ahead and do it. It does not have to be perfect. The blog is still very much a work in progress. I try to add functionalities and structure as I go along. What this experience has shown is that you just need to take a step at a time. First, you need to make that first step. Then a little step after that.

Please do keep coming back and provide your feedback on how to make this better and better.

For those who started following this blog only recently these are my three most popular blogposts:

Osteria Francescana – the pursuit of perfection

Jigger’s – one of Gent’s best kept secrets

Modena – a delightful city for the gourmet traveller

Next month, I hope to give you many insider tips to my home country Malta be it in the form of restaurant reviews, different city guides as well as ideas of what to do in the land of sun, sea and lots of culture.

The above photo is a teaser. It is the silent city called Mdina which used to be Malta’s old capital.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I enjoyed reading this week (3)

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Nostalgic about Sicilian islands. A view from Lipari.

There is a renaissance of Italian cuisine and restaurants in Brussels. Two of my first reviews were about Caffe al Dente and Winehouse Osteria which are setting the bar. This has also made it to the Belgian press. The first read for this week (in French) is an article in Le Soir about the Italian food revival in Belgium. It mentions quite a number of interesting spots some already known and others still waiting to be discovered.

One of the articles I enjoyed most this week, also for nostalgic reasons, since it has been a long time since I have been to Sicily is this list of 13 islands of Sicily for foodies. Above is a view from Lipari.

You will also find a photo essay of some abandoned places which look really stunning.

Here you will find a very nice story of two English men who took an Ape and travelled Italy before ending in London where they have opened a pizzeria as well as one on wheels. It’s called Pizza Pilgrims.

The Roca Brothers of El Cellar de Can Roca are travelling to America at the end of July. They are closing their restaurant for five weeks and will embark on a tour of six cities in America starting from Houston and ending in Lima, Peru.

Everyone seems to like lists nowadays. Here is one on the top 10 bakeries to see before you die. The food revival also owes something to television.

An article here shows how we are influenced by cookery programmes on TV.

It has been a particularly bad spring for Burgundy. Another hail storm has caused havoc.

What is happening to French restaurants?

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Is it possible that three out of four restaurants in France are serving food prepared elsewhere?

There is no question, at least at the high end of the restaurant scene that the French are still at the top of the culinary world although the competition has become incredibly fierce with countries like Spain, Italy, the UK (yes you read that correctly) and Japan challenging for the top position.

But amid that reputation is a creepy feeling that not all is rosy. While the top chefs can command huge international respect for their creations, you need to sit and wonder at what is happening in the more traditional ‘bistros’ and ‘brasseries’. That feeling is more pertinent when you learn that France is introducing a law that will force restaurants to mark their food as ‘fait maison’ or home made to save their culinary reputation.

When this happens you realise that things are not always as they seem. As you can see from this article in The Guardian, many mid-range restaurants are using industrial companies as a way to cut costs and serve customers food that has been prepared elsewhere. We are not speaking here of canteens or fast food places but restaurants around France. The report says It is difficult to estimate what percentage are doing so but it could vary from 30% to three quarters of restaurants.

If you think about it this is incredible though it might be noticeable to the discerning eye particularly since ‘the classic dishes’ seem to be replicated in many places with similar results irrespective of the region of France you are in.

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Is it best to stick to baguettes?

I could realise something was going wrong with French cooking on a combined trip to Tuscany in Italy and Provence in France a few years ago. The reputation of these two regions is very high. But on balance, it was clear that there was no contest between the overall quality of food in Tuscan restaurants when compared to those in Provence. Don’t get me wrong, we still ate very well in Provence in certain restaurants but at the lower end, i.e. in the osterias and trattorias in the Chianti area of Tuscany there was very little chance of going wrong. Stop at any restaurant, sometimes, even a bar in a 500 people village and the chances of going wrong were close to zero. There was no need for guides or advice from locals. The reason is that at its core Italian food is simpler to French cooking because the focus is always on the quality of the ingredients and not the sauces or the complexity of the preparation required.

We also ate very well in the beautiful villages of Provence, the search for a good place was more painstaking and required considerably more research. We noticed, quite easily that the chances of going wrong were higher and to eat well you needed to spend considerably more than in Tuscany.

The question people are asking is whether this law will work. It is difficult to assess particularly in view of the fact that ‘fait maison’ might not necessarily always be better. But clearly, it should inspire people to vote with their feet. Let’s hope it works for the sake of the French culinary reputation.

The real Neapolitan pizza

20140716-232117-84077729.jpgPizza is taken very seriously in Campania and especially in Naples and its surrounding areas. The reasons are rather obvious. The area is known for its San Marzano tomatoes which are renowned for their exceptional quality particularly for making tomato sauce and for the Mozzarella di Bufala made from milk from water buffalo raised in the marshlands of Campania.

No one really knows where pizza originated from  but the ‘Napolitani’ claim to be those that have invented the pizza we are so accustomed to eating nowadays in many pizzerias worldwide.

20140716-232118-84078259.jpgMaarten Van Steen of Villa Bardon in Gent which serves Mediterranean cuisine has just come back from a two week course organised by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napolitana to learn the secrets to making a good pizza. This afternoon we tasted the results of this two week course and the result was extremely successful.

Here he shares the secrets of what he has learned in the two weeks he stayed in the world’s pizza capital.

It might sound obvious but there are a few secrets to making good pizza. The first is the dough. This is made with water, flour (in Italy the use the 00 type) salt and yeast. You need to let it rest for around two hours, following which you shape it into balls which are left to ferment even overnight in a cool environment. This adds to the complexity of flavour.

The other secret is the ingredients on top of the pizza. In Campania they use crushed San Marzano tomatoes to make tomato sauce as the base for the pizza. The mozzarella is the other key ingredient. Here, unfortunately, it is not easy to replicate given that it is extremely difficult if not impossible to find a good mozzarella that has been produced on that same day. In the South of Italy, mozzarella is taken very seriously and many will make sure that they use one which had been just prepared on the day. Maarten says the best mozzarella he has ever tasted came from a visit to the farm where it had just been produced. I can vouch for such mozzarella from our visit to Campania a few years ago.

The real pizza Napolitana uses just tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil. When the ingredients are good, simplicity is key.

Maarten says another key element of making good pizza is to have the right oven. A stone oven is obviously essential but he was also in pizzerias which made use of gas ovens (albeit with a flame). He says the results are not the same but come close.

You obviously need to open the dough well. Here the secret is not to throw the dough into the air. This is a gimmick and not the way the Associazione teaches upcoming pizzaiolos.

He had his fair share of pizzas but he says one of the things which surprised him most was a ‘fried’ pizza calzone stuffed with ricotta and pancetta among others which was sensational. He tried this at Pizzeria Di Matteo, which is a very famous pizzeria in one of the narrow streets of Naples.

Many associate the Pizza Marinara with seafood. However, in Campania, the Pizza Marinara is the simplest pizza you can have. It is just a pizza with tomatoes and garlic and has no mozzarella.

For the time being, Maarten will perfect the art of making pizza on his days off from the restaurant. As he says, the two week course in Naples adds to his cooking experiences. Who knows, we might be able to try his pizzas in Gent sometime in future.