Wine: orange is the new white

Orange wine is beginning to make a real mark on our drinking scene

We pride ourselves in this country on our openness to new influences, but when it comes to orange wine, Canada has the edge. I’ve just spent a few days in Montreal, where practically every restaurant (OK, not Tim Hortons) lists orange wines; one place I went to, Nora Gray, had 10. The quality-control board in Ontario has even drawn up regulations for skin contact wines – wines where the grapes are left in contact with the skins; it’s the first in the world to create such a code.

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A Ferrante feast: a night out in support of global literacy

Elena Ferrante’s books evoke Naples in all its drama, and inspired a Neapolitan fundraising feast for Worldreader, in the heart of urban London – testament to the power of food and literature to do good

See the photo gallery here!

A group of clamorous punters gather around a table on the cobbles. They’ve come to the pavement to escape the heat of the kitchen. Dodging crates of tomatoes, waiters dole out dishes piled high with fried things – mozzarella, prawns, courgette flowers – and bruschetta. The voice of Fred Buscaglione crackles from a speaker, just-heard over calls for Campari and the clatter of plates.

You’d be forgiven for thinking we were in Italy. Yet this is east London, just off Columbia Road. We are at Campania & Jones, a southern Italian restaurant housed in a 19th-century dairy, which, like the wardrobe to Narnia, feels like a magic gateway to Naples. This evening, the restaurant, Cook editor Mina Holland, columnist Rachel Roddy and myself are collaborating on a dinner (see gallery) celebrating the transformative power of books and food in aid of the Worldreader charity.

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In pictures: A Neapolitan dinner, with Rachel Roddy

A southern Italian restaurant, along with Guardian Cook columnist Rachel Roddy, puts on a dinner themed on the books of Elena Ferrante, celebrating the transformative power of books and food in aid of the Worldreader charity. Read more about it here…

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3 Ways to Be Confident in Your Food Choices

According to the 12th Annual Food and Health Survey released by the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC), 78-percent of Americans encounter a lot of conflicting info about what to eat and what foods to avoid. More than 50-percent of those polled say that this conflicting info makes them doubt their food choices. Here are 5 ways you can be confident in the food decisions you make.

Stop Making Assumptions

The survey also found that many consumers are making incorrect assumptions about certain foods, including fresh verses frozen and canned. Consumers are almost five times as likely to believe a fresh product is healthier than canned and four times as likely to believe a fresh product is healthier than frozen.

Take fresh fruits and vegetables, for example. They’re a healthy part of a well-balanced diet, but canned and frozen are just as healthy. Some studies say that they may even be healthier because canned and frozen produce are packed at their peak of ripeness.

You can feel confident when you buy fresh produce, but also be aware that canned and frozen are just as good for you. The only thing you want to pay attention to is that no butter or cream sauce was added to frozen veggies or sugar to frozen fruit, and that the sodium is low is canned food (or rinse it off before eating).

Feel Good About Your Choices

The survey found that 56-percent of women care about food being produced in a sustainable way, verses 42-percent of men. I myself am “pro-choice,” meaning you should be proud of whatever food choices you make, whether that means local,  organic or conventional. Nobody can dictate if you should choose organic, or grass-fed, or GMO-free. Everyone has their own reasons for purchasing certain foods. What you do what to make sure is that you’re choosing healthy foods including fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats.

Look for Credentials

Most folks rely heavily on information from their friends and family, including nutrition information. About 77-percent of survey participants said they rely on friends and family at least a little for this type of information. The survey also found that 59-percent of participants rated friends and family as their top influencers for what they choose to eat or the diet they choose to follow.

To get reputable information, seek the recommendations of a credentialed individual. Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) have been specially trained in food and nutrition. You may also find someone who has a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, or a diet technician (DTR)- all who can provide science-based information and recommendations.

 

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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Chatting with Alex and Jeff, the Mentors of Star Salvation

Star SalvationNearly four weeks into the Food Network Star competition, several finalists have already experienced the sting of elimination and left the contest in defeat — but perhaps they’ll be back. Starting Sunday night immediately after the new episode of Food Network Star, which premieres at 9|8c, Alex Guarnaschelli and Jeff Mauro will come together to mentor those ousted competitors on Star Salvation. This web-exclusive series on FoodNetwork.com will feature six weeks of challenges for the finalists eliminated along the way, and in the end one hopeful will earn the ultimate redemption: a chance to return to Food Network Star and rejoin the competition.

We checked in with Alex and Jeff on the set of Salvation about what they’re looking for in a Star hopeful and their own roads to Stardom on Food Network. Read on below to hear what they had to say.

You’ve both mentored on Star Salvation before. What have you learned before that you’re bringing to the competition this year?
Alex Guarnaschelli: My co-hosts always went to the culinary school of Food Network, so to speak. I think I bring the street smarts half, which is someone who offers advice about how to do a few fundamental things in front of the camera without having gone through this exact process. Plus a few totally impossible things that I actually learned from working with Bobby Flay: “Hey, relax and be yourself. Hey, if you don’t like the shirt you’re wearing, change into one that’s comfortable. Hey, if you make it like that at home, chances are you should have the nerve to make it here, in this competition, the exact same way.”

Jeff Mauro: Follow my instincts and look for the complete package, and look for somebody who is maybe looked over because of a bad day or a bad dish, and see through that one flub.

What makes someone worthy of a second chance in this competition specifically?
AG: I think Food Network has always been a place that grows its own flowers and grows its own talent, and that takes time. Sometimes you get a little too much rain going on, and the flower can’t breathe, so in all honesty, you need at least two times. Everybody deserves a second chance, in my opinion, and I don’t mean that in a hokey or corny way like let’s all be goodhearted. But sometimes when you get eliminated and you have a chance to sleep and drink water and reflect for a minute on whether you really, really want it, then this is the place where you come. And if you do really want it, then you win this thing.

JM: It’s hard being kicked off anything, so you’ve got to come in to this with twice as much passion to win, and that’s got to convey on screen and in the food.

Given your places in the Food Network family — Chopped judge, Iron Chef, Star winner, co-host of The Kitchen — what do you have to teach the finalists? What can you offer?
AG: I think if you really want a career in this, I hope you have a decently think skin. There have been so many moments where I’ve just said: “Boy, that really wasn’t good. Gee, that’s not how I wanted to act. Boy, I could have played that differently. Boy, that was dumb.” If you don’t have an auto-edit and an auto-forgive button — you need both, because you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. But, hopefully, like Julia Child or anybody else — Emeril, Mario, any number of other people that anybody’s involved in seeing — it’s the humanity of those stars that makes you go back time and time again. The question is can you be charming enough in your humanity and your mistakes that I want you? Will I download your eggplant parm [recipe] and make it, or not? Chances are, I might not.

JM: You know what, if I can do it, anyone can. I set my sights on this goal 15 years ago, and I orchestrated my life to get to this point, and I never gave up. And to me, Food network Star was the ultimate job interview. I only had one shot at it, and I wasn’t going to screw it up. So, if I can be any inspiration — I mean, I’m not saying I did it perfectly. There was a lot of stumbles on the way, but I think what I can advise is know your food, know who you are, but also be a pleasure to work with. Ultimately, you could have all the talent in the world, but if you’re difficult to work with, people aren’t going to want to work with you

Like on Food Network Star, many of the Salvation challenges feature a digital component: Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, Snapchat top snaps, etc. What should finalists be thinking about when trying to hook an online audience specifically?
AG: If [fans] have a question, are you going to answer it? They’re going to either start to develop or not have confidence in you as a food authority in those really static, quick-moving places right away. What if you don’t win Star Salvation? You can still theoretically build a really good platform off participating in this competition, and you’re going to do that on social media. So, if anything, the stakes are higher, because you want to retain that platform building no matter what. Every split second, every decision you make now can so much dictate what goes on beyond this competition. It’s quick. It’s 140 characters. It’s 15 seconds. For TV, we can shoot you slicing a tomato for 45 minutes and cut it down to 10, 20 seconds. You don’t get that forgiveness here on social media. You’re also dealing with it for a different audience. The demographic of social media is different. Can you relate to that demographic? Do you know what a 14-year-old wants to make? Do you know what a 17-year-old is interested in learning? Do you know what a 22-year-old wants to do with her life? What if you don’t? You’re gonna find out in 140 characters and 15 seconds.

JM: It’s a constant job. It’s one that maybe I’m not the best at, because I’m a daily poster, not a minute-by-minute or hourly poster, because I’m busy living life, but you have to adapt with the times. Between my TV career and my restaurant career, my third career is social media. You’ve got to stay on it, you’ve got to post what you’re eating, you’ve got to be funny, you’ve got to give a little insight into your life. You can’t sustain a career in this business without being social media savvy.

Star SalvationThinking back to your early days on Food Network, what do you think you came in with on Day 1 versus what you learned along the way through mentoring?
AG: I had a lot of cooking chops. I’d cooked for many years, so I came in my first day on Food Network, and I really felt like I had a good command of cooking. But it was a trap, because then I thought: “Well, what do I have to do? Nothing, I‘ll just be myself.” And that wasn’t entirely true. There’s more to this, unfortunately, than cooking. Being able to look up while you’re cooking, being able to answer someone’s questions, being interactive. This is a time when you can’t afford not to be. That was something I was able to learn over a little bit of time. There’s no learning curve like that anymore for interactiveness. I can’t cook without braising, and I can’t make a dish without tasting it, and I think that that was really to my advantage, because I immediately connected with the food. Any flaws you might have seen in my character development were overshadowed by the fact that clearly I knew how to cook, and I knew how to connect with food. I learned that simple is better. I learned that 400 ingredients does not a great dish make. I learned that just because I’m a professional chef and I have many skills, doesn’t mean a home cook can follow me so quickly. Do less more carefully. Be fun.

JM: I came in here with a young energy that needed to be groomed a little bit, maybe a bluer sense of humor that’s maybe not as appropriate for our viewer — which I still get to crowbar in here and there when it’s rightly timed. I was willing to be malleable and grow, and I grew in this business.

When you look at the finalists and perhaps see in them the same flaws that you may have started with, do you tend to forgive them more quickly because you know what they’re going through?
AG: Totally. I totally forgive their flaws. It’s very intimidating, and if I had never met Giada and Bobby before, that would really freak me out. Anybody who’s ever turned on Food Network, if you lived under a rock for 20 years, you know who the two of them are, and those are intimidating mentors. I don’t know if I would be able to hear them.

JM: Totally. I’m too forgiving maybe. You want to vote for everybody, give everybody a second shot, but that’s just not how it works. I’m here to judge and to give one more chance to that willing person. There’s always going to be a winner and losers.

Do you still have mentors in this industry today?
AG: I do. I don’t think you’re ever without mentors. In fact, my last mentor — my last male mentor — is Bobby. He’s probably been my mentor for the past five or six years, which is interesting, because we’re not that different in age and whatever else. We grew up in the same place, but I have so much respect for the way he straddles being both a professional chef, really cooking and being a food authority, and also being on television. So, I definitely look up to him. I have many mentors though. Many.

JM: Of course I do. I’d say Geoffrey Zakarian is my biggest mentor, just because we spend so much time together, and he’s — I’d like to say — the hardest working man in this business. I don’t think anybody works as hard as him. I consider him not only a mentor, but a friend and a part of my family. He helps guide me through the business end, which is a whole other animal of this Food Network business, and he helps me make the right decisions. So, GZ for the win. Sunny Anderson too.

Alex, you’re going to offer finalists a series of Mentor Moments throughout the competition. What key learnings and advice do you want to impart on them?
AG: I don’t think you should be in a hurry to know exactly how you want your food to be through 20 episodes [on your would-be Food Network show]. You should focus on making good food first. I think Giada’s really about personality and being genuine and smiling, because that’s infectious. I think even she would recall her first day as a Food Network star and admit how nervous she was. The other thing is, if you left the competition, there was a reason why you were eliminated, and that doesn’t get forgotten just because you magically reappear like the winner of Star Salvation. They still remember what they thought your flaw was that left you eliminated, and so it’s not like you go back in there with a completely blank slate. You’re still fighting the same thing you were before, and the question is, how do you do that? You find some confidence within you, mix it up like a salad with a drive to win and a desire to have your whole life change, your career change, your visibility, your profile – it’s a lot of things that change when this happens.

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‘I feel like a hunter-gatherer when I barbecue’ | Comment

Surrounded by urban sprawl, where can you get your fix of flame-grilled fodder? Why, the local park of course, if they haven’t banned them there too …

I am not, by instinct, a summer person. I see the benefits: the sunshine, the smell of hot pavements after rain, daylight in the morning and the evening, and so on. But the problem is that summer is, ultimately, a time best enjoyed on holiday, and that most of us have to spend the majority of it in an office. Apart from teachers, who spend it rocking back and forth and muttering things like “Class 9D, man. You weren’t there. I can still hear the shrieking …”

Our working days in the summer tend to be spent feeling sweaty, sluggish and irritable – or at least mine do. The summer months are only really any good on our days off. And the crown of the season is, surely, the barbecue.

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A cry for kelp – is seaweed really a superfood?

Jamie Oliver reckons it helped him lose two stone – and Heston Blumenthal says it should be used instead of salt. But should this ‘slimy flotsam’ be called a superfood? In the second in her new series on food fads, Felicity Cloake finds out

It wasn’t so long ago that the only seaweed that passed most British lips was deep fried, heavily sugared … and made from that distinctly less exotic landlubber, the spring cabbage. Although as an island nation we’re well stocked with the stuff, we’ve never embraced this particular maritime bounty with the same wholehearted enthusiasm as the far east, and Japan in particular, where seaweed is an important part of the daily diet.

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