ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ten food trends I suppose I ought to have an opinion on

People occasionally come up to me and ask my opinion on various things.

Usually it's something along the lines of  'where's the best vegan restaurant in North Dakota that's open after midnight on Sundays?' or 'which pubs in London serve a hemp and raspberry stout and do a full breakfast -  as a child's portion?'

I give them the best answers I can, and then try to veer the conversation towards a topic where I have strongly held, staunchly right-wing opinions, in the hope that they'll run away like a simpering jackal.

You already know what I think about some of the big issues. Like tank beer, the horsemeat 'scandal', and why it's a fucking Marathon bar, not a S**ckers.

So, for a change, here's my take on some less important stuff. The trivialities that don't keep me awake at night.

It'll save you having to come up and ask me!

1. The return of the amuse bouche

I know, some of them are very clever and very tasty, but it's often a lot of effort on the part of the chef for a tiny reward. If you can make something delicious, why not channel that deliciousness into an entire main course?

It's so frustrating to eat somewhere where it starts of with a tiny mouthful of something great, and proceeds to a big fuck-off plateful of something indifferent.

At a drinks reception after a web producers conference we were served miniature fish and chips - a sort of haddock nugget and a single chip nestling together in a tiny inedible cone made to look like newspaper. Thing is, it probably took as much work as cooking a full portion for everybody.

2. Lab-meat

Ah, you've been in the news, you abomination unto God and nature, you.

The Laboratory-grown burger. It's meat, but not as we know it, Bernard. And no animals died.

Now, I'm sure there's a subset of vegetarians who will be rejoicing at having an equally unappealling alternative to Quorn (once it costs a bit less than £215,000 a pop, obviously). But if even bloody scientists don't think it tastes particularly nice then what are the chances this sort of Frankenfood will ever be in any way acceptable to us real foodies? Say, those of us who like our burgers to ooze blood and taste delicious?

The lab might eventually come up with a plausible substitute for a bland, tasteless McDonalds-type  burger, but I'll bet the farm that it'll never go any further than that. 

Good meat makes the life of an animal worth living. Maybe, somewhere in their DNA, animals in the food chain are actually hardwired to realise this? Possibly.

3. Cupcakes

Fuck off. Just fuck off with them, alright?

4. The 'Paleo' lifestyle

The latest restrictive diet trend is based around the idea that cavemen and women didn't eat grains, so neither should we. No bread, no cereals, no cake. Probably no beer.

Fuck that shit.

Even if they're right and it's a healthy way of life, the proponents of these sorts of diets miss the crucial point that life isn't worth living if you can't eat what you like and have to completely exclude any foods outright. That's why I can get on with the 5:2, but just about any other diet is unworkable.

Cave-dwellers ate merely to survive. Food and drink is our leisure. Enjoying it is more important than almost anything else in the world.

5. Serving food on a solid block of wood / slab of stone

Yes, I'm sure you think it looks cool, but cheeseboards should only be used for the cheese course.

6. Flavoured butter

Red peppercorn butter
I know, I know. I've been moaning about a tonne of stuff so far, but the tendency for places to serve stuff with a peppercorn, truffle or anchovy butter is a very welcome one.

For years the only flavoured butter options we had were garlic and brandy. Some very good work has been done in this field. and I hope it continues!

7. Black IPA

C'mon, it's just hoppy porter. I love the stuff, but the twat who first coined the oxymoronic name can fuck off back to the East Coast of Oregon.

8. Pop-ups 

OK, there are some places in London doing brilliant food out of a travelling van, or a little stall in Shoreditch market etc. Here today, gone tomorrow - or at least in a fortnight when their Hoxton residency ends.

And sometimes it goes way beyond normal street food in its complexity and quality. And the price.

The thing is, I like to sit down and take my time over a meal. I like to be able to choose what I want, see if I feel like another drink or a dessert or whatever, then pay for it all at the end on my credit card. Maybe I'm just a reactionary old fart though.

In fact, why did I even bother with the 'maybe'?

9. Upmarket squash

It's baa-aack. Water with a small amount of fruit juice and a bit of sugar and additives'n'shit.

I paid £2.50 for a little bottle of 'This Water' the other day. Nice and refreshing on a hot day, but it's still just fucking Lemon Squash. Like your mum used to buy in concentrated form and fill it up from the tap. Apparantly they've been trialling draught Oasis in some places. Probably more expensive than a pint of beer. God help us.

You'd think that a recession would put people off such overpriced nonsense - or at least see the retailers bringing the price down to a plausible level, but no.

Thing is, go to a supermarket and pick up one of those huge bottles of water and a decent fruit juice, and you'll be able to make several pints of lightly flavoured mineral water with no added sugar at home at a fraction of the cost.

10. Bloggers writing about food trends they suppose they ought to have an opinion on who can only come up with nine

Cunts, I say. Cunts to a man!

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