Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase 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. And as a critic 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!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Rising, falling or standing still?

So, this weekend I've been to a beer festival that's a little bit different.

Possibly not as different as the organisers would like to believe, mind, but different enough. They didn't use the word 'festival' for a start.

When, some months ago, I first heard about Craft Beer Rising at the old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch I rolled my eyes in exasperation.

The blurb informed me that the event was 'here to throw off the shackles of a traditional beer gathering by crafting events, experiences and environments that take craft beer to the masses.'

Hmm. Smells a lot like marketing wank to me. Besides, I like 'traditional beer gatherings'!

All rise for craft beer?
Further reading inscribed more horror stories in my jaded mind... Nothing much to do with CAMRA... 'craft' keg beers... trendy location... Probably horribly overpriced, overhyped and overrated. Ugh. Basically everything that's wrong about the current Brewdog ethos writ large.

The beer equivalent of Lapland New Forest, perhaps?

Then, a couple of days beforehand, I saw the beer list and decided that I would go, albeit determined to follow up with a damning write-up about how desperately misguided and disappointing it all was.

It's a good thing I did though, because it was ticket-only and sold out every session over the two days, so they must've been doing something right, even if it's just marketing!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Shrove Tuesday isn't as Shriven as it used to be

My ‘giving up chocolate for Lent’ plan proved spectacularly unsuccessful, lasting as it did a mere three days. (Although on the 'being able to eat chocolate again' scale, it's actually been a roaring success, obviously!)

It wasn’t my fault, mind, it was the beer.

Ilkley ‘The Mayan’, specifically, at the Cask in Pimlico. It’s a chocolate chipotle stout, and certainly the best beer I’ve had this year. (And I've drunk some good beer this year).

Chocolate beers can be a bit hit'n'miss, and I’ve never drunk a chilli beer that I could honestly say I really enjoyed, but Ilkley – one of my favourite breweries at the moment –  manage to get the combination just right.

It wasn't that surprising given that, in just a few years, the Yorkshire brewery has shown itself to be remarkably adept at experimental beers - like their Crafty Jane cranberry milk stout - as well as doing a fine line in big, hoppy pale ales, which, to my mind, should be any credible brewer's meat and drink

At 5.3% the Mayan had enough stouty weight behind it not to be watery, but was still staunchly in ‘quaffable’ territory. The cocoa on the nose was like an upmarket chocolate milkshake, while the heat only comes through at the finish and leaves a nice lingering burn.

It's worth breaking your Lenten fast for!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Huzzah for the Hussar!

'There's nothing new under the sun', goes the appropriately old phrase, and it oh-so-often rings true. Except when it doesn't, obviously.

But, for grumpy, prematurely-old fogeys such as I, it frequently seems like that which is new is no fucking good, and that which is any fucking good is stuff with which I am already familiar.

Music these days? Shit. TV these days? Shit. Films these days? Shit with Ben Shitting Affleck acting all shit.

OK, so I'm exaggerating just a tad. Some stuff which is technically new, though not necessarily widely promoted, is actually pretty good. Look hard enough and you'll find decent music and films and everything else made very recently indeed. And some things - like beer - are probably better and more exciting now than they've ever been. New beers are good, they're fucking, shitting good!

But my point is that, if you often struggle to see the merit in the latest stuff and are baffled by the faddishness around it, there is another path to tread which is a bit more interesting than just sticking with what you know and never expanding your horizons...