FOOD & DRINK: THE TRUFFLER

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The Independent Culture
CAN NIGELLA and Claudia do for pomegranate molasses what Delia did for cranberries? That is, cause a stampede and a nationwide shortage in Sainsbury's. Any dedicated user of Nigella Lawson's How to Eat and Claudia Roden's new Tamarind and Saffron intent on cooking liver and sweet onions, or walnut and pomegranate sauce, needs to know that the supermarket is selling this new must-have ingredient (which is, no doubt, centuries old) for pounds 2.19 in its specialist, end-of-the-aisle section. Imported from the Lebanon, it's beguilingly sharp and sweet, seductively pink and useful for Middle Eastern dishes. But not indispensable; a little goes a long way, and I'm now trying to think of ways to use it up. Will Delia's How to Cook Book Two have any more suggestions?

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WE GET through 500,000 tonnes a year, an average of three bars per person a week. So join the endorphin-seeker's rush to the International Festival of Chocolate which opens on Friday, 3 December at the Royal Horticultural Halls, Greycoat Street, London SW1 (tickets cost pounds 6.50 if ordered in advance on 0870 9010020 or pounds 7.50 on the door) and ends on Sunday. And what a lot of chocs they've got there, what with makers from Mexico, Canada, Wales and, needless to say, Belgium. Keep an eye out for chocolate-flavoured stout, details of pure chocolate-hunting holidays in Venezuela (see feature, opposite) and demonstrations of cooking with chocolate. The darker the chocolate the better it is for you, and though the pleasurable rather than healthy properties of the confectionery are being promoted at the festival, if you need an excuse it has been discovered that chocolate, or more precisely cocoa, contains catechins - antioxidants which attack damaging

free-radicals.

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AFTER TUNBRIDGE Wells and Winchester, the Hotel du Vin group has just opened another of its gloriously oenologically inclined hostelries in Bristol. Half the 40 bedrooms are ready, there's a restaurant with a truly tremendous wine list, and a bar serving all the wines plus 190 whiskies, 50 rums (many of which are rarely if ever found in this country), 30 vodkas and 20 cognacs. Bristol's Hotel du Vin occupies a building called the Sugar House, converted from the city's last intact sugar refinery dating back to the 18th century. Perhaps it would be churlish to point out

that this is a relic of Bristol's shameful slave-trading past.

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SUFFERING FROM an infertile imagination when it comes to choosing presents? Gluttonous Gardener, a selection of unusual gifts that can be planted and eaten, dressed up with fancy names bordering on the twee, could be the answer. The likes of Under the Gooseberry Tree, a gooseberry bush ready for planting, with a bottle of champagne for pounds 48; the Saffron Lover's Kit, Olive Lover's Kit or Pesto Lover's Kit for pounds 30 each; lemon or orange and other fruit trees look very pretty in the catalogue (0171-627 0800). And isn't anything edible better than socks for Christmas?

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ONLY A couple of weeks ago I reported how chefs play musical chairs. But Sugar Reef's change of chef within weeks of opening sounds strangely discordant. Kenny Miller, the launch chef and a man with long love affair with Cajun and Creole cooking was out. In came Gary Hollihead who had only just moved to Che, the cigar bar and restaurant in St James's. Once a precocious Michelin-starred chef, he's become something of a gun for hire, gifted, but not previously known for his American cooking.

Still, after a rocky start someone has to keep the place that reckons it's London's largest on its coast-to-coast course.

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IS THE classic Waring on it way out? Definitely not, but a new blender on the block could give it a run for its money. The KitchenAid blender, relative of the KitchenAid food mixer will blitz soups, sauces and so on, and unlike wimpier blenders can crush ice for cocktails. The KitchenAid looks very professional and tough and is indeed more powerful than its competitors with a motor power of 500 watts, 10 speed combinations, and a 1.25-litre jug capacity. Available in department stores and cook shops, coloured versions cost pounds 99, chrome is another pounds 50, cheaper than another make we could mention.

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