Food & Drink: The Truffler

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The Independent Culture
THE SOUND of gnawing on bones was deafening yesterday, as the lifting of the beef-on-the-bone ban provided the cue for general beefanalia. The Meat & Livestock Commission (senior press officer, John Bullock; consumer marketing manager, Chris Lamb - it's true, I swear it) recruited noted bonehead Vinnie Jones to make its guest appearance when Groupe Chez Gerard held a celebratory beefy breakfast at its newest restaurant on London's South Bank - having already spent a week breaking the ban by serving cote de beouf at its nine London eateries. Naughty. As it's the lifeblood of the Carnivores Club that holds gatherings of gourmets and gourmands to celebrate the way of all flesh, it regularly takes the bull by the horns.

TWENTY THOUSAND people working there, almost no notable restaurants, and still Marco Pierre White's restaurant in Canary Wharf couldn't get enough custom despite this year's name change from MPW to the more swaggering Big Chef. It's re-opened with almost indecent haste as Pasta di Milano, the pasta sibling of Pizza Express. It will close again early January and re-open at the end of February as a Pizza Express.

AS IF there wasn't already plenty of cheffery on telly, ITV has entered the fray. I'd love to prove what a cunning newshound I am by revealing who the ITV Chef of the Year is. It was judged and filmed last week, but we will have to wait until it's on the box on 1 or 2 January. I must be one of the few not in on the secret. Jeff Bland of the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh; Christina Bricknell-Webb of Percy's in Coombeshead, Devon; David Cameron of the Village Bistro on Jersey; David Massey from Brompton Bay, Chelsea; Greg Nicholson from Summer Lodge Hotel, Dorset, and Tony Rajinder-Singh, from the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh, all know which of them's won but are keeping mum. Chefs John Torode and Paul Gayler, Marguerite Patten, as well as Helen Worth of Coronation Street, who judged the competition in a blind tasting, know. The audience knows. Richard and Judy know. Ooo! The suspense.

WHOEVER WINS will have to get out of their kitchen to bask in the limelight, and could be groomed as the next ubiquitous TV chef. They'll still have a long way to go before they're as adept as Wozza. He is everywhere. If you feel that he is still too retiring, there is now a magazine devoted to AWT. At Home with Antony Worrall Thompson is the first in a new series of At Home publications, with "exclusive" glimpses of his beautiful home. Rookie celeb chefs take note - this is how the pros live.

THE GOODWILL pushed to the limit, the roller-coaster ride that is a family cooped up with too much to eat and drink, is encapsulated by the Creative Chocolate Company in Cumbria, in a game of Russian Roulette. You spin a cardboard revolver with a dozen edible bullets. While 11 are milk chocolate praline, one is punishingly chilli-flavoured. From Bhs, Selfridges and Bentalls stores for pounds 3.99.

A CHILLI-FLAVOURED chocolate is not always the short straw. Rococo, the gorgeous chocolate shop on London's King's Road has bars of organic Belgian chocolate flavoured with chilli pepper, lavender, and now, tarragon or rose. Even more bizarre are their bars with a taste of gold, frankincense and myrrh - for pounds 3. They shouldn't offend your nearest and dearest. As you don't need reminding that it's now too late for mail-order deliveries of food before Christmas, the wise will have to get to Rococo's shop at 321 King's Road, London SW3 (0171-352 5857) for these princely chocs.

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