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Food and Drink: Gastropod

THERE has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the cheese trade this past fortnight, following the abrupt withdrawal from the export market of Maison Androuet, the chief supplier of French cheeses to the rest of the world. Henri Androuet established his famous cheese shop at 41 rue Amsterdam, close to St Lazare, in the Twenties and built a reputation as le premier fromager de tout Paris. His son, Pierre, continued the family tradition and founded the Guilde des Fromagers de France, of which he was president until his retirement in the late Eighties.

Before he retired, Mr Androuet sold the business that bears his name to a consortium led by Air France, enabling Maison Androuet not only to open concessionary boutiques in every international airport across France, but also to distribute cheese in prime condition globally, par avion. From its warehouse at Creteuil in suburban Paris, Androuet supplied clients from New York to Hong Kong with fine cheese expertly matured by the masterful Raymond Felix. Until, that is, the EC sanitary inspector came to call.

Certain modifications to the premises were demanded. There must be impermeable flooring, special drains must be installed and a separate room built for the crucial process of washing the cheeses in brine. That seemed fair enough. But then the inspector further demanded the construction of two changing rooms for a staff of 15, most of whom are accountants, and a separate room to store the packing that cluttered a corner of the office.

Not only can Androuet not afford the alterations, the landlord of the building at Creteuil will not allow them. So Androuet has shut down its export operation, putting people out of work and leaving high-class cheesemongers with long faces as they search for a new supplier.

The firm will henceforth concentrate on restaurant supply from the original premises in rue Amsterdam. Of course, the old caves beneath the old shop do not conform to EC regulations either, so Maison Androuet will shut in June for two months' refurbishment. Mr Felix was said by an interpreter to be 'thoroughly cheesed off'.

WHAT is a good Jewish boy to do when dining in a Michelin-starred establishment where there is nothing on the menu that he can eat in good conscience? Sheldon Lazarus, the irrepressible producer of the television series Loyd a La Carte (currently showing on ITV's This Morning programme on Wednesdays at 10.35am) has just returned from filming the final leg of Monsieur Grossman's gastronomic tour de France.

Throughout the trip, from the Club Royale at Evian to the legendary La Voile d'Or in Cap Ferrat, Sheldon had to stick to omelettes and salads. 'It was all right living on truffle omelettes in the fleshpots of Provence,' he told the Gastropod, 'but Lyons was offal] I swear, they even eat the pig's squeak. Luckily, I found a place called the Grille d'Or, which serves kosher foie gras and fat, juicy steaks with the Rabbi's blessing.'

In Lyons, Mr Grossman met the mighty Paul Bocuse, who rides a motorbike, sports a ponytail and has a tattoo of a poulet de Bresse on his left shoulder. While Mr Bocuse demonstrated his classic volaille a la creme, Sheldon Lazarus ordered a plate of chips. 'I got exactly a dozen, absolutely perfect frites arranged in a lattice. They were the best chips I've ever tasted,' he declared, 'but beaucoup d'argent.'

TODAY and tomorrow from 11am- 5pm, Oddbins is hosting its third annual consumer wine fair in the splendid Art Deco ballroom of the Park Lane Hotel on Piccadilly, London. The entrance fee is pounds 10, which goes to charity, and there will be around 40 stands, representing winemakers from both the New and the Old worlds, who will be offering some 250 wines to taste. There will also be some cask-strength Scotch whisky on show as well as a selection of bottle-conditioned British beers; expect to find the Gastropod, propped up by Michael Jackson, somewhere between the two.

AS the barbecue season approaches, the Gastropod's eagle-eyed readers will have noticed the current ad campaign for Tabasco, exhorting us to splash it all over. This is but one facet of a massive promotional push the McIllhenny family is making to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the pepper sauce concocted by the current generation's great-grandfather.

The Country Store on Avery Island in the swamplands of Louisiana, where Tabasco comes from, is carrying a range of collectible souvenirs, including a commemorative bottle, a cookbook and a set of six posters depicting the Tabasco bottle in the styles of various art movements. By far the most desirable piece of merchandising, however, is the Tabasco fold-away barbecue. The Gastropod has got one and is willing to give it away to the composer of the wittiest verse, limerick or snatch of doggerel on the theme of barbecues. It will have to improve on the Gastropod's best effort:

A Cajun called Rene Lambascaux,

As a cook was a total fiasco.

His coals were too hot,

But his sauces were not.

Till, at last, he discovered Tabasco.

A dozen runners-up will each receive the commemorative bottle, the cookbook and the posters, mailed direct from Avery Island. Please clearly print your name and full postal address on each entry and send it to: The Gastropod, Weekend, the Independent, 40 City Road, London, EC1Y 2DB. The closing date is 7 June; the Gastropod's decision is final.