Gastropod

ALMOST three-quarters of all cheese sold in supermarkets is cheddar of one type or another. Look at most cheese counters, and you can see why. Juliet Harbutt, a Master of Cheeses and member of the Guild de Fromagerie, was determined to change this, and approached Tesco with proposals to 'furnish consumers with the criteria they need to make an informed choice'. In other words, to smarten up the display and devise a new labelling system.

Tesco was beaten to the goal by Safeway, which introduced a numeric guide to indicate strength of flavour last year. The Tesco scheme goes further, with flavours rated one to seven, and cheese types categorised by colour. Roquefort, for instance, is rated six for its strong flavour and is given a blue label because it is a blue cheese.

Having already introduced the system in half of its stores, Tesco is officially launching its 'New World of Cheese' at the Good Food Show at Olympia this weekend, and will extend the scheme to all its branches by the end of this month.

TIRED of superstar chefs jetting into London for a few days to drum up business for a top hotel? Probably. But Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who will be at The Four Seasons from Monday to Friday next week, is something special - and he will be cooking the sensational dishes that have made him top dog of the New York restaurant scene.

Vongerichten has become famous by reinventing the classical cuisine he learnt in hotel kitchens, using light bouillons instead of conventional stocks, infused oils rather than butter, and pure vegetable juices in place of alcohol. A preoccupation with Thai flavours that was apparent at the cosy, bistro-style Jo Jo has extended across the whole menu at his other New York restaurant, Vong, which is lavishly decorated and located in an office block known as the Lipstick Building. One American restaurant critic warned Vongerichten of 'impending riots should he remove from his menu the shrimp in spiced carrot juice and Thai lime leaves, the barely warm goat's cheese and potato terrine with arugula (rocket) juice, the chick-pea fries he serves with chicken roasted with coriander juice . . .' The Gastropod cannot wait to sample some of this stuff.

AT MOST bars in Soho, London, you have to show a membership card to get a drink after 1am. But at the new Atlantic Bar & Grill, located in the cavernous basement of the Regent Palace Hotel behind Piccadilly Circus, you will have only to be a member of the public to take advantage of its licence to serve drinks until 3am.

The premises are magnificent, with a wood-panelled bar area and enormous dining- room that was, until recently, partitioned for use as a conference room. Now a fast-talking entrepreneur called Oliver Peyton has persuaded the Forte Hotel group to lease him the space; he is having the place refurbished with the intention of opening the Atlantic in the second week of April.

IT CAME as a shock to the Gastropod to hear that Reed Business Publishing has shut down Inside Hotels magazine, which it acquired only eight months ago with the stated intention of expanding its circulation across Europe. The company plans to use the title for a newsletter.

The brainchild of its editor, Lisa Barnard, Inside Hotels was launched three years ago and quickly built its name and circulation by courting controversy with a series of critical profiles of hoteliers and a healthy dollop of salacious gossip.

A shell-shocked Ms Barnard told the Gastropod: 'This has come as a bolt from the blue. Reed kept saying it thought my magazine was a brilliant product and had a great future. It's sickening that the good name of Inside Hotels will now be applied to some flimsy newsletter and I'll have to find a new job.'

GOOD news for potato lovers: Websters of Arbroath is still supplying unusual varieties of seed potato, and has not gone out of business as was reported in Weekend on 19 February. For a catalogue, write to the company at 4 Denside, Letham Grange, Arbroath DD1 4QL.

THE Gastropod was intrigued by a postcard showing pink spring rolls described as 'sakura- mochi, the traditional delicacy for Girl's Day'. The Wakashi bakery in Lewisham, south London, revealed that 'mochi' are glutinous rice cakes and that 'sakura-mochi' are filled with sweet red-bean paste and wrapped in edible, brined cherry leaves. 'Sakura' actually means cherry blossom and the cakes are made to celebrate the bloom of the nation's daughters.

Unfortunately, you have missed Girl's Day - it was on Thursday. But perhaps your mum would like a nice box of sakura-mochi next weekend, for Mother's Day.

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