Gastropod

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THE Soho Jazz Festival reaches its climax this weekend, marking the high point of what has been a good year for its patron, Peter Boizot, the founder of PizzaExpress. A vegetarian from Peterborough, Boizot first brought the authentic taste of Naples to the streets of swinging Soho in 1965 and is now Britain's undisputed pizza king.

Back in the spring, Leslie Forbes dedicated a programme in her Radio 4 series Table Talk to Boizot and his jovial sidekick, Enzo Appicella, the designer responsible for the look of Britain's best-loved pizzerias. In May, Stephen Bayley applauded his hero in the Independent magazine, noting that 'what made PizzaExpress exceptional was a personal conviction'. The Gastropod believes we should honour thisman who has done so much to improve the quality of our lives and has nominated him for a knighthood. Readers who would like to join the campaign should telephone the Honours Office on 071-210 5054 and ask the duty officer to send a nomination form.

WITH all the wet weather, the mushroom season is rapidly getting into full swing. The Gastropod is looking forward to an autumn of mycological delights, courtesy of a company called Wild Foods. Founded by a former gastro-punk called David Tamlyn, Wild Foods aims to establish a nationwide network of pickers, from whom it will buy mushrooms to supply fresh to restaurants or dried to the general public.

Since this is its first season and the network of pickers doesn't as yet extend much beyond Greater London, Wild Foods will begin by selling dried mushrooms imported from Canada, including several varieties of boletus (ceps), meadow, oyster, and trumpet mushrooms, as well as morels, chanterelles and mousserons. A mail-order price-list is available from Wild Foods at Suite 401, Langham House, 302 Regent Street, London W1R 5AL.

Alternatively, if you wish to become a part-time mushroom picker, Wild Foods is currently recruiting a team to cover southern England, from London to the coast, but would be happy to hear from enthusiasts in other parts of the country. Foragers will be taught the basics of mushroom recognition and told where to look, but Tamlyn says that the only qualification required for his pickers is that they must be fun guys. Readers can contact him on 081-960 9499.

THE Gastropod bursary, entitling the recipient to attend Martin Wood's course in setting up and running a restaurant, attracted a baker's dozen of would-be restaurateurs, most of whom got the answer partially correct. Entrants were asked to analyse the merits of the name 'Aubergine' for the new restaurant that Emily Green reviews this week (left). In the Gastropod's view at least, it's a good pun, evokes a fashionable Mediterranean ingredient, and will be impenetrable to Americans.

P Creadon pointed out, quite rightly, that it is better than Spud-U-Like, and Lesley Cooper wrote an essay in praise of the vegetable's 'glossy exterior (which) conceals a humble flesh possessing enormous capacity for absorbing the piquant elements of varied cultures.' Nice try Lesley, but you broke the rules by not answering on a postcard, or the back of an envelope, as Richard Baker did. He wins with the following succinct acronym: Auberge Utilising Botanic Epithet Raises Gourmet's Interest, Nicely Effective]

READERS of the Independent would be most welcome tomorrow at the Grapevine blind tasting competition which Anthony Rose, our wine correspondent, is hosting at the International Festival of Fine Wine and Food. The festival is at Olympia, and all-day tickets cost pounds 15 (double ticket, pounds 25); the wine competition takes place at 3.30pm, and the winner will receive a case of wine.

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