The Truffler: Locanda Locatelli, Health Matters jars, Chester's Food & Drink Festival

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Most new restaurants open quietly with trial runs, or a glitzy do populated by a swarm of C-list celebs and liggers who are unlikely to come back and pay for their dinner. But a tide of goodwill and a throng of respected names in the food world greeted the opening of Locanda Locatelli last week. They were invited into the kitchen to choose what to eat, or could attack a sensational array of Italian cheeses. Few London chefs can have been at their own stoves that night, although as one reminded Truffler, it's a craft not a vocation, and kitchens don't grind to a halt because the top man takes part of the night off. Giorgio Locatelli, formerly of Zafferano, is admired and liked by his peers – and by all the diners who have enjoyed his north Italian cooking. Locanda Locatelli, adjacent to the Churchill Inter-Continental hotel on Portman Square, London W1 (020-7935 9088), promises to be a family-run restaurant that welcomes children, with no service charge or cover charge. Locatelli has a busy year ahead. In June, his BBC series Tony and Giorgio, with fish fanatic and restaurateur Tony Allan, steps into Jamie Oliver's prime time slot, and the tie-in book, his first, is published by Fourth Estate.

Among the almost-celebrities launching food lines with their names on them (Loyd Grossman, Frankie Dettori to pick just two), Michael van Straten at least knows healthy eating inside out. The author of Super Juice and – forthcoming in May – Super Salads, and complementary health guru (he's got the beard to prove it) has devised a range of fruit compotes, a tomato sauce and a salsa. They have no preservatives, and aren't stuffed with sugar, either. A blueberry and blackcurrant compote also contains echinacea, which is supposed to help the immune system; sloppy apricot, mint and star anise compote would go well with meat or a curry too. Like any tomato sauce his is full of lycopene, an antioxidant present in tomatoes, which can help prevent cancer. Health Matters jars are £1.99 each from Sainsbury's.

Chester's Food & Drink Festival doesn't start until 26 February, but there's a taster in the form of a Cheshire Cheese Rolling Competition this Tuesday. Cheshire cheese is reputedly the oldest English cheese, dating back at least to Roman times. The festival organisers extend the boast to claim it's the world's first. In the 16th century, when Cheddar was first made, Cheshire was one of Europe's finest. Its tangy taste came from salt springs under the pastures near the River Dee, where it was made, and it's one of the lactic hard cheeses that are unique to Britain. Now, sadly, it seems to have become one of the second division English territorial cheeses, which isn't appreciated as much as it should be. Look out for one of the remaining standard-bearers, Mrs Appleby's unpasteurised farmhouse Cheshire, or Butlers' award-winner. Tuesday's rolling event starts under Chester's Eastgate clock, and perhaps it will serve as a reminder that there are better things to do with a Cheshire cheese than roll it.

You might think that nobody could object to a farmers' market opening on their doorstep. Even a supermarket might feel that stalls of local produce would complement what they offer, and that other shops could foresee benefits as discriminating food shoppers pass by. Not so in Castle Cary, I hear. Some traders have objected to plans for a farmers' market in the Somerset town, protesting that it would present unfair competition, that the car parks are chokka, and that a farmers' market would be of no great value. The town council is not convinced, and a market should be up and running in April.

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