Eating is one of the chief reasons for travel. That’s the essential truth discovered by the publishers of Michelin’s Guide Rouge. No one, at least no one in their right mind, is interested in tyres. So, Michelin made gastronomy a rationale of car journeys. There were two results: one, people inadvertently burnt Michelin rubber on their way to dinner; two, destinations became associated with dishes – Geneva and perch, Crissier and mashed potato, Troyes and andouillettes, for example.
So, it’s worth noting that food can be at least as dangerous as a car journey.
The chief influence on Michelin’s famous guides was the gourmet-journalist with the nom-de-plume Curnonsky. He wrote wonderful books about French food and travel (even though he did not drive), but died at 84 when he fell from the balcony of his apartment on the rue Henri Bergson in Paris. It was said he had been dieting and, while extending his life with wholesome restrictions on his appetite, a fatal ennui had overtaken him.
In Crissier recently, there was another sad food death. Crissier is a dull exurb of Lausanne which came to notice in the 1980s when a chef-patron called Frédy Girardet raised its little restaurant in the Hotel de Ville to cosmic three-star status. His mashed potato was a signature dish. Girardet was the master and mentor of Benoît Violier who, having achieved his own fantastic levels of artifice, shot himself on 31 January. It’s assumed that Violier was anxious of maintaining the restaurant's lauded three-star position, one which all the business relationships and bank loans and, indeed, customers, cling to like burnt sugar to a hot pan.
Exactly that happened to Bernard Loiseau 13 years before. Having over-extended himself, and over-extended his restaurant from pleasant Burgundian hostellerie to absurd pleasure palace with glass lifts, a spa and a gift-shop, the fear of losing his status made him drop his spatula and pick up his hunting rifle.
Food trends in 2016
Food trends in 2016
1/11 Celeriac root
We had a kale obsession in 2015, but 2016’s vegetable sine qua non is predicted to be the knobbly celeriac root. Celeriac milk (Tom Hunt at Poco in Bristol serves it with winter mussels and wild water celery), celeriac cooked in Galician beef fat (from Adam Rawson of Pachamama, hot new chef in the capital) and salt-baked celeriac (to be found in Matthew and Iain Pennington’s kitchens at The Ethicurean in the West Country) are just a few examples.
2/11 Middle Eastern food
The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook (£24.95, Phaidon) by grand-dame Salma Hage, author of the bestseller The Lebanese Kitchen (whose halva is pictured here), is out in April
© Liz & Max Haarala Hamilton
3/11 Non-alcoholic cocktails
Grain Store mixologist Tony Conigliaro has created Roman Redhead, a riot of red grape juice, beetroot, pale ale and verjus, and Rose Iced Tea (black tea, rose petals, anise essence, pictured here)
The discerning will be slurping Hepple gin – from chef Valentine Warner and cocktail guru Nick Strangeway – which is punctuated with bog-myrtle nuances
5/11 Argyll and Bute
Restaurant followers are getting in a froth about Pam Brunton in Scotland, who opened the Inver restaurant in Argyll and Bute to acclaim last year
6/11 Andy Oliver’s Som Saa
One of the most eagerly awaited restaurants of 2016 will be the permanent incarnation of Andy Oliver’s remarkable pop-up Som Saa opening very soon in east London. Oliver, who worked at Thai god David Thompson’s Nahm in Bangkok, raised a whopping £700,000 through crowdfunding, and is renowned for his piquant Thai flavours and obsessive attention to detail, including in his home ferments and DIY coconut cream
© Adam Weatherley
Another ruminant in vogue is venison, with Sainsbury’s doubling its line for 2016. It provides a protein-packed punch, with B vitamins and iron, and it’s low in fat. Its entry into the mainstream is in part thanks to the Scottish restaurant Mac and Wild, just opened in London, whose Celtic head chef Andy Waugh (who also runs the Wild Game Co) has been touting it as street food for years (his venison burger pictured here)
From Brett Graham’s The Ledbury to Angela Hartnett’s kitchens at Lime Wood Hotel in the New Forest, Cabrito is the go-to goat supplier among the chef cognoscenti (roasted loin of kid pictured here) – but this year, domestic cooks can get in on the action, as Sushila Moles and James Whetlor of Cabrito offer their meat through Ocado
Mike Lusmore / mikelusmore.com
Coffee sage George Crawford is launching the much-anticipated Cupsmith with his partner, Emma. Crawford believes that 2016 is the year purist coffee will finally meet the masses; Cupsmith’s mission will be to make craft coffee as popular as craft beer on the high street. The company roasts Arabica beans in small batches, improving its quality – but sells it online, at cupsmith.com, in an approachable way: expect cheerful packaging and names such as Afternoon Reviver Coffee (designed for drinking with milk – no matter how uncouth, most of us want milk) and Glorious Espresso
10/11 120-day-old steak
Hanging meat for extremely long lengths of time has become an art. In Cumbria, Lake Road Kitchen’s James Cross is plating up 120-day-old steak (pictured here). The beef is from influential “ager” Dan Austin of Lake District Farmers, who is currently investigating the individual bacterial cultures that go into this maturing process
11/11 Lotus root
Diners can expect root-to-stem dining - cue the full lotus deployed by the Michelin-starred Indian Benares in its kamal kakdi aur paneer korma
There’s a magnificent precedent here. On the 24 April 1671, François Vatel stabbed himself in the Château de Chantilly. His employer, the Prince de Condé, was entertaining Louis XIV and Vatel’s delivery man was late with the fish. According to Madame de Sevigne, who described the events in a letter, Vatel could not face the humiliation. It was 8am, perhaps the very moment when insanely pressurised chefs feel most alone.
Elizabeth David said a bad meal is always expensive. And sometimes, alas, a bad review can be fatal. This is the more melancholy because food and travel are fundamentally linked in theory as well as fact. The pleasures of each are rooted in anticipation. And each is best kept simple. Too much artifice is destructive on the plate or on the road. With less mad sophistication and more honest simplicity, Violier and Loiseau would still be happily in their kitchens.
And we would still happily go to Crissier and Saulieu to see them.Reuse content