Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bless Me ,Blog, for I've Sinned

You can read confessions anonymously made online.

(Click on the title to read about this in todays NYT)

Friday, May 27, 2005

Cigars , Wine and American Foreign Policy

I am told by well known cognoscenti of all of the above that the majority of people in Washington involved in the formulation and execution of Foreign Policy have certain disturbing common traits.

On the whole they tend to favour Californian top Cabernet Sauvignon’s and premium Cigars from the Dominican Republic.

What characterises both their choice of cigars and wine are consistency of quality, but a lack of complexity.

Both premium Dominican Cigars and Californian Cabernet Sauvignons tend not to vary much year on year.

The Dominican Cigars have done well in the US due to the embargo on Cuban goods; this has not prevented the US being the second biggest consumer of Cuban Cigars. This suggests that the characterisation of the foreign policy making elite does not apply to the entire nation. In my view these cigars are with a few exceptions bland, homogenous and a boring smoke rarely capable of taking ones imagination to wonderful places.

I have always wanted to know the provenance of Bill Clinton’s cigars during his tenure at the White House.

The fact we tend to refer to varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon and not a Chateau or Domain already reveals a lot.

However it is the generally poor and unsubtle” assemblage” coupled with blending of grapes from vineyards so spread out, that makes any possible association with the “terroir” an impossibility.

Some may feel my comments regarding wine are maybe too Francophile in nature , or Cuban centric in terms of Cigars.

To show that this is not so I would like to recommend to the Washington Foreign Policy Community the cigars of Jose Padrόn in Nicaragua and Ridge Montebello Cabernet Sauvignon from the Santa Cruz Mountain area in Northern California.

Jose Padrόn (a Cuban) and his family produce outstanding complex handmade cigars. Padrón, never set out to replicate the flavour or character of a great Cuban cigar. Padrón, more than just about anyone else, knows that the character of a Cuban cigar can't be duplicated, because of the unique soil and climate of the best tobacco areas in Pinar del Río, Cuba's premier tobacco region.

Since arriving in Nicaragua in the late 1960s via a stint in Little Havana, Miami, Padrón has continued and perfected what his family taught him in the fields of Pinar del Río as a little boy. Padrón makes cigars that can match those coming from his former homeland

The Montebello blenders determine how much — if any — merlot, petit verdot, or cabernet franc will be included in the finished wine, during assemblage. In some years the wines match or exceed some of Bordeaux’s finest Château like Latour, Lafitte, Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and Plamer.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Communities Dominate Brands

For those who still stick to their knitting in terms of their Marketing Communications approach I recommend you read Communities Dominate Brands:Business and Marketing Challenges for the 21st Century by Tomi T Ahonen and Alan Moore published by futuretext Ltd March 2005.

The book covers digital communities such as bloggers, moblogging, videogamers, virtual worlds and MMOGs, and of course mobile phone "smart mobs." There are over 100 real business examples and over a dozen case studies. It is the first practical business book on digitally connected communities. The authors introduce several theories and concepts, including the Connected Age, the Four C's, and next class of consumers, called Generation-C for Community.

Tomi Ahonen is very much an evangelist on skates but despite this and some hype I think this is a valuable contribution to helping us understand the shift in power from Brands and Content Owners to the consumer and digitally connected communities.

(Click on the title to be directed to the blog of the book )

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Not all Tuna in a tin or jar is the same. Viva Ortiz

I have yet to have better Tuna in a tin or jar than that produced by those Basque masters Ortiz since 1891.

They pack authentic White Tuna, Bonito Del Norte, from the dense tuna banks in the waters off of the coast of the Basque Country. The fishing boats of Ortiz, capture the fish using traditional methods, which respect the environment and avoid hurting dolphins or any other marine species. Bonita Del Norte, the albacore tuna, (Thunnus Alalunga) is the most oceanic species in the tuna family. They are all warm blooded, pelagic and migratory and they form shoals. The Atlantic White Tuna carries out two migrations in its lifetime, which are easily differentiated by its stage of maturity. Then they return towards their places of origin. Bonita Del Norte fishing takes place in the Cantabrian Sea during the summer months when, coming from the Azores Sea, the fish appear annually in the waters of the Bay of Biscay, where they tend to be located on the warm side of the thermal waters, feeding on horse-mackerel and mackerel eggs and larvae. They cook and pack the tuna in olive oil to preserve the tuna's highly prized flavour. The most prized cut of tuna, is the belly or "ventresca" as it is called in Spain. The tuna's belly has the highest fat content, and so it is the richest in flavour and the silkiest in texture. (The belly of the tuna is also the most highly sought after cut in Japan for sushi and sashimi.) There is only a small amount of this delicious cut on a fish, and so the price is significantly higher, but your salads and pastas will be taken to new heights of flavour.

Ortiz also have excellent normal Bonita del Norte tins and Jars that are much cheaper
but still in a different league to most Tuna sold in the UK with the exception of some very good artisan Sicilian products.

Ortiz tuna can be found in Sainsbury's and many good delis around the UK. I don't think that John West even sees the Tuna that Ortiz rejects !

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Saviour of Ice Cream in London

When the Owners of La Bottega del Gelato in Bayswater retired six months ago I knew that Londoners who savour real Italian home made ice cream would be in serious trouble.

The outlet has allegedly been passed on to a relative; however what is being served is clearly industrial.

Some may remember a similar affair with the retirement of the owner and ice cream maker at Benigra on Tottenham Court Road some 8-10 years ago.

Thankfully Christian O'donno and a friend who were students in London and could not satisfy their taste for the Ice Cream of their homeland saw a gap in the market. After undergoing on the job training back in Italy they opened a superb Ice Cream Parlour in South Kensington that also supplies some notable restaurants. The sorbets and Ice Creams are really outstanding!

O'donno, 14 Bute Street, South Kensington, London SW7

Wide Open:Open source methods and their future potential

The London based Think Tank Demos has published an excellent paper on some of the implications and potential arising out of the open source software movement.

This open and collaborative approach to creating knowledge has produced remarkable results, such as the Linux operating system and the web-based encyclopaedia Wikipedia. In defiance of the conventional wisdom of modern business, it can be argued that open source methods have led the main underlying innovations around the Internet.

Authors Geoff Mulgan, Tom Steinberg and Omar Salem argue that other fields have much to learn from open source methods – because they bring principles and working methods which can help to produce better knowledge, goods or services, or make them available on more widely beneficial terms.

(click on the title to access a free download of the paper from the Demos web site)

Monday, May 23, 2005

Tinned Tomatoes : A tip !

Why do certain tomato based sauces taste so much better than others ?

As with most dishes a combination of cooking ability and good ingredients make a big difference.

Ideally if you are preparing say a simple tomato sauce for pasta based on garlic , olive oil , tomatoes , sea salt, black pepper and fresh basil and you can get some fresh ripe San Marzano plum tomatoes it's very difficult to fail.

However the best tomatoes are seasonal (May to September) and the rest of the year most of us that do not live in Mediterranean climes have to make do with tins or jars of tomatoes.

Unfortunately on the whole supermarkets in the UK apart from rarely stocking any edible fresh tomatoes also have poor quality tinned ones either from well known brands or own label. These tend to be both pasteurised and acidic .

If you live in the UK and get get your hands on Annalisa or San Remo brands you will not be disappointed. They also have excellent tinned cherry tomatoes and are available from good Italian Delis.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Diary from Mosul by Patrick Cockburn

A brilliant piece on what is going on in Norhtern Iraq in the context of "post war" Iraq.

(click on the title to read the piece from the Lndon Review of Books)

A transcript of Frank Lampard's speech to the Footballer of the Year Awards dinner on May 18 2005.

A moving and humble speech by the Mighty Blues best player in their historic Championship winning sason.

(click on the title to read the transcript)

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Chris Anderson's Long Tail

Chris Anderson editor in chief of Wired wrote a seminal article entitled the Long Tail in October 2004 about how the mass market is turning into a million niches.

The basic ideas from the article are being expanded into a book due for publication early next year (2006)

Click on the title of this post for a link to his blog where you can find the original article and I guess what can be called work in progress for his book.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Chelsea: We are the Champions by Mark Radcliffe

An excellent well balanced view on the Mighty Blues written by a fan.

(click on the title)

Traditional Advertising : Is the writing on the wall ?

What is evident in the 21st Century is that certain big changes in consumer behaviour facilitated by access to information/knowledge and technology are now visible. Perhaps one of the most relevant is that mass marketers faced with fast changing technologies and attitudes are being forced to abandon the traditional and comfortable push model in favour of a consumer – controlled pull model, in effect moving from intrusion to invitation.

Has Trevor Beattie considered by many to be the greatest Creative working London seen the writing on the wall ?

The converging of Marketing Services with Entertainment/Content or Commerce and Content is well established and documented recntly by Scott Donaton.

“Content creators and brand marketers will have to choose partners and projects carefully. Integration will have to be subtle and seamless, and appear natural to the audience. Those integration efforts that are forced will stand out like sore thumbs and be rejected. Those that work will begin with the consumer in mind and with the goal of creating compelling content, but will still manage to meet the needs of both the advertiser and the creators of content. “1

1.Madison & Vine: Why the Entertainment and Advertising Industries Must Converge to Survive. Scott Donaton. McGraw Hill, NY, NY, 2004 p 182.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A comment on The Best 50 Restaurants in the World by Restaurant Magazine

I read the list of the world’s best fifty restaurants with great interest.

Of course by definition the list will be an aggregation of opinions.
Nevertheless it is hard to believe that based on any reasonable criteria Britain has achieved the highest number of entries in the top fifty (14) followed by the U.S.A. (10).
Britain is therefore better than France, Italy, Spain and Belgium!
Certainly the quality of food in Britain at all levels has improved over the last eight to ten years.

Most gastronomes would include the likes of The Fat Duck, El Bulli, Pierre Gagnaire, Restaurant Alain Ducasse,
Troisgros, L’Auberge de L’ill, French Laundry, Charlie Trotter and maybe Gordon Ramsey in their top 20.

The inclusion of The Ivy and The Wolseley in a top fifty is totally ludicrous as are The Waterside Inn, and Le Gavroche. Are the latter pair better in any respect than say L’Ambroiserie or Grand Vefour in Paris?

Is St John, tenth best restaurant in the world? 40 places higher than say La Tupina in Bordeaux?

London’s Nobu together with Hakassan are in the top 50, neo Japanese and Chinese respectively. Surely Tokyo, Hong Kong,Shanghai and Singapore have the odd hostelry deserving inclusion.

One can only conclude that the Restaurant Public Relations companies have been working overtime and the composition of the esteemed panel for Restaurant Magazine was made up of people who reside in the UK or the U.S.A.

Finding a good curry in London

This is almost as difficult as finding a good couscous in Paris.

The vast majority of restaurants serving food from the Indian sub continent are really poor and use the heavy spicing to hide poor ingredients. Furthermore following the pattern of immigration the style of the cooking seems to be predominately Bengali.

Over the last few years some new establishments have opened and have tried to "refine" the cuisines by providing better ingredients and decor. Some of these restaurants have even attained a Michelin star.

On the whole my feeling is that somehow these newer restaurants produce cooking that is far too westernised and even sanitised.

There are a few exceptions here in London but I will not mention names at this juncture.

My criticism of Indo- Pakistani food can equally be applied to Italian and Greek, these will be treated in future posts.