Ah yes, the eagle-eyed among you will observe that this week’s Sunday installment is suffering from two day delay syndrome. What can I say except that a week spent in the U.K. will do that to a body, and I did, as you will see, have some rather important foods to attend to while I was there.
Thank you for the loan of your taste buds.
That was how Bob Farrand opened proceedings at the final day of judging for this year’s Great Taste Awards, which took place at the HQ of the Guild of Fine Food in Dorset last Wednesday.
My guess is that everyone there had been more than happy to volunteer the use of their taste buds for the day (and a fine collection of taste buds they were, belonging, among others, to buyers from such as Fortnum & Mason and to respected food writers like Joanna Blythman, Charles Campion and Xanthe Clay). And I know that I had be only too delighted (charmed! honoured!) to pack my palate and get on a plane in order to participate, and all this despite there being no guarantee that potatoes would feature (and sure enough, despite their undoubted potential to taste great, spuds didn’t feature on this trip, except on the fringes and in conversation, with at least one exchange including the suggestion that a post about the decidedly dangerous weapon that is the potato cannon might provide appropriate grist to my mill – but I digress).
Lights, camera, kitchen towels:
Founder Bob Farrand & adjudicator Mike Cook chat before final judging begins, while the Great Taste beavers busy themselves in the kitchen alongside
Well now, this is clearly not so much Spud Sunday as it is Tuber Tuesday. Sorry to keep yiz all waiting but, in my defence, I offer up two words: Electric Picnic.
The mammoth festival of music, comedy, craft and sheer spirit, which made its annual descent onto the midlands village of Stradbally this past weekend, is one which draws you into another world for three days, where nights last forever, days start slowly, and wellies are de rigeur. Spending the weekend as a judge for the food awards at the event – which prides itself (among other things) on bringing a better standard of festival food to the 30,000+ electric picknickers – might just be the jammiest gig in town. Suffice to say that I didn’t need to be asked twice if I wanted the job and, along with the legend that is John McKenna of the Irish Food Guide, we munched and crunched our way through the best of the festival grub and deliberated over who was dishing up the good stuff. Given the quality, range and value that was on offer, it was a tough job. Really. Whether it was the hearty, seafood-filled Rathmullan coddle from Rathmullan House in Donegal or the sausage and egg breakfast baps from Offaly-based Organic Kitchen or the honeycomb ice cream from Featherbed Farm in Wexford or just about anything from the local ladies of the Stradbally Country Market, there was plenty to please the picnic-going tastebuds.
To be fair, it’s not the first time that brioche has been called cake.
That famous quip attributed to the ill-fated Marie Antoinette, “qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” is most often translated to great dramatic effect as “let them eat cake.”
Brioche - is it bread or is it cake?
(image from Flickr member Arnold Inuyaki licensed under Creative Commons)
It seems that the Revenue Commissioners, in what they are calling a ‘clarification’ of the current VAT rules, have decided that brioche might as well be cake, because it will now attract VAT, as cakes do, at 13.5%, whereas previously it would have been classified along with bread, which escapes the VAT net. And it’s not just brioche: other items, such as croissants, bagels and even garlic bread are no longer sufficiently bread-like to qualify for zero VAT status. Really.
This came to my attention as I was leaving the hallowed halls of Trinity College, which had been the venue for the Bord Bia Irish Food & Drink Industry Awards last week. I happened upon Suzanne Campbell, who was discussing the issue and how it would hit small bakery businesses, with William Despard of the Bretzel Bakery (he who had made such an impression at the recent Savour Kilkenny Foodcamp). William was understandably exercised about the VAT hike.