A variety of news, creations and tales from the staff of Missenden Abbey, a 12th Century venue set in the heart of the Chilterns offering exceptional conference facilities, wedding services and social events.

News from the Kitchen!

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Hello everyone, Bart here; this time from outside of the Abbey in London Excel; the home of the best Food and Drink Expos in UK. The International Food and Drink Exhibition (IFE) is a show that I have always wanted to visit, and this year I was fortunate enough to attend it and I was blown away! The Expo invited exhibitors from 45 different counties, bringing the best of the best suppliers and retailers from almost every continent, showcasing their best products.

The IFE Show is organised every two years, alternating between Hotel Olympia and London Excel, and I must say that now I have visited both, the IFE: London Excel, is by far the best show from the quality of the produce to the variety of beverages on display. The IFE was open to the public, meaning everybody could experience the unique goods and talk to exhibitors from all over the world, which was fantastic in my opinion because where else could you taste all the best produce from all over the globe, under one roof?

We arrived in London Excel at 10am and as soon as we entered the expo, we were amazed by the sheer size and how large the event really was! We decided to start our experience in the British section, where retailers from England, Wales and Scotland brought their outstanding produce, ranging from the best potatoes products (mainly thousands of varieties of crisps), delicious chutneys, jams, and relishes as well as cheeses and honeys. We got to try some of the most tastiest chocolate brownies and muffins and discovered succulent sausages as well as different varieties of sea weeds (some in the form of crisps and snacks, which I thought was a refreshing idea!) and of course plenty more.We wanted to take the time to speak with farmers and fishmongers about their products and how they enjoy coming to London to showcase their best food. We found that many of the suppliers we spoke with are only just entering the market and what better way is there to get your name out into the industry than at a show like this?

We decided to move onto some of the more exotic sections to visit retailers from other countries. Our next stop was the Japanese zone, where we spoke to very hospitable and widely acknowledged
 Japanese  representatives from, I believe, Kyoto. When we were approaching one of the Japanese stalls, the Chef was in the middle of preparing some sort of Japanese stew with noodles, potatoes, vegetables and thinly sliced beef, was smiling at us from quite a while away, which made us want to find out what was going on. He explained the way that the Japanese cook their stews and what sauces are the best from Japan. We got to taste some extraordinary marinades and sauces starting with Yuzu (a citrus dressing made from Yuzu juice, orange juice, lemon juice and rice vinegar), moving on to some very tasty Soy sauces, Tamari sauce (gluten free soy sauce), Mirin (a type of rice wine similar to sake) and of course some cooking sakes and rice vinegars.

Our next stop was filled with a selection of the best Mexican goods, and once again, we were amazed by the quality and unique flavours on offer. We sampled some fine vanilla liquids, pastes and marinades, not to mention the gorgeous cocoa and cocoas snacks. Next to the Mexican section we were invited to taste some Brazilian sweet sauces that complimented different palates, such as a guava sauce (fruity and smooth), acai sauce (amazingly sweet and pleasant) as well as coffee and chocolate sauce (sharp and sweet). We then moved on to the Italian department, and right away all you could see were tons of colourful olives (both marinated and dry), a variety of pestos, marinated peppers, garlic, sun dried tomatoes and endless tables of hams and sausages which were all, as expected, absolutely delicious!

So what was next? Well, we almost had no choice but to go and have something to drink after trying combinations of different flavours from around the world, so we stopped at the Oriental Tea stand. We were offered some very unusual tea made from flowers which was quite honestly the most pungent and flavoursome tea that I had ever experienced! We also tried some delicious coconut waters, and fresh fruit juices, and to finish our drinking experience, we had to try some hot chocolate from Colombia, which was unlike anything else.

Unfortunately, time was not on our side, and due to enjoying the IFE experience so much, time disappeared just like our lunch break! We only had one hour left but had only covered 30% of what was to be explored. So taking the crunching time limit, we decided to make our last stop at Falksalt, a company producing the best crystal flakes of sea salts from Cyprus. The choice of sea salt they had to offer was something completely new to my palate. We tried some Citron crystal flakes, wild mushroom sea salt, chipotle, chilli, rosemary, garlic and my favourite of all, once smoked sea salt crystal flakes. I was actually in the middle of eating some lovely vanilla and cherry ice cream from a previous visit at an organic ice cream stall, which I was relieved to have with me to balance out the salty sensation in my mouth, and in that moment, I realised that ice cream and different types of sea salt flakes, work perfectly together! I can imagine what you  might be thinking... ice cream and sea salt? No thank you! But please one day, if you're feeling brave, buy some of your favourite ice cream and some fine sea salt flakes (try different types like citron or smoked) and experiment with mixing the flavours. The sensation is like nothing else and i'm sure you will absolutely love it and will want to share the experience with your friends. You can then have a lot of fun experimenting with different combinations of  different salts and ice creams. Something different to do, right?

To summarise my overall experience at the IFE show, I must say that as a chef and food lover, it doesn't get any better than being able to visit an expo like that with such variety, and I am forever grateful for an opportunity to share this story with you and hopefully inspire many people to visit places like this or even to come the Abbey one day, where I will be striving to inject some of the ideas and flavours into my cooking after being so inspired Perhaps after reading this and looking through the photos, you might find some of the produce in your local market or maybe in an artisan shop in your town or village.

I cannot wait for my next journey to London next month for another tantalizing experience, this time completely dedicated to organic, 'free from' and healthy foods from around the world and to once again share my experience with you and one day if you visit Missenden Abbey, you will notice the inspired combinations and creations yourself.

Until next time!

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