The wonders of the worldwide web keep me in touch with serious (and sometime not so serious) commentators on the food and drink scene. Lots of links below to these but also to suppliers of raw materials without which I couldn’t pursue my home kitchen serendipities…
INFLUENCES AND ADVENTURES
Nik’s Season and The Flavor Equation have been key cookbooks during the lockdowns, combining glorious photography, undaunting scientific background and user-friendly recipes. The Californian-based Indian-born cook’s website is the wellspring of his inspiration.
The impressively moustachioed, Tennessee-based Sandor Ellix Katz, ‘Sandorkraut’, for short, is the guru of fermenting. His 2003 tome Wild Fermentation and the more recent Art of Fermentation are classic, DIY bibles for the sourdough, sauerkraut and kimchi generation. He continues to bubble over on his website.
More stateside research tool inspiration from a website that lives up to what it says on the label.
Another American, well this is an American in Paris (without the Gershwin soundtrack). I once met this former chef at Chez Panisse and Zuni in the French capital he has made his home for two decades. I was over for a Michelin chef shindig where I got a selfie with Joel Robuchon. Lebovitz’s wise Francophile blog deserves three stars on its own.
‘Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook’ sums up the ethos of Hank Shaw, a James Beard Award-winning author and chef, the scourge of industrial food production, champion of all things wild.
Another American exile, Alabama-born Marti lives in San Sebastian, perfect base for writing her classic Basque Country, which was invaluable for our culinary pilgrimage there.
From a previous generation, this indefatigable explorer of Spanish cuisine for 50 years introduced the world to El Bulli and me to the delights of Barcelona’s La Boqueria Market one revelatory afternoon. Post-pandemic, he has travelled back to Spain from his New York State bolthole.
From Simon Scharma to Fergus Henderson, this must be the ultimate academic meets culinary heroes event. Held annually, pandemic permitting, at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, it’s fiercely independent and leftfield. I remember attending the 1983 event, theme: Food In Motion: Migration of Foodstuffs and Techniques. I still treasure the great Claudia Roden’s paper on ‘The Spread of Kebabs and Coffee: Two Islamic Movements’ but wonder to this day how I sat through ‘The Cornish Pasty in Northern Michigan’ by William and Yvonne Lockwood. It’s all a little less niche and more social media savvy these days.
If the world already feels your oyster (or your lobster, according to Del Boy) expand your horizons further with this quirky set of foodie travelogues.
If Claudia Roden and Jane Grigson are two national treasures, Fiona Beckett deserves to be, too. Her Saturday Guardian column and numerous book are object lessons in demystifying wine and elevating beer, cider and other drinks to equal objects of interest. Her blog offers more of the same with the bonus of some scrumptious prize competitions. A shout also for her son Will, co-founder of the wonderful Hawksmoor.
This blog is a labour of love for the much-travelled Karen Burns-Booth, who I first encountered in deepest Auvergne at a Michelin three-star entirely given over to mushroom worship. Karen has relocated from South West France to North Wales but her writing remains an informed, eclectic mix.
From Chrissie Walker, another veteran food traveller surviving in a world of Instagram influencers through the quality of her words and accurate information.
A bit random this – quite recipe-based but I like the recipes – from a food-obsessed Dutch glutton currently living in Athens. Hence niche entries such as ‘The Ultimate Naxian Cheese Guide alongside the further-flung ‘Chahan with Pickled Ginger and Pork Belly’.
For 14 years Irish lass in London Niamh Shields has been writing this acclaimed blog featuring well-tested recipes and her food-centric travels (I last ran into her at the Copenhagen Cooking festival). Currently the blog’s focus is promoting – vegans look away now – her new volume, Bacon The Cookbook.
Arguably the sharpest of all the London food bloggers, Chris is not averse to reviewing up here in the Red Wall North.
Guardian Food and Drink and Observer Monthly offer a lot more beyond Slater and Ottolenghi. Notably Nik Sharma (see above) and Meera Sodha, whose everyday recipes I fall back on more than any other cookery scribe’s.
Amanda Wragg and Jill Turton have got the food scene in God’s Own Country covered big time. Featuring all their Yorkshire Post reviews and lots of other independent treats.
Prolific recipe tweakers and creators, supper club hosts and cookbook aficionados, Manchester-based Carl and Stephen are always a fun read.
Caveat: for a decade I have written extensively on travel and drink and reviewed restaurants for the Confidentials (there are sister sites in Liverpool and Leeds). Head honcho Mark ‘Gordo’ Garner is a larger than life figure, as they say, but thanks to his staying power for informed independent online reviews in the North of England this is the only real player.
Delivering all the food and drink news for England’s second city, the site is symbiotically joined to Manchester Food and Drink Festival. In 2021 this is scheduled for September 16-27.
This lively listings website is not just about food, but with the redoubtable Ruth Allan in charge it is perfectly in tune with Manchester’s ever-evolving culinary scene.
Easily my favourite food blog from a Manchester Millennial with an added perspective from Elsa’s Chinese roots. I loved her recent compendium of ’25 East and South East Asian Cooks To Follow’.
I write about drinks and I like to keep in touch with fellow commentators. On wine, spirits, cocktails, cider and beer. Oh, I’ve managed to ditch my dismal local CAMRA mag fetish (honourable exception John Clarke’s Opening Times for South Manchester branch).
A heady read. Do seek out Saddleworth-based Simon’s wry video reviews, too. Like his books and his stewardship of Manchester Wine School, they are an unfrightening introduction to the world of wine. As former co-ordinator of the International Wine Challenge he really knows his stuff.
As I deliver these hyperlinks for the website in my attic office I am staring at a mist-shrouded panorama of Italy’s Montalcino vineyards. The photographer is the same Tim Atkin, Master of Wine as talented with the camera as he is with the tasting glass. Of all the veteran wine reviewers (he is 59) he has adapted best to digital platforms. Check out his podcast interviews with global winemakers.
The print version of this venerable magazine has had a revamp with, it feels, diminishing content but online it remains the authoritative primer for the wine wannabe.
What to say about Pellicle, the young mavericks’ online drinks mag co-founded by Matt Curtis (himself a top photographer)? During the pandemic the prolific freelancer moved from London to Levenshulme just in time to sign off his new book for CAMRA Books, Modern British Beer, due out in August 2021. As for Pellicle, if a podcast interview with Cloudwater’s Paul Jones, a history of independent bottle shops and in-depth perry orchard visits are your bag, subscribe now and help keep this shoestring gem afloat.
My favourite Belgian beer blog is edited by Flanders-based Irishman Brendan Kearney. ‘Smaak‘ is the Flemish word for ‘Taste’, in case you are wondering. The only intoxicant this smartly written and photographed production will hook you on is the world’s most interesting beer culture.
Twelve very readable books in, primarily on beer but with light-hearted chasers of cultural commentary and social history, and now elevated to chair of the British Guild of Beer Writers, the Barnsley boy can finally put to bed a past life in advertising plugging Heineken and Stella. In a brewing world rife with strife (and not just the cold cask versus keg stand-off), Pete is a perfect bloke to have a pint with, preferably in one of the atmospheric boozers lauded in his classic The Pub – A Cultural Institution.
Bristol-based Jessica and Ray have been running this blog since 2007 and its has spawned books including Brew Brittannia, The Strange Rebirth of British Beer. Their writing displays an even-handedness, which I like.
The HQ is in Chicago, the reach global, but this serious commentator on craft beer has a fine writing team in the UK. Lots of issues (and remarkable new beers) for them to focus on.
We are talking truly serious as a group of (mostly) young drinks writers “work towards a safer, healthier and more equitable working environment for those within the drinks and hospitality industry.” Very much of the moment.
Also of the moment, a new generation discovering and promoting the profound delights of artisan cider and perry, home and abroad.
This is my local cheesemonger/deli, a 10 minute walk from our house and I feel blessed. Jay Hickson’s speciality is Alpine cheeses and they feature strongly in a line-up also starring the UK cheeses that have established us as a world leader. All can be bought online; a 24 hour delivery service uses recyclable insulated packaging made from wool.
I’ve been buying cheese from Andy and Kathy Swinsoe since they first set up shop near Settle in 2012. Trained as affineurs in France, they have been dynamic champions of UK artisan cheese, especially since 2017 when they expanded to a former falconry centre further up the A65, adding a cafe and museum to their offering. We urge you to go visit, maybe for one of their cheesemaking courses. Hands on there allows you to taste endless samples; during lockdown their mail order business has been essential. Cheesemonger of the Year in the World Cheese Awards.
My go-to online meat provider during lockdowns, this Ripon-based champion of heritage rare breeds has got me hooked on French-trimmed rack of Swaledale mutton. Framion is also a rare online source of Loose Birds organic chickens from Harome, arguably the finest tasting poultry in the land.
Heritage or organic boxes from the Isle of Wight have been a fortnightly (in season) fixture. What proper tomatoes should taste like.
Fennel pollen, Les Baux extra virgin olive oil Type 00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes, Aleppo or Espelette pepper and many other far more esoteric food ingredients (and gadgets). It’s an education just searching this eclectic site.
Even more eclectic and specialist stuff from a select band of artisan producers.
Basco Fine Foods of Wetherby and Lunya of Liverpool offer comprehensive selections of Spanish foodstuffs – serrano and iberico ham, chorizo, morcilla, smoked paprika, tapas and paella Ingredients, Spanish olive oil, anchovies and bonito tuna.
This Wimbledon deli run by Sardinian exiles supplies Italian ingredients to top-end restaurants and to me online. Speciality? Bottarga, umami-rich, salted, cured grey mullet roe.
An equally intense English fish experience from a specialist smokehouse on the Somerset Level. Eel became another lockdown delivery delight. Providing tacos ecstasy at home with Amarillo chilli sauce from my local Latin America-influenced cantina Yakumama.
I’m within reach of as much coriander and dal varieties as I need but for specialist items such as South Indian Sona Masoori rice or the finest seasonal Alphonso mangoes check out the UK’s largest Asian online store.
Authentic Mexican food became a mini-obsession during lockdown as I assembled 20 varieties of dried chillis, bought my own post-box red tortilla press and had Yucatan jungle dreams. To sate my cravings I purchaed even further specialities from this online business in tropical Luton.
Shop local they say and that has become second nature during recent stressful times when I did my best to avoid supermarkets. The Calder Valley, where I live, is rich in food suppliers, none more impressive than our friends Sarah-Jane and Nat at Porcus. From their own free-range pigs they craft exceptional sausages and charcuterie, all available online.
More charcuterie, a recent discovery from a Liverpudlian who learned his skills in South West France and is now in partnership with Edge and Son’s Butcher on the Wirral. Using high welfare free range, slow-grown, local, rare breed, mature pigs, Andrew Holding pursues an adventurous nose to tail ethic.