Thursday, 7 February 2013

John Torode and Neil McGuigan

Last week I caught up with gregarious Antipodean duo John Torode, co-presenter of MasterChef and owner of Smiths of Smithfield, and Neil McGuigan of McGuigan Wines about their new food and wine partnership, food and wine trends for 2013, their ultimate food and wine matches, and Torode's YouTube hit, Buttery Biscuit Base

Monday, 4 February 2013

Disney’s $10,000-a-year private members club

Mickey has a mischievous side. It emerged last week that in addition to big dippers and whizzing tea cups, Disney boasts a private members club inside its California theme park with annual fees costing US$10,000 a year. With an 800-strong waiting list, Club 33 in New Orleans Square, named after its address on 33 Royal Street, is the only place in Disneyland where you can buy a cocktail.

The name also supposedly honors the 33 original corporate sponsors at Disneyland in 1967 when the club opened, including Kodak, Coca-Cola and Goodyear. Among its previous patrons are Hollywood actors Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks, singer Elton John, songstress Christina Aguilera, and the late “King of Pop”, Michael Jackson.

The entrance to Club 33
Inspired by the VIP lounges on offer at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Club 33 opened in May 1967. Good old Walt wanted a place to entertain visiting dignitaries in a quiet environment away from the prying eyes of Daffy Duck and Goofy, though he died five months before Club 33 opened its doors. Among the Champagnes on sale in the restaurant are Moët & Chandon, Dom Pérignon, Perrier-Jouët and Laurent-Perrier

As for the whites, Club 33 leans towards Californian wines, such as Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc, Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc and Far Niente Chardonnay, but also sells Dr. Loosen Riesling from the Mosel and Trimbach Gewurztraminer from Alsace. The reds also have a US focus, an include Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, Duckhorn Merlot, Grgich Hills Zinfandel and Saintsbury Pinot Noir.

Mickey Mouse dessert

To pair with the wines are dishes like California corn bisque, seared scallop and king crab soubise, American Kobe carpaccio and a trio of artisan caviar. Last year, to mark the Club's 45th anniversary, the membership list was opened up, having been closed for a decade. It costs $25,000 to join with an additional fee of $10,000 a year.

Members have access to two chandelier-filled dining areas, a bar, and the 1901 lounge decked out with antique furniture sourced by Walt in New Orleans. Marked only by a small plaque bearing the number 33, guests are taken up to Club 33 via an old-fashioned glass elevator. 

Friday, 1 February 2013

Skinny cocktails to be big in 2013

Skinny cocktails are set to trend in London bars this year, according to one of the capital’s leading mixologists, Joe McCanta, brand ambassador for Grey Goose vodka. McCanta has developed a range of skinny cocktails in response to huge demand for the “Skinny Bitch” in London, a mix of vodka, lime and soda.

“By ‘skinny’ I mean the low calorie. A 35ml measure of vodka has around 50-65 calories, while a brown spirit can be well over 100 calories for the same measure,” McCanta told the spirits business, adding, “Vodka is the skinniest spirit out there in terms of calories. Among the new range, which will be on sale at the Library Bar at Electric House, are a skinny take on the Grey Goose Le Fizz, a mix of vodka, lime and soda and elderflower liqueur, and the Vohito – a vodka Mojito featuring Grey Goose Le Citron, agave syrup and mint.

Mixologist Joe McCanta
McCanta advises those in search of a skinny serve to steer clear of Tequilas made with corn syrup, Bourbons that add caramel flavouring, and cocktails like the coconut-laden Piña Colada and creamy White Russian. Instead, he recommends using spices like ginger and cardamom: “Spices have loads of flavour and virtually no calories, so you get the biggest bang for the least amount of buck,” he said.

He also advises using a low calorie soda water like Schwepps Slimline Tonic with zero added sugar and just three calories a bottle. In terms of 2013 cocktail trends, McCanta predicts a place in the spotlight for the humble garnish as a bartender’s signature. “The Nightjar carves birds into their lemon peel garnishes and Ago Perrone of The Connaught crafts an “A” into slices of orange to garnish his drinks. It’s like the mark of Zoro – a chance for bartenders to put their stamp on a cocktail,” says McCanta.

He believes unusual ingredients, like Asian citrus fruit yuzu, Marmite and bacon will be used more frequently in cocktails. He also thinks there will be a surge of barrel-aged spirits in London bars, with venues offering limited released from micro distilleries. “A few years ago New York was leading the world in terms of cocktail trends, now London has definitely overtaken it,” LA-born McCanta admitted.