This is the first of a two-part round-up of this year’s Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery which took place from July 9-11, 2010 at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford.
The weather was unseasonably warm and I was glad the College Bar — why don’t American colleges have official bars? It’s so civilized — opened at 6PM on Friday evening providing a refreshing Gin and Tonic. Not long after, our first meal began with a glass of German Sekt and some Prosciutto di Parma in the garden as Chef Raymond Blanc announced the winners of this year’s Young Chef’s Grant who got to help prepare Friday evening’s dinner along side Chef Jeremy Lee of London’s Blue Print Cafe. Congratulations to winners Max Barber, Elaine Mahon and Daniel Penn.
To kick off the weekend Mr. Lee conceived a Feast of Cockaigne, the imaginary land of Medieval legend, where there is always plenty of food and drink and no one has to work very hard.
In keeping with the theme most of the courses contained foods which had been preserved. Here’s the menu:
Salt cod, vegetables, and aioli
Almond meringue with berries and whipped cream, sometimes also called Eaton Mess.
The meal was accompanied by the following Spanish red wines:
Ribera del Duero Crianza 2006
Ribera del Duero Reserva 2005
The Chinese are known for their prodigious use of fermentation (thousand year eggs anyone?) and lunch did not disappoint:
Bang Bang Chicken
Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs
Spicy Cucumber Salad
Refreshing Green Soybeans.
Gong Bao Chicken with Peanuts
Bear’s Paw Beancurd
Choy Sam with Fragrant Oil
The wine was a 2008 Riesling Trocken “Kraut wine,” weingut tesch from the Nahe wine region in Germany.
And so it was back to the intellectually stimulating portion of the program. During the afternoon I attended presentations about a fermented bread from Transylvania which is purposely cooked in such a hot oven that the outside layer turns to charcoal; the history of eastern European Jewish pickled foods in Canada; and Ken Albala’s inspiring talk on the “Missing Terroir Factor in Historic Cookery.” His new book is right at the top of my to-buy list.
Part Two of this summary of Oxford 2010 will go up next week. See you then.