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All Posts By FEAST Editorial Team

Marks & Spencer Comes Out Top In Quality Food Awards

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Marks & Spencer triumphed at last night’s Quality Food Awards ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House hotel walking home with the prestigious Retailer of the Year award, writes Richard Siddle. But it was also a night to remember for Aldi as it picked up a host of food Q awards and was named Drink Retailer of the Year.

Once again the annual Q Awards brought the best food and drink talent across the UK grocery retail sector to London’s Park Lane to honour and reward their efforts in what has been another intensely competitive year to win the hearts – and mouths – of the great British public.

There was also strong performances from Tesco, Asda and the Co-operative picking up Q awards across a number of categories with Lidl also amongst the winners.

But it was Marks & Spencer that won the overall Retailer of the Year award that recognises the stand out performer based across all food categories using a carefully weighted scoring system. It was the unanimous choice of the Gold Q judges.

Other key Gold Q awards, chosen as the best of the best in their respective categories, included the top food award of the night, the highly acclaimed Gold Q, chosen from all the winners across every food category. This again went to Marks & Spencer for its Black Cod product that the judges thought gave its customers the chance to cook a product they can normally only get in high end restaurants.

Highly Commended in the overall Gold Q category were Manor Farm Dairy Lemon Curd Bio Live Yogurt and Marks & Spencer Somerset Butter.

Helen Lyons, head of the Q awards and group publisher of Metropolis Business Media opened the night’s ceremony. She said: “2015 was yet another record breaking year in terms of both the quality and quantity of the entries that were submitted for our panel of almost 200 expert food judges to taste and scrutinize over four weeks of judging a the University of West London in Ealing.”

The night was hosted by chef and Channel 4 presenter, Simon Rimmer and food and Q Awards consultant, Will Torrent. The team of judges were presided over by panel chairs, food consultant, Simon Wright, and industry expert, Jane Milton.

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It’s Not Just The Bond Factor Why British Drinkers Are Turning More To Cocktails

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It’s not just James Bond with his “shaken not stirred” Martinis who always orders a cocktail when its his turn at the bar, but more British drinkers are willing to turn to the cocktail list with up to half of all on-trade outlets expected to offer their own range by 2020, writes Richard Siddle.

That is a 50% increase on the current 25% of outlets that offer cocktails, according to latest research released by Finest Call, the premium cocktail mixes company, and its UK distributor, Cellar Trends.

They see the demand for cocktails increasing so much over the next five years that the cocktail market will account for 10% of all spirit sales compared to 6% now.

That rise will be driven not only by an increasing number of bars turning to cocktails, but particularly hotels and restaurants seeing cocktails as offering their guests something new, different and a sense of occasion and theatre during their stay.

The main cocktail trends continue to be set in the high end, prestigious bars of London, but there is also increasing influence of bars around the country, particularly in Edinburgh, Manchester and Leeds, said Katy Carter, Cellar Trends’ research and insights manager.

Those trends, though, do trickle down in some way to the mainstream on-trade, stressed Carter.

The key to customer satisfaction when it comes to cocktails is consistency. Up to 87% of drinkers said it was the most important consideration when deciding whether to order a cocktail, said Cellar Trends. Can this bar or restaurant deliver the kind of cocktail experience I am used to?

It is why so many bars, restaurants and on-trade outlets are turning to pre-made cocktails and mixes to ensure it can deliver a consistent, premium serve, added Carter.

What determines which cocktail a consumer will buy is driven by the following factors in descending order: flavour, taste, base spirit, quality and range of ingredients and recommendations from a bar tender.

Expectations for the quality of cocktails will only increase as bars and consumers alike turn to more adventurous ingredients, particularly those with added health benefits, and think up more imaginative glasses and vessels in which to serve them, said Katie Warren, group marketing manager for Cellar Trends.

This will also be helped by more drinkers willing to try and serve more imaginative cocktails at home the more confident and educated they become about cocktails from their experiences in the on-trade

Currently a quarter of people regularly drink cocktails at home and Cellar Trends expects that figure to rise as people see it less of a special occasion (currently 78%) and think of more occasions where cocktails can be served like when entertaining friends and family (52%) or on a Friday or Saturday night (35%).

The Cellar Trends/Finest Call report highlights what it sees as 11 key trends that will drive the cocktail sector in 2016:

1  Back to basics: classic cocktails with a twist and more adventurous ingredients

2  Molecular mixology: some of the gels, foams, powders, atomisers and smoked cocktails seen in top bars will move in to the mainstream

3  Regional inspired cocktails: expect to see cocktail lists with specialist drinks and spirits from Japan, Taiwan, India, the Caribbean and more British classics

4  Unique spirits: the wider use of Pisco, Cachaca, Mezcal and digestives such as Amaros and bitters

5  Unique ingredients: fresh fruits will be joined by more vegetables, shrubs, dried and smoked fruit which is particularly the case in non-alcoholic drinks

6  Low calorie cocktails: where the focus in on refreshment, particularly on-trend in America with up to a quarter of drinkers saying they would like to see more low-calorie options (CGA data)

7  Apertif based cocktails: where there is much more heavier spirit based drink with less fruit and more straight spirit cocktails

8  Disco cocktails: a return to classics like Pina Colada but made to the highest quality

9  Homemade ingredients: we will see more gin infusions, barrel ageing, purees

10 Serving vessels: a key growth area where the glassware, and vessel the cocktail is served in will be the main feature of the drink

11  Rise of premixed cocktails and cocktail solutions for busy on-trade outlets.

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Top Tips To Reduce Acrylamide In Your Cooking

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Acrylamide is a chemical produced naturally when starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures, and can therefore most commonly be found in fried foods such as chips.  In the EU, Acrylamide is categorised as carcinogenic. While it is impossible to make any definitive conclusions about cancer risk given the uncertainties in exposure, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends that such chemicals be as low as reasonably practicable.

The BHA supports businesses to continue to proactively and voluntarily put simple measures in place to minimise the amount of acrylamide in food.

Here are some top tips to consider;

  • Cook foods to light rather than dark colours;
  • Fry foods at lower temperatures;
  • Decrease the cooking time when possible;
  • Blanch potatoes before frying them;
  • Avoid overheating oils and fats;
  • Frequently change oils and fats.
  • Don’t store potatoes in the fridge;
  • Avoid bruised potatoes.

In a recent consultation, the EU Commission proposed four options for addressing acrylamide in the food industry.  Only two of the 4 options proposed by the EU were feasible, one of which (legislation requiring Maximum Admissible Concentrations) would have proved extremely expensive for the industry. As such, the BHA advocated the preference of Option 2, the HACCP based approach, as the most practical method for controlling acrylamide in foods. This option would allow businesses to make continual improvements through their food safety management system. The BHA has communicated our preference and reasoning to the Food Standards Agency to form part of the UK’s response to the EU and will continue to update the BHA membership on any EU developments.

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Are You Hardwired To Enjoy High-Calorie Foods?

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For the first time, researchers have identified two genetic variants that interact to alter the brain responses to high-calorie foods, a tie that could aid in the development of targeted treatments for obesity and overweight.

Researchers at Imperial College London led by Tony Goldstone, MD, PhD, of Consultant Endocrinologist, found that two gene variants — FTO and DRD2 — influenced activity in the brain reward system when looking at pictures of high-calorie foods. The findings will be presented during an oral presentation on Thursday, Nov. 5, at The Obesity Society Annual Meeting at ObesityWeekSM 2015 in Los Angeles, CA.

What does this mean for people with obesity?

“It means they may experience more cravings than the average person when presented with high-calorie foods — that is those high in fat and/or sugar — leading them to eat more of these foods,” said Dr. Goldstone.

To conduct their study, researchers evaluated how two genetic variants near genes called FTO and DRD2 alter brain response in participants who were asked to look at pictures of either high-calorie or low-calorie foods and rate how appealing they found the pictures. This was done using a brain scanning technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). All cohort participants who had an fMRI scan and DNA taken were included in the study. Those participants with a variant near the FTO gene, which predisposes a person to obesity, had greater activation when looking at high-calorie foods in a part of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex. They also found these foods more appealing, which was not seen for low-calorie foods.

“Interestingly, for the first time we also found that the activation in a part of the brain called the striatum was increased when those with the variant in FTO looked at high-calorie foods, but this depended on which variant of the other gene DRD2 they possessed. The DRD2 variant alters how the dopamine system works in the brain,” continued Dr. Goldstone.

These results suggest that part of the reason people with the FTO variant are more likely to have obesity may be because dopamine signals in their brain cause them to feel more reward and craving when presented with high-calorie foods.

“It is possible that people with these particular genetic variants may respond differently to certain treatments for obesity,” said Dr. Goldstone.

Possible treatments could include those that change how the brain processes high-calorie foods and how much people like high-calorie foods, and especially those that affect dopamine systems in the brain. This might include hormones from the gut that can act on dopamine brain cells, drugs that alter the way in which dopamine works in the brain, and even specific types of gut surgery for obesity.

“These findings help us better understand the biological basis of behaviors that may predispose some people to overeating high-calorie foods, and hence obesity,” said TOS Fellow Leah Whigham, PhD, FTOS, Executive Director of Paso Del Norte Institute for Healthy Living. “It could help us better target treatments for obesity so particular people get the most effective treatment, as individualized approaches to obesity are necessary.”

 

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Chino Latino Spices Up Its Menu This Christmas

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This Christmas season, Chino Latino London will be offering three set menus based on the festive theme of the three wise kings of antiquity. Running from 25 November, the Gold, Frankincense or Myrrh menus include a range of classic Chino Latino dishes, including Chilean sea bass with crayfish gyoza, black cod and sirloin steak on hot rocks.

The restaurant will be opening its doors on Christmas Day for both lunch and dinner from 12-2pm, and 6-10pm, providing a Chino twist on the much loved ‘Roast with all the trimmings’, as well as some classic favourites for the less traditional.

Offering panoramic views of the River Thames, the Chino Latino Champagne Buffet will provide a New Year’s feast like no other. Attendees can listen to a live Jazz band and DJ whilst they toast the New Year in style. Those who prefer more familiar surroundings can enjoy a taster menu in the restaurant, featuring some of Chino Latinos most popular dishes, alongside some brand new flavours to bring in the New Year.

Chino Latino Leeds will be going all out with its New Years Eve Menu this year with a spectacular eight-course tasting menu. Diners will enjoy Champagne and canapés on arrival, as well as live entertainment provided until the early hours.

In Nottingham this Christmas, Chino Latino Nottingham will once again be tempting diners away from the traditional turkey and stuffing with the Gold, Frankincense or Myrrh set menus which will be available for those booking Christmas parties from the 25 November.

For a New Years Eve with a difference, Chino Latino Nottingham will be doing away with the traditional set menu format and will be offering all guests the a la carte and tasting menus, providing all the popular Chino favourites that draw upon the delicate flavours of China, South East Asia and modern Japan.

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Film Festival You Can Really Get Your Teeth Into Is Back

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Werewolves, psychotic grandmothers and Lovecraftian monster mammaries; it could only be Horror-On-Sea 2016!

 

The hit festival is back for its fourth successive year and promises gore geeks and fright freaks not just one but SIX nights to dis-member.

 

Starting on Friday 22nd January 2016 at the Park Inn by Radisson Palace Hotel on Southend seafront, Horror-on-Sea will screen nearly sixty movies across two weekends.

 

Since its inception by The White Bus in 2013, the annual fright fest has rapidly established itself as the home of quality independent horror and now attracts submissions from film-makers across the globe. Next year’s event features new work from Argentina, Canada, Brazil and Australia with the main bulk of movies still coming from America, Britain and Spain.

 

A wide variety of genres and characters populate the packed programme, from vengeful models, zombies and werewolves to a killer clown, Sasquatch and even a cursed video cassette player.

 

Members of the cast and crew from many films will join audience members to talk about their work, whilst award-winning writer and director Pat Higgins will host a masterclass, on the theme ‘Watch Horror. Write Horror. Make Horror!It promises to be a typically fast-paced romp through the genre; filled with advice on writing your first masterpiece, anecdotes from the front-lines of filmmaking and the chance to see footage and clips that nobody’s ever seen before.  Higgins latest feature, The House on the Witchpit, will also receive its world premiere on Saturday 23rd January.

 

Paul Cotgrove, the brrraaaiiins behind Horror-on-Sea says “Horror-on-Sea is becoming an important date in the calendar – not just for fans of the genre but also budding writers, producers, directors and actors. To have something that is not only brilliant fun and great value entertainment but also inspiring and educational is very satisfying. The hardest thing has been whittling down the mammoth amount of submissions we’ve had – we’ve got a huge variety of international movies being shown, making it the crème de la crème, or should that be scream de la scream, of the world’s best horror flicks.”

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London Hotels Slashing Bedroom Prices By 50% On Black Friday 2015

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On 27 November 2015, Lancaster London and K West Hotel & Spa will participate in the retail phenomenon that is Black Friday.

Guests will have a head start in the retail race as both hotels are close to iconic shopping destinations.

K West Hotel is stones-throw from Westfield’s Shopping Centre – one of the largest shopping destinations in Europe; while Lancaster London is a short walk to Oxford Street.

The sister hotels will be slashing their prices by 50% in their first ever Black Friday deal for one day only. This fantastic offer will be available for 24 hours, starting at 9am.

The Black Friday Flash Sale offer, only bookable online, is applicable for stays from 20 December 2015 to 31 March 2016.  It is not available for group bookings and rates are non-commissionable. The offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or package.

Formerly the BBC Building Kensington House in the 60s, an endless list of Rock ‘N’ Roll royalty has stayed, played and misbehaved at K West  – Bob Marley and the Wailers, Bowie, The Kinks and Roxy Music to name a few.

Lancaster London, an iconic mid-century hotel, offers world-class hospitality in an unbeatable Hyde Park location.  Proudly distinct, this London landmark commands unrivalled panoramic views across the capital’s skyline.

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Michel Roux Jr Announces New Dining Experiences At Le Gavroche

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Michel Roux Jr and the team at Le Gavroche are delighted to be able to offer a brand new dining experience at the world renowned Le Gavroche. As of January 2016, the restaurant will operate in an entirely different way on Mondays – closed to the general public but available for private and corporate hire, as well as making way for a series of unique pop-up events.

“We’re very excited about the new opportunities this will bring to the restaurant,” says Chef Patron, Michel Roux Jr. “For many years, we’ve been trading six days a week, and whilst the traditional Le Gavroche experience will still be available for five of those days, having the restaurant closed on a Monday to the general public means that new Le Gavroche experiences can be offered in within the restaurant.”

These new opportunities will include a series of exciting pop-ups at the restaurant as part of the renowned Roux experience.  Michel and his daughter Emily will be launching the series on 1st February with “The Next Generation”, an intimate event that will see the father and daughter duo collaborating at the restaurant for the very first time.

Guests can also expect to experience offerings from previous Roux scholars as well as bespoke wine events and tutored tastings from the restaurant’s expert Head Sommelier, David Galetti, and his team.

The restaurant will also be available for exclusive private hire on Monday – offering an individually tailored, catered Roux service for any corporate or personal celebration.

With the importance of work-life balance and staff welfare being central to the success Michel Roux Jr has had at Le Gavroche, the new way of operating will also allow for increased time away from the restaurant for the Le Gavroche team.

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‘Psychic Robot’ Will Know What You Really Meant To Do

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Bio-engineers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have developed a mathematical algorithm that can “see” your intention while performing an ordinary action like reaching for a cup or driving straight up a road – even if the action is interrupted.

“Say you’re reaching for a piece of paper and your hand is bumped mid-reach — your eyes take time to adjust; your nerves take time to process what has happened; your brain takes time to process what has happened and even more time to get a new signal to your hand,” said Justin Horowitz, UIC graduate student research assistant and first author of the study.

“So, when something unexpected happens, the signal going to your hand can’t change for at least a tenth of a second — if it changes at all,” Horowitz said.

In a first test of this concept, Horowitz employed exactly the scenario he described — he analyzed the movement of research subjects as they reached for an object on a virtual desk, but had their hand pushed in the wrong direction. He was able to develop an advanced mathematical algorithm that analyzed the action and estimated the subject’s intent, even when there was a disturbance and no follow through.

The algorithm can predict the way you wanted to move, according to your intention, Horowitz said. The car’s artificial intelligence would use the algorithm to bring the car’s course more in line with what the driver wanted to do.

“If we hit a patch of ice and the car starts swerving, we want the car to know where we meant to go,” he said. “It needs to correct the car’s course not to where I am now pointed, but [to] where I meant to go.”

“The computer has extra sensors and processes information so much faster than I can react,” Horowitz said. “If the car can tell where I mean to go, it can drive itself there. But it has to know which movements of the wheel represent my intention, and which are responses to an environment that’s already changed.”

For a stroke patient, a “smart” prosthesis must be able to interpret what the person means to do even as the person’s own body corrupts their actions (due to muscle spasms or tremors.) The algorithm may make it possible for a device to discern the person’s intent and help them complete the task smoothly.

“We call it a psychic robot,” Horowitz said. “If you know how someone is moving and what the disturbance is, you can tell the underlying intent — which means we could use this algorithm to design machines that could correct the course of a swerving car or help a stroke patient with spasticity.”

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New Report Outlines £1bn Boost To UK Games Sector

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A new report, commissioned by games trade body Ukie, launches at a high-level Parliament event today. The Blueprint for Growth report sets out a series of recommendations for the decision makers in UK parliament that will see the industry grow by an estimated £1bn by 2020.

The independent report, conducted by Olsberg SPI on behalf on the trade body, is based on a series of consultations with over 40 stakeholders from across industry and government. It also includes a literature review of over 60 reports, evaluations, and policy proposal documents, relating to both the UK and the global games industry.

The Blueprint tracks the evolution of the UK games industry since the 1980s, demonstrating the fast-evolving business models unique to the sector, and the perfect blend of British creativity and innovations in technology used by games businesses that have helped the UK become one of the most successful games exporters in the world.

The report also identifies a number of market failures that the sector faces which threaten the global competitiveness and standing of the UK games industry, as well as its potential to spill over and transfer knowledge, skills and innovation to other creative digital sectors. It follows with a series of recommendations that will collectively lead to the UK games sector contributing another £1bn annually to the British economy.

These recommendations include:

1. UK and EU funding to fully and equitably recognise the contribution of games, ensuring effective support alongside other creative industries

2. Support regional growth, FDI and exports across the UK

3. Grow, attract and retain the best talent

4. Create the best tax environment and digital marketplace to do business worldwide

5. Promote games-as-culture and celebrate cutting-edge UK innovation

Each of these key recommendations is cemented with realistic actions that parliament members can take to ensure that the recommendations are satisfied. The fulfilling of these recommendations, the report states, will create more economic return in the games industry and create an environment that allows start-up games businesses to flourish.

The Blueprint for Growth Report will be officially launched at Ukie’s Annual Westminster Reception. The evening reception will be the culmination of the trade body’s first Westminster Video Games Industry Day, where leading names in the UK games industry will visit Parliament for a day of activity designed to showcase successes of the industry, and lobby and educate MPs to the needs of the sector. Minister of State for Culture and Digital Economy Ed Vaizey will deliver a keynote speech at the event to an audience of MPs, Ukie members and key stakeholders.

Other key figures from the report include:

  • 21 million people play games in the UK
  • The UK’s games market is currently worth £3.944bn
  • 44% of UK games players are female; 22% are aged 45-64
  • There are 1,900 games companies in the UK
  • There are twelve established clusters throughout the UK, from Dundee to Leamington Spa to Bristol, and six further areas with critical mass
  • 95% of games companies are SMEs with clear potential for growth

Dr Jo Twist, CEO of Ukie, said “The UK Games industry blends the best of British creativity with leading technology, creating successful games exported around the world. It’s great to see this report unequivocally recognise this and show that games is now one of the UK’s major creative sectors, a source of economic growth and a mainstream part of British culture.

Government already recognises that the games sector can help meet their ambitions for increasing prosperity in the regions and doubling UK exports and the report outlines how this can be achieved. This can only be achieved by working in partnership with industry, looking globally but acting locally to maximise the potential of the UK sector in a digitally connected global marketplace.”

Chris White, MP for Warwick and Leamington, and Chair of APPG for Video Games, said, “The Blueprint for Growth report raises a number of important questions when considering support for the games sector in the UK in the years ahead.  As Chair of the APPG on Video Games, and the MP for an area with a rapidly expanding games industry, I know just how important it is to support the sector.

I hope that the Government will take note of the findings of the report and that we can all work together to ensure that the UK games industry grows on the world stage, taking as much of the projected 7.9% annual growth rate in global revenues as possible.”

Noirin Carmody, COO and owner of Revolution Software, and Chair of the Ukie Board, said, “This Blueprint for Growth report highlights the fantastic successes of our innovative and fast-moving sector, and outlines how the Government can act to help our industry continue to grow and flourish. The recommended interventions will help the sector grow and create the perfect environment for the UK to become the world’s leading destination for games development.”

Andrew Barnes, Associate Director of Olsberg SPI, said, “This report represents a comprehensive overview of the state of the UK games industry, and highlights the tremendous growth of the sector over the last few years.  In conducting this report, the consultancy Olsberg SPI interviewed stakeholders across industry and the public sector, undertaking an independent evaluation of their perspectives together with researching a broad range of other data. We look forward to seeing where the UK games industry will be by 2020 if the recommendations set out in this report are followed.”

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