1. The Lucky Duck Does Burgundy

    Some of our food bloggers at  Great British Chefs get invited to taste some wonderful food in wonderful settings.   Chris Osburn in particular is one such blogger who’s eaten great food around the world.  A few weeks ago he was invited to Burgundy to visit wine vineyards and naturally got to eat some amazing food on the way.  Discover more about his trip ….

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    Blog post & photography by Chris Osburn 

    Writing about the yummy things in life, I get a lot of ‘lucky Chris’ this and ‘lucky Chris that’. Maybe. But to quote Ernest Hemingway (somebody who lived a much more interesting life than I probably ever will), ‘You make your own luck’. Whatever the case, I was feeling like an especially lucky duck and like I had apparently been doing something right when I recently got the go ahead to spend a week visiting vineyards and wine makers big and small around Burgundy

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    That go ahead came via the Discover the Origin campaign: an impressive Italo-Franco-Portuguese alliance united to raise awareness about five of Europe’s 1,873 Protected Designation of Origin products: Parma ham, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Port and Douro wines and wines from Burgundy.

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    My trip was an educational and utterly delicious one, and I learned a lot about what makes Bourgogne wines so special. Essentially, in terms of where’s a good place to plant a vineyard, Burgundy is a luck-filled stretch of land yielding some of the world’s most preferred wines. To this day, many – if not most – of the exact same plots marked off by 11th century monks as good, better, best and ‘OMG you have to try this wine!’ (or, regionalvillage, premier cru and grand cru as they are officially classified) continue to yield similar results.

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    It’s all about terroir in Burgundy, or at least that’s what the folks putting the corks in the bottles insist is what makes their grape juice so great. There are even legends of King Charlemagne recognizing how a certain chunk of a certain hill saw the snow melt away a little quicker than other parts of the same hill – and how that might be a smart place to grow some vines. That chunk is Corton-Charlemagne from which only 300,000 highly sought after and usually quite expensive bottles of Grand Cru are still produced each year.

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    To read about terroir is one thing, to experience it firsthand and tasteits harvest in situ is a delicious other. Burgundy is lilting and hilly countryside with villages sprinkled here and there, vineyards spread all over but still more preserved woodland than you might think. The restaurants (oh the restaurants!) are plentiful, down to earth and amazing. Its a strong contender for any foodie’s holiday plans and a wine buffs dream destination.

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    At a “crossroads” of Mediterranean influences to the south, continental influences from the north and to a lesser extent oceanic influences coming from the west and a gigantic mountain range (the Alps) to the east holding it all to together, Burgundy is ideally situated to soak up just the right amount of sunshine and rain at just the right temperatures for the two main varieties of grapes grown there: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Yep, the region is considered by many to be a best of the best for both red and white wines. 

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    Thinking back over some of my attempts to cook Great British Chefs’ recipes, I can see how the right glass of Pinot would have gone down the perfect accompaniment to the Marcus Wareing cheeseburgers I made a few months back. I’m pretty confident as well that I could have picked up the correctly corresponding wine around the corner from my flat (or just about any flat in much of London) for under a tenner. 

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    I’m thinking a burger with Emmental and caramelised onions … a full bodied red but nothing too dear or fancy or aged, just something for (and of) the here and now available at your local. If that sounds more than palatable to you, look for something on the cheap side from Burgundy's Côte de Nuits next time you're shopping for a barbecue and burger friendly quaff.

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    Whet your appetite? A great resource is www.burgundy-wines.fr offering (in English) plenty of helpful and easy to read tips on food and wine pairings, where to go when visiting Burgundy and more in depth information about the region’s famous wines. Who knows you might get lucky and learn something. Quack.

    Blog post & photography by Chris Osburn 

    Where would you most like to visit if you could go on a food tour?  Let us know over on Great British Chefs Facebook page.

  2. These are a Few of My Favourite PDO Things

    Parma ham, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, wines from Burgundy and Douro and a beautiful glass of Port to finish the feast off. These are a few of  Great British Chefs blogger Chris Osburn favourite things.  When he was asked if he would like to attend a ‘Discover the Origin’ luncheon featuring those favourite things, he wiped the drool from his lips and responded ‘yes, please’.   Discover what happened ……

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    Photography & blog post by Chris Osburn

    The Parma ham, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, wines from Burgundy and Douro and Port are a mere five examples of Europe’s 1,873 Protected Designation of Origin products – five PDO products that have been bundled together in a pretty impressive Italo-Franco-Portuguese alliance to raise awareness through a new ‘Discover the Origin’ campaign.

    In case you’re not familiar with it, the EU’s PDO ‘scheme’ is designed to ‘protect the heritage, character and reputation of precious food and drink; ensuring that imitation and often inferior products can’t be reproduced under the same product names, as the PDO status proves authenticity, guarantees origin and production methods’. Okay, totally nutty Brussels bureaucrat speak there, but the concept behind it is important. 

    I mean, wouldn’t you prefer the real deal Parma ham cured with no additives (just salt) and in a traditional manner over one of those off-the-shelf so called prosciutto manufactured in some inhuman meat factory located who knows where? And even if you did just want the cheap slice of inferior ham to get you by when slapping together a budget lunch sarnie, would it really be fair that the non-Parma product shared the same distinct name as that artisanal yummy stuff?

    Parma ham should be from Parma and made to certain specifications. Otherwise, it’s just Parma-like or Parma-style. Same goes for Parmigiano-Reggiano, Burgundy, Douro and Port. Fair enough.

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    I’ve known about the PDO thing for some time. I look for it every once in awhile when shopping. Proper Mozzarella di Bufala Campanais one item which I adore. When I see the PDO logo on a package of mozzarella, I reckon it’s going to be a quality treat. I haven’t been proved wrong yet. And when I have purchased a non-PDO buffalo mozzarella the results have been variable. So when I was asked if I would like to attend a ‘Discover the Origin’ luncheon featuring PDO products, I wiped the drool from my lips and responded ‘yes, please’.

    Appropriately enough, the lunch was held at Rules, London’s oldest restaurant and one known for adhering to tradition. I’m trying not to gloat, but indeed it was a very good lunch. Rabbit salad with parsnips, Parma Ham crisps and hazelnut dressing? Oh yeah. Belted Galloway beef and mushroom steak pie with buttered greens and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese mash potato? Well, kinda stodgy but wow. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheesecake with blackberry compote? Delightful!

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    Hurray for the solids but what about the liquids? Cheer worthy quaffs a la Burgundy and Douro included a sparkling Cremant de Bougogne, NV, Cave de Lugny (Burgundy) to kick the occasion off with satisfyingly crisp bubbles. The rabbit was served with white wine: a glass of Marsannay, 2009, Louis Jadot (Burgundy) and one of Quinta de la Rosa 2010 (Douro). Both minerally, both exquisite. Reds to accompany the steak pie were a dry Pommar 1er Cru, Epenots, Red, 2008, Domaine Parent (Burgundy) and a deep purple and punchy Quinta do Crasto Reserva, 2009 (Douro). A rich and appreciated Fonseca Vintage Port 1985 followed alongside the cheesecake.

    Of the five products under the Discover the Origin banner, I reckon Douro wines are the least recognised here in Britain. Douro wines are made from the same grapes as Port and have experienced a renaissance in recent years. Both of these Portuguese pleasers represent exceptional value for money too, compared to the three other Discover delicacies and generally compared to other European wines.

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    Anyway, you don’t have to be a guest blogger for a foodie website to enjoy a sip of something from Douro or to indulge in the full on Discover the Origin treatment. Discover the Origin reps will be showcasing their products at a number of events around the UK including the following: 

    • Brighton & Hove Food & Drink Festival, 6-7 April

    • London Foodies Festival, 5-7 May

    • Taste of Edinburgh, 6-8 July

    • Bristol Foodies Festival, 13-15 July

    • Oxford Foodies Festival, 25-27 August

    • York Food & Drink Festival, 21-23 September

    For more info about Discover the Origin visit www.discovertheorigin.co.uk. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter as well.

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Chris Osburn 

    What are some of your favourite foods & drinks from Italy, France & Portugal? Let us know over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page