Our friend & neighbour, Boo, had tickets to a Hotel & Caterers’ trade exhibition;
so at her suggestion I went along for the ride. It actually proved very useful as although there were not as many trade opportunities as I’d hoped for – being able to market our potential produce (if we ever get our building up & running that is) there were plenty of stands selling things we’d need for the process rooms – mundane but necessary items such as towel dispensers, unscented bacteriacides etc.
I was surprised to observe the large number of ice cream vendors at the exhibition; & having only recently returned from Gelato University in Italy, it was fascinating to sample the different products – many of which have won awards.
The first thing which disappointed me was the occasionally poor presentation in the cabinets: Napoli pans scraped harshly flat, some had even evidently been stacked on top of each other – unlidded – during storage; which had unattractively marked the product – most unappetising. Little if any effort had gone into simple but effective decoration & the only way in which flavours could be distinguished was by their labels. OK, so this wasn’t about direct sales to the public; but if I was an hotelier looking to place an order I wouldn’t have been impressed.
In a few cases the colours were decidedly poor & many of the flavours, insipid with claggy, fatty mouthfeel. And the ice cream had apparently been poorly handled, often crunching unpleasantly with ice crystals suggesting the Napolis had been taken from a low-temperature (i.e. -24ºC) storage freezer; left to quickly ‘warm up’ on an ambient surface & then hastily plonked in the (-15ºC) display cabinet – harsh treatment of this most delicate & volatile of foodstuffs!
Certain vendors had put in distinctly more effort & stood head & shoulders above their rivals, with appetising, colourful displays & consistently good products; however overall it was a disappointing experience.
I was particularly surprised that few of the manufacturers could tell me the percentage fat in their products, with some seeming to know little & care less about what was on display; parroting the flavours but unable to offer anything else about the product, such has where the milk had come from to make it; or the origin of the flavours i.e. natural or synthetic.
And not many seemed to be aware of the overall temperature in their display cabinets; let alone where the hot & cold spots were – which if they did, might make a significant difference to the scoopable qualities of their ice cream; the resultant customers’ pleasure being the difference between selling success or failure.
Indeed, we tasted a truly sorry apology for a lemon sorbet: it was gritty in texture; consisting of large, unpleasantly crunchy granita-like ice crystals; & was of insipid colour & disgusting, saccharine-&-powder taste – nothing natural about this product, it had never been near a real lemon, I suspect. After Gianpaulo’s lesson on creating a near-effortless but perfectly-balanced lemon sorbet made from only water, sugar & fresh fruit, this was immensely disappointing.
I might appear unfairly critical at this point; however, what I want to get across is that with just a little more application & effort, so many vendors could produce a superlative product; & by not neccessarily having to go to any great expense, either. I suppose I’m just so passionate about food – or, rather, about good food – that it is saddening to see corners being cut & that we, the consumers, are subsequently being let down by the people who supposedly care about what they create for us to enjoy.
The company which impressed me most, was Mary’s Farmhouse; they’re one of the few yellow-base producers & their flavours were fresh & natural, with two very good & contrasting sorbets in the cabinet as well. They were clearly passionate about producing a top quality product; & that enthusiasm speaks volumes in the taste of their ice cream.
Afterwards we popped in to the Rural Development Agency for an update discussion with our local food ‘mentor’, Barry; then I self-consciously stocked up the truck with heavy sacks of feed from the local farmers’ co-op (not an activity I’d generally recommend whilst sporting a smart suit!). We headed homewards, where I bid farewell to Boo; proferring a box of our lovely eggs in gratitude for her thoughful offer for me to attend the exhibition.
Wandering around our Dairy Complex construction site to collect remnants of unwanted wood as useful kindling, I admired another stunning sunset in this wonderful run of good weather we’ve been enjoying. The day closed over the Frenni Fawr’s misty, mountainous bulk in myriad rainbow hues; the light reflecting in pale gold from the mellow woodwork skeleton of our new building which glowed benignly in the fading light the colour of summer beach sand.
No; actually, make that a goodly slice of my favourite, pungent oak-smoked cheddar which is beckoning softly to me from the depths of the fridge – of which if I eat enough this evening, might mask the Rayburn’s ever-pungent puffings…..!