Great news for US-based home brewers and vintners (and cheesemakers…)

Beers and ales with grain and hopsHome brewing and winemaking is great fun – and like any hobby, the deeper you get into it, the more pleasure you get out of it. It’s a money saver, too; it doesn’t take long to recoup the outlay on your equipment, and then you’re drinking duty-free beer. And it’s one of the few areas where I’d say it’s actually worth spending time tweaking recipes – you can spend many happy hours sampling and comparing the results!

If you’re based in the US, Midwest Supplies have a fantastic range of everything you’ll ever need as a home brewer. They stock a whole swathe of starter packs and easy-to-brew kits, with everything from amber ales down to wheat beers! But they also carry a whole range of proper ingredients for the advanced brewer: malts, leaf hops, liquid and dry yeasts, adjuncts and additives. They’ve even got malt extracts and partial mash kits for those who are making the transition from kits to more hands-on brewing. And if you’re bewildered by the sheer breadth of choice, they have a Kit of the Month club, offering you an easy romp through the world of ale (and, optionally, lager) for less than $30 a month.

If wine’s your thing, Midwest Supplies have all the ingredients you would want for that, too, including lots of varietal grape juice concentrates.

They can also supply you with all the equipment you’ll ever need, from a basic plastic fermenting bin to a 55-gallon brew kettle or an 80-litre stainless steel wine press!

Not sure what you’re doing? Don’t worry! There’s loads of guidance and FAQs on their website, including a Beginner’s Guide to walk you through the basic equipment you’ll need. And if that’s not enough, you can learn more and exchange tips, tricks and recipes with a friendly, like-minded community on Midwest Supplies’ free discussion forum.

If you get bored with beer or wine (yes, I find it hard to imagine such a state of mind too!), why not branch out into roasting your own coffee, or making cheese or yoghurt? They’ve got all the supplies for those things as well!
Midwest Supplies deliver throughout the US from their base in Minneapolis, although Alaska and Hawaii take a little longer than the contiguous 48 states. (Unfortunately they don’t deliver internationally, or to PO Boxes.)

Don’t miss out on Midwest Supplies’ fantastic range!


Gordon Ramsay is coming to help British expats in Europe

21 February 2014 | Category Gordon Ramsay, News | No comments »

Optomen Television, the producers of all the various programmes starring Gordon Ramsay, have just posted on my forum for British Expats with an opportunity for British expats running their own restaurant business in Europe. I’ve repeated the details on, but thought it was worth reproducing what I wrote here so that Not Delia readers could see it.

Ever seen Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares?

It was a very popular programme on Channel 4 a few years back where multi-Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay would visit a struggling restaurant, identify the problems and dish out some hard-hitting advice on how to turn the business around. It made for fascinating viewing, whether it’s food or business that pushes your buttons. It was so successful, in fact, that it ran to five series and spawned a similar programme, Kitchen Nightmares, which is still running on US television (the next series starts in a week’s time!).

Now programme makers Optomen Television are planning to do the same for British-owned restaurants across Europe.

Setting up a business in the hospitality trade has never been easy, and in these tough economic times it’s small wonder that many people’s sweet dreams of opening their own restaurant or hotel have turned sour.

So if you’re in Europe and have a restaurant, hotel or B&B that’s struggling, and you’re interested in getting the Ramsay treatment and giving your restaurant business a much-needed shot in the arm, why not get in touch with Optomen?

Phone: +44 20 3227 5867 (outside UK)
020 3227 5867 (within UK)

Even if you don’t take part in the programme yourself, I’m sure it’ll make for entertaining viewing!

Lindt Excellence – a chocolate experience

4 October 2013 | Category Food Reviews | 2 comments »

Three bars of Lindt Excellence chocolate: 70%, 85% and 99%

A while ago when browsing through one of our larger local supermarkets, my eye was caught by three rather attractive-looking chocolate bars from Swiss luxury chocolate makers Lindt. Labelled “Excellence”, they offered the chance to sample plain dark chocolate with three different (and high) levels of cocoa content – 70%, 85% and an amazing 99%! I couldn’t resist the chance of finding out more, so I bought them.

The 70% and 85% bars both have silver foil wrappers. The 99% bar comes in a plastic tray with a gold foil peel-back lid, with tasting advice on the wrapper.

Lindt's advice on how to fully appreciate their 99% cocoa chocolate

As you see, they suggest that a cup of coffee enhances the experience. So I set Mr Not Delia to work on his machine to make us some espresso, while I unwrapped the chocolate a little further.

Three Lindt Excellence chocolate bars, with the foil peeled back to reveal the chocolate

The 70% bar is quite a bit lighter than the other two in colour. Unfortunately it also appeared to have developed a little bit of bloom in storage. (I did say I’d bought them a while ago.) But bloom is perfectly harmless and doesn’t affect the taste of the chocolate, so we went ahead with the tasting.

First of all, I gave them all a good sniff. The 70% and 85% bars both smelt fairly strongly of cocoa, but the aroma from the 99% one was considerably stronger. Next for the tasting itself.

The 70% bar was everything you’d expect of a decent bar of dark chocolate. It was well balanced, with enough sweetness to take away the edge of the chocolate bitterness. It was fairly brittle too – the pieces snapped off quite sharply.

The 85% bar was considerably less sweet and quite a bit more bitter. The texture was slightly less brittle, though, and although it still melted in the mouth it was a bit drier.

The 99% bar was very strange indeed. It was very dry in the mouth, and very bitter, with no evidence of sweetness at all. Although it was the least brittle of the three it was quite gritty in texture, with little fragments of cocoa bean in evidence. Unsurprisingly the size of the pieces was a good deal smaller than the other two – it would be quite a challenge to fight your way through a large piece.

It was an interesting experience. Neither of us are big chocolate eaters, and we wouldn’t rush back to buy another 99% bar – if I’d been given it in a blind tasting without being told what it was, I would have struggled to identify it as chocolate. The 85% bar was OK but, to be honest, I wouldn’t pay the extra for it again because I was quite happy with the 70% bar.