• ASI By- Laws Committee

    A.S.I. By- Laws Committee

    1. Jean Pallanca, Monaco-Director
    2. Anne Popoff, Canada
    3. Michel Hermet, France
    4. Mary O’Callaghan, Ireland
    5. Jean-Charles Crouin, Japan
    6. Ken Engebretsen, Norway
  • El Bulli

    El Bulli

    The Associated Press

    Date: Saturday Jul. 30, 2011 11:06 PM ET

    ROSES, Spain — El Bulli, one of the world’s most acclaimed and award-winning eateries, has served its last supper.

    On the final menu Saturday were 50 dishes with intriguing names like “Clam Meringue,” “Olive Spheres,” and “Hot Cold Gin Fizz.”

    For more than half of the 24 years that virtuoso chef Ferran Adria has been in charge of its kitchen, the restaurant has maintained the almost unattainable Michelin three-star status and been rated the world’s best restaurant five times by British magazine The Restaurant.

    After a final dinner and drinks party for faithful clients and staff families, Adria will close down the restaurant and begin turning it into a top level cuisine foundation he hopes to open in 2014.

    “People think I should be sad but I feel the happiest man in the world,” said Adria. “El Bulli is not closing. It’s just transforming.”

    He himself will not be sitting at a table for dinner on the final night.

    “No, I’ll be cooking!” he said.

    El Bulli’s location in a beautiful and isolated seaside cove on Spain’s far northeastern tip inspired Adria, who started off as a hotel dishwasher, to think about the essence of what makes food taste delicious, prompting him to deconstruct ingredients to what he calls the molecular level.

    He would then reconstruct each dish using unexpected re-combinations of the original components, presenting them in mouthful-sized portions.

    Most required instructions on how to eat them, sometimes with bare hands.

    Food took on unexpected shapes, textures and temperatures as the chef used liquid nitrogen to produce vegetable or fruit foam, airy, ethereal reincarnations of solid food, combining seaweed and tea, or caviar with jellied apples.

    His “bunuelo de llebre” is a small ball whose external surface is a chilled delicate pastry that conceals “hot liquid hare which you must bite into with your lips closed,” enabling its caramel-like taste to explode inside your mouth.

    The restaurant’s average price of €270 ($388) per head — not including drinks, tax or tips — was another of its distinctive features.

    The diner could boast more than a million reservation requests yearly at a place that seated just 50 and opened for dinner only, usually just six months a year.

    The other six months were used by Adria to travel the world in search of ideas and then to conceive and painstakingly practice preparing dishes that have astounded gastronomy critics and dedicated foodies alike.

    “El Bulli will be opening again, just not for reservations,” said Adria at a farewell press conference in the rock garden outside his restaurant surrounded by dozens of colleagues, former and current.

    Among them were some of the most famous chefs to come out of the restaurant — current world No. 1 Rene Redzepi of Denmark and Chicago’s Grant Achatz.

    “For me the spirit of this place has always been its freedom,” said Redzepi, adding that “the courage and bravery” with which they work in his Noma restaurant “came from here. It was like finding a treasure.”

    Four of the world’s top five chefs trained at the centre, which takes is named from a pet bulldog owned by the German couple who first established a restaurant in the idyllic Cala Montjoi cove back in the late 1950s.

    “I thought that I knew cooking,” said Achatz, who now runs two restaurants, Alinea and Next, both considered among the leading lights in molecular gastronomy in the U.S.

    “When I arrived here and walked into the kitchen for the first time (12 years ago) I felt I was on another planet.”

    Achatz, like others, highlighted Adria’s daring and insistence on constantly breaking new ground.

    “When I came here, cuisine in America was very stale. Everyone was following each other. So to see someone taking risks, expressing themselves through real food — it lights a fire.”

    Back in the U.S., he said, “It was very exciting to watch that seed grow and watch it spread over the country.”

    At 49, Adria said he and his crew need to replenish their inspiration to come up with something new.

    “There comes a time for change in everything so that we can maintain creativity,” he said. He added that the foundation “will create every day” and present its findings free to the world online.

    Last year, Adria acknowledged that El Bulli was struggling financially, but on Saturday he flatly denied to The Associated Press that it was closing for financial reasons.

    His biographer Colman Andrews said that while the restaurant may have lost money, Adria made substantial amounts through books, conferences and side businesses that depended on his name and that of the restaurant.

    Besides functioning as a think-tank and laboratory with the best chefs and food experts from around the world, Adria said the new establishment would be open for visits to everyone, from multinational executives to school kids. He said it would also be organizing benefit meals for charities and NGOs.

    Although the premises may be closing to the public, Adria said he would not be stopping.

    “With things as they are, with the economic crisis, it would be a total lack of respect for me to take holidays,” he said.

    Adria’s immediate plans are to travel, spreading the Bulli word with trips to China, Peru and the United States, where he will give classes at Harvard. He said serious work on the foundation will begin next January although he hopes to make an important announcement Oct. 4 in Madrid.

    At the news conference, Adria was presented with a giant-sized white nougat sculpture of a bulldog, in memory of the “bulli” — a local Catalan word — that inspired a name that is now legendary in the culinary firmament.

  • Bordeaux

    Wine dealers unhappy as Bordeaux labels hit record high

    By Scott Reyburn

    Thursday August 04 2011

    Surging demand for Chateau Lafite and other French trophy labels, especially from Asia, has pushed both prices at auction and wine futures to records. Not all wine dealers are happy.

    The prices for some of the most expensive bottles are starting to discourage even billionaire collectors, said dealers — some of whom had warned in January of a bubble that could burst in 2011. Chinese and other buyers balked as some Bordeauxproducers raised prices by as much as 80pc last month for the new vintage offered ‘en primeur’, when it is still in barrels.

    “En primeur sales have halved,” said fine wine and marketing director of the London-based merchants Berry Bros & Rudd, Simon Staples, in an interview. “It’s a combination of high prices and the fact that the chateaux released less than last year.”

    Sales growth is also slowing at auctions. Takings at the biggest three wine auction houses in the first six months of 2011 were up by 46pc on the same period in 2010, according to Bloomberg calculations, down from the 88pc sales increase in 2010.

    The Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 index, tracking daily price movements of the 10 most recent vintages of Bordeaux’s five First Growth chateaux, declined from 445.49 points on July 1 to 434.17 points on August 1. The London-based index, based on trade sales, rose 136.67 points to 401.11 last year.

    The future sale prices were boosted by scores of more than 90 for the vintage from the critic Robert Parker.

    Futures Increase

    Chateau Latour 2010 was released at €780 a bottle, a 30pc increase on the also highly rated 2009 vintage. Chateau Ausone was pitched at €1,120 a bottle, 17pc higher than last year. The €108 being charged for bottles of Carruades de Lafite — the second wine of Chateau Lafite — was a 59pc increase.

    Last year, Asian buyers snapped up a third of the Berry Bros Bordeaux 2009 futures allocation. Only 5pc of the merchant’s 2010 wines have gone to the region, Mr Staples said.

    “The 2009 vintage was the first that attracted a lot of Chinese en primeur investment,” said Mr Staples. “They’ve seen that it has really increased in value and have been put off by the prices of the 2010s. If it isn’t in a bottle, they can’t show it off to their friends.”

    Chinese consumers continue to spend millions on older vintages in bottles at specialist auctions. Sotheby’s (BID), Christie’s International, and Acker, Merrall & Condit took a record $258.3m (€180.65m) in wine sales in 2010, more than double 2009. About two-thirds of the most expensive lots were selling to Asian bidders, according to both Christie’s and Acker.

    Auctions Increase

    Sotheby’s and Christie’s raised $53m and £28.7m (€32.9) at wine sales in the first half of 2011, increases of 49.3pc and 120pc respectively. Acker took $54.8m, up 10.4pc. The total for all three, about $155m, compares with $106m a year ago.

    Growth for all three companies was primarily driven by sales in Hong Kong. Sotheby’s HK$96.8m (€8.7m) ‘Ultimate Cellar’ auction on April 2 was the New York-based company’s 15th straight 100pc-successful “white glove” sale in the region.

    Hong Kong

    “The market has continued to grow because we’ve had some unbelievable collections to sell in Hong Kong,” Serena Sutcliffe, Sotheby’s worldwide head of wine, said in an interview.

    “Some individual prices have come down. Lafite has levelled out. It couldn’t continue to rise with every sale. Now buyers are looking at other chateaux and they’ve begun to close the gap.”

    In October 2010, a 12-bottle case of Lafite’s 1982 vintage, sourced directly from the chateau, sold for HK$1m at Sotheby’s Hong Kong.

    The wine fetched HK$605,000 a case at the same auction venue in April.

    By contrast, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild ’82 fetched HK$169,400 a case at Sotheby’s Andrew Lloyd Webber Wine Collection auction in January. The price in Hong Kong climbed to HK$217,800 in April at Sotheby’s ‘Ultimate Cellar’ sale.

    John Kapon, chief executive of Acker, believes the problematic 2010 futures campaign will drive Chinese buyers back into the auction market.

    “Bordeaux has scared off Asia just as it was coming to the table,” Mr Kapon said in an interview.

    “People from that region will notice they can get three bottles of 1995 Bordeaux for the price of one bottle of 2010. They don’t like paying for things and having to wait years to get them.”

    Record Bottle

    The French collector and restaurateur Christian Vanneque had to wait six months to take possession of a bottle of 1811 Chateau d’Yquem for which he paid a record £75,000.

    The price, paid in a private sale brokered in January by the London-based Antique Wine Company, was the highest for a bottle of white wine, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

    The 200-year-old sweet Sauternes was handed over at a ceremony in the Ritz hotel in London on July 26. It will be put on display at Vanneque’s new restaurant, SIP Sunset Grill in Bali, Indonesia, the Antique Wine Company said in a statement. (Bloomberg)

    – Scott Reyburn

  • Satellites-Wine

    French wine growers use satellites as harvest guide

    For centuries French wine growers have looked to the skies and prayed for the rain not to spoil their vineyards before grape harvest time. Now, a rising number a seeking help from the heavens for other reasons, in the form of satellite technology.

    With grape-picking time fast approaching, dozens of wine domains in France-from the best known Bordeaux chateau to humbler vintners in the Languedoc-Roussillon region-are awaiting information from satellites on when and how to harvest their grapes. The information they will receive would, some say, take 20 to 30 years to build up from observation on the ground.

    Satellite-borne cameras have been circling vineyards taking multi-spectral images from more than 500 miles above the Earth at the rate of 1,000 plots every eight seconds. These can detect the surface area and variation of leaf canopy across vineyards. This is a vital statistic to pinpoint the vigour of particular vines, the water level of soil, bunch and grape weight, and the presence of certain minerals.

    The Spot-5 and Formosat-2 satellites began mapping this data at the period of veraison, a grape-growing term to describe the moment the berries begin to ripen, swell and change colour.

    Wine growers provide data on their fields and a few details about their vines and grape variety. Then, when the time is right, the satellites take pictures. These allow the growers to determine when grapes are mature for harvesting. They also show variations in grape quality within plots, meaning growers can separate out lower-grade bunches for vin de table and keep the best for higher-end grands crus. (August,2011-Daily Telegraph, London – Henry Samuel in Paris).