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Delicious, inventive and intriguing – what to eat first at Tastes of Better?

James Halliwell
6 min read
AUTHOR: James Halliwell
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a butter chicken curry

Warning! If you are attending Food Matters Live’s Tastes of Better event on 14 March, do not, under any circumstances, eat a large breakfast. If you do, you may explode by the end of the day and no-one wants to see this happen, least of all the cleaners. So if you must, keep any sort of breakfast dainty, because you’re about to spend an extraordinary day consuming all sorts of food and drink, and it would be great if everyone got out alive.

How to begin then? That depends on which tasty session you’ve booked into first, but a glass of something sparkling never fails to set the tone. IFF will begin proceedings by serving a zero-alcohol elderflower champagne alongside a plant-based parmesan crostini, topped with black olive, tomato and basil.

If champagne and crostini is a quintessential way to start proceedings, what’s coming next is both mouth-watering and intriguing. IFF will serve a plant-based blueberry waffle with crispy ‘bacon’, a habanero and lime porkless scratching, and maple syrup. I would eat this first then ask questions later, but as well as sounding lip-smackingly delicious, I am intensely curious about the porkless scratching from a textural perspective. Not least because a single bag of pork scratchings has all sorts of textures going on, from ultra-crispy to disconcertingly soft. How will this plant-based solution to the piggiest of all snacks compare? 

It feels only fair to offer a link to anyone who hasn’t already got a complimentary ticket at this point, but if you’ve already got one, keep reading.

Up next is the deep spicy warmth of a beef rendang, served up alongside sticky ricepicklestoasted coconutnigella seeds and spring onions, which sounds like perky perfection. With mouths fired up, IFF will cool things down with chocolate orange brownie carob custard, topped with honeycomb and chocolate shards. Please contact IFF in advance if you would like more than one of these, and they will try to accommodate you. Then enjoy a cheeky lo-no rum and cola to wind things down for the IFF session. But we are nowhere near done. IFF is just one of five companies showing off their latest innovations and greatest-tasting products, and explaining everything you need to know about them.

Each of the five sessions on the day, which feature IFF, MycoTechnology, Beneo, Kemin and Sweegen and can be visited in any order, will talk through the ingredients everyone is going to be eating or drinking, looking at the creative and scientific development process, and exploring the practical and commercial possibilities of a particular ingredient. And as our guest, you can eat or drink it there and then, perhaps as a cocktail or a canapé, or as part of a starter, a main course or a pudding, all freshly prepared by professional chefs in the well-equipped kitchen a few yards away.

Chocolate shards

Chocolate features heavily in some of the five different menus

Chocolate features heavily in some of the five different menus

So, with appetites firmly engaged, head towards Sweegen’s sensory stimulation room, which promises to explore how our minds choose what we would like to eat and drink, depending on how they are being stimulated. Sweegen is staying tight-lipped about exactly what it has planned to maximise the impact of their bespoke tech-heavy sensory tasting room, but it will analyse why consumer’s tastes and expectations change depending on the environment they are in. So whatever is being conjured up, like a BBQ with kids laughing and music playing, the heady aroma of chargrilling filling the air, arguments over whether the sausages are done and audible anxiety about rain, expect a range of food and drink that’s precisely crafted to match it. And as well as a full stomach, expect to take away some extremely useful insight into consumer behaviour. 

Before and after

And perhaps take a short break. Because nothing says crowd-pleasing favourites like burgerssausageschipscrisps and pasta, and Kemin’s menu will feature all of these, with the emphasis firmly on eating them all. Not just because it’s a cornucopia of comfort-eating classics, but also to understand exactly how Kemin’s rosemary-infused frying oils and antimicrobials help preserve and extend the look, taste and texture of various foods (and even the frying oil itself). To demonstrate this, Kemin plans a ‘before and after’ experience, so determined guests may have to keep eating hot chips until they can make up their minds.  

People enjoying a BBQ

Will your first simulated BBQ of the season be on 14 March?

Will your first simulated BBQ of the season be on 14 March?

Assuming no-one will be nipping outside to eat lunch, instead head to the Beneo room, where they will be serving a creamy tomato soup with a plant-based meatball, swiftly followed by a plant-based tuna. Given the supply-chain and sustainability issues around tuna fish, a potentially winning new plant-based alternative is one for discerning professional palates to try. Then it’s back to the spice, and Beneo will serve a butter chicken curry, made with meatless chicken chunks and roasted cauliflower. It will follow that with a crunchy snack high in protein and fibre, and a light coconut and chocolate dessert, enriched with protein from ingredient du jour faba beans, and rice starch.

Charred and puffy

Of course any of these sessions can be explored (and eaten) in any particular order, but if at any point all this gastronomic indulgence gets a little too much and you find yourself flagging, head to the MycoTechnology room without delay, where a restoratative ‘spiked coffee’ – a potent coffee, vodka and oatmilk concoction – will be waiting for you. Non-alcoholic versions will be available, but otherwise if you need a boost, order a venti, subtly loosen your belt, and get comfortable.

Spices are a popular pairing for plant-based alternatives at this event, and MycoTechnology, which was recently celebrated at FIE for its innovative mycelium-fermented plant protein, will be serving a vegan chick’n curry, with garam masalafresh ginger and garlic blended with fire roasted tomatoes. Of course that will be accompanied by a charred and puffy naan bread. And once you’ve used that to scoop up the last of the sauce, you will have eaten everything in sight, completed Tastes of Better, and earned new levels of respect for yourself. 

Another warning! Tastes of Better is deliberately kept exclusive to maximise the experience for everyone involved. It’s taking place at the Oval, the home of Surrey Cricket Club since 1845, and there are complimentary places available. So if a day spent exploring and eating ingenious innovations in food and drink from the biggest names in the business appeals, reserve your place right now. The event is open to you if you are a professional working in food and nutrition innovation across new product development, innovation, technical and marketing, or within nutrition and food science and menu development, or if you’re a new brand looking to sample some inspiring new solutions.

Confirmed guests include AB World Foods, Asda, Bakkavor, Cranswick, Fortnum & Mason, Greggs, Hovis, Huel, Innocent Drinks, Jamie Oliver Group, Marks & Spencer, Mondelez, Premier Foods, Quorn, Sainsbury’s, Sodexo, Starbucks, Subway, Unilever, Waitrose, Walkers and more.

Tastes of Better networking partner RSSL will also be at the event, hosting invaluable networking sessions at lunch and at the post-event drinks. And here is everything else you need to know about Tastes of Better. We look forward to seeing you on the day!

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