It was a birthday party to remember; Issac@, Brighton's cool, youthful pop-up turned Good Food Guide destination was celebrating its first Big Year last night with the influencers who helped to put it on the map. The team's combined age can't be more than the oldest blogger in the room, but boy, do they know what to do with a goosefoot.
For me, it's less about the delicate balance of flavours of the brill, desiree potato and parsley sitting prettily on the plate, but the palpable passion of the guys who put it there. Local sourcing is Isaac@'s trademark, with food miles listed alongside the menu in a twine-tied scroll; the apples are not just from Ringmer (9.8 miles from the table), but Isaac's mum's garden. The lamb from Pevensey Marshes grazed happily for six months, tramping the fields and fertilising it naturally, adding to a rich habitat for flora, fauna, butterflies and bees.
And that, for me, is the point of Isaac@. It's not alone; as Brighton's culinary star shines ever brighter, so does Britain's high welfare food culture. It's one of the many new restaurants which sells local, responsibly sourced and often plant-based dishes as cool food. While Isaac and his butcher, Trevor Morton at Westdene will be making their choices based primarily on quality and flavour, this is how change will happen, how factory farming will belong to junk food culture and how a new generation of chefs and their foodie followers will continue to bump overfishing of the seas and massive deforestation for intensively reared animal feed off the menu. As CEO of Compassion in World Farming, Philip Lymbery warns in his book 'Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were', the plundering of the earth's natural resources for factory farmed animal feed is already decimating wildlife all over the world.
MEP Anje Hazekamp from the Party of The Animals told Compassion in World Farming's roundtable discussion on factory farming at the European Parliament earlier this week, 'The knife and fork are the most important weapons in the flight against climate change'. Her colleague, MEP Florent Marcellesi added that we need to create a new narrative about what we eat if we are to encourage people to eat responsibly. How Isaac's lamb lives and eats on Pevensey Marshes has a direct impact on how we can save the planet. Eating higher welfare (and more expensive) meat less often that tastes as extraordinary as Isaac's chump served last night with the sweetest turnip and punchy jus that took me right back to the Sunday roasts of my teens, is what Hazekamp and Marcellesi believe could save the planet. Subscribe to StoptheMachine, the podcast I produce for Philip Lymbery at Compassion, to hear more about Philip's campaign, and the next episode from that roundtable when it comes out later this month.
Back at the restaurant, the food influencers were tucking into their crab with charred cucumber. They may not even have checked the food miles (9.2) or the responsible small boat fishing at MCB Seafoods, but they know that Isaac and his team did. Like the better supermarkets, restaurants are becoming a safe space for those who care about the planet. And as Alex, the sommelier at Isaac@, surely, with Isaac, a contender for Young British Foodie, talked us through wines perfectly matched with the evening's South Coast taster menu, it occurred to me that this is what pairing is really all about. These are the cool young people creating that new narrative so vital to the future of the planet. And in this new blog, I'll be meeting as many as I can find as part of my work with delicious. magazine, to trace the stories on the end of the fork back to the fields of green.
Do follow me here, on Twitter (@gillysmith) and Instagram (foodgillysmith) as we explore and celebrate the partnerships between the restaurants and producers which could save the planet. We'll meet the fishermen, the farmers and the butchers who are all part of this revolution in food, and the chefs whose pretty, instagrammable plates are persuading us what good food can be.
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