In Malmö, Sweden, people are lining up to peep at bull testicles, get a whiff of Thailand's notoriously stinky durian fruit and even try a bite of surströmming, the local fermented herring. No, it's not an audition for Fear Factor: Chef's Table; it's part of a new (and straightforwardly named) pop-up exhibition, the Disgusting Food Museum.
Featuring 80 repulsive so-called foods and drinks from around the world—many of which can be smelled and some of which can be sampled by guests—the museum aims to make visitors question commonly held beliefs about what they think is "gross." On display are real foods that are either eaten today or have historical significance somewhere in the world: casu marzu, maggot-infested cheese from Sardinia; cuy, roasted guinea pigs from Peru; hákarl, fermented shark from Iceland; and root beer, the sassafras soft drink from the U.S. that apparently is widely hated elsewhere!
There's truly something to disgust everyone—enophiles will be particularly intrigued to find a Chinese delicacy mysteriously billed as "mouse wine" among the displays, while libations thrillseekers on the trail of the next winebeer shouldn't miss kumis, a Central Asian horse-milk-… beer(?). Pair with a selection offered at the Altar of Stinky Cheese.
The idea for the project came from psychologist and the museum's "chief disgustologist," Samuel West, whose earlier curatorial efforts resulted in the internationally traveling Museum of Failure. West teamed up with Andreas Ahrens, a tech investor and economist, to make the latest collection a reality.
"The research was extensive and we involved Lund University," Ahrens, who serves as the museum's director, told Unfiltered. "Sourcing the unusual foods was and still is a huge challenge. You should see my credit card bill—I’ve ordered stuff from all over the world!"
But the museum isn't just a freak show of food for fun's sake: "Our current meat production is terribly environmentally unsustainable, and we urgently need to start considering alternatives. But many people are disgusted by the idea of eating insects and skeptical about lab-grown meat, and it all boils down to disgust," West said. "If we can change our notions of what food is disgusting or not, it could potentially help us transition to more sustainable protein sources."
The museum opened on Halloween and runs until Jan. 27, 2019, but may soon come to befoul a city near you, considering its success in Mälmo. "We have triple the expected number of visitors!" West said. "Two have vomited."
Château de Beaucastel, elite estate of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and anchor of a Rhône mini-empire, is getting an $11.4 million cellar renovation and reimagination, a project that attracted bids from 400 architects around the world. Ultimately, the owners, the Perrin family, chose a design presented by Studio Mumbai with an emphasis on earth materials, a natural landscape and sustainability as the guiding ethos.
"I think whatever we do in architecture, we shouldn't compromise the environment of our children and grandchildren," said architect Louis-Antoine Grego of Studio Mumbai, in a recent presentation unveiling the design.
Described as more green than just tech-y, the design will rely on capturing the mistral—the fierce wind blowing two out of every three days in the Rhône—to provide natural air-cooling. "This is a system that's been used in Iran for 500 years, probably much more, and it still functions in those old buildings," said Grego. "Today it's used all over the world. We will adapt it to the conditions in the Rhône at Beaucastel."
And all the facility's water needs will be met by a roof catchment and filtering system, with the water stored below the underground cellar. The building material for the above-ground structure—compacted clay—will come from the 49-foot-deep hole dug to make room for the new cellar, as will the sand mixture used for the underground construction.
Vintner Charles Perrin reflected on the admiration he and his family felt when they opened a bottle of Beaucastel made by previous generations. They hope to inspire the same respect farther down the line. "We're building to impress our grandchildren."
Humans have been storing wine in pottery since they learned how to make wine, and pottery, at least 8,000 years ago. Winemakers have lately brought back paleo-retro-trendy "natural" vinification in clay amphora and qvevri, and the latest region to run with the kilnware movement is none other than Champagne.
But the jars and ditches and funky bacterial effluvia stuff they dig on in the Caucasus don't quite translate to Champenoise. Instead, Cuvée Sensorium presents the first-ever porcelain-packaged Champagne, a 70/30 Pinot Noir/Chardonnay non-vintage wine from grands and premiers crus vinified by the house Edouard Brun and bottled in vessels crafted by the historic German porzellanmanufaktur Reichenbach, an esteemed name (as you know) in Thuringian porcelain. But … why?
"The material porcelain brings optimal conditions for Champagne," Joi Regestein, Sensorium CCO and partner, told Unfiltered via email. "Porcelain offers optimal cooling conditions. The Champagne stays longer [at] the optimal temperature." The feldspar, quartz sand and kaolin used to make the porcelain, Regenstein noted, are "very environmentally friendly raw materials." Each bottle must be cast in a mold from the raw clay stuff that becomes china, to a specific thickness, then dried, fired to 1740° F, hand-glazed, fired again to 2550° F, painted, and then fired a third time. It's a lot of stress, all that getting fired, which makes the porcelain strong enough to contain Champagne.
For an even headier experience, Sensorium is releasing "Art Edition" 6-liter bottles to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the Brun house, each wearing a fanciful illustration of "Champagne Dreams" from the late American pop artist James Rizzi.
"James Rizzi was a very cheerful and positive artist," explained Regenstein of the choice. More artists will adorn future bottles, but archaeologists of 4018 should have plenty to chew on when they turn up Rizzi's anthropomorphic technicolor houses and grinning cartoon sun-moon-bird creatures.
We're always pleased to hear when a local wine boy or girl makes good, so congratulations to Gavin Newsom. The owner of San Francisco wine shop PlumpJack became a Napa vintner in the mid-'90s with the purchase of an Oakville winery, and soon would become a restaurateur, hotelier, sustainability champion, 2006 Wine Spectator Distinguished Service Award winner, San Francisco mayor, lieutenant governor of his state, and as of Nov. 6, the governor-elect of California.
"If I'm correct, I think he's the first governor-vintner-restaurateur to run one of the largest economies in the world!" Newsom's business partner John Conover told Unfiltered; the general manager of PlumpJack and sister wineries Cade, Odette and the recently acquired Ladera property had attended Newsom's celebratory fête on Tuesday, but by Thursday, we reached him up in the crosswinds on Howell Mountain on the final day of harvest for the season.
"It's a great American story, a California wine story, in that a young man—he was in his mid-20s when he started the wine shop—went from being a small entrepreneur and wine shop owner to being the governor," Conover said of his partner.
Newsom won the Distinguished Service Award in part for his early championship of progressive practices like using screwcaps on premium wine and, later, achieving the LEED Gold sustainability certifications for two wineries. He will be sworn in on Jan. 7, 2019.
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