Flavour of the Month
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Words: Root + Bone   Photography by Flavour of the Month

Flavour of the Month

A series of tasting workshops

 

A series of tasting workshops that explore our emotional connection to flavours, and the science behind them. Hosted by fragrance specialist Lizzie Ostrom and one of the UK’s leading flavorists, Steve Pearce of Omega Ingredients. New themes and dates announced.
 
Thursday 10th October - I should cocoa
As the nights draw in and the sweet treats come out, join Flavour of the Month's pop culture celebration of chocolate. A staggering 83 compounds make up the flavour of milk chocolate. With the help of flavourist Steve Pearce taste some of the weird and wonderful materials in isolation, from 5-Methyl-2-Phenyl-2-Hexenal to the Alkylpyrazines. Then combine them to see how they achieve the final result. Plus explore the culture and politics of some of our favourite retro chocolate campaigns, revisiting the glory of Cadbury’s Milk Tray, Black Magic and the aspirational tug behind the After Eight Mint. Steve and his team will be also be creating an exclusive Haunted House chocolate for one night only. Forget caramel or orange creams, this fondant chocolate will use flavourings to create a mouthful of dusty cobwebs, creaking floorboards and and chilly cellars.
 

Tickets £18  - includes a Chocolate White Russian cocktail or mocktail plus chocolates

 
Thursday 28th November - We love crisps
Potatoes: the food many of us would be quite happy to live off exclusively, especially in the form of crisps. Whether you're a salt 'n' vinegar faithful or loyal to cheese and onion, crisp flavourings are masterworks of creativity and science. And they powerfully remind us of vivid moments in our life history, from after-school Quavers to the Kettle Chips of aspiring twenty-something dinner parties. Join Lizzie Ostrom and Steve Pearce for a tasting of the ingredients flavourists combine to concoct the perfect moreish packet. Plus discover some of the amazing crisp trends from around the world. And for the first time ever, sample a specially-commissioned London flavour crisp redolent of brick dust and dirt.
 

Tickets £18 - includes a crisp-dust Martini or mocktail and crisp tasting

 
Thursday January - Fake meat feast
In honour of Veganuary, Flavour of the Month odysseys into the fascinating world of fake meat flavours. How do you make something that tastes of beef when there's no cow in sight? Find out as Lizzie Ostrom and Steve Pearce offer you a chance to savour the flavour ingredients that create the perfect illusion of a steak. Can you tell the difference between a real and faux chicken taste? And taste some of the pioneering new formulations that will change the way we eat in the next ten years.
 

Tickets £18 - includes a Blood-Free Mary or mocktail and fake meat tasting

 
 
There’s nothing quite like a man-made flavour from your childhood to transport you down memory lane. Think of cheetos, strawberry flavoured milk, Banana flavoured Toffee chews or Pot Noodles and you’re immediately taken to a happy time and place, where processed foods ruled supreme.
 
But did you ever stop to think how these foods got to taste and smell so good? The first Flavour of the Month event was hosted at Museum of Brands. Guests tasted their way through the most common flavour compounds used by food manufacturers, guided by by the team from Omega Ingredients who were on hand to dispense drops of liquid onto rice-paper squares.

 

 
Tasting the flavour compounds in sequence was like a ‘best of’ album of every processed food you’ve ever eaten. Vanilla, banana, butter, raspberry, mushroom, butterscotch, blackcurrant and chocolate.
 
Flavours don’t just happen. Steve Pearce was on hand to explain how flavorists mix base compounds to create subtle, sophisticated and proprietory flavours. Much like an artist who is commissioned to take ingredients of paint and canvas to produce an artwork, the flavour process is creative and open to interpretation. Flavorists need to deliver something unique and appealing to consumers, while fitting the vision of a brand. As a profession, they need to have a good nose and memory for wide range of ingredients. Some industry terminology for describing flavours were words such as ‘grassy’, ‘earthy’ and ‘sweaty’ which might be used to describe cheese.

 

 
Being a flavorist also requires being able to reverse engineer an existing flavour, where a client has created something they wish to produce at scale. The challenge is to deliver a stable recipe, using readily available ingredients and meet all the food regulations of your intended market.
 
Of course these same skills in the wrong hands can lead to theft of flavours from one brand to the next, but a good flavorist knows how to protect their recipes with secret ingredients that scramble chemical analysis. Who knew?
 
Aside from candies, crisps and the more in-your-face flavours, we learned that pretty much anything bought from a supermarket tastes the way it does by design. Fruit yoghurt is flavoured to taste like fruit yoghurt. The fruit pieces are just stirred in to reassure consumers and give them a start on their 5-a-day.Your favourite creamy tipple may not actually be flavoured by anything dairy. Alcohol free gin? Might not ever have been through a still.

 

 
That’s not to say man-made flavours should be demonised. Adding and enhancing flavour is something humans have done since they discovered salt could be gotten from seawater. Most flavours used in the EU are collected or extracted from nature, such as menthol from peppermint leaves. Occasionally new flavours will be discovered that are a by-product of some other food manufacturing process. The USA is more relaxed about using artificial flavours, which can be synthesised from scratch in a laboratory. Flavours such as this need to be labelled on packaging as ‘artificial flavour’. These are usually the ones that send kids bonkers at children’s parties.

 

 
Quote from Lizzie Ostrom
“Millions of us have comforting associations of prawn cocktail Skips dissolving on our tongue, or the pure, surreptitious joy of eating jelly cubes straight from the packet. Flavour of the Month invites you to discover how these foods work their magic to produce the formative experiences that stay with us forever.”
 
Quote from Steve Pearce
“We’re a foodie nation but we barely know anything about what goes into the flavours we love, whether they’re in a can of soda or a high-end smoothie. By tasting the flavourings, not just the food, we want to show that creating the best strawberry you’ve ever tasted is an artform. Both the freshly-picked fruit and strawberry flavour sweets contain materials like geraniol, found in geraniums and roses, not to mention lots of the world’s most popular perfumes. It’s time everyone has the chance to access the materials used by the food industry to taste for ourselves how these flavours all connect.”
 
About Lizzie Ostrom
Lizzie Ostrom aka Odette Toilette is fascinated by our sense of smell. She’s hosted hundreds of events that open up the world of scent, from the aromas of outer space, to recreations of ancient scent rituals including mummification. Lizzie wrote a pop culture history of perfume, Perfume: A Century of Scents (Hutchinson, 2015), and co-curated Somerset House’s exhibition on perfume in 2017. She’s now bringing the same sense of curiosity to the world of flavour and its relationship with fragrance. Lizzie loves Monster Munch crisps (Roast Beef please).
odettetoilette.com
@odettetoilette
 
About Steve Pearce
A biochemist and of the UK’s leading flavourists, Steve defines the flavours of hundreds of products we know and love. He founded Omega Ingredients, a flavour house based in the UK and the USA that provides and creates thousands of specialist materials to the food and beverage industry; their flavour recipe collection alone numbers well over 10,000. Steve regularly appears on TV, including Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped to share his knowledge on the science of flavour. He’s also past president of the British Society of Flavourists. Steve’s fondest food memories are of Banana flavoured Toffee chews from the school tuck shop.
omegaingredients.co.uk
@omega_ingredients