Oh..and a lot of coconut!
I recently attended an healthy eating gig, primarily to get an insight into what purported to be a more natural eating philosophy. A three course meal would accompany a live demo and ad hoc talk about natural ingredients and the whys and wherefores of using one ingredient over another. So far, so healthy.
Once established at my table, the first thing I was asked was if I’d like a glass of wine – #upselling. I found this quite odd given that the theme of the evening was “positive eating”! Mind you, I’ve always had a very positive attitude towards a nice glass of wine, so going with the flow (#ifnotwhynot) and, seeing as we were now running 15 minutes late, and, not looking like kicking off any time soon, I opted for a nice glass of chilled white.
Half a glass and a further 15 minutes later, the gig began.
A very enthusiastic American lady started taking us through the philosophy of the foodie company she was representing, followed by the method for making “energy balls”, with the stark warning, Do Not Eat At Night (unless, of course, you’d like some very active sex!). Dates, coconut crème, cranberries and more, were whizzed around in a bullet shaped blender and, with a light dusting of shredded coconut, hey presto and voila, turbo-charged “energy balls”. Woo!
At this point the first course of the dinner arrived in the form of Root Vegetable and Rocket Soup. It was served piping hot and was very palatable, but, the overriding taste was of celeriac; it completely overpowered all other flavours including the coconut crème which failed to come through. However, as I happen to like celeriac, this for me at least, wasn’t really an issue. What was bizarre though, was the inclusion of some pomegranate seeds, the colour, taste and texture of which had nothing positive to contribute to the soup. Marks 8/10, lose the seeds please.
Next on the agenda was a chat about coconut oil and it’s benefits! Did you know, a swish of coconut oil around the mouth can allegedly ease the symptoms of gingivitis? No? Me neither. Could I be induced to swirl oil around my mouth at a/m cleaning time…..erm!
So, main course was Cajun Coconut Crusted Chicken Goujons, with a Roasted Pepper Salad, with (cough) Coconut Dressing, served with Black Rice Pilaff. I’m guessing we’re liking coconut in this establishment then! The dressing was pretty oily, fairly tasteless and notwithstanding those facts, was insufficient in quantity to moisten what can only be described as sawdust chicken. Stick to the mouth Goujons, with all of the natural succulence of the chicken countered by the Saharan dryness of the shredded coconut crust. The salad was reasonable, but salad is salad at the end of the day. The pilaff was tasteless (they had used a vegetable bouillon, which I presume was additive free but that is no excuse for lack of any identifiable taste) and there was far too much of it. The only positive here was the texture of the rice which was silky soft. 4/10 and that’s being generous.
I chatted with the ladies beside me and we all agreed that what could have been an interesting and different meal needed a lot of adjusting to get it to “good food review” stage. Work in progress.
Finally, we were presented with dessert amidst a chat about Stevia and how this the sugar replacement of choice. Sugar Free Coconut (yawn) Lime Meringue Pie. To reference a diner on the TV prog “The Restaurant” what is the point of healthy dessert, it defeats the purpose? Sugar free, gluten free, dairy free, satisfaction free…..It was a dreadful concoction. The base was dry and again, tasteless, the meringue had a metallic tang, and the “custard” just didn’t cut it (though of the three elements it worked and tasted the best). One spoonful and I gave up.
The gig was wrapped up with an “about us” by one of the company founders whilst fully caffeinated teas and coffees were served, with regular cow’s milk and yes, you wouldn’t believe it, sugar! #Splutter! This to me beggared belief. They had just spent the evening extoling the virtues of Stevia and healthy eating and now here they were serving the after dinner hot drinks with that arch enemy of mankind, sugar!
To be fair to the owners, they did do a bit of a roving reporter job around the audience, doing some market research and, getting some valuable feedback , in real time, on, the presentation, the menu, ingredients, dishes and, fielding questions. One of them had the misfortunate to come over to myself; and me being the straightforward type, gave them 100% honest feedback. I wasn’t unduly harsh, just truthful. If you are trying to build a brand and market product you need to understand your customer and cater for their tastes. If there is no demand, there can be no supply.
Whilst I wouldn’t say the evening was by any means a disaster, it most certainly was not a success. However, we can only learn from our mistakes: the key is to take the feedback on board and act on it in an expeditious and positive manner.
The “healthy eating” industry is fast becoming more competitive, and is overflowing with “guilt-free food” experts, so called celebrity chefs and and self appointed nutritionists-lifestyle changers. You need an edge, appealing high quality product and an enlightened social /digital/media marketing plan to take a new brand from nought to household name. Hopefully, there has already been a round table on recipes and ingredients, some experimentation in the kitchen, and a seriously innovative review of the product placement plan and future marketing strategy. When it comes to food, sense is everything, so if they can appeal to a multitude, they’re halfway there.
I wish them luck, and if they are still trading in a year’s time and decide to host more healthy eating events, I may just pop along to see how they and their range have progressed in the intervening period! For now though, I might just stick with my unnaturally, unhealthy way of eating whilst taking two of the nights ingredients on board. Wine and sugar.
Coconut I hear you ask: hmmm, no, methinks the only coconut I’ll be eating will be in a Bounty Bar. Well, for now at least.