Insects & Wine Visits Darwin College, 20th May 2019

Inago (Japanese Grasshopper) on skewers with cucumber and nori.
Inago in Blankets

by Charlotte the Younger

On Monday 20th May, we were warmly invited by Darwin College kitchens to host our sixth Insects & Wine to date. We received glowing feedback from the winers-and-diners in attendance, and the College chefs were very amused at the gastronomic delights we were offering!

Darwin College have been very active in promoting more sustainable ways of eating amongst its student body – including offering insect-based snacks in their canteen, and listing the vegetarian and vegan options ahead of meat on their daily menus. The setting was beautifully laid out, and we were spoilt with the kitchen facilities we had on hand (including the loan of some rather flattering aprons!)

Charlotte the Younger pouring wine before the event.
Charlotte the Younger at work

We repeated the selection of insect-based canapés that had been so well-received at the Cambridge Science Festival back in March. This included grasshopper ‘sushi’ from Tsukahara Chinmi in Japan, ‘critter pittas’ using Eat Grub’s peri-peri crickets, and nachos loaded with Mexican grasshoppers (or ‘chapulines’) from Merci Mercado in Mexico. We also offered a bonus ‘dessert’ course of insect macarons, from the French supplier Minus Farm. Both Merci Mercado and Minus Farm are certified by EntoTrust, which assesses product quality, food safety, environmental sustainability and ethical employment practices. The Eat Grub crickets came from Entomo Farms which is in the process of becoming an EntoTrust certified producer. These dishes were designed to emulate the flavours popular in the insects’ respective countries of origin.

We switched up the wines we served this time: our guests loved the two Austrian wines (Eschenhof Holzer Invader and Eschenhof Holzer Wagram Grüner Veltliner) served with the first course; the red (Franz Weninger “vom Kalk”) served with the second course was a little divisive; and the Portuguese red (Opta Dão Red) served with the final course went down a treat. Our guests loved learning from Chris about the intricacies of the different (low-intervention) wine-making methods, including what distinguishes orange wine from its red and white counterparts, and even how phases of the moon influence the production of some biodynamic wines.

The event saw first-time insectivores, well-seasoned wine-tasters, and professional chefs come together, united by their interest to learn about and taste the diversity of insects and wines on offer. Our guests were open-minded and engaged, asking pertinent questions, and  providing valuable feedback that we will use to make future events even more enjoyable.

We extend our thanks to our guests, and our generous hosts at Darwin, and hope you all had a wonderful evening!

Here’s our team (left to right): Charlotte Milbank (‘the Younger’), Charlotte Payne (‘the Elder), Chris Kaplonski and Danielle Bradford-Howe. All photos by Vinay Malhotra, Darwin College.  

Sources and links to further information:

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Insects:

Tsukahara-chinmi.com (Japanese grasshoppers)

Eatgrub.co.uk (Peri-peri crickets)

Mercimercado.com (Mexican chapulines)

Minusfarm.fr (macarons)

Entotrust (Certification)

Wines:

Thirsty (our supplier for the event)

Eschenhof Holzer (Invader & Grüner Veltliner)

Red Squirrel Wines (Etre à l’Ouest )

Franz Weninger (vom Kalk)

Badenhorst Family Wines (Secateurs Red)

Opta (Dão Red)

An origin story…

We’ve been busy behind the scenes of late. One of the things we’ve been busy with has been talking to various people from the media. In doing so, it occurred to me (Chris) that we never explicitly explained the origin of this site and project, or its goals. So, here they are:

Insects and Wine is a collaboration between Charlotte Payne (Insects, Dept. of Zoology, University of Cambridge) and Chris Kaplonski (wine, Anthroenology). Charlotte and Chris met at a conference on sustainability and food, and realised that what the world was missing was a chance to bring two of its greatest luxuries, insects and wine, together for people. They promptly stepped up to fill the void.

Apart from a love of delicious insects and good wine, both Charlotte and Chris have a keen interest in issues of sustainability in the realm of food and drink. Ultimately, that’s the point of Insects & Wine, and the tastings they run: not only to get people to try and hopefully enjoy a new food, but to think about issues of sustainability. What do we mean when we say a food is ‘sustainable’? What do we need to do to encourage people to eat and drink more sustainably?

I&W aims where possible not just to introduce people to insects as food, but also to sustainably-produced wines. This can often include exposing people to types of wines (low-intervention, orange) that they may not have tried before. These may well taste unlike the wines they are used to. And that’s another goal of the collaboration: not only to introduce people to new ways of eating and drinking, but to think about how sustainability is linked to the sensory aspects of food and drink. Sustainable wines can taste ‘funky’ (and yes, that’s the word used) and insects can have a ‘yuck’ factor for many people. So, how do we address and overcome these stumbling points on the way to eating and drinking more sustainably?

Our approach is to guide people through the stories behind the food and drink. Many sustainable wines are produced using traditional, artisanal methods, and the production of new wine is a celebrated event. Similarly, many insects are collected and prepared by people who look forward to the harvest season and are proud of the deliciousness of their traditional cuisine. Understanding these stories can help us to challenge and break down our own prejudices, and in doing so, appreciate the flavours of both insects and wine.

At our events, we hope to get you to think more broadly about what you eat and drink, and to have a good time while doing so. 

If you are interested in having us holding a tasting for you, contact us at info [at] insectsandwine.com

Insects and Wine at Cambridge Wine Merchants

Charlotte and I are excited to announce that we’ll be running an Insects & Wine tasting in conjunction with Cambridge Wine Merchants on 11 October!

You’ll need to book in advance, so get your tickets here on Eventbrite.

We are going to leave the wines a surprise for now, but the planned menu includes:

– Wasp larvae blinis
– Grasshopper ‘tsukudani’
– Silkworm sourdough toasts

The menu is subject to change – although we hope not! – since sourcing sustainable insects can be a bit of a challenge at times.

For one attendee’s reaction to a similar event last year, you can read this blog entry.