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Social magic at an evening of Culinary Mischief – B Beyond spoke to head chef Gabriele Bertaccini about his creative approach to curating dining experiences

We recently had the pleasure of being invited to an evening of food, fun and frivolity at chef Gabriele Bertaccini‘s roving international pop-up dining experience – the delightfully named CULINARY MISCHiEF. Hosted by the Marriott’s County Hall Hotel in Westminster, London, Gabriele and his team turned the stunning and imposing location into a familiar setting for a remarkable seven course Italian meal. Inventive, gregarious and charming, the head chef managed to conjure an evening in the image of himself – some feat considering that the meal was attended by a group of total strangers. Brought together by a mutual appreciation for good food, however, this evening did not disappoint any of the guests. Indeed, the Spring themed menu was a triumph, balanced beautifully by a wonderful ebb and flow to conversation and accompanied by exceptional individual wine pairings and introductions from Gabriele to each course.

We caught up with head chef Gabriele to discuss his approach to creating a cultural dining experience, rather than just another pop-up restaurant:

To book your place at London's next Culinary Mischief event, click here to make a ticket inquiry

Gabriele – first of all, congratulations for organising such a spectacular event (CULINARY MISCHiEF: Primavera) in London this April! I understand that this was only the second time you had organised an evening of ‘CULINARY MISCHiEF’ here in the UK – what took you so long?!

Gabriele: Well, thank you guys! The pleasure was truly all mine as the evening is only as good as our guests, so YOU really ended up making the evening, not me.

To go back to your question, CULINARY MISCHiEF has been the premier roving underground dining event in the United States for the last five years now and we were ready to expand oversea. London especially has been going through a change when it comes to food and beverage offerings including a more underground food scene -which is the category into which CULINARY MISCHiEF falls. People are hungry for more experiences where food and wine is, yes the center of the attention, BUT it is also – and most importantly – a tool for new and old friends to connect, to create memories together, to go back to a simpler and more experiential life. London has been amazing and the welcome we received is exciting and inspirational.

All the guests were raving about your menu that night – six courses including a superlative pea soufflé, specially made hand-rolled gnocchi that looked and tasted out of this world and an incredible meaty main course of veal. All were cooked to absolute perfection. Perhaps you could talk us through your process for deciding upon your menu for each event?

Thank you for your kind words. The menu was indeed a good one and like everything else in life it becomes even better when you know you will not be able to enjoy again and anywhere. That is also why all our menus are a one-time-only culinary creations. We never repeat a dish once. Never a menu one. Each experience is truly unique to its location, inspiration, time of the year and overall theme.

How do you replicate this concept all over the world to such a high standard when using a different team each time?

I take a lot of joy and pride in teaching and sharing my culinary and entertaining skills with the different people I have the pleasure to work with. For me, it is all about passion. You can teach skills, you can’t teach passion. I can sit with you and walk you through a recipe, but the love you put in it IS in fact perceived by your guests – and that I cannot control. It takes a lot of preparation, and it is important for me to make them (my team) understand that the success of the evening is mostly due to them.

At the Primavera meal, the wine was selected by the head of F&B at the Westminster Marriott Hotel, your location partner for the evening. How involved are you with choosing the wine pairings for the meal?

Very involved indeed! We usually select the wines after I craft the menus and we go through a tasting to make sure that the ones we selected are going to work and if not, what we can change. The relationship food and wine have together is comparable to being married. It is important that both elements are in harmony and that they know when to balance each other. The sum is greater than its parts.

To book your place at London's next Culinary Mischief event, click here to make a ticket inquiry

Do you have any go-to sources for your ingredients? Or does this change depending on location, time of year, the type of menu etc?

It absolutely changes as the location and availability of ingredients change as well. One thing is always the same though: we outsource and look for only the BEST ingredients available, when possible locally sourced so that there is a story behind it. It is important for each ingredient to have its own reason to exist.

When did you first learn to cook, where did you train as a chef and are the two events directly linked?

I have always been fascinated by food and what food represents for me, for my family and for our society. The power that food and wine have in creating memories is quite inspirational to me. Of course, my nationality has a lot to do with it. We (Italians) define ourselves based on what we eat and what we cook. The dinner table is the place where everything happens, where our dreams are discussed, where our life happens. It is a metaphor for something much more important like relationships and personal growth. This understanding led me to enrolled into culinary school at the age of 13. For five years I studied the basics of Italian cooking and the art of hospitality. It is important to note that nobody trains as a Chef. Although the word is nowadays is loosely used we all start as cooks. A chef is and has been a cook. A cook may become a Chef if enough leadership skills, passion and understanding of the industry is present.

Tell us about your inspiration for starting CULINARY MISCHiEF. There are obviously a lot of people organising similar pop-up dining events at the moment; was CULINARY MISCHiEF a way of capitalising on that trend or designed to be something a bit different?

CULINARY MISCHiEF was one of the first pop-ups in the U.S.A. When I started, there weren’t many chefs doing what I did and, I do have to say, there still aren’t. For me it was important to create an experience that was so unique that it couldn’t be replicated, and that came with the understanding that location, theme, wine pairings, music, set up of the dining room and invitations [the guests] were as important as the food we were presenting our clients. Many of our guests have never experienced anything like it before. It is very decadent yet comfortable, not stuffy and fairly informal. My ultimate goal was to create an event that replicated the same feeling of me inviting friends and family over for dinner. Some of the best dinners are created spontaneously and although these events are very well planned, once the dining room is open and the candles are lit the atmosphere is friendly, engaging and you do not want to leave the table…sometimes for hours and hours!

We love the name CULINARY MISCHiEF – it captures the sense of theatre in what you do. The events are about more than just food, they are about social interactions with like-minded people, and, primarily, an evening of entertainment. Do you think that, with a growing number of themed restaurants and pop-ups appearing (particularly in London!) that people have come to expect this level of entertainment in addition to a purely gastronomic experience when eating out?

Everything I have done and I do is about much more than food. It is experience-driven. And so is CULINARY MISCHiEF, which marries the art of entertaining with the one of cooking, and guests have come to expect that from their ‘nights-out’. They want to be entertained, they want to be surprised, and they want to feel special. It is the host’s job (whether is the Chef or not) to do so, to make their experience unique.

How do you pick the themes and menus for each CULINARY MISCHiEF event?

The inspiration comes from many different elements but location has to be #1 on my list. The place where the event is held often dictates the type of menu, set up and overall feel the dining experience is going to have. Seasonality is my second most important inspiration as food has to adapt to its surroundings.

Your company, Il Tocco Food, offers what appears to be a combination of catering and event management services. Do you specialise in catering for private dinners, then, or do you ever do events on a larger scale for private clients?

iL TOCCO FOOD was born with the idea of replicate the same feel of a CULINARY MISCHiEF in the comfort of our client’s residences and other locations. My team and I specialize in creating private dining experiences that focus on relationship building rather than just plain catering services. We meet with our clients and over a glass of wine understand their needs, what they are looking for, what they occasion is and how we can assist. We craft personalized menus that are unique to our guests’ tastes and expectations, paired the wines and take care of the overall theme when needed or asked, and then we execute the whole dining experience start to finish for them and their guests on site. No food is prepared ahead of time and we have to accommodate to the logistic of the location. We do events from 2 to 500 people, but because we are very detailed oriented each event takes a much longer time to organize and execute thus we can only accommodate a small number of private dining events each month. I am very proud to say that nobody does what we do and that private dining events like those ones often lead to become friends with our clients for life.

To book your place at London's next Culinary Mischief event, click here to make a ticket inquiry

Understandably you have a penchant for exciting, creative Italian food but have you ever considered offering different culture’s cuisines or mixing up your approach with different national cooking techniques or styles?

I have not and I know I will never do that. I believe it is important for a Chef to have an emotional connection to the food he/she cooks so that there is a story behind it. It is all about sharing with the guests your journey (professional and private alike as they often cross paths) and make them part of it.

What has been your most memorable event so far?

Each event is memorable in its own. Every event unique to its location, guests, foods and wines. Each dinner a one-in-a-lifetime-experience. I carry with me many memories from each event we have shared with our guests and clients and that is the most precious part of what I do.

You have already grown CULINARY MISCHiEF internationally to Phoenix, LA, NY in America, Florence in Italy and London in the UK. Any plans to expand further? Either way, what lies in store for you and Il Tocco – what can we expect to see next from you?

As a Chef I am always on the hunt for new and exciting ways of sharing my passion and love for food and wine with the greatest number of guests possible. Of course, iL TOCCO FOOD & CULINARY MISCHiEF will keep going and going strong in the USA, UK and ITALY. I am however, working on creating a different and more permanent experience both in the USA and UK. You may want to get your calendar open, as it will be my pleasure to soon host you at our first brick and mortar concept….!

To book your place at London's next Culinary Mischief event, click here to make a ticket inquiry

Thanks Gabe – we’re looking forward to it already!

You can book yourself in for Gabe’s next evening of CULINARY MiSCHIEF in London on June 1st and 2nd by emailing Gemma Waters for ticket inquiries

The Primavera dinner menu included:

Light pea souffle with carrot juice vinaigrette and salsa verde;

Silky asparagus soup with quail egg yoke and parsley infused croutons;

Cloud-like squash gnocchi dressed with brown Italian butter and Treviso Radicchio;

Grilled veal chops marinated in fresh thyme and served with a ‘Sicilian caponatina’;

Sharp tasting palate cleanser with notes of Campari and Lemon

…and a Lavender cannolo with lemon thyme sauce.


Monaco Summer Ball: A Walk on the Wild Side

What: ‘Animal Planet’ Summer Ball (Bal de l’Été)
Where: Sporting Monte Carlo
When: 8pm Friday 17 June to Sunday 19 June
Dress: black tie

Flushed with the success of last year’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ theme, the organizers of the Monaco Summer Ball are once again guaranteeing a fantastic party that promises to unleash the wild animal in all its guests. And the event really is going to have guests roaring with delight, as savage drumbeats and wild musical rhythms fill the air with passionate excitement.

Basking in the high patronage of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and organized by Princess Catherine Colonna de Stigliano, the ball – now a sweet sixteen years old – is always taken as one of the first signs of summer in the Principality. And what better way of preparing for the forthcoming princely wedding between two great ambassadors of the natural world than to celebrate with the call of the wild?


The glittering weekend, tickets for which are available from €400, starts on the Friday evening with a beachside reception before continuing to the famous Jimmy’z nightclub. On Saturday – after an energetic game of tennis or spa treatment at the Thermes Marins – champagne will be served in the gardens of the Sporting Club followed by a gala dinner at the Salle des Etoiles (black or white tie), and dancing till dawn to music provided by top DJ Ariel Wizman.

And on Sunday, not only is there the traditional breakfast and brunch, served from 10.30am till 3.30pm on the terrace of the Hôtel de Paris, but also a final visit to the animals’ watering hole at the Buddha Bar from 11pm


17 June: 8pm Beach Club Cocktails moving on to Jimmy’z Nightclub
18 June: 8pm ‘Animal Planet’ Gala Dinner at the Salle des Etoiles
Drumbeat of the Night, raw rhythms from DJ Ariel Wizman, and dancing till dawn
19 June: Sunday brunch from 10.30 to 3.30 on the terrace of the Hotel de Paris
8.30pm Farewell Roar and last raid on the terraces of the Beach Plaza
11pm: ‘Watering hole’ at the Buddha Bar

As is customary, an auction will be held at the gala dinner to raise money for the Order of the Knights of Malta, a major NGO whose role in managing hospitals and care centres worldwide cannot be underestimated.

© First published in CityOut Monaco


Appealing to all the Senses in Monaco

Who: Nicholas Loubser
What: Tous Les Sens
Contact: Tel +33 6 43 91 35 80

What brings people to the Riviera? A sense of adventure, the high life, copious measures of sunlight, and – without a doubt – the fresh seasonal produce. No wonder that the area has attracted, and continues to attract, some of the most skilful chefs, restaurateurs and lovers of food to its bountiful shores.


One such is Nicholas Loubser. Descended from ancient Languedoc stock, his roots are firmly embedded in the Mediterranean terroir, whose secrets he has been cultivating for twenty years – many of them spent as executive manager and chef on the exclusive island of Frégate in the Seychelles. An expert in the choice of ingredients, his services on Frégate ranged from barbecues and candlelit dinners to tours of the island’s greenhouses and plantations and entertaining in his private garden.

Now his expertise has brought Loubser to Monaco, where he has established Tous Les Sens to answer to every gastronomic requirement of resident and visitor alike. To call his company a catering business does it a great disservice; this is a world of gourmet delight, to which Loubser contributes a wealth of knowledge garnered not only from Creole cuisine of the Seychelles but also many years’ experience in the UK, China and India.


Rather than setting up a restaurant, Loubser has appreciated that many of his clients wish to lunch or dine in the luxury of their yacht, villa, or in some specially-chosen location. He and his team produce highly customized menus, arranging everything from the sourcing of fantastically fresh products to the carefully-designed table plan. And the cuisine is both astonishing and exotically-flavoured, his dishes adorned with sun-ripened figs, walnut bread, a suffusion of truffle oil, and refreshing lavender and orange.

If you are arranging a Monaco Grand Prix get-together or are spending time this summer sailing in the Mediterranean, Nicholas Loubser promises an experience which will appeal, literally, to all your senses… and those of your guests!


© First published in CityOut Monaco


Tesla Roadster at Top Marques Monaco

Just nine months ago, when CityOut Monaco reported the victory of the Tesla Roadster in Monaco’s Alternative Energy Rally, electric cars were still a little outside the ‘comfort zone’ of many readers, in terms both of cost and geekiness, even for the incredibly ungeeky – and actually rather sporty – Tesla Motors. But in the last year, things have changed. From BP to Libya, the question of what to do when the oil runs out has once again been making the headlines and dinner party chat. Eco vehicles seem to be much more in the news these days, and so it is that we bring you the latest results from this year’s Alternative Energy Rally. And the winner is…. yup, once more, it’s the Tesla.


Named after the 19th century Serbian physicist and pioneer of electrical engineering, Nikola Tesla, the Silicon Valley company was founded just eight years ago, but has already made its name at the cutting edge of eco-sports technology. From an initially small fan-base, the company has grown exponentially, such that they can now claim to be leading the world in saving energy. According to last month’s report, “Electric Roadsters in over 30 countries have now covered over 10 million miles, the greatest collective distance covered by any electric vehicle maker to date. Roadsters have collectively saved 500,000 gallons of fuel and over 5.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.”

Thanks to early electric vehicle companies like Tesla, the image of an electric car as something like a milk float running on a converted washing machine motor has been finally dispelled. Not only do these cars look beautiful (they are based on the design of the Lotus Elise); they are also high-end performers, accelerating from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, and consuming the equivalent of just 1.7 litres per 100km – for the non-metric, that’s an astonishing 140 miles per gallon! All of which makes the cost of the Roadster seem suddenly less prohibitive.

Charging networks for all electric vehicles are being delivered quietly but steadily across the planet, including exciting plans for induction plates embedded in car parks. But even with the option of 110-volt or 220-volt power outlets, filling her up is one of the few points of detraction for cars like the Tesla. Even so, they can be topped up at home overnight at minimal cost (taking account of off-peak electricity), and Tesla claim a 245-mile range from a single overnight charge.

Tesla are exhibiting all week at Top Marques Monaco, and European deliveries begin in June.


Liquid Assets – The B Beyond Cellar

Wine investment has become one of the most significant alternative markets and now millions are spent annually securing allocations of the most rare and rated Chateaux. Bordeaux dominates the Fine Wine market (85% of top London merchant Berry Bros & Rudd’s £250million turnover in 2011), its longevity in good vintages, the quantities available and its unrivalled Blue Chip status ensuring its no. 1 position for investors. Brokers turn up to boardrooms with the same old chart in their presentation to potential clients – showing, over a 10 year period, the FTSE looking forlorn, Gold steady but not spectacular, and the price of Bordeaux rocketing skyward like a Champagne cork. A closer look at the indices should indicate this refers specifically to the ’82 vintage with 1990 being used as a slightly less dramatic second example. Interestingly the vintages ’81, ’84, ’87 and ’91 – uniformly poor years are never used as would paint a very different picture.

Although traditionally the preserve of a cadre of European and American connoisseurs, increasing interest from Eastern collectors over the last decade has meant that the Asian market is now the most significant for Bordeaux. A less solid bet for investors (given its relative fragility and more esoteric nature) and thus traditionally the preserve of specialist collectors only, Burgundy is now catching the eye of the Orient. As Bordeaux previously, this interest will cause a rise in prices, even more marked because of the considerably smaller quantities of top wines produced from the premium domaines. This may usher in a more widespread change to the landscape of wines in the East as the softer tannins of Pinot Noir are a much more sensible match to a number of South East Asian cuisines. Indeed – a Chinese client of mine always has Domaine Romanee Conti La Tache with Peking Duck on his birthday, claiming it is the perfect food and wine pairing. The Rhone may well be next (the esteem in which the iconic wines from Chapoutier, Chave and Guigal are held by pre-eminent critic Robert Parker, giving them ready appeal) and already some are turning to Italy – to the wines of Barolo, Montalcino and Bolgheri.

The conclusion therefore is that being able to afford these exclusive top wines will soon no longer be enough to ensure an allocation. The ever- increasing interest of the global elite in wine, whether for investment, prestige, entertaining, genuine passion or a combination of all factors, means the always limited availability of these finite commodities is a bigger impediment to ownership than price. Opportunities to put together a cellar of the world’s greatest wines are diminishing so to give B Beyond readers a head start, below are the must have wines of the last century. I have concentrated unapologetically on the great reds of France and used as a guide the ratings of the influential Wine Advocate and Fine Wine to help compile them (all scored 98+ out of 100). I have largely excluded boutique wineries from California and Australia because, however impressive they may be, at a dinner party, it’s unlikely more than one other person will have heard of them and part of the pleasure in drinking and sharing fine wine is ensuring everyone appreciates the privilege of doing so.

This first selection picks the best wines from 1811-1989 and only includes those that have still been pleasurable to tasters within the last five years. Wines become increasingly fragile with age and there are never guarantees that all will be in condition still, hence the adage – with old wines there is no such thing as a good vintage, just good bottles. In the next edition I will cover the vintages of the 90’s and also suggest some smaller producers worth considering and in the last B Beyond of 2012 the top wines from the previous decade will be listed. However for those who cannot wait so long – WineChap’s Premier Crew, our invitation only private wine concierge service, may be able to provide further information and assistance.

Tom Harrow

Full article and wines selection published in the Spring 2012 edition of B Beyond magazine.


London’s Best Restaurants

Only our concept of celebrity has become more debased than our definition of luxury today. We now have those for whom a ‘VIP event’ constitutes an evening spent in a Surrey Aston Martin showroom in lurid Paul Smith shirt and huge watch, drinking warm Piper Heidsieck, looking smug and paunchy whilst waiting for a similarly-attired ex-England sportsman to regale them with motivational anecdotes worn to the nub on the after-dinner circuit. Stumbling into such a motley gathering Nero or Peter the Great would probably have assumed they had interrupted an assembly of their grooms.

Our declining appreciation for quality is evidenced by the very existence of laughable websites like – (featuring Cafe Rouge and Spaghetti House to indicate the depths of their credibility void), the lead reader review of whose top-rated establishment included the unintentionally apposite comment ‘the whole experience was superfluous’. Aside from furthering my belief that although everyone has the right to an opinion, few have the sense not to express it, I paused to consider, in the run up to the recent San Pellegrino’s annual World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards: ‘Which are London’s best restaurants’?

There are two categories of “best” restaurants in London: Those you always recommend to die-hard gastro-tourist acquaintances who want to experience the city’s finest (with
or without your company), and then those places you enjoy taking people yourself. Whilst you’d expect some overlap, the list will not be identical. The former are based almost wholly on the consistent high quality of the food, divorced from other considerations; the latter more dependent on other contributing factors mentioned above (see full article in B Beyond magazine).
Thus my top 10 choices in the first case would be:
The Ledbury
Galvin La Chapelle
The River Cafe
Le Gavroche
St John
The Square
Pied A Terre
Locanda Locatelli

In the second case:
The Opera Tavern
Great Queen Street
The Ivy
Ristorante Semplice
Mien Tay
La Gazette

This last list is more humble (less expensive and Michelin driven at least) and closer to my office, so the more often frequented. If I had the time, resources, desire to dress for the occasion and a driver waiting outside then more of list 1′s choices might start appearing on it, but expediency, convenience and pricing have led me more often to the latter selection. So a benign circle ensues, where your treatment in regularly-patronised establishments improves and visits correspondingly increase in frequency. This is still arguably the most important aspect of eating out for many London diners – who are happy to overlook a bad meal, or poor wine choice in a regular haunt so long as we are greeted effusively by name on the door, led to our preferred table and comped an aperitif Champagne by the management. Its these restaurants that remain our favourites – the best to and so for us. Through the lens of luxury redefined we prove a preference for the experience over the extravagance, the value added over the VIP.

N.B The full article appears in the summer edition of B Beyond magazine


Notes from the Bottom of a Bottle: Remy Martin Gastronomic Cognac pairing:

For the discerning drinker, Brandy – specifically Cognac, is the most refined and noble expression of digestif distillates:  Whisky has more romance but is an untamed savage next to Cognac’s urbane sophistication.  Grappa, remains as was always so, the preserve of the peasantry.  However for something a little different for your next evening gathering of dilettantes, rather than enjoying a Brandy after dinner (or if in the Tropics, before with Soda) why not try drinking Cognac throughout?   Below are notes from a recent such soiree, after a brief introduction to this most patrician of grape spirits:

The best of the region comes from the Coeur de Cognac, Grande and Petite Champagne, from the Latin ‘campagna’ – chalk, and one finds correspondingly mineral terroirs in the chalk-enriched soils of Champagne, Chablis and the Coeur de Cognac.  The pinnacle of achievement from the latter is possibly found in Remy Martin’s Louis XIII, recently topped by the release of a Louis XIII Rare Cask – the world’s most devastatingly exclusive and expensive Brandy.  From a single and singular barrel (that had uniquely and inexplicably achieved 43.8 alcohol as opposed to the usual 40),  the contents have been meticulously nurtured and now bottled in a series of 786 Baccarat black crystal decanters.  These limited edition releases are, whilst not priceless, unrivalled in expense.

Whilst I am looking forward to reporting back on the exquisite nuances of this particular rarity, in the interim I suggest Beyond Black readers try the following distinctive and surprisingly effective pairings to create a novel and stimulating dinner party:

Remy Martin Cognacs and Pairing suggestions:

VSOP – a blend of 240-wines, with 4-14yrs barrel age.  Top floral notes of violets, some vanilla and caramel, ripe peach and traces of nutmeg leads to a burnished palate, aniseed and apricot and some of the chalk coming through to give a mineral drive to the finish.

Works surprisingly well with Roquefort which emphasises the Cognac’s creamy and nutty tones and, unlike more traditional matching with sweeter Sauternes or Tokaji dessert wines, the VSOP doesn’t mask the cheese’s character but rather lifts it.

Served chilled – ironically given the almost-iconoclasm of cold Brandy, it tastes like the smell of an old church (some polished leather, old wood, lingering incense) so that you can almost taste the walls of the cellar.  With smoked salmon blinis a rich oiliness and the smoky character is more easily discerned.

XO – from 350 blended wines between 10-37yrs old.  This was darker-toned, edgier, flirting with nature’s more illicit recesses, like a Saki short story; Pan – remotely mischievous.  Wild flowers, irises, elder, and then passionfruit, cinnamon buns, a touch of brioche moving on the palate to preserved lemons, gingerbread and liquorice.  The XO is as pungent as an old forest in spring with remarkable freshness , lively fruit and floral components, overlying a much older, deeper complexity.  Not more concentrated than the VSOP – just more elegant and nuanced, it expands in both directions – at once more deft and light-footed but also more serious and complex.  Good with bitter black chocolate or a Cohiba Siglo VI or both, or even Foie Gras.

Coeur de Cognac – a new blend from the house – of both Grande and Petite Champagne sites (so Fine) which prefers a more feminine, delicate composition – this is Brandy removed from the fishbowl goblet, and the smoky recesses of Gentlemens’ Clubs.  Elegant but with very ripe fruits and vanilla pod tones, very pleasant served chilled with Tarte Tatin and a white chocolate sauce.

Coming Up:  Rendevouz Remy Martin – the ultimate luxury visit to the Chateau culminating in a tasting experience of the famous Louis XIII Cognac

Tom Harrow


t: + 44 (0) 20 7405 3371
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