I have a perfect new hangout in Arles - a salon du thé called Le Calendal which overlooks the amphitheatre (where we saw the legendary Lou Reed live in concert last night. ) It has three major attractions: it has free wi-fi (pronounced, endearingly, wee-fee by the French), air-conditioning and a great drinks list which includes teas from Mariage Frères and a range of ‘sirops’ which are like adult squashes.
Maybe Chinese restaurants are like buses. You don’t get any new openings for a while then several come along at once. So after Bo London the other day, it’s HKK, the latest project from the Hakkasan group.
With the Thai New Year celebrations coming up you may well be planning to eat in a Thai restaurant or host a Thai meal at home. But which drinks are the best to serve?
The book I’ve been looking forward to most so far this year has just started being serialised in the Guardian today. It’s by Yotam Ottolenghi who founded two exceptional London restaurants and is simply called Ottolenghi: the Cookbook. l love Ottolenghi's food - it’s so generous and big-flavoured, piled high on bright, colourful platters - you can't fail to be tempted by it. It also lends itself perfectly to entertaining for large numbers at home.
We automatically think of matching wine and cheese or beer and cheese but there are many drinks that work just as well and can give a real ‘wow factor’ to your cheeseboard.
The widely held belief that wine doesn’t pair with curry has largely been dispelled with the new and more subtly spiced curries on the market. But what of really hot curries like a Vindaloo?
Caerphilly - or, to be more precise - Gorwydd Caerphilly which is made by my mates Jess and Todd Trethowan of Trethowan's Dairy - is probably the cheese I know best. And there’s one absolutely outstanding match for it . . .
If you’re used to choosing wine - or other drinks - to match with meat or fish you may be flummoxed when it comes to chosing one for vegetarian friends. But as I explain in my Guardian column today it’s a question of finding out how the wine is made - and in particular whether any animal-based products have been used in the fining process.
One of the areas of food and drink pairing I’m always trying to crack is soft drinks - so it’s good to find an inspired match that really hits the spot - not too sweet as most soft drinks are for me.
It must be the unseasonally hot weather but I've been drinking a lot of soft drinks lately. There seems to be much more choice on the market, especially more sophisticated drinks that are full of flavour but not too sweet. And which go well with food.
When I met Christine Manfield the other day I gave her the impossible task of picking one recipe out of her stunning new book Tasting India. This was the one she chose. It comes from the southern state of Karnataka, the former state of Mysore and is typical of the surprising straightforwardness of the recipes in the book.
A fresh, zesty citrus-based punch that’s packed with vitamin C. It obviously tastes best if you squeeze the fruit yourself but bought freshly squeezed juice is fine if you’re short of time.
Of all the different aspects of wine and food matching I write about, wine and Indian food is the most controversial. What type of wine works best, and indeed whether you should drink wine at all is the subject of endlessly heated exchanges. The subject has recently come up again with the introduction of a number of wines that are specifically designed to go with spicy food. Was this, at last, the solution?
My problem this week is that I have a terrific wine pairing but I can't tell you about it because it's the result of a tasting I was running for Decanter magazine. So you'll have to hang on till December for that. Sorry.
I suppose I shouldn’t say this coming from the West Country but I often forget about cider when I’m thinking about cheese pairings. Not that I don’t enjoy it but there always seem more complex drinks with a wider range of flavours to experiment with.
If you’re not drinking for whatever reason - because you’re driving, pregnant or just taking a break - it’s sometimes difficult to find something that makes a good match for what you’re eating. Soft drinks can be sweet and sugary. Water sometimes too plain.
If you’re planning a meal to celebrate Diwali this week here are two traditional drinks to accompany the feast. Alcohol is not traditional for the festival, Ramesh Ganega former head chef of the Michelin-starred restaurant Quilon in London told me. Indians would be more likely to drink lassi or jal jeera (cumin-flavoured water) and finish the meal with chai (spiced tea).
Continuing with our series of South African Braai recipes to celebrate the World Cup, here’s winemaker Paul Cluver’s version of beer-can chicken made with apple juice rather than beer.
Twelve months is a long time in a recession. This time last year we were all writing about 30 bottle water lists and 50 bottles of water. In 2009 all the talk is about tap. The unease we may have felt at flying bottles half way round the globe and lack of political correctness in drinking designer water while many have none has been superceded by the the more prosaic necessity to cut down our personal spending.
Aubergine - or eggplant as it’s called in the US - doesn’t have a strong flavour of its own but tends to enrich any dish in which it’s included especially when baked with tomatoes and cheese. The best wine pairing I think is a hearty dry red with some acidity unless you’re serving it cold as in a baba ganoush or spicy aubergine salad.
Vegetarians often get overlooked at this time of year so if you’re vegetarian yourself or cooking for one here are some perfect pairings for some delicious festive recipes from the web.
A recent email from a reader asked me to suggest a wine to go with “a triple coconut cake with a tangy pineapple icing served with fresh fruit salsa that has kiwi, strawberry, madarine oranges, blueberries and fresh pineapple in it”. Quite a challenge (I suggested demi-sec Champagne or a peach-flavoured liqueur topped up with fizz) but it got me thinking that there are many possible matches for cake beyond a cup of tea or coffee, particularly if you're serving it as a dessert.
With Wimbledon kicking off this week, I’m sure you’ll be enjoying a bowlful or two of strawberries. But what to drink with them? The classic Wimbledon pairing of champagne is to my mind too dry unless the champagne is demi-sec but there are plenty of other possibilities depending on how you serve your berries.
If you’re on the wagon this month, mealtimes can suddenly seem a bit drab and colourless. But if you’re missing the taste of your favourite wine try substituting a fruit juice that has similar flavours.
After all the rich eating of the last few days there’s nothing better than a plateful of clean-flavoured, briney oysters. But what’s the best wine - or beer - to pair with them?
I’m really spoilt for choice for my match of the week - there were so many good ones last week. As you may have picked up if you follow me on Twitter (where I tweet as winematcher and food_writer) I was in Copenhagen eating at the world’s best restaurant, Noma (according to the 800 food writers, chefs and critics that judge the ‘World's 50 Best Awards) and also at Herman whose sommelier Jacob Kocemba came up with some excellent pairings.
Traditionally it’s been difficult to find a pairing for noodle dishes, especially soup noodles which have the triple drawback of being hot, sour and wet. But the other night at Alan Yau’s new restaurant Cha Cha Moon (of which more to follow when I do my round-up of new London openings) I had a delicious non-alcoholic cocktail which really hit the spot.
Yesterday finally felt as if spring had come. After weeks of unsettled and unseasonably cool weather it was warm and balmy, rich with the scent of blossom. We went out with friends to the village of Wrington just outside Bristol to follow an ‘art trail’ of exhibitions by local artists. (Yes, I bought something - a delightful picture of radishes by a talented collage artist called Anne Carpenter)
Like most wine-lovers, I suspect, I’ve made a new year’s resolution to drink rather less after the excesses of Christmas and the New Year. I’m not a big fan of sweetened fruit juices so my drink of choice at the moment, with meals and in between, is sparkling mineral water.
Fresh peaches are bang in season right now so use them to make these summery cocktails that I think are quite perfect for next week's Independence Day celebrations - or this weekend's if you're celebrating it earlier
To celebrate our unseasonal Indian summer here's a barbecue with a difference from my book Food, Wine and Friends. The centrepiece is a spiced, butterflied leg of lamb served with a delicious Turkish-style bulghur wheat salad called Kisir. Finish with grilled nectarines or, if you prefer to have your dessert prepared ahead, some refreshing wine jellies.
If you don't feel like cooking a big Sunday lunch for Easter next weekend how about a brunch?