Two matches for the price of one this week - both killer pairings at our Christmas Cheese School* last week.
I was at the opening of TV chef Mitch Tonks' new fish restaurant in Bristol last week, Rockfish Grill. Normally they serve you bubbly on these occasions and there was some - an appealing Prosecco - but what caught my eye was an oyster stout that Mitch and a mate who owns the Albert Inn at Bridgetown, near Totnes had brewed up between them.
With St Patrick’s Day falling on a Monday this year - and in Easter week into the bargain - many are expected to be celebrating this coming Saturday so here’s a reminder of just how great an Irish stout (Guinness or otherwise) is with that classic dish of boiled bacon and cabbage.
Chocolate is generally considered a tricky ingredient to match but it's not that hard - unless it's a hot fondant pudding.
I seem to be spending most of my time dining with bloggers at the moment. On Sunday it was the Blaggers Banquet, next week an Umami night at Ms Marmite Lover’s underground restaurant and last Monday Dine with Dos Hermanos a monthly (or so) feast organised by Simon Majumdar and his brother Robin.
People carp about food and beer pairings, griping that they're just made up pretentions that have no right being associated with something as inclusive and democratic as beer. "It's the drink of the common man," they cry, "Beer goes with everything!" To which I respond, uh, no, it doesn't. And to prove my point, here are ten food and beer partnerships guaranteed to make you wish you had chosen something else to drink.
It’s hard to avoid the obvious on St Paddy’s Day. Guinness (or Black Velvet) Bailey’s, Irish whiskey (most likely Jameson) or green cocktails are the usual suspects on any drinks menu. But if none of these appeal here are the sort of wines that will work with classic Irish fare.
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?
As it turned out the star pairing of my bizarre Brewdog Burns night was not the haggis spring rolls and Punk IPA but an equally off the wall pairing of raspberry cranachan and Black Tokyo Horizon, a 15% Imperial stout.
No Christmas would be complete without a slice of Stilton or its unpasteurised cousin Stitchelton. But what to drink with it? The usual answer is port - and that of course is classic - but here are some other drinks that make great pairings
It’s a tribute to the sheer joie-de-vivre of the Irish that we regard St Patrick’s Day with much more enthusiasm than St George’s, St Andrew’s or St David’s Days (the patron saints for England, Scotland and Wales for those of you who aren’t into your saints). So your friends are going to be more than pleased to be invited to celebrate it with you.
How many of you will be putting beer on the table at Christmas? Not that many, I suspect, but if you can bring yourself to break with tradition you could be in for a treat. Most supermarkets now carry a sufficiently wide range for you to be able to serve a different beer with each course, should you be so minded. And here’s how to do it:
With the country blanketed by snow what else can you think of but soup? A favourite recipe from my book An Appetite for Ale that makes a great pairing with a dark, Trappist beer. You can decide how creamy you want it - my preference is to add just a dash to the soup then swirl a little in each bowl to decorate.
If you don’t like Guinness don’t be put off making this recipe for St Patrick's Day from my book Sausage & Mash. It makes the most fantastic dark, rich, sticky onion gravy that doesn’t taste remotely of beer.
With snow on the ground and temperatures well below freezing it’s a timely reminder that matching drinks is not just about flavour but temperature and alcohol levels too.
If you think of the ingredients that show off a great wine mushrooms would have to be near the top of the list. Possessed of the sexy ingredient umami - the intensely savoury taste identified by the Japanese, they flatter and act as the perfect foil for wines as disparate as vintage Champagne, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Few things make up for this time of year. In the UK it’s relentlessly wet, grey and occasionally blustery. Time to head for the kitchen and knock up a rich beef stew or casserole and leave it simmering for hours.
This is one of those rare weeks where I’ve come across four brilliant pairings that could have made the ‘match of the week’ slot but as it’s St Patrick’s Day tomorrow and I haven’t done a beer for a while I’ll go for the topical one.
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.