I've taken recently to combining my salad course and cheese course. Over the years, influenced by the time we've spent in France, we've picked up the habit of following our main course with a salad and nowadays I prefer - and it's cheaper - to eat one cheese at a time.
Signe Johansen recently competed in - and won - a food bloggers challenge to come up with the perfect dish for a Casillero del Diablo Chilean Cabernet. Here’s how she went about it. (You can find the recipe for the winning dish, Pigeon breast and chocolate mole with redcurrants and parmesan mash here.)
It’s rare to go to a wine event and be blown away by the matches at every course but my recent lunch at Murano devised by Angela Hartnett and her sommelier Marc-Andréa Lévy was as close to perfection as it gets.
I don’t think I ever go to a sherry tasting without coming away renewed in my conviction about what a marvellous match it is for food and the one I attended yesterday was no exception. It was organised by the enterprising Les Caves de Pyrne who are importing for the first time into the UK some rare sherries from Emilio Hidalgo and took place at Dehesa, the sister (if that’s the appropriate word) restaurant of the better known Salt Yard.
Artichokes have the reputation of being a wine-killer but as with most of these diktats the problem is over-played. True, artichokes can make even dry whites taste oddly sweet but that doesn’t account for the different ways in which they are cooked and how they are served.
The other night I was lucky enough to go out with a wineloving friend of mine and his wife who brought along a bottle of Château Palmer 1990 with them. It was a lovely wine but, as any 20 year old vintage would be, quite delicate so immediately created the dilemma of what to eat.
Cheese and champagne might not sound like natural bedfellows but if you think about the pairing for a moment you immediately realise they have quite a thing going. Many canapés - like gougères and cheese straws - are made with cheese for example and go wonderfully well with champagne but what about individual cheeses?
While I can usually find a great match for an individual cheese or for a careful selection it’s always a struggle to find a wine - particularly a red - that will take on all-comers. But I was reminded this weekend just how good a candidate mature Zinfandel is for this job. We found a bin end of Ridge’s Geyserville 2000 on the wine list of one of our favourite local restaurants at such a good price that we couldn’t resist it.
Provence rosé has a particular character. It’s much crisper and drier than most rosés on the market, more like a white wine than a rosé - though within this style there are variations between the lighter, less expensive wines or ‘vins de soif’ and the more structured ones, which the local refer to as ‘vins de gastronomie’.
We rarely think of tawny port as a flexible partner for food. We serve it with stilton, obviously and with hard cheeses like cheddar, with nuts and dried fruits and over Christmas with fruit cake and mince pies but that’s usually as far as it goes.
If anyone can make Aperol - the Venetian Campari drinkalike - fashionable it's Russell Norman of Polpo, Polpetto, Spuntino and now Da Polpo - four of the coolest (and smallest) restaurants in London. Admittedly bitters are not to everyone's taste - they are...well...bitter but I find Aperol fruitier and easier to drink than Campari. The traditional way to serve it as as an Aperol spritz topped up with Prosecco and a whoosh of soda water - the perfect way to recover when the Tube is at its hellish steamy worst.
Even if you're not a fan of the blockbuster style of Chardonnay still favoured by many producers you have to admit it meets its match in butternut squash. Why? Because the rich sweetness of the squash kicks the sometimes over-exuberant tropical fruit and vanilla-scented oak into touch and magically transforms them into an elegant, refreshing glassful.