Pairings | Alcohol-free
If you’re wondering what to drink with noodles you need to think about the way and the flavours with which they’re cooked rather than the fact that they’re noodles. (Yes, I know pasta counts as noodles too but I’m thinking more of Asian recipes.)
Advertising feature: If you or members of your family or friends don’t drink how does that affect the kind of food you serve at holiday get-togethers and parties? The answer, happily, is not at all if you opt for high quality alcohol-free spirits.
Every time I've been to Azurmendi, it's been a journey. The three Michelin-starred restaurant is situated half way up a very steep hill, about 15 minutes drive from Bilbao. In the evenings, almost every inch of the palatial structure is lit up like a glittering crystal; and as you drive up the winding road to reach the restaurant, it illuminates the darkness like a beacon.
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?
The thing you need to ask yourself when you’re wondering which wine - or other drink - to pair with Mexican food is what kind of Mexican. Authentic Mexican or Tex Mex?
The predominant flavours of Thai cuisine are sweet, sour, hot and salty - slightly different from the warm spicing of many Indian curries or the more fragrant, herbal notes of Vietnamese. So which which drinks pair best with a Thai meal?
If you haven’t heard of poke - the Hawaiian dish of cubed raw fish usually with rice and/or vegetables - you soon will. It’s everywhere (and pronounced, by the way, pokay not poke).
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.
It might surprise you to hear it - and maybe you’ve never tried it - but a serious red wine is a really good match for a burger. Not a Maccy D, maybe but a big lush gourmet burger. And why not?
Although there's not quite the feverish frenzy there was about kale a couple of years ago there's still a lot of kale lurve around.
I’m sure you’re enjoying a bowlful or two of strawberries at this time of year. But what to drink with them?
Judging by my Instagram feed practically everyone is eating avocado toast at least once a day but what do you drink with it?
If you go to a Michelin-starred restaurant you probably don’t expect to drink alcohol-free beer but my meal at The Ninth last week which was hosted by the best-selling alcohol-free lager Lucky Saint demonstrated that it’s a surprisingly good option for anyone who’s not drinking
Your best chance of successfully negotiating Dry January - or any other dry month - is having a selection of drinks you enjoy to turn to when you feel like a drink. Although new ones are constantly hitting the market here are the bottles and cans I go back to regularly.
If you're on the wagon - or even if you're not - you've probably heard of one or two alcohol-free spirits and aperitifs but you may not be aware just how many there are on the market now. So our good friends at The Whisky Exchange have come up with a whole case of different bottles to inspire you for Dry January - and keep the winner going through February and beyond*.
I’ve been a bit sceptical about the alcohol-free gin category - or alt-gin, as I gather we must now call it - but this couple of products from a South African and Swedish husband and wife team trading as CEDER’S (which apparently has to be written in capital letters) are really quite impressive
One of the hardest things if you’re not drinking for any reason is finding a grown-up drink that will work in a restaurant without leaving you feeling that you’re not having as good a time as everyone else. And as I’ve said before beer is much better in this respect than wine.
Alcohol-free beer is booming and not only among teetotallers. Many of us who take a break from drinking during the week or when driving appreciate them too.
”Many people don’t see the point of an alcohol-free version of their favourite drink, but we all deserve a treat sometimes and it's better if we don’t drift into a dependence on alcohol" writes Bax Botanics founder Rose Bax. "This isn’t a time to be putting any extra strain on our bodies or our minds."
The thing that most frustrates non-drinkers who are wine-drinkers - including me when I'm taking a day or two off - is the lack of a convincing replacement for wine.
Pairing food with no and lo-alcohol drinks is still in its infancy, alcohol-free drinks being pretty new on the scene themselves so it was lovely to have the opportunity to run through a series of alcohol-free pairings that were offered as an accompanying flight to the tasting menu at restaurant Hjem near Hexham in Northumberland.
It’s hard to pick out just one pairing from the alcohol-free menu I had at La Dame de Pic in London the other night - the 2 Michelin starred restaurant run by Anne-Sophie Pic. I can honestly say I didn’t miss alcohol during the meal. The pairings, which were devised by head sommelier Elise Merigaud, were perfectly suited to Pic’s light, supremely elegant food.
Of all the alcohol-free products I’ve tasted recently - and I’ve tried a lot - this is the most ingenious. It’s not a full-size bottle for a start but a smart looking box of phials - 9 of them - each containing 30 ml of a concentrated cordial you dilute 10 to 1 (or to taste) with still or sparkling water or tonic.
As I’ve said many times I’ve yet to find an alcohol-free wine that is as good as its boozy counterpart but Fortnum & Mason's sparkling tea is a really good alternative to champagne.
One of the encouraging things going on in restaurants now is the increasing number of interesting alcohol-free drinks on offer which I find particularly welcome at lunchtime when I don’t particularly want to drink.
Although I’m not doing Dry January I am trying to take a break from booze on at least a couple of days a week so when I went to Romy Gill’s pop-up at Carousel last week I opted for the alcohol free options.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting matches with alcohol-free drinks and this just inched it over a really good cider pairing at the Hang Fire Southern Kitchen yesterday.
I’ve got a bit obsessed with Virgin Marys (alcohol-free Bloody Marys) over the last few days.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting alcohol-free drinks to pair with food so was pleased to see that Asma Khan had listed some really interesting options at her Darjeeling Express residency at The Sun and 13 Cantons pub in Soho the other day.
Even wine writers have to take a day off occasionally, especially if they’re lunching with a teetotaller, but it’s always a bit of a challenge finding a drink that goes as well with food as wine
Most pairings focus on alcoholic drinks but it’s equally intriguing to see how a similar synergy can be achieved with an alcohol-free one.
More and more people I talk to seem to be cutting down on booze - or cutting it out entirely. That may be for obvious reasons like becoming pregnant or being on medication with which alcohol is incompatible but it’s definitely a trend - just as eating less meat is increasingly common.
I’ve been focussing quite a lot on alcohol-free drinks recently so I headed along to the Mindful Drinking festival in Spitalfields yesterday where I discovered this brilliant range of low alcohol (0.5%) beers.
The fact that this is the second week in succession I’ve posted an alcohol-free spirit says a lot about the fact that this is the most innovative and dynamic sector of the drinks industry at the moment.
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.
"Apart from it being the basis for all known life, I have long harboured an interest in the nuances of H2O, visiting Buxton and Vittel’s bottling plants and Bath’s Roman Spa" writes Douglas Blyde. "I was thirsty, therefore, to see what the ‘Best Sommelier in the World’, Andreas Larsson had to say on the subject at his presentation at the recent Identita conference at London’s liquid theme park Vinopolis. (This post was first published in 2009)
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.
If your new year's resolution is to get fit you may be planning to start the day with a smoothie. But how good for you are they and could you make them healthier?
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.
When I met Christine Manfield a while ago I gave her the impossible task of picking one recipe out of her stunning book Tasting India. This was the one she chose.
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.
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.
With middle-eastern food still very much on-trend Dubai-based blogger Sally Prosser of mycustardpie.com tells us which drinks she thinks makes the best pairings
Sally Butcher of Persepolis, shares the secrets of Iran's delicious non-alcoholic drinks, in time for the Persian new year.
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?
If you’re planning a brunch it’s quite fun to lay on a DIY juice bar where your guests can run up their own fresh juices and smoothies. If you don’t already have a juicer you’ll probably have a couple of friends who have. Or you may feel that with the warmer weather coming up (though it’s hard to believe that today in the grey, drizzley UK) now’s a good moment to get into juicing.
If you’re celebrating July 4th this week and haven’t yet made up your mind what to drink here are some last minute suggestions.
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.
Generally of course dal wouldn’t be eaten on its own but with a curry or a biryani but given it makes a pretty good midweek dish on its own or with rice you might fancy a glass with it. Here are some options
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.
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.
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.
This week's pairing is for all those of you who are having a dry January this month (although here’s why I’m not).
My first meal of the new year was a Mexican which might sound unusual in London but not much is open on New Year’s Day. We went to Wahaca which has a number of restaurants around the capital with some good non-alcoholic drinks options.
It’s always good to come across a soft drink that pairs as well with food as an alcoholic one and the Mexicans have a particularly refreshing one in agua fresca.
Soft drinks don’t often feature in my weekly pairings but this combination of an inventive savoury breakfast waffle and some lovely fresh pink grapefruit juice at The Modern Pantry last week was spot on.
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.
Although I think the difficulty of matching troublesome ingredients with wine is overrated that’s not true in the case of chilli which is an integral part of many Szechuan dishes. The tofu noodle hotpot I had at my local Chilli Daddy in Bristol at the weekend was definitely a case in point.
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.
You might not think that potatoes merited a pairing on their own account but then i guess you haven’t tried making Poppy O’Toole’s rosemary and garlic sharers.
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.
It’s always good to find a restaurant that takes non-alcoholic drinks as seriously as it does boozy ones so it was an easy decision to order a spicy ginger beer cocktail at The Palomar the other day.
If you find yourself in an Iranian restaurant (or a Persian one as they often still describe themselves) you’ll be lucky to find much in the way of wine options and in many ways the food is better suited to the cordials or sharbats they would generally drink.
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.
One of the best discoveries of our recent weekend in Bridport in Dorset was a brilliant small restaurant called Dorshi. You might easily miss it as it’s down an alley off the high street but seek it out. (The alleyway is just to the side of The Bull hotel)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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 planning a meal to celebrate Diwali this weekend here are two traditional drinks to accompany the feast.
If you're planning ahead for Easter weekend and don't fancy doing the traditional big Easter Day lunch how about a brunch instead? Here's my menu for this time of year ...
Here's a barbecue I've dug out of the archives - a middle-eastern inspired BBQ from my book Food, Wine and Friends.
Fresh peaches are bang in season right now so use them to make these summery cocktails that I think are quite perfect for this week's Independence Day celebrations.
With elderflowers in full bloom you might be thinking of making your own elderflower cordial but try this version from my latest book How to Drink without Drinking to give it a bit of a twist.
One of the crops that grows really well in this country is apples so it’s great to see a producer taking the whole experience of apple juice to a higher level.
If you’ve ever been to the great Pitt Cue Co in Newburgh Street, Soho you may well have had a drink called a pickleback - a bourbon washed down with a chaser of homemade pickle juice.
If you’re embarking on dry January you may wonder how you’re going to do without your G & T without buying an expensive alt-gin, as they’re often referred to these days.
I’m continually on the lookout for soft drinks that are not too sweet as I know there’s a big demand for them. This isn’t perfect - it’s still a fruit juice so quite high in sugar - but it is genuinely refreshing.