Today is the third International Grenache Day, a celebration of a grape which is (often anonymously) responsible for some of the most generous and appealing reds in the wine world.
If you’re planning a Pancake Day celebration for Tuesday and haven’t yet decided what to drink here are few ideas.
A simple and impressive recipe to serve for pancake day. Although apricots are obviously at their best in the summer you should be able to find imported ones from countries such as South Africa and Chile.
Pancakes and beer might not sound like the most obvious of combinations but as with other flour-based foods such as sandwiches or pies they work together remarkably well. Especially, as I discovered when I was writing my food and beer book An Appetite for Ale last year, fruit-filled pancakes and fruit beers.
I call these cupcakes but in fact they're more like old-fashioned English fairy cakes which seem more appropriate for the Jubilee. I must say I prefer them. Made with butter rather than oil they taste more natural and 'cakey than an American-style cupcake and have about a third the amount of icing.
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.
My friend cookery writer Sarah Randell has written the most enchanting book on marmalade full not only of great marmalade recipes but also some delicious ways of using them.
It was the savoury dishes that initially attracted me to Henry Dimbleby and Jane Baxter’s excellent Leon: Fast Vegetarian but this is a cracking dessert with in-season rhubarb.
A simple and delicious Christmas dessert from my mate Sarah Randell, food director of Sainsbury's Magazine, which combines two of my favourite things, jelly and cocktails.
Apple tarts are one of the most flattering desserts to match with sweet wines but what do you drink with other apple-based desserts?
It’s tough to pick out just one wine match for from the dinner I had at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons last week but I’m going for this sophisticated twist on a classic English pudding from chef Paul Heathcote which was paired with a passito dessert wine from the island of Pantelleria
A totally delicious strawberry pavlova recipe from top pastry chef James Campbell. It's quite complicated but would be a fantastic dessert to serve on an occasion you really wanted to blow your guests away.
I tasted these gorgeously squidgy chocolate cookies last year at the Bath launch of Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich’s baking book which is a must-buy for anyone who loves baking. Or frankly, even if you don’t - you will by the time you've read it.
If you’re looking for something a little different to serve for dessert on Saturday (which in case you’ve forgotten, guys, is Valentine’s Day) how about a dessert martini?
If you were going to introduce someone to beer the last course you’d probably think of would be a dessert but as I discovered at a beer and pudding matching session at Brown’s Hotel in London this week it can be a surprisingly successful combination.
After the excesses of the Christmas period I always reckon January drinking should be about quality rather than quantity with a small sip of something strong and flavourful being infinitely preferable to several glasses of something weak and bland.
One of the innovations at the Marks & Spencer wine tasting this week was a chocolate and wine tasting based on a Single Origin Tasting Box designed to help consumers explore chocolate pairings with different wines.
Former sommelier and wine consultant David Furer writes about a tasting at leading London chocolatier William Curley
A lovely seasonal dessert from Sybil Kapoor's National Trust - Simply Baking. "Soft-baked meringues make a gorgeous pudding in the early autumn, especially when topped with cider-poached fruit and apple brandy cream."
We rarely think of tawny port as a flexible pairing 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.
One of the things I most enjoy doing when I get a new cookbook is flicking through sticking Post-it notes on the recipes I plan to cook and this recipe for Turkish coffee cake in Margot Henderson’s charming You’re all Invited really stood out.
Until last night I was confident what I was going to make my match of the week, this week - the unlikely but delicious combination of a Langhe Nebbiolo and Berkswell sheep’s cheese but last night I was blown away by this pairing.
Sherry gets a bad rap for being granny’s tipple of choice but if you’ve never tried an authentic Spanish style sweet sherry you haven’t lived.
if you're planning to make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving here are some great wine and other pairings to serve with it.
You may be unconvinced about the wisdom of incorporating chilli into achocolate cheesecake, let alone accompanying it with Merlot but bear with me!
The cover recipe from pastry chef Claire Clark's gorgeous new book 80 Cakes from around the World, photographed by the equally talented Jean Cazals.
Scandinavian food is becoming increasingly popular but what type of wine should you drink with it? Lucy Bridgers reports on how German wine fares.
This spring is seeing a bumper crop of new cookery books of which Catherine Phipps' Citrus is one of the most enticing ...
Being surrounded by peaches and nectarines at the moment has reminded me what a brilliant match they are for a glass of dessert wine. And, surprisingly, even for a red!
If you live in the UK and are enjoying pancakes today it’s most likely the classic kind, simply topped with lemon juice and a sprinkling of crunchy sugar. But what to drink with them?
It was a tough call to single out the best pairing from my meal at Galoupet in Knightsbridge last week but as I haven't featured a dessert for a while this just shaded it.
No Christmas goes by without some wine pairing discovery and this year it was the delicious Jorge Ordonez Malaga Seleccion Especial no. 1 2007 with some simple fresh clementines we had at the end of a post-Christmas meal with friends.
One gets so used to partnering dark chocolate with sweet red wines, most notably port, that it’s easy to overlook other equally successful options. This was a brilliant combination I came across - somewhat improbably - at the game and Burgundy dinner I reported on last week.
Another good chocolate pairing this week - plain dark chocolate and delciously fudgy Cana Negra gran reserva Guatemalan rum from Marks & Spencer
This delicious cake, which comes from my book An Appetite for Ale, is based on a recipe from one of Britain's best bakers Dan Lepard. Do use organic dried fruit in it - you’ll get a much better result.
This is an amazing recipe I tasted earlier this year at the London Wine Fair and persuaded chef Cyrus Todiwala of Café Spice Namasté to share. He says it's not yet in any of his books so you're not to nick it and pass it off as yours!
The perfect Easter recipe comes from a lovely book called A Good Egg by Bristol-based cookery writer Genevieve Taylor who describes herself as an 'urban henkeeper'.
Ever tried chocolate with smoked salmon? Or with butternut squash soup for that matter? Unlikely matches, I'll grant you, but 'chocolate' - in its confectionery guise - is actually a misnomer. It's most likely cacao you'll be cooking with in future, if the founders of the fashionable chocolate brand 'Venezuelan Black' have their way.
You might think it odd to pick out South African Chenin rather than Chenin Blanc in general but I do think the wines are distinctive, particularly when it comes to the crisper styles which are much zestier than they tend to be in the Loire
The most useful clue to the kind of wine that works with cheesecake is to think of the toppings and flavourings that are used in cheesecake recipes rather than the base.
Prosecco is so often drunk on its own that you may not have given much thought to the kind of food you can pair with it but if I had to sum it up in two words it would be ‘party food’
There’s no doubt about it, trifle is tricky. If it includes booze already do you serve more on the side? And what kind of booze should that be?
Signe Johansen selflessly reports back from two tea and chocolate matching events during London's recent National Chocolate Week.
With Wimbledon in full swing, I’m sure you’ll be enjoying a bowlful or two of strawberries this week. But what to drink with them?
Although there are obviously differences between the two types of beer, dark stouts and porters tend to match similar types of food. Here are my top matches ...
I’ve thought for a while that Scandinavian food is on the way up so am not surprised to find another new cookbook on the subject from Trina Hahnemann who Telegraph cookery writer Xanthe Clay dubs ‘Denmark’s answer to Nigella’ in the paper today.
It’s always satisfying when a challenging food and wine hit it off and both cheesecake and icewine undoubtedly present their problems.
There’s an improbably good tea shop and café near where I live which is as good as any I’ve been to. I say improbable not because it’s in Bristol but because it’s in a far-from-smart shopping parade in one of the less cultish areas of the city. It also has a brilliantly clever name - ATTIC - which stands for All The Tea In China.
I still remember my visit to the great Oktoberfest in Munich, the world’s biggest beer festival. Mysteriously it’s not held in October at all - or rather it doesn’t start in October but in September - kicking off this weekend.
Syllabub - a velvety-smooth concoction of sweet wine and cream - is one of the great English desserts, dating from the 16th century. At this time of year I like to make it with orange rather than lemon, topped with an irresistibly crunchy mixture of orange zest and sugar.
If you’ve never tasted a fruit beer you might think this pairing sounds bizarre. If you have you can probably imagine just how good it would taste.
I've been invited to a game dinner at Brown's hotel in Mayfair next week at which every course is matched with a beer or a perry. I can't make it but thought you'd be interested in the pairings (my notes in italics):
It has been both the handicap and the saving grace of the English-speaking countries not to have a recognised centuries-long gastronomic tradition behind them. Settlers and colonists brought their own food customs with them to what became the British dominions.
If you're thinking of celebrating Midsummer Day this weekend here’s a fabulous pudding cake from my friend Scandinavian food writer, Signe Johansen’s Scandilicious Baking.
A show-stopping lemon meringue pie with a fashionable twist from Will Torrent's Patisserie at Home - a great book if you aspire to cook like a pastry chef (but don't be daunted. The instructions are particularly clear.)
It might seem perverse to choose a dessert from a barbecue book* but the Pitt Cue Co crew are as good at trashy desserts as they are at meat. And you need to finish off your BBQ somehow, don't you?
Did I want to go on a truffle trip to Spain at the end of January? Balmy Barbados seemed like a better option but since that wasn’t on the cards and the enquiry came from an old friend I said yes. The 2 day visit - the annual Viñas del Vero ‘Days of Wine and Truffles’ in Somontano would include an outdoor picnic in the foothills of the Pyrenees (eek), a truffle hunt and - the clincher - a multi-course truffle menu by one of the region’s most talented chefs followed by a gastronomic brunch. “Bring the Gaviscon”. my friend sagely advised.
It’s hard to avoid the obvious on St Paddy’s Day. Guinness, Bailey’s and Irish whiskey are the usual suspects but if none of these appeals here are the sort of wines that will work with classic Irish fare.
I’ve been a bit of a sceptic in the past about pairing food with whisky. Not that there aren’t some great combinations but I find it hard to sustain for more than one dish.
You may find family and friends resistant to the idea of putting beer on the Easter table (though some will be secretly pleased) but stick to your guns.
My assertion that custard tarts are the new cupcakes on Twitter recently has provoked such a heated exchange that I thought I’d stoke the fire by suggesting what you drink with ‘em.
No visit to Tuscany is complete without a glass of Vin Santo or ‘holy wine’, a (usually) sweet wine that is served at the end of the meal, almost always with hard little ‘cantucci’ biscuits.
A chocolate yule log or 'buche de Noël has become an increasingly popular dessert at Christmas but what kind of wine should you drink with it?
None of you, I’m sure, can have failed to notice just how many different bottles of rosé are now available on the average supermarket shelf. From being purely a summer wine there are now rosés for almost every type of food and occasion.
One of the all-time favourite British desserts sticky toffee pudding is super-sweet so will overwhelm most wines you might think of pairing with it so what should you choose?
Mince pies are not that different to Christmas pudding and Christmas cake so you could drink much the same sort of wine with them. But tradition obviously plays a part in terms of what most people expect and they do pair particularly well with fortified wines like port, sherry and madeira
As with my previous ‘learn by heart’ posts this is simply a quick way to remember great food and wine pairings at a busy time of year. There are of course other possibilities to which the links will guide you.
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.
Last week we had one of our periodic Cheese Schools - an event where we explore the best artisanal British cheeses and pair different drinks with them. A regular feature is a beer vs wine ‘smackdown’ but I sneaked in this amazing Blenheim Superb dessert cider* from Once Upon a Tree with the pud.
I was casting around for a dessert to make for friends on Saturday when I remembered this fantastic coffee cake from chef Margot Henderson’s book You’re all Invited. I suppose it’s more of a mid-morning or tea-time treat but I sometimes prefer cake to a full-blown pudding at the end of a rich meal.
It’s not often I come across a drink I’ve never heard of but Pacharan or Paxtaran, a Basque sloe-flavoured liqueur from Navarra, is one of them.
Simnel cake, for those of you who are not familiar with it, is the traditional British Easter cake (although at one time it was baked to celebrate Mother’s Day).
You may be used to drinking prosecco as an aperitif, maybe even with a nibble of parma ham or some other cichetti but last week was the first time I’ve been to a dinner where prosecco featured right throughout the meal.
Yesterday we had the family round for lunch and served a 2002 Douro red from Portugal with the main course of spice-crusted roast lamb with garlic and rosemary, roast potatoes (my youngest son managed to put away 15 but remains, annoyingly, as skinny as a rake) and in-season purple sprouting broccoli.
With four days in Edinburgh and three at the Ballymaloe Food & Drink Litfest in Co Cork this weekend I’ve been overwhelmed with good food and drink matches but as I haven’t singled out a dessert for a while I’m making Tom Kitchin’s Rhubarb cheesecake my hero dish this week.
This has to be one of the most off-the-wall drink pairings not only this year but since the site was first created over 10 years ago:
Chocolate is generally considered a tricky ingredient to match but it's not that hard - unless it's a hot fondant pudding.
It might seem perverse to pick a tea pairing as my match of the week after four days in wine country and one of the leading beer cities of the US but this combination was so unexpected and so brilliant I had to single it out.
What do you eat with a great bottle of Irish whiskey? Fruit cake might seem a bit frivolous to some and even brand you as, well . . . a bit of a fruitcake, but I can highly recommend it.
On Saturday we celebrated the 50th wedding anniversary of some good friends - a rare occasion which deserved (and got) several splendid bottles including a magnum of Gosset Champagne and another of one of the best of our local winemakers down here in the Faugères, Domaine des Estanilles (a magnum of the 2002 Château des Estanilles which was drinking superbly)
This week is the beginning of Fairtrade fortnight, the British Fairtrade Foundation’s annual push to encourage us all to buy more ethically traded products. There are now over 2000 Fairtrade certified products* available in the UK, ranging from peppercorns, cinnamon and vanilla pods, to avocados, rum and wine.
After last week's Muscat pairing my match of the week oddly involves Muscat again, this time a sweet Muscat Petits Grains from South Africa with the romantic name of Heaven-on-Earth. The grapes are apparently dried on a bed of straw and rooibos tea, a flavour I couldn't really pick up in the wine but it was very attractive nonetheless with an lovely quince and apricot flavour.
It’s a mystery to me why we need a Chocolate Week. Surely no-one (except aberrants like myself who have an inexplicable preference for potatoes) needs encouraging to eat chocolate. But there we have it and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to enjoy your favourite food in the country’s classiest chocolate shops over the next few days.
It’s not often I come across such a good dessert pairing, let alone one with whisky but here’s a stellar one from L Mulligan Grocer in Dublin which offers whisky pairings with all its desserts
It’s been hard to pick a single pairing from the beer and food matching dinner I attended at the Anchor in Walberswick last week but I reckon it’s got to be the perfect pairing of Bakewell tart and Liefmans Kriek.
I was hoping for an interesting pairing from the last meal of the year and wasn't disappointed. Like last year we went to a New Year's Eve dinner at Montpelier Basement supper club where we were treated to an amazing 8 course feast which lasted into the early hours of the morning.
The first thing to bear in mind about Thanksgiving - and for that matter Christmas - is that it’s as much about mood as food. Who you’re inviting, what age they are and how big your party is are factors every bit as important as what you’re eating.
Heston Blumenthal’s Jubilee picnic hamper was unveiled yesterday - to be served at Buckingham Palace before an open-air concert on June 4th. The picnic is being funded by Waitrose who must be pleased as punch to have the Palace’s endorsement in this video. The guests will also apparently be given vouchers for a glass of Moët or a bottle of Cobra beer (the other sponsors of the event).
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.
As usual spring weather is all over the place with blazing sun one minute and hail the next so here's a light lunch to enjoy with a couple of friends that has a touch of spring about it but still includes a warming stew.
As I mentioned in my last post our last lunch of the Oregon trip was at Cristom where sales director (no less!) John D'Anna cooked us a great meal. Here's how he did it and - where I have a link to them - the recipes he used. Try it!
One of the advantages of a blog as I pointed out the other day is that you can have a quick rave about a place or dish you stumble across without it taking several hours to research and write up.
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:
Chocolate is supposed to be impossible to match with wine but like any other ingredient it depends on the chocolate and how it’s used.
If you haven’t already made your plans for New Year’s Eve why not invite over a few friends and treat them to a beer dinner instead of one based on wine? It’s a great way to open their eyes to the great range of artisanal beers that are now available.
The Chinese New Year, which starts on Monday, is one of those annual events that really captures the imagination. It is celebrated in such a colourful and joyous way and Chinese food is so delicious, quick and simple to make that I hope you won't be able to resist having a go at it.
I have to confess I found it pretty hard to concentrate on the finer nuances of the food and wine combinations at the recent Cinnamon Club dinner. But when the speaker is the discursive Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon and you're sitting next to him that's no great surprise. Before the meal had even started we were into Kierkegaard and a vigorous discussion of terroir in the bar below over our glasses of Vin Gris de Cigare (a typically unorthodox full-bodied rosé based on Grenache, Cinsault and Roussanne).
Earlier this week I was involved in judging a selection of South African rieslings at High Timber in London and afterwards we had a three course lunch that had been designed to match with them. This is what we ate and drank.
This is a slight adaptation of a fantastic recipe from Italian cookery writer Valentina Harris which I first tasted on one of her cookery courses in Tuscany and included in my book Food, Wine and Friends.
Being Easter it’s not surprising that there’s a focus on chocolate in the press today though I’m not sure how many of us would be bold enough to serve venison with chocolate sauce to our nearest and dearest as Mark Hix has done in the Independent today.
Lucy Bridgers reports on an elegant dinner matching different vintages of Domaine de l’Arlot burgundy with a seasonal spring menu
For most people the New Zealand winery Cloudy Bay is synonymous with sauvignon blanc but their range now extends to sparkling, sweet and red wines, a message underlined by a dinner at Hix Mayfair (in Brown’s Hotel) the other day.
Tastings on Twitter are all the rage at the moment. The other day it was BeerBods. Last Thursday it was a tasting organised by The Whisky Wire of whiskies from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society with chocolates by William Curley.
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.
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.
One of the main events at the Dartmouth Food Festival this weekend was a dinner at Mitch Tonks Seahorse restaurant cooked by London chef Mark Hix. The unusual factor though was that every dish was matched with a cocktail.
One of the reasons people most appreciate independent wine merchants is that they can talk to them about the kind of wine that will suit the meals or occasions they're planning.
For the next 10 days I’m going to be visiting the vineyards of Oregon and Washington State so the site will turn into more of a blog. Our first day yesterday included lunch at Chateau Ste Michelle, by far Washington’s largest wine producer.
If you're looking for a show-stopping dessert to serve for a summer party try this utterly delicious tiered meringue cake I tasted (correction, 'ate') the other day at The Three Crowns.
Before home-grown strawberries disappear totally from the shops, a re-run of what I reckon is the ultimate strawberry tart recipe from Orlando Murrin's irresistible book, A Table in the Tarn and which he used to serve at his French guest house Le Manoir de Raynaudes.
If you’re organising a Red Nose Day tasting tonight here’s a zany idea for a pudding that I devised for a Sainsbury’s magazine feature a couple of years ago when I interviewed TV presenter Phillip Schofield for Comic Relief.
A sample recipe from food writer and photographer Regula Ysewijn's Pride and Pudding which I really hope will make you want to buy this brilliant new book.
If you're having a late summer barbecue this weekend here is one of the most delicious - and surprising recipes - from my book An Appetite for Ale. I love serving them because no-one has the faintest idea they have beer in them.
"Hallowe'en's always a great excuse to let your imagination run riot and to make some spectacularly spooky food" says cookery writer Signe Johansen.
To round off National Vegetarian Week here's a recipe from one of the most inspiring vegetarian cookery books I've come across: Sally Butcher's charming, idiosyncratic Veggiestan.. Sally runs an Iranian food store called Persepolis in south-east London so the recipes - which are terrific - all have an middle-eastern slant. It's also a cracking read!
If you're thinking of baking something for teatime today try this traditional English caraway seed cake from cookery writer Orlando Murrin.
This is one of the recipes I go back to most often. Yes, it’s a cake but you can also serve it as a pudding. It comes from Margot Henderson’s* wonderful You’re All Invited which I strongly recommend you to buy.
This was the dessert I raved about at Blackfoot in Exmouth market the other day and which I was thrilled to see was in their consultant chef Allegra McEvedy's terrific new book Big Table, Busy Kitchen. I know we're not supposed to be eating puds in January but make an exception for this one.
As you've probably noticed we're currently in the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight. Encouragingly sales of Fairtrade produce and products were up 12% last year making sales in the UK worth £1.32bn in 2011, compared to £1.17bn in 2010, according to this recent piece in the Guardian.
One of the things I love about social media is that it's just that: social. You make friends with people through exchanging tweets and now, increasingly, 'liking' their images on Instagram.
To celebrate Chocolate Week here's one of my favourite recipes for a chocolate and cherry roulade which comes from my book An Appetite for Ale. Unusually it contains two different types of beer! You can obviously leave one of them out though a cherry beer is the perfect pairing with it.
The perfect recipe for Mother's Day this Sunday from Sybil Kapoor's lovely Simply Baking book for the National Trust. In fact you might giver her a copy of that as well . . .
In the run-up Christmas there’s not much time for time-consuming dinner parties so this tasting and light supper is a fun and indulgent way to entertain good friends. Ask each of them to bring a chilled* bottle of bubbly - Champagne or otherwise - provide a couple of your own, cover up the bottles and taste them ‘blind’. Great fun for a start to see who can spot the ‘real’ Champagne (don’t worry if you can’t - many professionals are fooled by these kind of exercises) and a delicious way to get into festive mood.
So sophisticated is the South African food and drink scene now that you can expect to find suggested wine pairings at practically every restaurant you go to but some wine farms have made even more of a feature of their skill at combining the two - a fun way of learning the art of matching food and wine.
The last two days have been quite, quite beautiful, starting mistily, basking midday in an unseasonally warm sun and finishing with an extended dusk that announces that spring is finally here. I immediately want to eat lighter meals: the new season’s vegetables are not quite in yet but I can at least plan for summer and that means a spring clean of the cellar, pushing the full bodied reds to the back and assessing what whites, lighter reds and rosés I still have lurking in the racks.
It’s the time of year to look back and review the best food and wine matches of 2011. Some were comfortingly familiar, some a total surprise to me. What they had in common was that the combination was more than the sum of the parts. The drink - in most cases wine - made the food taste more delicious, the food just made the wine sing. I hope you enjoy something similar in 2012.
I’ve never totally bought into the idea but a recent wine and chocolate tasting put on by Australian Wine at Australia House in London went halfway to convincing me.
An hour and a half on matching fine wine and chocolate and every pairing a winner? Impossible I would have said. But in the experienced hands of Roberto Bava, not only a winemaker but the President of the Italian chocolate society, the Compagnia del Ciccolatto, the tasting ran as smoothly as clockwork.
One of my favourite food bloggers Helen Graves of Food Stories selflessly subjected herself to an evening of chocolate and cocktail pairing at Choc Tales, a highlight of London's recent Chocolate Week which saw some of the country’s best chocolatiers paired with premier booze hounds. Here’s her report:
One of the aspects of the World’s Best Sommelier competition I hadn’t really thought about is how on earth you create a menu for a roomful of sommeliers. And choose wine pairings they won’t be sniffy about. One way is to impress them with large format bottles and old vintages which is the route competition sponsor Moët et Chandon took . . .
If you haven't yet worked out what to drink tomorrow (which is February 14th, if you need reminding!) here are a few suggestions to match popular Valentine's Day foods.
I have a bit of a problem with pumpkin pie. I'm not a big fan of pumpkin and I don't have a massively sweet tooth which makes the thought of partnering it with a sweet wine a bit of a killer. But I know I'm in a minority and with Thanksgiving coming up on Thursday here are my top picks:
Although Christmas might feel firmly over many people will still be celebrating Twelfth Night this week. In France they mark the occasion with a Galette des Rois - a round cake filled with frangipane (almond paste) and topped with a golden paper crown.
The classic tarte au citron is tricky with wine, particularly if it’s home made. And the sharper and more lemony (and delicious) it is, the harder it is to find a good match.
There is an argument that you don't need anything to drink with the classic Christmas pudding*, especially if you've sloshed brandy all over it but if you're pairing other courses of the Christmas meal you might fancy a small glass of something sweet.
For the last couple of weeks The Telegraph has been running recipes from two of my favourite chefs, Sam and Sam Clark of Moro, the iconic Moorish recipe in Exmouth Market in London that I discover, to my amazement, is now 11 years old. Sam (the husband) is very into his wines, particularly sherry, so I'm suggesting Spanish wines for the pairings.
Although stollen is a little bit lighter than the classic British Christmas baking some of the pairings I suggested with mince pies (like sweet sherry and tawny port) will work too . . .
Although chocolate mousse is usually made from dark chocolate it's quite a light dessert as chocolate puddings go because of its airy texture - lighter than petits pots au chocolat, for example.
Following my trip to Islay a while ago I drew up some pairings for its extraordinary peaty whiskies. I’m not a great one for whisky dinners but I like the idea of serving tapa-sized dishes with a dram.
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.
There are some dishes you just know you’re going to order when you spot them on a menu and the builders’ tea ice-cream that came with a Yorkshire curd tart at newly opened Lorne in London's Pimlico last week had my name all over it.
Last week we were in the south of France where, bizarrely, it wasn't as hot as it's been in England the past couple of days. One night we went round for supper at a neighbour's who served the simplest and most delicious dessert of white pèches de vigne with chilled Muscat de Frontignan splashed over them.
I think I’m a bit fixated with figs at the moment. Last week’s match of the week involved them and so does this week’s but it’s a totally different affair.
One of the nicest Christmas traditions I've picked up along the years is the Spanish habit of serving a platter of sweetmeats at the end of the meal or on other occasions when you want something sweet. It usually includes different kinds of turron, the Spanish version of nougat which comes in soft and hard versions, some with whole almonds, some without. To that you could add some polvorones (delicious almond cookies) large Moscatel raisins, figs and dates and even a few chocolate truffles if you like.
Toasted hay tart might not sound particularly appealing but you’ll have to trust me, it was delicious! It was the spectacular finale to a meal to celebrate 36 years of the iconic Bristol restaurant Bell’s Diner at the Eat, Drink Bristol Fashion festival in Bristol last week. The current chef Chris Wicks who cooked the meal has been in place for the last 12 or so.
This doesn’t, I admit, sound a particularly tempting proposition so let me explain. By oxidised sweet wines I mean dessert wines which have been deliberately exposed to air through extended barrel ageing, giving them a complex nutty, treacley flavour.
Let’s face it, I don’t get to drink Chateau d’Yquem every day so what else could last week’s match of the week be than this stellar pairing I had at Dinner at Heston Blumenthal?
Citrus flavours are difficult to match with wine, as I’ve mentioned before, but a classic lemon tart with its combination of sharpness and sweetness is particularly tricky. The better a tart is the more it will tend to strip the flavour out of any accompanying wine, so much so that it’s almost worth serving a shop-bought one (of which there are some very good examples) if you have a serious dessert wine to show off.
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.
Last week was the London Wine Fair - the last place, to be honest, I expected to find a stellar wine match. (It doesn't feature food.)
This may sound an unlikely combination but bear with me.
The peaches are so fabulous here in Arles, so gorged with sweet, ripe juice that we’re eating them almost daily. One great way to serve them which I was reminded about the other night when we dined at a local restaurant, Le Corazon is with red wine - just as good as the better-known pears in red wine.
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.
If you’re looking for something really original to impress your Valentine next weekend try this fabulous pairing.
Having been in Portugal for three days this week it’s no surprise that my top match this week is a port but the food pairing is surprisingly simple and delicious.
The soft creamy fizz of Italy's famous sparkling wine Prosecco makes it a marvellous match for Italian panettone which is not too rich or too sweet to overwhelm it. I discovered the combination a couple of years ago when I tried the celebratory Easter dove-shaped Colomba Pasquale which is topped with crystallised sugar with a glass of Bisol’s elegant Cartizze Prosecco de Valdobbiadene which sells in the UK for roughly 16 a bottle (check out wine-searcher.com for stockists)
Is there a good match for jelly and ice-cream? A dessert wine can seem too heavy - and ice cream can strip out its sweetness - but prosecco is perfect, as I discovered at the weekend.
I know Thanksgiving has past but I came across such a good pairing for pecan pie at a friend's* house the other day I had to tell you about it. Her pie by the way was quite distinctive with a thin layer of soft caramel in the centre (and, obviously, crisp pecans on the top).
I’ve been rediscovering tea pairing with food lately and this was a standout match at my local self-styled modern tearoom Lahloo Pantry in Bristol. It was a simple pound cake topped with spicy pears* cooked in chai syrup with the company's own green jasmine tea.
If you want to show off a fine dessert wine the ideal match is a simple French apple or pear tart, so there should be no surprise then at this pairing of a pear frangipane tart (pears with a spongey almond base) and a Pacherenc de Vic Bilh cuvée 'Octobre'.
Port and stilton is one of the classic wine pairings but does it work if you pair a port with a blue cheese chocolate?
There were two strong candidates for match of the week this week but as my last three pairings have involved a crisp white wine (which reveals something about my current preferences) I didn’t think I could feature yet another one*
It was hard to pick just one pairing from the stellar meal I had at Marcus Wareing in London last week but this combination of robustly cooked John Dory and 2005 Nuits-St-Georges from Domaine Daniel Rion was the most interesting, underlining that red wine can be just as good a partner for white fish as for meatier fish like tuna.
It’s hard to pick out a single pairing from last week’s brilliant pop-up beer dinner at the Independent Manchester Beer Convention (IndyManBeerCon) but I’m going for this one because it’s Chocolate Week in the UK.
Last Friday night Helen, our designer, and I had a bit of a works outing to our colleague Monica Shaw's who works on the nuts and bolts of the website. She cooked up an amazing Mexican feast of which this was just one element but it was striking how much better the whole meal went with beer than with wine.
Once you get a feel for food and wine matching you don’t always need to taste a wine with a dish to know what will work. So it was with a simple, seasonal dessert I had last week at my favourite local, Culinaria.
As the kids were off home straight after the New Year we jumped the gun by a few days with the last of the seasonal treats, a celebratory galette des rois. Traditionally eaten in France on the 6th of January (Twelfth Night) it celebrates the arrival of the three kings to visit the infant Jesus.
I've struggled to come up with a single pairing from last week as all the matches I was offered at the two-Michelin-starred The Ledbury were spot on but this, I think, is the most spectacular.
One of the courses at the food and wine workshops I hosted for Irish wine importer Febvre at Drury Buildings in Dublin last week was a frozen milk chocolate and raspberry cake - well, sort of cake. More like a cross between a cake and a mousse.
With two spectacularly high profile meals last week (see my last two posts) it was hard to choose a match this week. Should it be the Crozes-Hermitage and Herdwick mutton, kidney and oyster pie I had at Hix, or the perfect pairing of Sebastian Bobinet’s 2006 Saumur Champigny 'Amateus Bobi' and pig’s trotter at Pierre Koffman’s pop-up restaurant at Selfridges? (There - I’ve told you anyway!)
We’ve been feasting on figs from our neighbours' fig tree in Grau d’Agde down in the Languedoc this weekend - all the more satisfying as I gather that back home Waitrose is currently selling them at 99p each.
I’ve always thought of an elderflower spritzer as the perfect drink to pair with elderflower fritters - until this weekend when I tried them with Moscato d’Asti at the local underground supper club Montpelier Basement.
If you haven’t got round to thinking of a suitably romantic dessert for tonight try this simple idea: buy a few gorgeous dark handmade chocolates and truffles and serve them with a frozen shot of cherry brandy. (Don’t worry, it won’t actually freeze, simply turn lusciously cold and syrupy.)
Just as last week’s match of the week was a classic - so is this week’s: the main course we had at Oliver Peyton’s National Gallery Café at a dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Circle of Wine Writers.
For a long time I’ve resisted the idea of a Nespresso machine but then a friend said she had a spare to get rid of and I’ve succumbed. Why did I wait so long? No sooner does the thought enter your mind that you might like a coffee than you can gratify it. Literally in seconds.
Those of you who follow my Twitter feed will be aware I’ve been away at the Vegas Uncork’d festival so it might seem a touch perverse to pick out a non-wine pairing as my match of the week - and one from a meal outside the festival programme.
As we have so much freshly made marmalade in the house I thought I’d make some kind of marmalade pudding as my contribution to the lunch we had with friends yesterday and settled on this chocolate marmalade slump cake from Lucas Hollweg’s marvellous Good Things to Eat.
This was by far the most popular pairing at a chocolate and wine tasting I did for the West of England Wine and Spirit Association in Bristol on Friday night. We didn’t actually have the ice cream but I think it would have made it even better.
I was invited to host a food and wine evening by the Bristol Uni Wine Circle last week which I have to say, despite the vast quantities of food and drink consumed, they took impressively seriously.
The most interesting meal I had last week was undoubtedly at Viajante, an innovative new restaurant in what used to be Bethnal Green town hall. You can see my full review on decanter.com but I just wanted to write a bit more about the pairings.
I’m not a great spirits drinker but last night after a day sorting out dusty bookshelves we just fancied indulging ourselves in a small glass of Cognac as a nightcap. It was admittedly a good one - a Hine Antique Cognac which has all the hallmark rich vanilla and spicy notes you look for in a top quality brandy.
I’ve never been wholly convinced that sweet white wines go with dark chocolate but have had to modify that view after a surprisingly successful pairing at my friends' this weekend.
I don’t normally go for the wine pairings with tasting menus as it’s one of the most expensive ways of ordering wine but thought it was worth a whirl at a recent pop-up by chef Stephen Harris at the much-lauded Noble Rot wine bar.
After two days in the Jura and 24 hours in Champagne it was harder than usual to come up with just one match this week* but I’m going for this combination of apricot tart and Louis Roederer’s demi-sec champagne Carte Blanche because it’s one you can reasonably easily replicate at home.
Why don’t more people make souffls these days? I include myself in that. They’re not that difficult, look so impressive and are such a lovely match for a dessert wine.
Apple tart is a pretty forgiving kind of dessert but here's a brilliant new pairing I found at Casanis restaurant in Bath last week.
One of the most intriguing things to find out about chefs is not what they cook in their restaurants but what they feed their family and friends. True, at St John one morphs into the other, but the lunch they held in London this week to celebrate the publication of Fergus Henderson’s new book The Complete Nose to Tail was one I’d have been more than proud to put on for my mates.
Haggis may be traditional fare for Burns' Night but let's face it, it's not everyone's cup of tea. So here's a Scottish inspired menu that I suspect you'll probably enjoy rather more (unless you're born and bred Scots, of course...)
After the tradition-bound cooking of the Christmas period (from which the family will never let you deviate . . .) it’s good to branch out a bit with your New Year’s Eve meal and also pick some dishes that will allow you to drink some serious wines. Note you need to start the beef two days in advance.
Before we finally plunge into winter here's a late autumn supper menu from my book Food, Wine and Friends that combines the best of autumn’s produce with a couple of convenience products.
Whatever you get up to on Valentine’s night (and truly, I’d rather not know) my guess is you’ve got better things to do than spend it slaving over a hot stove. So this is an unashamed cheat’s menu for you to romance your loved one with the absolute minimum of effort. Needless to say, buy only the very best ingredients.
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.
With Hallowe'en just a couple of weeks away here's a sophisticated supper for those of you who don't have to go out trick or treating . . .
While we may not be enjoying quite the temperatures they have in Greece this time of year is still a good excuse for summery food so try this simple meal for 4 that was inspired by a trip to Greece a few years ago.
One of the Christmas bargains last year was a Pillitteri vidal icewine which Lidl was managing to sell for an astonishing £14.99 a half bottle, probably cheaper than you could find it from its country of origin, Canada.
Although this site is called matchingfoodandwine.com you may have spotted it contains a fair few other drinks including beer, cider, spirits and soft drinks. So I’ve been thinking for a while of creating a weekly slot to showcase some some more off-beat bottles and bevvies I come across.