Friday, 29 June 2012

Rhubarb Wheat Beer Cocktail

A tasty cocktail made with wheat beer and rhubarb syrup (I found the recipe here) made due to us having an abundance of homegrown rhubarb.  An odd one.  It was tasty but a little on the sweet side once you paired the syrup with the beer.  On its own the syrup was nicely balanced between the sweetness and the sour notes from the rhubarb, but once added to the beer it seemed overly sweet and seemed to lose the rhubarb flavour.  The beer we used was a new one on me - Steph Weiss.  According to the promo material in the store Steph Weiss is produced by a collective of South Africans brewing in Ghent.  (This may be what convinced me to buy it as I'm a sucker for anything Belgian.)  On its own the beer is quite tasty, but not the best example of a wheat beer around. On the nose there's a slight sweet fruitiness, and to taste it's a little on the bland side although drinkable enough, but this might be why it didn't stand up to the sweetness of the rhubarb syrup in the cocktail.

Incidentally, the leftover rhubarb syrup contributed to a delicious eton mess style dessert; macerate some strawberries in a couple of tablespoons of the syrup.  After about an hour add some crushed meringues and some whipped cream (or natural yoghurt if you're going for a healthier option) and give it a brief mix - delicious!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

David Chang at the St John Hotel

David Chang of Momofuku fame recently spent two day in the kitchen at St John Hotel. We found about this event serendipitously, when I happened to see Tim Anderson (2011 Masterchef winner) tweet that he had a reservation. After a swift email, a stressful wait for a reply, and a some to-ing and fro-ing on time slots, we secured a booking and the deposit was paid.  Not cheap at £100 per head (before drinks and service), but this was a one off, and we had both regretted not paying Momofuku a visit during our trip to New York a couple of years ago.

Pork Bun

Moist, juicy thick slices of belly pork encased in a soft steamed bun. Accompanied by a dish of chicharron - fried pork skin.  Not being a fan of crackling or scratchings it was inevitable that I wouldn't be overwhelmed by these, but Sam loved them.

Seared mackerel, shoots and mustard oil.  The white dots are made from cod roe - we weren't sure how they'd been prepared, as they were toasty and crispy in texture.

Eel Dashi, Peas and Samphire

A heavily smoke-scented and flavoured dish, presumably coming from the smoked eel.  The dashi was salty and incredibly savoury, with the samphire and enoki mushrooms adding to this, then the fresh peas and pea shoots added a freshness and really lifted the flavour.  This was served with a choux bun filled with eel scented cream and an apple gel which again lifted and freshened the flavour.

Spicy Rice Cakes, Shallots and Choi Sim

Probably our favourite dish of the meal - incredibly spicy and moreish, rice cakes cooked in a pork sausage ragu (for want of a better word), topped with crispy shallots.

Bo Ssam

Pork shoulder and rib eye, served with the usual ssam accompaniments of rice, ssam sauce, kimchi and a surprising addition of oysters.  The ribeye was delicious - a first for me - very moist, with an interesting texture, and an intense porky flavour.  Sadly the rice was quite dry and we suspected not freshly cooked.

I really wish I liked or could even stomach oysters, as I often feel I'm missing out.  I couldn't bring myself to try one, but Sam did, and I'll be honest - the look on his face made me think I'd made the right decision.  Whereas Sam is brave enough to try and train himself to like them, I'm afraid I'm just a wimp.

Dr Henderson's Ice Cream

The final course, and the only way I can describe the flavour of Dr Henderson ice cream is, well, strange.  Possibly an acquired taste it incorporates the much maligned liqueur Creme de Menthe, and the bitter Fernet Branca. Having said that it was strangely tasty and the chocolate brownie-like biscuit served with it was delicious, I'd love the recipe.

Overall, a very enjoyable meal, if a bit over-priced - I had expected a few more 'luxury' ingredients given what we paid for the meal.  A couple of minor niggles regarding the service - aperitifs arrived halfway through the first course rather than before the food started arriving, the dessert was brought to the table whilst I was in the loo, and the most unforgivable of all - the waiter who brought us post-dinner drinks tried to fob us off with madiera rather than the port we'd ordered, claiming it was 'almost the same'.....hmm.  Having eaten at St John and St John Bread and Wine previously I'd say this is my least favourite of the three ambiance-wise - it has a canteen-like feel and was very noisy when full.

Apart from the points I have mentioned above though the service was professional, friendly and attentive, and the food was incredibly good.  The portions were big and we had plenty of uneaten pork shoulder leftover, which was packaged up for us to take home - it made a superb lunch the following day.  Should we manage to take another trip to New York anytime soon we will definitely be paying Momofuku a visit.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Invivo Wines

Founded in 2007, Invivo wines is a youthful, boutique winery making some exciting wines in prime (or should I say primo) wine growing regions of New Zealand. I was invited to the UK launch of their wines at the Refinery in Southwark. We tasted a range of wines and experienced a little piece of Invivo's love of combining wine and art. These innovative kiwis have released a series of custom graffiti wine boxes to present their wine. Here is a run through of my thoughts on some of their wines

Three wines of Invivo - Sauvignon Blanc, Rose and Pinot Noir 
Bella by Invivo, 2011
Tim Lightbourne from Invivo is obviously proud of the low alcohol (9.5%) and low calorie Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Bella, and with good reason. The key to successful low alcohol wine and beer is to pack it so full of flavour that with the first sip, all preconceptions about the alcohol content are instantly forgotten. Bella does the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc thing in spades. It's packed with perfumed elderflower and lime acidity which excite the nose and refresh the palate. The fruit driven nature of the wine and some residual sugar gives the impression of being slightly off dry and this seems to give the wine more length than expected given the low alcohol content. Invivo are pushing the low calorie appeal of this wine but for me it is the lower ABV which is the real draw. If we ever get some sustained sun, this wine would be perfect for an afternoon glass in the garden or with a picnic. And if you need another excuse to buy a bottle, pint sized sex therapist, Dr Ruth, recommends low alcohol wine to get in the mood!

At £14.99 the price is a touch on the high side but this is a special wine and for the right occasion is one of a kind. 

Invivo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Bella's big sister is a more sophisticated and subtle affair. It's a powerful and complex example of what can be achieved with Marlborough Sauvignons, the tropical fruit, lime and gooseberry is balanced carefully with a herbal acidity and a rich, almost biscuity mouthfeel which lingers until the next sip. A good wine for food and a bargain at £12.99.

          Graffiti artists Da Wild Stallions were working on the wine boxes while we sampled the wines 
Invivo Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010
My wine of the evening was this excellent, gold award winning, Pinot Noir. The nose is sweetly perfumed with red berries and leather. In the mouth dark cherries, plums and dark chocolate tell the story from a New Zealand Pinot with surprising depth and almost Burgundian earthy elegance. I took a French friend with me to the launch and he said it rivalled anything he has had from France recently. High praise indeed. The RRP for this wine is £19.99.

Also available from Invivo are a Rosé and a Pinot Gris.

All of these wines are available at Harvey Nicholls,, and independent wine shops. 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Darkstar Six Hop Ale

Darkstar SixHop Ale, 6.5%

Sticky resinous grapefruit marmalade on the nose with cakey malt, smells like your hands after a homebrew session. Good malty foundation to support the huge hoppy hit. It's bracingly bitter, the pounding warms the tongue and the belly, but the hops dance dance around the mouth delighting with every sip. A superbly satisfying beer.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Sharp's Single Brew

 Another tasty one from the Sharp's Connoiseurs Choice range. 10% ABV, and like the Honey Spice Tripel it doesn't taste it.  A pale golden colour with mandarin/citrus on the nose.  Very dry and fruity with astringent hops, bitterness following through towards the end.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Duchesse de Bourgogne

A wheat beer aged in oak barrels. Red beer.  Sweet, tastes of red fruit, slightly Ribeena-like, fruit/balsamic vinegar notes.  Slight Brett/Elastoplast taste.  Definitely a sipping beer - 6.2% ABV and tastes it!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Sharp's Honey Spice Tripel

Part of the new Sharp's Connoiseurs Choice range.  10% ABV. On the nose we got banana/banoffee pie.  Tastes much better/more complex than it smells, refreshing, with a good level of carbonation and a peppery spice flavour from the Saaz hops and a honey sweetness (as the name might suggest).  Astonishing clarity.  The alcohol is well hidden, and it doesn't taste nearly as strong as it could, but the alcohol comes through at the end with a boozy finish. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Adnams Spirit of Broadside

Eau De Vie de Biere. It sounds like a good idea. No, it sounds like a great idea and this pioneering Spirit of Broadside has been a been long time coming.

It's been on the cards since Adnams installed the distillery at their brewery in Southwold and finally the wait is over. The spirit is distilled from their flagship strong ale, Broadside, and matured in Russian oak for twelve months. 

The sample bottle was opened with a pop and as instructed I poured a finger with a splash of water and took a big sniff.

After the hit of alcohol comes banana, apple and pear, dried fruit and wood. 

Now to taste: at first I was disappointed with the lack of apparent malt and hop character although there was a ton of dried fruits with wood and spiciness. After a few sips, the honeyed malts of the broadside start to appear from under the wood, then a hint of grassy hop bitterness follows. The further down the glass I get the more I'm enjoying it. The lovely malt flavours linger on the palate and make this a very successful attempt to produce a truly unique spirit. 

This is definitely a bottle to consider alongside quality whiskies and I think the most successful product to come from the Adnams distillery yet. A lovely warming drink, ideal for the terrible June weather we are currently having.

Many thanks to Adnams for sending me the very cool sample bottle package. 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Pickled Chorizo and Borlotti Beans with Porter Vinegar

Now you've made your beer vinegar I'm sure you are all wondering what to do with it. Well before it all gets used up in salad dressings I thought I should explore the pickling possibilities. The porter vinegar has continued to develop and now has a rich,sweet aroma along with the burnt, woody malts

I consulted Ideas in Food again and found a very interesting idea, pickled chorizo. This is the kind of recipe idea I love; it introduces a completely new idea (to me anyway), it's very simple and the final product can be used in a variety of further dishes. It really is as simple as taking a loop of dried chorizo slicing it into 1/8th inch rounds and pickling in some vinegars and soy sauce. The original recipe uses balsamic, sherry and rice vinegar bur I wanted the flavours of the porter vinegar I made to come through so these are the ratios I used.

  • Porter vinegar 50%
  • Rice vinegar 25%
  • Soy sauce 25%

Two days in the fridge and we pull out a bowl of fatty, salty, meat condiment that add a powerful punch of savoury to all sorts of dishes. 

On this occasion I made a simple bean stew by: 

  • Frying and simmering some leeks over a low heat until soft.
  • Adding the pickled chorizo and again frying briefly to release some of the paprika oils. 
  • Tip in half a can of tomatoes and a tin of drained borlotti beans. 
  • Season with salt and pepper and add a tablespoon of the pickling juice
  • Simmer for 20 minutes or so until the tomatoes have thickened into a sauce and serve. 
You can garnish with parsley and serve with some buttered crusty bread for a delicious lunch.

I have found that a tablespoon of the porter vinegar in any tomato sauce works very nicely as a sharp balance.