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Drink: Chalk and Cheese

People assume tCastello Boardhat all wine and cheeses work together, but actually some wine/cheese combinations are awful. Red wine is to blame for most unsuccessful pairings as cream, soft, goat and blue cheese simply don’t work with red wine and may work better with white, sweet or fortified wines or beers and ciders. Read more

Tasteratr: Smoked Scottish Salmon

Salmon and smoked salmon were once a great luxury, but thanks to fish farming this king of the river and sea is now more ubiquitous than the cod (which due to overfishing is now almost achieving luxury status!). There is of course very good farmed fish, but usually you get what you pay for. Cheap salmon is bland and overly fatty and while passable as a fish cake the smoking process seems to highlight any flaws in the fish.

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Tasteratr: Chablis 1er Cru

Chablis is a region to the south of Champagne and to the north of Burgundy in northern France. They only make white wine from the Chardonnay grape variety. Unlike most Chardonnay Chablis is traditionally unoaked.When it is good it is very, very good – a fine balance between rich, creamy texture and flinty dryness – but when it is bad – acidic and bitter – it is horrid. Read more

Tasteratr: Barolo and Barbaresco

These two neighbouring appellations or villages produce wine from the Nebbiolo grape variety, which has characteristic tar, rose and black cherry flavours. The name doesn’t guarantee quality wines range from the sublime to the substandard. Read more

Tasteratr: Dry Spaghetti

Good quality dried pasta tastes better, holds more sauce (because it is pushed through a rough bronze die) and is easier to cook to a perfect al-dente (cheapers brands turn mushy). We have tested most supermarket own brands and a selection of independent brands. Read more

Drink: Drinking outside the box?

We live in an age of extreme technology, yet some things remain surprisingly static. Think of the humble water closet. First patented by Joseph Bramah in 1778, it remains virtually unchanged to this day. And how about the wine we drink? Despite the progress we have made in quality and consistency, it would still be recognisable to the pioneer winemakers of Armenia, six thousand years ago. Read more

Burger Index: Hawksmoor (Seven Dials)

Forget about foie gras. Knowing your burger onions is the sign of a true gourmet. However, finding a good burger is quite like finding a good woman. So complex, so illusive and so many variables that can go wrong. But when you find a goody…oh boy!

This is the story of one man’s search for the best bit of pattie in town. Read more

Drink: Au naturel: backwards to the future

The natural wine movement, which began in France in the 1970s, could be seen as retaliation to all the taste-free, insipid, mass produced brands that litter our shelves. Although it has taken some 40 years to gather momentum, today natural wine is the buzzword on the lips of most sommeliers. Natural wines are now produced all over the world, but Italy and France are particular hotbeds of activity. But what is unnatural wine?

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Drink: April Fool

I admit it. One swallow last week and I decided that summer was here! I feel a bit foolish now as the rain pours down, but I have started so…. We all have a summer wardrobe, but many of us forget to drink with the season. Put away those heavy Barolos and Chiantis and let the sunshine into your mouth. Summer wines should be young, unoaked and light. Also if you are drinking in the sun, wines lower in alcohol are far more quaffable and the responsible choice!

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Cook: Better Bread – Panzanella

The most disappointing thing about living in Tuscany? The bread! Although a cut above Sunblest and baked fresh daily it lacks flavour (it is usually unsalted) and goes stale quicker than you can say Panzanella! Luckily this recipe makes stale bread into Tuscan gold. This bread salad can be served as a summery starter or goes well with grilled fish or roast chicken. The most difficult part of the recipe (if you are in the UK) will be getting your hands on a good tomato! Read more

Cook: Porcini Risotto

Risotto is traditional in the north (Piedmont, Veneto) where the special rice is grown. The key to successful risotto is good stock, proper risotto rice, a large heavy bottomed pan and timing – it is really easy to overcook. Also serve it alone (not as an accompaniment) and one good ladleful is enough per person. Fresh porcini can be hard to find so you can use Portobello instead, but the risotto won’t have the same flavour/texture. Expect to pay £8-10 for 100g of dried porcini – they should be identifiable as mushroom slices not woody sticks (cheap and nasty). Read more

Cook: Playing with fire – Confit Salt Cod with Tortilla

I have to admit my cooking style is rather ‘freestyle’. A pinch of this and a taste of that. But some dishes require a more scientific approach. I had this dish in San Sebastien and thought I would give it a go. When you count in the salt cod (£15), the bottle of olive oil (£7.50) and the digital thermometer (£25) this “peasant” dish starts to become seriously haughty. Read more

Burger Index: Byron (Islington)

Forget about foie gras. Knowing your burger onions is the sign of a true gourmet. However, finding a good burger is quite like finding a good woman. So complex, so illusive and so many variables that can go wrong. But when you find a goody…oh boy!

This is the story of one man’s search for the best bit of pattie in town. Read more

Cook: Wanton Gluttony

Steamed dumplings are one of life’s greatest pleasures. But with so many great Dim Sum restaurants in London is it really worth the hastle? This recipe is quick, easy and fun to make and you can be sure to avoid ‘surprise’ meat!

I use wanton wrapers that you can buy fresh in all good Chinese and Vietnamese supermarkets. One packet will give you around 30 dumplin’ – enough for 4 as a starter. Keep the wrapers chilled in the fridge until the last minute or they meld together into an unworkable lump! Read more

Cook: Recycled Food

Recycling is all the rage, but it still doesn’t stop us throwing away thousands of tonnes of edible food every year. But this isn’t an eco rant as I don’t have a leg to stand on (except all my bulbs are long life). I recycle my food because it gives dishes of incomparable depth and complexity. Like a good wine flavours will develop in dishes that are left in the fridge for a few days. I am not sure how safe it is to recycle food for a fortnight, but I am still here. Read more

Away: Pizza, Pasta, Prada!

PradaThe best things in life………are expensive! But think of all the money you will save once you learn how to make your own pizza and pasta! Our PPP weekend will teach you some great, simple Italian cooking and includes a shopping trip to the nearby Prada Outlet called Space. This designer weekend costs £450 and excludes all Prada purchases!

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Away: A dirty weekend – The Winemaker’s Apprentice

The Winemaker's Apprentice

The Winemaker’s Apprentice

The Winemaker’s Apprentice is a new school where you get to play at winemaker for the week or weekend. The course will include the usual tastings, theory and winery visits, but also you will be involved producing the wine of that year. What you will be doing depends on the time of year that you visit, but could be pruning, picking, blending or racking. The classroom is the vineyard, so expect to get dirty!

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Cook: BBC2 Restaurant in your home

The joy of reality!

For those of you who didn’t catch the BBC2 show last night here is a quick synopsis: supposedly media savvy couple (me and Marie my girlfriend) stupidly involve themselves in a reality TV show about setting up a restaurant in your own home. The program was a pilot for a new series fronted by supposed ‘experts’ Mike and Tina. Read more

Eat: Quo Vadis

Formerly the home of Karl Marx (who lived upstairs from 1851 -1856), Quo Vadis (meaning “where are you going” in Latin) has been a celebrity hang-out ever since it opened as a restaurant in 1926. Soho without Quo Vadis is almost unthinkable and the building exudes a sense of permanence and grandeur from a bygone era.

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Eat: Hi Sushi Izakaya

Hi Sushi!Last month I was invited to review Hi Sushi’s latest restaurant in the heart of Covent Garden. Normally I would run a mile to avoid a restaurant chain – having worked for Michelin starred Umu I am a self confessed sushi-snob. I once asked head chef Ichiro Kubota about Nobu and he scowled ‘Nobu Bullshit!’ and I have to agree. I don’t think cheap sushi should be allowed – it stinks.

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