Archive for January, 2010


Fondue Friday

For a little while last year a group of us had a sort of regular evening meet-up going, where the main emphasis was on cheese. Cheese of the molten variety, accompanied by all manner of dippable delights and several bottles of easily gluggable wine. As it happened, it often took place on a Tuesday, and was thus known as Fon-Tuesday™. For various reasons (the extreme scarcity of fondue lighting gel in shops these days being one) this regular dipfest eventually fizzled out. So last week, thanks to our host Corinne, we were delighted to hail the glorious return of the cast iron pot of cheese (albeit it on a Friday this time, but we won’t get picky). It really is the most sociable way to eat, all of us clambering over each other, spearing the contents of various pots and bowls, dribbling lava-hot cheese over each other’s wrists. Joy! Now I don’t mean to brag, but I think we’d given slightly more thought and attention to our raw materials than most fondue attendees. We had the usual suspects – bread, broccoli, cauliflower – but then some tasty alternatives such as spicy Peppadew peppers, pork meatballs, chorizo, cornichons, salami, pineapple chunks (for that retro feel) and grapes. I discovered that a hot pepper stuffed with a grape and wrapped in chorizo made a particularly tasty cheese magnet.

And what to drink? The big red vs white debate was had, and on this occasion we plumped for the latter. So, on a rare visit to Tesco, we picked up a few bottles including some lovely and very classic Marlborough Sauvignon which had the acidity to cut through the cheese gloop perfectly, and Tesco Finest Tingleup Riesling which was a stunner. Not only did it have the necessary limey acidity, but also a beautiful minerality and the rubbery petrol like aromas normally found in far pricier examples of the variety. It was absolutely delicious and an excellent match for the fondue. At £7.99 a bottle, I find it hard to believe you could find a better Riesling. Normally my instincts tell me to veer away from ‘Finest’ or ‘Taste the Difference’ or ‘The Best’ type products, but perhaps I need to review my reaction. After all, it’s the same as those infuriating people who will never order the house wine – if it’s so bad, the restaurant wouldn’t put their name to it. I guess I don’t like feeling I’m being told what to buy – I already KNOW what is the best, you don’t have to TELL me! I have a guilty suspicion this attitude is magnified when I enter the drinks aisle. Supermarkets are funny places though, their selection is often so toweringly enormous you really can’t rely on prior research and knowledge to tell you what each and every single bottle will taste like. I like Chilean Cabernet, well my local supermarket has fifteen of them! So which is going to be the one that knocks my socks off? A bit of subtle guidance should be gratefully received. So raise your glasses, here’s to the ‘Finest’ things in life!


The Art of the Train Picnic

Merry 2010 one and all! A rather belated sentiment, but heartfelt nevertheless. Twothousandandten – it sounds so futuristic. Makes me want to paint everything silver and add ‘hover’ as a prefix to all modes of transport.

Anyway, I must apologise for the absence of new posts recently. I can only put this down to my super exciting jetsetting celebrity lifestyle, but I am now back in my twirly office chair and raring to get stuck in. Since the start of the year I’ve been on a few mini-adventures. To Blackburn for a superb cocktail party in the snow (the highlights being the Lychee & Rose Martinis and the Brandy, Lime & Gingers). To Worthing for a brilliant evening of food, fizz and fancy dress. And last weekend, to Manchester where I filled my belly with steak and Malbec and discovered an amazing pub called the Britons Protection. The place may look a little on the shabby side from the street, but once you step through the door it’s a maze of corridors with snugs and lounges spraying off in different directions. The star of the show has to be the single malt collection. Hundreds! And staff who really know their stuff yet don’t intimidate you with their knowledge. After a couple of Royal Lochnagars I was feeling really rather at home.

With all this travelling about the place, I took it upon my self to indulge in one of my all-time favourite activities: the train picnic. I love trains – steam, diesel, electric – they all get a big tick in my book. What better way to travel than relaxing at a table with a selection of nibbly things and a nice bottle of wine? Mr TippleTattle and I look forward to this simple treat enormously, and appreciate and savour every last morsel of it. On our way up to Manchester we selected a veritable feast: a chorizo tortilla, tikka chicken pieces, cherry tomatoes, Tickler Extra Mature Cheddar, Leerdammer and a bottle of Tsantali Organic Cabernet Sauvignon from Greece. Yes Greece. To accompany our picnic it made perfect sense to me to go for a wine from a nation of picnickers. All those stuffed vine leaves, tzatziki, kebabs, Greek salads and olives scream out to be wrapped up and taken on an outbound eating adventure. I mean what is mezé if it’s not a picnic? The wine was delicious, one of the best reds I’ve had in a long time. It was an excellent match to the pick n mix food (click on the wine name above for more info). As I watched the countryside flying past, and was amazed by the magical tilting train, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to drive.

I must just give a mention to two other highlights of this journey, which, may I add, I would not have had the time, space nor frame of mind to notice had we been driving. First is our Leerdammer container. I draw your attention to it purely for it’s comical cheese shaped appearance. Makes me chuckle whenever I use it. The second was a discovery of far more global significance. Yes. it’s true, I discovered the World’s Longest Cherry Tomato. I think the image speaks for itself.

So, cheese and tomato based observations aside, I hope a few of you might re-think your next train journey. Make the most of it, it’s not often you get a few hours to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Treat yourself to some tasty food and go for a slightly better bottle than you normally would. Trust me, you’ll relish every drop.

Choo choo!

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January 2010