Saturday 29 November 2014

Californian myths, mists and pinot noir

My image of California's coast has always been that of a magnate for sunshine and surfers living out their lives in a temperate paradise. This summer I discovered that marketing and pr may once again have gotten the better of me, because whilst nearly every beach can boast surfers, fog was far more prevalent than sun.

Much of the area was almost continually wrapped in a view obscuring temperature plummeting grainy blanket. Occasionally it lifted and we'd race off to a few choice landmark spots... only to discover the reason why.

A local told me that all this fog and wind is to do with the Pacific Ocean being much colder and damper than the dry heat of inland California. Yes that's right, the sea is freezing cold too, something else not mentioned in the brochures, all the surfers I saw sported full wet suits and a very fast walk back to the car. The whole experience reminded me of a childhood weekend spent shivering on Bridlington sands. They get fog there too but I don't think it's anything to do with Yorkshire's hot arid climate.

Well they say every cloud has a sliver lining. The temperature drop afforded by California's fog shroud allows grapes nearer the coast a longer cooler growing season than they'd get further inland. This results in some rather tasty Pinot Noirs like this appropriately named number from Waitrose.

This is an enjoyable pinot from Monterey, lusher and softer than New Zealand versions of the grape. What it lacks their vibrancy and piercing fruit flavours it compensates for by being far more laid back and mellow, how very Californian. It could be accused of being a bit bland but it's a polished wine for the money and makes a good sipper for the gogglebox generation. Turn on, tune in and drop off.

Fog Head Californian Pinot Noir from Waitrose. As I type on offer at £11ish normally £15ish.

Friday 28 November 2014

Sausage Slider Salad

Click on photo for a bigger picture
Anyone witnessing my social media feeds will have found the many fandango creations, particularly around breakfast time, difficult to avoid. I've never really eaten cereal and a hefty dose of Yorkshire blood means an inbuilt hate of waste so breakfast and lunch are always knocked together from whatever's in and whatever's leftover. After many years of trial and error, modesty aside they're all pretty tasty, even the ones that definitely don't look it, but every now and then I hit a real find. Today's lunch was one.

Toasted baguette with a smear of mayo, topped with cold Lincolnshire sausage, cornichons and grated radish on a bed of lambs lettuce with a Dijon based dressing and a few extra slices of sausage and radish thrown to balance the look. As they say on Masterchef, everything came together on this plate. In fact I'd be happy to serve this in my Michelin starred restaurant. The imaginary one that is, whose kitchen I cook in every night.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Bargain Hunter

For marketeers the suggested endorsement of a hunter adds an earthy rustic honest appeal to food and drink and I fall for it every time. I'm always bringing back multiple packets of chasseur sauce from France and, as it bubbles away, like to imagine that the chicken is actually a rabbit snared by me and carried home by one of my hotchpotch pack of chasseur chiens. I'd happily buy a rabbit but it's almost impossible to find them in Glasgow, unlike mice, shame there's not more eating on a mouse.

One thing that I am reasonably proficient at hunting is wine. Cuvée Chasseur from Waitrose has been a bargain for years and it's on top form now. A recent facelift doesn't seem to have gone down too well with the online brigade. I rather like it, although at the risk of appearing in Overheard in Waitrose, I'd say the label says bistro more than chasseur to me.

The grapes are grenache, merlot and 'other local varieties', possibly malbec judging by the taste. This ripe plummy mouthful is quite French in style so works well with food. I can definitely recommend sausages very slowly sautéed till the skins caramelise. I hunted these spicy Italian numbers from Andrew Reid, one of the only original Glasgow butchers left trading in the West End. They are damn fine.

Cuvée Chasseur - £4.99 @ Waitrose