Monday, June 24, 2002

Saturday's Guardian Magazine contains some of the funniest writing around. Not from Julie Burchill or Mil Millington, though. Skip past them to the food and drink pages, and marvel at the silliness within.

Like Mike, I was struck by Heston Blumenthal's method for making the ultimate in convenience food: chips. His process involves: running the potatoes under cold water, then boiling them, then allowing them to cool down, then putting them in the fridge for half an hour, then frying them at a low temperature, then draining them, allowing them to cool, putting them in the fridge again for another half hour, then finally frying them once more. He's taking the piss, surely?

Mike also spotted Matthew Fort's review of a Cheshire restaurant called Juniper, which begins:
We ate: exotic vegetable pizza; cauliflower and apricot mousse, saffron sauce and crispy black pudding; quail leg beignet, chocolate mayonnaise; beans on toast, glazed hollandaise, curried quail egg; chicken boudin, green grape and tomato salad; "shooter" of fresh pineapple juice, beetroot cream; ragout of wild mushroom and peas, smoked butter sauce; baby artichoke and caper salad; smoked bacon, white asparagus, beetroot dressing, vanilla glaze; poached monkfish, sweet ginger sauce, lavender; glazed tomato and hollandaise; wild mushrooms, pimento chewing gum, tomato consommé, poppy seeds, dried leeks, fennel powder; poached halibut wrapped in courgette, crab bisque, garlic beignet, morels; roasted fillet of beef, truffle glaze, horseradish; French cheeses; melon and vanilla milk; sherry trifle; baked lemon tart; milk chocolate soufflé; espresso and chocolate truffles.
The silliness continues over the page with Malcolm Gluck's wine reviews.
Dorrien Estate Bin 442 Barossa Shiraz 2000 (17 points, £7.99, major branches only) offers the thoughtful drinker coffee, chocolate and a vague touch of tobacco.
If I've got this right, this is a talking wine which says: "You look pensive. Here, have some coffee, and help yourself to a chocolate. And, um, I don't suppose you'd like to touch my cigar, would you?"

Five of the following wine reviews are from Mr Gluck's column. Five I made up. Can you spot the bogus ones?

1. Rasteau Côtes du Rhône Villages 2000 (17 points, £7.99, major branches only) has extraordinary, almost paradoxical fruit of supreme civility on one level, yet spice and exoticism on another. The tannins, holding the berries like ripe pearls, gather themselves together in smooth array, and the effect is wonderful for all the senses.

2. Monasterio de Santa Ana Monastrell Jumilla 2001 (17.5 points, £4.99), from Spain, is a thorough bargain for nose, throat and pocket. It achieves staggeringly deep levels of complexity for nigh on peanuts, and offers chocolate, cherries, berries, figs, liquorice and nuts. But the real masterstroke is in the Spaniard's tannins, which are world class in texture and tenacity.

3. Waikaito Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (16.5 points, £6.99) has fruit which runs the gamut from hedgerow to orchard via the vegetable patch, with an undertone of caramelised onion. It coats the tongue with unctuous layers of molasses, violets and fresh manure.

4. Chardin du Bône (16 points, £5.99) has long been this man's best friend, my faithful old companion. Opening this is like coming home to a friendly welcome. Hugely boisterous, the tannins bound up and threaten to shag your leg, but are held back on a politely restraining leash.

5. Quiltro Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 (16.5 points, £5.99), teetered on the edge of 17 points before it settled back, upon reflection, to 16.5. There is edge-of-the-crater fruit to enjoy here, too: warm, aromatic (without being sulphurous), rich, beefy, biting and very, very explosive.

6. At Marks & Spencer, there is Twin Wells Hunter Valley Semillon 1997 (16.5 points, £7.99), from Australia, which is mature and thrilling. It coagulates in the throat like Diana Krall's voice: dusky, dry, waxy, lyrical, and fruitily modulated.

7. Seveso Sauvignon Blanc (15.5 points, £3.49), is a scintillating diamond unearthed from the rough mulch of Hungary. It has bright, piercing rays of gooseberry and cut grass, with hints of green pepper. The faint odour of a cat's litter tray, typical of the varietal, adds up to stunning complexity at this price.

8. At Oddbins, there is Casual Affair Chardonnay 2002 (15 points, £4.99), from Australia, which delivers huge helpings of duck liver pate smeared thickly on burnt toast. The silky oak lends the affair all the class of a Chippendale escritoire. Would go down a treat with duck liver pate smeared thickly on burnt toast.

9. Kaituna Hills Cabernet Merlot 1999 (16 points, £5.99, M&S) is well kitted out with warm, basil-edged fruit, an undertone of black olive and fine tannins. A very warmly textured wine - and if you were to ask if that olive comes on a little stick, I'd respond with a resounding 'No': there's no evidence of wood whatsoever.

10. For a the month of June only, Sainsbury's are stocking the Chilean Semillon, Pinot Ché 2002 (13.5 points) for just £3.49. Ferociously flinty, with minty mineral herbs, the unrelenting directness and sheer force of personality make this a wonderful companion for kidneys, strawberries or sushi.

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