Much printer ink has been spilled in extolling the wonders of Som Saa‘s Thai food. I’m not going to waste words here by focusing on the rich flavours of the pork belly curry when Marina O’Loughlin conjured them up so well in her Guardian review (see here) or the crisp, zesty delights of the deep-fried seabass, as described on Chris Pople’s cheesenbiscuits blog (see here). Suffice to say the food’s good. Damn good. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a toss up between Som Saa and The Begging Bowl for the title of funkiest Thai restaurant in London (I plan to write up a review of The Begging Bowl soon.)
Over the course of the past 15 years, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some pretty exotic regions for work. One of the most remote was Patagonia, way down in the south of Argentina.
When I think about Patagonia, several images come to mind: vast herds of sheep ambling towards a limitless horizon; gauchos galloping their tough ponies across endless grasslands, whirling bolas at the ready as they prepare to corral young steers; the bluish white of ice floes floating close to the glacier fields of the continent’s chilly southern tip. It also brings to mind Bruce Chatwin’s elegiac book, In Patagonia, with its account of the tough-minded Welsh community, descendants of immigrants who settled the area in the 19th century, and its haunting evocation of the lonely landscape.
I’d planned to write up this wine last week, when I had an excuse to talk about the joys of drinking bracingly fresh white wines on a hot summer’s day. Looking out the window today, though, I realise that I may have mis-timed that particular intro (an object lesson in never putting off until tomorrow what you can do today, perhaps).
Despite the dense white clouds now hanging over London (not to mention the fact that the dog returned from his morning walk dripping rainwater like a super-saturated four-legged sponge), I still maintain that a good Chablis is just the kind of wine I want to be drinking at this time of year.
I’m the first to admit that my jeunesse was pretty dorée (especially given that I was a kid who was always greedy, both for new experiences and interesting food). My parents, both mad foodies long before the term was ever invented, used to haul my sister and I along to meals at a veritable United Nations of restaurants in an era when a trip to Angus Steak House was considered to be exotic by most. We got to travel, too; to France in particular.
Some of my earliest memories are of watching my father spend his evenings poring over Michelin guides, both green and red, the Guide Routier and publications by Relais et Châteaux as he tried to work out routes down to southern France that would take us via as many extraordinary restaurants as possible.
I’m currently on holiday in Provence, but as I’m totally selfless, I brought some homework with me in order to ensure that I had plenty of material to allow me to post a wine of the week. (OK, I lie, we brought a shedload of wine with us so that I could guarantee quality drinking over dinner. I know; coals, Newcastle, etc…)
Anyway, I decided to include a bottle of Bernard Gripa‘s Les Figuiers, a wine that had impressed me so much in the 2010 vintage that I’d bought a six-bottle case of the 2012 when the wine was released. I opened my first bottle last year and, frankly, was a bit disappointed. The wine lacked the richness and weight I’d been hoping for.
Later this morning, my MW mentees and their fellow classmates will be about to begin their first year tasting exam. This time last week, I might well have hoped that they would have at least one Cabernet Franc in the 12-glass line up. You know where you are with Cabernet Franc – it has incredibly distinctive aromas of green bell peppers, rather crunchy tannins and crisp acidity. Or at least that’s what I thought until I spent a couple of days in the Loire, Franc’s heartland, last week. Now I have to admit that I’m less sure that I know what Cabernet Franc looks like.
Mea maxima culpa – massive apologies all round. I attended the Wine Society‘s spring tasting back in March, and had every intention of posting a piece featuring my favourite wines from the tasting. (I knew there would be favourites because I’m a huge fan of the Wine Society’s buying team, who seem to have an unerring instinct for buying impeccable examples of classic wines as well as an aptitude for making unusual discoveries.) And then life intervened. For a period of about six weeks, I was so busy that I didn’t really have time to devote to a write up of the tasting.
Summer seems to be dragging its heels and taking an inordinately long time to get here. I seem to remember that by late May a few years ago, I’d enjoyed at least a couple of picnics in the hazy sunshine on Hampstead Heath (or maybe I’m just succumbing to selective memory syndrome, and May is always as fitfully springlike as it seems to be this year).
On the principle of the magic cigarette (back in the dim, dark, distant days when I used to smoke, the one guaranteed way to make a long-awaited bus appear or to hasten sluggish service in a restaurant was to light up a fag), I’m hoping to speed up the arrival of summer by opening a bottle or two of rosé in the next week or so.
I spent much of the start of this week at the London Wine Fair, so you’d think that I’d probably be well over the wine tasting thing by this stage of the week. Nevertheless, I girded my loins this morning and set off to the Paddington Basin HQ of Marks and Spencer for one of their biannual tastings.
Now, supermarket wine tastings can be (often are) short on excitement, but M&S usually delivers – or at least puts in a good show of trying to do something a little bit different to the mainstream. Today, though, there wasn’t a whole lot I could get excited about – there were some well-made wines, but little that seemed to be singing – until I came across this bottle.
Finding the right wine to drink with your food is easy, relatively speaking, if you’re dealing with European flavours. A recipe’s origins should give you a clue as to the kind of wine that will work with it. Imagine a dish of long, slow-cooked lamb, then add Mediterranean flavours of rosemary, tomatoes and garlic. It doesn’t take much effort to dream up an accompanying bottle of Spanish tempranillo or a herby grenache blend from southern France. Spaghetti alle vongole suggests a dry Vermentino, while the same pasta cloaked in rich ragu cries out for a sangiovese or a barbera. But what do you do if you’re eating Asian? After all, it’s not as if there’s a long tradition of drinking (or producing) wine in countries like India, Japan, China or Thailand.