If you know me at all, you know I like to throw a party. In the summer there is nothing better than a proper BBQ , with the smoke from the grill chasing away mosquitoes and raising the mood. A big bucket of chilled rosé and bubbles to get the party started, giving way to a hearty red wine as the juicy, dripping lamb chops come off the Weber. Talking and laughing into the night. Yea baby, now we’re speaking my language.
Thus, on my way over to London, my friend Joe Wadsack (aka the best nose in the British wine biz) and I decided to throw a summer grill party. In spite of him being an excellent cook – he did after all grow up in a Michelin star restaurant and lives above one now – we set on me making the food and him picking the wines. He got free play to pick a case (+ a couple of bottles of bubbles, of course) from the Majestic webshop. As expected, Joe got a great selection ready for us, with most wines well under 15 quid. I was salivating when the bottles arrived a day later and near nicked the magnum of AIX rosé to get a start on a summer feeling. The complete case list is at the bottom. I decided on making a US favorite – pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw, and a Swedish saffron apple cake from the new cookbook of Håkan Larsson for dessert. Joe couldn’t altogether stay out of the kitchen so he made a Jansson’s Frestelse in homage to his Scandinavian roots.
Every and any nice park was soggy as a swamp after weeks of raining (this was a few days pre-“instant summer”). As luck would have it, Joe convinced my new hero Brenhan, owner of the Broadway Bar and Grill in Fulham, to lend us the lovely covered terrace of their members’ club for the afternoon. Including their Weber and sacks of gorgeous, immense coals (Brasa, above the Broadway B&G, is a SERIOUS grill restaurant and I need to figure out their coals’ supplier). We invited a bunch of cool people who sure do enjoy their tipple, and off it went.
Paola Tich, the wine blogger and PR-wiz, and her husband brought gorgeous lamb chops marinated in garlic, lemon and herbs. Helen “Foodstories” Graves made her blog-followers proud by bringing a seriously jerky jerk chicken.
My nutty globetrotting companion Donald Edwards came to get into the Rioja-trip mood, as did Master of Wine Justin Knock (one of the two key organizers of the Rioja trip) and his girlfriend, MW-student Lenka Sedlackova who works at the importer Fields Morris and Verdin, Justin’s Rioja-trip-photographer Johnny Midlin from Green-shoot with his wife, among others.
Just when we thought we could not eat another bite, two of Joe’s best friends Eleanor and Ollie came, bringing black beans, guacamole and pork chops from the River Cafe cookbook (where Eleanor, who is a chef, worked for a stint). Damn, that was delicious. By the way, I learned that if you leave the avocado pits in the guacamole, it doesn’t go brown!! Those beans made me feel like I was home in the Midwest, I need to score that book.
By the end of the evening, the really sweet girlfriend of Majestic’s social media master Will had been converted to food blogging by Helen. Justin had swore on a few days of quite necessary pre-Spain detox. Joe and I stayed with Helen and Donald until they kicked us out, finishing every last drop of wine. It was a really relaxed, chilled afternoon. I’d recommend it to any and all of you who long for a touch of summer feeling. If the sun is not with you, just uncork the rosé, put on a really warm sweater and pretend.
Not very mutual, but Paola and I decided to declare the Lirac from Chateau Mont Redon (see below) the winner of the grill party. Joe with his brilliant nose actually agrees to it being the most outstanding of the lot, and a wine which can be drunk now or aged for up to 15 years.
I’m always wary of bubbles from outside Champagne – really, it’s like trying to imitate Monet. Never quite good enough. But I was positively surprised by the Australian Domaine Greenpoint (known as Domaine Chandon in many parts of the world) – the last place on earth I would expect to find a brilliant bubbly! Great party starter.
The apple saffron cake was so brilliantly matched to the tones of the Royal Tokaij Late Harvest Furmint. Absolutely perfect in every way. The Quinta da Bacalhoa did lovely with the pulled pork too.
THE WINES (all found at www.majestic.co.uk, most <15 GBP):
*1) Domaine Greenpoint Australian NV (Very good for non champagne)
2) Jacquart Brut Mosaique (Good basic Brut, a staple)
3) Macon Fuissé 2011 Thibert Père et Fils
4) Main Divide Riesling 2010, Pegasus Bay, Waipara (One of Joe’s favorites)
5) Stella Alpina Pinot Grigio 2011, Alto Adige
6) Chateau Ste Marguerite Rosé 2011(Crisp, precise, dense – all Joe’s words. No cordial here!)
7) Aix Rosé 2011 Côte de Provence. (Fresh, light rosé in the food-friendly style that is becoming more popular now)
8) Chateau des Jacques Moulin à Vent 2009 Louis Jadot
9) Domaine de Villemajou 2009 Corbières Boutenac, Gerard Bertrand (Joe’s favorite wine overall)
*10) Chateau Peyrabon 2000 Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc (Beautiful, classic Bordeaux showing age well, as leather and tobacco at an unbeatable price! Really a steal. My favorite red with the lamb)
*11) Lirac Vignobles Abeille 2010 Mont Redon (Winning red, such a great bottle! At this price, grab a case and cellar!!)
*12) Quinta da Bacalhoa 2008, Peninsula de Setubal (Very good Portugese, with dried herbs and nice savory fruit! Killer with pork, and a very good price/performance)
13) Peregrine Pinot Noir 2010 Central Otago
14) Royal Tokaj Late Harvest Furmint (matched the saffron-apple cake ABSOLUTELY PERFECTLY!)
(stars denote my absolute faves!)