Recently I wrote about our decision to give up alcohol for the duration of July – with a couple of deviations. We’re three weeks in now and amazingly, are doing well. The first week was difficult – I kept wanting a drink and I have to fess up to occasionally having a small glass of wine. I put it into a tumbler so that it didn’t really count as drinking. Then there were those instances when I just wanted a swig. It was just too tempting to see the bottle in the fridge beckoning me.
The first occasion we imbibed was for a dinner to celebrate July 14. You just can’t do French food without wine. Our dinner started early – in fact it was just after mid-day: Pol Roger champagne and oysters. From there a Negroni followed by a bottle of Chablis to accompany the Pheasant & pickled walnut terrine and my home pickled vegetables.
Then a bottle of Pinot with the bouillabaisse and somehow in front of me was a glass of Pernod. I’m one of these people who drink whatever’s put in front of them. So I drank my Pernod and I’m sure it was topped up. I think there was a bottle of red as well. I don’t really remember the end of the evening. But next morning, did I have a headache! It was a a doozy. It went on all day, despite taking paracetamol and codeine. Not good.
Then it was back to not drinking until the weekend. And again it was one of those evenings where the booze just flowed: Chablis followed by a Pinot and then a fabulous bottle of Penfold’s No 8 and then whisky. I’ve learnt to like whisky (Oban being my favourite) and find that I can put it away at the end of the night. But its not a good thing to do. Next morning didn’t happen – it was way after lunch by the time we got up from bed. A long walk was in order and 12k and two hours later I found myself looking forward to getting back to our dry July.
Week three and I’m quite content to be drinking tea, soda water and more tea. And I’m wondering how long can I do this for. I suspect that it could be possible to get into a routine whereby I only consumed alcohol on the weekends. Then again, it could be just when it was a social occasion. How things can change.
Food and wine – what else is there?
My brother’s partner has a birthday close to mine and my husband’s – 5 days in between each – so this year we celebrated all three together here in Sydney. My brother and his partner live in Auckland and they planned to arrive Friday night (the day after Helen’s birthday). We didn’t want anything high-end – we’re all struggling financially but we all also felt that we’d “been there, done that”, so low key but fun was the plan.
We decided on Berta’s in Sydney and I booked a bar table – always much better fun than the more formal settings – and had a lovely night with great food (Chui Lee Luk, formerly of high end French restaurant Claude’s, was currently cooking there) and fabulous Italian wine.
Next day we met for lunch at Yellow – one of my favourite Bentley Bar places; in fact, the Bentley is one of my all time favourites, dating from way back when it was a tiny place in Surry Hills. Sommelier Nick Hildebrandt who is also Front of House, is warm and friendly and extremely knowledgeable and helpful when wondering what to drink. Deservedly, Nick has been awarded Gourmet Traveller’s Good Food Guide 2015 Sommelier of the Year, while Brent Savage was awarded SMH Good Food Guide’s 2015 Chef of the Year. The two are quite a team, but so are their staff, and it’s this aspect – great friendly service – that makes the Bentley bars such good fun. Which brings me back to our lunch at Yellow.
Because it was such a simple affair – really we were only going to have a glass of champagne and a nibble before going on to see a performance at Hays St theatre – we ended up ordering toasted sandwiches. Doesn’t sound very interesting but my smoked brisket pastrami with cheddar and pickled cabbage (Reuben) was the best I’ve ever had – and I’m very fussy about my Reubens. Two of us had these while the other two opted for a pulled pork and chilli mayo sandwich – I can’t remember what else was in them but there were groans of delight at first bite. So what to drink? We had started off with a glass of Roger Coulon – superb. To go with both the pork and the pastrami (very different flavours) we thought perhaps something white but decided to ask the sommelier. I don’t know why people don’t like (or is that they are are scared of?) sommeliers. To me, they are the source of all knowledge: what shall we have with all these different dishes? Our sommelier that day was fantastic – a young guy who works in fashion and moonlights in restaurants to make money. He was great fun: chatty, friendly and incredibly knowledgeable about the wine. He recommended a nebbiolo which was not only the perfect match but absolutely delicious. Could have stayed there and had another bottle.
So, if you’re ever confronted with a wine list where you just don’t know any of the wines – ask the sommelier. He’ll make recommendations. A good sommelier will even give you a taste of the wine he recommends to see if you like it – no pressure. Really. And its such a great way to try new wines.
Musings on life and food
My life revolves around food and wine – what else is there? I think about food all the time, mainly what I would like to eat/cook. My greatest joy is coming home at the end of the day, pouring a glass of wine and starting to cook. When I go away on holidays and have to eat out three times a day, I get a bit stir crazy. For me, thinking about food, shopping for food and preparing food is as important as eating food. And without the former, life is just not the same. Oh, I also love talking about food.
Hope you enjoy my blog and leave comments – feedback is always welcome. I’m also happy to share recipes. Bon apetit!