Tag Archives: pleasure

Champagne Pleasure

3 Feb

Here at Gwiltypleasures I’m a big fan of…well…things that make life enjoyable. Life’s little “pleasures” if you will.

So it was with intrigue that I listened to a talk recently during a day-long celebration of Champagne at the Renaissance Hotel in King’s Cross on just this subject by Karen Pine, Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire.

Beautiful champagne glasses wait to be filled with bubbles...

I was there for the day to try lots of champagne from hosts G.H. Mumm & Perrier-Jouet, and sample some interesting food pairings with it – to say I was looking forward to the pleasures of the day was an understatement; I had been chatting about it for ages!

But, with some time to spare, I sat in on a discussion on luxury, which Pine spoke at. She told the audience that research shows we actually receive more pleasure from anticipating the eventual occurrence of something enjoyable than from the thing itself.

For instance, take a holiday: research shows we get more pleasure from the time anticipating all the exciting things we’ll do on holiday, rather than when we actually go on holiday. This made absolute sense to me – I’m a massive “planner”; someone who drools over guidebooks, looking forward to the eventual pleasure I expect I’ll get from going away to an exotic locale! When I get to my destination, I of course enjoy it immensely (usually) – but there’s something to be said for how fired up I get about the anticipation.

With this idea in mind, I headed to the molecular gastronomy event with something of a diminished excitement. I had been looking forward to this all week…would it not live up to expected pleasures?

Speaking at the event was renowned molecular gastronomy professor Peter Barham from Bristol University, who has worked with king of crazy-concoctions Heston Blumenthal and aims to understand why we taste things the way we do and how food can be looked at in a scientific way. The youngest Michelin starred chefs in the country – Casamia‘s Jonray and Peter Sanchez-Iglesias – were also providing the food. It was a rare treat indeed.

Casamia kings Jonray & Peter Sanchez-Iglesias address the crowd

Barham explained our taste buds can be influenced by temperature – if we eat something cold, then try something hot, the flavour profile will change. The same goes for how we smell things. For example, he suggested a good trick to play on a friend: take an orange, put it in a dark container and heat it up. Then have the friend smell it. If they don’t know it is an orange, they will think it is a lemon, because the limonenes in the skin will have increased the aroma and it will mess with our brains.

At the event, Barham said they would play with this idea and pair foods at different temperatures with different champagnes. All very exciting…but what did I think?

We started with a foie gras topped with a peach jelly and served with one cold and one hot spoon. It was paired with the G.H. Mumm Demi Sec. The base was light and airy, while a general sweetness flowed throughout. It was delicious but – to the disappointment of Barham I was one of the tasters that preferred eating it with a hot spoon – apparently, the cold one was supposed to work better. Oops!

Foie gras avec peach jelly

Then came the prawn, sweet corn and pine nut jelly. There were two: one served at 8 degrees, the other at 60. The cold one was too jellied for my liking (I hate jelly at the best of times) but the hot one was softer, with less of an intense prawn hit that I found in its cooler companion. I thought the saltiness paired perfectly with the G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge NV, bringing out a slight minerality in the flavour of the champagne.

A toasted brioche that stole my heart...

We finished with two tiny toasted brioche (one slightly warmed, the other hot) with Tunworth cheese & Marmite butter. I was dreading this one – I hate jelly but I REALLY hate Marmite. As fate would have it though, I loved this. I think the Marmite was in a sufficiently small dose to be allowable. The slightly warmed version wasn’t anything to write home about but the hot one was gorgeous. I recommend pairing these ingredients at home. It was served with the G.H. Mumm Cuvee R. Lalou 1999 (my favourite of the day).

So, did the pleasure meter extend to where I hoped it would with this event?

It was intriguing and I was lucky to try some fantastic pairings made by such a renowned scientist and extraordinary chefs. But, I think Pine had a point – pleasure is fantastic, but anticipating it can sometimes be more enjoyable than the final pay-off.

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“Pure”ly Brilliant

28 Sep

Things have been rather manic over here at Gwiltypleasures! As such, I have much catching up to do on exactly all the loverly events I’ve been heading out to in Londontown that have been really floating my pleasure boat.

Last weekend I was delighted to finally attend the Pure Festival which I wrote about a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure how exactly a music and whisky festival would be pulled off, but I’m glad to say I was very pleased with the result.

The Garage in Highbury was absolutely buzzing when I arrived with “the boy” in tow – the queue stretched along the side of the building and the most exciting bit: everyone was young! Now, to many people familiar with North London bars and events, this may not seem such a big deal. But, to someone familiar with older, stuffier whisky tastings (where I normally feel like I could be the child of most attendees!) this was a big deal.

Upon entering the event, it proved to be just the same – loads and loads of 20- and 30-somethings mulling around in checked-shirts and skinny jeans, drinking and learning about whisky.

People mull around the Seventy% stand, waiting to try pairings of whisky and chocolate

The boy and I got down to tasting just as soon as we could fight our way through the throngs of people at each stand – heading first to taste some rather delicious whisky from a distillery I’d not heard of before called Stonedean, which produces the Tweeddale Blend. Director Alasdair Day told us about how he inherited his Great Grandfather’s recipe book and how he established the company in 2009 to start reproducing it!

Next we headed off to try out another newbie to the whisky world, the Isle of Mull blend, brought to the festival by founders Neil Morrison and Calum Maclean. The company, which only began in August last year, has a beautiful blend made of Highland malts and grain whiskies, and I was impressed with its intensity and flavour.

After trying out some “edible peat” at the Ardbeg stand (a mix of hazelnut, cocoa powder and sugars), and a few shots of single malts at the fabulous Seventy% stand (which demonstrated how perfectly chocolate and whisky can be paired together), we tried the always favourite 10-year old Talisker – brought down by the guys from The Whisky Exchange – and continued with a rather special 30-year old bottle (hidden below the counter) at the Whyte and Mackay stand.

Finally, we finished up the day by sneaking in a couple of tasters of 12- and 16-year-old whiskies from Ancnoc (another new one for me), and had a chat with Darren Rock (aka: The Whisky Guy) who told us about his upcoming project for Movember, in which he will sell bottles of single malt in aid of prostate cancer. Stay tuned for updates on this soon!

All in all, after all of these rather delectable tipples, the boy and I wobbled out – unfortunately we couldn’t stay for the music, which was a shame because I heard great things afterwards about the headlining bands. Regardless, it was a great event filled with a young, fun crowd keen on becoming knowledgeable about my favourite tipple! And I must say a big congratulations to the chaps who pulled it off! Bring on the next one!

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