i am not a food blogger, by any means, so when i get invited to swanky food and drink events i tend to feel a bit naff; like i'm filling some diversity quota, and always always really out of place. i don't usually accept, i'd prefer to eat noodles under my duvet than put up with the awkwardness. but, when douglas blyde - sommelier, food-and-drink writer, photographer of dogs, part-time emcee and sometimes comedian, extended the invitation to join him and twenty or so of the most notable foodies in london for a night of wine tasting in the roof gardens at the queen of hoxton, i hardly needed time to think. that right there sounded like it could potentially be the best night of my life; i barely needed to read any more of the invite, right? wrong.
the subject of the email should have given it away; "r.s.v.p for rosé"; not only was it wine wasting, it was pink wine tasting, with rose d'anjou and with one of london's most knoweldgable sommeliers.
douglas' email read:
Seeing as you're such a fan of pink, I'd like to take a moment to invite you to a pink-themed event to celebrate Rosé d’Anjou wine, food and photography at the roof terrace aboard the Queen of Hoxton, Shoreditch...
i'm no fool, this event was made for me, so of course i went. and, it was still super awkward. but there was loooooads of pink wine, so i was cool, calm and slightly drunk in no time. i fed on delicious canapés and mingled with some charming guests, all the while trying to avoid food-and-wine photographer paul winch-furness' camera being pointed at me, and trying to forget how i'd eaten nothing that day and how on earth was i going to stay classy with all the free wine floating about. (hint: i didn't.)
we tasted and compared five of the rose d'anjou wines, each which had a distinctly different taste from one another. my favourites were the berry-rich ones (numbers one and two - this is all the information i have to hand. perhaps i should learn how to be a better blogger and take notes or something?), with another - drier, and watermelon tasting one also making the cut as far as my palette was concerned. we swilled, sniffed and reverse-whistled with our glasses of wine (well, we were supposed to... i mostly just drank it because no-one likes a show off), learning what long legs and tear drops and the colouring all means to a glass of wine. i'd love to go into more detail, but... did i mention how the wine was free, and pink, and how i ultimately just drank everything in sight? hm. i felt like i learned a lot at the time, which was nice. for me. and less nice for you now, as you're reading nonsense about how i basically just got drunk on really lovely wine.
after the initial introduction to our five wines for the evening, we were properly introduced to paul, who then spent a good amount of his time teaching us how to take good pictures of our food, without ever actually picking up his camera. we talked warm light and low light, depth of field, composition and exposure (and instagram), and i was reminded a lot of my time with jessops recently, where i spent the afternoon learning similar stuff. it was really helpful to hear it first hand from a professional food photographer; what makes a good picture in his opinion, his experience with restaurateurs and how to make a career of it (he says don't).
after paul's brain was picked to bits, we were split into small groups and handed over to chef daniel ashley, and asked to come up with a unique kebab to compliment one of the wines we'd been drinking. with loads of fresh and fancy ingredients that included monk fish, rump steak and other foodie delights, we were most definitely spoiled for choice!
my team consisted of myself, miss solange (pebble soup) and her partner andrew, and our fancy kebab was the most basic thing you've ever seen - but, with a case of rose d'anjou (each!) up for grabs, we were sure we were on to a winner. we decided to go with kangaroo (straya!), mango, chicken, and sweet chilli sauce. oh, and sesame seeds. sounds lame, but... no. no. we were confident we were the only team using roo, and pairing red and white meat. so, we were quietly confident. plus, mango. mango wins everytime.
while we waited for the kebabs to be cooked and judged, we retreated to our tables only to find our glasses had been refreshed and were once again waiting to be consumed. we drank, we chatted, we ate the massive pile of tapas that was delivered to the table somewhere circa 10pm, we chatted some more.
i hate meeting new people; it's bloody hard work. but, chatting with solange was so super easy (possibly the wine helped, and possibly she didn't feel the same way), and she was genuinely one of the most interesting women i've spoken to in a long time. with a long history with writing (published author, freelance contributor to some of the uk's biggest food-publications, and eight years blogging)(eight years!), she had so much knowledge and advice to offer on the subject, and i definitely left there that night more open minded about the whole lark. (thanks solange, you star!)
when the kebabs finally made their way off of the grill, we go stuck right on to eating them. the meat was cooked perfectly, and - because solange and andrew had never had kangaroo before (and obviously i had), i was keen to see what they thought. verdict: both very happy with the flavour; tender, very similar to rare beef but more chewy like lamb, and the chicken was char-grilled to happiness. we may have been bias, but we were preeeetty happy with how the kebab turned out. were we livid to learn we did not win? no. well, i wasn't. mostly because i'd pretty much just drunk an entire case of the wine on my onesie anyone, so shouldn't have been greedily anticipating more. ha.
the event was so well hosted by douglas and the guys over at the queen of hoxton, that there wasn't an opportunity to have a bad time. the onnnnly downfall was noticed a good 12 hours later, as i battled with one almighty hangover and lack of sleep. as it turns out, even fancy french wine will wake you with the drys at 6am and then torture you all day with a raging headache. so...
i think there's a lesson to be learned from this experience.
except... i haven't yet.