Saturday, 4 January 2014

That was quite a Christmas!


Those of my readers who saw me over the break will attest that I had quite a Christmas, jam-packed full of good wine, good food and great cheer. In fact this might have been the most boozy and certainly the most sociable I have spent this year. So now, in the dark depths of January, as I lean upon a coppice gate (like Hardy in his Darkling Thrush) munching on a stick of celery and drinking a glass of oh-so-healthy carrot juice, I think back to that hedonistic Christmas season and all the fine riches that it brought to me...

December 24th - Christmas Eve began ominously, the wind and rain battering our Sceptred Isle with all the force Mother Nature could offer. A quick call to the office and I was warned to baton down the hatches and work from home for the rest of the day. Tasks completed and work finishing at a generously early 15:00 I was set to make the most of my Christmas Eve. A quick trip to Waitrose to purchase some last minute Christmas groceries provided the first cigar of the period, a very pleasant Montecristo Petit Edmundo (for more info check out my collected Sketches from a Cigar Smoker’s Album) and a pretty generous tumbler of Grant’s, ginger liqueur and Canada Dry with a twist of orange peel over ice. To keep me entertained as I braved the elements I had Trevanian’s excellent Shibumi a rip-roaring thriller about the world’s best assassin and his battle against a consortium of the world’s oil and gas companies. 

Dinner soon came around, a beautiful pheasant gratin (large morsels of game bound with a stock and white wine infused roux, topped with crisp-fried bacon and breadcrumbs and set under the grill until bubbling) with fine green beans accompanied by an excellent bottle of Villa Maria’s Gewurztraminer (Waitrose, £9.99). It certainly brought about some tidings of comfort and joy, a perfect start.

December 25th - I woke up to a plethora of very useful and much needed presents including Thomas Keller’s fantastic book on baking (which would knock the socks off anything produced on that tosh on the BBC) some very welcome NUB Cameroon cigars and a fantastic bottle of 1949 Madeira! ‘Lucky fellow’ I hear you cry. 

Following a bit of prep work and and some sous-chefing in the kitchen, I heard the first pop of a Champagne cork around 11:00 and enjoyed a chilled glass of Christophe Herbelet with some delicious smoked salmon sandwiches as I trimmed the sprouts. 

Lunch was a veritable feast, and, as I had to do two Christmas meals that day (the inevitability of divorced parents), served at the far more civilised time of 13:00. The turkey was complemented with the usual suspects as well as two stuffings (basic herb & Chestnut, bacon and mushroom) and lashings of delicious homemade gravy. To go with this there was a healthy selection of good wine including: 1982 Chateau Talbot, Gew├╝rztraminer Reserve 2007 Trimbach and a 1977 Sandeman’s Silver Jubilee Port... simply heaven. I topped all this offer with one of the NUB Cameroon’s I had received, savouring the heady smoke and rich, spicy taste of the stogie ahead of round two of Turkey later that evening where I polished off another line-up of goodies at my aunt and uncles house!

As I fell asleep at the dinner table, party hat at a jaunty angle, fit to bursting with food and booze, I drowsily reflected that this had been a very good, if excessive, Christmas Day. 

December 26th - Boxing day hit me hard, my head hurt and I was reminded (Waugh fans must forgive me if I misquote) of that great line from Brideshead Revisited: ‘It was neither the quantity, nor the quality, but the variety that was at fault’. Feeling somewhat woozy, I shakily made myself a cup of coffee and readied myself for another influx of guests. 

I noticed another couple of bottles of the 1982 Talbot on the table and realised that I would have to buck up before a lunch of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. A cold shower followed by a strong espresso and a well appointed Plymouth Gin & Tonic at midday kicked me into action before the guests arrived.

Lunch was another affair full of jolliness and lots of laughter, The Talbot and a bottle of 1985 Graham Port slipped down very nicely after a feast of rolled sirloin with all the trimmings. Another cigar followed (NUB Cameroon), before I felt decidedly knackered and longed just to sit with my book and sog out... 

Christmas had been and gone for another year and I felt decidedly decadent as I sat enjoying a 1941 Armagnac as my cigar gently burned in the dying embers of the main part of the Christmas holidays. 

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