Thursday, 1 January 2015

A very London Christmas part II

I know, I know, I have been lazy, I promised you the follow up to part one two days ago. There can be no excuse, and in my excess-induced torpor, caused in part by too many free radicals and hard partying, I have omitted to finish what I started. I hope that this little slice of festive cheer will make up for it! 

As I sit here writing this and listening to Sting’s reflective Nothing Like the Sun (Which I will be reviewing later in January), I am able to put Christmas into perspective once more. I wrote in the last post that I went into the holiday season with a sense of indifference, and I stand by that. This was definitely the best frame of mind with which to approach it. So let’s pick up the story where I left it, bloated by countless cocktail sausages and covered in a blanket of Heidsieck Monopole and Gordon’s and tonic I had gently rested my head on an Oka by Nicky Haslam cushion and passed out, legs akimbo, on the sofa. 

I rose fitfully early, parched, the morning hit me like an iron fist enclosed in a velvet glove. My tongue was felt-like and head fuzzy. The bottle of San Pellegrino on the coffee table offered little succour -  fizzy water is a terrible idea when in a fragile state. It was like sand-paper on the gullet and I groaned before dragging myself off to bed to rise at the more sociable time of 9:30am. 

In days gone by I would be up far earlier, raring to get to my stocking, frantically tearing wrapping paper open to get at presents such as a toy assault rifle, the best of Tom & Jerry, Micro Machines, silly putty, Fimo plasticine, marbles, Kirby’s Dream Land (for the original Gameboy) and a box of Terry’s Neopolitans (remember those?). This Christmas I took the stairs gingerly, made my way down to the kitchen and made a restorative cup of coffee chased with an ice cold Coca Cola. 
“Feeling delicate?” said my mother, “Well there’s no time for that, there are sprouts to consider.” Fortunately my aunt intervened, keen to offer her services as chief sprout preparer and carrot chopper. I was saved, so I quickly ducked out into the garden with a Romeo y Julieta Mille Fleur and a shot of Eau de Vie which brought some colour back to my cheeks. I was ready to tackle the challenges of negotaiting the Christmas meal. 

A few smoked salmon blinis at midday, and a glass or two of cold Champagne, whetted my appetite and prepared me to take on the turkey, ham, two types of stuffing (one chestnut, the other sausage meat), sprouts, carrots drenched in butter and chives, peas, roast potatoes and of course lashings of gravy. All this was washed down with a bottle of Waitrose very good Cave de Blebenheim Riesling, and I helped put a dent in a bottle of 2012 Chateau Batailley. 

Following this mountain of food, there was still room in the 'old tuck box' for a little cheese and some fresh fruit. I picked a plumptious pear and a couple of ripe figs to accompany some of the most amazing cheese I have ever had. I will admit that Munster is an acquired taste and, anyone who has read my 2013 posts about Alsace will know the high esteem in which I hold this cheese. There was no denying it was pungent, sweating and quivering as it was on the cheese plate, it garnered many worried looks! It has a very heady flavour, dominating the nostrils and almost burning the back of the throat. Paired with an ever excellent glass or four of Graham’s 1985 Vintage Port it was a an explosion of flavour. Indeed the other cheese were also out of this world. To recap: there was a little, square Mariolles, a washed-rind cheese with a strong aroma and grassy flavour, a Morbier which has the taste of a young Comte but is softer and a Mimolette, a bright orange cheese from Northern France which tastes like an aged Gouda (precisely because it is one!)

Grabbing a cup of coffee and a glass of Marc de Gew├╝rztraminer eau de vie (a true firewater if ever there was one!) we decamped to the drawing room to open presents. Mine, as requested ,were pretty functional. I got some much needed pairs of needle cords, some shirts, a tie, a few books, a frying pan, an electric steamer and of course, plenty of alcohol, including a bottle of my beloved Canadian Club whisky. True to form, I drained my liqueur and filled my tumbler with a healthy tot of our Commonwealth’s finest product! 

With that, we settled down to probably the most incongruous double-bill in Christmas history: The Jungle Book (which seemed much more dramatic when I was younger) and Die Hard 2: Die Harder (a very underrated sequel), bringing to an end a true Christmas cracker. As I picked at leftovers I thought that this had been the best yet, and couldn’t wait to see what Boxing Day would have in store. 

Keep your eyes peeled over the weekend for the third and final part of my Christmas adventure...

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