A fresh start…
Welcome to the January edition of Tasting Notes, our monthly musings and an eclectic pick and mix of everything we’re talking about, and tasting, at the moment. As the first month of the year draws to a close, crisp mornings and clear blue skies return, days begin to feel longer and the first snowdrops poke through the grass. There’s a real feeling that spring is on the horizon and we’re looking forward to the year ahead!
WHAT’S FOR DINNER?
While spring is just around the corner, the occasional sub-zero temperature that pops up on your car dashboard as you make your way to work reminds us that we’re not quite clear of winter just yet. As we enter into February, there’s something appealing about a crisp and refreshing salad on even the coldest of days, in contrast to the carb-heavy winter dishes we’ve got used to.
Nigel Slater embraces the winter salad as a way of bringing seasonal ingredients together to provide a refreshing winter offering with his mussel, fennel and artichoke salad. Jerusalem artichokes, with their nutty, sweet and crunchy flesh, are the perfect companion to the small, sweet mussels gracing the ice of many fishmongers at the moment. Mix with fennel, fresh citrus and salty capers, pair with a glass of Dry Dragon or Royal Flush and you’ve got yourself a delicious dinner to carry you through to Spring.
EMBRACE THE OUTDOORS
Although February is the shortest month, it’s not short of things to do. Of course we’re not far from Valentine’s Day (and Pancake Day for those of you more interested in food than flowers) but this month’s also the perfect time to give your garden, vegetable patch or kitchen windowsill a bit more attention. Throw on a scarf, head outside, pop a couple of cans of REAL in your bag and treat yourself to some vitamin D!
Feed the birds - Wild food is at a minimum with few insects and seeds to feed on. Anything from your fruit bowl that’s seen better days is the perfect treat for robins, blackbirds, thrushes and waxwings.
Seed potatoes - For the earliest potatoes this year, buy seed potatoes now and start them off in a light, cool, frost-free place. They’ll be ready to plant out in late March/early April!
Rose bushes - This is also a great time to prune your rose bushes. While it won’t guarantee fresh blooms for Valentine’s Day later this month, they’ll grow back bigger and better come summer!
A REAL EXPERIMENT
Of course we couldn’t let January pass without taking stock of the phenomenon that is Dry January…so I’d like to introduce you to REAL team member Oli, who works with our friends at The Fat Duck, Le Gavroche and The Pig to name a few. We talk about moderation a lot, and while Oli is a prime example of a moderator when it comes to alcohol, this year he decided to take on the challenge of Dry January, giving up alcohol completely! While he’s found the whole experience pretty effortless, he’s shared some of his own musings on the month of moderation below…
"I initially thought that Dry Jan might miraculously help me to achieve all of my health goals, so was disappointed come the end of week one to discover I hadn’t lost 3 stone, my body still creaks in all the same places and I wasn’t hitting any PBs in the gym.
One thing I did notice, however, was a very welcome improvement to my sleep. I’ve become a morning person…the house has never been cleaner, the dog is exhausted, the inbox is looking healthier than ever and even the running shoes have been dusted off!
Rather than hermiting myself away at home for the month, counting down the days til Dry January was over, I wanted to make sure I continued to support the hospitality sector. So, I've been out for dinner, to the pub with friends and even managed to navigate attending a rugby game fuelled by the black stuff (coffee instead of the usual Guinness).
When I’m not out and about at rugby games, I’ve found myself spending more time in the kitchen and, luckily, with REAL in the fridge I always have something delicious to pair with whatever I am cooking! My favourite combination this month has been smoky, grilled fish tacos with an ice cold glass of Dry Dragon.
Some of Team REAL and I headed down to catch up with the Club Soda team at their new alcohol-free Tasting Room & Shop on Drury Lane earlier this month. This is the perfect place to discover some of the best alternatives to alcohol, and of course you can pick up a bottle or two of REAL while you're there!"