Wild Boy Chardonnay; Wine not…

I often think this blog should be renamed considering my life is not so much gullifereats as gullifereatsanddrinks. With my career developing in the wine industry, I am lucky enough to have exposure to and hopefully knowledge of some amazing wines. Therefore as a challenge to myself and to introduce you to some of the lesser known wines, I will be writing about a bottle a week. Why I bought it, why I like it and who I drank it with.

It was a cold and wet night in August and I was heading to Islington to visit a friend for dinner. Buried in my rucksack was a chilled bottle of white wine as we were determinedly clinging on to the last of the summer wine until autumn was well and truly upon us.

I’d been given the brief of a wine to match a tuna steak. As a cousin to the more red blooded beef steak, a tuna steak always suggests a white wine with more body than your classic vibrant and zingy white I would usually pair with fish. Searching through the selection at work I came upon one of my old favourites virtually designed for the threating storm clouds looming overhead. Wild Boy by A Bon Climat winery in California does not yell sophisticated, balanced and finesse. In fact at a first glance its label literally yells at you. However this is one of the finest Californian chardonnays on the market at the moment.

Made by the effervescent Jim Clendenen, Au Bon Climat vineyard produces some of the finest wines in California. The wines are heavily inspired by burgundy, eschewing the stereotypical high alcohol, full bodied Californian wines for a lighter, lightly oaked style of chardonnay’s and pinot noir. The cooling sea breezes and higher altitude means that Clendenen can control the ripening of the grapes and maintain the signature balanced acidity of the Burgundian style.

Wild boy itself is named after Clendenen. It is perhaps on the more extroverted side of Au Bon Climat’s range but still as beautifully balanced as all of his wines. There are hints of juicy citrus fruits and light oak, balanced with a refreshing soft acidity. It is deliberately created in a more opulent style than his other wines to reflect the untamed  nature of the creator himself.

Jim’s tendency to court controversy with the critics is reason enough to try this wine. It certainly encompasses the winemakers unique personality. But personally, I still return to his range because it achieves an elegant balance which good wines are always striving to create. It may not be for those that love a punchy New World wine but it will pleasantly surprise those who favour a lighter style.


Mushroom stuffed rabbit loin, braised leg pastilla and baby veg or Hoppy Easter: who framed Peter Rabbit 

I may not have posted here for 6 months, but this is just proof that for any true show off flattery works wonders. So here I am writing up the recipe for my Easter Sunday rabbit dish on the request of my aunt. Does it sound a little sadistic to say the easter bunny was the main inspiration behind this dish? In my defence it is cheap, cheerful and goddamn delicious. Just don’t tell Peter rabbit. 
Serves 6 (with plenty of pastilla for Easter Monday hangover/sugar overdose fix) 
For the loin

2 boned rabbit loins, reserved bones

16 slices pancetta

1 onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

100g assorted wild mushrooms, reserve a few for garnish

100g chestnut mushrooms 


Dried thyme

Dried sage 

Dried oregano 

Chopped parsley 

3tbsp medium sherry 
For the braised leg pastilla 

2 rabbit shoulders, 2 rabbit legs

2 onions diced

4 cloves garlic

2tsp capers 

2tsp caper brine 

3tbsp white wine vinegar 

1l stock 

Bouquet de garni

6 black peppercorns 

1 shallot, finely diced

1 garlic clove, crushed 

50g raisins

2tbsp sherry vinegar 

Fresh parsley 

1 packet filo pastry (you could make your own but lets be honest who has the time..) 

For the jus

2 onions, roughly chopped 

Reserved bones

1 carrot, chopped 

100ml white wine

5 cloves garlic 

Bouquet garni 

2l stock 

6 peppercorns 
For garnish 

450g baby carrots 

450g baby leeks 

Reserved wild mushrooms 
For the jus 

  1. Preheat the oven to 200oC. Roast the reserved loon bones for 30mins. 

Meanwhile brown the chopped onion and carrots in a little oil until well coloured. Add the white wine and bubble for 1min. Remove to a large pan and add the remaining ingredients gradually simmer for 3-4hrs, topping up occasionally with cold water and skimming. 

For the pastilla 

  1. Meanwhile sear the rabbit legs and shoulders over a high heat until a little browned. Remove. Sweat the shallots with a large pinch of salt and garlic for 5-7mins. Add the capers, brine, vinegar and bubble for 1-2mins. Remove to a large saucepan and return legs, shoulders, stock, bouquet garni and peppercorns. Simmer for 2-3hours or until meat is soft and meltingly tender, topping up to keep legs covered. 

For the stuffed loin

  1. Roughly chop mushrooms. Sweat down the onions in the butter for 5mins. Add the sherry and cook for 2-3mins. Add garlic and mushrooms and a large pinch of salt. Add herbs and cook until mushrooms are soft and most of the water has evaporated. Blend and season to taste. Set aside to cool to room temperature. 
  2. Stretch out the pancetta on a sheet of cling film, overlapping. Place loin on top and fill centre with mushroom mix. Gently roll, bringing rabbit loin sections together and tightly wrapping with pancetta using cling film. Wrap tightly in foil to a thick log shape. Chill for at least 3hours, preferably overnight. 

For the pastilla

  1. When the rabbit is cooked, drain and reserve cooking liquor. Let the rabbit legs cool a little then pick the meat off the bone into small pieces. Sweat down the shallot in a little butter with a large pinch of salt, add garlic and cook for 2mins. Add to rabbit. Stir in raisins, sherry vinegar, chopped parsley and 100ml reserved liquor. 
  • Brush a 15cm x 22cm tin with melted butter, layer down 6 sheets of filo, brushing with butter between each layer so there is a wide margin around the sides of the tin. Fill with the rabbit mix, pour over 250-300ml of reserved cooking liquid and fold filo strips over the top to form a parcel. Layer over another 6-8sheets of filo, trimmed down to fit top of the tin. Place a sheet of grease proof on top and weigh down with another tin. Chill overnight. 

  • For the jus

    1. Drain the jus and reserve liquid. Reduce to a thin syrupy consistency. 

    For the final flourish

    1. Par boil the leeks and carrots for 5mins, drain and reserve. 

    2. Preheat the oven to 200oC. Using a sharp knife carve pastilla into squares. Place pastilla uncovered in the oven for 20mins. Turn heat down to 150oC, cook for a further 20mins, until filo is crispy on top.

    3. Brown the loins over a high heat until caramelised. Cook in the oven for 11-15mins. Leave to rest. 

    4. Cook veg in a little butter until beginning to brown. 

    5. Carve loin and serve with a square of pastilla, veg and jus. 

    What does Brexit mean for the food industry? 

    I am not the only person or indeed the first person to express my hurt, anger and disbelief at the results of last weeks referendum and I’m sure I won’t be the last. Whether it’s my generation feeling betrayed by an older generation who had the freedom of the EU and didn’t use it as much as we do and will or whether it’s frustration at the expressions of regret from leave voters- oh I didn’t think my vote would count or I didn’t realise the pound would plummet so dramatically- the Internet and the world is full of reverberations of the result. We are looking for the loophole, looking for the way out of what we are committed to. There may be a petition out there calling for another referendum but I fear the damage is done. We’ve already told the EU we don’t want to belong. In the school playground we’ve already told the other kids we’re better than them and we don’t need them. Even if by some miracle this petition pulls off and we stay, Europe knows we didn’t want them. Whilst diplomacy shouldn’t fall to playground bitchiness the people of Europe won’t forget. They’re only human. We’ve lost a liberal, middle right wing prime minister for an unelected and potentially far right leader further widening the gap between the two major political parties and splitting the country into a worrying divide. We might lose Scotland, northern island and even London is jokingly threatening to declare independence. 

    Personally I’ve gone through the five stages of grief. I thought it was a bad dream when I woke up on Friday, I didn’t believe it. Then I was angry, I stewed for 2 hours on a bus to London muttering expletives under my breath, I arrived in London googling the loophole, signing the petition trying to bargain my way out. And yesterday evening? Well I got drunk and cried. But now I’m at a stage of acceptance. We’ve done it, we’ve put a message out there that we still think we’re the colonial powerhouse of the 19th century, racist, right wing and ridiculous. How else would a man such as Farage, a self reinstated leader of a party gaining a worrying amount followers who isn’t even an MP be listened to? ( anyone noticed as an MEP he’s just voted himself out of the job?) the Trump of England he’s just asked for a more lax approach to gun control. 

    But the world has moved on from the 19th century. Technology and communication has created a more fluid and developed world. My generation want to travel, have a cosmopolitan workplace, city, country…. But why does it matter so much to me particularly? I graduated from cookery school yesterday. I am trying to get a job in food and wine a subject I am passionate about but I’m starting to worry the world I want to enter is about to crumble before I can even latch on.

     Has anyone noticed we are an island. We grow a fair amount of fruit and veg, a few lambs here and there – we could probably survive, we won’t starve. But again the world and what we expect to eat has changed. We’ve realised that food is exciting, it’s not just fuel. Food porn is a thing! That avocado you’re smashing onto your spelt loaf is in fact shipped in from Spain. Interesting fact, England simply isn’t hot enough to grow avocados, maybe global warming will change that in 50 years times until then… I know that we won’t still be able to trade with European countries but I can promise you it’s going to get a damn site more expensive. Don’t get me started on the price of wine. You know what happens when things get too expensive? People buy it less and the companies no longer have the money to employ the hotshot young graduate, there’s no point training them up for the future of the company because you don’t even know if there will be one. Rowan Gormley of majestic wine warned us about this before the vote and I hoped the 6th largest wine drinking country in the world might listen to him. 

    With the pound in free fall we all know what first happens in a recession. People stop spending money on restaurants, wine bars, regular nights out. At a point where more restaurants are folding within the first year year of opening than breaking even, it can only get worse. But what is going to impact the restaurant industry more than the lack of customers is the loss of a work force. It has been proved time and time again that British people don’t want to be waiters. They don’t want to clean. They don’t want to fold tablecloths or chop vegetables for hours on end. In Germany becoming a waiter is a craft, an art that millions aspire to every year and train painstakingly to become the best at it. In England it’s a gap year job, something to fill the gap before ‘real work’ starts. An overwhelming majority of staff in hotels, restaurants and bars are European immigrants. And no it’s not because they’re taking our jobs, it’s because we didn’t want those jobs. Whether it’s the local wetherspoons where a friendly Italian bartender is serving you your pint and there’s still a ‘staff needed’ poster in the window or the high end Michelin restaurant where the sommelier is a smooth talking French gent. Want to know why he got the job? Because frankly he’s better at it. He trained for years, crafting the art because where he’s from a waiter is the pinnacle of a career not the start.

    I’m being dramatic I know. And I know the markets will stabilise and trade hasn’t completely gone down the drain. But in an industry that was heading towards an increasingly cosmopolitan and vibrant evolution I think we might back track. British cuisine has evolved to include staples of curries, pasta and fine wines. I know we’re not going to lose that but we’ve told the rest of the world we care more about ourselves than moving to a diverse multi cultural future. It’s not the result it’s the statement we’ve made. But I’m not going to rant any more. As I said I’m at a point of acceptance. The majority has spoken and we can’t ignore the marginalised British. I can just hope that they realise how much we’ve gained from a more fluid map of the world and how much we’ve moved on from the 19th century. Even if it’s in a tiny way. Noticing that the Spag Bol we’re rustling up for dinner was a result of an Italian loving, River cottage creating lady in the 1980s. Again I know that this would’ve happened EU or not. But ultimately it’s not abut the EU. It’s about sending a message to the world that we’re open to diversity and diplomacy. I’ll raise a glass of wine to uniting the two British camps first, it’s a s start. 

    It’s raining gin; exploring demijohn, the liquid deli

    I don’t think I felt a more at home then when in the liquid deli DemiJohn. I mean it’s got everything; from sumptuously fruity elderflower vinegar, to dangerously moorish Seville orange gin. Somewhere round about in the middle they round the whole thing off with so-smooth-it-could-be-fruit-juice olive oil and balsamic vinegar so flavoursome, sweet, intense that it costs £500/l, and trying a spoonful I can see why. Put it this way, you would not drizzle this over your bog standard toasted veg, this deserves, Parma ham, chunks of crumbling Parmesan, slow sun dried tomatoes (the posh kind) or perfectly ripe plump red strawberries. All this in a quirky shop in Oxford’s self styled independent hub on the border of town and the more edgy Jericho; Little Clarendon Street. You would be forgiven for assuming this is a one off, struggling business, but no. You can also buy their remarkable rhubarb vodka in a few shops all over the country, York, Glasgow and Edinburgh as well as Oxford. But we’re not talking some corporate chain here. Ex-army captain Angus Ferguson ostensibly runs the show from rural Scotland but in reality he is very much the life and soul of the party, at the heart of every shop, happy to serve customers, incite his employees and nth use about his products which he is clearly passionate about. In fact ut was his idea to throw the Little Clarendon street party which I attended and demijohn was certainly the centre of the party, if it wasn’t for the abysmal British weather I fully expect students and tourists alike (normally bitter enemies) might even have come together dancing in the streets to the sounds of various musical acts discovered by Angus for the event, from Acapella to hard rock (minus the cafe). As I walked off down the street at the end of the day merrily holding a cocktail invented after a recent challenge to the nearby duke of Cambridge cocktail bar my mind was running with ideas to use the raspberry vinegar in a kale salad dressing or the marmalady gin in a cocktail, or even the gooseberry vinegar in a cocktail! One thing is for sure, demijohn is an inspiring place, maybe it was the intoxicatingly depth of the fruity flavours or just the enthusiasm of Angus and his team, I shall certainly be returning to stock up for my kitchen/ cocktail cupboard and I urge you to pop in and do the same, you won’t regret it. It’s worth noting you can buy online too! http://www.demijohn.co.uk


    Mayday! Mayday!

    I don’t know if you realise but in Oxford May Day is a big deal. I mean really big. We temporarily shed our old school – 14th century – eccentric reputation and go more old school 9th century pagan bat shit crazy. I’m talking brass bands in the streets, madrigals from Magdalen tower at 6am, Morris dancing in fancy dress and of course in the time honoured British tradition; drinking from dawn (although does it count if you never really stopped)…. I’m almost disappointed I didn’t join in this year. Then again being an old lady who survives on the minimum amount of sleep during the week, getting up at my usual time (6am) seemed a little unnecessary. Besides apparently in the modern age you don’t even need to be there to join in the festivities, the madrigals from magdalen college were live streamed on Facebook. I could enjoy them from my cosy bed a couple of hours later. However considering I was awoken by my father at 6.15am and informed we were going to breakfast to at least pretend we’d been joining the throngs in the streets, against my better judgement I was thrust into the bizarre dream world that is May Day morning. It’s like still that feeling after a crazy party which went on till dawn. Even if you weren’t drinking the night before. It feels like everyone is either still drunk, or on the cusp of a hangover. You can drink before 8am, calories don’t matter and the more you look like you haven’t slept, the better. What a beautiful may morning it was. The sun was out, the brass band was playing, everyone was smiling and I was heading to an free, albeit early, breakfast. What a disappointment. I didn’t mention the down side to this glorious Oxford only holiday. The restaurants know everyone will want breakfast. They know everyone will pay a bomb and seemingly not care what they’re eating. But I’m afraid I’m not everyone. Maybe it’s just me, but when I order smoked salmon and scrambled eggs in a restaurant I usually expect toast or something with it, especially at £8.50. Even worse when I asked for toast they said they weren’t doing bread today. I couldn’t tell whether it was a veiled attempt to encourage me onto a low carb diet or just a cheapskate restaurant trying to conceal the fact they’d run out of a staple of the breakfast menu on one of there busiest breakfast services in the year. Either way Quod was in my bad books. Especially because I don’t get treated to breakfast out often. Heck during the week most meals are a mixture of tasting as I cook and apples, munched sporadically through the day.This rant is mostly culminating in an explanation of why I felt a craving for such a ridiculously hipster lunch. I’m mostly ironically disparaging to the Instagram gurus obsessed with avocado and kale and cashew nut cheese. But secretly, I’m one of them. I’m probably the only person who genuinely really likes kale but it’s really tasty and it feels like your eating your way to the elixir of youth, which can’t be a bad thing. Maybe I’m just hanging out with students too much but feeling world weary and old at 23 can’t be a good thing. So here’s my recipe for avocado, marmite and smoked salmon toast with kale and purple sprouting broccoli salad, walnut and maple dressing. #notnigella #iknownigelladidarecipeforthisandgotridiculedmaybeimjustasbad #healthguru #deliciouslymeta #ironic #dontjudgemebecauseimgreen #marmitegoeswitheverything

    1 avocado

    1 slice toast (preferably sourdough)


    Chilli flakes

    Smoked salmon


    Walnut oil

    Rice wine vinegar

    Sea salt

    Maple syrup

    Purple sprouting broccoli

    It’s simple to be honest, but oh so delicious. Just toast the bread. Blanch the broccoli in boiling and refresh in cold water. Combine 3 parts walnut oil to 1 part rice wine vinegar and season to taste with sea salt and maple. Pour over kale and microwave for 1 min. Add broccoli. Top bread with a thin layer of marmite, avocado and smoked salmon. Eat.

    I know you don’t really need a recipe but you’ll get over it. Some people like to follow instructions and if you follow these you get a damn good meal. I’d call it brunch, but I already had breakfast…

    A Rose by any other name…..

    So here it is. The last proper day of my holidays and with it the last single lunch review I will be doing for a while. Next week whilst I am not going back to school after a luxurious week of holiday – yes I did spend most of this week sleeping- I am off to intern at Delicious Magazine in hope that sometime in the next ten years they might have an opening for a job…. Unfortunately I have realised that much as I am enjoying a weekly solo lunch adventure there is simply not enough restaurants in Oxford that are independent and affordable and also I’m lucky enough to boast that my social engagements have overtaken the ability for time to myself. I’m aware this isn’t a bad thing. Of course I’ll still be reviewing. There is a rather favourable review of a Hampstead Heath gastropub on its way, a date with my ex housemate, watch this space. 

    At least I’ve chosen a rather nice way to finish the holidays. It is a beautiful day in Oxford. It’s cliche, but the architecture in Oxford does seem that bit more impressive against a clear blue backdrop. It’s as if those grey rainy days were merely a rehearsal for the really performance. It’s just a shame that this often feels like a once a year show. I’ve whipped out my new sunglasses, I’ve dusted off my spring coat (let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we are still in England, a coat is necessary) and I’ve headed to The Rose. A staple of the Oxford afternoon tea scene, I happened to come across a review which said it was the best lunch in Oxford. However as I sat for a rather late lunch in the window basked in sunlight, people watching the street, my heart sank when I looked at the menu. The goats cheese salad whipped into memory a weedy limp salad leaf attempt from a health care I’d had a few weeks ago. The ciabatta sandwich options suggested the dry thin offerings from various sandwich outlets around and reminded me why I never order ciabatta if offered. The £6.95 charge for a plate of ‘home cured salmon’ which sounded suspiciously like 3 slices of Sainsbury’s finest laid on a plate, taking barely 5minutes to eat. But…..I am prepared to stand up and admit how wrong I was. Just to be clear. This is the place that all the aforementioned cafes should take their cue from. This is the place where the menu doesn’t lie. In case you need it in bold letters BEST LUNCH IN OXFORD.

    I chose the home cured salmon and asked for some bread and butter on the side with some trepidation as the only offering for bread was ciabatta. I sat undisturbed for an hour and a half reading The Versions of Us (an excellent book by the way) and enjoyed a large salad plate, loaded with salty gravlax trimmings with dill. Pesto and an excellent shallot dressing. It was accompanied by warm, soft ciabatta and excellent creamy yellow butter. I could well have eaten a couple more rolls. I don’t eat bread a lot but when it tastes that good…. I consoled myself that I only had the one ciabatta by ordering some cake. Again I’m not usually that into cake, I prefer a bar of chocolate or a creamy dessert if I’m going to treat myself but I thought if the bread is that good and they call themselves an afternoon tea shop, the cake is probably pretty damn good. I was not disappointed. An incredibly moist carrot cake studded with walnuts with the thinnest spreading of tangy cream cheese icing cutting through the sweetness but without making the cake too rich. My only criticism is that the staff could have been a little more attentive especially as I was only given a small glass of water which I finished pretty quickly and had to keep waving to try and get refills despite the cafe being pretty quiet at this time. But it’s only a little thing and mostly the staff were friendly and helpful and clearly knew the dishes which is always a bonus. And for a total of £12, I will certainly be coming back. 


    The Hipster Cafe; style over substance

    I seem to be getting busier and busier (so in demand obviously, or just desperately clinging to my social life, you decide). But I was very keen to try out the new George Street Social that’s opened in (unsurprisingly) George street. So I managed to squeeze in a visit between social and professional engagements. ‘Welcome to the ‘edgiest’ place in Oxford. Your own piece of Shoreditch in Oxford. We have board games. We have book swaps. We even have an old pay stub system for giving out allergy information. We are the hippest place out there. Come to us vintage living students of Oxford, we are the place you want to be.’ Is what this place is screaming, except it just doesn’t live up to the hype.

    ‘Let’s give this place the benefit of the doubt, it is its first week.’ Is what I thought for the first 5mins I waited to be given a table whilst I watched the waitress clear and set up 5 empty tables and ignore the steady queue of people blocking the stairs. When I got my table after 15 minutes I thought ‘maybe it isn’t style over substance, maybe the food will make up for the irritating ‘we serve water in milk bottles from a beer pump’ and the ‘we serve our wine in tumblers so that it’s lukewarm and tastes worse’. I’m ranting, but seriously most self respecting humans who drink wine in a restaurant for ridiculous mark ups expect to be served something with a little more finesse than your average student party. I suppose I should be thankful it wasn’t a plastic cup. I could’ve forgiven them if the wine had been a) any good or b) chilled, but as it is , I felt like I was drinking grape juice with a mild fermentation from sitting out on the counter too long. I know I complain about over chilled wines killing the flavour but this is ridiculous. 

      Their menu is a little confusing as well…. There is a different menu in the window, at the table and at the main bar downstairs. I felt slightly like they might have been able to make better use of their resources and I wouldn’t have felt quite so much of an inconvenience as a guest to the staff, if they’d stuck to one menu with perhaps a few sandwiches on offer to ‘grab and go’ downstairs. If I’d have known pizza was an option, as it is downstairs, I would’ve gone for it. Instead , skipping over the rather overdone and dull ‘brunch eggs’ options as I’d had eggs that morning, I went for pretty much the only other choice; a salad plate. I’m not quite sure why it took so long for my waiter to run downstairs and grab a plate of salad FROM THE DOWNSTAIRS cafe (this is how backward this place is with its menus) but I’m giving the benefit of the doubt as I was not the only customer  and presumably they were planning on cooking and presenting other clients lunches better. 

      As it was I was served with a mildly depressing selection of salads, lumped limply on the plate with about as much care as I take when throwing dirty clothes in the laundry basket. Again I could’ve forgiven them if the panzenella had been vibrant with plump fresh, juicy tomatoes with a zingy dressing and oodles of chunks of  crunchy yet soft pieces of bread instead of what appeared to be just mushy tomatoes with 1 crouton in and a slice of onion for good measure. Or maybe the salad which appeared to be just beetroot and Orange, had been roasted faintly caramelised beetroot with a hint of acidity, from the market around the corner rather than something which seemed oddly like pieces of vacuum packed beetroot from Sainsburys, artfully chopped up. (Disclaimer, I have no proof this is the case and may very well be wrong, it is merely a metaphor). I was hoping the couscous might’ve been its saving grace bursting with raisins or nuts or to be honest anything other than the offering I was given, dry flavourless and I believe from Ainsley Harriot’s new from a packet range. (Disclaimer, again, no proof.) All in all I wish I’d been less English about the situation and complained and refused to pay the £9.50 they charge for the salad. Or argued my point as I did to the man in the pub who claimed the dishwasher salt I drank at the bottom of my wine glass was ‘crystallised sugar’. One glass maybe ? But both the my Riesling and my friend’s wildly different Sauvignon blanc, I don’t think so. I take after my mother (a law tutor) and as Marshall Eriksson would say from HIMYM, Lawyered. 

    All in all I am disappointed Geroge street social. Take a lesson from the Turl street Kitchen or to be honest, any other restaurant. Never try to hard and never go for style over substance. On the other hand this is new, I’ll come back in a few weeks to see if it was all teething problems, I’m always optimistic. But  scathingly I’m not sure how long George street social will last.