Category Archives: Non-foodie fun

Whisky. ‘Nuff said.

I was nearly 6 months old when I had my first taste of whisky. Friends who know me won’t find it difficult to believe that I was a tiresome, colicky baby. In the hopes of a full night’s sleep my brand new parents gave me a sip of Tesco’s finest. The opposite of what they intended happened; instead of lulling me into a full night’s sleep the whisky had me in a fit of giggles. All night.

I didn’t return to whisky for a long time after that. Even five years ago, whisky would inspire one of three memories – my father drinking Johnnie Walker Black Label, loud Punjabis drinking copious amounts of Patiala pegs at weddings, and Sean Connery. I’m not sure what changed, when, or why, but almost the same time that I moved to London I began to enjoy whisky more and more. The Manhattan has been a favourite cocktail for a long time, and many would argue that this is a natural progression for the curious. Several years, many whisky mistakes, and lovely Twitter friends later I was introduced to London’s Whisky Squad.

It is one thing to be swanning about town on my Tables for ONE… quite another to be a new, single woman testing out a whisky tasting club. Even as I signed up for an extremely affordable Smoking Section session (£15 for a tasting of 6 whiskies plus you get to help yourself to any leftovers after the tasting), I was very apprehensive about how the tasting session would turn out.

What if they were middle aged bankers pretending to know it all? What if they were incestuous industry folk who would be condescending towards anyone new? What if it turned out to be a room full of single women hoping to find a “real man”? What if it was a room full of men and I was the only woman? What if I said something tasted of perfume when I should have said smoke? What if …

It took less than five minutes with the group to realise I had nothing to worry about. I couldn’t put the group in a box if I tried. There were Jason and Andy who started the Whisky Squad – lovely, friendly and down-to-earth; Dave the reluctant expert who works in IT but could guess the ABV (alcohol by volume) to the nearest .3%; Peter who’s father started a malt whisky distillery; Adele, the beautiful blonde who was happier drinking the whisky than trying to guess its age; Rob, the young Oxford University dropout who has built himself a stellar career at Berry Bros… The one thing that bound this room full of strangers together was an uninhibited joy of tasting whisky.

The session is informal, great fun and unpretentious. We blind tasted six whiskies, discussed nose and palate, and did an embarrassingly bad job of guessing the age, ABV and price of each as we went along. Here is what we shared:

Whisky #1
Popular opinion: Smells like piglets (not pigs) swimming in vinegar
The real deal: A limited edition  Bruichladdich Octomore 4.1 for £87

Whisky #2
Popular opinion: A pointless whisky that disappeared without leaving anything behind
The real deal: A very young Benromach Peat Smoke for £31.95

Whisky #3
Popular opinion: Smells of hospitals and mattresses (maybe even hospital mattresses) but the palate was a clear favourite with the group
The real deal: The 25yr old  Port Askaig for £99.95

Whisky #4
Popular opinion: If there ever was a Charming Chav, this is he   
The real deal: The only non-Scottish whisky of the night from The English Whisky Company,  St George’s Distillery Chapter 11 Cask Strength for £67.49

Whisky #5
Popular opinion: Smoky, burnt wood. It reminded me of the angeethis in Srinagar during the winter of 1989.  
The real deal: My personal favourite of the evening, Elements of Islay Kh1 for £49.95

Whisky #6
By this time the bonhomie among the group outshone any hopes of the prescribed analysis for Whisky #6. I remember a discussion of space dust vs. moon dust but couldn’t be sure :). The last whisky was the Kilchoman 100% Islay Inaugural Release for £69.

My favourite takeaway from the evening was courtesy Dave. He said, “There is no such thing as a wrong answer. It’s just not as right as you could be. Yet.

Quite.
-p

7 Comments

Filed under Non-foodie fun, Whisky

Bachelors vs. bellinis

I could have danced all night!
I could have danced all night!
And still have begged for more.

I went to the Alibi Room last night. This Chelsea venue caters solely to London’s singles with not-just speed dating events. Last night they combined the West’s version of a swayamvar with cocktail tasting. I went for the cocktails, and as moral support for my Single Friend who was hoping for a different kind of tasting at the end of the night.

The ladies were seated in groups of three and four across five tables and the men moved from group to group every fifteen minutes. Before each round of conversations, the bartender, sorry mixologist, took centre stage and gave us a little speech about the cocktail.

Round 1: The Bellini

2 parts peach puree
4 parts prosecco or Champagne
Mix. Yum.

In hindsight I’m glad the first lot of guys were as boring as Pension Lawyer James. As a result of James not being able to ask a single question nor give me more than a monosyllabic response to any of mine I remember the name of this cocktail, the history, the root of the fruit… Bellinis are perfect to start off your evening.

Round 2: Pomegranate, Apple, Elderflower Breeze

2 parts pomegranate juice
1 part apple juice
1 part elderflower juice
Large shot of vodka
Mix. More Yum than the bellini.

Round 2 saw the youngest person in the room at my table. Tiny Tim moved to London 6 months ago. He’s an analyst at a bank and works every weekend. Probably not the best way to impress a girl who might wonder when she would ever see him?

Round 3: Tom Collins

1 part lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
Large shot of gin
Shake together with lots of ice.
Top off with club soda.

I am not a big fan of alcoholic lemonade, but the gents on this round were probably more sour than the cocktail. Property Broker Cameron may have been brought up by a mother or sister who told him that he has a sparkling personality and it is quite alright to talk about himself ad nauseam. I feel for the women he thinks he is hitting on.

Round 4: French something

Three cocktails down and I have lost interest in this parade of the Presidents of Dullsville. Even the bartender is getting boring and I honestly cannot remember what the next cocktail is made from. It was clear and tiny and called French something or the other.

Investment Banker Bore: “I work at St. Pauls.”
Me (trying): “Have you been to the new shopping mall near there?”
Investment Banker Bore: “How do you know about the shopping mall?”
Me (still trying): “Borough Market isn’t too far. Do you ever go there for lunch?”
Investment Banker Bore: “How do you know about the market?”
Me (not trying anymore): “So Mubarak finally stepped down.”
Investment Banker Bore: “How did you know?!”

Really? Come on man!

Round 5: Raspberry something

This isn’t strictly a Table for ONE but the rate at which these conversations are going I may as well be talking to myself. Just as I settled down, with a cocktail full of raspberries, ready to leave the moment this round ended, came some entertainment.

Hairdresser Chris (not gay apparently) and Film Producer Gary arrive. Hairdresser Chris likes my Single Friend he met at the table before mine. He spent the next fifteen minutes trying to impress me into giving him her number. Film Producer Gary played along and I finally started to have a good time.

The bell goes, the lady comes around to collect our score cards and we’re allowed to mingle if we wanted to. Single Friend has been cornered by Hairdresser Chris in a last ditch attempt at getting her phone number. Not even the promise of a free haircut would have worked.

I went to the bar for a last cocktail and found myself between Film Producer Gary and his friend I hadn’t noticed before – Tall Laurence. I’m not sure how we went from awkward chat to salsa, but for the next two hours Single Friend and I happily obliged Film Producer Gary and Tall Laurence as they threw us across the dance floor. We had an audience and I had a Bollywood moment.

Single Friend is following a book called The Rules (dating advice by women who clearly never got any, and are now trying to make sure no other woman does either). As a result I will no doubt find myself being dragged to many more The Rules-prompted events like this one. And while my heart did not take flight ala Ms Doolittle, this has been the best night out in a bloody long time.

-p

5 Comments

Filed under Cocktails, Date, London, Non-foodie fun

Silver lining

Chilly Cheese Omelette is number five on my list of favourite comfort foods. My earliest memory of making these were for my sister Priyankaa. Today, as I treat myself to No. 5 (with a glass of Sonoma’s Sebastiani Merlot; an absolute find from my friends at Planet of the Grapes) I miss my sister very, very much. She’s pretty amazing and the most important person in my life. But close as we are I have needed a space separate from her this last month. And from many others who have been my best cheerleaders come rain or… rain (this is London after all).

Recently I have found support from an unlikely quarter. SP is family but we never connected until now. She said to me, “It takes time – lots of it – the point is to not lose sight of the things that bring you joy.” So in my quest for joy I signed up for a cupcake decoration workshop with The Make Lounge off Upper Street. I have only ever met one person who didn’t like cupcakes. Forgive her Cake Lords for she knows not what she misses  –  scrumptious drops of heaven adorned with butter cream icing.

Like many others, I find creating something with my hands therapeutic. As I mould marzipan into delicate roses I relax for the first time in weeks. I received a call from the Ex a few days ago and haven’t been ready to process the muddle of emotions that swept me when I answered that phone; until now that is.

He shattered my world when he walked out on me. I have some distance now to think about what hurts so much. It wasn’t that the spark flew out of the relationship, or a terrible misunderstanding that would clear up if one of us gave in. It was a rejection of the best version of me and the worst part was that he couldn’t find it in himself to give me a real reason.

You know what its like when you really want something? And you don’t know whether you really want it or that you’ve waited for it for so long that you ought to want it? And then it comes knocking on your door? That’s what the call felt like. He wanted… wait for it… to get back together. And in that moment I knew the answer to Elie’s question.

I suppose without forgiveness old wounds will never heal. And the most we can   hope for, is that in time we will forget. As I sprinkle silver stardust on my purple heart I have started to let go. I have to.

-p

5 Comments

Filed under Cupcake, London, Non-foodie fun