It is always nice to asked to join in, and I was rather pleased to be invited to join in a competition to pair Chablis with a take away meal. Chablis is a lovely easy tempered wine, so I expected it to be easy to find something interesting and tasty to match it.
Problem one: We almost never eat take-aways.
I don’t like that I don’t know what has gone into them. I don’t trust many of the restaurants that do takeaway around here to produce food I would want to eat.
B doesn’t like that they are never hot and fresh enough by the time we have got them home, or they have been delivered. Fish and chips is softish and soggyish, pizzas have started to go leathery. We are not great fans of Indian and Chinese food as delivered by take away restaurants.
Problem two: they are disgracefully expensive for what you get.
So we either eat out in comfort, eating food someone else has cooked. But hot. Straight to our table. At a restaurant we know has a good reputation for carefully sourced and cooked food. Or else we eat in. When I cook the food.
Nearly a week of continually boring the hell out of B later, we had discussed this to the bone. Could something other than a traditional take-away be counted as a take-away? Well according to the competition yes. There were suggestions of “Oysters from a fish stall by the sea, soup from your favourite lunch cafe or even a traditional eel pie and mash”… Oysters! oh yes, lots of them here in East London. And anyway I only like fish that is off the boat that day. A restaurant can get that easily, but I have to wait until I go to the seaside. Soup didn’t feel like a meal to me, not really, not if I wasn’t making it myself. And I don’t like eel pie and mash. We could have had cold food I suppose, like a picnic. But I wanted this to be a proper dinner. Something warming. This is a freezing cold March after all.
Next discussion. I say that so long as the food has been bought outside the house and I haven’t actually prepared any of it, even if it needs reheating, that’s a take away. No way, says B. No heating no cooking, just bring it home and stick it on the plate. I ask other people.. they are split in their opinions.
Of course you can heat or cook say some. After all you often reheat a Chinese or Indian – it’s never hot enough. So if you have to buy something cooked but heat or finish it off, that would be fine. It would still be a takeaway.
No way! shout others. We agree with B.. on the plate, no mucking about. That’s a takeaway.
A compromise was struck. We would try the wine with TWO different takes on a takeaway. One of them mine, one of them B’s. Democracy lives in our house.
We were sent two bottles to match. A Chablis and a Petit Chablis.
We plan to drink one glass of each with each meal, comparing how each wine works and whether one is better than the other with certain foods. Chablis is made with Chardonnay grapes, and the French appellation is elegant and pure, with mineral overtones. Normally, I would expect to eat fish or shellfish , or perhaps a soft cheese if I were drinking a Chablis.
We will use a Vacuvin sealer between days to keep the wine fresh, and there will also be a temperature difference from day one to day two, as the wine will be kept in the cool for day one, but chilled in the fridge for day two.
Day one is my choice . I am going to source a dinner that will comprise food that I haven’t prepared or cooked. There will be a little re-heating involved, but otherwise I won’t be cooking anything.
My Chablis will be served cool, at cellar temperature, not chilled, and will be paired with the starter and the main course.
I decided to take a trip to Westfield Stratford, I’ve never been there, it’s only 20 minutes from me and it has several food courts there, so I should have a reasonable choice.
I wasn’t that impressed by the main food courts, they just seemed to be supplying heavy, greasy food that reminded me of the food courts at an airport..but downstairs, outside Waitrose I found The Great Eastern Market, a little court with some more interesting, fresher looking outlets.
I decided on:
Potato Gnocchi and Crab Ravioli with a Seafood sauce from Pasta Remoli
Red Cabbage and Spinach and Feta Strudels with salad from Karantania Deli
A selection of little Italian pastries from Arancini deli
I thought that the seafood and the cheeses in the strudels should work well with the wine. The red cabbage and spinach are quite minerally, and I hoped that this would be good too.
The food came neatly packaged and easily reheated: the pasta and gnocchi needed 2-3 minutes blanching, the sauce I reheated in a pan rather than in the microwave to prevent overcooking the seafood, the strudels had roughly 20 minutes in a hot oven (the time it took to warm and eat the pasta), the cakes were cold of course, and were served with espresso and a small glass of Tia Maria.
Time spent reheating and plating: roughly 20 minutes, plus 40 minutes travel time, and 30 minutes buying, made this a rather lengthy take away process… a total of an hour and a half..
But it made a good amount of food, a proper dinner, with the little cakes finishing off beautifully with a cup of espresso coffee and a little liqueur.
Cost was just under £25
The wine was dry, yet with a lovely soft fruity edge which came through because the wine wasn’t heavily chilled, the Petit Chablis was a touch less dry than the Chablis, and both went really well with the strudels.
Sadly, despite asking for the seafood NOT to have any heat, there was chili in the seafood sauce. This worked well with the pasta, but in our opinion, the heat simply killed the wine dead. We gave up with the first course, and brought out a bottle of Old Golden Hen beer instead which worked beautifully.
Day two was B’s choice of takeway, he settled on Pat Pong a Thai restaurant that we eat at from time to time, with happy results, and that we knew did take away as well. It was ordered by phone, but they don’t deliver so we had to collect. 20 mins cooking time was quoted, a return trip of 15 minutes, and a 10 minute blast in the oven (we were right it had got cold on the way home) made a timing of 45 mins.
We ate :
Thai fish cakes and Dim Sum from the starter menu
Baby chicken in honey and spices with snow peas and plain rice.
All the food was fine, we deliberately didn’t pick anything with spice as we had found we didn’t enjoy the wine with a spicy meal. There were spicy dips supplied with the meal, but we only used a little bit of these.
The wine was well chilled today, which brought out the flintiness of the Chablis, but dulled the soft fruitiness we had noticed the day before in the warmer wine. We started drinking before the meal, and loved the cold mineral flavour as an aperitif. It worked well with the meal too, losing only a little of its flavour against the small amount of chili. We would normally drink Thai beer with this though, and to be honest I think I prefer the beer for its refreshing quality.
Total cost £23 for what was not a lot of food really.
All things considered, this was an interesting exercise. In the end though, I found that I was looking more at whether I liked the idea of take away food, as much as whether the wine was a good pairing. Perhaps this was just due to bad choices on my part.
The food I bought at Westfield was nice, well cooked, and interesting. I would not have made the strudel myself, and I was curious to try Slovenian food. The Italian pasta was fabulous quality, and very good value. The little Italian filled cakes and biscuits were a charming end to the meal. I would certainly eat all of those again, and they made an excellent three course meal. Westfield is close enough as well that now I know what I want I would probably pop back to pick up some more for another time.
I really didn’t find the traditional takeaway very satisfying. The food was not as nice as if it had been eaten in the restaurant, but it didn’t cost dramatically less. The cost of a small plate of food was much the same as for the three course meal from Westfield. If you live in an area with really good takeaways, then I think you would have found better things to match the wine with. I don’t think I am a lover of traditional takeaways.
The wine I was very happy to have tried. I certainly wouldn’t want to drink it with anything hot or spicy, in my opinion the heat killed the flavour making a tragic waste of a good wine. I love whites like Chablis and Sancerre with fish and lighter meals, and I was really pleasantly surprised how well it went with the red cabbage and spinach strudels, making it a perfect choice for vegetarian meals.
Postscript- Day three:
We still had a glass of each wine left over on Day three, so decided to drink this with the quick risotto I made on Friday..
Do you know, for a cost of about £4 and a time of 15 minutes, this went better with the wine than either of the other two meals! It was quicker, it was cheaper and it was more tasty. Pah!
(I was sent the two bottles of Chablis to match with food of my choosing. The foods chosen were not provided nor paid for.)