Friday, March 15, 2013

My Spring Picnic

Snow Edgware Road this week

I do love a challenge occasionally, keeps the mind attuned and the reflexes sharp. So when I got an email from Sopexa Marketing asking if I'd like to participate in a blogger challenge organised by BIVB to match Chablis with take away food I thought hmmm, could be interesting.

I pondered the characteristics of Chablis - it's steely minerality, the lack of oak making it elegantly bone dry rather than luscious, a wonderfully austere wine for our time of austerity. Made entirely of Chardonnay grapes it is grown in vineyards in the northern part of Burgundy in limestone soil formed in the Jurassic era from the fossils of small oysters. As Andrew Jefford says in The New France: "It smells of smoke and stone and winter air; it tastes as quick and fresh as a chill, pebbly stream tumbling off a dark, rain-draped mountain. Do you doubt the influence of soil on wine flavour? If you do, buy yourself a bottle of chablis."

So far so fabulous. But taking the specific brief to match to takeaway things suddenly got a little more challenging. My undoubted favourite takeaway place is Green Valley, just off the Edgware Road, a positive cornucopia of all food Middle Eastern. I worked nearby for a while, and on occasional sunny Fridays the office would decamp to Hyde Park for wonderfully decadent picnics. We'd buy takeaway tubs of hummus and tabouli, smoky aubergine moutabal, olives, warm falafel, shards of spicy lamb shawarma and plenty of flat bread. It was the first time I ate heart of palm and it was here I discovered mujadarrah - the surprisingly delicate combination of lentils, rice and fried onions. There would be wine, too, not vast amounts but a glass to enjoy as we ate and chatted. I could see how a chablis might work well with this kind of food, its warm spicing working well with the minerality of the wine. Not the lamb perhaps, but the falafels and salads seemed like a possible.

Though we are but a week from spring, the weather is far too poor to be conducive to being outside. The idea of a picnic was simply wrong - rain, cold, snow, wind, no, thrice definitely no. And yet the idea niggled at me as things went from bad to worse... somehow, I thought, I might have a picnic, surely I could have a picnic, really I must have a picnic....

Dammit I will have a picnic! I dug out the picnic rug and set off for Green Valley.

Green Valley's shop window - how seductive is that?!

Nuts and Dates, take as much as you need
This is undoubtedly one of the great food shops of London. They have a large butcher's counter, a bakery for flat breads, an enormous rotisserie cooking dozens of chickens and two slowly rotating swords - one of spiced lamb shawarma and one of chicken. They sell a vast array of wonderful ingredients and you are free to buy as much or as little as you need.

What an array!
 And then, at the back of the shop, there is this extraordinary salad counter, literally piled high with wonderful fresh food, dozens of trays of beautifully made offerings. They sell the lot by the end of each day, tomorrow will always have a new selection.

How to choose?
 I resisted the temptation to buy some of everything - but only just! I decided a vegetarian feast was needed - gorgeous crispy falafel, aubergine dip, tahini sauce, vibrantly fresh herb tabbouli to match the zing of the wine. A pile of bread of course and olives, hummus too. And baklava too, to finish, it's gorgeous nutty syrup crispness simply irresistible.

Still pretty bleak at Hyde Park Corner
 Perhaps spring was watching, as the sun did come out briefly, but not with any warmth.


Chablis - it was a great accompaniment

 What a lovely spread we had, who could ask for anything more?

The makings of a fine falafel roll

Dinner - with Masterchef on the tele!
 It has to be said the man was a little surprised to find dinner served on a rug but with the heating on and the curtains closed it might have been spring outside!

Nice Pick For A Picnic!
 The Chablis worked very well with the spread of food, we particlarly enjoyed the zing it brought to the party.

Here's hoping spring arrives here soon...

In the meantime you can find Green Valley just off the Edgware Road at 36-37 Upper Berkeley St  Marylebone, London W1H 5QF
You can find Chablis at all good wine merchants.


Anonymous said...

I like the idea of you having the picnic anyway. Sometimes one shouldn't wait ... and wait ... and wait. What a fabulous place. I must head up to Edgware Road and take a look.

bron said...

Indeed, waiting is sometimes a mistake! You're in for a real treat if you go to Green Valley, hope you like it

Ailbhe said...

Love the idea of a picnic in the front room. Why let the weather get the better of us? If we want a picnic... just spread the rug where it's warmest. Great looking spread too : )

bron said...

Funnily enough it was almost as cheering as a proper outdoor spring picnic with sunshine and birdsong.