Journey into the unknown!

A brief voyage of discovery at 2012's Imbibe Live and Speciality & Fine Food trade shows
Via Nova wines

For many of us, the London Olympic and Paralympic Games last year represented a journey into unknown territory – sports that people had never heard of, watched or tried before. Inspiration for some, annoyance for others no doubt, but perhaps this unique moment in our lifetimes should act as a catalyst for building on our innate spirit of adventure and spur us on to try new types of food and drink. In this article, I will be looking at expanding our taste sensations with products you may never have previously considered or discovered, which I tasted at the Imbibe Live and Speciality & Fine Food trade shows in 2012. Come with me on a voyage of discovery …

Galicia is an area of Spain that many people in the UK may not know much about. This is partly because perhaps the region has not marketed itself as aggressively as other regions in terms of its tourism and food and drink industries. Also, being in the North West of the country, just like the North West France, England and Scotland, it is not as dry or indeed always as hot as the well-known “costas” in the South. However, it is a beautiful area with fantastic food and drink, in particular wine.

Some of the best white wines in Spain are made here, in particular from two grape varieties – Albariño and Godello. The first of these is becoming better known in the UK and produces very aromatic, flavoursome dry wines – definitely worth getting to know if you have never tried before. However, the Godello grape is less well known, even within Spain, yet many wine experts would say that this is indeed Spain’s finest white grape variety. One example of a wine made from this grape is Via Nova Godello 2011, available from Iberian Drinks. Intensely aromatic with notes of ripe pear, melon and tropical fruit characteristics on the nose, the palate offers matching flavours, with a slightly nutty aftertaste. With well-balanced alcohol (13%) and acidity, this wine would go perfectly with risotto, chicken and fish dishes. You could even try this with fish 'n' chips – it won’t disappoint! This is a good example of an inexpensive Godello and makes an interesting alternative to Chardonnays and other well-known wine styles.

Galicia also produces fine red wine and one interesting native variety is Mencia. Via Nova Mencia 2011, made from 100% Mencia, is a good example of what this grape variety can offer. Again the nose is aromatic and fruity with notes of plum and chocolate. The palate does not disappoint with plenty of red and black fruits plus a velvety smooth chocolate aftertaste softening the elegant tannins and well-balanced acidity: a bit like eating a plum liqueur chocolate without the extra sugar.

So now you’re ready for a light dessert – perhaps Simply Ice Cream’s Dreamy Vanilla? Simply Ice Cream from Kent make some of the best ice cream around - proof that top quality ice cream can be made in this country. However, why not pour something decadent on top of this, instead of boring old chocolate sprinkles! Dulce de leche is a traditional South American sweet made from slowly heating milk and sugar, the latter caramelising to produce a thick toffee-like jam, ideal for spreading on toast or drizzling on top of ice cream. Casa Argentina have delicious examples of dulce de leche, including some mixed with chocolate. Do give this a try, but don’t tell your dentist!.

Further interesting discoveries can also be found close to home. For example, the award-winning Fivemiletown Creamery, from the Clogher Valley in Northern Ireland, produces some of the best cheese I have eaten in a long time. Their smoked brie is utterly fantastic and makes an unusual addition to any cheeseboard. However, check out their Boilié cheese pearls from cow’s or goats’ milk for a brilliantly original texture and taste sensation.

My last recommendation is something completely different with a great story behind it. Norfolk Punch is a 700-year old non-alcoholic herbal drink, recently rediscovered and brought back to England via Australia. Originally made by Benedictine monks, it is reputed to have beneficial effects on energy levels and other malaises. Drunk hot or cold, it has a unique taste derived from the 33 raw ingredients – a traditional liquid gem revived from our past and a healthy alternative to an alcoholic fruit punch, mulled wine or cider.

So there we are then – a brief journey of discovery. The only way to really expand our taste buds and to reliably judge the quality of our food and drink is to have a varied diet ourselves. It also makes our eating and drinking experiences a little bit more interesting. Bon appétit!

This is replicated from an earlier blog article and is posted here to form an introduction to this section of my website, which will contain reviews of more general food and drink trade fairs.