Project Awesome

August 18, 2010
When it comes to matching food with wine and thinking of a recipe that will marry the pair in perfect harmony, to my mind there are simply two routes you can take. The first is purely sensory. Open that bottle and pour a glass. Look at it. What do you see? Bright straw with a hint of youthful green? Bring the glass to your nose and draw in the aroma, engage those receptors, fill your nasal cavity with odors of tropical fruits. Lift the edge of the glass to your lips and let the cool liquid flood over your tongue, flow freely over your taste buds. Swish around your cheeks, breath in through your mouth, let the air condense those subtleties, to bring out notes of apricot and citrus. Spit or swallow, whatever the case may be and then sit down with pen and paper. Let your experience dictate what is written down, go with your first impulse as you connect the dots. Concentrate on the fundamental character of the wine as you focus your mind, search your memory bank of flavours and zero in on what ingredients will harmonize. Be confident and you will be sure to conjure a marriage made in heaven. Punch the air! Feel good about yourself.

Like I said, this is the first path but alternatively, you could always read the label on the back of the bottle for any kind of clue as to what the hell will go with a particular bottle of wine. And as a rule of thumb, this is often the path I take. Standing in the supermarket aisle, I’ll often bellow a curt “what are we having for dinner tonight?” down the phone and the answer will usually be “Pasta, lamb, stew, it’s in the cat..” etc etc and off I shall trot, squinting at the backs of bottles until I find a suitable match. However for Project Awesome, I did want to extend myself for a change and go down the route of sampling the wine first before trying to come up with a recipe to go with it.

Actually, I should lift the lid here and fully reveal exactly what Project Awesome was all about. In short, it was a ludicrously named social media experiment involving various food and wine bloggers which sought to deliver some mystery and intrigue but at the end of the day, the mission was to simply come up with a recipe that would compliment the individual bottle of wine sent to us by an enthusiastic young man and brainchild called Ben who helps manage a small food and drink shop in Morecombe called The Wineyard & Deli. Phew.

I have to say, as projects go, this was great fun to get involved in with and out of all the contributors, I was probably the one who got carried away the most. I am a fantasist at heart so grabbed at the whole concept with both hands, wheeling off tales that I was some kind of hokey spy. By the last post though, I think my wife had enough of taking daft photos of me and certainly wasn’t up for smearing tomato sauce on my head despite my plea’s. So I smeared it on my hand instead. Attempts to connect an audience with wine and bring it into the mainstream can sometimes be dry, boring and humourless, as anyone who has been to Vinopolis may testify, so hats off to Ben for coming up with the idea.

Now back to the recipe and how I came up with matching an Abadía Blanc de Blancs from Raimat with Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Apricot, Lemon, Sage and Onion. As I have already sort of indicated, I am no wine buff. But it is worthwhile to sit down and concentrate on a glass of wine once in while rather than throw it down your Gregory with gay abandon. I did this with Mrs FU one afternoon as it’s best to do this kind of thing in pairs and I find that when wine tasting there is always a kind of follow the leader aspect to it all.

“Hmm I can smell lemon”

“Oh yes, so can I”

“And it’s quite fruity, tastes quite peachy, or apricots even”

“er yeah, yeah I got that too”

I won’t reveal who did the leading and who did the following but between us we thought that the wine would suit pork with a simple fruit stuffing. In the past, I’ve found that tenderloin is a particularly good cut for this purpose due to it’s elongated shape. Slide your knife down the centre, three quarters of the way in, open the incision and then make another two cuts along either side, like cutting a T shape almost. And voila, the joint opens up with a nice area over which you can spread a stuffing of your choice before rolling it back together and trussing it with string. As the Abadía was also quite acidic, creating a strong mouth watering sensation after drinking, we figured that the recipe needed a creamy mash to temper this. I say the royal ‘We’ as this was Mrs FU’s suggestion and here I threw my toys out of the pram and decided that the pork should be artistically accompanied by “crushed new potatoes, mixed with crème fraiche and sorrel!” I mean I had to stamp my authority didn’t I and glean back some of the credit for the recipe. This was my project! Goddammit!

So we went to the shops, bought the ingredients, came back and later that evening I prepped and slaved over the stove for an hour or so. We then sat down at the table with glasses refilled, at the ready. The result was pretty good and the recipe will follow after all this pontificating but for analysis, the pork with apricot stuffing certainly combined well with the Abadía. A sure fire way to see if it all works is to simply slip a forkful of food into your mouth and then take a sip (I learnt this from The Wine Sleuth). The sweetness of the meat and fruit mirrored up nicely against the characteristics of the wine. I was worried that the sage might throw things out of sync but it’s pungent savoury flavour blended nicely into the background. The potato, which after cooking did resemble mash in the end, helped cut through the acid and I was pleased that the sorrel stirred in at the end picked up notes of citrus. But then again this could have been down to the lemon zest which was also in the stuffing. Oh I don’t know, all this wine matching malarky, it’s still a mystery to me at times.

Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Apricot, Lemon, Sage and Onion

Serves 2 (greedy people)

for the pork and stuffing

400gms pork tenderloin

handful of dried apricots

zest of 1 lemon

1 onion, finely chopped

5 or 6 sage leaves, finely chopped

50gms butter

salt and pepper to season


for the crushed potatoes

10 good sized new potatoes such as Charlotte

2 tbs of crème fraiche

2 or 3 sorrel leaves, finely sliced

salt and pepper to season

for the sauce

200ml chicken stock

1 glass of Abadía Blanc de Blancs (or a similar acidic, dry white wine with notes of tropical fruit)


1. Preheat the oven to 190c. Melt half of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. When it begins to foam, add the onion and gently fry for 5 minutes or so until it turns soft. Then add the apricots and sage and cook for a further 2 minutes Finally add the lemon zest, frying just for another minute and then take the pan off the heat. Add a twist of pepper and salt for seasoning, stir through and leave to cool down

2. Once the stuffing mix has cooled, take the pork tenderloin, with a sharp knife cut down the middle and either side as per my instructions earlier in the post. Open the joint out, place some cling film over the pork and with a rolling pin gentle flatten the meat. Then spoon the stuffing mixture evenly over the surface area of the cut. Roll back up and secure the joint with string tied at 3-4cm intervals and season lightly all over with some more salt and pepper.

3. Wipe the frying pan clean and then place again on the hob, adding the remaining butter and again melt over a medium heat until it starts to foam. Place the tenderloin in the pan and brown all over. Once that is done, put the pan straight into the oven to cook for a further 25 minutes.

4. Whilst the pork is roasting. Place the potatoes into a saucepan of water, bring to the boil and then gently simmer for 10-15 minutes. You want the potatoes to have a bit of resistance to them and not turn to mush so keep an eye them by prodding with a sharp knife from time to time. Once done, take off the heat, drain the water from saucepan and keep warm.

5. After 25 minutes is up, take the tenderloin out of the oven and out of the pan to rest on a plate or chopping board and cover with foil. Place the pan back on the hob over a high heat and add the chicken stock and wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, to loosen up any porky residue and boil rapidly until reduced by two thirds. Set to one side and keep warm.

6. Time to plate up. Take the warm potatoes and gently crush them with the back of another wooden spoon (always use wooden spoon by the way). Add the crème fraiche and sorrel, stirring all together but taking care not completely mash and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the potato on the plate or use those fancy rings if you’ve got them. Then uncover the pork and slice into 5cm thick rounds and place them around the crushed potato. Finally drizzle some of your reduced sauce over the meat and around the plate. Accompany with a vegetable of your choice, I added french beans when cooking this. Enjoy with a glass of Abadía Blanc de Blancs or a similar acidic, dry white wine with notes of tropical fruit.

Chopped apricot, sage and lemon zest

Get stuffed

Bound, gagged and tied

Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Apricot, Lemon, Sage and Onion

An after thought


Having made just the one attempt at this, I have mulled things over and rather than brown the tenderloin and then place into the oven, you may want to wrap the trussed up pork in foil and poach in simmering water for 25 minutes. Then cool it down, remove foil and pan fry for 5 minutes, browning it all over before you are ready to eat. Just a thought.

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August 3, 2010

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Project Awesome is………….

August 2, 2010

All about colour – Pale yellow with greenish hues. Brilliance and clarity.

All about nose – Intense with aromas of tropical fruits, orange and apricot blossom.

All about mouthfeel – The Chardonnay brings notes of tropical fruit, apricot and peach whereas the Albariño gives it hints of apricot blossom and long citrus finish.

All about finding a perfect pairing, a match, a recipe to compliment and marry up with the flavours of a Raimat Abadia Blanc de Blancs 

That’s it, I’ve said too much……………………………………………

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Tour de France 2010 Tasting: Friday 23rd July, 7-9pm.

July 16, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”TheWineyard”]

Those of you who read about my slightly geeky Tour de France-themed window display recently will be aware that I was cooking up a themed tasting too. I’ve been busy looking through our French wines and picking out some likely candidates that we can try, and have got a stonking line-up planned. Incorporating wines from Champagne, Burgundy, Provence, the Rhone, the Midi/Languedoc, the South-West, and Bordeaux, this tasting is going to be a cracking journey through most of France’s best regions!

As the French are rightly seen as making some of the best wines in the world, I’ve decided to nudge the budget up a bit for a one-off (and consequently the ticket price too so we can afford them), so that we can taste some really top-notch wines (a £27 Haut-Medoc Bordeaux for example, and a £35-40 Champagne such as Veuve Clicquot or Bollinger). This tasting will give you an unrivaled opportunity to find out what all the hype is about when it comes to these wines, and to judge for yourself if you think they justify the prices. There will also be some top-value picks at the more affordable end of the spectrum, and the usual 10% discount will be given for any orders taken on the night.

If you’re keen to taste your way along the route of the Tour de France 2010, get in touch with me as soon as possible to get your tickets sorted out, as there has been a lot of interest in this event, and have already started to be snapped up. Tickets are £15 each (our usual tastings are £10 each), and we will be tasting 10 different wines, along with 10 different food samples from the Deli. You can reach us at the shop on 01524400011, or via Twitter, Facebook or by e-mail – Tickets must be bought in advance, in order to ensure your places. It also allow us to prepare the appropriate quantities of food/drink. ; )
One final note: Remember, no prior knowledge or expertise is needed to attend our tastings. We’re dead informal, and are just really passionate and enthusiastic about tasty wines, and helping you to find what you do and don’t like, and why. I always try to pitch the material at the amateur level, and explain any technical or confusing words in everyday English. If you have any reservations about coming along and joining in, get in touch with me and I’ll do my best to put your mind at ease.

Event: Wines of the Tour de France 2010.

When: Friday July 23rd, 7-9pm.

Where: The Wineyard & Deli.

Price: £15/ticket.

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Spain contact missing

July 12, 2010

During the frenzied atmosphere of the World Cup final, we've lost all communications with our contact in Spain, WM. His last known whereabouts are near Barcelona, in the north east of the country. We were expecting information pertinent to Project Awesome imminently, so this development is very serious indeed. We are currently considering bringing in external help from the Clarion agency, working out of London. They are already in contact with WM's representative in Tunbridge Wells, GC.

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A New Mission for Agent Cay

July 1, 2010

I am just taking the first sip of my 20th coffee of the day when my phone buzzes.

‘Christina. There is a package waiting for you in reception’.

I smile a secret little smile to myself. It’s here.

I lead a double life you see. By day, I am a mild mannered Web Editor for a University. I am professional, polite and unassuming. By night? Well. By night I am something else entirely. 

The first inklings of a plan form in my mind as I step into the lift, and by the time I’ve ascended to the ground floor and walked to reception, I have decided what I must do. 

I pick up the package and examine it closely. There appears to be a message written on one of its sides.

Suitably covert eh? That’s me alright. 

I make small talk with the security guard as I sign for the parcel. Yes, lovely weather we’re having isn’t it? Yes, I am enjoying the World Cup. Yes, I do have plans for the weekend. Interesting plans. You might even say awesome plans. My reverie is shattered when the security guard suddenly remarks;

‘Interesting package you’ve got there love. What could that be?’

I hear my handler B’s voice in my head. ‘No one must know about Project Awesome until the time is right Agent Cay. No one.’

I raise my hand to the vintage brooch on the lapel of my suit jacket and press down on it gently. It releases a colourless odorless gas which will wipe the Security Guard’s memory clean. He’ll remember nothing of the package or our conversation.

I return to my desk and secrete the package in my satchel before anyone can see. Project Awesome is still my little secret for now. But for how long? 


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The Name is Urchin, Food Urchin

July 1, 2010

The postie came knocking on my door this morning, nothing unusual with that. However, he did seem overly interested in a package that he was delivering.
Enough to comment “Weighty old box that, reckon you’ve got a bottle of wine in there or something, lucky you eh!”
I just simply smiled, signed along the dotted line and watched him as he turned to walk back up the path..
And then seized the opportunity to deliver a knockout kung fu chop to the neck.
He remains bound and gagged in the cupboard under the stairs. I’ll take him to the ‘Centre’ for memory wiping and reassimilation in due course.
No one must find out about Project Awesome.
At least not yet.

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Strategic documents prepared, and Packs of Awesome despatched

June 30, 2010

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Tour de France Window

June 28, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”TheWineyard”]

I’ve just put in a new window display, using the upcoming Tour de France for inspiration. During the Tour, we’re going to run a themed tasting event in-store one evening (to be “officially” announced fairly soon along with a date and more details) so I thought I’d entertain the geeky organised side of my brain and arrange a French wine window by region, in a rough resemblance of the route this year’s Tour de France is taking. There’s a nice little sheet in the window talking people through the different regions in sequence in the window, and I’ve copied in the text below for anyone who’s interested. It’s a good, if basic, introduction to many of France’s best-known wine-producing areas.

Tour de France Window Display

Tour de France Window

The window display you are looking at resembles the Tour de France route for 2010 (if you imagine a map of France and squint really hard from a funny angle). This year, the route passes through Rheims (in the heart of Champagne territory) having left from Rotterdam. Here (top right of display), the likes of Veuve Clicquot grow their vines and craft some of the most amazing wines in the world.

Leaving the bubbles behind, we head south and swing round past the fabled Chablis vineyards (they’ll probably need some binoculars, or perhaps a telescope to spot them from the actual route, but bear with us here!) where the growers make some of the finest wines produced from the Chardonnay grape. They are full of fresh crisp flavours and a steely minerality that you have to taste to be able to even begin to understand what on earth “minerality” is like, but trust me, it’s an accurate description!

Further south again and our hard-working cyclists are now passing through Burgundy, the home of some of the great Pinot Noirs and rich buttery Chardonnays of the world. North to south through Burgundy, we take in some of the big names like Cote de Beaune Villages and Macon-Charnay before dropping in on the Beaujolais winemakers in small little tucked away spots like Fleurie, Brouilly and Morgon.

The Tour then hugs the border for a while before reaching the south coast down in Provence, a sunny region where 2 in every 3 bottles of wine made is rose. Coming back inland for a bit, we travel up the Rhone valley, starting with the famous vineyards of Chateauneuf-Du-Pape, and moving north through the increasingly popular and well-known Cotes du Rhone villages like Seguret, Gigondas and Cairanne. Further up the valley we find the Northern Rhone growers who are the possessors of some of the finest Syrah (Shiraz to you Aussie red fans) the world has to offer, and finally reaching Condrieu, the very best Viognier you will find on this Earth.

Heading south again, the riders are now on their way through the Midi, which includes famous regions like Languedoc, Picpoul de Pinet, Minervois, and further south again, Cotes du Roussillon-villages. These wines encompass a wide range of styles, with crisp refreshing dry rose, rich, warming and chocolatey reds and light, floral and elegant whites, just to name a few.

Into the heart of the South-West region we find ourselves facing up to some huge reds from the Madiran producers, rammed full of tannic structure and power, and treated to similarly full-bodied, yet elegant, reds of Cahors. Cahors is the original home of Malbec, the grape which has since become synonymous with Argentina, and is known for its massive structure and in-your-face dark fruits. The French treat it much more gently, coaxing out some gorgeous flavours and utterly unique aromas that simply have to be experienced to be believed.

On the home stretch now, and as we head up to Bordeaux (left hand side of the window now), we pass through the vineyards of Bergerac and Monbazillac, the far more affordable younger sibling of Sauternes. Equally sticky, syrupy, honeyed and delicious dessert wine, the prices in Monbazillac make their wines a far more appealing prospect if you’re thinking of trying something new. A real rich and gorgeous treat with mature cheeses and rich cakes.

Into Bordeaux then, perhaps the most famous and revered of all the French wine-making regions, their reds are among some of the finest (and most expensive) in the world, often fetching jaw-dropping prices. At their best they are the most elegant, silky smooth, delicious wines you will find anywhere, and achieve a quality that the New World winemakers still aspire to catch up with. The whites can be very good too, usually a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand white drinkers, take note) and Semillon (fans of Aussie whites, sit up too), they offer really crisp and zingy refreshment, and are becoming far more affordable and much better quality than they used to be. Well worth a try at some point.

[tweetmeme source=”TheWineyard”]

Finally we pass through the Loire en-route to the finish at Paris. A huge region that spreads across a wide stretch of France, here we are talking about classic wines such as Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Menetou-Salon and Saumur. Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are two of the grapes which make some of the most popular wines of the region.

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Team Awesome

June 25, 2010

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