It appears that pop-ups are becoming to foodies what Pinot Grigio was to wine drinkers in the early noughties; Perhaps a little over-baked but in danger of being very over done. This is a shame as on Friday 28th January Keith and I attended our first event courtesy of WhizzBangPop. Our hostess for the evening was Emily O'Hare one of the sommeliers at the River Café in Hammersmith. We first met Emily at an “Around the World Wine Tasting”. We were researching a piece on wine pairings for Indian Curry Week. Emily was the most helpful and knowledgeable amongst the wine merchants and specialists and we kept in touch.
Emily's chef comrades in arms were Charlie Capehorn and Eliza Murray Willis. We chatted to the ladies about why they believed the pop-up's day has not yet dawned. Emily was passionate about events like these as she believes they promote creativity and imagination. The wine-matching experience allows you to be adventurous and introduce new dynamics to your regular drinking patterns, similar to a Tasting Menu at a top restaurant.
The event was held at the Aueriol Kensington Rowing Club which I assume boasts scenic views of the Thames in the daylight. We were in a celebratory mood as it was the first night of our holiday and we jumped straight into the night feet with a glass of Laurent Perrier in the bar area (not included as part of the evening).
Just after 8pm we were ushered upstairs to where the tables were pleasantly laid. Emily looked very glamorous as the event was also being covered by Red magazine. She introduced the night's festivities with enthusiasm and humour and we immediately found ourselves relaxing into the evening as we listened to her droll rhetoric. The first wine we were acquainted with is the lesser known Loimer 'Lois' Grüner Veltliner 2010 from Austria. Emily described it as bursting with green apples, hints of white pepper and sprightly. The wine was accompanied by a rich cauliflower soup with gorgonzola and almonds, topped with red grapes. The humble cauliflower has a poor reputation. Unfashionable, unpopular and pallid in colour, we have forgotten how to cook it and worse still, have stopped experimenting and creating new recipes. The last ten years has seen a decline of ten percent in cauliflower sales. I know not why. Our soup was was creamy and the buttery bite of the gorgonzola created depth. The red grapes gave the dish release from the saltiness of the cheese. Meanwhile, the wine was a perfect fruity accompaniment. The light acidity cut through the richness.
Next up, Emily introduced the Omrah Pinot Noir 2009 from Australia, which partnered with duck confit with celeriac, leek and a salad of blood orange, watercress and chicory. At our own dinner parties we have paired duck with pinot noir, but a personal favourite would be a fuller bodied wine. However, the pinot noir was reminiscent of a forest fruit jam and together with the droplets of pomegranate and tartness of the blood oranges in the salad, was exquisite. The duck was tender and juicy from its own fat with a crispy shell. Simply wonderful!
There was no chance of being disappointed with the cheese course. Generous slabs of Tomme de Chevre and Bleu D'Auvergne were married with Azamor, Touriga Franca, Merlot from Alentejo in Portugal. The cheese board selection was bold and so needed a meaty wine to do it justice. The Azamor had a subtle spicy berry flavour but prickled with wispy peppery punches that spiked up when gobbled down with the cheese. We enjoyed that the wine was not overtly tannic, as it made this course all the more pleasurable.
By dessert we could have been rolled home we were so stuffed. However, when a trio of desserts were placed in front me I soon shifted my weight to accommodate. The three delectable delights were Crème de Myrtille jelly with a walnut praline ice-cream, Tiramisu and dark chocolate and a tranche of clementine tart. Emily paired this with an Pieropan “Le Colombare” Recioto di Soave Garganega 2006. Visually, the amber intensity of the wine was like an vibrant flame in a glass. The syrupy texture was reminiscent of light honey. The wine was not too citrus or acidic. Instead, gooseberry or greengage flavours with speckles of melon (honeydew?) swilled in our glasses. I have not said much about the desserts, but the jelly was outstanding. I loved the light fruitiness of the jelly, with the contrasting nutty creaminess of the ice-cream.
If you can keep an eye out for a WhizzBangPop event, you will have an exceptional time. Emily, Charlie and Eliza opened our imaginations to a wonderful array of wines as well as thoughtful and delicious dishes. If this pop-up event is anything to go by, we will be attending them for a long time. If you expect fireworks at WhizzBangPop you will not be disappointed. There are taste explosions aplenty.
You can also follow Emily on twitter