Chinese New Year is a celebration of feast and family

Published on Matching Food & Wine on 7th February 2016:

Food, drink and travel writer Qin Xie explains what the Chinese drink with the most important feast of the year and what goes down well in her own family.

Like Christmas, missing the familial gatherings during this fifteen-day festival is, in a word, unthinkable. That’s why each year, millions of Chinese battle the impossible crowds to return for that reunion.

Typically, a feast on New Year’s Eve is a table loaded with dishes and surrounded by multiple generations. It will start at lunch, which might be lighter, with a break for snacks, tea and games like mahjong or cards, before continuing onto dinner. Several members of the family will have invaded the kitchen at some point to lend a hand or to create their signature dishes.

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Are infusions the next big thing in drink pairing?

Published on Matching Food & Wine on 20th January 2016:

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Every time I’ve been to Azurmendi, it’s been a journey. The three Michelin-starred restaurant is situated half way up a very steep hill, about 15 minutes drive from Bilbao. In the evenings, almost every inch of the palatial structure is lit up like a glittering crystal; and as you drive up the winding road to reach the restaurant, it illuminates the darkness like a beacon.

Before you begin the meal, you always take a tour through the rooftop greenhouse. In the midst of its herbaceous tomato vines and faintly perfumed herbs, you take your first courses – the snacks. This time, my journey began with wisps of cotton candy made with white asparagus; jellied tomato water; spiralised, pickled courgette; and crisp, fragile mushroom leaves.

Inside the lobby, you have the picnic – baskets filled with bites of salted anchovy millefeuille, roe and dill topped cracker and a CaipiriTxa. The forest-green bonbons of CaipiriTxa are filled with citrusy juices that exploded onto the palate when you sucked away the shell. In Eneko Atxa’s twist on the Caiprinha, the secret weapon is the Txakoli wine produced on-site by Atxa’s cousins at Gorka Izagirre.

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Borago: cutting edge cuisine in Santiago, Chile

Published on Matching Food & Wine on 4th March 2015:

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Rodolfo Guzman, the young chief at the pass, was out foraging in the Atacama Desert to the north of Chile when I arrived for supper. The sizeable team, chaperoned by the even younger sous chef, Shannon Martincic, who I had mistaken for a stagiaire, was running on its own steam and to a good rhythm.

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From what I gather, Guzman was with a group of international journalists. Entertaining scribes seems part and parcel of culinary stardom these days though Guzman hasn’t shirked his kitchen duties – assurances were given that the chef had foraged for the restaurant that morning before jetting off.

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