FOOD & DRINK: Get ready for those Millennium munchies

Planning to take to the streets on New Year's Eve? Then don't forget to cram your pockets with delicious snacks so you can party like it's 1999.
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The Independent Culture
Have you noticed how a new topic of conversation has usurped the weather? Gone are the days of idle meteorological chit-chat, instead virtual strangers ask you what you're doing on The Night. Initially, this question filled me with a sense of dread. Somehow, it doesn't seem socially acceptable to tell a vague acquaintance that you intend to drink copious quantities of Taittinger, smoke Cohibas and party the night away on the streets of London. But it soon became clear that most people intend to greet the millennium on the street - regardless of whether they live in a hamlet or city.

Being somewhat obsessed by food, it occurred to me that by midnight, you might well be feeling a little peckish. A brisk walk to the local action apres dinner is bound to stimulate the gastric juices, never mind all the jollity afterwards. Given the occasion, it seems only fitting to take along your favourite food. Imagine gazing up at the stars, fireworks exploding and biting into a nasty frankfurter. It could ruin anyone's millennium.

The first thing you have to consider is clothing. A girl might like to slip into a slinky little black number, but where is she going to keep her silver chocolate buttons or mini pork pies? There is only so much an evening bag will hold. She has two choices; either to select a suitable man who is prepared to wear a trench coat with capacious pockets, or discard vanity in favour of a useful accessory such as a small rucksack. After all, tiny blue bottles of POP (pounds 8.50 by Pommery, from Harvey Nichols) may look pretty, but they are hardly enough to sustain one through the night.

Once you have dealt with such practicalities, you can indulge in a little pre-millennium research. A quick glance around Valvona & Crolla in Edinburgh reveals all sorts of goodies. Aside from a free lump of coal for first footing (which accompanies every bottle of whisky), you could easily fit one of their Spinach and Ricotta Calzone into a large pocket.

It's the same situation in London. There's Mortimer & Bennett in Chiswick, for example, chock-a-block with temptation. In no time at all, you could fill your bag with silver chocolate buttons, handy-sized packets of Kreutzkamm cheese biscuits and luscious, individually wrapped Marrons Glaces. Gourmands can stash their half bottles of Vin Santo down their trousers, with their accompanying Almond Grissino sticks. That way, they will be able to finish their evening meal in style. Alternatively, lure your guests away from the dining room table, with the promise of a little chilled Poire William Chocolate Mousse once outside.

Much depends on how late you intend to enjoy the celebrations. Those intent on an all-nighter should consider more substantial supplies such as making up some home-made sandwiches. I love chewing my way through a "Shooter's Sandwich". It's made by wrapping and weighting overnight (or day), a warm rump steak and sauteed mushrooms in a suitably sized roll. You can, of course, add fried onions, mustard or what you will. I have to admit that I also adore cold chipolata sausages, egremont russet apples and cheese, along with Charbonnel & Walker Violet and Rose Creams. Weird, I know, but who isn't a little peculiar when it comes to favourite foods?

Energy is paramount on such occasions, so I will be cutting up and issuing out another favourite, Carluccio's cinnamon-scented Panforte Bianco. Packed with nuts, candied fruit and chocolate, it will boost any flagging spirits. His Panforte Nero is equally good, but must be dusted of its liberal coating of dark cocoa powder to avoid accidents. Coal givers, of course, may not mind or notice.

Nuts, preferably salted, are another good power food. I must admit, before I started looking into the matter, I thought that one peanut was much like another. I was wrong. Marchant Le Franc, a mail-order catalogue for food, is selling the most gorgeous, large, lightly roasted peanuts from The Peanut Shop in Virginia. If you succumb, you will have to keep them hidden until New Year's Eve, because once open, the tin will empty before you can blink.

Don't despair if you know that you are going to have no time to prepare anything. You could always whiz round Fortnum & Mason at the last minute for some comforting sausage rolls, mini pork pies and mini almond mince pies. Add some Amarelli, a little tin of Butter Wafers or an addictive packet of Yorkshire Parkin Biscuits and you will be set.

However, if you want to protect your bank balance avoid the caviar, as Fortnum's very thoughtfully sell dainty horn spoons and ready-made blinis next to it! I wonder if Nike sell Taittinger-sized backpacks?

Valvona & Corolla, 19 Elm Row, Edinburgh (0131-556 6066). Mortimer & Bennett, 33 Turnham Green Terrace, London W4 (0181-995 4145). Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly, London W1 (0171-734 8040). Carluccio's Ltd, 28a Neal Street, London WC2 (0171-240 5710, or you can mail order on or before 20 Dec on the same number). Marchant Le Franc (mail-order on 0870 900 2900), orders by 20 Dec, www.marchantlefranc.com

Wines of the Week

White

1996 Mosaique Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'Oc, pounds 3.99, Oddbins

Good-value southern French dry white, ideal for parties, with well-crafted oak treatment adding buttery flavours to a gluggable, pineapple-y Languedoc chardonnay.

Red

1998 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir, pounds 7.99, selected Sainsbury's

Possibly the best pinot noir outside Burgundy for under pounds 10. With its headily-scented strawberry fruitiness and light touch of oak, it stays fresh and well balanced.

Anthony Rose

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