On The Menu: Ceviche; Elizabeth David's Christmas; Pernod Absinthe; Vestal Vaults' vodka cocktails; Pierre Hermé's Pietra chocolate spread
This week I've been eating... Ceviche
A year ago if someone said "Peruvian food" – you might have replied "guinea pig". And who would have blamed you? The piebald pet was the outer limit of our knowledge of culinary Peru. But we've come some distance since then, the food of the Andes has now spread to Soho and Islington – and as of last week Mayfair, too.
Coya opened at 118 Piccadilly, a swanky address for a swanky place, specialising in anticuchos (marinated skewers of meat and fish cooked on a grill) and, ceviche, the dish of raw fish in citrus juice.
At Coya, the ceviche is very fine. The sea bream, amarillo chilli, crispy corn and coriander is a stately confection full of zing and vigour. Eating it, you can see why the Peruvians have declared a national holiday in honour of the dish.
Is it a vain hope to think, in an island that likes its fish in batter, it might catch on? Maybe, but sushi managed, so ceviche has a chance. coyarestaurant.com
A simpler way
Often the pleasure in a cookbook is as much in the writing and the pictures as it is in the recipes within. In the new Folio Society edition
of Elizabeth David's Christmas you get all three by the ladleful. In it she rails against the "obsessive present buying and frenzied cooking" of the modern season and advocates a simpler, gentler approach. The recipes are suitably easy to follow and, surprisingly for those more used to her Continental recipes, in the main, English (a dry spiced beef recipe nestles with one for roast pheasant with chestnuts). A beautiful volume from the original domestic goddess. £29.96, foliosociety.com
In a flurry of moral panic in 1915, the French government declared Pernod Absinthe deleterious to the health of the nation (and its artists especially) and closed the gates on the distilleries. Happily, it was revived back in 2008 – and by the looks of the new bottle designed for it by the French record label Kitsuné, it will be drawing in the artists once more.
In vivid blue and complete with the record label's fox emblem, it's just about the coolest thing to have on your drinks' shelf this Christmas. If you are a real connoisseur you can get it with Pierre Gonalons' Cube Bar set with a slotted spoon and dripper, too. Alas, the bar costs £600. A bottle, £40 at waitrose.com.
Bin the gin
The world and its mother may be going mad for gin but at the Vestal Vaults this month and next there will be a strict no-gin policy. That's no problem, though, because the Vestal vodka cocktails on offer at the pop-up bar below The Forge on London's Garrick Street are exceedingly good. Along with a decent Bloody Mary they also serve the Espresso Flip, a warming concoction involving vodka, egg white, Brazil nut syrup and espresso. theforgerestaurant.co.uk
Years ago I had a French housemate who began everyday by ladling vast amounts of Nutella on to just about any piece of bread she could find. It was, she said, her "happy time". It would have been, I fancy, even happier if it had been Pierre Hermé's divine Pietra chocolate spread and hazelnut instead. £15, pierreherme.com
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