I have to give credit to Janet and Patrick for my love and knowledge of wine. Janet and Patrick were the only ‘parents’ figure I had in Paris. They were very close family friends of my own very good friend Amrita. She introduced me to them, and they immediately welcomed me to their home. I am so grateful for all the love and kindness they showed me during my time in Paris and I am so happy I got to know them. They made the best dinners I had in Paris and I absolutely love their dinner party style. Whenever we’d arrive, we’d sit in the living room and have our apéritif (usually Champagne or Kir Royal), with some nibbles and just catch up. We would then set the table and start getting dinner ready. They are amazing home cooks and have incredibly good taste. Janet made the best ‘carrottes rapées’ salad, shredded carrots with her secret dressing, which we would usually be our first course (along with some fresh baguette she would pick up on the day). Then she would have a delicious, hearty main course, served with vegetables. Finally, dessert was usually a simple, creamy and not overly sweet dish, or a cake Amrita and I would have baked before dinner (chocolate fondant, fruit tart…). Along with our lovely meal, Janet and Patrick would normally serve a perfectly matched wine. A Saint-Émilion from Bordeaux was usually the red wine we would have, whilst a Pinot Griogio from Alsace was typically the white option. They taught me how to spot the different types of bottles, produced in the different regions of France which then helped me to easily spot them in supermarkets. They introduced me to nice quality, yet not necessarily pricey, French wine. This is when my love for French food and wine really started and I owe them a lot for it.
I can go on and on about lots of different memories I have from Paris but I will focus more on my recent trips to France, where I was more curious to discover fine dining restaurants and more local patisseries. For those who don’t know me personally, I left Paris in 2009 to move to England for my postgraduate degree. I chose The University of Warwick, which is based in Coventry. In simple words, I left Paris for Coventry! I remember getting a big cultural shock when I first arrived. The cities, supermarkets, food, lifestyle, and students were all so different. I struggled to fit in and feel ‘at home’. I tried to make the most of it by joining societies and going to their social events which basically involved a lot of drinking and eating. However, they weren’t any kind of drinking and eating events, as we were students, the goal was to spend the least amount of money, yet get so drunk we wouldn’t remember how we got home the next morning. This was something I never experienced in Paris, and even though I would regularly enjoy a drink after classes with my course mates, it was always an actual social evening. We would chat, laugh and get to know each other better over a nice drink (typically beer or wine). I guess the cultures are completely different and it was something I simply had to accept.
My love for wine continued to grow after my time in Paris. I struggled to find a decent bottle of wine in England for less than £8 to £10, unlike the ones you would find in France for €5. Fair enough, England is not a big wine producing country and most English people will prefer beer or cider over wine any day. However, what I began to enjoy in London is wine tasting evenings and events. I made the most of it to discover other types of wines which I never thought I would enjoy. So many countries produce different types of wines and European ones remain my favourites. The red winners are usually: Spanish Rioja, Italian Nero D’avola, French Bordeaux, Italian Barolo, Italian Chianti, Chilean Merlot, Argentinian Malbec. The white ones I usually drink or buy are: Alsace or German Riesling, French Sylvaner or Chardonnay. A really enjoyable white wine I tried when I was in Lebanon in July 2013 for my very good friend’s wedding was called Kefraya Blanc des Blancs (worth a try if you can get your hands on a bottle). I am still discovering more whites and will usually try to give unusual ones a go. I would also happily enjoy a cold glass of Côte de Provence rosé or a White Zinfandel one on a hot summer day.