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Monday, 16 July 2012

The Courvoisier Institute of Grand Cocktails

Ever since attending the extremely excellent 'History of Food', we have been in anticipation of the next Courvoisier event. Of course it helped that Bompas and Parr were in on the last one, but we still had high hopes when an invite to The Courvoisier Institute of Grand Cocktails arrived in our inboxes.

The confirmation email that arrived after our flurry of activity to book tickets was fittingly flamboyant, and told us under no uncertain terms that we needed to:
1. Bring a piece of fruit with our name on (this fruit was to represent us in some way).
2. Embody one of the key characteristics of Courvoisier: Creativity, wit, maturity, taste and character.

Ok then. I chose a passionfruit and M decided on a lime ("I'm sour."):

We arrived at the imposing marble building on Bloomsbury square surprisingly early. The place was pretty impressive. The bits that were not solid marble seemed to be oak panelling, all in all giving the impression of an old financial institution of such grandeur that they would never dare build nowadays.

After a short waiting time, we were ushered into our first room. It was full of fruit, complete with a couple of fruit sellers waxing lyrical about their nice oranges:"Pahnd, for a pahnd luv!"

There were also two nice gentlemen ladling fruit punch into jam jars for our delectation:

There was also an enormous block of ice which I got to chip away at for some unknown reason.
So after some hanging around, we were ushered into our next room, this time full of spices:

I nice Moroccan man talked to us incomprehensibly about spices and poetry for a while:

Before giving us each a sugar lump which would apparently come in useful later.

Another room, another experience: These two posh gents told us all about the Courvoisier maturation process and gave us each a test-tube of the amber nectar to take away. Thanks guys!

Next it was time for a bit of a song and dance. We were led into a ball room, complete with a Miss Haversham-esque decaying banquet, bonkers guests and eccentric host.
At one point M was grabbed by one of the dressed-up ladies and they disappeared into a cupboard. Well, of course I had to pursue so we both ended up a in small dark cupboard listening to the lady harp on about aromas. I was also relieved of my passion fruit, although it was eventually returned to me by another of the 'servants'.
Oh and did I mention that we were given champagne cocktails into which we deposited our sugar cube? Very nice.

Before moving on again, we were each given a coin by the servants and urged up the staircase to a little jazz bar. This nice lady gave us yet another drink served in a small glass beaker, in return for our coin:

Jazzing it up:

The bar:

The idea was that small groups were taken aside, blind folded and 'experimented' on while sipping their drinks. Our palettes were first cleansed with apple juice, followed by various smell tests (including horseradish) and a sensory test where we were subjected to various sensations whilst drinking your cocktail (tickled with a feather, brushed with course bristles or rubbed with a teddy-bear) and asked whether it heightened or distracted from the flavour. Interesting.

After quite some time hanging in the bar, eating Twiglets and *possibly* two small glass beakers finding their way into my bag, we were summoned to our last room: the Boardroom.

Here we were told of our success at becoming members of The Courvoisier Institute of Grand Cocktails (having displayed the necessary characteristics) and swore our allegiance on the Courvoisier books provided. We also took a swig of our test-tube for good measure.

And that was it! An interesting way to spend an evening and all quite well orchestrated too, although for most of it, it wasn't quite clear what we were supposed for be doing or why it had anything to do with Courvoisier - I missed something of a cohesive story.
Still, the cocktails were tasty and plentiful, even though I never really did understand what I was supposed to do with my passion fruit..

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Weekend jewellery

Having been inspired by a recent crafty session with my friend M, I decided that it was time to rummage through my jewellery box and see if there wasn't anything that could be 're-fashioned'.

Some fiddling and experimentation later, this bracelet emerged:

Something of an amalgamation of spare parts, but seems to fit alright.

Spurred on by this,  I moved my attention on to rings. Ages ago I bought a pinkish stone from Swarovski, but never quite managed to decide what to do with it.

By this time, I had managed to cover the entire dining table in bits of crap so had a good overview of my inventory. Grabbing a ring base, silver wire and the stone, I decided it was time to try some wire-wrapping. The first attempt failed miserably and I ended up with a long unravelling piece of wire resembling a rather relaxed spring.

The second attempt was better, as I managed to increase the tension and keep the wire in place:

Quite satisfying really! Now we will just have to wait and see if I use either of them..

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Tales for a Monday night

Who doesn't like a good fairy tale at bedtime on a Monday evening? Of course I wouldn't be writing this if there wasn't a twist...

Foody friend C brought to my attention that there would be 'a night of twisted fairytales' on offer at the hidden-away Clerkenwell bar Nightjar - fuelled/sponsored by Babicka wormwood-infused vodka. I was intrigued enough to entertain the possibility of a slightly fuzzy head on Tuesday morning...

On arrival, we were presented with a mini bottle of the vodka, complete with 'drink me' label. Very cute:

While sipping our complimentary (and slightly incongruous) dirty Martini shots, we perused the menu which was split into three story-themed sections: Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood and Rapunzel.
Each section had a dedicated cocktail concoction, inspired by the story: Of course each contained the vodka brand, but also rather unusual ingredients such as maple syrup, banana blossom, pumpkin beer marmalade, lentils and even sausage fat! 

We ordered one of each to split between the four of us. All were surprisingly tasty!
I particularly liked the serving details with included dry ice, salted caramel 'hair' and tiny floating cup of chocolate containing a raspberry. I'm such a sucker for an impressive detail.

And so the story-telling began. It's worth noting that the story versions told were not of the saccharine variety, but full-on Grimm originals full of blood, gore and violence. 
The older lady telling us of the tribulations of poor Cinders didn't spare us the details of the ugly step sisters being willing to augment their extremities in order to get their prince (sort of reminds me of WAGS and plastic surgery for some reason).

This gentleman told us all about Little Red Ridinghood, managing to make the Wolf sound really rather pervy indeed..

Lastly this young lady told us the tale of Rapunzel, complete with blindings, beatings and the mysterious appearance of baby twins (that certainly wasn't in the Disney version).

Ah, what a merry evening we had. It seems that wormwood has a particularly mood-enhancing effect! I'm not a huge vodka drinker, but could be convinced to try this particular brand out again..

We may well also have had a celebrity in our midst, a glancing over to the VIP booths hidden away to one side of the bar we could swear that we recognised Leona Lewis hobnobbing with friends.
Here I was thinking that evening story-telling was getting a little old hat (after all, 40 Winks introduced their Bedtime Story Nights years ago), but it seems that the public still hungers for the opportunity to be borne away into a world of make-believe, if only for an hour or two - and all the better if that experience is enhanced by a choice tipple.