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Bringing it all together

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Have you ever wondered about the influences that create our culinary culture and styles of dining? I have been creating dinners for the last few years that explore these influences – the places, the people and the moments that have made us who we are as diners and hosts. Since these dinners bring together all the attitudes and skills I've been blogging about (using aperitifs to create a sense of expectation, planning a menu, setting out a stunning visual scene...), a reader has asked me to give an account of some of these dinners and why I think these people, places and times matter.

One of the more colourful dinners we gave explored the social scene of the mid-1930s. In order to create a menu and a social atmosphere that made sense, I tried to imagine what kind of dinner would have been given by the people who lived at my address in 1936. Let's consider who those people were and how their world looked...

For a generation who had survived the horrors of the Great War, the 191…

Low alcohol drinks - an update

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I posted early last year about alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks. At the time, there were very few alcohol-free drinks available in the UK that were intended specifically for aperitif drinking. How things change in a year! What follows is an update of that post, with some new products reviewed.

Our neighbour has commented that, as a non-drinker, she often feels infantilised by the choices offered when she goes out with others. While friends drink wines, spirits and beers to suit the adult palate, more often than not she is offered pop or fruit juice. No wonder she generally drinks water! I made it my mission to find some grown-up drinks that don’t compromise on alcohol.

We start with tonic water. One of the markers of the adult palate is that it tolerates bitterness much more than a child’s does. Tonic may be sweet and fizzy but it’s unmistakably adult. It’s also fresh and stimulates the appetite, so it works well as an aperitif. Try mixing it with grapefruit or orange juice (1/3 j…