Cocktail and canapé matching with Grain Store

by Great British Chefs 3 December 2014

If you plan on entertaining over the festive period then you have probably considered serving both cocktails and canapés. But what about matching the two? Grain Store’s Bruno Loubet shares a bespoke menu of Christmassy cocktails and canapés with Great British Chefs.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Food and wine are perennially partnered – and the perfect match can add up to a course greater than the sum of its parts. But look beyond wine and there is a world of fun to be had with partnering drinks and food. The rise of the “beer sommelier” has been gaining momentum in recent times, with many high-end restaurants now taking their beer selection very seriously indeed, but what about cocktails? Surely the rise of the gourmet cocktail lends itself to food matching as much as a good wine or beer?

With this in mind, we challenged Bruno Loubet and his team at the award-winning Grain Store – with a bar overseen by cocktail guru Tony Conigliaro – to create a bespoke menu of matched cocktails and canapés to serve over the festive period. Oysters with beef and horseradish jelly, Death in Venice, Wild mushroom choux buns - take note and your Christmas knees-up will be better than ever.

Oysters with beef and horseradish jelly & Brunch Mary

There will be many waking up to sore heads and dry throats in this month of plenty – let’s call it over-enthusiasm (to be kind). Bruno Loubet, however, will not be one of them, explaining to Great British Chefs that “I never get drunk. I don’t think I’ve been drunk in my whole life”. Nevertheless, this potent combination from him is sure to liven you up after one too many, with a heady Bloody Mary served alongside a suitably extravagant canapé of oysters, beef and horseradish.

“I come from the Bordeaux region and there, around Christmas, we eat oysters with what we call Crépinette which is a pork mince flavoured with truffle,” Bruno Loubet comments. “The mince has a wonderful coarse and spicy flavour, almost like a Toulouse sausage, and it is pan-fried and served with the oysters. It seems surprising but the meat and the earthy flavour of the truffles go very well with the oysters.

“I was also influenced by the consistency of the oysters which have a slightly gelatinous texture. I decided to pair my oysters with a meat gelatine. In particular I chose beef because you can achieve a beautiful clean flavour. I topped it off with a little Port and sherry vinegar and some freshly grated peppery horseradish. These four flavours come together beautifully.”

Grain Store’s Brunch Mary echoes the potent flavours of the canapé – featuring lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, Tabasco, celery, salt, tomato passata mix and homemade horseradish vodka.

“We macerate fresh horseradish with Zubrowka vodka and we redistill it so it is clear and has that nice hit. It goes really well with the oysters,” explains Bartender Nadine Herft. At home you could do the same without redistilling it – the spirit may be a little murky in the bottle but the flavour will be there.

Wild mushroom choux buns & Amadeus

This canapé and cocktail pairing has a slightly different tact to the first. The flavours are slightly more subtle and the aim seems to be to enrich rather than excite the palate. The canapé may be classical, but innovation is never far away when it comes to Grain Store and Bruno Loubet. So, duly, the sherry used for the Amadeus cocktail is infused with porcini – emphasising the importance of “chiming flavours” when it comes to food and drink matching. A Champagne top, meanwhile, complements the umami flavour of the mushrooms through contrast rather than similitude.

Bruno comments: “These ‘gougères’, or little savoury choux buns, are usually just filled with cheese sauce but I wanted to make it a little more Christmassy so I flavoured them with wild mushrooms. I also use Montgomery cheddar which has a strong and earthy quality and complements the mushroom rather than smother it. As a final twist, I dip the top in cep powder so you have this amazing touch of cep and the forest and it also makes the choux look like mushroom caps.”

Any how does Bruno recommend serving these shroomy buns?

“On a very simple white plate decorated sparingly with a few mushrooms and some pine needles. I only decorate with things that make sense, so here the idea is forest and Christmas.”

Death in Venice

Roquefort, cranberry and endives & Fino LemonadeThree star ingredients take centre stage in this next canapé – creamy/sour Roquefort cheese, tart cranberry and bitter endive. Sadly, this dish isn’t strictly vegetarian – Roquefort contains animal rennet – so replace with a similarly strong blue cheese (containing no rennet) if catering for meat-free diners.

“Again it’s based on an old French classic – endives and Roquefort,” Loubet says. “Blue cheese is very popular at Christmas, here you have your Stilton with Port, and in France we have Roquefort - the ‘King of Cheeses’.

“For this canapé the Roquefort is softened with butter and then served with bitter endives and acidic cranberries which beautifully offset the creaminess of the cheese and add a pop of colour. It’s one of these light simple things that works well and is easy to make in large quantities.“

Once again, Conigliaro’s creation is somewhat less traditional – infusing Fino sherry with smoky Japanese cedar wood and finishing with lemon juice, sugar and soda water. The defining match-up here is the sherry with the Roquefort – the sweetness of the spirit cutting through the creaminess of the cheese delightfully. So, even if you aren’t able to infuse Fino with cedar wood, you can still give this combination a go.

Whole wheat and quinoa biscuit with smoked salmon & Death in Venice

Smoked salmon on blinis is a festive favourite, but here Bruno Loubet updates the dish by concocting a delicious biscuit of wheat and modish quinoa (Bruno Loubet: “they have this amazing nutty creaminess to them”) on which to lay the salmon. The chef recommends preparing the biscuit ahead of time to avoid any last-minute faff in front of guests – the key to good hosting is to remain in control.

Equally appetising as a post-gift snack or boozy party hand-around, this little delight is well served by Conigliaro’s Death in Venice – which, in Nadine’s words, is “Campari with grapefruit bitters and topped with Prosecco and a little orange twist on top.” The citrus of the grapefruit and orange works to cut through the salmon, making this cocktail and canapé pairing a formidable proposition over Christmas and beyond.

So there you have it, an ingenious canapé and cocktail menu from one of London’s best restaurants. What more could you want? Perhaps some general tips from the master himself on entertaining over Christmas.

“The simplest and best piece of advice I can give you would be don’t do your shopping at the last minute. Plan ahead and most importantly plan on paper. I don’t like waste or having too much food around so to avoid that I write everything down. It gives you a clearer idea of what you need and helps you to organise yourself.”

So to sum up: plan ahead, shop ahead and try to relax and enjoy it – Chef certainly will be.

“I have never worked over Christmas. I don’t mind working any other time of year but Christmas is sacred. I always spend it with my family, with my children. We stay at home, relax with food, cheese and drink, maybe argue about politics and then I go and work in the garden.”