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FROM THE ARCHIVE: Life of Pie

8 Mar

To celebrate British Pie Week we’re harking back all the way to the glory days of the final issue of SmartLife International (again), out a year ago this month, when myself and my then glamorous assistant and Deputy Editor Sam Corrigan set about pairing pies and fine wine. As you do. Sadly the Wills and Kate was a Royal Wedding speciality and is no longer available, regardless it’s still worth reading Sam’s review of it if only for his glorious overstatement and his admission of getting ardent over Kate. Tuck in…

LIFE OF PIE

Wine and product-packed pastry together at last! Ignoring the more traditional union of pie and ale, STUART PRITCHARD & SAM CORRIGAN tackled some epic pie and plonk pairings; and then the Wind-eze. Lots of Wind-eze…

When a PR lady emails you and asks if you’d like to try some proposed pairings of fine wines and equally fine pies, you have to say yes; it’s the law. But as I say, these are no ordinary common or garden pies that merely blend meat and gravy, cheese and onion, or fruit and fruit, no, these are the kind of pies that you should approach with a due sense of reverence (especially in the case of the Matador Pie which tried to kill me) because of the stunningly rich variety of ingredients and flavours they contain, each ready to explode in your mouth like some kind of delicious taste-bomb.

Of course, when you have pies of such magnitude, clearly no ordinary wines will be sufficient to wash them down, which is why the alco-pairings here have been sourced from all round the world to provide the ideal accompaniment to this pastry perfection.

So, get comfortable, loosen your belt and prepare to indulge in the supper upper crust…

THE PIE: Matador
Warning: absolutely delicious and hearty as it is, there’s a very real chance this pie could make you dead. A fusion of free range British beef steak, chorizo, olives, tomato, sherry and butterbeans wrapped in some seriously tasty pastry, the Matador is richer than the man behind MyFace and really should not be attempted alone unless you are, of course, an actual matador, a human stomach, or John Prescott.

Unfortunately, because it does taste so good, I struggled through alone and as a consequence couldn’t move or breathe for five days afterwards as I was, literally, dead. Fortunately, I did get better after the digestion period ended, which is why I’m here now to recommend the Matador Pie to couples and anyone who thinks they’re man enough to tackle it alone. And to recommend the accompanying wine…

THE WINE: Cune Crianza 2007
A juicy, flavour-packed Spanish red to go with the Ernest Hemingway pleaser of pies, we tried the 2006 last year and were hugely impressed with this blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo, and the 2007 appears to have been an even better year.

Aged in American oak for 12-months, there are wonderful red berry aromas on the nose, with spicy hints and the vanilla drawn from said oak. On the palate meanwhile, the rich fruit and subtle spice works wonders with the taste sensation that is the Matador Pie to enhance the whole experience of gorging yourself to a capacity technically known as ‘stuffed’ to dizzying new heights… mostly dizzying because you can’t catch your breath. Did I mention this killed me?
Price: £9.99

THE PIE: Chicken of Aragon
If I were to be asked to give a brief list of things I’d like to eat at any given moment, including after just waking up, I can guarantee that very early on in that list would be free range chicken, smoky bacon, roast garlic and fresh tarragon. And if you were to then hand all these things to me mixed with vermouth and wrapped in the flaky confines of a pie, I’d probably assume you were some kind of food-angel. Well, that’s exactly what Pieminister have done here with their Chicken of Aragon pie, a soon-to-be staple of my regular diet that I would previously have thought was nothing but a wife of the Chicken Henry VIII.

Nowhere near as much as a challenge as the Matador, the Aragon may be lighter but it’s no less delicious and pleasingly filling. Out of the three I tried this was my favourite, served up with fresh mashed potato, a drop of gravy and…

THE WINE: Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2010
The produce of the Kiwi vineyards of Villa Maria has long been a favourite here at SmartLife Towers, so marrying up a top-notch bit of eating like the Chicken of Aragon with a wine that – let’s face it – I already know is superb is not exactly rocket surgery…

Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc, this bright, sharp, elegant wine hits the nose with citrus and gooseberry promise and then a palate that’s like a slap in the face from the god of refreshment, potent with citrus, gooseberry, green pepper and hints of passion fruit – the freshest from the Marlborough region yet!

You don’t have to be a brain scientist to see how well this match works – as though it were made in heaven, like Brad and Angelina, Beyonce and Jay Z, me and Kylie (worth a go). So perfect a pairing in fact that lucky readers in the UK (if ‘lucky’ applies) can even pick both up together from branches of Sainsburys. But fear not abroad-types, for you there is the Internet.
Price: £9.49

THE PIE: Henny Penny Pie
Intensive journalistic research on Wikipedia informs me that Henny Penny is the same character as Chicken Licken (and Chicken Little) in that it’s the chicken that becomes convinced the end of the world is coming; which in the case of the tasty free range British chickens involved in making this pie, something that was very much a reality. But don’t mourn those plucky cluckers, Pieminister has mixed them with mushrooms, white wine, cream and herbs for you to celebrate their deliciously noble sacrifice.

Like all of the oral delights featured here, Henny Penny comes lovingly served in Pieminister’s finest butter-based pastry (their flour supplier also supplies to the palace), making this fresh take on the traditional chicken and mushroom pie that’s very probably even better that that your mother used to make.

So with that nostalgia firmly kicked to the curb, what fine wine should accompany this premier poultry pie?

THE WINE: Vidal Chardonnay 2009
Back to New Zealand now like some kind of bizarre dating agency as Henny Penny gets set up on a tasty liaison with one of the North Island’s stars. Vidal is one of the oldest wineries in the Hawkes Bay area having been founded in 1905 and has long enjoyed a solid reputation as a quality producer. What’s more they know about food too as their restaurant is regarded as one of the best in NZ. So who else to pair with Penny?

Nutty, citrus aromas dominate the nose with hints of subtle oak, while on the palate this zesty, refreshing fruity number contrasts so incredibly well with the flavours of the pie it’s almost as if they been made for each other. Like me and Kylie. I’ll stop now.
Price: £9.95

Here’s where Sam takes over…

THE PIE: Heidi Pie
After the Matador Pie literally killed Stuart to death we entered an extended period of mourning here at SmartLife Towers. However, halfway through planning an extravagant funeral, including a gin fountain, a fly-over by the Red Arrows and a performance by an inconsolable Kylie, he miraculously got better and I dropped that plan and decided it was finally safe to take on my own selection of Pieminister pies… we kept the gin fountain.

First on my hit list was the Heidi Pie, which at first glance seemed distinctly lacking in one key ingredient: meat. Breaking the thick buttery pastry I was greeted with delicious Somerset goat’s cheese, spinach, sweet potato, red onion and roasted garlic and instantly my carnivorous urges were allayed. Each sumptuous mouthful offered my palate a treat and the lack of meat meant that I wasn’t levelled by the heartiness of the fare, it also meant I had enough room for the wine…

THE WINE: Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages 2009
Designed to be enjoyed young, this offering from one of our favourite winemakers is a fruity, full-bodied number that marries perfectly with the flavours of the Heidi Pie. An olfactory treat the Beaujolais Villages 2009 has strong hints of fresh red fruits that mellows into subtle but distinct notes of cherries, a pattern that continues on the palate.

Adding a hint of raspberries, a dash of vanilla and finished off with firm tannins the fruitiness is never too rich and makes for an enjoyable tipple right to the last drop – which I quickly found out. A treat for vegetarians and normal folk alike these two are seemingly a match made in heaven, speaking of which…
Price: £9.49

THE PIE: Kate & Wills Pie
Now I’m not an ardent Royalist but in my opinion the Royal Family should be treated with a degree of reverence. Therefore it troubles me slightly that I find our future Queen so incredibly, well, sexy – is that treasonous? Or would it be treasonous to not find her sexy? Either way she’s a tasty one, speaking of which her very own dedicated pie isn’t too bad either.

Wrapped in delicious pastry, the pie not Kate, the ingredients list reads like a fact sheet of deliciousness. British beef, wine, bacon, pearl onions and a dash of brandy are the constituent parts of what is quite possibly the finest act of jingoism I have ever seen. If there is a better way of celebrating the nuptials of two strangers then I’m yet to eat it, and considering it is only available for a limited period of time my chances of experiencing it again are dwindling by the moment.

At this point I should issue a massive claim alert: this is the greatest pie I have ever eaten… ever, EVER! So when it came to washing it down I wanted to be sure that my palate wasn’t left disappointed, luckily it wasn’t…

THE WINE: Errazuriz Wild Ferment Pinot Noir 2009
This drop is a 100% Pinot Noir from the Casablanca Valley region of Chile. Located just west of Santiago the vineyard is marked by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean as cool breezes from the coast ensure the grapes ripen gradually, developing strong aromas and flavours along the way. All this leads to a fruity nose that elicits thoughts of summer fruits and even offers a subtle hint of rose hips. On the palate the full majesty of the wine comes to the fore; subtle and refreshing the lightness of the wine perfectly complements the richness of pie – much like our Royal couple.

After imbibing this wine and pie-based meal my fervour for the Royal Wedding has increased exponentially and now I find I’m digging out the bunting and planning to eat lunch with people I wouldn’t normally acknowledge, and in the street of all places.
Price: £11.99

THE PIE: Shamrock Pie
In a crowd of ostentatious attention grabbers the Shamrock Pie seems a little unimaginative when one casts a ravenous eye over the ingredients. Containing British beef steak, Irish stout and gravy this pie may seem like the simple option, but as I found out to my delight sometimes the simple things are the best.

Served up with buttery mash and proper gravy I devoured this pie like it were to be my last and I soon entered the torpid state that inevitably follows such hearty food. It was in this dreamlike state that I had a moment of clarity, this pie was a classic and you don’t mess with the classics. The reason the Shamrock Pie doesn’t need any extraneous ingredients is because it is pie-based perfection without them, and when you consider that all this comes locked inside Pieminister’s delicious pastry you realise that this pie, inspired by the Emerald Isle, would make St Patrick himself smile with voracious glee.

THE WINE: Grant Burge Benchmark Shiraz 2009
Owing to the fact that the Shamrock Pie is such a substantial meal the accompanying wine needed to be elegant and refreshing without being overly imposing. This is achieved adroitly by winemaker Grant Burge with the 2009 vintage Benchmark Shiraz. With red berries and a hint of blueberries on the nose, this tipple mixes soft and subtle tannins with its fruitiness to ensure that the sweetness of the wine complements the robustness of this classic pie on the palate.

An unassuming option this wine and pie combo won’t stand out from the crowd, choosing to merely sit quietly at the back, self-assured in its deliciousness, welcoming in the discerning customers who know that simplicity is often the path to epicurean happiness.
Price: £7.95

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FROM THE ARCHIVE: Camping It Up

5 Mar

First published in SmartLife International volume 11 issue 3(also known to fans of the printed word as ‘The Last One’), as thoughts turn to summer holidays here’s a helpful little piece on extreme camping. No, not ‘glamping’, because that’s a term that belongs to piss-poor chick lit, the kind of magazines that encourage you to ‘steal their look’ and makes me so unrationally angry I could kick the face off a baby seal. But I’m getting sidetracked. So, updated and now with some new bits and words I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to print in the magazine, don’t book that UK break until you’ve read it…

CAMPING IT UP

Looking for a more thrifty alternative to expensive foreign travel and pricey hotels this year? STUART PRITCHARD has just the answer: get back to the great outdoors and go camping instead…

Sometimes people that I like to refer to as ‘idiots’ criticise the things we do and feature in this magazine as being unrealistic, over the top and far, far too expensive. “Luxury lifestyle magazine!” I say, pointing to the qualifier on the cover, “If you bought a magazine called Photos of Pigs with the qualifier ‘The Pig Photo Bible’ you wouldn’t expect it to be full of drawings of microwaves, would you?” But it never seems to help and they tend to go on, asking if we know there’s a recession and why we don’t do articles for everyday people such as on budget holidays and the like. “Luxury lifestyle magazine!” I say again, although with slightly less patience and more incredulity, “Pig magazine? Microwaves? No?” Of course at this stage I would normally walk away or hang up the phone, but recently one of these ‘idiots’ asked me why we’d never done a travel piece on caravanning as an alternative to always jetting around the world destroying the environment and that gave me an idea… Travelling from Big Fat Gypsy Wedding to Big Fat Gypsy Wedding in a tin box in which the lavatory is always too close can’t be the only way to indulge in caravanning can it? No, it ruddy isn’t! As always, if there’s a way to do something, there’s also an expensive, over-blown, excessive and extreme way to do it too. Even caravanning…

Post-apocalyptic holiday fun to be had! See that fire? That used to be a person.

Airstream International 684

Probably the most iconic and eye-catching of all the mobile-home options, the Airstream is akin to towing around a 50s American diner but without all the flashing neon and “actress” waitresses. Most normally found in the US due to their colossal, Brit road-blocking dimensions, the International 684 is actually European road-approved. And if you think that was obvious given the name ‘International’, I point you towards the baseball World Series. Hand-riveted aluminium bodywork gives the 28ft, four-berth Airstream its distinct, expensive look on the outside, but it’s up the automatic electric steps that you’ll find the perfect haven in which to view the great outdoors, for inside you’ll find a polished aluminium can of dreams, complete with a fully equipped galley kitchen, fixed double bed, bathroom with shower, leather u-shaped sofa, built in TV and radio antennas plus speakers and MP3-player input, and even optional air conditioning.

Like being Tron. On holiday. In a 90s iMac.

So in an aluminium nutshell what the Airstream offers the outward bound is all the comforts of a small, shiny home that isn’t a white plastic eyesore and which might actually be admired by fellow drivers rather than loathed for being in the way. Now the only question is what car should you use to tow it? Well if you carry on down the stainless steel finish route it would have to be the DeLorean DMC-12, wouldn’t it? If you can find one that has the power to actually pull a caravan. And which hasn’t been turned into a time machine.

Price: from £55,400

Insert Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries here...

Futuria sport+spa

Gott im Himmel! Yes from our friends over in Germany comes what has to be the pinnacle of camping excess, the Futuria sports+spa truck – over 36ft of absolute opulence on the go. Okay from the outside it looks like a truck, but that’s only because it is. But it’s also so much more! Pulled by a straight four-engine, common rail, 16-valve DOHC, variable turbocharger with intercooling toting cab, the Futuria still falls into our caravan category because unlike other trucks that are merely used to transport goods, hide illegal immigrants and help get prostitutes off the streets, the Futuria is also a high-end home! Pop inside and you’ll find all you could ever need including two single beds, a leather seating area with table for up to 10, dimmable remote control LED lighting, full electrics, sideboard, cabinets, wardrobes, sink with faucet and boiler, air conditioning, 2x DVD/CD-players, iPod dock, SAT receiver, invisible flat panel loudspeakers, LED/LCD screens, Miele coffee machine and microwave, and a refrigerator. The best you’d get in any other truck is a cold dark room and a Yorkie bar.

Don't just 'stay' at a campsite, 'occupy' it.

Then, just when you think it couldn’t get any better, oh God look at that – it just gave birth to a Gumpert! Obviously, the supercar doesn’t actually come with the Futuria, but if you have one, that’s where it’ll go until you fancy whipping it out and causing an outbreak of slack-jaw amongst onlookers.

She doesn't come with it. Or maybe she does. I'll check.

Then, just when you think it couldn’t get any better again you pop upstairs from the lounge and what do you find? A sun deck complete with its own spa bath! Its own spa bath! Just imagine how popular that will make you at the campsite. It may cost a little more than your average Coachman Pastiche and it may be slightly more difficult to get down narrow, winding country roads, but what’s a bit of expense and a few dry stone walls when it comes to looking this damn awesome?

Price: €379,130

High camp at its very best.

Design Q ABJ Explorer One & Explorer Four

Probably the absolute ultimate in camping kit, the Explorer One and Explorer Four are, yes, private jets. But, but, before you start claiming that private jets don’t really fall under the camping remit, wait. Still at the concept stage, these jets are the product of a union between BAE Systems and UK design consultancy Design Q and, yes, they do belong here because they’re not just private jets, they’re private jets with proper lounges, beds, dining rooms, staff quarters and even balconies from which to sneer at fellow campers in their land-shackled caravans. So, yes, this is a mobile home.

Top tip: Air Deck does not function at all well whilst inflight.

The first of five concept jets, the addition of the balcony, or ‘Air Deck’ is a first in aviation history and are to be aimed at – wait for it – “the high net worth individual who wants the freedom to travel and explore remote locations in a stylish and comfortable way”. In other words: no riff-raff. As you can see this one has brought its happy high net worth campers to the wilds of Africa, and what better a platform to view the savage beauty of nature from than the Air Deck of your own luxury jet, sitting with a glass of something bubbly in your hand while watching a lion putting a wildebeest inside itself? Sounds ideal doesn’t it? Just warn your pilot not to hit any elephants during takeoff or landing and you’re laughing. But even though this lot have chosen Africa there’s nothing to stop you landing and setting up camp at any one of the UK’s countless caravan parks. Well other than the management of said caravan parks, other caravaners and air traffic control that is, otherwise nothing.

Price: give over!

Dethleffs Megaron 950 TK

The final word in caravans. Now blocking every lane of every road in the UK simultaneously.

And the prize for most ludicrous caravan goes to… the Megaron 950 TK! Yes, for those that really just want to drive their house around a bit, the Megaron from German über van makers Dethleffs is a staggering 38ft (11.51m) of home from home luxury. Sleeping six and sounding like some hideously destructive creature from Godzilla or a robot that transforms into a caravan, the concept of which could

More capacious than an elephant's scrotum, better furnished.

inspire countless god-awful movies, what you get for your Euro is ample dining/sleeping/living/Greco-Roman wrestling space, all the comforts of a real house such as full-sized flatscreen TV, washing machine, fridge, dishwasher, oven, shower and lavatory, and an exceptional opportunity to push other road users to the brink of apoplectic rage as you try and edge the behemoth round winding country lanes.

Tow job.

Actually, come to that, I’m not entirely sure the Megaron is road legal in the UK and, if it is, I’m equally in the dark as to what you’d need to tow it, but I’m imaging you’d want to stick with the German theme and get something heavy with a lot of pulling power, perhaps special treads to help crossing the grass pitches of caravan sites. Oh and some kind of big, pointy deterrent to stop furious motorists from considering assaulting you. Now what fits the bill?

Price: €55,000

The Gypsy Beater 3000.

UNICAT Special

Of course one of the main problems with staying on campsites is that they’ll inevitably be a certain number of undesirables around. Charming Romany folk or bastard thieving pikeys – whatever your view of the drive-tarmacking, lucky heather-selling, slave-taking traveller folk, wherever there are caravans, they’ll be nearby. So why take chances leaving your valuables inside a flimsy MDF box on wheels when you can keep them safe and sound inside your very own nimble tank?

This is the Special from UNICAT, stylish mobile living inside a vehicle that boasts all-wheel drive, diff locks for front and rear axles, hydropneumatic independent suspension, fibreglass composite plates, double sealed doors with seal-compression heavy duty locks, stainless steel hinges throughout, additional door dead-lock bolts, and pikey-be-gone burglar-proof top hinged sidelights and skylights. And that’s just security and escape.

Go on holiday, never leave the van.

So, safe in the knowledge that some pre-teen traveller girl is not going to break in wearing next to nothing and do a deeply disconcerting sex-dance while being spurred on by her toothless, chain-smoking ma, you can relax on your double bed, utilise the office space, set the air conditioning to ‘Not Britain’, make toilet upon a proper porcelain throne, entertain yourself with the built-in Audio Visual system, keep your clothes clean with the Miele washer and dryer, or just sit and stare out of the double insulated windows as the O’Fuck family from Donegal parked next door take bets on which of them can knock out a horse with one punch.

Now we’ve no wish to pander to stereotypes here and we’re sure that the bulk of traveller types are perfectly law-abiding, decent people who just want to move peacefully from country fair to country fair, selling horses, putting curses on people and stealing children. But why take that chance this summer?

Price: what price safety?

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Porta-Potty

16 Jan

Way back in the days when I used to preside like some grand monkey king over the luxury lifestyle bible (and one of 2010’s ABC certified top selling UK men’s magazines, apparently) SmartLife International, we ran a story on the Moto GP races in which the name Portaloo was mentioned… in idiotic referrence to a big blue portable toilet thing.

Well, the fallout was terrible with a stern warning being immediately issued to us on heavyweight toiletpaper from the Guardian of the Plastic Throne himself, Dick Ellershaw. Naturally we took it very seriously…

SMARTLIFE GETS TOLD OFF

Never underestimate the power of a registered Trade Mark, we did recently while sat in our Jacuzzi, lazily pushing a Hoover back and forth and drinking orange juice from a Tetrapack. Portaloo pounced and we ended up right in it…

Read the reproduced letter (click for larger version) and be warned, thanks to due educating from Intellectual Property Manager Dick Ellershaw there is to be no willy nilly bandying around of that name which we all associate with free-range faecal caddies. As Dick states there are ample other generic terms which can be used instead, including “portable toilet”, “temporary facilities”, or simply “loo”. Although if you find the conversation a little repetitive, may we also suggest: “dumpstation”, “slush-shack”, or simply “ephemeral faecalbox of horror”.

But all joking aside, Dick does have a point, and so to ensure that neither we nor you make the mistake again we’ve gone ahead and put together a small assortment of similar looking facilities that are most definitely not cough, cough, coughs…

TARDIS
More a “temporal facility” than “temporary facility”, the shape and colour of this box might lead to easy confusion, but one glance at the interior should confirm it more commodious than commode.

WARDROBE
Generally not found out in nature, there are certainly similarities which could still cause unpleasant misunderstanding. As a rule of thumb, wardrobes do not usually contain seats. Sometimes Narnia, but never seats.

GARDEN SHED
Can be found in many of the same places and occasionally containing a seating area, the garden shed should be used solely for “potting” and not, we repeat not, “potty”. If unclear, check for issues of Gardener’s World.

CHILEAN MINER CAPSULE
Okay, so it’s synonymous with filthy, Hellish holes in the ground and mass evacuations, but regardless this vertically portable facility is not to be utilised for any emergency other than miner incidents.

PORTISHEAD
A small town in Somerset, while Portishead may have both an official town dump and a fertiliser processing plant to help it reproduce a convincing olfactory note, it is in no way a “facitlity” or, indeed, portable; thank God.

GALACTIC GATEWAY
Big and blue it may be, but what we have here is actually an example of a Sci-Fi “portal”. And while it may possibly lead to a mobile relief area, it is more likely to lead to dangerous alien races, such as Klingons.