It’s easy to write off cider as something fizzy that comes in a can, but Felix Nash, cider merchant and founder of The Fine Cider Company, has made it his mission to put cider back on the fine dining, fine drinking map.
In Fine Food Meets Fine Cider at Imbibe Live, Nash is teaming up with chef Alexis Noble of Stoke Newington restaurant Wander to guide attendees through tastings of different fine ciders paired with three dishes from Noble’s menu.
So what is it that makes a cider ‘fine’? For Nash, intention plays as much a part as the resulting liquid.
‘One thing I focus on a lot is the aspiration of the maker,’ he told Imbibe. ‘They are aspiring to do something better, to really understand what they can do, and they’re aiming to make something unique, as good as it can be.
‘They really work with properties of the fruit. It’s inherently got variation and variety seasonally, usually there’s a long, slow fermentation. It’s time, it’s nuance, it’s understanding, it’s aiming for something to be the best it can, and to have its own identity.’
And with these fine ciders comes the opportunity for pairing with a wide variety of foods.
‘The greatest joy with cider is that you get really wonderful pairings with anything with a fat content because of the acidity,’ explains Nash.
‘There are the obvious things: pork is the old classic; cheese pairings can be really wonderful. You also get things like shellfish, which can be really great. On the drier side, there’s things like game. The drier side works wonderfully with heartier, winter kind of foods.
‘You get the fruit coming out, and if they pair well, [both the cider and the dish]enhance each other. You’re looking for either the best properties to be heightened, or just both to fit wonderfully, the transition from one to other to be an intriguing and wonderful experience.’
With these principles in mind, Nash and Noble set forth to design a menu that would showcase all that fine cider has to offer.
‘Cider generally pairs well with pork,’ echoes Noble. ‘We wanted to do a twist on that so decided to serve it with an Asian pork bun. That pairing is probably my favourite.
‘I’m crazy for acidity. That is one of the things that initially drew me to cider: the way it’s so refreshing, and cuts through fat and richness. So we decided to start with a freshly made ricotta, which we make with an elderflower vinegar at Wander.’
Of course, these thoughtful dishes are all part of a larger scheme to build an understanding of cider as a drink worth pairing.
‘So few people know anything about cider. Even sommeliers in the best restaurants have very little knowledge,’ Nash says.
‘Most people in the public kind of think of cider as one thing: a sweet, sparkling long drink. Inherently, when you’re doing food pairings, you’re not looking so much at long drinks.
‘You are having something that has body enough that it can work with food, but it’s not too much, it’s not dominating the food in a way that takes the experience away. I generally think of ciders as one of the most broadly pairing alcohols. It’s very versatile.’
Fine Food meets Fine Cider at 13.15-14.00 on 2 July in The Taste Zone, Imbibe Live.
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