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Two Friends, One Die and Three Bottles

We count ourselves among the lucky. We have some exceptionally kind friends. And two of them visited last weekend, bringing themselves, a trio of pretty plants for our gardens and some extraordinary bottles. The Mrs half of the couple also brought along some Hopi ear candles with which to extract blockages from my lugholes; blockages that have been bothering me for nigh-on a year. It's amazing what one's ears can produce when sufficiently motivated (as they adequately were by the gentle chimney action of the candles). I am sure we found one of my old backgammon die that I have been missing for at least a decade.

We cooked a chicken and I have never eaten such a superb recipe. Here it is:

Ingredients: 2kg chicken (the best at your disposal); 3 garlic cloves; 2 tablespoons sage leaves; 2 sprigs rosemary; 150g unsalted butter; 100ml Extra Dry Vermouth

Method: Heat the oven to 80C. Season the inside of the bird and stuff with the peeled garlic and the herbs (you could add a quartered lemon if you feel like it). Bung the chicken, breast down, into a roasting tin into which it fits snugly. Add 200ml water. Cook for one hour then turn it onto its left side. Cook for another hour and turn onto its right side. Put it back in the oven and give it yet another hour. Take it out, whack the heat up to 200C and smear butter all over the skin of the beast (or breast, for that matter). Season it again, pour the Vermouth into the pan and replace the chicken, breast up. Give it another half-hour (or at least until it looks brown and crispy). Get rid of the fat and serve it with the juices from the pan. Voilà! A truly finger-lickin' chicken. (From River Café Two Easy: a tome packed with toothsome receipts.)

After sinking (pouring down the sink, rather than drinking) a corked bottle of vintage champagne, we freshened up with the delicious '07 Touraine Sauvignon from our drinking list ( and allowed the reds to breathe. They were:

1995 Château La Mission-Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan
"A rich nose and a warm one, full of spice and powdered mocha notes. Black, ripe plums and blackcurrants, with a hint of tomato. Oaky, yes. Some crunch and peppery spice, plus a touch of beef tea.
The palate is cool and fine, then amplifies on through. The tannins are quite mild, perhaps a touch grainy at first. Blackcurrant fruit; touch of beef again. The finish is loaded with minerals and juicy acidity. Long and fresh; very cool and composed. There's a hint of meat to the spicy blackcurrant fruit. The finish is full of fine, quite firm tannin. There's a dried herb note. 18.5+/20, I thought."

1988 Château Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan
"A deep mahogany/garnet bowl, with a narrow rusty rim.
There's a real lightness of touch to the nose. Lots of iron; lots of dry spice. There's a hint of strawberry to the fruit. This is quite perfumed. There's a herbal note here, too. It's also smoky and there are hints of dark chocolate, pure black cherry and blackcurrant. Later, I found medicinal lint and biscuits.
This is very cool; highly structured and all about the finish. It is lively and very mineral, with lots of rich, chunky, pillowy tannins throughout. More iron than the La Mission. Fresh and lovely. 18.5+/20."

1996 Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Serpentières, Patrick Javillier
"Medium plus depth of colour with a very rusty/gold-tinged rim.
The nose is ripe and quite delightful; full of spice and crunchy red cherries. Tangy lift; a touch of mulch and strawberry. Quite a high-toned package. Very fresh, too. Notes of dried leaves and bonfires.
This is fresh and lively, giving flavours of red and black cherry. Very rich. Rosehips and other red hedgerow fruits. Taut. The acidity's a touch citrus. Very good. 17/20."

I slept well and dreamt that berries were attacking my liver.
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