(Issue 113)
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If, like us, you're not sufficently grown-up to be in charge of the menu this Christmas, for the love of all things harmonious, do the right thing and bring a bottle. Bring a number of bottles in fact. And make sure those bottles are both expertly matched to the subject of your feasting, and under £20.
TURKEY: Pascal Marchand Avalon Pinot Noir 2010, £19.99
"Turkey will be overwhelmed by something too jammy or alcoholic and just isn’t the right sort of meat to go for something tannic, so my big tip this year comes from a bit of legend in Burgundian winemaking (even though he’s from Quebec). Lovely clear red fruit and a little structural minerallity - this is an endlessly classy wine and just disappears when put in a glass."
Ed Orchard, Connolly's
GOOSE: Pietradolce Etna Rosso, £17.99
"The Pietradolce is is a fantastic wine to accompany goose. Grown on the northern slopes of Mount Etna, it gives a smokey earthiness which works perfectly with the gamey bird. The grape variety - Nerello Mascalese - is noteably similar in style to a Pinot Noir and offers soft fruit in aroma and taste, which will allow the flavours of the goose to shine."
Phil Innes, Loki
GAMMON: Marius Blanc, Terret Vermentino Pays d'Oc, £10.50
"People mostly expect red wines at Christmas, however gammon has the ability to work extremely well with white wines full of personality. Marius Blanc is fresh and elegantly casual. Bursting with stone fruits and floral scents - the wine (by Michael Chapoutier) - has a lively acidity to give you a delightful sup by way of backdrop to the subtleties of oven roasted gammon."
Mark Dent, The Drinks Emporium
DUCK: Domaine du Cros Marcillac Lo Sang del Pais 2014, £10.90
"With duck what you’ve got to watch is the fattiness. To cope with this, go for something a little different. Marcillac is a tiny appellation in south-west France, so tiny in fact that Domaine du Cros accounts for about 20% of it. Very distinctive, expect hints of hedgerow fruits on nose and palate, with a touch of acidity on the finish. Paired with fatty meat, the result is spectacular. 
Ed Orchard, Connolly's
NUT LOAF: Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi, £17.99
"The Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi has the benefit of being vegan friendly, but also has a wonderful fleshy and rich fruit that will balance out well with the richness of the nut roast. With vineyards sitting among the Avelino Hills, this is one of the iconic Italian wines. And with a RRP of £24.99, a bottle to secure sooner rather than later." 
Phil Innes, Loki
RIB OF BEEF: First Drop Minchia Montepulciano 2012, £19.99
"Go large. Beef provides one of the few food chances to get the big stuff out - the chewy texture really softens the tannins and overwhelms lighter styles. Expect lots and lots of dark cheery aromas and a really brooding palate, with ever darker fruit, peppery edges and a finish that goes on and on. Not one for the faint of heart, or those intending to do anything after lunch." 
Ed Orchard, Connolly's


We can't do much about the prevalence of those sixfold, slippery little flakes of wonder come December 25. But rather than concern yourself with reality, why not bring your very own snow-topped Alpine lodge by way of Christmas Day's dessert? Prepared with layers of almond biscuit, hazelnut and chocolate mousse, and praline pastry, the Bûche Chalet is available from PAUL, a boulangerie and patisserie which started life in the North of France in 1889. Get it in a choice of two sizes - with the most generous catering for up to 10 - from PAUL's shiny new shop in Grand Central, or try your luck at winning it in our little competition. Because no one actually likes Christmas pudding. Not a one of you.
Venue: MinMin Noodle Bar, Unit 4, Latitude Buildings, Bromsgrove Street, B5 6AB; Facebook  Choice: Prawn soup noodles (£7.50) Chooser: Waitress

If you're heading to topnotch Korean restaurant Miss Korea on a Tuesday night when - SHOCK HORROR - you find out it's inexplicably not open on Tuesdays, do not panic. The worst thing you can do is panic. The best thing you can do, on the other hand, is pop next door to MinMin - all casual, like - where beauteous, bounteous bowls of brothy goodness await. The prawn soup noodles are identical to those served in the side street restaurants of Saigon. Probably. Okay, we've never been, but they're bloody lovely and have a seriously authentic aura about them. Also, the mango and prawn rice rolls may sound like the combination nobody asked for but are, in fact, unduly delicious. Final thought: Any restaurant that has a colourful key to the available noodles like this one on their menu, is alright by us. Pick porcini (option D).


Baking courses are becoming happily prevalent around these here parts. But how about a class where you mill the very flour you later incorporate into a dough? Sarehole Mill is offering a handful of classes early in 2016 which result in the making of either flatbreads or pizzas and include a tour of the site, which has already celebrated 250 years as a working mill. Book it (for £25) and get a ticket which you could very well slip into a card. Clever, huh?


Okay, it's kind of a big gesture but does anyone else think surprise trips are the best thing ever? Now we're all in agreement, whether your budget stretches to London, Milan or NYC, try a 38 Hours guide by way of inspiration, or even break the news with it. The text (also accessible via app), uses local journos, bloggers and people what know stuff to offer a track so inside, you'll feel achingly cool throughout your visit, or get your money back (you won't). Provide is Brum's sole stockist.


Relax: it’s good. JJ Abrams is such a safe pair of hands, it’s a wonder he wasn’t steering Paris' climate change negotiations. And that is simultaneously Episode VII’s greatest strength and weakness: in a herculean effort to avoid the pitfalls of the disastrous prequel, a huge amount of boxes are ticked, but in the process, the eccentricity of George Lucas is somewhat lost. Abrams and his team have produced a superb modern blockbuster, one that can prompt tears just from its goddamn title sequence, but there is little here that has that spark of idiosyncratic invention than even the prequels’ worst moments could boast. Much is familiar. And you know what, who cares? You want Star Wars? How’s about Harrison Ford bickering over how best to fix the Falcon? How’s about a severely overmatched kid stepping up to duel a dark side type? How’s about X-wings, Chewbacca, Force-led mysticism and an Imperial officer nervily offering his master bad news? The chief innovation is a focus on character that elegantly ups the stakes across two key relationships, and at times there won’t be a dry eye in the house – and since it’s been 32 years since a decent trip to this galaxy, that’s more than enough. Times & trailers 
  • The final night of The Butchers Social in its current form is December 31. You can be there for £35, which includes unlimited chicken wings. UNLIMITED
  • Take control of an interactive light display in person or via Twitter tomorrow from 1pm. Midlight will be at Millenium Point and consists of thousands of LED lights, with 90,000 variations
  • The Gunmakers Arms is Two Towers Brewerys' new tap house. It's also the location for a street food double this Friday (December 18) from 4pm through to 8pm
  • Get fully festive at Rowheath Pavillion's Christmas Fayre on Saturday (December 19). There's mulled wine, lots of potential gifts we're not clever enough to make, and an actual grotto
  • Our Christmas party starts in precisely six hours. And while you can't come - okay, YOU can - we'll raise a glass to the support of you handsome bunch in 2015. See you same time, same place, January 7
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"I can certainly see that you know your wine. Most of the guests who stay here wouldn’t know the difference between Bordeaux and Claret." - Basil Fawlty
WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew Lowry, Tom Cullen
I CHOOSE Birmingham, Unit 317, Zellig, Gibb Street, Birmingham, B9 4AA

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