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Well, nearly Happy New Year to you. A full and busy Christmas week or so, with as much driving and wrapping and wedding planning as there has been drinking, but drinking there was. So, without further ado:

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A beautiful bottle of apricot brandy liqueur (dangerously drinkable) and what I think I remember as home-made raspberry gin but given that I’d already been given a glass of champagne and inhaled about 7 gougeres (really just posh cheese puffs, but possibly my favourite wine snack ever having tasted them at a winery in Chablis before, so I love them enough to give them their proper poncey name) before I tried a shot, the memory is a little blurred by booze and carbs. We only went to one actual social Christmas party this year together and this was it in Brixton, hosted by Hannah and Oli, Christmas-loving and gourmet in equal measure. Despite now generally being old, busy and grumpy enough to rarely get to see people I already know and love and thus regularly declare that I just can’t be bothered to meet whole, entire new people, I actually met some fantastic people, including an ace twitter-friend who turned out to be equally great in real life. I think we also drank H&O out of all champagne, so a successful party all round.

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A glass of restorative red at Ascot races. My choir (Coro) sings at the Christmas meet of Ascot every year when it’s not snowed off, and it’s basically become a serious fixture in my Calendar of Feeling Christmassy usually on the last Saturday before Christmas. At the end of a day performing in the huge variety of restaurants around the race course, we join the brass band for an enormous singalong as everyone floods in from the course and down from the boxes with their winners/drinkers glow about them, and it’s really the most jolly thing I do all year. I was driving so what you can see in the picture was the full extent of my drinking, but a glass was deserved as we actually WON ON A HORSE!!!! Yes, despite being ridiculed all day for our minuscule, old-lady bets, our £2.50 each way finally brought us a considerable win on an outsider to much rejoicing, and to a heavily subsidised meal that night at the Relais de Venise, after an excellent concert by the Phoenix Trio at the Wigmore Hall. Actually a seriously full day looking back at it, adding yet more insight to why I always get really really knackered and ill before Christmas.

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I didn’t actually drink either of the cans above, but instead used them to make a phenomenally easy Beer Bread. It uses the bubbles in beer along with self-raising flour to make something that tastes like bread but is as easy to make as a basic cake. Which makes it the best bread recipe in the world. I think you could actually use any beer, particularly leftover beer you’re not otherwise going to drink, which was exactly the fate of one can of Red Stripe and one can of American Craft Coconut Porter – leftover for, to be fair, very different reasons.

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I’m lucky enough to have now had this wine two years running at Christmas at my (nearly) in-laws. This is such a massive treat of a wine, really warm and spicey and subtley-oaked and, well, just very grown-up and considered. Not something I’d open every night, but worthy of being a celebratory, seasonal wine and something I’m very glad to drink. It’s also available very reasonably from Majestic.

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Back after a few intensive days of family, it could only be Turkish food and Italian wine. Food from the Turkish Food Centre in Camberwell which I walk or cycle past on my way to and from the office and which has become my local food mecca as it not only sells hummus in vats the size of my head for £3 but also delicious proper turkish pide bread which I used to eat constantly as a masters student in Stoke Newington. Wine from Selvapiana, one of my favourite small family-run Chianti producers, and a very pure, true, traditional example of Sangiovese – specifially picked to go with the lamb koftes that I made as part of the Turkish-fest. Appreciated mainly for, despite the provenance, not actually being turkey.

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I am absolutely dreadful at bowling. I mean, really embarrassingly, frustratingly, inexcusably bad at bowling. And yet there’s sometimes nothing more fun than bad music, bad beer and bad bowling. It used to be the cure-all post-break-up group outing with my old house mates, my fiance used to go bowling a lot with his brother, and I usually go and embarrass myself once a year for my work pre-Christmas party. This was the second time that we’d been as a couple and, barring the completely unrelated MASSIVE ROW that we had last time, it’s just really great fun. Also a fittingly surreal thing to do in the weird limbo between Christmas and New Year. I meant it about the beer though – apparently it’s Grolsch but unless it’s Grolsch which has been consumed by another life form, processed, passed, loosely filtered then poured again, it’s no kind of Grolsch I’ve ever tasted. But there are times to drink bad beer and enjoy it, and this is one of them.

We followed the bowling with a meal at Silk Road in Camberwell, a Chinese/Szechuan restaurant I’ve wanted to go to for ages. I can’t complain as we walked straight in and had a stonking meal for very little money with very little waiting time. But christ, what a few food blogs can do – we were, at 31 years of age, the oldest people in there by a good few years, and certainly the only people not wearing a) a hipster christmas jumper, b) a hipster beanie, c) a hipster beard or d) all of the above. I actually refrained from getting my phone out to take a picture of our beer because I just couldn’t face the trendstapocalypse it would have risked.

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