28 | Oct | 11

Richard Johnson

Offally Good

The drunker I sit here, the longer I get. I blame the Armagnac. Like it’s written in the Bible:
“And God said, ‘Let there be Armagnac’.
And He saw that it was good.
Then God said, ‘Let there be light!’
And then He said, ‘Whoa — too much light!

I do like that Armagnac’s robust, assertive character doesn’t mix easily in the fruit-and-vegetable world of cocktails. I do like that it has a distinct air of the old-fashioned. And I do like that it’s linked, atavistically, to a decent cigar. But when I wake up tomorrow, it will – of course – be a different story. Armagnac is the brandy of Gascony. With its gently undulating fields, interspersed with orderly hilltop villages ranged round immaculate squares, the south-west of France is like the Hornby railway set I still keep boxed in my attic. It’s where Tony Blair loves to relax. He used to urge the locals to “m’appellez Tony”. But when the Gascons presented him with a spirited pony called Justin, Blair got confused. As he later confessed to Des O’Connor “I didn’t know whether to ride it or eat it”. Eat it. In these parts of France, you won’t offend anyone by eating anything. But in Britain, we still get fidgety around our food. Take offal. When I tried Tongue ‘n’ Cheek, the best street food I’ve had this summer, I remembered how good it was to eat those underrated meat cuts. And I liked that Cristiano, the gaffer, was all about the sustainability and the provenance. His ox cheeks, cooked in Meantime stout served with corn mill polenta, were something special. But when Cristiano tried to slip me his tongue (cooked at low temperature served in a sourdough roll with salsa verde or/and horseradish) I wasn’t happy. There’s something unedifying about the texture of a tongue — it needs to be sliced paper thin. Sorry Cristiano! But make sure you try it for yourself…..