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A Letter From London
by Phillip Silverstone

Wine I recently made my bi-annual trip to Old Blighty to visit the mater and pater. I always let British Airways chauffeur me across the pond on their non-stop magic carpet. If you can afford their business class, called Club World, there's nothing quite like it, especially if you want to wine surf an exceptional in-flight drink list and sample some smashing high altitude cooking.

On my east bound journey, I did indeed sit in the middle of the bus - in Club - where I polished off several glasses of Piper Heidsieck bubbly. I find that fizz at altitude mellows me out and lets me handle the bumpy pits panic free. The champers flows like water in Club World and when I've got nothing but H20 below me, I certainly don't want it in my glass.

I ordered the fish and chips which tasted like they just came out of the chip shop and were even served with the traditional malt vinegar. I washed them down with a glass of Sancerre and thought I was pretty close to belong in heaven - but thankfully, I was still several clouds beneath it.

While sniffing around a book store in London's Strand, I came across a slim volume by Keith Floyd, my absolutely favorite British TV foodie. He isn't real well known in this country, but he should be as his shows are simply brilliant. I picked up "Floyd On Hangovers" which gives some international recipes to help relieve the pain on the morning after the night before, and here are some of Floyd's remedies:

In Germany if you've got a spot of the katzenjammers, a plate of soused herrings washed down with a glass of pils does the trick. The Aussies recommend a couple of steak pies with tomato sauce followed by some ice-cold Coca-Cola. The Spanish solution is little clams, preferably eaten raw. And while in Puerto Rico, they are reputed to rub the juices of various fruits into their armpits.

I hooked up with some of my mates in the Strand, which by the way, is just down from Trafalgar Square. I felt like being teddibly teddibly British, so we booked a table for dinner at the swanky Savoy Hotel. None of us had eaten there before, and at around $100 per person, we won't be back for another millennium. However, it was serious good eats, and the dining room is quiet with table continents apart, and waiters decked out in penguin suits.

I ordered smoked salmon for an appetizer, and the house specialty, Beef Wellington for my entree. The salmon was delivered in paper thin slices so the plate could be seen through it - perfect and the best I've ever eaten. The Beef Wellington arrived on a cart and looked like apple strudel. The meat, sandwiched in soft pastry was served with truffle sauce , and cabbage with cheese and roasted potatoes. I ordered the Savoy house white wine - a white Burgundy with the salmon, and a Brouilly, one of my favorite Beaujolais vineyards for the beef. I finished with a glass of Fonseca 1970 port with the cheese selection which contained every smelly variety known to man, and a few I've never met before - but their smells linger on.

Wine I've tried to find a word in the Thesaurus to adequately describe this meal, and phenomenal doesn't even begin to come close. When it comes to dining in London, my beef's with the Savoy!

I read in the London Evening Standard about a loony product being introduced by a soft drink producer. The lemon flavored, carbonated soda drink will speed up the body's ability to break down alcohol - or so they claim. Developed in Holland, it's called EXIT, and is supposed to begin working immediately.

However, it must be taken before drinking alcohol because it won't work afterwards. The product supposedly slows the rate at which people get drunk and helps prevent hangovers. EXIT contains fructose, quinine, and other natural ingredients which speed up the body's own enzymes and turn alcohol into water, but leaves traces of alcohol in the bloodstream which means it's still possible to fail a breath test administered by your friendly police officer.

The general feeling amongst critics in Britain is that EXIT's producers are capitalizing on the hangover market. It takes the liver about thirty minutes to break down a single glass of wine or half a pint of beer, and as of yet there is no evidence to prove this product could speed this process along.

Most of us who enjoy our glass of wine with lunch or dinner do so to enhance the meal and not to drown our troubles. Those twits who like to get smashed out of their question-able brains should not be pampered and helped to overcome their drinking binges. Let's hope the drink in question doesn't cross the Pond, and if it does, let's show it the Exit.

I'm out of here. Cheers!


Phillip Silverstone Phillip Silverstone is a syndicated broadcaster and columnist. His book, "Cheers! The World of a Wine-osaur" (Camino Books, $12) is available in bookstores everywhere.




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