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Wednesday, 26 October 2016
We’re gearing up for Christmas here at Bel Canto, and the first step is inaugurating our new Christmas menu! Forget stale stuffing and dry turkey though – this Noël, not Christmas, and we are celebrating it à la Française with the finest food and the loveliest music.
Starter - Duo de Saumon. Home-cured Gravlax and Smoked Salmon with warm blinis and crème fraîche.
Now, before you start thinking “That doesn’t sound very French”, you should know that Christmas food in France is quite different to what we eat for Christmas here. Although turkey with chestnut stuffing is fairly similar, and foie gras is not too far off, the real difference is that French Christmas normally involves a lot of fish or seafood. Oysters are a seasonal staple, as are scallops, lobster is another festive favourite along with smoked salmon, which is normally enjoyed at the beginning of Le Reveillon- the French Christmas dinner which is commonly held on the 24th.
To drink - Riesling ‘Bel Canto’, Pegasus Bay, Waipara, New Zealand 2014
Main Course - Filet de Bœuf en Croûte. Fillet of Beef baked in brioche with wilted spinach, sautéed mushrooms and truffle jus.
This fabulous, decadent main course is warming and luxuriant – perfect for Christmastime – and bears a very close resemblance to what we call Beef Wellington! In fact, research would suggest that Wellington was a re-naming of this popular French dish, but why it was renamed no one actually knows! The first reliable reference to it was from a 1939 guide to dining out in New York, but many believe it was named after the first Duke of Wellington in the 1800s, possibly after the Battle of Waterloo. Others have posited that it was named after Wellington in New Zealand, due to a civic reception there. In any case, there are no doubts over the provenance of boeuf en croûte, it is a French dish through and through – and a very tasty one at that!
To drink - Château de Ricaud “Reserve des Coteaux”, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux, 2011
Dessert - Bûche de Noël. Chocolate Christmas log with crème anglaise.
Another French Christmas tradition, the Yule log may no longer be popular in this country, but it is the Gallic equivalent of our Christmas pudding and no festive French celebration is complete without one. Back in pagan times, it is believed that a cherry log would be decorated with holly, ivy and pinecones, sprinkled with wine and spices and burnt to cleanse the air of the previous year’s events and usher in the spring. Based on this traditional Yule log burnt in the hearth, the Bûche de Noël is a roulade of sponge cake, covered in chocolate icing and decorated to resemble a log, often sprinkled with icing sugar snow, berries and holly.
To drink - Maury Grenat Mas Mudigliza 2013
So why not book a table and come celebrate the Christmas season in true French form?
Wednesday, 19 October 2016
So, you have the food and you have the wine – now you need the music! Wow your Christmas party guests with a live opera performance to get everyone in a truly festive mood. Our singing waiters are the perfect entertainment for a refined and sophisticated party and are sure to inject culture and fun into any occasion.
Meet the Singers
Each and every one of our singers is a professional opera performer who has been trained at one – or several – of the finest musical institutions in the world. From the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to the Boston Conservatory to the Royal College of Music, our singers come with résumés and repertoires as long as your arm, so you know you will be entertained by the best. Our singers come from all over the world, and have performed all over the world, on stages in Sydney, performances in Portugal and, of course, in various famous opera venues across the UK.
To find out more about the singers, and learn each of their stories, head to the “Meet the Artists” page on our website, here.
Hire the Singers
Our singers are available for any number of events – from private parties to corporate functions – and they will add so much more than world-class music! Free to act as waiters or servers, they can also interact with your guests, telling them the stories behind the operas from which they sing and the characters they play. Perfect for a gathering of opera lovers, or merely of open-minded culture fans, eager to learn something new about this historic art form.
You can hear our singers by booking a table with us or clicking here to catch snippets from our Bel Canto CD.
All of our singers booked up? Fear not, you can still enjoy some operatic flair at your party with our fantastic Christmas opera playlist – a combination of our favourite arias with some of the most beautiful Christmas choral music.
Click here to listen to it all.
- Flower Duet – Lakme – Délibes
- Stille Nacht – The Three Tenors
- Casta Diva – Norma – Bellini
- Lascia ch’io pianga – Handel
- Ave Maria – Schubert – Luciano Pavarotti
- Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 – J.S. Bach
- Zadok the Priest – Handel
- Libiamo - La Traviata – Verdi
- Habanera – Carmen – Bizet
- Papagena, Papageno – The Magic Flute – Mozart
- Il est né, le divin enfant
- In Dulce Jubilo
- Personent Hodie
- Triumphal March – Aida – Verdi
- O Come All Ye Faithful
Interested in hiring our singers for your event? Simply head to the website here and fill out an enquiry form.
Wednesday, 12 October 2016
An elegant French dinner table needs to feature exquisite fine wines to be a success. This gets even more important at Christmas when we are serving the most noble and delicious specialties France has to offer. To make sure you are ready to host the perfect party we are revealing some of our tips to make your evening magical!
Champagne is the Master of Ceremonies and perfect for kicking off and conclude all beautifully celebration. It can be paired with most, if not all, delicacies from canapés to desserts and gives a luxury feel to your dinner. Because Christmas only happens once a year we recommend you amaze your guests with a well-known bottle like a Roederer, a Ruinart or Bel Canto’s Dom Perignon.
However, if Champagne is a bit out of your budget, why not pair last week’s Vol-au-Vent with a fantastic Pessac Leognan Blanc or with a Chardonnay from Burgundy. With a crisp and fresh Saint Veran, Meursault or Chablis you have the guarantee that your guests’ taste-buds will remember this treat for a very long time.
Every French family will have some traditional foie gras at Christmas and, in fact, there is no Christmas dinner without it. If you plan on having some too, we recommend pairing this specialty from the South-West of France with a sweet and fruity Jurançon or a Sauternes. However, again Champagne will be your best ally in seducing your guests with the ultimate luxurious experience.
For French wine lovers, Christmas is perfect occasion to open the exquisite bottles they preciously kept secret in their cellar. It’s the time they open their finest vintages from Bordeaux, such as a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a Chateau Pichon Longueville or a Saint Emilion.
There is indeed no better time to open your favourite bottles than at a Christmas family dinner. So, visit your cellars, buy the bottles you always wanted and share the love with the people you care most about. After all, Christmas is the most beautiful time of the year and we all deserve magnificent wines.
Wednesday, 5 October 2016
We know it seems a bit too early to be thinking about Christmas – but a chill in the air means it is on its way and the best Christmas party… is a stress-free Christmas party! To help you get organised early, we’ve come up with our top tips for throwing a festive bash with a difference, and we’re starting with the food!
No good party is complete without food and no fancy party complete without canapés! The trend for serving these tasty, savoury bites at parties began in France in the 18th century. The perfect counterpart to an aperitif, the name comes from the French word for sofa, because the garnish sits on the bread, cracker or pastry as a person sits on a couch!
We Brits picked the trend up towards the end of the 19th century, but have continued to be inspired by that nation of gourmands, hence that 1970s favourite - the vol-au-vent.
So called for its extreme lightness, the vol-au-vent (which means “lifting in the wind” in French) consists of a hollow pastry cup with a savoury filling made from meat, fish or vegetables. The story goes that the vol-au-vent was created by the Father of French haute cuisine, Antonin Carême in the early 19th century. His signature filling of minced chicken and breadcrumbs with mushrooms in a madeira sauce – called the financière – was the inspiration against our own. One of our new menu additions, the Bel Canto vol-au-vent contains sautéed mushrooms with a rich truffle sauce, perfect for Christmas.
Other French Christmas Canapés to try
Chicken liver pâté
A French party tradition for the ages – what could be better? And for more inspiration on how to throw the perfect Christmas party – stay tuned over the next couple of weeks, for drinks and entertainment tips or why not pop in to Bel Canto and sample our light-as-air vols-au-vent for yourself?
Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Well, we hope you got your pork cheek fix since last week because… we have a new menu! That’s right, in honour of the days getting shorter, the leaves changing, and the weather getting cooler we have added some wonderful autumnal dishes to warm the cockles of your heart.
This Black pudding croquette is one of our favourite dishes which have revamped for the season. Served with apple purée and roasted apple it makes the most of warming flavours and seasonal produce and is made by hand in our kitchen. Want to try out some boudin noir at home? Click here to read the first ever post on the Bel Canto blog – a wonderful winter warming recipe with our French black pudding as the star!
Not quite pork cheeks, but still delicious! This dish features a succulent pork fillet, wrapped in pancetta and served with caramelized pear, slow-baked cabbage and a light mustard sauce. Peppery, sweet, salty, and tender, this dish is the ultimate fancy comfort food and guaranteed to make you feel warm and welcome.
This French classic is the perfect end to a seasonal dinner. Soft sweet apples on crisp, buttery pastry with smooth vanilla ice cream – hungry yet?!
This autumn trio are best enjoyed with some of the finest opera around, performed by our fabulous singers so why not book a table and come try it for yourself?
Wednesday, 21 September 2016
True food connoisseurs will already be aware that rabbit or fish cheeks are the most delicious, tender and juicy parts one can eat! However, fewer know that pork cheeks too are a gourmet food not to be missed, especially when they are slowly braised.
Originally, people braised meat using embers below and above their casserole dish to contain the delicate juices and created a harmonious dish that preserved all its flavours. Of course, now things have evolved and newer techniques have replaced embers. Nonetheless, the result is equally delicious and the principle of searing meats or vegetables before letting them simmer for many hours has remained the same.
It is hard to tell when the first braised pork cheek was served in restaurants, as it’s never been documented. However, in the Middle Ages, pork was one of the most consumed meats in France. Vauban, Louis XIV’s minister, considered it the best way to fight hunger as “this animal is such an easy food that anyone can raise one, there is no farmer poor enough not to be able to raise one pig per year". Therefore, we are convinced that our fellow farmers wouldn’t have thrown away this ultimate delicacy.
In recent years, braised pork cheeks have become something of a trend in French bistros. They are generally served with carrots and potatoes and combine the savory taste of braised meat with a sweet note - often honey.
At Bel Canto, we did our own take on this dish to present you with a fresh recipe made of authentic flavours: Braised pork cheeks with caramelised carrots, crushed potatoes and a red wine jus.
As we enter Autumn, carrots and potatoes are coming into season. This mouth-watering recipe represents the perfect combination of seasonal ingredients cooked with a modern twist. Carrots are amazingly flavorful when mixed with a sweet touch, which is probably why there is a huge consensus around the now-famous carrot cake. And what could possibly complement homemade crushed potatoes better than a reduced red wine sauce? Je ne sais pas. The French never miss an opportunity to cook with wine!
At Bel Canto, we couldn’t agree more with the old French saying "Tout est bon dans le cochon" - "Every part of the pig is good", and we think pork cheeks have their place on our finest tables. So, next time you visit us, try our pork cheeks because it might just become your favorite bit!