At the ambassador's

At the ambassador's

Michael is invited for a special afternoon in Poland
The ambassador was spoiling us, as he does. No tailcoated waiters with mountains of chocolates on silver salvers. Or munroes of Scotch eggs, which I understand will be preferred should lunch follow independence.This particular ambassador has a Scots name, Charles Crawford, but he also represents England, Wales and Northern Ireland. He was offering the hospitality of three nations and one province.The United Kingdom’s coat of arms, flanked by the lion and the unicorn, was embossed and printed in gilt at the head of the menu. Beneath was the legend: ‘Lunch on the occasion of Mr Michael Jackson’.I recognised the name. Her Majesty’s Ambassador in Poland had invited me to lunch with myself.‘Home-made pasta with prawns, aromatised with mint’ was to be the starter. Angel-hair pasta, to precise. Light, but spicily appetising.‘Sea-bass with Thai fresh salad’ was the main.A lunch beautifully judged for a busy day was completed by fresh fruit and ice-cream. Cool Britannia.I appreciated the welcome from the Ambassador, as a gesture of moral support. After an afternoon of media interviews I was to present a Scotch whisky dinner at the new Warsaw Hilton.As an aperitif, I often serve Bladnoch. I find in it a lemongrass note that I feel works well in that role. The distillery’s location, first across the border and southernmost in Scotland, makes a good start to an exploration of the country’s whiskies.And the story of its revival, against the odds is a good tale.The whiskies were all supplied by Gordon and MacPhail, and therefore tended to have some years under their belts.Despite this, the Bladnoch seemed to have maintained a good fruity, fresh taste.Within the grievously limited territory of the Lowlanders, my host has a particular fondness for St Magdalene. While I enjoy Bladnoch for its delicacy, he likes Magda (as she might be known in Poland) for her robustness. So we served both.The starter featured scallops in a dish with both mousse and carpaccio textures, with smoky and saffron flavours. A maritime accompaniment was provided by a 1982 Port Ellen.As we had a another Islay whisky, a relatively restrained Ardbeg from 1991, I used that as a bridge from scallops to turbot. The latter was served as a baked fillet with a barley risotto and a red wine reduction.I especially liked the risotto. The name of this dish might be a contradiction in terms, but I love the texture and nutty flavour of barley. Our favourite cereal is almost as good to eat as it is to drink.I remember the Austrian chef Wolfgang Puck making a similar dish at his brewpub in Los Angeles. I was briefly trapped there the night of the riots that followed the Rodney King verdict. I survived, but the restaurant didn’t.American audiences are always tickled to learn that Dallas, Texas, takes it name from a hamlet on Speyside. There were some Americans and British at the Warsaw dinner, and even the Poles were mildly amused. Dallas Dhu also gave me the chance to discuss briefly the Scottish Gaelic language; the continued availability of whiskies from long-silent distilleries, and the role of his one as a tourist attraction.We had a spicy, fruity 1982 as a perfect accompaniment to a delicious juicy lamb dish with a potato muffin With dessert, I wanted something honeyish, to go with bread and butter pudding. I love the idea of the heathery heights conferring honey flavours, but those notes can be teasingly more evident in some whiskies further down river.AGlen Elgin 1968 was exactly right: honey, candied orange peels, chocolate.My host was smiling. The malts were all on sale at his shop, the most elegant whisky boutique I have ever seen. It would be a jewel in Bond Street or Madison Avenue, but it is in Warsaw’s new Zlote Tarasy shopping centre.The whisky shop is called Chopin Luxury. To you, Chopin may be a composer; to me, the name is a brand of vodka, a spirit at which I have been known to sneer.When a shop named after a vodka devotes itself to Scottish malt whiskies, I want to follow the story, I had better have a few more lunches with the ambassador.I wonder whether he could teach a Yorkshireman to be diplomatic.Especially a Yorkshireman of Lithuanian origin.
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