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My most memorable meal: Alwynne Gwilt

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I have memories to do with food going back to as early as early can be. I remember biscuits baking in our wood stove in the countryside of Canada when I was maybe two, negotiating decorating my first cake at the age of about four…apparently I even dictated a recipe to my grandmother over the phone at the age of three, a story she fondly reminds me of. Food (both eating and cooking it) is so entwined with my life that it is hard to choose just one story.
Since living in London, I’ve been privileged to eat at some glorious restaurants – one of them Le Gavroche, at which I told Michel Roux Jr when he came over to our table that I had a “When Harry Met Sally moment” over my truffle starter. But, that’s not the story I want to tell. While it was an incredible evening with friends and colleagues, it is actually a story from my time back in Canada that I will share.
I was maybe 20 and back home from university over Christmas break. I was going to uni in Toronto, but having grown up in British Columbia (thousands of miles away) it was always a treat to come home. The night before I went back, my dad and stepmom decided to take me out for a special meal to one of the top restaurants in our small town: North 54. It was a quiet night – I think it was a Monday – so we were one of only three filled tables in the place, one of which we later learned was occupied by the owners who were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary.
I don’t remember the exact dishes – I believe there was a really beautiful ravioli at one point and some sort of seafood – but what I do recall was this feeling of being a grown up. I wasn’t just a kid anymore; I was there, sharing in a splendid meal with my dad and stepmom, regaling over the wonderful dishes and excited by the prospect of going back to the ‘big city’. And near the end of the evening, the waiter came up and said the owners had opened a bottle of wine that, while worth a few hundred dollars, wasn’t to their taste that evening…they wondered if we’d like to try it. I took him up on the offer straight away and have this memory of this glorious red wine served so elegantly in a large balloon glass  – I paused and nosed it and the whole room stopped. It was bursting with the smell of orchids and delicate pink fruits, and I felt slightly teary just experiencing it. It made me realise just how good wine could be and I thought the owners mad for not loving it.
I remember going out into the freezing cold evening feeling jolly and warm – and while I don’t recall the exact details of each dish, I do recall feeling a sense of passage in life that night. Meals can be about more than just the food quite often and this was certainly one of them.
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Alwynne is an ex-pat Canadian, London based journalist but she is better known to many as the founder and editor of website Miss Whisky.  Alwynne  created Miss Whisky to help increase her own whisky education (she fell in love with the spirit at a whisky tasting evening in London back in 2008) and to widen the landscape of women who write about ‘the water of life’.  Alwynne also runs whisky tastings, including a wonderful whisky and chocolate pairing class, for distilleries such as The Balvenie.  Her aim is to “correct the misbelief that women don’t like whisky.” Amen sister.
Miss Whisky is a refreshing read with reviews and detailed tasting notes of new and interesting whiskies.  There are profiles of women who work within the whisky industry as well as news on distilleries, interviews and forthcoming events.
Alwynne was named International Whisky Ambassador of the Year 2013: Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival and named one of The Drinks Business’s Top Ten Women in Whisky.


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