We like to spot a trend at Caterer. And here's another one for you - replacing the dessert with a cocktail. OK, so we've had the dessert-inspired cocktail, increasingly available in a style bar near you (think Trifle Martini), first clocked by Simon Difford in his inspirational Sauce Guide, published last year.
And then, of course, there's the after-dinner cocktail. Hardly a new phenomenon - The Savoy Cocktail Book, first published in 1930, devotes a whole section to them, even differentiating between the after-dinner cocktail and the after-supper cocktail (the latter might have, say, a dash of Curaçao).
The good old Alexander is up there (crème de cacao, brandy, fresh cream), so is the Stinger (white crŠme de menthe and brandy), plus other rather more scary concoctions - crème de cassis, maraschino and green Chartreuse, otherwise known as a Stars and Stripes.
But what we're talking about here is a cocktail quaffed in place of dessert - and where can you do this? The Savoy, of course. Or, to be more precise, Banquette in the Savoy, Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing's posh spin on an American diner.
The idea is the brainchild of general manager Elias Yiallouris. Diners are presented with a dessert and cocktail menu combined - eight puddings to the left and eight cocktails to the right. Though which is selling better? "The cocktails," reveals Yiallouris. "It's rare that people make it to dessert after two courses these days."
Yiallouris is no stranger to the shaker. He once ruled the roost at cocktail hot spot Claridge's bar, so he knows how to mix a drink. So what makes a good after-main-course cocktail? "The most important thing to remember is that you've got to have balance," he says, adding: "But it mustn't be overly sweet".
All eight cocktails are Yiallouris's own creations. Best-sellers so far include the Vanilla Haze, a split vanilla pod is shaken with ice, a little sugar syrup, Stoli Vanilla and white crème de cacao, and passed through a tea strainer into a martini glass. Black Misty Monday also goes down well, too: shake 50ml of Toussaint coffee liqueur with three freshly squeezed limes and 10ml Mandarin Napoleon, and garnish with a lime twirl. Lime and coffee? "It's a fabulous combination," he insists. "The coffee picks you up while the lime revives your jaded palate. There's definitely a market for this type of cocktail in a restaurant - it's a wonderful way forward," declares Yiallouris, who advises cocktail novices to keep the list short. "Five will do it, making sure you have at least one cream-based cocktail, one fruit-based, and another with a coffee element," he suggests.
Celebration of Vins de Pays in new guide
During the last 20 years France's vins de pays wines have snowballed in popularity - revitalising French wine culture, radically increasing production - and the category now accounts for a nearly a third of the country's total wine production, resulting in some impressive experimental wines.
And thanks can go in part to the New World wine countries - with all their fancy marketing and winemaking initiatives. So it's about time there was a guide on the subject.
Hachette (Mitchell Beazley, £4.99) has just brought one out, called Vins de Pays, a Buyer's Guide to the Best French Country Wine, with a foreword by Tim Atkin, MW, who writes: "The idea that vins de pays are necessarily inferior to appellation wines should have been ushered towards the nearest spittoon some time ago. There are some very complex wines produced under vins de pays labels, but most of the time these are wines that are as easy to understand as they are to drink."
The guide lists more than 250 wines, sourced from the 2004 edition of the annual Le Guide Hachette des Vins, categorising them by d‚partement, zone and region.
London-based French sommelier Dominque Laporte has scooped the Best Sommelier in France award, at the Palais des Papes in Avignon.
The competition, in its 23rd year, was organised by Inter Rh"ne as part of a series of events showcasing the best from the Rh"ne valley.
There were six contestants in the final part of the competition, each one subjected to tests ranging from food and wine matching to blind tasting and decanting.
Laporte, of course, is currently doing his thing at the Great Eastern hotel, where he is fulfilling a six-month contract under the watchful eye of wine whiz and mentor Jo‰lle Marti.
A taste of Chile
Wines of Chile will be doing its thing with a tasting of more than 100 wines to show off the quality and range it now has to offer.
It takes place on 19 February at the Imagination Gallery, London WC1.
For more information, call 0797 924 5093.