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A matter of taste at 35,000 feet

4 Jul 2007 by business traveller

It can take several years for an airline to come up with a new seat for regular travellers, but new menu concepts are a far more regular occurrence. This month, Thai Airways has teamed up with LSG Sky Chefs for a new food offering on flights out of London Heathrow.

Gerry McCorriston, LSG Sky Chefs’ Senior Executive Development Chef is responsible for the sourcing and designing of the new menus. He trained at The Savoy and worked at Claridges, and it’s clear that he doesn’t think of airline food as second best: “Passengers may be 38,000 feet in the air but what they are eating is exactly the same as in any good Bangkok restaurant,” he says. Around 75-80 per cent of the in-flight food served has been sourced directly from Thailand, and Thai chefs have been employed for complete authenticity.

The newly designed menus (nearly 330,000 meals each year for economy, business and first-class) offer a mix of the finest continental dishes and authentic Thai cuisine. New dishes on the business and first class menus include crispy duck with thinly sliced spring onions, steamed Thai hom mali, and a mixed Thai vegetable medley, or salmon brochette served with vegetables, deep fried pandan leafs, and chicken Thai fillet pandan with wild arugola lettuce. Business and first class passengers can also enjoy caviar and foie gras as well as Dom Perignon and Lanson served on the flights. Visit thaiairways.co.uk.

Staying with the theme, from the beginning of this week (July 1, 2007), American Airlines is now offering food and wine recommendations for premium class passengers on transcontinental flights. It’s a particularly welcome development, since normally airline cuisine takes a noted dip on US transcontinental flights.

AA’s new wine consultant Diane Teitelbaum has paired certain food and wines, so a grilled miso chicken breast served cold and accompanied by a tomato-basil potato salad is paired with a glass of Wente VS Sauvignon Blanc from Livermore Valley, California. Why? “Because tomato, basil and chicken are a classic match to sauvignon blanc and the combination creates a crisp and fresh pairing.” QED. For a main course, “tenderloin of beef enhanced by a miso demi-glace offered with cilantro potatoes, grilled asparagus and roasted tomatoes” comes with the suggestion of a glass of Treana Red from Paso Robles “… because the richness and texture of the wine matches and balances the beef perfectly as the beef softens the wine tannins creating a lush, succulent velvet taste.” Quite a way to pass those dead hours, jet lagged as you cross another couple of time zones. Incidentally, American maintains 15 different wine lists for various routes, changes its wine list regularly and even produces an online brochure describing in detail each route’s selections. It has also won awards in the annual Business Traveller Cellars in the Sky competition for best airline wines. Visit aa.com/wine.

Lastly, Air France business and first (l’Espace Affaires and l’Espace Première) passengers will soon have the pick of the best of clarets as the carrier revamps its in-flight wine list. In business, the wines will be from famous châteaux or superior and exceptional crus bourgeois such as the Médoc Château Rollan 2004 Jean Guyon, while first has well-known vintages and châteaux representing their respective regions, such as the Pauillac Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2002 2e Grand Cru Classé.

Since spring 2005, Olivier Poussier, elected Best Sommelier worldwide in 2000, has been in charge of the selection of wines and champagnes served on board all Air France flights. To make up the list, each year M.Poussier blind-tastes and analyses over 650 wines from various French wine regions, 77 of which are chosen: 37 for l’Espace Première, 28 for l’Espace Affaires and the remainder for economy. The specific environment of an aircraft cabin is also taken into consideration, with the wines chosen being capable of making up for the dry air and cabin pressure. Each year, 800,000 bottles of wine (75cl) are served in the long-haul business and first cabins of Air France, and throughout the three cabins, Air France spends 20 million Euros on its wines and Champagnes each year. Visit airfrance.com.

Report by Tom Otley

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