Friday, 19 August 2016

Wine of the Week: Blanquette de Limoux

My wine of the week this week was discovered during the recent Tesco Finest Pop Up wine bar in Soho.  It was a fabulous marketing idea and I wish it could have been there for longer than a fortnight but, as I’m sure the staff would attest to, I gave the wine list a good going over whilst it was there.  Who can complain at a sleek bar with bouncers ensuring it doesn’t get too busy and wines on show at between £3-7 a glass? Especially when I tell you that the £7 one was vintage champagne....

I worked out that I tried 15 of the wines on offer and whilst there were a couple of less than great ones (the enigma of a low cost but excellent Chateauneuf-du-Pape remains elusive) I was bowled over by several of them. I have got into the rather short-sighted habit of thinking that it’s not worth drinking anything under £10 a bottle. We’ve all heard the tales about the value of actual wine in the bottle once you’ve accounted for tax, duty, import costs etc. Well, I was wrong. Yes, I will repeat that as it’s a rare day when I admit to it but – I. Was. Wrong.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Wine of the Week: Bobos Finca Casa La Borracha 2013 #WineWednesday

I am of the opinion that Bobal is a seriously underrated grape as are the resulting wines. Google it and you're hard pushed to find more than a handful of examples for sale in the UK despite its reasonable price point and approachable character. Anyway, more on the grape Bobal more generally in an upcoming Wine Grape Challenge post, for today I'm focused on one very particular Bobal that has made it to the top of the pile to be my wine of the week.

Bobos is made by Finca Casa La Borracha, a boutique winery run by three friends of mixed Spanish and Swiss nationality and located in the Utiel Requena area of the Valencia Region on the eastern coast of Spain. La Borracha make a series of wines from their 61 hectares of land all within 500 metres of the winery itself. 

All grapes are handpicked and fermented in 400 litre temperature controlled barrels. This is a high tech bodega with a focus on the highest quality- something that has not traditionally been the norm in the region. 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Chateau de Beaucastel - The Estate

If you had the choice of visiting any of the iconic Southern Rhone vineyards, Beaucastel would surely be close to- if not at the top of- your list. It certainly was mine and if I didn't feel lucky enough already waking to a bright and sunny morning in May then hearing that they only accept a few private visitors each year only served to emphasis my bonhomie. As we bumped down the lengthy drive past field after field of perfectly regimented vines (2m by 2m apart in case you are interested), our path was temporarily blocked by what looked like a tractor on steroids- wheels high above the ground. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

L'Isle Sur La Sorgue Sunday Market

The French are not yet en accord with the British habit of shops opening on a Sunday. Unless you live in a large town with the occasional open shop, the best you are going to do is an early morning croissant from the boulangerie. Need a litre of milk? Non, nous sommes fermé!

The small town of L'Isle sur La Sorgue some 25 km from Avignon is therefore something of a natural mecca for tourists on Sundays. Compared to its sleepy neighbours, the small town provides an assault on all the senses. Bustling traders call out their wares. Granted this is not somewhere that you are likely to do your weekly shop- prices are a little on the steep side- but the provenance of the food is unparalleled all hailing from and marked proudly with the names of neighbouring villages. Strawberries from Carpentras, chunky white asparagus from Mazan; both under 20km away. 

It would be a travesty to come here with a cold as your sense of smell is very much in for a treat. I am convinced you could be led around blindfolded and know exactly what was being sold. Wheel after wheel of cheeses  with a tendency towards goat are laid out on multiple stalls.

Friday, 20 May 2016

#WineGrapeChallenge 4: Hondarabbi Xuri

For those of the procreating variety half term dawns again and Facebook begins to be filled with humblebragging status updates about the queues at Gatwick or "treating myself to a glass of rose by the pool #blessed". For those of us not off sunning ourselves in foreign climes, knocking back cheap local plonk and thinking it’s the bee’s knees, spring can drag in the city.  Seemingly interminable rain showers make us wonder if summer might never arrive, or worse still has been and gone. Thankfully there has been the odd evening in the last couple of weeks like tonight when we can spend long evenings sat outside bars and restaurants behaving like we’re in the middle of San Sebastian rather than somewhere off Carnaby Street in the middle of Soho with a faint whiff of drains in the air. No matter- a hubbub of chatter and a plentiful supply of tapas can lead me to only one grape this week – Hondarrabi Zuri!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Paris: Kitchenware of Les Halles

Paris holds a special place in my heart having been obsessed with the likes of Edith Piaf, Montmartre and Toulouse Lautrec since my early teenage years and the sight of the light beaming out of the top of the Eiffel tower after sunset will never grow old. Once you've lost count of the number of hops you have made over (or under!) the channel , however, you probably aren't beating a path to the Louvre or Galeries Lafayette anymore. On my most recent visit, I decided to go a little more off the tourist track on this visit to find some very French kitchenware. Les Halles is probably the closest equivalent that Paris has to the Covent Garden in London. Once bustling with porters swerving trolleys around market traders shouting out their colourful array of food wares, for the most part its role as a central food market is consigned to history. Some hints as to the area's alimentary past remain however in the form of a treasure trove of shops. 

E Dehillerin
18 et 20 rue Coquillière 75001 Paris

The ultimate in French stores has to be Dehillerin. This shop is unbelievable. It is like stepping back at least 5 decades in time. It is incredibly dark Aladdin's cave rammed from floor to ceiling with weird and wonderful gadgets. If you are hoping to find a souvenir that you won't find anywhere else then Dehillerin is where you are going to find it. 

Nothing is priced but is instead labelled with a code. At the end of each row are brochures listing prices alongside all the codes. Confusing but I guess some of this stock has been here decades and its easier to change the brochure than the labels. 

Friday, 5 February 2016

Zelman Meats

A cold, rainy night in central London. Wandering through Soho, we wanted good quality, comforting food without the need to queue in the street or be turned away from venue after venue. Or in other words; meat. In all honesty we were using St Ann's Court as a cut through to get from Dean Street to Whitcomb when we remembered Zelman Meats. Its hard to ignore as you walk past actually, mainly due to the neon sign glowing like a homing beacon to steak lovers.
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