- Created: 24 March 2017 24 March 2017
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Many Brits can last a winter up until about mid January before they start falling apart. The jet stream delivers warm currents to our south western shores that deceives us into believing that we are further south than we really are. Unfortunately, come February, the jet stream itself seems to have abandoned us, so like migratory birds many people flee the UK for sunnier climbs.
A favourite place for many with guaranteed warmth are the Canary Islands sitting off the coast of north Africa. In recent years these islands have had their reputation blighted (ironically) by us Brits who turn up there by the plane load and party like crazy. A colleague of mine has just returned from Lanzarote with tales of a much fairer nature.
The island of Lanzarote, we hear, is very beautiful. Step outside the tourist hotspots and you’ll find a treasure trove of small coves and villages. The beaches are black from the volcanic stone but the allure of sunshine, swimming and Spanish island culture is enough to wet the appetite.
Now add to this that Lanzarote is a unique wine producing place where vines grow in picturesque solitude in the Le Geria valley, in small craters especially dug out to protect them. In some cases stone barricades are built in small semi-circles to protect the vine from harsh storms that blow across the landscape. The brittle rock provides exceptional drainage allowing the roots to dig deep and rely on a constant source of drinking water.
Colleague Carolynn strolled back into the office, refreshed and brandishing a bottle of Rubicon, a semi sweet wine from the island. Very little of the wine washes up on these shores because production is small, quality is high and locals and visitors love it. Yup, they sell out.
Bodega Rubicon - in the heart of La Geria
The Bodega Rubicon first started out in the middle of the 18th century in the heart of the picturesque Le Geria valley in Lanzarote. The rugged landscape is dominated by the vines that grow in an orderly, precise looking arrangement.
Bodega Rubicon uses new wine making technology to produce sweet and semi sweet wines. The sample that Carolyn returned with had a distinct light white peach aroma, with very balanced acidity that crucially preserves the freshness and avoids cloying. There is a mineral note to the wine, which I would use to describe a stoney, non-fruity domension. Some scientists say that minerality and the terroir where the wine grows are not related. In this case then, we can only point to a high-level of circumstantial evidence. It’s a perfect aperitif wine, serve chilled with an array of cold tapas. each glass begs another.
Malvasia is an ancient grape variety grown predominantly but not exclusively in the Mediterranean. It is used almost exclusively to produce sweet wines and is very common in places like Spain, Italy and especially the Canary Islands. As evidenced here, malvasia can produce highly quality charming wines.
The tip: If you’re on the island, take a day out and visit some wineries (bodegas). If you spot a bottle here in the UK, pick up and take it home. If you can’t get any then at least try a malvasia wine from another country. It’s worth getting an idea of what this tasty grape can offer.
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- Created: 10 March 2017 10 March 2017
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Over elegant glasses of Paolozzi lager, John Dunsmore admits to having come over from the dark side. Edinburgh Beer Factory (EBF) may be a friendly, family-owned craft brewer but John has previous as Chief Executive of Scottish & Newcastle (which made Foster's & Kronenbourg 1664) and C&C Group (Magners & Tennent’s). Add a comment
- Created: 03 March 2017 03 March 2017
- Hits: 122 122
Months after writing about the loss of my beloved Oishii, I had lunch in its successor, Saigon Bistro. I like to support independent businesses but was sadly disappointed. The stock of my pho bo tai lacked flavour as did my fellow InDulwicher, Nick’s com suon nuong. I didn’t appreciate having to go to the counter to order after having sat down with the menu, especially in a nearly empty place. I wish Saigon Bistro well but it won’t become one of my regulars.
My lament for lost restaurants seemed to strike a chord and it’s time I grouped my current favourites together. I wrote about Kaosarn in Brixton a few weeks ago. This is gorgeous Thai food for reasonable prices with lovely staff. It has also helped to purge me of a hangover or two, the chilli opening the pores.
Herne Hill, being my immediate neighbourhood, provides two for the list. 500 Degrees on Dulwich Road can be a bit cramped, tables close to the door can get a blast of cold air when someone comes in or out and I’m not sure I like decor (the stones set in the wall). For all that, it’s a super place. The pizzas are good, the specials almost always interesting and the staff nice. On a recent visit, our daughter had her head in a book and after a little chat, the waitress returned with a list of books she had read at that age.
This next one is a bit of a cheat. It’s Saray on Norwood Road in Herne Hill and the reason it’s a cheat is that I have been there just once. It’s picky, Turkish food and on a rare, grown up night out, we shared a range of dishes, following our usual practice of ordering a bunch of starters and mains together. It was pretty clear that this will slip into being a semi-regular. It just needs a little time.
I’ve always loved picking at various dishes, from Chinese takeaways when I was a kid to a spread set out to accompany a movie. The way I eat tapas may be completely authentic but that doesn’t matter. I had a great meal at Boqueria on Acre Lane a couple of years ago and Brindisa in Brixton and Borough also scores well but Meson Don Felipe on The Cut in Waterloo (pictured) is the one I’ll include on this list. It’s been there for yonks, the food is good, the decor is warm and I’ve been there with family and friends in various combinations.
While we are on The Cut, the balcony of the Young Vic, just over the road is a fine setting for a coffee and a savoury muffin. I regularly met an old friend there but alas he is no more and I haven’t eaten there since.
The last one on the list is in Chinatown. I’d never claim that the New World Restaurant has the best food but flagging the passing trolleys and choosing a dim sum dish or two is such a fun way to eat. Again, I’ve eaten there with various groups of friends and relatives.
That rounds off my personal list, unless I add Mokka in Reykjavik. It’s a cafe, though the ham and (tinned) asparagus sandwich is perversely good.Add a comment
- Created: 26 February 2017 26 February 2017
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Market Row in Brixton is a little hive of quality food outlets. If it is wine you are after then do make the effort to checkout Market Row Wines. It's a dinky little shop in the arcade that has a strong emphasis on organic wines. Keep in mind the distinction between organic and natural wines. In general I am not a fan of natural wines as there is no sulphur added to help preserve the wine in the bottle. However, organic wines, that often deliver great flavours without chemical additives in the vineyard have much to be admired. This can be a controversial subject as in times of wetness where damp can lead to rot, wine producers may start spraying their vines with copper. How healthy that must be in large quantities is debatable. However, on the whole, organic wines are a great way to ensure you getting the wine as nature intended, less the chemical pesticides and herbicides. It should also be mentioned that there are many wine producers who make their wines organically but do not bother to have them certified. Because the climate is so suitable for growing grapes, the vine growers can let nature do her work without any need to spray.
This Vina Fuentenarro, Ribera del Duero, 2014 from Spain was a big hit in our office tasting. A big distinguishing factor is the 4 months in American oak which adds a vanilla flavour to the wine. Unlike in some instances in Spanish wines, the oak in the Vina Fuentenarro is really well integrated. It is not overpowering the fruit which is another really attractive dimention of this wine. Think dark berries and redberry, a lovely silky smooth body and good lingering flavours in the mouth. Really good wine.
Another big plus here is the price. At £11.50 this is a bargain. I noticed as I looked across the range in Market Row Wines that they have a lot of options at tis price point. I was particularly tempted by a couple of wines from the Rhone... next time!
Do give this a go if you're passing. Enjoy!
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- Created: 24 February 2017 24 February 2017
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Guarapo de piña is one of those things where everyone who makes it has their own recipe. I made mine long ago, when I spent a couple of years in Colombia. I had a couple of goes. I made a smallish batch for a birthday party, which turned out very well. I tried to repeat the success on a bigger scale. I ended up with a dustbin full of weak – maybe 2% - with a topping of dead flies.Add a comment
- Created: 16 February 2017 16 February 2017
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We stop outside a non-descript, light industrial building on reclaimed land in the Hafnarfjörður docks, a little outside Reykjavik. Snorri Jónsson invites us in and soon we are sniffing at a massive tea bag of caraway and angelica steeping in alcohol. Add a comment
- Created: 14 February 2017 14 February 2017
- Hits: 184 184
Eating out on St Valentine's Day is cheesy (we all know that), so many of us choose to discuss this sensibly with our partners and agree to go out on another night close to the 14th. The palpable shudder of relief in being spared the grimness of other couples celebrating this valiant and noble saint's day, is also sometimes accompanied by a pang of missing out. Even if the man doesn't feel it, he ought to admit that it is worth hedging against.Add a comment
- Created: 10 February 2017 10 February 2017
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It’s the climb up White Hill that gets the sweat breaking out on my brow. It is a little steeper than Box Hill but perhaps it’s just that it’s an hour and a half into the walk. Either way, from White Hill, it’s a comfortable stretch to Mickleham and a pub lunch at the Running Horses.
- Created: 08 February 2017 08 February 2017
- Hits: 165 165
InDulwich couldn’t find an opener, so Nick used his trusty hammer to open the first bottle. The denizens of the old stable block-come-office space were gathered round expectantly. The 33cl bottle of Gosnells London Mead was split between the six of us, enough for a good sniff and glug. Lined up before us was the rest of a selection six pack. Here’s how the tasting went. Add a comment
- Created: 05 February 2017 05 February 2017
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Natalia Baloghova tests Optiat’s "Pick me up coffee scrub - Lemongrass lifter” and concludes that this natural and ethical scrub goes beyond what it says on the tube!
Coming back from my gym and pilates class last weekend, I got that afternoon down feeling. It was a gloomy, late January afternoon with a dark soporific sky peering through the window. I found it hard to get going for the rest of the day. Well if anything, this was the day to give the new Optiat coffee scrub a go! Add a comment
- Created: 03 February 2017 03 February 2017
- Hits: 287 287
Sea water, burnt honey, hibiscus and tarragon are tools of the trade for the experimental labs of Gosnells mead brewery. Tom Gosnell confesses to lots of failures along the way but perseveres until they have the mix right. Add a comment
- Created: 20 January 2017 20 January 2017
- Hits: 225 225
I would never claim to be an urban explorer. The thrill seeker end of the spectrum looks terrifying but the questing historian version seems deeply admirable. My dabbling tended to towards the latter, though in a rather unfocussed way. Add a comment
- Created: 17 January 2017 17 January 2017
- Hits: 205 205
Whilst walking at high speed through Herne Hill last Sunday I passed the newly established Wild & Lees under the railway bridge in Herne Hill and dropped in to see what was on offer. With so much talk of our amputation from Europe, I felt a pang of nostalgia for the boulevards and cafes of Paris at the sight of this bottle from the beaujolais subregion of Cote de Brouilly. Add a comment