Getting to know the region of Saint Chinian, France

Oct 29, 14 Getting to know the region of Saint Chinian, France

Posted by in All, Food and Wine, France

I was recently invited to St. Chinian by their growers association to not only learn a bit more about the wines but also to discover the wine tourism that they have going on there. If you thought it was all vineyards and wine tastings only, there’s a lot more to explore.Saint Chinian is in the Languedoc region of southern France and has plenty of activities for families, couples or groups of friends. We arrived on a warm sunny day in Capestang and immediately checked into Les Carrasses, an old chateau that has been renovated into a shabby chic hotel. The hotel is one of a new wave of tourism that is coming to the Languedoc. It’s set overlooking vineyards and offers not only excursions but also first rate food and wine dinners in it’s relaxing restaurant or on a terrace overlooking the chateau pool. You can stay in the renovated chateau or in the converted stables, winery or barn that now house villas that  have plenty of room for families or groups of friends. An added advantage of the villas is that they have their own kitchens and many of them also come with their own private swimming pool. Les Carrasses is a good base from which to enjoy the region. As well as vineyards vists, the region has loads of outdoor activities. St. Chinian has the Canal du Midi that runs through it which means you can float leisurely down the canal and alongside the vineyards, stopping along the way to visit one of the many small towns that dot the canalside. The canal towpaths are also great for bicycling or strolling, providing shade from the southern French sun. While we were there we had plenty of opportunities to sample the local wines. We stopped in the town of Roquebrun and had a lovely lunch at Le Petit Nice, a cute little restaurant serving traditional French cuisine. I had escargot and and some very garlicky frogs leg for lunch. All of this overlooking...

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Drinking (and grabbing a bite or two) in El Born, Barcelona.

Oct 18, 14 Drinking (and grabbing a bite or two) in El Born, Barcelona.

Posted by in All, Food and Wine, Spain

I’m currently hanging out in Barcelona and getting to know the city. It’s not only a cheap holiday destination but a gorgeous city to wander around. As a wine blogger, I’m always interested in finding good wine shops. Barcelona has some really great wine bars and shops to explore. Of course, Barcelona has also jumped on the natural wine bandwagon and there are a few bars, especially in the Born neighbourhood that cater to the natural wine enthusiasts. I stumbled across two of them one night, L’anima del Vi and El Soplo. I recognized a fair amount of wines from France and Italy as well as some Spanish wines lining the walls of both venues. L’anima del Vi is bigger then El Soplo, having a good sized seating area with tables for drinking the night away. El Soplo is more of a hole in the wall but very atmospheric. L’Anima del Vi has a small tapas type menus to soak up the vino and El Soplo serves free tapas with all the wines they serve. The prices were average for a natural wine bar but more expensive then your typical tapas and vino bar in Barcelona. Both were within a stone’s throw of the Santa Margarita del Mar church which is located in the middle of the Born and dates from the 14th century. The Born along with the Barrio Gotic forms the oldest part of the city and it’s easy to wander the warren of alleyways, stumbling across cute boutiques, restaurants and wine bars.  The Picasso Museum is also in the Born and just around the corner from Santa Maria del Mar church. Another must visit while in the Born neighbourhood is Vila Viniteca. A good sized wineshop, they specialize in wines from all over the world and have extremely knowledgeable staff (one of the requirements to work there is that you must have sommelier qualifications). Don’t worry if you don’t speak Spanish, the staff there are multi-lingual and are more then happy...

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Dining (literally) Up in the Air

Sep 24, 14 Dining (literally) Up in the Air

Posted by in Food and Wine, Lifestyle, London

Last weekend I was invited to a London in the Sky pop-up dining event at Canary Wharf. The event is part of the global Dinner in the Sky series with events in 43 countries.  The event in London took place over 10 days and featured 5 Michelin starred chefs cooking for guests high up in the sky. I was wondering how they were going to do it all in one hour but the evening that we were there, they pulled it off without a hitch. We had the pleasure of Executive Head Chef Xavier Boyer of L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon cooking for us way up in the sky. Chef Xavier and his assistants managed to seamlessly serve up an amazing meal. Dinner started with a champagne aperitif on the ground courtesy of Taittinger. I have to say, I was needed a bit of Dutch courage before daring to let myself be buckled into my seat. The seats are very secure however. They’re like car bucket seats and your strapped in very securely. The open air dining platform has a centre area for the chefs and then ringed around it are 22 seats and NO floor. I was a bit unnerved, especially when we started to ascend but the ride up is so smooth as to be almost unnoticeable, except for the slight swaying of the platform on the way up. Once we arrived at our destination of 100 ft up, Chef Xavier and his team started dishing out our meal. The food was fantastic and the views were amazing. It really has to be one of the most unique dining experiences I’ve ever had. The wine was flowing along with the conversation and in between courses, Chef Xavier and his crew were happy to chat, pose for pics and even take pictures of us! Before we knew it, our hour was up and we were gently sent back to earth. It was a great night and if you get the chance to dine in...

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Madeira Wine Is For More Than Just Cooking

Aug 22, 14 Madeira Wine Is For More Than Just Cooking

Posted by in Food and Wine, Portugal

Recently I had lunch with Humberto Jardim, the managing director of Henriques & Henriques, one of the oldest producers of Madeira, the house being founded in 1850. Madeira has a long and distinguished history but nowadays consumers only consider it when they are cooking which is a shame as there is so much more to Madeira. Over lunch at Maze, Humberto told me a bit about the history of Madeira and where he thinks it should be heading in the future. Madeira can be found in writings from around 1425 and is even mentioned in Shakespear’s plays Falstaff and Richard III. It was used to toast the signing of the American Declaration of Independence and is still used today to toast any who are given the Freedom of the City of London. Although Madeira has been around for centuries and is delicious, it is a complicated wine to navigate. Humberto freely acknowledges this and believes that Madeira has to do a better job of educating the consumer.  There are so many styles, variations and ages of the wine that it can be difficult to choose just the right one. DOC Madeira is by definition always going to be sweet due to the DOC regulations. Even ‘dry’ Madeira can have up to 115 grams of sugar per litre. The key to Madeira is the balance between the sugar, acidity and alcohol. I should mention that Madeira is a fortified and ‘cooked’ wine, by that I mean it is left to age in heated rooms, often in barrel but also in tank. They are aged this way to duplicate the long sea voyages through tropical climes in cask that first gave us Madeira. One thing you can say about Madeira is that it is virtually indestructible. Even if a bottle has been open for months or years, it will still taste as fresh as the day it was opened. Humberto opines that they should market Madeira according to styles of production. He thinks that Malvasia which...

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Cooking with Babich Wines

Jul 15, 14 Cooking with Babich Wines

Posted by in Food and Wine

You know the old saying, ‘I love cooking with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food’? Well, that was kinda what a recent cooking lesson with Babich Wines at the Underground Cookery School was like recently! It was great fun and I managed to leave the event with all my fingers intact despite the fact that I was handling sharp knives for a good part of the afternoon. We had gathered at the Underground Cookery School near Old Street to see for ourselves how well Babich Wines go with food. They believe that their wines really need food to shine and after our cooking lesson, I could definitely agree. We were greeted by our host, and member of the family, David Babich with a glass of Marlborough pinot gris on arrival. A delicious, silky wine, not watery or too dry, it was a great way to start the event. Babich have been making wine in New Zealand for almost 100 years outside of Auckland. Well, when they started they were outside of the city but nowadays, the city comes right up to their doorstep. Babich was founded by David’s grandfather Josip, a Croatian immigrant in 1916 when he was less than 20 years old, quite an achievement even back then. Since then, the family’s aim has been to produce the best wine from the best wine regions in New Zealand. To that end, they have vineyards in Marlborough, Gimblett Gravels and Hawkes Bay as well as lesser known but quality regions. After a brief safety demo, we got down to business. Our task was to fillet a fish. I’ve never done it before but the fellows at Underground Cookery led us step by step and before I knew it. I had a fillet in hand. The sea bream was our first course and paired with the Cowslip Valley Riesling with bok choy and thai dressing was delicious. Their riesling had good depth, was full of fruit but dry at the same time...

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Rose d’Anjou and kebabs

Jul 02, 14 Rose d’Anjou and kebabs

Posted by in All, Food and Wine

Rosé always make me think of beachy holidays but you don’t have to jump on a plane to get that holiday feeling. Rosé d’Anjou might not be as well known as its cousin to the south, Provence, but it’s an excellent and delicious summer time wine. Although it can be off-dry in flavour not all rosé d’Anjou is, as a matter of fact, quite a few of the ones we sampled that evening were dry and fresh. We met on the rooftop of the Queen of Hoxton for a bbq and rosé wine tasting. As well as  getting to know rosé d’Anjou the organisers decided to throw an element of competition into the evening. Divided into teams we were first given a brief lesson on food and wine matching by the chef of the Queen and then let loose with a myriad of ingredients. My team, The Pink Bandits (don’t ask me how we came up with that name), created a seafood kebab to pair with one of the rosés we had tasted earlier. After much deliberation, our kebab was declared the winner! I have to say I was extremely happy as the prize was a case of rosé d’Anjou each. I’m currently enjoying my rosé d’Anjou in the summer time sun, on the days when it does come out. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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