“University” at The Four Seasons, Florence

Dec 07, 11 “University” at The Four Seasons, Florence

Posted by in Food and Wine, Hotels and Spas, Travel

I went to The Four Seasons University in Florence, Italy. How’s that for an alma mater? Seriously, I was invited to take part in what they term their “university” to learn more about The Four Seasons Resorts and Hotels and, in this particular session, showcasing the regional and artisanal food and wine on offer. With hotels scattered around the globe, the 2 day session was aimed at getting to know about The Four Seasons in Asia, Africa and Europe. The Four Seasons flew in General Managers from Budapest to Paris, Beirut to Doha and everywhere in between for us to chat with and find out more about what makes each hotel unique from a culinary and vinous point of view. What I found was that each one tailored the guests experience to the locale. From Paris to Prague, the hotels try to give the guests a luxury wine and dine experience while still maintaining links with the city they are in. For example, in Prague, they may be in an international hotel but offer plenty of local delicacies in their restaurants as well as offering international cuisine. Paris on the other hand, guests expect a gourmet experience and, dining in the George V’s 3-Michelin starred restaurant with a world class wine cellar, guests won’t be disappointed. The Florence Four Seasons is no different. A spectacular oasis in the middle of the city, set within a walled garden covering 11 acres, it took seven years to renovate the 15th century Palazzo Della Gherardesca and the adjacent convent. I loved the original mosaic floors in the Palazzo as well as the original frescos and paintings that have been restored to their former glory. It’s fantastic to be surrounded by such beauty. Florence pulled out all the stops for us to show off the best that the hotel and the region had to offer. The Florence property has the palazzo and a smaller building, il Conventino, on the other side of the garden. The first night, the...

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A Taste of Tuscany at the Four Seasons Park Lane

Nov 24, 11 A Taste of Tuscany at the Four Seasons Park Lane

Posted by in Food and Wine, Hotels and Spas, Italy

A “Taste of Tuscany”.  An invitation arrived in my inbox shortly after I came back from Florence, Italy to visit the Amaranto restaurant in the recently refurbished Four Seasons Hotel on Park Lane. I love Italy and Italian cuisine so this seemed right up my alley. Having been wined and dined in Florence, I was looking forward to what the Four Seasons Park Lane London had to offer. I was not disappointed as I rolled in one Saturday night. While waiting for my dining companion, I perused the cocktail list which featured artisanal bitters, botanicals and homemade infusions which the bar of the Amaranto uses for its imaginative concoctions.  The cocktails were all updated versions of classics with a special section dedicated to the Negroni with 6 different versions to choose from, I went with the Aromatic Negroni which featured Rabarbaro Zucca, Cinzano Orancio and pear grappa. Good and strong, just the way I like them. For entertainment, there was a 6 ft tall blonde female sax/jazz flute player floating around the bar. Dinner started with a traditional Ribollita, a Tuscan vegetable soup paired with a vermentino, the 2009 Occhio al Vento from Rocca delle Macie. All of the dishes were paired with this particular wineries offerings. Rocca delle Macie is set in the heart of Chianti Classico and is a family run business, founded by an Italian movie director in the early 1970’s. Vermentino is a variety I don’t get to drink often and I do enjoy it’s fresh and vibrant qualities. The next dish, the spicy “pici piccanti” was hand-rolled spaghetti served with garlic and walnuts. Very flavourful and spicy for an Italian dish, the spicy notes of the food were quenched by Vernacchia 2009 that was served along with it. Italian white wines do have those savoury and herbaceous flavours which make them great food wines. The pastas are homemade and Chef Davide DeGiovanni showed us the pastas when we toured the kitchen afterwards, one of which was the wild boar...

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Frescobaldi – Italian wine competition!

Do you want to get to know Italian wine a bit better? The only way is to taste and to help you get your hands on some good Italian wine,  The Winesleuth has teamed up with Marchesi de Frescobaldi to offer you guys, my readers, the opportunity to win some fantastic Italian wine. I’ve got a vertical vintage case of CastelGiocondo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (2003, 2004& 2005) to give away as first prize and two lucky runners-up will receive a magnum bottle of Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Reserva DOCG 2007. (Prizes can only be delivered to a UK mainland address). All part of Frescobaldi Fortnight at Caldesi in Campagna which runs from Wednesday 2nd October until Saturday 12th November. Read on to find out more… Paola Rocchi, Head Chef at the Frescobaldi’s CastelGiocondo estate, one of the most prestigious properties in the Montalcino area, will be leaving her Harley Davidson at home as she swaps the rolling Tuscan hills this November for the rather more tranquil landscape of Bray. Paola is originally from Acquapendente, a small town in the Lazio region, and is known as a quiet and studied woman who prides herself on traditional Tuscan dishes. Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi were struck by her cooking several years ago on their first visit to CastelGiocondo and have kept in touch ever since. “She adds a touch of magic to her dishes” muses Giancarlo “hers has all the flavour of home cooking brought up to a different standard”. It is for this reason the Caldesi’s have managed to persuade her to come and work with them for two weeks at their restaurant Caldesi in Campagna in Bray. “We are really looking forward to it”, says Katie, “I can’t wait to learn more tips and recipes from such a great chef. I will be interested to see what she thinks of our British produce and how she will use it. I am going to show her the game from our local estate, British apples and pears...

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Cocktails in Chiswick

Sep 17, 11 Cocktails in Chiswick

Posted by in Italy, Lifestyle, restaurants, Spirits

London recently had a week dedicated to cocktails and who doesn’t like a well mixed cocktail? I’ve visited a few cocktail bars in London and the best seem to be located centrally but if you’re one of the lucky ones who live in or near Chiswick, you’ve got a gem of a cocktail bar/restaurant on your doorstep. Charlotte’s Bistro (little sister to Charlotte’s Place in Ealing) of Chiswick with it’s dark wood and modern glass and steel frontage just looks like a great place to order a martini or two. To get to the restaurant you have to pass through the small bar up front but everyone is so friendly on entering that it’s hard not to stop and have a drink before carrying on up the stairs to the dining room. Laura Marnich (ex-Sketch) is the Head Bartender and she works closely with the Head Chef to come up with unique cocktails. Why would the  Bar work with the kitchen? Because Laura likes to create with cocktails with a twist: Fennel & bergamot martinis, Peach & Basil KT Blossom martini and Cherry Meringue sour  with frothed egg whites, just some of the concoctions the bar and kitchen have come up with over the past year. I tried all of them and they all surprised me. I must say, I was a bit sceptical about fennel and bergamot but the combination was intoxicating (figuratively and literally). As a matter of fact, I think I drank most of my companions – ooops! Laura also does traditional cocktails and the Manhattan she whipped up passed my very strict Manhattan taste test despite the fact it was served straight up at first, they even had their own marinated cherries. Laura likes to change the menu seasonally, working with whatever fresh ingredients are available. Currently they are just finishing up summer and I can’t wait to see what she devises for Autumn. Prices? Well, unlike Central London, prices here are run between £7.50 and £9.50 and you definitely...

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Falanghina & Auchentoshan for a Shacklewell Night

Sep 05, 11 Falanghina & Auchentoshan for a Shacklewell Night

Posted by in Food and Wine, Italy, Spirits

Walking up Kingsland Road and then merging onto Stoke Newington Street, I was wondering if I would ever find the venue for Shacklewell Nights’ latest dinner. Past rows of closed shops with the metal shutters locked tightly, Turkish grocers and off-licences, I spied a hipster with a clipboard in the battered open doorway of what seemed to be a long closed establishment. This had to be it. And it was. After making my way past the entry room, it opened up into a (covered) still surviving Victorian street, (awesome!) complete with dwellings on both sides of the street, one serving as an open kitchen. Aperitifs and dinner was served in Ruby House, which was across the street from the kitchen, and is set over 5 floors of a Victorian townhouse, with plenty of retro furnishings and faded grandeur.  The entire venue is known as MC Motors and is very shabby chic. Auchentoshan was one of the sponsors and we got plenty of single malt whiskey cocktails before setting down to dinner. Shacklewell were serving roast chicken and I was asked by the organizers to recommend a red and white wine with dinner. I chose the 2010 Terradora Falanghina to go with the chicken. Falanghina is one of the easier to pronounce Italian varietals, coming from the slopes of Vesuvius, it is one of favourite white wines. Falanghina is a wine made for food, full of minerality but having good structure and plenty of apple, quince and citrus notes. It is rather round on the palate but not oily more like a substantial, elegantly textured white wine and miles better then any pinot grigio. A good match with the roast chicken, I enjoyed it with the starter of langoustine as well, the wine’s citrusy character coming to the forefront. In the middle of dinner, we were escorted, table by table, to a circa 1930’s decorated basement bar to sample Auchentoshan whiskey and learn a bit about the history of the whiskey. Luckily, we weren’t left...

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