Lunching at Malmaison

It is now midnight as I write this and I am still full. There used to be this commercial that ran on American TV for Alka-Seltzer, the tagline was, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”. Despite the fact we didn’t “eat the whole thing”  as a matter of fact, we both took doggy bags home, we did stuff ourselves silly. We had 4 courses, which is not unreasonable, but there were some generous portions at the Brasserie of Malmaison. Malmaison is a boutique luxury hotel smack dab in the middle of Clerkenwell and their brasserie serves up tasty local produce all presented quite beautifully. The main draw for me and the reason I was there, were the bespoke wine flights that the restaurant sommelier, Stuart Fife matches with your dining choices. Stuart is new to Malmaison but he comes from Hotel du Vin in Glasgow and his matches were very well done indeed. While I was waiting for my lunching partner, Vintage Macaroon to arrive, I had a browse round the wine cellar and found some familiar labels, Spy Valley, Springfield Estate, Dinastia Vivanco, d’Arenberg Stump Jump, and Chapel Down, to name a few.  As I suspected, Bibendum Wines is the main supplier for Malmaison and they had some of their best on the list. We left ourselves in Stuart’s capable hands and didn’t regret it one bit. I had a very elderflowery, light and refreshing 2007 Bacchus from Chapel Down. I often find English wines to be a bit thin but Chapel Down make an excellent bacchus and it had enough body and elderflower/citrus flavours to match the trio of smoked blinis (haddock, salmon and mackerel pate) I had to start. The smoked fish was very tasty but I thought the blinis were a bit too soft for me, maybe blinis made of buckwheat would be better? I like the slight chewiness of them. I almost forgot to mention the pre-entree amuse bouche of intensely flavoured crab bisque, which would have...

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Sunday lunch, discovering the origin

Oh England, what a haphazard summer this has been. Started out mostly warm and sunny (June/July) but now it seems that come August the weather is pitching a hissy fit. One day it’s hot, next it’s cold and rainy and everyone is twittering on about how “there’s something autumnal in the air.”  Whatever, according to my calendar, it’s still summer. In defiance of the capricious weather, my friend Claire invited a few of us round for Sunday lunch in her new garden. On the menu: beetroot gravalax, lamb shoulder, samphire and lentils, roast figs and peaches and a cheese plate to finish it  all off, with some cheeky chocs thrown in for good measure. I had a couple of bottles laying around the house, as you do, that were sent to me by the Discover the Origin campaign so I toted those along. According to the website… …Discover the Origin is a campaign promoted by the European Union, Italy, France and Portugal and achieved by the office representative of five key European products: Burgundy wines, Port and Douro Valley Wines, Parma Ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese. The aim of all of them is to enhance knowledge of the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) among consumers, distributors and food professionals and to educate on the benefits of the provenance indicator schemes, the relevant checks, controls and traceability systems that are put in place to ensure ongoing quality, and to differentiate the products and raise their profiles… To that end, I had a bottle of red Burgundy and some LBV port for lunch. What is it about red Burgundy that makes me love drinking it? Is it the silky smoothness of the wine, the floral, ethereal aromatic notes, bringing to mind fields of lavendar, the taste of cherries, raspberries and red currants, a certain earthiness that seems to permeate my tastebuds. I just can never get enough of it. This one was a Chorey-Les-Beaune 2005 and even though it was just a Grand Vin de Bourgogne and...

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Weird and wacky Colheitas

Would you drink this? What if I told you it was a port wine? More specifically a colheita who’s age was unknown? Even after double decanting it was still looking murky but we went for it anyway. I always get confused about port classifications but I after spending an evening drinking with the fellows from The Port Forum, I’m pretty clear on what a colheita is. For the record, colheita is a tawny port that is made from a single vintage. Tawny port is red wine (from various vintages) that is aged in wooden barrels  and then bottled as opposed to vintage port which is aged in bottle. The Colheita carries two dates, the date of the vintage and the date it is bottled, which is often seperated by decades….And that ends the educational portion of today’s lesson. My good friend Oscar Quevedo was in town to sell his ports and he invited me to join him and a group of Port aficionados for a night of wierd and wacky Colheitas. The premise of these get togethers is to bring in your favourite ports to share. Since Oscar was in town, they decided to do something a bit different, hence the Colheitas. I later found out that colheita is not one of their favourites but that didn’t stop them. We jumped around the decades, 1994, 1965,1968, 1975, 1934, 1950, even the fabled 1977 (which sadly was corked!) and the one pictured at the very beginning. It was pretty cool to have the opportunity to drink wines that were older then almost anyone I know. I found many of them to have espresso coffee bean, maple syrup and of course nutty flavours and aromas. Oscar did have one trick up his sleeve, producing a moscatel that was 50- 60 years old. It had the experts fooled. Despite it’s age, it was light and grapey with lovely elderflower notes and marzipan fighting it out for dominance. Oscar had found it in his grandfather’s cellar and brought...

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Liquid dessert – Andresen 40 year old tawny port

After a huge Christmas feast you’d think I’d have no room for dessert and you’d be right. BUT I did have room for liquid dessert,  namely a glass or 3 of Andresen 40 year old Tawny port. Andresen is one of the few family owned port houses remaining. Andresen was originally founded in 1845 by the Dutchman JH Andresen and the house was run by his descendents until 1942 when they were forced to sell due to financial constraints. The Portuguese family of Albino Pereira dos Santos, well known port wine traders, took over the business and it’s been run by the same family since than. Currently, Carlos Flores dos Santos runs the company and the wines are made by a brother and sister wine making team. The grapes are harvested by hand, crushed by foot in the stone lagars and aged in the best oak barrels to deliver a premium wine. Tawny port, unlike LBV or vintage port,  is aged from 10 to 40 years in large wooden casks before being bottled and the age represents the average age of the tawny blend. Tawny is composed of  a blend of grapes, usually coming from different vintages but if it is designated Colheita Tawny, this signifies that all the grapes used are from a single vintage. After spending all that time in cask, the year that the tawny is bottled must be printed on either the front or back label. Tawny port gets it’s name from the colour and what a colour! Despite being 40 years old, the Andresen was a beautiful amber colour, reminiscent of light maple syrup. Maple syrup was also what I was getting on the nose, along with notes of marzipan and even clementines. A full, luscious wine with excellent balance between the sweet and the acidity. Again, notes of clementines on the palate, hazelnuts, turning into walnuts seguing into black coffee and a tantalizingly long finish. Even though I was as stuffed as the turkey had been, I managed...

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Quinta de la Rosa and their take on Portuguese rose

Note from the Winesleuth: I was looking thru my drafts folder,  found this post and realized it was never posted. Why? I don’t know but seeing as I’ m heading to Portugal next week for the European Winebloggers Conference in Lisbon and then the Douro Valley the following week, here is a short post and video featuring a rosé made from varietals usually reserved for port making. The tasting was sometime in Spring ’09 I was invited to the Wine Cellar at the Bluebird on the King’s Road in Chelsea the other night for a winetasting of the well known Portuguese producer Quinta de la Rosa. Portuguese wines get a lot of press in the UK marketplace but they are still in the process of becoming household wines in England. It used to be the custom at one time to present a pipe of port as a christening present. Sadly, that custom seems to have fallen into disuse but at one time it was what many a lucky infant received. Quinta de la Rosa was bought in 1906 as a christening present for Sophia Bergquist’s grandmother, Claire Feuerheerd, guess they didn’t think a pipe was enough. Feuerheerd was the family port company but was sold in the 1930’s. Claire kept La Rosa in the family and continued to run it for many years. In 1988, Sophia and her father Tim, decided to relaunch the ports and began producing top notch ports. In the early 90’s, they were one of the pioneers of still red wine production in the Douro Valley. The quinta is situated on the banks of the Douro valley in the Alto Douro not far from the town of Pinhão, with commanding views of the river. The Douro is best known for their ports but thanks to the efforts of producers like Sophia and her father, quality wines are now being produced and exported. The winemaker of Quinta is Jorge Moreira. He trained under Jerry Looper, a California winemaker, so he has many international...

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