Negozio Classica, boutique Italian wine (and food)

May 15, 13 Negozio Classica, boutique Italian wine (and food)

Posted by in All, Food and Wine, Italy, restaurants, wine bars

Walking along Regent’s Park Road near Chalk Farm, with it’s myriad of cute little shops, there sits a charming Italian enoteca, Negozio Classica. A North London outpost of it’s Notting Hill namesake, Negozio is owned by the Italian winery Avignonesi and specializes in not only importing their wines but also wines from other boutique producers. As a matter of fact, they boast a wine list from which fully 60% of all the wines are only available by them here in the UK. I was invited by Negozio to not only try the wines but also the food to go along with it. Entering the place, the walls are lined with bottles, all of which you are offered at retail prices to take home. For a corkage fee of £8.50, you also have the option of having the wine there at one of the tables near the windows or at the short bar that leads into small back dining room in the back of the restaurant. There is also a larger dining room upstairs. The restaurant specializes in Italian cuisine, naturally, with a selection of Italian bistro fair (antipasti, salads, meats) as well as traditional Tuscan pasta specialities. The evening I went,  I had a few dishes paired with the house wines. As they have Enomatic machines, the wines are always fresh and always available. A starter of mozzarella, avocado, tomato salad was deliciously fresh- the tomatoes juicy and tasty and the  mozzarella, creamy with just the right denseness to it. And, the avocado was perfectly ripe! Often times, I find when I order this salad the avocado is disappointingly hard and watery. A peachy, fleshy, fruity vermentino (2012) produced by Fattoria Sardi (Toscana) was a good choice for this light salad. One of my favourite dishes was the smoked swordfish carpaccio – intensely smoky, delicately fishy (in a good way) paired with an Etna Rosso, the Masseria Ceteporte 2010, was 100% Nerello Mascalese and reflected its volcanic roots with a smoke tinged, red cherry...

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Steingarten riesling and Jacob’s Creek Visitor’s Centre

Mar 14, 13 Steingarten riesling and Jacob’s Creek Visitor’s Centre

Posted by in Australia, Travel

Laying by the pool at the Novotel Hotel in Barossa Valley, the last thing I wanted to do was leave, especially considering this was my last chance to get some sun before returning to grey England but I had an appointment with  Jacob’s Creek and so I reluctantly left the pool, headed for the Steingarten riesling vineyard. However, once I met up with James Keane from Jacob’s Creek and we were standing on top of the Hill of Grace, I was glad I had abandoned the pool. We were standing on a hill overlooking the vines of Steingarten, a legendary riesling vineyard of the Barossa Valley. Colin Gramp originally dynamited the hills to plant the vines in the rocky soil and planted roughly 1000 vines on side of the windy hilltop. Jacob’s Creek still uses grapes from this plot to make the Steingarten although they do source grapes from the Eden Valley, which the vines face, in the distance. Steely, pure and intense, James and I had a glass of the Steingarten riesling before toasting the vines with the leftovers in our glass. Afterwards we did a brief tour of some of the other vineyards of Jacob’s Creek before lunch. After that we headed over to the new visitor’s centre recently opened by Jacob’s Creek. Now I know Jacob’s Creek has a bit of a reputation in the UK as being a cheap supermarket wine but the Australians keep all the good stuff for themselves. I have to admit I had certain prejudices regarding Jacob’s Creek’s wines but over there they have lots of interesting wines available. We sat down to lunch and I had a choice of 3, what James called, ‘new varieties’ of Australia, fiano, vermentino and arneis. Jacob’s Creek likes to experiment and these 3 are part of ‘cellar door only’ wines available to the public. The other ‘new varieties’ included montepulciano, tannat, negroamaro, mataro (mouvedre, not really a ‘new variety’ so to speak as it’s been grown in the Barossa...

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Aveqia – Swedish cooking classes

Jan 28, 13 Aveqia – Swedish cooking classes

Posted by in Food and Wine

I seem to be going to cooking classes a lot lately. I don’t know if that’s because I need lessons or not but they are a lot of fun. Swedish cooking seems to be on a lot of radars these days and having recently visited Malmo, Sweden myself recently, I was very much looking forward to cooking at Aveqia. They call themselves a “new restaurant concept”. So, if you want to do more than just sit there and wait for your food, this is certainly for you. All kidding aside, it really is a great evening out. We started off with glasses of sparkling wine, so it can’t be that arduous. The venue of Aveqia is, while not exactly hidden, there is no outside signage to let you know you’ve arrived – only a red velvet rope. Hmmm, maybe that does mean you’ve arrived… They primarily focus on cooking classes as a corporate activity but Saturday nights are turned over to private parties. The evening I attended, there were mixed groups of people, from singles to groups of 3 to 4 friends. After welcome drinks, we were ushered into the dining area/kitchen space and given a tour and health and safety brief by the 3 chefs who would be supervising our cooking experience. Aveqia has been running in Sweden for the past 3 years and has proven very successful, with 2 sites in Sweden and now their third site here in London, in Farringdon. It was founded by entrepreneur Johan Kadar and Chef David Berggren, who has experience in both Michelin starred restaurants and 5 star hotels. Our chefs for the evening,Peter Hencz, Celine Fauvelle and Daniel Johanssen (you can read up on the chef bios here) all have been based in the flagship restaurant in Stockholm but have now relocated to work here in London. We paired off in groups, my friend Jeanne had come along with me, and we volunteered to make the starter of foie gras with winter apples, brioche and almond...

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Four Seasons Koh Samui, a luxury tropical hideaway

What better time to talk about beach vacations then now,when we’re battling the snow and ice of a January in London. Last month I went off to Thailand to escape the snow but looks like I came back a bit too early. I do, however, have some great memories from my trip, one of the highlights being a stay at The Four Seasons Koh Samui. Although the island may be known as a party place, the Four Seasons there is tucked away on a private hillside which is only accessible by  a long and winding path up a hill. Once you reach the top of the hill and after a quick check in, a golf cart is summoned to take you to your very own villa. While you’re a guest of the Four Seasons all transport around the hills is by deluxe golf carts. You just call reception and they send a golf cart to chauffeur you to the beach, the restaurant or the spa. The Four Seasons Koh Samui only has private villas which are scattered on the hillside, each with their own private infinity pool and views of the Gulf.  The back of the villa doesn’t have proper walls, only glass walls and sliding glass doors. There are also private residence rentals which are great for families. The villas are big, a good portion taken up by a veranda with a double lounging bed, dining table and of course, a deck which is part of the infinity pool. The cool sound of running water, courtesy of the pool fountain made for a very relaxing stay. The bedroom was huge with big comfy beds and mosquito nets. Those buggers were buzzing about but the mozzie nets worked really well. As did the air conditioning, although at night it cooled down with balmy breezes blowing across the veranda. While we were there, we were treated to a spa treatment in the hotel spa. It’s set in a coconut grove with 5 salas which are covered...

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Sherry at La Tasca

Dec 10, 12 Sherry at La Tasca

Posted by in restaurants, Spain

It’s that time of year when Gran brings out the sherry. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. I was invited to La Tasca recently in Covent Garden to taste their sherry matching menu. I’m a big fan of sherry and food matching already but I wanted to see what they had put together. Manuel, our waiter, hails from Jerez, the home of sherry, and he explained that he would be guiding us through the basics of sherry. I think it’s great that La Tasca has staff who have sherry knowledge and are able to communicate this to the average consumer. Briefly, sherry is a fortified wine made from palomino and aged in the solera system. Manuel brought out 5 different sherries for us to sample. Tio Pepe Fino Muy Seco, La Gitana Manzanilla, Pedro Ximenez Triana, Oloroso Faraon and Amontillado Napoleon.  Manuel explained the different styles of sherry from the dry Fino muy seco to the very sweet and unctuous Pedro Ximenez. After that brief introduction, the food started arriving. Manuel recommended the classic pairing of jamon and almonds to pair with the Fino, the dry sherry being very refreshing with a salty note to it. I love this pairing. Amontillado was next, paired with cheese, olives and prawns. This sherry was slightly sweeter but still dry with a slightly caramel note to it. Sherry has great acidity which makes it an excellent wine to have with food. The next sherry was the Oloroso and this one is probably my favourite, savoury and salty but with a sweet, caramel nose. Delicious with trad tapas and cheeses, a medium bodied wine, it’s a great all rounder. We finished off with Pedro Ximenez which is a very sweet sherry made from it’s eponymous grape which is dried in the  hot Spanish sun before being made into wine. Manuel recommended that we pour the sherry over vanilla ice cream which we did. PX is full of raisins, prunes and dates on the palate and incredibly...

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