Category Archives: Assorted

Sherry obsessed

With the house project underway and a busy time at work, I think I picked quite possibly the worst week for a holiday, but when the name of the destination in question literally translates as ‘sherry’, nothing was going to stop me from getting on a plane to Jerez last week!

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Stand aside all other tapas hotspots, this place really knows its stuff when it comes to food and, as Jerez is relatively unknown compared to neighbouring Malaga and Seville, you can enjoy a selection of amazing dishes sitting out under the stars without being within earshot of a family of burnt, rowdy Brits. On top of that, you’ll be hard pushed to spend more than 15 Euros per head in an evening spent hopping from one tapas bar to the next, imbibing along the way – which brings me to my next topic, sherry.

I honestly can’t get enough of the stuff – give me a chilled glass of savoury Fino made from the Palomino grape to sip alongside a plate of salty Iberico ham, or a syrupy Pedro Ximénez matched to an indulgent chocolate dessert – either way, I’ll be your friend for life. That said, it was no surprise to my nearest and dearest when I announced Jerez as my next holiday destination.

One third of the famous sherry triangle (completed by Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María) and home to tens of bodegas, here are my two top places to visit to sample the local speciality of Jerez.

Bodegas Gonzalez Byass

One of the biggest sherry houses in Jerez and home to the world’s best-selling Fino – Tio Pepe (named after the founder’s ‘Uncle Joe’) – this bodega is full of character despite its large size. With regular tours around the incredible cellars and a tasting thrown in at the end, this is the ideal place to learn about how this infamous white wine is produced. Bone dry and best served cold, Fino sherry is fantastic with all manner of nibbles from chorizo to salted almonds. Wander through the streets of Jerez and you’ll lose count of the number of locals sipping on Fino with their dinner. For a Spanish experience in London (weather permitting), enjoy a glass at Iberica alongside some tasty tapas. Or pick up a bottle of Tio Pepe from your local supermarket.

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Bodegas Tradición

Not only is Jerez famous for its Fino but it is also well known for producing mouth-wateringly intense aged sherries (and brandies) – from nutty Oloroso to rare Palo Cortado – which this house specialises in. Tucked away down a side street, you may be the only person shown around by the lovely Sabrina (who will also tell you where all the best tapas bars are) as you sample the exquisite sherries while viewing the family’s private art collection which includes works by Velásquez and Goya. Sherries from here will set you back a fair bit but if you’re tempted, they are currently stocked in Fortnum & Mason.

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If I haven’t yet convinced you to visit this beautiful town in the South of Spain (did I mention it was 36°c all week?), check this little lot out…

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Quick – while it’s hot!

Make the most of the sun today and head over to Ibérica La Terraza at Canary Wharf for a spot of Spanish tapas and a glass of wine or a cava cocktail. Located amongst the trees of Cabot Square it’s the ideal location to while away the hours!

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The terrace bar offers a limited edition menu but if you fancy something more substantial, cross the road to the main restaurant for a Spanish feast. To celebrate the upcoming Rioja Tapas Fantasticas festival (15th-16th June), for the next two weeks you can also enjoy a complimentary tapa when you order a glass of Rioja in a selection of Spanish restaurants. At Iberica, we enjoyed these mussels with cauliflower puree alongside a cold glass of Londoño Blanco.

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In true Spanish style why not go on a tapas trawl across London? Have a look here to find out where else you can enjoy a free dish alongside your Rioja.

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Cinnamon Kitchen tasting menu

On Friday night I was one of those annoying people taking pictures of my dinner. Now I’m going to be controversial here as I know many people have strong feelings on the subject of food photography but – here goes – so what? I paid for it, my iphone was discreet, and I didn’t use a flash. If you’re sitting there flashing a giant SLR with a six inch lens then that’s another story but… anyway, my opinions aside, here are the pictures of a delicious, well put together selection of dishes from Abdul Yaseen, Head Chef at Cinnamon Kitchen.

photo(5)Onion bhajis and pea purée – compliments of the chef

photo(2)Crisp lobster claw with cognac flambéed lobster broth

photo(6)Grilled duck breast with goan spices and fennel and passion fruit raita

photo(3)Coconut and pineapple sorbet

photo(7)Seared black bream with kokum berries, sprouted brocolli and quinoa salad

photo(8)Rajasthani roast saddle of red deer, pickling sauce and chilli potato wedges

photo(9)Warm chocolate mousse with cinnamon ice cream

On this occasion, wine wasn’t the focus of the evening but if you really want to splash out, try the tasting menu with wine pairings. It will set you back an extra £35 per head (£95pp instead of £60pp) but with the Cinnamon Club’s incredible wine list, I doubt you’ll be disappointed!

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Winning with the Humble Grape

Happy Friday everyone! I don’t know about you but I have had a long week and am looking forward to settling down with a good book and a glass of wine. Before I do that, I just wanted to update you on what I’ve been drinking this week…

Last night I attended one of the Humble Grape’s monthly wine tastings. I came across this independent merchant and tasting event group only recently and, run by laid-back pair James and Cameron, they are well worth a visit if you fancy discovering something a little different from the wine you usually pick up with your weekly shop!

This month’s theme was German wine and against a backdrop of stunning London views from Broken Wharf House, a small group of us were treated to some delicious wines, a relaxed atmosphere, and various tasty morsels.

I was impressed by all six of the wines on show, two of which – Dr. Loosen Red Slate Riesling 2009 and Fürst Tradition Spätburgunder 2010 – I had tried before, but the others were from a wine producer called Von Winning from the Pfalz region of Germany. These wines are new to the UK market and below I’ve provided brief tastings notes should you wish to give them a try…

Humble Grape

Von Winning Weissburgunder 2011, £15
This aromatic Pinot Blanc is rounded and nutty with flavours of ripe pear – a perfect match to creamy pasta and chicken dishes.

Von Winning Riesling 2011 – £11.67
A juicy entry level Riesling with notes of apricot and lemon juice. Try with lightly spiced Thai food or a plate of jamón.

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Von Winning Forster Ungeheuer Riesling 2011 – £20
Riper than the previous Riesling with a spicy edge this wine can stand up to more powerful flavours in food. Think jerk chicken and luscious Caribbean flavours.

Von Winning Pinot Noir 2010 – £33.33
My favourite from the evening, this German Pinot Noir is a brilliant example of its type. With a complex nose and rich red fruit flavours on the palate this red is vibrant and fruity now (try alongside a juicy lamb burger) but will develop well in the cellar for 10 or 20 years to come.

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*Don’t forget to check out my new ‘find me a drink’ page for wine recommendations for all occasions*

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Drink Me! How to choose, taste and enjoy wine by Matt Walls

If you’re looking to learn about wine; whether it’s to impress the in-laws, or simply to ensure you make the right choice when deciding what to drink with dinner, Matt Walls’ book is ideal.

Split into two parts, the first section looks at the basics of buying, tasting and drinking wine. Matt talks you through how wine is made and aged, how to taste wine, some common wine descriptors (along with some useful, if a bit risky, blagging advice – Now say one of the following: If it’s from the New World: ‘Clearly New World; lovely, vibrant fruit’. If it’s a red: ‘Interesting tannins’. ‘If it’s a white: ‘Good minerality’…), which faults to look out for when tasting wine, how to match wine styles to different foods, how to navigate a restaurant wine list, and my personal favourite – how to open a wine bottle in an emergency (having used the ‘poke-it-in’ method on a bottle of Rioja not too long ago). In this section, Matt also offers some advice on what to look out for when buying wine. With various tips and recommendations on ‘safe bets’ to pick up at the local shop or supermarket (as well as the benefits of buying from an independent wine merchant), this chapter caters for all eventualities, such as friends coming round for lunch when the wine rack is somewhat depleted (this also happened to me not too long ago).

The second section covers the world’s most common wines in an accessible and fun way, looking at everything from Bourgogne Pinot Noir to Hungarian Tokáji. The layout of the whole book removes it from feeling like a textbook, and Matt’s light-hearted and unpretentious approach (at one point comparing the grape varieties of Alsace to breeds of dog!) make it a pleasure, rather than a chore, to read.

At the very end of the book, Matt includes an appendix on English wineries (having paid Ridgeview in East Sussex a visit on Friday, I can personally recommend casting an eye over this section), and a brief list of UK independent wine merchants worth popping into.

While you are more than welcome to read it from cover to cover, this book would be perfect sitting on the shelf as a reference for when you want to know what that Clare Valley Riesling is going to taste like, or how to store and serve tawny Port.

Part of the New Voices in Food Series, Drink Me! How to choose, taste and enjoy wine is due out on 24th May and you can pre-order it now from Amazon for just £6.62!

You can also see Matt talking about the book here.

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Christmas cocktails at Dirty Martini

It’s the 1st of December tomorrow and I am now annoyingly excited for Christmas. I have already munched my way through too many mince pies and I cannot wait to open the first door of my advent calendar in the morning!

In keeping with the festive theme, this month I’ll be letting you know all about what to drink to get yourself into the ‘spirit’ of Christmas (pardon the pun), anything from soft drinks to enjoy if you’re the designated driver, to tried-and-tested wine and turkey recommendations.

Just a stone’s throw away from my work, in the centre of Covent Garden, the mixologists at Dirty Martini have created some decadent cocktails to kickstart the countdown to Christmas.

Here are some of the creations Luke and I had the pleasure of sampling last night, all of which will be available at the Covent Garden branch from Friday.

Unfortunately, since Luke isn’t usually a fan of the sweet/ alcohol combination, I had to help him finish his!

Trifle Martini
Absolut Raspberry Vodka, Baileys, Chambord

Gingerbread Martini
Buffalo Trace, Butterscotch Schnapps, Stone’s Original Ginger Wine, pressed apple juice

Black Forest Martini
Absolut Vodka, Chambord, Crème de Fraise, cream

Candy Cane Martini
Absolut Vanilla, Peppermint Schnapps, club soda, candy cane garnish

Snowball Martini
Bacardi white rum, Butterscotch Schnapps, Amaretto, Kalua, Baileys

Of the five above, my favourite was the gingerbread martini – warming ginger with cinnamon and apple slices to garnish, it went down a treat. The candy cane martini was minty and crisp, and without the cream-based liqueurs, a little lighter on the waistline! I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t get a candy cane, but the substitute (a stick of dark chocolate) worked well alongside the peppermint, and the waitress assured me that by Friday they will have all the necessary ingredients. Luke enjoyed the trifle martini, comparing it to raspberry ice cream, and the snowball martini was truly indulgent – rich and creamy, this would be perfect as an after dinner alternative to dessert. We didn’t try the black forest martini so you’ll have to let me know what that one is like.


(candy cane and gingerbread martinis)

    (snowball and trifle martinis)

    These Christmas cocktails will be available at the Covent Garden branch of Dirty Martini from Friday – head down after work between 5pm and 8pm to make the most of Happy Hour!

    Make sure you don’t miss the giant reindeer on the way…

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Comfort food!

As a get well soon present, knowing how much I love good food and drink, my mum bought me a copy of Olly Smith’s ‘Eat and Drink: Good Food That’s Great to Drink’. Packed full of delicious recipes, organised not by course but by flavour, this book is now my go- to guide when I fancy trying something new. Not only does it contain easy to follow recipes and tips of what drinks to pair different flavours with, it will also make you giggle at times!

At the weekend, in need of some comfort food, we had a fish and chip takeaway (naughty!) followed by a home made rice pudding (recipe below), accompanied by Olly’s own hot chocolate sauce; a delightful combination of butter, cocoa powder, golden syrup and milk. It was so tasty; I vowed to try out some more of Olly’s recipes the next day (by which point, I was hoping I’d be well enough to have a glass or two of wine alongside my meal!)…

Rice Pudding- serves 4

Ingredients
100g Arborio rice
50g caster sugar
600ml semi- skimmed milk
100ml double cream
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
½ vanilla pod

1. Heat oven to 140˚ (120˚c for a fan oven)
2. Wash and drain the rice
3. Tip the rice and sugar into a deep baking dish
4. Stir through the milk and cream
5. Sprinkle the nutmeg over the top and scrape out the vanilla from the pod
6. If, like me, you like your rice pudding nice and brown on the top (with a skin- yum!), cook it for 2½ hours or until the pudding wobbles ever so slightly when shaken.

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