Category Archives: Assorted

Tapas Fantasticas!

Apologies for the lack of blog posts this week; it has been a hectic one! Exams finished on the 25th (yay!), I enjoyed the long bank holiday weekend and then straight into work I went…

While an early morning start (well, pre- 7am!), lots of walking and a packed tube provide one huge culture shock, my first week at Phipps PR, a food and drink PR company whose clients include the likes of Wines from Rioja, Wines of Germany, Cono Sur and Sainsbury’s (amongst many more), where I hear the words ‘Rioja’, ‘wine’ and ‘tapas’ at least 4 times per hour, has been great!

Amongst the perks, my favourite so far has been learning about how much variety actually comes with the label ‘Rioja’. Many people (me included up until a year or so ago) associate the word with Spanish red wine, assuming it’s a grape variety or a winery, but did you know it is actually a region in Spain? Located in the north, this large expanse produces a whole variety of red, white and rosé wines, all of which have passed a number of tests to gain the Denominación de Origen Calificada status.

Fancy trying some for yourself? At the end of this month, London sees Spanish food and wine festival Tapas Fantasticas return for the 4th year running. In the shadow of Tower Bridge, Potters Fields Park will be buzzing with Spanish music and entertainment, wine workshops, cookery demonstrations and of course the opportunity for you to try many different delicious tapas dishes from some of London’s best Spanish restaurants, as well as wines from 33 different Rioja wineries.

Head over to the website for more information and to pre- book wine workshops and walks hosted by Olly Smith and Susy Atkins…

See you there!

In the mean time, I’m off to sample some more Rioja- it’s a hard life!

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An Alternative use for the Wine Glass

With some leftover Madeira sponge cake, Greek yoghurt and soft fruit in the kitchen, I decided to make these individual trifles. Served in wine glasses, I think they look rather fancy!

Why not try your own variation on a traditional trifle? Plus it’s lower in calories without all the custard and cream (see previous post on a sherry trifle)

Ingredients (makes 3)
½ Madeira sponge cake (almost any cake will work! I’ve used Panettone before)
3 tbsp liqueur such as Grand Marnier, sherry, or Baileys (your choice)
120g soft fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries
6tbsp Greek (or natural yoghurt)
1 tsp hot chocolate powder for decorating

1. Place 1cm thick cake slices in the base of each wine glass
2. Drizzle over 1tbsp of liqueur in each
3. Layer 40g soft fruit on top
4. Pour 2tbsp yoghurt in each glass
5. Decorate with a scattering of hot chocolate powder

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Chez Gerard, Southbank

After a delicious meal at the Bloomsbury on Thursday, Saturday night brought with it further indulgences…

My boyfriend Luke and I began our evening celebrating another close friend’s 21st birthday at the Goat pub in Clapham Junction, and then went on to French restaurant, Chez Gerard, as a treat for our 4th anniversary.

From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, the staff were incredibly accommodating; making various food and drink recommendations to us. Taking the waitress’ advice, I went for two of my favourite French dishes; soupe à l’oignon to start followed by boeuf bourguignon, while Luke chose the camembert (he can never resist a baked cheese) and the magret de canard.

I tasked Luke with selecting a red wine to accompany our food and he opted for a bottle of Côtes du Rhône from the Château Saint-Roman estate in South West France. Described on the menu as ‘a rich, generous wine with a distinctive peppery finish’, at £26 a bottle, this was by no means the cheapest on the menu, but as it was our anniversary we pushed the boat out a bit (plus Luke was paying!) We both found this wine elegant and well rounded with subtle nutty hazelnut flavours and, as described, a peppery finish. It complemented both of our meals very well…

Luke informed me that his camembert served with crusty French bread was creamy and delicious, and his pan-fried breast of duck served with celeriac mash was cooked to perfection. My French onion soup, served with gruyère croutons was perfectly seasoned and delicious, the onions soft and full of flavour. The braised beef came served in an elegant little saucepan which was aesthetically pleasing but also a bit of a hazard considering it was searing hot (and I have an unfortunate clumsy tendency to burn my hands!) Health and safety aside, the beef itself was succulent and exquisite, slow cooked in Syrah red wine with onions, button mushrooms, smoked lardons and Chantenay carrots and served with buttery pommes purée (‘mashed potato’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?)

While Luke had room for dessert- a rich white chocolate mousse served with raspberry coulis (mousse au chocolat blanc)- I couldn’t eat another morsel, preferring instead to nurse my delicious glass of wine.

This particular restaurant, while not as atmospheric as the Bloomsbury, delivered a menu demonstrative of how great French food and wine can be. With 10 restaurants in and around London, Chez Gerard is well worth a visit.

If anyone wants me, I’ll be in the gym.

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Bloomsbury Street Bar and Restaurant

After handing in my dissertation (finally!) on Thursday, I had a brilliant weekend, consisting of two lovely restaurant visits, celebratory drinks and family birthdays…

The first of the two restaurants was the Bloomsbury Street Bar and Restaurant at the Radisson hotel near Covent Garden. I joined my friend Ella and her family for her 21st celebrations at this atmospheric, stylish restaurant on Thursday. We began the evening with a delicious Cosmopolitan each; pale pink and refreshing, it was one of the nicest Cosmos I’ve tasted, although at just under £10 per cocktail, one was sufficient!

When seated at our table we perused the food menu while Ella’s dad chose a red wine to go with our food. I opted for the warm salad of Jerusalem artichoke, parsnip, celeriac and hazelnuts with elderflower dressing and Berkswell shavings to start, followed by the roast rump of lamb with courgettes, artichokes and thyme with slow roast tomatoes. The starter was light and delicious with a tart elderflower dressing, which worked well alongside the mild root vegetable flavours, and the lamb was quite simply divine; it fell apart in the mouth and was complemented perfectly by the smooth mash potato and the artichoke rosti.

Amongst the other mouth- watering dishes on the menu, devoured by the other members of our party, were starters of roast home- salted cod with cauliflower puree and vanilla oil, and tempura of squid with wasabi mayonnaise. Other mains consisted of fillet of sea bass pan fried on a puree of celeriac with mussels, clams, parsley and garlic sauce, and chargrilled rib eye steak from Dillon’s Farm in County Londonderry, with pink pepper corn sauce and chips.

Ella’s family, like me, are lovers of Spanish cuisine and wine, so alongside our food we enjoyed a medium bodied, fruity bottle of Don Jacobo, Rioja Crianza Bodegas Corral, 2004-05 which went excellently with the lamb!

While portions sizes did appear quite small, by the end of the meal we were all pretty stuffed and couldn’t even manage a glance at the dessert menu. We decided instead to go back home for some birthday cake, champagne and present opening.

The prices topped off this delicious meal; while on the higher end of the dining out scale with starters averaging £9 and mains £18, Toptable are offering 50% off food at the moment, so it’s well worth getting in on this deal while you can!

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Online Shopping

Lugging bottles of wine home from the supermarket is a practice that is fast wearing thin on me, especially since the plastic bags are so flimsy (and I’m fed up of receiving tutting noises from the cashier when I take more than one- I re-use them!), so this week I’ve decided to resort to mass purchasing online to save time, money and my biceps!

This month I’m stocking up the wine cellar (well, the rack under the stairs) with a couple of cases from Tesco Wine by the Case since I’ve got a few quids worth of club card points to use up. As I didn’t have much time to browse, I chose two mixed cases:

The White World Tour Mixed Case and The Super Spring Reds Mixed Case.

At a combined cost of £55 for 12 bottles, along with free next day delivery and club card savings, this turned out to be a bargain online spending sesh.

Next month (well, once my mother, my boyfriend and I have worked our way through this batch), I plan on looking into Slurp’s online offers, especially since they have an Express service which allows you to purchase just one or two bottles, for next day delivery. That’s the only downside of Tesco’s service; they have a minimum order of 12 bottles of wine (or 6 bottles of champagne); not ideal if you’re lacking in storage space.

Keep an eye out over the next few weeks when I’ll be reviewing these bottles and attempting to find the perfect food match!

Happy drinking…

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Wine passion

First things first- I’d like to get a few things straight… I’m not a wine expert, I’m not a wine snob, and I truly believe that if you enjoy a glass of wine that is not considered ‘fine’ or ‘fashionable’, then good for you!

Having developed a passion for wine over the last few years, my tastes have changed with the weather, my moods, and my ‘changing palette’ as my mother would say. I’ve had my favourites ridiculed and I’ve been told that my palette is ‘immature’ when enjoying a nice glass of sweet, icy cold rosé on a hot summer’s day.

It was not until I was introduced to the beauty of southern Spain and the wonders of Mediterranean cuisine that I developed a taste for red wine, and only then was I accepted amongst the wine connoisseurs in my family for having a more refined ability to discriminate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ wine. What makes me wonder now though is why there is such a stuffy attitude to wine. Why can’t it be something we all enjoy matched with a particular dish, when socialising with friends or to help us wind down after a long day?

What I want to do is make wine accessible and enjoyable for all. This blog will follow my journey in exploring various wines from various regions of various countries, in all the different colours- red, white and rosé! It will document ones I have enjoyed, ones I was not so keen on, ones to watch out for, and there may be the odd food recipe in there for inspiration.

I feel at this point I must include a disclaimer for all the wine connoisseurs out there- I am new to the art of wine tasting and, as a student, am not privy to the higher end of the wine market. I will, no doubt, embarrass myself along the way, whether it is due to my poor use of technical terms or appalling geographical knowledge. If  you are willing to join me, make some mistakes with me and hopefully learn a few things along the way, then I hope you enjoy this blog.

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