Ah, how I longingly think back to last weekend. Two bright, sunny days, both spent outside at different lunches and barbecues with an overflow of delicious food and drink, encouraging hours of lounging, chatting, eating, sipping and laughing. The pictures include endless bottles of chilled white Burgundy and Muscadet poured by an ex-wine merchant friend while we lounged in his garden and ate some of the best slow-roast pork I have ever had, and a rose spritzer chosen in anticipation of it being the first of many glasses on a Sunday afternoon. And a Le Creuset teapot because why would I EVER need a reason to post a picture of a Le Creuset teapot.
How very, very, very long this week has seemed since given a lot of work, a frankly ludicrous amount of property/finance-based admin and, in the face of all of this, a decision to have four days off the booze. Hence the peppermint tea, which is literally what I drank last night (pic nicked shamelessly from the brilliantly-url-ed http://www.pepperminttea.org/ )
It was clearly the sensible route, and equally this week would have seemed harder with even a hint of a hangover, but never has a drink been more eagerly anticipated, which is quite the most enticing feeling on a Friday afternoon. Top of the hit-list at present is a pint of a fruity, hoppy IPA or similar (chances are something by Meantime) at the Propstore bar outside the National Theatre. Or, if the sunny evening has packed out the Southbank to uncomfortable proportions, perhaps a Negroni or Manhattan on the roof terrace. Either way, it will taste extra delicious, and will no doubt spur me on to another week of drinking significantly less, and getting significantly more done as a result.
A bottle of Fuenteseca Macabeo/Sauvignon at Morito over lunch with a couple of pals for my friend Tessa’s birthday.
An example of why it’s not always a dreadful idea to order the second bottle on the list – this was perfect for 3 of us wanting to share a bottle of something zingy on a bakingly hot day. It was 2011 and under stelvin, hooray, which meant it was clean and fresh, and perfectly washed down an incredible spread of tapas.
I genuinely can’t fault the food, the wine or the bill at Morito, I’ve been a couple of times and had an equally exciting, colourful and punchy selection of dishes both times. The only thing I can’t stand is the seating. Am I just getting increasingly arthritic and stiff, or just prematurely middle-aged in my hatred of uncomfortable low wooden stools?
It was just a weekday lunch hence the ‘one-bottle-between-three’ policy, but I’m now chomping at the bit to go back (with a cushion) in the evening and explore more of the wine list. Although short, it’s full of some really great Spanish varietals and regions, from the favourites to the obscure, and because of the tapas menu, it feels right to try a few different glasses and styles. Anywhere that does a Bobal by the glass has to be a winner. And one of their superb sherries would be the ultimate start to the evening. Next time.
These were some delicious, refreshing cold beers, all the more satisfying due to the fact that we were toasting the successful contract signing on our new flat rental. We sat outside at a neighbourhood greek restaurant, just around the corner from our imminent future home, on one of the first glorious evenings of the amazing recent sunny spell, and felt more like we were somewhere in the Med than South London.
So, it was the question on everybody’s lips from that very moment, seven long years ago, when it was announced that London had succeeded in their bid to host the Olympic Games in 2012.
What would people be drinking?
Actually, back in 2005, I didn’t really give a monkeys. I was a freelance theatre producer/arts admin, working for an orchestra and singing jazz part-time. I was more concerned about whether I’d be involved in getting to produce or perform in any of the associated arts fest/cultural Olympiad-type activities which would no doubt run alongside the Olympics (off-topic: did this actually happen?), little knowing that my career was imminently to swerve headlong into the world of booze.
Anyway, swerve it did, and thus there I was, at the Olympic basketball semi-finals between Russia and Spain, wondering about the residual sugar on the 2012 South African Chenin Blanc in the small plastic bottle on my lap.
It really wasn’t bad, particularly for something which I was drinking out of a small plastic goblet. I did actually, in an uncharacteristic display of wine geekery and attention to detail, take some tasting notes on my phone, which read as follows:
London 2012 Fairtrade Chenin Blanc, South Africa (made by Stellenrust in Stellenbosch): Would prob say bit of viognier if didn’t know it was 100% chenin. Resid sugar well balanced, alcohol a little hot on finish but some good citrus and honey notes with bit of length, mid-palate bit synthetic
All in all, I think they did a pretty good job, certainly better than some of the more mass-market wines I’ve had from pubs or supermarkets – and after all, that’s exactly what this wine should have been, something that a large number of people with a large number of different tastes could enjoy given the wide distribution throughout the games and the limitations of scale and logistics. As previous post, I think the Olympic supply for food and beer was hugely disappointing, but for a decent value, fairtrade wine from the 2012 vintage, I think the Olympics F&B department and Bibendum should be pretty pleased with themselves.
I’m heading back to the Paralympics for Athletics and Wheelchair Basketball, with every intention of trying the Rosé and Red, respectively.
This was an outdoor roast dinner that I cooked for my family when we all got together down by the coast in Shoreham-on-Sea. It was gorgeously hot, to the extent of having a little sunbathe in the afternoon (albeit followed by several very blustery walks over the next couple of days) so it somehow seemed like a completely normal idea for us all to drink lager shandies, as pictured. Like Sangria or Pastis, there are some drinks which make absolutely no sense whatsoever when you’re not sitting in the sun by the sea.
This is to demonstrate my view for much of the last couple of weeks - a drink in front of late night Olympic catch-up. The London 2012 Olympics are, unexpectedly and completely, rocking. We’re off to see some Olympic basketball on Friday where I will make an effort to try the Great British Olympically-sourced Argentinian and South African wines, and the Dutch beer choice of Heineken. The non-Britishness of the beer irritates me far more than the wine, given that it is still pretty hard to get decent wine from the UK at a moderate price, whereas there is so much incredible, brilliant, good value, individual, tasty British beer, it’s pretty disgusting that they clearly went for someone like Heineken simply for the amount of money that they no doubt ploughed in in return for the supply.
I absolutely love geeks. I love all those with a claim to geekery. To me, geekery is an unashamed obsession with something, and a love of all the details thereof.
A fair bit of this comes from envy – I am useless with detail, or at least I am useless with useful detail. I have literally no memory for facts or figures, which is bloody annoying both professionally and personally – part of the reason why I started this blog was because I could never remember the producers, wines or vintages which I’d drunk, so I started taking pictures instead.
Consequently, I make a really bad geek and am in awe of those around me who display an amazing commitment to the details of their passions, whether that’s music, drama, fashion or wine.
I was pondering geekery after I went to the first meeting of a Home Brew Club based at the superb Craft Beer Co in Clerkenwell, on a recent sunny Sunday. The pub is just ace, vast selection of lagers, ales, bitters, stouts, pilsners, IPAs, on tap as well as in bottle, and a very relaxed atmosphere which seemed to cater equally for locals having a quiet pint as it did the beer enthusiasts who’d sought it out on a small side-street just near Chancery Lane tube.
I wasn’t there as a brewer, more a fascinated observer and possible brewing assistant to my friend Howard (particularly as he may, very excitingly, brew something for my upcoming nuptials) who is already well versed in the arts of yeast, hops and fermentation. For around 3 hours, the small group of home brewers sat around and totally geeked out over their different experiences, sharing advice, tasting each others beers they’d brought in and sampling offerings from the bar.
They were all so knowledgeable about the nuances of brewing, knowing the process inside out and having all manner of differing opinions on best practice and how to get beer to taste the way you want it to. And that was before we’d even really started tasting properly and talking about mouthfeel, texture, length, sweetness, acidity, fruit flavours and food-matching of the different beers.
I was carried away by the sheer enthusiasm of these guys (as well as by a few delicious pints) and much like with wine, it was great to see people being fascinated and espousing specialist knowledge without making it inaccessible. This was geekery at its very best.
A glass of rose at my parents house yesterday evening. Just across the valley from Bath, they have the perfect terrace for sitting, drinking and gazing out over an English summer (finally) evening.
Single-handedly holding up Liberty’s current listings in my customers, my dad still had a couple of bottles of the 2010 Allegrini Naiano Rose that we sell to Majestic. There are both familial and professional reasons why I wanted this to still be good and, luckily, it was really holding up - some nice berry fruit and a decent juicy finish.
It was one of the nicest starts to an evening I’ve had this summer - went for a walk with my lovely fiance, a short jog down the sunlit valley, then this post-shower aperitif with fiance, view and weekend papers. Gorgeous.
The passport was back out at the crack of dawn on Monday morning for a trip to Champagne to visit Liberty’s newest sparkling addition to the portfolio, Charles Heidsieck. Definitely too remarkable for a quick catch-up post, but special mention for the tasting above. We were lucky enough to taste a huge variety of the still wines, made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, from the different villages which go into the final blend of the non-vintage Charles. They were all incredibly subtle and nuanced but Thierry, the chef winemaker, explained them all so vividly and creatively that all of these crisp, pale, still wines were brought to life for us in the tasting room. It still astonishes me how he has the skill to see not only how these parcels of juice will combine to their best effect, but then how they will taste after another complete fermentation in bottle. Remarkable is how they taste at the end of it all and, given Liberty’s excitement to be involved in the supply of Charles within the UK, I would imagine I’ll be writing much more about these wines at a future date. Back home again late last night to a cold beer and a fiance-cooked meal that didn’t involve pasta, pastry, or 5 courses. Ungrateful as it sounds given some wonderful opportunities when I travel with work, sometimes that’s the best thing in the world.
Pints and foot-long pork scratchings at the Draft House by Tower Bridge. We were doing some relatively futile flat hunting around there and, just for a second, regretting that we don’t have the kinds of jobs which would pay us enough to be able to live in more than a one-room, one-person flat with no windows in the kitchen, in ANY of the areas we really like. And then we went inside the Draft House which, with its absurdly varied beer selection, amazing bar snacks and vivid green leather banquettes ( specific, I know, but genuinely my current obsession) is just about the most perfect pub ever.
I have never, ever wished for any kind of fairy tale narrative, but if some kind of mystical figure could appear in the next month or so and offer us an affordable 2-bed flat with a tiny bit outside space somewhere near this pub, that would be great. Thanks.
And then onto the Experimental Cocktail Club. There’s a story of how we got in which I probably shouldn’t repeat here, safe to say it involved getting turned away and told it was absolutely fully booked, only then to be assured a table at 7.30 after an email sent from a strategic address (not mine).
So, it had pretty much set itself up as the kind of place I wouldn’t like, hence my utter lack of surprise when I was thoroughly underwhelmed. It’s like being in someone’s living room where everyone’s dressed up a bit too much and is simultaneously looking round to see where all the cool people are, whilst pretending to be too hip to care.
Having said that, my cocktail (and only mine, the lovely fiancés was a bit average) was outstanding - an impressively savoury elderflower and cucumber combination, mainlining refreshment with a spicy finish, and the most deliciously-textured egg white creamy suspension floating on top. Really quite extraordinary. I don’t much like cocktails that have been dicked about with, but I’d happily deviate from the classics for this.
Getting back from Italy last thing on Friday night and the anticipation of leaving first thing on Monday for France called for some short, sharp refreshment on Saturday. Heading for Soho and negotiating the bookings-only policies and full dinner requirements of anywhere seemingly decent on a Saturday night, we landed first at Bodega Negra for a margarita. I’m not overly keen to try the downstairs restaurant given its ‘celeb’ focus, but I’ve had a great time at the upstairs bar; I think the food is well balanced, punchy, zingy and all those other cliched adjectives used to describe Mexican food. We just shared some pork tacos for some stomach lining this time but I relished every mouthful, as with the margarita.