Friday, 30 March 2012

Look what happens when you study too much....

I am just over a very busy three months period of my life....Christmas time, some very important tastings at work and finally the second exam of my diploma course: fortified wines.

I struggled from the beginning. I missed a couple of classes and was feeling really not confident at all as I am not (oh well, I should now say I was not) a big fortified wines drinker. Especially I (used to) hate sherry.
So I tried hard, went to a couple of Spanish places (charming little places that I would definitely suggest if you like Spanish food - Jose' and Pizarro), attended a Decanter Great Spanish Fine Wine Encounter...and did my best to taste as many sherries as I could.

Finally I spent a couple of days of full immersion into the geography, soil, viticulture, vinification and maturation of Port, Sherry and Madeira and then went for my exam.
The exam actually covered a much wider program including fortified wines from all over the world, such as Vin doux naturels, Muscat Rutherglen, Commandaria and much more, but my lack of preparation was pardoned by Lady Luck and the questions I had to reply were easy and quite generic and (even though I am still not sure I passed) I managed to write down something!

All this luck deserved a celebration so I bought a bottle of lovely...Manzanilla sherry for £8.99.

I really couldn't wait to properly enjoy a glass of this bone dry sherry coming from Sanlucar de Barrameda where the sea breeze gives it those particular savoury notes and a light saltiness.
The particular location on the coast and microclimate (cooler and with higher humidity than in the area where Fino is produced - Jerez and Puerto Santa Maria) makes the Flor living longer and this creates a lighter wine with more delicate flavours. The wine has a pale colour, aromas of almonds and subtle notes of chamomile flowers and a soft bitter finish.
It literally takes your mind away making you feel like being in a bar on the beach, your skin slightly burning from the sun and the salt. Everything going slowly. Just there waiting for dinner time and enjoying the sunset and the fresh air of the late afternoon.

Easy saying that it is just perfect with salted almonds and olives.

So this is what happens when you study too can suddenly fall in love for a something you would have never thought!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

3 girls and a Vouvray Sec

Once upon a time an Italian sommelier, a Brazilian chef and an American (with Portuguese origins) working in PR, met in an old and sometimes creepy (fun-)house in Maida Vale, London.
Since then, they have shared their common passion for good food and good wine as well as a lot of good and bad moments of their lives in the last 4 years or so. They eventually divided, moving out the house one by one to other parts of London for different reasons. They still meet whenever they can somewhere in the middle.

I am of course one of those girls and yesterday was one of those days when we managed to meet, but I won't bother you with all the superficial gossips and the deeper conversations about life, work and relationships of the day as this is not a Sex and the City episode.

We met on the Strand and went for this little hidden gem on a corner of Bedford Street. The place is called Bedford & Strand. I guess that it used to be a pub and it has now been converted in this lovely wine bar with marble tables and old wooden chairs in  Parisian  Bistro style and a very traditional English bar, with dark wood cupboards behind the counter.

It has a charming atmosphere that makes you feel a bit lost in time and space somewhere between France and England.

Incredibly, even being in such a busy part of London and so close to Covent Garden it doesn't feel as a touristic place at all. But consider that, even if we knew where we were going, we passed it by without seeing the entrance!! Plus the room is on the basement floor, so it doesn't catch the attention that much.
It was Saturday evening so normally busy but  not overcrowded. The perfect place for a chat in front of a glass of wine.

The wine list starts with selections of  'Reliable', 'Decent', 'Honest' and 'Good' wines followed by some staff picks, all by the glass or caraffe plus a full list of a page each for whites and reds, and extras....(bubbles, fortified and sweet). Not an extensive choice but well constructed with a couple of very good options.

We had a bottle of Vouvray Sec Bourillon d'Orleans.
And we enjoyed it a lot.
With its stone fruit aromas, white flowers and a hint of dried figs.
A vibrant acidity to balance its richness.
It was round, mouth enveloping.Complex and beautiful.

We had some nibbles, some duck pate' (perfect with the Vouvray!), smoked sprats and a rillette.....All very well made, except the aioli for the sprats that was too liquid and lacking of garlic.

....And after 4 hours (and another bottle) we finally left. But to be honest I am sure we'll be back soon!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Inspired by a Beef Bourguignon

Has it ever happened to you to watch a movie and feel the urge to follow its stream?
I am not talking about any serial killer movie....of course but, you know, like watching 'Into the wild' and feeling that you want to leave everything (job, car, house mortgage...) and travel the world on your own and live in contact with nature.... Or like watching 'Sideways' and finally decide that what you really want is to take a wine course and follow your passion.

Of course the movie that really influenced me was not 'Into the wild', although I have to say I definitely enjoyed it and it was kind of inspiring. But what really gave a boost to my 'wine' life is Sideways. I have to admit that it can sound a bit stupid, but it definitely did. Sure I was already into wine and already had thoughts about taking that course but that movie helped me so much in taking my final decision that now I don't want to watch it again anymore not to ruin the memories of the importance it had to me, in a way.
It is fantastic when something (a song, a movie...or even a conversation with someone just met) in a quite random way has such an effect on you. Sideways is a nice movie and nothing else, certainly not a masterpiece, but as I said it inspired me and if I am where I am (ops...right...where am I?!) and if I decided to follow my passion and change my life for it that's part thanks to that film.

And I have to say that this suddenly came back to my mind as I was watching this lovely little movie titled 'Julie & Julia'. Again not something that will stay forever in the history of cinema, but a simple, romantic movie on the joy of food and cooking.
Now if you're wondering...No, I am not going to take a Cordon Bleu course and I am not going to tell you the all plot summary either, but I will tell you what impressed me.
First it reminded me why I was writing a blog and made me think that it was a shame that I abandoned it for so long.
Second (and at the moment most important) it gave me the urge to cook a proper Beef Bourguignon.

It is difficult to suggest a wine to match with it as I haven't tried the recipe yet.
Theoretically I would say a nice Bordeaux or something from Northern Rhone such as a Saint Joseph or Cornas would work perfectly and if you can afford to use them as well for cooking it, then great.

So enjoy it and .....Bon appetit!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Places and things that never change

I could say that Rome is the most beautiful city that I've ever seen in my life but my statement would be affected by the love for my birth place that it's also the place where I have been living for 32 years.
Beautiful, rustic and genuine; this city is also contradictory, chaotic and anarchic.
And it is a place where some things tend not to change....

The bus drivers that will never never learn to speak English, even though they are running a central line bus and dealing with tourists every day.

Roscioli: The Bakery. The place to go for a 'builder style snack' with pizza (bianca with mortadella as a first choice) around 11 am.

The Jewish quarter, where you can walk in quiet and silence and still feel, in 2012, the ancient real atmosphere of Rome.

Trimani wine bar, a great, simple place with a fantastic wine list fairly priced. (they also have a wine shop next door)

La sorchetta. To finish your day. There is no way to translate and explain it. You must have it or at least see it in a picture.

Much more could be said and written about Rome, but this post doesn't mean to be a guide.
These are just the memories of a day as an expat.
A full immersion day of an expat wondering around a place that, even continuously moving and evolving, will never change...hopefully.