Archive for November, 2008

Gourmet Dinner at Casa Mia Grande, Leeds

Friday, November 28th, 2008

In the classic comedy series, Fawlty Towers, Basil plans a gourmet night to attract a higher class of clientele to the infamous Torquay hotel.  Kurt, the excellent new chef who fancies Manuel the Spanish waiter played by Andrew Sachs, until recently one of Jonathan Ross’ closest acquaintances, manages to get totally pie-eyed and passes out just before the dinner is supposed to be cooked.  With guests already arriving, local restaurateur, André, comes to the rescue with a three choice menu of duck with orange, duck with cherry or duck surprise (duck with neither orange nor cherry), that never makes it to the table.  The culmination of this disaster scenario is Basil thrashing his Austin 1100 with a branch in one of the funniest, well known and most repeated scenes of the comedy solar system.

So when Alan and Heidi invited us to Casa Mia Grande, a well known Italian restaurant in Chapel Allerton, for a “gourmet evening”, I quivered, took the car for a service, wore my stain proof pants and a shirt that could tolerate red wine spills.


Caffé Torino, Stresa

Friday, November 28th, 2008

I’ve been pretty unkind to Stresa.  It is a fabulous location for a quiet holiday and I spent just a few Autumn days there.  Plenty of boating, walking, cycling, even snow skiing a brisk 4 hour walk uphill away.  But I ate out at a few places in the town and mostly found it poor reward for my day’s exercise.

One notable exception was Caffé Torino where a superb meal for two with a bottle of wine cost only £1,340,056, or €54.30 at today’s exchange rate.  The antipasto (below) at €8 is one of the best value plates I have ever seen.

The Italian menu said Tagliere di Salumei di Mottarone which I translated as Viande Sechée or Succulent wind dried mountain pork and cheese from a nearby ski resort.  However the local linguist settled for the dreadfully American Cold cuts which turns this simply beautiful display into a CSI murder victim found in the cellar of a lonely spinster.


Two Rieslings in Liverpool

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Invited over to Darryl and Jayne’s for a bit of Scouse spicy scram and a few bottles of wine, Darryl was not surprised to see me turn up with a couple of bottles of Riesling.

Our mutual mate, Tony, calls Riesling sugary shite but that is unsurprising from a man whose wine sophistication is measured by the fact that he thinks Beaujolais should be served at 25 degrees centigrade.


The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Under pressure from my peers at work to get a push email device, I quickly rejected the Samsung Omnia and, less readily, the Nokia N96, so that left me with a technological fruit cocktail to contend with:  Apple or Blackberry.

I’ve been a Nokia man since I switched from an ancient Ericsson in the early 1990s.  I was an early adopter of mobile phones on account of working in a disaster planning role.  Oh how we laughed in those early days as we ate in a curry house in Bingley enduring super slow service.  I had an idea.  I pulled out my brick shaped device, telephoned the restaurant and ordered the bill to much guffawing from other customers.  Doesn’t sound so stupid nowadays but phones then were primitive, and I was the only person in the resto, possibly in the whole village, that had such a bulge in my pants.


Leeds Restaurant Awards 2008

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

I was kindly invited by the Queen’s Hotel to the Let’s Eat Leeds Leeds Restaurant Awards on 10 November, where I feel the awards counted on public or members’ votes were more representative of my views than those awards chosen by judges and “experts”.  But then again, I am probably a little out of touch with the Leeds scene and really ought to go out more often in this fine city.


Louis Max Santenay 2000

Friday, November 21st, 2008

I keep trying to review Rieslings for the next part of my wine education, but I think I may be addicted to Pinot Noir, because I keep regressing.  Just one last biscuit before I put the tin away.  One final mission of Grand Theft Auto before bed.  One more email before I leave work.

This caught my eye whilst mooching around Tesco.  Based on my last positive experience with Louis Max, and more importantly, being a northern bloke who likes a bargain, (Tesco had marked it down from eleven quid to £8.80), the bottle made a gazelle like leap from the shelf to my shopping basket.

My first sniff bought strong memories of coffee grounds to mind, with a small stack of damp chipboard and bowl of greengages (or maybe unripe plums).

It tasted of wild strawberries and chicory leaf.  I love most Pinot Noir to be served at somewhere between 12 and 16° Celsius.  It makes for a most refreshing drink, and this Santenay went excellently with a Sikh kebab from La La’s curry emporium in Batley.

Highly recommended, especially if you can still find it at the price.

Caffé Bolongaro, Pallanza, Italia

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Stresa, majestically overlooking Lago Maggiore, in the foothills of the Italian Alps, should be a gourmand’s dream.  But sadly it caters to every tourist-trapping, pension-grabbing, fruit-juice-slurping, pie-eating, over-eating, day-trip-loving, coach-travelling, lip-smacking, tongue-slavering, downbeat, yester-year tourists from all of England and sometimes Italy.  The Germans are too sensible, or too time constrained to visit, and the Americans are all credit-crunched.

Although a beautiful town, unfortunately one of the best things to come out of Stresa is the regular boat to the islands and in less than an hour, Pallanza, where there is a single restaurant with something worth eating.


Wanna get naked?

Monday, November 17th, 2008

I just found out what Rowan Gormley (formerly of Virgin Wines) is up to these days.  He is getting naked – well in a wine sort of way.  It’s a new concept in wine retailing, although knowing Rowan, he would hate to see it described so stuffily and, after all, everybody hates “new concepts”.

This new concept could be yet another Wine 2.0 also ran – it is claimed to be a bit like LastFM where you can recommend and follow other people’s recommendations, except unlike LastFM I think you might be expected to actually buy some wine.  On the other hand maybe there is something new here – let’s wait and see.

Anyway, there is definitely one good side to it.  They are looking for 100 wine tasters to receive three bottles FREE OF CHARGE, simply in return for bringing your opinion back prior to launch.

As you might expect, being a thirsty (and gobby) git, I have signed up, so if you want one of the remaining 99 places head over to

Remember Château Soutard 2005

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Remembrance Sunday (and Tuesday) saw me observing a total of five minutes of silence – that’s a miracle I hear you cry!  The first two at the anointed hour of 11a.m. Sunday, somewhat bizarrely, in a queue at our local Tesco store, the third at the Man City vs Spurs game, and the fourth and fifth driving across the Pennines on Tuesday morning listening to the Ken Bruce Show.

It’s amazing how time flies.  I remember about 1976 when I first commemorated the war dead.  I never imagined I would still be here 32 years later.

Château Soutard has a recommended drink by date of 2040.  I am certainly not going to wait and see if I live another 32 years to try the first bottle of the case I bought en-primeur from somewhere at about £21 per bottle.  St Emilion wines being mostly Merlot (in this case 70%) compared to the rougher, and tougher when young, Cabernet Sauvignon, are generally more approachable in youth so I was determined not to die before I sampled the Soutard.

Soutably attired


Kanzem Altenburg 2007 Riesling

Monday, November 10th, 2008

I’ve held my tongue for a while.  I don’t want to sound like yet another whinger that told you so, but I was never in favour of Mark Hughes being appointed manager of Man City.  I admit that I reneged on my promise to turn up at the first game of this season and shout the Sven mantra.  I actually turned up at Eastlands yesterday to see Man City suffer a humiliating 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, albeit after some questionable refereeing and grim Manchester weather.

But whilst luck and refereeing even out over a season, we have a number of more fundamental weaknesses.  Dunne is looking disastrous, Vassell is just not in the same class as his team-mates, Zabaleta still has to convince me he is even close to Corluka who left for Spurs in August.  Worryingly I hear rumours that Hughes’ intentions of splashing the Abu Dhabi cash in the January transfer window are targeted at a handful of his Blackburn ex-employees.  The ones who helped him reach the astonishing heights of mid table obscurity, admittedly at low cost.

Sometimes, though, if you have the money, you need to aim a bit higher.  I am not exactly rich so it was a stretch for me to fork out £21 to the Wine Society for this Kanzem Altenberg Alte Reben Riesling Spätlese, von Othegraven, 2007 from the Mosel.  A mouthful in every sense…