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.


North face of Mottarone leads to Eden and Willy

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

In the interests of fairness, as there are other ristoranti at the top of Mottarone, and because Italian bureaucracy once again trumped my plan to visit Locarno today, we decided to try route M3 from Baveno up to Mottarone, where we found Albergo Ristorante Eden.

Yesterday we took route L1 from nearby Stresa to the same summit, a 1300m climb.  Today was the same altitude ascent but via an up and down ridge that followed a bracing 700m rise to Mt Camoscio where we were rewarded with a view of heaven, well clouds to be precise.


Up Mottarone for the Snow Bar (Casa della Neve)

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

I am in Stresa where the scenery is incredible, Lago Maggiore is awesome and much bigger than I expected, but it’s damn near impossible to hire a mountain bike.  Rather than rough mountain terrain, Italian bureaucracy is the obstacle.

So, with only Shanks’ pony available, we headed up the hill to Mottarone, a majestic 1491m above sea level making this a near 1300m climb – a decent half day walk.  Mottarone turns out to be a small ski resort with 7 lifts and about 28km of ski runs – they look mostly blue and red, although on 1 October they are all green.


Prosecco Mush

Friday, September 26th, 2008

I’m always on the lookout for a bargain but I have had my fingers burnt a few times when trying to shave a few pennies off my sparkling wine budget.  The closest I have come to success is Freixenet Cava (although some maintain that this is only good for washing the dog).  Freixenet retails at less than £6 at places like Costco and Tesco which I think is a bargain….until I spotted an Italian mare at less than a fiver on Tesco’s sparkling shelves!


Cornerhouse Grill, Dublin

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

When dining out, one well known restaurant critic makes a point of asking how the tips are distributed, always leaving cash, and encourages readers to do the same.  So I dutifully asked the MO of one waiter at the Cornerhouse Grill and was stunned by his response.

Cornerhouse - on a corner for some reason


La Toledana Gavi Raccolto Tardivo 2007

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

This week I am off to see a cricket match (US readers start snoring now).  However this bottle looks more like a baseball bat (RoW readers look on in awe and dismay).

Toledana and a barbie...for some reason

This late harvest (November 2007) from Gavi certainly has a striking bottle.  What about the wine though?

It is the colour of healthy pee and has a sort of pungent sweetness, but I expected it to be sweeter.  In fact it had good acidity and the overall balance of Michael Vaughan combined with the aggression and flair of Kevin Pietersen.  The taste is of Tropicana grapefruit juice and pear juice with some lemon zest and a bit of sherbet dip. Very refreshing as an aperitif but as a food match it went superbly well with pitta bread and hummus.

I picked it up at Majestic for £8.69

Chianti Classico Berardo Riserva 2000

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Have you ever had a slightly mad relative?  I used to have an aunt who regularly posted me Easter eggs wrapped in a single layer of brown paper.  Most of the egg was delivered inside the postman’s stomach and writing thank you letters became a bit of a laugh, albeit a repetitive one.

One birthday, I received the Chambers Dictionary of Science and Technology.  A valuable learning aid for a growing lad of 11 years.  But I only got Volume 2 (L to Z) and since 1975 I have been waiting for Volume 1 (A to K) – I can only presume that the postman ate that too.  If there is anyone out there who has only the primary volume and fancies getting together for dinner to exchange notes, please let me know at mail @ this domain.

It’s difficult to imagine that 1975, although well within my lifetime, was ages before the PC was invented.  So I thought it would be fun to look up a few key definitions.  I searched for “Computer” – D’Oh, that’s in Volume 1!  Microprocessor?  No definition.  Personal Computer?  No.  Mainframe?  Silicon chip?  Walkman?  Mother board?  All no.  Read Only Memory?  Oh hang on yes!  A fast access store containing fixed data.  So computing existed!

I feel a bit like Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes.  Landing on another planet only to discover that I was actually at home, and realising that man was to blame all along.  I am clearly missing the chiselled jaw and muscular tanned physique, although in common with Charlton’s astronaut character, George Taylor, I suspect that a number of apes probably do fancy me.

Looking further into the New York subway and finding the Statue of Liberty must have been scary.  But searching the pages of the Chambers Dictionary of Science and Technology 33 years after it was published was worse than my first encounter with a Dalek.  Hide behind the sofa quick!

Ink black...well read....for some reason


Casa Martelletti 2001 Barolo

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

I thought Manchester City were supposed to be rich.  Has “Frank” Shinawatra hit on hard times?  The January transfer window was supposed to be a time for acquisition…. for us to brandish our financial muscle like a well-endowed porn star unleashing his not inconsiderable appendage to impressive gasps.

Top of our list was a striker or two….or maybe not.  Georgios Samaras has just gone to Celtic on loan and Rolando Bianchi found more lush grazing pastures on a small square of Roman green belt known as the Stadio Olimpio, albeit that Sr. Bianchi’s debut for Lazio lasted just 5 minutes before he saw not green, but red, and was promptly sent for an early bath.

Barolo - the king?  Oh no that was Elvis…


Pillastro Primitivo 2002

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

I was once served Salice Salentino at the Flying Pizza “from zee heel of Italy’s boot, signor”.  I loved it, and later discovered the heel was, in fact, Puglia.  Since then I have looked out for wines from the area and spotted Pillastro Primitivo 2002 at STWC for less than a tenner.  Robert Parker awarded this wine 88 points apparently.  I don’t award points as (a) I am no expert; (b) wine is too subjective and personal; and (c) I can’t be arsed.

Pillastro with some brie…for some reason

This Pillastro at 13.5% was full bodied and displayed red cherries, nutmeg and some leather.  Quite a serious wine for only slightly more than the cost of a Blair family holiday.  Drinking this wine is a bit like eating a rich fruitcake but I’ve already made one reference to Tony Blair so perhaps I’ll quit while I’m ahead.

A tale of two Chelseas, Bluebird vs Albert’s Shed

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Jeff and I were in London for the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley.  Those of you not from Perpignan, Australia or the north of England will not understand Rugby League so let’s move on.  In any case RL was not the only sporting occasion of interest that day.

August Bank Holiday weekend in the UK and Chelsea FC (lucky home win against Portsmouth – David “Calamity” James to thank) knocks the glorious Man City (unlucky defeat away at the Arse) off the top spot of the English Premier League.  So we thought we better nip down to Chelsea and see what all the fuss was about.