Thursday, December 27, 2007

SA Trip 0: The Plan

For the last three years my client had imposed a three week shut down for contract staff as a cost saving measure. In anticipation of this happening again, we booked this trip to South Africa way back in January.

The plan was to use airmiles buy one business class return flight and use our Amex 2-for-1 voucher to buy the second. This was scuppered by them changing the rules. As it was we had enough BA miles to scrape together two World Traveller Plus flights: Heathrow / Jo'burg / Cape Town / Heathrow.

Using girl logic - look at the money we've saved on the air fare - we decided to make it a trip of a lifetime and upgrade ourselves to 5-star hotels all the way. This ended up as our final itinerary:

11-15 Madikwe (safari)
15-18 Hermanus (wine)
18-21 Franschhoek (wine)
21-24 Stellenbosch (wine)
24-28 Plettenburg Bay (the garden route)
28-31 Robertson (wine)
31-02 Constantia (wine)

The flight down was overnight. I am lucky and can sleep even in economy. As soon as they served the meal I changed into my jim-jams, put in the ear plugs, put on the eye shades and slept for 7 hours. I woke to the smell of breakfast to discover it had been and gone half an hour before.

Then we landed at Jo'burg about 6:30 their time and the trip had begun!

More on each leg of the trip in following posts...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lion and cubs playing in Madikwe Game Reserve

Mary pointed out that my new camera (early Christmas present) has video capability so I started taking a few video clips to supplement all the photos. This is Mary's favourite:

South African Safari

Posts will be a little intermittent for the next couple of weeks as we are taking a three week vacation in South Africa.

Our trip started wih a 4-day safari at the wonderful Makanyane Safari Lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve. Even before we arrived the trip was an adventure in itself. The transfer from Jo'burg airport was in a 4-seater "paraffin pigeon", a Beechcraft Baron. Our first attempt at landing had to be aborted due to Kudu on the airstrip. On the short transfer from strip to lodge we saw giraffe, wildebeest and impala with young. Over the next few days we saw more wild animals than I could ever have hoped for.

More to follow...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Office Christmas Party

Once again the M&M Enterprises Christmas party was held in the Michelin 2 star venue of Le Gavroche. The tax man allows GBP 150 per employee for staff entertainment so we use ours to subsidise a very fine afternoon of eating and drinking. And we came in under budget!

Le menu
Les vins
Tartare de thon au gingembre pimente et huile de sesame
Raw marinated tuna with spicy ginger and sesame dressing
Chateau de sours 2004 bordeaux blanc
Petit souffle suissesse
Cheese souffle cooked on double cream
Champagne henriot 1995
Fricassee de st pierre bouillabaisse
Roasted fillet of john dory in a light broth, fennel, mussels and garlic crouton
Domaine Gavoty "cuvee clarendon" rose 2006 cotes de provence
Escalope de foie gras chaud et pastilla a la cannelle
Hot foie gras and crispy pancake of duck flavoured with cinnamon
Banyuls "reserva " domaine de la tour vieille
Noisettes de chevreuil a la sauce poivrade et airelles
Loin of venison with a pepper and cranberry sauce, wild mushrooms and caramelised vegetables
Chateau vieux sarpe 2003 st. Emilion
Buche de Noel
Traditional french chocolate christmas cake
Vin de constance 2002 klein constantia
Cafe, petits fours et mince pies
See also "Christmas Daffodil at Le Gavroche"

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Think of the Money We Saved

Last year we (Mary really) invested in a case of the 2001 Chateau d'Yquem from Berry Bros & Rudd. BBR wrote to us recently saying that Robert Parker has now awarded it his top mark of 100/100. That guarantees it will fly off the shelves and our investment will hold its value. BBR's write-up:

2001 Yquem is one of the best wines this exalted estate has ever made and has been awarded the 'perfect' score by ourselves and Robert Parker alike. This is breathtakingly complex, with a vibrant perfume of crème brûlée, white peaches, apricots, mustard seed and gorgeous light new oak which heralds the most magnificent mouthfilling essence. With the texture of melted butter, it feels more fresh, zingy and exciting than any wine you can imagine. If the nose and the palate aren't enough to blow you away, the 30 minute (at least) after-taste is ethereal. This is already approachable, but if you don't get round to opening the bottle this year you could cellar it until 2100!

BBR Score: 20/20
Parker Score: 100/100

BBR are offering a 20% discount if you buy 24 half bottles at a saving of GBP 1286.16. Yes, you did read that correctly a *saving* of USD 2,600. So that's only GBP 260 per half bottle or 4,200 for a case of 24 halves (In Bond, you will still to pay Duty and VAT at some later date).

I am glad to say we did not pay that much but it never was going to be a cheap wine.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Scales Family Tree

All this family research was triggered by my Mum. She has been wanting to research her family for a while and this year went to St Andrews church in Hertford. There she got a whole heap of births, marriages and deaths plus some census records for assorted Scales in and around Hertingfordbury Road. Having got all the pieces we proceeded to assemble the jigsaw into a family tree:

scales family tree

There were a couple of false starts. For example the gravestones revealed that the earliest Thomas Scales turned out to have married twice which suddenly made sense of the ages of the children. And one of his children by the second wife had two sons both called Thomas: one was Thomas William (sometimes just called William) and one called Thomas (sometimes called Thomas Jnr).

I think we have cracked it now and this is an extract showing the direct line:
extract from scales family tree 1
extract from scales family tree 2

Complete family tree as pdf
Genealogy Report as pdf
Genealogy Report as txt

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Charteris Wine Tasting - ABC

No, not the usual "Anything But Chardonnay" but instead "Anything But Champagne". A seasonal tasting of sparkling wines from around the world to see who could give France a run for its money.

(Region, Country) Method
Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Frizzante
(Veneto, Italy) Tank
Cremant de Luxembourg Riesling Cuvee de, l'Ecusson Brut
(Luxembourg Moselle, Luxembourg) Traditionelle
Sumarroca Extra Brut
(Cava(Subirates), Spain) Traditionelle
Pelorus, Vintage 2002
(Cloudy Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand) Traditionelle
Mumm Cuvee Napa Rose NV
(California, USA) Traditionelle
Chapel Down Century Extra Dry
(Kent, England) Traditionelle
Bleasdale Langhorne Creek Sparkling Shiraz
(South Australia, Australia) Tank
Perrone Moscato d'Asti
(Asti, Piemonte, Italy) Tank
Blanquette de Limoux
(Limoux, France) Ancestrale
A tasting of two halves: dry sparkling, a half-time rosé and then the sweet sparkling. For me champagnes normally run from the crisp lemon end of the spectrum to the biscuity, yeasty end. These, oddly enough, all seemed to major on apple, with the odd hint of melon (Sumarroca) , lychee (Pelorus) or blackcurrant (Bleasdale).

My favourite of the first flight was the Cremant de Luxembourg and of the second the Chapel Down. Interesting since neither Luxembourg nor England are the obvious place to look for a good sparkling.

And as for the sparkling shiraz the kindest thing one could say is it was an interesting experiment but not one that should be repeated.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Blog Meeting 5

The best attended blog meet-up so far. About 22 members of "The London Bloggers Meetup Group" turned up to the Camel and Artichoke near Waterloo on Tuesday night. I drank a couple of glasses of very acceptable house red, talked to complete strangers and then went home.

It was a good choice of venue, the reserved tables upstairs gave us all room to sit comfortably. The people I spoke to were all suitably sociable - but then you wouldn't go to such an event unless you were, I suppose. They do food there which I will bear in mind for a future occasion. And it was very easy to hop on a train back to Wandsworth Town when came the time to leave.

Well done Andy for organising it.

For previous incarnations of this group see: "Blog Meeting 3"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Our house is not Georgian

But not too far off. We had previously thought that "Our house may be Georgian". Subsequent research shows that it is at least 1861. It is looking unlikely that it is earlier but we (that is Mary) has not definitively ruled it out.

We have been using to research family history but it is also very handy for house detective work using the census records.

We know that our house and our immediate neighbours were Myrtle Villas in the 1860's; we have a reproduction Stanford map of 1862 which shows that clearly. And there in the 1861 census are 1, 2 and 3 Myrtle Villas. Living at number 2 are:

Sarah Banister 44 [ ] Coffee House Keeper
Elizabeth Banister 40 [Sister] Coffee House Keeper
Isiah Carver 62 [Head] Land Proprieter
Julia Carver 24 [Daughter]
Ervan Williams 20 [Lodger] Chemist

Working forwards, 2 Myrtle Villas turned into 28 North Street in 1871 and then, sometime in the early 20th century, turned into Fairfield Street.

Working backwards, the 1851 census shows the adjacent terrace 1-8 North Terrace (now the site of Fairfield Drive) but the next property listed is Tonsley Hall with no Myrtle Villas.

However some of the people at 3 Myrtle Villas in 1861 turn up in the earlier 1851 census at Ebenzer Place, also in Wandsworth. It is faintly possible they renamed the houses, took the census in a different sequence and we were still there. So the final jury is still out.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Jazz on a Sunday Night (Take 2)

This Sunday it was the turn of Jan Garbarek* at the Royal Festval Hall as part of the London Jazz Festival.

We had never heard of him until a few years ago but our copy of the Rough Guide to Jazz kept falling open at that page so Mary figured we had to go buy an album. The first one we bought was the haunting and evocative Visible World. Since then we have acquired several more so when we saw that he was appearing it was a no-brainer decision to go and see him.

It was a fine concert, two hours without an interval. It was a quartet but to my untutored ears there was a definite pecking order in the band. Surprisingly Manu Katché on drums was the driving force then Jan Garbarek on sax with guitar and keyboards definitely playing second fiddle (sorry could not resist).

The FT said:
"When Jan Garbarek last toured the UK, he played in cathedrals. His music fitted: icy, architectural slabs of devotion.

At the London Jazz Festival, the Norwegian saxophonist presented a very different proposition. He had mislaid two members of his usual touring quartet. Eberhard Weber, his double-bass player, is ill, and was replaced by Yuri Daniel, a Brazilian resident of Oslo playing an electric guitar that might have been carved from teak. And the Parisian Manu Katché took the place of the percussionist Marilyn Mazur. Katché at his best is an indispensable drummer, giving a jazzy fluidity to rock records just as often as he lends a rocky energy boost to his jazz dates.

This youthful, hard-driving rhythm section was a challenge to which Garbarek rose. He could occasionally be seen slapping his thigh, which in someone so austere was as surprising as if he had stripped to the waist and gone stagediving."

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Full review on "FT Review".

* Wikipedia on Jan Garbarek

Monday, November 19, 2007

Jazz on a Thursday Night

We went to see Al Jarreau* at The IndigO2 with our friend AndreaA. We ate in Thai Silk beforehand and then straight in for a prompt start, no support band.

Al was performing with the NDR Big Band who opened up then Al was out with the first number. The first half of the concert was a variety of standards, the second half he did a set based around numbers from Porgy and Bess with a suitable amount of scat singing. It was a wonderful concert, we enjoyed it tremendously.

Mary had bought front row seats, literally, I was in seat A22. It is amazing to be that close to the musicians, you could see every expression and the sound quality was superb. Though not close enough for some worshippers who went to right up to the stage and were gently asked by security to move away.

Another joy of the O2 is how easy it is to get home. half a dozen stops on the Jubilee line to Waterloo, then 13 minutes to Wandsworth Town.

* Wikipedia on Al Jarreau

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Jazz on a Sunday Night

down at the Park Tavern. Brother-in-law Pete plays double bass and does occasional pub gigs. Last Sunday he was playing at the Park Tavern.

Since it is only 10 minutes walk from home I hardly had any excuse for not popping along. So I left Mary relaxing after a Sunday evening roast and toddled over for a very pleasant hour and a half listening to dinner jazz and drinking a couple of pints of Young's.

The pub has a very comfortable atmosphere almost like being in your own livng room: comfy chairs. roomy, well lit, friendly bar staff and a clientele that looked agreeable.

I got talking a a group of blokes who were obviously a) old mates and b) into the music. Turns out one of them has a trulli down on the coast at Castellana Grotte: Small world, eh?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sibling Dining in Soho

Saturday it was another siblings and partners dinner*. It was Jane&Pete's turn and Jane wanted to hold it in Soho so we could all see the finished flat (those of us who had not already). The flat is too small and not equipped for supper for six so we met at the flat, inspected and then went off to Le Deuxieme for a very enjoyable meal.

I was down in Farnham last Wednesday doing some family tree stuff with Mum when Dad remarked how much it pleased him that we siblings not only got on well but also enough to want to get together socially. And it's true we do.

* Previously: Sibling Dining, Akira's Cousin, Family Dining, I'm Up on the Eleventh Floor, Family Dining 2, Siblings in Puglia.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Chateau Climens Dinner

Another BBR extravagant wine dinner. Hosted by Oliver East, Bordeaux Buyer, Guest Speaker Bérénice Lurton, Owner.

Before we arrived we were thinking, like others, "Are they really going to serve a dessert wine with every course?" The answer was "Yes" and "Don't call it a dessert wine", says Bérénice, "it is a sweet wine".
Berrys' UKC Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru, Le Mesnil
2004 Cypres de Ch. Climens, Barsac
Lobster bisque - with lobster beignets & chervil oil
2004 Ch. Climens, 1 er Grand Cm Classe, Barsac
Ballotine of foie gras with Sauternes caviar jelly & crisp bread
2000 Ch. Climens, 1 er Grand Cm Classe, Barsac
1996 Ch. Climens, 1 er Grand Cm Classe, Barsac
Gallotine of quail in pistachio & truffle mousse & sauce Marsala
1990 Ch. Climens, 1 er Grand Cm Classe, Barsac
1977 Ch. Climens, 1 er Grand Cm Classe, Barsac
Vanilla mille feuille with caramelised pear
Berrvs' selected coffee and chocolates
The 2004 Cypres, their second wine, was warm, light and fruity with a hint of mushroom on the nose. An interesting contrast to the Climens '04 which was darker and heavier and sharper showing the acid that would help it age.

The 2000 was fresh and light and very enjoyable. Not so the '96 which was distinctly musty on the nose with hint of white spirit and not as sharp as the '00. Others thought so too and they changed the bottle and brought us fresh glasses. The '90 was excellent with a "brisk" flavour and a lovely golden colour.

The '77 again had a hint of mustiness, not so much "noble rot" as plain rot, a disappointing final wine. I don't think this dinner showed the Chateau to best advantage.

Some years back we bought a half case of the 1990 and are down to our last bottle with nary a duff bottle so this will not put us off the chateau - just be more careful in our choice of vintage.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Italian Themed Dinner Party

Our thanks to Mino and Zia at the Truddhi cookery school for teaching us what we needed to give a most successful dinner party on Saturday. The plan had always been to host a evening based on what we learned there. So on Saturday we persuaded usual suspects Bob&Lynn and John&Andrea to be our guinea pigs - not that they took too much persuading :-)
Antipasta mista con focaccia
We bought a variety of meats in the local market* sliced using our deli-style meat slicer bought following an earlier trip. The focaccia worked much better than an earlier trial bake though whether it was the yeast, the time to rise or the ambient temprature we are still working on.
Orecchiette con cime de rape
Home made from flour and water, every ear individually hand rolled; time consuming or what! The recipe was pretty much the one Mino demonstrated on Rick Stein's programme and was a great success.
Coniglio ripieno al forno
We bought the rabbit from Randalls Butchers in Wandsworth Bridge Road and Mary very patiently filleted it. She stuffed it with a mixture of fried giblets, breadcrumbs and egg** then tied it with string into two neat parcels. Baked with potatoes and lashing of olive oil.
Torta limone con lamponi
I was pastry chef and made a tart filled with lemon flavoured Confectioner's custard (creme patissiere) set wih gelatine and decorated with rasberries.
And of course plenty of wine. Even though I say it myself the evening went very well. Mind you with the right company that is pretty much guaranteed. A bonus was that most of the preparation was done in advance; the absence of last minute cooking meant we too could relax and enjoy.

* Origin within the EU for personal consumption so legal! [1] [2] [3]
** [11-Nov-07] Mary has asked me to add that the stuffing also included parmigiano, pecorino, parsley and garlic.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Street Life (2 BE or NOT 2B)

That is the question. Shall we take the Bentley or the Aston Martin?

bentley and aston martin

Sunday we went for a walk, the six of us plus two children, to walk off Saturday's DP (more on that later). Our route took us along the Thames path as far as Putney bridge then back along the north side to Battersea bridge. On the way we passed this pair of cars parked outside a "des res" in Chelsea.

One may envy his wealth but you have to grant that the man has a sense of humour.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Fourteenth Wedding Anniversary

If you are looking for an Italian restaurant in Wandsworth I can thoroughly recommend Ti Amo.

It had previously been an Italian restaurant called Al Ponte which had been good. We used it as the venue for Mary's 50th birthday celebration. Then it closed down for a while and has recently re-opened under new management as Ti Amo.

This week we had our fourteenth wedding anniversary and thought we would give it a try; see how the new owners were doing. I would say it was even better than before. The pastas were all fresh and mostly made on the premises as were the desserts. For me it is one of the tests of a good restaurant; I like to ask, "which do you make and which do you buy in".

We enjoyed it, rated it highly and will certainly be going back. Mary's review on

"Oct 30th 2007 MG - gastronaut Overall rating: 8

Food 9 | Service 9 | Ambience 7 | Value 8 | Toilets 8 | Recommended 9

There has been a restaurant in this location for some time but Ti Amo is the best yet by far. Good choice of interesting dishes on the menu, representing a variety of well-known and more unusual italian dishes. Everything was very well-presented with excellent quality and flavours. Service was friendly and attentive. Wine list is shortish but with interesting choices and a good selection of wines by the glass. Location, looking out onto the river, is great."

We marked it down a little on ambience but that was only because it was a quiet Tuesday night with only one other table occupied. A busy weekend night might well have more buzz.

Ti Amo, 3 Dolphin house, Smugglers Way, Wandsworth, London, SW18 1EG

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Closing Down Trullo Azzuro for the Winter

This weekend just gone we spent a long weekend in Italy closing down Trullo Azzurro for the winter; out Friday, back Monday. Mostly putting all the bedding in VacuSacs and bringing the garden furniture indoors, emptying the fridge and a bit of a sweep out.

We were expecting to help our neighbours Carole and Mino over at Truddhi with their olive harvest but that has been postponed for a couple of weeks. Not that we are complaining because that gave us an extra day to do stuff.

We switched off the outside lights and the heating, locked up and that is it until the spring. The local agency who do our "changeover" will look in once a month to check things over and we may even pop over some time in the New Year.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Barbera Wine Dinner at Enoteca Turi

Another fine wining and dining experience at Enoteca Turi* this time wines from Piedmont made with the Barbera grape. Interesting to revisit this region so soon after the BBR Tuscany vs Piedmont dinner. Same region, different grape, different price range.

One interesting thing I am (finally) starting to get is distinguishing between my personal preference and which I think is the better wine. In this case I liked the Barbera d'Alba Marun DOC 2003 best for drinking - lots of jammy fruit flavours - but the Barbera d'Asti Superiore DOC 2001 was - in my view - the better wine with aging potential.

Assaggi Piemontesi
(Traditional Piedmontese antipasti)
Arneis Roero DOC 2006 Brovia

Anatra in verza con fonduta
(Duck cooked in cabbage leaves with fonduta)
Barbera d'Alba DOC 2005 Giuseppe Rinaldi

Agnolotti del plin
(Piedmontese veal and spinach ravioli with butter and sage)
Barbera d'Alba Marun DOC 2003 Matteo Correggia

Filetto di cervo con porcini e polenta
(Fillet of venison, porcini mushrooms and fried polenta, juniper berry sauce)
Barbera d'Alba Cascina Francia DOC 2002 Giacomo Conterno
Barbera d'Asti Superiore DOC 2001 La Spinetta

Formaggi regionali
(Selection of the region's cheeses)
Pin Monferrato Rosso DOC 2003 La Spinetta

Torta Gianduia
(Typical Piedmont hazelnut and chocolate tart)
Barbera Passum DOC 2003 Cascina Castlet

The Barbera Passum DOC 2003 was a little disappointing but it *was* up against a seriously chocolatey dessert. Something with more "passito" character might have held its ground better.

* Previously at Enoteca Turi: "Food and Wine from the Sicily Region"

Monday, October 15, 2007

McLellan Family Tree

If you are lucky enough to have Scottish ancestry then tracing back your family tree to the early 1800's is something of a doddle. Go to and you can search the registers of births, marriages and deaths plus a load of parish registers some going back to 1553.

Mary is absolutely hooked and been doing wonderful stuff researching her family, both sides and my Dad's family. She has traced back my paternal line to my great-great-great-grandfather who married in 1817.

Going back earlier than that the chain of evidence starts to get a bit shakey but I am sure there will be more to follow...

Descendants of Archibald McLelan

Generation No. 1

1. ARCHIBALD [1] MCLELAN He married MARRION MCDOUGALL 03 Mar 1817 in Bowmore. She died 24 Aug 1857 in Victoria Street, Govan.

2. i. DOUGALD [2] MCLELLAN, b. 07 Dec 1818, Inchinan, Renfrewshire; d. 12 Jan 1875, Coatbridge.

Generation No. 2

2. DOUGALD [2] MCLELLAN (ARCHIBALD [1] MCLELAN) was born 07 Dec 1818 in Inchinan, Renfrewshire, and died 12 Jan 1875 in Coatbridge. He married ISABELLA MCLEAN 22 Apr 1845 in Barony (Maryhill), Glasgow. She was born in Tyree, Argyll.

Occupation: 07 Apr 1861, Iron Works Magazine Keeper


3. i. CHARLES [3] MCLELLAN, b. 09 May 1852, Gartsherry, Coatbridge; d. 17 Oct 1930, Tollcross Road, Glasgow.
   ii. ARCHIBALD MCLELLAN, b. 10 Jul 1845, Gartsherry, Coatbridge.
   iii. NEIL MCLELLAN, b. 11 Jun 1848.
   iv. DONALD MCLELLAN, b. 09 Jun 1850.
   v. JAMES STEWART MCLELLAN, b. 16 Jul 1854.
   vi. MARRION MCLELLAN, b. 19 Jul 1856.
   vii. JOHN MCLELLAN, b. 07 May 1860, Gartsherry, Coatbridge.

Generation No. 3

3. CHARLES [3] MCLELLAN (DOUGALD [2], ARCHIBALD [1] MCLELAN) was born 09 May 1852 in Gartsherry, Coatbridge, and died 17 Oct 1930 in Tollcross Road, Glasgow. He married MARGARET JONES KENNEDY 06 Dec 1875 in Old Monkland, Lanark. She was born 06 Jan 1855 in Sunnyside, Coatbridge, and died 22 Sep 1930 in Tollcross Road, Glasgow.

4. i. JAMES KENNEDY [4] MCLELLAN, b. 26 Dec 1877, Coatbridge; d. 1933.
   ii. DOUGALD MCLELLAN, b. 22 May 1876, Coatbridge.
   iii. ARCHIBALD MCLELLAN, b. 03 Aug 1879, Coatbridge.
   iv. ELLEN MCMILLAN MCLELLAN, b. 16 Jan 1882, Coatbridge.
   v. ISABELLA MCLELLAN, b. 05 Jun 1890, Coatbridge.

Generation No. 4

4. JAMES KENNEDY [4] MCLELLAN (CHARLES [3], DOUGALD [2], ARCHIBALD [1] MCLELAN) was born 26 Dec 1877 in Coatbridge, and died 1933. He married AMELIA LONG. She was born 1885, and died 1960.

i. JAMES MICHAEL5 MCLELLAN, b. 10 Mar 1925; m. MARGERY FAITH SCALES; b. 27 Apr 1927.

For the PDF originals:

Friday, October 12, 2007

Wines of Paul Cluver at Planet of the Grapes

Another interesting tasting at Planet of the Grapes. This time South African wines from Paul Cluver presented by their wine maker, Andries Berger. Always fascinating to hear direct from the winemaker rather than someone in the trade.

Andries is a man committed to his wines and aiming for an old world subtlety and complexity. The audience seemed to shared his belief that he has succeeded. To my palette the Chardonnay had a particularly Burgundian feel to it. He even managed to make an enjoyable wine out Sauvingnon Blanc, of one of my least favourite varietals.

 • Sauvignon Blanc 2006
 • Weisser Riesling 2007
 • Gewurtztraminer 2005
 • Chardonnay 2006
 • Pinot Noir 2004
 • The Elgin Blend 2003
 • Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
 • Weisser Riesling Noble Late Harvest 2006

There is always something new to learn about winemaking and this time it was Andries talking about "batonage" - hand stirring of the lees while the wine is aging. This apparently adds complexity to the wines and scavenges oxygen, reducing the risk of unwanted oxidation.

We were impressed by the wines and have ordered 6 of the Chardonnay and 6 of the Cabernet Sauvignon - which will certainly reward a few years cellaring.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007: Cookery School Day 6

Day 6 started with a trip to the market in Locorotondo.

We then met a local butcher who is Mino's business partner followed by an introduction to some neighbours back at Truddhi. They are vinifying Mino's grapes; a considerably less high-tech operation than the Cantina or Rivera!

butcher press

Then it was another afternoon of lessons in preparation for the final evening's meal:

langoustine flan

As it was the last day of the course, at the end of the meal we were presented with our certificates.

mark's certificate mary's certificate

A fuller set of Day 6 photos on Flickr:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007: Cookery School Day 5

Day 5 started with a trip to the winery Rivera one of the best producers in Puglia and one of Mary's favourites. The winemaker there confirmed that is was a superb vintage; the grapes were indeed looking very healthy.

rivera-grapes rivera-tanks rivera-casks rivera-tasting

The tour was followed by a tasting and a trip to Casteldelmonte a world heritage site. After that there was no class so we had the rest of the day off.

We went to Otranto to look at the cathedral and then supper at our usual haunt - Centro Storico in Locorotondo.

castel-del-monte harbour

A fuller set of Day 5 photos on Flickr:

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007: Cookery School Day 4

Day 4 started with a trip to a local pasta factory then back to Truddhi to make the real thing.

pasta-factory real-pasta-1 real-pasta-2 real-pasta-3

Filled pasta was not on the original syllabus as it is not typical of southern Italian cuisine but Mino kindly went off course to enable us have a go.

Mary, Mark, Zia and Mino
Mary, Mark, Zia and Mino

We also learnt how to open mussels for a stuffed mussel dish.


A fuller set of Day 4 photos on Flickr:

Monday, October 08, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007: Cookery School Day 3

Day 3 started with two field trips:

First stop the Cantina Del Locorotondo cooperative where the hot August meant the small farmers were already bringing in their grapes. The manager showing us round reckoned that the quality of grapes was the best he had seen in 23 years working there. An early frost kept the number of bunches down, the lack of rain kept the diseases away and the sunshine pushed the ripeness way up. So a brilliant vintage is in the offing.

 grapes-arrive cantina-sociale
[Hover for title, click for larger version]

Second stop Il Frantolio, another cooperative this time of olive growers (often the same small farmers). We learned that you should only ever use extra virgin olive oil. Anything else is oil chemically extracted from the kernels and only of use in things like tinned fish. Do not buy anything other than Extra Virgin!

olive-mill olive-tasting

The afternoon and evening were back to Truddhi to cook and eat amongst other dishes: roast peppers with capers and olives, stuffed aubergines and ricotta tart.

Truddhi Cookery School
Mary at work!


A fuller set of Day 3 photos on Flickr:

Sunday, October 07, 2007

BBR Dinner: The Great Wines of Italy, Tuscany vs Piedmont

More eating and drinking...

Lots of top notch wines. I wish I could remember more of the fascinating info from the chat by Chris Pollington, the man knows his stuff.

All I can remember is the Tuscans use the Sangiovese grape and eat beans, the Piedmontese use Nebbiolo and eat rice. The staff would keep topping up my glass and I did not say no often enough. I was struggling to keep my eyes open by the end. Oh dear :-(

2006 Gavi di Gavi, Cru La Maddelena, Roberto Sarotto, Piedmont
Bresaola con Rucola e Parmigiano
(Shaved bresaola with wild rocket & parmesan)
2005 Chianti Classico, 'Rubiolo', Gagliole, Castellina-in-Chianti, Tuscany
Un' selezione di funghi di bosco
(A tasting of Italian mushrooms & funghi)
2001 Barbaresco, Cru Vigna Erte, Cigliuti, Neive, Piedmont
Abbachio a la Romana con polenta e pomodorini secchi
(Roast lamb with rosemary, polenta & cotifit tomatoes)
1994 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, Ugolaia, Lisini, Tuscany
2000 Barolo, Cru Monprivato, Giuseppe Mascarello, Castiglione Falletto, Piedmont
(cheese) Pecorino
2004 IGT Colli della Toscana Centrale, Pecchia, Gagliole, Castellina-in-Chianti, Tuscany
Torta di mele con gelato di Mascarpone
(Apple tarte fine with Mascarpone ice cream)
2005 Moscato d'Asti, Bass Tuba, Bava, Piedmont
Berrys' selected coffee & chocolate

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007: Cookery School Day 2

Mino returns and Day 2 sets the pattern for the rest of the week: a excursion in the morning, lunch, class from 4 till 7:30, dinner at 8 for whoever was about. Usually us two, Carole and Mino, their friend Mair from Wales, Zia, and a couple of paying guests from the Truddhi holiday apartments where the lessons are held.

Truddhi Cookery School
Truddhi Cookery School

We visited a diary where they made mozzerella, all by hand from local milk. What amazed me was that all the mozzarella, even the little ones are all knotted by hand - you couldn't make it up!

knotting-mozzarella orecchietti stuffed-rabbit bread-butter-pudding
[Hover for title, click for larger version]

Then we made fava bean and chicory, orecchietti, stuffed rabbit and Mino's version of bread and butter pudding. This day we mostly watched and helped a little. As the week progressed we got more and more hands-on which was better. Partly at our insistence and partly (I am guessing) that Mino realised we were able cooks.

A fuller set of Day 2 photos on Flickr:

Friday, October 05, 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007: Cookery School Starts

Sunday was the start of the cookery school. Mino was in Wales at a food expo promoting Puglian food so we had Sunday lunch at his sister Zia's house. She fired up the pizza oven and we did a number of flour based dishes: focaccia, orecchietti, something else and then a tiedda (hotpot) of chicken and potatoes.

Zia and a forno a legno (wood burning oven)

It was all conducted in Italian as Zia has very little English which was good fun. Then we sat down with her family for Sunday lunch - it was a privilege to be invited into her home and family.

Zia and Mino also appeared on the BBC series "Rick Stein's Mediterranean Escape" in the same Puglian episode as Rosa:

Zia, Rick Stein and Mino Maggi *

This was where the rest of the course was held. More tomorrow...

* Buy the book from Amazon

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Saturday, September 22, 2007: Trullo Azzurro Guest Book

We were reluctant to offer Trullo Azzurro for rent until we had the boiler fixed (see "A new boiler for Trullo Azzurro").

When we did open it up for booking via we were pleasantly surprised to get five bookings (plus one via a colleague). Plus we already have a booking for next year!

One couple were there when we arrived and raved about the place. After they left we read the guest book and it brought home to me the impact the place has on first time visitors. We have got so used to it we forget what an impression it makes. The comments were uniformly glowing. A couple of our guests kindly let us quote from their emails:

"Thank you, we had a wonderful time. We all had a wonderful holiday in a beautiful part of Italy, in a beautiful house. Our teenage girls loved it especially the historic sites (doing GCSE history this year)." Deborah & Roger - Aug 2007.

"Just a quick email to say we had a fantastic time at the trullo. The house was extremely well appointed and to a very high standard - there was nothing else we could have needed. We were nearly seduced into making an offer to the farmer who owns the trullo farm at the top of your hill we loved it so much!" Eleanor & Rick - Sep 2007

Most satisfactory :-)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007: Lunch at Rosa's

We like to get down to our favourite beach side restaurant every trip if we can: La Rotonda Da Rosa down between Savelletri and Torre Canne. Friday it had to be, as weekends are too busy and the next week we were on the cookery course. Rosa is a real character with a cackle of a laugh and greets us like long lost cousins.

At Rosa's with Andrea and Elaine in June 2007

She is now famous having appeared on the BBC series "Rick Stein's Mediterranean Escape". Apparently last week a coach-load of Brits turned up and had their photo's taken with her and hunted autographs. This came as a surprise as she hadn't seen the programme. Mary had the thoughtfulness to get me to burn an extra DVD to give Rosa as a 'regalo' (present). Here is a screen grab with her in:

Rosa cooks ricci (sea urchin) with pasta for Rick Stein *

Weird to see someone you know on the telly!

* From Episode 3 - Buy the book from Amazon

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Birthday cake 2007

We flew out to Italy on my birthday (55 if you really want to know). My mother had given me this cake on the Sunday before we left. Very delicious but not enough time to eat it all so my colleagues at work rallied round and helped polish it off.

chocolate cake

We went out for a birthday meal in "U'curdunn", the best restaurant in the locality along with (Italian) neighbours Chris and John and a couple of their friends

What was even better was that we have discovered a local taxi firm i.e. Francesco, so I was able to drink as well as eat :-)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Loire Wine Tasting at Charteris Wine Society

Another fine wine tasting at the Charteris Wine Society excellently chosen by Charles and co-presented by Jeremy. In fact, I would say, their best yet. A good wine tasting has a theme and structure, this had several:

  • Firstly of course the river. A tour upstream and then back down showing the river's wide range of grapes and styles.
  • Secondly the "dinner party" sequence: dry 'aperitif' white, full 'food' white, light red, full bodied red, sweet white (but no room for the sweet red).
  • Thirdly several wines were in pairs to allow a compare-and-contrast learning.
  • Fourthly all bar one readily available from the same merchant (The Wine Society) thus showing the Society to advantage.
The wines - grape variety:
  • Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine, Le Clos du Château L'Oiselinière, 2002 (Chéreau-Carré) - muscadet
  • Savennières, L'Enclos, 2004 (Eric Morgat) - chenin blanc
  • Coteaux du Giennois, Domaine de Villargeau, 2006 (Marc Thibault) - sauvignon blanc
  • Pouilly-Fumé, Château de Tracy, 2004 - sauvignon blanc
  • Sancerre Rosé, Domaine Serge Laloue, 2006 - pinot noir
  • Côte Roannaise, Vieilles Vignes, 2006 (Sérol) - gamay
  • St Nicolas de Bourgueil, Les Rouillères, 2005 (Frédéric Mabileau) - cabernet franc
  • Chinon, Domain du Raifault, "Le Villy", Cuvee Prestige, 1995 - cabernet franc
  • Coteaux de la Loire, Moelleux, Vieille Sève, 2004 (Alain Boré) - chenin blanc
  • Vouvray, Clos du Bourg, Moelleux, 1989 (Huet) - chenin blanc

And what did I learn?

  • The Loire produces an extraordinary range of wines.
  • The Gamay grape used to be one of my favorites. Moulin a Vent was one of the wines that moved me into red. But now it has dropped off my radar as a wine of choice.
  • Rose wine I have always said goes well with Salad Nicoise and Seafood paella. Now I will add Sushi to the list (after I have given it a try). And this rose is a particularly girlie pink colour.
  • My tastes are predictable. Mary wrote on her list "Mark will like this" against the St Nicolas de Bourgueil. How right she was - jammy and full of fruit.
  • In the sweetie shoot-out the less obvious but better wine did win. The Coteaux de la Loire was sweet and enjoyable but the Vouvray, Clos du Bourg, Moelleux was a far subtler and more complex wine. Quality will out, in the end.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Back from Italy

Apologies to my regular readers. The temporary hiatus in posting is because we have been in Italy for 9 days on a cookery school with Mino Maggi (see "Meeting Italian Neighbours (1)"). I will be retro-blogging loads of foodie pictures this week to catch up.

In the meantime, a traveller's tale (or two in fact):

Our flight from Bari to Rome was delayed by 25 minutes and we only had a 50 minute connection, including passport control. As we landed and entered Terminal A we were met by an Alitalia rep holding up a card.

He popped us onto one of those "old granny with stick" buggies with six other passengers and went careering off to Terminal C like a Formula 1 driver. Met us again the other side of passport control to get us to the gate. Great fun!

Then when we landed at Heathrow we walked up to the luggage carousel and out of the chute popped our bags where normally we expect a 30-40 minute wait: result!!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Marc Bolan a Celebration

This Sunday saw the 30th anniversary of the death of Marc Bolan, my teenage idol. It brought fans from all around the globe to visit the tree, attend a ceremony at Golders Green Crematorium and go to Klub Xtreme which hosts an event every 16th September.

This year there was also a concert at Shepherds Bush Empire fronted by tribute band T.Rextasy with a number of guest appearances (reviewed in The Times).

For me it was also an opportunity to meet many cyber-friends from a a mailing list on Yahoo called Tilldawn (also I knew many of them by their posts and it is great to meet them in the flesh and put a face to the name.

One of them is a Jorgen, a postman from Sweden who I first met at a similar event ten years ago. It was good to be able to offer him a bed for the night, save him the cost of a hotel and act as host for his visit. I will be posting load of photos to Flickr later...


Tillers outside Klub Xtreme (video)

Klub Xtreme 16-Sep-07 (photos)

Born to Boogie DVD launch April 2005 (photos)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Food and Wine from the Sicily Region

at Enoteca Turi. This is a wonderful Puglian restaurant just down the road in Putney where we have eaten a couple of times previously.

This event was originally scheduled for Tuesday 11th September 2007. We tried to get in but it was fully booked and also it clashed with the Plant of The Grapes Rioja tasting. Because it was so popular Pam and Giuseppe decided to run a second event the following evening (last night).

Arancini di riso
Sardine beccafico
Primo sale with pacchino tomatoes
Mosciame di tonno
Barbazzale Inzolia IGT 2005 Cotta Nera

Layers of aubergine with mozzarella and caciocavallo
Fatagione IGT 2003 Cotta Nera

Cuscusu Trapanese
Red mullet, gunnard and monkfish soup with saffron couscous
Chardonnay IGT 2005 Planeta

Rabbit Stimpirata
Braised rabbit off the bone with onion, celery, olive, pine nuts and raisins
Calderara Sottana Etna Rosso DOC 2004 Tenuta delle Terre Nere
Rosso del Conte 2003 Tasca d'Almerita

Cassata Siciliana with lemon sorbet
Passito di Pantelleria DOC 2004 Solidea


The food was excellent as was the company. We had a most enjoyable chat to complete strangers, Jo and Robin, and Liz and Jim. But then you would expect people who go to such events to be of a sociable disposition.

Giuseppe had done his homework and gave an introduction to Sicilian political and gastronomic history and again before each course told us a little more about the specific dish and wine. They have done six of these wine and food dinners. With 20 regions in Italy they are planning plenty more events - where do we sign?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Marques de Murrieta at Planet of the Grapes

Another tasting at Planet of the Grapes last night, this time Rioja.

Almost the same crew as last time: David, Bron, Paul and this time Mary was able to make it. Frans the Bodega's Export Director gave us a good insight into the estate, its history and the wines.

  • Pazo Barrantes, Albarino D.O. Rias Baixas 2005 @ £13.50
  • Blanco Reserva "Capellania" 2002 @ £12.50
  • Tinto Reserva 2002 @ £.50
  • Tinto Reserva 2001 @ £14.50
  • Tinto Gran Reserva Special Release (Magnum) 1980 @ £115
  • Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 1998 @ £33
  • Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Historic Release 1978 @ £80
  • Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Historic Release 1968 price N/A
  • Dalmau 2001 @ £50

It was fascinating to do a vertical tasting for a change and going back so far with wines not available in the shops. As often I was in a minority regards which were the better wines. Mary reckons it is not because of any deficiency in my palate rather that it is my personal preference for jammy flavours.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Street Life (Art Is My Hustle)

Seen outside the London Graphic Centre in Shelton Street, Covent Garden.

graffiti: Art Is My Hustle
Graffiti: Art Is My Hustle

I saw this and thought it was a colourful piece of street art but a quick Google reveals that it may actually be a cunning piece of advertising (via for T.Magic World.

What I cannot work out is whether this is, as it appears, an young innovative artist or some mega-corporation sneaky viral marketing thingy. Whatever they seem like colourful designer T-shirts so I thought I'd give him a link.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Police Twickenham Sunday 09 September 2007

The Police_IMG_6826
Originally uploaded by golden/skans
Well that is handy. Someone has blogged the set list and Flicker'd a whole set of photos.

I am sure a whole slew of reviews will follow from fans all over. My two penn'th is that the bass was cranked up as you might expect when the front man plays bass guitar; it made my chest vibrate is was so intense.

It as a fine concert with a mixture of greatest hits and tracks I did not recognise but I guess that is my lack of familiarity with their complete oeuvre. Three men without any backing musicians can make a lot of music.

The only downside was the time it took to get home. The queues to get into the station and onto the trains meant it took an hour and three quarters to get home. I shall look at alternatives next time.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Bathroom Update (4)

Almost done! Andy came yesterday and fitted the second mirror door plus fixed one of the lights. We had our first bath yesterday and first shower this morning. All seems to be working just fine and dandy.

bathroom before bathroom with shelving and tiles
Bathroom before and after

Note the curve of the bath. That allowed us to move the bath to the wall side and hang the door the other way without bashing the corner. Having to buy a bath with a corner missing just about trebled the cost of the unit!

Previously: Bathroom Update (3), (2), (1), (0)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

YMCA by Christopher - Puppeteer Extraordinaire

You know how certain songs are inextricably linked with particular memories. Whenever I hear YMCA by Village People I am reminded of a time when I was working in Basel, Switzerland and Mary came over for the weekend instead of me going home.

We stayed with our friends John&Andrea who were living over there and Saturday night went out for a meal over the border in France. It was a wonderful meal and as Andrea was the designated driver I do believe we drank her share of the wine.

On the way home to keep Andrea awake and alert we wound down the windows, wound up the stereo and performed a spirited rendition of this song complete with the full Y.M.C.A arm gestures. Andrea did keep one hand one the wheel though I am glad to say.

And here is another version, just t-o-o funny, watch and laugh :-)


Thanks to Bob Carlsen for drawing this gem to my attention.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fried Peppers with Garlic, Capers and Vinegar

This is one of Mary's favorite recipes so it has become one of my signature dishes. I make it regularly especially when in Italy (see "Our first dinner party"). It is excellent with barbecued chicken.

It is also, like Panzanella, a fine example of a "Traffic Light Meal". For the benefit of Americans 800gm is four bell peppers (I aim for two red, two yellow, never green - the capers do that).

Fried Peppers with Garlic, Capers and Vinegar

Fried Peppers with Garlic, Capers and Vinegar
from one of Carluccio's recipe books.

Serves 4-6

800 g (1 ¾ lb) whole red and yellow bell peppers
4 cloves garlic
1 tbs salted capers (alternatively capers in vinegar)
4 tbs olive oil
2 tbs wine vinegar

Cut the peppers into strips. Slice the garlic and put the capers to soak in a bowl of water. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the strips of pepper. The oil should be quite hot. Stir while frying the peppers: their skins should begin to scorch at the edges. Then add the slices of garlic and the capers, drained and dried before being added. While these ingredients are sizzling, add the vinegar and salt, stir well and let the vinegar evaporate for a minute. Serve immediately if you like, but an excellent dish cold.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Roy and Sue's Silver Wedding

Last night it was off to Brasted Village hall to celebrate the Silver wedding anniversary of longstanding colleague and friend Roy and his wife Sue.

Roy and Sue cut the cake

As they are keen Scottish Country Dancers the evening's entertainment was a dance with a caller to herd us newbies about. I never learnt this stuff at school and have only been called upon to trip the light fantastic twice before: at Geraldine and Alisdair's wedding and Ros' 50th.

I did not want to resemble a pinball ricocheting around the dance floor so got a couple of hours coaching from Anne on the basics. It must have helped because I only sat out two dances and was pretty sweaty by the end of the evening.

Mark scottish country dancing

You can see selected photos of "Roy and Sue's silver wedding on Flickr" [new window]

Friday, August 31, 2007

Maps Satellite and Digital

Like many people when Google Earth first came out I immediately looked for my house. In London I could clearly see the magnolia tree in the front garden, next door's car parked round the corner and even the road markings on the street outside our house. Amazing!

Next I went to look at the Hovel-in-the-Hills and what a disappointment. The photo seems to have been taken with a box brownie strapped directly to the satellite. Way up high and fuzzy with no detail, certainly not enough to even make out any individual buildings.

But recently they have uploaded some much more detailed pictures and suddenly we can see our house even if we cannot make out any details. The white patches to the West and South are the two fields created the year before last by the rock muncher.

View Larger Map

But beware the digital map version. It show gaps where there are roads and shows roads where there are bramble filled paths between two stone walls. Jim's Sat Nav sent him into the middle of a nearby cement works!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Maps Ancient and Modern

Ever since we took ownership of the Hovel-in-the-Hills™ we have been looking for decent scale maps of the local area.

The "Istituto Geografico Militare" promised 1:25,000 (4 cm to 1 km or 2½ inches to 1 mile) but when we investigated they turned out to be discontinued. So instead we went for the 1:50,000. We are near an edge and so ordered two; one arrived and the other was out of print. And the level of detail is nothing like as clear as the Ordnance Survey maps. Pretty useless but we framed it and put it on the wall anyway.

Conversely the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 series are readily available in all good bookshops, specialist leisure shops and online from their website. In fact the OS go all the way to 1:1250 for business purposes and also do historical maps. For Wandsworth they even do an 1866 map at a quite extraordinary 1:1,056, that is 5 feet to the statute mile! Which I bought.

You can see every outbuilding, drinking fountain, fence and field boundary, even the garden paths are marked in the bigger houses. Our house is there - both the original building and the later rear extension. So we now know that extension is at least 1866 and the main house, obviously, older than that.

Now all I need to do is get back down to the library and that 1851 survey to get a positive fix on our property. Easier to do now I can match the census house numbers to the buildings on the map.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bathroom Update (3)

Friday the bath arrived and the plaster starts to dry out. Monday the shelving unit was installed over the cistern. Tuesday the tiler started work on the walls.

bathroom with bath bathroom with shelving and tiles
Bathroom with bath, shelving and tiles

Even though they are moving along it is good that we have a shower and a second loo downstairs otherwise it would be off to work via the gym for a shower.

Previously: Bathroom Update (2), (1), (0)