Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Daffodil at Angelus 2010

London, England. Saturday, 18-December-2010.

Tidying up and filing I came across the menu from the M&M Enterprises work Christmas party from back in 2010 which I did not blog at the time. So this is the most extreme retro-blog post yet.

Angelus is a post-La Gavroche venue founded by Thierry Tomasin, the sommelier from La Gavroche.

He gave us an introduction to the restaurant and explained the nature of the style and ambience he was aiming for: quality cooking, of course, but with an informal brasserie style and a relaxed convivial atmosphere (I paraphrase from memory).

Then his chef appeared and gave us a run down on the menu explaining his approach to the dishes, the sourcing of the ingredients and the rationale for his choices. I cannot remember who explained the wines but they were all interesting choices.

Image courtesy of  Angelus

The food was wonderful and wine pairings all worked really well. Like all Daff meals it went on until the restaurant ushered us out in time for the evening sittings. Another superb M&M works Christmas party.

Champagne Angel'us - Brut NV
Home smoked chicken, ham hock and foie gras terrine, spiced prune puree, toasted sourdough bread
Rose - Chene Bleu VoP du Vaucluse -2009
Veloute of Jerusalem artichoke, cep tortellini, white truffle oil
La Guita - Manzanilla Rainera Perez Marin
Seared stone bass, potato beignet,
braised leeks and lemon verbena
Domaine Coste - Viognier Grenache 2008
Roast breast of pheasant, wild mushrooms,
braised red cabbage, black pudding spatzle
Allegria Tribu d'A 2008
Coteaux du Languedoc
Port poached pear, crushed amoretti biscuit,
truffle mascarpone ice cream
Les Vignerons de Maury "Solera" 1928
Cask 886 NV
Selection of cheese
Coffee and petits fours

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Wine Society Dining Club 244th dinner

A Burgundian dinner with a couple of German outliers. The deal with the WSDC is that they lay down WS wines then drink them on such occasions as these some years later. So generally "not available in the shops".

Wine Society Dining Club 244th dinner
Wine Society Dining Club 244th dinner

Lincoln' Inn is an extraordinary place. A hidden oasis in the middle of London it looks like an Oxbridge college dropped into the centre of town. And The Old Hall looks like a college dining room.

Wine Society Dining Club 244th dinner
Wine Society Dining Club 244th dinner

As we don't know the other members we chat to strangers in the pre-dinner drinks and get pot luck on the seating plan. We were fortunate in being placed opposite Ray Bowden and his wife Gill. Ray was for many years chairman of the wine society and a most charming dinner companion.

Wine Society Dining Club 244th dinner
Wine Society Dining Club 244th dinner

My favourite wine of the evening was the Beaune Marconnets as it was of the assembled company by a show of hands. Second favourite was the Gevrey-Chamberttin.

A most enjoyable evening and a reminder of why we should go to more of these events.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Olive Harvest Puglia 2010

We had planned to harvest our olives two weeks ago but it was a late harvest due to the weather this year. So we just had to come back again to harvest our olives and help our neighbours harvest theirs. 

Raking olives from the tree
Raking olives from the tree

Low tech harvesting - spread nets either side of the tree and rake the olives off the branches with small claw-like rakes. Then herd the olives together by lifting the net edges and empty into crates. 

There was also some daredevil ladder-work to harvest the higher branches. 

Our harvest - 84 kilo from eight trees
Our harvest - 84 kilo from eight trees

Olives are a bit like apples - crops alternate in size: one year good; the next year less good. Last year the yield was about 30 kg; this year a bumper 84 kg. 

The minimum pressing quantity at the local cooperative is 100kg so we tipped ours in with neighbour Mino's. He has many more trees and a bunch of his wife's relatives to help with the harvest. His yield was nearly one and a half tons!

Modern version of the traditional cold press
Modern version of the traditional cold press

We paid a little more on the pressing fee to have ours cold-pressed - better for the flavour. The olives are milled to a mud-like brown, gritty paste then spread on circular mats. These are then stacked and pressed under considerable pressure. Each batch is done separately so we know we and Mino get back our own oil. 

Our very own organic, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
Our very own organic, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil 

The end result is a beautiful green oil. Fresh off the press it is slightly acrid and, like wine, needs to mature a little.  We will let it stand for a month, also to let any fine particles settle, before using. Looking forward to that :-)

Trullo Azzurro logoTrullo Azzurro: beautifully restored trullo in delightful, secluded valley near Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy. Available to rent on a per week basis, sleeps 4-6. For more information visit

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Everyday differences in Puglia: Cocomero

The cocomero is a Puglian speciality - it looks like a melon but tastes like a sweet-ish cucumber. Certainly the locals treat as a savoury and serve it as a starter salad vegetable or a side dish with a main course.

Cocomero 01 - Whole
Cocomero 01 - Whole

Cocomero 02 - Halved
Cocomero 02 - Halved

Cocomero 03 - Sliced
Cocomero 03 - Sliced

Trullo Azzurro logoTrullo Azzurro: beautifully restored trullo in delightful, secluded valley near Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy. Available to rent on a per week basis, sleeps 4-6. For more information visit

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Next Wandle Trust cleanup: Sunday 14th November 2010

Next Wandle Trust cleanup: Sunday 14th November 2010
Foster's Way, Earlsfield, SW18

Hello Everyone
This month we are going to tackle a stretch of the Wandle 50m or so downstream from where we got in at our August cleanup, so between the Lydden Road bridge and the Foster's Way bridge in Earlsfield.  Well-served by public transport (overground train to Earlsfield station and on the 44 and 270 bus routes), there are also plenty of railings to which you can chain bicycles and there's space to park too.
Click here to see where we'll be meeting. 
What to expect
Please arrive in time for our Health and Safety briefing at 11am.  If you arrive later than that, don't worry, you'll be asked to read the briefing and sign in to confirm your understanding of the guidelines, and agreement to adhere to them.  For the benefit of those of you who are new, we work in several groups, some people in the water pulling out rubbish, some wheeling or carrying the rubbish to the dump site and others litter picking along the banks/trail. 
We'll break for tea/coffee and cake provided by us at about 1pm and carry on afterwards until about 3pm. As we are in the borough of Wandsworth, Terry and his truck will come and collect the rubbish at the end of the cleanup, so we'd be grateful if some of you could stay behind and help load up.
As always, we're extremely grateful to Joanna, Michael, and the Wandsworth Waste Management Team for their support in picking up all the rubbish.
What to wear/ What to bring
We supply a number of pairs of chest waders, but if you do have your own, please bring them.  We also provide gloves and litter pickers.  Tough boots, trainers or Wellingtons are recommended for anyone who wants to work on the banks.   Everyone should wear old clothes that they don't mind getting dirty, and it may also be worth bringing a change of clothes, in case your waders spring a leak!  You may want to bring a picnic lunch too.
At this month's event....
This year's Christmas cards, designed by Trustee Jane Porter and printed locally, will be on sale -  a pack of 8 costs £10.00 so please remember to bring your hard earned cash!  All profits will go directly to help the work of the Wandle Trust.
See you on Sunday week.
Erica Evans
Cleanup Co-Ordinator
The Wandle Trust

The Wandle Trust | PO Box 56545 | London | SW18 9DY | UK

Previous cleanups I have been to:
Cleaning the Wandle July 2009
Cleaning the Wandle August 2009

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Wedding anniversary weekend 2010

Saturday was our seventeenth wedding anniversary and we planned a triple-purpose weekend in Italy with our friends Bob and Lynn: harvest our olives, pack up Trullo Azzurro for the winter and, of course, celebrate seventeen years.

As it turned out the advice from the neighbours was wait two weeks before the olives were ripe for the picking. So we booked another set of flights for two weekend's time and went for Plan B - eating and drinking.

Friday night we went straight from the airport to our neighbours Chris and John who very kindly provided a late supper and thence to bed.

Saturday we did the tourist thing inspired by Bob and Lynn who had done their research. We went over the border into Basilicata to visit the fascinating city of Matera.

Matera, Italy

That evening we went to our favourite posh restaurant - Osteria Sant'Anna for their antipasti della casa and assorted secondi followed by an entirely unnecessary dolce and vin santo.

Sunday was a visit to La Rotonda Da Rosa, Torre Canne for a three hour lunch.

After that a short drive to Torre Guaceto nature reserve for a long (two hour) walk along the coast only to discover some ********* had broken into the car and stolen Mary's handbag and our supper. Yes, they were locked away in the boot.

No passports or credit cards lost but we will have to replace the locks just to be on the safe side. And we did Groundhog day shopping in the supermarket to replace the contents on the M&S cool bag for a supper at home.

Monday was some preemptive bagging up of linens followed by a leisurely trip to the airport for lunch.

And then we went straight from Stansted to central London for supper in The Cork and Bottle Wine Bar followed by John Mayall at the Leicester Square Theatre. Excellent concert from a legend with a fine support act from Marcus Bonfanti.

That is why I go to work for a rest!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ian and Sarah's Wedding - 15 September 2010

A month ago, on a Tuesday evening I got a phone call from my brother:

"Are you sitting down?" he asked - ??
"I've got something to tell you: Sarah and I are getting married." - Blimey! Didn't see that one coming. 
"Errm. Congratulations!"
"Thank you. Tomorrow morning at 10:30."

Turns out nobody was invited. No parents, no siblings, no close friends. Just the three boys. 

Nice photos though. 

Ian and Sarah's Wedding 01
Sarah and Ian

Ian and Sarah's Wedding 02
Sarah and Ian

Ian and Sarah's Wedding 03
Sarah and Ian

Ian and Sarah's Wedding 04
Joe, Lorenzo, Tom

Ian and Sarah's Wedding 05
Joe, Lorenzo, Tom, Sarah and Ian

So the plan is to make the next sibling dinner party a wedding celebration in a restaurant of our choosing. We had toyed with The Groucho Club of which Ian is a member but Sarah is not so keen so the rest of us will have to put our heads together. 

Watch this space...

PS. It goes without saying but I'll say it anyway - I am very happy for them and they make a charming couple :-)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Meet me where they play the blues

Mary Coughlan at Ronnie Scott's Thursday 14-Oct-10

I have seen Mary Coughlan once before when my Mary was working in Dublin. She appeared at The Olympia Theatre performing a set of Billie Holliday songs - there being many parallels between their two lives. 

Ronnie Scott's is an altogether different kind of venue. There was only a couple of small tables between us and the stage. It really is an intimate venue. That's why the photo of the empty stage. They request no photos and we were so close it would have been kind of obvious. 

Afterwards Mary bought the latest CD and MC's biography both of which she signed. Helped by good food and company it was a great evening.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Supertramp at the O2

Mary was due to see Supertramp at the O2 with her friend Andrea but was unable to go so I stepped into the breach. Andrea had managed to get excellent seats - the closest to the stage that I have ever been at the O2.

Courtesy of my mobile service provider O2 I got us a free upgrade to access their O2 lounge and we were able to relax in uncrowded surroundings. If you are an O2 customer text 'upgrade' and the number of guests (max 4) to 60202 after 3pm on the day of the concert. If you are in the first 100 then you get access, 2-4-1 cocktails and a private elevator to the arena.

The concert is part of Supertramps's "Greatest Hits Tour" and so it was. Excellent concert with much toe-tapping. Afterwards we went for a glass of wine while the crowds died down and got home about 00:45. I must say was not fully refreshed, alert and ready for my day when the alarm went off at 05:45 but worth it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Puglia November 2010 - Harvest

Another fine weekend trip to Trullo Azzurro. Our old friends Alan and Andrea had rented Trullo Azzurro for 10 days. We already had a visit planned that coincided with their last weekend so that was nice.

Our original plan was to fly after work and meet in Milan: me from London Bridge via City Airport, Mary from Woking via Heathrow. Then we moved the flight to the morning to spend more time with A & A. We could change the time but not the route so Friday morning we left within 10 minutes of each other to go to *different* aiports and both fly to Milan to meet up again. From there we travelled together to Bari. That has to be one of the dafter travel plans ever.

Harvest Mary, Anthea
Mary and Anthea picking grapes

What A & A did not know was that it was harvest time and that they were going to be co-opted for harvesting and grape crushing.

Harvest Alan, Andrea
Alan and Andrea picking grapes

Harvest Roland
Roland transports grape from field to shed

The whole operation is pretty home grown.

Harvest Tonino
Tonino prepares grapes for pressing

The white grapes are given a light crushing to break the skins followed by trampling in the press.

Harvest Mino
Mino treads grapes

Once the wellington boots have squeezed out the bulk of the juice then the screws are applied. The juice will later be transferred to a stainless steel vessel for the actual fermentation and then bottling next spring.

Harvest Grape Must
White grape must (juice) ready for fermentation

Our next set of guests are - apart from a sudden last minute booking - a honeymoon couple: ahhh! Given the lateness of the season we wanted to make sure they had a copious supply of logs for the wood burning stove. No bear skin rug but I am sure they will improvise :-)

Harvest Logs
Logs for the wood burning stove

We also augmented the usual welcome pack with some Prosecco (local sparkling wine) and arranged with the local agent for some flowers.

Full set of photos on Flickr

Trullo Azzurro logoTrullo Azzurro: beautifully restored trullo in delightful, secluded valley near Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy. Available to rent on a per week basis, sleeps 4-6. For more information visit

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Old York Road Street Party 2010

In all our years in Wandsworth we have never made it to the Old York Road street party as we have always been on holiday. Finally this year!
Saturday 24-Sep-10 12:30-19:00.

Old York Road, Wandsworth - Street Party 2010 Stage
Old York Road Street Party 2010 Stage

They closed off the road so we had traffic-free access to the event. We strolled up and down and chatted to a number of the stall holders including:Old York Road, Wandsworth - Street Party 2010 Crowd
Old York Road Street Party 2010 Crowd

Have enjoyed the sample of Sambrook's ale we went into the Alma and bought a couple of pints and a snack from Doukan. Then our friend Ian arrived and we had to have a couple more pints!

Old York Road, Wandsworth - Street Party 2010 Stilt-walker
Old York Road Street Party 2010 Stilt-walker

The Roadrunner Blues Band belted out several excellent sets. All in all an entertaining afternoon.

12.30 Roadrunner Blues Band
1.00 Official opening
1.15 Gilbert Giggles
2.15 Moroccan Music
2.45 Carnival dancer in extravagant costume
3.15 Fashion Show
3.45 Roadrunner Blues Band
3.30 National Opera Studio
4.00 Brazilian Dancers
4.30 THE RAFFLE !!!
5.30 Waiters’ Race
6.30 Roadrunner Blues Band

Monday, September 27, 2010

2gro scam - fake virus phone call

I got a scam call from 2gro at the weekend but fortunately - despite this blog's name - I was not taken in by a cold call purporting to be from a IT help desk offering to fix a virus infection and improve the performance of my PC. The guy was very evasive about what software was doing the reporting or how anonymous fault reporting would give him my phone number. Then he wanted me to grant him remote access to my machine to diagnose and fix the supposed problem. No way! I only do that to trusted people where I have initiated the call, end of conversation, goodbye scammer, *click*.

It is extraordinary the lengths scammers will go to create the illusion of credibility:
But it is all fake - smoke and mirrors. Nothing older than July 2010 even though the caller claimed they had been in business ten years. Both the office addresses are, in fact, of registration companies offering quick and cheap company formation services not real offices at all. No means of contact other than a phone number which takes you to the same call centre with the same flim-flam.

Stu Forrest's experience was exactly the same as mine:
"Received a brilliant Scam call yesterday"
"From an IT Company ( suggesting that my computer had been sending warning and error messages to them, that I should go to a PC Share website, download a viewer so that they could go into my PC and show me the warning messages and make my PC run better. Read more..."

The Telegraph article explains more how these scams work
"Virus phone scam being run from call centres in India"
Britons targeted by cold callers pretending to be from Microsoft phoning to fix a fake computer problem. Beware cold callers – especially those claiming your computer has a virus. Read more..."

This has been a public service announcement :-)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weekend in Scotland - September 2010

Mary's uncle, Ronald, has a week's timeshare in Kendal which he trades for holidays in other timeshares. This time it was Dunkeld about 60 miles north of Edinburgh.

We flew into Edinburgh, picked up the hire car and immediately drove to North Queensferry over the Forth Road Bridge in time for last orders at the excellent The Wee Restaurant.

North Queensferry quay
North Queensferry quay

The next morning it was the full Scottish breakfast complete with black pudding and haggis. Then there was just time for a short stroll round the town to admire that marvel of engineering and Scottish icon - the Forth Rail Bridge.

Forth Rail Bridge
Forth Rail Bridge

A short drive took us to Perth where we rendezvoused with Ronald and Avril for lunch and thence to Dunkeld and the timeshare which is in the delightful grounds of the Hilton Dunkeld House hotel. En route we stopped for a quick retail therapy at the Dewer's World of Whiskey at Aberfeldy.

River Tay path
River Tay path

Sunday morning we went for a walk along the River Tay to look at Dunkeld Cathedral and the town.

River Tay sign
River Tay sign

I guess if someone threw stones at me I'd be upset too!

Dunkeld Cathedral - nave
Dunkeld Cathedral - nave

Dunkeld Cathedral - door
Dunkeld Cathedral - door

The weather was definately what the Scots call Dreich.

The Cross, Dunkeld
The Cross, Dunkeld

Lunch in town with R & A then back home - having seen a different part of Scotland and ticked off a Scottish Icon.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Puglia August 2010

A week in Puglia is just not long enough. We flew out late on a Thursday and overlapped with our guests by one night. We kept as quiet as we could but they heard us and popped round to say hello. We chatted for a quite some time and drank a bottle of wine - each. The next morning I was not so sure that had been a good idea :-(

Puglia August 2010 - Ironwork and Chillies
Ironwork and Chillies

We found the curious piece of ironwork in the niche in the courtyard - we think it might have been unearthed by Michele when he rotivated the garden. Then the guests had temporarily added the chillies for a splash of colour.

Friday was pretty hectic as it was changeover day - one set of guests depart, cleaners in, two tanker loads of water, next set of guests arrive.

Puglia August 2010 - Fixing the external lights
Fixing the external lights

We used the occasion to get the electrician round to replace all the external lights. The original electrician had skimped on the quality of the first set of lights. The Allen screws had rusted solid so we couldn't change the light bulbs. So we ended up paying to have them all drilled out and replaced by decent quality fittings. I will be testing the screws every visit to prevent a recurrence.

Puglia August 2010 - Harvesting our figs
Harvesting our figs

The figs were fully ripe and we had more than we could possibly use. Mary made a couple of jars of fig jam and gave a basketful to our neighbours.

We did get in a reasonable amount of relaxing and sunbathing sometimes in the courtyard and sometimes down at the beach. Every trip we try and get down to our favourite beach-side restaurant, or "shack" as Mary describes it - La Rotonda da Rosa - for a sea food lunch and siesta on the sand.

Puglia August 2010 - Lunch at the beach
Lunch at the beach

It wasn't all relaxation, there was some maintenance work to be done: a section of the irrigation system pipework to replace and a cupboard to paint. Then it was off to Bar Fod in Cisternino where they have free Sunday lunch-time opera during August. We met up with Chris and John early enough to get a ring side seat and settled in for Pimms and culture.

Puglia August 2010 - Sunday opera with Chris and John
Sunday opera with Chris and John

The artistes did about 90 minutes of assorted arias - the mezzo-soprano certainly had a big pair of lungs! That was followed by a long leisurely lunch at Osteria Sant'Anna with their superb anti-pasti. Mary kindly drove us home for a snooze and some relaxing followed by a quiet evening of pasta and red wine.

Puglia August 2010 - Opera singers at Bar Fod, Cisternino
Opera singers at Bar Fod, Cisternino

Our last day was spent on the beach and we were planning a simple supper at home when we got a call from Carol and Mino. They have a small apartment down on the coast at San Vito dei Normanni and wondered if we were free for supper. A professional chef asks you round for dinner - Yes, we certainly were free :-)

Puglia August 2010 - Supper at Mino and Carol's in San Vito
Supper at Mino and Carol's in San Vito

A wonderful week of pasta and red wine but the bathroom scales say it is time for diet and detox.

Full set of photos on Flickr

Trullo Azzurro logoTrullo Azzurro: beautifully restored trullo in delightful, secluded valley near Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy. Available to rent on a per week basis, sleeps 4-6. For more information visit

Sunday, September 05, 2010

4th annual "Help us drink our excess wine cellar" and BBQ

I can do no better than quote Mary's facebook status: 12 hours, 34 people, 41 bottles of wine. Think the BBQ went well!

As in previous years we co-opted (for a price) the nephew Tom to be burger flipper which left us free to mingle and chat to our guests.

bbq 2010 Jane H, Laura, Tom
Jane H, Laura, Tom

Caitlin was not sure about the paparazzi.

bbq 2010 Alan, Caitlin, Sue, Bill, John
Alan, Caitlin, Sue, Bill, John

Some of the ususal suspects.

bbq 2010 Bill, John, Kate, Andrea L, Ros
Bill, John, Kate, Andrea L, Ros

The ice cream that I spend several evenings making went down well especially the brown bread and the Brandy Alexander.

Then is was all Sunday to clear up - we gave the dishwasher a good hammering - and start packing for Italy on Tuesday...

A slightly fuller set of photos on Flickr