Saturday, January 30, 2010

Food and Wine from the Puglia Region

Puglia Wine Tasting Dinner on Tuesday 26th January at 7.00 pm

So felicitous of Enoteca Turi to organise a Puglian wine dinner on Mary's birthday; made the choice of venue for the celebratory meal a no-brainer :-)

This time we were seated on the top table either side of Guiseppi and so were able to have a long chat with him. It was fascinating to hear the story of the restaurant and how it has prospered over its 20 years.

We met not one but three sets of Puglian neighours! One couple even knew Anne and Henry who introduced us to the region and in whose trulli we often stayed while the building works were being done. That said it should not really be surprising that London-based holiday home owners would favour a Puglian restaurant and especially this dinner.

Guiseppi Turi in front of a vineyard
Guiseppi Turi in front of a vineyard

The wines:
  • Falanghina del Salento - Good but have had better Falanghina.
  • Primitivo del Salento - would not have guessed it as Primitivo, light.
  • Five Roses Rosato del Salento - passable pairing with the food but a more unctious white might have been better
  • Il Falcone Castel del Monte - cooler climate wine compared to the Negroamaro.
  • Negroamaro del Salento - preferred this of the pair, richer,fruitier warmer climate style.
  • Nero di Troia - very strong Morello cherry palate.
  • Primitivo di Manduria - as Parker would say "gobs of fruit" velvey, chocolate palate. Yummy - a "vino di meditazione".
  • Moscato di Trani - went well with a most delicious dessert.

The meal:

Grilled oyster mushroom, bread dumplings with garlic, pecorino and parsley
deep-fried mussels, capocollo di Martina
Burrata with toasted Altamura bread
Le Fossette Falanghina del Salento 2007 Alberto Longo
Selection of antipasti
Grilled squid
Catalogna chicory with fava bean puree
Toasted bread with cima di rape suffocate
Baked artichoke with egg, pecorino and mint
Primitivo del Salento IGT 2006 Cantele
Lagane, ceci, cozze e tria
Mussels, chick pea and tria
Five Roses IGT Rosato del Salento 2007 Leone de Castris
Orecchiette con brasciole
Parcels of beef filled with celery, onion, parmesan and parsley slow-cooked
in a red wine and tomato sauce, served with orecchiette
Il Falcone Castel del Monte DOC 2005 Rivera
Maime Negroamaro del Salento 2005 Tormaresca

Costatine d'agnello alla brace con bieta
Grilled lamb cutlet with swiss chard and olive oil
Le Cruste nero di Troia IGT 2006 Alberto longo
Primitivo di Manduria DOC Sessantanni 2006 Feudi di S. Marzano

Zuppa Inglese
Rum-soaked sponge with vanilla pastry cream and candied fruits
Kaloro Moscato di Trani DOC 2005 Tormaresca
Coffee with almond nougatine sticks

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Excellent Exeter

A weekend of fine dining and much walking in delightful, historic Exeter and environs.

Mary had a work trip to Exeter last Friday so, as the client had paid her train fare, she suggested I might like to come down to join her and make a weekend of it - and so we did.

Friday I left work early, did some work on the train, and checked in to the ABode Hotel, Exeter for a special weekend package. The deal included a free glass of decent champagne and a meal in their fine restaurant.

Exeter cathedral - the view from our hotel room
Exeter cathedral - the view from our hotel room

Saturday we tromped 12 miles along the Exe Estuary Trail. Devon Council are still working on what will be, I am sure, a very popular leisure resource.

River Exe view
River Exe view

After the first 8 miles it was time for a pub lunch at The Puffing Billy in Exton. Good food and beer with a convivial landlord. We tried a couple of local ales: Gun Dog for me and Otter for Mary. The last 4 miles took us to Exmouth and the train back to Exeter.

Boats on the River Exe
Boats on the River Exe

That evening we caught the train back down to Topsham for supper at Oliva, recommended by a colleague of Mary's. The food was excellent and the service friendly but very slow. An earlier table was late arriving and the kitchen could not cope. Not like it was packed solid or anything. Even a basket of bread would have helped, as it was we were drinking on an empty stomach for an hour. I would go back but...

Walking tour of Exeter - Catherdral to Quay
Walking tour of Exeter - Catherdral to Quay

Sunday we did a guided tour of the city "Cathedral to Quay" which left us an easy walk to the Double Locks pub for lunch. Then a walk back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and spend the afternoon trundling home on the train.

An very tourist friendly city with lots of history and atmosphere - recommended.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mark McLellan - My Year in Status

When I did my Facebook year in status it neatly precised the last twelve months: music, food & drink, cycling, travel.

Mark McLellan - My Year in Status

Music was a rich year with some most entertaining evenings out:
  • Tina Turner at the O2 (brilliant!)
  • Rick Wakeman at Hampton Court Palace
  • New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans (too many artists to list)
  • New Orleans festival at the O2 (John Mooney, Dr John)
  • Neil Young in Hyde Park (also Seasick Steve)
  • James Taylor at the O2
  • Sapphire Bullets in a pub in Kingston on Thames
  • U2 at Wembley
  • Bolan Bop in Golders Green
  • T.Rextasy at Epsom
  • Bill Bailey's Extraordinary Guide to the Orchestra
  • Bill Posters Will be Band plus Three Bonzos and a Piano at The Bull's Head, Barnes

Food and drink to many to mention, see:
Travel is not good for our carbon footprint. The most frequent destination was Scotland to visit Mary's mum and help her with the down-sizing and move to the sheltered accommodation. Of course the Trulli gets a number of hits.
  • Scotland (10) - visiting May
  • Italy (5) - open up, holidays, close down
  • New Orleans (1) - Jazz Fest
  • South Africa (1) - Whale watching in Hermanus
  • Bowness (1) - walking in the lake district
  • France (1) - weekend visiting John and Andrea in Bordeaux
  • Dublin (1) - Valentine's Day weekend


One charity ride (London Bikeathon in Aid of Leukaemia Research) and load of miles commuting to work by bike.

I had a cataract operation in March in the left eye which went well. As only the one eye was done that left me with mismatched eyes. I cannot now use glasses as the prescriptions are two disparate - I miss the varifocal lenses. Instead I use a long distance contact lens in the left and reading power in the right - leaving the brain to auto-flip flop between the images; odd but mostly works ok.
Work should get a mention. At the tail end of 2008 I was budget cut out of BT after four years of contract renewals. I then got a contract as "poacher turned gamekeeper" at Wexham Park Hospital. After only two months there the financial axe fell again and, as freelancers are easy meat for the cull, I was out again.

Luckily I obtained a new contract on a really interesting project, with excellent colleagues in a good location (London Bridge) that I cycle to most days that I can. The rate wasn't top of the range but who's complaining with the other plus points.

What is a pain is that the agency through whom I was contracting went into voluntary liquidation owing me three months money. I am unlikely to ever see that but the plus side is that I am now working directly for the client and get the old agency's cut so will gradually claw back the loss. And the work looks set fair to continue for some time.

Christmas: The previous two Christmases were spent in South Africa so this year it was our turn to host Mary's Mum and stay in the UK. We spent a relaxing time as home in Wandsworth with May mostly knitting in the corner. We were joined by my Mum and Dad for Christmas Day goose and on New Year's Eve our friends Bob and Lynne joined us for a meal at a local restaurant.

No New Year resolutions but if I were to make one it would be "to become older and wiser". That way I am guaranteed at least a 50 percent success :-)

PS [14-Jan-10]
Molly the Morris Minor: How could I have missed that other milestone of the year? After 13 years with us Molly the Morris Minor went off to a new home.