"Life's too short to eat the same meal twice"

London Wine Fair

The London wine fair is a fantastic annual event. Trade-only it brings together buyers, producers and distributors from all over the world.  With 14,000 wines from 32 different countries it’s impossible to try them all. 

Over two floors at Olympia, the ground floor is mainly given over to large distributers and countries and wine regions such as Rioja. 

I like to try things I don’t normally order so sampled a few German wines, Georgian wines and white riojas as well as some rather good Romanian wines.

There was also a section on ‘cider is wine’ with artisan cider and perry some made using 'MĂ©thode Traditionelle' as well as a very interesting ice cider from www.edenciders.com in Vermont (one of my favourite parts of new England).

Earlier in the month I came across a fantastic cider made by Gordon Castle www.gordoncastle.co.uk  it’s made from a mixture of dessert and cooking apples grown in their walled garden. The cider is then matured in whisky barrels which gave it a wonderful colour and aroma. They also make a delicious gin with homegrown botanicals.

2 days in Genova

Flying into Milan I got the train to Genova (or Genoa in English) as direct flight times didn’t work for me. I’d rather spend a couple of hours on a train than in the airport waiting for a transfer. Grabbed a speck, rocket and burrata panini for the journey. Not bad!

Having a beer in a fairly basic bar by the train station I was given this plate of food, I do love Aperitivo!

Checked into the hotel and had a quick look around the local supermarket, as Genova is the home of pesto and Foccacia naturally I bought pesto along with bought half a kilo of Parmesan and a large piece of grana.

We had supper in a small local place called Osteria Marinara A Lanterna da Don Gallo. Food was basic and hearty with an emphasis on seafood. We shared a few starters including bacalao and had fresh tuna pasta, gnocchi with clams and a seafood tagliatelle.

As with business travel there was little time to sightsee so the next afternoon it was back to Milan. Spent an hour around the station area and picked up a few things for the journey including prosciutto and focaccia as I hate to rely on airport food. I did manage a grappa and an espresso to fortify me for the flight!

Boulogne Saturday Market

I spend a lot of time in Northern France and one of my favourite towns is Boulogne. Ferries have long stopped going there but it’s less than an hours’ drive from Calais. 

With a fantastic market on Saturdays and lots of small producers, I always pick up goat’s cheese, eggs, vegetables and organic salad, often a rabbit too. 

In season, I’ll buy half a dozen oysters from a lady who is there every week. She’s happy to open them so I’ll enjoy them there and then.

After picking up bread from Fred the boulangère, it’s into a bar for a Picon bier which is my current favourite drink.

Boulogne is the largest French fishing port on the Atlantic. The fish market is superb. On the quay next to the fishing boats you can buy direct from the fisherman. You need to get in early as by midday they have usually sold out.

Aromatherapy at the Ivy

At the Ivy (the original one) for a lunch and presentation about how Aromatherapy can help one to sleep better.

The talk was hosted by Puressentiel   a French company that produces an excellent range of organic essential oils and oil-based treatments for both beauty and health.

The French are far advanced in the use of essential oils and even take some orally. We were given products to try from the Puressential ‘Rest & Relax’ range including capsules containing True Lavender, Bitter orange, Green Mandarin, Marjoram essential oils. They aren’t like sleeping pills that knock you out, instead they help you unwind and improve the quality of sleep so you feel more relaxed in the morning. Also in the range are an air spray, massage oil and bath oil

Dr Gill Jenkins GP, told how lack of sleep affects us, costing the economy £40 billion a year. A lack of sleep can also increase the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, and raises the risk of an early death by 12%.

I really like Puressentiel products because they’re natural and subtly scented. Also highly recommended is the Puressential balm for muscle aches which works well; and their nasal spray which is great for a blocked nose!

Dr Chris Etheridge, Medical Herbalist and plant chemist went on to explain how various essential oils can help you get a good nights sleep.

Feeling suitably chilled it was time to eat.

First course was a creamy burrata with San Daniele ham, mojo verde and black olive dressing, simple but delicious.

Followed by roast Welsh black lamb rump with pressed potato cake, Madeira sauce, spinach and pea shoots.

Ironically my lamb dish contained more vegetables than the vegetarian course of risotto which although I am told was tasty just didn’t look very appealing compared to my lunch.

Then it was a light Amalfi lemon  panna cotta with raspberry granite

To drink we were served a 2018 New Zealand  Eradus Malborough Sauvignon Blanc and  a 2016 Chateau La Grave Singalier Bordeaux Superieur
A very interesting talk and a great lunch

At IFE International Food Exhibition

IFE The International Food Exhibition is an international trade-only food and drink event held every 2 years.

Producers both large and small come from all over the world to this major industry event and alongside the exhibition there are many different talks and debates.

You can’t have helped but notice the rush to get into vegan products and IFE was no exception, with a vast array of new products in the category. Brands from across Europe are keen to get a slice of the vegan market in the UK, including German brand ‘Like Meat’. With a well packaged range of frozen meat alternatives expect to see them here soon.

My view is that the vegan rush will slow down and brands fall by the wayside, as consumers wise up to the fact that many offerings are expensive, highly processed and not very healthy.

My money is on flexitarian consumers being the target market for the savvy producer.

Also at IFI I got to taste some interesting unfiltered Georgian wines made and matured underground in vast clay pots (Kvevri), this method has been added to the UNESCO cultural heritage list. Using local grape varieties they’ve been made this way for 8,000 years. It’s said to be the oldest wine producing region in the world. I met the owner of Kapistoni wines who was proud to tell me about how he is keeping antient grape varieties alive. Well worth a try! www.kapistoniwines.com

The Old Bell Hotel at Malmesbury

Having been an infrequent visitor to the Old Bell over the years, and having enjoyed some good lunches in the past I was pleasantly surprised to see that its dining room has been updated without spoiling the character of what is said to be the oldest inn in Britain.

We chose from the set lunch menu which is incredibly good value at just £17.50 for three courses (£14.50 for two).

For a starter, the asparagus in pancetta with a poached egg was deliciously fresh and light.

From the mains we chose Risotto, with spring vegetables, again lovely and light with lots of flavour, and the lamb which was tender and tasty and came with a good amount of vegetables.

For once, as the menu portions were just right for lunch we were able to enjoy puddings - a wonderfully creamy panacotta with rhubarb and a fabulous pavlova. 

Service was friendly and accomplished and the dining room itself very pleasant. Accompanied by a bottle of decent sparkling wine and a good glass of Merlot this was an excellent lunch and we'll definitely be back!

Homemade Bacon

I love bacon but am a bit worried about the levels of nitrates it can contain. So I thought I'd have a go at making my own. 

Starting with good outdoor reared pork, it was actually quite straightforward and the results very tasty!