Pilton Cider

I picked up a bottle of Pilton Cider at a food fair in Exeter early this year but only finally got around to tasting it this week. I wish I hadn’t waited so long!

Made in the noble 450 year old but not often used method of keeving, where the milled apple pulp and juice are allowed to macerate (stand) for up to 24hrs, places Pilton in my opinion firmly at the vanguard of premium UK cider production. Over the winter when the wild yeasts are doing their work, this humble apple juice pressed from 88 different varieties transforms into the sort of aperitif that other “aperitifs” wish they could be. It’s hard to believe that it’s only 5.5% abv yet packs so many layers of flavour. Pilton simply leaves most other ciders I’ve tried out in the cold.

It’s a lovely amber gold, and when I poured into the glass, a foam of what appeared to be a dense meringue frothed up. Never have I seen such luxuriant bubbles on a head of cider! On the nose those vagabond yeasts are still frolicking merrily in the hayloft, while earthy woody mushrooms sprout in the beams. On the palate it’s refreshing apple resonance is clear, yet it is transformed, evolved into a beverage that literally pulses with charm, depth and character. You get mature apple, earthy woodiness and subtle spicy floral notes. Its texture is creamy yet fresh and all the while your mouth is tickled by those ever present bubbles.

Pressed in 2012 bottled in 2013, the smart spare packaging with the classic cork and wire cage exude class and refinement. In my humble opinion owner Martin Berkeley is producing a cider of the complexity, dryness and balance that truly competes with quality sparkling wine. No small feat.

As I said this is the perfect aperitif, alone or with nibbles of the nutty or cheesy persuasion. But really this stuff is so fine you could carry it through a whole meal. Grilled pork, roast chicken, fish and chips but onto to dessert as well in the form of tarte tatin, bread and butter pudding or good stinky cheeses.

A 75cl bottle  is about £8 and available from various retailers but can also be bought direct (6 bottle minimum) and is UK shipped for free!

I cannot recommend Pilton highly enough and most certainly will be stocking on up on some. I suggest you do the same…

 

 

Brains Craft Beer

Craft or Micro Brew is all the rage these days with smaller scale breweries popping up all over the country brewing beers of real quality and originality. Not content to be left behind Welsh brewing juggernaut Brains launched Brains Craft Beer in May 2012 and has already produced over 50 different beers! Here’s what I thought of 3 of them;

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 16.35.07Barry Island IPA 6% US inspired IPA made in collaboration w/ Simon Martin

Pale copper on the eye producing no real head.

Nose is sour, barley sugar, lemon, leather & cantaloupe melon.

Palate is sharp, malted sugars & bread, moreish easy drinking, lemon zest & herb finish.

Not bad at all and would happily go with garlic prawns. 6.75/10

 

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 16.35.28Atlantic White 6%  Belgian & US mash up producing a White IPA 

Yellow gold with good frothy head.

Smelt herbaceous, golden syrup, sunflower and grapefruit pips.

Nutty, spicy herbs, rocket, lean and a bit soapy.

Decent. Went well with Haddock mustard & cheese fishcakes. 6.25/10

 

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 16.35.40The Shy Porter 4.5% A traditional brown porter w/ added coconut chips and raw cacao nibs

Rich thick foam head, hazy cola brown.

Sweet & raw chocolate nose.

Sweet coconut, sour, unbalanced, acidic, pina colada, not right.

Fairly disappointing and I actually chucked it down the sink. 3.5/10

So these bottled signs were decent(barring the very poor or perhaps faulty Shy Porter), but having tried a few more of their beers at GBBF(Great British Beer Festival) on cask, I must concede that I find Brains Craft Beer tastes like a big brewer trying very hard to produce “craft beer”. By that I mean it’s perfectly ok, but lacks real character and that artesian touch.

Postscript :

At the British Guild of Beer Writers Awards 2013 in December last year I tasted beers from Brains Contitental Beer Challenge, where they worked in collaboration with some highly regarded UK beer writers & professionals. The aim of which was to brew the best classic continental style, with most adding their own unique twist. I tried a number of them and found most of them to be of a universally high standard, but was especially impressed by the Challenge winner Rye Catcher by Glenn Payne, Brabo by Des De Moor and Three C’Son by Adrian Tierney-Jones.  Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 12.00.27Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 12.01.00Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 12.01.19

Street Feast @ Hawker House

Judging by the popularity of Hawker House in Hackney on it’s 2nd weekend of 6, I would go as far to say that Foodie-ism is perhaps the fastest growing religion in London. Set up in an old warehouse with stalls selling all manner of culinary communions, from Indian to Ice Cream to Americana. This winter offering from the Street Feast crew is really packing the “pulpits” with it’s ying of family friendly eating and drinking in the early evening, but goes yang later with DJ’s spinning into the wee hours.Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 11.58.12 There was a big bar doing cocktails and brewskies plus a smaller boutique wine bar, but I was feeling beer, so big bar it was. Stepping up to the long counter I was surprised and slightly disappointed to find they only had Camden Town Brewery Pale & Lager on draft as well as some bottle offerings from CTB & Meantime Brewery. Hardly representative of the staggering array of great breweries we currently have in the capital, but don’t get me wrong I like Camden Town beers and Meantime are alright, but was hoping for more choice. A few beers in hand it was time to eat, Breddo’s Tacos were first up and thought they were pretty decent. Spicy juicy and fresh, cScreen Shot 2013-11-22 at 11.59.00hicken and pork I as I recall… Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 11.58.35Next was Slider Bar, brethren unto Breddo’s. Now sliders are all the rage at the mo, and I am often less then thrilled, but this was not one of those times.Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 11.57.29 The chilli heat, the meaty moistness and warm sweet bun was a revelation, best mini burger I have had in recent memory.Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 11.57.52 The longest cue was at B.O.B.’s Lobster so I had to go there next, coming away after about 20 minutes armed with Lobster Mac and Cheese and their signature Lobster Roll.Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 11.57.15 Now I wasn’t wild about the MnC, not enough lobster and the mac was mushy, but their Lobster rollScreen Shot 2013-11-22 at 12.01.56, even at £11 was something quite enlightening. A square brioche bun jam packed with the most succulent sweet meat of that king of crustaceans, drizzled in a savoury, citrus vinaigrette…heavenly. Still peckish we went for another round of sliders, classic cheese this time, but 30 mins elapsed before we got them… just about worth the wait. Now if you don’t like to stand in line or urinate outdoors in winter(men only) then this may not be the place for you. But if this sounds like your idea of nourishment nirvana then bring a wad of cash(it’s not cheap as it goes) get there early as you can and bag some seating. Then go forth and eat my sons & daughters, eat…

Champion Beers of Britain 2000-13

I got very excited when the invite for this sudsy retrospective arrived in my inbox. An opportunity to taste the best beers as voted by CAMRA(Campaign for Real Ale) of the past 14 years all in one go, what a treat!

This unique event was held at The Bull in Highgate(North London), a venue that had long been on my malt liquor hit list. A very cosy pub with great staff and an impressive array of cask ales. All but one of the pumps(Pete’s Coffee Porter by Pete & London Brewing Company, which was pretty good) were dedicated to the aforementioned Champ E On A’s.Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 16.07.30 Some of the beers I’d had before and others were totally new to me so armed with my tasting sheet, pen and a glass I tucked in.

I took a rather simplistic approach to tasting the line up of royal real ales, as they were arranged on 2 floors, I tasted the ones downstairs first in order of ascending ABV and then did the same with the winners upstairs.

Here’s what I thought;

2000Moorhouse Black Cat Mild/3.4% – This was hands down my least favourite beer. Dull, thin, watery cola that was almost tasteless. A real disappointment. 3.5/10

2001Oakham Ales Jeffrey Hudson Bitter/3.8% – Despite it’s shortened name of JHB sounding like something you would go to jail for, this is a seriously good beer. Tons of depth, flavour, balance & character. A session ale of the highest order. 8/10 Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 16.05.47

2002Caledonian Deuchars IPA/3.8% – I know this beer well and have had some excellent pints of it(mostly in Edinburgh) and some rather bad ones(in London). But it showed well, clinging to the mouth, taught hoppiness & very fragrant nose. 6.5/10

2003Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted Blonde/4.2% – A favorite of mine in bottle and on keg, but B & T was off the pace a bit in cask. It’s freshness and intensity muted somewhat. Lacked bite but still a good brew. 7/10

2004Kelham Island Pale Rider Golden Ale/5.2% – I’ve had this in the past once or twice and have thought it a decent beer. The nose however is not welcoming, reminded me of skunk cabbage. It was a bit soapy and lacked some definition. Better than average though. 6.25/10

2005 & 2006 Crouch Vale Brewers Gold Blonde Ale/4.0% – The only double winner of the past 14 years and deservedly so. I buy this in bottle often from my local Morrison’s as it’s one of the only good beers they stock. Bright, crisp & refreshing, with a lemon pith grassy finish. A worthy back to back Champ, top stuff. 7.5/10

2007Hobson’s Mild/3.2% – Now I’m one of those Philistines who struggles to appreciate Mild, but that said Hobson’s is definitely one of the best I’ve tried. Lean, woody mushroom, tangy coffee and very drinkable. 7/10 Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 16.04.27

2008Triple FFF Brewery Alton’s Pride Bitter/3.8% – With a strong nose of farmyard and super dry hop character that left me wanting another sip, so was easy to see why this beer had its admirers, but it didn’t wow me. 6.5/10

2009Rudgate Ruby Mild/4.4% – Soapy, somewhat astringent and rather ho hum. A champion? Not nearly. 5/10

2010Castle Rock Harvest Pale Ale/3.8% – I remember this beer because it was my first year at GBBF(Great British Beer Festival) and they announced it over the tannoy. Buttery and bright with notes of sunflower seeds and lemon. Drinkable but nothing to sing about. 6/10

2011The Mighty Oak Brewery Oscar Wilde Mild/3.7% – Despite its rhyming name honouring a great writer & humourist, I was left wondering where this beer’s wit and charm were. I liked the creamy fleshy texture but found little else to praise. 5.5/10

2012Coniston Brewing Company No. 9 Barley Wine/8.5% – Very impressive this stuff.  Irn Bru in colour muted peach and sandy soil on the nose. Dry malty apricot, firm structure, good balance, long dry citrus finish. Company No. 9 is a complex wonderful brew, heartily deserving the crown in 2012 and was my beer of the night. 8.75/10 Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 16.05.00

2013Elland Brewery 1872 Porter/6.5% – Another great beer. Bitter chocolate, espresso, molasses notes, yet retaining freshness and sharp hop bite. Long persistent and well balanced. 8.25/10 Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 16.05.24

Now some of my critique may seem harsh, but when it comes to judging beer(or anything else for that matter) personal taste will always play the biggest part in whether you like, love or loath something. Some of my colleagues really liked some of the beers that I didn’t, that’s just way the malt crackles…

There were some nice snacks thrown on by our hosts Warminster Maltings and R&R Teamwork to soak up all the beers.Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 15.58.50 But I found myself returning to the glasses of Maris Otter Malted Barley. Nutty, malty, crunchy with a hint of sweetness, I would happily have bowls of it to snack on at my next dinner party.Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 15.58.19

Now I may not agree with CAMRA on everything(their hardliners superstitious view of keg beers for one) and certainly would not have voted to elevate some of these cask ales to Champion. However, considering how long ago some of the beers won, I was on the average pleased with the overall quality, if not wild about the beer itself. I did catch up with some old pals and met some lovely new folks as well, so all in all it was an excellent soiree.

 

Aldi Winter Tasting

Aye, it’s Aldi Captain, but not as we’ve known it

Aldi was once seen as on a par with Lidl and such like, just another continental out of shape budget supermarket that was good for things like chocolate, mysterious tinned goods, exotic looking biscuits and frozen lobster at Christmas, but little else. However over the past few years Aldi has been hitting the gym and is looking good, business is booming(pre-tax profits jumped 124% in 2012), yes it is partly to do with this age of austerity we are living in, but it is also because Aldi has begun attracting higher earners with it’s buff premium ‘Specially Selected’ food range & ‘Equisite Collection’ wines. I had read some good things about their wines so went along myself to see what all the fuss was about.

Things started out reasonably well with their fizz selection at the sub £10 level. Worth mentioning is Prosecco Superiore DOCG Valdobbiadene & Philippe Michel Cremant de Jura 2011. I found the Prosecco a bit chemical but won’t put most folks off at £7.29. The Cremant was a bit green and sharp, but for a Champagne method sparkler it’s worth a punt at £6.99.

I was most impressed by their entry level Champagne Veuve Monsigny NV Philizot & Fils. Warm buttery lemon & classic rich yeasty biscuit at £11.99 a bottle it’s an absolute steal. May load up on some myself. More great value can be found in magnums(1.5L) with Charles Mignon Champagne NV which is available from the end of November at £29.99 while stocks last.

Finally the Grand Cru Champagne NV Jannisson & Fils with it’s mature yeasts, nettles, lemon zest is a classy drop and a snip at £23.99(available early November while stocks last).

Moving onto the whites I braced my palate seeing the £3.99 pricetag on Cambalala Chenin Blanc 2013. Oh me of little faith, fragrant fresh and perfectly acceptable. Decent Sub £4 wines in the UK are very scarce so this was a welcome discovery indeed. Three very good whites under the ‘Exquisite Collection’ followed. First up was a £4.99 Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc 2012, grassy clean & concentrated. Next the perfumed, green, generous stone fruit laden Sud de France Sauvignon Blanc Viognier 2012 @ £5.99 was a real winner. Saving the best for last Limoux A.C. 2012, made from 100% Chardonnay producing a tremendously complex wine with notes of rich smoky bacon, green plums and spicy smoky finish. I absolutely loved this £6.99 wine from the Languedoc in Southern France, an area more famous for making sparkling wine but on the strength of this we should be drinking more of their still whites.

The bargains continued with two roses on offer. Both from Spain(La Mancha & Utiel-Requena), both under £4 and both very drinkable. Grapevine Tempranillo Garnacha 2012 £3.29, yes 3 pounds and twenty nine pence. Toro Loco 2012 made from the interesting native Bobal grape was more complex and still only £3.69.

Things didn’t get off to the best start with the reds, and it wasn’t till wine number 5 that I thought “Hmmm… this isn’t too bad”. That was a £4.49 Pinot Noir NV by Vignobles Roussellet, then I hit two notables in a row with De la Rougerie Bordeaux Superior 2011 Toro Loco Reserva 2010 both impressing for their honest expression & £4.99 price tags. There was another spell of forgettable bottles before I hit a run of 7 stars(call me lucky), ranging from good to excellent and all from Spain & Italy. The bargain of the Spanish bunch at £5.49 was Minarete Ribera Del Duero D.O. Roble 2011 and is everything you could want in 100% Tempranillo from a highly regarded region.Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 15.39.50 Grippy tannins, earthy black fruit, good mouth feel and nice length. Two more solid Spanish wines followed in Baron Amarillo Gran Reserva Rioja 2005 (£9.99) and The Exquisite Collection Priorat Crianza 2010 (£7.99). But it was a trio of Italians, the 3 Tenors if you will, that had me singing O Sole Mio into my glass.

First The Exquisite Collection Chianti Classico Riserva D.O.C.G. 2009 (£8.99) seduced with its gamey licorice, menthol, sour dried cherry, tobacco & cigar box. Also from Aldi’s EC range was a rich inky, liquorice allsorts, smoky blackberry Valipolicella Ripasso D.O.C. Superiore 2010. Perhaps a touch sweet but for £7.99 a bottle you won’t hear me complaining.

Finally my red of the day, Conventino Barolo D.O.C.G. 2009. It may have been a tank sample with a ratty temporary label but damn my taste buds it was magnificent! Wet undergrowth, fall leaves, hung game, dry dry fruit, pungent prune, earthy and rooted. Barolo is a notoriously complex & often restrictively expensive, a wine that took me many years to begin to appreciate. But this at £9.99 this accessible example is most definitely one to buy by the case (available November 24 while stocks last).

Domaine Lou Frejau Chateauneuf-Du-Pape 2012 was good but at £14.99 no better value than what other supermarkets can offer. More impressive was Edouard Delaunay Gevrey Chambertain 2007 with it’s mushroom, faded red fruits, game birds, lifted red berry perfume, licorice root, sad strawberry and salty leather tannins. Though not a great vintage at £19.99 a bottle if you are after some value Burgundy you could do much worse. 

The Fortified and Sweet Wines section kicked off with a double bang with Austrian Selection Beernaulese(£5.99) that was all lush apricot, honeycomb & candied melon. The Exquisite Collection Eiswein(Ice wine) from Germany was even more special with notes of creamy apple, flinty minerals and a long, fresh, smoky green finish. Lovers of Ice wine know they can be very expensive indeed, which makes this beauty at £7.99 all the more remarkable.

 

On the Port front their flagship Maynard’s ranged from a superb LBV(Late Bottled Vintage) right up to a decent 1989 Vintage with two very good Tawnies in the middle. My affections lay with the LBV that showed dense fig, prune, nutty chocolate and a real value buster @ £9.99.

Slightly disappointing was the beer and cider range. Though Sheppy’s Vintage Cider & Church’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer were solid enough performers.

They got back to winning ways though with their spirit selection. Right out of the traps their core range Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin made me take notice with it’s light fragrant touch, that was balanced with just the right amount of Juniper. Bloody good for £9.99! An interesting 1973 Vintage Brandy(£29.99 & available while stocks last) followed before I was treated to 4 super whiskies and a top bourbon. Highland Black 8 Y/O Scotch Whisky was on the money with nettles, lavender & long earthy smoky finish, only £12.99. Glen Marnoch 12 Y/O was more sweet subtle smooth honey & heather at £18.79. Glen Marnoch 24 Y/O took the my breath away, literally. My note was “Wild boar on fire in my mouth”. A beast of a scotch not for the faint of heart, but very good indeed at £34.99. My favorite was Glen Orrin 30 Y/O Whisky(Available Dec 8 while stocks last) which had me saying things like “History, fishy bowels of a sailing ship, salty, TCP, pepper, long complex, so moving, wow!”. A whisky tremendous character but not cheap at £49.99 for 70cl. Finally from over the pond Jefferson’s Small Batch Bourbon wooed me with frontier charms of pine resin, gun smoke, savory white pepper & super spicy finish. Not a bad deal at £29.99.

Usually I skip liqueurs at a tasting but was drawn to their range frankly because it was cheap, and good value had definitely been the buzz word for the day.  I tasted all 6 of them and will be popping into Aldi to buy 4 or 5 of them as they weren’t half bad. Orange Liqueur was a touch chemical but at £5.99 worth it if you like Gran Marnier or Cointreau type drinks. A solid Ginger Wine, a must for Holiday cocktails was an amazing £3.29, Amaretto £4.99 for 50cl again did what it said on the tin and with style. Ballycastle Irish Cream Liqueur for £4.29 will have you switching from that more famous & expensive B named brand in a Gaelic heartbeat. Finally if you’re a real discerning drinker of the creamy stuff then the step up to Specially Selected Irish Cream will suit you down to the ground, and only £6.49!

 

 

 

Ok so currently they have less stores and you can’t get your groceries online but judging from this tasting Aldi is most certainly fighting fit for the modern age. Morrison’s, Tesco et all better watch their backs…

 

 

Bay Tree Spicy Gooseberry & Coriander Chutney

Chutney, but not as we know it 

I discovered this award winning stuff when I was at a trade food and drink fair in Exeter earlier this year, and man was I impressed.

Here are my notes.

Thick attractive brown red clay colour. Good solid thick consistency. Sticks to the spoon.

Nose of rich Indian spices.

Rich real fruit, mouth coating texture. Zingy sweetness from gooseberry, tang of tomato & warming complexity from the spices, topped off with the lovely aromatic crunch of the nigella seeds.

A winner.

This loves cheese, but nothing blue or too stinky. Work a treat on a cold lamb sandwich or an inventive twist on rarebit.

Find stockists and further information at The Bay Tree Food Company

The Stable Bristol

 

The Stable is exactly the kind of place I wish I had as my local. Sadly I don’t but had the great pleasure of eating & drinking at their Bristol encampment on a glorious weekend this past July. Bristol is a great party town, and with all that warm sunshine Harbourside was rammed. We managed to grab an outside table which meant we had front row seats to the circus. The Canon’s Road wooden promenade was coursing with people from all walks life in search of a good time, and I pretty felt smug because I had found it at the Stable. Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 10.56.05

Pizza-Pies-Cider is their simple motto and man do they deliver. I shared The Lamb Roast & Fresh Hawaiian with a pal and Hey Zeus they both were delicious! Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 10.42.40So well made is the thin wispy crispy crust and so well conceived are the selection of toppings that every bite was a symphony.

It’s no wonder, as they focus on sourcing the best fresh local ingredients like smoked ham, marinated lamb and goats cheese. I was too full to try any of the pies but can imagine they are just as good.

It being the West Country the spotlight on cider is no mystery, and it’s an impressive line up with more than 20 on the go at any one time. I opted for a mix stick(5 x 1/3) but honestly don’t recall what they all were, though some I enjoyed more than others. Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 10.42.26The tab was quite reasonable as you would expect with most pizzas around £10-12 and a pint of cider less than £4. The Stable Bristol is one of 4 Stables currently operating with other locations in Bridport, Weymouth & Bath tragically though we don’t have anScreen Shot 2013-10-03 at 10.54.57y as yet in London.Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 10.54.30

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3 Blind Porters

Tasting Porter Blind…folded

There is a distinct change in terms of my palate as the air grows cooler and evenings darken. Gone is my desire for fresh light citrusy beers of yellow and gold, give me the dense browns and blacks to keep the autumn and winter at bay.

The tale of Porter began here in London in the 18th century. It got its name due to it’s popularity with the people who enjoyed it most, the river and street porters. A dark fortifying beer that’s spread from London to Ireland to Italy to Idaho and beyond. Regional differences have allowed it to evolve and as a result is made in differing strengths and styles. But it retains it’s roots in being rich dense brew full of character.

I decided to keep it true to its origins and only chose bottles from 3 London breweries. To add to the mix I decided to review the beers blind and though I knew which beers I had, I didn’t know the order in which I was to taste them.

Here are my notes…

Beer 1

Nose- Black cherry, unsweetened chocolate, cold expresso, quality Turkish delight, middle eastern spices, clove, cardamom, not too savoury, beautifully sweet & intoxicating

Palate- Rich, coffee bean, expresso, viscous, coats mouth, dark fruit, black raspberry, clean lingering finish

Score– 9.5/10

Beer 2

Nose- Sour gueuze, fresh plum, Japanese plum liqueur, unusual but not unpleasant

Palate- Clean, leaner than Beer 1, dark chocolate, raspberries, not thick, fresh bright, aromatic

Score– 8/10

Beer 3

Nose- Muted, earthy mushroom, cocoa, moist fruit way off down a tunnel or smelling fruit cooking in another room, peach, strawberry pie

Palate- disappointing, thin, some fruit, boysenberry, unsweetened chocolate on finish, uninspiring

Score- 6/10

I took off my mask and after squinting a bit these were the beers that I had tasted.Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 10.17.58

But what was the order?

Beer 1 was The Kernel Export India Porter @ 6.1% abv. Not surprisingly I loved it, as I do most beers that they make.

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Then Beer 2 was By the Horns Brewing Lambeth Walk Dark Porter @ 5.1% abv. A well made beer with a very interesting aroma profile.

Finally and rather unluckily was Beer 3 Fullers London Porter @ 5.4% abv which is decent beer all round. But against the other two it was always going to struggle.

The idea that in taking one sense away you heighten others I found to be very true, as I found that I was able to recognise so many more aromas.

Click on the links above to find out more about the beers and see where one can buy em…

Eating Brixton

The transformation of Brixton over the past 5 years into a foodie drinky haven has been one of the most dramatic in London and luckily I live about ten minutes away. The downside to having such a culinary cornucopia on ones doorstep is that there is now so much choice, that deciding where to wet my whistle or calm those hunger pains has become a real challenge!

I fell in love with that sourdough pizza perfection that is Franco Manca some years ago as it was one of the first to see the potential in Brixton’s Market Row. Still probably the best pizza I have ever had.Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.05.19

Just a few doors down is the Bukowski Grill. As the name suggests it’s pure Americana.  A laid back dark moody space with boozy milkshakes, good beers and American BBQ. Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.04.25Crispy Cajun popcorn shrimp were the perfect amuse bouche. Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.11.08I found the rub a bit dry on the intensely flavoured smoky ribs, but this steak sandwich impressed despite my sourdough being a tad burnt. My favourite were these tobacco onions, sliced fine and battered in a KFC type batter. Heaven… The bill was very reasonable and with Charlie’s Beat poems adorning the walls of the toilets it was a “trip” worth taking.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.04.40Next door is Wishbone more US import style food but turning our attention to the humble chicken. I went on cold Sunday night and without heating or doors, we froze our wings off. Speaking of which we sampled a two styles of deep fried flappers. Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.16.11If I’m honest the food didn’t really hit all the right notes. Batter lacked crunch & sauces tasted a bit pre fab. The very en vogue deep fried mac n cheese was a bit soggy stodgy as opposed to crunchy gooey. The spare decor of the place & lack of warmth made it feel like we were eating in a meat locker, which certainly didn’t the food any favours. So in fairness should go back and give em another shot…

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.17.40Over in Brixton Village I ate some of the best Thai food I have had in recent memory. Kaosarn is on the outside corner off Coldharbour Lane. A simple cafe type set up, wooden tables, paper napkins & plain white plates. But the food! I had this astonishing Gang Kua Sapparod Goong aka Red Prawn Curry with tomatoes, kaffir lime, coconut milk & pineapple. The flavours so distinct and nuanced. The rice fluffy, the prawns succulent. Kaosarn is great value and a must visit.Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.18.03

Inside Brixton Village is Senzala Creperie which is great for lunch or brunch. They do super buckwheat pancakes or as the French call them galettes with all manner of fillings served with proper side salads. With the likes of Honest Burger(which I have still yet to visit due the massive lines outside every time I go), the Craft Beer Company & the Crown and Anchor(who do very good food as well) plus stacks more Brixton is sure to only increase it’s notoriety as the place to eat & drink in south London.

Sainsbury’s Organic Wines

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SO Organic?

This September is National Organic Awareness Month and Sainsbury’s kindly sent me 4 wines from their SO Organic range to review. Now I don’t claim to be a leading light in buying organic. You see despite wanting buy more of said products I sometimes find it tough to either A) Find what I need at my local supermarket or moreover B) Afford it. But enough of my moral dilemmas when it comes to my shopping. Onto the wines…

Both whites were from northern Italy. Which suited me fine as I am a big fan of wines from that part of the world. I love them because at their best there are subtly floral fragrant, glinty flinty, stony saline, herbaceous fresh with zingy hints of lime, lemon, melon & pear. But at their worst? Thoroughly nasty mass produced chemical plonk water one glass hangover sauce.

But what would these be like?

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Soave 2012 Veneto 11.5 %abv £5.99

That nursery rhyme “The Little Girl with the Curl” comes to mind I think of Soave. Translucent in colour with minute yellow tinge to it. A nose of wet stones, hint of cleaning products, white flowers, green mango & raw almond. On the palate it’s bracing, like winter air. Then clean spearmint, spicy herbs ultra dry with faint pear finish. It’s well made and was easy but refreshing drinking. Happy solo, light salads or white fish with capers. Nice to taste a decent wine at 11.5% as well. Good girl. Score 14.5/20

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Pinot Grigio 2012 Delle Venezie 12%abv £6.99

Pinot Grigio is one of those grapes that has become a dirty word to some of us bloggers. Got it’s bad name as it overflowed from every pub wine list, tasting all too often lazy flabby, bland and charmless. Thankfully this PG isn’t like that. It’s pale pale yellow with a tingling lime, ripe stone fruit and climbing trellis flower nose. In the mouth it’s texture is round creamy floral, spicy rocket, ripe white melon make way for freshness, balanced acidity and a long dry lime & peach finish. It’s perfect on it’s own but would happily accompany soft creamy cheeses or roast chicken. Definitely worth grabbing a couple bottles of this one. Score 15.5/20

Now onto the reds…

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Shiraz Pays D’Oc 2012, France 13%abv £5.99 

One of my favourite regions for good value red wines, but you can get a bad bottle from time to time. Light purple garnet in the glass. Complex notes of warm spices, black liquorice, chocolate, treacle, black raspberry and crushed blackberries came wafting wildly up my nostrils. It tasted fresh, medium bodied, stony minerals, wild herbs, muscular forest fruit, firm tannins & not unpleasant stalky green finish. I had this open for a day and it needed it. Midweek casserole or bangers n mash would pair nicely.  Score 14.5/20

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Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Western Cape South Africa 13%abv £5.99

On paper this Cab Sav was a socially conscious individuals dream wine. Not only organic, it was sulphur free and fair trade! Ticking all those warm and fuzzy boxes. But at the price I wasn’t optimistic. Deep Ribena in colour, nose of black clay, game birds & whiffs of rubber tire. Cue negative associations with South African red wine. First sip that burnt rubber was back, smoky chipotle chilli heat, grippy tannins, bright red currant, mid palate the rubber is fading, taught tannins, black minerals with a green pepper cassis finish. Now sadly I am jaded (having had too many SA reds that are affected with this burnt rubber syndrome) but if your palate reads it as smoky earthiness then fine. But not a wine I would buy. Score 13.5/20

The wines are all good value and aren’t massively high in alcohol. Both big pluses. So I would definitely say it’s worth trying em out…except maybe not that Cab Sav.

You can find the wines online or in most Sainsbury’s Supermarkets