This blog is for Wine Notes & Memories. My trip to England was for other reasons...but as usual...wine and food become involved. So...in order to get these snippets you have to read about the whole trip.
The drive to Rotterdam is 470 Kilometers...and I decided to force myself to take a break. Crossing over the border into Holland...I stopped at a motorway restaurant to have some food. I hardly thought about it...Schnitzel and Pommes Frites is always a good bet...so I ordered and waited. Only when I saw the lady coming from the kitchen did I realise the size of Schnitzels at some establishments. The break I was going to take would be necessary to finish the food. I managed half...and that took half an hour!!! I reached the port of Rotterdam at about 4pm...boarding on the 'Pride of Rotterdam' was at 5pm. After last year I was not sure what to do for dinner. There is a 'Carvery'...which I tried once...and never again. If you left your table to get a glass of water...your plate was removed! Last year I ate in Langan's Brasserie but the wine had been poor..a 'Rioja'. I was hungry though and after a browse of the wine-list... you know the type...Chardonnay from Argentina. Pinot Grigio from Italy etc...no vintages, no property details...I asked the Philippine waiter(the whole ship is run by Philippine staff) if I could see a few bottles. I finally found one worth trying...and reserved a table. On arriving...I ordered the food...and asked the waiter to only bring the main course when I said I was ready. This was down to recent visits where the starter has just disappeared and the main course is heading for your table. The wine was shown and the ice bucket ready...although it was the usual few lumps of ice at the bottom. Water was added. Only non-wine drinkers could do this...the few bits of ice mean you get a warm top half...with the last few drops ice cold. So...wine opened...into the glass...and...guess what?...corked. I told my, slightly grumpy, waiter and he thankfully did not query it. Hey...after 35 years...if you think it is corked...it is corked. He returned with a second bottle...which was, with difficulty, opened. The cork was dry as all the wines are stood up in the fridge. I suggested he lie them down in future...waste of words though...he thought I was crazy ordering a wine that had been corked...working on the principal...if the first bottle was 'off'...then all the bottles would be. I smiled at the thought...what would you say if this one was tainted?...it wasn't...and before I could say 'Yippee'... the glass was being filled...he would have taken it to the rim until my polite stop halted proceedings...and the bottle placed in the bucket. Phew...it is hard work trying to get a little of what you expect when eating and drinking! The smoked salmon arrived...at about the same time as a man at the next table ordered the same. He had ordered a bottle of 'rosé' and his first glass filled to the brim. No problem for him...you see...it is me who is the problem. I had hardly finished half the salmon...when I noticed my neighbour was receiving his main course...which was also the Grilled Corn Fed Chicken. I was quietly enjoying the Viognier...but knowing with the 14.5 % and the lip-smacking oak...that I would maybe manage 0.5l. I called the waiter that he could bring the main course...my neighbour was now into his cheese...and was finishing off his bottle...then upturning it and placing it in the ice-bucket. Is it me?...or is that very No-No! The chicken was very succulent and the wine was a fine partner. Next table, meanwhile, had ordered a glass of port...glass like a thimble...full to the brim though. You can sometimes be envious of those who intake such quantity without barely breaking stride. He got up and left...and no doubt snored his way through the night. My bottle stayed the right way up...and still had one third left. The Creme Brulée was absolutely top...one of the best I have had. I always book a larger cabin in the 'quieter' part pf the ship. However...no matter where you are ....the 3 languages call...all difficult to understand... at 6am practically throws you out of bed.
THAI & A HOT FINGER BOWL
Three hours after docking at Hull I was at my mum's home. The reason for this trip was to help her...my brother had passed away before Xmas...and due to my business and terrible weather I had not been able to get over. At 86 years old she is still very fit...hopefully the genes are with me...I need time to drink the wine cellar empty. After a short rest and loads of chat...I told her she wasn't going to cook...we would go to the Thai restaurant we visited a year ago. She reminded me how cold it had been...the weather had been freezing last January...but I remembered the food was good so off we went. I also knew that they had a Cloudy Bay...Thai restaurants are not known for their wine selections. We arrived and chose a table by a radiator...but the place was much cosier that the previous visit. I asked about the vintage of the Sauvignon Blanc....thinking it may now be 2010. Nope...2009 as before...which is not surprising...no doubt I am the only idiot who buys fine wine when eating there. The food was very good...they even 'spiced up' my red curry on request...I wanted to test the wine's potential.
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Smooth and slightly creamy but with a delightful reserved gooseberry...the elegant version...I don't like cats peeeing in my glass!. Slightly tarty which combatted the food nicely.
Had to laugh...after eating the small spring rolls with our fingers...the waitress brought us a LARGE finger bowl with water and a slice of lemon...clean your fingers etc. You must be joking...the water was not warm...it was boiling hot! So funny...you could have made a cup of tea with it.
Next day...the weather was cold but sunny and Lytham St Annes has never changed. We drove along the coast to the fishing town of Fleetwood...and walked along by the sea. You can't buy this type of air!
Some restaurants close during January...and a couple of choices were not answering the phone. Someone had mentioned Pucinellas so we drove by and saw an attractive front with the interior quite modern. Risk it...so I called early evening and after a repeat call...was told I could bring my own bottle so I took along a bottle of Duijn's 2006 one of a few bottles I had taken with me to England.
There is a bar area where you can sit and choose the food.
The owner appeared and I asked if it was a genuine Italian Restaurant...i.e. a born Italian in the kitchen. After the afirmative...I suggested he recommended something typical Italian...and was told the grilled steak!. I decided I'd choose myself and opted for some Chicken Liver with my mum choosing some spring rolls (very Italian). Mind you...there were courses like Cottage Pie...mixed in with the usual Pizza, Pasta etc. As a main course I decided on Gnocchis with Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella. My wife does Gnocchis brilliantly and I was looking forward to them. The Bruschettas that appeared were delicious...and all boded well. We had hardly finished when the first courses were at the table. The lighting over our table was not that bright and, seeing this bowl half filled with something...I almost returned it. Only when he repeated Liver did I realise I was to be the beneficiary of the insides of about 4 chickens! As a main course I would have stalled...and liver I love...but delicate...and not this amount. The old saying...'Less Is More' came to mind.
Needless to say...I only managed about half and was feeling fuller than a pregnant cow.
Still...the Bruschettas were good
and...a light fluffy portion of Gnocchis to follow.
The wine I had brought was not showing well...a surprising amount of acidity...where did that come from? A smoky, slightly burnt smell with a medium palate. Maybe the wine was suffering with me after the Liver.
The main course arrives...and...oh dear...or words to that effect...did not look could. Gnocchis visible...but the tomato sauce seems to be clinging to the...ah...that's the mozzarella. Still not everything that looks bad tastes bad! Any of you readers saying the same here...in the hope of a good outcome? Thank you...but your words and thoughts would be of no help. The Gnocchis had been 'home' made...but not this restaurant home...some large factory home. The tomato sauce had also seen the inside of a glass...and the mozzarella had congregated in the middle of the mass...clinging on for dear life!
All this...after the liver...
But...the Bruschettas were good.
The 'background' music was not background music...but a mixture of just about everything and a few decibells too loud.
Ah...but the Bruschettas had been good.
The wine had slightly improved...with some fruit appearing to combat the negatives.
This should have been much better...but men, women and wine at our table were suffering. A taxi was ordered...and...we left before the owner could ask if we had enjoyed it.
I didn't want to spend an hour there telling him what I thought.
If he had inquired I could have said...The Bruschettas were good...and left it as that.
ASHES TO THE SEA
Today we would lay to rest my brother's ashes.The sun was shining over the windmill in the courtyard where my mum lives.
When I said I was coming over...and as I had not been at the service...it was decided we would spread the ashes into a river that flows into the sea. My brother had often gone to a pub nearby and it seemed appropriate. We set off at 1.30....arriving to see that the tide was out. No way to do anything from the bank without rubber boots. We drove along the river route...and checked out the tide times...either early morning or early evening....over the next few day. Also...it would be dark...so we decided it was back to the bridge which crosses the River Wyre. The four of us reached the middle...where below there was water flowing....and I said a few words...the traffic whizzing by...and at one point...after a large bus passed...we were given a large gust of wind to deal with. We all laughed...and I continued my little speech. Then I opened the urn and let the ashes fall below into the river....the wind swirling and giving a surreal feel to it...like a sandstorm in a dessert. We went for coffee at the pub and all of us reminisced. When someone decides he wants no help and just drinks his life away...there is little you can do. But...as I said to his wife and daughter...life goes on...and they have to start a new chapter now.
That evening I went to Seniors...one of the best Chip Shops in the North...and bought some Fish & Chips home and sat reflecting on the day.
A COUNTRY HOUSE PEE
Another cold but sunny day...and my mum & I drove around the countryside. A country house 20 miles away was a possible place for an evening meal for next day Saturday. We arrived...both dying to visit the toilet...and this completed...the owner was asked if they were open....and he offered us coffee while he went to ask his wife...then returned to tell us they had a wedding party on Saturday evening and were not really prepared for 'normal' customers. So all we could boast was driving 20 miles for a pee and a free coffee!
The evening meal was not yet planned as I was waiting for a restaurant to re-open after the winter break. At 6pm a lady finally answered to phone and said they were open again.
On my last visit it had been called Anon...but the new venture is named Absinthe...yes...the deadly drink the French consumed before it was banned because of the brain damage it caused. No problem bringing a bottle...5 Pounds corkage was very reasonable. We were greeted by new owner Lyndsay. The menu showed, as before, a French style and my mum ordered the Consomee and I went for the Snails Bourgignon. As I love Duck there was a quick decision and Duck a l'Orange chosen with my mother taking the Prawns in Batter.
All the food was delicious...as was the wine.
Heinrich Männle Durbacher Kochberg Spätburgurgunder Spätlese trocken 2007 Baden, Germany
On opening I was thinking again that the wine was not up to standard. The journey over from Germany was days ago...maybe the northern English climate!?...but all it needed was some breathing space...and almonds and a touch of marzipan zipped from the glass...raspberry acidity...and a medium weighted partner to go with all courses.
ANOTHER DOSE OF ABSINTHE
My mum's brother, his wife and son(my cousin) spent the day with us. As I rarely get over and they live an hour away...we only see each other every few years. They left at 5pm.
We had decided on Friday evening that for our meal with my brother's wife & daughter ( my niece & god child) we would visit Absinthe again.
Starters included Mussels cooked in white wine and cream, Chicken Liver Pate and my choice was Roasted Wild Mushrooms and Tomatoes Stack.
The three ladies all chose the Deep Fried Tiger Prawns as mum had complimented them on the previous evening. I went for Gerry's (the cook) Special Chicken stuffed with Haggis and served with smoked whisky cream sauce.
Michel Achkarrer Schlossberg Spätburgunder *** 2007 Baden, Germany
Had this a few times...check out the blog search machine...
My niece gets prettier as she grows...
TWELVE PART ONE
After a lunch with one of mum's friends...who had helped her over the last few months...it was back home to watch some football on TV....my team Manchester City playing at Notts County in the FA Cup...a draw 1-1 with a replay needed. No doubt we will win that! I needed a walk by the sea...so we packed ourselves in double pullovers and drove the short distance to the coast. My mum is OK walking...just the steps that cause her problems. On returning I walked across the courtyard to the Restaurant 'Twelve' and booked a table. It is built in a modern style...and last time we were there 12 months ago...the table had been in a corner and mum had ordered the wrong things.This time a table with a good view of the whole room...and I chose for her. Her starter was the Smoked Scottish Salmon with Chive Creme Fraiche and Herbs...while I went for the Duck, Pear & Foie Gras Terrine with Burnt Orange Caramel Syrup. Mum likes fish so I chose the Halibut with a Pea & Dill Risotto. The fish was beautifully prepared and hit the right notes with her. I opted for the Rack of Lamb with Confit Lamb Shepherds s Pie. Although the Restaurant are rarely asked...I took along a bottle and gladly paid the fair corkage. The owner Caroline remembered me
Adeneuer Ahrweiler Rosenthal
Spätburgunder GG 2007 Ahr, Germany
This was the best of the wine's so far...and surprisingly rounded and drinkable.
Monday PUB FOOD
Today was still dry... I had been lucky since arriving with some cold but sunny days.
We set off in the car to visit houses and places where we had lived from many, many years ago. I had hoped that a school friend ( we had found each other on Friends Reunited a few years ago) would be home...and he was. He remembered my mum well...as over 50 years ago she had driven him home after we had been practising (we had a group) in the cellar of our house in Broadbottom.
A visit was also made to the house of my Grandmother where I had lived in the early 50's.
It is still standing....
It had been a long day in the car...with the memories bringing a tear to the eye of my mum.
A pub with good food! It is possible and I invited the 'ladies'...plus my niece's boyfriend to the Cartford Arms in Little Eccleston. It took a while to get there...not because of the distance...but because of a diversion caused by roadworks. The food was tasty and served hot...the wine list could have been tasty...with a list that promised...BUT...the usual complaint...no grower or property details...and no vintages. As I just wanted to enjoy the company...I plumpled for the Albarino...which is usually a safe bet with a creamy style..this one was a little tart. We laughed a lot and the evening was a success on that side.
TWELVE PART TWO
The North-West of England is not known for it's Gastronomy...and buying 'Fine Wine' gives you very little choice...only the Supermarkets generally. However...in Preston there are two 'wine' outlets. Oddbins and Majestic..both with a wide range. That is where we landed on Tuesday morning with a selection of bottles purchased to take back home to Germany. As I had enjoyed the visit to 'Twelve' we returned there for the evening meal. I took along one one of my 'buys' from Oddbins.
This time I had pan-seared Scallops with Pork belly...an interesting mix. Mum had the Smoked Salmon again...and for her main course the Loin of Cod with curried lentils and confit bacon. The Roast Wood Pigeon landed in front of me along with Foie Gras and Sweetcorn Puree. As I still had a glass of wine I opted to try the Lancashire Cheeses...Grandma Singletons Mature, Blackstick Blue and an Oak Smoked Lancashire. I praise Germen Pinot noirs when it comes to being an excellent partner for many diverse courses...and, while this New Zealand version was fuller, it had no problem with any of the food.
Margrain Pinot Noir 2007
Marlborough, New Zealand
Dark berry fruit...grainy...quite smooth texture with a slight bite...sweet plummy fruit.
SLUMMING IT AT HOME
The last full day was spent lazing about and also putting dots on i's and crosses on t's regarding my mum's documents. She is wonderful for her age but figures and banks etc. tend to make her uncertain. She is not alone. Finally...last evening she was allowed to cook an evening meal. We have been out almost every night and she says a few clothes are beginning to feel tight...at 86 she has to look slim! A bottle of Chablis was purchased at Tesco(Supermarket Chain)...which sounds like a recipe for failure.
Chateau de Ligny Chablis 2009
The 2008 earned an International Trophy prize in Decanter. The price is usually around 9 Pounds but was on 'Special Offer' at 5 Pounds! Apple fruit and aromatics...restrained fruit...a punch of young acidity. No oak used here...
My niece was round again to say goodbye...and says I should stay longer as my advice has helped her get over the loss of her dad. That's what a Godfather is for....
SANDWICHES ON A BOAT
I had planned that I would not suffer another meal on the boat...and I didn't fancy the Argentinian Chardonnay....and the Philippine crew had been hard work! I ate a good lunch at home...and set off to Hull. Mum had made some sandwiches and my plan was to eat them in the cabin and watch a video on my laptop. Waiting to board the ship at 5pm...I thought about dinner. First question was...when was the early morning call. Crossing the Channel the clocks are put forward an hour. I inquired at reception...6.30am...which is still too early if you can only leave after 8.00am...but some people maybe need longer in the mornings! OK......but I can live with that...just about...so off to the restaurant. This ship is the 'Pride of Hull' and not manned by the Phillipine crew like the trip over 10 days ago. As I write this...the announcement for dinner can be heard...and 'understood'. Now...where was I...oh yes...Langan's Brasserie......with a Portuguese team...and before I booked I asked if I could bring my own wine...being in the 'wine trade' (always works if they hestiate). No problem was the reply...so dinner table reserved at 6.30pm (7.30pm European Time). Down to the car and I chose the wine from Mount Difficulty. I had managed to buy 3 bottles of their top wine and this basic version caught my eye. Screwtop as well... Food were some wild mushrooms under Lancashire cheese...I'll take their word for it...and the 'Special' Lamb Steak which was fine...although the new potatoes had hardly seen water.
Mount Difficulty Roaring Meg
Pinot Noir 2009
Central Otago, New Zealand
This is named after a local stream (and not a loud-mouthed woman). Matured for 9 months in French oak. Fine berry fruit and dry herbs...and with a fresh appeal.
An early night as I had a 5 hour drive from Rotterdam to my home in Germany. On arriving back in my cabin the Captain informed us that there were rough seas ahead. I had a sleepless night....BUT...not because of the weather. Young Brits at times just have no style. Chasing up and down the corridors...and finally at 3 am I opened my cabin door and caught them. Two girls and two (pot-bellied) guys in bathing costumes (DON'T ASK!). A stern look at them with orders that the night would be over if they did not resist behaving like wild animals... and I finally got two hours sleep before the tannoy informed everyone that breakfast was being served. The ship finally released the passengers at 9.30 am...and at 2pm I was home. A trip that was necessary for all parties...with some sadness...but a lot of humour. That's what life is all about...that is my motto.