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Celebrate the start of 2022 in sophisticated party style with The Bottled Cocktail Company.

Making a cocktail is an art, like theatre. A bar is the stage for many performances.

The Bartender is a doctor, psychologist and psychiatrist all in one.”

Salvatore Calabrese

The Bottled Cocktail Company is an exciting new venture in the fast expanding ready-to-drink market established by Keivan Nemati and a group of friends to share their avid passion for cocktails.

Keivan Nemati, founder of the Bottled Cocktail Company

Nemati started working in the drinks industry in 2009 in London and is a former Bar manager at The Zetter Townhouse. Inspired by the similarities between the crafting of cocktails and the art of fragrance, he began studying perfumery as well as collaborating with spirits brands on developing new products.

The Bottled Cocktail Company’s mission is simple:

‘We believe that cocktails should not be relegated to cocktail bars, to bring a true mixology experience whenever you want in the comfort of your own home.’

Drink with friends – social Zoom parties during lockdown

During the Covid pandemic lockdown in the UK between 2020-21, with bars and restaurants closed (and people shielding at home), the way we consume alcohol changed dramatically.  Instead of just sipping wine over dinner, we bought spirits and cocktail shakers to concoct our favourite tipples while entrepreneurial mixologists and drinks businesses caught on to the demand and created pre-mixed cocktails in cans, cartons and bottles.

Staying in became the new going out, and the Japanese buzzword ‘On-nomi’ (‘drinking alone’) led to socialising by zoom with ‘virtual’ happy hour parties. 

But when was the first pre-batched cocktail produced?

Campari, the fashionable hot red drink since 1860

In 1860, Gaspare Campari founded his eponymous aperitivo drinks brand in Novara, near Milan, and in 1932 an attractive triangular bottle of pre-batched Campari Soda was produced, still a bestseller today. The Bellini was invented in the summer of 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar, Venice – Prosecco and fresh peach pureé. 1988 – the Luciano Canella winery created Canella’s ready-to-go Bellini.  

1990, USA – the Barcardi Breezer, a ready made, sweet, fruity rum punch soon brought the alcopop taste of the Caribbean to the British Isles.

Fast forward to today. The ready-to-drink sector was the only alcohol category to see growth of sales over the past couple of years, outperforming the rest of the drinks industry with UK sales in 2020 reaching £412 million.   

‘RTDs are amongst the most innovative and creative drinks in the market, forever changing, adapting and growing the potential’.  

London Spirits Competition.  (June 2021)

Welcome then to the Bottled Cocktail Company which has launched its initial range: El Presidente, Elderflower Highball, Negroni, Dry Gin Martini, Old Fashioned and Passion Fruit Spritz, with more to be released in the coming months.

The Bottled Cocktail Company inaugural collection

All drinks are ready to serve, well chilled, to be sipped either straight up or over ice.  Nemati’s professional experience both as a mixologist and his knowledge of perfumes, ensures that the finest spirits and ingredients are selected for bespoke, premium quality cocktails.  

Count Camillo Negroni who created his famous cocktail in 1919

The Negroni was invented just over a century ago in Florence, when Count Camillo Negroni decided that he wanted his usual Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth, soda water), to be jazzed up. The creative bar tender replaced the soda with gin, unwittingly creating Italy’s beloved and world renowned cocktail.    

The Silver Fir Negroni from BCC

Silver Fir Negroni, 21% abv.  

Gin, Italian Vermouth, Orange Bitter & Silver Fir 

Simply pour 80ml – 100ml into a Rocks glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange.

The Taste Test:

On the nose, a richly aromatic, earthy, woodland scent and then the first sip: elegantly smooth, followed by the delectable sharp, bitter orange tang which lingers on the tongue.  It is the perfect Aperitivo – meaning that the bittersweet, herbal flavour opens up the stomach to give one an appetite.  This is simply exquisite.

The Negroni – sip before dinner to whet the appetite

“About 80% of (our) perception of flavour actually comes from the sense of smell. We create our own aromatic essences and tinctures to tweak the flavour profile of classic cocktails”.  

Keivan Nemati

The crafting of a London Dry Gin is a culinary science, blending specific botanicals for the perfect balance of floral, fruit and spicy notes. Instead of drowning gin in a G&T, nothing could be more delectable than a very dry, oh so romantic, Gin Martini.   

The BCC signature blend of spirits, herbs and spices for their Dry Gin Martini

Dry Gin Martini, 26% abv. 

Gin, French Vermouth & Wintergreen Essence

The BCC suggest chilling the bottle in the freezer for two hours before serving, instead of stirring over ice to avoid any dilution.  Pour 70ml – 100ml into a cold Martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon or green olive. 

Alternatively for a more savoury flavour, try a pickled pearl onion which creates a Gibson. This was invented at the Player’s Club, New York in the 1940s for the American artist, Charles Dana Gibson, when the bar had no olives for his Martini.

The BCC version enhances the usual recipe of Gin and a splash of Vermouth with a special wintergreen, eucalyptus and peppermint essence,“ brightening up the gin and wine botanicals, adding mouthfeel and length.”

The pure taste of a dry Gin Martini

The Taste Test:

I added a couple of green olives and took a tentative sip of this ice cold cocktail. My goodness this packs a punch – although it has a delicate flavour and silky smooth texture, beautifully cool, crisp and dry. This hits the spot in an instant with the pure, clean taste of a Gin Martini which I adore.  

As did Dorothy Parker!

As this is BCC’s secret recipe, the ratio of gin to vermouth is not given and there are many variations, according to preference.  Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) dictated 2 parts gin to 1 part vermouth, while other bar tenders say that a very dry Martini is 3.5 parts gin to 1 part Vermouth. 

Elderflower Highball  20% abv. 

London Dry Gin, Elderflower, Lime, Fresh-cut-grass Essence 

Pour 70ml to 100ml into a glass filled with ice and top up with your favourite mixer, (tonic, soda, ginger ale) for a long refreshing drink.   

The Taste Test

With a good splash of tonic and slice of lemon, this is a fine alternative to a G&T. The Elderflower liqueur adds a floral sweetness and the lime cuts through with a sharp, citrus tang.

With Nemati’s technical wizardry perfecting perfumes, the fresh-cut grass essence is so imaginative – Elderflower Highball would certainly be ideal for summer picnics and sitting relaxing in the garden. 

The Silversea cruise line has several “house” cocktails such as the Silver Spirit named after one of the elegant ships: 60ml Gin, 60ml elderflower liqueur, 12ml lime juice and 40ml Sauvignon Blanc. 

Elderflower Highball ‘Silver Spirit’

80ml – 100ml Elderflower Highball  (gin, lime juice, elderflower cordial). Top up with Prosecco.

Do try this fragrant, lip smacking gin cocktail.

Elderflower Highball fizzed up with soda, tonic or prosecco

These 70 cl bottles offer between 7 -10 serves so perfect for parties –  spend much less time measuring, stirring, mixing and shaking drinks and enjoy a relaxing time drinking with your friends.  Turn your home into a classy Cocktail Bar with your own personal ‘mixologist’ .

“To me, a cocktail must satisfy the eyes, satisfy the nose and thirdly, satisfy the palate. The perfect cocktail is a crescendo of colour, flavour and texture.”

Salvatore Calabrese

Sipping, sampling, testing and tasting these seriously impressive BCC cocktails has been a delightful, delicious experience. Keivan Nemati and friends clearly have the magical touch of the alchemist to create a fresh, modern twist to these timeless classics.

The stylish bottle design and branding, developed by the Italian creative agency HB Production, feature a geometric pattern, colour and shape to represent the concept of each cocktail.

The Old Fashioned is also in the BCC collection of cocktails

The BCC is already building up a strong fan base:

Great service and the Negroni is delicious! Can’t wait to try the rest of the range”

Ordered the El Presidente and Old Fashioned and loved them both. Really great quality, so quick and easy. Good value too.”

For more information on all the BCC cocktails and to purchase from the online shop:

www.bottledcocktailcompany.com

BCC cocktails are also sold through: Drinkinbible, Sip & Share, Wildsip, Indy Cellar & Not On The High Street

P.S.  Keivan Nemati co-wrote ‘Make Something Bloody Marvellous,’ a gin-based cocktail book using foraged botanicals, which was shortlisted at the Gourmand Cookbook Awards 2020. 

Wishing you a cool, crisp, sparkling Festive season with Codorníu Cava and Vida Wines

Codorniu is probably one of the UK’s most recognisable Cava labels and no wonder. As the pioneer winemakers behind the first ever bottle of Cava, this is the oldest Spanish winery celebrating over 450 years of cultural heritage with the famous C Logo as the iconic image.

In 1551 Jaume Codorníu founded his family wine making business producing still wines; the marriage between the heiress Anna Codorníu and winegrower Miquel Raventós in 1659 brought two wine dynasties together but Anna’s surname was retained as the brand name.

The Codornuiu family vineyards, near Barcelona

Two centuries later, Josep Raventós Fatjó came back to Spain from a fact-finding research trip around France and, copying the production method of French Champagne, created his own brand of sparkling wine.  He ordered a cave (or cava in Catalan) to be built, a labyrinth of underground cellars to store wines for fermentation at a constant, cool temperature. 

In 1872, he produced his first bottle of Cava using the same traditional method as Champagne, using a blend of native grape varieties of Penedès: Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada.

The underground cellars to store the wine for fermentation and ageing

Manuel Raventós was an early drinks entrepreneur, keen to develop Cava as a successful business. In 1895 he made plans to build a new building at the winery with the Art Nouveau artist, Josep Puig i Cadafalch in charge of design and construction.  

The Codorniu Art Nouveau House of Cava

When it opened in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia near Barcelona in 1915, Cavas Codorníu became a Catalan Modernist artistic symbol of the company’s enterprising spirit and vision of the future.

Vintage advertising for Codorniu Cava in the late 19th century

Marketing Champagne Codorniu was most inspired with 1898 artistic posters by Ramon Casas.  Codorníu was also first advertised on Spanish Television in 1959 – once again a pioneering commerical promotion ahead of the game. 

In 1976 the Codorníu House of Cava was named a National Historic Artistic Monument by King Juan Carlos.

The first and very fashionable Catalan Cava launched in 1872

Since its earliest days, Raventós Codorníu winery has been synonymous with innovation and quality, using premium grapes from the family vineyard estate. The traditional method involves two fermentations of the grape juice, first in barrels before transferred into bottles where yeast and sugar are added, then sealed with a temporary closure. The wine has a secondary fermentation to convert into alcohol and a natural by-product, CO2, dissolves into tiny bubbles to create naturally sparkling wine.  The bottles are turned neck down and gradually rotated funnelling the yeast sediment (the lees) into the neck. When this is cooled, the pressure of the wine pushes out the sediment, a little sugar and wine called a dosage is added and the bottle finally sealed with a cork.

The sophistated, elegant lifestyle of Cordorniu Cava

So time to pop a couple of corks! 

Codorníu Vintage Brut 2019. 

Grape varieties:  Macabeo, Xarel·lo and Parellada. Alcohol content: 11.5%.

There is a specific harvest time for each variety of grape, Macabeo at the end of August, followed by Xarel.lo and finally Parellada, early October. The grapes are destemmed and crushed with the wines blended and bottled. A second fermentation followed by a period of ageing in the underground cellars at a constant temperature for at least 9 months. This is the traditional method.

Characteristics.  A pale straw yellow colour, an aroma of citrus fruit, almond blossom with notes of brioche and dried fruits and nuts.  A fine mousse on the palate with balanced freshness. Serve well chilled.

Ice cold Codorniu Vintage Cava

The Taste Test

Nose: lemon zest, softly floral.

Taste: the first sip is sensational, the “fizz” is so delicate and fresh tasting, crisp apple and dry like a water biscuit. The overall impression is its smooth elegance, far removed from a sweet Prosecco or honeyed Chardonnay Cava. 

If this were a blind tasting with a few coupes of French champagne, it would surely fool the judges. 

The quality is due to the fact this is a vintage cava made with grapes from a single harvest. Perfect to sip as an apéritif or with tapas and fish dishes- smoked salmon, calamari.  

(Interestingly, Sainsbury Taste the Difference vintage Cava is supplied by Codorniu so they have selected the best!).

Codorniu Rosado

Codorníu Rosado Cava

Grape varieties: Monastrell, Garnacha and Trepat. Alcoholic content, 11.5%

This sparkling wine is also made in the traditional method, the same way as Champagne which gives the wine depth of flavour, elegance and long-lasting, fine bubbles.

Characteristics: A dry, pure and bright Rosé fizz with the aroma of strawberry. Serve chilled (6-8°c)

The Taste Test

Nose:  pale cherry pink in colour with the fragrance of summer berries and blossom

Taste: light and fruity with zingy notes of raspberry, strawberry and juicy plum. Fresh and vibrant, rather than sweet, well balanced and with a crisp finish, like a dry, blush Rosé from Provence with bubbles. This is the flagship Rosado Cava in the UK.

A delicious, pure, pink fizz to sip as an aperitif – perhaps add a raspberry to the flute too. This is a celebratory toast as a charismatic change from classic Cava. In summer, (or any time), serve with a dessert of mixed berries and cream.

Pink fizz with raspberries for extra fruitiness

Proudly Catalonian, Codorníu Cava has been contemporary since 1872, constantly keeping up with trends and tastes to maintain its global reputation, producing an innovative range of sparkling wines, Anna Codorniu, Brut Codorníu, Non-Vintage Brut, Vintage Brut, Codorníu Ars Collecta Blanc de Noirs. 

Codorniu Anna – the modern taste of Cava

Named after their 17th century ancestor, Anna is the most modern expression in the range, the first to use chardonnay grapes: youthful, fresh with a unique personality, this is the brand’s emblematic Cava reflecting its fine heritage.  The perfect aperitif and an ideal partner for shellfish, sushi, sashimi and carpaccio.

Today, Raventós Codorníu has more than 3,000 hectares of vineyards, one of the largest vineyard owners in Europe; Codorníu is the best selling Cava brand in Spain and exported to 50 countries, 54 gold medals and their range of sparkling wines are served at over 50 Michelin star restaurants worldwide.

Codorníu promote a contemporary Mediterranean lifestyle – sunshine, beaches, joy, freedom; casual, spontaneous, sometimes sophisticated; celebrations and special moments in life – to share the Cava experience worldwide.

The, contemporary, Codorniu Catalonian lifestyle

Codorníu Discovery and Iconic tours in the Cava Capital

 Casa Codorníu is located 30 minutes from Barcelona in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. Learn all about the history of the family dynasty on a tour of the House of Cava, the majestic Art Nouveau building designed by the architect, Josep Puig i Cadafalch; Taste three iconic prestigious Cavas and a small aperitif.

The vintage artwork at the historic Codorniu winery

Read more about Codorníu Cava here:

http://www.raventoscodorniu.com/en

Just time to add a personal recommendation for VIDA, an exciting new wine and spirit company in the UK, highly regarded for personal customer service. 

VIDA UK is the third branch of the company, following on from Sofia & Vienna, as part of a growing family tree. The idea behind Vida Wines began about 5 years ago when a vineyard was acquired in Northwest Bulgaria, close to the medieval fortress of Baba Vida, which inspired the name.

Baba Vida Castle, Bulgaria

The region has a long winemaking history thanks to a unique microclimate.  As wine makers and importers, VIDA Wines offer the finest Central and Eastern European wines carefully curated from 15 countries to showcase the classics, new producers and exclusive wines.

Vida Viognier

Country of origin: Bulgaria, Danubian Plain

Grape Variety:  Vigonier. Vintage:  2020. ABV: 12.5%

Characteristics:  Delicate nose with great elegance and aromatic nuances of white flora, apricots, herbs, toast. Dense with fresh acidity and a slight minerality which contributes to its great quality. Long, persistent, fruity finish.

The Taste Test:

Aroma:  a delicate fruitiness, the scent of an orchard.  

Taste:  As I would often select Sauvignon Blanc (NZ), Chenin Blanc (South Africa), and Pinot Grigio (Italy), this has a fresh, dry, crisp clarity which is distinctively different. The lingering, soft apricot – peach flavour adds to the dryness with a hint of lime and spicy lemongrass. Deliciously delicate.  The viognier grape creates an aromatic fuller-bodied style of white wine and pairs well with white meats, fish, shellfish, scallops and dishes with earthy herbs, e.g. basil in a classic Italian Caprese.

On Trust Pilot, Vida Wines has received 5 stars from 92% of their customers.

Reviews from happy drinkers: Winter 2021

Excellent service, great selection of wines and superb advice, cannot fault them and will certainly be buying more Vida wines.

Great service and the wine was beyond expectations.

Vida may be a new company in the UK but they have a refreshingly old fashioned attitude to customer service and I fully recommend them.

These are a few suggestions from VIDA which will add an inspiring range of hand picked European wines for your Christmas or New Year party. 

 Under £10 wines:

•          VIDA EXCLUSIVE : VIDA Viognier 2020 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £9.99.

•          VIDA Direct from Vineyard : Averesti Selectie Cabernet Sauvignon NV Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £7.99.

Under £15 wines:

•          VIDA Direct from Vineyard: Kristančič Chardonnay 2019 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £14.69.

•          Angerhof- Tschida Beerenauslese 2017: Angerhof-Tschida Beerenauslese 2017 Vida Wines and Spirits UK ,£13.89.

Under £25 wines

•          VIDA direct from Vineyard: Kristančič Pavo Cristatus Classic Cuvee 2014 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £21.29.

•          Karl Fritsch Riesling Mordthal 2019 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £21.79.

Browse the full collection of wines and spirits here:

https://vidawines.co.uk/

Eat, Drink and be merry this Festive seaon. Cheers!

Ramsbury Single Estate Gin: hand-crafted through a blend of farming heritage and modern innovation direct from ‘Grain to Glass’.  

Ramsbury Distillery is renowned for its speciality spirits and the Single Estate Gin is a modern twist on a classic London dry gin.  Distilled in a copper Still using their home-grown Horatio wheat, nine botanicals including locally picked quince to create a crisp, full bodied gin with fragrant, floral and fruit notes.

The Ramsbury Farming Estate and Distillery

The Ramsbury gin and vodka makers are also farmers on the 19,000 acre estate across North East Wiltshire, West Berkshire and North Hampshire with rolling wheat fields, a traditional well for fresh water, wheat mill, orchard, woodland and a lake.  Spirits are produced with the lowest environmental impact through copper stills generated by a bio-mass boiler which burns wood from chopped fallen trees.  Once the distilling is complete, the spent grains are fed to the farm animals and waste water is funnelled back through reed beds to provide natural filtration.

Hand picked Quince from the Orchard

When experimenting with the final selection of botanicals for the Single Estate Gin, they wanted to create a distinctive sweet fruit flavour and picked quince from the orchard which was, as they say, “a stroke of magic – Ramsbury Gin went from perfect to outstanding.”.  Healthy too, enriched with an essential dose of Vitamin C.

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,

Which they ate with a runcible spoon.

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon.

From ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ – Edward Lear

The Owl and the Pussycat dined on mince and slices of quince…

‘Ramsbury is only one of four distilleries in the UK that operates a grain to glass approach with each bottle traceable back to a single field on the estate.’  

Mikul Kalyan, Ramsbury Single Estate Spirits’ Global Brand Ambassador.

The creative, eco friendly distillation process from grain to glass

On the label, as well as the Rams head logo, there is the exact geographical location of the single field on the estate where the wheat was harvested that year for each bottle of hand crafted gin.  Ramsbury is one of only a handful of global distilleries to create truly sustainable, eco-friendly, natural, single estate spirits.  

Ramsbury Single Estate London Dry Gin (40% ABV)

Ingredients: Nine botanicals – juniper, fresh quince, cinnamon, liquorice, oris root, dried lemon peel, dried orange peel, coriander and angelica.   

Nose: Juniper gently infused with the grassy and fruity tones of quince. Lighter citrus notes  coupled with a woody fragrance from the angelica, complemented by the spices of cinnamon to create a balanced and complex aroma.

Palate: Floral tones and crisp quince fade into savoury juniper with a refreshing finish and a touch of spice ….and charming character. 

Ramsbury distillery suggests the perfect serve for a G&T is to add a classic Indian tonic, slices of apple and lime and plenty of ice.  

Ramsbury Single Estate gin from wheat field to bottle – refreshing and clean tasting

Rave reviews for Ramsbury Single Estate Gin:

‘Lush’ said one happy drinker.  ‘The gin is complex with a nice finish – highly recommended.’

Fantastic gin. Unbelievably good. Great twist with the quince, satisfying and refreshing’. 

‘Delicate, sophisticated and delicious – perfect in a Martini‘.

Yes indeed.  In my view, this smooth, fragrant gin is perfectly partnered with a dash of dry Vermouth and served ice cold. 

Gin Martini

60ml Ramsbury Gin
10ml Dry Vermouth

Add gin and vermouth to a mixing glass filled with cubed ice, stir until well chilled. Strain gently into a martini glass. The suggested garnish is lemon zest and a sprig of rosemary. An olive also works well to my taste as shown in the image above.

The mouthfeel texture is elegant and silky smooth and the gin combines perfectly with the similar citrus and spicy botanicals of the vermouth for this delectable, very dry, classic cocktail. 

The perfectly crafted Ramsbury dry Gin Martini

The Vesper

This is the drink which James Bond orders in “Casino Royale” by Ian Fleming (1953), named after the seductive double agent Vesper Lynd. The original ingredient Kina Lillet is no longer available so now substituted with Lillet Blanc or dry Vermouth. Bond specifies that the drink be shaken until very cold, although it’s best gently stirred as shaking it tends to create a more diluted drink.

50ml Ramsbury Single Estate Vodka​
25ml Ramsbury Single Estate Gin​
20ml Lillet Blanc​
Lemon slice​

Mix all ingredients in a Martini glass or a Coupe over ice and garnish with a twist of lemon.  This certainly packs a punch, perfectly balanced, bittersweet and stylish for a glamorous occasion – a literary legend of a cocktail.

The Vesper – the literary legend of a Cocktail.

And what could be better than a a spicy and sparkling party cocktail for the Festive season.

Farmhouse Fizz

35ml Ramsbury Single Estate Gin
25ml Clementine juice (or 3 wedges of clementine)
10ml Sugar syrup
10ml Lemon
Top up with Champagne
Sugar & Spice rim

Roll the rim of the champagne flute in lemon juice.  Add all ingredients (except Champagne) to a cocktail shaker, shake with ice and strain into a flute. Top up with champagne and add a sprinkling of cinnamon powder & white caster sugar around the rim of the glass.

Farmhouse Fizz – Festive sparkle and spice

Merry Christmas!

The Ramsbury Estate is also home to a brewery, smokehouse and a shop selling honey and rapeseed oil made on the farm. The brewery was launched in 2004, followed by the distillery, a smokehouse in 2014 and an oil press in 2015.  

The Bell is a 300-year-old former coaching inn in the village of Ramsbury and today is a welcoming country pub with guest rooms, serving homely British food based on local produce from the Estate – and, of course, their own speciality Ramsbury Single Estate Gin and Vodka.

For more information, Distillery tours, stockists and online shop:

www.ramsbury.com

The Bell at Ramsbury:  https://thebellramsbury.com/

The Bell Inn at Ramsbury

The smart new Neighbourhood Kitchen-Bar-Garden, is the place for coffee and cocktails, lunch, supper and Sunday Brunch

The Neighbourhood Kitchen – Bar – Garden is at the Bruntsfield Hotel

The Bruntsfield Hotel, in the southside of Edinburgh is a grand property of four connecting Townhouses dating from 1861.  Converted into a hotel in the 1920s, today the quiet location overlooking the Links and Meadows Park is ideal for visitors within easy walking distance to shops, theatres, cinemas and a short bus ride to the city centre.

As part of a £1 million investment, the Hotel’s former Bisque Brasserie has been transformed into The Neighbourhood to welcome hotel guests, locals, shoppers, students and office staff to meet, eat and drink, and described as “a new, exciting all-day dining, working, and socialising space”.

A recent media launch party was a marvellous opportunity for a sneak preview to sip a cocktail or two and sample the food.  In the large, L shaped space, the Neighbourhood Bar is well designed for comfort and relaxation, the booth tables ideal for a couple or group of friends  

A cosy corner at the Neighbourhood bar

As well as good selection of wines, Scottish beers the bar tenders have invented a menu of house cocktails such as the “Scottish Garden” made with Edinburgh Gin, Grey Goose vodka, Elderflower cordial and apple juice.  This is so refreshing, tart and fruity ….and rather dangerous as you hardly taste the alcohol!

The Secret Garden cocktail – hits the spot

The Penicillin sounds like a healthy tipple to keep the bugs away – a blend of Famous Grouse and Laphroaig whiskies, lemon juice, honey ginger syrup, the perfect winter warmer, plus all the classics, Cosmopolitan, Negroni and a signature Ferrero Rocher Martini – Smirnoff vodka, Frangelico, cocoa liquor and whipped cream.

Ferrero Rocher Martini – an Espresso Martini with a twist

 “We want The Neighbourhood to be somewhere to work and play with homely food, creative cocktails, and true Scottish charm.”  Alistair Bruce, General Manager

A homely environment with smart artwork and comfy cushions

Around the corner from the Bar is the Kitchen Bistro where Chef Colin Moore and his team serve an all day food menu focusing on seasonal, local ingredients, classic and modern Scottish cuisine.  

The Neighbourhood Kitchen with Banquette seating with views of the Garden

 For lunch, a choice of sandwiches and sharing plates.  Warmly recommended is the Crab Arancini, a tiny, tasty light bite, and for a hearty meal, good old Fish and Chips – having sampled an appetiser portion, this was superb, crisp batter and perfect fat fries. 

Fish and chips with pea puree

Other dishes include Cullen Skink soup, Scallops with cauliflower puree and Stornoway black pudding and Haggis ravioli with neeps, potato and whisky sauce. All the favourites too – pizza, pasta and burgers with vegetarian/vegan and gluten free options. And you might be tempted by Apple crumble or Sticky toffee pudding.   

With the King’s Theatre, Dominion and Cameo Cinemas, a short walk away this is the ideal place for a drink or meal before or after the show.

The Neighbourhood is open for breakfast each day and at the weekend for a leisurely Brunch to enjoy a full Scottish fry up, Eggs Benedict/ Royale or Smashed Avo with Feta.  Sip a spicy Bloody Mary or for a celebration, opt for the bottomless Prosecco to turn brekkie into a party.   

The Neighbourhood Secret Garden with lamplight and heaters

Outside is the ‘secret’ garden, a plant filled patio where you can sit in heated booths with good lighting for alfresco drinks year round – dog friendly too after a walk around the Meadows. 

As a change from WFH why not visit the Neighbourhood for a business meeting, work on your laptop with tea and coffee on tap and fast Wi-Fi for just £10 per day. 

Hospitality is also family friendly with a healthy, appetising menu for children who can join in fun, educational quizzes to keep them entertained.

Children and their animals are welcome at The Neighbourhood

‘Eating at the Neighbourhood should feel like eating at your family dining table. Good food and good company is at the heart of what we’re about’.  

Visit The Neighbourhood for coffee, a glass of wine, brunch, lunch or supper. The Kitchen is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 7am-1am, while on Monday and Tuesday, the Bar is open from 5pm until late.  

Check all the information, browse menus and book a table here: www.thebruntsfield.co.uk/theneighbourhood 

Best Western Plus Bruntsfield Hotel
69 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, EH10 4HH

Alastair Bruce, the General Manager and Chef Colin Moore at the launch party

‘From Spring to Spirit’ 1881 Distillery at Peebles Hydro: natural, hand-crafted, refreshing Gins

Peebles Hydro Hotel

The 1881 Distillery, located in the grounds of Peebles Hydro Hotel in the Scottish Borders, is named after the year when the Hydropathic Spa first opened here, offering Therapeutic treatments using water from its own Shieldgreen Spring.

Peebles Hydropathic Spa before 1905

The Victorian Spa tragically burned down in 1905 but was rebuilt, and with an ethos for health and wellbeing, became a popular tennis destination.  In the 1920s, Peebles Hydro had more tennis courts than Wimbledon and hosted tournaments and the Scottish Championships.  

Peebles Hydro Resort the home of Tennis championships in the 1920s

It was this tennis heritage when G & T was served on the lawn in the summer sunshine, which inspired the idea a few years ago to create a Gin distillery at the Resort.  Built above the former swimming pool, the 1881 Distillery opened in October 2019. 

Gin makers, Lauren Appleyard and Dean McDonald with “Felicity” the copper Still

Charlie Leckie, Brand Manager, is a sixth generation member at the family hotel: “We’re proud of the heritage of Peebles Hydro which is embodied by the 1881 Gin, a blend of carefully chosen Scottish botanicals and distilled in the heart of the Borders.”

Stephen Leckie (CEO,Crieff Hydro hotels) with his son Charlie

With the tagline, ‘Spring to Spirit,’ water is sourced from the local Shieldgreen spring which had traditionally been used for the Hydropathic Spa treatments. ‘Felicity’, the copper Still makes five distinctive gins – London Dry, Pavilion Pink, Honours, Rafters and Tiffin, each with their own logo and bottle illustration paying homage to the heritage of Peebles Hydro.  Tonic 81 is also made at the Distillery, Premium, Light, Pink Grapefruit and Elderflower, the perfect mixer for each gin.

Floral, fruiity and spicy botanicals for the diverse range of gins

Hydro London Dry Gin (40% ABV)

The botanicals include juniper, bay, hawthorn berries, cardamom, cassia, birch bark, fir needles, grapefruit peel, grains of paradise, milk thistle – many grown in the Peebles Hydro gardens – then blended with the pure Spring water.

Distillery notes:

Nose: Fresh, piney juniper and fir, with grapefruit citrus and aromatic cardamom.

Palate: Hawthorn, birch and fir back up an initial wave of juniper, giving way to warming cassia and bay.

Finish: A long, smooth, citric finish with bay leaf and subtle earthiness from our local botanicals.

Serve: a large measure with a wedge of pink grapefruit and a splash of premium tonic water.

RTD 1881 Hydro Gin and Tonic in a can

The Hydro G&T is available RTD in a can, perfect from summer picnics to Christmas parties. 

The Taste Test:  If popping a cork of Champagne should sound like a maiden’s sigh, my ice-chilled can of G&T opens with a loud fizz, which I poured into a large glass over ice and slice. A subtle flavour at first with floral and earthy juniper notes but then an underlying aromatic ginger spice kicks in, which is sharp and refreshing.

1881 Pavilion Peebles Pink Gin (40% ABV)

The 1881 Pavilion Pink Gin is a classic gin with the addition of wild Scottish red berries and a hint of floral hibiscus, named in honour of the hotel’s historical tennis pavilion.

Distillery notes:

Nose: Silky red fruits, juniper, spice and citrus

Palate: Fresh raspberry complemented by strawberry, hibiscus and gentle spice from cardamom and grains of paradise

Finish: Creamy fruit fading to citrus, pine, red Berries

Serve: A few fresh raspberries, a sprig of mint, tonic and ice.

The 1881 Pavilion G&T is also available ready to drink in a can.

The Taste test: Floral, fruity and fragrantly perfumed with a honeyed sweetness. An ice cold summertime drink or served with dessert: raspberries / strawberries & cream, Eton Mess, Strawberry Pavlova, or Scones and jam for a decadent Afternoon tea.

The tragic fire of 1905 at Peebles Hydropathic Spa

Rafters Subtly Smoked Gin (40% abv)

In the Summer of 1905, a spark in the roof space caused a devastating fire at Peebles Hydro. But within a few years the hotel was thankfully restored with grand Edwardian architecture and art deco style. To commemorate the Phoenix rising from the ashes is Rafters Subtly Smoked Gin, with its stunning image depicting the hotel billowing with smoke.

Distiller’s notes:

Nose: Subtle but distinct sweet oak smoke, followed by our signature profile of juniper, cardamom and grapefruit.

Palate: Warming smoke and spice intermingle to create a savoury gin suitable for sipping or mixing. The palate develops into juniper freshness backed by citrus.

Finish: A lengthy finish of warm citrus and wisps of smoke draw you back for another sip.

Serve: Sip neat, over ice, or in a G&T with a wedge of lime and a slice of chilli pepper.

The Taste test of pure, neat gin: The aroma of oak smoke followed by earthy juniper and citrus sweetness. Then the first taste – distinctive bonfire wood smoke and a blend of spices to create a savoury gin with a lingering juniper freshness. Warming cardamom, fruity citrus and delectable smokiness.  

Wow! This has the X factor, utterly divine and one of the most delicious, dynamic, dramatic gins I have experienced.

The verdict from the Masters of Malt

Distilled using a variety of gin botanicals including piney juniper and tart pink grapefruit. An undertone of smoke supports vibrant grapefruit citrus, a touch of cinnamon and a strong juniper finish. Best served over ice with a classic tonic to enjoy the complex, smoky spirit with a garnish of lime and ginger.  Subtle hints of smoke on the palate make this a distinctive spirit which stands up particularly well in cocktails, including a Negroni.

1881 Rafters Negroni

50ml Rafters gin, 25ml sweet Rosso vermouth, 25ml Campari.  Orange garnish.

1881 Rafters Gin for a distinctively different Negroni

The simplest of cocktails to make at home without the need of a shaker – just pour all these ingredients into a chunky Rocks glass with a large ice cube. Stir gently and add a wedge of orange.  The bittersweet aroma of the Campari blends perfectly with the Rafters gin to make a delicious and very special smoky Negroni.  The Count would certainly approve!.

1881 Dry Gin Martini

50 ml Rafters gin, 15 ml dry vermouth.

1881 Rafters Gin Martini has an elegant, sophisticated flavour

Add to a cocktail shaker with lots of ice and stir or shake gently. Pour into a cocktail glass or champagne saucer with a garnish of olive.  The smokiness enhances the typical bone-dry punch of a Martini with such an elegant, smooth taste. 

As we are heading into dark, chilly nights of winter, why not ring the changes of a Whisky hot toddy and add Rafter’s gin instead ?

Hot Gin Toddy

300ml water, 1 ginger teabag, 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 cardamom pods, 4 whole cloves, 1 tablespoon clear honey, freshly squeezed orange juice, 100ml 1881 Rafters gin (serves 2)

Hot Gin Toddy – the perfect winter warmer

Add the water, ginger teabag, cinnamon, cardamom pods and cloves to a saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes; stir in the honey and citrus juice and gently heat for few more minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the gin. Strain off the spices, if preferred, or keep the cinammon stick to stir and pour into two large mugs, with an orange or lemon garnish.  A winter warmer after a bracing walk in the snow.  

1881 Distillery news:

Gift box sets of four gins (5cl and 20cl)

This festive season, the 1881 Distillery offers gift boxes of four gins in two sizes, 5cl and 20cl. – Hydro London Dry, Pavilion Pink, Rafters and Honours Navy-strength Gin.

Silver award for 1881 Tiffin Gin, Scottish Gin Awards 2021

1881 Distillery won Silver award for Flavoured Gin of the Year at the recent Scottish Gin Awards 2021. Tiffin Gin incorporates light aromatic, warming spices to achieve its distinctive taste, with notes of cumin, cardamom, and kaffir lime.

Visit the 1881 Distillery and Gin School

The 1881 Distillery gin school

The 1881 Distillery at Peebles Hydro has the largest residential Gin school with a classroom of 26 mini-stills, offering a range of day and overnight Experiences to learn about distilling gin and craft your own spirit, Tours and tastings.  

For more information on Peebles Hydro, 1881 distillery, on line shop and the Gin School:

1881 Distillery,

Peebles Hydro, Innerleithen Road, Peebles, EH45 8LX

info@1881distillery.com

www.1881distillery.com

www.peebleshydro.co.uk

Peebles Hydro Spa Resort, Scottish Borders

Experience a fun, cultural, foodie, city break in Manchester this Festive season

Having visiting Manchester a few years ago, I planned another trip recently to find out what’s on, where to go and what to see during the festive season.  Instead of a seasonal sleigh, I had a smooth, comfortable journey on a brand new Nova Tranpennine Express electric train from Edinburgh. There are five carriages, with 264 seats in standard class, 22 in first class, complimentary wifi and a power socket at every seat. Trolley service for refreshments and snacks, and storage for 4 bicycles. The Nova 2 trains run between Edinburgh and Manchester Airport so the ideal route if planning to jet off somewhere exotic.

The sleek new Nova 2 Transpennine Express train from Edinburgh to Manchester Airport

As I headed south to Manchester, meanwhile my sister, June, was speeding north from London Euston on an Aviva train: the itinerary for our Christmas shopping and cultural city break began with perfect synchronicity, the two trains arriving on time, just four minutes apart at 1.23pm and 1.27pm respectively.

Take the train from around the country to Manchester Piccadilly

Manchester’s Christmas Markets have been attracting thousands of visitors to the city centre every year since 1998 to add a sparkle to the winter chill.  Staying at the Mercure hotel was a great central location on Portland Street, Piccadilly Gardens, which has been transformed into the ‘Winter Gardens’. This is a pop up village of Christmas market stalls and log cabin bars such as Apres Ski & Off Piste where you can warm up with an Alpine Ale, mulled wine, prosecco, cider, Nordic Glogg, Hot toddy and a Bailey’s coffee.

The Alpine ski-themed Winter Gardens, Piccadilly Square

The markets are also located across St Ann’s Square, Exchange Square, New Cathedral Street, King Street, Market Street and Cathedral Gardens which will entice the skaters to the ice rink. A central stage with a series of live music events will entertain the crowds.  Sip Gluhwein and sample apple strudel around the traditional German stalls, and, of course, Bratwurst – perhaps best to share the half a metre sausage!   

The half metre Bratwurst German sausage

Dine around the world from  Little Spain – paella, chorizo rolls, patatas bravas and hot sangria to Mexico Joes Ltd – Chicken flatbread, falafel, and halloumi fries. Eat Greek – halloumi fries, pitta bread, Elsie Mays for warm brownies and milkshakes. French, Sicilian and Dutch dishes too.  An American feast at Triple B -Pastrami Burger and a huge Turkey Reuben bagel.

The best of British at Porkys of Yarm serving Hot roast pork rolls, Hydes beers, local cider, English wines  and Clowbecks for Cumberland sausage, bubble & squeak, tatties, mulled wine and lager.  Porky Pig  Yorkshire puddings wraps. Battered pigs in blankets. For vegetarians and vegans, Panc is a plant-based stall offers meat free sausages, burgers, fried chick’n and more.

And of course, the Markets are the place to buy innovative gifts galore – from chocolates and cheese, to toys and games, arts and crafts, soaps, clothing, socks, hats, gloves, leather bags and wallets, jewellery.

The Markets are open until Wednesday December 22, 10am to 9pm daily with some stalls continuing around the Winter and Cathedral Gardens into the New Year.

A night at the theatre to see the musical, Waitress at the Opera House, originally The New Theatre, which opened on Boxing Day, 1912, then renamed the Opera House in 1920. It was a cinema in WW2, then a bingo hall before launched as a theatre again in 1984, renowned for touring musicals such as Barnum and Phantom of the Opera.  Waitress is a comedy drama set in an American diner and after the ten day run in Manchester, it’s now on tour around the country so do catch this heart-warming, feminist, feel good show if you can.  

The pantomime at the Opera House this year is Aladdin, starring Alexandra Burke, with flying carpets, a genie, an evil sorcerer, magical effects, song and dance.  

Warmly recommended for a pre-post theatre lunch or supper is Bill’s Spinningfields which is perfectly located a two minute walk away from the Opera House.

‘Our passion for great food, cooked with care in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Whether with friends, family or an intimate dinner for two, from breakfast to bedtime and everything in between.’ 

Bill’s started 20 years ago, when Bill Collison opened his Greengrocer’s shop in Lewes, East Sussex and soon added a café, a concept for seasonal local food which has gradually grown into a collection of restaurants across the UK.  

The modern, stylish menu changes seasonally – quality, gastropub, homely food with generous portions and is very vegetarian-vegan friendly.  I selected crispy calamari, perfect finger food, dipping the rings into the creamy aioli.  Then a veggie burger, Halloumi, avocado and roasted peppers, with sweet potato fries.  My sister nibbled a few olives to start and then enjoyed a real, juicy meat burger, cooked to her liking, with rosemary fries (we declined the bun to reduce the calories). With our meal we sipped one of the house wines, the South African, Journey’s End Chardonnay – deliciously crisp and dry.

This Christmas season, with the witty Wizard of Oz theme, There’s No Place Like Bill’s, you will be tempted by the enticing seasonal food and cocktail menu such as Pigs-in-blankets,  Christmas Truffle Cheese Fondue Burger,  Boxing Day curry, Truffalo sprouts and for dessert,  sugar-sprinkled Snow Nuts or Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, a red berry cheesecake with chocolate tree, stars and baubles.

Time for party cocktails: Gin-gle Bells (Whitley Neill Raspberry Gin, Chambord, fresh pineapple), Passion Fruit Spritz and the Strawberry Margarita.

After the theatre, it was back to the Mercure hotel for a nightcap at the Level 3 Lounge Bar overlooking the bright lights of the Christmas market.  The ‘seasonal’ cocktail list includes a Summer Mojito (not quite right for a chilly winter night!), and, disappointing that there was no Campari in stock for the Negroni. I chose a classic Gin Martini (but no olive garnish available), while June sipped a Nojito, a minty, fruity tipple without the rum.

Gin Martini and Nojito at Level 3 Bar, Mercure Hotel with city views

Art lovers should visit the Contemporary 6 Gallery, 37 Princess Street, owned by Alex Reuben who selects a series of inspiring shows of paintings, modern prints, (Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse), ceramics and sculpture. Throughout November is the eclectic artwork of Jim Moir (as seen on Sky TV, Celebrity Portrait and Landscape Artist), ranging from a flight of birds to quirky portraits.

For a marvellous day out for all ages, take a trip to the Trafford Centre, five miles from the city centre, and easy to get there by metrolink tram. This is very much like This is very much like an American shopping mall with designer and high street stores, not least a large branch of Selfridges, as well as a cinema, bowling alley, Game arena and Legoland.  After browsing the shops or seeing a movie, time for refreshments, but signage needs improved as where to eat and drink is difficult to find. The Orient is designed around the replica of a pool deck on a classic ocean liner featuring numerous bars and bistros from All Bar One to Zizzi. A huge marble staircase modelled on the Titanic leads to the Great Hall and features the largest chandelier in the world.

The marble Titanic staircase at the Great Hall,Trafford Centre

Drink, eat and stay at the Kimpton Clocktower which was named recently in the Sunday Times as one of the best 100 hotels in the UK. Founded in San Francisco in 1981, the cool, quirky Kimpton brand focuses on art, wellness, modern cuisine and playful style while reflecting the heritage of each destination. 

The landmark clocktower above the Kimpton Hotel, Manchester

The majestic Victorian red brick and terracotta building was initially the The Refuge Assurance Company (1890), which opened as the hotel on 1st October 2020. In the lobby, a bronze horse sculpted by Sophie Dickens illustrates the turning circle for the former Hansom cabs and carriages; original features include ceramic tiles, stained glass and wooden staircases juxtaposed with contemporary furnishings.

The lobby at the Kimpton with horse sculpture

Bold colourfully designed bedrooms and suites are draped in velvet with bespoke decor and artwork by Scottish company Timorous Beasties, while vinyl records of Manchester’s famous bands from the Stone Roses to Oasis can be played on a turntable. Guests can take use of the in room yoga mat, the complimentary tuck box and many bathrooms boast a classic roll top bathtub.

Signature suite at the Kimpton Clocktower, designed by Timorous Beasties

Relax over a drink or Afternoon tea in The Winter Garden, an interior glasshouse blossoming with plants and trees and wine and dine at The Refuge by Volta. The Refuge Bar and Dining Room is a vast but elegant space of interconnecting salons where on a Friday night the lounge area was buzzing with happy drinkers and around the corner, the fabulous Restaurant with well designed, comfy banquette seating and half moon booths.  

Refuge by Volta – stylish, soul food for sharing

An innovative menu of Soul Food for sharing is neatly divided into Meat, Seafood, On the Side and Vegetables, inspired around the global travels by the DJ -Restaurateurs, Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey.   

First of all it’s time for finely crafted cocktails – the Drinks list is most enticing with a celebration of gin and modern twists on the classics. Like a revamped French 75, is ‘Glamour of Manchester’:– Malfy rose gin, lemon, hibiscus syrup, Champagne.  There’s an innovative selection of spirits especially speciality gins for the perfect serve such as Aviation, Gin Mare, Malfy Rosa, Monkey 47 and Ramsbury Single Estate Gin.

The pure, smooth taste of Ramsbury Single Estate Gin (Wiltshire) for the perfect Martini

My Gin Martini was a masterclass of the art which hit the spot with lip smacking delight. Across the table, June selected The Queen’s Peach – Spiced rum, peach, lime, mint with a splash of prosecco – for a refreshing taste of the Caribbean.   

Masterly curated Cocktails at Refuge by Volta

Advised to select four to five dishes for two, we chose the ras-el-hanout scented chicken, salt cod croquettes with tartare aioli, tenderstem broccoli, chargrilled cauliflower and chickpea daal, for an eclectic Middle Eastern, Asia and Spanish culinary journey.  The vegetables were perfectly cooked almost al dente and the creamy daal in coconut milk was mixed with apricots and dates. For dessert, a sticky toffee pudding was the perfect finale to a superlative meal. Hospitality by Jake and James was exemplary.  

As well as sipping a delicious Sartori Pinot Grigio, the wine list tours the world to France, Spain, South Africa, Australia and Lebanon.  With DJs in charge of the ambience, you can expect a lively vibe with a soothing, sassy mix of jazz, swing, funk, soul and house.

Superlative, modern cuisine at the Refuge by Volta: soul food for sharing

Experience the magic of Manchester this Christmas at the Kimpton Clocktower. Treat yourself to a stay in one of the gorgeously styled rooms or suites and enjoy a three course Christmas Day lunch with a glass of fizz and festive snacks in The Refuge, breakfast each day is included and chill out for a leisurely 3pm checkout on departure.  

Enjoy a fine feast of Brunch at Refuge by Volta

Hope this all whets your appetite to plan a magical, cultural and shopping trip to Manchester soon.

Links to help you research your visit.

https://www.visitmanchester.com/

https://bills-website.co.uk/restaurants/manchester

https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/aladdin/opera-house-manchester/

https://www.contemporarysix.co.uk/about-us/

https://traffordcentre.co.uk/

www.kimptonclocktowerhotel.com

The Edinburgh Food Festival @ Assembly George Square Garden: enjoy a gourmet alfresco picnic to kick start the summer Festival season.

The Edinburgh Food Festival launched in 2015, running for five days as part of Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink. The Festival soon developed as a showcase for the best producers and chefs from across Scotland, with street food, market stalls, workshops and cookery demos, welcoming over 35,000 visitors in summer 2019.

The Edinburgh Food Festival celebrates the finest quality Scottish food and drink

Having been cancelled in 2020, this popular festival for foodies and beer drinkers has been given support from Scotland’s Events Recovery Fund through EventScotland to return for its fifth year, running for ten days from Friday 23th July to Sunday 1st August, 2021.

“We’re delighted to be back in George Square Garden preparing for our summer of festivals once more. The hospitality and cultural industries are closely intertwined, and the Edinburgh Food Festival has served as the perfect entrée to our Garden experience since 2015.”

Dani Rae, General Manager, Assembly Festival

Experience a tasty starter to launch the Edinburgh Festival summer season at Assembly George Square Garden

George Square Garden is at the heart of Assembly on the Fringe with shows at the fabulous vintage Spiegeltent and pop up stages: during the week beforehand, the Food Festival offers an appetising amuse bouche to kick start the Edinburgh Festival season.

This year there are over thirty local producers, street food and market stalls as well as workshops and chef demos, to offer a colourful culinary feast of Scotland’s best contemporary food and drink – with an international flavour.

The Edinburgh Food Festival is open every day from 12 noon to midnight – entry is free with no tickets required. As with all hospitality venues, all health and safety regulations are in place for social distancing and the wooden tables with benches seat eight people.  So bring your bubble of family and friends.!

Returning again are several well known Scottish food producers such as Jarvis Pickle. Based in Eyemouth, they make hand crafted, homely, meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan filled pies, winning 30 recent Awards including for their Cullen Skink Pie, Pork and Blue Cheese pie and Steak and Kidney Pie.  Great Taste Awards for Vegan Mushroom and Chestnut with Truffle Oil Pie, Pork Venison, Port & Redcurrant Pie.

These speciality gourmet pies are sold at the prestigious Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly, London so excellence is assured.

Champion Vegetarian Class winner, 2019 is the Spinach, Goat Cheese and Sweet Potato Pie. This is so healthy and hearty, the thick shortcrust pastry shell is stuffed full of vegetables – 33% spinach, sweet potato, tomato, goats cheese (8%), cream, garlic, butter, vegetable fat, cream cheese, egg, salt black pepper.

The pastry is pre-cooked to prevent a soggy bottom, a culinary error frequently criticised by the judges on Great British Bake Off. !

These pies are seriously stuffed full of premium ingredients.

Jarvis Pickle pies are made from scratch for home-made taste and nutrition. The flour is grown and milled on a farm in East Lothian for the buttery pastry, filled with beef, chicken, smoked Eyemouth haddock and vegetables and eggs from the Scottish Borders. Once you have tasted a bite, you will be checking out which pie to munch next.!

Bellfield Brewery & Tap Room at Abbeyhill, Edinburgh is the UK’s first exclusively gluten free craft brewery, family-run with a mission: to craft-brew certified gluten-free craft beer produced in small batches, using traditional brewing methods; the perfect combination of science and art.  

‘We set up Bellfield to make exceptional beers that everyone could enjoy drinking. We love good food, so we brew beers that complement it. No compromise, just delicious, classic IPAs, hoppy ales and crisp, refreshing and perfectly balanced lagers and pilsners’.

Award winning beer, ale and lager from Bellfield Brewery

Lawless Village IPA is named after the local seaside resort of Portobello. A copper coloured, aromatic beer brewed as a traditional American IPA. Enjoy this chilled, with friends, Bellfield suggest.  

Bohemian Pilsner is a classic Czech pilsner, pale with a light body, slight bitterness and gentle floral tones from the finest Saaz hops leading to a soft refreshing finish. The Session Ale has citrus tones from the hops for flavour and aroma and the bitterness is balanced by fine malt character – very gluggable.

And many other award winning Bellfield ales and lagers to keep you refreshed sitting under the summer sun in the garden. This smiling “bar tender” at their Festival stand looks as if he will be very happy to serve you.!

Chick + Pea is a pop up mobile kitchen in their iconic bright blue Citroën H Van, touring around to cater for hungry folk at Festivals and private parties.

They specialise in tasty dishes from the Mediterranean and the Middle East – Halloumi fries, roast garlic yoghurt; Falafel, hummus, tahini; Courgette fritters, goats, feta, ricotta cheese, harissa yoghurt.

Healthy Middle Eastern & Mediterranean snacks with aromatic spice

​Back again too is the popular wee shed – kitchen We sell Dumplings, and their brand name says it all. They make and sell wee bite size dumplings. Their enticing promotion, akin to the foodie travel memoir, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ – is rather clever, Order, Consume, Repeat.

These tasty, vegan Scottish – Asian parcels are perfect picnic canapés, drizzled with chilli oil and Vietnamese dipping sauce.

‘Became utterly addicted to these during the Festival. Really tasty and good value for money for a decent sized portion,’ commented one happy diner.

We sell Dumplings – spicy, vegan, Asian snacks – so delicious

Moskito Bites and Tapas bring a taste of Spanish summer with Patatas Bravas and Spaniard Fries.  Mana Poké creates edible art with their healthy, protein-packed, Hawaiian Poké Bowls. As good as you would find in Naples, try the Paddle and Peel Pizza, freshly baked in their wood-fired oven. 

As well as Bellfield beers, other drinks are Poco Prosecco sparkling fizz and Sangria from Moskito’s Bacchus Mobile Bar.

You don’t have to head down the coast to Prestonpans to experience the famous Alandas Fish and Chips and seafood, as the van is back on the Square.

The fish is locally sourced and delivered daily so depending on the catch, there might be scampi, salt and chilli squid, salmon and lobster too. Recommended are the juicy fat, freshly grilled prawns on a skewer with a side of fries for posh fish and chips – sorted!  

Alandas fresh local seafood
Alandas Fish ‘n Chips – great Festival food

For dessert, Alanda is also a Gelataria. Their award-winning ice cream is made with Scottish cream and milk from a local dairy in East Lothian at their North Berwick parlour,  and as well as vanilla, infused with quality seasonal fruit and ingredients. As they proudly say, ‘Handmade with love.’

Home made Scottish Gelato from Alandas

As well as this wide choice of freshly cooked dishes to enjoy in the garden, several market stalls have a selection of food products to purchase and take home.

So head over to the Edinburgh Food Festival this week to enjoy leisurely picnic lunches, snacks, drinks and alfresco dining by night in the tranquil lush, green space of Assembly George Square Gardens.

The best news is that entry is free and you don’t need a reservation. Open every day from 12pm–midnight until Sunday 1 August.

Bon Appetit and Cheers!

To keep up to date with all the news about the Edinburgh Food Festival, visit www.edfoodfest.com or follow @EdFoodFest and #EdFoodFest on social media. 

The perfect tranquil green space for a picnic lunch or alfresco dinner

‘Art and Soul – The International Art and Sculpture Fair’ presents a colourful, cultural experience at the Culloden Estate & Spa, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

This summer, Gormleys Fine Art is presenting a major arts and sculpture event ‘Art & Soul,’ at the Culloden Estate and Spa, near Belfast.

Founded in 1990, Gormleys has galleries in Belfast and Dublin curating exhibitions year round, taking part in global art fairs and organising garden sculpture events throughout Ireland.  Specialising in international & Irish contemporary art, this is their sixth major exhibition at the Culloden Estate taking place from 26 June to 18 July, 2021.

Culloden Estate & Spa, Belfast Lough

Ireland’s largest ever sculpture exhibition – complemented by a stunning showcase of unique artwork by such world masters as Andy Warhol, Picasso and Dali – has a combined value of an extraordinary 7 million Euro.

The Culloden Estate was built in 1876 as an official palace for the Bishops of Down, who picked an idyllic location in the Holywood Hills overlooking Belfast Lough on the County Antrim coastline. This grand sandstone mansion surrounded by 12 acres of gardens, offers traditional Irish hospitality with contemporary lifestyle.

Art in the Garden – a dreamlike, sculptural wonderland

The central highlight of the Fair is Art In the Garden, featuring sixty large sculptures and installations by Orla de Brie, Patrick O’Reilly, Paoli Staccioli, Bob Quinn, April Young, Ian Pollock, Eamonn Ceannt, Gianfranco Bosco, Anthony Scott and other leading Irish and international sculptors.

Let’s take a walk around the garden at the Culloden Hotel to venture into an Alice in Wonderland world of birds, animals, dancers and fairylike ‘Ariel’ characters.

Penair, Eamon Ceannt

Anthony Scott, born in County Fermanagh, is primarily known for his beautifully stylised, majestic bronze animals based on Celtic mythology and literature. “I come from a farming background, so animals have always been a source of inspiration. They possess a sense of timelessness, [appearing] in art from the earliest cave paintings”

Donn, Anthony Scott (Bull) and Un Cavallo, Paolo Staccioli (Horse)

The Italian sculptor Paolo Staccioli from near Florence began his artistic career as a painter in the 1970s, later diversifying to experiment with ceramics and pottery. His compositions feature warriors, travellers and horses as recurrent characters. This is a magical work with a tiny figure clinging to an elegant horse on red wheels.

Patrick O’Reilly from Kilkenny, Ireland, is a highly acclaimed Irish artist who studied at the Belfast school of Art. His personality and humour shines through in his unique bronze sculptures of the animal kingdom. Monumental large-scale public commissions have allowed his sculptures to become part of the local landscape particularly in Ireland but also worldwide including a Strolling Bear in Paris and a Dancing Bear wearing a tutu in Cape Town.

Bear with Jockey, Patrick O’Reilly

Patrick O’Reilly’s humorous larger than life-size Bears look as if they have jumped out of a story book and will certainly entertain children who can also take part in a Teddy Bears’ Picnic. There are also several other O’Reilly sculptures of small bears, Irish Wolfhounds and horses with a light hearted spirit of fantasy.

Freedom from the Treadmill, Patrick O’Reilly

Giacinto Bosco from Alcamo, Sicily, showed artist talent as a young boy moving to Milan aged just fifteen to be an apprentice caster at a foundry, a creative place to inspire poetic, dreamlike narratives in his figures.

I Promise You the Moon, Giacinto Bosco

Orla de Brí lives in her native Ireland working in bronze, steel, stone and fibreglass as well as recently experimenting in photography. She creates both Giacometti-esque, slender figures and the abstract human form. “ I am curious about human behaviour, how we relate to other people, a perspective on life, love, self and emotional landscape.

Seated She Stag, Orla de Bri


F. E. McWilllian (1909 – 1992), was a renowned Northern Irish surrealist sculptor, working chiefly in stone, wood and bronze. His early wood carvings were influenced by primitive and African art, moving on to develop more symbolic and imaginative work. This is a most enigmatic and powerful Picasso-esque deconstructed woman.

Umbilicus, F.E. McWilliam

A number of grand salons inside the hotel have displays of smaller, intimate sculptures. Here too are pop up galleries of to showcase dynamic work by the world’s Blue Chip artists: Warhol, Picasso, Dali, Lichtenstein, Damien Hirst and Banksy.

Andy Warhol was a cultural legend in his own lifetime as an influential leader of the1960’s Pop Art movement. His imaginative vision transformed the humble Campbell’s Soup and the glamourous blonde, Marilyn Monroe into such iconic illustrations which remain instantly recognisable worldwide. Warhol was certainly famous for fifteen minutes.!

Mickey Mouse, Andy Warhol (signed screenprint )

An exhibition of 15 works by Warhol in the Cameron suite of the hotel include his quirky caricature of ‘Mickey Mouse’ and portraits of ‘Mick Jagger’, (signed by both Warhol and Jagger), Chairman Mao and Ingrid Bergman.

Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, (screenprint signed by Warhol and Jagger)

Probably the most renowned 20th century artist, Pablo Picasso was an innovative pioneer as a painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, redefining, reinventing and shaping the direction of modern art through the decades. Today, auction prices are continually rising. Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) 1932, recently sold at Christie’s New York for $103.4 million. This work was only acquired eight years ago for $44 million at a London sale.  

A wise investment indeed!.  Here, there’s a fine selection of etchings and drawings for sale to add a small original Picasso artwork to your own collection.

Le Cabinet Particulier, Degas et Le Fille, Pablo Picasso, (signed etching from a limited edition of 150)

As an urban graffiti artist, Banksy follows in the brushstrokes of these masters. His trademark imagery of children in strange, alien environments create a powerful message: With such poignancy, ‘Napalm’ is inspired by the photograph of nine-year-old girl running naked in fear down a road during the Vietnam conflict, ‘The Terror of War’.

Napalm, Bansky (signed screenprint)

Introducting children to a diverse range of artwork is so important to stimulate their own creativity. They are sure to be amused by ‘Triumphant Elephant Anniversary’ one of Salvador Dali’s surreal long-legged creatures, a recurring theme to depict strength and dominance.

Triumphant Elephant Anniversary, Salvador Dali, (Lithograph print)

A diverse range of work is also on display by contemporary artists across all genres – portraits, graphic art, abstract designs, landscapes and botanical studies.

Neal Greig was born in Belfast in 1965. He studied BA Hons in Fine Art at Edinburgh College of Art presents a series of seascapes.  ‘The elemental combination of earth, air, fire and water are my core subject matter.  Working outside brings an instinctive aspect to painting rather than a picturesque view of the landscape.’

Atlantic Port, Donegal, Neal Greig

Bridget Flinn attended the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and the Royal College of Art in London, where she studied natural history illustration.  Working from her studio in Sandymount in Dublin, subjects include landscape, life drawing and still life.

First Peonies, Bridget Flinn

Julian Opie graduated in 1983 from Goldsmiths, University of London, where he was taught by conceptual artist and painter Michael Craig-Martin. A major player on the British art scene with a series of painted metal sculptures, portraits and walking figures.

Summer Rain 3, Julian Opie

Stephen Forbes was born in Northern Ireland in 1973 and trained in London and Liverpool. “My paintings simply aim to give viewers pleasure and to celebrate the playfulness of life… without the obsessive introspection about life and self.”

Splash II is certainly the perfect illustration to reflect a sunshine escape this summer.

Splash 11, Stephen Forbes

A most enticing attraction is the ‘Bolli Bus’  parked in the gardens, a bespoke Champagne Bar-Bus created by Pattinson & Co. Wine Merchants, distributors of Bollinger Champagne. Outdoor seating for an afresco drink. Book the top deck for a private party (12 people) to turn a visit to the Art & Soul Fair into a special occasion.

The Bolli Bus, The Champagne Bar-Bus at Culloden Estate during Art & Soul Art Fair

Experience a leisurely Afternoon Tea which includes a curated art tour of the Fair or book a table for dinner in the unique Pop Art gallery of the Warhol Room. The Culloden Estate is offering special Art & Soul rates for overnight stays – (see more details below).

This is just a brief overview of this well curated exhibition of fine art and sculpture to enrich the mind and soul.  Do plan a visit if you can to the Culloden Estate.

Art & Soul: International Art & Sculpture Fair

Culloden Estate & Spa, Bangor Road, Holywood, Belfast BT18 OEX

Saturday 26th June – 18th July, open daily from 11am to 7pm.

Admission is free and prior booking is not required. Guided tours daily at 2pm, 4pm and 6pm.

Read more about the art fair here:

https://www.hastingshotels.com/artandsoul.html

The Culloden Estate is offering Art & Soul special rates for overnight stays. Please quote ARTSOUL when booking: Overnight accommodation, full Irish breakfast from £280 per room.

The Culloden Estate & Spa is part of the Hastings Hotels Group, one of seven luxury hotels across Northern Ireland, located 10 minutes from George Best Belfast City Airport and 30 minutes from Belfast International Airport. The five star hotel is a member of Small Luxury Hotels, a collection of 500 global boutique-styled, independent properties.

There are 98 guest bedrooms and suites, wine and dine at Vespers Restaurant or at the hotel’s own pub, The Cultra Inn. The Spa at Culloden is an oasis for therapeutic ESPA face and body treatments, with new thermal experiences and medi-spa for wellness and relaxation. Guests can use the Health Club, with swimming pool, jacuzzi and steam room. 

With its lavish parkland and gardens, The Culloden Estate is a popular venue for weddings and private and corporate parties and events.

Book your stay here:

https://www.hastingshotels.com/culloden-estate-and-spa/

Broken Heart, Patrick O’Reilly

Caravan Finca El Fénix ‘One Coffee – Three Ways’: Time to taste Real coffee from Columbia

The daily experience of our modern, fast-paced lifestyle, is all about immediacy for everything from Instagram photos to RTD cocktails in a can. But speed does not always mean the traditional quality of Kodak camera film, a slowly crafted Martini to brewing fresh tea-leaves in a teapot.  

And in my view, there’s no comparison between instant coffee and the aromatic flavour of freshly ground coffee beans.

After the essential necessity of water, coffee is the most popular drink worldwide with over two billion cups consumed every day – around 95 million cups in the UK.  Coffee culture is part of our daily life, giving us a kick start in the morning.

2020 was a brutal year for the hospitality industry when cafes, bars and bistros closed during lockdowns and avid coffee drinkers missed the daily coffee shop habit and a cardboard cup on the go. 

However, the current trend which ensued is home consumption with a rise in demand for coffee beans, ground coffee, pods and capsules with smart coffee machines, cafetieres, espresso makers, in order to prepare our own Barista-style hit of caffeine.

Brazil is the largest producer followed by Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Ethiopia. The coffee industry is part of a complex global trade supply chain across a range of businesses, family farms, shipping companies, roasters, grocery stores, independent & online suppliers, coffee shops and finally the consumer.

Farmers and mill workers use different forms of technology, often based on the terroir – the geographical landscape – of the region, their access to resources such as fresh water and electricity.

Raw Material is a social enterprise coffee importer, the brainchild of New Zealand coffee professionals Matt Graylee and Richard Corney.  Their aim is to support producers in the local community by offering training from how to raise rare coffee varietals to advanced processing methods and access to speciality trade markets.

Finca El Fénix is a multi-use farm in Quindío, Colombia, founded and run by Raw Material, their first major project launched in 2014.

Working in close partnership with Raw Material, Caravan Coffee Roasters in the UK was a major sponsor in a Kickstarter campaign to fund the construction of a Wet Mill here at Quindío to help develop a sustainable and successful coffee business community. Caravan is a member of ‘1% For The Planet’, giving 1% of their total revenue each year to environmental causes.

Processing coffee is complex and has a significant effect on the final product: growing, picking, sorting, pulping and drying the cherry fruit seeds to the export-ready beans. The overall flavour and quality affects the price, directly linked to the income and living standards of the local workers and their families.

The careful gathering of ripe coffee cherries like grapes for wine

Like a professional Master of Wine, or a cocktail mixologist, James Hoffman is a Sommelier-style expert on coffee. He is the author of ‘The World Atlas of Coffee’: from Beans to Brewing, coffee explored, explained and enjoyed:

“Everything good about coffee is in how it is grown. The beans are known at this stage as cherries. We want ripe cherries. These cherries are the size of a grape with a couple of seeds (the coffee beans) in a protective layer covered in a sticky layer of fruit, which tastes of sweet honey and melon flavours. The seeds are laid out to dry and the defective ones removed – only a tiny percentage of coffee goes through this sorting stage.

James Hoffman

The sweet cherry Fruits with coffee bean seeds

Miguel Fajardo, head of operations at Raw Material in Columbia, launched an innovative experiment to identify how specific processing methods change the characteristics of coffee. They selected just one coffee varietal – the Tabi – grown in one area of the Finca El Fénix farm and harvested in the same week.

Three year old TABI coffee trees at Finca El Fénix (photo Andrea Jimenez)

The cherries were then processed in three distinctive ways to examine the impact on flavour.

Natural Process: Ripe, intact cherries, sorted for impurities and laid to dry on raised beds for 14 days.  

Washed Process: Depulped cherry fermented in fresh water before drying on raised beds for 14 days. 

Honey Process: Depulped cherry with fruit pulp still attached, laid to dry on raised beds for 14 days.

Raised beds for the drying process of the cherry seed coffee beans

Caravan Coffee Roasters has now launched a Tasting Set of these Natural, Washed and Honey Coffee Beans: One Coffee – Three Ways. This is a rare opportunity to understand the varied production methods of coffee farming and the diversity of coffee. 

Caravan Coffee Roasters: Finca El Fénix – One Coffee -Three Ways

James Hoffman is a well known presenter of informative on line videos to explain the slow, slow preparation of coffee beans at home to ensure the finest quality and taste.    

Ensure you purchase freshly roasted coffee beans. However, the final aspect to the perfect brew is down to the drinker at home – grinding the beans, temperature of the water, agitation and preparation time.

In the UK, we are more likely to say Cafetiere instead of the American term, French Press – the glass jug with a plunger. Just like following a recipe to bake a cake, the correct measurement of ingredients is essential.

James Hoffman recommends 70g of ground coffee per 1 litre of water for his French Press brewing technique.  Caravan Roasters suggests 60g ground coffee per 1 litre of water – so why not test and taste to find the best ratio for your preference of coffee strength.

Step 1. Grind the coffee beans on a medium/ coarse setting. Finely ground coffee will result in a lot of slush, while grinding too coarse will give coffee a bitter taste.

Step 2. Add the ground coffee to the glass jug.

Step 3. Boil the water and then let it sit for 30 seconds. Water at boiling point results in burning the coffee.

Step 4. Pour a quarter of the measured water into the glass jug. Let the coffee bloom for 30 seconds then slowly start pouring the rest of the water over the ground coffee.  Do not stir and leave the jug uncovered. Set a timer for 3 minutes, 30 seconds

Step 5.  Scrape off the thin crust layer that has formed on top of the liquid with a spoon.

Step 6. Patience is a virtue to make the best cup of coffee.!  Wait for at least 6 minutes.  

Step 7.  Slowly start pushing the plunger just below the surface of the coffee (about 5mm). This stops the coffee fines (tiny particles) being agitated and floating back up into the brew.  Then push the mesh filter plunger down to just above the layer of coffee beans at the bottom of the glass beaker.

Step 8. Pour the coffee into a large cup – leaving the dregs (slush) in the cafeteire.   

This method, advises Hoffman, offers an exceptional flavour profile.

Excellent coffee should have its own sweetness, and instead of suppressing bitterness, milk will obscure the flavour characteristics of the coffee, hiding the work of the producer and the expression of terroir.
― James Hoffman

Just like apppreciating the complexities of wine and grape varieties, it’s the same with coffee beans. There are generally six characteristics to bear in mind when tasting coffee – aroma, acidity, sweetness, body, finish and flavour.

Natural coffee beans –Tasting notes: Blackberry jam, crème caramel, mango, treacle.

The Taste test: Dark smooth chocolate, toasted hazelnut with a slightly sour yet smoothly rich and creamy finish.

Washed coffee bean : Tasting notes: Pink fruits, floral, black tea, custard

The Taste test: A blend of stone fruits, (damson, plum), caramel, and a delicious soft wood smoke, lingering on the palette.

Honey coffee beans: Tasting notes: Red apple, condensed milk, apricot, sweet baking spice

The Taste test: Well rounded with the mellow sweetness of red berries, raspberries & strawberries, milk chocolate, a hint of cinnamon spice with a very long finish.

Coffee is an all-natural drink – and it has been fascinating to learn more about the subtle differences from fragrant aroma to hidden flavours across these three varieties of El Fénix coffee beans.

Of course, most coffee shop aficianados worldwide love to add frothy full fat milk, cream, sugar, chocolate and caramel syrup et. al. – Cappucino, Latte, Caffè mocha or the highly calorific Frappucino!.

Why not experiment and perfect your own delicious home brew – coffee not beer – with a choice of non-dairy oat, soy, rice and almond milk, turmeric, matcha for fashionable, healthy options. 

From the Columbian estate, from cherry to roasted bean, it’s time to taste real coffee once again with these speciality, hand crafted coffee beans.

The evolution and revolution of global Coffee Culture continues.!

Caravan Roasters Finca El Fénix Coffee Beans curated in association with Raw Material

Available to buy at: http://www.caravancoffeeroasters.co.uk – £18 (3 x 80g whole bean)
https://www.caravancoffeeroasters.co.uk/collections/coffee/products/el-fenix-tasting-set

And check out their range of coffee: https://www.caravancoffeeroasters.co.uk/collections/coffee

Experience the true taste of traditional, quality Italian cuisine at home from Saporista.

Italian food is probably the most famous and beloved around the world. In fact, there is no such thing as “Italian cuisine” because the country, spread around the long, curving peninsula, is divided into small states and every region has its own dialect, dishes, culture and traditions.

Think of fat Amalfi lemons, black truffle from Umbria, Risotto alla Milanese and Neapolitan pizza.  

Families regularly gather to eat and drink together for simple suppers and special celebrations.  Recipes from Nonna and Mamma are passed on down the generations treated with respect and passion, simplicity is key, sourcing fresh, seasonal ingredients. This is the way Italians eat.

If we cannot plan a visit to Spoleto or Sorrento just now, the good news is that Saporista, the speciality Mediterranean food company in the UK, has sourced a feast of authentic produce and ingredients.

Select from a hand-picked range of traditional, artisan ingredients – aperitivo snacks, pasta, vegetables, salsa, sauces, cheese and chocolate to create easy Italian meals at home. 

Dinner is always a leisurely affair, starting with the Aperitivo hour – sip a glass of Prosecco,  Aperol Spritz or a classic Negroni to entice the appetite.

Aperitivo time – sip cocktails and nibble olives and bruschetta

Serve refreshing ice cold drinks with juicy olives and Taralli – shaped like baby bagels with the crumbly texture of a shortbread and dry taste of a water biscuit and bread sticks.

Bruschetta is ideal to nibble over cocktails or as a starter: toasted bread with a topping – roasted garlic and tomatoes.  Saporista has a choice of savoury dips such as Perché ci Credo’s Bruschetta Rosso Piccantino perfect for jazzing up ciabatta and crackers.  

Tasty Bruschetta snacks with a range of toppings

Described as “slightly hot”, Rosso Piccantino is a red pesto with Peperoncino – chilli pepper – giving a spicy kick. Be warned, a teaspoonful goes a long way!. 

Perché ci Credo produces a wide range of traditional Italian products capturing the intense flavour and unique aroma of fresh ingredients with no sugar, preservatives or artificial colouring.  

Perché ci credo means ‘because I believe’ in Italian.  

‘I believe in finely chopped onion meeting genuine olive oil in the pan. I believe in red crushed tomatoes and in red wine, and the joyful mix of flavours of red peppers and delicate courgettes. A simple pleasure.  That’s why I believe in it!’. 

Enrico de Lorenzo, founder Perché ci Credo

Enrico de Lorenzo shares his passion for fresh, seasonal food from Puglia

Located in Salento, Puglia, the southern ‘heel of Italy’, is renowned for sunshine, seashore and olive trees.  The cuisine here is based on vegetables, fruit, cheese, fish, a little meat and good extra virgin olive oil, the pillar of the Mediterranean diet.  

Perché ci Credo – located along the fertile farmland and coastline of Puglia

It is this taste of Italian lifestyle, real, simple local ingredients which they prepare, preserve and bottle – authentic produce using family recipes and sense of tradition.

Carciofini Arrostiti in Olio – roasted artichokes in extra virgin olive oil is simply delicious – juicy chunky hunks of vegetables – just toss into a salad or add to a pasta dish.  Tomatoes and Olives too in this range of vegetables in the local olive oil.

Their method of artisan cuisine is based on fresh raw ingredients, washed and gently cut by hand, then added to a pan to cook, slowly simmering in extra virgin olive oil. This preserves the natural flavour and fragrance.

Farmhouse Tomato sauces are in attractive beer bottles with string and a metal seal. The flagship product, Salsa Madre just how Mamma would make it – 99% fresh tomatoes with a little basil and a pinch of salt.

As sampled, Cacio & Pepe is a thick tomato passata flavoured with Cacio – a soft sheep’s milk cheese – and black pepper.  It’s inspired by a Roman recipe combining lightly fried onion, fresh tomato pulp, extra virgin olive oil, cheese, pepper and sprinkle of parsley.

Perché ci Credo’s homemade, organic sauces are produced with locally sourced ingredients, no added sugar or artificial ingredients. Stir these Farmhouse sauces through pasta with some fresh herbs and sprinkle with parmesan.   

Having tasted a little on its own, it’s the exactly same taste of the tomato topping on pizza!. So ypu can also use this passata to fresh dough and top with mozzarella and basil for a Margherita or add other ingredients to create your favourite Pizza.

But I shall continue my Italian feast with a bowl of Pasta produced by Molina e Pastificio Fratelli Iozzini Gragnano which has a fascinating family heritage.

September, 1797: Marcantonio Iozzini, his wife Serafini Di Nola and their four sons start wheat milling and pasta production business having inherited a family mill, Lo Monaco.  

The Iozzino Pasta company, founded 1797

Fast forward to 1920. Ferdinando Iozzino sets up a company with two entrepreneurs called “Pastificio La Gragnanese” which continues for about ten years.   On to the present day, June 2018,  when brothers Tommaso and Domenico Iozzino resume the production of artisan dried pasta started over two centuries earlier by their family. The house specialties are Mezzani, Vermicelli, Zita, Occhi di Elefante, Maccaroncelli, Lingue di Passero and Fusilli.

Pasta is a simple product: durum wheat flour and water.  Since the Middle Ages, the main region for milling wheat was Gragnano between the Gulf of Naples and Salerno along the Amalfi coast.  The constant quantity of natural water here provided energy for the mills and for the pasta itself.

The wheat growing region of Gragnano between Naples and Amalfi coast

Iozzino Gragnano pasta is produced from 100% Italian wheat and local Spring water. Durum (hard) wheat grains have a course texture and a yellow-amber colour which is finely milled to create semolina.

Generally there are two options to cut and mould the pasta called extrusion – a traditional bronze die or a Teflon die.  The benefit of the bronze die is that it makes a slightly rough surface which helps sauces and other ingredients stick to the various pasta shapes.

Originating in Sicily, Caserecci  (meaning, ‘homemade’), is a traditional short pasta, rolled lengthways into two twisted strips, their shape and ridged surface perfect for holding pesto and sauces. Known as the ′′ festive pasta “, this often enriches family Sunday lunch especially in Campania.

Fusilli Caserecci with grilled aubergine, tomato sauce, grated cheese and basil leaves

As advised on the label, it does take around 13 minutes to cook yet still slightly al dente.  For texture, flavour and colour, I added a selection of summer vegetables – courgette, artichoke, pepper, chopped garlic, small cherry tomatoes and a few olives. Do try the superlative Saporista olives stuffed with anchovy.

Then the magic essential ingredient, the Perché ci Credo Cacio and Pepe passata. The sinuous pasta can be folded over on the fork and the twisted ribbons caress the sauce beautifully.

For this Fusilli Casarecci pasta, Iozzini suggest your choice of typical Mediterranean ingredients such as courgette, broccoli, sweetcorn and prawns and other seafood.

A taste of Italy – seafood pasta with a glass of vino

Finally, a light sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Highly recommended is Sapori di Parma Parmigiano Reggiano (aged 12 months) made in Santa Maria del Piano, northern Italy. Anna and Luca continue this artisan business founded in 1945 by their grandfather Bonfiglio.

Parmigiano Reggiano is a unique and inimitable style produced exclusively in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantua where the dairy cows are fed on local forage and it takes about 550 litres of milk to produce each wheel, slowly crafted and matured with care.

One of the oldest and most prestigious ‘King of Cheeses’, Parmigiano Reggiano is labelled DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) to show  regional authenticity. This has a hard, granular texture which is easy to grate into small soft flakes which melt into the pasta with subtle saltiness.

Caserecci pasta with broccoli and tomato, with a dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano

As well as the perfect, final touch to pasta dishes, small chunks of cheese are also a tasty snack at Aperitivo time. 

With Saporista as your expert culinary guide, take a virtual foodie tour all around Italy – without having to pack your suitcase.

Simple, healthy produce offers premium quality – sweet tomatoes, olives, artichokes, fragrant herbs, homemade pasta and traditional cheese to delight the palate.  And do complement your meal with crisp, dry wine from Tuscany, Veneto and Sicily.  

Authentic, homely food, just as the Italians continue to relish with the same passion passed on through the generations.  Embrace La Dolce Vita lifestyle this summer – buon appetito. !

Plan your Italian dinner here at the Saporista on line store: