Monday, 28 November 2016

Italian wine tasting with Bat and Bottle

In the atmospheric medieval surroundings of Oakham Castle we enjoyed a simple but beautifully constructed wine tasting last week with Oakham's own Bat and Bottle Wine. With over 20 years of wine merchanting under their belts, these guys really know their stuff and the selection they presented really showed the best of some old favourites, rare finds and comforting quality that is the best of Italian wine.

By utter chance rather than design, I managed to start off with one of the most interesting wines of the evening - purely because I wanted to bypass the crowds, head for the small wine producers that were in attendance and try something new - basically my go to motivations in any situation.

L'Etrangé 2015

This spontaneously fermented wine goes for 11 months without sulphite and in combination with the aromatic Vermentino grape - a new one on me - this led to a wine with surprising punch and character. Super dry in the mouth, after the initial shock I tasted elements of pear, green vegetal elements and even a clove spice, but all subtle and muted, like hearing the sounds of a distant orchestra drifting through a dusky forest. Definitely different, and definitely something you will come back to again.

Lis Fadis
Friulano 'Sbilf' 2010

When writing up your highlights from a wine tasting, it's probably prudent to include the one where you just wrote 'wow!' in your notebook. Again, this unique ancient grape, the Friulano, was another new one on me. I found that there was an interesting yeasty nose on this wine but again a punchy flavour with liquorice and spice balancing out with great acidity which created a fresh but flavourful wine. Again, deeply unusual and therefore vaguely hypnotic.

Lis Fadis
Chardonnay 'Guriut' 2011

As if one offering from the small Lis Fadis was not enough, I cannot go on without mentioning their Chardonnay. Perhaps not to everyone's taste, this was my wine of the evening - it could not have suited my palate more. It had a lovely buttery quality but was still gracefully bright and balanced. Absolutely what I look for in a beautifully executed Chardonnay, but I acknowledge, not to everyone's tastes.

Mauro Franchino
Gattinara 2011

A gorgeous Nebbiolo from Alto Piemonte - you'll remember my burgeoning obsession with this region from our recent visit to Turin. This example scored highly for me because of the gorgeous burnt amber colour which evinced the honey, apricot and plum flavours within. This was probably my 'easy drinking' option of the night.

Ca' La Bionda
Amarone 2010

I have to finish on The Boy's pick of the evening. He had bought me a bottle of Amarone to try some weeks previous, but hadn't actually tried any himself at the time, so he hadn't expected the almost grappa like nose and the awakening sweetness of the wine with its balancing bitterness, good body but also subtle finish. Think raisins, perhaps the merest hint of treacle, but without the cloying stickiness. This is complex and exciting wine, without going anywhere near dessert wine territory. Eminently drinkable.

So, this is just a taste of the 20 wines we sampled over the evening. It is testimony to Bat and Bottle's expertise that such an eclectic and exciting compilation of wines from Italy were assembled in one room, and to hear Ben's introduction to the wines was to be inspired by his passion and dedication. If you have the inclination I would think that joining their wine club, the Conspirators, would be a move you would not regret.

Cin Cin! *snigger*

Saturday, 19 November 2016

The Festive Leicester Mulled Directory

I can deny it no longer. The Christmas lights are on in the city and there are reindeer bimbling around in Jubilee Square today, next to the Wheel of Light. So the festive season is officially upon us. In my book that makes it time for a new directory. Where has mulled wine, cider or other delicious spiced hot toddies available this Christmas? I can't survive without a delicious warming treat and I need the information of where to get one at my fingertips.

As ever, this directory will be regularly updated. I shall endeavour to review those that I get to try so you know how good they are. You're welcome.

1901: The Turkey Cafe, Granby Street
Jaeger Spiced mulled wine and Rekorderlig Spiced Plum are available now. Plus festive afternoon tea is on offer and they are open every day from the 29th November because they're full of festive cheer.

Black Horse Aylestone
The Black Horse are one of the first off the blocks to get their mulled wine offer out there this year. Couple that with a pub dog and an open fire and we're in cosy festive heaven!
Broood, Hinckley
Mulled drinkies will be on the bar from 1st December!

The Cow and Plough, Oadby
If mulled wine is not your thing, head across to the Cow and Plough for a drop of mulled cider!

The Criterion, Millstone Lane
Now we have lived through the ownership crisis, the Critter is back in full operation and mulled wine is available.

The Exchange, Rutland Street
Mulled wine is on at £4, mulled cider at £3 and they are working on developing a soft drink option as we speak. Can't decide what to have? Mince pies are also on hand while you make a decision!

The Forge, Glenfield
Mulled wine and mince pies are primed and ready to go whenever you can drop in...

The Geese & Fountain, Croxton Kerial
They will be creating a mulled wine using Dragora estate-bottled organic Castilla Tinto with cinnamon, cloves and star anise. Sounds like quite a treat, it will be available throughout December.

Festive cat-elf jacket. I made that.

The Globe, Silver Street
Always offering a great taste of the hot stuff, the Globe has been a staple of the market for many years now. 

The Nag's Head, Glenfield
They will be serving mulled wine from December 2nd when Glenfield's official light switch on takes place!

Orange Tree, High Street
They have confirmed their wine is mulling!

The Poacher's Brasserie, Thurlaston
Offering mulled wine made from Pimms, malbec, cinnamon and star anise. There sure are some fancy brews going on out there!

Taps, Guildhall Lane
Mulled wine and mulled cider is available now!

West End Brewery, Braunstone Gate
They had some mulled treats at the Winter Westival on Braunstone Gate on Sunday 27th November and next they will be available through December.

Winter Food Festival at Leicester Market
Sunday 20th November
You missed it!

Monday, 14 November 2016

Bottomless Afternoon Tea at Exchange

If there's one thing you need on a Sunday, it's tiny sandwiches and cakes as far as the eye can see. Happily, the Exchange are here to meet that need to you with their Bottomless Afternoon Tea, every Sunday for just £25 per person.

Feeling special

We were invited down to sample the inaugural Bottomless Sunday for ourselves and it was simply delightful. A table full of retro, mismatched crockery awaited us in the Exchange's airy, light bar area. We were served up with a pot of tea and one of coffee when we arrived, as well as a glass of Prosecco to kick things off.

A cake stand of tiny sandwiches and petit fours was the next thing to arrive at the table. The finger sandwiches were made with a very soft, light ciabatta. They had a mixture of fillings, including a fragrant mozzerella, basil and red pesto, one with a gorgeous savoury prosciutto and another with homemade guacamole which had a lovely kick to it. And of course as it is a Bottomless Sunday when you've finished your sandwiches, you can always ask for some more! Which naturally we did, because they were incredibly tasty.

On the table are generous servings of butter, jam, clotted cream and fresh chopped strawberries ready for you to adorn your scones in your chosen fashion. I'm very much a jam then cream kinda girl, which is apparently the Cornish way. It's the only way which makes logical sense if you ask me. The fresh baked scones had a lovely crumbly texture and a buttery flavour, they were totally perfect. I just wish that I had the capacity to eat more than one, but unfortunately my stomach doesn't work that way.

On to the petit fours, delicious mouthfuls of sweet delight. The macarons were delicately flavoured and had just the right combination of lightness and chewy centre. In addition there were coffee chocolate sponges, chocolate truffles, teeny tiny raspberry tarts and more besides. And, did I mention? Bottomless. All the tiny cakes your heart desires. I managed to squeeze in a second serving of them. Squeeze was the operative word as our table was getting rather crowded at this point. I had to eat the petit fours so that they could clear one of the cake stands away to make more space. It was an act of public service if anything.

And of course if you run out of tea or coffee, just ask for some more. My glass of Prosecco was certainly bottomless and quite frankly there can be no better wine match for tiny cakes than a good Italian sparkling wine. Soft drinks and house wine are also available and bottomless for the duration of your stay between 12.30pm and 3pm. 

Attentive staff with a fantastic attitude, a convivial atmosphere and a prime location in the heart of Leicester's Cultural Quarter make this an absolutely divine treat for a Sunday afternoon. You have to book in advance though, and as places are limited I recommend getting in there quickly. This baby is going to be popular for a long, long time.

Thanks to the Exchange for inviting us along to enjoy their Bottomless Sunday. It was real.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

UK Burger Battle Returns to the LCB Depot.

You might have notice me mention the forthcoming UK Burger Battle in my latest review in the Leicester Mercury this week. Well, having written that I'm very excited to let you all know that I have now been invited to judge said event! The pressure! The unbelievable pressure!

You might remember The Boy and I were straight on the bandwagon for the last Leicester Burger Battle in the summer of 2015, buying our tickets within days of their release and we did not regret the purchase one bit. On that occasion, Crafty were the winners - but who will be victorious this time round?
Let's look at the line up.

The Facts

The Burger Battle will be held at the LCB Depot on Saturday 26th November.

Earlybird tickets are currently available priced at £15 which bags you a free Sailor Jerry cocktail along with your two burgers.

You have a three hour window in which to consume the battling burgers, during which time there will be entertainment, giggles, as well as the chance to see professional Competitive Eater Emma Dalton take on a burger eating challenge. There'll also be a Sailor Jerry bar on site with specially crafted cocktails at discount prices and a full on party afterwards to help you dance off those burgers.

If you don't just want to watch a challenge, but feel the need to partake, fantastic chicken wing experts Pluk'd will be on hand with their Wing Sting Challenge. While I have not participated in said challenge, I have seen it happen in that 'real life' thing and I can confirm it is devilishly difficult, no matter how easy 10 wings in 7 minutes sounds like. Hotter than hell doesn't even start to cover it.

Along with that, fantastic local artisans, Gelato Village will be on hand with tasters of their luxurious, handmade gelato, made at their Leicester in-store laboratory. That will help to ease the fire if you dare take the Pluk'd challenge!

The Challengers

It's a bit of a David and Goliath affair at the Burger Battle this year. We have the newcomers Cured, recently opened above Brewdog versus stalwarts of the Leicester burger scene since 2013, Gray's Kitchen (did I mention my latest review?)

Cured Stack
Homemade secret recipe beef patty, 14 day cured treacle and barley brisket, Punk IPA maple bacon, pickles and Swiss cheese in a brioche bun.

Euro Burger
Grays handcrafted beef batty, Nduja butter, smoked Lyonnaise onion, camembert, Grays ketchup, sun-dried tomato crouton, rocket and a toasted Kaiser roll.

So come and burger the night away with us. The burgers are promising to be splendid (I mean, Nduja butter - what can go wrong?) Get your tickets now online or direct from both Gray's and Cured and we'll see you there.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

We wish you a Merry Bru-mas!

It's always an early start, but it's becoming something of an annual tradtion to kick off the festive season with a sneaky peek of the new Christmas specials coming up at Bru. This year we made a big deal of it, with an early Christmas party for a jolly bunch of East Midlands Bloggers.

Secret Santa!
And we did it in style! The Christmas jumpers were on, songs were sung, crackers pulled and party games played. We didn't care that it was Halloween the day before and this was entirely messing with our seasonal calendars. Sometimes you just have to do these things.

Party hat were on and the Secret Santa was embarked up on with gusto. I had the good fortune to have the beautiful Steph from Priceless Life of Mine as my Santa, as it turned out and so I came away with a spectacular haul of kittie goodies, which have been keeping my feet, tummy and heart warm and snug today. 

After we had all taken a few deep breaths and tried to calm down a little after all of the excitement, it was on to trying the highlights that will be released for Bru's special Christmas menu in the next few weeks. First up it was seasonal hot drinks.

The Gingerbread Latte was a favourite that has long been celebrated on the Bru menu, but the little guys themselves don't make an appearance throughout the year, being shy and all. Although it is quite a sweet latte, the spicing is so robust that it really works and does taste like liquid gingerbread - just what we all needed on a very cool evening!

The hot chocolates were also a delight, served to us in taster jars, but available to your good selves in full size Kilner jar splendour. The Chocolate Orange was definitely my favourite, but apparently the Oreo is the best seller, so I'll leave it up to you. They are both sweet, warming and rich.

On to the incredible looking cakes, and we enjoyed a slice of the full size specialities. My favourite was the cherry and amaretti cheese cake because I am a sucker for anything cherry, but that is not to take anything away from the lemon tart. That had a pleasing sharpness and beautifully soft pastry. To be honest, all the hefty full-on Christmas flavours can get too much for me sometimes, so this is a great alternative in that respect.

The gingerbread cheesecakes did not do it for me so much, but I think I was all gingerbreaded out after the latte. If you like something that is rich and creamy, with just a subtle hint of ginger, then this will most definitely be your bag. The black forest gateaux roulade on the other hand, I was all over. This has been my favourite dessert since I was a kid and although I don't have it so much now (what with the world offering much more choice than it did in the 80s) I still always have a soft spot in my heart for it. True to form, this was the only dessert which I ate the whole piece of, and considering the mammoth cake marathon we had embarked on, I think that is high praise indeed.

Finally, there was a chocolate truffle bundt cake which surprised me with its lightness. On appearances it looked like it would be one heavy mofo, but it was really the softest sponge and a delicious dark chocolate coating. So full of festive cheer and sugar, I made my way home.

Thanks to Bru for inviting me along and filling me full of delightful treats and of course to East Midlands Bloggers and #ItsBruMas for the fantastic company, the questionable Christmas song singing and the all round delight. I feel like I can barely wait for The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

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