Awaiting Updates

Still no final copies of lease or Visitor Information Service agreement. Reminders sent!
Nor any news on the museum move – due by end-November. There are signs of exhibits being packed up and removed within the last few days, but we will still ask Ludlow Town Council for an update.

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Special Board Meeting

The meeting was specifically to discuss the public presentation of the project with the AGM presentation as the focus.

Comments had been received on Business Plan. Members were asked to submit any further comments by email.

TB went through the draft presentation, the result of two previous presentations to the Civic Sopciety and to a staff meeting. A number of suggestions were made, but the basic request was for a more passionate ‘sell’ to members. Enthusing members and making them feel included was vital. There was discussion of how to organise access to architectural plans at the AGM.

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Chicken Caesar Salad, Pinot Blanc and Macon Villages

The chicken salad was D’s version of chicken Caesar salad with avocado as well as chicken. The dressing is a light mayonnaise and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan. This needs a white wine that is fruity and perhaps full rather than acidic. It could even take a little oak.

I had an open bottle of Pinot Blanc, Turckheim, 2007 – £6.50 when bought from the Wine Society. I like this a lot. I will admit to bias in favour ofAlsace whites, but this fruity (melony) and spicy wine with low acidity worked very well indeed. The bottle was open because we had drunk a small glass with an omelette the day before and it worked very well with that too – as few wines do. Pinot Blanc is the classic choice with Quiche Lorraine which is eggy and vegetal so the success of these matches should be no surprise.

The other bottle was Tesco’s Macon Villages (year) made by Vignerons de Grandes Vignes, Prissé at 12.5% and a very attractive £4.99. This is light, clean, focused and at the appley end of the chardonnay spectrum; not full, even rather mineral on the finish. There was not much nose and no detectable oak. I like this and it’s certainly good value, but just a bit too much acidity for the salad. It would be better with fish.

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Italian Experiments Featuring Veal

I am trying not to refer to ‘old friends’ but to ‘friends of long standing’; that ‘old’ is getting too suggestive. However, among these friends of long standing are R & J who I have known since college days and had invited us to their place in Italy, just a little inland from the Riviera coast, but with a magnificent view of the Med from their large terrace.

It was a pleasure to leave the increasingly autumnal UK for a few days of really hot sun and sparkling sea (I’m writing ads already). But in Italy you can also eat and drink, with the typical Italian emphasis on simple, high quality, local produce. This tends also to include local wines which are a more mixed blessing. Here’s an example of one of J’s meals.

We started with an impressive-looking bottle ofAsti (the relatively new name for what used to be called Asti Spumante). The only guide to quality was the label which looked stylish in a carefully understated way that inspired confidence. It was a sparkling wine that smelled beautifully floral and fruity and that fruitiness carried through to the taste which was light and clean and only 9% alcohol. The only drawback was that it was a sweet wine, which would not be our first choice. We searched in vain on the front of the bottle for any indication and eventually found the word ‘dolce’ in the smallest size of print at the bottom of the back label. This was a good wine, not cloyingly sweet, but sweet in a clean fruity way, so why would they not be happy to say more clearly that it was sweet? Or perhaps we were supposed to know that Asti is usually sweet. It is, and we didn’t.

A little research reveals that it is made from 100% Moscato Bianco grapes and that it is bottled with the bubbles from the primary fermentation (unlike champagne which is bottled as a still wine and the bubbles are created in each bottle by a separate secondary fermentation). It is made in Piedmont around the town of Asti in vast quantities, little of it being drunk in theUK. We seem to prefer Prosecco, perhaps because we like our fizz dry. (Incidentally, despite that ‘secco’ in the name it was predominantly sweet until about 50 years ago.)

We started the meal with just mozzarella and figs, and you will not get better examples of either than in Italy in September. Delicious.

The veal was presented as escallops which, in the UK would be cut with a knife and beaten out thin. In Liguria we found they are cut thin with a bacon slicer resulting in 1/8” thick escallops whose texture feels better to me. These were cooked extremely quickly, served in a sauce containing lots of lemon and accompanied by roasted vegetables. Best of all we ate outside on the terrace until long after sunset.

With the meal we drank Rossese di Dolce Acqua DOC, a light local red wine. Like a lot of the reds drunk in Italy it depends on acidity rather than tannins for its interaction with food and can taste thin or sharp to the unaccustomed palate. The Italian reds that we get in the UK tend to be heavily biased towards the tannic, often spectacularly so, but Italians drink local wines, relatively young. In fact it went very well with the veal and vegetables, a notably light dish that would have been seriously unbalanced by a Super Tuscan monster. I would be unlikely to drink wine like this in a British winter – it wouldn’t go with the dishes we eat and I don’t look for acidity in winter – but on a terrace with a view of theMediterranean on a late summer evening it’s absolutely right. Thanks R & J.

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GG Takes a Break

Things have been a bit demanding chez GG these last 3 months and a break is necessary despite the fact that postings are not up to date. We are off for a week inItaly, after which, suitably recharged, I shall update the blog.

Thereafter I hope to maintain normal service. That, you should note, involves dating posts for the date of the meal, not the date of posting, which can be quite a bit later. Just be assured that notes are made in real time and only posted if I am confident that I have properly captured the experience. You may not agree with the judgements, but I am interested in authenticity, not frequency or regularity.

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Steak and Baked Vegetables with Aubergine Sauce – Burgundy

This is a Nigel Slater recipe that sounded delicious and seemed to cry out forBurgundy. I didn’t read the recipe in full until I had decanted a bottle of rather good Burgundy – and then I saw the problem.

Had it just been steak with roasted vegetables – clean vegetable tastes roasted in a little olive oil – it would have been fine. What I hadn’t bothered to find out was that the vegetables had pine nuts, cumin and a little harissa added, and the aubergine sauce was made with olive oil and yoghurt. These ingredients shout ‘Middle East’ and push me towards the wines of the Rhone. Given the raisins, I might even try aBordeaux.

But now I was committed to Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2005, Domaine Jean Grivot that I had bought to lay down at £10.83 back in 2006. It is said by the WS to be a serious barrel-aged wine with fine tannins and indeed the scent is of wonderfully fruity strawberries and the palate is elegant and silky with lots of authentic fruit – including its acidity- and just a hint of tannin and oak. It is a lovely wine, but not quite right for this dish. I would have preferred a heavier Burgundy, one of my favourite Cotes du Rhone, or even a claret with the right fruit and spice.

 

Yes, we enjoyed the meal – this is a very good dish indeed – and we enjoyed the wine, but the combination could have been substantially better.

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Salmon with Herbs and Two Chilean Chardonnays

The herbs are parsley, tarragon and basil, all from the garden or a pot (the basil). The courgettes are also from the garden, but we have to buy potatoes now that we have exhausted the produce from our potato bags. The salmon is marinaded in the herbs before frying and the strength of the tarragon and basil are very apparent.

The Wine Society’s Chilean Chardonnay, Limari Valley 2010 is 14% alcohol and costs £5.95. It is made for the Wine Society by
Concha y Toro. This is characteristic Chardonnay part way between the purer Australian style like Jacob’s Creek and a junior Burgundy. There is plenty of fruit and just a hint of oak, but it is a bit short of minerality for me. It is clean, no one will find this in any way challenging, but good value.

Leyda Reserva Chardonnay 2010 is 14% alcohol and costs £6.50. It is made by Wines of Chile, though purchased from the Wine Society. This differs in being significantly more mineral. The fruit leans more to the citrous and away from melon and pineapple, the oak is similarly subtle, but the big difference is the stronger minerality and the persistence of the finish. This is pretty good and the one we continued to drink through the meal. At its higher price it should be a bit better, but for me the taste difference more than justified the higher price. I would buy this again.

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Pasta with Aubergines and Two Italian Reds

The pasta sauce appears very simple with few constituents and not too much effort in the cooking, but the result is a remarkably powerful and complex flavour. The simplicity means that every ingredient counts, especially the aubergines, tomatoes, a lot of garlic and a carefully calibrated shot of chilli. If your intended consumers don’t like garlic, don’t compromise, cook something entirely different.

This was obviously an excuse for some Italian wines and we tried two.

Bricco Rosso Suagna 2007 is 13.5% and £6.50 from the Wine Society. It comes from Piedmont and is a seriously structured wine – a blend of grapes (unspecified), raised in oak and aged. It is a powerful but civilised mouthful. We liked it a lot despite a hint of jamminess (to which we are very sensitive). Very Good Value

La Ferla Nero d’Avola 2009 fromSicily is something I should have tried by now, but had never got round to. It is 13% alcohol and costs £6.25. The ‘nero’ leads you to expect darkness and depth, in fact it’s fruity and rather light – on a par with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, perhaps a party wine. It is smooth and fruity with only limited structure, little in the way of obvious tannins but with just enough acidity. For us this is ‘easy drinking’ rather than a food wine, but clean honest stuff that would probably do well with plainer tomato sauces.

But the winner here by a large margin was the Bricco Rosso, partly for its inherent qualities, but also because it was better matched to the quite assertive tastes of the sauce.

What is the significance of the very tall, narrow labels? Just the current Italian fashion, perhaps.

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Lamb Steaks with Two Rhones

The summer never developed into barbecue weather but we can still create an illusion with some barbecue-like dishes. Tonight it was lamb steaks with which we tried two supermarket Cotes du Rhone:

JS Taste the Difference Cote du Rhone Villages 2010 is a hefty 14% alcohol and made by M Chapoutier at Tain l’Hermitage. It is described as ‘… a full flavoured, generous and well-structured fruity red with a rich peppery palate and soft, velvety tannins’ It is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsaut and recommended with ‘ Red meat and hearty casseroles’. It cost £6.79. It is indeed round and smooth, but rather too easy drinking and to my taste lacking in tannins, yet it is only a 2010!

Asda Extra Special Cote du Rhone Villages 2010 is 13.5% alcohol and made by Celliers des Dauphins who make one of the most popular branded Cotes du Rhone. This is described as a ‘… Mellow rich and delicious blend of ripe berries and peppery flavours. A fantastic match to herb-roasted chicken or beef casserole’. It costs a modest £5.79. I did not find it mellow nor so rich as the JS, indeed it was tighter and more acidic without actually being any fruitier. It may improve with more time in bottle but there is not much in the way of tannins to tame. Sorry, Asda, not too impressed.

It may be that my being especially partial to Cotes du Rhone has made me a bit hard on these two, but I know I can get really mouthwatering Rhones at £7.50. These were certainly cheaper, but fell short.

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Pork Chops with Sourdough Salsa and Beaujolais

I’m getting predictable; pork with Beaujolais in late summer should no longer be a surprise. But actually the point is to find out the things that go together and to stick with them. Anyone who really cares will continue to poke at the boundaries, but good partnerships stay good.

We started by continuing the Chardonnay quest comparing yesterday’s Asda Extra Special Chardonnay Vin de Pays d’Oc with The Wine Society’s Chilean Chardonnay, Limari Valley 2010. It costs a modest £5.95 and The Society describe it as “Crisp and vibrant with about 10% barrel fermented to contribute a little roundness without masking the bright citrus fruit”. It had a lovely, very typical Chardonnay nose. On the palate we found it rather less intense than the Asda, round rather than crisp, with lovely fruit, but quite soft. It is very coherent, a quality I admire, but actually a bit bland. This won’t offend anyone, but it won’t excite either. At £5.95 that is perhaps as much as you can expect.

The interest of the meal was the salsa which is made from sourdough bread and tomatoes with a jolt of chilli. The pork chops are quickly grilled then go into the oven with halved lemons to break down the fatty juices into quite a sharp sauce. Add a salad of French beans and you’re there. The lemony juice and the flash of chilli call for fruity fullness; there’s enough acidity already. The wine could be either white or red, it’s just that there are very few whites that could do this outside of Alsace and the reds have to be light and fruity rather than big and tannic. Beaujolaiswill work; so might Valpolicella or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

The Beaujolais was Beaujolais Villages, Ch de Lacarelle, 2009 which I got from the Wine Society at around £6.83. It is 12.5% alcohol and made by Jacques Depagneux. The WS says that it is one of the oldest estates and possibly their best vintage since 1947. We found it to be a very authentic Beaujolais, quite concentrated, with less acidity than many and with tannins that were already quite smooth. The effect was therefore rather round and very good with food, avoiding the clash that might result between a more acidic ‘raspberry’ Beaujolais and the lemony juices. A success then, and a good value Beaujolais.

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