Sunday, 27 April 2014

Brilliant Bordeaux bounces back

Last year I reported from the "En Primeur" wine tasting for the 2012 vintage presented by the "Cercle de Rive Droite", an association of wine growers and producers on the right banks of the Gironde river in Bordeaux. (My post can be found here: 
Now, the left and right bank have united and formed "Le Grand Cercle de Vins de Bordeaux", encompassing both sides of the Gironde.

2012 had been a good year for Bordeaux, but 2013 definitely has not. Highly challenging weather conditions have caused destruction, mayhem and many sleepless nights for the winemakers of the region. Wet weather brought a real threat of spoilage of the grapes. The window of opportunity for harvesting in 2013 was very small, causing an organisational nightmare for the growers. The final insult was heavy hail, causing unseasonally cold weather and damage to the vines. 

But this is not going to hold the region back. They have a long tradition of winemaking, great expertise, passion for their craft and pride in their product. They also have a worldwide reputation to preserve. This will be the year that Bordeaux bounces back!

I was delighted to meet the amazing Jilly Goolden at the event. She was the ORIGINAL wine expert on the iconic Food and Drink show back in the 1980s. I remember watching her as a child, seeing her speak with such flair and energy about wine, something I had no knowledge of whatsoever. Her vocabulary and vivid descriptions had be glued. I remember thinking that if Jilly got so much enjoyment from wine that she could talk about it with such love and effervescence, it had to be something I gave a try. She is one of my earliest food and drink heroes. 

This is the effusive and wonderful Dominique Bessineau from Chateau Este Montpezat. His Cuvee Compostelle white wine was a highlight of the tasting. Made from 30% white sauvignon, 30% grey sauvignon and 30% semillion grapes, is it put into oak barrels made of oak from Burgundy. Yet the result is not an overly "oaky" wine. It is fresh, light and a little grassy, and the wine is a pale and light colour. 

Chateau Este Montpezat is a small producer, making only 5000 bottles of this particular wine. Dominique had this advice for white wine lovers:
"Don't overchill your wine, if you do, you kill it. For me, the best things about having a glass of wine is that once you've finished it, you want another one. It should be fresh and not strong."

If you are a white wine drinker keen on learning a bit more about red wines, I have an interesting pick for you. 

This wine is a Pomerol, by Chateau Vray Croix de Gay. The producer describes it as "a wine of energy". It is a perfect red wine for the reluctant red wine drinker. It has waves of flavour, an initial smoothness to entice you in, and a good afterglow. Get ready to be tempted!

It was great to catch up with one of last year's exhibitors, Agnès Florisoone, from Chateau Godeau. Agnès writes a fabulous French cooking blog in French, which you will find here:

Chateau Godeau tries as far as possible to work with the local ecology to avoid the use of chemicals and nasties. It is not completely possible for them to avoid them altogether, but natural methods are used as far as possible. Ploughing is used as a techniques to prevent pests from occurring, pesticides are avoided as far as is possible.

To ensure that only the best quality grapes go into the wine, the grapes are picked over by hand after harvest, with spoiled and damaged grapes rejected. The result is a smooth, rich Saint-Emilion Grand Cru with spicy tones and good length. Agnès is a woman of many talents, as the wine is superb.

Another very good Saint-Emilion I sampled was the Chateau Le Marzelle, which is a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classe. This is a small producer, from a small chateau. The overall production is only 55000 bottles. The 2010 mature vintage showed me what I hope they will be able to achieve with their new batch. One to watch out for!

Now that the original "Rive Droite" circle has been expanded to include the whole Bordeaux region, the mighty Sauternes is now a member of Le Grand Cercle. I sampled the primeur of noted producer Chateau Raymond-Lafon.

I met with Jean-Pierre Meslier from Chateau Raymond-Lafon. The Chateau is run by the Meslier family, who have been at the Chateau since the mid-19th Century. They employ a policy of very severe pruning of their vines, and they keep only the best grapes. Their thoroughness and care means that they only obtain the equivalent of one glass of wine per vine. This is a very low yield, but assures the quality of the finished product. 

Jean-Pierre's Sauternes primeur had the characteristic sweetness you would expect with some vanilla-honeyed aromas. But it is a wine which needs time and love, it will require ageing. The 2010 vintage I tried is the more mature version showing what the 2013 should be able to achieve; a harmonious, complex wine with gorgeous floral notes in the bouquet.

The En Primeur tasting event is a chance for the wine buyers for wine merchants and restaurants to steal a march on their rivals. They can order the wines they see potential in before others cotton on. As a result, many wine critics and writers were present. Here is Hugh Johnson, deep in conversation....

I chatted with Coralie de Bouard from Chateau Le Fleur de Bouard, a producer of Pomerol (red) wine. 

Her wine had a deep colour with an equally deep fruitiness. Hers is a "state of the art" winery. They use a unique system, where the juice is extracted from the grapes by a gravity fed system. There is no machinery in their cellar apart from the elevator which initially loads the cones. This means there is little interference with the natural juices from the grapes. The idea is not to harm the tannins. Too much mechanical interference can be aggressive, and this gentle approach to the fruit is to bring out the finesse of the flavours. The resulting wine was delightful, and would be excellent with food.  

I had a fascinating evening speaking with the highly knowledgeable and enthusiastic producers and sampling their wines, both the En Primeur and the older vintages. I had a great time and hope the Bordeaux winemakers show the world that the challenges of 2013 are something they can take in their stride.

I attended the En Primeur tasting event as a guest of Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

April 2014 Favourites List

April has been lovely here in the UK. We've had wonderful mild weather and a good amount of sunshine. There have been chilly days, but it's always lovely to see blue skies. And you can always put on a cardi or wrap up with a modern and funky scarf. So I can't say the cooler days have been much of a hardship. No, I didn't get my wish from last month of being able to put my coats away, but I know it won't be long until I do.

In terms of cooking and eating, these are days when you are a little caught between a Summer and a Winter mindset. On fine days, light and fresh dishes are what come to mind, but just as I find I can't quite put my coats away, I am also holding on to the comforting and heavy dishes of Winter. Recently we have had casseroles alternate with salad, Summery grilled meats giving way to slow cooker stews and perennial Snig's Kitchen favourite, homemade meatballs.

This month's pictures are, like last month's pictures, from my recent trip to Kerala, South India. It was hot, sunny and steamy during our trip last month. It will be even more humid and hot now. It's a glorious, tropical place, full of gorgeous scenery, kind and lovely people and amazing food and produce. 

Blogs Worth Following:

Inspired vegetarian cooking from Aruna Panangipally:

If you love afternoon tea, you will love this site with many reviews and a guide to afternoon tea etiquette:


Big beans with fennel, a flexible dish for Springtime:

Single dish oven supper, Mark Hix's butter beans with smoked ham hock and tomato gratin:

A new way of cooking Little Gem lettuce, giving them a life beyond the salad bowl:

Pot barley (or Scotch barley) still has some husk on it, giving it more flavour and texture than pearl barley. Here are some interesting recipe ideas,

Hate diets but want to either lose weight or maintain your weight? Recipe from three-Michelin-starred chef Michel Guérard and book review from Fuss Free Flavour's Helen:

One to impress at a dinner party. A classic dessert, Cherry Clafoutis, as made by Raymond Blanc's own Maman. Requires making the batter the night before:

Lemon & tarragon roast chicken for Sunday lunch or relaxed weekend cooking:

Love ceviche or carpaccio? Serve with pickled radish for crunch and colour:

Pesto made with peas and beans - safe for people with nut allergies. By wannabe lawyer, guitar player and food blogger, Dewi:

A classy little starter of prawns, mussels, clams/cockles and Spring asparagus by Mark Hix:

Weekday supper saviour, Warm beef, beetroot and rocket salad recipe:

29 Avocado recipes. Varied, tasty and super cool:

Chicken with anchovies, lemon and rosemary recipe (roast chicken thighs in a shallot and lemon sauce with a touch of anchovy):

Roast cauliflower, garlic and fennel soup. Thrifty supper, from Jack Monroe:

Mark Hix's Moroccan lentil soup with brown or puy lentils for those occasional chilly Spring days, needs 1 hours soaking in advance:

Articles/Know How:

Astute advice for the cash conscious; lists, working out which shops to visit, supermarket shelving tricks and "hero" ingredients:

10 kitchen tips. Interesting and useful - I'm sure everyone, even the seasoned cook will learn something:


House Of Cards (US version, made for Netflix), Season 1


Bibio - The Green EP

Band of Skulls - Himalayan

The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Kojiro, super sushi in Vienna

Vienna is a wonderful city. I loved tramping through its streets, and I found lots of lovely places to eat, sophisticated cafes, super bars and places to hang out. The trouble is, great as it is, once you've had a few schnitzels and sachertortes, you want something a little different, don't you?

During our week in Vienna, we found Viennese food to be very good, but eventually, we found ourselves in need of a change. So we decided to visit what we had heard was the best sushi place in the city. Intriguingly, it was described as a sort of small, "hole in the wall" kind of place near the Naschmarkt.

We really didn't know what to expect, but decided to show up with tummies rumbling and minds open. We were in for a bit of a surprise! Now, you will recall I said it was small, right? Well, when I say this place is small, I mean it. There is one bench which 3 people can sit around, right in the window (the best and most comfortable place at Kojiro), with 5 additional stools for people to perch on, bar style. You could swing the proverbial feline animal here, but only just. And it would be much to the annoyance of staff and clientele alike!

The decor is basic; clean ceramic tiles, with pictures of sushi on the wall. It's rustic and unpretentious. But to be honest, it is not the reason you visit.

Why come here? Because you will find wonderfully fresh fish prepared with the utmost care and love. The fish is crafted into wonderful handmade sushi by quick and deft hands with speed and efficiency. 

Many Viennese have twigged to Kojiro's high quality sushi and phone through their orders. But they miss half the fun; seeing their order made up. I already told you the place was small, didn't I? Well the lovely people who make these morsels of deliciousness work in a tiny little kitchen area in the very corner of the establishment. 

These amazing three guys clearly know and love each other well. They work in close quarters with each other, preparing the sushi with speed and accuracy in between long conversations in rapid Japanese. They joke and laugh and act like they've known each other all their lives, which I suppose they probably have. It's like finding yourself in another corner of the world, you hardly feel like you're in Europe.... until one of the guys takes a telephone order in fluent German!

Kojiro makes great sushi, served beautifully formed at a very reasonable price. I'd visit once you've had your fill of beer, schitzel and heavy patisseries. There is another lovely feature of this great little sushi shop, which is free piping hot green tea which you can refill as you wish.

My only warning is that this little shop is so popular, if you visit at lunch, you might have to stand around waiting for a table for a little while, but you will witness the phone continually ringing as locals ring through their take away orders. And then there will be a constant stream of people coming in to pay and then collect their precious cargo of sushi. Wait patiently, soak up the atmosphere and watch the sushi triumvirate work their unique magic. It's totally worth it!

Kojiro Sushi

Rechte Wienzeile 9

Vienna 1040

+43(1)586 62 33

Monday to Friday open from 11:00am to 18:30 (order by 18:15) 

Saturday open from 10:00am to 14:00 (order by 14:00)

Sunday closed

Snigdha and Him Indoors paid for their sushi. Flipping nice it was too!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Trzesniewski Vienna

Brödchen are an Austrian institution, little open sandwiches topped with all sorts of wonderful things. Not too bready with the eater's attention being directed squarely on the "filling", which to my mind should always be the interesting part. Topped sandwiches don't get the bread/filling balance right for me, so trying brödchen seemed much more like my kind of lunch!

I had heard all about Trzesniewski, a brödchen eatery which is just off the main shopping street in Vienna. It has been serving the Viennese for over 100 years (I had been told it opened in 1900). Apparently, Franz Kafka was a regular customer! But first we had to get there...

We had tried to find it on Sunday, and failed miserably.  The place was closed and without its usual crowds of customers it was easy to walk right past! Shops in Vienna are pretty much all closed on a Sunday, along with many restaurants. If you are spending a Sunday in Vienna, do your homework in advance to find a place to eat which will be open, or you could be roaming around for some time, getting hungrier and hungrier!

Realising our error, we returned during the week. People were happily eating at outdoor tables, making the place easy to spot. 

We found the place was completely packed at lunchtime, humming with activity. Trzesniewski is informal, positively canteen style, with space for very few people to either sit or stand inside to eat their cute little sarnies. Yet still, office and shop workers from the local area will queue out of the door to get their hands on these brödchen.


There are 22 varieties, all priced at €1.10. All of the brödchen are on rye bread. Meat, eggs, cheese and vegetable toppings are available. I did two years of German classes back at school (which was - AHEM! - some years ago!) where I learnt very little, and retained virtually nothing. So despite the fact that all of the brödchen are clearly labelled, I had very little idea what I was looking at. There was a single list of translations kept on the counter which I and my fellow tourists had to pass between each other to decipher which little sandwich was which. 

I then made my choice of sandwiches, to be confronted with a new choice; what to wash them down with? Hot drinks and juices were all available. After a long morning of tramping around Vienna, however, I was in the mood for something stronger. I was tempted by the exceptionally dinky and sweet eighth of a litre beer stein, called a Pfiff, of lager. But I'm a reluctant beer drinker, and opted for a white wine. After all, Vienna is one of the few capital cities which actually produces its own wine, and in the area more white than red wine is produced. 

The Pfiff was very popular, with the majority of locals enjoying one. It's a perfect little tipple to have if you're having to get back to work after lunch, I guess. 

Here is my selection: 
Tomaten - Tomato
Wilder Paprika - Peppadew pepper, sweet and hot
Pfefferoni scharf - Hot peppers 
Gervais mit Zwiebel - Cream cheese with onion

This is Him Indoors' selection:
Pfefferoni scharf - Hot peppers 
Geflügelleber - Chicken liver
Champignon - Mushroom
Paprika - red pepper
Thunfisch mit ei - Tuna with egg

By some miracle of timing, we managed to receive our plates just as a pair of diners were leaving a table. We bagged it immediately, and were lucky to be able to sit and enjoy our sandwiches. They were very tasty. Because they are nice, small finger sandwiches, you can put together many flavour combinations in your meal. This really appeals to me. I find ordinary sandwiches rather dull and boring, and too much of the same thing. It was a very enjoyable lunch, and because we had a place to sit, could take our time. 

The staff could be described as "unfriendly", but in fairness, they are run ragged. The system by which Trzesniewski is run means that a customer is not served by one member of staff, allowing for perhaps more personal or convivial attention. Your sandwiches are picked out by one member of staff, your drink by another and then you pay yet another member of staff. The Dorotheergasse branch has a very narrow space for the staff to work within, and they literally have to squeeze past each other if, for example, you'd like a paprika brodchen AND a tomato one. I think I'd be stressed and hassled dealing with as many lunchtime customers as I saw on my visit in such a restricted space!

All in all I would recommend Trzesniewski, although I would advise you avoid peak busy periods such as lunchtime. 

There are currently 9 branches, according to the Trzesniewski website. Here is their list of branches in case you are interested in any of the others!

Dorotheergasse 1
1010 Wien

8.30am-7.30pm Monday-Friday
9am-5pm Saturday
Closed Sunday

Him Indoors and I paid for our lunch.