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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Do you know Brezeme?

For us it's a wine discovery, courtesy of the excellent sommelier at The Ledbury:

Brezeme is a Northern Rhone appellation, and the sample we tried is from a grape called Serine, a clone of Syrah.

It is quite spicy in fact, and we taste cherries and lots of Summer fruit, as well reminiscences of sun-warmed Mediterranean beaches, and desire of a vacation.

We think it's also biodynamic. If so it would be one of a lengthening list of biodynamic wines we really like, which is funny because we think that what in biodynamics is beyond organic is just biobullshit.

Be that as it may, what a lovely discovery.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Tavern at Strathkinness: Nice pub

(Visited September 2012).

Not sure they would satisfy beer lovers. But we are especially incompetent about beer and we couldn't recognise a good selection from assorted warm water (the many locals looked happy though). 

Nor is it too likely that they will win any interior design award. 

But on the food front, on the food front... something is going on...

We were immediately pleased by the savoury scones served with the good, soft butter

Then, we delighted in the lovely freshness of the seafood produce, 

in the apt cooking, in the balance and assertiveness of flavours. Both these plump mussels and these sweet scallops with black pudding could be proudly served in far more exhalted establishments

When we read the adjective 'tropical' next to 'chicken' and we saw the accompanying rice, we must admit, we feared the worst student kitchen style culinary crimes. 

But no, the son at the stoves (mum in the front of house, dad everywhere) clearly has that touch that makes dishes pleasing even when they are not elegant and look a little stodgy. This dish was alive, vibrant with herbs and spices, fruit and vegetables.

And then an eternal pub classic:

You can see that the chips are home-made, quite well, but what stood out here was the quality of the peas and the tartare sauce, in the stratosphere compared to that of the celebrated and multi-award winner Anstruther fish bar (not too distant in Fife), whose fish to us tastes very good but no better nor fresher nor better battered than this.

We stopped at this point that night, satisfied after the very short drive from St Andrews, having paid very fair prices and regretting only that their wine list wasn't more interesting, but we went out already full of desire to come back, and to try other dishes and their desserts. This is one of those little local miracles, simple food low in pretensions and rich in personality, in an atmosphere of kindness and charm (well done mum and assistant).


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Finally three for Crippa

Piazza Duomo, which blew us away last year, has finally got its third star. For anybody who wants to understand modern Italian cuisine at its highest level, this (together with Francescana) is the place to go.
Congratulations Crippa!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Diana (Bologna)

(Visited September 2012)

Continuing our 'tour' of Italian restaurants....

Once upon a time the Bolognesi used to go to Diana when they wanted a good traditional eat with that touch of elegance. Nowadays its reputation is a bit that of a tourist trap, banking on its past and its very central location.

The truth, we suspect, is that maybe Diana was never more than a perfectly decent restaurant, but the world has moved forward while they have remained exactly in the same spot. Neither the cuisine, nor the waiters in their demeanour and attire have adapted one bit to the times. Here you can touch the past, something that may have its charm and interest.

But... OK,  this is one of the decayed Queens of the Bologna restaurant scene, but it ain't so bad either.

We stuck with the classics, we had low expectations (that old trick for happiness), and were indeed quite happy. For example, pappardelle with porcini - right in season - were well made, eggy and generous.

And a bollito misto definitely will not attain Bottura's heights in nearby Modena (go, go, go); but it was a very honest, varied bollito, neither dry not soggy, with a decent accompanying sauce.

 A salad of ovoli (Caesar's mushrooms) truffle and parmesan as was to be expected featured minuscule portions of the delicacies, but otherwise they would have cost a fortune. At least we got a hint of the flavour. Lacking a microscope, no picture.

A final dish of woodland strawberries (once upon a time there were wild strawberries) with homemade ice-cream was pleasant. 


We saw some tortellini passing around and they looked a little sad, far too big to be real thing. Glad we didn't order them.

The wine list is quite deficient (severe understatement), yet we managed to pick an acceptable and well priced Pinot Noir from Alto Adige.

Service was jovial, old fashioned and efficient. Prices are OK, (perhaps just slightly high) for quality quantity and location, look at around the 100 euro mark for two for three courses, without special ingredients.

All in all, not a destination restaurant, but a passable one if you are in the area. Believe it or not, Bologna is NOT a gastronomic spotlight. It's hard for a gourmet to get some satisfaction here. In the end, the lukewarm and a bit rough embrace of Diana may not be the most uncomfortable place to have dinner in this city.

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