Thursday, 27 December 2012

Cheers

Christmas celebrations are almost over - we had a lovely family day. We had a traditional turkey dinner starting with a variety of seafood; prawns, smoked salmon and salmon pate.
 
This was accompanied by a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte 2004 Cuvee Champagne. it was perfect. A more intense flavour than the Brut we had earlier this month for my husbands birthday. The golden colour was darker and the flavour richer with many more bubbles, although not gaseous.

 
Our traditional turkey dinner was perfectly accompanied by a bottle of Il Papaverone. It was my dad's favourite. Sadly he passed away earlier this year and there was a bottle in his wine rack so we saved it for Christmas. All the wines in this range are superb but this was Dad's favourite.
 

Il Papavero Primitivo 2011
It's an Italian wine, Primivito grape. A lovely weighty red, deep in colour with a rich aroma but not heavy tasting. It matches beautifully with red meat, especially beef or lamb casserole dishes. it's 14% but not overly heady.
 
We have also enjoyed other wines over the holidays including our favourite Cheverny which we bring home from France. Tomorrow we are off for a short break in Liverpool, our first visit which will of course include a meal at Cafe Rouge. All the deals, bargains and must dos will be here next time.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

It'll soon be here

Just over a week to go and the festivities will begin - our house already smells of Christmas as this year I have made mini Christmas Cakes for gifts. I love the smell; spices, rich fruit and of course some Christmas spirit.


I purchased some individual plastic muffin holders (with lids) online through ebay and will be decorating each holder with Christmas ribbon - this gift has already given me a lot of pleasure, baking, decorating, assembling, and hopefully my friends will love it too.

I think we are ready - all our gifts have been purchased but not yet wrapped. The elders in our family love vouchers - so we have a selection of Weatherspooon, Smith and Jones, Dobbies, and RSPB which we know will be greatly appreciated.

One shop I have loved visiting this year has been John Lewis. Their choice of festive gifts is amazing and something for everyone's pocket. Charbonnel et Walker sugar almonds and James' Chocolates mini chocolate bars are for little extras, with a few main gifts that Santa is keeping secret.

Shopping trips for us always include lunch and more often than not that means Cafe Rouge. They have so many great offers on at the moment; set lunches; evening meals; festive menus. I love receiving their newsletter by email, more often than not with a discount offer. Watch out in the New Year as their restaurants are having a new make over with stylish French chic decor.

Christmas is a time for everyone in many different way; family; friends; religious; memories; joy; and for some sorrow. St Laurence's Church hold a festival for all - 60 real Christmas Trees all decorated by different people. The money raised for tree sponsorships and visitors is divided between church running cost and charity. I sponsor a tree every year and my theme this time is family tree. I stitched the names you get in families, the photos are some of our family members. If you'd like to see more of the trees and my needlecraft please visit my other blog Aimetu's Stitching


Finally festive fizz - it is the only way to start and end the season. Our favourite champagne, Nicolas Feuillatte is on offer in Tesco . There are certainly some fabulous wines to help the season go with a swing - the Wine Community is a great place to learn more as well as take part in their festive advent calendar which is full of great tips, offers and competitions.

Enjoy the last few days of preparations - busy shops, lots of cooking, maybe a party or two - it all makes a very Merry Christmas.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

A quiet second half to November for us - this meant a chance to sample a few more bottles of wine from our cellar. The cellar is in two parts of our house - an 80+ rack in the utility room and then a few boxes in the garage. We do stock up on our trips to France - Calais Wine, Pidou and Auchan being our favourite places to shop; B&B Hotel our regular stop over and always a Flunch dinner.

We are already planning a trip in February to Calais and our summer holiday in Etaples again. The France Show is on at Earls Courts January 18th - 20th and it's a must for anyone visiting, holidaying or moving to such a beautiful country. Tickets are on offer at just £10 each if you book before 31st December.

Travel tip: if you live north of London park at Watford Junction and take the tube to Kensington Olympia. If you visit London more than once a year it is cheaper to by an Oyster card for using the Underground and Buses.

So back to our wine:


Cuvée Royale 2010

CHEVERNY BLANC

Colour : Pale yellow with green highlights
Nose : hint of blackcurrant, exotic fruits, white flowers
Taste : light fruit  
 


 Côtes-du-Rhône 2011
CELLIER DES DAUPHINS
Colour : deep sustained red
Nose : fruity with floral highlights
Taste : spice and peppery notes, rich fruit 

Just two from our choice this week. Although we buy most of our wine from France, liking very much Old World wines, we do enjoy New World wines too. Tesco Wine Community is a great place for new and old wine lovers to share tips, ideas and recommendations. I have been inspired by a 'cheese and wine' idea for a New Year party :)

With the festive season approaching fast it's Christmas shopping time - good finds, tips and festive suggestions next time.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

A prize, a meal and a little Christmas spirit

Following the great HalloWine evening with Tesco Wine at Halloween my prize arrived mid week - a lovely bottle of Barefoot Merlot and a bar of Galaxy chocolate. That was definitely my kind of  prize.

Barefoot Merlot 750ml
Barefoot Merlot - beautiful flavours of cherry, boysenberry,
plum and chocolate; a lighter merlot.
We enjoyed this Barefoot wine with a Peri Peri chicken from M & S - the spicy chicken was perfect for this merlot. I'm not sure whether the food enhanced the wine or vica versa but it was a delicious meal.

The Galaxy chocolate was a perfect pud, savoured with a Nespresso Roma coffee. All in all a lovely meal very much appreciated by hubby and I.

Saturday saw us shopping in Leicester - not very successful as I could not find any trousers lond enough. It must be the latest styles of cropped legs but the main stores I shopped in before no longer have a tall section and most stores long is just not long enough. Online maybe the only answer.

A shopping trip for us in never complete without a trip to Cafe Rouge - I think by now I know the menu by heart although they do have some exciting new recipes. Tuna Nicoise was my choice and hubby chose a Poulet Baguette - both delicious as always. Stella Artois accompanied the meal and we both enjoyed a Cafe Gourmand dessert. It's a great way to have pud and coffee without over doing it; a hot drink of your choice and a mini dessert, either tart tatin, chocolate ganache or creme brulee. Americano coffee with creme brulee is always our favourite; their coffee is just delicious and the smooth brulee is just enough sweetness to finish any meal.

Today I have started the Christmas spirit - no, not a tipple but a preparation. Last year I made damson vodka which was a huge success. This time I am making Christmas Pudding vodka, all thanks to The Hairy Bikers festive recipe book 12 Days of Christmas. It is very easy to assemble - just waiting time needed. A definite Amazon, WHSmith or The Book People purchase - it has everything you need to know from the big day to parties to little extras.



 

To end another enjoyable weekend we popped into The Abbey - a Party at the Pub venue here in town. Our son is bartender there - cocktails are his speciality.

As we were only looking for a light lunch their Southern Fried Chicken Wrap and Ginger Glazed Chicken Wrap were perfect. Both filled with succulent chicken, salad and dressing, the wraps held together perfectly.

It's a great venue having a large open bar area but also a private lounge area that can be freely hired for small parties. Their Christmas buffet menus are a great alternative to the usual Christmas fayre but if it's a traditional 3 course meal you're looking for then they have that too.


Next weeks adventures include some home cooking using my many Hairy Bikers cook books, Christmas present ideas and of course a few bottles of wine.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Good Wine, Good Coffee, Good Food

Hubby and I visit Tesco Wine Fair every year, it's a great event and there is a wonderful online Wine Community for sharing tips, ideas and of course recommendations. On Halloween Tesco Wine held a great Twitter party - we had great fun sharing jokes, pictures and spooky themed wine ideas. I was very lucky and won one of their prizes - well done to the other Halloweeners who won too - it was a great night.

Tesco are offering 25% off wine and champagne at the moment if you buy six bottles. Although our cellar is fairly full we couldn't resist when visitng our local store. Our purchases were:


Tesco Finest Pouilly Fume - a crisp white delicious well chilled.

Tesco Finest Cotes de Gascogne - we have yet to try this !

McGuigan Cabernet Sauvignon - Australian - we had this in a restaurant
recently and now have a bottle to try at home

McWilliam's Hayfield Pinot Noir - Australian - we like this brand but have never tried this.

Fish Hoek Chenin Blanc 2010/2011 75cl
Fish Hoek Chenin Blanc - South African - I love their Sauvignon Blanc but have not tried their Chenin Blanc
Casillero Del Diable Cabernet Sauvignon - Chilean - we don't normally like Chilean wine but this was recommended and the Tesco forum so we bought a bottle to try - superb, a lovely deep red with a few spicy under notes. Next time we're trying it with chilli !!
Saturday saw us drive to Bristol to meet our daughter from the train as she has come home for a few days from Uni. We hadn't quite planned a trip south but had a lovely couple of hours in Cheltenham on the way home - a range of shops from high fashion to bargain buckets. A few bits and bobs purchased we realised the car needed moving because the ticket had run out and it was a limited time space - so we grabbed a coffee from my favourite coffee house Caffe Nero.

As I am following Slimming World I find it difficult to grab a snack but Caffe Nero do a lovely snack pot of fresh fruit (although it's not in every cafe). Americano, hot chocolate, caramel wafer and fruit pot to go we made it back to the car just in time. I did remember to get my loyalty card stamped at Caffe Nero so I am well on the way to my next free coffee.

We drove on through the Cotswolds and decided to call in at Stratford Upon Avon for a late lunch/early dinner. We like many of the brand restaurants; Bella Italia, Strada, All Bar One to name a few but my favourite is Cafe Rouge. I love France, the food, the wine, the people, everything and Cafe Rouge is perfect for me everytime.

I decided to try their set lunch which is a change for me as I usually have Salmon Nicoise. There was a good choice at great value.

Set Lunch Menu-One course for £7.95 or two courses for £9.95, available every day from 12pm - 5pm.

Starters

Chicken Liver Pâté

Smoked Salmon Crostini

Baked Mushroom Florentine

Mains

Tuna Niçoise Salad

Penne Pasta

Chicken Provençale

Omelette & French Fries

 
 
I enjoyed the pate followed by a delicious crisp tuna salad with potatoes, egg, anchoives and beans. Hubby and daughter enjoyed a bread board starter followed by half a roast chicken with french fries. Their fries are the best I have tasted and I couldn't resist pinching just one. Hubby is always impressed with their draught Stella, saying it is better than English pubs and almost as good as when we're in France. Every visit is enjoyable for us, Cafe Rouge is definitely our favourite.
 
I'm not sure where our weekends are taking us next; I'm sure they will be full as we're always busy.
 
Tips from this weekend:
 
Tesco Wine offer
Join Tesco Wine Community online
Caffe Nero loyalty card
Cafe Rouge Set Lunch Menu 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Welsh Weekend

Stunning - just stunning... our views of the Mawddach Estuary on Saturday as we walked to Barmouth over the amazing rail bridge.

Mawddach Estuary
Barmouth Rail Bridge
We parked at Morfa Mawddach (no charge) a small railway station on the south side of the estuary. The station was once the third biggest in Wales known as “Barmouth Junction” with 5 platforms linking the railway to Dolgellau and the Cambrian Coast. The route is now a well trodden trail, Mawddach Trial, which is enjoyed by many walkers and cyclists.

Barmouth Bridge is the northern end to the trail. The wooden viaduct stretches 900m across the tidal Afon Mawddach estuary connecting Fairbourne, Arthog and surrounding villages to Barmouth. It's finale is a cast iron rail bridge with dual arches, quite an experience when the Arriva train trundles past. There is a small charge of 70p for an adult and this includes your return walk.

Cader Idris stands guard over the southern edge with the Giant Idris sleeping peacfully amongst the foothills. The mountain has many myths and legends; if the giant wakes it is said Wales will fall and anyone sleeping on the mountain overnight will awake as either a madman or a poet!

Sleeping Idris
Barmouth is the northern stop of the trail. It's a typical seaside town; amusements arcades; fish and chips shops; seaside rock shops; all fill the small flat area between the mountains and the sea. Many of the houses climb the hillside with stunning views across the estuary. Barmouth is a hive of activity throughout the year; motorsports on the beach; music festivals; Three Peaks yatch race.

Arriva arriving in Barmouth
Walking back across the bridge the noise can be deafening; not trains but oyster catchers. They squeak and squal constantly in their search for food. It amazing to watch then suddenly dive their beaks into the sand and emerge with a mussel, tightly shut against it's foe. But the oyster catcher is unperturbed, hammering away with it's beak until the mussel is defeated and satisfyingly consumed.

Walking over the bridge on Saturday we were treated to a fly past, no the usual RAF jets who use the area for training but a flock of geese - honking their way up the estuary.

Fly Past
The weather was perfect for visiting Wales. The autumn colours displayed the mountains and estuary in it's full glory. It can be quite different and walking the bridge is not so enjoyable on a cold blustery day at high tide - much nicer then to sit indoors and watch the waves crash against the harbour wall.

We ended our trip with a quick visit to Dolgellau.  It's a small narrow streeted Welsh town at the head of the Mawddach estuary with a good choice of inns and cafes. Our favourite is T H Roberts, once an ironmongers the amazing building is now a cafe with many of the original Victorian fixtures and fittings, inclding the 'office' where you can enjoy your coffee and cake in peace. The variety of teas, coffees and homemade cakes are amazing; our favoruite being the warmed scones served with jam and fresh cream.
T H Roberts
An amazing area of West Wales with activities for all, however active you feel like being.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

New Menu with a Spooky Bonus

My blog came to an abrupt stop as unfortunately my father passed away; six months on I feel ready to start this journey again.

My hubby and I eat out fairly often and we like nothing more than taking advantage of promotions and offers. This being so we sign up for regular newsletters from our favourite pubs and restaurants; follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook. As well as receiving the latest news, information and offers it always feels good to exchange news; it makes our visits feel personal and

Our local Marston's pub is The Acorn. It's a beautiful thatched pub just outside Nuneaton town centre. It has a traditional community feeling with staff always offering a warm welcome and food that is cooked, presented and served well.

Our visit on Tuesday was a real treat, especially for my hubby. I had received another offer by email; buy one pint of Hobgoblin, get another free. Hubby is a fan of Hobgoblin and we have visited the Wychwood Brewery a couple of times. Like the Acorn their bar has a warm traditional feel, adding to the enjoyably informative tour of their brewing room. Their tours are open to the public but have limited spaces and disabled access - they are a superb birthday treat for a beer fan, with plenty of soft drinks/coffee for the driver.

For Halloween the Acorn are bringing in another new ale with a loyalty scheme so there is another opportunity for hubby to enjoy good ale with a bonus.

Our meal from the new menu was delicious. The crisp lettuce bowl filled with prawns in marie rose sauce was perfectly accompanied with thick cut granary bloomer bread; the three mini Camembert had a crisp outer layer revealing a creamy inside.

Hubby chose gammon and chips for his main; always a favourite, always good and I had chicken and bacon salad but with no dressing which fits perfectly with my Slimming World allowance. The salad was fresh and chilled with very tasty bacon and soft chicken.

Marston's new menu has some exciting additions as well as keeping some old favourites. Hubby and I did not give in to a pudding but they sounded delicious, so maybe next time.

My tips from this post:
sign up for Marston's newsletter
join the Wychwood Brewery site
visit Wychwood Brewery for a tour.

Happy Halloween






Sunday, 15 April 2012

Welcome to Aimetu's

This is my little dip into journalism/magazine blogging - I hope you enjoy my blog as much as I have enjoyed the research, your comments are always appreciated.

Most people know life for me is at times a little tough; but I keep smiling and carry on :) This story is about co-incidence and life links,  not really a story. It has surprised, pleased, amazed me, resulting in Aimetu's.

Les Miserables holds a very special place in my life; the music, the story, the characters and of course the superb actors who bring it all to life. Last year we were very lucky to see the 25th concert live from Leicester cinema and to see Les Mis on their 25th Anniversary tour.
Alfie Boe has captured Jean Valjean superbly. We saw Alfie in June 2012 at Queen's Theatre, London with Matt Lucas as Thenardier and Hadley Fraser as Javert. We have discovered slip seats - the most amazing place to sit for an equally amazing price. I was so close I could touch the actors on stage. Ramin Karimloo has just finished his run of playing Jean Valjean; his performance was brilliant and the chemistry between JVJ and Javert was electric.

Twitter land is used by many of the other cast members and some of the behind the scenes artists. Alexia (Eponine), Lisa-Anne Wood (Cosette), Liam Tarne (Enjolras), Craig Mathers (Marius) are all regular Tweeters as are Frafee, Scott Graham, Zoe Doano, Lily Fraser, Mary Cormack. Les Mis Official have guest Tweeters who reply to inquistive, interested fans - there is much to discover behind the scenes.


Last summer the Les Mis cast were tweeting about Brown Bag Crisps. They are the only crisps cooked in the UK with 100% olive oil. Their 5 flavours are Lightly Salted,  Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar, Oak Smoked Chilli, Sea Salt & Black Pepper, and Mature Cheddar Manchego and Onion. They are availabe in many good delis around the UK. We found some at Otter's in Oakham, a wonderful town in Rutland. It is easily accessible by car, driving through glorious rolling hills, or by train on the Birmingham to Stanstead line.

Otter's is a new Smokehouse and Deli suppling a wide selection of naturally smoked fish, meats and cheeses, oils, anti pasti, cured meats, accompaniments, speciality teas and coffees, rice, pasta and muesli.
I contacted Otter's to say we were visiting by train, to make sure they had some Brown Bag Crisps. Leo (the manager) replied saying yes they had and sorry he wouldn't be there when we visited but hope we had a good day. It was his mum who was there and she guessed who we were. She thought it was funny and couldn't believe we'd come by train for the crisps. Leo was actually in the States on holiday - amazing. Thanks to Twitter and emails we were chatting away in the deli - purchasing crisps, cheese and olives; social networking has it's bonuses.

Social Networking can open up a whole new world and my aim for Aimetu's is to help do just that. Through Twitter last year we discovered a brilliant welcoming vinyard in the Loire Valley, France. Chateau de Petit Thouars is located just west of Chinon. Sebastien du Petit Thouars proudly showed us the chateau and vineyards, after which we enjoyed tasting a variety of red vintages and the wonderful Cremant de Loire. The vineyard is 100% Cabernet Franc which produces a fruity, black berried grape. The wine travelled well back to the UK and has accompanied many meals at our table.
All these events have a connection, mainly through Twitter, and for me are an example of how our worlds are all interlinked. I have been a fan of Joanne Harris for a number of years. Chocolat is my all time favourite book; I've had many holidays in France, drinking red wine, nibbling chocolate whilst reading it again :) I found Joanne on Twitter through the Les Mis Twitters.

The end of my story happened one Sunday morning - Joanne Harris tweeted about needing a name for a cat in her latest book - she offered to 'follow' the person with the name she chose. I suggested Otter (the name of the Oakham deli) or Otto and she picked Otto. Joanne's novel will be released 24th May.
How can: liking Les Mis; following the cast; learning about and craving crisps; taking an hour's train ride to a deli; result in naming a cat in a famous author's latest novel. These things can happen, and when they do I celebrate with a bottle of the lovely wine we bought from my Twitter friendly vineyard.

Aimetu's will be blogging many such stories and tales with many new products, venues and friends mentioned along the way. I'd love to read your comments, about Les Mis, Brown Bag Crisps, Joanne Harris and/or interesting life links.