Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Wine Challenge - Round 3

It seems ages ago since I started planning our 100 wine and cheese challenge We've visited North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa so this round was dedicated to Europe (but not France as that comes next)

And so to Europe -

I had sourced 20 wines from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Germany but due to this round being in holiday season we were only a group of 10 so I saved the five best wines for our final tasting in November. This will be a celebration tasting with bubbly and wines costing a little more than the £4.50 budget per bottle for each of the other rounds.

The original line up of 20 wines
We started the evening with two bubblies - a Cava and a German sparkling rosé. I was quite surprised to find the Cava a new tasting for most people and they were surprised to discover it is made exactly the same way as champagne, tastes fantastic but costs 'slightly less'.

These are the whites (and sparkling rosé) we tasted first:

Montcadi Cava - Spain - this was from Morrison's £4.99, a lovely light cava.
Prince de Sabatier - Germany - a blended sparkling rosé which I discovered on the shelf in our local Co-op £4.00
Liebfraumilch - Germany - a well loved favourite with the ladies, and a great buy at £3.29 from Lidl
Hock - Germany - a jolt from the past for most who had not had this wine for many years. Everyone was surprised how easy drinking it was and at £3.99 from Morrison's will be on a few people's 'patio' drinking list.
Dino Chardonnay - Italy - a good example of chardonnay from Tesco £3.74
Canti Chardonnay - Italy - this bottle was donated by out local Tesco store and was the preferred chardonnay of the two.
Las Primas Sauvignon Blanc - Spain - over the tastings people have come to prefer sauvignon blanc to chardonnay and this was another favourite of the night, £3.37 Tesco
Soave - Italy - a first for many but far too light for most, a good buy at £3.99 from Morrison's

After all these whites it was cheese time - and what a lot of cheese there was as we had catered for 20. The challenge is to also try 100 cheeses and it was getting harder to find 20 new cheeses to try but we did.

20 cheeses with their flag labels
Our 20 cheeses were:

  • Igor gorgonzola
  • Morrison's NUME 50% reduced fat chive & onion soft cheese
  • Morrison's NUME 50% reduced fat garlic & herb soft cheese
  • Morrison's Mexicana sweet chilli cheddar
  • Dairylea triangles
  • Morrison's Somerset brie
  • Morrison's Scottish mature coloured cheddar
  • Go Dutch edam
  • Morrison's mature cheddar and spring onion
  • Castello Danish blue
  • Morrison's Mexicana cheese
  • Morrison's mini camembert
  • Morrison's gouda
  • Morrison's double Gloucester with onion & chives
  • Morrison's Welsh mature cheddar slices
  • Primula original cheese
  • Babybel mini original
  • Morrison's mild white cheddar
  • Morrison's Austrian smoked cheese
  • Almette light soft cheese

The gorgonzola was very popular as was Morrison's gouda, although their Mexicana was a little hot for some. We did have a chuckle at Dairylea triangles and Primula cheese in a tube, back to our younger days.

It was rosé wine next and I couldn't do a European tasting without one of the most famous rosé - if only for the bottle shape.

Marqués de Caranó garancha, shiraz - Spain - quite a deep rosé that wasn't too sweet, £3.67 Tesco
Mateus rosé - Portugal - loved by all, another flash back to the past £3.74 Tesco

Only two rosé wines this time but another pause for a little more cheese and to draw the raffle. We've been so lucky with our prizes, I have had many items donated and have found a few wine related gifts in my 'pressie' cupboard at home. The Paddock wine was from Calais Wine Superstore (if you've been following our challenge you'll remember they sent a box a six) and the mini Friexenet was from Tesco - thanks to both companies.

Raffle prizes

Just 5 reds to finish, as I mentioned I 'saved' some for our November finale. It is always the whites and rosé that the ladies prefer and the men the reds, so by now the chaps are ready for their favourites.

Valencia - Spain - this wine was donated by my Mum as she had won it in a raffle and doesn't like red wine. It was an easy drinking blend.
Revero Tinto - Spain - the label on this blend was very striking £3.00 Tesco
Las Primas Temparillo - Spain - a lighter red from Tesco £3.37
Canti Sangiovese Melot - Italy - this was donated by our local Tesco store. It was a deeper red with a touch of spice.
Campo Viejo Rioja - Spain - this was a special bottle as it was donated by two of our group members to raise a toast to their first grandchild, Mollie.
Rioja is a deep red wine and I wanted to bring out the rich flavour so I had some chorizo for everyone to try. First a sip without, then the spicy sausage, then more wine - everyone was amazed at the difference. Some had not tried either spicy sausage or rioja before feeling both were too strong. It's been great to see everyone learn more about wine and food as we've done this challenge - discovering not all grapes taste the same, wine is different from different places and how wine matches to some foods. The rioja and chorizo was a hit, especially with Mollie's proud grandparents.
Special thanks for this round to:
Jan and Keith Cornford
Beveley and Alan Mycock
The donations of wine and raffle prizes is a HUGE help with this challenge as it is difficult with a £4.50 budget for wine. Our next tasting is France and we're hoping to bring some home from our holidays to include in the selection, the cheese too.

Cheers !!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

London & Paris

It has just been our 25th Anniversary and to celebrate Hubby and I did a two city holiday - London & Paris. The weather in both cities was absolutely glorious and we had an amazing time. Those of you who follow me on facebook will have seen our highlights already - I will however be adding a few details in as I blog away.

Friday dawned and Ruby packed her bone ready to see her friends at Witherley Kennels - she loves the ladies there so we have no worries whilst away. By the time Hubby was home (early finish Fridays) our bags were packed and we were soon on the way to the station for our train to London.

We always travel in style and this was no exception - gin and tonics on board the London Midland to Euston was a perfect way to start our travels.

G & T on the train
We were staying at the new Novotel at Wembley - it felt a bit odd passing it on the way down to get an underground train back the way we came. This is a new hotel in the Accor chain and it was lovely - breakfast and service was perfect.

There is a huge outlet centre next to Wembley stadium and after a drink at TGI Fridays (cocktail for me of course) we went to Handmade Burger for dinner. We have not been to this chain before and will definitely be visiting again - the choice was amazing. Hubby ordered at the bar and when he came back commentated on the staff being really friendly - so friendly they brought us a complimentary bottle of Prosecco to celebrate our anniversary and later free puds too - such kindness, thank you.

Cheers at Handmade Burger
We had a great time on Saturday in London - first stop was BBC Broadcasting House at Portland Place. I do enjoy the BBC news and weather and it was great to see the building. We enjoyed a Caffé Nero coffee sitting in the plaza that is right outside the ONE Show studio, it's where they do their outside broadcasts. I managed to get a photo of us in the reflection of their window.
Reflection in The ONE Show window
We both love London and enjoyed strolling along the busy streets, stopping at Pandora where Hubby bought me a beautiful bracelet. We paused at All Bar One in Regent Street for some lunch before heading down to Trafalgar Square to listen to West End Live.

Hubby surprised me with six beautiful cupcakes complete with silver candles but we didn't light them for fear of evacuating the hotel !

Cupcakes with silver candles from my gorgeous Hubby
Saturday night we went to a small greek restaurant 4 Lanterns and had their Meze meal which was a selection of mall dishes. It was the biggest meal I've eaten in ages - all little dishes with small tapas style food but in all nearly 20 dishes - grazing for nearly two hours.

We had a great time in London - lots of photos (cheesy selfies galore) - you can see more in my London Flickr album but this is my favourite photo from our time in our capital city.

Happy in the City
 And so to Paris - up bright and early Sunday morning leaving plenty of time to enjoy a peaceful coffee upstairs at St Pancras station before boarding our Eurostar train to Paris. It's a lovely way to travel, reserved seats so no standing, comfy ride, so fast with great scenery along the way. It was all finished off perfectly with gin and tonics to toast the start of our French trip.

We have been to Paris before but this was the first time arriving at Gare du Nord - it's a huge building. Our hotel was just 15 minutes walk away and very easy to find. We were Le Marais area of Paris with its many bars and cafes and when we arrived full of the sounds of live football - the World Cup really means 'world'. Over our few days we ate at a couple of local restaurants; salads, burgers, pizza, fries - typical foreign food hee hee. We did have some lovely French meals too, they are very good at sauces and café gourmands :)

Monday was our busiest and most tiring day - we started at The Louvre. The courtyard is breath-taking with the huge glass pyramid, never mind the beautiful works of art inside. We did see the Mona Lisa and many other famous pieces, as well as visiting the stunning. Napoleon III state rooms.
In the courtyard
Napoleon III state room
Napoleon III dining room
The Louvre glass pyramid
One of my 'must do' things has been to walk the Champs Elysees and look from The Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe and vica versa. It was a beautiful day weather wise and we a slow stroll, a mere 3.9 km, pausing at for ice cream at the octagonal fountain.  This was the view, it did make me cry as I had wanted to see this for so many years.
Octagonal fountain - Place de la Concorde -
Champs Elysees- Arc de Triomphe 
You can go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, the view of Paris would be amazing but it was not open the day we visited, although we did stand underneath it. It was such a sunny day we decided to walk back tour hotel, just one road on the map, a road that was over 4km. We paused for a beer on the way, so exhausted we happily paid 8 euros each - ouch. It was a fabulous start to our holiday but we must have walked nearly 10km.
Tuesday was our anniversary, we'd taken family cards to open and I finally wore my new bracelet. I surprised Hubby with a new watch but it was a little large so he couldn't wear his gift.
Metro time, we did enough walking the day before, to La Tour Eiffel where we took a river cruise along the Seine. We passed all the famous sites; Grande Palais, Notre Dame, Louvre, La Chapelle. As it was a special day we took the champagne option and enjoyed a glass of bubbly as we cruised along.
Cheers - Happy Anniverary
La Tour Eiffel
Grande Palais
Another reflection shot of us on the River Cruise
It was so lovely cruising along in the Parisian sun, afterwards we 'metro'd' to the latin quarter for lunch before strolling around the Ile de la Cité where Notre Dame & la Chapelle are. We didn't visit as the queues were long and we have visited ND before. Tuesday night we took a small picnic, with a bottle of our favourite champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, to St Bernard's Quay and sat by the Seine enjoying the Midsummer Evening. According to the travel brochures Paris has fireworks on June 24th and there were many other groups of people picnicking so we waited in anticipation. By 11.15 no fireworks so obviously Paris did not want to celebrate with us - unsure of the Metro times and not wanting to be out late in the city we returned to the hotel - I still don't know if the fireworks happened or not but we had a lovely evening watching the cruise boats go by.

Picnic by The Seine
Wednesday was another cruise day, this time two and a half hours on the Canal Saint Martin. We took the boat at Bastille and it travels through the Bastille vaults which is 2km long and travels right under the Place de la Bastille and it's towering July Column. The cruise continues up four sets of double locks (a total height of 24 metres), swing bridges, one bridge that just rises up horizontally and into the huge Bassin de la Villette. It was another great day, the boat did sell our favourite bubbles but a little too much at 50 euros so we settled for a bottle of one of our favourite wines, Cheverney, you don't see it on sale often so we were very pleased to find it on our special holiday.
All aboard - just about to go through the vault -
we travelled right under the July Column
The locks filled up quite quickly
Bassin de la Villette
We had come up the canal on the left
 All too soon it was Thursday and time for home, but not before we quickly visited Sacré Coeur. As we have been here before we just enjoyed a coffee at a café right opposite tis imposing church. Of course having taken so many selfies this holiday we couldn't leave with one last photo!
Who said romance was dead
Eurostar brought us safely back to London and Virgin Trains home after an amazing 6 days visiting both capital cities. There are more Paris photos in my Paris Flickr Album.

We had an amazing holiday, a definite celebration with thanks to all the companies involved. I just want to say a HUGE thank you to my darling Hubby, not only for this amazing trip but for everything over the last 25 years - I love you x x

24th June 1989
Thank you for visiting and reading my blog - please leave a comment as this will add tour memories of this special time.

We are also using the occasion to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer as we sadly lost Nick's Dad to this just 8 months after our wedding thank you