Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Divine Boutique, Leicester

Divine Boutique has moved from Silver Arcade to Silver Street, in a convenient change of address and it was my pleasure to be invited to their re-launch. If you are looking to find a dress for that special occasion where you can feel like a million dollars without spending it, this is the boutique for you.


Already generating interest when I arrived!
As a dedicated sewing enthusiast, naturally I spent most of my time pawing at seams and thumbing hems and I can confirm that the quality of the workmanship and the materials is as good as it looks from the pictures.



Some of the ballgowns are absolutely decadent. Wonderful soft chiffon finishes sit atop beautiful satin linings with pristine rolled hems. This is testament to the hard work of the team at Divine - they buy some dresses in and then customise them, adding detailed embellishments and a little bit of extra zing and they also create their own designs from scratch. So whatever you buy, it will always be unique to you - never have the embarrassment at the Christmas ball when you up in the same outfit as a colleague again!



They also have a select range of accessories to match the outfits - I particularly loved the snakes head bangles, but there were also some sparkly shoes, extremely bling clutch bags and more. There was also an absolutely gorgeous grey feather wrap which was so delightfully soft, it must be like wearing air when you have it on.


If anyone is looking to buy me a Christmas present... :)
At the launch we were treated to bubbles, my first mince pie of the season and of course, gorgeous truffles from Divine Boutique's near neighbours, the ever delightful Cocoa Amore. And this gives you a sense of the atmosphere that Divine are working hard to create - one of understated elegance and class. 



That's not to say that their dresses are not showstoppers - if you want to look like a princess and turn heads then they have some real jaw droppers for you - but all of this is done in an atmosphere of quiet refinement and confidence in their tailoring.



This tailoring prowess continues to the first floor, to the bridal boutique where there really are some of the loveliest bridesmaids dresses I've ever seen. And I've done the whole wedding thing. These more muted colours absolutely suited my taste down to the ground and were a little more understated than some of the gowns I had seen downstairs. However, across the shop there is something for any colour scheme.


In fact, I was absolutely amazed to discover that not only are the ticket prices on the dresses extremely reasonable, but they also include alterations as standard - and this includes bridesmaids dresses. So you can buy your dream and have it fitted to you perfectly. I just cannot believe this sort of service where the prices I saw ranged between about £100-£600 for truly beautiful pieces. And if you've got a group of bridesmaids to cater for, then you'll really save on the hidden expense of getting items altered to fit properly.



This understanding that we all come in different shapes and sizes feeds through to the sizes of the clothes available in store - they're not all 6-8, there are plenty for those of us of the larger hip persuasion, dresses to suit the bigger-in-booty and so forth. So whatever your size you will surely find something that makes you look divine.



Saturday, 3 December 2016

Tis the season to eat loads...

Party swing is cranking up and of course foodies everywhere love this time of year because its by far the easiest time to be reet gluttonous and get away with it. Another mince pie? Just one more glass of mulled wine? Well, it is Christmas...


And of course, Leicester is embracing this with full gusto. We love food and we love celebrations, so here is a round up of some of the highlights of fun stuff that you've got to look forward to this month! It's not all dull-as-dishwater turkey dinners and crackers with shoehorns in them!

Throughout December
Festive Afternoon Tea
1901 - The Turkey Cafe, Granby Street

As well as an absolutely corking selection of festive cocktails on offer at 1901 (pay particular attention to the After Eight, made in collaboration with the masters of the Leicester chocolate scene, Cocoa Amore) they are also offering a festive afternoon tea. Last year we memorably experienced super-cute reindeer cookies and a cocktail made with the most weirdly delicious sage and onion syrup, so this is definitely something for the committed foodie to keep an eye out for.

That is a cocktail, served in a chocolate sphere. Yes.

Sunday 4th December

Clarendon Park Christmas Fair
Queens Road and Clarendon Park

50 stalls selling crafts, gifts and homemade food - there's bound to be something to suit.

Tuesday 6th December
Ex Cathedra: Christmas Music by Candlelight
St James the Greater

An atmospheric concert of old favourites and more modern interpretations of songs of the season. Tickets are priced between £15 and £30 and can be obtained by booking the Parish Office on 0116 254 2111. Clearly there isn't necessarily any food connection here, but you've got to have some carols at Christmas. I'm sure they'll crack open the mince pies at some point.

Tuesday 13th December
Gelato Bites: The Bee Farmer
Gelato Village, 2 St Martins

An informal talk about his adventures in bee-keeping, Leicestershire's The Bee Farmer will be introducing his fantastic local produce and three specially developed tastings will give you the chance to see how this honey adds something special to Leicester's only real artisan gelato. Tickets are £10 and can be booked online.



Wednesday 14th December
4 Course Christmas Tasting Menu
33 Cank Street

The last in a series of 3 weekly events, with the menu based around the 12 Days of Christmas. Enjoy four beautifully presented courses from chef Ben Martin, matched with creative cocktails developed with a dash of the Canksters usual flair. This menu will see Tickets are £40 per person, call 0116 251 9994 or email info@bar33cankstreet.com to reserve one of the spots - only 25 seats are available!

Image courtesy of 33 Cank Street
Saturday 17th December
Illuminated Boat Festival
Foxton Locks

A great Christmassy event with an illuminated boat procession, Santa boat cruises and a lantern making workshop, all topped off with a firework display. A great day out for the family as usual from Foxton Locks. Again, I'm sort of breaking with the foodie thing here (and to be honest, the food choice down there is not really earth-shattering) but boats! Christmassy boats!

Sunday 18th December
Local Wine Tasting 
Needle & Pin, Loughborough

Sample the delights of Rothley Wine Estate in the cosy surroundings of Loughborough's best micropub. Micro by name, micro by nature so make sure you get in there quickly otherwise you might find you're tasting wine outside on the road...


Friday 23rd December
Christmas Eve Eve Lucha Lock-In
Bodega, St Martins Square

Bodega are holding a pre-Chrimbo fiesta with shooters and cocktails galore, a live DJ and a Christmas jumper-off - all backed up of course by their own brand of South American cuisine.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Win an Evening Spa Experience at Ragdale Hall with Rothley Wine!

Regular readers will have heard all about my adventures with Rothley Wine Estate. In the time I've volunteered there, we've been pruning, harvesting, making wine and enjoying sharing the wine at tastings and events all around the county. One of Rothley Wine Estate's most illustrious suppliers is the beautiful Ragdale Hall, and we enjoyed hosting a tasting for their guests earlier this year. 

Now we've all buddied up so that you can try their hospitality for yourself with a new competition. I'll be announcing the winner on Christmas Eve, so think of it as a little gift from Extreme Housewifery to you! If you're stuck for gift ideas, then check out the details of Ragdale Hall's Christmas Vouchers below.



Image courtesy of Ragdale Hall
Here's the information they sent to me for your edification....

Nestled in the Leicestershire countryside near Melton Mowbray and combining state-of-the-art spa facilities with the charm of traditional Victorian architecture, Ragdale Hall is perfect for a pampering day or evening, or even an overnight stay - and with prices from just £59.00,  there is something for every taste and budget.

With its multi-million pound Thermal Spa, featuring a series of heat and water experiences, indoor and outdoor pools, gym, daily programme of exercise classes, unrivalled menu of treatments and range of delicious dining options, it's easy to see why Ragdale Hall has just been voted Best Spa in the UK at the international SpaFinder Wellness Awards, as well as winning Best For Girlfriend Getaways and Best For Affordability/Budget. It also recently won the accolade of The Telegraph's Number One Rural Retreat.

Image courtesy of Ragdale Hall

So why not give the gift of pampering at this top spa this Christmas? Treat a friend or loved one to a Ragdale Hall visit with a Christmas Voucher.  Starting from just £25, valid for a whole year and presented in a beautiful pack, Ragdale Hall vouchers are the perfect Christmas gift - and they're valid for a whole year. Call 01664 433030 or visit www.ragdalehall.co.uk to order and receive your vouchers in the post,  or call in to collect your vouchers in person and join us for a mince pie!



Ragdale Hall has teamed up with Extreme Housewifery and Rothley Wine to offer one lucky winner an Evening Spa Experience for two people. Arrive for 6.30pm and enjoy all the spa facilities and a two-course meal in the Verandah Bar, before departing at 9.30pm.

For more information visit www.ragdalehall.co.uk or call 01664 434831.

Ragdale Hall Terms & Conditions:
The prize is available for over 16s only. Travel is not included. The prize is valid Monday - Thursday and is valid for six months, subject to availability.



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Monday, 28 November 2016

Italian wine tasting with Bat and Bottle

In the atmospheric medieval surroundings of Oakham Castle we enjoyed a simple but beautifully constructed wine tasting last week with Oakham's own Bat and Bottle Wine. With over 20 years of wine merchanting under their belts, these guys really know their stuff and the selection they presented really showed the best of some old favourites, rare finds and comforting quality that is the best of Italian wine.


By utter chance rather than design, I managed to start off with one of the most interesting wines of the evening - purely because I wanted to bypass the crowds, head for the small wine producers that were in attendance and try something new - basically my go to motivations in any situation.

Sant'Agnese
L'Etrangé 2015

This spontaneously fermented wine goes for 11 months without sulphite and in combination with the aromatic Vermentino grape - a new one on me - this led to a wine with surprising punch and character. Super dry in the mouth, after the initial shock I tasted elements of pear, green vegetal elements and even a clove spice, but all subtle and muted, like hearing the sounds of a distant orchestra drifting through a dusky forest. Definitely different, and definitely something you will come back to again.

Lis Fadis
Friulano 'Sbilf' 2010

When writing up your highlights from a wine tasting, it's probably prudent to include the one where you just wrote 'wow!' in your notebook. Again, this unique ancient grape, the Friulano, was another new one on me. I found that there was an interesting yeasty nose on this wine but again a punchy flavour with liquorice and spice balancing out with great acidity which created a fresh but flavourful wine. Again, deeply unusual and therefore vaguely hypnotic.


Lis Fadis
Chardonnay 'Guriut' 2011

As if one offering from the small Lis Fadis was not enough, I cannot go on without mentioning their Chardonnay. Perhaps not to everyone's taste, this was my wine of the evening - it could not have suited my palate more. It had a lovely buttery quality but was still gracefully bright and balanced. Absolutely what I look for in a beautifully executed Chardonnay, but I acknowledge, not to everyone's tastes.

Mauro Franchino
Gattinara 2011

A gorgeous Nebbiolo from Alto Piemonte - you'll remember my burgeoning obsession with this region from our recent visit to Turin. This example scored highly for me because of the gorgeous burnt amber colour which evinced the honey, apricot and plum flavours within. This was probably my 'easy drinking' option of the night.

Ca' La Bionda
Amarone 2010

I have to finish on The Boy's pick of the evening. He had bought me a bottle of Amarone to try some weeks previous, but hadn't actually tried any himself at the time, so he hadn't expected the almost grappa like nose and the awakening sweetness of the wine with its balancing bitterness, good body but also subtle finish. Think raisins, perhaps the merest hint of treacle, but without the cloying stickiness. This is complex and exciting wine, without going anywhere near dessert wine territory. Eminently drinkable.


So, this is just a taste of the 20 wines we sampled over the evening. It is testimony to Bat and Bottle's expertise that such an eclectic and exciting compilation of wines from Italy were assembled in one room, and to hear Ben's introduction to the wines was to be inspired by his passion and dedication. If you have the inclination I would think that joining their wine club, the Conspirators, would be a move you would not regret.

Cin Cin! *snigger*

Saturday, 19 November 2016

The Festive Leicester Mulled Directory

I can deny it no longer. The Christmas lights are on in the city and there are reindeer bimbling around in Jubilee Square today, next to the Wheel of Light. So the festive season is officially upon us. In my book that makes it time for a new directory. Where has mulled wine, cider or other delicious spiced hot toddies available this Christmas? I can't survive without a delicious warming treat and I need the information of where to get one at my fingertips.





As ever, this directory will be regularly updated. I shall endeavour to review those that I get to try so you know how good they are. You're welcome.

1901: The Turkey Cafe, Granby Street
Jaeger Spiced mulled wine and Rekorderlig Spiced Plum are available now. Plus festive afternoon tea is on offer and they are open every day from the 29th November because they're full of festive cheer.

Black Horse Aylestone
The Black Horse are one of the first off the blocks to get their mulled wine offer out there this year. Couple that with a pub dog and an open fire and we're in cosy festive heaven!
Broood, Hinckley
Mulled drinkies will be on the bar from 1st December!

The Cow and Plough, Oadby
If mulled wine is not your thing, head across to the Cow and Plough for a drop of mulled cider!

The Criterion, Millstone Lane
Now we have lived through the ownership crisis, the Critter is back in full operation and mulled wine is available.

The Exchange, Rutland Street
Mulled wine is on at £4, mulled cider at £3 and they are working on developing a soft drink option as we speak. Can't decide what to have? Mince pies are also on hand while you make a decision!

The Forge, Glenfield
Mulled wine and mince pies are primed and ready to go whenever you can drop in...

The Geese & Fountain, Croxton Kerial
They will be creating a mulled wine using Dragora estate-bottled organic Castilla Tinto with cinnamon, cloves and star anise. Sounds like quite a treat, it will be available throughout December.


Festive cat-elf jacket. I made that.

The Globe, Silver Street
Always offering a great taste of the hot stuff, the Globe has been a staple of the market for many years now. 

The Nag's Head, Glenfield
They will be serving mulled wine from December 2nd when Glenfield's official light switch on takes place!

Orange Tree, High Street
They have confirmed their wine is mulling!

The Poacher's Brasserie, Thurlaston
Offering mulled wine made from Pimms, malbec, cinnamon and star anise. There sure are some fancy brews going on out there!

Taps, Guildhall Lane
Mulled wine and mulled cider is available now!

West End Brewery, Braunstone Gate
They had some mulled treats at the Winter Westival on Braunstone Gate on Sunday 27th November and next they will be available through December.

Winter Food Festival at Leicester Market
Sunday 20th November
You missed it!

Monday, 14 November 2016

Bottomless Afternoon Tea at Exchange

If there's one thing you need on a Sunday, it's tiny sandwiches and cakes as far as the eye can see. Happily, the Exchange are here to meet that need to you with their Bottomless Afternoon Tea, every Sunday for just £25 per person.

Feeling special

We were invited down to sample the inaugural Bottomless Sunday for ourselves and it was simply delightful. A table full of retro, mismatched crockery awaited us in the Exchange's airy, light bar area. We were served up with a pot of tea and one of coffee when we arrived, as well as a glass of Prosecco to kick things off.


A cake stand of tiny sandwiches and petit fours was the next thing to arrive at the table. The finger sandwiches were made with a very soft, light ciabatta. They had a mixture of fillings, including a fragrant mozzerella, basil and red pesto, one with a gorgeous savoury prosciutto and another with homemade guacamole which had a lovely kick to it. And of course as it is a Bottomless Sunday when you've finished your sandwiches, you can always ask for some more! Which naturally we did, because they were incredibly tasty.


On the table are generous servings of butter, jam, clotted cream and fresh chopped strawberries ready for you to adorn your scones in your chosen fashion. I'm very much a jam then cream kinda girl, which is apparently the Cornish way. It's the only way which makes logical sense if you ask me. The fresh baked scones had a lovely crumbly texture and a buttery flavour, they were totally perfect. I just wish that I had the capacity to eat more than one, but unfortunately my stomach doesn't work that way.


On to the petit fours, delicious mouthfuls of sweet delight. The macarons were delicately flavoured and had just the right combination of lightness and chewy centre. In addition there were coffee chocolate sponges, chocolate truffles, teeny tiny raspberry tarts and more besides. And, did I mention? Bottomless. All the tiny cakes your heart desires. I managed to squeeze in a second serving of them. Squeeze was the operative word as our table was getting rather crowded at this point. I had to eat the petit fours so that they could clear one of the cake stands away to make more space. It was an act of public service if anything.


And of course if you run out of tea or coffee, just ask for some more. My glass of Prosecco was certainly bottomless and quite frankly there can be no better wine match for tiny cakes than a good Italian sparkling wine. Soft drinks and house wine are also available and bottomless for the duration of your stay between 12.30pm and 3pm. 


Attentive staff with a fantastic attitude, a convivial atmosphere and a prime location in the heart of Leicester's Cultural Quarter make this an absolutely divine treat for a Sunday afternoon. You have to book in advance though, and as places are limited I recommend getting in there quickly. This baby is going to be popular for a long, long time.


Thanks to the Exchange for inviting us along to enjoy their Bottomless Sunday. It was real.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

UK Burger Battle Returns to the LCB Depot.

You might have notice me mention the forthcoming UK Burger Battle in my latest review in the Leicester Mercury this week. Well, having written that I'm very excited to let you all know that I have now been invited to judge said event! The pressure! The unbelievable pressure!

You might remember The Boy and I were straight on the bandwagon for the last Leicester Burger Battle in the summer of 2015, buying our tickets within days of their release and we did not regret the purchase one bit. On that occasion, Crafty were the winners - but who will be victorious this time round?
  
Let's look at the line up.


The Facts

The Burger Battle will be held at the LCB Depot on Saturday 26th November.

Earlybird tickets are currently available priced at £15 which bags you a free Sailor Jerry cocktail along with your two burgers.

You have a three hour window in which to consume the battling burgers, during which time there will be entertainment, giggles, as well as the chance to see professional Competitive Eater Emma Dalton take on a burger eating challenge. There'll also be a Sailor Jerry bar on site with specially crafted cocktails at discount prices and a full on party afterwards to help you dance off those burgers.

If you don't just want to watch a challenge, but feel the need to partake, fantastic chicken wing experts Pluk'd will be on hand with their Wing Sting Challenge. While I have not participated in said challenge, I have seen it happen in that 'real life' thing and I can confirm it is devilishly difficult, no matter how easy 10 wings in 7 minutes sounds like. Hotter than hell doesn't even start to cover it.

Along with that, fantastic local artisans, Gelato Village will be on hand with tasters of their luxurious, handmade gelato, made at their Leicester in-store laboratory. That will help to ease the fire if you dare take the Pluk'd challenge!



The Challengers

It's a bit of a David and Goliath affair at the Burger Battle this year. We have the newcomers Cured, recently opened above Brewdog versus stalwarts of the Leicester burger scene since 2013, Gray's Kitchen (did I mention my latest review?)

Cured Stack
Homemade secret recipe beef patty, 14 day cured treacle and barley brisket, Punk IPA maple bacon, pickles and Swiss cheese in a brioche bun.

Euro Burger
Grays handcrafted beef batty, Nduja butter, smoked Lyonnaise onion, camembert, Grays ketchup, sun-dried tomato crouton, rocket and a toasted Kaiser roll.

So come and burger the night away with us. The burgers are promising to be splendid (I mean, Nduja butter - what can go wrong?) Get your tickets now online or direct from both Gray's and Cured and we'll see you there.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

We wish you a Merry Bru-mas!

It's always an early start, but it's becoming something of an annual tradtion to kick off the festive season with a sneaky peek of the new Christmas specials coming up at Bru. This year we made a big deal of it, with an early Christmas party for a jolly bunch of East Midlands Bloggers.

Secret Santa!
And we did it in style! The Christmas jumpers were on, songs were sung, crackers pulled and party games played. We didn't care that it was Halloween the day before and this was entirely messing with our seasonal calendars. Sometimes you just have to do these things.


Party hat were on and the Secret Santa was embarked up on with gusto. I had the good fortune to have the beautiful Steph from Priceless Life of Mine as my Santa, as it turned out and so I came away with a spectacular haul of kittie goodies, which have been keeping my feet, tummy and heart warm and snug today. 


After we had all taken a few deep breaths and tried to calm down a little after all of the excitement, it was on to trying the highlights that will be released for Bru's special Christmas menu in the next few weeks. First up it was seasonal hot drinks.


The Gingerbread Latte was a favourite that has long been celebrated on the Bru menu, but the little guys themselves don't make an appearance throughout the year, being shy and all. Although it is quite a sweet latte, the spicing is so robust that it really works and does taste like liquid gingerbread - just what we all needed on a very cool evening!

The hot chocolates were also a delight, served to us in taster jars, but available to your good selves in full size Kilner jar splendour. The Chocolate Orange was definitely my favourite, but apparently the Oreo is the best seller, so I'll leave it up to you. They are both sweet, warming and rich.


On to the incredible looking cakes, and we enjoyed a slice of the full size specialities. My favourite was the cherry and amaretti cheese cake because I am a sucker for anything cherry, but that is not to take anything away from the lemon tart. That had a pleasing sharpness and beautifully soft pastry. To be honest, all the hefty full-on Christmas flavours can get too much for me sometimes, so this is a great alternative in that respect.

The gingerbread cheesecakes did not do it for me so much, but I think I was all gingerbreaded out after the latte. If you like something that is rich and creamy, with just a subtle hint of ginger, then this will most definitely be your bag. The black forest gateaux roulade on the other hand, I was all over. This has been my favourite dessert since I was a kid and although I don't have it so much now (what with the world offering much more choice than it did in the 80s) I still always have a soft spot in my heart for it. True to form, this was the only dessert which I ate the whole piece of, and considering the mammoth cake marathon we had embarked on, I think that is high praise indeed.


Finally, there was a chocolate truffle bundt cake which surprised me with its lightness. On appearances it looked like it would be one heavy mofo, but it was really the softest sponge and a delicious dark chocolate coating. So full of festive cheer and sugar, I made my way home.

Thanks to Bru for inviting me along and filling me full of delightful treats and of course to East Midlands Bloggers and #ItsBruMas for the fantastic company, the questionable Christmas song singing and the all round delight. I feel like I can barely wait for The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.



Monday, 31 October 2016

Marstons Burst Rate and Smoked Paprika Chilli

Marston's have gone and got themselves a nanobrewery set up and their Burst Rate Munich Pale Ale is the outcome. Only 600 pints have been made and they very kindly sent a mini keg in my direction after a call out on their Facebook page. So the logical thing was to develop ourselves a nice recipe that would match nicely with this smooth drinking 6.5%er.


The Munich in the description refers to the use of Munich malts which brings a distinctive but delicate malty flavour to this gentle Pale Ale. The use of, I think, English hops, means that it has less punch than its American IPA cousins, leading to a good bitterness from the hopping but still a laid back complexity that was very pleasant to drink.

As you can see from my photos, the beer was a little cloudy but this was our fault for forgetting to ventilate it in advance even though we had been leaving it to settle for 48 hours. Whoops! I don't think it impaired the flavour though, it was just a little yeasty right at the start of the keg as you would expect.


I was looking to match these different elements in my recipe and so developed a chilli recipe. I think we all have our own favoured method of making chilli and this ended up being a simple tweak on an easy family favourite for us.

Smoked Paprika Chilli
Serves 4


  • 500g minced beef (choose one with a higher fat content as this gives a more unctuous chilli and the higher fat content allows the Pale Ale to cut through and brings out the natural malty flavour)
  • An onion
  • A medium carrot
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp hot smoked paprika (we got ours from Deli in the Square in Leicester, it really packs a punch!)
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
  • Bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of red chilli flakes
  • 1/2 beef stock cube
  • 1/2 dried habanero chilli
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Tin of kidney beans
  • Cream of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 peppers


Finely chop the carrot, onion and garlic and sweat slowly in a pan with just a drop of oil until it softens. Don't rush this stage, it takes about 10 minutes.


Add your spices and fry off with the sauce base ingredients for a couple of minutes, then add the beef, turn up the heat and brown off the meat.

Add your chopped tomatoes, swill the tin out with a dash of water and I added a good slug of Marstons Burst Rate for balance. Cook out low and slow for as long as possible.


Once the liquid has reduced by about half, add your kidney beans and peppers. Having tasted the sauce I felt it needed a little more sweetness and depth to match the beer so I added a gooey squirt of cream of balsamic vinegar, that wonderful dark shiny wonder-ingredient.


Cook on the lowest heat whilst you make rice using the absorption method.
Serve with sliced avocado and a sprinkling of grated cheese.


I have to say, we proper nailed this one! A slow cooked chilli with layers of complexity - that gorgeous smoked flavour matched with a robust, thick sauce with sweetness, giving way to savouriness and on to a building heat as you ate. This smokey element and sweetness brought out the best in the Pale Ale, matching the character of the malt and bringing out more floral notes in the beer. As the heat built, the bitterness of the hops was there to provide a welcome counter, and finally the fat from the sauce, avocado and cheesy garnish was also a great accompaniment to the beer giving a silky mouth feel and an equal punch of bold flavours from both the beer and the food. A thoroughly enjoyable dining experience!

Have you found some excellent beer pairings recently?

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Organic Wines of Piedmont: La Campore

Be honest, you thought I'd run out of posts from our recent trip to Italy didn't you? We've examined the Via del Gelato, the Terra Madre Salone de Gusto proper and of course, the wonderful delicacies of Turin, but there was one last post that I couldn't resist writing.

We happened upon La Campore right at the end of our visit to Torino, literally an hour before we jumped into our taxi to Milan airport, with our super friendly, but disconcertingly casually racist taxi driver. Which is quite clearly another story.


La Campore were displaying their wares as part of the Terra Madre Salone de Gusto festival and I feel that they deserve as much showcasing as possible because they embody absolutely the best of everything that the festival represents. Their relatively small, rural vineyard has been in the family since 1974. They create boutique wines of the region, many of which hold organic status. And best of all, they neighbour the La Cascinassa farm, which breeds Piedmontese dairy goats, pigs and cows. As we all know, what grows together goes together and this is what gave us probably the best tasting experience of the whole trip.


Sadly, as we were literally about to leave Turin, I didn't have the time to make any notes about the wines, save to say they were delicious! I did find the time to taste my way through the whole range, however, and to select a glass of the Erbaluce no-sulfite white, an organic specialty of theirs, to drink at rough leisure. By rough leisure, I mean walking through the streets of Turin with a plastic cup. Stay classy.


Their wines have fantastic flavour, with the no sulfite white having a slight haze in colour, as you would expect, but retaining the full punch of a 100% Erbaluce wine. Erbaluce creates a light, crisp apple-tinted wine, but the absence of sulfites gave a notable softening of this wine in comparison to its preserved sibling under the Caluso DOP.


As you might expect for a winery in the Piedmont region, they also make some absolutely spiffing red wines. Their Canavese DOP reds were a blend containing predominantly Barbera (one of my favourite grapes) but they also made a simply stunning Nebbiolo (which is now threatening to overtake Barbera in my list of favourite grapes.)


Naturally, all of these wines went well with the selection of goat cheese we were offered from La Cascinassa. We sampled a range of cheeses - soft cheeses flavoured with curry powder, one rolled in organic hemp seed also grown on the farm, and a selection of their harder cheeses with a variety of months of aging behind them. 


I think the freshness and fullness of the flavour of all of the La Cascinassa cheeses was so apparent because of the obvious passion and care that the farmer puts into his herds. The animals are all reared according to exceptionally high welfare standards, including processing their animal feed themselves using products taken from the farm itself; grain, hay, corn, silage and so forth. This allows for complete traceability on site and total control of the diet the animals receive at different points in their natural cycles throughout the year.

Should I get the opportunity to return to northern Italy, visiting these lovely, affable farmers and winemakers will be high on my list. Their farming is sustainable and their lifestyle deeply enviable. In the meantime, if you get the opportunity to try anything mentioned herein, I encourage you to seize the opportunity!
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