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Strange as it may sound, you can't drink beer all the time... your bladder would explode for one thing, and for another, your brain would becomes so fuddled and muddled that you wouldn't be abl to hold a cohe..sensabl...um...
Thank the lord for el vino collapso.
I like a glass or two of wine occasionally. Especially when the glass is one of those muckle big jobs that you can squeeze a full bottle into, and the occasion being any month with an R in it...or a vowel.
But I'm no connoisseur.*
Because I've travelled in Italy quite a bit in recent years, I've developed a taste for Italian wines and more specifically, whites from the Veneto.
But there's no need to track down a cheap flight to Marco Polo to sample the delights of that region, just pop along to any supermarket and you'll find plentiful supplies of the stuff. Mind you, I'd sooner sit in the sun in Sirmione sipping a Soave...suavely, but instead I bought a bottle of COLLEZIONE ITALIANA SOAVE in Aldi for well under a fiver. (* told you)
Apparently, the grape varieties used in making this wine are a blend of Garganega, Trebbiano di Soave, Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay - varieties all harvested in the vineyards of the Veneto. Well I wouldn't know about that, I can hardly tell the difference between a grape and a bald gooseberry.
Aldi describe it thusly:
"Serve chilled, but not too cold, to enjoy the subtle aromas and flavours of pears, pink grapefruit and almond paste."
Let's uncork this baby then. Well when I say uncork, a more accurate description would to unscrew the cap. No matter, I can hardly master a bottle opener never mind a corkscrew. At least it's not in a box.
This wine pours a slightly lemony yellow colour and clear as a frosty morning in January. There's a very gentle effervescence, although it's certainly not a sparkling wine, which dissipates almost immediately leaving a generous portion in the glass.
A gentle swirl, and in goes the hooter for a deep and meaningful sniff (cue sound effects). The aroma is fruity and a little bit nutty with hints of peach and pear and, unexpectedly, cardboard. Hmm. It doesn't smell unpleasant, which is a bonus.
As for the taste, well I'm not going to go in for all that swirling it around the mouth and spitting it out malarkey (what a waste) unless, that is, it's absolutely bowff. It's not...but it IS close. It's clean, crisp and sharp with lots of soft fruity flavour - overwhelmingly pears, and up front is quite pleasant. This is very short lived though and you're soon confronted with a dryness of Saharan proportions. I kid you not. I quite like a dry wine but this is screw-yer-face-up, sook-a-lemon, mouth-puckeringly dry. Jeezo.
* THE VERDICT *
At 11.5% abv this wine holds out plenty of promise but slaps you down with a tongue-rasping dryness that somewhat spoils the whole experience. It smells nice enough, it looks good and the initial flavour is pleasantly fruity. But oh dear, it's drier than the following joke:
My brother`s been really ill in hospital for weeks after the fire at his house. He was doing well until they covered his burns in grease.
Now he`s going downhill fast.
I can't really recommend this wine. Not unless uber-dryness is your thing, that is. It's cheap , but nip along to Asda and get three bottles of Miramari for a tenner - that's cheap AND tasty.
Would I drink this again? - only if I was hyper-hydrated.
Eating out in Venice can be an expensive business, but it doesn't have to be. "Oh sure," I hear you say, "A Big Mac is much the same price anywhere." As if.
Of course it's true that there are cheap options available like takeaways or back street dives, but you're in Venice. You want to have a leisurely lunch with a glass or three of vino whilst almost dipping your tootsies in a canal (you don't want to go any further than almost - Evian, it's not). You want magnificent street-scapes, gondolas, monuments and everything associated with this marvellous place...well, almost everything. You want all these things but you don't want: pickpockets, rip-offs, noise, hustle and bustle, and hordes. In a nutshell, you want your own personal little oasis in this sometimes overwhelming city.
Part of the fun of a place like Venice is just wandering where the urge takes you. Of course, the big sights are there to be seen, but sometimes it's the quieter, unexpected corners that spark the magic. Luckily, it seems that even with a detailed map, I have a much keener sense of direction than mrs p. Unfortunately, so does a dead pigeon. Getting lost presents no visible problem to the proxies.
And so it was that we stumbled upon a restaurant called ANTICO GATOLETO. (Probably should've worn sensible shoes!)
WHERE THE HECK IS IT?
ANTICO GATOLETO is situated at the end of Campo Santa Maria Nova in the Cannaregio area of Venice. Hmmm, but how do you find it? Well, the easy way is to turn left as you exit the train station and just follow the main drag parallel to the Grand Canal and after about ten minutes, just as the Grand Canal turns towards The Rialto, turn left and...now your on your own pal. Somewhere in amongst the jumbled tangle of alleyways and waterways lies the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and across a little footbridge is a delightful little piazza with a few shops and restaurants. Well done, you have arrived.
Well so much for the easy way. We took a much more torturous route but as I said, that's half the fun.
The little Piazza is one of those places where you just don't expect to see what you do when you turn into it. All around are dark and dank, claustrophobically narrow lanes and suddenly, you step into a kind of bright, sunlit sea of tranquillity (yep, you're seriously lost, moon-boy).
Conveniently for us, we stepped into this sanctuary just about lunch time (anytime is lunch time on holiday).
WHAT THE HECK IS IT?
ANTICO GATOLETO is a ristorante/pizzeria. I'm not going to elaborate any further on that. It's a small, corner bar/cafe as well so there's no issue about fancy dining here. You want expresso? Va bene. You want gelato? Va bene. You want pizza? Sorry they don't do...just kidding.
As I said, fancy dining it's not but this is Italy, average dining is still excellent. Internally, it's not a very large restaurant but they have a few tables canal-side in the piazza. What this place lacks in size it more than makes up for in setting. The terrace sits within spitting distance of the canal (I assume) in fact, from our table you could practically drool into the murky depths.
The canal at this point is just wide enough for two gondolas, which is handy because it's also a pick-up/drop-off point for these silly looking boats and at any given time, a duo of gondoliers are sitting around waiting for business. (Which proves that it's easy to pick up gondoliers from a street corner encounter).
Great entertainment though. We whiled away a very pleasant interlude watching the comings and goings and the wads of dosh as tourists parted with their hard-earned for a shot on a glorified rowing boat and a piccy with a boater wearing a boater on a boat. The punters being punted.
As if this floor-show wasn't enough entertainment, dripping into the canal immediately opposite is the aptly (or should that be apsely) named Santa Maria dei Miracoli. Shiny, sparkly, marbley iridescence plays on the gentle lapping waters below. Not too shabby.
WHAT'S ON THE MENU?
Actually, to be more specific, not a lot. It's a fairly basic menu with the emphasis more on snack type meals than Cordon Blue. But as I said before, this is Italy and even the bad dines are good.
You can choose from various pizzas, pannini and salads; pasta and risotto: soups and seafood; and, ice cream and cakes. More than enough for most.
MUCHIES FOR LUNCHIES
We initially just sat down for a well earned break and even more well earned drink as the setting was so attractive but noticed other people eating at the next table. It looked good so it seemed like the most sensible thing to do was have a little nibble ourselves.
Mrs p likes her soup and decided on a 'local' bean and pasta job. I won't write that again as there was enough repetition the first time round. Me? I had an old favourite in seafood risotto.
Portions were not huge, but they were adequate and prices matched perfectly. 4 euros for the soup and 6 euros for the risotto. Not quite the 30 euros or so for a sarnie in Florian's.
The food was really tasty and the service was efficient, if not overly friendly but you can't have everything.
For me, when I'm visiting a hustling tourist honey-pot, there's nothing better than chancing upon a hidden gem in a quiet little spot without losing the atmosphere of the honey-pot I'm dipping into. ANTICO GATOLETO fitted the bill perfectly. Superb setting, excellent food at non rip-off prices, street entertainment and ambience by the gondolaload. What more could you ask for?
Un altro spritz, per favore.
As the name would suggest, the EXPO HOTEL is situated at Prague's exhibition area so no problem finding it then. No? Well you've obviously never driven through Prague or you wouldn't be so quick to agree.
You'd think, wouldn't you, that the exhibition grounds would be well signposted, even if it was written in Czech. I tend to think the signs were written not in Czech, but in invisible ink because I didn't see a single one. Luckily, we had a map and with the super sharp navigational skills of my co-driver, the ever observant Mrs p, we eventually got there...emphasis on eventually.
EXHIBIT 1: LOCALE
Prague's exhibition grounds are situated about 2km north of the old town as the crow flies. We'd forgotten to bring a crow, so the fact that it's on a tram route was ever so helpful. In fact, this was one of the main reasons for choosing this hotel. It's situated next to a huge park but the tram stop is just a two minute walk from the hotel's front door with a choice of three trams taking you to various parts of the city. With trams running every 5-10 minutes, getting in and out was not a problem. I expect that's what it'll be like in Edinburgh soon...
Although the hotel building has no aesthetic qualities on view, the reception area was surprisingly warm and inviting and almost quaint. Old brick walls, lots of art work and subtle lighting made for a welcoming...welcome. The girl at reception was friendly and welcoming too, not to mention efficient. Paperwork was soon completed and with a few queries dealt with, such as transportation etc, we were soon on our way to our room.
Actually, we were soon on our way back to the car which we then took to the underground car park (£15 a day). After that, we were soon on our way to the room.
POKING AROUND THE POKOJ
Our pokoj...or room, was on the second floor and straight across the hallway from the elevators (although we never heard them from the room). It wasn't the largest room I've ever been in but wasn't cramped by any means. There were two twin beds (I suppose one twin bed wouldn't really be a twin bed, would it?) which were firm and comfortable but a little on the narrow side. The down side was the down pillows popular in this part of the world - big square, soft and mushy affairs that are completely impractical unless you plan to suffocate yourself while trying to get comfortable of an evening.
We had a deskcomesideboard which housed the well stocked, and not unreasonably expensive mini-bar and was weighed down with a fairly hefty, non lcd TV - 20 or so channels in a variety of languages...pay movies etc. there was also a table and chairs, bedside cabinets and plenty of drawer space in the mirror door wardrobe.
Everything was in good condition and very clean, as was the carpet, curtains and bed covers although the pale green shade of these didn't in my mind, compliment the ochre wall. Still, clean and tidy is the main thing, not colour. A couple of well hung pictures (not those kind of well hung pictures missus) and some cosy lamps completed the set-up
The air con worked well enough but it wasn't really that hot so I can't say we tested it fully.
THE LITTLE BOY'S ROOM
The bathroom was tiled in black with a large, well-lit mirror, tub and shower. The shower was powerful enough but the curtain rail was placed far too close to the inside wall with the result that you were crammed in there and the curtain kept sticking to you. After a day or two, and being the handyman that I am, I discovered that you could move the flippin'' thing...so I did - Result? No more psycho flashbacks.
We also had a hair dryer, a sink (handy) and...wait a minute, where's the crapper?!
Ah, the WC had its own little separate room. That was a relief...literally. No complaints on the towels and toiletries front and everything was spotless.
EATING and DRINKING
The hotel has a bar and restaurant with an outside terrace. It seemed to do a decent amount of business (not from us) but the hotel was pretty much fully booked with a few coach trips so it's hardly surprising. We did have breakfast though, and very good it was too. a veritable feast was on offer of a morning with eggs cooked in a variety of ways, sausages, bacon and hot veg dishes; various cold meats and cheeses; yoghurts, cereals fruit and juices; bread and jams; and lots of cakes. Very tasty it all was too...not that I ate all of it.
In conclusion, while not the most picturesque of hotels in not the quaintest of surroundings, it was exactly what we were looking for. Far enough away from the threat of the dreaded stag/hen crowds, the noise of the city centre and the inflated prices, but only a few minutes from the old town on the tram. We could pop into town in the morning - quickly and easily nip back to the room for a siesta and be back in town in no time for an evening of debauchery.
Deciding where to eat amongst the plethora of restaurants in BENAHAVIS is a bit like playing Russian Roulette but at least no-one gets their brains blown out. In fact, the lack of guns, semi-loaded or otherwise kind of makes that simile redundant. It's more like a lottery in that...wait, let's just say there's lots of choice.
We had a little wander around the village when we first arrived checking menus etc and so when we went out in the evening we had narrowed our choice down to a few select places. In the end we decided, based on location and menu, on LA TORRE.
There's not much point in describing the location - Benahavis pretty much consists of one road and a few pedestrian streets. Trust me, you'd find it easily.
I can't really describe the interior of the building except that it's traditional Spanish in decor with wine bottles, hams and garlic ribbons adorning the bar area and old fashioned 'farmhouse style' wooden chairs around the dining tables. I only fleetingly glanced the inside as I made my way to the little boys room which incidentally, was spotless.
We sat on the terrace outside (which is normally where terraces are) so we could watch the world go by and enjoy the lovely evening weather.
I won't go into details about the menu because, a) there's too much to list and b) I can't remember what was on it. Suffice to say it was typically Spanish and there was plenty of choice in meats and fish with vegetarian options too.
What I liked about the menu was that almost all the dishes could be done as tapas, half-portions or full meals. Generally the exceptions were the more expensive options. Mrs p is not a big eater and sometimes huge portions are a turn-off for her so being able to order a couple of different half-portions helps to keep her face straight.
The restaurant wasn't overly busy so the service was very attentive but not obtrusive and both waiters that we dealt with were friendly.
We found that almost everywhere we dined in Spain this year had a cover charge for bread and this place was no different. What was different was the bread roll - it was edible. In fact it was rather pleasant. Having said that, I object to paying a service charge in a restaurant - surely they adjust their prices to create a profit anyway and this just seems like a scam to me. I think we were charged Euro1.50 each as a service charge...I suppose it's fair enough, because if I'm paying a service charge, I don't leave a tip but if I was leaving a tip, it would be a lot more than Euro3. Their loss.
Anyway, less whining and more wining...and dining.
When faced with a wine list when I'm not familiar with many of the wines in front of me (which is almost always) I usually opt for the house wine. The way I figure it, most people do the same and a restaurant is surely going to serve you the best wine they can for the price. Turns out their house white wine was a Rioja which is usually pretty good and this one turned out no different, and at Euro14 wasn't too expensive either. The wine was served suitably chilled with accompanying ice bucket and was crisp, fresh and tasty.
We were served a small aperitif (on the house) in the form of a slither of white fish draped with a slice of red pepper in dots of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Very tasty and always a nice touch. It doesn't cost much but it makes you feel welcome.
We both decided to have half portions as starters, mrs p choosing a vegetable soup whilst I opted for stuffed peppers. The red peppers were absolutely gorgeous - packed to the brim with a mushroom puree and drowned in a fluffy, cream sauce. Mrs p, however, wasn't overly impressed with her soup and I had to agree. It wasn't bad, but it was just a little bland.
For a main, Mrs p had a half portion of ham croquettes with a small side salad. She liked these declaring them super tasty with a crunchy crust and I have to say I agreed with her.
I had grilled sole which came with some delicately arranged chips and a bowl of sauteed vegetables (carrots, courgettes, peppers and cherry tomatoes). It was pretty good, but I thought the fish slightly overdone and a little soggy. The chips were lovely as was the veg.
We didn't bother with dessert.
In conclusion, a nice meal. Nothing to rave about certainly, but pleasant enough and we were well satisfied with our evening. The ambience in the restaurant was nice, with easy-listening jazz playing in the background. The kids that were there were well behaved and the waiters were efficient and friendly.
Our meal came to just under Euro50 which seemed very reasonable.
I'm not big on whisky. I'm not big on most spirits. But I do like the odd tipple now and then and when I do indulge, I like trying new and exciting concoctions...that is, whatever someone gets me as a gift or something that's on special offer at the supermarket. Classy.
To prove the point, as if I have to, I was poking around under the stairs the other day (as you do) when I discovered a dusty old bottle of GLAYVA hidden away from last Xmas. It didn't stay undiscovered for long.
The Glayva story begins in the docks of Leith in Edinburgh in 1947 when Ronald Morrison, a local wine and whisky merchant, decided to produce a warming and comforting liqueur for his customers. As, at the time, Leith was a busy port, he had Based at a busy port in Leith, Morrison had access to a fairly exotic range of ingredients that could be mixed with malt whisky for an unusual and interesting flavour.
Allegedly, the name Glayva originates from the reaction of one of his workers who proclaimed "Gle Mhath", which, as everyone knows, translates from the Gaelic as "Very Good". Hmm.
"Glayva is created from an exotic fusion of the finest aged Scotch malt whiskies, a carefully selected range of spices, tangerines, cinnamon, almonds and honey. Surprisingly smooth and sweet, it really tastes like nothing else! "
Glayva pours a deep and dark orange colour, a lot darker than a whisky, but still a warming, enticing hue.
The aroma is sweet and spicy. There are hints of honey, zesty orange, a touch of mint and a whole array of exotic spices - cinnamon, nutmeg aniseed etc. A gentle swirl in the glass releases further aromas of ginger, cloves and a syrupy sweetness.
The mouth feel is rich, thick and syrupy. As for taste, honey is the first flavour to hit the palate, followed by zingy orange notes and an earthy spiciness. There's an awful lot going on here with so many different spices, it's hard to pin them all down. There are herbal notes here too. One thing that isn't all that predominant though is whisky. Oh it's there all right, but so much else going on it kind of fades into the background.
It finishes long with the spices and orange lingering pleasantly.
At 35% ABV, Glayva packs quite a punch. It's quite pleasant but it's not a drink you could sit with all night (at least I couldn't). It's a little too sweet for my liking but an occasional dram is very nice to sip on. personally, I would drink this neat, but I've heard it's very nice with ice but conversely, some people prefer warming the glass a little.
A very nice tipple for the long winter nights, but I think I'd prefer to just stick with a plain old malt.
This wasn't our first visit to Cordoba. We'd been there a few years ago and had stayed right in the heart of the old town across the street from the Mezquita, which was nice.
So, this time we decided to stay at a different hotel.
Parking is practically non-existent in the old town, so if you're arriving by car (which we were), and you don't intend to drive around the mainly pedestrianized area (which we weren't), and you don't want to spend almost as much cash housing your car as yourselves (which we didn't), then the thing to do is look for something more suitable. Which we did. So we booked the HESPERIA CORDOBA and it all worked out really well.
Let me tell you about it....
WHERE IT'S AT...MAN
The Hesperia Cordoba is in Cordoba (no surprises there). But wait, there's more. The beauty about this little hotel is that it's located directly on the opposite bank of the Guadalquivir river from the old town with access to the town and its attractions via the Roman Bridge. The hotel sits around 100m from this pedestrian crossing with the Mezquita a further 1-200m on the other side.
This part of Cordoba for some reason is strangely quiet and parking, of which there is no shortage in the surrounding streets is actually free. In fact most of the tour busses park at this side and tourists then walk across the bridge to the town proper. If that's too much walking for you, several open top busses stop all around here and will take you around the city.
It's the best of both worlds. The area around the hotel is quiet, although not deathly so as there are any number of bars, cafes and restaurants right on the doorstep, but a 5-6 minute stroll across a beautiful and historic bridge takes you to the threshold of the Jewish Quarter. But wait, there's more. Choose a room at the front of the hotel (for about a tenner more) and your view consists of the span of the bridge, the sprawling Guadalquivir River with its Arab mills and the looming spectacle of the Mezquita and Alcazar. Pity there was no balcony (but more of that later). However, there is a rooftop terrace bar where, if you can afford a drink, you can soak up the views.
Finding the hotel couldn't be easier. We arrived from the South on the A4, turned off at Av. de Cadiz and drove to the end of it. Coming from the North is much the same although then you find yourself at the start of Av. de Cadiz - in any case, it's well sign posted. Then park your car in any of the surrounding streets between the Av. and the river and you're done. We parked about 50m from the front door of the hotel.
GET IN THERE...
It's not a huge hotel, with 152 rooms spread over four floors, so when we checked in it wasn't overly busy. The décor in reception is typically Andalusian but fairly modern with plenty of sofas and easy chairs dotted around. The bar and restaurant lead off from one side.
Check-in was a breeze and we were soon on our way to our third floor room.
A nice welcome in the room was a couple of bottles of cold water and some rustic biscuit/cake thingies. These touches cost very little but make a nice first impression.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
The room, whilst not huge (25m²) was large enough for what we had planned. We generally prefer more modern décor in a hotel room but it seems that some rooms are modern in design and others are more traditional. Ours was more traditional. All this really meant was that instead of a wooden headboard, ours was tiled. No biggie, but it was a bit like sleeping in a toilet. Walls were white, floor was wood and plenty of soft lighting.
The beds were firm but comfortable enough although not the widest. We had desk and chair with a flat screen on the wall above - as usual the only channels in English were news channels. There were a couple of bedside cabinets (at the side of the beds - just where you'd expect them), a small table and an incredibly comfortable easy chair. Adequate storage space and a nice full length mirror.
The Air Conditioning worked well which was good as Cordoba is on the warm side of scorching.
No balcony, which would have been nice...except for the warning sign on the window regarding biting insects. I suppose when you're so close to the river you have to expect the odd mozzie or two. In actual fact, there were more than one or two. On crossing the bridge into town of an evening it wasn't too bad for insects - I imagine the heat kept them at bay. Returning in the dark was a different matter though. Clouds of pesky little biters made a leisurely stroll a thing of dreams.
A bathroom is a bathroom is a bathroom. Unless there's only a shower I suppose. Ours had a bath so it fitted the description perfectly. Large, beige marble tiles clad the floor and walls with a more than adequate vanity area and well lit mirror. There was a hair drier (for Mrs p - I don't need one) and one of those handy magnifying mirrors (it's an age thing). The bath tub was large, the shower was powerful and the towels were large and fluffy whilst the toiletries were of the corporate variety. The bathroom was spotless, as was the room...and the whole hotel.
EATING, DRINKING AND SWIMMING
The restaurant's menu looked appetizing enough and relatively inexpensive but I'm afraid we went into town to eat so can't really comment on it. Breakfast too was not on our agenda (not at £12 a head anyway). Besides, the street outside the hotel is lined with cafes where toast, orange and coffee for two will still leave you change from a fiver. As I said, there was a nice roof top terrace bar but prices up there were on the expensive side of exorbitant - I never understand why hotels charge so much in their bars (and mini-bars), don't they want to sell the stuff?! Consequently, anytime we went to the terrace, there was us...and the barman. You could almost picture the tumbleweed a-tumble-ing by. Great views though.
At the rear of the building, on the roof, was the swimming pool. Not very big, but cold and wet. We spent a while here in the late afternoon which was pretty relaxing.
Whilst this isn't the most luxurious hotel, the location is what sells it. In comparison with hotels in the Jewish Quarter, it's not that much cheaper but the easy access and the availability of free parking just minutes from all the attractions make it a good choice.
We paid Euro134 room only for a standard room with view for two nights which represented good value I think.
If I ever go to Cordoba again (which I probably won't) I wouldn't hesitate to use this hotel.
If you've ever been to Italy, and I have, you may have noticed a popular liqueur which is widely available almost everywhere you look (unless you're in a book shop...or a train...or). What I mean is there are literally thousands of varieties (figuratively speaking) weighing down the shelves of the supermarkets - from gut-rotting cheapos for a few euros, to high quality offerings for a lot more. Every bar, café and restaurant will stock it too. That liqueur is called LIMONCELLO.
But fear not dear reader, you don't have to go all the way to Rimini to taste the citric delights of sunny Italy. Not a bit of it. A quick stroll around the aisles of Sainsburys will lead you to a bottle or two of LIMONCELLO LUXARDO...unless you're in the aisle that sells books etc.
Luxardo are a family business dating back to 1821. They distil a variety of liqueurs like grappa and Sambuca. But wait, you don't want to read a corporate history, or if you do, just google it.
"Obtained from the infusion of lemon peels in alcohol, Limoncello is one of the most world-renowned Italian liqueurs. It stems from an ancient tradition which enhances the natural aroma and fresh taste of lemons from southern Italy."
Limoncello pours a deep and vibrant yellow colour, not unlike the colour of lemons (picks self up off floor). It's slightly translucent and, well, really yellow.
If you swirl it around the glass, it kind of leaves a coating.
The aroma is dominated by...go on, take a guess...no? Lemons. At this point, I'd just like to say that if you're not terribly keen on lemons then I'm not sure this is the drink for you. The lemon aroma is almost overpoweringly pungent but just about bearable.
By now, it should come as no surprise to learn that the taste is all about lemons. I'm sensing a pattern here. Lemons and alcohol. Lemons, alcohol and sweetness. There's a definite alcohol bite to it, but it's much smoother than many cheaper brands. There's a hint of herbal flavour but it's not much. No, this is all about lemons. Slightly oily, there's a hint of lemongrass in the finish but there's no alcoholic after burn, just a long, smooth sweet and citric aftertaste.
According to their website, '''Limoncello Luxardo'' is best served at room temperature or cold as a "digestivo" drink, or watered down as an aperitif. (watered down?!) They say it's great with champagne or sparkling wine., or poured over ice cream or fruit.
They also recommend storing it in the freezer.
I have to admit, I haven't tried it in many of the ways they suggest though I have had it poured over a dessert (lovely with a sponge cake). I like it neat, and very, very cold.
At 27% ABV, I like this. I like this a lot. It's definitely not a drink to skelp back willy-nilly. In actual fact, it's a little sticky and far too sweet for that. But as an after dinner snifter, it's just perfect - especially when the weather is warm and it's served ice cold.
Is there a downside? Why yes, there is. While a 50cl bottle of this will set you back around Euro5-7 in Italy, it will cost a little more in this country. £12.50 to be precise. Oh well.
Would I drink it again? - Are lemons yellow?
I like Italy. I like their food, their wine, their culture and many other things that are too numerous to list.
Not so keen on their beer though.
I've drank a few different Italian beers (mostly when in Italy) and generally I've been underwhelmed and overcharged. Still, when the sun is scorching, and you're as dry as a weegie's bath mat and have a drouth like a pregnant camel, needs must. And to be fair, if it's ice cold, wet and beery, it'll disappear quicker than a smackhead's giro.
One of those beers, is BIRRA MORETTI.
According to their website, Luigi Moretti's beer and ice factory was founded back in 1859 in Udine, in the Friuli region of Northern Italy. They tell us it's a quality beer made in the traditional way almost unchanged since the first brew. They brew around six beers but this one is by far their most popular. Birra Moretti are now part of the Heinekin group.
Whats the big deal with China spending millions to land their Jade Rabbit on the moon ?
I bought my wife a £30 quid Rampant Rabbit and she's OVER the moon.
Back to the beer...
"The best raw materials are used to make Birra Moretti, as well as a special blend of high quality hops that gives it a unique taste and fragrance, enhancing its perfectly balanced bitter taste."
This beer pours a clear, pale straw colour with lots of rising bubbles to form an off-white half inch of foam that doesn't last ver...oops, it's gone. Hardly any sticky lace on the glass not surprisingly.
The aroma is fairly laid back. A slight hint of bread, some grainy notes, a touch of grass and the merest hint of lemon. There's not a lot going on here at all - it's almost like sniffing water.
As for the taste, there's a little malt sweetness up front, but not a lot. Light bodied, it's kinda grainy and there's a faint bitterness lurking around, but nothing leaps out at you. There are some citric tones and a mild spiciness before it finishes crisp and dry. There's no lingering aftertaste.
At 4.6% ABV, this isn't the worst beer in the world, but it's a long, long, l o n g way from the best. It's pretty indistinguishable from a whole barrel of other euro lagers with no redeeming features save it'll quench your thirst. I suppose you could say that it's an easy drinking beer that's not too high in alcohol so makes a decent session ale (except that it's a lager), but there are better (and cheaper) options for that.
No, I wasn't mightily impressed with this one and I don't think I'd cross the road to buy it. In fact probably wouldn't buy it if it was on the same side of the road.
Bland and watery.
Would I drink it again? - Sadly, I probably would.
BENAHAVIS is not the sort of place on the Costa del Sol that you would go to for sea, sand and well, anything else beginning with S. Apart from sunshine maybe...and shopping...spas, swimming and maybe I should start again.
Benahavis is set back a few miles from the glittering decadence of the coastal resorts on the Costa del Sol. Up a winding mountain road past numerous urbanizacións centred around the unfeasibly green grass on the lush golf courses - not normally my idea of heaven. But we were only looking for somewhere comfortable to have a quiet(ish) night after stepping off a plane in the late afternoon. A stopover, but a nice one.
And so we found ourselves at the GRAN HOTEL BENAHAVIS.
The hotel is a fairly modern affair that styles itself as a spa resort. I'm not sure about that, and to tell you the truth I don't really care. I was looking for somewhere comfortable to stay with the added bonus of it being on the doorstep of the little village of Benahavis - the self-styled 'dining room of the costa del sol'. In fact there are around 30 restaurants in this tiny little place and many are highly rated. So we were sorted for grub then.
The hotel is built in 'cortijo' style (Andalucian farmhouse) with many of the rooms overlooking a central patio, some the swimming pool, and others looking out to the surrounding countryside.
The reception area is indeed grand with antique furniture, fountains and ridiculously large chandeliers but it still retains a rustic, farmhouse feel...granted not a Cumbrian sheep farm rusticalness, more a Don Juan de Hidalgo type of deal.
We marched right up to the desk and were immediately greeted by the friendly receptionist who, on accepting our pre-booked voucher, quickly scanned our passports and pressed a card key into my eager hands. Honestly, I think this was the quickest check-in I'd ever experienced, especially in a hotel of this size.
The hotel has 95 rooms consisting of standard, superior, suites and a couple specially adapted for disabled guests (although the hotel is generally wheelchair friendly).
Our room was on the ground floor at the back of the hotel with a 'view' to the mountains.
We had chosen the superior room because it guaranteed a balcony or terrace whereas standard rooms only had 'Juliette' balconies. The superior rooms are a little larger than the standard rooms, in fact at 559 ft² they're almost double the size of the standard rooms. The furniture and furnishings whilst not to my taste, being a mock antique style, were top quality and all in good condition. The bedside cabinets, table, desk, dresser and fridge cabinet were all topped by slabs of green marble - so heavy it was almost impossible to move the table!
There was masses of storage space with a large built-in wardrobe (which also housed the safe and the ironing facilities, as well as extra pillows etc.) Loads more drawer space in the dresser and three each in the bedside cabinets. It almost made me wish I'd brought more clothes! We had twin beds which were firm and reasonably comfortable but a little on the narrow side. The pillows were the standard Spanish type - long and thin and pretty useless. Another little annoyance was the lack of coffee making facilities.
The room came equipped with what would normally be a decent sized Lcd TV but due to the size of the room you needed binoculars to watch from the bed...it was fine if you were sitting in the fairly comfortable chairs though. Plenty of channels but only the usual news ones in English. The air conditioning was excellent and soon had the room chillier than a brass monkey's unmentionables. As for the balcony, well it was a terrace really. It was fairly large with table and chairs and surrounded by roses.
The bathroom was fairly large and roomy, completely tiled in marble and very clean. The room was equipped with the usual facilities including bidet and bath tub. The tub was large, but the base was damaged in some way and was kind of lumpy. I only used the shower (which was powerful enough although the screen could have been bigger) and it was quite disconcerting standing on the uneven surface. The toiletries were of a good standard although one teeny weeny bar of soap is never enough. There was also a hair dryer and the towels were huge and fluffy.
The hotel has two large pools, two children pools and an outdoor Jacuzzi - none of which did I dip my toe into. There's also a spa and wellness centre which again I can offer no opinion on except that glancing through the price list nothing came cheap. In the immediate area there are tennis courts, football pitches, children's parks and riverside walks.
The hotel also does a nifty trade in functions and weddings.
Parking is free and plentiful although there is underground parking for a charge.
FOOD AND DRINK
The hotel has a few different eating options from fine dining to pool-side snacks, none of which we tried because, as already stated, the options in Benahavis village are second to none. We chose to dine in the village and it was excellent. We did have breakfast which was a hot and cold buffet and I could find no fault with what was on offer or the quality. The dining room wasn't too busy but we decided to have breakfast on the patio and it was very relaxing.
After breakfast, all that remained was to have a leisurely stroll back to the room, a quick pack, a refreshing shower then a very simple check out which consisted of handing in the key card and saying our goodbyes. We weren't even asked if we'd had anything from the mini-bar.
I really liked this hotel. It was quiet, peaceful and relaxing and I imagine I could spend a very pleasant week there. It's close enough to the hustle and bustle (Marbella is just 7Km distant) of the coast, and only a few Km from the motorway if day trips are your plan. The hotel had a nice friendly atmosphere and and the room was very comfortable and well equipped. The surroundings are lovely and the village of Benahavis is literally on the doorstep (although access to the main part of the village is fairly steep) and you could eat in a different restaurant every night for a month.
We booked through expedia and paid £57.50 B&B - this seemed like good value to me.
I've used Malaga airport many times but for some reason never visited the city itself, I expect like many others. Perhaps it's generally seen as only a gateway to the beaches of the Costa Del Sol but on doing a little research, I found the city to have some attractions of its own.
So, this year we flew to Malaga and instead of picking up a car and zooming off to places unknown, we hopped on a bus and stayed in the city itself for a couple of days.
Malaga has, as you can imagine, no shortage of hotels to suit all pockets, but after a fair bit of research, we decided on the HOTEL MS MAESTRANZA.
The four star MS Maestranza is situated slap bang in the heart of the city, between the bullring, the Alameda Gardens, the Alcazaba (citadel) and the new Malaga port, Muelle 1. Not only that, it's around 100 metres from La Malagueta beach and right next door to the Paseo del Parque. As if that's not enough, a five minute stroll will take you to the city's museums, Cathedral and shopping areas.
If you're arriving from the airport, it couldn't be easier to get to the hotel. An express bus leaves from the front of the terminal building and 5 stops and 20 minutes later, turns at the big roundabout at the end of Paseo del Parque. All you have to do is cross the road at the roundabout and you're there.
Checking in was swift and painless (though I can't think of a painful hotel check in experience). The reception area was decidedly small, especially for a 4 star establishment, but as we weren't going to actually sleep there, it didn't really matter.
A quick jaunt in the almost big enough lift took us to our room on the 11th floor.
The hotel occupies the corner site of the block in a sort of wedge shape of 14 floors. This means there are three different views - sea view, city view and a view of the Alcazar and bullring, but in actual fact, because our room was to the front of one of the sides, we had a sea view and a view of the port, city and Alcazar. Nice.
The room wasn't the biggest, but at 25m² it was adequate. We weren't planning to spend much time in the room anyway. The décor was very modern (in 1971) with an emphasis on the style of Picasso apparently though I couldn't see it myself, apart from a couple of prints on the wall. Plenty of wood panelling was the order of the day and a little too much furniture for the size of the room. Two comfortable and decent sized twin beds, a desk and chair and tables and chairs competed for space with large bedside cabinets.
An old fashioned TV with lots of channels, but nothing much in English, sat atop the well stocked mini bar. Although it wasn't blisteringly hot, the AC kept the room comfortable.
The Bathroom kept to the 'small is beautiful' theme, but it was recently renovated and was spotlessly clean. There were the usual toiletries (nothing fancy) but a nice touch were the bathrobes and slippers. No problems with the hot water and the shower worked a treat.
The balcony was small as well (surprise, surprise) but I shouldn't really complain as finding a balcony in a city centre hotel is never easy. Having said that, it was large enough for a couple of chairs and the views were splendiferous. We could look down the street to the beach and across to the port, out over the city and the Cathedral and to the right, the Alcazar. The view was especially amazing at night with the city and the Alcazar lit up before us.
The hotel also had a roof top terrace where we could look down on the bull ring. There was a bull fight when we were there and we could even look down and watch it...if we'd wanted too.
As for amenities, the hotel has a restaurant and bar, neither of which we used, a spa/massage and hot tub on the roof terrace (ditto) and a gym which we also managed to avoid. There is no shortage of shops bars, cafes and restaurants in the immediate area.
Although I can find no fault with this hotel, arguably the best feature was the location. It was so close to everything that Malaga had to offer and, although it was very central, being on a high floor meant that it wasn't very noisy. In fact with the window closed at night, there was little or no traffic noise at all. The price wasn't too bad either at just over £50 a night room only.
In conclusion, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this hotel to anyone visiting Malaga, just make sure to get a room on a high floor for the peace and quiet, and the views.
With all the fantastic craft beers available from Belgium, why would anyone be drinking a macro brew like Jupiler? ...Anybody?
Ach, I'll drink almost any beer me. What can I say? Sometimes, especially with the summer we had this year, a cold fizzy one is just what you want and it's nice to vary the brand occasionally.
Having been around for about 60 years, Jupiler is Belgium's best known and most popular beer. They also sponsor Belgium's top league and the national football team. On the downside, they are owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev - so ancient brewing crafts won't be discussed here.
"This delicious lager is brewed with the finest ingredients (malt, maize, water, hop, yeast), Jupiler has an outspoken image of masculinity, courage and adventure."
Maize? sigh At least it's a 'manly' beer I suppose...
My wife phoned to ask me what we needed from the shops.
I said, "Beer."
"No we don't," she moaned. "What do we really need?"
I replied, "Bleach, I suppose."
If she won't let me drink, I might as well kill myself.
Back to the beer...
Jupiler pours a very pale yellow colour topped with a smallish white head of foam that doesn't last too well but still manages to leave a little lacing on the glass.
The aroma is initially of bready malts but there is a light floral note in the background. It's not the headiest of brews.
It's pretty light bodied and as for taste, again it's the malt that's to the fore with grainy, bready and biscuity flavours most prominent. It turns a little more herby and grassy at the back with the merest hint of lemon in the finish with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
At 5.2% ABV, it's not the most interesting Belgian beer I've ever tasted (it's probably not even in the top 100), but it's OK. Well, that's about it wrapped up in one word (is OK one word?). It's fizzy and inoffensive with no really bad characteristics, but nothing special either. I remember drinking this in Belgium years ago and thinking that it was pretty good. Maybe having been taken over by A-B InBev, it's become a little poorer in quality.
It's drinkable, and thirst quenching, but in the future when I want a fizzy lager, I'll just buy whatever is on special offer in Asda.
Would I drink it again? - Yes, but I wouldn't buy it.
Vondel, named for the Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679) which I'm sure you were all well aware of, is a strong and dark, bottle-conditioned ale from the Riva Brewery in Dentergem (a branch of Liefmans Breweries). Their history goes back to 1896 when they mainly brewed local table beers. In the 1970s they started producing 'special ales' such as St Arnoldus, Lucifer and Vondel. They are part of the brewery group which also includes Liefmans and Straffe Hendrik, so they're in good company. Both Lucifer and Vondel won the gold medal at the World Beer Cup 2004 in their category
Zoetig, karamellig en kruidig"
What? You mean you don't understand Flemish?
It means: Doubly dark, sweet and spicy with caramel (I think).
Doubly dark? Why that's almost black.
Which reminds me...
A guy wakes up in hospital after an operation and sees a pretty young nurse tending him.
Struggling to speak through the oxygen mask, he asks,
"Nurse, are my testicles black?"
Somewhat taken aback, she explains it's not really her job.
"Aw can't you check for me, please?" he pleads.
Reluctantly, she peels back the sheet, grasps his manhood firmly and moves it aside, then gives his testicles a very thorough examination.
"Well," she smiles, "those seem perfect to me."
Removing his mask, he states, "Helluva nice of you to say so, but are my test results back?"
Back to the beer...
This beer POURS a gorgeous, deep ruby-red colour - almost brown - topped by a good half inch of tan-coloured foam which quickly recedes, but doesn't entirely disappear, and leaves some moderate lace on the glass.
The AROMA overflows with dark roasted malt tones. Coffee and toffee, molasses and licorice, and a hint of chocolate with a surprisingly overwhelming sense of sweetness. It's almost sherry-like, and has a faint whiff of oakiness, but not really a lot from the hops.
It's full-bodied and has a slightly sparkly mouth feel from the somewhat aggressive carbonation - although this is due to the bottle conditioning and I wouldn't describe it as gassy. The initial TASTE is sweet, with the emphasis firmly on malt from the darker end of the spectrum (one would normally expect a far more bitter flavour from such heavily roasted malts). It's a little nutty, with more molasses and licorice on the palate which melds into a soft and chewy coffee flavour. Try as I might, I can't sense any hop profile whatsoever, but I suppose that's where the roasted malt comes in and stops it from being cloyingly sweet. As for the spiciness, well there's a nippy, orange-ish note, so I'm guessing a bit of coriander's been added, but don't quote me.
It finishes fairly sweet with an increasingly warm, alcoholic burn in the aftertaste.
* The Verdict *
At 8.5% ABV, this is not a beer to be taken lightly. It's dark, malty and sweet, yet reasonably well balanced. It has a welcoming alcohol warmth to it which, along with the sweet malt character and the ABV, would put it firmly in the winter warmer category for me. I thought it excellent, but then it does have all the complexions of a Scottish Wee Heavy, so that's hardly surprising.
Nope, I really can't find any fault with this - unless, of course, you planned to skelp a six-pack at a BBQ...but then, if you did, you'd deserve all you got.
Would I drink it again? - As long as I don't have to read any Flemish poetry
"Would you like a big bowl of penne pasta?" asked a smirky Mrs p.
Well, I have to admit, it's not my favourite type of pasta but hey, ya gotta eat. So of course I said yes.
So, imagine my surprise when I was presented with a mouth-watering dish of little yellow boabies swimming in a creamy, cheesy white sauce. When I say yellow, they were more of a flesh colour...how very, very authentic.
Oh how I laughed.
" That's no penne pasta!" I protested, " it's, well, it's something entirely different altogether."
"So it is, so it is." She laughed.
What she'd dished up was, in fact, Penis Pasta. Little penis shapes of pasta in an angry, meaning to do business state. Apparently, she'd got this pasta at one of those parties (I've heard of Tupperware and candle parties, but never pasta ones) and thought it would be a jolly wheeze to give me a taste of my own medicine, so to speak.
I was still laughing.
Well, once I stopped laughing I'd have to start eating and something about this whole scenario just didn't stand up. Looking at these little wangers, I thought it was going to be hard on my self respect. But mrs p doesn't give a f...care for my self respect so there was little sympathy in that quarter.
Oh well, being a little bit peckerish, I soon swallowed my pride and dove right in.
Actually, if you closed your eyes, it was just like eating any other type of pasta which as it's made with 100% durum wheat, I suppose it would be. I can't really comment on the taste as pasta doesn't really have much in the way of flavour anyway, but the white sauce coated the pasta shapes well and the sauce was delicious. The pasta was cooked al dente so was firm to the touch (nothing worse than a flaccid p...pasta shape) and stood up well to the cooking process.
So, did I enjoy the pasta? Why yes, yes I did. In fact I gobbled up those little suckers in no time at all.
Would I eat them again? Naw.
You can buy different varieties of penis pasta in a whole range of places, on and off line but it's generally priced as a novelty or gift item at around £4. Fine for a gift, but not for everyday eating...but then who eats penis every day? Not me, that's for sure.
Italy. A land where history, culture, architecture and art drips like olive oil from a crostini. And speaking of haute cuisine, their grub isn't too shabby either. Having just returned from Tuscany, I can certainly vouch for that.
But never mind Florence's art treasures. Or the Etruscan heritage. Not to mention Pucini's villa. Leaning Towers? Pah! What we all really want to know is: What's the beer like? Is it any good?
Well, I didn't drink every beer available...no, really. But here's one I did have.
MENABREA are a family concern who have been brewing beer for over 150 years in the Italian town of Biella. These days, they have a 'partnership' with the larger brewer, Forst.
They brew a few different products, but probably their most successful, and the one this review concerns, is the imaginatively titled lager, BIRRA MENABREA.
According to their website, it's a bottom fermented, export quality premium lager brewed with malt, maize, hops, yeast and water...wait a minute. Maize? Oh dear.
While I was in Pisa, I saw a little old man sitting by the roadside and I couldn't help noticing how happy and contented he looked. "What's your secret for a long happy life?" I asked him.
"I smoke 60 cigarettes a day," he said. "I also do a gramme of chico, a couple of spliffs every night, a case of whisky a week, I only eat Big Macs, never exercise, and swallow every pharmaceutical known to man."
"Wow!" I said, "and how old are you?"
"Twenty-six next Tuesday."
Back to the beer...
WHAT THEY SAY:
"A well-balanced beer with a marked floral fruitiness coming through from the aromatic yeasts.
Pale yellow appearance, moderately light bodied, mild bitterness, taste: excellent"
This beer pours a somewhat anemic, pale golden colour with masses of tiny of bubbles streaming to a decent, though short-lived, head of white foam. There's not much lacing left on the glass.
The aroma is a little grassy, with some floral hops and a hint of biscuity malt. It's not exactly parting your nostrils to assail your olfactory glands though - very subtle on the nose.
It has quite a smooth mouthfeel, but it's definitely over-carbonated (on the website, they state how much Co2 they put in each bottle...not a good sign). The initial taste is sharp, acidic and bitter which is soon overwhelmed by a sugary-sweet flavour. Midway, there's a metallic edge to it, which cuts away the sweetness before the sharp bitterness once again dominates towards the finish and leaves a dry, and overly bitter aftertaste. If there was any fruit flavour in this, I missed it.
At 4.8% ABV, I can't say I was impressed with this beer. It wasn't particularly bad (it wasn't particularly good either), it was just nondescript and almost forgettable. Think any one of a 100 Euro-lagers and you'll have some idea of what this beer was like. It was refreshing enough, but it was ice-cold - I shudder to think what it would have been like if'n I'd given it a chance to warm up.
A run-of-the-mill fizzy lager which, in a blindfold test, could pass for anything (apart from a quality beer, that is).
Would I drink it again? - Maybe, but not blindfolded...what a mess.
OLD SPECKLED HEN was first brewed in Abingdon, Oxfordshire to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the local MG car factory. WHY? I hear you ask. Well, sit back, relax, and I'll tell you.
"The name is actually derived from the term "owld speckled 'un", used to describe an old MG car which was used as a factory run-around. Through time, this strange, canvas-covered saloon became covered with flecks of paint and was dubbed the "owld speckled 'un" by locals."* There you are, simple and completely uninteresting.
* Abridged from: http://www.oldspeckledhen.co.uk
The brewing of Old Speckled Hen was transferred in 1999 from Abingdon in Oxfordshire to Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. These days Greene King brews all its beers in Bury St Edmunds.
My son once ended up in hospital after he drank a beer.
Well, it was my last one.
Back to the beer...
OSH is a rich and strong ale and is available as a cask ale in pubs across the country but, for those of us who don't have access to this beer on draught ,it is widely available in 500 ml bottles and cans at supermarkets and off licences.
In the glass Morland Old Speckled Hen POURS to a rich and sparkling, dark amber to russet colour with a warm, inviting, reddish tone. It has a very distinctive AROMA which is sweet, nutty and fruity with very rich, toasted malt undertones. It's also a little floral and a yeasty bakery tone. With good carbonation, there's a fairly decent, creamy off-white head which isn't particularly long-lasting but still leaves a nice lace effect.
It's medium bodied with a well rounded mouth feel and an extremely smooth TASTE that is slightly bitter, but it also has a toffee sweetness. The texture is excellent, frothy and smooth, with a snappy, bitter hop tang throughout that is well balanced by slightly sweet underlying malts. The finish leaves a pleasant aftertaste of hops with a hint of a medicinal flavour.
Apparently the distinctive fruity and malty flavour comes from a mix of pink and crystal malts and a strain of yeast first used in the 1890's. Morland's also use Goldings hops which are a very typical English variety.
At 5.2% ABV, it's a somewhat dry but satisfying beer. OSH is a fairly rich, robust and extremely drinkable Pale Ale. It makes for a great session beer as it goes down really well with no visible effort. It's not the greatest Pale Ale in the world, but it's very pleasant and I would have no trouble sinking a few of these.