Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Our Christmas dinner

Wink had bought me a seasonal cookbook, Elizabeth David's Christmas. Compiled by Jill Norman, ED's longstanding editor, from articles and recipes for a book which never reached fruition in this great author's lifetime. As with all her books it makes a very good read as well as having lots of good recipes.

We had decided to have a capon this Christmas as there were only two of us (aaah!) so we bought a chapon de Loué weighing 1.6kg as suggested in the recipe and not the big bruiser one normally expects.

As suggested I prepared tomatoes with rice and walnut stuffing which cooked in the oven during the last 30 minutes roasting time.

The other vegetables were
brussels sprouts enhanced with chestnuts, and roasted parnsips. A little wine stirred in the roasting pan made a light gravy for our Christmas meal.

Whilst roasting the bird we had our aperitif:
Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Kabinett 2002
Lovely elegant wine with a touch of lime on the nose and just off-dry. Good minerality, medium-bodied, refreshing completed by a long finish.

And with our meal we delved into the past with a mature Burgundy:
Faiveley Nuits St Georges Premier Cru, Clos de la Maréchale 1991
Good red in colour with brown rim. Aged blackberries on the nose with a touch of vegetal, this wine belied its age still being robust in body and flavour - chaptalised in what not a great Burgundy vintage. However the wine went well with the capon as none of the accompaniments were too strong in flavour. We enjoyed this little gem from the Webber's Wine Bar cellar - and we still have a bottle left!

The wines

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas 2008

It was great to be back at Chalet Balaena where the snow was deep and crisp and even - a positive start to the ski season.

Chalet Balaena

Chalet Balaena with the mountain towering behind...

... and the chapel in the old village, just down the road from us.

While Wink took her new tenant, Will, to show him the slopes I warmed up with a few gentle skis at Outalay

before pausing for a vin chaud!

The next day was Christmas Eve so we went down to the market in Grand Bornand to buy vegetables,

ham and saucisson (I'm not sure about that one in the middle),

as well as gazing at the seasonal specialities of foie gras, snails and Grand Bornand smoked salmon.

As always the cheery M. Bozon jnr looked after us.

To Champion supermarket, where we appreciated their best wishes for the season.

We enjoyed the cornucopia of shellfish

and bid farewell to this fine lobster.

To complete our trip to Thones we visited the Christmas market

where we were warmed by the 'ritual burning of the pallet'

before enjoying a vin chaud, warmed above this unusual log fire. Using a hollowed green log, the fire consumes it slowly throughout the day.

Cheerily served - everyone is imbued with the Christmas spirit.

Back home, we decorated the Christmas tree and strewed presents around it.

Christmas Day and the forecast was promising after a cloudy start.

We set off for the slopes and, having arrived at the top,

fortified ourselves with a hot chocolate and rum!

We skied and snowboarded till lunchtime which we enjoyed up high with Will and Hazel.

Boxing Day was even brighter and we set off again to enjoy the snow, sun and blue skies

as well as great views

with Wink in front of Pointe Percée

and me!

We rounded off our morning with lunch at La Taverne with a bottle of Apremont, the essential mountain frites, endives au gratin

and the company of Yvonne and Juliette as well as Phil.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Autumn Sunday in Greenwich

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."
Albert Camus

With another sunny day forecast we went to Greenwich Park where the views were a bit hazy at first.

When we reached the top of One Tree Hill the sun had burnt off some of the mist and the views north became clearer - I'm sure you can see Limehouse...

From the photos I took it would seem that the vistas over London were more important than the foliage!

Wink enjoyed tree hugging, an activity that hasn't been seen for some time.

In need of suitable refreshment we continued into the town avoiding the fleshpots of the centre and made our way to Royal Hill, an attractive street, where we found two pubs next door to each other: The Richard 1 and The Greenwich Union.

We chose the latter and, from a small menu, I chose roast lamb (here seen with its own Yorkshire pud!) and Wink one of the vegetarian dishes.

As this pub is owned by Meantime Brewery I had a pint of bitter and Wink the Santa Julia Tempranillo Malbec from Argentina. It was pleasant to enjoy our meal in the garden behind the pub.

On our return to the Park we passed this autumnal display (I have used this photo for the latest wine club case).

And we bid a greeting to these two gentlemen relaxing after their Sunday lunch.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cups runneth over

Every wine region celebrates the vintage in its own particular way, and I did enjoy this story of how the wine flowed in the Italian town of Marina.

I am reminded of when we used to visit an old uncle whose kitchen sink sported 3 taps - the middle one, I was told (I was of an impressionable age) provided beer...

It's good to see this idea emulated in Italy!

Monday, September 29, 2008


We were off on a little wine tour, this time to Clairette de Die, when we broke our journey in Seyssel, yet another vineyard area on the Rhône.

Seyssel is just outside the Savoie and is known in the UK for its bottle-fermented sparkling wines, especially Varichon et Clerc Royal Seyssel (more about this later).

Just above Seyssel we climbed up through the vineyards to the village of Corbonod where we visited Maison Mollex, a wine producer and négociant. Their own production is sparkling, and still white wine made with 100% Roussette (the Altesse of Savoie).

Hence their 'smart' delivery lorry to supply local clients!

We visited the cave and saw their stocks of maturing sparkling wine. Very occasionally a bottle will explode but they are stacked in such a way that no damage is done to the neighbouring bottles.

The bottles are disgorged, to remove the sediment, à la volée – always interesting to see.

We tasted a couple of their Roussettes, preferring La Péclette 2006, from the eponymous 5ha vineyard. "Lovely ripe peachy fruit on the nose this just off-dry wine has good balancing acidity with a meaty finish."

As it was now midday we drove down to Seyssel where we had lunch at the Hotel Beausejour, the yellow building to the right, by the river.

Whilst Wink wisely ordered a seafood salad I indulged in the local speciality, La Friture, not dissimilar to whitebait. Accompanying it was a bowl of quinoa and tomato, so at least there was some healthy eating...

... though I had to have an ice cream!

To complete our visit to Seyssel we continued to the outskirts of the town to the Cave de Vins Lambert, an interesting wine shop that Wink was researching for Wine Travel Guides.

There we met Gérard Lambert who told us that he had bought the rights to produce Royal Seyssel, a sparkling wine made in Seyssel since the start of the 20th century by Varichon et Clerc. This company had been taken over by Boisset, a Burgundy négociant, who'd let its reputation slip.

So Gérard had negotiated (hah!) to buy Royal Seyssel in order to restore it to its former glory. He has built a new aging facility behind his wine shop and he proudly showed us the wine maturing. Good luck to Gérard in his brave endeavour!