Sunday, 30 September 2007

State Visit

A brief visit to Albion to help fund Steve Jobs's retirement. I stayed in the Leicestershire countryside with the august Mr Ashley. There was significant consumption of some excellent ale and cider. Steaming Billy at the Bewicke Arms would probably come top of the list, principally because it is the only one I can remember. The visit concluded with an overnight stay in Essex where I took the Boozer's Communion as evidenced by the white tablecloth and pints of lager. For the record Chicken Jalfrezi, boiled rice and Tarka Dal which presumably has some otter in it. Ashley had King Prawn something. Excellent meal. Bizarrely, the pub/hotel in Braintree where we had our English aperitif (two pints of Greene King Abbot, no nibbles) before the Indian had their Christmas tree up and illuminated. We are all going to hell in a handcart.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Up in them thar hills

To the Alps on Sunday for an event where lots of faux-Germans walked around wearing funny hats. That out of the way, off to a ristoro nearly 3,000 feet up for a splendid lunch. First things first 'though and we stopped at a hideous bar at the bottom of a ski lift for an aperitif. I had a glass that comes from a quite confused grape called Traminer which may (or may not, dependent on who you talk to) be linked to the Sauvignon Blanc gene but is very definitely the poor cousin of the fragrant Gewurtztraminer (can't find the sodding umlaut*) but nice enough as a sharpener. Poor quality nibbles again and the specimen on the other side of the table is absolutely nothing to do with me.
*That's a Kraut u with two dots over it. Do I have to explain everything?

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Yours for €1,500!

I saw this pretty little tractor ages ago, so I stopped and asked the genetically criminal smallholder who was melting down stolen copper in his yard whether it was for sale. Hearing my foreign accent, he brightened up considerably, sucked one of his few remaining teeth for about 30 seconds whilst looking up at the sky and wondering how much he might be able to fleece me for. "We've 'ad 'er since new" he equivalented in Italian, "and 'er be one o' the family. But......she's yours for one thousand and a 'alf" Unsurprisingly, it's still there, by the road, lonelier than ever. Any takers?

Thursday, 13 September 2007

A First! And a Last!

It is the sensible Italian custom after a heavy dinner to take a digestivo - something alcoholic to help one digest all that lovely grub.

Standard issue is grappa, but more of that at another date. There is also amaro which is Italian for bitter and that's what it tastes like, being an infusion of alcohol and herbs.

I had been out for a six-courser with Giulio the Singer (above) the other night and we pitched up at a bar looking for a digestivo at about one in the morning. He uttered those words that invariably mean trouble is looming, but seem like a good idea at the time. "Don't you worry, leave this to me."

I did leave it to him and this is what we got. Two Mandarin Punches. Sweet. Sticky. Hot. And very alcoholic. I can honestly say that this is a drink that I will gladly refuse on an improbable second occasion.

Giulio rang me the next day. "Why did I order that? Why?"

Why indeed. Well might the bar owner laugh. That's the first time she's opened that bottle since she took over the bar six years ago.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Another aperitivo please, barman!

A bit of a gap as I have been involved in what has been (quite frankly) a risible attempt to lose some weight. Summer is the time here in Italy when the diet should be a little lighter (tomatoes) but some terrifying levels of wine consumption put the kibosh on that. Anyway, it has been a virtually booze-free two weeks with (predictably) very little to show for it. So, in an effort to make up for lost time and alcohol, I gave it a bit of a caning last night. It was the "Festa delle Feste" in the nearby town where all the local villages come in and sell their local speciality dish (lots of tripe, for example, they like their offal the Italians). Everything is served on plastic plates with plastic cutlery and plastic glasses. Glasses topped right up of excellent white (Cortese) or red (Barbera or Dolcetto) at 40 cents (60p) a go. Yeah, read it and weep, you beer-crazed northern European savages.

Anyway, that's enough of that. Before I got stuck in I went to a local bar for a Spritz which is a reasonably common aperitif here. Lots of ice in a tumbler, a slice of orange, a good glug of Prosecco and then it's topped off with a decent belt of Campari or Red Martini and maybe a splash of tonic, and bingo! down she goes. Fizzy, yet bitter and very refreshing with a decent kick. Again, this is the sort of drink which, should you order it in the United Kingdom, would probably result in at least two weeks in hospital, but this being Italy, blokes drink this as well as totty. And quite right too.
The poor quality picture above chimes perfectly with the rubbish nibbles that were served with my drink.