Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Boy Dung Good

I always know when Signor Alessandro is pitching up with his annual consignment of manure; the noise of his misfiring tractor is usually followed pretty swiftly by the most glorious pong. This steaming load was quickly distributed by hand on the 2009 newly-enlarged vegetable plots, much to Mrs Combo's disgust as the whiff hangs around for quite a while, especially when the sun comes out. Having worked in advertising and pr for quite a while, I find myself quite at home with it.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Ham it Up

After a fairly exacting weekend with The Intrepid One what better way to wind down than with a tasting of fine prosciutto crudo* at a local vineria. There were four different types, all sensational, each from a pig with a bloodline bluer than The Duke of Edinburgh's. Everything was washed down with decent local fizz. Apologies for the glass of water, can't think what that was doing there.

*Parma ham for you slavering Brits, although three of them weren't from Parma but from Tuscany. As if I care.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Lord Curzon of Kedleston

I may be straying into Unmitigated territory here, but I can't resist this story. It concerns Lord Curzon's comedown, when his lordship's steward finally felt obliged to try and moderate the household expenses. He drew up a list of the staff at Kedleston Hall. It was the third assistant to the pastry chef that caught his eye. With elaborate discretion and much throat clearing he hinted to his lordship that such a member of staff might be a little, um, superfluous. "So it's come to this" spluttered the Viceroy to India, "a fellow can't have a biscuit with his tea!"

Monday, 13 April 2009

An Oyster Frenzy

A friend from France has brought me some oysters, said Mauri on the telephone, why don't you come around and we'll have a chat about Vinitaly and how you can help me sell my wines in Inghilterra. I went round like a shot. I thought there might be a dozen oysters in the frame but the Froggie had bought a barrel full. Now I am not one for original thoughts but one of the few I have had is that the Mediterranean is, frankly, a filthy, stinking, open sewer. I mean, it is effectively the repository for all the, er, waste products spewed out by (clockwise) Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey etc etc. My host country chucks whatever it can get away with into the Med, so just imagine all those charming discharges from some of the north African countries. And the water never changes, it just sort of swills around as if in a gentle pre-wash cycle. Hardly any tides either (interestingly, Italian school children can't quite understand High Tides and Low Tides, just as they cannot understand how Britain can exist without identity cards, but that's for another post). Anyway, these oysters were from the Cote d'Azur and if the Ron Combo School of Maritime Hygiene were to be correct I should still be in hospital. However, they were quite excellent. We knocked 'em off with a good bottle of Prosecco, an extremely disappointing magnum of NV Laurent Perrier and a superb De Ferrari fizzer from Trento. My zinc levels went through the roof. Yum yum.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

At The Wheel

A demanding day at Vinitaly in Verona, the world's second biggest wine fair. It started at 10.15am with a refreshing glass of unoaked Chardonnay with this lot. An acquaintance, the owner is a disgustingly young and wealthy Anglo-South African, who makes some serious kit and is an all-round decent chap. Then we carried on throughout the day working our way around the different Italian regions and ending up in the Slow Food reception room, drinking excellent Italian fizz from Franciacorte. All free. I am such a pig sometimes. The fair lasts for five days and is huge. Even if your liver could take five days of relentless slurping, you still couldn't visit all the regions present. It wasn't all plain sailing however. I went over to the fair with Mauri, a friend who knows his onions when it comes to wine. Leaving Verona we hit a two hour traffic jam during which we covered just eight kilometres. When we finally got past it, I was wondering why Mauri was only doing 60 kph. I looked across and saw that he was fast asleep, but keeping a good line nonetheless. I woke him up, suggested we stop for a bite to eat and a nice cold beer* and that I carry on with the driving. Got home at midnight, a broken man.

*The joy of Italy: they serve booze in motorway service stations.

Friday, 3 April 2009

The Latest Doctor

Mrs Combo's doctor dropped off his perch this morning, in full harness if I may mix my metaphors horribly, as he conducted his morning surgery. Ugo was an outstanding graduate of the Ron Combo School of Drinking and an even more enthusiastic smoker. So much so that he invariably chain smoked in his surgery*, much to the disgust of his coughing and hacking flock. The Italian idiom is that he smoked like a Turk; much more colourful than our rather anodyne chimney. Ugo was 57. Heart attack of course.

*Yes, of course it's banned. This is Italy for Gods's sake.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Oh No!

This morning I collected a couple of cases of Smooth Tony's excellent Prosecco. Making my way into the hellhole that is our cantina (cellar), I realised that the jumble of boxes, empty bottles, bikes, kitchen stuff, old chairs, strings of onions and trays of potatoes would have to be put into some sort of order in order to allow the Prosecco to reach the wine racks. I cleared a path through and had to stop with a heavy heart and a curse on my lips when I saw the awful scene racked up before me. Eighteen bottles of Sauvignon Bianco, twelve of Cab Franc and ten of Raboso (all Smooth Tony's from 2007) that I'd missed, hidden behind the fruits of my irredeemable untidyness and laziness. And these are on top of the all the bottles that I haven't cracked yet. And we are about to bottle the 2008 vintage which arrived last week. Bugger! This is stuff that needs drinking NOW! The Intrepid One is coming over after Easter but we'll struggle to clear about twelve litres each over three days. Hmmm, although thinking about it......