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spinach meatball

Spinach Kale Cheese Balls with Quick Harissa

What I love about my new neighborhood, which is one of the best areas as far as the livability goes, there is a huge park where you can jog or play tennis or all sorts of activities happen all the time. I watched a classical concert and Eurasia dance show all by chance. On top of that, you can eat a big open-buffet breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning. Every Monday a big, I mean a HUGE farmer’s market (you can check go on to Son Mastori and click on the link) and there is also an organic market every Wednesday. If not at those farmers’ markets, there is still a small indoor traditional market where I usually shop for my everyday needs.

“Let’s support small grocers!”

I never buy groceries at supermarkets. No matter how cheaper things are in supermarkets and no matter how many ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free‘ deals there are to tempt me. I love the interactions with people. I don’t get ripped off in this neighborhood as I used to. Quite the opposite. People are super friendly, especially my local grocer, who I’ll take a photo of one day because he looks really funny. And there is a guy at the bakery, who gives me extra acibadem(bitter almond) cookies every time I go there. I made a joke to Mr.O that he might fancy me and got a fiery eye shot – yes, Turkish men are jealous creatures. There is even a bakery that makes good sourdough bread, Cadde Firin, which is way better than the chain bakery, Komsufirin, and there is a small shop owned by an old man that sells village eggs and cheese he’s proud of. Also, I can walk to the posh boulevard, Bagdat St, to shop for my wines and other things.

These days when I go to my local grocers, I notice bright and vibrant green spinach and kale, which I love. I once worked in a vegetarian cafe back in Sydney,  I was eating a spinach filo roll for lunch every day, sometimes spinach lasagna to alternate my menu. Give me spinach, I’ll cook it with rice and eggs, and serve it sprinkled with chili peppers. I put spinach in sushi, too!

When I buy spinach and kale, I blanch it immediately to minimise nutrient losses, and for a more practical reason that it takes up too much space in the fridge and if I see it later, I’ll feel overwhelmed. I wilt it in near boiling water quickly, rinse it in cold still water and squeeze out the liquid, which is not good for you, and keep it in a container and use it whenever I want it; throw it into various dishes including my typical spinach bean soup, which I cook with anchovies. What?? Yes, anchovies make everything taste good, umami, yeah! Spinach is also handy for making a quick omelet for a weekday lunch.

It’s good even for a weekday dinner. One evening I didn’t have anything to cook in the fridge except blanched spinach. I crave pasta all the time – who doesn’t?- but then, I look at my belly and go for a healthier alternative. So instead of making spinach pasta, I decided to put a bit more effort by turning it into a Turkish Italian dish. I first blended 1 cup of blanched spinach(or kale or a bit of both), 1 spring onion, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and 1 egg in a food processor and added a little buckwheat flour to be able to make it into balls – you can use bread crumb, of course. I pan-fried them, using my secret method, but you can bake them for 15 mins or so.

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In the meantime, I decided on the sauce. Rich creamy Alfredo!  Then, I look at my belly again….. and I improvised the Manti (Turkish ravioli) sauce, which is made of yogurt. I don’t like yogurt in main dishes, but I thought I could make creamy sauce using yogurt instead of milk. I melted a little butter in a pan and stirred it into yogurt with a little water and salt. It was looking good. So I went ahead to make the highlight of the dish, spicy harissa! Without the harissa, this dish might have been bland, or maybe not.

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In a small sauce pan, I simply fried minced garlic, smoked paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander and chili powder, but the aroma was just like harissa, even the taste. I sprinkled dried and fresh mint and we ate. Hmm….is it Turkish or Italian? Well, a bit of both, and we liked it. It might be far from being authentic but it gives you the idea that Alfredo sauce can be made with yogurt and also whip up the delicious and aromatic condiment, harissa, not quite the rich smokey pepper paste but still…. SO GOOD when you want to spice up your dish and your mind. With some grated Pamesan cheese, you will hardly notice that it was made with yogurt. Don’t give up Alfredo pasta when you don’t have milk or cream and utilise what you have.

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There are many recipes for harissa, so I won’t write down the recipe. Am I overestimating my readers? I’m sure if you’re reading my blog, you must know what cooking means. But don’t put tomato paste into my harissa, please. Behind this excuse is the truth that I don’t like writing recipes; I’d rather talk and think up recipes.

There is a story that when the most famous Turkish dish, Hünkar Beğendi, was served to the wife of Napoleon III, she liked it so much that she sent her chef to Topkapi Palace to learn the recipe just to be told, “An imperial chef only needs his heart, his eyes and his nose.”

I’ll bring more exciting and inspiring posts soon. 🙂

Finding Best Jura Wines and Comté / Jura Gastronomy

Ok, let me take you on a journey of the Jura and its gastronomy including the wines and Comté. This region, shadowed by Bordeaux and Burgundy, is not very well-known. Even the cheese, Comté , is not as famous as its competitor, Gruyère. I threw this question, “Which cheese is the best among  and Beaufort ?” to French people. It’s a darn hard question if you’re a cheese lover. Ok, then, “Which cheese is stinkier Comté or Gruyère?” To my surprise, Gruyère. Hmm…my obsession with cheese led me to a Gruyère fruitière 2 years ago but it didn’t sweep me off feet as much as Comte did.

Before this trip, I visited by chance a Comte fromagerie, caves de affinage, where cheeses are ripened, but I didn’t have a camera with me at that time and only hoped to have another chance for a visit, which didn’t happen. I still remember the shock, the strong, sharp ammonia odor stinging my nostrils and then my eyes – I couldn’t keep my eyes open – when I walked inside the ripening room. I couldn’t believe the smell was real; no smell of cheese! Wheels of cheese on different shelves were at different stages of ripeness and the older it ages the smaller the thickness is. We bought two big pieces, weighing approx. 850g each of young Comte, aged 8 months, and old Comte, aged 24 months. You would probably remember these appearing in a few previous posts as I gnawed at them little by little almost every day like a little mouse with a big tummy.

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Finally, we’re going to the town of Comte! On Day one, heading toward Poligny, I was so excited about tasting different Comte cheese. I relied on my local guide, Cyrille, for finding the best Comte fromagerie and he relied on his brother’s, which was very useful – “There are three stores in the square. Go to the one  in the middle.”

Standing at the small square with three fromageries in sight in a form of triangle. Which one is the middle? Well…sigh… but somehow my instinct pulled me towards this one, so we entered and did our first real tasting.

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Oh…this is it! I’ve found it finally! The Comte cheese there was not only delicious but also took my memory back to the very first Comte I had in Sydney that had cast a French cheese spell on me. It was nothing like other Comte cheeses I’d tasted up to that point. My endeavor paid off. How was the cheese different? The 18 month-old was super fruity and creamy, and 28 month-old super nutty and mushroomy. The 24 month-old, which we bought a small slice for gratitude without tasting in the shop, had a distinctive flavour of orange, pineapple and toasted nuts, and above all, had salt crystals as you might see in the photos. That salt crystals aren’t so common in Comte cheeses as in Parmesan, but that is what I tasted and liked in Sydney. – update: I found a website of the fromagerie, Vagne, and it is located in Chateau-Chalon! I see myself going there one day. It looks very pretty.

poligny

Even though I’d found THE cheese, I still wanted to try some more just in case I’d find a better one – typical human nature, maybe just mine. The next one might be THE middle one Cyrille’s brother meant. Oh la la~~all of the Comte were so so salty, especially the first 32 month-old Comte, and I had to sneekily put the slices of samples given in my jacket pocket.

poligny-comte

Well, we might as well try the last fromagerie. There we bought Mimolette instead of Comte. By then, I’d developed the sense to detect good Comte cheese by the look and smell and none of their Comte looked nice and the actual taste was very bland. So we returned to the first shop and bought 3 kg of Comte cheese, some for me, some for friends, and some for charity auction – sounds weird. huh? 🙂

The night fell. It was too late to visit wineries so we went to a supermarket to familiarise ourselves with labels and varieties, then I spotted Chateau-Chalon and couldn’t take my eyes off the bottle for some reason. Before the trip, I didn’t study about Jura wines and wineries, which is my way of trusting my instinct and removing prejudices and allowing unexpected adventures to happen.

I bought the bottle to celebrate the first day of our wine trip after dinner, but fast-forward time, we didn’t get to drink it that night and opened it after the trip back at Cyrille’s house. I will tell you the conclusion: it was THE Jura wine I was expecting. Cyrille instantly fell in love with Chateau-Chalon and every time he sipped it, a big happy smile cracked across his big face. I will tell you more about Chateau-Chalon in another post so please bear with me and let’s experience the Jura cuisine.

poligny-wine

Poligny is a bit of a dead town and there wasn’t much going on. After visiting Arbois, we wished we had gone straight and stayed there. The only place I felt like entering among two options available was Casa…something, sorry I forgot, with a long pizza menu. But I was glad that they had some other dishes worth a try. The entrée with smoked duck breast, magret de canard fumé and Girolles, local mushrooms, was very delicious.

poligny-food

For the main, Cyrille got a horse steak and I got local river fish gratin cooked in Vin Jaune with Morilles, the expensive mushrooms. Cooking with Vin Jaune, why not? Hmm…it sounded better than it tasted, though the Morilles (Morels) were worth tasting.  And my dessert, fondant au chocolate, was great, too.

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The sights of vineyards with yellow and red vine leaves on the way to Arbois the next day were really beautiful. We stopped at a couple of vineyards but none was open because it was All Saints Day.

poligny-vineyard

Straight to the town centre then.

arbois town

And start tasting some Jura wines. At the first cooperative, we tasted various wines by Domaine Rolet Pere et Fils. Browsing through the shelves, I saw Trousseau, which I’d been keen to try since I arrive in the Jura. Trousseau is another red grapes alongside more popular Poulsard and Pinot Noir. Jura reds are also quite good, which isn’t hard to figure out when you know the geography of France – it’s one hour away from the red Burgundy.

When tasting wines in Jura, you have to break the rule of white-first-then-red, because Jura whites are more powerful than reds. My previous tasting of Poulsard wines didn’t satisfy and one of the reason was the lack of tannins and complexity; Pinot Noir-like but without the Noir, I suppose. I tasted Trousseau 2007 for the first time along with Poulsard just to compare, and Trousseau still won. It was quite different, more aromatic and earthier, though it looks the same, with its pale ruby colour. Even the red seemed to have a slightly oxidated taste, if I remember correctly. We moved on to the whites, Savagnin 2006, Vin Jaune 2005, and Vin de Paille. I thought they were all interesting but I couldn’t have any opinions on them as it was the first tasting.

But, though it was the first stop, we felt like we’d visited 5 places at least. Jura wines are pretty strong and tend to tire your palate more quickly even if I spat most out so you need to take it easy.

Next, we went to Domain de la Pinte, whose owner and producer was very helpful and patiently attended us.

arbois

Pinot Noir 2006, Les Grandes Gardes, aged 18 months in a barrel  was very firm and spicy with a good balance.The whites, Savagnin and Melon a queue Rouge, which I thought was a red wine, but it’s a local Chardonnay variety with a red stem; how interesting! It was very different to Burgundian Chardonnay, less buttery and nutty, but fruitier with higher acidity, which I liked about the wine.

arbois pinte

OMG, their Vin Jaune was just amazing, I mean really complex and elegant, not overly sweet and woody like some of the vin jaunes I’d drunk. It had a particular lingering taste that reminded me of exotic tropical fruits such as guava, the fragrant taste of both sweet and tart. As I was murmuring guava, the owner said, “coing?”, which means quince in French. Ah, yeah, that! Merci!

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Their Paradoxe is actually what would have been called Vin de Paille, had the abv was higher than 14%, but at 11.5%, this sweet wine made both Cyrille and me go, “WOW!”. It was unique; it was aromatic; it was delicious; it was memorable. It had all the characteristics of vin de paille but seemed to be more…how should I put it? More refined? I didn’t know the wines were biodynamic and whether or not the biodynamic thing has anything to do with the taste of the wines, we had a good time there.

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Quite a lovely ancient village, I thought. If I have another chance, I’d like to spend more time in the town and definitely stay in Arbois, not Poligny; it’s bigger and there are more things to do, and it’s pretty.

Jura wines are definitely not for everyone, but this journey had completed my adventure in search of wine and food in France. I’ve been to more places in France than Cyrille, for example, which makes me proud as a lover of French gastronomy and music. Driving while listening to Charles Trenet, imagine that! Sherry and Port wines… the aged, oxidated, woody and nutty wines, they are good when they are good.

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We explored a little more of the centre and, from there we made a spontaneous trip to Burgundy. I just wanted to revisit the area while the vineyards looked beautiful in all colours and to revise my previous Burgundy wine tours. We drove through Salin-les-Bains, Auxonne and all the way to Gevry Chambertin. Salin-les-Bains was a strange town, which was recommended by Cyrille’s brother, again, and we found nothing there except closed shops and a big fancy casino restaurant.

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Saying bye-bye to Arbois, we headed for Burgundy. I thought it’d be a good experience for Cyrille, who had never been to Burgundy and who likes Pinot Noir. Thank you for reading and you can look forward to my Burgundy, revisited! IMG_8881 copy

Review: Raw Wine London 2017 – Part 1

Hello! I’m now back home from London and am adjusting to a ‘normal’ life. I know you’ve been waiting to hear from me! Finally, I’ll share some of the experiences but first, I’ll review Raw Wine London. The Raw Wine Fair was more inspirational and educational than any previous wine fairs I’d attended, and I’ll explain why. You might want to grab a glass of wine and sit back before going on because this long post might bore you.

There are so many wines to review and so much to say so I’ve decided to write in two posts. The first one will be about my general impression and a few remarkable wines, followed by the second part, which will feature more memorable wines that are worth a mention.

To start off, why did I attend the event?

I’ve been interested in organic wines ever since the film, Mondovino but wasn’t quite crazy enough to drink ‘only’ organic wine, whose term has evolved into natural wine‘ over time. I’ve always cooked seasonal and healthy, plus some of my wine friends happened to be sensitive to sulfites so it was only natural for me to seek out wines with little additives whenever possible. Then, one day it began to dawn on me that wines from different countries started to taste similar and I started looking for something different.

When I look back on my experiences, the wines that stand out in my memory are those with special stories to tell. Do you remember the wines I wrote about during my adventures in France? The wine that got me so excited? When I saw  Chateau Mirebeau from Bordeaux and Domaine de La Pinte from Jura on the artisan list at Raw Wine, I knew it was my fate to go.

All those years ago, when biodynamic or organic wasn’t much of my concern, these wines crossed my paths and there I went to relive the precious memories of my wine journey and learn more about the ‘trend’.

raw wine

I got there early, following the advice from people who had attended the previous fair that it gets very crowded. Almighty 162 stalls over 60 wine regions across the world! The artisan guide book really helped to navigate the floor and jot down tasting notes.

Chateau Mirebeau

I didn’t know where to start from. It was daunting unless you’d done your research before coming, which wasn’t my case, to be led by senses and instinct. But at least, I had one goal and went straight there, Chateau Mirebeau. I was so excited to have finally met the winemakers and hear their story, and of course, to taste their delicious wines again. I got some tips and recommendations from them and went on my exploration.

The space quickly filled up with wine enthusiasts, who walked around, engaging in conversations and studiously taking notes, and the growers passionately answered all the questions. This interaction, the openness, the honesty and the passion created an exciting atmosphere, which seems to be what sets Raw Wine apart from any other wine fairs out there.

A woman I met there, who flew all the way from Singapore, was exuberant about hand-picking good wines to take back home for newly opened wine business. She was surprised by the scale of the event and the nice people she got to talk to at the event. We both agreed that people were as natural and energetic as the wines.

I tasted about 40 stalls out of 162 over 2 days from 10am -6pm. Good or bad? I guess I could have done better but I think 20 stalls per day were pretty intense. It wasn’t a ‘party’ but rather a ‘workshop’ where I studied and refreshed my knowledge.

Full of Surprises and Emotion

Sure, most of the visitors, who probably are the fans of natural wine and orange wine, seemed to know why they were there, but occasionally there were people like me who stand on the border line, wanting to be swayed over. I think it is a positive thing that people care about how wine is made and the land the grapes come from. To be honest, in the minds of many wine drinkers, natural wine has a connotation of ‘easy drinking’.

But that prejudice was broken and, after tasting various types of natural wine, I got a better understanding of what it truly means.

Chateau le Puy is probably one of them, which proves that serious wines can be made with the philosophy of natural wine. Long established in natural winemaking and very popular in Japan, it was indeed remarkable, especially ‘Barthelemy‘. No added sulfites, no filtration, no fining, and no new oak, but what they do is batonnage according to a lunar calendar, 3 times a day for 2 years! It was delicious, flowing with red forest fruits, grass, spices, fresh acidity and a long elegant finish. Their ‘Emilien’ was also lovely, exhibiting more earthiness and mushroom.

Vignaioli Contrà Soarda, from Veneto, was amazing, too, pure, rich, and full of flavours. Talking to Eleanora, the free-spirited and bold daughter of the Gottardi family, while tasting the wines, one can really sense the passion and energy that goes into what they believe to be the right way of making wine.

Each label shows a different block of vineyard the grapes are sourced from – clever and charming – and their wines are made from Camenere, Pinot Nero, Marzemino and Merlot.

121 Bc (bianco) is a orange wine made with Vespaiolo, which was macerated with skin for 2 weeks and aged in untoasted oak barrels with steam for 6 months. It was racy and complex with aromas of citrus, peach, floral, and a hint of nuttiness and minerality, and had an incredibly long finish. 121 Bc (rosso) was also delicious with intense and complex flavours of cherries, wild berry jam, white pepper, tobacco, cinnamon and a long elegant finish.


She explained to me about their Musso wines with pride and passion. She says that when people talk about terroir, they talk about soil and climate, but not cows and donkeys that roam in the vineyards, so she made this donkey series to provoke people.

Musso Serafino, though it might sound cheeky and playful, the wines are not!  They were well-crafted, clean, and delicious wines, with the Reserva having the potential to age for decades. The design and the wax capsules are all done by her, one by one. What a labour of love!

Actually I noticed many wines had wax capsules at the fair, AND lots of orange wines, which I didn’t expect at all. As you taste wine, you will hear ‘wild yeast, skin contact, unfiltered, unfined, no sulfites’ repeatedly. If wines are as good as these and are good to the nature, I’m in.

nebbiolo wine

The wines from Eugenio Bocchino gave me a big surprise, ‘Is it really made from Nebbiolo??’ Their wines were also a result of labour of love and respect. I tasted Langhe Nebbiolo “Roccabella 2015, which was a soft gentle wine smelling of strawberry and rose, and Barolo, “lu” 2013, which, again, exhibited more ripe red fruits, thyme and warm spices with a complex and lingering aftertaste.

And came Nebbiolo d’Alba, La Perucca 2012, which blew me away. It was very different to all other Nebbiolo wines I’d drunk in the past. Seductive red fruit, floral, herbal aromas brought a smile to my face – always a good sign – and the refreshing and elegant taste with silky tannins made me write a big ‘V’ to its name. Wow… who would have thought Nebbiolo could taste so delicate like Pinot Noir?

White or Orange? Amphora or No amphora? 

One thing that struck me was how many wineries are using the Georgian qvevri winemaking., whether it be the long maceration with skin and stalks or the fermentation in amphorae. Before going to the fair, it didn’t occur to me that I’d be tasting loads of wines fermented in amphorae and ‘orange wine’.

I’ve been to Georgia so I was quite familiar with the style. At the fair, I came across many amphora wines but some of them were too raw and harsh to enjoy and, at one point, I got worried about my teeth falling out because of the high acidity and tannins.

I remember being somewhat puzzled and disappointed by the Sicilian wines made with Nerello Mascalese at a stall of a pretty renown winery. It was a different wine to what stole my heart in Sicily. I even asked, ‘Is it the real flavours of the grape?’ Oh well… I hadn’t had many Nerello Mascalese wines but it was so different, which got me thinking that perhaps amphorae work better with white grapes and selective red varieties. But I’m no expert on that. That’s why I was there to learn in the first place.

I walked around, tasting and making notes, looking for something that would resolve my nagging thoughts. Then I got to Domaine Viret from the Rhone and tasted their wines, which finally answered my questions. Their ‘Dolia Paradis 1’ was different to any other wines fermented in amphorae, and the one of the best I’d tasted at the fair. The reason?

My notes say, ‘silky tannins, softer than most amphora wines, delicate‘. Besides that, it has amazing concentration and depth of dark forest fruit, licorice, chocolate, cinnamon, etc. Simply, yummy! It got a big circle next to its name in my guide book.

‘Mareotis 2012, made from Grenach and Syrah, went through 30 days of maceration and 36 months of ageing, and it was also delicious.

Then came the wine that stole my heart, Dolia Ambre 2015, their so-called orange wine, made from Roussane, Marssane and a little Muscat. It’s delicious and complex, a whiff of orange peel, apricot, honey, rose, ginger, hazelnut, and with a long lingering finish. I couldn’t praise it enough and wanted to just stay there sipping it till the end., and I’m not even a fan of sweet wine!

Gravner is another winery that got my big circle. Made of indigenous grapes, Ribolla for white and Pignolo for red, their whites are very special and delicious. It’s a wine of passion and patience, spending in barrels for 7-10 years after extended fermentation in amphorae! ‘Ribolla 2008‘ was fresh with a touch of vanilla, toffee and marmalade, and my note says, ‘a very long gracious lovely aftertaste‘. Fascinating!

gravner italian wine

A detailed article about the winery is found on Wine Anorak. Bianco Breg 2008, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, had aromas of apricot, lemon blossom, and nuts. Very complex and delicious. Rosso Breg 2004 was a very elegant, fine, complex red with a firm structure. This wine definitely made me rethink about amphora wines.

I was very curious and slightly doubtful about how Alsace would take on the qvevri, so I approached Laurent Bannwarth prudently. Some hazy Riesling and Gewurt, anyone?

I can imagine it would be a strange experience to jump from clear and crisp Riesling, but it turned out to be quite different to what I’d imagined. Ripe stone fruit, pineapple, and marmalade undertone…. very interesting. The most interesting was ‘La Petite Folie’ , which is a semi-sparkling wine made from Gewurztraminer, and it had an aroma of apple, pineapple, a touch of ginger and sweetness. It reminded me of apple cider quite a lot. Their wines are among the most memorable over my 2 day visit, I must say.

Upgrade Your Grape Count – Time for Indigenous Grapes

One of the biggest gains at Raw Wine was the discovery of new indigenous grapes and my grape count went up.

Tuscany had quite a wide list and many got my ‘circle’ marks. Sequericiani is marked as ‘yummy’ and I see a lot of tasting notes scribbled down.

Pugnitello, fermented in amphorae and aged in barrels, deep ruby, has a complex nose of dark fruit and potpourri, and is full-bodied with supple tannins for potential ageing. Another revived ancient grape, Fogliatonda is also a rich full-bodied wine with lush forest fruit, prune and violet. Just look at the colour! Isn’t it gorgeous? I’m drooling looking at the photos.

What I loved the most about these wines were the smell, clean and profound. Such a delight to just sniff away.

Libello is made from Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo and has, yet again, a lovely bouquet of red cherry and blackcurrent and violet with powerful tannins and fresh acidity. 15% of the harvest is picked earlier then the rest and used as a pied de cuve to start fermentation in cement tanks. No external temperature control, no added sulfites and not fined nor filtered, yet clean and delicious.

Then, the passito, Aleatico to finish off. It had only one word written, ‘wow‘. Yes, no more words necessary. It was really yummy!

What about Gaglioppo in Calabria? I know Aglianco, the full bodied and mouth-coating red, but voila, there’s another ancient grape. I tasted Cataldo Calabretta, Ciro Rosso Doc, Superiore and Riserva, and they were pale ruby with aromas of cherry, red forest fruit and spice, and grippy tannins, again the mouth-coating tannins, which require food or a decade to lay down. It was reminiscent of Pinot + Nebbiolo and quite interesting.

Right next to it was Domaine Ligas, where I tasted some rare Greek varieties, such as Roditis, Kydonitsa, Assyrtiko, Limniona and Xinomavro. Some of the interesting wines to note are Kydonitsa Barrique and Roditis Barrique, which were aromatic with pear, mango and nuts, due to the flor fermentation. Sauvage Bleu, which is a red with Limniona – Aristotle’s favourite! – and is fruity and spicy with firm tannins, like Pinot.

Conclusion

To sum up, it was fantastic, to say the least. I got far more out of the event than I’d expected. It should be on a wishlist of any wine lovers, who thrive to unravel the myths in winemaking and seek ‘good’ wines and meet ‘good’ people. It seemed apparent that organic, biodynamic, natural wine, whatever you call it, has improved over the last 10 years and gain a foothold.

In the time when I was growing weary of drinking wines in a uniformed style, it was like a fresh breeze to smell and taste unique wines without much oak influence, which truly allows you to focus on the vast spectrum of natural aromas in wine and practice your olfactory system, which you don’t get in formal wine courses.

Also, there’s a perk of tasting some rare wines that you won’t come across easily. Some of the wines come in a high price tag because of the work that goes in. What work? Doesn’t natural wine mean that you crush the grapes and let the nature do the work? WRONG. Natural wine begins in the vineyards, and it’s a lot of work. At least, as a drinker, we know that we are paying for what is in the bottle. Some of the wines were truly stunning and were on par with Grand Crus in terms of satisfaction. On top of that, talking to the growers and producers, who are unpretentious and willing to share their know-how and passion, was very much appreciated by many wine enthusiasts and future winemakers.

So will I go again next year? Yes, definitely, if the time and the location suits me. I had so much fun and met amazing and like-minded people during my visit, which was a bonus.

I hope this post was helpful for those who wonder about the event. I’ll share some memorable wines in the part 2 so please stay tuned!

Lamb Meafloaf with Buckwheat and Turkish Spices, No Eggs

I’m writing this post from London so it feels a bit strange but I thought I’d write this off to fill the void between my departure and my arrival. It’s going to be a long trip, 2 weeks, – again? I know, I know – it’s a luxury but I have to keep feeding my thirst and passion, WINE. I’ve been visiting different wine bars for tastings and been eating all the things I’ve missed.

Tomorrow I’ll attend Raw Wine London and I will try my best to taste and discover as much as possible and share with my readers. I’ve also squeezed a Cheese Making Course into my schedule so that I can finally tick off another item on my bucket list.

meatloaf

While I was getting all excited packing for the trip, my poor hubby was a bit upset that I was going away for so long. So prior to my departure, I prepared a big batch of food for me to get through my absence and he beamed with joy when he saw all the food I’d brought for him.

meatloaf

A meat loaf is such a great comfort food and so easy to make, and because it’s so easy to make, I haven’t posted my recipe on my blog. In my pre-Turkey time, I was making Moroccan Meat Loaf with nuts and dried fruit, but this time I made it in a new style, which hubby liked very much.

meatloaf

Beside the meat, people often add oats, lentils or nuts but I decided to make it as simple as possible and the most accessible item in my kitchen was buckwheat in place of breadcrumbs. I skipped eggs this time and it worked perfectly.

Hubby said that my meatloaf tasted a bit like Irish white pudding(!?) but I could guess where his comparison was coming from; the texture. But the flavours are far far from Irish pudding, bursting with lots of fragrant spices and herbs such as sumac, cumin, nutmeg, mint, zahter thyme. I added a drizzle of pomegranate molasses but it can’t be omitted.

Well, I’ll have to leave you now since I have to go to taste more wines. I hope the next post will be full of wines!

Lamb Meatloaf with Buckwheat

Ingredients

1kg (approx. 2 pounds) ground lamb (or half lamb and half beef)
1 onion
4-5 cloves garlic
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp of sumac+cumin+paprika
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried mint or fresh mint
fresh parsley, chopped
1/4- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes or cayenne (optional)
1 cup soaked or cooked buckwheat
1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 190’C(370F).
2. In a food processor, blend onion and garlic – or chop finely by hand – and add to a large bowl, along with the ground meat, spices, seasonings, and buckwheat, and mix well.
3. Transfer it into a loaf pan and bake for 50-60 mins.

*You can baste the loaf half way through the cooking or drain it off at the end and make a reduction sauce with your favourite method, eg. balsamic, pomegranate, red wine, etc.

brussels sprouts sambal

Chicken Liver Sambal Goreng: No Waste Food, Free Range Chicken

I’ve been in Istanbul for work and another Kimchi workshop, which was fantastic. Apologies to those who had been turned down due to the size of the class. From now on, I’ll give a private class, so if you have a group who is interested in making Kimchi, please contact me privately. I’m going to make a separate event page for workshops soon so please check in regularly, though I feel bad I’m not writing as often as I should. Well, spring is around the corner and I’ll be more active.

Now I’m back home to prepare my trip to Raw Wine London. Let me save this subject for another time and talk about beautiful Canakkale. I’m so happy to be back here.

canakkale-port-sm

When I was in Istanbul, people kept asking about my life in Canakkale. People who grew up in Istanbul or in a big city can’t imagine life in a small town; to them, leaving it behind is the end of the world. I don’t have such an attachment, very blessed, and I adapt to any place as long as I can drink wine and eat cheese.

canakkale-port-2

I took some photos of the harbour where I take a walk with my dog almost every day and say hello to the Troy horse. Can you see it in the left corner? The guy in the right is Piri Reis, a local late-medieval historical figure, who is famous for drawing the world map that solved some of the puzzles of Columbus’s maps.

canakkale-port-1

This city has young vibes, being a uni city, but also there are many retirees, who have become my new friends. I socialise with them, going to gatherings for food and dance, and walk around hunting for good produce. A close family friend recently introduced me to a place that sells free range chicken, duck, turkey, spring lamb, etc.

I got one big fat….hen, I guess, telling by the ovary. Cleaning a village chicken or duck is a chance to study their anatomy and, believe or not, it’s quite interesting.

chicken

It’s a beautiful chicken and  I wanted to make the most of it. Since we only eat free range chicken (gezen tavuk in Turkish), we don’t get to eat chicken often, and when we do, we devour every bit of it. Real free range chicken is tough, I mean really tough and needs long slow cooking.

I thought I’d make Coq au Vin but then I’d been using so much wine in lamb shanks so I decided to do it in a simple way. By combining Korean medicinal herbs and Vietnamese Pho spices, I could eat the meat on its own and make a soup or porridge with the broth.

chicken-keskek-1

It was cooked in a crock pot for 3 hours till the meat fell off the bones. With the delicious meat, I made Turkish chicken porridge(Keskek), which Mr.O loves, but with an Asian twist, and it was aromatic with star anise, ginseng and garlic. Turkish Keskek is nice but it’s a bit bland unless you add lots of butter and chilli oil.

What now with the giblets? I could have just fried and eaten them as a side with some salad but I decided to dress it up with Sambal sauce. Since I don’t buy sauces any more, I improvised to make it, substituting for some missing ingredients (see the recipe section). Instead of fresh chillies, I used Turkish chilli paste, biber salca, which works well combined with pomegranate molasses.

brussel sprouts

Whenever I cook brussels sprouts, hubby praises me. Remember this? He enjoyed the brussels sprouts in this spicy Malaysian inspired dish as well. It was aromatic, with ginger, kaffir lime and lemongrass, and spicy but with coconut cream that softens the heat. Of course, you can use chicken, beef, lamb or seafood instead of giblets so don’t turn away!

sambal

The white and black beans were added just to bulk up the nutritional value and I have all kinds of beans soaked and frozen in the freezer, which I use arbitrarily.

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I can’t decide whether the brussels sprouts are the main or the liver but it was delicious and made hubby eat healthy brussels sprouts again. One of the tips in making this is to roast or pan-grill the sprouts separately first and add them later.

chicken-sambal

Another thing I did differently to a normal Sambal Goreng recipe is that I added some of the white kimchi juice and I think it was a great idea as it gives a pungent, sweet and sour flavours. So don’t throw away Kimchi juice! I tried to mimic authentic flavours, working with chemistry, and used hot mustard powder in place of galangal. Kimchi juice, hot mustard, pomegranate molasses sort of did its job for my quick improvised dish.

sambal goreng

Sambal sauce is a great way to use up  the giblets, which would be thrown out otherwise. I could have fancied it up by making liver paté or a sauce for a roast or steak but this stir-fry seems to be the most versatile and hassle free. You might like to check another recipe I did with giblets, which is very different.

Easy Sambal Goreng with Chicken Giblets

Ingredients (serves 2)

300-400g brussels sprouts, halved
chicken giblets(liver, heart, gizzards, whatever and how much ever you want)
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass bulb, thinly sliced
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 tsp Sambal sauce(*see note)
300ml coconut milk (or 100ml coconut cream+water)
1 cup soaked white or black beans (optional)
galangal (skip or substitute for hot mustard)
1 Tbsp Kimchi juice(optional)
salt to taste
cooking oil

1. Roast or pan-grill brussels sprouts and set them aside.
2. Cook the trimmed giblets for 5-7 mins in the same pan with oil and set them aside.
3. Sauté the chopped onion till soft, and add Sambal sauce, lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal (if using) or hot mustard to infuse.
4. Add the beans and coconut milk and simmer for 15 mins.
5. Add the brussels sprouts and giblets and toss around to mix.
6. Taste and season with salt and serve with rice.

Sambal sauce: blend these ingredients

1 cm slice ginger (1 tsp minced ginger)
4 fresh red chillies (I used biber salca-Turkish chilli paste)
1/2 onion
1 spring onion
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp shrimp paste or fish sauce
2 Tbsp tamarind juice or pomegranate molasses+lemon or lime+sugar)

Portugal Wine Tour: Part 2- Lisbon and around – Ultimate Lisbon Guide

You were probably disappointed by the lack of wines and food mentioned in the first post. Well, it’s because we were mostly on the road. The bigger portion of our time was spent in Lisbon, which was a last minute change to our original plan, and that’s where we truly delved into the food and wine of Portugal. You’ll get plenty of wines in this post!

When I look back at my past travels, Portugal is probably the first country I’ve ever regretted for not having studied beforehand. There’s so much to see! I usually let things happen, in the belief that spontaneity always makes you discover wonderful things. However, for Portugal, my super power didn’t work so well and  I missed out on some great things. What it means, though, I should go back there!! Luckily, our friend moved to Portugal last year so I definitely see us going back there. Also, we liked the Douro so much that we made a promise to do the valley cruise one day.

On the way to Lisbon, we stayed for the night in Coimbra. It was a very strange and interesting university town. After checking into a hotel, we ventured out looking for a good place to eat and stumbled upon so many ancient and medieval buildings and features. We walked around the dark empty university campus, not realising it had the famous Joanina Library that was an inspiration for Harry Potter. Only if I’d known!

Secondly, I’m good at sniffing out a good place for food and I did, BUT it was so popular that it needed a reservation, which bothered me so much. The place was Tapas nas Costas and we waited for an empty table while sipping wine at another bar and returning to check, but failed to get a table after all. While waiting, I saw many plates passing from the kitchen to the table, leaving trails of gorgeous smells, making me ever more impatient.

tapas-nas-costas

Well, I wasn’t so lucky in Coimbra, but I hope you will after reading my post. So that night, we ended up eating in a tapas bar recommended by a handsome young local we’d approached on the street in desperation. There, we were done for the night, sipping Vinho Verde, which I got to love, and watched cheerfully drunk students walking in a group singing and laughing loudly.

coimbra-food

The next day, we stopped at a place I was keen on visiting, Encosta da Quinta. Their wines are called Humus Wines and the oenologist I acquainted in Bordeaux strongly advised me to visit him and told me good things about the wine maker. So I was very excited on the way but arrived to the firmly closed gate of the quinta… sigh…. I dialed the number found on the website and he answered, apologising that it’s closed that day and he’d love to show me around when I visit it again.

mondino_humus-900x370.jpg (900×370)

So three things went wrong and a lesson was learned: I’ll organise my visits better next time!

Anyway, we finally made it to Lisbon!  Now it’s time to chill out and enjoy, free from driving. Luckily, I got good recommendations for food from Hugo Alexandre Cruz, who makes delicious videos at VIDELICIOUS.

Lisbon Guide for Foodies

Lisbon had an overwhelming number of restaurants and wine bars. It was so vibrant and lively, AND hilly, making Istanbul seem relatively flat. I felt so relieved that we were in good hands of two  local acquaintances reputable for their refined taste.

First thing’s first, and we headed straight to Pastéis de Belém. I don’t like touristic places but there are places that are touristic yet authentic and worth a visit. For one, it was historical and the inside was charming, and for two, I got to compare all previous pastel de nata I’d eaten with this.

Ok, so the conclusion is that Belem’s egg tart is lighter; the pastry is thinner and the custard is less eggy. We had some really eggy natas during the trip and at some point, and had to ask for desserts without any eggs in them, but there ISN’T such a thing! WHY??? They have so many egg yolks left over from fining red wines! What’s wine got to do with eggs? Egg whites are used to remove sediment and unwanted tannins in red wine. That is why.

lisbon-mercado

The best market for foodie is Mercado de Campo de Ourique and you can eat and drink through the afternoon or evening here. It’s a paradise for foodies and you can probably make one day trip here and experience Portuguese gastronomy in one stop.

lisbon-cheese

Though you can taste these great Portuguese cheeses at restaurants, you might have the best of the best here. The cheese you should try is Queijo de Azeitao, creamy and gooey sheep cheese and Nisa cheese, semi-hard sheep cheese. For more on Portuguese cheese, have a read  of this(Top 12 Portuguese cheeses) and this(Thistle cheese).

If you’re overwhelmed by the choice and tourists in Bairro Alto, you can head to Alfama where you’ll more likely to come across quality places and one of them is Cruzes Credo. The food, the ambience, the location, by orange trees, everything was perfect.

food-lisbon

The latest addition is Os Gazeteiros, which sounds good, so I’ll check it out on my next visit. While writing this, it came to me that I could easily create a pinned map for recommended places, and I DID! So please check out my Lisbon Good Eats  if you’re going to Lisbon, and leave me ‘thank you’ if you liked those places. After getting complaints from my dearest reader, Mr.O, I’m trying to make my writing simple, that it to say, less words.

After running out of patience while waiting in the queue at Solar dos Presuntos, – Portugal has a system where reservation is a must or first come, first serve – we went to Cantinho Do Avillez, which is one of many owned by a star chef, José Avillez. 

lisbon

This place was also packed so we waited at the bar while drinking some wine with small dishes. The wine list was very good so I didn’t mind just sitting there and trying all different wines.  The food was great and innovative but the portion was rather small so we went to Quermesse and got stuffed. Next places on our wish list are The Decadente and O Talho, both recommended by reliable foodie friends.

Portuguese Wine for Wine Lovers

Naughty of me taking photos of wine lists at restaurants 🙂 There are so many big and small wine bars around The Old Pharmacy where you can taste Portuguese wines. Mind you, it’s a touristic area and it has its pros and cons but it’s fun to walk around trying some here and some there.

I’m drooling again remembering the wines I drank. You can study Portuguese varieties with this menu, too. Can you guess which wines I drank?  Quinta das Maias(Dao) and Vinha do Mouro(Alentejo) at Cantinho Do Avillez and Palpite Grande Reserva at Garrafeira Alfaia for Mr.O, who had had about enough of wines throughout the trip and wanted to have some beer and his favourite cheese, Nisa!

lisbon-winebar-1

All wines were so good but confusing, and it’s hard to conclude from the grape varieties indicated on the label because the style differs from region to region and from vineyards to vineyards. However, I found through the tastings and I generally liked Dao wines, and I wonder if it’s the aromatic and peppery Jaen (aka. Mencia) grape has got to do with it.

I asked at the wine shop when we did our wine shopping and he said he also preferred Dao wines because they tend to be more refrained and more acidic and Alentejo and Douro seem more full-bodied and high in alcohol. But then you can’t generalise it, either, because I’ve had some elegant Alentejo, Lisbon and Setubal wines, which are fast growing into a promising wine region, and these wines often blend with international grapes.

dao wine

So he recommended these two wines to study about the Dao wine and I haven’t opened them yet! I think I might as well open one of these on Valentines Day! I’m thirsty for Portuguese wine now after all the talk of Portuguese food and wine!

What to see and do in and around Lisbon

We spent a whole day in Alfama, which is the oldest and most historical neighbourhood with visible traces of Arab influences. We scored some souvenirs at Feira da Ladra aka. Thief’s Market, and walked around small cobbled streets, looking at the details of tiles, doors and windows and soaking up the exotic atmosphere.

alfama

You can just lose yourself and walk aimlessly, hopping on the tram if you get tired and stopping by various charming cafes for a bite and a sip.

Another day we went to the south of Lisbon, somewhere below the Caprica beach and it was so lovely, reminding me a bit of the Australian beach and even in November, it was warm enough to swim and people started to come for surfing and swimming after midday.

We had some yummy local food there, starting with the fresh sheep cheese, Queijaria das Romãs. What a treat it was! We got hooked on this cheese and had it for breakfast every morning till the last day.

The fish was fresh and tasty, especially the cuttlefish grilled whole; it was very romantic, teeth all covered in black ink. Apparently, the chef asked us a question point to the cuttlefish but since we didn’t understand what he was saying, we just said “Sim(yes)!” to everything. So we assumed that he asked whether we wanted it gutted or not. Oh well, the ink is good for you and I had a glass of Vinho Branco to gargle with. I just had to refrain myself from smiling too much.

Mr.O points out that my blog posts are too long and complicated so I’m going to wrap up my Portuguese story with photos of our day trips to Cabo da Roca(Cape Roca – westernmost point in Europe), and Sintra.

cabodaroca-4

Beautiful Atlantic coast, so different to the Mediterranean… It would have been so wonderful and romantic if we had managed to do a picnic watching the sunset. There wasn’t any shops around!

Oh, I can’t finish my Portuguese story without mentioning the scrumptious seafood rice.

lisbon-arroz

One last Arroz de Marisco was had at a local restaurant, heading to the airport, and more Nisa for Mr.O. So delicious as usual!!! Small local places are always the best, for the food and the atmosphere where local folks look at you as if you were an alien. We brought some Nisa and Azeitao cheese home, of course. What lovely delicious memories!

While searching for good eats in Lisbon, I came across Salt of Portugal and it seems to be the perfect place for foodies. Speaking of salt, I did bring some Portuguese salt home as well.

I hope my Portuguese story was entertaining and helpful. Where would be my next wine destination? Ciao!

Update: I found this awesome blog about Portugal. Please check it out! 
https://julesvernex2.com/tag/portugal/

Portugal Wine Tour: Part 1- Porto and Douro Valley

Ehem, no, I didn’t go to Portugal again, but I’m writing about the trip I made 2 years ago.  I couldn’t post it then because my blog was down but I thought I’d share my experience since it was not only great but also educational. It’s always better late than never, right? Someone out there might get some useful tips from my post, who knows? Blogging is a great way to document and relive good moments, I believe. So if you’re planning to visit Portugal, this might help you.

It was our honeymoon trip and we rented a car and drove all around Portugal. It’s a great country to do so and I highly recommend it. Also, advice from friends, mutual friends and blog friends was invaluable in making the trip great and memorable.

Though the ultimate destination was Porto, our trip started and ended in Lisbon, and got to see more of the country than we’d thought because flying to Lisbon from Istanbul was more convenient.

alcobaca-monastry

Mr.O and I had no idea where to visit as we usually make plans as we go, following our nose. Since it was the first night and Mr.O didn’t want to drive in the dark, we decided to spend a night in Alcobaça, and it turned out to be an excellent choice for honeymooners; a place of eternal love… the love story of King Pedro I and his mistress, Inês de Castro, who was murdered by the king’s father. Pedro built her tomb as well as his at this monastery, crowned her as queen and rested next to her forever. How romantic! Waking up to the view of the monastery from our hotel room was great and mystical.

The first meal is always exciting and we had our first night feast at Rui’s, close to the hotel but we could have gone to O Cabeco, which was strongly recommended by the hotel if we’d had more time. Since it was off season (November), we had their full attention and said yes to whatever the waiter suggested and learned our first Portuguese cultural lesson of ‘Couvert‘.

The waiter kept bringing foods, which we didn’t ask for saying they’re chef’s special. What can you say to that? Yeah, bring it on! It’s the first night of our honeymoon! Because of our mood and the congenial manner of the waiter, we voluntarily fell for the trick and treated ourselves. Only this time though.

alcobaca-food

We drank what was recommended since I had no idea then about Portuguese wines and it was Paulo Laureano Premium 2014, which wasn’t very impressive, and it was my first encounter with Portuguese varieties such as Aragonês and Trincadeira. By the end of the trip, I got a better understanding of how each variety tastes and plays in different bottles.

nata

The next morning we had a short stroll around the little charming village and ate the famous Pastel de nata, which we had everyday for 10 days in different cities, and this one is one of the best. We made a stop in Aveiro for lunch, which was another unique town and definitely with more choices for food.

We followed our food instinct and went into a restaurant where many locals were having Sunday brunch. We started with the cod fritters and Mr.O chose Francesinha, the Portuguese take on French croque monsieur and I had mussels. I’d heard so much about the sandwich but gosh, you have to be really hungry to finish it.

aveiro-food-tertulia

The prawn rice was everyone at the place was having except us and it looked delicious but I dearly missed green mussels at that time!

The waffle was simple but was nice, and the owner was so hospitable that he gave us another type with real dark chocolate to try for free.

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Finally, we arrived in Porto!

port-wines

The first place I went to was of course a wine shop and I studied the shelves, and then….

porto

Here’s the colourful, beautiful, historical Porto… my interest was wine and food, but for Mr.O, we did a quick tour inside the historical centre, up the hill.

After seeing famous sights, some churches, Bolhao Market and Majestic Cafe, etc., we came down to do the cruise, which wasn’t necessary in our opinion, but we did it anyway because it came with free Port tastings. I don’t want to bore you with photos and stories not related to food and wine!

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I learned a great deal about Porto and Port wines from  the Portugal series by Talk-A-Vino, which answer many questions about Portuguese wines. For restaurants, his Great Restaurants post might point you to a right direction. We only spent one night in Porto, what?!, yes, true, because I had a feeling that I’d be going back there again. I liked it very much, especially the Douro Valley, which was the highlight of our trip.

The reason we were in Porto was to catch up with a friend but of course, once you’re there, you can’t miss visiting historical Port houses! We had only 1.5 hours before going to meet our friend so we picked two out of three options, Cockburn’s and Quevedo.

porthouse

At Cockburn’s, we had a guided tour and tasting and at Quevedo, it was a self-tasting of Vintage Port and White Port, listening to live Fado and getting emotional, not because of the music, but because I was happy that I finally made it to Porto. I finished my WSET 3 course just two months ago so my knowledge was fresh, which helped a lot.

port-3

From a young Ruby Port, which make you drunk and happy at student parties to a serious matured Tawny Port, which now I appreciate more, it was a great experience to learn more about Port wines and taste some great Vintage Port. If you want to read more about Port Wine, there is this (more detailed) and that (simple and graphic).

After meeting our friend at Sandeman Bar and having a sip of its tawny port for aperitif, we went to her favourite place, Taylor’s Barao Fladgate restaurant for dinner. The restaurant had a great view of Porto and the staff very friendly. There was also an enomatic machine and I wanted to taste some more Vintage Port, which I couldn’t afford but it was newly installed and wasn’t operating at the moment. Everything was delicious from duck confit to seafood risotto and we ate, drank and talked so much.

porto-taylors

After the wonderful night with friends, we hit the road again for the Douro, yeah!

We set out GPS to Pinhao and kept driving towards the great viewpoints I bookmarked from Wine Folly, looking for such a view. Since we left very early, we got hungry and stopped for brunch at a little village up around Regua. It was out of nowhere and the restaurant we entered was just preparing for the day, and as we just wanted a simple breakfast, we asked for some toast and coffee, but no one spoke English. With the Google translator, we got some bread and butter but telling by the puzzled look of the waiter, we figured that they don’t normally serve breakfast. so we appreciated their effort to give us something.

While we were eating, village workers poured in for lunch and food was brought to each table.We watched what they were eating and decided to eat lunch as well as the food looked good.

In Portugal, portions are huge, showing their generosity and hospitality. It’s a real local pheasant food but it was one of the most memorable meals we’d had. Because it’d been a long time since I last had pork perhaps! No, it was really delicious. I’d had Brazilian Feijoada(fedg-e-wa-da) before and got curious how different the Portuguese version would be. The dark colonial history left some delicious comfort food behind, didn’t it? Everyone was sharing a carafe of white wine with lots of foam(perhaps it was beer? no, it didn’t look like beer)

Anyway, we continued with a full stomach and I desperately needed a drink, a good drink to digest.  Finally, the valley came into sight and I got excited! I took snapshots of the panels of Port Wine brands for further references.

The vineyards along the river were magnificent. Out of so many wineries, our first stop was Quinta de Tedo.  We didn’t do a winery tour since we didn’t have much time – our plan was to leave for Lisbon – so we did a tasting of 4 bottles and all were absolutely delicious. I’ll, again, link the post by Talk-A-Vino (scroll down towards the end) for detailed reviews.

port wine

We accidentally indulged in the wines and spent more time than we’d hoped and had to skip Qunta de la Rosa, so I bought a bottle for home and drank deliciously. Both wineries happen to have a bird on the label.

We drove up the first view point, Casa de Loivos, but up and up, it was endless and couldn’t find the exact view I’d hoped for. The view of the vineyards cascading down the slopes to the river was still breathtaking and unforgettable nonetheless.

It was time to say good bye to the Douro and as we drove away, we caught an absolutely beautiful sight and stopped the car to take photos. We were up the hill just a moment ago and suddenly above clouds. Can you believe it?

douro-fog

It was really beautiful… and I thought this must be the secret of the great Douro wines. Now we’re heading to Lisbon via Coimbra so see you in the next post where the real gastronomic experience begins….

If you’re travelling to Porto, these two websites might help plan your trip.

Winerist
Porto Walkers

wine

Korean New Year Feast and Chamlija Wine Tasting

I’m back home after finishing the three-day Korean New Year Feast event and spending extra days catching up on personal affairs in Istanbul. The event was great, especially the part of meeting new amazing people, which is why I love what I do. Here I’ll share the atmosphere and delicious foods we ate and the special wines we drank for those who couldn’t join us.

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Photo Credit: Ozkan Uner

As promised, I presented 4 good wines from Chamlija (Papaskarasi is missing in the photo). Many thanks to Ozkan Uner from A2A Photography for excellent photos. He’s a very talented and respected photographer and, though his expertise is in aviation photography, he takes great food photos as well.

By sheer coincidence, two chefs were in matching red to celebrate the year of Rooster. Really, I didn’t think of it when I decided to put on my red skirt. Anyway, since it’s a special day, for one of the starters, I offered a royal dish, which goes by the name of ‘Gujeolpan – Nine Delicacies‘.

We started with the colourfully arranged little delicacies with seasonal vegetables and home-smoked trout and tasted Chamlija Blanc de Noir. It’s a white wine made from a indigenous red grape called Papaskarasi and it’s a very refreshing wine with supple citrus and a touch of stone fruit and floral aromas, and a salty mineral undertone ending with an effervescent finish. Just perfect with salty smoked trout!

It was the most popular wine during the events and went down the quickest.

Next came the delicious Kimchi Arancini with special creamy tahini mint sauce. Crispy home-made panko bread crumbs, spicy rice mixture, and hot melting cheese …. They were so popular and guests demanded for more but I told them that there were still so much food to eat and they wouldn’t want to get full on arancini. Though, truth to be told, I wouldn’t have minded it personally because they were so yummy!

kimchi-arancini-sig

Photo Credit: Ozkan Uner

By this point, I poured Chamlija Albarino 2015, which is a full bodied, intensely fragrant with citrus, lime, peach, apricot, tropical fruit, and a bouquet of lemongrass and orange blossom. Complex, huh? Yes, it’s a very expressive wine and also lightly oaked wine with tiny residual sugar, which differentiates it from Spanish and Portuguese style Albarino.

glass noodles

Photo Credit: Ozkan Uner

It paired well with a rather complicated dish with a umami bomb, black trumpet & oyster mushrooms, soy sauce, black bean and lime sauce. It was my twist of traditional dish, Japchae noodles.

There happened to be a Portuguese guest on the last day and I asked how she thought of the Chamlija’s Albarino, and she said it was different but good.

We had 8 nationalities at one dinner and one even flew over from Antalya for the event, which made me feel rather flattered.

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Look at the succulent Slow-cooked Beef Brisket! It was so delicious with tender meat and aromatic marinade. Some of them had a previous experience with the Korean lettuce-wrapping meal, Bo Ssam, and some didn’t. I chose this menu due to the them of the event, which was about sharing and experiencing the true spirit of Korean cuisine. It was accompanied by hot pot bibimbap and soft tofu soup with clams.

For the main, I offered light red, Chamlija Papaskarasi 2014 and Pinot Noir 2013. Papaskarasi is a signature grape for Chamlija Winery (you can read about this interesting local grape here) and it’s a reminiscent of Pinot Noir but with more forest fruits, high acid and less tannins. It’s a food-friendly wine and I couldn’t think of a better wine for a Korean or Asian feast, and the terroir and climate of Chamlija vineyards best expresses the grape variety.

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Chamlija’s Pinot Noir is completely another style, dark coloured and full bodied with high abv of 15% and supple tannins, which might come from a very tiny amount of Cab Sauv added or the whole bunch fermentation(I haven’t verified the latter yet). Anyway, because of its sweet fruit flavours and acidity, it coped well with the brisket and the spicy Korean BBQ sauce, plus the pleasure of hot alcohol and chili burn. It’s definitely a food wine and will improve greatly over another 3 years. Please check The Winehouse Warwick if you’re based in the UK.

Now let me introduce you to the most famous traditional Korean dessert, Pumpkin Cheesecake ta-da!

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Well, I had initially put rice cake on the menu and then changed my mind because there’s a lot of rice dishes already. Seckin, the other chef, specialises in patisserie and he makes some decadent delicious cakes. The first night we had Chocolate Cheesecake, which was divine, and this pumpkin cheesecake with caramel sauce was also a guilty pleasure.

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What a series of delicious nights with wonderful people! People from all walks of life, whose paths are unlikely to cross in normal life, get together around food and wine, sharing their stories and expertise. Isn’t it just fantastic?

Also, the fact that we eat in the most relaxing setting helps us to open up and be free in my opinion. 70% of the guests had never had Korean food before and I’m so glad to have given them the chance to taste it. Thank you all again for joining us and I hope to see you again soon at another event, which won’t be Korean! I don’t know about you but I’ve had enough of Korean for the past few months 😉 Please follow my Facebook page for upcoming events.