31 Jul 2010

Caffe Shakerato

Leeds is well-known for its bar scene, but its cafe culture isn't quite there yet; there are only one or two really good independent coffee shops in the city centre. The weather doesn't help: much better to sit inside a bar with a couple of beers than outside with raindrops falling in your cappuccino.

Pasta Romagna and La Bottega Milanese are two of my favourite cafes in Leeds. Pasta Romagna, run by the local legend that is Gilda, has been there for donkey's years. Gilda is a feisty old Italian lady who certainly keeps her staff on their toes, shall we say, and is also renowned for her vocal singing. There was even a campaign once for her to be allowed to continue playing her music loudly after a clampdown was threatened. La Bottega, on the other hand, is the new kid on the block. It's run by a young Italian called Alex Galantino and it has the potential to develop a similar cult status in the city.

I recently tried an interesting drink at La Bottega. It's called the Caffe Shakerato.

Ice cold coffee might not sound like the most appealing drink, but it really is good. There is a nice deep bitterness and a good froth from the reaction between the ice and the oils in the coffee beans as it's shaken. It won't replace my regular coffees and espressos (which are also superb at La Bottega), but it's definitely a good novel option every now and then, especially during summer. Well worth a try if you like your espressos. You can read my account in full here.
Photo: crismatthews.com

27 Jul 2010

As Good As It Looks

Advertisers often get a hard time. They get accused of lying to us. Saying whatever it takes to sell us products we don't even need. But we should give credit where credit's due.
Here's our cat Monty, the cheeky scamp.
Not the most discerning creature. An opportunist.
And here's the brand of cat meat he tends to have more often than not.
Notice the tagline. As Good As It Looks. Take another look at the meat in the picture. A greyish, brownish, slippery mass.

24 Jul 2010

Latitude Wine Tasting at Anthony's Piazza

Latitude, a wine and spirits shop based in Leeds city centre, hosted its 2nd Birthday Portfolio Tasting recently at Anthony's Piazza. I was lucky enough to attend, as part of my job with Leeds Guide magazine. Here are some of the standout wines, for me at least.

Tapiz Malbec 2009 (£9.99) went down nicely, no surprise given I'm a sucker for a good Argentinean Malbec. The aroma is a big hit of berries with a hint of smoke, while in the mouth it's a comfort blanket of Christmas cake and ripe berries. Certainly a decent option if you have a tenner to spare on a hearty red, although there are so many good Argentinean red wines on the market at this price or even less at the moment.

Desiderius Pongracz 2001 (£18.99) is a really interesting sparkling wine. It's dedicated to the Hungarian refugee of the same name who played a major part in putting South Africa on the wine map. It offers white pepper on the nose, followed up by a fresh twist of lemon and lime on the palate. A kind of dry, lemon sherbet quality to it. Makes for an interesting alternative to Champagne, especially at this price level.

Talking of interesting wines, this next one's downright weird, but in a good way. Nimbus Sauvignon Blanc (£11.99) will certainly divide opinion – largely in terms of people who like asparagus, and those who don't. That's because it really does taste quite strongly of asparagus, with a bunch of green, grassy herbs thrown into the mix. I thought it was really good; others won't. And even if you're a big fan, it might well be a wine that you'd just have one or two glasses of. It'd be interesting to try it while eating asparagus, as it's a vegetable that's notoriously difficult to match with wine. Might just be asparagus overload though.

As an interesting aside, I didn't drink enough of the Nimbus Sauvignon Blanc to know whether it makes your wee smell funny. Just in case you were wondering. Thinking about it though, asparagus making your urine smell is a subject worthy of a post in its own right. Some people find it happens; others don't. What I do know is it's a bit embarrassing when you say to someone, 'Isn't it weird how your wee stinks after you eat asparagus!' and they look at you like you're a mentalist. Maybe some people can't smell the chemical in their wee? Or maybe asparagus makes some people's wee smell, but not others? Either way, it's a bit like Nimbus Sauvignon Blanc: some will get it; others won't.

Finally, I was well impressed with Domaine Mas Barrau Cabernet Franc (£7.99), which is produced by Eric Monnin in the Languedoc. If it was a blind tasting, I'm pretty sure I'd have guessed this was Chilean Carmenere, so I'd have looked a bit silly given that it's French and Cabernet Franc. Anyway, its nose is interesting and tricky to pin down. Green peppers, I think, but maybe with tangerine and clove, or a hint of liquorice? On the palate it's a similar story, with a strong green pepper flavour and a sprig of something leafy. Basically it's quite green tasting, like a lot of Chilean reds. But it's French. And it's all in balance and just on the right side of ripe for me. It might well be even better in a year or two. Extremely good value at this price, and a good choice for people who usually drink New World but want a French gateway wine.