La pizza ed il vino – l’accoppiare perfetto

16 Mar

Italy

It’s Saturday afternoon, the end of the Six Nations rugby tournament (bane of my life) and I’m thinking ahead to what to eat for dinner. Well, I lie, I’ve probably been thinking about it since 6pm last night since I’m a.) a boringly anal planner b.) always hungry and c.) just generally love a food-based pointless pondering.

Which has got me thinking – whenever I’m struggling, I always revert back to the tried-and-tested Italian favourite of pizza. Hence the Italian-themed title to this post which I did on freetranslation.com, so mi dispiace (or ‘I’m sorry’ – god I really need to get off this website) to anyone who can actually understand Italian.

It’s probably not surprising therefore that I’ve recently visited two very good pizza places.

The first was Franco Manca on Northcote Road in Clapham, which I visited on a Friday night with a friend. There are only six pizza options to choose from but after visiting, you’ll wonder why you ever needed any more.

Pizza bases at Franca Manca are made in a wood-burning brick oven using slow-rising sourdough, producing a soft and pillowy base upon which the delicious toppings go, including Gloucester Old Spot ham, chorizo and wild mushrooms. The most expensive option was around seven quid which is such good value, particularly for London. I was so impressed I’m now returning with the family next weekend to the branch in Chiswick, so hopefully they’ll enjoy it as much as me (with two younger brothers, I’m hoping I can’t go wrong).

The second was Princi in Soho which I visited with another friend one mid-week evening just before Valentine’s Day when it was absolutely CHUCKING it down. We were met with a very warm welcome from our Italian waiter and tucked into yet another two very enjoyable pizzas with artichoke, olives and Italian ham:

Princi pizza

 

To accompany our pizzas, we both got a glass of Italian white wine – my friend opted for the Verdicchio (which I tried – fresh and citrusy with almond notes) while I went for a crisp, light variety which I confess I can’t remember the name of, but I do remember it going down very well!

Following our mains, the sweet tooth needed feeding so we ordered a tiramisu and lemon tart. The first tiramisu that arrived turned out to be a house special which was more ‘nutella cream’ than ‘coffee boozy delight’ so we asked for the more traditional variety instead – M-mmmmm. The lemon tart was also a-mazing: light pastry, fresh lemon curd filling and raspberry coulis:

Princi dessert

 

 

So, back to my original question, what to eat and drink tonight? As much as I’m tempted by another pizza, I think it could be the turn of Thai and, if the rugby score is anything to go by, I think the boyf may need cheering up with a Chang beer….in the meantime I’m enjoying a glass of Asda’s Extra Special New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, currently an absolute bargain at £6.98, cin, cin (Cheers)!

Advertisements

An alternative to Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc

10 Mar

It may be a relative newbie in the world of wine, but since New Zealand started producing Sauvignon Blanc commercially in the 1980s, it has taken the world by storm. If you did a poll amongst my friends, I’m pretty sure I could guarantee that 90% would say it’s their favourite wine and it’s no wonder really given the wine’s reliability, decent price and clean crisp flavours.

However, sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in a bit of a ‘wine rut’ so the other week I gave a French Sauvignon Blanc a go to see how it compared. The Loire Valley in France is the spiritual home of Sauvignon Blanc (although it probably originated in Bordeaux) and, without going into too much technical jargon, the limestone soils of the region give the grape its characteristic minerality and freshness.

Marks and Spencer’s Touraine Sauvignon Blanc Famille Bougrier 2011 £10.45 (said with my best Arsene Wenger French accent) is zesty, crisp and fresh with delicious lemon and gooseberry flavours that make you wish it was sunny and warm outside, rather than cold and drab as it is at the moment – definitely one to try over a Bank Holiday in the coming months:

Touraine SB

 

We enjoyed this wine with homemade pesto and tomato pasta which made for a satisfying Saturday evening dinner, followed by the obligatory back-to-back TV sesh of Take Me Out, followed by Take Me Out: the Gossip – I really am rock n roll:

Pesto pasta

 

Pesto is a tricky little bugger to match with wine because it tastes so fresh and yet so rich at the same time. I’d say the pine nuts in the pesto made the Touraine Sauvignon taste a little more acidic than it did on its own, but the herbal notes in the wine matched well with the perfumed basil and tomatoes.

All in all, a lovely, light elegant wine that I’d save for when the sun starts to shine (here’s a little taster to get us in the mood):

Sunshine

 

Little Miss Restaurant Critic

27 Jan

In London, there’s always some new restaurant or other that is deemed ‘the’ place to be and over the last couple of months, I’d like to think I’ve been to a few of them (so that’s probably around 5% of the total). Although I tend to visit a year after any real restaurant critics have left the building (some would say I’m a trend follower rather than trend setter here), I still enjoy seeing if these restaurants live up to their hype.

Two of these newish openings are Bubbledogs on Charlotte Street and Tramshed in Shoreditch, both of which I’ve visted recently.

Bubbledogs

Bubbledogs

On a cold, rainy Tuesday evening, my friend and I queued for an hour to get into Bubbledogs and just as we were beginning to resemble wet dogs ourselves, losing the will to live and thinking ‘sod it, let’s just go to Nando’s’, we were in.

The atmosphere inside was intimate and informal with intimate being the operative word as the two of us shared a bench-like table with another pair of friends. Service was speedy (you soon realise this isn’t the place for lingering) and our food was yummy but not ‘knock your socks off’ amazing.

As you probably know, given you more than likely visited six months before me, the options for food are various varieties of hotdogs, paired with a glass of Champagne. We opted for ‘Fourth of July’, a bacon-wrapped hotdog with smoky BBQ sauce and coleslaw and a ‘Sloppy Joe’ with chilli, onions and cheese, accompanied by sweet potato fries and a glass of Bereche et Fils Reserve Brut Champagne.

What I loved about the fizz selection was that they all came from smaller, lesser-known Champagne houses so you could enjoy a glass of good-quality, delicious fizz for just over a fiver.

Tramshed

Tramshed2

With only two main course options on the menu, Tramshed is a haven for those who are prone to food envy or indecisiveness. The building itself is the first thing you’ll notice and, for anyone as slow on the uptake as me – I asked my boyfriend if he thought the building used to be a swimming pool – the restaurant is housed in a grade-two listed tramshed which was originally used as an electricty generating facility for the Tramway System. Oh I do love a spot of history.

There was nothing tramsheddy about the food however. The starters sounded lovely but we decided to skip ahead to the main event, with one spring chicken and one mighty marbled sirloin steak to share, with fries and sauces. The sirloin was absolutely perfect, pink, succulent and chargrilled on the outside while the chicken was, well, very chickeny, and moist.

While I’m not a big fan of waiters that constantly call you ‘guys’ – ‘hey guys, how are you?’ ‘how was that for you guys?’, ‘anything else I can get for you guys?’ blah blah blah, our waiter was very friendly and efficient. We opted for a glass of the Santa Celina Pinot Gris from Argentina to drink with the chicken and a glass of the Vista Hermosa Pinot Noir from Chile to go with the steak, and both were really tasty.

The wine list is full of slightly different wines and, although not cheap, it was definitely worth opting for something a little off the beaten track. For any Pinot Grigio fans out there, Pinot Gris is actually just another name for this grape when grown outside of Italy. This version was light, slightly floral and delicious chilled – I’m told the Pinot Noir was also a treat.

Feeling pretty stuffed from the mains but always looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, we rounded off the meal with a chocolate fondue and homemade marshmallows which was everything you could ask for really:

Tramshed3

Plus, for 50p, you could have a mini Bakewell tart with your coffee, so we obviously couldn’t resist and got one – mini was an understatement but it was certainly tasty:

Tramshed1

With expertly-cooked food and carefully selected wines, I’d recommend both Bubbledogs and Tramshed – Bubbledogs for an after-work catch up with friends (if you’ve got an hour to spare shivering in the rain) and Tramshed for a special occasion – however don’t expect either to come cheap so if you’re thinking of going, I’d get saving those hard-to-come-by January pennies now!

Happy New Year and all that jazz

13 Jan

Hello, and a Happy New Year to you too! Thought I’d start with a photo of the blackberry and mint pavlova I made for New Year’s Eve, why not:

Pavlova

January’s rubbish isn’t it? I’m currently still in mourning for the loss of our Christmas tree (definitely need some form of standing lamp or tropical plant to fill the void in the corner of the room) and to make matters worse, I’ve also decided to give up drinking for January.

Christmas5

Given I work in the wine industry and have a blog entitled ‘LittleMissVino’, you’d think I’d know that enjoying a glass of wine or relaxing with a gin and tonic every now and again would make for a happier life. But no, I’ve gone ahead anyway and as predicted, it turns out that giving up drinking leads to a rather dull life. I’m already bored and it’s only the 13th. Having said that, saving pennies and waking up fresh as a daisy (almost) every morning is rather nice, as is filling weekends with delicious meals out, walks and run (hmmm well not so much the running).

Anyway, I just thought I’d share with you a delicious wine I enjoyed on Christmas Day. With so many flavours to deal with on the average Christmas dinner lunch plate, it can be a little tricky finding a wine to match. However, I happen to be a bit of a gravy fiend, drowning everything in more than its fair share, leaving little islands of carrots and pigs in blankets floating on the plate. Therefore, given the predominant flavours are of decadent gravy, turkey and bacon, I opted for Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Vinedos Barrihuelo Rioja Blanco, normally £8.99 but an absolute bargain at around £5.99 over Christmas.

Christmas2

White Rioja is one of those wines that will always be the bridesmaid, never the bride, given its red counterpart is much more widely recognised, which is a shame because judging by this example, it can be a very good wine.

With lots of tropical fruit notes, along with a splash of peach and citrus and a touch of creamy oakiness, this was the perfect wine to complement all the richness of the Christmas dinner plate, and just as enjoyable on its own.

Christmas3

So if you’ve not tried white Rioja before I’d give it a go, it matches perfectly with creamy chicken, pasta or risotto dishes – perfect for the January detox, no?

It’s CHRRRRRISTMAS!!!

16 Dec

Christmas tree

Apart from summer holidays and birthdays, Christmas is most definitely my favourite time of year. So much so that even at 25 years of age, I still purposefully walk home via different routes to look at (and admittedly judge) everyone’s Christmas trees in their windows – and just for the record, number 54 is definitely a current front runner while number 23 needs to sort out their tree light distribution.

It’s cold outside so hearty meals are the order of the day. Tonight was the turn of the fail-safe chilli con carne, given an extra twist with roasted peppers, tomatoes and garlic on the side – and yes, that’s right, you can see a quaint advent candle in the photo (told you I love Christmas, although it’s not easy keeping up with days, never known such a slow burner):

Chilli con carne

We’d had friends round for a Christmas jumper themed dinner the Friday before so had a bottle of Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon (Tesco.com) left over from the evening which went very nicely with the chilli. It’s not the most complex of wines but with notes of coffee, chocolate and blackcurrant it’s certainly a winter warmer.

While staying in is one of the best things about this time of year, there’s also nothing nicer than discovering a cosy pub or bar and getting settled by an open fire for a few hours. One of my latest discoveries is The Bingham in Richmond, a Mr and Mrs Smith hotel that’s perfect for adding a touch of luxury to your weekend. The first time I went with the rentals, I had a delicious Champagne cocktail. This weekend I opted for a crisp glass of Vinho Verde from Portugal. Zinging with crisp citrus notes and a fizzy hint of sherbet, I’d thoroughly recommend it for anyone looking for something slightly different to their normal Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

The Bingham

Finally, and this doesn’t have much relevance to anything apart from the fact it’s Christmassy, but see below for the cute mince pies the boyf made the other week – we quickly learned that they don’t go very well with wine but tasted absolutely delish. Merry Christmas and make sure you enjoy a glass or two of good wine over the festive period!

Mince pies

Comfort food time

18 Nov

It’s well and truly autumn and while the goose is getting fat for Christmas, it also seems I’m doing my very best to build up a solid layer of insulation against the winter chill.

There’s nothing better than tucking into a hearty feast on a cold day and now that I’m all grown up and living in zone 4 (eeks), chez littlemissvino has become quite the place for dinner parties.

A couple of weeks ago, two of our very good friends came round so we decided to make Jamie’s chicken pie with carrot smash and minted peas – watch how to make the recipe here.

Having learnt from previous mistakes surrounding Mr Oliver’s so-called “30 minute meals”, we rather smugly prepared the pie filling the night before so that when our guests arrived, all that  was left to do was pop the puff pastry lid on the pie , do the veg et voila! (as Raymond would say)

The pie went down a storm and was followed by homemade chocolate brownies (they were scoffed too quickly for me to take a pic). To accompany the pie, I chose a Langhorne Creek Chardonnay from Asda’s new Wine Selection range – a spot-on match for the creaminess of the chicken pie filling. I’ve often found people tend to shy away from oaked Chardonnays, but a subtle touch of oak can bring vanilla and creamy hints to a wine which make this style of Chardonnay the ultimate pairing for dishes such as spaghetti carbonara, butternut squash risotto and of course Jamie’s chicken pie with creme fraiche and English mustard. It’s currently only £5 too so I’d highly recommend it.

 

 

Jamie’s 52 minute half meal

27 Aug

In the last few months I’ve made several dishes from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals and, despite really enjoying the end products, I can honestly say I’ve never managed to complete one of his recipes in under an hour, never mind 30 minutes. And yes, Jamie, I followed your instructions by getting all my equipment ready first, using a mini blender to chop my herbs and taking multitasking to the extreme but seriously there’s only so fast one girl can go!

However, believing that everyone deserves another chance, last weekend I gave Jamie’s summer veg lasagne and Tuscan tomato salad a go. Miraculously, it was swelteringly sunny in London so the light lasagne of asparagus, pea and mint was spot-on for the weather. Despite misreading the ingredients list (I do this a lot resulting in recipes of varying success) and only adding one tub of cottage cheese to the lasagne, the meal was very tasty, if a little stodgy (my fault, not Jamie’s). The Tuscan salad was a good accompaniment too as the acidity of the tomatoes cut through and balanced out the creaminess of the lasagne:

20120827-194048.jpg

This light summery meal was crying out for a crisp, refreshing white wine to accompany it so who was I to argue – Torres Vina Sol fitted the bill nicely and had lovely notes of apples, lemons and pineapples and at around £6 a bottle, you can’t complain. Widely available at all major retailers:

20120827-195249.jpg