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The longest day of the year – in a good way – is Midsummer when (as long as any clouds don’t dampen the party) hours upon hours of sunlight cast rays of fun across the northern hemisphere.
Here’s a look at three of Europe’s best spots to make the most of Midsummer …
It had been some while (like a couple of years) since I had last dined at Aqua Nueva, but I still held strong memories of how much I enjoyed my meal when I recently accepted an invitation to return for a visit after the soft launch of this Spanish restaurant that’s just reopened after a long hiatus for refurbishment.
In all honesty, I couldn’t tell how much of an updating had taken place – it still looked and felt like the same ultra-swish dining space co-sharing with Japanese eatery, Aqua Kyoto. But what you’ll experience when you visit include sumptuous leather seating, ornate metal fretwork, bronze paneling and mosaic floors.
If my recollections were a little unreliable when it comes to noting interior design, it’s still on point when we’re talking food. And I’m pleased to say Chef Alberto Herdandez’s new menu offers plenty of unforgettable flavour.
I loved – and have been craving to have again since my visit – the secreto con patatas ali-oli (a special cut of grilled Iberian pork with aioli potatoes, £9.50). Among the other highlights were chilled, roasted and marinated aubergines served “almagro” style (£6); grilled cuttlefish with cod brandade and potato “violette,” £8.50); marinated crab salad with green apple (£10.50); and a sensational lemongrass rice pudding with blackberries (£6.50).
The wine list was a tasty read and, as you might expect, largely in Spanish. I was happy with a glass each of Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine de Belle Mare, 2014 (£8 for a glass, £30 for a bottle) and Rioja Reserva, Marques de Murrieta, 2009 (£12.50 for a glass, £50 for a bottle).
Service was prompt, informative and friendly.
Aqua Nueva is located on the fifth floor of 240 Regent Street, W1B 3BR with its entrance around the block at 30 Argyll Street. Find out more info at aqua.com.hk.
COMPETITION IS NOW OVER AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING TIKICHRIS. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR LOTS MORE FUN AND FREEBIES TO COME!
Teisseire has been making French sirop from naturally filtered water in the alps since 1720. The sirops come in a huge variety of flavours – from strawberry to cactus – among the most popular are Passionfruit, Raspberry, Lemon, Caramel, Mojito, Pink Grapefruit and Grenadine. They’re more flexible than cordials and go with both hot or cold drinks. Fancy a summery dash of French flair for free? I’ve teamed up with Teisseire to offer one lucky reader a chance to win a range barman sirops, cans and gourmet drops.
Add Teisseire to still or sparkling water for a cool refresher, to coffee and hot chocolate for a gourmet twist, and even champagne or beer to make your drink a little more Français. Recipes for ways to add a Teissereire touch to your favourite bevvies include the Fraise de Champagne (Champagne or sparkling wine with Teisseire Strawberry, and fresh strawberries); the Gin Blush (G&T, Teisseire Pink Grapefruit, and fresh lime); and the Demi Pêche (lager of your choice and Teisseire Peach). But the refreshment possibilities are only limited by your imagination and preferences!
Teisseire sirops are available now in at-home 60cl bidon packs and pocket-sized 66ml Gourmet Drops, and professional sized packs. Find Teisseire sirops at Waitrose, Ocado, Asda and Morrissons priced at £3.49 for a 60cl can or £2.49 for 66ml Gourmet Drops.
And to be in with a chance to win a taste of Teisseire for free, simply tweet the following:
Good luck. Please take a moment to read the terms and conditions before tweeting!
I’ll pick one winner at random on Monday 6 July at 17.30pm BST. The winner will receive a range of barman sirops, cans and gourmet drops from Teisseire. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address in the UK where the prize can be posted.
For more about Tesseire, go to teisseire.com.
COMPETITION IS NOW OVER AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING TIKICHRIS. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR LOTS MORE FUN AND FREEBIES TO COME!
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I had a great time speaking as a panellist at the Hotel Marketing Association’s recent Clearing up the Mystery of Blogging seminar at the Royal Garden Hotel. If I was able to share even a fraction of the insight some of the other panellists imparted, I did very well indeed!
Feedback during, immediately after, and since the event about my presentation has been overwhelmingly positive. It was even requested by a few folks from the audience that I share the highlights of it with them online. So, here’s the gist of what I had to say about the mystery of blogging.
I’ve pared the presentation down and edited out some of the more visual aspects. There may have been a few more slides of pie photography that the audience had the pleasure of viewing that I’ve edited out of this online version for the sake of brevity . 😉
My blog is a multipurpose platform
My blog, tikichris, features a variety of photo-rich posts published on a daily basis highlighting the best of London culture and lifestyle alongside lots of food and drink and travel related features and plenty of recommendations based on firsthand experience.
I see the blog as a sort of a multipurpose platform which serves as …
• An online calling card and ‘living’ CV;
• An outlet for expression;
• A way to celebrate things that interest me;
• A key to opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise be able to access; and
• A revenue stream.
I make money directly through the blog with advertising and sponsorship, and indirectly from jobs that come my way by people finding me though it. The client that has kept me busiest over the past year has been TripAdvisor. The gig that I seem to get the most mileage out of is travel writing for City AM. Just last week and rather out of the blue I was invited to blog for Huffington Post.
Clearing up the mystery of blogging
When I received the initial email asking if I would like to join this panel, I was chuffed to accept. Honestly, I felt a little nervous about public speaking but was fairly certain I could offer at least a bit of value to the discussion. Then another message landed in my inbox requesting that I come up with a five minute case study including “visuals” and details on how “the campaign” came about and “the success stories” in regards to figures, specifically “social reach, bookings generated, ROI, and percentage.” And I froze up.
“Huh?” was my first reaction. My second was “why in the world would a room full of marketing professionals want me to speak to them about marketing?” And that’s when an idea for this presentation dawned on me:
- Do you (marketing professionals) think we (bloggers) have the same goals and use the same metrics as you to measure success?
- Could there be a ginormous divide between how marketing professionals speak and how non-marketing people talk about hotels?
- Is there a gap between what marketers in the hospitality industry think bloggers do and how bloggers actually see themselves?
If so, I reckon that’s where I might be able to share some insight and help marketers better understand the mystery of bloggers.
I must admit I’m rather clueless as to ROI, bookings generated etc. I don’t really see those things as my job as a blogger and I certainly don’t keep track of them. But, I am pretty good at telling a story. And hopefully, as with any bloggers worth their salt, I’m a decent writer with an ability to engage my readers with great content. I’m “in” blogging because it’s such an amazing platform to broadcasting my message. I guess whether you’re talking about a travel blogger, food blogger, fashion blogger, mommy blogger, whatever blogger – the appeal of the medium is the same. We’re all in it to share information and tell our stories with immediacy.
As for visuals to go along with this presentation, I wasn’t sure what to share. It’s not all that uncommon for me to be in front of an audience speaking about blogging, but I must admit this is the first PowerPoint presentation I’ve done since longer than I can remember. I don’t have any graphs or pie charts, but here are some photos I’ve taken of pies.
I don’t really “do” campaigns. I get invited to experience an event or venue and then write about it. In a lot of cases, I’m not sure “how” a campaign came about or what it even is. But I can tell you about when I am invited somewhere, the reasons tend to fail into these categories:
- Something new – this is probably the most typical invite;
- Special occasion;
- In a slump;
- Aiming to reach a new or specific audience – increasingly this means my audience of mostly affluent Central Londoners.
But my blog isn’t just a series of posts created from accepting invites to stuff. Much of my content is the result of pursuing personal interests and trying to capitalize on existing circumstances. When I pitch to PRs, tourist boards, hotels, it usually falls into one of these broad categories:
• Keen interest;
• Special personal occasion;
• Blend of work and play;
• Making the most of an existing situation.
Sure I pay attention to my stats and try to find ways to increase traffic. And I’m all for making more money. But I’m not sure I – or many of the sorts of bloggers hotel and businesses in the hospitality industry would want to attract – measure success in the same way most marketing professionals would. For me success might be the chance to go somewhere new, treat my girlfriend to something special, become a better writer, or avoid getting a “real” job. But when I consider an invitation or come up with a pitch, I try to consider how it will affect the main reasons I blog (as mentioned at the beginning of this presentation):
• To enhance my online calling card and ‘living’ CV;
• To provide an outlet for expression;
• To celebrate things that interest me;
• To enjoy opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise be able to access; and
• To make money.
I suppose in one way or another and with varying degrees of importance, any blogger you’re apt to encounter would have the same similar agenda.
In closing, I guess what I’m trying to get at is that most bloggers are best at providing more qualitative than quantitative, but still exceptionally valuable, insight. I would urge anyone who’s looking to start reaching out to bloggers – or who has already but can’t seem to achieve anything substantial success dealing with them yet – to take the time to get to know a few key bloggers whom you think best pair with your brand. Nurture them, but also listen to them and ask for their advice … before “the campaign” starts. Odds are you’ll develop an excellent relationship with a potentially important ally, who …
• Isn’t afraid to express a strong opinion;
• Probably has an impression base of contacts;
• Can tell you what your competitors are doing;
• Knows what works and doesn’t as a consumer; and
• Generally loves to share.
For more information about the Hotel Marketing Association go to hotelmarketingassociation.com.
The other panellists for the Clearing up the Mystery of Blogging seminar included the following:
- Ernest Opoku – Digital Marketer at Generator Hostels responsible for web content and email marketing. He is also a blogger and a founder of lifestyle website yinnyang.co.uk.
- Gemma Bull – Gemma is PR Manager for InterContinental Hotels Group, Europe currently overseeing external brand communications across all brands for Europe. Previously, she was with PR agency Hill + Knowlton Strategies for 6 years where she worked across a number of big consumer, travel and retail brands including Yahoo!, Visa, Comet, B&Q, Sainsbury’s and IHG.
- Jen Lowthrop – Jen runs a blog titled She Gets Around, in which she shares her travel adventures and investigates different dating cultures – through personal experience and interviewing others. She has also been a contributor to DoubleTree Hilton’s popular DTour blog.
- Nienke Krook – With nearly half a million followers on Pinterest, Nienke’s The Travel Tester blog is a force to be reckoned with. Originally from Holland, Nienke blogs regularly on how travel can benefit personal development, with a mission to help followers best choose travel experiences to match their style.
- Terry Lee – Terry is Managing Editor of luxury lifestyle and travel blog LiveShareTravel. The blog is packed full of inside knowledge and personal experience from a collection of writers that are united by a desire to uncover travel tips that deliver luxury without breaking the bank.
- Heather Cowper – Heather is a seasoned blogger and speaker who has worked with brands, hotels and PR companies whilst running her Heather On Her Travels blog. She recently spoke at TBEX in Costa Brava on what’s working in paid blogger campaigns, as well at Social Travel Britain about why brands should target the 40+ traveller.
One of the nicer areas of London to visit is Wimbledon. Whether you are coming to the area during the time of year of the famous tennis tournament, visiting another time of year to take in all of the sights or are coming to this part of the city for business you will find that not only is there lots to do but there are many hotels that you can choose from for your stay.
Depending on the time of year you are coming this part of the city can be quite expensive for your hotel room so you may want to spend some time looking at cheap and budget hotels in Wimbledon London so you can find one that fits your budget.
Get Good Location at a Good Price
Just because you want to stay in this part of the city does not mean that you will not be able to find a good deal on your hotel. You first want to make sure that you are going to want to stay in a particular area in Wimbledon that places you near to where you want to be the most. This will make it much easier for you to get back and forth to the hotel, particularly if you are here during a busy time like tennis tournament time. You will also want to find a place that puts you near to major transit areas so that you can get to the train or bus easily for transit. Driving in this area of the city can get difficult and you can save yourself the expense and frustration of finding parking by using public transportation. If you want hotels in Wimbledon that fit this criterion and are affordable then you want to be sure to look at the Holiday Inn Express London Wimbledon South.
What You Will Find at the Hotel
When you stay at this hotel you can be in the perfect location to see and do everything you want to do in London. The hotel is very close to the Colliers Wood tube Station so you can be on the Underground in minutes and get to where you want to go in London easily. The hotel has undergone recent renovations so that all of the rooms available are now either new or completely refurbished so that they have all of the modern amenities you want the most. This includes features like free Wi-Fi access, LCD televisions, in-room safes, new bedding and carpeting and much more. There is also free breakfast each morning and a dinner menu available.
Finding a quality hotel room that is affordable in the heart of Wimbledon London does not have to be a difficult thing for you when you stay at the Holiday Inn Express London Wimbledon South. You will be able to get a fine hotel room for your stay with attentive stay, great amenities and the ideal location so that you can see the best of London.
Here’s an extremely easy recipe that should still impress any dinner guest. Earl Grey is a brilliant marinade for duck breast, infusing the meat with a range of light citrus notes and woody tannin flavour while tenderising it even more than it already is, resulting in an incredibly succulent dish.
Tip: If making more than two servings, one pot of tea should be enough for a marinade of up to four breasts.
COMPETITION IS NOW OVER AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING TIKICHRIS. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR LOTS MORE FUN AND FREEBIES TO COME!
Bonativo delivers fresh, unique products from producers who can only usually be found at farmers’ markets and specialty shops. I tried the service out recently and was impressed with the items I was able to purchase and by the use of use of the site and the speed at which my order was delivery. For your own taste of this nifty idea and a free chance to shop at this “online farmers’ market” for free, keep reading to find out about an exclusive giveaway competition Bonativo is running for my readers.
Obviously, nothing takes the place of browsing round a farmer’s market, inspecting, holding, smelling, maybe even sampling the foods you aim to purchase. It’s a fun way to shop. But what if you can’t make it to the market, or you’d like to have something tasty delivered to a friend, or you’re just keen to try out another way to support your favourite food producers?
Well, that’s where Bonativo comes in. From homemade biltong, to fresh baked bread, to artisan cheese and any variety of quality fruit, veg, meat, dairy and more … Bonativo brings the market to your doorstep via an online farmers’ market experience, serving Londoners with local and organic products while providing local farmers with a platform to sell their food to an online community.
Fancy giving this new service a spin? Here’s a chance to win a voucher code worth £50 of shopping with Bonativo to be delivered for free to your home, office or … ****
****NOTE: At the time of publication of this post, Bonativo only delivers within the Greater London area (inside the M25)****
To be in with a chance to win a £50 online shopping spree with free delivery from Bonativo, simply tweet the following:
Good luck. Please take a moment to read the terms and conditions before tweeting!
I’ll pick one winner at random on Friday 26 June at 11.30am BST. The winner will receive a voucher code worth £50 redeemable online at bonativo.co.uk. The code will be valid for only one use and will be active for 100 days from the time the winner receives it. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address within the M25 where your Bonativo order can be safely delivered.
For more about Bonativo, visit bonativo.co.uk.
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Considered to be Joyce’s masterpiece and a seminal piece of 20th century literature, the modernist novel Ulysses is known for its dense and dialect rich text and tells the story of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom.
Bloomsday commemorates the life of Irish writer James Joyce and the day of June 16, 1904, an otherwise nondescript day depicted in Joyce’s novel Ulysses. Bloomsday is named after Bloom, the principal character of the novel.
One of London’s most lauded luxury destinations, The Langham, celebrated a stately 150 years as a hotel last week. I tagged along for some of the birthday fun and had a peek at what’s new and upcoming for this upscale mainstay of impeccable hospitality.
Where else in London (or anywhere in the world for that matter) are you apt to have Theo Walcott bump into (and kindly apologise for it) while waiting for the lift for a viewing of a new, expansive and ultra-lux club lounge? Yes, that would be the Langham. It’s as conveniently situated as any accommodation can be, but in case you can’t find just off Regent Street, just look for the lavish palatial building where there’s probably a cluster of fans waiting to see [insert name of whatever celebrities are among the most adored by the public at the moment and happens to be visiting London], because there’s a good chance they’re staying at the Langham.
During my dash through the hotel at the onset of its birthday festivities, all the talk was about Lady Gaga. Was she in the building? On her way? Was she going to jump out of that giant cake made to look like the hotel? In the end, she made an appearance and help to Executive Pastry Chef Cherish Finden slice the first pieces. I had unfortunately moved on by then to cover another commitment, but not without having a quick look at the digs, along with a nibble or two and an elbow bend at the bar.
In addition to the new club lounge with butler service, media room, shower facilities and more (more! more!), there’s a soon-to-launch six-room suite as well as re-up and bolstered commitment on the part of the hotel and father and son chefs Albert Roux and Michel Roux Jr. Now even the room service is under their guidance.
At Artesian, the hotel bar (voted World’s Best Bar for the past three years by The World’s 50 Best Bars) nothing appeared to be new or different. And that’s a good thing I reckon. If it ain’t broke … And to my eyes’ and taste buds’ delight, everything at this fantastic watering hole famed for its fun, innovative and somewhat wacky cocktails was working perfectly fine.
The Langham London is located at 1C Portland Place, Regent Street, W1B 1JA. Find out more at langhamhotels.com.
When the sun is out, a table at Blueprint Café overlooking the Thames is a glorious spot to enjoy a meal. And it’s been my experience that the café’s Head Chef Martyn Moody’s meals are definitely enjoyable. His new Saturday brunch menu is a guaranteed weekend delight. As for the weather, there are no guarantees, but the crisp blue skied Saturday I paid a visit was gorgeous.
So a sunshiny Saturday afternoon tucking into a big plate o’ brunch – could it get better? Sure. Add the £15 unlimited Bloody Mary – and a fiercely spiced one at that – to the mix and voila good times.
Hardly my first time at Blueprint Café or even the first visit this year, I’ve come to expect top quality but fairly basic food to be served in its airy dining room. The new brunch menu is no exception.
I found my Wye Valley asparagus with Parmesan custard and crispy Parma ham (£7.50) a deliciously seasonal way to commence my meal. Topped with fresh dill, a mild and creamy Kedgeree with hay smoked North Sea haddock and Burford brown eggs and topped (£6.50 as a starter, £12 as a main) was just the sort of comfort food item I’d hoped to come across when reading the menu. The flow of refill Bloody Maries never dried up during my meal, even as I finished my selection of sorbets (£6.50 for three scoops; I got apple, passion fruit, and coconut).
I had a great time and a lovely dine. Judging from good vibes in the restaurant while I was there – lots of laughs, glass tinkling (Blueprint does unlimited Prosecco too) – I reckon everybody else would have said the same.
Brunch is available every Saturday from 10am to 2.30pm.
Blueprint Café is located at the Design Museum, 28 Shad Thames, SE1 2YD.
Find out more at blueprintcafe.co.uk.
These sweet potato duck croquetas are crowd pleasers,perfect for BBQs and casual dinner parties.
I like to dip my croquetas in an easy-to-make chipotle honey mustard sauce: one part yellow “American” mustard, one part honey and couple of drops of Tabasco Chipotle. But good old plain ketchup does the trick too!
Summertime in London means it’s time to head to the riverside to see what’s up and festive. A calendar full of events scheduled for London’s South Bank aims to delight locals and visitors alike with something for virtually every interest and all ages.
Here’s a look at the area’s three main festivals for summer 2015 …
Did you have fun reading my series of posts about the great time I had visiting the boot heel of Italy? I certainly got a kick out of my trip! But such a short jaunt of Puglia only proved to be a tease, and now I’m craving to discover more about this sunny region.
Of course, when I head back I’ll be sure to write about it. Until then though, to help you browse the posts I’ve published about my tasty time in Puglia, here’s a list with links to all of them:
A Taste of Puglia
Cheers for following A Taste of Puglia. Please feel free to take a look at all my miniseries and special features.
Barclaycard has created five videos featuring snippets from the stand-up routine of the comedian Jason Manford sharing hilarious observations about all those pesky money/payment situations we find ourselves in too often these days.
I certainly can relate to the scenario described in the above clip! We’ve all been there, waiting for ages on the phone then to have to work through a series of secret words and codes and answer any number of personal questions to some monotone automaton on the other side of the line only to begin to ask our own questions about whatever account or service. Sometimes, if feels like the onslaught of questions actually gets in the way of accomplishing things and can even leave me feeling less secure secure about everything (like when I have to pay for the call, when I’m travelling abroad, when in public, need something resolved ASAP and I’m having to say all these secret passwords and codes out loud).
I love Jason’s take on such situations, especially his comment about fraud prevention. Classic.
Post sponsored by Barclaycard.
Sometime during my recent visits to Sicily, Barcelona and Puglia the elements of this recipe starting fomenting in my ravenous mind. Once home with enough time to play around with my ideas, I was keen to create what’s turned out to be a really scrumptious dish: squid and chickpea barley.
This is a delicious and textured dish to assemble and takes little skill to prepare. For those who’ve never cooked with squid before, it is super easy and requires hardly any time at all.
I’m including this recipe as part of my Taste of Puglia series because one of the key ingredients – chickpeas – comes compliments of I Murgini, a farming collective based in Puglia with a mission to grow “organic lentils and ancient grains” and produce from them products “void of refined sugar and artificial additives” and an aim to reduce air pollutant emissions, renew the organic soil fertility, protect the environment, and produce healthy food.
I Murgini’s chickpeas – even just on their own – have so much more flavour than any standard off-the-shelf variety I’ve had in the past. In all honestly, as tasty as I believe my recipe to be, the chickpeas with just a touch of salt and maybe some parsley would have been a flavourfully fine dish on their own.
In addition to the chickpeas, the Murgini folks sent me a package filled with other products they’re grown. My hope is to make more time to prepare some recipes with them.
Along with a handful of other yummy Pugliese recs, I gave I Murgini a mention a few posts back in my A Taste of Puglia: Eating write up. For more information, visit the collective online at imurgini.it.
SQUID AND CHICKPEA BARLEY Yum
Ingredients (4-6 servings)
• 500g chickpeas;
• 200g pearl barley;
• 1 anchovy fillet;
• Olive oil to taste;
• Sea salt to taste;
• 3-4 diced garlic cloves;
• Seeds from 1 pomegranate;
• About 50g of raisins;
• 1 fennel bulb finely sliced;
• Chopped mint to taste;
• Chopped parsley to taste;
• Chopped coriander to taste;
• Chopped oregano to taste;
• Chopped chives to taste;
• Paprika to taste;
• Black pepper to taste;
• 600g squid tube rings;
• 25-30g pine nuts;
• Juice from one lemon;
• Rocket to taste (optional)
This recipe assumes the barley and chickpeas are already cooked, drained, and ready to eat (preferably still warm), and that the squid is already prepared and ready to be cooked.
• Combine the barley and chickpeas in a large bowl and mix evenly;
• Add a few generous pinches of salt along with the fennel, pomegranate seeds, raisins and about half the lemon juice to the bowl and mix evenly;
• Stir in the mint, parsley, coriander, oregano, and chives to the mix;
• Sprinkle a dash of paprika and freshly milled black pepper across the top;
• Cover and set aside.
• Pour a glug of olive oil into a frying pan or wok and set to high heat;
• Place the garlic, anchovy and a pinch of salt in the pan;
• Once the anchovy starts to disintegrate, add the squid and the pine nuts and stir fry until the squid starts to brown;
• Give the squid a squirt of lemon to the squid before removing from the pan;
• Place the squid atop the mixture in the bowl.
Consider serving this dish atop a rocket salad or with similarly peppery greens on the side. For added umph maybe pour on some pomegranate molasses to the mix.
Read more tikichris recipes.
Time Out published a piece this week in its magazine and online with ideas from “the city’s best bloggers on amazing food, lazy strolls, hazy evenings, hot nights and cool things to do in London this summer.” I’m chuffed to have been asked to contribute with one of my own favourite summertime suggestions.
I saw the article as an opportunity to big up an area in East London that’s “ace for photos – especially ‘nature juxtaposed against city’ type shots – and offers a great break from the urban grind with wide-open spaces” and more.
The last post in my Taste of Puglia series was about the best bites from the region. But what drinks pair well with all that excellent southern Italian food … wine … coffee? Sure! Puglia can be proud of its contributions to these two most significant liquid elements of Italian culture.
Caffe in Ghiaccio con Latte di Mandorla
Iced coffee with almond milk? Yes please! Pardon the pun, but I went nuts for this flavourfully embellished way folks in Lecce like to enjoy an espresso. The tastiest had was probably at Caffe Tito Schipa, situated in the heart of Lecce and a pleasant spot to take a break with plenty of shaded outdoor seating.
Speaking of coffee, I spent the better part of one morning during my trip at the roasting and blending facilities of Quarta Coffee, on the outskirts of Lecce. In the coffee roasting business for more than 60 years, Quarta began as a café with onsite roasting. Over the past six years or so this family owned company has grown to be the 11th largest coffee brand in Italy (out of more than 500 other brands and as measured by bags of raw material imported). The Quarta family is proud to claim theirs is the first eco friendly business in Puglia, using 70% renewable energy with the aim of zero mile production to be achieved soon.
Pulled by an expert barista at the quaint bar at the main entrance to the facilities, the Quarta espresso I had was a tasty number – and properly Italian too. I was informed that the Quarta blend is the typical “Italian mix” which usually means 80% arabica and 20% robusta, in the case of Quarta from a variety of sources across Latin America and Africa.
Keeping an eye on the future of java sipping in Italy and abroad with a keen interest in current coffee trends and a tip of the hat to how his granddad started out, third generation Edo Quarta runs his own micro-roasting lab, experimenting with single estate beans and flavour profiles less associated with the traditional Italian espresso.
Not all the likely to be found on the shelves of shops in London, I was told Quarta is stocked at some coffee retailers in town as well as by a few shops specialising in products from Puglia.
More details at quartacaffe.com.
The Coppola family (no relation to Francis Ford) has been tending vineyards and making wine in Gallipoli since 1489. And since the 1940s, they’ve been bottling and marking their vino too. I paid a visit to the winery while in Gallipoli and was impressed with just about everything I sipped during a tasting in the sea level cellar only some 200m from the sea.
Of particular note were the Li Cuti – a delicate single varietal Vermontino white; the award winning Doxi – an 80% indigenous Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera red offering rich flavour with a hint of vanilla custard; and Tafuri, a naturally sweetened Passito dessert wine that’s a blend of indigenous Negroamaro and Primitivo grapes.
Bottles at the winery shop were excellent value with most priced around or under €8. The Passito was €15. The family makes delicious extra virgin olive oil too and runs a campsite with sandy beach access and a waterpark featuring the largest for miles around.
Visit Cantina Coppola online at cantinacoppola.it and lamasseria.net.
D’Alfonso del Sordo
One of two wines for northern Puglia I’ve come across here in London – and very much savoured – at a “reception to celebrate Puglia and its gastronomic delights” at the Grosvenor Square residence of the Ambassador of Italian to the UK, was a quaff from San Severo based winery, D’Alfonso del Sordo. The winery’s 2012 Casteldrione (100% Nero di Troia) was an exceptional full-bodied red worth seeking out. Details at dalfonsodelsordo.it.
The other northern Puglia wine sipped at the same Grosvenor Square reception was the spicy and tannic Nobiles (Nero di Troia) from L’Antica Cantina (also based in San Severo). More at anticacantina.it.
More about my Taste of Puglia coming soon!
Love seafood? Go to Puglia. I had such exquisite meals there, with the star of dinnertime show always something from the sea freshly caught and deliciously presented. I can think of a handful of other destinations that might rival the region with respect to its maritime cooking – but only a very few, and they are among my favourite places in the world.
If a dietician were to design a food pyramid based solely on my most preferred eats, it would have giant tentacles extending from its based and wrapped around it to the top. Squid … octopus … cuttlefish: I had so much of it – along with all sorts of other bounty of the sea dishes – always sumptuously presented but with minimal fanfare while visiting Puglia … and at such low prices (from my gouged Londoner perspective anyway).
Beyond the depths of the deep blue, edibles yielded from the Pugliese land were a dream for a gourmand like me ever on the search for rustic flavour. Bitter greens were always on prominent display at any table, and southern Italian items as foreigners might cravenly expect (pasta, tomato sauce, olives) were never far away and always prepared to a high standard.
Anyhoo, enough with the waxing poetical. Let’s get down to the scrumptious nitty gritty with a list of my best bites from Puglia.
Le Zie Trattoria di Perrone Anna Carmela
Via Costadura, 19, 73100 Lecce
A downhome foodie institution in the heart of Lecce, this popular house-converted-into-a-restaurant served one of the best meals I’ve had all year. With a focus on regional cucina casareccia (traditional made from scratch home cooking) served in a comfy and welcome setting and bolstered by a fantastic Pugliese wine list, I loved everything about my dining experience there, especially the local favourite polpo in pignata (octopus with tomatoes cooked in an terracotta pot). I had the pleasure of dining with colleague Gareth Jones, who’s published his own loving tribute to our wonderful meal; read it here. For more about Le Zie (and to make a reservation), visit the trattoria online at lezie.it.
Via Vittorio Emanuele II, 73100 Lecce
I had a cheap and cheerful taste of local pastries such as the savoury rustica and the think and custardy pasticciotto at this humble yet seemingly constantly buzzy little bakery and pizzeria. More at larusticalecce.it.
Lungo Mare Marconi, 73014 Gallipoli
So much seafood in a floating restaurant over crystal clear water surrounding by boats and just steps off the shore. For a taste of the region’s famed gambero rosso and a copious variety of fish, raw bar options and more, Marechiaro appeared to be as good a choice as any. Check out the Marechiaro Facebook page for more info: facebook.com/pages/Ristorante-Marechiaro-Gallipoli/160371790675307.
One of the main reasons I was invited to visit Puglia was to attend Artigianato d’Eccellenza, an annual craft fair in Lecce held in the historic Piazza di Giosue’ Carducci and at the deconsecrated church of San Francesco della Scarpa next to it. The fair featured plenty of pretty things to look at but not a lot of food; still, the food producers who were exhibiting were making some really tasty stuff. I was particularly taken with the offering of Elena Georgopoulos, who produces an amazing range of olive oils (from an array of olives including wild local varietals, preserves and pestos at the ancient farm that’s been in her family for many generations, under the lable Le Saittole. Everything Elena let me sample wowed my palate, notably her yellow pepper and courgette with mint “creams.” I was foolish not to bring a load of her products home with me. Have a look at Le Saittole online at lesaittole.com.
I Murgini is a farming collective based in Alta Murgia rural park with a mission to grow “organic lentils and ancient grains” and produce from them products “void of refined sugar and artificial additives” and an aim to reduce air pollutant emissions, renew the organic soil fertility, protect the environment, and produce healthy food. Heroes! And, of course, the byproduct of such an eco-friendly ethos is awesome flavour.
The collective had been in touch with me via email ages before I even knew I’d be heading down to Puglia. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to meet up with any members during my trip. But I am dying to go back and spend a decent chunk of time checking out what they do.
I Murgini’s guiding principles very much match with my own gastro-aspirations. I was pleased to receive here at my London home a package of gorgeously flavoursome and back-to-basics products from them, which inspired a few new recipes … but more on that to come!
Find out more at imurgini.it.
A new limited edition Scents of Summer afternoon tea is available now and running until the end of September at the Wellington Lounge of the Intercontinental London Park Lane. The colourfully presented tea features a bouquet of delicacies created by the hotel’s Executive Chef Ashely Wells in collaboration with Edward Bodenham, 9th generation of the world’s oldest family-run perfumers Floris. For a taste (and whiff) of the joys of summer, this afternoon tea offers a luxurious opportunity to while away some and come out smelling like a rose!
Culinary talent and perfumery expertise come together for a “sensory journey” celebrating the glory of the British summer with notes from Floris fragrances, such as freshly cut grass, jasmine, bergamot, citrus, and rose.
I found the experience to be delightful fun. A couple of times during the tea, the server came out to spray Floris fragrances into the air. Nice touch! Still, the more edible aspects were the real highlight for me. I especially enjoyed the earl grey butter served with the fresh baked wholemeal scones (while a more flavourful than expected wild strawberry jam impressed as well). Other notable treats worth booking your own scent-uous session included bergamot macaroons and jasmine teacakes.
Of course, the actual teas were fantastic too. I remain a fan of the hotel’s very own nicely balanced Wellington Blend and am now an advocate for its Tippy Orthodox Assam Phulbari Estate, a strong, oaky and pungent black tea.
The Scents of Summer Afternoon Tea costs £45 per person (minimum two persons) and is available until 27 September.
The well-appointed and elegant Wellington Lounge is located in the lobby of the Intercontinental London Park Lane Hotel, One Hamilton Place, Park Lane, W1J 7QY. Reservations for the afternoon teas are recommended. Find out more at wellington-lounge.co.uk.
So as I alluded in the intro to this series about my time in Puglia, my aim is to share the best bits of my time there as well as highlight some Pugliese treats I’ve come across here in London. But where to start? I suppose at the source is as good a place as any, especially when it’s as beautiful as the Salento, the very bottom of the country’s so called boot heel.
While visiting Puglia I stayed in Lecce. Known as the “Florence of the South,” the city is famous for its many over-the-top Baroque palaces and churches jam packed into remarkably close proximity. Most of these lavish buildings are constructed of the local sandstone, which appears to be almost illuminated at sunset. Beyond the Baroque sights, there’s a fairly well preserved Roman amphitheatre in the heart of Lecce as well as ancient villages and archaeological sites nearby. A fairly compact city where (like just about anywhere you go in Italy) easy access to amazing restaurants, cafes, bars and food shops is all but a given and history oozes from virtually every cobblestone, timber beam or brick.
The other city I managed to have a look at during my trip was the seaside town of Gallipoli. A humbler destination than Lecce in a lot of ways, Gallipoli was a blend of ancient fishing village and contemporary beach resort: narrow lanes and tourist tat. The waters round the town were as crystal clear as any I’ve ever spied. The seafood I devoured over lunch as gorgeous as I could have hoped for. Plenty of recs on food and drink, including a great suggestion for dining in Gallipoli, are coming soon in future posts.
Heading out, I flew EasyJet via Stansted to Brindisi Salento Airport. Coming back, I hopped an Alitalia flight to Heathrow with a short layover at Milan Linate. On the ground in Puglia as part of a small delegation of UK journos, our Italian Trade Commission hosts had prearranged the transportation. So I can’t offer much advice on what’s best for individual travel needs, except to say you definitely need a car to make the most of even a short ‘stay put’ visit to the region. Distances between sights worth seeing weren’t too far from each other; roads were in good condition and appeared to be well marked; and we never seemed to be too far from the sea.
Yet again, the good ole Addison Lee app (actually it’s really rather new) came to the rescue. I used it to get me to Stansted for my redeye flight out and again for my transfer back home from Heathrow. I’ve relied on the app a number of times before and have yet to encounter issues or less than exemplary service.
When travelling in Italy, my experience has been that the deeper south I go, the more beguiling the country becomes. This observation held true in mid May when I ventured to Puglia – the heel of Italian boot – for a whistle stop press trip and my first time in this sunny and rustic region. During my few nights visit, things often occurred in manners and for reasons beyond my comprehension. For sure, some of that could be chalked up simply to me being a dumbass. Still, a lot of it – much of it – had way more to do with the place, the people, and the culture.
A valuable lesson of travel is the realisation that to forgo any feelings of frustration brought on by folks behaving differently than where you’re from or how you’re accustomed usually allows what’s most splendid about a destination to be revealed. Indeed that proved to be the case while I was in Puglia. Hanging loose and going with the flow led me to stunning sights to behold, amusing situations to consider, and all sorts of gorgeously delicious food and drink to be enjoyed.
Aside from actually going to Puglia, the region had been presenting her charming self to me in a variety of ways even before I was asked to join the press trip: by inserting herself into the topic of conversation with other writers, showing up in my email inbox with invitations to Pugliese wine tastings or special restaurant events here in London, even waiting at my front door in a package of foods from the region for me to sample in the comfort of my home.
My introduction to Puglia was alluring and suggestive – enchanting me before I was even aware I would be going there. I savoured so many moments during my brief visit, and I crave the chance to return. But before that, I look forward to sharing the lure of this wonderful wedge of Italy with you over the next few days in a short series of posts.