This coming Easter weekend, we will be closed on Good Friday – 18th – and Easter Monday – 21st.
Open for both lunch and dinner on Saturday 19th, and back to normal service from Tuesday 22nd.
As part of the Real Wine month being run by Le Caveau wine merchants, Paradiso is hosting a special five-course dinner on Monday 28th April. Each course will focus on pairing a star local and seasonal ingredient with a natural wine.
The menu is a very exciting work-in-progress that will be posted closer to the day, so all I’ll say for now is that we expect to be able to bring you Gortnanain asparagus and artichokes as well as a special selection of Ballyhoura mushrooms, amongst other delights.
The evening will be just one sitting with a 7pm kick-off and is priced at €60 for dinner and matching wines. Tickets are limited and can be booked only by calling the restaurant on 021 4277939.
So, what is a ‘natural’ wine anyway, I hear you ask? One simple definition, from the Le Caveau website, is that natural wines are made from organic or biodynamic grapes with minimal intervention in the winery. Perhaps that suggests a step on from the ‘organic’ and ‘biodynamic’ wines of recent decades, where the philosophy of ‘natural’ is taken further, from the vineyard into the winery, with less refining and additives.
Luckily, we will have Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau on hand in Paradiso on Monday 28th to talk about natural wines in general and to guide us through the wines he has chosen for the evening. His company has a fabulous selection of hand-picked wines from small producers, many of them biodynamic and natural, and Pascal will be bringing along five to taste on the night.
Get to the telephone if you haven’t already…021 4277939.
Paradiso first opened its doors twenty years ago, way back in October 1993 when the celtic tiger was an innocent wee glint in a property developer’s eye, and opening a restaurant wasn’t really the most sensible way to go about making a living. It’s been an incredible ride so far, and one that doesn’t feel half done yet. Even now, Paradiso still feels more like a new kid on the block than the institution it has become. We’re immensely proud of the achievements along the way, the awards and recognition, the books published, milestones ticked off and obstacles overcome. Mostly, we’re proud of the standards we’ve set for ourselves, maintained and improved, and for continuing to put quality of food and service first. This is mostly down to the incredible dedication of the people who work here, now and in the past. We’re honoured by the relationships we’ve built up with suppliers, growers and producers, and with the customers whose support, curiosity and love of good food has pushed us all the time to be the best we can be.
We’ve been celebrating during this month of October with events like Free Tuesday, giveaways of overnight packages, vouchers, books and random pouring of prosecco, and we’ll continue with occasional and spontaneous celebrations right through the coming year. And we’ll be celebrating best by simply continuing to do what we do. Sure, they say the first twenty years is the hardest.
This year’s budget added a further 50 cent government duty to every bottle of wine imported into the country. In Paradiso, we will be adding that 50c when our suppliers add it to our invoices. No hiding it, no pretending to ‘absorb’ it for a short while, and definitely no multiplying it. Here’s why:-
What we learned from last year’s budget increase in duty of €1 was that the old system of marking up wine was broken, redundant in a price-conscious climate where the government is likely to impose more regular increases. That old pricing system involved taking the cost of a bottle, including all of its duty and taxes, and multiplying it by whatever the in-house multiplier happens to be. Multiplier numbers vary widely across the industry, and the issue isn’t whether specific multipliers are fair or not; it’s simply that continuing to multiply duties and taxes makes no sense. We set out our stall in detail last January.
Basically, as the amount of duty on each bottle increases year on year, a system that multiplies that increasing number passes on more cost than is necessary. Over time, it can only become ridiculous. In January 2013 we switched to a wine pricing system that adds a flat rate to the cost of every bottle. Therefore, if the supplier’s price goes up by 50c then our retail price will too, while our profit figure remains the same. Because we don’t multiply the taxes.
Besides, government taxes and duties aren’t the only things that change the cost of wine during a year. Many wines change price when a new vintage of a brand comes in; or a supplier may offer discounts or withdraw them. The increase or decrease should be passed on, but it shouldn’t need to be multiplied. We believe that our flat-rate mark-up system is fairer, and becomes more so with each new tax increase. And we’re confident that it reflects the best approach to give real value for the customer, the more so as you go up the price range of the wine list.
Paradiso will be closed for a short holiday over the Christmas season, from Tuesday 24th to Thursday 26th, inclusive. We will then re-open for dinner on Friday 27th and for lunch and dinner on Saturday 28th December.
We will be open New Year’s Eve, Tuesday 31st December for normal dinner service, then closed on Wednesday 1st January.
The full Christmas and New Year schedule is detailed below –
Monday 16th to Friday 20th December – DINNER
Saturday 21st December – LUNCH and DINNER
Monday 23rd December – DINNER
CLOSED Tuesday 24th to Thursday 26th inclusive
Friday 27th – DINNER
Saturday 28th – LUNCH and DINNER
Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st – DINNER
CLOSED Wednesday 1st January
Normal service resumes on Thursday 2nd January; that is – dinner Monday to Saturday, lunch on Saturdays only.
As part of the Bringing the Wine Geese Home Gathering series of events, we are delighted to announce that Emma Cullen of Cullen Wines in Margaret River, Australia will showcase thier wines at a special dinner in Paradiso on Tuesday 28th May.
Cullen Wines are renowned not only for their sophisticated quality but also for the philosophy behind their production, being produced on a certified biodynamic, carbon neutral and naturally powered estate. Rest assured, the Paradiso kitchen will be cooking up a storm to match these wines through a multi-course meal.
This will be a single sitting dinner event with limited availability, and booking is essential. Tickets, at €65 for dinner and accompanying wines, can be booked by calling the restaurant on 021 4277939.
There are a lot of food festivals popping up these days, but this one might be a bit special – the inaugural Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine. As their tagline says, “this new festival will bring some of the world’s best known chefs, critics, commentators, kitchen gardeners, foragers and wine experts to East Cork”. Now, those words might get you excited or they might make you want to go see the extended version of Dr. Zhivago in russian…but, hang on…check out the list of speakers and the programme: – litfest.ie/programme-friday/ – this is a truly impressive line-up of international writers.
I’ll be there on Saturday afternoon from 4.30pm til cocktail hour, in the Blue Dining Room, leading what is billed as a literary conversation with the title of ‘for the love of food’. I’m not entirely certain yet, but I think I’m going to seize the opportunity to talk about my four books, each one’s different style and approach to food, the inspirations behind the words and recipes of each, and some never before revealed behind the scenes gossip (sort of).
To make sure the conversation is truly literary, and even that it is a conversation rather than a monologue, I’d appreciate it if some of you would come along with questions, opinions and prompts.
As an illustration of how spectacular is the line-up for the weekend, instead of chatting with me in that time slot on Saturday afternoon, you could be at a demo by Claudia Roden, having tea with Mrs. Allen or Skye Gyngell, or hearing Joanna Blythman tell about ‘digesting unsavoury truths’. BUT…listen up and don’t spread this around too much…only in the Blue Room will there be card tricks (possibly), musical interludes (unlikely) and raffles for dinner in Cafe Paradiso (definitely).
As promised in the wake of the December budget that added €1 to the government duty on wine, we spent January dismantling not only our wine list but our approach to buying and selling wine. A lot of time was spent on analysing wine sales over the past couple of years, and a lot more on thinking about just exactly what it is that people want from a wine list.
The second question led us to this conclusion: a useful list isn’t about size or length; it’s more important that it offers a wide choice of wine styles that work well with the food; and it should allow the customer access to the entire list even if they don’t feel like drinking a whole bottle. More wines by the glass?…why not all wines by the glass?…why not all wines in more measures than glass and bottle?
So we installed a system that keeps opened bottles in perfect condition. Then we changed the measures on offer to these – a medium sized glass of 150ml, a little “quartino” carafe of 250ml, the classic “mezza” half-litre, and of course the full 750ml bottle. Next, we re-wrote the list to offer every wine in all of these sizes.
Along the way, we looked hard at every wine on the old list, dumped (or drank) a few monsters that were hanging around doing nothing and got in some very exciting new stars. There’s a link to the new list below, but please read on for a few minutes more, there’s even better news…
Back to the thing that first kicked off the process – government duties, taxes, and the cost of wine. It’s irrelevant now whether the duty increase was justified or not, the issue for us is about what happens after that. The classic system of pricing wine is to multiply the cost price, and that involves multiplying all the duty and the tax on that duty. As duty and taxes go up and up, this is looking like an archaic method. Also, on paper at least, the higher cost wines are multiplied into very high selling prices, making them very profitable indeed. Except that in recent years they mostly just sat there on the rack. The ‘profit’ was largely notional.
As is usual with statistics, we learned what we already instinctively knew – that the vast majority of our wine sales have been in the ‘by the glass’ and ‘wine of the month’ price range or just above. Most of those bottles have been giving us roughly the same actual margin, and the occasional sale of higher priced bottles with on-paper bigger margins makes little real difference to our turnover or profit.
The sensible conclusion is this: applying the real margin that we previously made on lower priced wines to ALL wines will make a huge change to the accessibility of the entire list, while changing very little about our how much we make on wine sales.
As of now and going forward, we won’t be multiplying anything, instead simply adding a flat sum to the cost of every bottle, whether that cost be €10 or €50. The result will be locked-down value on all of our wines, and seriously good value the higher up the wine chain you drink.
This isn’t an act of charity. Rather, it is a realisation that blindly using the standard system doesn’t serve us – or you – well any more. It may even be that by removing two of the barriers that make people nervous of straying up the wine list, i.e. the scary margins and bottle-only pricing, we may very well sell more wine.
Most importantly, we’re going to enjoy having an entire list of wines that we love open for you. Have fun with it.
As promised, here’s the new list, new prices, new measures.
We have two very special wines of the month for December, to match the celebratory food of the season.
But first, it’s impossible to even mention wine without commenting on the huge increase to the already crippling government duties announced in the recent budget. The increase comes into force immediately. However, we have decided to absorb the cost for now and maintain our wine prices at current levels until after the Christmas period. In the new year, we will look at every aspect of our purchasing and costing of wines with the aim of being able to carry on offering unique and wonderful wines at the best possible prices. As with every aspect of the business now, just because they keep making it harder doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Now, to those fabulous wines of the month:-
The red comes from the good folks at Liberty Wines and is a valpolicella ripasso made by the Alpha Zeta winery near Verona in Italy. Rich, concentrated and smoothly full-bodied with intense cherry flavours, it goes down a treat with winter food.
From Wines Direct, we have Atlantik Albarino from the prestigious Bodegas Fillaboa in the Rias Baixas region of Galicia in the north east of Spain. This is one of the finest examples of the increasingly popular albarino, crisp and mouthwatering with lingering apple, almond and lime flavours, and described by one writer as being a handcrafted, wickedly piquant wine’. Perfect food wine.
We’ve got a small supply of a very fine example of brand new, hot off the presses fresh olive oil. This one is from the Capezzana estate, north west of Florence in Tuscany, an estate that has been producing olive oil for literally thousands of years but which is bang up to date with its modern production methods and style of oil.
For those of you with an appetite for information on what you’re eating, here are some notes – courtesy of Liberty Wines – on the growing and processing history of the bottles of oil we’ve just received:
Olive trees in this area, close to the most northern frontier of olive
cultivation, produce less than one tenth of the quantity produced
by those in milder, more southerly climes. This oil is made primarily
from Moraiolo. This is an early ripening variety, so the olives tend to
be blacker when picked resulting in softer, fruitier oils. The estate
has 140 hectares of olive groves with 26,000 trees.
Spring was very wet and at the beginning of April it snowed with
temperatures close to zero. The cool temperatures inhibited
flowering of the earlier ripening Moraiolo variety especially at the
low altitudes. The last rain of any significance (30mm) was on 13th
June and was followed by a long dry, hot spell. Fortunately, on 28th
August 28mm of rain fell, saving production. In September it
continued to rain sporadically, providing enough water for the crop
to ripen. The olives harvested were beautiful – healthy, ripe and
fleshy. Harvest started a week earlier than usual on 15th October.
Capezzana has recently improved its technique for olive oil
production to obtain a fruitier oil with lower levels of oleic acid. In
Extra Virgin olive oil, the level of oleic acid must not exceed 0.8%
(Capezzana’s rarely reaches 0.2%). This is achieved by picking early
and processing the olives within 12 hours. Ultra modern, stainless
steel continuous presses are used. Most experts agree that this
method of pressing results in fresher, cleaner oils that retain their
colour and fruitiness for a longer period of time as oxidation has
been prevented. The oil is then settled in a mixture of terracotta
‘orci’ (urns) and stainless steel vats before bottling.
Vivid bright green in colour, the Capezzana oil is remarkably
elegant and delicate. It is soft and fruity in style, with a touch spice.
It is perfect for drizzling over freshly baked bread and for dressing
Paradiso will be closed for a short holiday over the Christmas season, from Sunday 23rd to Thursday 27th, inclusive. We will then re-open for dinner on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th December.
Because New Year’s Eve falls on a Monday this year, we will not be open on that evening, nor on Tuesday 1st January. Normal service resumes on Wednesday 2nd January.
The full Christmas and New Year schedule is detailed below –
Tuesday 18th to Thursday 20th – dinner
Friday 21st – lunch and dinner
Saturday 22nd – lunch and dinner
CLOSED 23rd to 27th
Friday 28th – dinner
Saturday 29th – dinner
CLOSED 30th – 1st
Wednesday 2nd and Thursday 3rd – dinner
Friday4th and Saturday 5th – lunch and dinner
Starting on Friday 5th October, our twice a week LUNCH menu will be undergoing some minor surgery to adapt it to the seasons ahead.
The small-plates-to-share format has been great fun over the summer, a wonderful way to highlight the amazing Gortnanain produce. So much for the lazy days of summer. The menu changes are also in acknowledgement of feedback from those who have returned to offices, classrooms and courtrooms and whose agenda at lunchtime has reverted to a need to be fed well in a short time.
The newly-tweaked menu maintains a range of dishes that can be approached as grazing plates or as proper starters; or even as side dishes. Added to this are four or five more substantial main courses. The result, we hope, is a menu that works equally well for the leisurely grazers and the busy bees.
Due to a fiddly electrical repair job that needs to be done over the weekend, there will be no lunch service this Saturday, the 14th. We will open for dinner as usual at 5.30pm.
Sorry if this causes any disappointment. Hopefully it will be a scorcher and you can all go to the beach instead.
Lunch service resumes in Paradiso this coming Friday, the 2nd March, after a break of four weeks. And, rest assured, we haven’t been idling during the long afternoons of February. Here’s the new menu.
Besides training a couple of new chefs, we’ve been trying out some new dishes, buying a few new bits of crockery and generally toying with different approaches to the idea of lunch. And all the while coping with a very busy dinner service, thank you very much. Seriously, thank you, let us pause for a second to thank all who came out to dine, making this February a much more enjoyable experience than the past couple of grim Februarys. (Can you pluralise months? Spellcheck says no).
So what is the result our think-in? It is this: dinner is dinner and lunch is lunch. Yes, you might well ask if it took us a month of noodling around to come up with that? Kind of, but not really. It was more the case that we started with that sentence and tried to figure out what the practical consequences of it were for us.
Because we want everyone who comes to Paradiso to have the best experience possible of what we do, there is a tendency to leak dinner-style dishes onto the lunch menu. We worry that people coming for lunch, particularly from out of town, won’t “get” us if we only give them lunch. This is not how we want to think, it just happens gradually until one day we sit down to eat lunch and realise “hey, this is dinner!”
So we’ve taken the lunch menu apart, stripped out the dinner, and put it back together in a format that is less formal and, we believe, more fun to graze around. Starters have been dismantled into smaller, simpler dishes that can be treated as sharing plates, side dishes, tapas or proper starters; and we’ve added a couple of large flavour-bursting salads to the bigger plates. Hopefully, the options are there in this new format to provide anything from a casual light lunch of multiple flavours to a blowout three courses with knobs on.
While giving you a different way to eat Paradiso, the new format will give us a new way to put ingredients together and to respond to produce availability.
We’re looking forward to playing around with flavours and styles in the coming months, especially as Spring kicks in and produce starts to flow from the farm. Some old favourites will be making jazzed-up guest appearances rather than hanging around getting stale, and hopefully some new dishes will soon be old favourites.
Check out the first menu. Then come in and take a graze through it. Lunch is served Friday and Saturday, from 12 noon to 3pm, and you can book on 021 4277939.
In an early bout of lenten sacrifice – or a late new year’s resolution, perhaps – we’re giving up lunch for the month of February.
As well as changes to the format of the dinner menu, we want to do some tweaking to the style of the lunch menu, and will be using the month of February to work on the structure of the menu, try out new dishes and train a couple of new chefs.
The dates for your diary then -lunch WILL be served on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th January, then we will be serving dinner only for four weeks. Friday and Saturday lunches will return on the 2nd March, and we’ll be posting the new menu here a few days before that.
If there’s anything good you can say about the sleepy month of January, it might be that it’s a good time for reflection, analysis and making grand plans for the future. Each of the last three Januarys has seen changes to at least one of the menu structures, staffing and/or opening hours here in Cafe Paradiso; and this year we’ve been doing some more hard thinking.
One of the most satisfying aspects of 2011 – besides simply being still standing at the end of it – has been the success of our short three-course menu that has been running alongside the longer a la carte dinner menu every evening. Leave well alone then, you might say. However, if we’d said that in 2009 or 2010, we might not be here now, pontificating.
One of the predictable but contrary effects of the limited choice menu has been the concentration of our sales on a small number of dishes and, by extension, ingredients, while at the same time increasing the workload of the kitchen staff.
The first part of that made it difficult for us to be as flexible as we would like in terms of taking in the variety and volume of vegetables coming from Gortnanain Farm, though we got better at managing it as the year went on.
At the same time, the kitchen has been working longer and harder to maintain the two all-evening menus plus the early pre-theatre one. Not that they’ve been grumpy about it, you understand. But, frankly, it’s true to say we made it through last year because the chefs worked out of their skins, beyond the call of duty and all that. To avoid losing critical staff, sacrificing standards or over-simplifying the food, we’ve been looking at ways to find a better balance for the year ahead.
The result of the 2012 January think-in, which involved a lot of spiral notebooks and the snapping of fiercely sharpened pencils – is the decision to crossbreed the set and a la carte menus, effectively turning the a la carte into a long set menu with no restrictions, and the option to have two or three courses.
The ultimate objective is to be able to carry on cooking to the standards we’ve set for ourselves, and offering it at the lowest price we can.
We’re pitching this new composite menu at a price for three courses that is substantially lower than the sum of individually priced dishes in the old a la carte format. Yes, a little higher than the limited choice set menu of 2011, but we hope you’ll agree that the unlimited choice makes it even more attractive.
This comes into play this week on Thursday 26th January. You can see the new all-evening menu here, with the options to have two or three courses priced at €33 and €40 respectively. There will also be the option to have two courses plus our ice cream of the month – currently the amazing damson mascarpone – for €36.
The pre-theatre menu continues at the same price as before, available from 5.30pm to 7pm every evening.
On Tuesday 14th February this year, we will be offering our regular pre-theatre menu until 7pm, after which we will switch to the following set menu of three courses plus a glass of prosecco to start and chocolate truffles with coffee to finish, priced at €49.
chestnut & ricotta ravioli in truffled butter with crisped leeks and gabriel cheese
avocado & cucumber sushi with tempura of aubergine & carrot, pickled ginger, wasabi and soy dipping sauce
tartlet of caramelized beetroot & Bluebell Falls fresh goat’s cheese with salsa verde and olive-crushed potato
blood orange, fennel & Ardsallagh fresh goat’s cheese with pomegranate citrus dressing
panfried artichokes with baked ricotta gnocchi, olive & walnut salsa, lemon cream, spinach and caramelised beetroot
sweet chilli-glazed panfried tofu with asian greens in a coconut & lemongrass broth, soba noodles and a gingered aduki bean wonton
panfried oyster mushrooms in cider butter with a timbale of roast celeriac, fennel, red onion & pecans, and parsnip chips
soufflé gratin of squash & leeks with tomato-ginger broth, smoked almond praline and spiced aubergine rolls
dark chocolate silk cake with vanilla pod ice cream
strawberry, passionfruit & basil pavlova
lemon tart, damson ice cream, hazelnut praline
chocolate truffles, coffee, tea
The top VAT rate increases from 21% to 23% from the 1st January 2012 and in the restaurant business that means a small increase in the price of wine, beer, soft drinks etc. However, Cafe Paradiso will be absorbing this increase so our prices going into 2012 remain untouched by the December budget.
2011 was a tough but good year for Cafe Paradiso, one during which we worked hard to offer a good balance between quality and value, and we will be taking that same attitude into 2012.
Besides, the last thing we would want to do is discourage our customers from having a glass or three with dinner.
Last Monday, the 12th September, we hosted a dinner for Food&Wine magazine, a showcase event you might call it. We’re always a bit nervous about getting involved with things like that, our natural instinct being to just let them pass by and carry on doing what we do day by day, week by week and season by season. But there was something irresistible about the timing of this one, given that it gave us a chance to do a showcase dinner at a prefect time of the growing season. Well, it would have been perfect if the summer that never happened wasn’t one of the weirdest growing seasons in recent memory. Still, it hit a couple of unpredictable highs. One was the artichokes. I’ve written here before about Ultan Walsh’s artichokes, particularly when he moved his crop from one part of the field to another in 2010.
Well, that smart idea went up the Swanee when the ferocious winter killed off most of the plants. Undaunted, Ultan decide to get better, feistier seed and, in an act of ferocious faith, planted an even bigger area of artichokes last Spring. Here’s a thing about artichokes I didn’t know, or knew but forgot – the first year you plant them they crop in late summer, then subsequently revert to being spring vegetables. Honestly, you’d have to be a dedicated farmer to keep up with that kind of carry-on, so it’s as well we have one on board. Chefs can hardly figure out what’s going on in the next five minutes, so it’s as well someone else is managing the source. The upshot of the artichoke transplant and resowing meant we had a supply of beauties through August and September, and Food& Wine caught the last of the picking.
We braised the artichokes in white wine and stock and served them with a citrus aioli, mint oil, paprika-flavoured walnut crumb and the first of the autumn crop of borlotti beans from…where else but the mecca that is Gortnanain Farm.
The lucky crowd of forty diners also got the tail-end of the summer squash flower season. For years now, Ultan has been growing various squash plants especially for their flowers for Paradiso, moving from courgettes through a couple of other experiments before settling on a squash whose name I can never hold in my brain for more than five minutes. It’s Italian, bullet-shaped, like an elongated yellow pattypan or scallopini, and it produces the best flowers for cooking – pretty, large, firm and possibly tasting of the sweet nectar of summer sunshine. The miracle is that the plants produce beautiful flowers even in Irish summers. We stuffed them with Knockalara fresh cheese made from summer-grazed sheep’s milk in Cappoquin, fried them in a delicate tempura batter and served them on a little pile of basil-scented scallopini with a sauce that tasted of complex sweet and acidic sunshine but consisted only of sungold tomatoes slowly cooked for hours. Nothing else. I learned that from the man who grows them, add nothing and let them speak for themselves. If ever there was a dish that expressed the beauty of summer in Ireland, it is that one. Plants gather up the precious minutes of warmth and light and make sunshine from scarcity, like children holidaying near windy beaches in Kerry or West Cork.
That was followed by a dish focussed on chanterelle and hedgehog mushrooms gathered on the hills in the Cork-Tipp-Limerick border country by the intrepid forager family headed up by a woman who can only be known by the name of Mary Mushrooms. The long version of the story would take pages, the short version is Mary was at the train station in Cork when she said she would be with the quantity of mushrooms she promised, and wearing a spectacular hat she made herself, probably while waiting for the damn things to grow in this most peculiar of summers. We cooked them in a butter flavoured with reduced cider, cinnamon, nutmeg and a hint of clove, and plopped them over a timbale of potato and the last of the summer chard leaves, with some grilled figs on the side.
The last course was blackberries, was always going to be, given the time of year, a curd tart served with a simple ice cream of buffalo ricotta made by Sean Ferry – he of the legendary Gabriel and Desmond cheese – with milk from Toby Simmond’s herd of buffalo in Toonsbridge near Macroom. Buffalo in Macroom? Why not, it’s rebel country, no better place for them. Look out for their mozzarella when production gets up to full production next year.
For the kitchen, and the dining room too, it was an interesting and reflective way to spend a Monday night, a way to say this is what we do and this is now, this moment in our work. Tomorrow will be different, and next week it will be autumn, the summer produce gone and so we will have to adjust our minds and our work to new ingredients. Leeks, pumpkins and roots are on the horizon and Paradiso is looking forward to the changes they bring. It was an extra day’s work for everyone involved but one that we all embraced as a way to pass from one season to the next.
Next year, we plan to host similar seasonal tasting dinners at peak times of each season. There will be one special evening in spring, summer, autumn and winter. Keep an eye out here for announcements about dates, or sign up to the mailing list to get advance notice of dates.
We’ve got a couple of lovely Italians in as wines of the month to kick off the new year, both interesting variations on familiar grape varieties.
The white is the cutely named Ciu Ciu Tebaldo 2009 from the Marche region of Italy, a blend of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. The much derided C-grape brings a lovely buttery, round, mouth-filling character to the melon and peach flavours of pinot grigio, resulting in a wine with enough body and personality to stand up to almost any dish on the menu.
The red is a Salice Salentino 2009 from Masseria Pietrosa in Salento in the south of Italy. As you might expect from a hot climate wine, it has flavours of spiced figs, cocoa and dried fruit in a medium body of confident richness. A bit like drinking alcoholic chocolate-coated raisins, but that comment might have come from someone who had been munching on chocolate-coated raisins on the way to work. If you’re hankering after an Amarone, the rich flavours and long savoury finish of this Salice will deliver all your cravings at half the price. Perfect with winter food and a January budget.
Both wines of the month are priced at €6.50 a glass, €13 for a carafe and €26 a bottle.