Thursday, June 27, 2019

Foodie Friday – Fresh Fish from The Adriatic

Spent four great days in Montenegro at the magical Aman Sveti Stefan and The Regent in the Porto Montenegro – home to the biggest super yacht berth in the world.  Ate nothing but fresh fish all week – from one of Europe’s lost corners of truly wild beauty.

  • Matchless wood-grilled, whole Sea Bass on Queen’s Beach – deboned at the table, lemon and oil.
  • Local prawns grilled over charcoal at Arva, overlooking the Bay.
  • A 1.2kg Bream, salt-baked with asparagus at the Villa Milocer,
  •  Branzino and Mackerel grilled at Murano in the Porto Montenegro – and some lobster rillettes to get us started.
  • Then the best POLPO – chargrilled and marinated – I’ve had for ages.

All washed down with local 5.2% beer - Nikšićko Gold – and the local wines using Vranac grapes (black stallion), one of the oldest and least known grape varieties in the world.

The new Riviera – great value airfares to Tivat on Montenegro Airlines or EasyJet.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

I can never forget,
but no matter how much it hurts,
how dark it gets,
or no matter how far you fall,
you are never out of the fight.

Thank you Marcus Luttrell.

Thank you SEALS.


Friday, June 21, 2019

Foodie Friday – (Not so) Guilty Pleasures

A survey was published in the UK last week rating the country’s favourite indigenous foods – healthy, nutritious, organic and green didn’t get a look in.

According to 6,367 adults polled by political opinion specialists YouGov – taking a break from the cocaine fuelled Conservative Party leadership race – England’s favourite dish is the savoury batter, Yorkshire Pudding, usually served as part of a traditional Sunday lunch but for many, rated as a full meal.  Rounding out the top five – all of which were liked by 80% plus of respondents were:
2)  Sunday Roast with all the trimmings,
3)  Fish & Chips,
4)  Full English Breakfast (fried egg, sausage, bacon, tomato, mushrooms and toast),
5)  Bacon Sandwich.

70% of respondents voted for:
6)  Bangers (sausages) and Mash,
7)  Cottage Pie,
8)  Shepherd’s Pie,
9)  Cauliflower Cheese,
10) Cornish Pasty
making up the Top Ten.

I was disappointed to see Lancashire Hotpot and Black Pudding scorned – but I must admit the Full English Breakfast on the morning Virgin Rail Service from London to The Lakes is the only edible meal on the train all day.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

At last. A Wellbeing Budget.

Chapeau Chapeau to Jacinda and her Wellbeing Budget (a world first).  Spending increasing substantially more on mental health (the scourge of our times) and child poverty.  A ‘surprisingly obvious’ creative way of reframing government decision making (another scourge of our times).

The New Zealand Prime Minister has emphasised measuring social disadvantage as well as economic progress.  Yes!

As she said “Nobody wants to live in a country where, despite a strong economy (thank you John Key and his National Party – I said that, not Jacinda) families are homeless, where our environment is being degraded and people with mental health issues do not receive the support they need”.

At last a 30 something year old mother and leader realising it’s about and/and, not either/or.  (UK and US parties to note – stop choosing retreads and invest in a youthful leader.)

Keep the economy growing and take responsibility for bringing everyone along on the journey.  Work hard, be happy, live longer, live better.

Now I’m unconvinced by Ms Ardern’s plans for sustaining economic growth and developing New Zealand’s entrepreneurial skills, but I’m on board with her compassionate leadership.

She is committed to increasing spending on mental health by NZ$ 2 billion over four years, including serious money for suicide prevention (yet another scourge of our times, particularly in New Zealand) and a 10 year target to halve the number of children living in poverty.

The government also factored in other Wellbeing indicators, such as life expectancy, education levels, air qualities and a sense of belonging.

(Now let’s hope the All Blacks threepeat in Japan at the Rugby World Cup – where New Zealand’s happiness/wellbeing index will go through the roof!!)


Friday, June 14, 2019

Foodie Friday

A few days ago, Trudy and I were sitting at the two-seater Kitchen Table – interacting with chefs, waiters and sommeliers at Restaurant Konstantin Filippou in Vienna – and loving it.  An eight-course tasting with brilliant Austrian wines – and we couldn’t help but pile right in – living in the now – and the now was all about food, history, produce, trends, wines.  And we got to talking about how many good times we have over food – and how many stories start in restaurants, cafes and bars.

Trudy suggested we add some structured storytelling to our food experiences – rather than just ad-hoc scribblings – see recent posts Le Tour de Yorkshire, A Star is Born (II).

So here we go – the launch of Foodie Friday.  Every Friday I’ll post something Food / Foodie related.

The last few days found us in:
·       Scotts in Mayfair – one of my all-time favourites.  Richard Caring owned nowadays, London’s fifth oldest restaurant, originally opened by fishmonger John Scott as an Oyster warehouse / bar in 1851 – and infamous now as the place Charles Saatchi and wife Nigella Lawson had their much publicised physical contretemps.  Great seafood, good wine list and two magnificent private rooms.  Terrific Sunday lunch spot too.
·       A hidden gem in Knightsbridge, a one Michelin ‘secret pleasure’ Gatsbyesque jewel from Alfredo Russo – and cosy bar with garden – The Franklin.  We dined there with Fernando Guedes and the Sogrape Board – tasting some of their Liberty Wine partner wines – and the Bar has 22 types of Gin!
·       Yorkshire – see earlier this week for two one-star experiences in the Yorkshire Dales and Moors.
·       And two unforgettable, yet contrasting experiences in Vienna.  Restaurant Bauer – fronted by owner Walter since its opening 30 years ago.  No frills, nothing fancy, no gimmicks, just a straight-forward Viennese classic.  Highest standards, quiet conversations, excellent old-school service – starting with a traditional complimentary slice of Leberkäse with a delicious onion mustard.  Housed in a small listed old building in the old town.  Michelin starred since the 1990’s – deservedly so.
And so back to where we started – Restaurant Konstantin Filippou’s masterpiece.  A passionate, crazy, half-Greek / half-Austrian owner and chef.  Pure passion.  Pure pleasure.  Brandade with caviar, mussels, Zander with truffles, Croatian langoustines, incredible desserts, brilliant Sommelier (Alex) and interactive fun, joy, surprise and delight.  Grab the two-seat Kitchen Table if you can.  Fabrizio (a young waiter) brings Sicilian brio to the experience and look out for budding 22 year-old chef in the making – Pascal.

Happy Weekend.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A Tour de Yorkshire

Almost 600 years ago England was embroiled in a 30 year civil war between the Red Rose of Lancaster and Yorkshire’s White Rose, resulting in an eventual victory for the Red Rose as the House of Tudor prevailed.  (That’s the way we see it in Lancashire and especially from my old school Lancaster Royal Grammar School which was founded in 1235.)

Despite the history, we Lancastrians have a gracious attitude towards our less fortunate Eastern neighbours and often refer to ‘What’s the best thing Yorkshire has to offer?’.  The answer (of course) – the road to Lancashire!!

Last weekend we took that road in the opposite direction and did a whistle stop tour of York, Harrogate (picking up two pieces of Bob Dylan’s original art at The Castle Gallery – who knew!!) and Scarborough – a great castle and quaint harbour.

If you’re heading that way, make sure you drop anchor in two Michelin starred pubs.  The Yorke Arms – a restaurant with rooms – in the heart of the Nidderdale Valley in the North Yorkshire Dales.  Stunning rural setting – Frances Atkins at the helm in the kitchen – one of only six female Michelin starred chefs in the UK.  An 18th century coaching house beautifully refurbished.  Creative, locally sourced tasting menu, and a quirky suite at the top of the pub – The Rhubarb Suite.

Then, don’t miss Tommy Banks’ The Black Swan at Oldstead (stay in one of the new Garden rooms).  The restaurant offers one menu, a tasting experience of ingredients grown or foraged around Oldstead.  Very good indeed.  Amazing cocktails using local produce.

Now – if only the poor Yorkies had a decent football team ….


Friday, June 7, 2019

Back on the Highway

June 14 sees the release of The Boss’ first studio album in five years.  Three tracks are currently available on I-tunes – Hello Sunshine, Tucson Train and There Goes My Miracle.

Springsteen himself calls it ‘a jewel box of a record’.  It’s a brilliant hybrid – not acoustic, not E-Street stadium – just Bruce telling stories.  As he says ‘it’s full of character driven songs and sweeping cinematic orchestral arrangements’.

A great treat.

The perfect way to follow the epic Springsteen on Broadway triumph.

Saddle up on June 14.


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Binge Viewing 2019

More trans-Atlantic flights, more Ipad entertainment courtesy of Netflix, Amazon Prime and iTunes.  Here are some of the shows I’ve been watching.

·        Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In
My favourite TV series from the 60’s, 140 episodes from Beautiful Downtown Burbank – first aired as a pilot on September 9, 1967 – and a celeb tribute just aired on Netflix.  I’m watching them all, show by show – a great commentary on those seminal 60’s/70’s years.  The hosts, Arte Johnson, Ruth Buzzi, Lily Tomlin, Jo Anne Worley – all produced by George Schlatter (CFG – as he was referred to on set – which stood for Crazy Fuckin’ George!).  Making me feel young again.  Thanks Amazon Prime.

·        Delhi Crime
On Netflix.  Making me feel old again.  Based on the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape case.  A fascinating look into the realities of life in a fascinating country.

·        My Brilliant Friend
iTunes.  From Fremantle.  The first of four Neapolitan novels exploring female friendships – created by Saverio Costanzo.  The second series, based on Ferrante’s second novel ‘The Story of a New Name’ has just been confirmed and commissioned.

·        Killing Eve
I guess you’ve all seen this.  Series Two is on air in the US.  Brilliant acting from both leads.

·        True Detective
Series Three on iTunes and HBO.  The best so far – amazing performances from Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali.

·        The Highwaymen
Thinking of True Detective got me thinking of Woody Harrelson.  He stole the show in Netflix’ Bonnie & Clyde movie based on the true story and seen from the viewpoint of the former Texas Rangers Frank Hamer and Maney Gault.  I liked watching the two old grizzlies Costner and Harrelson having fun.

Three Netflix international series have passed away the miles for me:
·        Carlo and Malik - A fun Italian cop/buddy series with a twist on racism.
·        Wild District – a Colombian series showing the seamy side of government corruption – interesting not least because I’m off on my second trip to Colombia in November – to Cartagena and Medellin to speak at a WOBI World Economic Forum.  I enjoyed my last visit to Bogota four/five years ago and I believe progress continues to be rapid.
And finally:
·        When Heroes Fly – set in Colombia again – but made in that edgy creative hotspot, Israel.
I love watching these international dramas with their different cultural, photographic and pacing approaches.  Production-wise, they’ve mastered doing more with less.

Finally, new series of The Bureau, Goliath, Berlin Station, The Son are all worth a go.

Can’t wait for Deutschland 86, and Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.  (And a guilty pleasure – Keanu Reeves in John Wick 3.)