Friday 28 August 2009

Coffee Comrades

These days the biggest challenge facing any aspiring left wing revolutionary must surely be coming up with an iconic image. All the best ones have been taken: Lenin's goatee, Stalin's 'Uncle Joe', Mao's sociopathic stare, Fidel's Freudian cigars and Che's berets. So balaclavas off to Subcomandante Marcos, public face, or rather not, of the Mexican Zapatistas.

Of course, any well schooled revolutionary will be only too aware that if their predecessors hadn't been quite so, err, revolutionary, they'd have ensured a copyright legacy the Hendrix family would envy. No doubt with such thoughts in mind and to turn a buck for the Chiapas cause, they've come up with this rather splendid idea. I spotted it in 'Roots and Fruits Organic' store on Great Western Road.

Stick that in your Fair Trade pipe and smoke it!

Still, as anyone who ever tried drinking Nicaraguan coffee to support the Sandinistas will tell you, fighting for them would have been a hell of a lot easier. Their coffee was shit.

Well, hurrah, because Cafe Rebelde Zapatista is anything but butt. It's really good. Clean, fruity, acidic and even verges on refreshing. It's not as complex as some coffees but neither is it as heavy. It also has a really nice caffeine hit. Lifting without gibbering. Mind, after finishing the jug I was pretty lifted.

By a remarkable coincidence a few days later in work, Julie turned up with a present from her holidays... and, no escaping it, this really was shit coffee.

Civet shit to be precise.

And they say it was a brave man who first ate an oyster.....

A great cup of coffee. Complex, chocolaty mouthful with an earthy finish.

Roots and Fruits Organic
455 Great Western Road, (just past Kelvinbridge)
G12 8HH
0141 339 3077

Saturday 22 August 2009

Monks just wanna have fun

Apart from the abstinence bit, being a monk doesn't sound too bad. You're watered, fed, given somewhere rather grand to live and never have to worry about what to put on in the morning. And, let us not forget, it's only sex they're supposed to abstain from.

Chanting's thirsty work. To quench it, monasteries have been fermenting and distilling for a millennium and they don't do things by halves. Monky drinks pack a punch that hints at a whole lot more than just their generous alcohol content. There are 27 plants and spices from across the globe in that Lancashire nurses favourite Dom Benedictine. Who knows what lurks among the 130 different plants that go to make up the 110 proof Green Chartreuse? And monky beers regularly have an effect that approaches the psychedelic.

Alcohol and abstinence are not natural bedfellows. So let's look at the evidence. A bunch of men who 'just say no' build a great big palace in the middle of the impoverished countryside and stuff it with enough booze to slay a crusade... Build and they will come. And, by all accounts, for hundreds of years, they did and awful lot of coming.
There have been some changes... the Reformation, Dissolution and French Revolution mean monking ain't what it was. But it says something for the resilience of their drinks that many are still with us. This one's a cracker, Angus brought it round last night.

Lovely citrus nose, lots of little bubbles and a complex, refreshing flavour that cloaks it's whopping alcohol content. It was half way down the second bottle, when, what I can only describe as the 'monky effect' kicked in. Wow... this could become a habit.

It came from Oddbins and I've seen it for sale in bigger Sainsbury's too.

Friday 14 August 2009


Crabshakk's a great little place. New England meets New York via the Isle of Lewis in Glasgow. On my first visit here, my dinner dates were very late and we were all going onto a Fashion Show. By the time they arrived, I was making good progress through a bottle of white wine. Ambitiously they ordered another. After wolfing down lobster and chips, most of the next bottle was still left... and we had to go. What's a chap to do? To spare the ladies embarrassment I tried my best. In hindsight, consuming a bottle of white wine in minutes is not big and it's not clever. It hit me about half way there in the taxi, as we pulled up outside the Art School I couldn't have told you my name. I was flying.

So I've been itching to come back for a proper paced sit down meal ever since. Then last night the opportunity presented itself, in a rather bizarre way. Grith, pronounced 'grit', over on a visit from Denmark, picked this up in Oddbins after going berserker in T.K.Maxx.

All raspberries and orange blossom. A few years back, passing through Gigondas, I noticed it reeked of orange blossom. The town actually smelt of it's wine. Weird. This was a good bottle, still young, with the unmistakable taste of the soil. Yes, Grith's wine was gritty. Nice. But beware Vikings bearing gifts. From some sort of Blackberry contraption this emerged.

A reminder of my great prowess at prediction and gambling.

No getting out of that, so I offered to buy lunch at Crab Shakk in settlement!

The wine list is short and quickly gets pricey. This was the cheapest bottle on the list and did the trick.

I can go for years without eating an oyster then suddenly crave them like nothing else on earth will do. At the moment it's intense. Oysters and me are having one hell of an affair. I can't get enough of them. They're always on my mind, when will I next see them, taste them, have them? "Maintenant" they whisper in my ear.....

God that was good. The girls had squid tempura and crab cakes. Both excellent. Light crunchy batter, tender squid and small but intense cakes full of crab meat.

Next up we ordered whitebait, fish club sandwich and sardines on toast.

A few Sundays ago perched at the bar here, eating oysters of course, there was some confusion as to what whitebait actually is? Rarely over £7 a kilo's the answer, so frankly this was a measly portion. They were good, as good as baby herrings and sprats get, just wish there were more. Nothing scrimpy about the fish club sandwich.

A triple decker of hot and cold smoked salmon, crab and pollock. With very nice fries on the side. Happy Viking.

"Wait a're not a sardine!"

Chef dropped one of only three sardines left and gave me this langoustine in compensation. It was delicious. Succulent, sweet, perfectly cooked. The sardines were spot on too. I love sardines but I'm not allowed to cook them anymore. Something to do with everything smelling of fish for a week afterwards...which, in fairness, it did.

Panna cottas for desert. Very correct but not quite sweet enough for me. The coffee was great. Good attention to detail. Nothing tarnishes the memory of a good meal so swift as shit espresso.

So that's Crabshakk. The best bet I ever lost. Angela, front of house, is impressive. It's cramped but that just adds to the buzz. And, whitebait gripes aside, the prices are frankly incredible for fresh Scottish seafood.

Go, go, go. But please leave a space at the bar, just big enough for one man and his current obsession... I'm missing the little iodine scented rascals already.

Crabshakk, (NOT: Crab Shakk or Crab Shack).
1114 Argyle Street,
0141 334 6127

Crabshakk on Urbanspoon

Sunday 9 August 2009


Some things in life don't seem right, they just shouldn't go together...

Another is tomatoes and wine...

All that sweet acidic mix. Just for good measure, I threw in some hot kiln smoked salmon. Smokey, oily pungency.

Then the wine. From a single vineyard in Rioja: 5.5 hectares, 46748 bottles, this one was bottle 617. Not necessarily problematic...

Though aging in new french oak barrels for 17 months could be. Surely too long for any dry white?

Well, it almost worked. The wine had nearly enough acidity to cut through the salmon and nearly enough flavour to stand up to the tomatoes. But it was just too oaky.
This was tea before heading off to the Liquid Ship...

... for another tricky match, acoustic nights and crowds.

Between songs, Nairn (Naz) is very funny, that folk club style patter. Afterwards I asked him, "Why is so much acoustic music so bloody mournful? Someone fresh from their bedroom wailing 'I don't know why she had to leave me', to which the obvious heckle is 'We do, she couldn't stand it any more!'"...
Turns out he'd just split up with his girlfriend. So there's another bad match, me and small talk. I'm off to the bedroom to write a song about it now. In the meantime, just to prove my point, here's some video from the night demonstrating the attention span of your average boozer.

Despite asking them twice I can't recall the band's name. Probably the result of something else that doesn't mix... beer and wine, unless you're German of course.

Friday 7 August 2009

Virtual Prose

Cripes, wasn't expecting that. Actually meeting up with a proper blogger. Strewth.
All sorts of nonsense started running through my head, after all, où exactly est Wine Splodge? After the initial shock I warmed to the idea and was actually very flattered.

We arrived 10 minutes early and, by sheer fluke, bagged the best table in Stravaigin, for 4, because a journalist pal was accompanying him. The Bloody Marys were top drawer. The menu was on form too. Perfect... too perfect.. because then this chirped up.

Awe, bums. Anyway by now, rather fuelled up with adrenalin and vodka, we decided to go ahead regardless. So, this is for Douglas, his virtual three hour visit to a bit of the West End of Glasgow....
First of all what to drink? I am after all 'Wine Splodge', the wines read all so, err, conventional. Quickly squinting around, my eyes spotted and like my camera, nearly focussed, on this.

What I read was: " Mekong Sparkling Pinot Noir, fertilised by an Austrian and his brother Angus from Aberdeen, to create a bionic wine for his wedding"... now that's definitely not run of the mill!

Gorgeous, light, effervescent loveliness. Like cavorting with an alpine maid in a flower strewn meadow.
The Nasi Goreng was also excellent. Lightly spiced and with a poached egg that had been cooked to look like a testicle, how clever.

Squid with OK sauce, or was it KO sauce? Anyway, just what I was after. Spot on. Didn't go with the wine at all though.

A stroll up Great Western Road past Mellis where, of course...

...the best, ripest, runniest Gorgonzola I know, was on special offer. Next, popped into Heart Buchanan for some espresso sustenance.

A quick look for cravats and interesting shirts...

Then next stop, Ashton Lane.

Avoiding horrendous blots like 'Nude' we headed for the Ubiquitous Chip, also part of the Stravaigin family. Founded in 1971, possibly the world's first gastropub?

Alasdair Gray recently touched up his own mural, making the route to the toilet rather decorative.

Before heading off to the airport, just time for a glass of South African viognier on the new roof terrace. Thank God for the smoking ban, so many nice new spaces outdoors these days.

Cheerio Douglas, hope you enjoyed it!