Thursday 22 December 2011

The Calm Before the Storm

The night before Hurricane Bawbag I was invited along to the Inverarity Vaults annual wine tasting. Set in the clubbable splendour of The Glasgow Art Club. After snuffling about a bit, my friend the artist Omar Zingaro Bhatia announced that 'ladies' had only been permitted since 1983. That explained why 'gentlemen' had the use of a vast, beautiful cloakroom within pissing distance of everywhere, whilst the ladies had to hitch up their skirts and hike upstairs. What a refreshing change. Not only that, but urinals manufactured by Adam Ant. How cool is that.

There were 140 wines to taste and a lot of top notch whisky. In a rare moment of focus I scanned the list and quickly identified all the wines that interested me. There were some lovely bottles, far too many to list, but my favourite wine of the night came from the last table I made it to. Just after trying the Mas de Daumas blanc (no nose, interesting flavour), I noticed a Crozes Hermitage blanc. What a cracker. Inverarity's Mike Cottam who was manning the table seemed pleased. Turns out he made the decision to buy this wine after tasting it during a visit to the Domaine.

Lovely honeysuckle and almond bouquet, beautiful palate with an oily texture balanced by acidity and delicious mineral flavours. An absolutely delicious wine so good on it's own, you'll need two bottles if there's going to be any left for dinner. Etienne Barret Crozes Hermitage Blanc is a real bargain at £12.99.

If you live in Glasgow and haven't yet been to Inverarity Vaults 'One on One' shop then go soon. In a city deprived of decent independent wine shops this place is a gem. It's also one of the best places to buy properly stored cigars.

Inverarity One to One
185a Bath Street (it's a basement door)
G2 4HU
0141 221 5121

And here's the now legendary Hurricane Bawbag "OMG Trampoline" footage:

Thursday 24 November 2011

Montgravet - tremendous value

Quite definitely the best value red wine I've drunk all year. Not complex, just light, lovely blackcurrant and plum fruit flavours with a deliciously refreshing acidity that makes it shockingly moreish. Best of all, it costs just £4.99 in Waitrose. What a bargain.

Monday 21 November 2011

Asian Gourmet - a dreamy restaurant.

We were headed down West Princess Street to Asia Style on St Georges Road. It was Thursday, dark, damp and early. We'd skipped lunch. Almost there, stomachs rumbling, sensing some sort of atmosphere, we stopped, turned and stared down through a steamed up basement window. Inside were tables filled with Chinese people, all laughing, slurping, and passing pots filled with diabolical looking wonders. We fell down the stairs and through the front door.

Normally at this point I wake up. Luckily, this time I didn't. There was one table free. Within seconds of sitting a plate of delicately salted daikon dressed with chilli and vinegar arrived. Then an enormous pot of green tea. The menu was massive. The daikon was delicious and scoffed in minutes. Another plateful arrived.

From the massive menu came Shredded Pork in Peking Sauce with Pancake and from the Chef's Specials supplement Monkish with Spring Onion and Ginger. The Shredded Pork was ok. The Monkfish was superb and without doubt the biggest portion of monkfish I've ever been served. All this plus a mound of steamed rice came to £20. Remarkable.

The decor's best described as functional. Intensely bright lighting, paper tablecloths and after thought wall hangings. But the food's good. The daikon dish, which was free, was worth the trip alone. Really. The portions are huge, so you'd get the best out of the place by going in a bigger group and sharing. Over the next few weeks I plan to do just that and try the following...

crab and pumpkin soup £12
white clam and tofu soup £10
deep fried pumpkin coated with salted egg yolk £8
jellyfish with shredded cucumber in garlic sauce £7
salt and chilli crab £10
hot and spicy frogs legs £9.50
steamed tofu with king prawn in salted egg yolk £8.50
fried jade Japanese tofu with spinach £8.50
deep fried sea bass with leeks £11

Some other 'interesting' dishes on the menu...

braised pork trotters £6.50
stir fry pork head meat with green pepper £6.50
marinated honeycomb tripes £6
fried fish head with tofu and vermicelli £9
quick fried pork intestines in brown sauce £8
shredded pig ear and cucumber in garlic sauce £7

We headed off to Chinaskis for a digestive rum and passed Asia Style on the way. Completely empty. The staff stared back at us, somehow they knew.

Asian Gourmet
17 West Princes Street
G4 9BS
They do takeaway too, and the more usual Chinese restaurant fayre.
0141 332 1639
07588 598 862
Open 7 days a week 5pm - 3am. 

Asian Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Thursday 3 November 2011

Confessional... and a tasty tart.

I've been a bit bored of food of late. That might not sound like much, but for someone whose life has more or less evolved around the stuff, it's quite an admission. Even evenings spent flicking through my favourite food porn failed to reignite the flame and I'd find myself heading straight for articles by Paul Krugman on the New York Times website, poor old 'Dining and Wine' didn't get a click in.

Well, I'm happy to say this fug is lifting. Yesterday, for the first time in ages, I found myself browsing blogs for a spot of inspiration, mainly those with Eastern Mediterranean leanings. I decided on a 'sort of tart sort of thing'.

Simple ingredients and couldn't be easier to make.

Roll out the shop bought, all butter (ideally), puff pastry and slightly push the goat's cheese and figs into it. Sprinkle with red onion and a generous amount of flaky sea-salt. Add the toasted pine nuts after cooking. Into a 220c/200c fan for about 20 minutes.

Oh it tasted good. Next time I'm going to double the quantity of goats cheese, it just needed a bit more tang to balance the figs. And, if two mini ice ages hadn't finished off my rosemary bush, there'd have been a spring of that on top too.

The white wine was a recommendation from Ross @ Woodlands Road Oddbins. It's a Galician wine with an unusual grape mix. The exotic floral nature of the 'Torrontes' grape helped make this a pretty successful match. Drinks very well on it's own too. Well worth £8.

Thursday 20 October 2011

For Those Who Are About To Rock... Wau Salute You!

Wau Cafe's just across the road from Kelvingrove Museum, along that strange little strip of Old Dumbarton Road. It's a Malaysian place with an interesting looking menu, kitsch interior and very friendly owners. Popped in for a bite to eat before heading off to the museum's AC/DC exhibition.

Prawn fritters to start. Cucur Udang? Odd but tasty and a very generous portion. They had a cake like texture with little flecks of dried shrimp throughout. Udang and Sotang Sambal's for mains (prawn and squid).

Both were really good although the squid tasted preserved rather than fresh, it reminded me of those little tins of 'squid in their own ink' you find in supermarkets.

Very nice none the less and the Nasi Goreng accompaniment was exceptional.

Sides were peanuts with tiny little fish and a bowl of chicken stock... I've no idea why, but it mixed nicely with the rice. The fish packed a taste punch well beyond their stature.

They spoke the truth, you wouldn't want to be in a rush. Luckily we weren't and the prices are remarkably cheap. There's no alcohol, instead some very tasty soft drinks like rose petal spritzer. As I sipped it through a straw, Bon Scott turned in his grave.

Kelvingrove Museum's AC/DC exhibition's well worth the £2 entrance fee for Bon Scott's letters alone. They also have some footage of an extraordinary performance at Glasgow's Apollo from 1977. Unfortunately there's also quite a lot of stuff from after Bon Scott's death... when, as far as I'm concerned, AC/DC died too.

Saturday 8 October 2011

To A God Unknown

A few years ago, making my way through old archive tapes, I came across a fragment of an interview between a journalist and a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland recorded 20 years before.

It's not the sort of thing that normally grabs my attention but I recognised the journalist's name. All that was saved was the very end of the interview.

Journalist: "What do you think happens when you die?"

Former Moderator: "I've given a great deal of thought to that question over the years. Eventually I decided that it probably boils down to nothing more than the moment just before death. In that instant you either feel great joy or tremendous regret."

Journalist: "And that's it?"

Former Moderator: "That's it, there is nothing else".

I'd recognised the journalist's name because he'd died suddenly a few weeks before.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Billiant Beaujolais

Every now and again along comes a wine that's what wine's all about. Wine for which there's never a good enough reason not to open another bottle. This is such a wine.

It's a screaming Roman orgy of fruity lushness and on offer in Waitrose for £6.99. I've 'sipped' a third of a bottle writing this far {*} and I'm cursing myself for not buying more.

Pour into a goldfish bowl size glass, or a goldfish bowl, and inhale intoxicating perfume as sweet red velvety fruit caresses the palette. Togas optional.

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2009: On offer just now: Waitrose £6.99

Sunday 21 August 2011

Probably the only Oddbins store The Clash ever played

This was the first Oddbins to open in Glasgow. Way back in 1971. So I'm really glad it's one of the few that survived the chain's recent meltdown and subsequent sale. The sign inside was painted in 1982 and saved from the skip of another store that didn't make it.

It's been a weird few months for the staff. And the customers. For ages there was no new wine, then, not very much wine at all, then, briefly, some old, knackered and shockingly over priced stuff the new owners were clearing from a warehouse. Then, finally, after months of popping in, this weekend... there was wine. New wine too. With the promise of more to come on a weekly basis.

This being Woodlands you can choose your own vinyl soundtrack for browsing.

Although, if you'd been here on a certain evening in 1982, there'd have been no need. Apparently, after drinking in The Halt and popping into Oddbins for a carry out, The Clash delivered an impromptu performance right outside the door. On this very spot.

Aside from The Clash, a lot of other 'characters' shop here...

A bag of Cuban tobacco. Perhaps left over from an over ambitious 'roll your own' scheme?

Manager Ross recommended one of the new arrivals. A Spanish Verdejo for £6. Lovely stuff. A bit like that moment when a sherbet lemon release the first burst of sherbet.

I drank far too much of it while cooking porcini I'd picked earlier in the day. It's a great thirst quencher.

I'd like to pretend I was listening to this while cooking. But I wasn't. A friend and his friend playing a Clash tune on a ukulele made from a Cuban cigar box. How apt.

Monday 1 August 2011

Barbecued Bison

There I am, on an Italian hillside in the middle of no-where, sipping wine and contemplating tomorrow's lunch, when up pops this. An emergency situation had arisen. So, within 12 hours of being back in Glasgow, I'm offering assistance while sitting in the epitome of a Glasgow West End tenement garden.

The only downside of these marvellous old tenements is if you happen to stay on the top floor and forget something for the BBQ.

Claire's mother farms bison along the coast near Aberdeen. Bison are the animals I always thought were buffalo. Anyway, we had some steak and sausages.

Truly delicious. Like a cross between beef and venison.

The Saumur's on offer in Waitrose just now. Suits chilling and is a slurpy, fruity refresher. Well worth it's offer price of just over a fiver. Click here for the offer online where it's even cheaper.

Sunday 31 July 2011


Here's a brace of cannoli. Served up by an apron clad woman in Ventimiglia. A lethargically shady border town that's forgotten the borders gone.

The shop made and sold a lot of good looking pastries and some bizarre but tasty biscuits.