Sherry in Jerez

September 2011

Sherry has always represented somewhat of an enigma for me. The typical sherry drinking stereotype (in my own humble experience) has been the eccentric old woman, smelling faintly of cats, generously swigging from a bottle of fino. As such, I though that on my recent visit to Spain I would attempt to demystify this somewhat skewed image.

For readers who wish to have quick background; Sherry is a fortified wine made in and around the Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera. The actual word sherry is an Anglicisation of “Jerez”, and whilst for the rest of the world “sherry” has become common vernacular, the wine in Spain is still called “vino de Jerez”. The grapes used are almost exclusively Palomino (from the light fino to the darker oloroso), but Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel grapes are also used in sweeter dessert wines.

It was an interesting trip. Having been very kindly dropped off at the Gonzalez-Byass bodega in Jerez, we signed up for the tour of the premises. Gonzalez-Byass is one of the largest sherry producers in the world, with brands such as Tio Pepe and Croft, their wines have and continue to reach the far corners of the globe

The first thing that one notices when going into the bodega is, in fact, just how big the producer is. The image to the left shows one of the many warehouses of the bodega, with this particular one having the flags of every country that the bodega exports to – with nations ranging from South Korea to Venezuela (as well as everything in between) it is not surprising to note that Gonzalez-Byass has had a very successful history.

The tour itself was executed very well. There were a number of nationalities present, with guides in a number of languages. Aside from the rather cringeworthy DVD shown at the beginning (with an orange skinned, morning dress clad representation of Tio Pepe himself narrating), it was an interesting insight into how sherry is made. What I personally found most informative was the process of how fino style sherry is made, and the use of flor yeast floating at the top of the barrel, giving fino style sherry its distinctive dry flavour.

What must be said though is that, whilst Gonzalez-Byass may be one of the larger producers of Sherry, it by no means is the best. The Sherry tasting offered at the end of the tour made this especially evident. Everyone was given a number of different sherries to sample (depending on how much was paid in the entrance fee) ranging from driest (fino) to sweetest (croft pale cream). Having sampled sherry made by the bodega Lustau in London a few days earlier, Gonzalez-Byass could not hold a candle. Most disappointing was the oloroso which lacked both depth and colour, and was perhaps the most unbalanced wine I have tasted in a while. Conversely though, the manchego cheese and iberico ham provided to complement the wine, was delicious….

Breakfast sleuth on and around the Prat

12th July 2011

Breakfast in HongKong.

7.30am and Prat Avenue is calm and quiet. The local noodle house next to the GuangDong hotel is steamy with couldrons of hot stock simmering away. Bulging, pearly white wontons looking invitingly at us. Fresh, soft ramen noodles in bundles on the work top waiting patiently to be dropped into boiling water.


Hmm.. decided to see what else was on offer for breakfast.

Cafe KaiKee was brightly lit – open 24/7. The cashier with her thick porcelain cup of black and white coffee. The menu was huge with photographs of the dishes on offer. Feeling ashamed, being chinese and not being able to read the menus, I meekly asked for the English version. Looking around, consensus showed most people with shallow soup plates of soupy macaroni topped with shredded ham and fresh abalone. On the side two fried eggs and a coconut milk roll with an obligatory heavily advertised (black and white brand coffee) porcelain cup of milky coffee on the side. All for HK$24.

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Interesting that this is the breakfast norm of HK. Delifrance and even, MacDonalds, all serve variations of this delicious soupy number. Ham and mushroom, etc etc. all with a fried egg and some form of bread like croissant, baguette on the side with a cup of coffee.

13th July 2011

8am. It’s still quiet all around. The downpour at 4am cleaned the air, washing the streets as well. Cafe XXXX on Carnarvon Rd is buzzing. The menu looked familiar with fresh noodle dishes. worth a try. Hot milky coffee (instant) and a steaming bowl of wontan soup noodles for me. 4 golfball sized wontans filled with whole shrimp and lean pork. Fine handmade fresh noodles in a light chicken stock. A tall tin full with green plastic chopsticks stood beside a tray of condiments including two types of chili oil, yes, monosodium glutamate and of course, salt and pepper. The menu included stewed brisket of beef noodles, fried cuttlefish balls with soya noodles, etc. brocolli with salted shrimp bottarga.

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14th July 2011.

A rather insepid experience. A warning to all NOT to walk into big, expensive looking cafes on the main avenues of Kowloon. Rude waitresses insisting one orders the most expensive item on the menu. Food arrived and almost hrown a you. A WongKei experience not to be repeated!

After breakfast and a walk it was time to leave the surrounds of the Prat and a wonderful expedition of food before the local crowds arrive for work.


The Area around Prat Avenue is indeed interesting with lots of cafes and fast food outlets. Au Bon Pain, Mac Donalds, local cafes and a host of bars that serve breakfast from as early as 6am. Food is never a problem in HongKong.


New York New York

29th June 2011

Another early morning start. Terry will sort me out if I have forgotten to do anything I was supposed to. It’s always easier from a flat.

The taxi is early. He is chatty and the roads are clear. Heathrow terminal 3, Virgin check-in. Accosted by red riding (without) hood asking if I would like an upgrade to which I replied, “sure, yes please” … to Upper Class for £1250 and then says “actually I can do it today for £599”.  Given that I was already travelling in uber class, there was nothing more she could upgrade me to. Not sure who was more disappointed.

Security area was not busy, we were travelling light. I didn’t have hand luggage, just my handbag overstuffed with whatever I ‘needed’. The lounge was empty and the coffee was decent. Free WIFI. The flight was actually on time and boarding was smooth. Two queues, 4 check-in staff. 3 handling UpperClass /Premium Economy and ONE checking economy passengers.  Staff made it clear to distinguished the chosen ones from the common herd.

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Settled into my seat. A glass of champagne waiting. The flight was full. Really full, but it left on time. Uneventfully boring but at least the food was apetising. Three movies and a bit of editing later we arrived at JFK early. NO queues at immigration. Right hand four fingers, right thumb; left hand four fingers, left thumb. Photo. The job was done. Luggage out by the time we got to belt 5. Customs waved us through. This is why I like America. Simple, smart people. No queues at the taxi stand, either. We were at the hotel $55 later, at 3pm, checked in. The Lucerne on 79th and Amsterdam is a quaint boutique hotel with friendly staff and nice, ice cold air conditioned, clean rooms.

Eataly 23rd and 5th was our first stop. See separate blog.

Eight hours later saw me race into Zabars on Broadway and 80th. The familiar multi hue of olives, cheeses and all things kosher. Breakfast consisted of a NewYork bagel stuffed silly with cream cheese and lox. Polystyrene cup of Zabars blend, black of course and I was done. Feasted my eyes on the abundance of sensible, edible, hearty comfort food. NO fads, no “macro-whatever” NewYork skinnies eat.  A packet of Zabars Kona Style blend coffee beans was popped into my basket. Bought the snazziest roll up water bottle ever.

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Fairways on Broadway between 75th and 76th, next. My favourite grocery store. Everything you want and so fresh. The organic section upstairs is marvellous with a health food, supplements and homeopathy store on the side.

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Next to Fairways is the old faithful, Citarella, an Aladdin’s cave of Italian goodies. Always an interesting walk (till Eataly came along). Westside Food on Broadway and 77th is another great place to wonder. Noticed the new Trader Joe’s nearer the 71st street end of Broadway and Columbus.  Will check it out next trip!

Lunch with old, old, anglecized friend, Laura. A taxi ride to Cafe Centro 5th Avenue and 45th in the Met Life Building. School-like is the word. Suddenly at 12noon, people started charging into restaurants – clockwork! Beautiful people strutting the Streets of New York. All preened and smartly dressed. Stepford wives came to mind. High powered execs with their Brooks Brothers suits, polished brogues. In bold capitals “STRESS” stamped right across the forehead. Women dressed to kill. I cannot fathom how one sits at a desk in such tightly fitted garments for 10 hours or more. Oh I forgot the heels, they probably double up for the botox jabs (just before lunch break).

Portions are becoming ginormous again. Perfectly panfried lumpcrab cakes on some meli melo lettuce leaves. Juicy, humongous lumps of crab, seasoned delicately. No fillers, no cartilage, just crab and a few specks of parsley and chilli. Divine. Diet coke and ice tea are back in. The food is very very good. Chefs in NewYork really have earned their right to be there. Clockwork or not, the dishes were exemplary.

Quick peek into the Orvis shop on 5th and corner of 45th after lunch. Hmmm new fly rods and reels. However, as a faithful Sage user, I left with nothing… not even a fly as a souvenir in fear of getting stopped at security for carrying a sharp dangerous object on board.

Another cab ride. This time to Columbus Circle. The usual nostalgic walk around Crate and Barrel before heading towards the down escalator to Whole Foods. Interesting. The “in” thing is fresh coconut juice (not coconut milk). This is the newest craze… old hat in the Far East where we have been drinking this since the year dot… and it’s tastier out there. Thanks to “Cone Boobs” for pumping a few of her hard earned pennies into a company producing this stuff.  “Out” are plastic bottles. Everything is stainless steel or glass.

Raced back to the hotel to collect our luggage and taxied to Penn Station to catch the Acela train to Boston’s South Station. Zooming past Conneticutt, Stamford, New Haven. The lowlands reminding me of Netherlands with little boats docked off the dainty harbours. The journey along the Rhode Island coast line was breathtaking. The sun setting, listening to Jushua Bell’s “Romance of the Violin” in a very very crowded train. Everyone on laptops and working with the free WIFI.

Arrived in Beantown at 20.48hr, hassled by cab drivers from all sides… New England, here we come…..






Mozzarella ala Campania

16th May 2011

In typical Italian business lingo –

“Filippo Morese this friend of mine who owns a Mozzarella factory. Let me explain”.

Positano at 6.30am is positively beautiful. A good tazzina di espresso on the terrace is essential especially when you know there is a treacherous drive ahead among the macho Italians in their beaten up cinquecentos (original ones, I may add) along the Amalfi coastal road.

The GPS is set.

One and a half hours later over a distance of 40kms, stressed and shaking, we arrive at the Caseificio Morese, a beautiful, old building clad with scaffolding, in a little town called Pontecagnano. I didn’t see any buffalo (not even an obligatory pet) and it didn’t smell of a dairy. A small counter with buckets of whey and shiny porcelain white balls of mozzarella in the refrigerated cabinets. Tubs of fresh ricotta di bufala and smoked provola.

Antique photographs stood proudly with the rather modern big LED screen on the wall. Last Italian King Umberto visiting the Caseificio, selection of sepia photos of jacketted men with their berets surrounding bufala in 1800s. Certificates and awards. Then the big red LED number on that screen. A stand alone ticket number machine by the door. A queue to buy today’s fresh mozzarella. Two ladies in white manning the shop and behind the superclean glass wall and sliding door, three beefy Italians tending the mozzarella. Heaven.

Filippo arrives. A relaxed, lean, well dressed gentleman with perfect English. All is revealed. Filippo’s family has owned the farm since 1695. A deed of sale on an aged lambskin parchment is the proof. On the demise of his father, Filippo returned to run the family business after 17 years in the international world of banking and finance.


We are ushered into his office where the obligatory blue overshoes and hair nets were issued.

A quick tour of the factory floor. The process actually starts at when the bufala milk is heated in big steel tanks. Rennet is added to create the curds. Aroma of freshly heated milk and the nutty smell of rennet filled the air. Big steel tanks of steamy liquor and mozzarella curds on sloped table tops after the “mozzata” phase from where the word mozzarella comes from, which in Neapolitan means “to cut”. Lemon hued whey flowing into buckets to make the creamy ricotta, a byproduct of mozzarella and also once brined, to soak finished mozzarella.



Lightly smoked moza fabulous. The tennis balls of mozzarella are hay smoked for 5 minutes. Delicate brown balls are removed and soaked in brined whey till sold.


There is nothing better than tasting fresh mozzarella.

A tour of the bufala farm, ten minutes away is fascinating. Tucked in a field just minutes from the dairy are 600 heads of buffalo, black curly fur, with little horns and soft, melting brown eyes. All happy and friendly. Filippo has a total of 7 staff at the farm who grow the as much feed as possible, breed buffalo, look after the animals and manage the farm 365 days a year. There is no rest.


What a wonderful life.



Caseificio Morese

Via Abate Conforti, 1




Tango and the Art of Wine Pairing

Appreciating good food alone is like trying to dance with one left foot and…. no partner.

To get the most out of the multifaceted gorgeous food we now eat, one needs the right wine – think  dance – be it the slinky, exhilarating tango; sexy, slithering samba or just plain ol’ twisting in a ’60’s dance hall,  a partner is needed – paid or unpaid!

Think balance.

A wine needs to balance the flavours of a dish so, with a spicy dish, pick a spicy number like a Taurasi from Campania, Syrah from France or Shiraz from antipodean Australia. A zingy lemon, crab and chilli linguine would require a more complexed mouth puckering citrusy Italian Gavi, a wine with delicate balance of acidity and fruit, produced in the restricted province of Alessandria in Piemonte. Chomping into a thick hunk of juicy Chorizo de Bife (ribeye steak), full of flavour, needs a full bodied wine – think Argentinian Malbec and dream of riding into the pampas, poncho clad with gaucho knife stuck round your waist.

There are hundreds of wines available in this country and at least one WILL fit the bill, be the dish oily, fatty, salty or particularly rich.

Think complement.

Lemon is squeezed over crispy deep fried calamari rings to cut the oil. Grilled Mackerel with gooseberry sauce. Roast lamb with a vinegary mint sauce. Think wine. Citrusy, green apple Sauvignon Blanc with fish. Lamb with a morello cherry nosed Pinot Noir from Burgundy. It all works.

Never fear, there are wines to pair with foods from around the world. Chenin Blanc is fabulous with Thai Green Chicken curry. The aromatic lychee scent of a great Alsatian Gewurztraminer to pair with Cantonese YumCha. Even a glass of sparkling Omar Khayyam with the humble Onion Bhaji would work.

Right down to puddings where the range of fabulously sweet, sticky, luscious dessert wines are now so readily available. Sauternes, Vin Santo, Vino Passito, Tokaji Aszu, Port, Pedro Ximenez, the list goes on.

If all fails, think Michael Jackson, Michael Flatley and the Whirling Dervish – you will not be alone…. Advice is everywhere and one doesn’t necessarily need to employ a highly trained sommelier… go online. Lots of the big supermarkets like Marks & Spencer will have in-store experts, eager to help.

A big THANK YOU to Marks & Spencer for their kind support.



Doyenne of Class


My interview is with Giulia Galli.

Someone worth talking to. Someone with a fervent passion for life, work and (probably) play. Someone who wants to understand the world, take it and run with it. No time wasting, no nonsense.

My kinda person.

Forget Giulia, for the moment and concentrate on what she preaches. By the end of our lunch, I’m not sure what is overloaded…. my stomach, my brain or both!


“Le Nozze”

One balmy evening in May, in the wonderful surroundings of the quintessentially English Queens Tennis Club in London, over a food tasting event, the formidable, statuesque Giulia Galli, Export Manager for both Augusta and Emar Romeo, works overtime. Journalists, punters and consumers all bee line to her table. Sticky fingers maul at her fabulous range of panettoni, mostarda, candied fruits, fruit jellies and chocolate coated candied fruit.

Of course, star of the show, eyes agog with disbelief is the gargantuan castagne candite on offer. A single, sticky, shiny, luscious nutbrown castagne, the size of ping pong ball, sitting proudly in its ruffled gold paper cup. This diamond was indeed one of the most succulently aromatic, smooth tasting morsel the human brain can physically compute. There was no sugar coating like its French cousin, the marron glacé. Devine. So devine, Giulia was coerced into selling them in their catering size packs to punters begging for more.

Without further ado, the brainchild of the panettone di castagne was born, further brain overload and the creation of the panettoncini con crema di marroni, phoenixed into the air. And a simple smile adorned Giulia’s face.

Culminating in le Nozze di Augusta e Emar Romeo. The journey begins……..

Great story but the truth is that a joint venture began much earlier with the traditional panettoni and the candied fruit, dashing this dreamy fairy tale.

Thank you Giulia for giving me your precious time and more importantly, your generosity – donating your wonderful panettoni, castagnes, etc, etc. for my fundraising efforts to supporting my cherished charities.

Grazie Mille.



AUGUSTA Panettoni

Probably the finest panettoni and colombe manufacturer. One of few located in Milan, AUGUSTA, founded in 1945 is still privately owned. Milanese panettoni are now becoming a dying entity with companies moving their factories to the industrial regions around Veneto and Piemonte out of its original home – Milan.
 Artisanal, handmade and
 authentic, the Augusta panettone is left to rise naturally for 
18 hours by the 
”Master of Leavening”.

It takes three whole days to make this perfect King of breads or… it, the Bread of Kings?

November 2010 saw the company’s newest creation of the perfect Mignon Augusta – the world’s smallest
panettone. At only  50 grammes, gives 
the diet conscious the ultimate taste of perfection – the magic of a whole panettone ripped out of its packaging each time with its full fresh moist texture, flavour and aroma. In five different versions to suit all tastes, Augusta panettoncini are available in:

Plain Al Burro



Castagne Candite e Crema di Marroni

Chocolate chip


For more information:


EMAR ROMEO Canditori

Messina is hit by an earthquake in 1929. Distruction leaves many homeless. There is mass exodus from Sicily. The Emar Romeo family emigrates to the area of Milan, bringing with them the memories of sun ripened oranges, lemons and the fantastic citron, “cedro”, in the authentic tradition of sicilian candied fruits.

Using a natural absorption process, fruits are left in the tanks of sugar syrup, through osmosis, soaking in the “right” amount of sweetness.
 No additives, no secret ingredients, just pure humble expertise of a family’s bygone memories.

This “canditori” family, filled with dreams of fantasy and creativity is forever concocting and inventing new recipes. With its smooth and delicate flavour, the newest addition, the Castagna Candita is completely different to the Marron Glacé, candied and covered in sugar. With brains and taste buds working overtime, the family are now working on a new “funky line”, a first in the world, namely:

Pomodori canditi

Olive candite

Be the first to try these new products.


For more information:



Ascension Bay, Yucatan, Mexico

April 29th 2011.

Excitement in London and I am not referring to the “big event”.

It’s 6.30am and the taxi is waiting. Bags packed and ready by the door. By 7.30am we were checked in, through security and sitting in the lounge, thanks to R’s new acquired Gold Status on his airline card. The airport was quiet. The buzz was all about the wedding.

CO35 to Houston was delayed. Weather in USA had been bad. Mississippi had been hit by another hurricane. The flight was eventless. Crew were very efficient, in fact too efficient as the meals were delivered and taken away so quickly (Wong Kei comes to mind). Flight arrived an hour late giving us an hour less to get through immigration. New system at Houston, separate queue for transit passengers. Great idea but not so great operation. One problem teenager and immigration officer left us with 20minutes to get on our flight. Racing through security (again) and running the gauntlet, we made it, last ones on. CO764 left on time and landed 10 minutes early. The immigration hall was empty and baggage waiting. Out and into the hotel shuttle bus within a record 15 minutes.

Shower, dinner of mixed tacos and a Margherita especial and straight to bed.

Early breakfast with refreshing freshly blended papaya juice. Met by the lovely Andrea and off to the airport’s private charter area. Military police with guns and dogs everywhere. Our pilot, the tall dark lean and  handsome Diego complete with RayBan Aviators, waiting for us. All baggage scanned and hand carried to a twin prop 4 seater. Looking each of us, up and down (what a job!) Diego decides who gets to sit next to him. Sadly I wasn’t his kind – big and heavy – and was thrown next to the luggage in the tail.

The most amazing flight over Yucatan – Cancun, Cozumel and down the flats along Ascencion Bay to our destination Punta Panjaros, a short dusty and bumpy runway. The plane landed and in James Bond style, 5 staff standing in line and a speed boat waiting for us, no more than 10 paces from getting off the plane. A military police boat waiting with yet more dogs. Boarded the boat and raced to Casa Blanca, where again waiting in line, the Lodge staff with cold towels and a deliciously cool lemonade greeted us on the pier. A school of resident bone fish tailing no more than 10 feet away.

Shown to our upgraded cabana suite, we enjoy a full sea view from our verandah. Idyllic!!! R ever excited, rigged up two bonefish rods. A quick lunch and back to the pier before the rest of the guests. First cast with a juicy bonefish bitter, a fly bought in Belize last year, and a take – within 2 hours arrival. What a welcome. The excitement sent the other fishermen racing over and spooked the school with the thrashing of  fly lines and one guest jumped into the water to fish. End of a great hour.

We walked along the coral beach, studded with black spiky sea urchins. Spotted 2 tailing Permits in the waves and a big Jack. Left Robert to go for them and proceeded to the white sandy beach. The waves were big and casting out past these rolling monsters was quite a task. Landed a blue runner but saw no other big fish.

Civilised drinks at 6pm with an appetiser of Red Snapper Cerviche and freshly fried crispy tortilla, washed down with Barman Willy’s Margherita (without sugar). A quick check of emails via the lodge satellite. Dinner at 6.30pm and bed at a silly 8pm.

Day 1 fishing: La Luna Pajaros

4am woken up by a very very excited husband who was already up, tying leaders and flies. He then rushed out in his pyjamas to bring the rods in to check. Not exactly romantic better best he keep himself occupied with constructive activity than tossing and turning restlessly. Breakfast at 6am. Of course we were the first in. Huevos Rancheros – the full works, refried beans, eggs homemade salsa and bacon. Big mug of coffee and we hit the pier with 6 rods rigged up by species. Andres is waiting and the skiff leaves the pier at 7am.

First Bonefish at 7.35am. By 10.30am, 6 in the bag. R caught 7 and two pesky Snappers beating the big bones to the fly. ALL on the one lucky Gotcha. A barracuda also chomped his line. We then decided to hunt for some Permit. After an hour of pole-ing the decision was unanimous and we headed back to the shallows for more bones. The weather was fab, slight wind but Andres was absolutely amazing. We only ever had to cast to 10-11 o’clock with the wind behind us. Not one fly in the ear. NO accidents and only a couple of wind knots.

Saw a couple of big Cudas and sharks. The marine life was fantastic. Water crystal clear as with the sky.

The day ended with 19 bone fish and three Snappers.

To celebrate we braved a bottle of  XA cabernet sauvignon 2006 Baja California (13.7% alcohol). Actually, it was pretty OK. Good balance, mellow ripe berries and drinkable now. Some pepper notes. Simple and lacking in tannins but in this heat, it works. Bottle cooled in ice to tame the alcohol which otherwise was a little perky. Easy drinking and I guess I am being fleeced for it on this private island. The other choice was a Beringer white zinfendel 2005, wine the colour of oloroso and a white sauvignon blanc, also looking a little oxidised. Not that desperate yet!

Tomorrow night, if brave, there is the XA vino blanco Chenin Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc 2008. Could be dodgy.

Day 2 fishing: Santa Rosa

A more leisurely wake up call at 5.15am. Breakfast at 6am. Hmm… Windy. Andres was waiting by the skiff. 7.05 we were on our way to Santa Rosa, speeding on the crests into the lagoon. Fascinating journey through minute channels in the mangrove swamps. At one point the channel was so narrow, we tunnelled through tugging and pushing branches to steer the boat. Low water, so low we all had to get out and push the skiff through a channel. 40 minutes later rods in water, aiming at very spooky 3-4 lb bones. Windy day. Tough fishing with few shots. One bone each and off we went Tarpon hunting, through more mangrove swamps. Loads of horseshoe crabs mating happily unaware of us splashing away trying to attract the tarpon. Amazing marine life. Turtle grass, oysters, clams and barracudas patrolling. Snappers, needlefish and snook.

15 or so baby tarpon later, still hooked-less. They were not hungry. The number of flies lined up passing their noses and still nothing. We were hungry even if they weren’t. A picnic lunch of Barbequed chicken, diet coke and dessert of the Mexican answer to the custard cream – Emperador’s sabor Vainilla Cremosa, of course, sin grassa trans.

More bone fishing in the afternoon before retracking our journey back to the lodge. A hard day.

Day 3 fishing: Tarpon Mangroves in the Laguna Santa Rosa area

Made our own picnic with fresh roasted turkey and salad. Empanadas to start and loads of diet coke.

Combat hunting for tarpon. Must have seen about 20. Robert had one on and lost it.

2 bigger bones 2.5 to 3lb. Engine failure on skiff. Interesting night at the lodge. Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Mexican evening with a feast laid out. Tequila slammers and serious barbeque. The best ever guacomole and chicken temales. Beans, rice, stuffed chilli. First permit caught in the lodge this week.

Traditions, initiations – whatever you call them. First permit caught entitles you to a pickled scorpion – no choice, washed down with a tall glass of tequila and lime. Squeeze, suck, swallow. Shuyler catches a 14.5lb permit on a rattling crab fly. After dinner the orange morsel appears on a slice of lime balanced over a large tall shot of tequila. I did feel for the poor guy!

Day4 fishing: Permit and Cayo Cedro

Didn’t sleep all night thinking of what I would have to do if I caught a permit. Decided to do a deal with Andres extra tip to shut up if a permit was caught. Then Willy the barman offered to eat the scorpion for me. He was probably feeling more lucky than I!

3 real shots at Permit. Thank goodness it wasn’t brought in. Almost. It took a good nibble at the sqrimp fly (squid/shrimp fly).

1 bones, 1 snapper, 2 jacks, 1 lady fish on a roll cast, and a 10.5lb barracuda later, we had fun.

Day 5: Tarpon at Gaytanes Island

Started as a Permit day.

We had a good day with R getting his 15lb tarpon and then two little bones by 9am. Spent the rest of the day chasing permit, cudas and more bones. He did get one shot into a school of permit at 3pm but nothing interested enough to take. Caught a further blue jack and we limped back, one take short of the grand slam.

Lunch on iguana island…. (smallest island of Tres Marias) I popped off behind some coconut trees and when I got back to the beach had a shock of my life with scary looking amphibians looking at me. 11 hungry iguanas joined us for lunch and begging for food. Thankful, (a) I hadn’t realised what iguana island really meant before I desparately raced off, and (b) no visitors were around peeking by the coconut trees!!!  I then understood why Andres did not suggest a picnic on land – we ate on the boat.

15lb tarpon 8:30 am, 2 small bones by 9am, 3lb blue jack 3pm, school of permit 3:15pm

Day 6: Cayo Culebra : Hunt for Permit, Bones and Snook

Last day’s fishing. Early start hunting for permit with little success. Almost a relief knowing that the scorpion eating tradition would not have to be solemnised on this trip. Couple of hours pulling bones wading of a flat, was fun. We even had a double hook up and a photo to prove it. Explored a new lagoon, so shallow, we had to wade to it. Another school of bones and a barracuda on guard. one cast and the cuda jumped for the snook fly. Unsuccessful snook hunting but 14 bonefish, 2 barracudas and a 3lb snapper later we were contented.

Surf and turf consisting of a piece of fillet and 3 mega shrimp for dinner. All dinner rolls made fresh daily. deliciously soft and fluffy.

Another fishing trip over. My last huevos rancheros assembled by Phillippe. Fab. Casa Blanca in the Yucatan was indeed an experience worth recommending to anyone. Looking forward to my chance of sitting next to Diego . Hmm. Not to be,  but worth the up down inspection by Fernando. After a week of fish and food, he was even more handsome than Diego.

Still, didn’t get to sit next to him. Sigh!




Adios Buenos Aires… Hola Mendoza.

An experience. Left the Hilton bright and early, so early there was a surcharge on the taxi. The new Ezeiza airport was in a mess. Domestic flights were disrupted due to repairs being made on the runway. Jorge Newbury, the domestic airport was closed for month. No one knew what was happening but hey it’s LatAm and its pretty normal. The boarding pass stated to report to security at 6.40am – and they meant it. SHE (security guard) stood sternly at the entrance, checking all boarding passes with an eagle eye. Coffee with Medialuna – Spanish for Croissant, right next to the gate area while we wait. Talk about the right place at the right time while it lasts.. the cafe was heaving with people but the coffee was good.

At precisely 06.40, she started letting people through to security. Water bottles were OK. Wow, in LatAm, wine is allowed to be carried on board, too. We then understood the reason for the timing. All domestic flights were through ONE gate and after security – no shops, no cafes, no nothing, just ONE gate.

Boarding was by rows. Irritated that my rolling cabin bag was confiscated at the gate. I had my passport and all my money in the bag! Then again the plane was a small one. It left on time and we arrived early. Baggage collection was immediate and Chrissie was waiting for us with the driver.

One of the most beautiful regions in the world with friendly, nice people everywhere. There are 21 wine regions in Argentina with over 1000 wineries in Mendoza alone. Argentinians drink approximately 30 litres of wine per person per year. This figure has certainly dropped with beer and spirits now competing in the market. 1980s saw the overproduction of wine in Argentina leading to many wineries biting the dust.

Tasting notes in separate blogs.

First stop – Mendel a small family run winery headed by Roberto de la Mota, now in his 50s, son of a wine maker, grew up in the vineyard. He worked at LVMH and 2004 was his first vintage at Mendel. Sadly, Roberto was in a very bad car accident but is still involved in the winery. One of the first vineyards in Argentina to export, Mendel is located in the Lujan de Cuyo region. This adobe style winery has four main handpicked grape wines in the making and has steel tanks left in the open! A mobile bottling unit is brought in to do the task.

Next we head to Acheval Ferrer a unique winery with 5 owners, 4 Argentinians and an Italian. Absolutely amazingly modern with all modcons. A bunch of crazy vinophiles, trying all sorts of techniques to produce interesting wines. Fermentation tanks included concrete with external fans to cool the fermenting juice, stainless steel vats and temperature controlled oak barriques. One big space station and the astronauts to go with it! Fabulous wines and two home produced olive oils, too. Professional set up with very knowlegeable guides. Patricia, thank you for that amazing bottle of Dulce which I so enjoyed.

Ruca Malen for lunch. NO physical tour of the vineyard but an amazing palate tour matched food and wine to the almost impossible.

The last stop of the day was to Catena Zapata, brainchild of Laura Catena, 4th generation wine maker of the Zapata fame. The winery probably complete with solar calculations was built on the Mayan inspired culture of science and technology faces the Andes dividing Argentina and Chile. The private drive leading to this winery is just amazing. Breath taking scenery all around. Inside the architecture is just as unique with lighting that matched the feel. Wines were beautifully made.

Dinner was at Siete Cocinas, serving regional Argentinian food. The Pacu was indeed deliciously creamy. A highly prized ugly looking fish from the northern region of Argentina, known to give a good fight to any decent fisherman. On the 1st day of the season speed boats can be seen racing off to the best spots to hunt this moist, almost oily, meaty fish. Washed down with a great bottle of Ruttini’s Torrontes.

Day two took us down to Tupungato and the Uco Valley. First stop was to Andeluna, owned by the America’s Frito Lay (potato chips). Here the irrigation technique is optimal to combat the harsh desert like climate. Michel Rolland is consultant to this winery hence the high quality of wines.

Next to Salentein, a Dutch owned winery with 2000 hectares of vines spread on different altitudes at the base of the Andes. With separate wineries built in the region, the flagship holds an Art collection. Surrounded by rose and jarilla bushes, the wines of Salentein are delicately nosed. The tasting room was highly impressive with fixed spitoons that drained directly into the plumbing. Beautiful stone tables supported the bottles and glasses.

Lunch was at O Fournier, the “piece des resistance” of Mendoza. The out of a James Bond movie winery with it’s flying saucer glass walls looking out into the wilderness was just unbelievable.




Buenos Aires

The day was, as usual, an interesting one. Setting up and running an Italian event at London’s prestigious Queens Club seemed easy. The ballroom is a great venue and staff ever pleasing. With the “Eager Beaver” set up team, we seamlessly worked our way through the pallets of fabulous wine, top EV single estate olive oils, Aceto Balsamico, antipasti, pastas, and of course, luxury Italian leather goods. Then I was told His Excellency the Ambassador of Italy had requested his presence. Attention to detail increased.

Journalists, wine critics, fashionistas, foodies and VIPs arrived first. Photographers and paparazzi started appearing. With prosecco flowing the event eased into an easy start. By 6pm, the room was packed. Sadly, I had to excuse myself. Raced to London’s Heathrow terminal 5 to catch the BA0247 flight to Buenos Aires via SãoPaulo. Racing by London’s tube was by far the best solution, luggage being brought to the airport by husband in a separate taxi. Nothing new, the flight was delayed. Heathrow just cannot sort itself out. With all that new technology, new owners, new terminal, nothing changes.

Cabana Las Lilas steak.jpg

First meal in Buenos Aires had to be the steak at

Cabaña Las Lilas,
Av. Alicia Moreau de Justo 516 
Puerto Madero

washed down with a bottle of Alta Vista’s 2005 Terroir Special Malbec. All was forgiven after this absolutely delicious bottle. Argentinian steak is just amazing. I cannot describe the experience. Take that blasted BA flight, the only non-stop to Buenos Aires from London and make the trek to Cabaña.

The Hilton Macacha  is only a 5 minute walk away stituated in the new hip Puerto Madero suburb with it’s own naval police guarding the area. Very safe with all the modern amenities including a great vino shop right opposite the hotel. A sight seeing “hop on hop off” turista bus stops right outside the hotel making it even more convenient to experience Buenos Aires.

La Vinaria de Gualterio Bolivar is a must for the foodie. Recommended to me by a fellow FB-er, whom I met on a “women and wine site”. What Z was doing on a womens site still baffles me. Without him (a gem) and his wealth of all things Argentinian, I would never have found this place. Chef Alejandro Digilio trained under Ferran Adria at El Bulli. Using his knowledge of Argentinian ingredients to create innovative morsels was quite electrifying. 16 tastings served with Colombian Eduardo explaining each course washed down with my choice of Famiglia Schroeder’s worked well. Big heavy bottle with its metal label, first introduced to me by Marcel Moreno years ago.

Gastronomica Buenos Aires:

1. Chila
Calle Alicia Moreau DeJusto 1160

2. iCentral Market

3. Melba

4.  SottoVoce

5. The Food Factory –