Thursday, April 27, 2006

The perfect gift

What do you give the blogger who has everything? The answer, of course, is a new bottle of grappa. Always glad to see my father get back from Italy - even more so when he brings a new tipple for me to try. This is called Lis Radris and is produced by the Vigneti Fantanel I think. Will wait for a special occasion to crack it open. Maybe a day in the week ending with a Y...

Friday, April 21, 2006

Old friends, old habits...

Honest Joe was in town last night and out for a little Giovedi celebration just like old times. A work colleague who moved away he is always a welcome face round the table on a Thursday night. But his greatest grappa claim to fame is his boast...

"That drink has no effect on me. None whatsoever."

The fact that he makes the claim after firing down five or six is all the more interesting. However, I present some evidence which suggests he may be a little economical with the truth.

1) When he hits fresh air after six grappas he usually starts to sway.

2) After one famous session he fell asleep over a free-kick in ISS Pro for four hours.

3) He regularly ends up with his pants on his head.

Still, good to see him. Even if he cannae handle his grappa...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Bergamo field trip

In our new and shiny surroundings, we still find room for our most grizzled, rambling and downright obscure reviewer. The inimitable O'Reilly whose guide to grappa is something of a bible to those who don't actually own a bible.

Bergamo, 7th to 9th April 2006

For this episode of the Grappa Diaries I decided to go to Bergamo. Like Dannii Minogue, Bergamo is often overlooked in favour of a big sister which in Bergamo’s case is Milan. Also like Dannii, Bergamo has two outstanding attractions that deserve closer inspection, namely its citta alta (high city) and citta bassa (low city).

Arriving in Bergamo on Friday evening the first objective was to find a restaurant and hence a grappa. Fortunately less than 50 yards from the hotel the Taverna Valtellinese provided a warm welcome. In the best traditions of Italian restaurants the matriarchal owner sat behind the till while two waiters ran their legs off trying to keep the diners in a packed restaurant happy. The grappa served was also of a fine vintage and was the perfect end to the first evening. Looking back it was the best grappa of the trip. Having recently caught up with the rest of civilisation by buying a mobile with a camera I was able to send Ginkers a picture of this excellent grappa so he could see what I was enjoying. That’s the kind of friend I am.

It is often said that I would climb a mountain for a grappa and that’s what I did on Saturday. Well when I say mountain I mean steep slope and when I say climbed I mean got the cable car up to Bergamo’s citta alta. On looking at the menu in La Marianna I had one of those Shaggy and Scooby “Yoiks!” moments when I saw that a starter portion of pasta cost around €15 while a main course was around €35. After ordering my pasta the waiter enquired “e poi?” and although I thought “e poi I’m out of here at these prices pal” I simply replied “niente”. Who knows how much the grappa would have cost and how good it would have been because I made my escape faster than the aforementioned Shaggy and Scooby being chased by an unscrupulous landowner in an unconvincing werewolf costume.

Fortunately Il Suite bar on Viale Giovanni XXXII back down in citta bassa came to my rescue. Although the grappa was no more than average in taste it was served in a very generous amount which is never a bad thing.

The best stadium in the world to watch football is unquestionably Celtic Park in Glasgow. However the San Siro in Milan is a worthy alternative when the 2006 Scottish Champions are away from home as was the case on Sunday. A Kaka hat-trick helped Milan to a deserved 4-1 victory over Chievo but the star of the show was Pippo Inzaghi. Who else when clean through on goals could hit the ball at exactly the right speed and angle for it to hit the keeper square on the chest and land at Kaka’s feet for Milan’s second goal? Join the campaign to get Pippo to the World Cup at

Looking for a restaurant back in Bergamo to finish off my trip I was given a sign from the grappa gods when I passed La Bruschetta on the way back to the hotel from the station. The one person who has stuck with this meandering drivel since I started it last October (cheers Ginge!) will remember that the first restaurant I reviewed was La Bruschetta in Edinburgh. Fortunately La Bruschetta in Bergamo lived up to the standards set by its Scottish cousin. Although the grappa was of the variety that forced a sharp intake of breath, followed by the loss of speech for a few seconds it was still a welcome end to the weekend. The fact that it was served by a delightfully charming waitress probably helped. Who am I kidding, it definitely helped!

So the next time you are taking a trip to Milan with Ryanair this grappaholic would recommend spending some time in the city of Bergamo rather than just jumping on the first bus to Milan.

And if you can find a restaurant that provides a grappa experience that combines the grappa quality of Taverna Valtellinese, the quantity of Il Suite bar and the waitress of La Bruschetta, let me know. It will be the first place I visit on my next visit.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

My envoys get everywhere...

When the Pope is at home in Rome his influence still spreads across the globe thanks to - among others - his Papal emissaries or envoys. Now, in a completely unconnected style, the Grappa Diaries is proud to have sent its favourite sons out on scouting missions across the world.

The Silver Fox, our oldest and most venerable colleague, is back in the Tuscan hills these days and recently dined at La Mora on the road between Barga and Lucca (Sesto a Moriano, to be precise, I think).

While Martino, that Irish Bishop of Barolo, has been sent out to Milan to see what the capital of Lombardy has to offer. It makes the heart swell with pride to think of our 'boys' back in the heartland of our favourite form of alcohol and giving it laldy (to use an old Scottish term).

Which brings me to the point of this latest blog. Is there any vicarious pleasure to be gained from knowing friends and family are drinking grappa when you are not? At present, I find myself on a remote west of Scotland island where if you asked for grappa I suspect they would mishear it as grampa and try to introduce you to their father's father. And, as previously chronicled, with a six-week old son my days of mad guzzling of the grape are truly curtailed.

So, I answer "yes". There is something to be gained from knowing your old buddies are keeping the team spirit alive - like the Olympic flame - until the time comes for me to take my turn in that unending relay once again.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Maybe my interest in grappa can be rekindled after all

In all my times as a grappa drinker I never thought I would live so long as to read this story. Not only has she produced a top notch red wine, apparently a grappa is on the agenda. Mouthwatering...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

When a man is tired of grappa...

Sometimes, just sometimes, there are moments in life when one is distracted from the blog and even from grappa. Times when the day to day routine gets so all-consuming that there is scarcely time for the consumption of - and writing about - your favourite after dinner drink.

I have been in one such time of late with a new addition to the family, a new job and one thousand other things to think about (I have scarcely had time to focus on the start of a new fantasy baseball season).

Still, the upshot of all this has been a move of my computer to a new HQ where, hopefully, I will get the peace and quiet necessary to muse upon the grappa from time to time.

I also felt it was time for a new home as the old site was becoming increasingly slow and erratic (a bit like myself). Hopefully this new site will prove just as big a success with readers as the old one! I have included a link to our archive for those who have missed out on some of our classic reviews and comments.

Here's to a long future for the Grappa Diaries...