Saturday, December 22, 2007

The bottle's on the table

There are sweet words on a night out which are a pleasure to hear. Perhaps the whisper of your loved one telling you how they feel. Possibly one of your dining partners saying they don't really like langoustine and could you finish their portion. But, above all, your host saying: "There's the grappa, I'll leave it on the table".

It was one of those nights on Thursday. A table for 12, some good friends down from Glasgow and a lot of old pals round a table. A mix of stupid football talk, memories of nights gone by and crude humour. A perfect combination - I am sure you would agree.

When the bottle landed on the table, it knew it was being consigned to history. With a dozen grappa drinkers round about what did you expect? All credit to our host for sacrificing a bottle to us. Although work was a bit slow the following day...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A pleasant parcel

I have recently been lucky enough to receive - whisper it - a Grappa Handbook! I hardly believed such a thing existed but those wonderful people at Nardini have produced one and, trust me, it does justice to my favourite drink.

One of its aims is to help raise the profile of grappa and get it more recognition for the quality drink it is. Amen to that, I say.

Among the sections are some recipes with grappa and a list of grappa cocktails. Normally I would be against this kind of thing and yet, to tell the truth, they looked quite good. I may share some recipes in future. I am intrigued to find out just how many are drinkable and what quantity it might be possible to consume them in.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Diaries on tour (again)

No posts for a few days but, be warned, when I get back there will be plenty of grappa to talk about. Please feel free to post all suggestions as to what grappas to buy for Christmas in my absence!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

If I knew you were coming, I would bake a cake

I've never really thought much of baking. It seemed too much like science and not enough fun. Cooking, I love. But baking? No thank you.

However, thanks to a suggestion on this blog my inventive juices started to flow. Maybe there is a place for baking in my repertoire after all. Imagine my interest at stumbling across this recipe for, yes you read it right, strawberry, grappa and mascarpone fairy cakes.,,2112324,00.html

Now, my old Nonno is probably pulling his baffi out from beyond the grave at the very thought. Bad enough to put fruit near grappa (A woman's drink, he might have said). But to add in mascarpone? And to call it a fairy cake?

You know what though, I might try to bake some. If I do, be sure you will see the results of my labour here. Remember not to feed them to the kids.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A brighter beat

A Thursday night out always has the power to make you feel more positive about the world. Good company, good food and bad alcohol make for a powerful mix. It was a Chinese edition this time with a huge platter of starters. Honestly, they would have been enough on their own.

As I remember there was squid, king prawn, satay chicken skewers, duck and pancakes, chicken wings and mussels. And maybe a few other things I have forgotten.

Our main course (did we really need it) was duck in a plum sauce, chicken with garlic and chilli, some kind of king prawn, fillet steak, and at least three other dishes I cannot even recall. Of course, there was no grappa moment - I was going to compare it to something rather filthy there but I think I shall refrain.

Still, a good night and a few brandies to finish things off. Of course, today at work was a "slow day" but, what the hell, I am used to it by now. Early to bed tonight old boy, early to bed tonight.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Old father time

I feel weary. I am struggling to muster up enthusiasm for anything - even grappa. I can only point the finger at one thing - parenthood.

Children are great, don't get me wrong. Just not all the time. Not 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, etc. Well, they probably are great all that time. It's me that isn't.

Nobody really writes much to prepare a father for how his life will change with kids. One day you watch all the football you like, take long-weekends with your wife/girlfriend (ideally both at once) and go out to the cinema/restaurant/pub. The next twenty years or so - nothing.

Of course, of course the rewards are great but sometimes it seems like such hard work. Now is one of those times. I hope to turn that corner soon...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Grappa and the City

As you will no doubt know by now, I don't get out much. Certainly not beyond the confines of south west Scotland. Yes, it is true, I sometimes break free for Tuscany. Occasionally, I know, I seek island solace on the Isle of Cumbrae. But, by and large, as a father of two young children my forays into what normal people call "having a social life" are few and far between.

The times when that involves my wife are even fewer.

So, it was with great fear and trepidation that I ventured to Edinburgh at the weekend. It was, by my good lady's reckoning, the first time we had been away overnight as a couple sans enfants (how's that for pretentious?) in five years. Yes, you read that right, FIVE YEARS!

I was so convinced that this weekend would not actually happen that I did not pack my bags until the last minute. I knew, with every pessimistic bone my dear old Nonna put in my body, that one of my children would start coughing and wheezing and we would be unable to leave. I stayed up the night before we left, fully expecting to have to wrestle off an infant's duvet cover strewn with sick. So, when none of the above happened, I was in a state of delirious shock as we left for - the Capital.

My sister and brother-in-law travelled with us and we had a splendid time. A glass of wine with lunch at All Bar One gave that light-headed, floating-in-a-bubble feel to walking along Princes Street.

There was footballing entertainment, of sorts, as Hearts succumbed to Motherwell 3-1. Tragically, there was no pie to review here as they had sold out of all food! I ask you, this is a club with delusions of making it into Europe!

Then, at night, dear sweet Librizzi. A favourite haunt of my co-auteur of the diaries, this is the place where they offer you a choice of grappa. The whole lovely meal - duck liver followed by monkfish in lemon and chilli - was but a preamble to this moment. "Chiara o scura?" the waiter asked. "Chiara! Chiara!" I almost belowed. He furnished me with three bottles from which I selected a Cabernet/Merlot mix. Fantastic, truly fantastic. My only gripe was that I spotted him using a measure to pour it out.

There is a vaguely amusing postscript to this story which will certainly entertain any Edinburgher reader. We were staying very central, and decided to park in a big NCP car park just off Princes Street. It was busy when we arrived on Saturday but, laughed smart driver me, look how empty level 4 is! I swung into my parking space smugly and left the Grappa Diaries People Carrier (GDPC from here on) until the following morning.

Have you guessed the punchline? Perhaps not. This was the Omni Centre car park where, unknown to us country folk, they hold one of the biggest car boot sales in Edinburgh every Sunday from 9am to 1pm, guess where? On level 4!

We emerged with our cases into what I can only describe as my idea of hell on earth - even if I wasn't trying to wheel my luggage. The four of us bravely fought through but I had visions of us being stuck their forever (or at least until the afternoon) gazing forlornly at Neil Sedaka LPs and unwanted wedding presents. It was only good fortune that a kindly security person took pity on us - "Happens all the time," he smiled and limped up the down-ramp to set us free.

God bless you sire, whoever you were. You guided me from the depths of despair back to a semblance of sanity. Then it was back down the road to the children howling the house down. Ah, we must go away again some time soon. I've got a free weekend in 2012...

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Wall Street Guzzle

We knew, by now, that grappa had friends in high places but we never suspected quite how high. It now even features on the pages of the world-renowned Wall Street Journal.

A very good read, indeed. Particularly enjoyed the references to old-school grappa as a real man's drink and Hemingway's short story where our favourite beverage is involved. I must dig that one out.

Proof, if proof were needed, of the worldwide appeal which grappa now enjoys. And not before time...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Is it a crime, to drink white wine?

I have meditated on this for a while, which is highly unusual for me. But recently I have taken to supping white wine mostly as it is my wife's preference. And, I have to say, I have got a taste for it.

However, I always have the feeling there is something a little bit, how can I say, effeminate about drinking vino bianco. Why do I feel that way? It seems manly to order a bottle of Barbera but a bit girly to ask for a Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio?

Is there any basis to this in fact? Or am I prejudiced?

When it comes to grappa, of course, I am happy with anything that came from either the red or white wine varietals originally.

Monday, September 17, 2007

From Toscana to Lombardia

I recently undertook another pilgrimage to Italy, the land which gave us grappa. I was lucky enough to sample a few fine brews, in particular in the environs of my family's home village - as pictured. However, I also made the trip to Lombardy for the first time in maybe 20 years to sample what they had to offer.

My first day involved an early rise to catch a flight from Liverpool to Pisa and then on towards Barga. At Il Garfagnino we stopped for a nine euro lunch and a nice house vino bianco "frizzantino". Afterwards, still somewhat tired from the air travel, I still mustered a grappa chaser which was more than presentable. For more on the restaurant you can look here...

I found the service nice, fast and attentive. The food was unfussy and tasty. The surroundings were nice although the fact that I had just flown from Liverpool may have made it seem all the more glamourous. The sun was bright, we sat outside in shirt sleeves in September and all was right with the world.

Some might be a bit put off by the roadside location but, on the other hand, it made for a quick escape back up the road for a much-needed siesta.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A grappa shared

What is the point in having a grappa collection, I realised on Saturday, if you don't have anyone to share it with? My father spends so much time in Italy or, possibly, vowing never to drink the stuff again that it often rules him out. And sitting sampling a fine Brunello grappa on your own can be a sad experience.

So thank the Lord for the visit of a fellow grappa-holic at the weekend to take my collection project to a new level - namely, putting it into action. I think it stood the test pretty well. We warmed up with the Torba Rossa and laughed at its pretentious label. Did it give us peaks of pleasure? I'm not entirely sure.

Then we switched to the Sibona moscato which, despite its appearance as a hospital sample bottle, proved to go down a treat. Finally, we moved to the clear, sharp rasp of the Col d'Orcia Grappa di Brunello. By this stage, Zlatan Ibrahimovic had slammed in two goals for Inter against Empoli and I had also invented the Space Invader wine rack (patent pending).

Good grappa, good company, good times...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Let this be a warning

I have just finished reading an amazing story about a girl who suffered some kind of overdose after taking SEVEN double espressos. Now, even as a man who likes a coffee, I would stop short of such a quantity.

Indeed, I have never actually seen the point of a double espresso. In fact, I might go further and say that I have only ever seen it ordered by show-offs. You know the kind of people - I am so tough I can drink three coffees at 3am and still get a perfect night's sleep. Balls.

Anyway, apparently this poor girl was unaware she was drinking double measures. Mind you, I think even seven SINGLE espressos during a day would give you a bit of the shakes. I remember daring a friend to drink freshly ground coffee and he had the jitters for about 48 hours.

The main lesson, however, is clearly that such an exploit should not be undertaken without the obligatory espresso companion, a grappa. If the girl had taken a glass of our favourite tipple with each shot of coffee I am sure she would have been fine. Or, alternatively, she would have passed out until the effects of the espressos had gone. Or possibly passed out before she got to the seventh coffee...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A question of style

One of my new reader posed an interesting query recently. Not about the quality of grappa nor its quantity but rather the manner in which it is delivered. Namely - do you prefer a shot glass or a long-stemmed affair?

My gut reaction (how appropriate is that?) was to say long-stemmed. Having recently purchased one for a good friend's birthday and also received a set from my fine father, it seemed the only possible answer. It seems a fine way to take a grappa, perhaps with a pinkie pointing provocatively in the air.

But then I reflected for a moment on how it is dished out in the mountains. The rag is dragged from the top of the bottle and then any receptacle will do. A shot glass, maybe, the dirtier the better.

Still, I think, on balance I have come so far down the road of the long-stemmed glass that it is too late to turn back. I like the grappa that arrives like that. You can hold it up to the light, perhaps contemplate its colour - and then get fired into it. Some, of course, prefer a pint glass but there are very few of them alive to tell the tale.

Monday, August 06, 2007

An auld acquaintance

I bumped into an old acquaintance at the weekend. I would say friend but that would be putting too strong a term on the relationship. Someone I used to work with, socialise with occasionally but who, I eventually realised, I didn't actually like all that much.

We had a brief conversation which I will relay as best I remember.

Me: So, what you up to these days?

Him: Trainee manager, mate. Tesco, mate.

Me: (Wondering why it was said with such pride) Oh!

Him: Be managing my own store in no time.

Me: I'll watch out for their shares plummeting, then.

Ah, it was short but sweet. I set off with a spring in my step...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Potter envy

I never thought it would come to this but blogging elsewhere and wandering around bookshops I have had a strange feeling. It has come over me slowly and I have tried to deny it. But the time may have arrived to come clean - I'm a bit jealous of adults who read Harry Potter.

It's not that I like the books - I read the first and found it completely put-downable. However, I am envious of the excitement they generate. I also turn a bit green at the sheer collectability of the series. It's a bit like Panini football stickers, although obviously not quite.

Having said all of that, there is little or no chance of me trying to recoup my losses and starting out on the whole lot of JK Rowling's works. I already have a book which I almost completed on holiday but have read not one page of since I got back to work. Maybe its this darn blogging that gets in the way...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Never look a gift horse...

I am a man of few demands when it comes to what constitutes an enjoyable night out. Good food, good company and good drink usually clinches the deal. Even two out of three is usually sufficient.

So imagine my delight on a recent night out when I got all three and an extra special surprise. A top notch meal, family and friends and a lovely Argentinian red - PLUS a free bottle of grappa (pictured right).

My host had a few bottles in his cupboard and asked if I would like one. Well, who was I to refuse?

I had the chance to sample it at the weekend and it is not half bad. I have got a taste for Moscato grappas of late even if they are a little bit on the perfumey side for some people's liking. I find them, in general, to have a little bit of the roughness I like without being downright undrinkable. The grappa equivalent of a rustic Tuscan farmhouse which at least has double glazing and central heating installed.

Anyway, one of the funniest parts of the bottle is that it has measuring marks down the side. It reminds me of a giant test tube. Still, handy for checking how much I drink the next time Martino comes to visit. Although, usually only the zero millilitre marker is any use after that.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Grappa Ma Raki update (see below)

Aniseed!!! Yeeeeuccchhhhh!

If you didn't know by now then remember unless it says Prodotta in Italia on the bottle stay well clear of anything claiming to be grappa.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Looks can be deceptive

This is the grappa I was served in Librizzi's in Edinburgh on Friday night. Have you ever seen such a dark grappa? It was almost like a malt whisky in colour. The owner explained that it was a Francoli grappa that had been matured in oak for 18 months and that's what gave it such a dark colour.

Although it didn't look like a grappa I'm pleased to say that it certainly smelled and tasted like a grappa.

As did the second one I had just to make sure.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Is there anything wrong?

I have been wondering this for a while but never got round to blogging about it. It has been prompted by my wife's great love of white wine and the number of bottles we have been consuming of late. It has caused me to ponder - is there any difference between a cork and a screwtop?

There was a time when the screwtop was the sign of a truly awful vino - maybe a Liebfraumilch or a dodgy Valpolicella. But now nearly everything comes with the easy access option. I am no wine expert but I am intrigued as to whether using a cork makes any difference to the quality. Or is it just pure snobbery?

I wonder if it could be extended to grappa too. Although I like the reassuring "pop" of a cork stopper. There is something almost scientific about opening a bottle. You feel like you should pour it into a test tube and watch the fumes fly...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Holiday present

My brother and sister-in-law have just returned from holiday in Crete and as a present brought me a bottle of something called

"Grappa Ma Raki"

Somehow I dont hold out much hope for this one.........

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A rare sortie

It is unusual for me to travel on a Thursday night. Usually, I like to stick close to home and be able to enjoy a glass of wine or two withing 'stoating' distance of my house. But sometimes the call of the wild - or, more precisely, a good meal - can be too great. It was thus last Thursday.

I was called to a friend's house to sample Chinese cuisine of the highest order. Won ton soup, followed by a wonderful beef dish, sweet and sour chicken, satay prawn skewers, Singapore noodles and probably a few other things I have forgotten. And all in good company. Where else could I hope to hear about people being attacked by a hippo in Botswana, discuss whether Rod Hull was murdered by emu AND listen to a tale or two about gay pornography.

A great night indeed.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Long time, no grappa

You know, I can't actually think of the last time I had a grappa. That, for me, is a bad sign. It is a sign that life has become too serious and there is not enough nutty nonsense going on. There was a time when I lurched from one grappa-daze to another.

True, my Thursday night regular outings have mostly been at the Chinese of late where, sadly, grappa is in short supply. Still, there is no excuse. I have my fine collection building up at home. I must make a return to using it very soon...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Too much of the tipple?

A worrying event, recently, even in my own grappa-addled existence. While idly flicking through the pages of the latest Champions League magazine while trying to feed my daughter her porridge, I spotted an intriguing letter. "Good on that man!" I thought to myself as I read it. Essentially, it sang the praises of Milan's achievements in comparison to the three English sides to reach the semi-finals. What a laudable world view, I thought.

So, imagine my surprise when I got the end of the letter and saw my own name. Yes, apparently I sent it in "via email" but I have absolutely no memory of writing it - let alone sending it to Champions magazine. Spooky or what? The only options are 1) There is another person with my name who thinks exactly the same as I do. 2) I sent it in but was so drunk/stupid I forgot all about it. 3) Somebody aped my views and used my name as a nom-de-prune!

Whatever the explanation, it has sent me scurrying for another drink.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The where and when guide

Everything, but everything, depends on context. Where and when you do something has a great impact on how it feels. You might think I am hinting at something else but, of course, I speak of grappa.

Definitely has to be at the end of a meal, almost inevitably Italian. In the company of a large group of friends or family is best. Accompanied by a good espresso, of course. Probably served by a dark-haired, tan-skinned waitress (copyright Martinobhoy). A view of a sunset over the Tuscan hills is ideal too. After a Fiorentina victory, preferably over Juventus. With a lot of money in your pocket courtesy of a win on the horses.

Do I ask too much? Never enjoyed all of the above circumstances, but still, one lives in hope.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The pursuit of P and Q

I often wonder, when I read the blurb on the back of a book, how did the author manage to get their work done? How often do you read something along the lines of "So and so is the father of four children, aged six, five, four and one" or "Such and such is a mother-of-six who splits her time between Kent and Tuscany". How did they write 100 words, never mind 60,000 plus?

When did they get the peace and quiet they needed?

Take my house with just two children. The screaming usually starts about 5.30am (and it's not my screaming before you ask). Then children need breakfast, bottom changed, dressed, entertained, etc. Then I go off and do a day's work to return to teatime, bathtime, suppertime, stories and bed. At the end of that I can barely read 500 words, never mind write them.

Am I lazy? Or should I be more selfish and go and run to a soundproof room somewhere to get some work done? That's the trouble with trying to write - it is so antisocial. There must be plenty of parent/authors out there but it seems so daunting sometimes. It does get easier as they get older, they keep telling me. Still, I am going to try and do it, I swear I am.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A project in mind

After what seems like an eternity away from the keyboard in any creative sense I think I might just about be ready to get back into book-writing mode. My target this time is the totally unambitious idea of writing "The Great Scottish Italian Novel" (that's not the title, by the way). As far as I am aware nobody has done it so far. There have been a few non-fiction books on the subject, some plays and screenplays and a few novels that have scratched the surface. But nothing going into the depth I would like to reach - a kind of Godfather trilogy for the fish and chip frying fraternity.

The premise is simple enough, really, tell the story of a family forced to leave Italy through poverty in the early 20th century. Their trials and tribulations in Scotland, tough times through the Second World War when many were interned and finally, I guess, their victory over that adversity. Something along those lines anyway.

At the moment I am trying to immerse myself in the culture of Italy from about 1900 to 1940, if anybody has any recommended reading material it would be gratefully accepted. Of course, another part of my inspiration will be some truly bad, home-brewed grappa. Although probably not too much or I might find myself slumped across my computer.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A salute to the Generali

I like to think it takes a special occasion to prompt the opening of a new bottle of grappa. So what better occasion than it being Thursday night again? Or, more truthfully, the fact that my best grappa-guzzling pal and co-author of these diaries was in town.

Whatever the reason, I plucked my new bottle down from the shelf with the usual feelings of joy and trepidation. Don't get me wrong, I know I am going to enjoy the drink but just how much? Will it measure up to the anticipation as you open its cardboard box, cut the plastic seal and hear the reassuring "pop" as the cork slips from the bottle?

The answer, of course, was yes. What do you expect from a grappa di brunello? Like Milan in Europe, they rarely let you down. This particular variety hails from Il Forteto, a vineyard just one kilometre from Montalcino which also produces Brunello (of course) and its own olive oil (which lacks the same punch). I have put a link at the bottom if you want to read more.

I was not firing on full review cylinders when I sampled it - but then a huge Chinese meal and a couple of Peronis will do that to you. Nonetheless, it seemed to have the right mix of rough and smooth, pleasure and pain that I look for in a good grappa. I may give a more considered opinion in future but drunk with a good friend on a Thursday evening after some fine conversation this certainly hit the spot.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A farewell to Zen

During my recent sojourn overseas (Millport) I was shocked to open the obituaries section in the Times to find one for one of my favourite British crime writers. Michael Dibdin, who brought the world the Venetian sleuth Aurelio Zen, was no more.

What I liked about his books was how deeply rooted in their locations they were and also how authentically he captured Italian attitudes. In addition, as a real Venezian, there was usually a bottle of grappa involved somewhere. I am sure it was Zen who claimed a cure for a bad cold was to drink a good bottle of red wine and a whole clove of garlic. Certainly worth a try, if not likely to boost your chances with the opposite sex.

The news reached me just as I was finishing Back to Bologna, the latest Zen novel I think. Which featured both football and grappa on its pages. Hard to think of a better combination than that. Addio, Zen.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The perfect day?

So I was offered a new job today which I accepted and decided to go out to celebrate at my local Italian restaurant with my brother and sister-in-law.

Anyhoo my brother was driving so when it came to ordering the after dinner drinks he decided to only have an espresso while I had my usual grappa and an espresso. Fortunately the waiter misheard and brought two grappas and two espressos. My brother being the sensible chap that he is decided not to say anything to the waiter but instead gave me the grappa. Could a man hope for a better brother?

So a new job and a free grappa. I've had worse days.........

Monday, April 02, 2007

Off to the islands

It is almost time for one of my regular trips to a small Scottish island to drink my father-in-law's whisky. Although, I have some fears since I heard reports he has given it up. Does that mean I will drink it alone? Or, worse, not at all?

You can imagine my concern. Perhaps a hip-flask of grappa will have to be packed. I just hope the kids don't get their hands on it...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Another trip, another bottle

Guess what? My dad is due back from Italy on Saturday and you know what that means - hopefully another grappa for my collection. I think he is beginning to suspect that it is not him that I am happy to see. It's the way I say "yeah, yeah, where's my grappa!".

I will, of course, file a full report on these pages as I endeavour to return to more regular postings. A mix of illness and work have kept me away. Surely neither will get in the way so much again.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Back on track

It's been a while since I felt inspired to pen something for the Diaries. However, last night I was back in action with a bottle of Bocchino Gran Moscato on the table and boy did it feel good. Mysteriously, it also cleared up the nasty cold I have been suffering for about a week. Lemsip Sinus - who needs it?

It was a small outing, just me and my uncle, but we talked plenty of rubbish about football before I turned my attentions to a nearby table. Two Manchester United fans were spouting forth about how Celtic would get on in their league. To be fair, one reckoned they would be a top six team easily, the other said midtable. Midtable? I spluttered. Behind Bolton? Behind mighty Reading or some such?

I was also lucky enough to get deep in conversation with an American woman of some kind of Italian extraction who had never drunk grappa and had no idea whereabouts in Italy her Italian grandfather came from. What a joy to be able to spout forth about my favourite drink to somebody who had not heard all my patter before! Needless to say by the end of the evening she was looking round for an emergency exit. But still, it felt good to hold court on one of my specialist subjects.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The witching hour

This has been a bad week to build up to a big Thursday night grappa fest. My son has decided that 5am is a good time to start talking to us through the intercom. This is endearing for about 30 seconds and then soul-destroying. Maybe grappa fume breath is the only solution?

A team of 11 good men (and Martino, hee hee) will be gathering to celebrate the Giovedi club over a hearty steak and a few glasses of red wine. I know there will come a point in the night when I should switch to softer beverages and head to the hills. Will I learn the lesson at last? Unlikely, I would imagine. But then my little five o'clock alarm will sound...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Return of the boys

The anticipation is building for another big reunion Thursday night next week. A lot of my old grappa drinking partners have pledged their attendance which raises the question. Should I try to get the Friday off work?

On the one hand, it would be nice to have a lie in. On the other, I have two young children who make it virtually impossible. Also, I have survived plenty of Friday's in dodgy condition before so why not just work this one?

Oh decisions, decisions!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A new brew

It is always nice to see my old father return from Italy and even better when he carries with him a shiny new bottle of the good stuff. In truth, it is pretty rare that he lets me down on that front.

So, imagine my pleasure when he furnished me with a nice bottle of Torba Rossa made - so the bottle tells me - with smoked red grape stems.

Now, in many ways the imbibing experience is unlike drinking grappa at all. The colour is a pretty intense amber and the smell almost akin to a malt whisky. Even the taste is much lighter than a hardened acquavita fan would be used to.

Indeed, in some ways this looks like one of those "designer grappas" intended to make you part with a lot of money for what ought to be a good old-fashioned mountain man/woman's brew. The packaging is similar to the long, cardboard tubes which the finest whisky comes in. So the whole experience leans on the pretentious side.

Nonetheless, I had no problem sampling my first "dram" at the weekend. Yes, it is more refined than some may like and carries an almost delicate perfume. But, if it takes grappa to a wider audience I am not going to speak out against it. It also prompted me to tidy up my drinks cupboard which led to the discovery of a tiny amount of long-forgotten Grappa Moscato. So that takes my "collection" to three bottles!

Overall, it won't rip your throat out or burn what remains of your windpipe but it is a pleasant after dinner drink - especially if you don't want to feel its aftermath for a few days to come.

Rating: 71%.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Scotland Italy partnership

I celebrated Burns Night at my brother's on Thursday. It is a night when Scots traditionally have a Scottish dish (typically haggis) but I also have a duty on a Thursday to keep the spirit of the Giovedi alive. See Ginkers post "Say it aint so Giovedi" for the problems he is facing in that regard at the moment.

For this reason, even if I'm not going out on a Thursday, I like to have a plate of pasta, a glass (or two) of wine and finish the evening with a grappa. So what to do when tradition and duty clash? Fortunately my sister-in-law, who is the finest cook I know, came to the rescue. I supplied an excellent bottle of red which was accompanied by a fine dish of haggis lasagne.

And it was absolutely delicious.

Oh and of course I sneaked in a grappa before going to bed.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

That's more like it

After my despair of last week it is only fair to post better news. My father is back from Tuscany and promises me he has a bottle of grappa which he secreted in his case for me. The anticipation, as always, is great.

I don't know if I mentioned this before but I have decided to escalate my grappa passion by endeavouring to collect as many bottles as I can. It is my ambition to invite friends round, have a good meal and then, with coffee, offer a variety of my favourite tipple. "Morbida, secca o fatta-in-casa-dio-mio-quanto-brucia?" will be available to all.

People are proud of their malt whisky bottles, I want a little mini-bar area full of grappa. OK, I'm starting small, I now have two bottles in the house. And a visit from Martino is imminent. The omens don't look that good for building the collection, do they?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Say it ain't so, Giovedi!

Anyone who has ever met me or cast a weary eye over this blog will know that Thursday is a special day for me. For the past 20 years or so it has been the traditional meeting night of the Giovedi Club. An institution of dishevelled, disgraceful and dissolute fellows which meets once a week to eat pasta and steak and drink red wine and grappa.

Over the years the dedication of its members has become legendary. People have rearranged holidays, travelled through six foot snow drifts and generally overcome all sorts of obstacles to make a "meeting". Nowadays, however, it seems that things have changed - for the worse.

How's this for a list of excuses? One is on holiday (reasonable but badly planned), one has been ordered by his mother to go to her house for dinner (feeble), one is worried about his waistline (astonishing) and another is packing a case for a trip on Saturday (disgraceful). I'm not even going to start on the people who come along and "really can't manage such a big plate of pasta!".

Has the lure of the grappa become so weak? Is my company really so bad (possible, but not to be seriously contemplated)? Or, as I suspect, has our new recruitment drive brought in some thoroughly soft members?

The club would never have started if people worried about their weight! The boys of the old brigade would not have dreamed of using such a lengthy list of feeble excuses for their absence. Is it time to call the whole thing off? Tonight it is just myself and my dad keeping the Olympic flame alive. Emergency! Emergency! Can anyone out there save the Giovedi?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Aglio, olio and ....

So, tell me something I didn't know. It turns out that the latest BBC series on food is claiming that garlic is Mother Nature's answer to viagra. The Truth About Food has been running trailers making the claims about the stalwart of Italian cooking pepping up matters in the bedroom.

What is so intriguing about this is that it would answer an ancient conundrum. I regularly go out on a Thursday night and fill myself up with red wine, grappa and garlic-filled food. By the time I get home I always feel, to put it frankly, pretty much irresistible. I had always put this down to the alcohol but clearly the Italian food is playing its part too.

However, with every answer comes another question. What is Mother Nature playing at? Clearly a cocktail of Montepulciano, Grappa San Martino and garlic is her idea of the perfect aphrodisiac. But why has she made the smell of these favourite ingredients so repulsive that the chances of getting within 50 miles of a woman are minimal? The only solution, perhaps, is to ensure your would-be partner has consumed alcohol and aglio in similar proportions...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Not a dream beginning

This year has not got off to a flying start for me. Blogging, eating, drinking and being merry have all gone swiftly out the window - courtesy of a winter sickness bug.

For anyone unfamiliar with this little fellow he strikes lower and harder than a bad bottle of home brew grappa (see how he weaves in his usual thread?). The first attack came on my daughter provoking major collateral damage to bedsheets, pyjamas, cuddly toys and anything within a ten mile radius. Inevitably, that led to the wife being the next victim quickly followed by son and father. I leave it to your imagination who made the worst patient although if you guessed the 30-something male you would be correct.

It's been hard to contemplate anything, let alone my favourite brew of late. Indeed, going to bed every night has become something akin to walking through a mine field. Where and when will the next explosion come?