Event Review: Elwood Wines’ Summer Tasting

Elwood Wines Summer Tasting at Lighthouse

(c) Elwood Wines

Last month saw the showcase of Elwood Wines summer collection at Lighthouse. Wine-lovers and business folk from all over Brighton gathered to taste a fantastic range of 47 reds, whites, rosés, ports, sherries and cognacs – including some incredible home-grown wines from Sussex’s very own vineyards.

As well as a plethora of wines to suit every palate, La Cave au Fromage were there to showcase their sensational selection of cheeses; while the wonderful Hove-based Chocoholly brought a devilishly delicious table full of hand-made chocolate delights.

Adding an element of fun to proceedings – as if tasting almost 50 different wines wasn’t fun enough – Karl and Tracey organised the Vinolympics to inject a little healthy competition between attendees. Unfortunately this didn’t involve us performing gymnastics on the serving tables or swimming through pools of Pinot Grigio – instead we had to rank six wines out of 20 and guess which was the most popular of the evening.


Chocoholly’s table of treats.

Alas I didn’t win the top prize, but did manage to pick out that the Stopham Estate Pinot Blanc 2010 – grown right here in Sussex – was well worthy of the gold. In fact, my personal picks of the evening were mainly English wines. Here are a few of the bottles which I enthusiastically circled on my list and ended up treating myself to:

Foxwood Dawn Picked Viognier, Languedoc 2010 (£7.95): Medium-bodied white with characters of summer flowers and citrus fruit – fantastic value at less than £8. Elderflowery and refreshing, I’m looking forward to cracking this one open.

Stopham Estate Pinot Blanc, West Sussex 2010 (£14.95): Served on board the Royal Barge during the Queen’s Jubilee flotilla, this is a wine deemed fit for royalty. Think pears, apples and crisp orchard fruits – perfect for summer picnics. Oh, and it was the Vinolympics winner!

Nutbourne Vineyards Bacchus, West Sussex 2010 (£13.75): If you like Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll LOVE this. With summery notes of cut grass and gooseberries combined with peaches and orchard fruits, this is a bottle well worth spending that little extra on.

Nutbourne Vineyards Sussex Reserve 2010, West Sussex, England

Nutbourne Vineyards Sussex Reserve 2010. My favourite!

Nutbourne Vineyards Sussex Reserve, West Sussex 2010 (£9.95): Blend of Bacchus, Huxelrebe and Schoenburger. Deliciously aromatic with zesty citrus notes on the nose, a supple creamy texture and racy acidity. Probably my favourite wine of the night.

The Exhibitionist Merlot, One Chain Vineyards, Western Australia 2008 (£9.00): Packed with super-ripe red berry flavours, this is one of the best Merlots I’ve tasted in a while. Easy-drinking and great value at less than a tenner, this is a red that benefits from being slightly chilled.

Mompertone, Prunotto 2008 (£12.95): Loved this wine from the second I tasted it. Great complexity on the nose with notes of plum, cherry, coffee and peppery spice with a deliciously plump taste. Will most likely be saving this for a tender, rare sirloin steak.

Lo Tengo Malbec, Mendoza, Bodegas Norton 2011 (£8.95): Being extremely partial to a good Malbec, this is a good value wine from one of Argentina’s most renowned producers. Full-bodied and spicy but still quite fresh, you can’t go wrong for this price.


Recipe of the Week: Doves Farm Gluten Free Pizza

Yummy gluten-free pizza. NOM.

The thing I hate most about not being able to eat wheat is that I can’t just pick up the phone to Domino’s and be delivered a huge, melty, cheesy, doughy pizza. Not without it making me rather ill, anyway. When my boyfriend treated himself to Pizza Hut last night, it looked and smelt SO GOOD that I decided to have a go at making my own version this weekend. Whilst watching the latest episode of Glee and having a glass of wine, naturally.

I’ve tried to make gluten-free pizza dough before with various “quick ‘n’ easy” no-yeast recipes that don’t involve waiting for the dough to rise (I’m a very impatient baker/eater), but I haven’t yet found one that works that well. This time I decided to start dinner before I got mega-hungry, do it the “proper” way and follow the Doves Farm recipe on the back of the flour packet.

This recipe is for a veggie topping, but I don’t believe in pizza without pepperoni so I loaded mine up with that plus mushrooms, sweetcorn and grated mozzarella. For the tomato sauce base, I just spread with tomato purée then seasoned with salt, pepper, basil and oregano. Before going in the oven, I gave it a good sprinkle of Worcestershire sauce. Scrummy.

I decided to split the cooking times 50/50 (20 minutes for the base, then 20 minutes with the topping on) because I was worried about the base not cooking all the way through – a common problem with gluten-free baking as the dough doesn’t rise in the same way as wheat-based dough – or the cheese burning. It’s in the oven as I write this, so fingers crossed…

Served up with rocket, spinach and watercress salad.

The verdict? Pretty good actually. The dough cooked nicely all the way through and had that light, cakey kind of texture that you always get from rice flours. It’s not the perfect substitute for a take-away, but it certainly did the job of fulfilling my pizza craving. I’ll definitely be using this recipe again as it was an absolute doddle to make and relatively speedy. Plus, it made SO much pizza that I have ¾ left to eat cold tomorrow! Result. Although…. maybe I’ll just have one more slice..

NOTE: Just realised the ingredients on the packet of flour are slightly different to the one on the website, though the method is the same. Here are the measurements I used:

450g Doves Farm White Bread Flour
½ tsp Salt
2tsp Quick yeast
2tbsp Sugar
325ml Warm milk
1tsp Vinegar
2 Eggs
6tbsp Oil

Recipe of the Week: Orlando Murrin’s Potatoes Dauphinoise

It’s easy to get stuck in a culinary rut with your evening meals. While my boyfriend and I are generally pretty good at eating balanced meals of protein-carbohydrates-vegetables, I can’t eat wheat, so nine times out of ten that carb element ends up being potatoes. Let’s face it: there are only so many times you can alternate roast-boil-mash before you start to get a little bit bored.

We’re both pretty busy people, so we’re huge fans of the various supermarkets’ two dine for a tenner offers which, if you hunt around, you can probably find for every day of the week. These are great because they offer something a little different in the way of side dishes, so we usually end up choosing something like Potato Dauphinoise as a change from our customary olive oil roasted new potatoes.

After inspecting the packet of the last lot we bought, I realised it was actually pretty easy to make, so set about finding a recipe to try it out for myself. After trawling through recipes that used so much double cream I could feel my arteries clogging up just thinking about it, or so much Gruyère cheese it would break my bank balance (seriously, that stuff is expensive), I stumbled upon this BBC Good Food recipe by Orlando Murrin, Masterchef veteran and ex-editor of Good Food.

Just a few things I did differently to the recipe – I used semi-skimmed milk as we never have full-fat in the house (I can’t stand the stuff) and I didn’t have any nutmeg, so I left that out too. Also, I blinkin’ love cheese so I used way more Parmigiano-Reggiano than 25g.

I used Rooster potatoes, because they’re fantastic to cook with and they were on offer in Sainsbury’s (result). Now, I don’t have such a thing as an 8cm brownie tin, so I just used a ceramic oven dish that was quite a bit bigger – but it worked out fine. Because I felt that there wasn’t quite enough liquid, I covered the dish with foil for the first 30 minutes of cooking, then uncovered it for the final half hour. As you can see, it turned out looking luscious and tasted so damn good that between two of us we polished off the lot.

Verdict: foolproof and delicious!

A new way to network: Fish Friday comes to Brighton

Fish Friday, a new business supper club, offers a different networking experience…

At this exclusive new event, we don’t want you to stand around sipping fizz and daintily picking at canapés.

We want you to have a good glass of wine (or three) and a proper old natter while you tuck in to a hearty fish and chip supper.

Held at one of Brighton’s most prestigious venues The Grand Hotel the traditional Friday night seaside meal is being brought bang up to date with friendly networking and a  chance to have a real conversation with some of your contemporaries.

So, what can you expect from Fish Friday?

Where? In the stunning Victoria Terrace at The Grand Hotel.

When? Join us for drinks and mingling at 6:30pm. Dinner will be served at 7pm.

Who? Anyone and everyone is welcome to attend, but we limit it to a total of 30 guests. This way you get more chance of meeting everyone, and building some meaningful relationships.

Cost: £20.00

What’s for dinner? Locally caught crispy mini battered fillets (3 types) hand cut chip shop chips, mushy peas, lemon and tartare sauce all beautifully presented with a glass of wine or beer.

Then what happens? When we’ve all got full bellies and have got to know each other a bit better, we’ll give a few of you the chance to stand up and introduce yourself to the room (don’t be scared, we’re all lovely).

Don’t want to stand up and talk in a room full of people? No problem. Drop the team an email and you could feature on our ‘Who’s Coming to Dinner?’ Blog, giving the other attendees the chance to get to know a bit more about who you are and what you do before you meet them.

*You will be sent a list of attendees before you arrive so that you have a chance to find out about everyone, and put faces to names on the night.

After dinner… Anyone who still wants to party will head off to a bar and carry on nattering into the night. After all, it is Friday night…

**Book now for the first event on Friday 15th April**

The Venue

The Grand is an iconic Victorian hotel on Brighton seafront with 201 en-suite bedrooms with free Internet and Satellite TV. The Grand boasts cosy Victorian-style classic rooms and beautiful suites with sea views, balconies and luxurious décor.

You can dine like royalty under the chandeliers in the King’s Restaurant or treat yourself to a Sussex Cream Tea in the Victoria Terrace. For a prime people-watching position, grab an armchair and a cocktail at the bar.

The Organisers

My Girl Friday

Almat Business Services

The Grand Hotel

Qype: Giggling Squid in Brighton

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The Giggling Squid in Hove is located approximately 45 seconds from the door of my office, which makes it the perfect place to go and grab a lunchtime bite.

Their lunchtime menu offers excellent value for money, with their “Two Dish Meal Combi’s” – a choice of vegetarian, chicken or prawn at £5-£5.95. For this price you get a choice of either vegetable tempura, spring roll, dumpling or prawn on toast accompanied by a small meal.

My personal favourite (and exceptional value for money) is the “One Big Dish” – a choice of either Pad Thai, Green Curry, Red Curry (my favourite), Cashew Stir Fry, Grilled Beef & Sticky Rice or Beef & Oyster Sauce which cost between £5.50 and £6.30. An absolute bargain as for that money you feel completely stuffed… then go back to the office and fall asleep.

I’ve always found the service here, along with their other restaurant in The Lanes, to be warm, friendly and welcoming. For this I’m more than willing to overlook the fact that when it’s busy, it can be a little slow.

Plus, you get jelly beans with your bill. What more could you want?

Check out my review of Giggling Squid – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype

Qype: The Old Bank Steak & Ribs Restaurant in Brighton

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Inside The Old Bank

After wanting to visit The Old Bank for a while, I was delighted to be invited to another Brighton Qype event to sample the wine list and menu. Being a BIG fan of a good steak (and good wine, of course) I’ve been to a lot of steak houses – mainly chain-style ones which try hard to be faux-American and never quite beat a steak from a good butcher which I’ve cooked myself. This place is (thankfully) something completely different and in a class of it’s own.

I was the first one to arrive at the event (I have an awful habit of turning up to things stupidly early) and was greeted by Helen, the owner, and Jonathan, the general manager. It was lovely to chat to them a bit about the place first, which despite only being open for a couple of months already has the fantastic homely atmosphere of a well-established restaurant.

So, onto the food and wine. We started with a Prosecco which was wonderfully light, easy to drink and an absolute bargain at £19.75 for a great bottle of bubbles. The next wine we had was a Muscat – a gorgeous, sweet dessert wine priced at £16.50 for 50cl – accompanied by a chicken liver pate (on the menu at £4.50) which complemented it perfectly.

Next came a Chardonnay blend accompanied by warm goats cheese (£3.95 on the menu) – even though I’m not normally a lover of Chardonnay, this wine was actually really nice and very decently priced at £13.95.

Then it was onto the reds and the meat dishes. The next wine we sampled was a Riesling supplied by local wine merchant Henry Butler – priced at £24.95, this was at the top end of the wine list and it was easy to see why. It went fantastically with the chicken wings (from £3.95 a portion) which come in either ‘hot’ or ‘not’. Because I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to spice, I went for ‘not’.

I’ve heard great things about The Old Bank’s ribs and I wasn’t disappointed – they are blimmin’ fantastic, especially when accompanied by another of Butler’s fantastic wines – a beautiful Malbec priced at £22.50.

The minute steak and chips, £6.95

But they saved the best until last – the steak. Jonathon bought out a medium-rare 28oz rib eye steak on a platter (which is ALL yours for £29.95) and I’m not ashamed to say I could probably have eaten the entire thing. With the steak we had a gorgeous rich, full-bodied Shiraz priced at £20.25. Perfect.

After such enticing tasters of the menu I had to order something – I went for the minute steak which is served with chips, jacket or a salad for £6.95. Keen to sample more wine, a few of us sampled their house Malbec which (although not as good as the one from Butler’s Wine Cellar) is fantastic value for £11.95.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the evening – great food, great wine and a great atmosphere. I’m very much looking forward to going back there and tackling one of those 28oz steaks. You never know, I might even share it. Yeah, right.

Check out my review of The Old Bank Steak & Ribs Restaurant – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype

Event Review: Elwood Wines Tasting at The Chimney House, Brighton

Here are some snaps from one of the fabulous tutored tastings by Karl Elwood from Elwood Wines at The Chimney House in Brighton.

Karl runs these tastings monthly, so if you fancy going along to one click here for upcoming dates. Or you can sign up to the Elwood Wines newsletter, Tales from the Vineyard, here.

The seven wines from Bordeaux on the tasting menu

Attempting to be a bit 'arty' with my camera

Flight 1: Quail's Eggs and Crayfish Tails with Rocket

Flight 3: Cheese, Biscuits and Olives

My copious notes, which began to tail off towards the 7th wine

I liked the chandelier in The Chimney House function room

Karl tells us about the wines

Great turnout, lovely atmosphere

Karl chatting about the wines