Tag Archives: festival

Streets of Spain coming to London

24 Apr

Streets of Spain La Boqueria Chef

As the weather here in London finally gets warmer, more and more of us will likely be frolicking out in the sunshine, stocking up on our vitamin D supplies after such a long winter.

And for the upcoming May bank holiday weekend, Londoners will be able to enjoy a few days off and indulge in a dose of Spain, without shunting to airports and listening to Ryanair advertisements for the plane ride.

Instead, to get some Spanish fever, I’ve found out you can head to South Bank from the 3 to 6 May and take in La Boqueria. The famous Barcelona food market will be sending its stallholders from Las Ramblas for the Streets of Spain festival in conjunction with Campo Viejo. I’m already drooling at the pleasurable prospect of tender tapas and flowing red wine.

Masterclasses will be held with Campo Viejo wine, who will also be running a pop-up restaurant with Michelin-starred Spanish chef, Angel Pascual.

I had a chance to speak to festival general manager Oscar Ubide to get some more details about the festival.

Here’s what he said:

Streets of Spain Oscar Uribe Director of La Boqueria 2Why have you decided now is the right time to bring the Spanish spirit to London by partnering with Streets of Spain?

 The UK is heading into spring and hopefully we can bring some Spanish sunshine with us. We are also really excited as this is the first time we are coming over to London on this scale. Some of the stall owners have made trips to the UK before and the visits have always been very successful. Now that times are quite difficult back at home, it is a great opportunity to see the appetite for Spanish produce outside of our country.

What are you most looking forward to about this festival?

We hope that the festival will be an explosion of feelings, food, wine and colours to represent true Spanish culture. I’m looking forward to passing our passion for good food and quality produce to Londoners.

Why is London a good place to host an event such as this?

For the last few years the knowledge of Spanish food and our market has been constantly growing across the UK. British people currently sit at third on the list of visitors to our website. We think that there’s a nice rapport between the UK and Barcelona but also Boqueria. We are very grateful to Campo Viejo for giving us the opportunity to make our dream of bringing the market over on this scale real.

Why should Londoners come to the event?

When I visit London I always go to the Borough Market to buy the best Black pudding and Haggis from my friend Peter from Sillfield Farm, as I can’t buy those products in my city. We want to do the same for Londoners by bringing our best goods to their city, hopefully making them a little happier.

What are some of the most interesting products people can look to try and sample at the event?

Without giving too much away, we’re bringing black leg ham, the best jamon of the world, Shepherd cheeses, dried fruits, Catalan cooked dishes, excellent olives and oil and Catalan chocolates. This is only a snapshot of why Londoners should visit the festival and we still have plenty of secrets to surprise visitors with.

For more information on the festival, events, masterclasses and the pop-up restaurant, visit: http://www.streetsofspain.com

Advertisements

Bewitched by beer in Bruges

24 Feb

I stare at the menu longingly but with confusion. I want them all…every single bottle of beer on the menu at De Kuppe bar on Kupperstraat in Bruges looks appealing. But, given most sit around the 8% or 10% ABV mark, I have to concede: I will only get through a few.

The boy and I had arrived with our friends in Bruges earlier that afternoon. It was colder than cold and we had to trudge through slippery snow if we wanted to see the town.

So instead of freezing ourselves in the cultural endeavour of sight-seeing, we opted to hole up in one of the many bars the petite Belgian town has to offer, which worked perfectly for me.

You see, I am a massive fan of Belgian beer – it is almost always my go-to beer as standard. It’s generally richer (without being gut-filling like a stout), has more subtle flavours and is crisp, despite being very strong.

Straffe Hendrick beer

The history of beer from this region is equally enticing. The famous Trappist beers, for instance, began being brewed in the late 19th century by monks in monasteries. In order to be called a Trappist, the beer must still be made in the same fashion. There are six beer-producing monasteries that meet such distinction in Belgium, making brands such as Chimay, Westmalle and (my all time favourite) Rochefort.

As such, when faced with a veritable book of beers, it was hard to know where to start. I opted away from ones I knew and started with a Straffe Hendrik, which is brewed in Bruges. This dark brown tripel beer comes in at 9% and is made from six kinds of malt. It has notes of toffee and brown sugar, and lots of hop. A delicious way to begin.

I followed this with a Bush Ambrée, a hefty corker of a beer that has a wine-strength 12% ABV. The boy and a couple others joined in, swayed by the idea of drinking such a strong brew. Made in 1933, this beer is the strongest Belgian variety. But you wouldn’t know it – until you stand up of course. It is balanced between sweet and bitter, but doesn’t have the same “oomph” as the other Belgian beers I tried, despite being stronger.

Next came Judas and La Trappe Quadrupel, which I only realised later is actually from the Netherlands.

By the time I had sipped my way through those beers, it was time for bed. But with three more days in the winter wonderland of Bruges, I knew there was still time to work my way through a few more.

The pink Delerium elephant watches over the coconut beer.

As luck would have it, the Bruges beer fest was going on at the same time we arrived – a fantastic and welcome surprise. Featuring more than 250 beers, it only added to the beer odyssey.

There we managed to get through nearly 30 beers – only a drop in the ocean, but a good attempt I think. We tried the Troubadour Blond and Troubadour Obscura, two I had never heard of, along with the beautiful Val-Dieu Blonde and the super hoppy Martin’s IPA. There were hoards of intriguing fruit beers, such as the Floris Fraise and Peach, or the Banana, Coconut or Mango varieties from Mongozo. Interestingly, there was also a beer aged in whisky casks – the Bravoure, which was slightly sweet and stunk of smoked cheese. Despite this, it was intriguingly pleasant.

And so the list goes on. After the beer festival, we continued on to the quaint De Garre bar, where beers such as Kwak and their 11% house beer. Maybe not the best choice after a few hours of beer drinking, but delicious and highly recommended.

Kwak served up in a quacky wooden holder.

By the time we departed from Bruges, I was satisfied. I may have only tried 25 or 30 beers out of hundreds, but it was a great first stab at the books of beers in Bruges. I left with taste buds satiated, utterly bewitched by the Bruges beer scene.

Wine Virgin, No More!

11 Oct

It will come as no surprise to readers that I love wine. From a box, from a bottle, in the park, in a bar and once, even while perched on a crumbling castle wall overlooking the Dalmatian Sea…

But, up until the weekend I was still a wine festival virgin – I’d never been to a whole day dedicated to the gorgeous grape.

A Virgin Wines employee pours out a measure

This, I am happy to say, is no longer the truth after the boy and I ventured all the way down to the Royal Horticultural Halls in Westminter to take in some vinos with 1,500 others this past Saturday for the Virgin Wines Festival – an apt name, I thought, for myself the newbie.

Upon entering, I was astounded – never had I seen more open wine bottles…250 shiny, glass bottles being artfully poured into the awaiting glasses…sigh…

The boy and I could only look at each other, smile and grab our free tasting glasses to get going. No words, just pure and utter bliss.

Over four hours of wandering from table to table, having generous portions glugged into my glass (no special measured pours here) I managed to fit in 37 wines…yes, 37. From France, from Chile, Argentina and Spain, I drank my way through many a country in a happy cloud of tannins and bursting fruit.

In order to remember which we liked, the boy and I devised a scoring system to use in the handy books they provided us, which listed each wine available to taste: 3 ticks = brilliant; 2 = good; 1 = palatable; and an x = no, go.

Looking over that book now, with a much clearer head, I can report a few fantastic bottles, namely:

Still standing!

1) Fromm La Strada Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

2) Zinio Vendimia Seleccionada Rioja 2010

3) Morandina Valpolicella Superiore Pra 2008

4) Shiraz Plays Shiraz Barossa Valley 2009

5) De Martino Single Vineyard Las Cruces 2008

The boy enjoys some wines

The boy had his list too but we believe it may have been left behind at a pub – being British, of course, we went to a pub AFTER a wine event!

The festival also had wine makers there which you could speak with about their vineyards (I do believe this led me to speak Spanish to one grower at one point!) and Virgin Wines MD Jay Wright was on hand to dish out some of his top picks of the year.

All in all, I’d put the festival down as a success – and not only because I left feeling happily wobbly and more educated on what wines I really like, but because it wasn’t a stuffy, cardigan-wearing affair, but a young, vibrant exciting tasting. Perfect for Gwiltypleasures’s first…

Worldly Wine Weekend

6 Oct

Lately, my diary has had more drinking engagements than Hemingway did during his Paris years. Not that I’m complaining – in fact, even to my liver’s protestations, I say: let’s get the diary filled!

So, it is with eagerness that I write about a wine festival I will be heading to this weekend put on by Virgin Wines. Yes – Branson has his hands in this pie too!

And although it is happening the day after the much anticipated TWE Whisky Show, I’m hoping my hangover won’t be so bad that I can’t cope with some beautiful Bordeaux or charming Chardonnay.

According to the people helping run the event – which happens from 11:30am-4:30pm Saturday at The Lawrence Hall, near Victoria in London – there will be more than 250 wines available to sip and sup, and a load of food companies offering their wares too. All for the measly sum of £15. Not bad at all, I say!

If there are still tickets available, I’d grab one now – I’m sure many a Gwiltypleasure will be satisfied…

Tickets are available from the Virgin Wines London Tasting site here for £15.

Winning Wine Fest

30 Sep

Despite the GORGEOUS (and strangely out-of-tune) summer-like weather we’re having in England right now, I am already looking forward to summer 2012. ‘Why?’ you might ask.

No, it’s not because of the Olympics – I’m still not relishing the idea of the onslaught of tourists that will take over Londontown during that time.

Actually, it’s for a rather juicy festival I’ve found out about, due to take place next year in Reading.

The Big Wine Festival is set to be the biggest event in England next year (bar the aforementioned Olympics) and is hoping to attract some 120,000 people to its massive pop-up village in Kings Meadow from the 7-10 June.

I went to the recent press launch at the sumptuous Benares in Berkeley Square to find out more and left full of wine, and full of excitement for this monstrous event.

Waiters mull in the background during the event to launch The Big Wine Festival at Benares in London

According to the lovely ladies from PR Company Cottrell and Klar, there will be wine from every wine-producing country represented at the event, along with food from their nations to go along with the tastings – two things that really get Gwiltypleasures going!

Not only that, but attendees will also have access to concerts, kids areas (as the organisers want to make this a family-friendly event) and loads of cultural activities from the various countries.

It looks like it will really put Britain’s food, wine and event-hosting on the map, and I’m glad to see something so major happening just in time to take advantage of what will hopefully be some summer sunshine.

More info on bands, events and wine exhibitors will be coming soon – it is, after all, still almost nine months away. But for now, Gwiltypleasures is blocking off a few days in her June 2012 calendar to be taken over with wine-tasting, lawn sprawling and concert listening…tres exciting!

Tickets for the festival will cost £37 for adults and be available in October from the website. More information on discounts and special offers will be available in the coming months.

Pure Whisky

5 Sep

I have recently returned to London after 3.5 months away travelling around the Americas. I was eager to catch up on all I had missed in my favourite city during that time, and was ecstatic when I learned of an exciting new festival celebrating my most beloved drink – whisky – to take place at the end of September here in London.

Titled the “Pure Festival” – the event will celebrate both whisky and music. And with the moniker: whisky not wellies, it sounds like my kind of happening.

During a press briefing for the event at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society near Farringdon, I met some of the chaps – all young, north-London types – who have brainstormed this exciting new venture.

“What we’re about is trying to bring whisky to a wider audience,” explained Perre Thiebaut, host for the evening and also director of website Whisky Connosr.”It’s about bringing whisky kicking and screaming into the 21st century. The industry is ignoring the younger generations a bit. But there is a younger audience for it.”

The event will take place on the 24 and 25 September at the Garage, near Highbury and Islington in north London, and will feature bands such as The Ravonnettes and Electric Soft Parade on Saturday, and James Yorkston and the Smoke Fairies on Sunday.

Best of all: the whiskies. There are 10 distillers confirmed, including Ancnoc, Whyte and Mackay, Cooley and Talisker. Famous whisky critic Dominic Roskrow will also be on hand to doll out some very special drams from the World Whisky Master medal winners.

The hope, the organisers say, is to take the festival on the road, bringing good tunes and better tastings to others. New York and Dubai are rumoured to be interested in hosting versions.

“The reason we call is Pure,” added Thiebaut, “is that whisky is about three things: grain, water and yeast. This is really pure stuff. It’s like really good music. Pure and simple.”

That sounds like the perfect Gwilty Pleasure to get this whisky lover back into the swing of London life.

The Pure Festival takes place on the 24 and 25 September at the Garage in Islington from 4-10pm. Tickets are £28.50, and include 8 tastings – allowed to be done from 4-7pm only – and entrance to the music festival.

%d bloggers like this: