Forget detoxing this January, it’s a miserable enough month as it is to deny yourself the pleasure of a good cocktail. However, if you are being lured to the dark side, then never fear, a fabulous Fountain of Youth cocktail, created by Russian Standard Vodka, may be the answer to your prayers.
This fresh and fruity cocktail includes delicious pomegranate juice which contains three times more antioxidants than green tea or red wine. Drinking pomegranate juice helps keep blood vessels from hardening, bring more oxygen to the heart and prevents bad cholesterol from being deposited on the arteries.
So how do you make this magic drink I hear you ask! Just follow the steps below…
35ml / 1.7 fl oz Russian Standard
40ml / 2 fl oz Pomegranate juice, fresh squeezed where available
20g / 0.7 oz thinly sliced ginger
Shake all ingredients vigorously with ice
Double strain and pour into a martini glass
Garnish with a piece of ginger and pass a mint leaf around the glass rim
A few weeks ago I visited Manchester for the first time. I was not entirely sure what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised to find it is a gastronome’s paradise with an abundance of fabulous restaurants. When I arrived I was excited to spot the Armenian Taverna, located at 1-7 Princess Street. Armenian cuisine is something special and this restaurant’s menu boasts all the traditional dishes you could desire including: yershig sausages, spicy lamb kufta meatballs, karides prawns in a rich sauce, and a variety of lamb, pork, beef and chicken kebabs. For those with a sweet-tooth the ideal meal here can be finished with the most famed Armenian sweet, paklava – layers of pastry with a filling of walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, covered in syrup. There are also several party menus, great if you and a big group of family or friends plan to visit. So the next time you find yourself in Manchester, spend a night at The Armenian Taverna – you and your taste buds are sure to be pleased!
A meal for two with wine should cost about £45
Closed Mondays; open 12 – 2pm for lunch Tuesday to Friday; 5 – 11pm for dinner Tuesday to Saturday; and 5pm – 10pm Saturday
The Armenian Taverna, 1-7 Princess St, Manchester M2 4DF
Gastronomic tours are more popular than ever before. What could be better than exploring a country’s culture through its best-loved food and drink? That’s why I was excited to hear about SalzburgerLand’s Via Culinaria, a truly fabulous trip for foodies. Via Culinaria offers a wonderful pathway to culinary enjoyment whatever your taste, from fish lovers to those with a sweet tooth. There are seven mouthwatering trails offering a total of 184 select culinary addresses of which 12 have Michelin stars and 63 are internationally acclaimed. Other delicious billets on the trails include 21 alpine huts and farms, 15 patisseries and cafes, 10 breweries, six schnapps distilleries, 36 food producers and 21 traditional inns serving hearty regional dishes.
Each of the 7 culinary pathways are taste themed. There is one for dedicated fish fans, one for gourmets, one for those with a sweet tooth, one for serious meat eaters, one for cheese freaks, one for beer and schnapps aficionados, and finally one that is perfect for skiers visiting 16 of the regions best ski huts along the ski slopes including:
Karkogelhütte in Abtenau
Rottenhofhütte in Annaberg-Lungötz
Treff 2000 and Schi-Alm in Mauterndorf
Kösslbacher Alm in Unternberg
Burgstall Hütte in Flachauwinkel
“Zur Brennhütt’n” in Flachau
Oberforsthofalm in St. Johann/Pongau
Gehwolfhütte in Grossarl
Weitmoser Schlossalm in Bad Hofgastein
Panorama Alm in Hollersbach
Areitalm mountain terminal in Zell am See
Wieseralm in Hinterglemm
Panorama Alm in Saalbach
“Alte Schmiede” in Leogang
Bürglalm in Dienten am Hochkönig
There is no way to better way to get into the festive spirit than by paying a visit to one of Europe’s many Christmas Markets; and boasting seven markets, each with a different theme, Cologne is easily the premiere winter destination. The city’s imposing gothic cathedral neighbours the most delightful Excelsior Hotel Ernst, the most desirable place to lay one’s head after a long day of festive merriment.
Carl Ernst, the royal restorer of the central station, was also the builder and owner of the Hotel Ernst. In 1871 the hotel was sold to the Kracht family who quickly integrated into the city’s high society and whose descendants remain its owners. During the hotel’s rich history it has hosted guests including the German Emperor William I, who, from his hotel window, observed the completion of Cologne Cathedral. Subsequent to World Wars I and II the hotel was renovated in 1926 and 1946 respectively, and continues to be maintained to a sublime, yet traditional standard. The lobby and spiral staircase is impressive, while the floors, covered with luxurious carpet, also have occasional ornate tiled features which mirror the style and design of the decorative stained glass windows.
This year the hotel has arguably achieved a pinnacle point in its history and success, receiving four notable awards in just three months: ‘Leaders Club Guest Recognition Award of Excellence’ as part of the ‘Leading Hotels of the World’ annual recognition awards; in addition to a treble win at the Busche Gala Awards where the hotel was named Hotel of the Year for Germany, as well as awarded Foreign restaurant of the Year for their Asian cuisine restaurant Taku and Hotelier of the Year for the hotel Managing Director, Mr. Wilhelm Luxem.
The hotel boasts 108 individually furnished single and double rooms, in addition to 34 luxurious suites, each with its own particular atmosphere, something which is sadly lacking in large chain hotels. Rooms are spacious, with dark wood contrasting with sumptuous fabrics.
Many rooms boast a walk-in-wardrobe which a girl could only dream of. While bathrooms, featuring Hans-Grohe fittings and marble in abundance, not to mention the most extraordinary mirrors, are reminiscent of a mythical heaven.
Although many hotels neglect guests’ gastronomic desires, Excelsior Hotel Ernst could not be accused of this. The hotel’s traditional European Hanse Stube restaurant is a cosy yet refined dining space with a menu to match. The menu changes with the seasons and at present the specialty of the cold season is Alsatian goose served with glazed chestnuts, red cabbage, braised raisin apples and Thuringia dumplings. The attentive and knowledgeable staff expertly carve the goose at diners’ tables. Guests are served a plate packed full of festive flavour and then another! The main course is preceded by a traditional amuse bouche with unusual twists. It is a struggle to get past the main course but if one succeeds there is a trolley adorned with rich cheeses, a number of exciting experimental desserts, coffee and truffles of unimaginable flavours to be enjoyed. The latter must not be missed, particularly the truffle with lebkuchen which has a pleasing flavour and spicy aroma.
The hotel’s other award-winning restaurant, Taku, is a world apart. A total contrast to Hanse Stube the décor is light, airy and almost futuristic. Diners walk across a glass river, under which coy carp swim. The kitchen and chefs are on show for guests to observe the delicate techniques required for constructing sushi. However, the Asian inspired menu has been given traditional European twists and even features foie gras. Nevertheless, delectable Beijing Duck, a staple of Chinese culture first recorded in the 12th Century, can also be sampled in an exquisite six courses.
The hotel also boasts a winter garden where food and drinks can be enjoyed, a piano bar and a wine bar; for those who seek a little activity, a fully-equipped health and sauna area located on the sixth floor. If one can somehow work up the inclination to leave this lavish haven of luxury (perhaps to work off one of the restaurants’ feasts) then there are many sights to be seen: the cathedral, the Lindt chocolate museum and factory, and from the end of November to the beginning of January a number of Christmas Markets which encapsulate everything good about winter.
Cologne Christmas Markets:
1. The Christmas Market at Cologne Cathedral is a trademark for the town of Cologne. Chosen by the specialist press as the most beautiful Christmas Market in Europe, millions of visitors descend each year specifically to visit this market. This market includes a Käthe Wohlfahrt which specialises in traditional festive decorations.
2. Angel’s Market at Nemarkt in the heart of the city is well worth a visit. It is one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany and immediately carries visitors into a kingdom of angels.
3. In the middle of the historic and idyllic old town stands the rustic Cologne Old Town “Home of Gnomes”. According to famous Cologne legend, this was also the home of the gnomes who were said to be particularly good craftspeople. Therefore, at this Christmas market one can find a particularly large number of handcraft stalls, where goods are still produced in the traditional way.
4. Just ten minutes walk from Neumarkt, the Fairytale Christmas Market is situated at Rudolfplatz. The inspiration of the sixty huts at the Hahnentorburg is the brother’s Grimm tales, making this market ideal for younger visitors.
5. From Europe’s largest floating Christmas market, Cologne Christmas Market Afloat, with over forty stalls, visitors get a truly dream-like view of the Cologne Old Town and the Cathedral.
6. The Medieval Christmas Market at the Chocolate Museum is a lovingly designed, cosy, medieval spectacle located on the Rhine. A totally unique experience, there is an exhibition of traditional handicrafts and a non-stop programme of concerts, theatres, jugglery and live nativity scene.
7. Finally, the Christmas Market at Stadtgarten has an idyllic village atmosphere with 60 exhibitors featuring modern creations, traditional handicraft and nostalgic paraphernalia as well as offering visitors culinary specialties.
Prepare yourself for Christmas with a quick trip to Cologne’s Christmas Markets and pre-empt holiday stresses and strains with a luxurious stay at the Excelsior Hotel Ernst!
Excelsior Hotel Ernst
Trankgasse 1-5 / Domplatz
This week I came across a very exciting website, The Georgian Wine Society, which helps supply British consumers with the best Georgian wines.
It is widely believed that it was Georgia in which wine production first began, over 7000 years ago, with archaeological remains suggesting that grape juice was placed underground in clay jars to ferment during winter as early as 4000 BC.
Georgia is a land famed for its natural bounty. These days there are over 500 species of grape in Georgia, a greater diversity than anywhere else in the world, with around 40 of these grape varieties being used in commercial wine production. Conditions are well suited for viticulture: summers are rarely excessively hot, winters are mild and frost-free. In addition, the mountains around the vineyards are full of natural springs, and rivers drain mineral-rich waters into the valleys. All this means that Georgian wines have a reputation for being exceptionally pure.
Around 150 million litres of wine are produced each year in Georgia, with around 45 000 hectares of vineyards under cultivation. There are 18 Specific Viticulture Areas (a local analogy of the Controlled Appellations of Origin) where the grape variety, planting density and yield per hectare is controlled by Ministry of Agriculture, and where the grape yield per hectare is limited to 8 tons.
First Waitrose stocked Ewa’s Vineyard Hungarian wine and now I stumble upon yet another great find at the supermarket. Matra Mountain, Pinot Grigio, 2008 is a crisp, dry white wine with a ripe apple and pear flavour. The Matra vineyards are located on the southern slopes of the Matra mountains, benefiting from a unique microclimate, allowing the largest Pinot Grigio vineyard in Central Europe to produce exceptional grapes.
Under the watchful eye of winemaker Benjamin Bardos, selected grapes are hand-picked at optimum ripeness before being carefully fermented at cool temperatures thereby retaining their varied fruit and aromatic qualities.
This bottle is the perfect accompaniment to fish , chicken and delicate veal dishes but equally could be considered as a quoffing wine for a night in.
I post a lot about vineyards across Eastern Europe that are worth a visit but unfortunately, all too often, it is difficult to get hold of the produce in the UK. However, Waitrose currently stock a wonderful, dry, crisp, white Hungarian wine. It’s perfect for easy drinking, cooking or served with light meats, poultry etc. or fish.
Easy drinking and fruity white from the Hungarian hills.
Made from some of Hungary’s best white varietals, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Királyleányka, and specially blended for an easy fruity style. The winemaker, Eva Keresztury, has given her name to this wine made especially for Waitrose.