A Squid Supper + Portsmouth Fish Market

‘How about this one?’ he says, at length, with the barest modicum of enthusiasm.

We look at the fish. Potato looks at the fish. The fish looks glassily at the ceiling. Portsmouth Fish Market falls silent once more.

It is a beautiful (if somewhat blustery) Spring morning, and we are outside Portsmouth Fish Market. For the past year or so, Amy and I have repeatedly vowed to make this peregrination — this piscine pilgrimage — but despite living half an hour or so down the road, we’ve failed to enact our vows.

Until now.

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The Negroni Manzanilla with Sacred Rosehip Cup – Recipe

As if a normal negroni weren’t good enough… Thanks to Poco Tapas, Old Parn discovers the majesty of the Negroni Manzanilla and Sacred’s Rosehip Cup.

I love a negroni. And before I went to Poco Tapas Bar during a visit to Bristol last summer, I believed I made a pretty damn good one.

Poco Tapas Bar’s Negroni Manzanilla took that belief of mine to one side and gave it a bloody good shoeing.

Continue reading “The Negroni Manzanilla with Sacred Rosehip Cup – Recipe”

A sherry suckerpunch of Manzanilla mouthjoy

…is one half-bottle-sized suckerpunch of mouthjoy — the sea-wind bite, the roll of it, the swell of it, the crescendo

A bottle of sherry and a condensation-beaded glass -- on the background of a floral print

Sherry, sherry. I adore sherry. I adore it in its many guises and manifestations. Whenever I’m passing through a decent wine shop or supermarket, I scour the shelves for half-bottles of sherry. Because half-bottles of sherry, my dear friend, are like anchovies: my kitchen is bereft without them.

So last time I was salivating my way round Whole Foods, I tossed a half of Fernando de Castilla Manzanilla into my basket.

And Manzanilla (oh! Manzanilla!) is possibly the sherry I adore most of all.

Why? Because of its richness, its depth and its bite. This one is a half-bottle-sized suckerpunch of mouthjoy. The impossibly woody, dense, complicated smell. The sea-wind bite — like spray from the cold Atlantic. The roll of it, the swell of it, the almost overwhelming crescendo of the flavour once you have it there in your gob.

The way it leaves you gasping for another mouthful.

This is an excellent Manzanilla. I can imagine drinking it with some of those anchovies. And lemon. Salt. Bite. Yeah. That would be fucking lovely.

Staggering, mouthwatering, delicious.

Drink it. Drink sherry. Drink!

Rating ???? 4 stars (very good)
Region Jerez
ABV 15%
Price £6.49 (half bottle) from Whole Foods, High Street Kensington; £10.95 (whole bottle) from Stone & Vine

Pedro Ximenez Don Marcelo Jerez review

… is delicious, extraordinary and quite goddamn sexy. Even if it *does* taste of raisins. Because wrinkles can be sexy, too.

A dark brown bottle of Pedro Ximenez sherry, with out of focus daffodils behindOkay. It’s Valentine’s Day. And in celebration thereof, what better alcoholic beverage than one that tastes MIND-BLOWINGLY STRONGLY of raisins? — thereby reminding you that whilst you may be taut-skinned young grapes right now, one day, you’ll both be shrunken and wrinkly.

BUT YOU’LL STILL TASTE LOVELY.

(Realism beats Romance every time, eh? Just ask TS Eliot if you’re unsure.)

Anyway, I maintain that this is a Romantic wine. It’s big and swingeing and unashamed. It scatters your bed with petals and serenades you with sentiment-sodden ballads. And tenderly crams handful after handful of raisins into your gob.

It is sweet. Really, really, really sweet. Even as you’re pouring it, you’re thinking of molasses and treacle and whatever other viscous liquids you might find appealing. And it’s almost impossibly rich and dark when you get it into your mouth.

It’s hard to believe, in fact, that something can be as sweet as this and still seem, y’know, even vaguely grown-up. Especially when drinking it puts you in mind of cramming your stubby fingers into those little boxes of Sunmaid to extricate the pieces of fruit that’d wedged themselves right into the bottom corners. But it is grown up. Possibly because it’s so outrageously goddamn decadent-tasting. And also because it’s not sickly.

Or, at least — and here, once again, the raisin likeness holds — it’s not sickly unless one consumes it to excess.

In summary: delicious, extraordinary and quite goddamn sexy.

A small terracotta dish with ice cream, scattered with dried rose petals

Oh. And may I leave you with a ludicrously specific serving suggestion? Put a glass of this alongside a bowl of rosewater and cardamom ice-cream. Buy the dried rose petals from a nice man in the Iranian deli on High Street Kensington. He may even give you a free biscuit. Then simultaneously boast and congratulate yourself for doing all of the above by photographing it and posting it on your silly little blog.

You pathetic specimen.

Rating ★★★★ 4 stars (very good)
Region Jerez
Grape Pedro Ximenez
ABV 16%
Price I got mine from The Wine Society some time ago for about £9 (half bottle). But it ain’t there no more, I’m afraid. Sozamonia.

Williams and Humbert 12 Year Old Oloroso Sherry review

… will show you (yet again) that sherry is not just a drink for your grannie.

A half bottle of Williams & Humbert, bathed in red light

Marzipan and meat and cream (so goddamn creamy I want to die). Light wood. Smooth wood. Not cheap wood. But smooth. Dried fruit. And the warm, spirity burn of alcohol caressing your throat.

Your lucky, lucky throat.

Drink it — like I did — with sweet, pink chicken livers, spinach, caramelised onion, pine nuts and the gang. There’s a recipe in the first Moro cookbook that you’d do well to follow. Actually, drink it however you want.

Because, yeah, I’ve said it before. (And I don’t care that I have.) Drink sherry. Sherry is not just a drink for your grannie (though far be it from me to deprive her of it). Sherry is lovely.

This one particularly so.

Rating ★★★★ 4 stars (very good)
Region Jerez
Type Oloroso
ABV 19%
Price (half bottle) I got mine from Wholefoods, High Street Kensington for an amount I can’t recall. Online, I see it at £6.14 from Cambridge Wine Merchants or at £6.85 from Alexander Hadleigh

Marks & Spencer Dry Old Oloroso Review

… will allow you to live the dream of swigging 20% ABV sherry from a beer bottle. LIKE A MAN.

Closeup of the text of the Dry Old Oloroso bottle

First things first. This is a bottle of dry oloroso sherry. Indeed, it’s a half bottle. And I’ve made my admiration of both half bottles and good sherry abundantly clear in the past.

The bottle of the Dry Old Oloroso: dark brown, somewhat squat, unpretentious — for all the world like a bottle of beerMy admiration for this half bottle, though, goes a step or two further. Because this is sherry in a beer bottle. FINALLY MY DREAM HAS COME TRUE: I can slyly swig oloroso sherry from the bottle whilst hanging out with the lads — yet not compromise my appearance of nonchalant masculinity.

(An area in which compromise is a fearful prospect indeed.)

So, the only question should be: is this the sherry you’d want to swig? Or should you carry on rinsing out old beer bottles and laboriously refilling them from that tank in your cellar?

Let’s see.

So, uncork the blighter (yeah, they haven’t introduced a bottle-cap yet) and you’ll be greeted by a delicious waft: full, mellow, barrelly. It smells lovely. Once it makes its way into your trap — well, it’s still pretty nice. Nutty, yes, and spicy too. Like spicy nuts. Or nutty spices, I suppose. At first, it’s delightfully smooth. But let it linger in there and it’ll give you a belt around the tastebuds, enough to bring tears to your eyes.

(Or maybe I just cry easily. Nonchalant masculinity, like I said.)

Verdict

So, yeah, it’s not the most refined of sherries. That’s a shame, because I’d dearly like that woody sweetness it has to develop more in my mouth — but I daren’t let it, for fear that my ‘mates’ will discover me weeping over what appears to be a bottle of beer.

Nevertheless, it’s a handy thing, to have sherry in a 37.5cl bottle. And a glassful of this made a goddamn mean sauce for my seared tuna steak with caramelised onions. Which surely has to count for something.

So: a creditable performance, but a tad eye-watering for Old Parn. Sly sherry-swiggers may note with excitement, however, that M&S has a whole range of sherries, all bottled thus. And I’m clearly going to work my way through them all.

Rating ★★
ABV 20%
Price £7.49 from Marks & Spencer

Waitrose Solera Jerezana Dry Amontillado Sherry

… is more rough-hewn oak than IKEA pine veneer

Waitrose Solera Jerezana Dry Amontillado

What better to write about on Christmas day than sherry? Yes, sherry. Allow Old Parn to add his voice to the loud (yet probably still largely ineffectual) chorus of those who castigate the British public for their indifference to sherry.

Sherry is fucking brilliant.

It’s also pretty much hands-down the best value wine you can buy. Really good sherry is ludicrously cheap. Put a random £6 bottle of sherry up against a random £6 bottle of wine if you don’t believe me.

Anyhow, this here is Waitrose’s Dry Amontillado. With Amontillado, you give up some of that saltwater bite of Fino (and especially Manzanilla) sherries, some of that tastebud-awakening zap of bracing dryness.

But you’re repaid. Oh yes, you’re repaid.

Because the wonderful thing about Amontillado is the nutty, toasty, creamy exhale. The smooth, supple woodiness that lasts and lasts. With a hint of fruited sharpness up there in the eaves.

Waitrose’s offering is on the heftier side of the Amontillado spectrum: it sits on a deep, dark foundation like that of a big Old World red, and in the mouth it bristles with an invigorating spiky coarseness. It’s woody like a rough-hewn oak table, not a veneered pine worktop from IKEA.

There’s a sugary, chocolatey smoothness, though, to the smell. And when you first chuck some into your mouth, you’re greeted by a marzipan sweetness.

Verdict

Very nice indeed. Like I say, this is a relatively gutsy Amontillado, so if you’re more into smooth, creamy goings on, you may prefer others. But I like gutsy.

To get top marks, they’d need to eliminate that slight catchiness at the back of the throat, the barely perceptible roughness that intrudes on the finish. But that degree of pickiness is hardly justified by the price.

If you don’t already, drink sherry. If you like sturdy red wines, this would make a very good introduction.

Oh, yeah — happy Christmas, too.

Rating ★★★☆☆
ABV 19%
Price £7.78 from Waitrose