Wineweek 149: Petite France

This wineweek, will unfortunately be a bit short. I need to be a bit boring and prioritize. There is a pile of work on my table, that is not going to diminish by me blogging about wine. God, I wish it would. However, I have one great café experience and two wine recommendations to share. So I will just pretend for ten minutes that that to-do list doesn’t exist. Continue reading “Wineweek 149: Petite France”

Bubbly Brunch at the Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona

When it comes to brunches, I am a fan. Even though I always eat too much and come out feeling guilty and nauseous. I don’t know what it is that I am so fond of really. The food is seldom the best quality, buffets are not my thing (as other people tend to touch the food) and I don’t really appreciate the ‘all you can eat’ concept. I just like brunches, that’s it. And the sparkling brunch at the Mandarin Oriental was so good that none of the above negative comments had any ground. If there is one brunch in Barcelona (or the world) you should try, it is this one.

Lets start with the wines. The brunch includes a glass of Balma cava. This was a new acquaintance for me and a pleasant one. The cava was quite young and fresh with notes of stone fruit (like peach) and citrus. The bubbles were not aggressive and the mouth-feel had some creaminess. I would say it was nothing exceptional, but a nice aperitif. The only negative point was that the waiter clearly poured very unevenly for the whole group (we were 11) and I ended up with a significantly smaller glass than my friends. I switched glasses with M. For an extra cost, one could also choose to have champagne. The house champagne was Billecart Salmon, which is not that exciting that I would have felt like paying for it.

Light interior
Light interior
Bread and yogurt buffet
Bread and yogurt buffet
The house cava
The house cava

For starters there were two different buffets: one with cold cuts, salads and Asian dishes, like sushi and gyozas, and one with bread, yogurt and muesli. I especially enjoyed the small truffle sausages. Mains could be ordered from the menu. We had a perfectly cooked sirloin steak, egg and foie grass, surf and turf rice and eggs Benedict with salmon. The food was well made and the steak was perhaps one of the best pieces of meat on the whole trip. Sadly the service did not do justice to the great food. Some dishes were forgotten and when we ordered some more steaks (the first one was so good that we had to have more), they came out well done (MURDER). We had to send a steak back two times until we got one medium rare again. Luckily we were not in a hurry, otherwise I would have been quite annoyed. The great thing about the main dishes is that you can order as many as you want.

Moving on to desserts, the selection was quite astounding. A whole buffet of cakes and pastries, all very beautiful and inviting. We ended up tasting quite many, and of course feeling nauseous afterwards. Some of the cakes were not that exciting but others were excellent. Traditional in style I would say, with a lot of ingredients like chocolate, strawberries and vanilla, apple pie and cheesecake. So perhaps there could be some more innovation to make it even better. I was also missing some small nibbles like pralines or nougat, something small with coffee.

Fried eggs with foie grass
Fried eggs with foie grass
Tea selection
Tea selection
Creamy yogurt
Creamy yogurt
Beautiful cakes at the table.
Beautiful cakes at the table.

The brunch also included all the tea and coffee one could drink. The selection of teas was better than your average cafe, however the quality was quite mediocre. I will not even go into the coffee, as it was Italian dark roast. But this is what you can expect at a hotel.

All in all I think the brunch was great. One of the best I have ever had from a food point of view. The Mandarin Oriental is really beautiful and you feel very luxurious but relaxed. The service was ,however, poor. Friendly, but the staff made way too many mistakes for what one expects at a five star hotel. It was clearly the B (or C) team serving that day. We had to send quite many dishes back as they came out wrong, some dishes we ordered never came at all and, well, I already mentioned the pouring of the cava. Te brunch including cava costs 45€, so I expect a much better performance from the personnel. Otherwise the staff were very nice and attentive.

Kahvila Siili (Helsinki): Relaxing summer cafe with pastries and brunch

This pleasant little summer cafe in a residential neighborhood of Helsinki is really a pleasant addition to an already good coffee scene. It is in the basement of a house and has a few tables inside and plenty of seats outside. It is perhaps not where one would expect to find a café and with public transport it is not that easy to reach it.

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The coffee here varies from excellent to acceptable and much is dependent on who is making it and how busy they are. Occasionally the Finnish Barista Champion Kalle Freese is making the coffee and  then the coffee is great. When he is not there they do not offer hand brews and the coffee quality gets more shaky. The batch brew is still good but in order to be a proper coffee destination they would have to be more consistent.

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The coffee served has been from Blue bottle in San Francisco but upon my last visits it was instead from Square Mile. Nice to see some variety in what is offered. They also have some wine on offer as well as perhaps the main reason to visit, the brunch. Superb brunch with perfect egg at 63 degrees (celsius that is) and yogurt with granola, avocado toast, apple juice and coffee of your choice. Pastries are also very nice.

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The setting is very nice and relaxing and the service is pleasant albeit a bit slow. No free wifi and weekend crowds eyeing your table even before you have finished your brunch does not encourage lingering. A place well worth visiting before they close at the end of Summer (hopefully they open next summer again).

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 3
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 4.5
Vs local competition: 3

Wine Review: Tarlant Brut Prestige 2000

I love reviewing good wines. As I am reading my tasting notes and thinking about the wine, I travel back to the moment I first tasted it. I think about what I thought and what I felt..what I compared the wine with; and many other things. I relive the happy experience. So today, as it is 16 degrees (C) and raining, I need to review something wonderful: the Tarlant Brut Prestige 2000.

The history of the house of Tarlant dates back to the 15th century and it is even today a family owned company. Jean-Mary Tarlant is makes the decisions concerning vines and vineyards; he is said to be a man of soil. His wife Micheline organizes visits to the vineyards and winery, Benoit Tarlant works with marketing and sales and the youngest of the flock, Melanie works with communication. They own 14 hectares of vineyards on 4 different “crus” located in the villages of Oeuilly, Boursault, St-Agnan and Celles-lès-Condé.

Beautiful bottle and deep golden color of the wine
Beautiful bottle and deep golden color of the wine

The wine is a blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir and the dosage is low 5g/l (just the way I like it). The wine has a golden yellow color, deeper than I expected, and many bubbles. The nose has wonderful aromas of brioche, almond and pear and the mouth feel is creamy with tastes of minerals, yellow apples, biscuits and a hint of citrus. 2000 was a hot and stormy year and you can taste how the old vines have delved deep into the limestone and sand.

This particular bottle was opened for Sunday brunch (one of my favorite meals of the week) as a companion to some Korean barbecue (chicken, fresh vegetables and rice wrapped in salad leafs). An unusual pairing, but it worked as long as one did not get overexcited with the spices (it worked with the dessert as well which was a blueberry pie with basil sugar). All in all, I think this champagne is wonderful with food or on it’s own. As this was a bottle from someone else’s cellar, I had to do some googling to find out the price. As the bottle is not that easy to source, I just found a few references, but it seems like the price is around 45€ (or up). Pure quality-wise, I give it a 4 (out of 5) and I must say it is a wine exactly to my taste. For value-for-money, I would say it’s a 4.5: definitely worth the investment but not necessarily a steal.

Korean barbecue with chicken, veggies, rice and a yummy spring onion and soy sauce
Korean barbecue with chicken, veggies, rice and a yummy spring onion and soy sauce
Blueberry pie with basil sugar (!!)
Blueberry pie with basil sugar (!!)

Coffee Bar Review: KuppA, Bangkok

Located a few minutes walk away from Asok (take exit 6 for the smoothest walk). They are in a really pleasant and airy space and I can just see myself lounging for hours here be it morning, afternoon or evening (if my phone had not gotten legs in Singapore there would have been some nice pictures here as well) and the free WiFi also encourages lingering. They are much more than a cafe so rather an all day restaurant serving both food, cocktails, wine and coffee. They have a roaster on-site and they at least want to give the impression coffee is in focus here.

Staff were friendly and English speaking but almost a bit shy or at least hesitant to chat. I did not manage to get a lot of information on the coffee but after a while settled for a french press on Kenyan beans. A bit disappointing presentation and execution, the French press arrived at my table, no instruction on how long to wait until to push down the press. A decent tasting coffee, not the best I had but not nearly the worst. No bitterness, but the other flavors a bit indistinct and blended together. I am looking for a cleaner cup and this was just ok not more. A macchiato was delivered and it was fairly well executed but not great. Would still opt for the milk based coffees here as it was better than the French press. No drip, Aeropress or such on offer which is a shame as it may have produced a better coffee from the variety of beans they had.

Wine list looks promising and decently priced (cava at THB 295 a glass) and an extensive food menu. Really appreciated the scrambled eggs, fresh and well made so I think this would be more of a brunch spot than just a coffee place.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 1.5
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 4
Vs local competition: 2.5