Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Help! I caught it abroad II [ITV 1, 9pm Tuesday 7th September 2010]

By chance I caught this sequel to last year's splendid H!ICIA, which I seem to recall had focused on the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  Tonight's update revolved around the Liverpewell* Scewell of Tropical Medicine, with cases drawn from those reported to their Werld Travel Clinic.

One middle-aged chap returned from a plush safari holiday with some unforseen souvenirs in the form of liver flukes, a parasite common in livestock but rare in people; they had to wait for the drugs to arrive from overseas.  "If you were a sheep I could treat you today," said the consultant cheerfully.

Other patients handled classic symptoms of malaria with varying degrees of equanimity.   Fearless laboratory employees picked up venomous snakes with sticks and induced them to release their venom into beakers, for anti-bite serum.  Staff examined blood samples from one unfortunate man, infected 12 years ago but only recently diagnosed with an African worm, to see if the numbers of larvae had gone down after treatment.  "Look, (said the technician,) there's one wriggling!  And another one!"

While not up to the extraordinarily high standard of H!ICIA (1), this was well worth watching and the ad breaks seemed fewer and shorter than for most programmes (or perhaps advertisers don't want to be associated with tropical diseases). 

Snapping snakes!  Wriggling intestinal (and worse) worms!!  Lots of concerned faces!!!  Gung ho Schadenfreude doesn't get much better than this.

Seymour Cable

* NB
My family comes from Merseyside and I love the Scouse accent.  I am not taking the piss and anyone who thinks I am is vastly mistaken.

After this splendid documentary came a trailer:
- "My father would never kill a man. It's not in his nature" said the obvious suspect.
- "You can't imagine how many times I've heard that" said Inspector Barnaby.
 No indeed; nearly as many times as has a regular viewer of Midsomer Murders.  Surely I am not alone in my delight when I read the summary of each new episode of this institution; those beloved opening words: "The residents of Midsomer ..... were shocked when...."  and once more we settle down to witness the negations and circumlocutions of those residents, more regularly shocked than if they kept an electric eel farm in Tornado Alley.  Happy days.


Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Hotel Ambos Mundos, Havana 27th December 2009

Hemingway lived in this salmon pink hotel in the 1930s before his then wife dragged him away from the bar and off to the house at La Vigia. Even today, should you go to room 511, apparently a beautiful woman will open the door and beckon you in... and tell you about Hemingway. I didn't do this, but went straight from the ground floor piano bar to the rooftop bar by means of the (rattling, genuine 1930s) lift. The daiquiris were excellent, as were the mojitos, both served as requested with less sugar than usual; not so much in homage to Hemingway as in consideration for ones teeth; and they taste better that way. Service was quick and friendly. From here you can see the rooftop bar of the Hotel Santa Isabel, which itself has a better view of the harbour but where the service is s-l-o-w. Better to spend less time waiting for your rum-based cocktail and more time sipping it, wondering how to spend your remaining CUC (a Cuba Libre? an Havana Especial?) or just contemplating the importance of being Ernest.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

December's hippo: Willem

This is Willy, or Willem van der Winkel to give him his full moniker, sitting by the mirror so you can see his little bitty tail.  He came from de Bijenkorf in Amsterdam.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Wine Gang Christmas Fair, Saturday 7th November at Vinopolis

Urged on as always by the Hippo, I attended this event; a curious mix of suppliers ranging from major supermarkets to little independents.  Two large rooms and no obvious format, save for a large Portuguese presence in one corner.  While I tasted nothing that bowled me over, there were pleasant but heftily priced Pinots Noirs:  Louis Latour's Beaunes 1er Cru 'Vignes Franches' '05 was a little closed and for £36 I expect more fruit.  Laithwaites' Rockburn '07 NZ was drinkable but not for me at £18, although I was tempted by their £10 Trapiche Broquel '08 Torrontes.  Bibendum too offered an NZ PN; their Wither Hills [which sounds like a piece of rhetoric, as if the place is about to be flattened] '08 Wairau Valley was oddly hot, and at £16 failed to excite any more than Robert Mondavi's similarly priced '07 Napa Valley PN.  Ah, now this was more like it:  Oregon Wine Board had four Pinots, and for my money the delicious A to Z 2006 at £15.25 had far more appeal than their pricier offerings although not enough to bring out the chequebook.
But what of the ViniPortugal contingent? There was a huge display pushing something pink called Pink Elephant, which was (to be honest) surprisingly drinkable and I'm not saying that just because they gave me a cute pen.  Pleasingly dry and unpretentious at a fiver. Onwards if not necessarily upwards, the next stand had a backdrop of Cliff Richard.  Gritting my teeth I admit that his Vida Nova '07 Rosé was acceptable, as was his Onda Nova '08 Verdelho - in fact I would buy the latter at half the asking price of £10.  Some good stuff from Vinoteca: '08 Morgado de Perdigao was the best bone dry white and sensibly priced at £11.  Their Filoco Reserva '07 at a quid more was interesting. Handford Wines had Quinta da Murta Classico '07 for £11.50; classy, minerally stuff.
Some people called Private Cellar had some non-claret from Bordeaux, including Chateau de Sours Rosé '08.  I can't remember when I last tasted a really good uncomplicated fruit-driven French pink; this was one such and cracking value at £8.  Their pink fizz Reserve de Sours NV for £10.75 was truly lovely; light and floral, it made me think of damask roses and redcurrants.  Might have to get some of that.  Yum.
Also French and yum was a charming Beaujolais, Chateau Prety Clos du Perpetuant '05 from the City Beverage Company.  A delightful young man invited me to their annual tasting in two weeks' time: watch this space.
Leaving the best until last, as the basic premise of this tasting is to stock up your cellar ready for Christmas: some stonking good supermarket value.  The Co-op had a Languedoc Viognier, Domaine St Gabriel '08 which displayed lovely aromatics at a remarkable £8.  I bemoaned the lack of Co-ops in SE London but was told they have taken over Somerfield branches so I may be in luck. 
Finally, Asda had a Cave de Roi Dagobert '07 Gewurtztraminer which while not the driest ever Gewurtz was rich, complex and a bargain at £7.  Asda also featured [fanfare: ta-ta-ta-DA!!] from Wither Hills again, their Extra Special Pinot Noir '08 at £8.50.  Lovely stuff which knocks spots off other PNs at twice the price and more (see above).  Don't buy up all the stock before I get down to the Old Kent Road branch.

Dinah [Crispin Fruity is on holiday]

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

November's Hippo: HANNAH

Here is Hannah, all dressed up to go to the Baftas.  Yes, I know the Baftas were a while ago.  She likes the outfit.  As well as her best dress, pearls and feather boa, she is wearing Hortense's tiara and I don't think she plans to give it back.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Restaurante Sagaretxe, Madrid

This splendid restaurant & pintxos bar is at Calle Eloy Gonzalo 26, just down from Iglesia metro. On a recce the previous Saturday, whereas the front room by the bar had been crowded with loudly socialising locals, the seated area at the rear was empty; so we went back on Friday. Same story in front, but now the back room was full of a birthday party singing Cumpleanos Feliz (does the whole world use the same tune?) - we squeezed in somehow. Some of us got terribly in the way of the serving staff, who were heroically polite.

For ten of us we had two large plates of mixed pintxos, the easiest option given the noise and our limited linguistic ability, and all the ones I ate were excellent. Even the blue-cheese-flavoured cream cheese ones, although I wish I'd known it was blue cheese first. The crab ones were especially yum. And the pork loin ones. This worked out at €3.50 per person for about 2-3 whole pintxos each (we cut them up into smaller bits). I shared a bottle of crisp lemony albarino with someone who 'forgot' to split the reasonable cost of €18.50.

The restaurant menu looked yum too but no chance of anything from there until Spanish dinner time. I would definitely return; a nice place, but next time I'll pick a quieter night or go with someone who speaks decent Spanish.

Friday, 14 November 2008

The Downside of Top Down

Didn't it sound a good idea? Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise in squeezy bottles, upside down so you can get the last dollop out.

Except that you can't.

Imagine the bottle as an armless torso standing on its head, wearing a hat the same width as its shoulders. The gloop settles down at the sides, where the shoulders are, but it won't come out of the comparatively narrow neck; and even if you take the cap/hat off, the neck is too small to get a spoon in. If you shake it hard it broadcasts gobbets of gloop, most of which don't land on your sandwich.

Grrrr. Back to ordinary bottles for me, and the wedging of same between heavier items to hold them upside down when nearly empty.