Fast cars, fat singers, fine food and fizzy Lambrusco, in Modena you get to experience it all.
Man and Machine
‘Push! Push! Push!’, cries the man in the passenger seat and so I obligingly push down hard on the accelerator. The bright red Ferrari California makes a noise like Pavarotti getting his fingers caught in a door and £160,000 worth of supercar hurls itself forward as I frantically work the paddle gear change to keep up. The speedo needle rushes toward the motorway limit and then past it, but it isn’t even a fifth of the way around its elegant dial yet.
‘Piano, piano,’ ‘gently, gently’, advises my Italian co-pilot as the rear of a giant lorry suddenly fills the windscreen, so I let off the pedal, dab the brakes and the car majestically slows down as if a giant hand has grasped it. Continue reading
Time to go raving in Ibiza, raving over the food that is.
The view from Hotel Torre del Mar
A large poster catches my eye on the way in from the airport, it’s of Fat Boy Slim heavily photoshopped to be both very fat and very slim at the same time. He’s looking his age either way, which is in fact my age. That he can get a massive room full of people to wave their hands in the air is quite remarkable, as is the massive fee he reportedly gets for doing it.
Ibiza is of course well known as clubbers’ island; posters for the various venues are more numerous than posters advertising cars, washing powders or indeed anything else. My plane had boasted plenty of stags and hens already deep in the party spirit, while the despairing cabin staff tried to keep order. Ordering a drunk man dressed as a giant chicken to sit down is never easy.
The inner beauty of Ibiza
There is more to Ibiza than drink and dancing though. It’s a beautiful place once you get away from the epicentres of E consumption, with lots of hidden, quiet beaches and small inland villages. Continue reading
Nun’s naughty bits, a wine that’s not a cheese, wine boxes that aren’t square and vino that flows from a drinking fountain, Nick finds Abruzzo is an Italian region that’s full of surprises.
A lovely bun
“They’re called ‘Nun’s’ Breasts’, “Sise delle Monache” in Italian, says Valentina di Camillo unveiling a tray of freshly made pastries in the garden overlooking her family’s glorious vineyards. The origins of the pastry’s name are vague, they were first called ‘Three Mountains’ owing to their triple peaks but the new name came about when a nun… well, let’s leave it there.
Liver sausage, goes great with red wine.
They are delicious, soft as can be and stuffed to bursting with sinful crème patissiere. One of these and a black coffee and your morning is off to a good start. Personally I am eating them just after an al fresco breakfast consisting of superb cured meats, pungent cheeses and a fair few glasses of Valentina’s lovely wines, so I am using the coffee and sugar to offset the alcohol I’ve knocked back. Continue reading
Italy? Yes. France? Of course. But Spain? Discover a region where the truffles and mushrooms aren’t just delicious but one of the area’s biggest industries and tourist attractions.
Gourmet’s best friend
‘He got bitten by a snake out here a few months ago, he almost died!’ The man from the company Tuber Viveros ruffles the neck of his dog with affection, ‘but he’s okay now and happy back at work.’ His dog looks up at him adoringly, keen to get on with his job.
That job is to sniff out truffles, because somewhere in this massive plantation of trees stretching out in all directions, the black gold lies buried. The dog’s work is made a little easier by the fact that every tree is almost certain have a truffle or two amongst its roots, some ripe some not. That’s because the element of chance was reduced by a discovery back in the 1970s. Continue reading
Foodies talk a lot about balsamic vinegar and its amazingness, but in the South of France I find an artisan making something a drop more interesting and rare
‘You need good wine to make good vinegar,’ says Nathalie gazing watchfully over her militarily ranked wooden casks. The south of France sun is beating down on the covers that shade the casks from the full heat, her dog is flopped out on the road outside. It’s too hot to do much. Time moves slowly here. Continue reading
At the Phoenicia Hotel they take luxury and food very seriously. Nick Harman goes into their garden to meet the head chef and to taste the Maltese difference.
Saul bounds away up the vegetable patch like a puppy in an apron, still talking to me over his shoulder. Then, after grabbing a few tomatoes off the vine, he comes hurrying back. ‘The freshness is fantastic,’ he said biting into one ‘and with the kitchen just over there it gets straight to the plate.’ Saul could be any keen cook enthusing over his vegetable plot, but this particular patch is a massive seven and a half acres in size. It’s the back garden of the Phoenicia Hotel, Malta and Saul’s the Head Chef.
The gardens are grand and have bird’s eye views over the harbour, especially from the luxurious Bastion swimming pool. These verdant acres have been many things since construction began on the hotel in 1939, including being bombed in the war and used as a children’s playground, although no one is saying which did the worst damage. Continue reading