Tag Archives: wine

Hot beer, Polish dumpling and plums in Krakow

7 Mar

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By Andrea McVeigh

If necessity is the mother of invention, then freezing cold winters in Poland necessarily gave birth to mulled beer.  Not wine (although there’s plenty of that too) but beer.

I’ve long been a fan of mulled or gluhwein, that staple of Christmas markets in northern European Medieval capitals.  But hot beer was a new one to me.  We discovered it in arty, cultural Kraków (also known as Cracow or Krakow) Poland’s second largest city after its capital, Warsaw, and located in the south of the country.

Hot beer, or grzane piwo as it’s called, is a staple of the Polish winter, something to not just delight tourists beating a path around the streets of the Old Town, but essential to the survival of its residents.  It’s not just warm beer, of the sort served in British pubs in the 1970s, but mulled beer – a brew that has been heated and infused with cloves and cinnamon plus other spices and herbs such as nutmeg and either fresh ginger or ginger syrup, sweetened with honey or sugar.  It’s considered good for you too – there are tracts dating back to the 17th century which enthuse about the healthy properties of a warm frothy tankard of the stuff.

While the barrel-shaped huts in the main square’s Christmas Market served mulled wine (the perfect accompaniment to a large pork knuckle or Polish dumpling, with the fresh air acting as a powerful aperitif) we found the beer in several restaurants including the Czech restaurant Ceska Chodba – yes, we went to Poland and, tempted by the rich roasted goose, ended up eating in a Czech restaurant.

Mulled beer turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to a festive winter goose, served with a mushroom and prune sauce along with nutty buckwheat groats (the Cerna Hora photo shows the brand of Czech beer that was served warm/mulled in the restaurant).

In Poland, prunes are big, as are plums – in popularity and ubiquity, if not necessarily size – and, for a nation that takes the time to mull its beer, it’s unsurprising that the Polish have thrown their considerable brewing expertise into creating a wide and varied selection of beers.

You can find beer with ginger (not, you will note, ginger beer, but actual beer with the addition of ginger), alongside the plum beer and honey beer which you can find in off-licences and liquor stores (you’ll recognise them from the giant Alkohole signs outside) as well as supermarkets.

The other hot alcoholic beverage we tried was mead (honey wine), which we found in a Medieval-themed restaurant – possibly making us the first people to get mead hangovers since 1485.

Pisco Sours and Ceviche on Easter Island

22 Aug

By Patric Baird

What do you do when you arrive on Easter Island, having flown for almost 24 hours from the UK?  Have a lie down? Head straight for the iconic statues which are featured all around the island? Or, as I did, go into town for a much anticipated lunchtime cocktail, namely Chile’s national alcoholic beverage, a pisco sour.

Actually there’s some dispute as to whether Chile or its neighbour Peru have ownership of this sub-tropical tipple;  they do it differently anyway, with the Peruvian version containing egg white, sugar syrup and angostura bitters, whereas the Chilean version is a simpler mix of the spirit pisco, sugar and lime (or lemon) juice.

To confuse things even further, both countries have their own version of the spirit itself, although maybe only an expert could distinguish the subtle nuances in taste between each of the South American country’s offering.  There’s no denying that Chile has the best bottle – one of the country’s biggest manufacturer is Capel and their Pisco Reservado comes in a black glass bottle, shaped like one of Easter Island’s statues.

So what is pisco and why the odd name?  It’s basically a brandy made from grapes, much like its Greek cousin, grappa, sweet tasting and ranging in colour between almost clear to a dark yellow hue, depending on the quality and strength of the liquor.  Some say the name comes from the Peruvian town of Pisco (probably the most likely explanation), but Chile disputes this (not surprisingly), claiming that the word pisco is of Quechua origin and means ‘bird’.

There’s another school of thought which suggests the word pisco means a clay pot, so make your own mind up on that one.  More importantly, how does it taste?  On its own, not much to write home about but, when turned into a pisco sour, it has a unique and delicious taste and, as it turned out, the perfect pairing for that other South American staple, ceviche.

The Japanese don’t have a monopoly on raw fish, although ceviche, which is found in most coastal regions of the continent, as well as in Central America and as far west as Polynesia, is usually ‘cooked’ by marinating the raw seafood in a mixture of citrus juice, chilli and seasonings.   Each region has its own particular style, with mainland Chile and Easter Island favouring fillets of halibut, or the native and delightfully-named Patagonian toothfish, marinated in lime or grapefruit juice, flavoured with garlic, red chilli peppers, mint and coriander.  Combined with a refreshing pisco sour, the zing of a well-made ceviche proved to be the perfect antidote to seemingly incurable jet lag and was by far the best thing about Easter Island – until I got my first glimpse of those amazing statues, that is.

Coconut Wine and Hot-Dogs in Honolulu

18 Sep


by Andrea McVeigh

I love coconut.  I love wine.  So a combination of both?  In a bottle?  On New Year’s Eve?  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, everything that comes from combining wine and coconuts, it seems.

December 31 2010 in Honolulu and the coconut-shaped (natch) bottle of Royal Chief Coconut Wine was calling to me with its ‘wine from the water of young coconuts’ come-on and 12% alcohol volume come-hitherness.

We hadn’t even opened it and I was planning how to transport bottles back to Ireland for what I was sure would be the Best Drink Ever!  Or fly to the Philippines where it’s produced.  Or sell my soul to buy more of this sure-to-be delicious tipple.

The web site says it’s perfect as a gift.  For someone you don’t like maybe.

We picked up the bottle on the way back to our hotel from a pilgrimage to PukaDog, Waikiki, on the Anthony Bourdain trail (he visited it once in an episode of No Reservations) for Hawaiian-style hot-dogs.

Puka means hole in Hawaiian, and these Polish-style doggies (meat or veggie) are slipped into the hole in a specially-baked bun and filled with a choice of four secret-recipe sauces (mild, spicy, hot and hot-hot) or one of seven relishes or standard condiments.

We hate choices, so faced with pineapple relish, banana relish, guava mustard and more, the Hubby and I went for, in hot dog terms, the vanilla option – Sweet Maui Onion Relish and a mild Garlic Lemon Secret Sauce.

And anyway, I was being adventurous with my coconut wine, right?
Well, I would have been if I didn’t have a Hanna-Barbera ‘took a slug and spat it back out again pulling a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp’ moment back in the hotel room.

Some people must like it, but I’m thinking they’re the sort of people who could take to drinking methylated spirits through an old sports sock.  Harsh, tart and not at all the sweet coconutty treat I was expecting.

But hey, it was New Year’s Eve and after the champagne had been drunk on the beach and we ran into the sea to welcome in 2011, we staggered back to the hotel and, needs must, discovered that mixing it with fruit juice and vodka made it almost palatable when you’re already 90% blotto.

See, there’s an upside to everything.  Even coconut wine.

ABOUT US

1 Sep

where we’re from

We are Patric Baird and Andrea McVeigh and we love travel, we love food and we love drink – and we love it when all three of these things are combined!

We’re married to each other, based in both London and Belfast, with a wealth of  passport stamps under our ever-expanding belts.

We’ll be writing about the places, people, food and drink we discover on our adventures.  Come on and join us y’all – the drinks are on us!