Author Archives: Aimee

Sherry is for Now, Not Just for Christmas


Last week I attended an event to commemorate the appointment of Jerez as the European City of Wine 2014. I am sure to many people in the UK this could sound quite odd; Jerez a City of Wine? You just buy a bottle of Bristol Cream for Grandma every December, so what has that got to do with wine?

Luckily, the President of Sherry himself, Señor Beltran Domecq, was on hand to explain why we have been so wrong all these years in relegating this complex tipple to the dusty back of our drinks cabinets.

Hailing form a long line of prestigious sherry makers, Domecq introduced us to the full spectrum of sherries, from the lightest Fino to the stickiest Pedro Ximenez with an intriguing combination of science and passion.  Both analytical chemist and loyal enthusiast, Domecq explained that above all we must remember that Sherry is a wine. Fashion (or lack thereof) has dictated its reputation for many years, but things are changing, including here in London, where Sherry bars serving solely chilled Fino and Manzanilla are popping up, and the restaurant industry is opening its eyes to the exquisite food pairings sherry offers.

From cocktails to ice cream condiments, there are so many ways to enjoy this fascinating drink. I think I’ll start with a nice, cool Palo Cortado and cold cuts on this lovely summer evening…

* Click below to read an interview and overview from Beltran Domecq:

Categories: Uncategorized

Father Christmas? No thanks, I’ll take the friendly witch instead! A Traditional Italian Christmas.

Here at DDD HQ we’re busy building up to a gourmet Christmas holiday, dusting off secret family recipes and making plans for vast baked hams.  However, while children across Britain struggle to sleep on Christmas Eve, things in Italy are rather different.

Christmas TreeThe friends and farmers that we visit on our Italian Gourmet Weekends know about Father Christmas, though they call him Babbo Natale, but traditionally, their presents wouldn’t arrive with him. Instead, they’d appear on Epiphany (the 6th of January), delivered by a friendly witch, La Befana.

Legend tells that La Befana was a proud housekeeper, who had sadly lost her own child. One day the wise men stopped at her tumbledown hut and asked directions to the manger. She pointed them in the right direction, and they urged her to join them. La Befana refused, saying she was too busy with her housework to join them. Later she changed her mind and set off behind the wise men, following the Christmas star and bearing gifts for the Baby Jesus. Sadly, La Befana lost her way, and to this day, flies around on her broomstick, searching for Baby Jesus and bringing gifts to the children of Italy.

Before bedtime on the 5th of January Italian children will hang out their stockings, or leave out their shoes, with a plate of food and wine for La Befana. Waking in the morning they’ll know she’s been when the food is gone and just a sooty handprint on the plate remains. Good children get sweeties and chocolates, and those who misbehaved, a lump of coal. Though if La Befana’s feeling kindly the coal might just be a candy made with black sugar and disguised as coal…

Buon Natale!

Categories: Christmas, Festivals, Italy

European Gourmet Hotspots: Mercado St Miguel, Madrid

On our European gourmet weekends we like nothing more than plunging our guests right under the skin of a destination. Madrileños are passionate about their food, and there’s no better way of getting a true sense of Madrid’s gourmet culture than with a visit to Mercado St Miguel. Built in 1916, and thoroughly restored again in 2009, this a part of the city loved by local and visiting foodies in equal measure. It’s justifiably a gastronomic hotspot: the produce is largely seasonal and the stallholders are chosen for the quality of their fare.

Not for nothing do Madrileños boast that their landlocked city is the finest port in Spain- the food in Mercado St Miguel comprises some of the very finest offerings from across the entire country. Make sure you come with an empty stomach. Under the soaring steel roofs you’ll be able to feast on freshly shucked oysters, jamon, cheese and an endless selection of tapas. If you’re unfortunate enough to have eaten before you arrive here, you should come anyway, if only for the people-watching. And perhaps just a little glass of cava too?

Our insider tip? Our founder Aimee’s lost track of how many times she’s visited the Mercado St Miguel, and it’s often crowded. If you’re lucky enough to be able to bag a table hang on to it and use it as your base while the rest of your party explore!

Mercado St Miguel is open daily 10am – 10 pm daily, and until 2am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Categories: City Break, Drinks, Food, Foodie, Madrid, Spain, Tapas

Seasonal Food of the week: Sloe gin

Seasonal drinks were at the forefront of my mind this week, wandering past hedgerows heavy with sloes. The huge quantities of berries this year are said to indicate a harsh winter ahead. The sloes themselves are extremely bitter when eaten raw ( if you were so inclined, it’s an easy trick to convince the unfamiliar they’re blueberries and watch their faces as they taste them). Sloe gin, however, is a delicious seasonal treat, perfect for snuggling up with beside the fire on a winter’s evening and dreaming of warmer times (perhaps planning one of our food and wine tours) . Our traditional family recipe is as follows:

You’ll need gin, sloes and caster sugar, and quantities can be adapted to how much you have. You’ll also need at least one extra gin bottle, or preferably, a large kilner jar (easier to get the sloes out afterwards).

Fill your container to the half-way point with sloes. Then pour the sugar in until around half way up the level of sloes. Then, fill up to the top with gin. Keep it tucked away for three months and turn it occasionally. Then your gin is ready to drink.


Alex’s personal tips:

– Traditionally sloes were picked after the first frost, when they’d split their skins a little and the flavour comes out more easily. These days some people prick their sloes to achieve the same effect, but this is pretty time consuming- much easier to put your sloes into the freezer for a few days instead!

– Once you’ve had the sloes in the gin for 3 months, you can take them out. Instead of throwing them away, they make a delicious and unusual stuffing, are great addition to game stews, and are scrumptious mashed up in truffles.

– If you’re one of the lucky few joining our German Christmas Food tour and have developed a taste for gluhwein, adding a nip or two of sloe gin makes it taste extra fruity.

Categories: Drinks, Recipes, Seasonal

Visit Italy’s First Zero Carbon Vineyard

Travellers who want a genuinely eco-friendly vineyard tour can now enjoy one, safe in the knowledge that their vineyard’s eco-credentials are backed up by hard fact. Monte Vibiano is Italy’s first zero carbon winery and in many years, their carbon output is negative by several hundred tons.

Here in the Umbrian hills, the Fasola Bologna family’s 2,000 year old castle mellows serenely in the afternoon sun and the olive trees are hundreds of years old.  However, against this timeless background Lorenzo Fasola Bologna, the pioneering young head of the family business, has harnessed modern technology to provide visitors with an entirely zero carbon experience.

Visitors tour the olive groves and vineyard by electric vehicle. After inspecting the vines and plunging into the heart of life on a busy working farm guests return to the eco-terrace for a tasting. They sample bruschetta and cold-pressed olive oil alongside the award-winning wines produced from the eight different grape varieties growing on the farm. The bar’s made from unused corks, the tables from wood that’s been cut down on the farm, and the electricity on the entire estate comes from solar panels.


For more information on Monte Vibiano’s green project visit

We’re a proudly responsible company. It’s possible to visit Monte Vibiano as part of Drink Dine Discover’s Italian gourmet weekends, which operate seasonally. 2014 departures are 15th May, 12 Jun, 25th September and 16th October. Costs from £1,185 per person for 4 nights/5 days, excluding international flights.

For more information please contact Alex on or +44 (0)7841 624773

Categories: Eco, Italy, Vineyard, Wine

Quinces Galore!

Our love of seasonal food and wine doesn’t stop on our European gourmet weekends.  We’re huge fans of cooking up seasonal British produce into mouthwatering recipes.  Very occasionally, our twin loves overlap.

This month we were delighted to have some ripe quinces, recently fallen from the tree in Alex’s Northamptonshire orchard. Aimee adores Manchego cheese, so there was really only one possible use for them- Membrillo!

We first discovered Membrillo on an early gourmet tour around Madrid and have loved it ever since. This quince paste goes beautifully with hard cheese, and is very easy to make (though also available at Waitrose for those who don’t have hours to spend at the hob). We used this recipe from the BBC– often a reliable choice for recipes due to the rigourousness of their testers!  This recipe is for real cooks- it doesn’t give exact measurements- more just what feels right for the volume of quinces that you have. Our verdict? Alex is feeding the gourmet girls of DDD (Aimee and Anne ) on Monday night, so we’ll report back afterwards!

Categories: Food, Foodie, Seasonal

Bonfires, Beef and Bodegas

Call me crazy, but I actually love that time of year when the weather shifts into woolly scarf season, publications stop advising you on how to lose weight and bare skin and start actively encouraging you to snuggle under layers and tuck into hearty winter food. For me, Bonfire night signals that start of winter and provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate; a night to wrap up warm, nurse a cup of mulled wine by a large fire and indulge in something rich for dinner. So, here is my favourite recipe to feed a group for fireworks night –a  warming casserole  with my own Spanish twist

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Aimee’s Spanish Syrah Stew


900g braising steak, cut into squares

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 heaped spoon plain flour

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 ring chorizo, sliced

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 bottle Spanish Syrah, or similar red wine

350g shallots, peeled and whole

4 piquillo peppers, sliced

2 x 400g tins butter beans, drained

Salt and pepper to taste



  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (Gas Mark 4)
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish or oven proof pot. Add the beef and cook over a medium heat until browned. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Add the flour and combine with the oil and meat juices. Add the sliced onion, garlic and peppers and cook until softened.
  4. Add the Chorizo and paprika and simmer for 4 minutes. Return the meat to the pot and add butter beans.
  5. Pour in the entire bottle of wine. If it does not cover the other ingredients, add some water.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, then cover and place in the oven. Cook for 2-2 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.

 Food and Wine Tour Tuscany

Serving Suggestion

I like to serve this dish with buttery garlic mashed potatoes and curly kale. My ideal wine pairing would be a hearty bottle from my favourite Toledo Bodega:  Finca Loranque Syrah –Tempranillo 2006, with its jammy dark berry aromas and subtle kicks of spice.



Categories: Christmas, City Break, Food, Foodie, Madrid, Seasonal, Spain, Wine

Discounted Vinopolis Tickets With Drink Dine Discover

Wine Tasting at Vinopolis

We recently visited Vinopolis, a wine tasting experience on London’s South Bank. We loved it so much we wanted to share it. We’ve arranged a special discount for Drink Dine Discover customers.

Get £10 off any ticket to the wine experience on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays throughout November. Choose which self-guided wine tasting ticket you would like and then enter our unique discount code (DDD10OFF-13)

Choose from the below options:

Essential Tickets
7 tokens to spend in the Vinopolis Wine Tasting Experience
Normal price: £27pp

Classic Tickets
12 tokens to spend in the Vinopolis Wine Tasting Experience

Quintessential Tickets
16 tokens to spend in the Vinopolis Wine Tasting Experience
All tickets include an introductory ‘how to taste wine’ session before guests are at leisure to explore over 100 wines, spirits and champagne. Wine experts are on hand throughout the experience to offer tips and make recommendations.

Not valid in conjunction with any other offer
Attendees must be 18yrs or over
Offer valid on standard Essential, Classic and Quintessential wine tasting tickets (which are not available in December)
Not valid on Saturdays

Categories: Special Offers, Wine

Munching My Way Through Madrid…

It already seems too long since  myreturn from our Gourmet Madrid trip, but I can still taste the warm, gooey centre of freshly fried tortilla and the rich spiciness of Toledo wine. If you’ve never experienced this vibrant city, let me try to entice you with a little breakdown of what we saw, ate and drank…






Tapas, Tapas, Tapas

Every major city in Spain may lay claim to having the best tapas, but the incredible diversity of offerings and value for money (providing you avoid the ubiquitous tourist traps) makes Madrid my firm favourite. We spent a lot of time in the Mercado de San Miguel, savouring traditional Vermut aperitivos, sumptuous jamón Iberico, and Madrid’s famous fiery potato dish, patatas bravas.

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Wonderful Wine

I always find that you get so much more from the experience of tasting wine if you have a little insider knowledge, so for our first day we spent the afternoon learning the basics with our slightly eccentric host Julián. In the basement cellars of Madrid we were shown all the tricks of the trade through a series of fun games and quizzes, leaving us ready to swirl, sniff and sip in vineyards like the pros. After this we all headed for a gourmet tapas meal with the best Sangria in town!


Carafes and Castles

Our fist vineyard venture took us into the mountains on the outskirts of the city and to some of the most impressive views around, which we got to enjoy at a custom built tasting area carved from the very rose granite which helps to make the wine so delicious. The bodega owners also run the local old Castillo, which just happens to be the sight of the signing of the marriage contract between Isabella of Castile and Fernando of Aragon which united the kingdoms of Spain. After a private tour of the castle we are treated to a homemade lunch in the old chapel – heavenly!

DSCN2224When visiting this area around Madrid you should never miss a chance to see the magnificent El Escorial monastery – part building of worship/part palace where the kings and queens of Spain have been buried for centuries in awe inspiring marble tombs. We had just enough time to admire the building and have a moment to get lost in the gallery of art treasures within before it was time to head back to the city for a taste of traditional Basque fare in one of Madrid’s favourite little family-run spots.


The Original Capital City

Today’s excursion was to the ancient city of three cultures; the former Spanish capital of Toledo. Famous for its unrivalled blend of Catholic, Islamic and Jewish architecture, as well as top notch steel and mouth-watering marzipan, this is a wonderfully eclectic place where you can wander the cobbled streets and come across cathedrals, mosques, and synagogues nestled between shops filled with swords, suits of armour and golden yellow almond creations!

DSCN2379As the former seat of power in Spain, naturally Toledo needed a good supply of wine (such an important life staple!) The wines of the area may have been overshadowed by the fame and popularity of Rioja to the North, but Toledo vineyards have history and the passion of family producers who have been harvesting for generations on their side. We visited one such vineyard, whose methods have changed little since the 18th century, when prestigious French architects were brought over to design the perfect winery. The fruits of their labour have been enjoyed by royalty, politicians and celebrities, and today by our little group of wine lovers. After a fascinating tour by wine expert Jorge, we are treated to glasses of 3 fantastic reds, the great value of which was such that several couples decided to buy additional suitcases for the journey home to accommodate as many bottles as possible!


Back to the Future

This evening’s meal saw us discovering the very best of Madrid’s new wave of modern, quirky cooking and tantalising twists on the classics. Abraham Garcia, the eccentric and very talented owner and chef, took us on a taste safari, from curried lentil and crab soup, through decadent porcini and foie sauce with freshly grated truffle, all the way to white and dark chocolate panna cotta with coconut and rum sauce… and even more in between! All washed down with fabulous local wine and a glass of cava and lemon sorbet – perfection!


The Last Supper

Our final day was a chance to explore independently, with some choosing to visit Madrid’s iconic “Big 3” art galleries, whilst others strolled the bustling streets of unusual shops and lively bars. Our farewell lunch took place at a proper Spanish hour – 3pm. We headed for another great restaurant institution of Madrid, where the walls are crammed with bullfighting paraphernalia and family photos, and the atmosphere is like a large but cosy dinner party. The traditional jamón, Manchego cheese, rich croquettas, and gigantic, succulent steaks are like gourmet comfort food – it’s enough to make you feel like a true Spaniard! And hopefully, that’s exactly what the group came away with – a little taste of the real Spain, and in particular, Gourmet Madrid.

Categories: City Break, Food, Foodie, Holidays, Madrid, Spain, Tapas, Vineyard, Wine

Apple pressing in the English orchards

We’ve returned from our successful food and wine tour of Spain to find that autumn has firmly arrived.  It’s time for the apple harvest and we spent a glorious Sunday pressing apples in our Northamptonshire orchard.  Last night’s windfalls were Lord Lambtons and russets with the odd Ashmead Kernel thrown in.  We washed the fruit to get rid of grass mud, and the odd bit of unexpected “additional protein”.  Apples were chopped into large chunks, and put through the grinder to make a mash.  We pressed the mash and seconds later were rewarded with delicious fresh apple juice- perfect for an autumn breakfast.

Categories: Food, Foodie, Seasonal

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