Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Drinking Azsú in the Tokaji region, Hungary

I was on a journalism assignment recently in Hungary, writing about an EU LIFE-funded soil monitoring project. As part of the trip, I went to the Tokaji wine-growing area in the north-east of the country, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002. As well as looking at the soil monitoring system in operation, I was also fortunate enough to have a private tour and tasting in the historic Konyves cellar.


The tour takes you through the labyrinth of cellar tunnels cut into the soft volcanic rock of the hillside. There are over 700 m of cellar at Konyves, filled with around 800 oak barrels. The walls are covered with a mould (Cladosporium cellare), which is white when young but grows into a thick black layer. The mould feeds off the alcohol vapours from the barrels. It is important, because it regulates the humidity (88-95%) and temperature (a constant 12°C) in the cellar.


Three wines of increasing sweetness are usually tasted on these tours. The first is Furmint, a very dry and unremarkable white wine made from the Furmint grape variety. The second is a Muscadet, from the French grape of that name (the only one of the half-dozen Tokaji grape varieties that does not originate in Hungary), which is here really to give a taste of a standard sweet wine. The star is saved to last – the distinctive Azsú (bottle pictured). This is the sweetest naturally-made wine, with 70% sugar. The sweetness is complex, however, with honey, tropical fruit (citrus/apricot) and nutty flavour notes. It’s nectar.


The grapes that give Azsú its character come from the Furmint vines, but they are infected with the fungal mould Botrytis cinerea. This concentrates the grape’s sugar content and flavour. I was in the vineyard in early October and the grapes (photograph) are still growing – the shrivelled brown Azsú grapes are hand-picked in early November from the Furmint bunches. It’s like making wine with juicy raisins. The bottle is labelled ‘5 puttonyes’, which traditionally referred to the number of buckets of Azsú grapes added to 130 litres of must in a barrel (the range is from 3 up to a very sweet 6); now it refers to the sugar level. The wine is aged for 3-6 years in the barrel.


Out in the vineyard, we saw some curious pipes in the ground. The nearest one in this picture is 12 metres above the wine tasting area in the corner of the cellar, which is carved out of the hillside below the vineyard.


The conditions are not right to make the Azsú every year, just one in every two or three years; in those years they make a lot of Furmint. They have kept samples from all the Azsú years back to 1895 in the Konyves cellar. It’s a stroll back in time.

 

I would like to thank Miklós Dombos, of the Institute for Soil Sciences and Agricultural Chemistry in Budapest, and György Zsigrai, of the Research Institute for Viticulture and Oenology in Tokaj, for arranging the visit to the cellar.

LIFE website - funding environmental and nature conservation projects in the European Union:
http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

City Road, Cardiff: The difference a year makes

I began the ‘Walking Tour of Cardiff’ strand of this blog on City Road on 18 September 2012:
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/city-road-cardiff.html

I revisited City Road one year on from this date, to start getting a feel for the changing food landscape in the Welsh capital. There were 49 take-ways and restaurants on City Road in 2012; today there are around the same number. Seven of those 49 businesses (14%) have either closed, or changed ownership or name in the past year. The businesses that have closed have been compensated for by a similar number of new businesses opening.

Gone are Si Chuan (Chinese take-away), Can Zaman (Middle Eastern restaurant), Sub City (sandwich take-away), Taco Express (Tex-Mex take-away), Casa Bianca (Italian restaurant), Ifatu (African restaurant) and the Adonis Kebab House.

New are Rosh (family café), Shaam Nights (Middle Eastern restaurant), Istanbul (Turkish restaurant), Oz Urf (Mediterranean and Mesopotamian restaurant), Jini Pizza, Face Food (patisserie and juices) and the Andalucian Kebab House.

In the listing below, I have included updated Food Hygiene Rating scores (and compared them to ratings in 2012). Taking into account bakers, butchers, delis, supermarkets and other shops selling food, in addition to all the take-aways and restaurants, the average Food Hygiene Rating has increased slightly over the year. In 2012 it was 2.74 and in 2013 it was 2.91, out of the perfect 5. This is an encouraging sign that the new ratings system is leading to improved hygiene; but, in general on City Road, there is still considerable room for improvement.

Here is the current state of play on City Road (for longer descriptions of establishments see last year’s post), walking up from Newport Road to the junction with Albany and Crwys Road. On your right:

Channing’s
Longcross Court (unit 2), City Road CF24 3DJ (2048 2351)
Food store and off licence (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. July 2013. Up from 3).

Fresh Bites
Longcross Court (unit 3), City Road CF24 3DJ (2032 8786)
Sandwich take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. July 2013. Up from 3).

The Ernest Willows
2-10 City Road CF24 3DJ (2048 6235)
Wetherspoon pub (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. July 2013. Up from 3).

A Shot in the Dark
12 City Road CF24 3BJ (2047 2300)
Coffee house and bar (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Jan 2013. Down from 5).

On your left, the Cardiff Municipal Club (11/13 City Road) has closed.

Right:

AJ’S
20 City Road CF24 3DL (2045 1588)
Coffeehouse (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Nov 2011).

Kismet
24 City Road CF24 3DL (2048 1665)
Indian restaurant (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. Feb 2012).

Subway
26 City Road CF24 3DL (2048 5600)
Sandwich take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. June 2013. Down from 4).

Shop Right
28-30 City Road CF24 3DL
Convenience food store (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Oct 2010).

Left:

Fornos
15 City Road CF24 3BJ (2048 6699)
Sandwich bar and coffee house (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. July 2013. Same score as previously).

La Shisha
17-19 City Road CF24 3BJ (2049 3337)
Grill house and take-away, with Shisha Lounge upstairs (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. Aug 2013).

Right:

Radhuny
40 City Road CF24 3DL (2046 1162)
Indian restaurant and take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 2: improvement necessary. Oct 2012. Down from 3).

Tanvir Tandoori
42 City Road CF64 3DL (2049 6088)
Indian and Indonesian restaurant (Food Hygiene Rating 2: improvement necessary. March 2012).

To Shakespeare Street and the pub on the corner:

Poets Corner
56 City Road CF24 3DN (2045 8714)
Greene King pub, formerly the Tut N Shive (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Nov 2011. Up from 2).

City Pizza
70 City Road CF24 3DD (2045 0054)
Take-away pizza (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. June 2012).


Lilo’s Grill House & Lilo Express
72-76 City Road CF24 2DD (2045 0089)
Middle Eastern restaurant and take-away. Expanded in summer 2012, to take over the corner unit that was formerly Al Borje (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. June 2013. Same score as previously).

Left:

The Moonlight
77 City Road CF24 3BL
Café and restaurant, with a shisha bar (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. June 2013. Down from 3).

Right:

Rosh
82 City Road CF24 3DD (2049 7417)
Family café/restaurant, in location occupied by Si Chuan last year.


Left:

Polski Sklep
87 City Road CF24 3BL
Polish and Eastern European food store (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. July 2013).

Cross Penlline Street:

Jini Pizza
89 City Road CF24 3BN (2048 4705)
Pizzeria and take-away, opening within the past year in a unit formerly occupied by Mirchi.

Right (past Talworth Street):

Mirchi
90-94 City Road CF24 3DQ (2049 2344)
Mirchi restaurant serves "Indo-Pak cuisine". They have moved across the road into a bigger unit (previously The Salt 'n' Pepper Grill) within the past year (Food Hygiene Rating 0: urgent improvement necessary. Aug 2013. Down from 4 in their previous location).

Five Star Fish Bar
96 City Road CF24 3DQ (2045 2297)
Fish and chip take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. July 2013).

Chicken.com
98 City Road CF24 3DQ (2048 6530)
Take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 0: urgent improvement necessary. Aug 2013. Same score as previously).

Mehfil
102-106 City Road CF24 3DQ (2045 0388)
Indian restaurant and grill house.

Clare Food Superstore
108-110 City Road CF24 3DQ
Convenience food store (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. Dec 2012).

Across Pearson Street:

Shaam Nights
116/118 City Road CF24 3DQ (2048 2824)
Syrian/Lebanese restaurant. I think this is a re-opening/rebranding of Can Zaman under a different name. (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. July 2013).

El Paso
120 City Road CF24 3DQ (2046 2054)
Tex-Mex take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. Jan 2012).

Left:

Sub City (119-121 City Road) is no more; currently non-food.

Right (past Cyfarthfa Street):

Mr Tikka
130 City Road CF24 3DR
Take-away sandwiches (Food Hygiene Rating 0: urgent improvement necessary. March 2013. Down from previous score of 1).

Tesco Express
134-142 City Road CF24 3DR
Supermarket, on the corner just before Treharris Street (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. Feb 2011).

Left:

Golden Rickshaw
127 City Road CF24 3BP (2045 1411)
Chinese restaurant and take-away(Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. Jan 2013. Same score as previously).

Madras in Wales
129 City Road CF23 3BP (2009 4094)
India restaurant/café and take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 2: improvement necessary. Feb 2013. Down from 5 in 2011).

Nawroz
135 City Road CF24 3BQ
“Continental food and groceries” (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. Jan 2012).

Swallow Chinese
139 City Road CF24 3BQ (2047 2037)
Chinese take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Jan 2013. Up from previous 4).

Mediterranean Sweets
141 City Road CF24 3BQ (2045 2233)
Kurdish bakery (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. July 2013. Up from previous 2).

The 147 Bar (147 City Road) is a private members club.

Right (between Treharris Street and Arran Street):

Xquisite Africa
148 City Road CF24 3DR (2049 8400)
African and Caribbean shop, with section for imported foods at back (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. July 2013. Up from previous 2).

Rocket Joe’s
150 City Road CF24 3DR (2049 2919)
Take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 2: improvement necessary. Aug 2013. Up from previous 0).

Italiano’s Pizzeria
152 City Road CF24 3DR (2046 4600)
Take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. Jan 2013. Down from previous 4).

City Kebab
154 City Road CF24 3DR (2046 1515)
Take-away, used to incorporate Taco Express (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. Jan 2013. Down from previous 4).

Oz Urfa
156 City Road CF24 3DR
Turkish restaurant, serving “Mediterranean and Mesopotamian” cuisine, which opened in June 2013. Good early reviews on tripadvisor. This unit was formerly Sue’s Breakfast Bar (though it was an empty unit a year ago).

Left:

Jing Xing Express
155 City Road CF24 3BQ
Chinese food store (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. June 2013).

Haveli
157 City Road CF24 3BQ (2047 2772)
Indian restaurant (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. Dec 2012. Up from previous 2).

Mezza Luna
159 City Road CF24 3BQ (2047 2772)
Moroccan and Lebanese restaurant (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Sept 2012. Same score as previously).

Right (by the Arran Street junction):

Continental Delicatessen
160 City Road CF24 3JE (2045 2540)
Food store (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. March 2013. Down from previous 2).

City Bakery
162 City Road CF24 3JE (2019 4126)
Food store (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. March 2013. Up from previous 0).


Istanbul
164-166 City Road CF24 3JE (2049 4943)
New Turkish restaurant (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. April 2013).

Left:

Polskie Biuro
161 City Road CF24 3BQ
Polish Internet café.

Easy Shop
165 City Road CF24 3BQ
Polish and Eastern European food store (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Sept 2012. Up from 1 previously).

Right (opposite Northcote Street junction):

The Roath Park
170 City Road CF24 3JE (2031 1049)
Pub (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. July 2011).

Left:

Casa Bianca (175 City Road) has closed.

Right:

Spar
176-178 City Road CF24 3JF
Convenience food store (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. July 2013).

City Balti
186 City Road CF24 3JF (2048 0475)
Indian take (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Dec 2012. Same score as previously).

Andalucian Kebab House
190 City Road CF24 3JF
A rebranding of the Adonis Kebab House, still with the Dubai Shisha Garden.

Troy
192 City Road CF24 3JF (2049 9339)
Greek Restaurant (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. Feb 2013. Same score as previously).

Ifatu (206 City Road) has closed.

Pappa John’s
208 City Road CF24 3JG (2047 1222)
Take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Dec 2012).

Left:

Baghdad Market
199 City Road CF24 3JD
Butchers (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Dec 2012. Up from previous 1).

Right (past Glenroy Street):

Miss Millie’s Fried Chicken
216 City Road CF24 3JH (2049 4922)
Take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Feb 2013. Down from 5 previously).

Aladdin
218 City Road CF24 3JH (2049 4922)
Restaurant & Take-away – kebab house (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. March 2012).

Classic Fried Chicken
220 City Road CF24 3JH (2045 6944)
Takeaway: fried chicken in all its forms (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Jan 2013. Same score as previously).

Abo Ali
222-224 City Road CF24 3JH
Lebanese restaurant and take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 2: improvement necessary. July 2013).

Left:

Sahara Café and Shisha Garden
207 City Road CF24 3JD (2048 8552)
Mediterranean and North African café (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. Nov 2011).


Face Food
211 City Road CF24 3JD
Patisserie, with juices and smoothies, which opened within the past year (don't need to book).

Right:

.CN
228 City Road CF24 3JH (2048 6688)
Chinese restaurant (Food Hygiene Rating 2: improvement necessary. July 2013. Down from 3 previously; nb. Still listed under previous name Ding Hua).

Chunky Chicken
230 City Road CF24 3JH (2048 0448)
Take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. Aug 2013. Same score as previously).


6 Flavours
232 City Road CF24 3JH (2021 0902)
Indian restaurant and take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Jan 2013. Up from 4 previously).

Left (opposite Strathnairn Street junction):

Milgi
213 City Road CF24 3JD (2047 3150)
Milgi Kitchen and Lounge (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. Nov 2011).

Right:

Tenkaichi
236 City Road CF24 3JJ (2048 1888)
Japanese sushi and Noodle Bar (Food Hygiene Rating 2: improvement necessary. Feb 2013. Down from previous 4).

Sweet Sugar
240 City Road CF24 3JJ
Bakery and cakes.

KBS
242 City Road CF24 3JJ
Kebab House take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 2: improvement necessary. Aug 2012).

Taste Buds
244 City Road CF24 3JJ (2047 1467)
Café (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Jan 2011).