More or less.

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or…

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Hello and welcome back to… sunny Scotland! It’s been an absolutely stunning past three days here, full of brisk spring breezes, bright sunshine, and not a drop of rain. Of course, I say “was” since that’s now a thing of the past. Nevertheless, what a great few days to get out. I spent the past couple of days in Glasgow, and man oh man, did I need that. The quiet island life is wonderful in many ways. Unfortunately, it’s also a bit maddening. You start to jones for Internet cafes, wine bars, traffic, the latest fashions, and all the other trivial things that keep most of us mentally occupied.

On a strictly practical level– and as I’ve mentioned before— your options for food and beverage get exhausted fairly quickly. It’s times like these when a trip into the big city is just what the doctor ordered. During my  return trip to the island, the notion of quality vs. quantity in regards to food, wine, and the world occurred to me. Perspective is a mighty strong and subjective thing, and here’s a little for you to consider…

Some shopping was in order for the trip into the city,  and front and center on the list was WINE. I mean after all, Jared WINES up, does he not? I haven’t exactly been swimming in fine wine since landing on the other side of the pond.  My hankering was for something intensely rich, fruit-forward and over-the-top gaudy. In other words, I wanted American wine. Kidding! I really do adore 15% alcohol wines to wash away all my blues.

After struggling to find a decent wine shop, I wound up at a great little wine and spirits shop in the west end of the city called Peckham’s. The place was a breath of fresh air since most of the other shops I visited had shelves filled, and I mean filled, with cheap Australian and European plonk, and–- big surprise!—wines from the Gallo portfolio. How is it that in this large, international city, I saw as many bottles of crappy California wine as quality French wine?

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Take me home, baby…

At any rate, I wanted to bring back a case to Rothesay with me, but we had lots of time left on foot, as well as train and ferry travel. So I compromised and went with six bottles, splitting them up into two plastic handle-bags. This meant that after getting my yummy selection of Trimbach, Fontodi, Meerlust  and others, I would have to put my full and heavy pack on my back, and carry a bag in each hand throughout the rest of the city. Did this make me a bit cranky after an hour or so? Here’s a picture taken later that day when I least expected or appreciated it.

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Mr. Cranky-pants

*  *  *

Okay, what about the food? Ahhh, food. Any bad day can be remedied by a good meal, no? We wound up at La Vallee Blanche, a wee slice of French paradise in Scotland. The food, which included a wild mushroom tartlet and braised leg of rabbit on a white bean cassoulet, was magnifique. And the blood orange pannacota wasn’t too shabby either.

The next day, I wanted to continue on my meat and booze orgy, so I ordered a bacon cheeseburger at our lunch bistro. Now bear in mind, bacon as us Yanks know it, is very different. I used to feel guilty eating too much bacon back home in the states. And I’ll never feel that way again. Here, they eat what is called “streaky bacon”, which is thicker, fattier (hence the streaky), and overall more obscene. But oh is it good. I had to whip out the camera and share this with you guys before destroying it.

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Oh, dear God…

It should be stated here very clearly that as mouth-watering as this thing looks, it really wasn’t that good. Tough, rubbery, and awkward would be the best ways to describe this dish. The picture below is what I made back on the island later that night with some brown mushrooms from the fridge, olive oil, garlic, white wine, thyme, and sea salt. Not quite an image like the meat-orgy above, but waaaay better…

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Simple and delizioso!

*  *  *

One of the wines I picked up was a Cru (Morgon) Beaujolais, vintage 2002 (remember my carrying on in an early blog post about this vintage). I’ve always felt that gamay noir was the Rodney Dangerfield of the wine grape family. When I mention this wine to people and get a confused look, I grudgingly offer “You know, Beaujolais?”  The typical response goes something like, “Oh, I can’t stand that wine! It’s like Kool Aid!” Of course they’re referring to Beaujolais Noveau/Primeur, the wine in diapers we’ve all come to know from Duboeuf’s hideous labels, and something very different from the ten villages that comprise the different Crus. beaujolais

Here, gamay displays elegance and complexity that can rival some of the great pinot noir of the world. If you’re a pinot lover, I’m imploring you to go out right now– actually finish reading this first– and get yourself a cru Beaujolais, preferably one that has a bit of age to it. They are incredibly under-valued and, like pinot noir, “flex-wines”, allowing you to pair them with either light or heavy, cold or hot foods. Suffice to say, this ’02 beauty was just that- beautiful. The texture of the wine on the palate was delicate and restrained, while the aromas and flavors were brimming with black raspberry, ripe cherry, and violets.

You see, Beaujolais is my Bute as other parts of Burgundy, the Cote D’Or for example, is my Glasgow. One’s far more well-known and sought after. The other is, well, a bit of a simpleton, limited, and unrefined. Or is it?

The images at the top of this post are a good reference to this point: while both images offer the viewer something to potentially reflect upon or relate to, there is a stark contrast between them. So which is “less” and which is “more”? The first picture up top is of central Glasgow and has a feel of historic, accomplished glory. In contrast, the one below it is of a hiking trail in the woods behind our flat on Bute. It’s quiet, lush with trees, ferns, and anything else that’s green and likes water. Really, there is no “less” or “more” for either of these settings, just different. The same can– and should– be said for wines.

*  *  *

After a couple of days in the city, I was reminded that at the end of the day, less is more, so to speak, for myself. Ironically, all the noise, business, traffic, and overall pace of Glasgow—just what I was looking for– wore on me a whole lot faster than any boredom and frustration I may have felt on the Isle of Bute. I’ve come to feel something more than just a fondness for this little countryside setting— I now have a deep appreciation for it as well.

So thank you Bute, for being my home away from home (wherever that is), and welcoming me back to your quiet abode. I promise not to complain again about any lack of real wine selections, decent restaurants, free wi-fi, art museums… uh-oh… here I come London!

Cheers,

Jared

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~ by Jared on May 16, 2009.

9 Responses to “More or less.”

  1. OOH…want that bacon! I hear you about small, quiet places.

  2. Jared! It’s so awesome that we can follow along with you on your journey! I also have to mention that your photography skills are FABULOUS!! keep it up, kiddo! 🙂

  3. Cheesemonger,

    …I will send you more pics of streaky, fatty, and fattier bacon. Promise. You glutton. 😉

    ….Nicole! Hiya girl! Glad you’re enjoying the trip (and photos). And so sorry about all the talk and pics of meat, meat, and more meat. But it’s the U.K. you know. Meat pie anyone??

    Hope you’re well and on your way somewhere yourself soon.
    xoxo,
    J

  4. Hey there, drinking a glass o’ Vino wish you were here.
    PS-not to brag it was in the 80’s the last 3 days.
    To bad you can’t send wine e-mails!!!!!!
    Cheers.

    • There must be an app. for that w/ those groovy iphones you guys have!

      So… which one of my bottles did you open?
      Cheers!
      J

  5. Enjoying your trip right along with you! You have a way with words. Love your descriptions of the food!
    Still in Florida and the rains have begun so headed back home to (would you believe it) Sunny Washinton!
    Ciao,
    B.J.

    • Hi B.J.,

      Let me get this straight- you’re leaving Florida and heading to the Pacific NW. For the sun. Hmmmm…
      SO. How’s the grappa these days in Florida?

      Safe travels back home!
      J

  6. Yes!
    Raise that Cru Beaujais flag and waive it high! I’m sure the shrooms just put its earthy goodness over the top…why do I have this funny feeling that a bottle of Fleurie is in my near future?… Cheers, matt

    • Hell yeah. And those ‘shrooms tasted pretty good too… oh wait- you were talking about them as FOOD. Right. Yes, very good… 🙂

      Enjoy that Fleurie, and make something good to go with it.

      BTW, what’d ya think of my golf swing? …ouch.

      Hope you’re good, bro.

      Jared

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