Feeling Royal

That I love wine is not a secret anymore and that I like wine from all over the world neither… but I do have a few preferred wine regions. In my top 3 is without any doubt Valpolicella. To situate it, the Valpolicella region is around Verona and a stone throw away from the Garda Lake. I like the Valpolicella wines because it are rich, full bodied and if you go to the Ripasso or Amarone level stronger wines that ask for some stronger food like a good piece of meat for example. So when my dad send me that there was a wine & dine event from the highly reputated Valpolicella wine estate Allegrini I didn’t have to think twice, when he then added it was at the astonishing Chateau Neercanne in Maastricht no thinking was required anymore… it just is a MUST DO and we also didn’t really have to convince our friends Carlos and Ignace to much to join 😉 . Although Allegrini is one of Valpolicella’s biggest and most reputed wine estates from this region, I actually know/knew the Allegrini wines from the days my dad had his restaurant and where he used to sell a few of their wines like the Lagrolla and the Amarone. It is also in my dad’s restaurant I fell in love with the wine region after my first sip of Amarone that happend to be from Allegrini. After that sip I got the taste for more… and even after having tasted lots, I must admit that Allegrini’s Amarone is definitely in my top 3 (of Amarone’s). FYI I’m not saying this to suck up or so because I’m writing an article about Allegrini wines, it is just a fact that I am sharing with you :-).

Chateau Neercanne (1)

Chateau Neercanne (6)

Carlos, Me & Ignace

Making wine is something for very patient people and takes a lot of effort (lots of manual labor) and as if wasn’t hard enough the first wine makers from the Valpolicella region thought they could make it even harder. What distinquighes Valpolicella wine making, or at least for Amarone (the Top Valpolicella wine) , from other wines is that after picking the grapes they are put in bins (they used to be in wood, but nowadays in plastic)  to let them loose their juices naturally… so you can imagine that it takes a while before the juices is out of the  grapes. From the juice they make Amarone wine and from the juice there still is in the grapes they make Ripasso which comes from the word ‘ripassare’  which means ‘re-use’ of the grapes from the Amarone. After this the wines also age in wooden barrels for while. So this is why a an Amarone costs a bit more than the usual bottle of wine, but for me it is definitely worth the price (not for every day of course). I know some people will say they don’t get the ‘fuzz’ around Amarone wines… this is probably a judgement based on an Amarone bought in a supermarket, not that you can’t buy good wines in a supermarket, but some top wines you just have to try the best to understand why it is so highly appreciated!   To those people I say try an Amarone like the one from Allegrini and you’ll immediately it a totally different thing and you’ll get it 🙂 I do  know the price is much higher, that’s why you should buy it and drink it at a special occasion

Chateau Neercanne (2)

Chateau Neercanne (3) Chateau Neercanne (4)

Back to the wine & dine event 🙂 The first part of the evening was actually a wine tasting from wines from other vineyards within the Allegrini group in company of the Allegrini family (Marilisa Allegrini) who explained us more about all the wines (also the rest of the evening) . It were wines from their Corte Giara estate to be more precise.  If I’m not wrong it is estate managed an run by the next generation of the Allegrini family Starting off with a Pinot grigio and Soave that are perfect for one a warm summers day with some Parma (or San daniele) ham with some fresh figs under a pergola :-)…  to continue with the reds from the same estate with exception for the ‘Palazzo della Torre‘ which is from the ‘original’ Allegrini estate … You would expect the Amarone would be my preferred, but no it were actually the ‘Palazzo della Torre‘ and the Ripasso  that got my preference as they had a bigger punch and were richer of taste… not that the Amarone wasn’t good (it was), but maybe I’m more a lover of the classical ‘valpolicella’ or ‘Amarone’ taste  and this one didn’t have it 😉 Ooor maybe I just have to try them again with a meal, because then they it might become a whole different story. Stronger wines usual need some food (strong) with it. Just to be sure, I’ll buy a few bottles and compare them again 🙂 🙂 (any excuse to buy good wines is good 😉 )

Chateau Neercanne (5) My dad and Mrs Allegrini Palazzo della Torre

After the wonderful tasting with little nibbles it was time to start with the official part and try the wines from the ‘original’ Allegrini estate (not to say their best wines). No better way to do this than with a meal prepared by Hans Snijders from Chateau Neercanne !!  Which comes down to great dishes cooked to perfection with sauces that make every sauce you tasted before taste like water… I could have eaten a whole pot of sauce (from every dish we were served 🙂 ). Also to eat dishes like this in a magnificent setting like in Chateau Neercanne makes me feel like a king! Somehow it also makes me feel like dressing up like a king  from the Renaissance era 🙂 And to make the evening more complete we had Marilisa Allegrini to give us more about the Allegrini wines and even the beautiful Valpolicella region!

Neercanne interieur 1 Neercanne interieur 2 Neercanne interieur 3 Neercanne interieur 4 Neercanne interieur 5 Neercanne interieur 6 Neercanne interieur 7 Neercanne interieur 8

I know all the wines they would serve would be good, but personally I was mostly looking forward to taste the bitter-sweet dark chocolate, raisin, dried fig (maybe even a bit of cherry) aroma’s and flavors of  the Amarone Classico from Allegrini again!

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You guys know I love eating at restaurant Pazzo  in Antwerp and you might remember that some time ago I mentioned that chef Ingrid Neven from Pazzo has started her career at Chateau Neercanne… and the first dish we got served at Chateau Neercanne, Marinated salmon with nori, scallop with a avocado cream and Sambai vinaigrette, tasted like a Pazzo dish 🙂 🙂 how funny is that?? I think it was the taste of the sambai vinaigrette that gave me this idea …So now I know where Ingrid learned to make her great vinaigrette’s and sauces 🙂 A very beautiful dish with refreshing flavors with a perfect sweet, sour lemony taste … something that always makes me happy  and that got well balanced out with the Soave DOC from Allegrini

Marinated salmon with nori, scallop with a avocado cream and Sambai vinegrette (4)

What followed only went crescendo. starting with a in soy , ginger and brown sugar  marinated duck with apple chutney that was in perfect harmonization with the La Grola ‘s  dark fruit (wild berries) flavors

Duck marinated in soy, ginger and brown sugar with apple chutney (1)

The frosting on the cake was without any doubt the Angus with stewed angus, chanterelles and gnocchi with Belper cheese… I know the dish looks small on the dish, but it was very big in flavors that were needed to be able to match up with a strong wine like the Amarone Classico from Allegrini.

Angus with stewed angus, chanterelles and gnocchi with Belper cheese (3)

A meal stands or falls with the last dish you get, as that is the one that stays longest in your memory… There are lots of restaurants where you’ll get a wonderful meal, but where dessert is just ok, not the sweet piece of heaven you would want at the end of your meal… Hans Snijders in our case managed to make a goal with the dessert he served us, a taste of Dulcey chocolate, creamy caramel and flavours of coffee… I was afraid the coffee flavors would be too present, but the were well balanced out. We were served a recioto della Valpolicella Classico which is a sweeter wine with accents of cherries… We were even served a little meringue pie as second dessert 🙂

Taste of Dulcey chocolate, creamy caramel and flavours of coffee (2) Taste of Dulcey chocolate, creamy caramel and flavours of coffee (3)

We had a wonderful evening!! First of all because of the lovely company at my table who I consider as family (of course my dad is actually family, but you know what I mean 🙂 🙂 )… but it would have been this fun without Hans Snijders, Marilisa Allegrini and their know-how of making good products !! Thank you to them and their teams  for giving us an unforgettable evening

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The boys 11

 

My fiancée’s birthday weekend the final part

In the first part of the blog about my fiancée’s birthday weekend I told that my favorite lady chef Ingrid Neven (from Pazzo) had worked at Château Neercanne for a few years and therefore also knows Maastricht really well. Why am I telling this, well she actually gave us a tip where we had to take our apero before dinner (or sometime during the day) at the “Kruisherenhotel” winebar (from same group as Château NeercanneKruisherenhotel used to be a church that has been rebuilt into a hotel, restaurant and winebar and it is a very beautiful place combining the old elments from the church and some modern parts… Unique!  I’ll let the pictures below speak for itself. (Thanks Ingrid!) BTW you can also drink other things besides wine, it is really worth a visit.

Kruisherenhotel (2)

Lounge kruisheren

the ceiling

wine cellar

Check this link for more beautiful pictures. I do forgot one thing, I’m not sure how it was in the ladies room, but in the boys room there something special just above the urinal. What you see on the picture below is this special thing and it is actually not a real light bulb, but it is a special light effect… sorry just wanted to share this with you 🙂

light effect

For our dinner I chose to go to a restaurant called “Baumont” aka Harry’s.  Which according to tripadvisor is the 4th best restaurant of Maastricht (Chateau Neercanne was n°1).

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At Harry’s it is Lady Chef Audrey Eussen and her team try their best to give you a good culinary experience and want to show you that you can also create great njammy dishes with products from local farmers and producers…So they do their best to mostly use local products if possible. I must indeed  admit they do a good job. It is true that we had to wait a long time for our 1st course, for which afterwards they apologized a million times (these things happen everywhere). Besides that there I can’t say anything “bad”… the food was good, the wine was good, the location on itself was great and I had great company 🙂 What I do would like to say is that I think it would have been great to find more local wines on the wine list (maybe even to drink by glass), as there are so many great local Dutch and Belgian wines.  Don’t get me wrong I drank some great wines at the restaurant, but it would have been nice :-).

Chef Audrey Eussen

Anyhow  we started off with some “scallops with lardo di Colonnata and parsnip puree” which I accompanied first by a glass of Grüner Veltliner Langenlois from Weingut Summerer and after that with a glass of Muscat d’Alsace from Bernard Schneider I do think the second one was a better match (for me). As a main course I had” Limburg chicken with morel mushroom sauce and polenta” accompanied by a little nostalgic wine for me a Saumur from Langlois Château (this is why). My fiancée at the other hand had a Baby turbot with warm potato salad and green asparagus and decided to have a glass of Shiraz with it.

scallops with lardo di Colonnata and parsnip puree

Limburg chicken with morel mushroom sauce and polenta

Baby turbot with warm potato salad and green asparagus

The dishes were as tasty as they look 🙂 glad tripadvisor pointed me to this restaurant! A professional staff.  The minor part of the evening was me finding a fine under my wiper when I got back at my car 😦 Still not sure why as there were 2 contradictory street signs close to each other, but ok…. that’s life.

The next morning I just couldn’t stay in bed (I think my fiancée could) as there was soooo much sunshine coming into the room I just had to get breakfast and go enjoy the sunshine… and let’s just say that Maastricht does really look beautiful when sun is shining.  The plan normally was to rent bikes and explore the area around Maastricht, but we were just too lazy…

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Sunny Maastricht

My mission was accomplished as I saw a beautiful smile on my fiancée’s face (even before I gave her actual birthday gift) so I was one happy little camper 🙂 Up to my birthday now 😉

If you also feel like having a weekend like me, let the “Heart of Europe” website help you to create a wonderful weekend away and explore and beautiful piece of Europe!

The end

ooooh yeah

My fiancée’s birthday weekend part 2

In yesterday’s post I said I had already given a tip in one of my previous posts about planning my fiancée’s birthday (the link to proof I’m telling the truth), so somewhere she could have known as well :-).  It is true that on a geographical point of view the website of “Heart of Europe” is quit spread out and there are lots of nice places to visit… my choice however went to Maastricht . Why? Well I’ll be honest with you guys… Initially my plan was to have dinner at Château Neercanne  as I first I liked it there when I was there last time at the introduction of the “Heart of Europe” website and I really wanted to show this wonderful place to my fiancée and secondly because Ingrid Neven (my favorite lady chef) from restaurant Pazzo (my favorite restaurant) worked here after her studies for 3 years, so I wanted to see where she learned her basic skills… But I chose to change the restaurant as otherwise this weekend would seem more like a birthday weekend for myself and not for my fiancée (and I’m pretty sure I’ll be having another opportunity to eat at Château Neercanne).

Chateau Neercanne (3)

The only tip (besides the one on my blogpost) I gave my fiancée was that her weekend would feel like going back to school…. To mine opinion this was a really good tip 🙂 Via the “Heart of Europe” website I found hotel “Château Bethlehem” which is actually a teaching hotel and part of the Maastricht Hotel management school. So when I said it would be like going back to school, I didn’t specify for who, her or me 🙂 :-). What makes “Château Bethlehem” special is besides the fact that it are students working there (with of course some teachers around). It is also special because it is actually an old castle the they renovated and every room, from the restaurant to the rooms are all designed by twelve established and up-and-coming designers and every room is unique (there is even a room with a swing in it 🙂 ) and I can definitely say for a fact that it are big rooms. It is true that I could have picked a hotel right in the heart of Maastricht city (Bethlehem was 5-10 minutes from the city center), but I really liked their concept and the best way for the students to learn!  I’m really glad I’ve stayed here and I’d recommend it to everybody!!! BTW they also had a great breakfast (I love breakfast).  The hotel also has their own restaurant, I think I’ll be back to try it.

Chateau Bethlehem

Hotel Entrance

view from my room

Room with swing by teachinghotel

We had actually already been to Maastricht a few years ago with work, but we didn’t see too much of it as we arrived quit late… So this time we had to make up for that. Maastricht is a beautiful characteristic “little” city with lots of nice things to see and do (and for the ladies amongst you, they have lots of shopping possibilities).  A spot you shouldn’t miss while in Maastricht is the “Bisschopsmolen” is the oldest spinning water mill in the Netherlands and in the mill you get introduced the craft of the miller and see how the Spelt flour and regular flour are made. Very nice to see, but even nicer to see if the bakery itself (and breakfast/lunchroom) where they sell the most wonderful ‘Limburgse vlaaien” (I of course tested it personally) and bread all made according the original recipes! Well done Frank!! (Owner Bisschopsmolen)

Bisschopsmolen

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Bisschopsmolen (3)

Bisschopsmolen (4)

Bisschopsmolen (5)

Bisschopsmolen (6)

I know it seems like we didn’t do anything else besides eating and drinking, we did do other things but believe me if I have to describe the shops we’ve entered  my blog post would be even longer than they usually are 🙂

But the best is yet to come! To be continued ……