What's Keeping Us Out of Mischief?

It's been a few weeks since I've posted on here as there are lots of projects keeping us busy at Enoteca. I'd thought a little post to keep you all updated might be a good idea.

In October we're going to be hosting a Food and Wine evening. This will be a ticketed event (tickets going on sale mid-September) and will be focussed on pairing wine (and a guest beer) with select items on our menu. We'll be providing tasting notes and some guidance on how to taste wine so you can get the most out of the food and wines. Look out for our Facebook page for more information.

We're currently working up a Christmas menu for December. Last year was very successful so we hope to improve even further. Christmassy twists on Italian classics and Italian twists on Christmas classics will be the order of the day, as well as anything which just simply tastes amazing! Again, keep an eye out on Facebook, the blog, the website and in the restaurant itself for more information on that.

We're also intending to open on New Year's Eve this year. At the moment I literally have no idea what format that will take, but we had several dozen enquiries last year so we feel there is probably enough of you discerning, inteliigent and really rather attractive people who would like an Enoteca-style NYE!! News to follow on that front soon-ish :)

Apart from that, our wonderful and hard-working staff Anastasia the chef, Declan the Kitchen Assistant and Petra the lovely Waitress are all here to look after you. I'll also be floating around to chat about food, wine and anything else that takes our fancy, and trying not to get in the way of my excellent staff!

Do pop in to say hello - you'll be very well looked after, I can promise you that!

All the best, 

Neil

Summer Menu Nearly Here!

So I haven't posted for a few weeks, mainly because I have been ever so busy getting our Summer Menu finalised. 

We don't tend to overhaul the entire menu, but just lighten it up slightly with a few tweaks to existing dishes, the retirement of others and new additions added on.

Our summer menu sees, amongst other things, a dairy-free sorbet added - currently an Orange and Rosemary flavour, Porchetta which is a rolled, herby pork belly slow-roasted for up to 4 hours served with a homemade beer mustard and a chicken caesar salad using poached chicken with an amazing, punchy, savoury, tangy dressing over beautiful baby leaf salad.

We are also revamping our beer menu and will be stocking Southampton's Unity Brewing Co.'s Conflux IPA and Congregate beers.

So there's lots of great stuff to look forward to over the summer months! Come and join us for lunch or dinner and see for yourself!

Getting the Word Out

Probably the hardest task for any new independent restaurant is getting the word out to the world at large that we are here. This is certainly something we have struggled with at Enoteca having, as we do, only a very small marketing budget. 

Over the next few weeks and months we’re going to be trying a few new ideas to communicate who we are and what we do. One of those things is this blog, other things will be to continue and strengthen our use of social media, host events (such as the recent wine tasting) about which we can make a bit of noise and so on.

Despite all of these efforts, one of the most effective marketing tools is simply word of mouth. So we need your help. If you have visited us on Bedford Place and enjoyed your time here at Enoteca, or if you know someone who would really get stuck into our range of Italian Tapas please do pass the good word on to them. Feel free to point them at our Facebook reviews or our TripAdvisor reviews or just this website. It all helps. And the more people we can serve, the better able we are to continually improve what we do, so everyone wins!

And one last word to all of our customers - huge thanks for your business and support. Most important to me, personally, is that we are able to provide truly excellent, delicious food to people who appreciate it. We certainly appreciate you!

Hope to see you soon!

Salsa Verde - Your Versatile Buddy!

Salsa Verde is a classic Italian herb sauce that pairs with pretty much everything - roasted veg, pan-fried fish, steak, lamb and on and on. It can be an amazing dip for bread, crudités and crackers. It’s super easy and quick to make and will last for a couple of weeks in the fridge. If you don’t have a food processor, don’t worry. The classic preparation is in a mortar and pestle (but the processor is way easier!) If you can, make it a few hours ahead of needing to use it - this allows the flavours to mellow and blend for a ‘rounder’ flavoured sauce. 

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Ingredients

    * 2 small shallots, very finely chopped

    * 4 tbsp red wine vinegar

    * 6 anchovies, rinsed if packed in salt

    * Leaves from about 60g flat-leaf parsley

    * Leaves from about 60g basil

    * 3 tbsp salted capers, rinsed well

    * 250ml - 300ml extra virgin olive oil

Method

    * Put the shallot in a small non-metallic bowl with the vinegar and leave to soak for 30 minutes. This takes the ‘sting’ out of the onion
    * After half an hour, process the anchovies and herbs and capers to a chunky paste
    * Stir in the shallot, with a little of its vinegar, then whisk in as much of the oil as you need to get a thickish liquid. If you want it looser, just add a little more of the oil until you achieve your desired consistency.
    * Taste and add more of the vinegar if you like it a little more piquant, plus salt and pepper. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

How to Taste Wine - The Waiter's Watching!

Here at Enoteca we take a huge amount of pride in our wine list, and we really want our guests to enjoy their wine too. 

For all of our cork (as opposed to screw cap) wines, we invite you taste them. This is mainly to ensure the wine isn’t corked (which means the wine has soured due to excessive contact with oxygen - i.e. the cork has failed at sealing the bottle).

So what is it you’re supposed to be detecting in this somewhat mysterious ritual that no one ever teaches us but we are somehow expected to know?

All wine will have a degree of acidity to them. This is what gives wine its pleasing edge or sharpness. You can test the amount of acidity in a wine by taking a sip, sloshing it around your tongue for a couple of seconds, swallowing and then opening your mouth while tilting your head forwards. Acidic wines will create a rush of saliva to the front of your mouth (be wary of the risk of dribbling here - best to do this in private!) Less acidic wines will generate much less saliva.

Before tasting, do two things to help you detect a bad wine. Firstly, and you’ve probably seen lots of wine experts do this, swirl the wine around the glass for a couple of seconds. That brings in some oxygen into the wine to help ‘open’ it - by which we mean some aromas and flavours will become more noticeable. So I know you’re thinking “but - oxygen. You told us three paragraphs oxygen corks a wine!” Yes, kind of. A little oxygen exposure for up to a couple go hours before drinking is your friend, for the reasons just stated. However its prolonged or excessive contact with oxygen that sours the wine. Secondly, take a good sniff of the wine - the nose is remarkably good at detecting off-flavours so if it smells bad, it almost certainly is. Now it is time to taste.

So, an uncorked wine will have a pleasing acidity to it that works with the other flavours and characteristics. However, a corked wine will basically taste like it is well on its way to being vinegar. If the wine has a dominant, vinegary, musty flavour then you’ve got a corked wine. Don’t worry about whether you can spot this - it is absolutely unmistakeable and makes for something completely undrinkable.

If this happens to you (and its rare these days - we have had one genuinely corked bottle in the several hundred we have opened at Enoteca), or even if you’re not sure, don’t worry. Just let the waiter know - they may take a fresh glass and test it for themselves. If they’re also sure its corked they will immediately bring you a fresh bottle. No fuss, no bother.

On Trend vs The Classics

photo (left) courtesy Mirror Digital Media

photo (left) courtesy Mirror Digital Media

One of the most complex jobs in a restaurant is designing the menu. A well-designed menu has to balance seasonality, localness, flavours, colours and lots more. Probably the most difficult balancing act is that between on trend vs classical. 

hat do I mean by on trend? These are the food fashions and fads that come and go, usually starting at either the very highest-end of fine dining (think 2 or 3 Michelin stars) or at the very opposite end of the spectrum, with unconventional pop-up style restaurants trying to break the mould and stand out from the crowd. Over time, sometimes weeks rather than months or years, a trend might disappear (remember breast milk ice cream?) or it might become embedded in the food scene (such as red velvet cake). The trick is deciding what to follow, why to follow it (increased revenues or simply a great food idea), how to implement it and so on. 

We’re a middle of the road restaurant. We don’t want to come across as tired and overdone, but neither do we want to put people off through too-challenging flavour combinations and off the wall styles of presentation. So we need to strike a balance where we can offer classic dishes and flavours, but perhaps freshen them up with an interesting ingredient or find a lesser-known preparation of a classic. Case in point, our Tiramisu is loved by almost all - those who have struggled with it tend to be those who believe a Tiramisu has to be cake-like in its form, whereas ours is less spongy and more creamy. A popular form in parts of Italy to be sure, but less like the most common recipes and ubiquitous pre-made supermarket versions across the UK.

Another way of picking a righteous path between being hipsterish and worn-out is to switch out dishes, add new specials and change an ingredient or two in a popular dish. This way, we get to try out new things whilst keeping many of the favourites. Sometimes it means taking a risk by changing a popular dish, but always with the intention of improving it.

I’d be interested in your comments - do you go out seeking the comforting duvet of classic dishes well made, or do you prefer to be dining on the precipice of culinary art?