Friday, 30 November 2012

Wines for winter



The privately-owned Lakeside Hotel and Spa, on the southern tip of Windermere, in the Lake District, is the quintessentially English hotel. It is the sort of place you would love to hibernate in over the winter months, soaking up the picturesque views of the lake and gardens during the day and spending your evenings sitting round a cosy fire with a glass of red wine (or for those who don’t drink, a hot chocolate).

Lakeside Restaurant, Lakeside Hotel and Spa


Their wine cellar lists over 200 wines, so I thought I would pick the brains of house manger Marcus Newhouse for some tips on choosing some winter warmers.

“Trends in wines seem to have stabilised now,” says Marcus. “Five or six years ago, there was a focus on New World wines, but I think that has changed. The French are more relaxed in their approach. They have different marketing and labelling. Spain also produces some good wines, and Portugal’s have become more accessible as it turns its emphasis away from producing port, which has a high alcohol content, to concentrate on table wine.”

Ramos Pinto, part of the Champagne Louis Roederer group, produce some excellent Portuguese wines. The hotel has recently added Duas Quintas white to its list which it claims is a “UK exclusive”.

I also like Duas Quintas red 2010 (£10.75, oddbins.com), a fruity yet complex wine with  a hint of freshness. Smooth on the palate, it makes a good aperitif and goes well with red meat, chicken or pasta.

“Germany produces well-balanced wines with the right amount of acidity,” says Marcus. “They tend to be lower in alcohol  – on average about two per cent –  than the typical French or Spanish wine and even three per cent lower compared to the New World,” he adds.

He recommends a good German riesling such as Vollrads Riesling Kabinett 2009, from the hotel’s list. This is an aromatic, dry, good-bodied wine with lychee and lime flavours and makes a good alternative to sancerre. 

Duas Quintas red


One to try at home is Berrys' Mosel Riesling Kabinett  2010 (£9.75) from Berry Bros & Rudd. It is a lovely, light, crisp wine with just the right amount of sweetness.

The days of grapes being in or out of fashion are over, according to Marcus. He likes  to match the style of food to a wine of that country. At the hotel, they often suggest having different wines with each course as they have a good selection on offer by the glass.

If you want to open a bottle at home you can keep it up to four or five days as long as it is well sealed, though Marcus hastens to add it won’t taste as good by then.  

A bottle gives you approximately four 175ml glasses (approximately 2-3 units per glass). “Drink what you enjoy,” says Marcus.”Sometimes a white wine such as a full-bodied viognier can work with red meat, while a red wine such as a light pinot noir can work with fish.”

For Christmas, a glass of champagne is almost obligatory. Louis Roederer, a deliciously rich and elegant full-bodied wine, is the hotel’s house bubbly.  This is one of my own favourite non-vintage champagnes. You can buy it from bbr.com (£37.55).

Marcus also suggests trying some of the smaller producers such as Joseph Perrier whose champagnes offer excellent value for money.

A bottle of champagne is equivalent to five glasses of 150ml (approximately 1.8 units per glass.). Even if you use a proper champagne cork, (apparently, teaspoons don’t stop it going flat) Markus advises drinking it within 24 hours.

Either red or white wine will go with the turkey. “Stick with a grape you like and try wines from different countries. If you normally drink a merlot from Australia, try one from France, if you like a Côtes du Rhône, try an Australian Shiraz.”

If you are entertaining and don’t know what wines to choose, the safe bets, in Marcus’s opinion are sauvignon and merlot.

By Daralyn Danns

For more info on the Lakeside Hotel visit www.lakesidehotel.co.uk





Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Look after your skin, this winter



How I hate the cold winter weather!  Biting winds and central heating can make your skin feel dry and uncomfortable as it strips away the skin’s moisture levels. The skin is the body’s natural barrier, so you need to look after it to make sure that it functions properly. You don’t want to end up with flaky or cracked skin.

There is no need to spend a fortune on moisturisers. It’s about finding products that work for you.

“Emollients are often used in the management of dry skin conditions and work by reducing moisture loss from skin by covering it with a protective layer,” says Bevis Man, spokesman for the British Skin Foundation. “Although they can be greasy, there are formulas now that are more like conventional moisturisers, so you ought to be able to find a suitable product when talking to a pharmacist about it.”




Here is the science bit. Moisturisers generally work in a couple of ways. Humectants such as glycerine, urea and hyaluronic acid, attract water helping the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin) boost its moisture content.

Occlusives for example, mineral oil and petroleum jelly, tend to be greasy as they consist of oils. They work by providing a layer of oil on the surface of the skin which slows down water loss. Therefore, the moisture content of the stratum corneum is increased.

Some emollients contain both types as well as a host of other ingredients such as fatty alcohols, which are used as thickeners and also soften and smooth the skin, emulsifiers, which keeps two substances such as oil and water mixed together, and preservatives. 

Skin doesn’t become dependent on a moisturiser, so use it whenever your skin needs it.

The choice of emollient depends upon the area of the body and the degree of dryness and scaling of the skin. It’s worth checking out ranges such as E45, especially if you suffer from eczema or have dry, sensitive skin. 

By Daralyn Danns


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Destination Petra, Jordan




All I could see in front of me were hundreds of flickering candles. I could just about make out the outline of the rocks on either side of the narrow gorge, the Siq. It was eerie. I felt as if I had been catapulted back in time thousands of years.

At any minute, I expected some of the inhabitants of this ancient city to appear from out of the sandstone. I carried on walking in the still of the night until I heard the haunting sounds of Bedouin music coming from the distance. Then I saw it, bathed in candlelight, Petra's iconic El Khazneh.

This was my introduction to Petra, one of the wonders of the world. The reason I had come to Jordan.


Petra by night


Having seen all of the other new wonders I did not expect to be overwhelmed by Petra but I was. The Petra by night tour has to be one of my life’s special moments.

The "rose-red city half as old as time", is how the poet John William Burgon described it. But it is not really “rose red”; it is an astounding array of colours.

The city of Petra was carved out of rock by the Nabataean civilisation over 2,000 years ago. Astonishingly it was lost to the western world until 1812 when it was rediscovered by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It is now a Unesco World Heritage Site described as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's heritage."


El Khaznehd

Like me, most tourists enter the city through the Siq, which is more than half a mile long and has 260ft cliffs either side. As you reach the end you will catch your first glimpse of El Khazneh (the Treasury). Its façade, 100ft wide and almost 150ft high takes your breath away.

Petra also has hundreds of elaborate rock-cut tombs and a massive Nabataean-built, Roman-style theatre, which could seat 3,000 people. There are obelisks, temples, sacrificial altars and colonnaded streets, and overlooking the valley, is the Ad-Deir monastery, you will have to tackle 800 rock cut steps to get there.

I climbed up to the High Place of Sacrifice. That's not easy if you are short, as I am. There were some particularly hairy moments when my foot couldn't reach the next step. However, thanks to Jeremy, who guided me over the rough bits, I survived. It was worth it as not only did we pass more tombs and temple facades, we were rewarded with spectacular views of the whole of Petra.

Petra by day


As Petra is extremely dusty, I was glad that I had put on my old, comfortable shoes. During the day, if you don’t like walking, take a taxi. There are plenty of donkeys or camels waiting eagerly to transport you to the main attractions.
 
After one more look at the salmon-coloured El Khazneh, I returned to my hotel, the Mövenpick Resort Petra, to have a hot bath and revive my aching muscles.

Later that evening, my friends and I were soaking up the atmosphere at the hotel’s Al Ghadeer Roof Garden, enjoying a glass of wine and passing around a hubbly-bubbly (a traditional water pipe used to smoke fruit-flavoured tobacco) when a group of people appeared and started dancing to the music.

To our ears it sounded as if the musicians were playing the same tune over and over again but the sounds of the Arabic music had these people on their feet. Even the waiters joined in. We felt we were at a wedding.

I asked one of the revellers what nationality they were. "Israeli," said Simon. "We like Jordan, the people are warm and friendly, the food is delicious and the culture is similar to ours." Maybe, that is Jordan’s other wonder of the world – the place where Jews and Muslims can party together.

Earlier, walking down a street, a man had stopped and asked us where we were from? "London," retorted Jeremy. "Welcome to our country," said the man. Simon was right, the people are lovely. I went to Jordan to tick a box, I didn’t expect to be captivated by her charm and leave wanting more.
 
By Daralyn Danns

Getting there

Royal Jordanian Airlines (www.rj.com)
Mövenpick Resort Petra Hotel(www.moevenpickhotels.com)