This week we meet the wine-maker setting up shop to make the most of Ontario’s produce and stay at a blissfully quiet hotel in the middle of Paris. We also visit a new distillery down under, sharpen up our act with a must-have kitchen tool and get stuck in to a recipe for sweet treats. First up, it’s Tyler Brûlé.
It’s 1978, I’m sitting at my desk at Suddaby Public School in the little city of Kitchener, Ontario, and the last class of the day is about to come to an end. As this was a time well before computers were part of daily life (remember the computer-science room with its massive monitors and clunky keyboards?), the school’s public-announcement system was the main form of communication across the two-storey institution. Every day at 15.30 we would stand up, face the front of the class and conclude our afternoon of studies by belting out “God Save the Queen”. A few classmates would mumble along, looking out of the window while playing with their hemlines or shirt-cuffs. But most of us got right into it as it was a bit more uplifting than “O Canada”, which was sung first thing in the morning.
I grew up in a rather standard Canadian household. The Brûlé side had been kicking around in the country’s great wilderness for a couple of centuries; my mother’s family crossed the Atlantic from Estonia, via a long pause in Germany, in the late 1940s. I was born in the afterglow of Canada’s centennial celebrations and Queen Elizabeth II was a guiding but not overbearing presence. Royal visits were major events, the monarch’s Christmas message broadcast on the CBC was essential viewing for all of us (my grandmother always shushing my chattering cousins) and I would never miss an opportunity to pull out the Union Jack bunting for mock battles staged in the garden. In my toybox there were hundreds of lead and plastic soldiers in various ceremonial uniforms, I had a collection of Matchbox royal vehicles and carriages (some complete with little corgis trotting behind), and for a while I lobbied for the royal train in its subdued livery but Santa never managed to find space for it in his sleigh.
When it came time to think about life outside Canada, London and a job at the BBC was the draw rather than a move to New York. Along the way I met the then Prince and Princess of Wales and, a couple of years ago, Prince Andrew invited me to Buckingham Palace for tea and a discussion about the need for sparking a culture of apprenticeships in the UK. His mother was in residence that day but sadly she didn’t pop in to say hello.
Royal visits were major events, the monarch’s Christmas message broadcast on the CBC was essential viewing for all of us
The first news alert that hit our screens on Thursday was clearly a well-considered message designed to prepare the UK, Commonwealth and the world for what was to come over what most thought would be the coming days. When I boarded the mid-afternoon plane from Málaga bound for Zürich, another news alert announcing that Royal Family members were heading to Balmoral Castle on one of the RAF’s newly acquired Falcon jets forced me to pause and consider how the night ahead might unfold.
Hours later, back in Zürich, I was caught off guard. We were hosting a cocktail party for our neighbours and, as I casually wandered past our radio studio, I saw the solemn message on one of the monitors: “The Queen has died.” I walked back to our guests, passed on the news and then quietly excused myself, drove home, convened a call with our editors and then spent the evening watching Huw Edwards anchoring the news on the BBC.
There is much concern that Elizabeth II’s death comes at a difficult time for Brand Britain and the Commonwealth – but I’m not so sure. Perhaps her long reign and swift, dignified passing will help the UK and much of the Anglosphere get back to centre and remind us that there is a passionate, sensible majority out there who believe in the values of decency, tradition, good manners, making an effort and even owning your style. The past few days have revealed that there are some rather nasty individuals who have no sense of humanity, let alone timing. They need no further airtime in this column or elsewhere as they don’t represent the prevailing mood in Edinburgh, Vancouver or Auckland. And, as much of this vitriol emanates from angry college campuses on the other side of the Atlantic, they might be reminded that Elizabeth was not “their” queen, she was ours.
The UK has a moment to readjust, sit up straight, regain its dignity, shrug off its brittle skin and define a new chapter that is self-assured, pragmatic, united and proud.
Pearl Morissette winery has opened an outpost in Ontario that has little to do with its fêted wine. Instead, its latest venture is RPM Bakehouse, a bakery and grocer that showcases the region’s produce. “We wanted to connect further with Ontario’s agriculture,” says owner Daniel Hadida, who is also head chef at Pearl Morissette’s restaurant, which opened in 2017.
“It has been a great opportunity to increase accessibility to this kind of food,” he says. “We’re serving people ingredients that they’ve never heard of, even though some of it grows in their backyards.”
Aussie gin brand Four Pillars was started by friends Stuart Gregor, Cameron Mackenzie and Matt Jones in 2013 but the public was thirsty for more. Luckily its new distillery in the Yarra Valley, about an hour’s drive east of Melbourne, offers tastings and cocktail workshops.
Those interested in the craft can book in to see how the gin is produced (hint: in vast German copper stills and with native botanicals). As well as the classics made with lemon myrtle and Tasmanian pepper berry, the distillery sells new tipples including one that features shiraz grapes and a spiced gin designed with a negroni in mind. Cheers to that.
Luca Lo Pinto is director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome (writes Roz Jones). The Italian editor, curator and artistic director also worked at the Kunstahalle Wien and co-founded the magazine and publishing house Nero. Here he discusses a Turkish roadtrip, pancakes and why he avoids looking in the mirror.
Where will we find you this weekend?
In Turkey. I’m driving from Kas up to Istanbul.
What’s your ideal way to begin a Sunday – a gentle start or a jolt?
I am hyperactive. To avoid the stress of a lazy Sunday, I try to plan as many things to do as possible.
What’s for breakfast?
Black coffee with a good croissant or greek yoghurt with fruit. At the weekend it’s pancakes.
Lunch in or out?
Out. I live near Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II in Rome, an area with plenty of nice Chinese, Indian and Turkish restaurants.
Ideally yes but I am not always motivated.
Indian singer Pandit Pran Nath, master of the Kirana gharana [a singing style] and influence on Steve Reich, La Monte Young, Charlemagne Palestine and Terry Riley.
News or not?
I read the newspapers but primarily the culture supplements.
A glass of something?
Rosé or a vodka tonic depending on the situation.
What’s on the dinner menu?
Pasta with ricotta and mint.
Are you preparing Monday’s outfit?
I prefer to improvise. Oh, and I never use a mirror to check my outfit. I like to imagine what it will look like.
These pretty puff-pastry palmiers are called many different things, from pig’s ears to palm hearts or butterflies. A pastry by any other name would taste as sweet.
Makes 40 small palmiers
For the filling
60g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
50g light-brown sugar
15 cardamom pods (or ½ tsp crushed cardamom)
2½ tsps cinnamon powder
325g all-butter puff pastry (rectangular sheets)
15g unsalted butter, melted
15g demerara (or caster) sugar
If frozen, defrost the puff pastry in the fridge.
Bash the cardamom pods with the side of a knife to open, extract the seeds and discard the shells. If you have a spice grinder, blitz the seeds until they make a powder or crush them using a pestle and mortar until fine. You should end up with ½ tsp of cardamom powder.
Mix all the filling ingredients in a bowl until evenly combined.
Place the pastry on baking paper. Cut it into two equal-sized squares.
Brush melted butter on one side of each square and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Lightly roll with a rolling pin so you are pressing the sugar into the pastry but not making the pastry any flatter.
Flip the pastries and spread the filling evenly across both.
Tightly roll each of the pastries from the bottom up to the middle. Repeat from the top down to create two even scrolls that form the palmier shape. Cover the pastries with baking paper or cling film and chill in the fridge for 30-45 minutes or until firm and easy to slice cleanly.
While the pastries are chilling, preheat the oven to 220C (200C with fan).
When firm, remove the pastries from the fridge and, with a sharp knife, cut the first evenly into 20 palmier-shaped slices. Repeat with the other pastry. Place the palmiers on a tray lined with baking paper.
Bake in the oven for 11-13 minutes until golden brown.
Leave to cool on a wire rack. Enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.
Family-owned German firm Horl 1993 made some incisive decisions when it launched its Black Forest-made knife sharpener, now available internationally. This Bavarian beauty consists of an angled magnetic block (the “S-Pad”) that holds a blade in place as a diamond grinder rolls along it. On the other side, a ceramic disc helps to refine and smooth the newly sharpened edge.
“Cutting should be a real pleasure,” says co-founder Otmar Horl, who is hoping that this German favourite can make its point abroad.
“Everyone knows that sensation of being on a plane above the clouds,” says owner Olivier Breuil (pictured) of the new Hotel Nuage in Paris (the name means “cloud”). “Time seems to move more slowly and you’re cut off from phones, meetings and calls.” That’s the feeling Breuil wants to impart to guests but achieving it, a short walk from the Champs-Élysées, is a harder task.
Yet the in-house library, glass-roofed lobby or one of the 27 (perfectly soundproofed) guest rooms come pretty close. The mood is agreeably relaxed and even breakfast is a take on slow food that’s worth lingering to enjoy. That it’s served all day is a nice touch too.
Huawei already has several excellent true-wireless earbuds to its name but for the Freebuds Pro 2 it has collaborated with French audio firm Devialet. The sound quality is extremely good, with decent bass and crisp higher tones, and it supports Hi-Res Audio. The word “pro” in the title of any headphones nowadays suggests the presence of noise-cancelling and this is compelling.
A “dynamic” setting adjusts this automatically depending on the ambient noise levels around you. The Freebuds Pro 2 look good and fit the ear well, sitting securely even if you’re running. Remove one from your ear and music playback is paused. The buds are lightweight and smaller than previous versions. Battery life is about four hours with noise-cancelling activated. Have a super Sunday.
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