Anyone who knows me knows that I love food and I love wine but I’m also passionate about learning about them too. So when I was invited to a cheese & wine tasting at Zizzi in Royal Exchange Square I jumped at the chance. I apologise for the photo quality now… I was at a wine night after all.
The restaurant is in an enviable location right on Royal Exchange Square and holds part of the old Borders bookshop building with those gorgeous Greek Ionic columns outside. The flagship restaurant opened up in February this year, joining two other Zizzi’s in Glasgow (Princes Square & Cresswell Lane in the West End). This is the first of their cheese & wine tasting nights but they are hoping that it will become a regular occurrence and to roll it out to their other Glasgow restaurants.
Upon entering the restaurant we were met by the manager, who directed us to the bar as we were early. The restaurant was busy & had a buzzy vibe to it that was great to get me out of work mode for the day. We were led to the upstairs bar shortly after for a glass of Prosecco or an Aperol Spritz then headed over to the tables laid out with lots of cheese, wine & some information sheets.
I thought that it was a great idea to lay the tables out so that you were sitting with others & not just in tables of two – it made it very sociable & we chatted to people on both sides of us. It also meant that when we started the cheese & wine tasting we all freely compared thoughts with each other about how everything tasted.
Phoebe from The Roving Fromagiere kicked off the night by explaining our cheese chart (pictured below) and a little about the cheeses we were about to devour. The delicious cheeses were supplied by George Mews, I.J Mellis & Zizzi.
She started us off with a milder cheese, Mozzarella Di Bufala, which was accompanied by some crisp Prosecco. I found it interesting to learn about how the cheese is made and all about the ‘pasta filata’ – the stretching method used to create the balls of mozzarella. Phoebe demonstrated the technique of how to use all of your senses to really understand the cheese and this involved touching, breaking, smelling, rolling and tasting. This was used throughout the tasting to examine each different cheese style. We continued drinking the prosecco while trying the second cheese, which was Pecorino Sardo Isola Bianca. This was my favourite cheese of the night due to its mild yet rich flavour and slightly grainy texture.
Third on our cheese wheel was a goats cheese called Chevre Log, which was full flavoured with a bloomy rind. I tried it but I’m just not a goats cheese lover although the consensus around me was that it had a lovely creamy taste. The Tallegio that was next on the list was more to my liking. When carrying out the sniff test I wasn’t sure about it (deceptively strong for a semi-soft cheese) but it has a comparatively mild yet tangy flavour. We enjoyed a Viognier from Sicily with the goats cheese & the tallegio – the robust flavour with the clean finish more than stood up to the challenge.
Phoebe from The Roving Fromagiere
The next choice was Grana Padano, which I mistakenly thought was a poor mans softer Parmesan. Phoebe explained that Parmesan is made from whole milk but Grana Padano is made from skimmed milk & that Grana Padano has a less harsh flavour so it goes with more food. It made a great pairing with the Barbera D’Asti Superiore 2010 DOCG that we were served. Andrew from Zizzi’s introduced this wine as one that also makes an excellent pairing with cured meats and as a wine that is light yet full of blackberry flavours. I could really taste the blackberry coming through and I enjoyed the wine so much that I will be keeping an eye out for the Barbera name.
The last cheese that we tried was a stinker…literally. It was a Gorgonzola Dolce and the dolce part in the name means that it has a slightly milder flavour to plain gorgonzola. The general feedback in the group was that it had a horrible smell, thank goodness Phoebe had made it clear at the start that she welcomed all opinions! The group was split in the tasting and it seemed to have a marmite ‘love it or hate it’ effect. Phoebe explained that the stronger tasting area were the blue bits so some of us avoided those for a less pungent experience. I wasn’t a fan so I was glad that the Barbera was there to wash my mouth out but I’m glad that I tried a cheese that I probably would have never bought.
Phoebe then thanked everyone for their participation & Andrew explained to us all how our 25% off Zizzi discount cards worked. We were also given a card for a free hand & arm massage and goodie bag at Molton Brown. The event tickets had been sold through Itison for £8 per person and I think that it was great value considering we got a glass of prosecco (worth £4.95), all of the cheeses, tasting servings of Viognier & Barbera, the Molton Brown goodies, a 25% off Zizzi discount card valid for four months & the educational chewtorial from The Roving Fromagiere.
After all of that wine we decided that we better have some more food so we popped downstairs to the restaurant for a table. Most of the tasting group seemed to do the same so the place was packed. We ordered some drinks (ok, we had more wine) and started looking at the extensive menu. After a thorough look we decided on some starters to share and ordered mushroom arancini (rice balls) and garlic bread with mozzarella & balsamic onions. The restaurant has live music on Wednesday nights so we settled in for the night to chat and listen to the acoustic set. The musician, Alan Cranney, played a mixture of hits from Bruce Springsteen to Johnny Cash to Mumford & Sons. We thought he was excellent and it appeared we weren’t alone in this as there were a couple of ladies sporadically dancing.
Our carb-fest was just what we needed to go with the delectable wine and we just managed to save enough room to share an ice-cream. Zizzi’s gelato recipes come from Kitty Travers, an ice-cream queen (their words) who makes the recipes up in her shed in london. We decided, as we almost licked the bowl, that Kitty knows her stuff. The richness of the ghanaian cocoa chocolate truffle gelato complemented the smooth, fresh vanilla custard gelato perfectly.
The kitchen after all of that action
It is lovely to see how sympathetic the designers were to the stunning building in which the restaurant is housed. They have pulled out all of the gorgeous features to make them prominent, restored things like banking boxes & inserted enough modernity to give it a shiny edge.
We really enjoyed our foodie night and it has made me excited about researching events to come. This blog is going to become a great excuse for needing to go to events more often!
(I was invited to this event on a complimentary basis by Zizzi in exchange for an honest review)