The month of April has always been special to me and my family. Helen’s birthday is in April, as is our wedding anniversary and this month always heralds beautiful Autumn weather and more often than not includes the Easter holidays.
Many of my April events and celebrations come to mind but the very special ones involve sights I have seen, food and wine I have enjoyed – unforgettable amongst these are the ones Helen and I have enjoyed whilst travelling overseas. One was an amazing wedding anniversary lunch that we enjoyed at the Italian Villa D’Este on Lake Como at their restaurant called ‘The Veranda’. Quoting from my diary…
‘What a special day! After a lazy breakfast and a walk around the shops we dressed for lunch. I hired a chauffeur-driven Mercedes to take us from Mennagio, where we were staying, to Cernobbia to the famous Villa d’Este on the shores of magnificent Lake Como.
What a beautiful place – the gardens and the décor of the hotel were magnificent. The restaurant ‘The Verandah’ was striking in blue and gold stripes with windows filled with masses of blue hydrangeas. We had three staff waiting on our table and the food was out of this world. Helen began with goose liver pate followed by artichoke filled ravioli, then baby chicken with crumbed vegetables and finishing with lemon, orange and strawberry sorbet. I had a warm salad of scampi and scallops for entrée, mushroom and artichoke pasta, then guinea fowl stuffed with mushroom, fetta and truffles and my desert was strawberry mille fielle with almonds, strawberries and coconut dipped in chocolate. What a lunch and all accompanied by wines of the region including a Chardonnay, which cost almost as much as the meal. It was a once in a lifetime event and dreams fulfilled for both of us. We walked the gardens after lunch and caught the hydrofoil back to Mennagio, had a light snack at dusk before retiring early after a most glorious day.’
Two days later it was Helen’s birthday, and we wanted to explore a restaurant called Locanda Dell’Isola Comacina owned by Benvenuto Puricelli on Isola Comacino, an island on the Lake. Again from my diary:
‘We walked the island on winding paths among ruins and goats wearing bells in their ears which was very romantic, in fact we felt like we were the only ones there. Upon circling the island and arriving back at the ferry stop we spotted the restaurant up a winding stone path with a balcony overlooking the lake. We arrived and were seated on the outdoor terrace with an amazing view of the lake and without sighting a lunch menu (there is no printed menu) the food began arriving. The table wine was 1995 Soave from the northern regions of Veneto and suited the food wonderfully. The first course was an antipasto – beans, cauliflower, zucchini, onions, carrot, celery, turnip, fennel, and spinach stalks all prepared differently, accompanied by proscuito and ham and beautiful warm crusty bread. This was followed by salmon trout, which was skinned and boned by the waiter in front of us using a fork and spoon which he held in only one hand (he didn’t touch the fish with his other hand, it was truly amazing to watch and he was so fast). Then crisp skinned chicken with a garden salad, and blood oranges for desert served with a banana liqueur and followed by the island’s famous brandy flamed coffee which was heated in a small cauldron and swung around by the waiter whilst still ‘on fire’.
This ‘flambe’ treat is bestowed on all diners because the owners feel blessed that the guests wish to be present and also because the island was believed to have been cursed – the fire is designed to exorcise the demons. We didn’t want to leave, but the day was drawing to a close and having had a long chat with the owner Benvenuto, he asked us to wait and promptly returned with a porcelain plate depicting two swimming fish on the lake as our gift – how appropriate! He had also signed it ‘To Helena and Nicola with best wishes, Benvenuto.’ We still have it on our wall at home.
What a perfect end to a perfect day! We will always remember that day in fact we both agreed that had our life ended that day, we wouldn’t have minded. It was a dream experience. The only thing missing was our beautiful family who I know would have shared our enjoyment, as most of our family occasions and celebrations have been enjoyed around a table.
And talking of family celebrations, Helen and I attended a Pike family wedding a fortnight ago in the beautiful Clare Valley. It was a beautiful wedding event with a very personal and meaningful ceremony in the gardens of the bride’s parents Jennifer and Ian Deckert of Mintaro. This was followed by a wonderful reception dinner at Pikes Wines, property of Cathy and Andrew Pike.
The bride and groom, Madison and Alister Pike surrounded themselves with close family members and friends and the warmth of emotion throughout the gathering was uplifting. I wish them all the best in their future together, and I hope they are enjoying their honeymoon in New Zealand. We were also very honoured that they chose to have Matthew make their rings at PIKE Jewellers:
I am often asked about my family connection with Pikes Wines of Clare Valley, and I explain it simply by the fact that Sybil, Andrew and Neil Pike are my first cousins. Their father Edgar and my dad Brian were brothers and Edgar and Merle Pike began Pikes Wines over 30 years ago at Polish Hill River, south east of Clare and adjacent to the road leading from Sevenhill to Mintaro. They are probably most well-known for their Clare Valley Riesling and the label design used on this wine and their beers is a direct link to the original beer label used by the historic H. Pike & Co. Brewery of Oakbank . My father was a brewer who worked for Pikes in the early days, almost to the time the company was sold, and it is fantastic to see the return of the very recognisable label. It is a credit to the foresight and hard work of the next Pike generations taking their Pike brand to a very receptive audience.
I am incredibly proud of our association, and we have a lot in common. We both celebrate our close family bonds, a pride in our family history, our true dedication and innovation, a drive to succeed and of course the good old Pike fish, which we both use as the hallmark of our heritage and our superior quality goods. As with Cathy and Andrew Pike and their sons, my children are involved with the new PIKE jewellery brand and in the future maybe the craft of producing beautiful hand-made jewellery will pass to their children. There are now six chances with Matthew and Nadine welcoming their latest Olivia Louise into the world. Congratulations you two!
I hope you all enjoy the Easter break and please stay safe and well,