Posted by Dave Hasney
I like my beer and this week I sampled two new ones, or new to me at least. Not my usual prefered Cask Ale tipple from one of our UK microbrewerys but some of that bottled “foreign muck” – shock horror!
These ‘new’ beers were actually ancillary to grabbing a bite to eat at Casa Rustica, a small and relatively new Mediterranean style Cafe/Deli, tucked away down Barker’s Arcade in Northallerton.
We’d heard several positive comments from friends about the “great coffee” or “authentic ingredients” and the majority of the reviews at tripadvisor.co.uk also looked promising. Despite the fact they can’t always be used as evidence for a positive experience, we decided to give it a try.
- Lovely Spot: “Worth a visit, lovely selection of patisseries as well as savoury food hot and cold. Always looks really fresh and well presented. Good selection of Italian pasta etc to buy as well” (tripadvisor.co.uk)
- Fantastic Cafe: “my favourite café from the day it opened. Not only do they serve the best coffee in town but the food is superb, the cakes especially” (tripadvisor.co.uk)
- Non buono come previsto: “very high expectations soon became tempered by experience” (tripadvisor.co.uk)
With a maximum 20 covers on two floors, six of which are in the ‘busy’ ground floor shop counter and service area, to say the place is a little compact and bijou is probably something of an understatement. All that said, the promise of “excellent ingredients” all ‘translated’ into a simple menu designed for those who like to chat, love to eat and drink in a friendly environment, had me salivating.
Our first visit to Casa Rustica was in the evening. A fairly limited hot/cold selection of mainly Tapas type fayre was on offer, complemented by a selection (also small) of wine and beer. I have to admit, we have always been great fans of the tapas and meze eating experience. The serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation, more a ‘grazing’ than eating event. In general, you’re less focused upon the consumption of an entire meal set before you.
There weren’t any problems with any of the food or drink, except for it being a little pricey in (my opinion). The service was professional, attentive and all was enjoyed in clean, comfortable and convivial surroundings. We both left having thoroughly enjoyed our experience, suitably sustained with tasty food which was washed down with good beer and a nice bottle of Prosecco. Two happy bellies wobbled home, vowing to return again soon and sample some more of what they had to offer. Little was I to know it would actually be the very next day.
Our second visit turned out to be during the very next afternoon. Walking up the High Street it seemed the perfect venue for a late light lunch; fingers crossed as to availability of a table. The increasing popularity of this venue locally, along with the limited space already mentioned, means the place is often full to busting point.
Day two and my second beer sampling event saw each of us enjoy one of their very tasty panini offerings. The type of easy light-lunch food that’s de rigueur and staple fayre, at least in most of the self-respecting ‘trendy cafes’ aspiring to or operating within, today’s ‘socially’ endorsed restaurant world. On that point, despite finding the Casa Rustica Facebook page, I’ve (so far) been unable to locate any company website or Twitter account. I can’t help thinking they may be missing a ‘Social Media’ trick here. Either that or they’ve simply acknowledged the fact; word of mouth recommendations locally are probably all they can cope with – at least in these premises.
But this blog post was supposed to be about the beer and not the cafe so, without further ado here we go with the drinking! My wife said the Prosecco was very nice and to be fair, I did try a sip (merely for review purposes you understand) and I can concur with her but, what about the beer?
The only beer available was bottles from Birra Amarcord SpA classico line. These beers are brewed in the “splendid natural landscape” of Apecchio, situated South West of their head office in Rimini in Northern Eastern Italy. Thanks to SmartPhone t’internet I found; they’re named after “the four great ladies of Amarcord” an Italian comedy-drama film directed by Federico Fellini. They subsequently became Italy’s bestselling craft beers.
Gradisca, Midòna, Volpina and Tabachèra are not only among the stars of the film Amarcord, but are also the stars of our finest moments, of our evenings with friends, of our dinners by candlelight, of our passion for outstanding beer…(birraamarcord.it)
- Day 1 Beer – La Gradisca (Special ‘low fermentation’ lager 5.2% abv)
- About the beer (from the brewer): “This beer has a bright color and forms a light, compact head. The flavor is full and rounded, with a pleasant taste of hops and a delicate scent of flowers. It presents to the palate with a pleasantly fruity aroma accompanied by a refreshing aftertaste of hops that makes it particularly refreshing.”
- About the beer (from me): despite all the pretentiousness you often find in ‘craft beer’ marketing blurb and descriptions, I can honestly say I enjoyed a refreshing and tasty brew, although it could have done with being a tad cooler. It fully lived up to the brewers hype and complimented the tapas admirably.
- Day 2 Beer – La Midòna (Premium Double Malt 6.5% abv)
- About the beer (from the brewer): “This beer has a golden color, a fine and compact head and an intense aroma of malt and hops. It has a full rounded body with a persistent finish.”
- About the beer (from me): previous pretentiousness comments aside, this was a more ‘solid’ brew, slightly reminiscent of ‘old-world’ barley wines. Those drinks that were once popular with little old ladies (or blokes) in UK pubs. A once in the week personal treat, consumed with a sandwich on the way home after collecting your pension from the Post Office. Perhaps my advancing years are starting to impact upon my taste buds! 🙂
All said, both beers were very enjoyable, if perhaps a little strong for any excessive daytime consumption. After what I’ve sampled from Birra Amarcord SpA (so far) I for one have no reason to think Apecchio couldn’t be “an international craft beer capital” – just the two remaining classico offerings to try now!