The past week or so has been particularly busy with social events and food shows and this has led me to encounter quite a few new and exciting things. I have eaten mulberries for the first time (courtesy of my graze box), enjoyed a cocktail in a tea cup, nibbled on a savoury macaron, been wowed by some freeze dried fruits, savoured chocolate cheese and have been persuaded to sport a moustache! Random, educational and enlightening!
I have a graze box delivered every Friday, which for those that don’t know about is an awesome little box of nibbles posted to arrive on your desk on your preferred date. The concept sprung from the genius minds of the Love Film team, and I am lucky enough to know one of the founders who keeps me updated with new products and developments… that reminds me, I must arrange a trip to visit the HQ! (to my disappointment, I have been warned not to expect a magical Willy Wonka style factory where the workers skip around picking fruit and nuts to put into the boxes). In this weeks box one of the snack packs was a mix of mulberries and raisins. Initially, I was a little disturbed by their likeness to grub worms, and was a little cautious taking my first bite. They have an unusual dry texture and to be honest, didn’t really think they had a huge amount of flavour. Apparently there are special giant mulberries that have a sticky toffee like flavour and are really delicious, so I will hold my final judgement on mulberries until I try these.
2. Cocktail in a Tea Cup
I took a trip to Kenilworth at the weekend for some planning for my best friends wedding. Her family and I went out for cocktails at the aptly named The Kenilworth, which I had heard great things about. The atmosphere was perfect, waiter charming and the menu a pleasure to read. I like a gin based cocktail and am usually attracted to anything with elderflower in it, so I decided on an English Garden. I was delighted when it was served to me in a tea cup, and the cocktail was really delicious too. If you would like to try this, you should be able to read the ingredients below – the Manzana Verde Liqueur is apple flavour and the other ingredients should be easy to find. Just make sure you drink it in a tea cup for the full experience!
3. Savoury Macarons
I couldn’t resist stopping by the Cheese and Wine Festival on the Southbank at the weekend, which was full of amazing producers. One of the MasterChef Live stall holders, Loretta of Cafe On, was there selling her stunning macarons and I was intrigued to see she had introduced a savoury selection where freshly sliced cheese was sandwiched between the macarons. She offered her suggestions and obviously avoiding the goats cheese, I went for fennel, black pepper and brie and then tomato, spinach and cheddar. I really liked them, as I’m a big fan of sweet and savoury together, but I would like to see if its possible to use less sugar in the macarons, so that the contrast between savoury and sweet isn’t quite so opposing.
4. Freeze Dried Tropical Fruit
There were hundreds of brand new products on show at one of the UKs biggest trade shows, IFE, and although I usually stick to the regional and speciality area of the show I had heard a rumour that there was some pretty exciting stuff going on in some of the other halls too. Freeze dried lychees and mandarin oranges were on my radar and they did not disappoint. I find it hard to comprehend how after the freeze drying process, the fruit is still left with such a powerful, fruity burst that then melts in your mouth. They also had freeze dried vinegars and pomegranate molasses which were very interesting. I can see a new wave of Hestonesque chefs on the horizon waiting to get their hands on these exciting new ingredients, and can’t wait to try them in some dishes!
5. Chocolate Cheese
Thats right, chocolate cheese! One lady claimed that the cheese was like marmite – you either love it or hate it. I had to hold my tongue as I totally disagreed – the chocolate seems to make the cheese sweeter, smoother and creamier and really the chocolate worked to tone down the ‘tang’ of the mature cheddar it was combined with. After a few samples the cheese really grew on me and I could taste the chocolate more and more. I’m not exactly sure where its place is, and can’t see myself including it on a cheese board anytime soon, but it is definitely worth a try. I also like the fact that the company, who already produce an excellent mature cheddar, is innovating and pushing the boundaries of standard cheese production. ‘Revelation’ is made by Richard of the Truckle Cheese Company, a regular favourite at the BBC Good Food Shows.
6. Moustache Wearing
Olives Et Al, a brand with great values and superb packaging, have launched a funky new brand of ‘occasional’ snacks called Captain Tiptoes. Their excellent range of snacks includes Chilli Harissa Nuts, Wasabi Fire Balls and Fire Cracker Chilli Puffs (my favourite) and the front man for the brand is the moustache wearing ‘captain tiptoes’. Whether is was the heat of the chilli or the charming encouragement from the Olives Et Al team, my colleague Emily and I were persuaded to sport moustaches for a photo (another first). If you are so inclined (or want to buy some snacks) you can ‘tache yourself’ here.