Category Archives: Eating Out

BBC Good Food Show Summer 2013 Highlights

I’ve just about recovered from the BBC Good Food Show Summer – as ever it was an awesome show, with well over 100,000 food and gardening lovers coming through the doors! I’m still buzzing with inspiration after meeting so many fantastic producers, chefs, bloggers and food lovers during the show. Here are a few of my highlights, I’m afraid I was having too much fun to take many photos so you will have to use your imagination for some of it!

Backstage snacking

As part of the show team I get backstage access so on Emily Cloke‘s birthday we took some Ooo Meringues behind the Belling stage and ate them with the lovely Simon Diss… then along came Rachel Allen who is even more beautiful and lovely in real life as she looks on the TV!

Katy Truss and Emily Cloke

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The Midlands’ Best Street Food!

I’ve been delighted to be involved in the BBC Good Food Show‘s search for the Midland’s Best Street Food, and so excited that the winners have now been announced! I haven’t yet tried food from any of these amazing sounding vendors so am really looking forward to lunching with them at the upcoming Summer Show! They were all mystery shopped by the BBC Good Food Shows’ Midlands Blogger Community, so we know they are of the highest quality in terms of product, service, use of fresh, local ingredients and creativity.

And the winners are…

Ross and Ross – Slow Roasted locally sourced lamb and homemade Salsa Verde, from Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

Fresh Roots – Vegetarian and Vegan World Food, from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

Jabberwocky – Gourmet Toasties, from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

Squisito Deli– Italian food made using fresh local ingredients, from Rugby, Warwickshire

So that’s four days of lunches sorted! I cannot wait to meet them and find out more about what they do. Look out for them outside of the halls amongst the RHS show gardens, you may just see me there!

Oh, and if you would like 15% off tickets just quote KT15 either on the phone or in the promotional code box!

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Purnell’s Bistro and Ginger’s Bar

Any discerning food lover will have heard of Glynn Purnell, Birmingham’s celebrated food hero and chef owner of Michelin starred and multi-award winning restaurant Purnell’s. I’ve always wanted to dine there, but haven’t yet had the chance, so I was delighted that the first BBC Good Food Show bloggers lunch was to be held at Purnell’s little sister restaurant Purnell’s Bistro which is also the home of Ginger’s Bar.

We were treated to a cocktail masterclass with the undivided attention of a rather charming bar man. He led us through 6 different cocktails, giving us tips, techniques, unique flavour ideas and some flashy flairing too!

This one was rather intriguing – the Lamb Provencal… made with lamb fat infused rum, cranberry and rosemary – almost like fruity, cold gravy but much nicer than it sounds!

The bar tender had lots of special ingredients tucked away behind the bar, from herb infused spirits and fruity mixes to this sticky almond syrup.

We took our cocktails with us to our table where three courses of specially selected dishes were served.

I love butter, so was delighted to see they had their own delicious ‘home-whipped’ butter to be served with home-baked bread.

I started with the butternut squash veloute and ravioli which was packed with flavour, rich and creamy.

Our lovely bar man then supplied us with another refreshing cocktail to cleanse our palettes before the next course.

I couldn’t resist the slow braised beef with shallots and creamed spinach, it was as tasty and flavourful as it looks here.

Desserts included a seasonal crumble with ice cream or chocolate torte with red currant sorbet and caramelised hazelnuts.

We were very well looked after and it is clear that customer service is very important. Prices are great value and although advertised as a ‘bistro’ it certainly felt special and would be perfect for a celebration or special occasion. The bistro gives Glynn fans a taste of his expert cooking, while offering honest (read hefty) portions, a more relaxed dining experience and prices that wont break the bank.

I loved it, but do still want to visit Purnell’s… I’ll start saving now! Have you been to either restaurant? If so, what did you think?

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The Gunton Arms

The Gunton Arms is a relatively new addition to the North Norfolk pub scene, having opened in late 2011. I remember when the previously named Elderton Lodge was closed down for refurbishment and the rumours that flew around about what would replace it (a Londoner, an art dealer, someone to do with Mark Hix – I was excited!). I visited last Christmas and had an amazing meal with lots of wine so we booked early for a lunch with friends the weekend after Christmas. I hadn’t realised, but the pub actually won the Michelin guide’s pub of the year for 2012 – excellent news for them, not so great for us having to plan ahead to book a table!

The owner is an art dealer, and this is certainly reflected in the interior decorations. I’ve heard that there has been some local controversy over some of the art but I think it adds to the character of the pub, and the experience too. A trip to the ladies toilets will either leave you in the privacy of hyacinths or horses and a bare-chested, and rather overweight lady – choose your cubicle wisely! If you are an art lover, you will find a vast range of original pieces including work from Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.

Starters were difficult to choose from, with a great selection. My sister went for their Loch Duart home smoked salmon, which was presented beautifully. It had a perfect texture – soft in the mouth, but still firm and dry. The smoke was strong and unique but didn’t overpower the flavour of the salmon.

I went for the duck egg with lobster and seashore vegetables, which I loved. When I visited before I had a similar dish but with brown shrimp rather than the lobster, either way, the duck egg yolk acts like a rich, creamy sauce to lubricate the dish and for me was the ultimate seasonal starter.

Smoked Gressingham duck with walnut and blackcurrant looked great and was very much enjoyed.

Ham hock terrine was served in a generous portion with home-made piccalilli.

The roast beef was by far the best roast dinner I’d eaten in 2012 – made even better by the intensely rich roast garlic bread sauce (Delia’s bread sauce will never be the same again) which accompanied the chicken but was happily served with the beef too. My boyfriend made the mistake of being lured in by the crispy belly pork with chorizo and chickpea stew on the specials board, and spent the entire meal voicing his dismay at his poor menu choice and accompanying food envy. The beef was cooked just as I wanted, tender and full of flavour, the yorkshire was crispy while retaining a bit of stodge at the bottom, roast potatoes just right, parsnips caramelised to perfection and vegetables lightly buttered and supplied in abundance. Oh and a jug of excellent extra gravy too!

We couldn’t resist dessert. The sticky toffee pudding looked like a work of art and delivered everything you want from this classic dessert, along with a light, milky ice cream to contrast against the sticky, treacley richness.

My choice, the Amedei chocolate mousse, was HUGE but great – it was rich while not too bitter, creamy yet still fresh and was the perfect way of showcasing the quality of Tuscan Amedei chocolate.

 

My sister went for the buttermilk pudding with Somerset cherries in eau de vie. The cherries on their own blow your socks off (there were a couple of cherry casualties), but when eaten with the milky pudding they worked in perfect harmony with each other to make a fruity, boozy and creamy pudding.

The interior of The Gunton Arms is welcoming, like a home away from home (perhaps without some of the more outrageous art and stuffed animals) and luxuriously furnished with an eclectic mix of solid wood, leather, animal heads and the aforementioned art. We ate in the ‘grill room’ where a huge fire-place is used to not only warm the room, but also to cook some of the meat based dishes on the menu.

The view from the lodge is incredibly beautiful, with deer scattered across the surrounding fields. The perfect place to take a long walk in wellies, followed by a well deserved indulgent meal. They have 8 bedrooms, which I’m sure are beautifully decorated, so would be a great place to stay too.

The meal wasn’t cheap, at around £40 per head for a 3 course lunch with a couple of drinks each and tip, but with the quality of food and drink, the luxurious and beautiful surroundings and superb service, we were left feeling full, happy and looking forward to returning.  They also have a well priced bar menu, with enticing items like red deer dogs and venison sausage rolls – so will definitely be back when next in Norfolk to try some of the bar snacks too!

Have you been to The Gunton Arms? If so what did you think? If not, does this post make you want to visit?

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Food Find of the Week – Fortnum and Mason’s Knickerbocker Glory

A visit to Fortnum and Mason is an essential pre-Christmas activity for me. I love the gorgeous Christmas windows, the impressively ornate architecture, the luxury and the unrivalled quality of products and service. I met up with my best friend on Tuesday to do a spot of shopping and to treat ourselves to a special dinner before we went our separate ways for Christmas.

Before I tell you more about my food find of the week, their fabulous Knickerbocker Glory, let me show you some of the Christmassy displays in the shop – I forgot to take pictures of the windows!

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Exclusive Emma Bridgewater Designs

 

I booked a table in the Fountain restaurant, which is on the ground floor of the store. It is beautifully decorated and the service makes you feel very special!

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I really like the ‘Savouries’ section of the menu, which is basically a brunch menu with things like smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, omelette Arnold Bennett and even lobster Benedict, which you can have at any time of day. Isn’t it the height of luxury when you can have brunch for dinner?!

I went for the pan-fried halibut, with tempura cod cheek served with caponata and a creamy sauce. It was delicious, and was even better with their ‘like chip shop chips but more posh’ chips and bread basket.

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And so to the Knickerbocker Glory, which apparently they have been serving since 1955! I’m not surprised it’s still on the menu – it was impressive and soooooo good. With fresh strawberries in sauce at the bottom, layered with the best strawberry ice-cream I’ve ever tasted, fresh vanilla flavoured whipped cream, more strawberry sauce and finally topped with Italian meringue which has been gently toasted on top.

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It wasn’t cheap at £12 but it’s definitely a sharing sized portion! I know it’s not particularly Christmassy but it is the perfect refresher to a posh shopping trip round Fortnum and Mason! Let me know if you have tried before, or if I’ve inspire you to give it a go!

 

 

 

 

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BBC Good Food Show Scotland 2012 – My Highlights

Last weekend I was up in Glasgow for the BBC Good Food Show Scotland. I think most will agree it was one of the best shows yet with a great celebrity chef line up, including the lovely Hairy Bikers, and an even better selection of speciality, artisan and passionate producers from across Scotland, the British Isles and the world!

It’s our London show next week (9th -11th at Olympia) so I’m super busy getting ready for that… but here is a quick run down of my highlights in pictures. Just click on the post title if you can’t see the images!

The show started with a bang as Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry opened the show – after the ribbon was cut thousands of food lovers burst into the show to start their fabulous food experience! It’s a great sight to see, and always gives me goosebumps as the show officially comes to life.

Borders Biscuits were asking visitors to decide whether their new Christmas spiced biscuit should be put into mainstream production. We put our deciding token into the ‘Oh Goodness they’re yummy’ box!

The lovely Kate from Gower Cottage dishing out her amazing brownies…

Whole Foods Market Glasgow were sampling and selling sourdough loaves, giant meringues and Prosecco!

Have you tried Boozeberries liqueurs? Fresh berries inside gorgeous Irish artisan fruit liqueurs… I’m going to be buying some at the London Show for adding something special to sparkling wine at Christmas.

A quick break for delicious fresh cream filled meringues and scones from the Dancing Goat!

Mo and her Cookie Dough! Morag was one of our bursary winners and did a brilliant job of making the most of the opportunity to appear at the show!

Mr Puddledub Buffalo giving out advice on how to cook his fresh buffalo meat.

A quick stop backstage led me to bump into the Hairy Bikers – Si and Dave look great after their dieting and I must say Si looked like a rock star with his skinny jeans!

What is your Christmas meat of choice? A Taste of Galloway were sampling their succulent goose, which is a lovely luxurious way to celebrate at Christmas.

The Champagne Bar was a welcome addition to the show…

We paid a visit to have a well deserved glass of champagne at the end of the day on Saturday – cheers!

We even had a shark!

Only a lucky few of us get to go up and work at our Scotland Show – so the team back in Teddington were delighted that we brought back a range of flavours from the wonderful Ochil Fudge Pantry!

 

I think my highest highlight was walking Mary Berry around the Producers’ Village before the show opened, she was so enthusiastic and interested in the producers and produce!

And now its on to the next one – London is next week, and then our flagship show at the NEC is on the 28th Nov – 2nd Dec. See you there?!

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Savouring Santorini

I hadn’t always wanted to go to Santorini, but after stumbling across it on a last minute holiday search, seeing the pictures and reading all about it, my heart was set. Even though it meant lowering our standards in terms of the accommodation (bad reviews and no air conditioning) in order to be able to afford to go, I just had to go and my poor boyfriend didn’t get much of a say in the matter!

He soon got over it, and we had an AMAZING time – it  truly must be one of the most beautiful places in the world (I haven’t been that many places to compare though)… we fell in love with the scenery, people and the food! Yammas to Santorini!

Oia… where the streets are paved with gold (well marble, but doesn’t it look like gold on this picture?!)… It’s definitely the most beautiful man made part of the island. People in the know where white, the buildings are white and built into the cliffs… a truly stunning and magical place. It’s also an expensive place, so before we went we decided not to eat there, just watch the sunset and go back to good value Perissa where we were staying. Its a popular place, and lots (and lots) of people want to watch the ‘magical’ sunset… we didn’t like being squished up against everyone else so as soon as we saw the perfect seat looking out onto the sunset we decided that we could afford to have a meal. 125 Euros later (compare to 30/40 euros for same in Perissa) we had watched an amazing sunset and had an average meal. Great experience though, and I would recommend anyone to visit.

We took our sunset seats while the sun was still high…

The highlight of the meal was the mixed mezze starter with halloumi, sausage, pastries, meatballs, prawns, pitta, hoummous, taramasalata, stuffed vine leaves and salad.

A glass of Vinsanto (Santorini’s sweet dessert wine) finished off our meal as we watch the beautiful Oia sunset.

 We took a trip to the Santo Wines Winery, which is a cooperative for local wine growers. We were too hot to stay long but had a look at the vines, the view and had a good look around the air conditioned shop. Grapes grown in Santorini are grown on special vines that shelter from the island’s strong winds by growing close to the ground. ‘Village wine’ can be bought very cheaply by the litre in supermarkets and by the carafe in restaurants. It is quite acidic but lovely in moderation!

Ancient Akrotiri is over 3,500 years old, a city evacuated before Santorini suffered the most spectacular of volcanic eruptions, with ash from the explosion found so far away as California and those in the UK able to hear its blast. Lava flowed through the streets of the impressively advanced metropolis, preserving its streets, houses, even it’s drainage systems. Taking a tour of the climate controlled archeological site is awe inspiring, and apparently they have only uncovered a very small part of the buried city.

After our tour of ancient Akrotiri, we walked down to the seafront, where we found a lovely row of fish tavernas – perfect timing as we were hungry for lunch. We picked the one furthest along the coastline, where the seating area jutted out into the sea and octopus legs were strung up to dry in the sun.

We couldn’t work out if the octopus was on the menu so went for a few safer different dishes to share. We started with calamari which was so fresh, crispy and tender.

Tomato balls, or fritters, are a santorini speciality. You may have heard of Santorini cherry tomatoes which are awaiting PDO status… I’ve had ‘Santini’ tomatoes from M&S which I think have been grown to mimic the sweet, full flavoured Santorini cherry tomatoes. We tried a few different versions of these delicious tomato balls, and armed with a few tips from our hotel owner Sandy, I’m going to have a go at making my own. Watch out for a future post when I have time!

The old lady serving us brought us out this little aubergine based dish, as a free little extra. We made lots of effort to speak greek so I think we was thanking us with food – we were happy to accept, it was delicious!

We had quite a few greek salads over the week, this one particularly generous with feta. We also had a few Santorini salads which use the native cherry tomatoes, their special sweet cucumbers and caper leaves, another local speciality.

While on the subject of local specialities, we also tried Santorini’s fava beans, which do have official PDO status. They are served like hummus, but have the texture of dahl – we tried two versions which were both delicious.

The food in Santorini was delicious, great value and inspiring… but the scenery, buildings and views were incredible. Here are a few of my favourite pictures, if you want to see more take a look at my flikr page.

Have you been to Santorini? If not, does this post make you want to go?

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Cattlegrid – New Kingston Restaurant

Kingston is the nearest ‘big town’ to me in Hampton Court. I don’t know it very well, and usually struggle to find a nice place to eat… other than low standard, high priced chain restaurants. I was really excited last year when Byron burger opened down by the river, and I must say their burgers are bang on for what I want from a burger with their charred buns and juicy beef patties… anyway, back to this post! Cattlegrid recently opened in the ‘Rotunda’, opposite the station and near the cinema – a sensible place for a new restaurant!

I visited on their very first night, and despite a slight grill problem after two professional rugby teams came in ordering full racks of ribs for starters followed by huge steaks and more ribs… a proper baptism of fire, the food was delicious, service top notch and atmosphere buzzing.

I started with chicken wings, which are made in the proper American style buffalo wing way; hot, sour and buttery chilli sauce coated over big crispy wings. Definitely the best I’ve had in the UK!

I had the ribs for main course which fell off the bone and were smothered in a sticky, spicy, sweet BBQ sauce – really, really good and served with rather tasty skin on chips too.

We didn’t stay for dessert, but I will definitely be back again to try more from the menu. Welcome to Kingston Cattlegrid, I will certainly be seeing you soon!

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Brockley Market – My Highlights

I recently took a trip down to the much talked about Brockley Market and was really impressed! Created by a local photographer (Toby Allen) with a passion for food, dedication to succeed and the ability to spot an opportunity to create a new market to benefit his local community. I had a lovely time there, great producers, great street food and space to either sit or stand around and eat. Here is a quick run down of my highlights.

Amazing looking stand and food from Mike and Ollie, must try on my next visit.

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Aalto Restaurant, inspired by Marcus Wareing @ Hotel La Tour, Birmingham

With Birmingham being crowned as the Food Capital of Britain by Olive Magazine, I was embarrassed to realise that the range of food I had experienced in Birmingham spread little further than the NEC outlets and buffet at the on site hotel! I was invited up to visit a brand new independent city centre hotel, whose restaurant had been inspired by the brilliant Marcus Wareing, so I happily accepted and had a lovely lunch at Aalto restaurant at Hotel La Tour.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, so arrived early. There were many local businesses, and members of the local press, that had been invited and the bar area was full of people who seemed to know each other. I distracted myself from my awkwardness with a refreshing lemony cocktail and kept the canapé waiters talking for as long as reasonably possible.

Finally it was time to take to our seats, leading me to wonder/ worry about who I might be seated with… to my delight I was seated up at the chefs table along with some local journalists and the lovely Managing Director Jane. It meant I had a view right into the kitchen and an army of friendly staff to talk me through the dishes and keep my wine glasses filled (I was glad I took the train!!).

The menu gave us a taster of what the restaurant has to offer – head chef Alex Penhaligon and his team have worked closely with Marcus Wareing and local producers to deliver a great value, top quality seasonal menu.

We started with leek soup with a Jersey royal foam – served in a shot glass I found it hard to resist swooping my finger round the glass for last of the delicious soup clinging to the glass (I did resist by the way).

We were then given a little cocktail as a palette cleanser between courses. It was strong with a gingery citrus hit.

Next came salty bacon olives balanced with fresh peas and broad beans – I’m pretty sure the ‘olives’ were from Trealy Farm, a brilliant local charcuterie producer.

For the main course came tweed kettle salmon with a fennel on the side and a herb and nutmeg crust. Not only was it beautiful on the plate but delicious too.

The highlight of the meal was the dessert, a Jaffa cake pudding, which was served with the chocolate sauce separately. Marcus Wareing a two Michelin starred chef came and poured the sauce over my pudding himself! I blushed, but thanked him very much. I think chocolate and orange are perfect together so loved the pudding.

After the lovely dinner, we had a chance to talk to Marcus, and Alex the head chef. I was impressed by Alex’s passion and enthusiasm and had a great chat about local producers, I’m going to keep in touch and recommend some of my favourites. Marcus was charming and told me how his relationship with the hotel works – Alex and his team trained and experimented  in Marcus’ own kitchens and are welcome their any time. He works closely with them on their menus, to help inspire and develop ideas. This way of working helps to deliver Michelin starred quality but with affordable prices – something we are all looking for these days.

I’m so glad I got to experience a bit of the Birmingham food scene, but it has made me hungry to try more of it. Whats your favourite Birmingham eaterie? I’d love to know so I can start planning my next trip!

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Dingley Dell Flying Visit at The Victoria

Down on the Dingley Dell farm live some of the luckiest pigs around… they are destined to fly into the hands of some of the most magical chefs in the land! On Wednesday night I had one of the best food experiences of my life – the Dingley Dell Flying Visit at The Victoria.

Dingley Dell supply some of the best chefs, and restaurants, in the country with amazing pork from Suffolk. Mark Hayward’s exciting concept of Flying Feasts brings some of these award-winning, pioneering chefs together, to cook up the most delicious piggy based feasts and to celebrate the glory of the Dingley Dell pig. Not only do you get a wonderful tasting menu, but a complete food experience taking the pig from farm to your fork. I watched a butchery demonstration, video footage of the happy pigs on the farm,  a live video stream directly into the kitchen to watch my food being prepared and then a talk on the dishes from the chefs themselves!

And now for the amazing menu…

Paul Foster – Tuddenham Mill, Suffolk

Pigs trotter carpaccio, charred broccoli, smoked garlic, peanut and burnt onion

Mark Poynton – Alimentum, Cambridge

Pork rillette, braised jowl, acorn praline, pineapple and chickweed

Madeline Bonvini-Hamel and Ross Pike – The British Larder, Suffolk

Crispy pig’s head, ham hock scotch egg, salsify & cauliflower & shallot piccalilli, nasturtium leaves

One more, so you can see how good the scotch egg looks!!

Paul Merrett – The Victoria, London

Asian Dingley Dell Pork: 12 hour belly vindaloo with coconut sambal, jungle style cheeks with soured mango noodles, dim sum with blood orange and fennel

William Curley – Patissier Chocolatier, Richmond

Amedei dark chocolate entremet centred with a smoked bacon caramel served with apricot compote & lemon thyme ice-cream

The tasting menu was absolutely delicious. Highlights for me were the jungle cheeks with mango noodles, crispy pigs head and the salty bacon with the dessert. I loved meeting Mark Hayward, the proud farmer of Dingley Dell pork and all the amazing chefs listed above. Mark and I are putting our heads together to see if we can bring the Flying Feasts to one of the BBC Good Food Shows which would be incredible! Stay tuned!

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Wiveton Hall Café – North Norfolk

Along the beautiful North Norfolk coast is an unassuming fruit farm alongside a grand hall, farm shop and café, the Wiveton Hall Cafe. Delia Smith recently said it’s the best eaterie in the world, but more importantly my friend Ben Pert is one of the head chefs and my dad has just joined his kitchen team as a sous chef! I took advantage of my Easter weekend with family back in Norfolk and had a wonderful lunch at this uncomplicated, beautiful cafe on Easter Sunday.

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Introducing my Food Find of the Week

I have decided to introduce a new element to this blog, a weekly post dedicated to my ‘Food Find of the Week’. I regularly meet wonderful producers, retailers and food lovers, and find new products, books, cool shops and places to eat and drink –  it seems a shame not to share my favourites here on my blog, and by going weekly I have no excuses but to post!

I speak to a mix of well established, popular producers that you may already know and people who may just be in the development stages of their business – I love asking questions about why they came to do what they do, why their products are so great and whether there is anything new in the pipeline.

Look out for my ‘Food Find of the Week’ on Wednesday!

Oh, and just in case you thought any differently, please be assured that I will only write about things I genuinely love/ like/ am excited about on this blog.

 

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The Cheese and Wine Company

A few years ago I met my colleague’s dad Steve Parker at one of the BBC Good Food Shows and we excitedly talked in-depth about his dream to open a cheese and wine shop that would host tastings too. 18 months ago Steve opened The Cheese and Wine Company in Hampton, and I am embarrassed to say that it has taken me this long to pay him a visit (sorry Steve!). I was really impressed with the place, firstly as a brilliant fine food shop but even more with the way he has created a destination for foodies to come to taste, buy, eat, learn and share their passion.

The shop is a cheese/ wine/ food lover’s dream – a wall of wine, an open fridge with a diverse range of cheeses, fresh bread, a selection of speciality and artisan produce and an enormous table in the room next door to host meals and tasting events. One thing that Steve made clear was that they didn’t just sell cheese and wine, but the stories behind the produce and experiences too – The Cheese and Wine Company is about tasting, learning and sharing and having fun whilst doing so.

Steve and his team really know their stuff about cheese – the fridge is divided into different types of cheese, from the recognisable to the unusual. As a result of Steve encouraging tasting in his shop, customers are able to try things they wouldn’t normally dare to, and this exploration can lead to finding some great new cheeses that you wouldn’t ever normally buy. I’m sure we are all guilty of choosing cheeses we know we are going to like!

With wines to suit most budgets and tastes, and helpful advice on what and how to choose the best wines, it’s a perfect place to buy wine whether you know your stuff or don’t have much of a clue.

The shop is also filled with other artisan produce such as chutney, biscuits, flavoured salts, fresh bread, oils, vinegar and a few sweet things too!

I was particularly intrigued by this bottle of olive oil, which is from Steve’s brothers farm in France, La Ferme du Bon Dieu. He produces this cold pressed extra virgin olive oil from Provencal verdale olives – exclusively available from The Cheese and Wine Shop! 
The second room is dedicated to tastings, events and meals where a huge shared table is surrounded by cosy corners, bookshelves and interesting cheesy paraphernalia.

 

 

Steve talked us through some of the cheeses, cutting off small pieces for us to try. Norwegian brown cheese (made with condensed milk) was a little too weird for me but we tried some amazing cheeses too. We bought Halloumi for tonight’s dinner, a creamy wedge of Soumaintrain from Saint-Simeon and a bottle of Doppio Passo (Italian primitivo wine) which came highly recommended. I can’t wait to return for one of the tastings or themed evenings, I doubt I will be able to miss the hot cheese night on Thursday when he is serving fondue alongside fine wines without a corkage fee! Check out his website for more information about his produce and events or to buy online – although its definitely worth the trip to Hampton for!

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Celebrating at Michael Caine’s Abode, Chester

In order to celebrate my sister’s graduation, in Chester, we booked a table at Michael Caine’s restaurant Abode. I’ve always liked the look of Michael’s cooking and was confident that it would be a great place to visit. We had set our hearts on the tasting menu and didn’t even get swayed by the special MasterChef menu. It was a special occasion, so we started with champagne cocktails in the bar and spent a bit more on wine to match the tasting menu.

We began by sitting in the bar with a celebratory cocktail, with a huge picture of the beautiful Debbie Harry looking over us. Cheers and congratulations to my sister Abbie who graduated with a degree in Government Studies!

The glasses were set at the table, ready for our wines to match every course.

The bread was amazing – brought to the table warm and crusty with salty, creamy butter.

Jerusalem Artichoke and Truffle Soup – this was brought to the table in a small cup, a few squares of artichoke and a little truffle   arranged inside.

Along came our waiter with a steaming jug of liquid – poured carefully into our little cups. It was so deliciously creamy, rich and truffley good that we all looked around at each other grinning. If the soup was this good, how amazing would the other courses be?!

‘Wow’ would sum up our reaction to the Citrus Cured Salmon that came next. It was almost heavenly as the salmon melted in our mouths.

Then came the gorgeous braised halibut served with squash and cumin puree, pickled baby onions and a yoghurt and pumpkin seed cracker. This was probably my favourite dish, with so many different tastes and textures.

The main course was a duo of Lake District farmers pork – a seared loin and a braised shoulder. Both were cooked perfectly and the celeriac puree, red cabbage and apple complimented it perfectly.

The cheese course which was a sliver of Garstang Blue with pear and perry chutney and toasted hazelnut bread on the side. Just the right amount of an amazing cheese.

The next course lightened things up a little – a fromage frais mousse with blueberry jelly and lemon granite. A sprinkle of popping candy really made the dish special, we all loved it!

Hot chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream was next, again an amazing dish… Problem was that at this point I had been keeping up with the boys and had drunk all the wine that had come with each course. Things had started to get a little fuzzy!

My sister’s boyfriend has a rather severe nut allergy and I cannot praise the way Abode’s staff dealt with this any more highly. At every point where there was either nut or chocolate in a dish, they prepared and brought out separately, his very own alternative. In his 37 years of living with the inconvenience, he has never felt more at ease, or more cared for in a restaurant. My memory from here rather hazy, I have no idea what this dessert was, but it looked very pretty!

We then had coffees and teas accompanied by petits fours – home-made fudge, marshmallows and raisin cakes. My sister tried the cake first and her reaction made me so excited to try it that in my haste I dropped it in my tea (absolutely nothing to do with my slight drunkenness). It was still delicious!

John had his very own special nut free cake brought out in its own little basket. He loved it!

We concluded it was one of the best meals we had all had… and then I fell asleep in the taxi and got carried to bed!



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Baking at River Cottage HQ

One of my 30th Birthday gifts (from my lovely sister) was a baking day at the River Cottage. We stayed in Axminster for the weekend, had a wonderful meal at the River Cottage Canteen, and made the most of being by the seaside by including a fossil hunting expedition. The baking day was full on, with a great mix of learning, watching, making, socialising and lots of eating!

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Pigging out at The Pigs

Yesterday, my Dad treated my boyfriend and I to lunch at The Pigs in Edgefield, Norfolk. We all loved it and concluded that it could possibly be the perfect pub.  I love the cook book library out the back, being able to see into the kitchen (and when looking into the kitchen I could see them making their own bread) and mostly because you can bring in your home-grown/ caught/ shot produce and exchange it for beer and food credits! We had the full works – starting with ‘iffits’ (Norfolk tapas), hearty mains, warming desserts all washed down with local beer and ice-cold white wine.

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BBC Good Food Show – The Lovely Bits and My Highlights

There was so much going on at the BBC Good Food Show Winter this year that I’m pretty certain I missed a lot of it! With 13 theatres at the show, featuring the Great British Bake Off, Saturday Kitchen and MasterChef and the very best line up of chefs possible, there was just too many places to be at the same time! So what was I doing if I wasn’t watching the chefs?! Well, I was in my element in the Producers’ Village – tasting, talking, learning and loving every minute of it! This blog gives a little  some of my personal highlights from the show.

‘Pizza Time!’ I loved getting this text message from Tim Croft from Paddy’s Hooked on Fish – he had a deal with Amy and Chris from The Northern Dough Co (delicious frozen pizza dough) on the stand opposite… he provided the Queenie scallops, and they provided the dough, tomato sauce and cheese. Scallop pizza. I’m so glad he shared. Amazing with black pepper and a squeeze of lemon!

I always stop and consider my audience before pronouncing the word chorizo. Obviously its a spanish product, so perhaps you should pronounce as the Spanish do, which is chor-ith-o. I feel a bit of a twit saying it like that, so I usually go with chor-itz-o or chor-ise-o. I came across Ana, from Flavours of Spain, (who knows more about chorizo than anyone I know) teaching one of our visitors how to pronounce it the Spanish way. This photo catches it perfectly, don’t you think?!

I didn’t get round to eating any, but don’t these oysters from Rossmore look great!?

I almost bought this Moorlands Cheesemaker’s cheese making kit for my sister, but after asking a few strategic questions to find out if it would be a hit, we concluded that it would all be a little too smelly for her. If my flat wasn’t the size of an average person’s lounge then I would have bought one for myself.

Judy Goodman and her family rear wonderful geese – just look at the lovely way they are presented in the picture below. Goodman’s Geese are Jamie Oliver’s favourites and I can certainly vouch for them after having one at the centre of my  Christmas table for the past few years. If you haven’t tried goose then its a must – so much more luxurious than turkey.

I was very excited to taste the World Cheese Awards World Champion (we hosted the World Cheese Awards and the results were announced on the Wednesday of the show) which was a 10 month Ossau Iraty made by farmhouse producer Fromagerie Agour. I was also delighted that the Cornish Cheese Company came second overall (they were supreme champions last year). I’ve got some in my fridge to take home for the Christmas cheese board.

The World Cheese Awards judging is a spectacular occasion – over 2,500 cheeses all laid out to be judged by the ‘who’s who’ of the cheese world. Favouring Blur over Oasis back in the day, meant that seeing Alex James (from Blur) and his floppy hair perusing over the cheeses did make me go a little weak at the knees!

Beautiful freshly ground spices from Spice Boys London – it was their first BBC Good Food Show and I’m sure you will agree a great addition to the show.

I was delighted with the all round success of Simon Diss at the show – host of the Magimix Theatre. It was his first time presenting at the BBC Good Food Show and we all agreed that he was brilliant! Look out for him at future shows and follow him on twitter (@simondiss). His estate up in Cumbria also rears delicious Geese and Turkeys for Christmas, has an award winning farm shop and sounds rather idyllic – The Cowran Estate.

Now, this is a little bit embarrassing, but I featured on some of our show graphics this year at the Winter Show. It was a welcome to the Producers’ Village message (my area of the show) with a few of my highlights on it. Rather embarrassing when I had to walk past, but I’m still pretty proud of it (and so is my Dad)!


Anyway, I could go on and on, but thats enough for now… I would love to find out what I missed though – what were your highlights?


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Pick Your Own, Pumpkins and Poppies

So this year, my ‘grow my own’ dream hasn’t exactly delivered, and so to pick my own I had to turn. My boyfriend and I produced little more than a handful of clove sized garlic bulbs, a few scraggy herbs and a dozen or so of the tiniest potatoes I’ve ever seen. So a few weekends ago we headed off to a local farm shop where we knew we could get that little bit closer to the good life by picking our own.

It was the last weekend of the year for pick your own and families were out in full force to find the perfect pumpkin for Halloween. There were a few things still available in addition to the pumpkins – sweetcorn, beetroot, spinach and to my surprise strawberries!

Some wasted cobs left naked on the ground…

 

A poppy surprised us in the middle of the corn field, which now reminds me of the amazing sight which was looking down from the gallery of Olympia, at the thousands of silent and still chefs, workers and crowds at MasterChef Live at the weekend. It was a truly moving, goose bump inducing sight.

A few strawberries still left ripe for the picking…

We left the pick your own area of the farm (Garson’s Farm in Esher) with 5 corn on the cobs which were rather over priced considering we had to do the picking ourselves! It was fun though, and got us out into the fresh air for a little while. We then heading for the farm shop where I spent as long as I could get away with looking all the wonderful produce! Jamie gets bored very quickly in such places so I have to scan the shelves wide-eyed to try to absorb all the jars, packets, boxes and tubs of goodness.

I really liked these bottles of french fizzy pop from La Mortaucienne, which are one of my Grandparents’ favourites, come in beautiful bottles and are available online from Natoora.

The other thing that caught my eye were these jars… unfortunately I didn’t stop long enough to pick up on the brand and a half-hearted google search for ‘Just So…’ didn’t bring up any results. They look great though!

The trip to the farm shop ended up rather costly (we couldn’t resist buying a picnic of meats, cheeses and olives), so I think we needed to put a little more effort into growing our own in 2012 – watch this space!

 

 

 

 

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BBC Good Food Show Scotland – Highlights

I am recovering today from a particularly brilliant BBC Good Food Show Scotland – I worked hard and played hard and hope that anyone that either visited, demonstrated or exhibited had as good a time as I did! From kippers to karaoke this blog is going to cover my personal highlights – please do add your own to the comments section.

The Port of Lancaster Smokehouse brought their traditional kipper smokers, and mounds of kippers and smoked meat, fish and game. You can order ‘kippers by post’ on their website.

We don’t do stand awards… but if we did my winner would be Crabbies, it was magical!

Although I don’t like whisky, I think one of the most innovative products we have at all our shows is the Whisky Tasting Company‘s tasting sets – perfect if you want to try whisky but not buy full bottles of each (especially the expensive ones!).

Really good smoked salmon from Rennie’s Smokehouse.
Mojito Jelly from Trotter’s Independent Condiments – tangy and tasty.
The Commonwealth Orchard‘s beautiful apple display.
Just Slate‘s gorgeous slate cake stand.
The Truckle Cheese Company‘s range seems to grow every time I see them! Make sure you try their chocolate cheese if you see them!
 
Luponde Tea‘s delicious teas ready to sample. 
Super shiny knives from Hammer Stahl Cutlery.
Gorgeous cupcakes from Truly Scrumptious.
Iron Brew Sorbet from S. Luca Ice Cream. 

Miss Tunnocks (Caramel Wafers) took a tour of the show – that dress is made out of wafer wrappers!
The Rachel’s Organic team enjoying a few drinks at our exhibitor party.
The team went to a lovely Italian restaurant on the Saturday night – Fratelli Sarti, on Bath Street. From there it went downhill with a rather fun karaoke session! We were all very proud of the show this year and hope all our visitors enjoyed!
 
So, countdown now begins for our next show – MasterChef Live, hope to see you there!

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