One of the most surreal days of my life last year (in fact, probably in many years) was hearing Gerald Ratner speak at an event that had been about loving your brands. Put it this way, didn’t learn anything as he never said if he’d learnt anything, but he reminded me of an awful decanter set I received from Ratners around the same time.
Now thankfully there are some truly beautiful decanters around. I’ve always loved glass and I could definitely give house room to some of these. I mean, look how beautiful this one is:
This is from Waterford’s Mad Men collection, and really does it for me on the styling front. Definitely an investment piece, but it’s both beautiful and practical. There is a gold banded version too, but that may just be gilding the lily.
On a similar styling theme, but somewhat more affordable, then the Edge decanter from LSA ticks the boxes too. I like the rose gold metal element to this, gives it a twist to make it not look dated.
I also really like their Organza decanter, I like the frosted detailing a lot. Still stylish, and not at all like the decanters of the 70s. I never, ever wanted a decanter before, but I could seriously consider one of these. Maybe it’s come from writing about sherry, maybe it’s just because these are gorgeous.
Maybe it’s a sign of middle age! What do you think?
I think it’s a bit sad, but Harveys only get one mention in this book, Sherry. Now I know that it’s billed as a modern guide to the wine world’s best kept secret, and you could hardly call Bristol Cream modern, but as a business they were the leaders. But then I remember Tico and Eleven, possibly also not in the modern mould either. Just showing my age.
This book would make a great gift for someone who has already got into sherry, or just someone who fancies the idea. There are chapters on how it’s made, the spectrum of sherries, and a bit of history. The most interesting part to me is the reviews of the towns and bodegas really driving the modern sherry renaissance.
But then my favourite chapters are probably the ones on cocktails and how to cook with it, or good things to serve with it. The cocktails aren’t ones I’ve seen, such as the Adonis or a Tuxedo, which combines gin and sherry, sounds very potent to me!
Urban beekeeping has definitely been on the rise, and the Cornerhouse in Nottingham got in on the act. And this year they’ve had a bumper harvest, and the honey is truly delicious.
There is much debate about urban honey being more flavoursome, given that urban bees end up with a wider range of plants to choose from, rather than possible single sources out in the countryside. I don’t know the reality, but this is lovely. The money from sales is all going to Mencap, and you can pop in and buy a jar either from Icon Hair & Beauty on the top floor, or the management suite.
I think it must be my age, but I rather sneakily enjoy Good Housekeeping these days. I don’t have a subscription, that might be a step too far, but I do read them when I come across them.
This month’s has an a to z, best of the best of their tried and tested household gadgets, and I was fascinated, obviously, by those they had chosen for our kitchens:
The Boss Blender from Sage by Heston Blumenthal – blimey, at only a penny off £500 I’d want this to be damned good! To be fair, it is a bit more than just a blender, as it will heat your soups or smoothies that you make if you want to. Still, I’d have to really like soup a lot to spend this kind of money. I’ve got a £30 bog standard blender, and a pan. That’ll do me for now.
De’Longhi Nespresso Latissima+ -I’m not a massive fan of pod machines, though I get that they are easy, convenient and mess-free. Apparently if that’s key for you, then this apparently is the business.
Magimix Cuisine System 5200XL Food Processor – gosh, this one seems to have lots of accessories, not to mention three bowls with it, which is perhaps what you’re paying £339 for. But sounds like it’s well built, so it should last you well through lots of processing.
BrevilleVKJ595 Spectra Illumination BRITA Filter Kettle – not sure how I feel about this one, and even Good Housekeeping say that the illuminating kettle casing “adds an element of fun”. It’s a kettle, I’m not sure I need it to be fun. Built in filter is a good thing, only 1 litre capacity is ok for me on my own, but possibly not quite so much when the hordes descend.
Le Creuset Toughened Non Stick Pan range – I love my Le Creuset casserole dish, I’ve had it nearly 30 years and it’s still going strong. I can see why these pans might well have come out on top of the testing, even though they are heavy. I’d pick these as well.
KitchenAid 2 Slice Toaster -ok, on principle I am not having one of these. I’m a Kenwood girl, not a KitchenAid. And I don’t care how good it is, I’m not spending £100 on a toaster.
I am sure that all of these are as fantastic as the testing proves them to be, although I think for many of us they are going be out of range from a budget perspective. Their website gives more reviews of all the items in each category, so you might be able to find something within whatever your budget is.
Now, I’m just off to check out the secrets of the GH Kitchen.
I am sorry to mention this, but three months today and it will be Christmas Day! Which means it’s time to start the planning for the meals, if only because I love this part. Looking forward to new traditions and old, so maybe that I need some new inspiration. These five books are all newly published in time for Christmas this year, so may be worth looking out for.
Elizabeth David’s Christmas – obviously the writing is not new in this, but it’s the first time Elizabeth David’s thoughts on, and recipes for, Christmas entertaining have been pulled into a book. She was such an influential writer it seems unbelievable this is the case, but I will really enjoy reading this one.
Christmas Cookies – the secondary title tells you all you need to know: dozens of classic Yuletide treats for the whole family. As we have a tradition of new PJs and hot chocolate on Christmas Day evening, maybe some of these would be ideal accompaniments.
Maggie’s Christmas – given this has been the year of our big trip to Australia, then it seems appropriate that we might add an Australian view of Christmas to the bookshelf. I think Maggie is the Aussie equivalent of Delia, and so these could become classics, even allowing for the differences in the seasons.
The Irish Countrywomen’s Association Book of Christmas – from Australia to Ireland for another part of my heritage. This says it covers recipes, advice, blessings and traditions for the perfect Irish Christmas. I’m all about mixing traditions and recipes, so might give some food for thought.
Oh Come All Ye Tasteful – who doesn’t want a foodie’s guide to a millionaire’s Christmas feast? Maybe it’s a bit of fun just to read, or maybe you can afford to stuff your turkey with foie gras and black truffles. Personally I think Christmas is memorable when you cook with love, not just expensive ingredients, but may be worth a read.
Yes, Ginvent is beckoning, and I love it. Now, I know this isn’t cheap at £114.95, but maybe you could do what we did as a team last year with a different calendar, buy one between you and everyone gets a door. It would work out at £4.79 each.
Though drinking in the work place may of course be frowned on, but no one says you have to open it then and there.
If you really want to push the boat out, and whisky is more your thing, then the Old & Rare Whisky one might be for you. But that one is going to set you back £41.67 per door, but for a whisky that would be significantly more than that for a whole bottle.
Master of Malt seem to have this market really sewn up, doing everything from whisky through bourbon to rum and even a naga chilli vodka escalation. That’ll heat up your Christmas Eve!
I only have two words to sum up my first experience of Berlin:
I mean, the weather was glorious, we found great places to eat and drink outside, and then couldn’t because the place seemed over-run with wasps. But other than that, I had a great time. Once I’d started eating inside.
Our first day was a bit taken up with recovering from an early flight and fighting the wasps, so not much to write home about. But we made up for it by day two! In fact, was very tempted to stay put all day, as I loved Cafe Einstein so much. As two separate people had recommended it, then we had to try it for breakfast.
They asked us if we wanted to eat inside or out, but warned us about the wasps. We ate inside. I had fantastic scrambled eggs with ham, and could have happily devoured the whole bread basket. The coffee was great, we stayed for a second. Don’t make a mistake and go to the one on Unter den Linden (we did the first day), it’s a bit of a pale imitation. Go for dinner and head to the upstairs bar afterwards, Brad Pitt did. Although he was filming at the time.
We spent hours in KaDeWe, both in the cookshop and in the food hall. I came back with a Brandenburg cookie cutter, though it was a tough decision. The food hall was like Harrods and then some, and we almost fell into indecision over which of the food stations to eat at. So instead I discovered my new favourite champagne is Jacquart.
We walked for miles, which led us to a pleasant accident discovery. We stopped for homemade ginger lemonade at Oxymoron, and liked it so much we went back for dinner. It was a very inventive menu, and seems to change daily. Although I’m still not convinced by the avocado ice cream that came with my starter.
We should have come straight here for pre-dinner cocktails, as the Gin & Tonic Bar was disappointing in the extreme. We interrupted football viewing, so got no menus, surly service and two gin and tonics for €26! In spite of my love of gin, I won’t be going back, although we did discover that we like Gin Sul a lot, and a bottle made it back home with us.
My final meal was a late brunch at Café Krone, after we had walked some of the last standing sections of the wall. Loved it in here, very chilled, perfect Sunday morning kind of place. But there were flights to catch.
We stayed at the Tryp Berlin Mitte, which was lovely and I’d stay there again. We had got a good deal on the room anyway, and upgraded our room for an extra €30 per night. This gave us a much bigger room, free wi-fi, an incredible shower and the contents of the mini bar. We’d do this again, and definitely stay there again, as it’s a great hotel, great staff and perfect location.
So, I’d hope to go back and explore Berlin some more, eat my way round some more places. But only if the wasps have buggered off!
I’ve written many times about how fond we are of our Chinese food in this house, with Chinese being the very first food MGG tasted after milk. So, cooking from China Towns by Jean-François Mallet was really no chore.
In fact the only chore was trying to choose which recipe to try! There are over 100 recipes in here, from soups and dumplings through to noodles, drinks and dessert. Although we probably weren’t feeling quite brave enough to tackle the “weird & wonderful” category. Slow cooked sea cucumber and pumpkin followed by chicken feet will have to wait for another day.
As the book is based on exploring China Towns around the world, then I chose to try General Tao’s chicken. I can’t be sure but this seems to be the same as General Tso’s chicken which I only ever seem to see on menus in the US, although it’s possible that it involves deep frying.
It’s a pretty simple recipe, involving marinading the chicken in soy sauce, tamarind sauce, rice vinegar cornflour, onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Sounds like a lot but dead simple other the chopping of the onion, garlic and ginger. It only needs an hour in the marinade, and that’s pretty much it. We’ll make this again.
I’m sure other recipes are slightly more complex, but I would say you could take what you wanted out of this book, however complex or simple you want your experience to be. The one thing I know I wouldn’t be making is bubble tea. Most repulsive thing I’ve ever drunk, even worse than a Singapore Sling!
If I was going to go out and watch the rugby, then it would have to be at The Merchants Inn. MFL and I can quite often be found in here, popping in for a swift half. Although the decision making is rarely swift, as they keep an impressive cellar of real ales, cider and perry. Their cider festival was particularly hard work. Their Eggs Benedict are pretty darn good too.
A place I’m fascinated by, and that always seems busy, is Summersault. Their windows are so tempting with so many gorgeous things, and then there’s the food. If you’re a vegetarian rugby fan, or just a good food fan, then this is the place for you to try. From a quick bite to tea and cake, this is a great place to try. The building has some very interesting history, linking back to one Jesse Boot of Nottingham. What a pity the current Boots store isn’t this interesting.
For a lively night, then I would choose La Casa Loco. Good range of Mexican dishes, great at offering gluten free options (and making them tasty) and can highly recommend the jug of frozen margarita. It’s a perfect size for two. Or maybe that’s just us.
But my favourite dining place in Rugby is still Café Vin Cinq. It’s the first place we had a date night, MFL organised everything and it was a surprise. A brilliant one. The best thing you can say about Café Vin Cinq is you forget you’re in Rugby. Great cocktails, good wine list, good food, great atmosphere. It’s also home to Bar 25, and if you can work your way up the winding stairs, best place for post dinner cocktails.
To be fair, it’s about the only place.
So, looking forward to some interesting times ahead in Rugby, although sadly I will be missing the Rugby Food & Drink Festival. Due to bad planning, and a clash with MFL running in the Nottingham Half Marathon, then we’re not there that weekend. But if you are, let me know if you find anywhere else I should check out.
It’s no surprise that I like my food. And cooking. And baking. So it’s always a bit of a shock when your food doesn’t like you back. Now, I’m really lucky, I just feel better generally when I stay off the wheat, and when I don’t then I’m the one with a bag of pills and a hot water bottle.
Which is nothing compared to those with absolute proper allergies, who have my every sympathy. But more of us are choosing to eat in different ways, for different reasons, and Free Go is probably the best site I’ve come across recently for those avoiding gluten for whatever reason.
Now, some of this has me holding my hands up in horror. I mean, really, edamame spaghetti?
I’m going to have to order some to try, as I know I’ve had some very varied results with gluten free pastas. Now I have the spiraliser then it’s tending to be courgette spaghetti for me, but there is a whole heap of variety on here.
If you’re craving bread of some version, then they have some great bread mixes, which have been selected for taste and ease of bake apparently. I like the sound of the Italian one, and there are a number of sweet mixes too.
You can choose by product category or by diet, which covers everything from paleo to sprouted. Hence being able to get sprouted organic whole buckwheat flour. Not usually seen in your average Morrisons.
There’s also a whole family section, which I would think was terrifically useful if it’s not you but your little ones that need something a bit different. From baking together to school lunchboxes, there are some good products in here for everyone.
There’s a great recipe section and a blog for articles on general healthy living, so definitely one to keep an eye on. I haven’t ordered anything from them as yet, so interested in any experiences any one has had, but can see some interesting experiments ahead.