How to get a cocktail through a letterbox

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I can think of so many people that this is the perfect gift for. Microbarbox.com delivers a bar in a box to your door, and they could do it every month if you liked.

 

Monthly Tasting Box of Cocktails from Microbarbox.com

 

Now, that’s one piece of post you wouldn’t mind receiving every month! A monthly subscription is £24 per month, and the contents change each month (though if you need to know these things there are always 8 units of alcohol in the box, plus mixers and recipes). There’s an offer on a first box at just £14.

If you just wanted to send this as a one off gift, then there are all kinds of options, like vodka or gin cocktails, or even a gin and tonic box (did I mention I like my gin?) There are birthday boxes and thank you boxes, and even boxes for chocoholics.

 

Gin and Tonic Box from MicroBarBox.com

 

And given that this is October, and therefore Breast Cancer Awareness month, then order the Pink Box and they will donate £2 to Cancer Research UK if you order in October.

 

Pink Box from MicroBarBox.com supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month

 

These are a bit of a fun, you could of course put them together to yourself but for a gift in a hurry or to send to a far flung friend, then these could be brilliant gifts. Cocktail recipes included, just in case the recipe for your favourite cocktail is not ingrained in your brain!

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Halloween treats for kids big and small

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Halloween is almost upon us

 

Halloween seems to grow every year. I have written about it every year since 2009, which I think is the first year we seriously got involved, mainly because we live in a village, there are lots of kids and it’s a pretty safe environment for them to go trick or treating. That, and I have a great cookbook!

But if you don’t want to do it yourself, then these are some goodies, or should that be baddies, that I’ve picked out as treats without the tricks.

Fortnum & Mason Pick Your Poison Truffles for Halloween

I always think of Fortnum & Mason as being too posh to do Halloween (although they are the only retailer I know who lists it as Hallowe’en, which I am sure is technically correct). Last year there was a great hamper, and there’s a few more like that this year. But for a laugh I like the Pick Your Poison Truffles.

 

James Chocolates Spooky Chocolate Haunted House

I’ve done gingerbread houses at Christmas, but never seen a chocolate house before, and certainly not a chocolate haunted house. Love this one from James Chocolates, great centre piece if you’re having a party. Or are greedy.

 

Halloween Cookie Pops

 

For something a bit different, then how about these cookie pops? Yes, I know they’re biscuits on a stick but they are a bit of fun.

 

Those pesky kids! Scooby Doo tin from Biscuiteers

 

This is one from my childhood, and if you were lovers of those pesky kids, then this tin of Scooby Doo iced biscuits from Biscuiteers could be just the thing. I love the monsters in this tin, I can imagine some arguments over who gets what!

 

Halloween Treats jar of sweets

 

Depending on how many kids of all ages you’ve got home for Halloween, then this jar of Halloween treats might be just the thing. All sorts of ghostly sweets from rats to brains, fangs to skeletons, so perfect for the big night.

 

Halloween Chocolate Cube

 

And if you want some cute chocolate gifts, that are more treat than trick, then I love these Halloween gift cubes from Chocolate Trading Co. Slightly less ghoulish than some!

Have some fun with it, particularly as it falls on a Saturday night this year. But remember, please be about the treats and no tricks.

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Meat treats for all the family

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Diner Hamper from Westin Gourmet for dinners aplenty

 

The team from Westin Gourmet sent me some great meat to try recently. I was given free choice of the site, so we ended up with a Diner Hamper, some high welfare veal escalopes and some chicken sausages, and we’re having some great meals working our way through it all.

Have to say, delivery was straightforward, as these boxes are well packed, with plenty of ice packs, so the meat was still really cool when I got home about two hours after it was delivered. The meat is fresh, so some has gone straight into my freezer for another day.

 

Battle of the proper burgers: Westin Gourmet Wagyu Steak Burgers v Gourmet Burger Kitchen

 

We had a bit of a Friday night burger off (partly because we’re an awkward number being 5 of us), so we had the 4 Wagyu steak beef burgers versus Gourmet Burger Kitchen burgers from Ocado. Have to say, the kids demolished these, with no respect to the wagyu but there were clean plates all round. The texture is much denser than the GBK one, and very meaty. My personal preference was for the GBK one, but wouldn’t turn down either one.

We converted the braising steak into a slow cooked casserole cooked in beer, and the meat was delicious and tender. The only thing I didn’t like was that the listing says 5 x 100g braising steaks, but it came as one piece. I’ve no problem with slicing it but sure some will.

 

High welfare British veal escalopes

 

The bacon is ready to be bacon sandwiches, and we’ve still got steaks, wings, drumsticks and pork belly to work through. This box was just under £30, and there are plenty of meals in here. I really loved the veal escalopes we had too, which I just breaded with panko breadcrumbs and served with cos lettuce and lemon. I love high welfare veal, good example of the industry moving on.

The only thing we didn’t love was the chicken breast sausages, but that’s possibly just personal taste. I’d probably do them in a casserole type dish next time as they are incredibly meaty on their own.

So, whilst this was a box sent by the company, I’d happily purchase from Westin Gourmet in the future. There’s loads of variety, and a huge part of their range is sourced from within the UK, with excellent traceability. I’m looking forward to trying the steaks this weekend, and we’ll be looking ahead to Christmas meal planning to see what else we might need to order. They have regular special offers, and a particularly good new customer offer so definitely worth a look.

UPDATE: Westin Gourmet have since been bought out by Muscle Food, but the selections still seem to be very similar.

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Decanters with style

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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:

 

Waterford Mad Men Circo Decanter

 

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.

 

Edge decanter from LSA - great gift for a food lover with a taste for elegance

 

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.

 

Organza decanter from LSA - great gift for a food lover who likes clean lines

 

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?

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Let your food intolerances run free at Free Go

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Gluten Free but not taste free

 

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?

 

Edamame Spaghetti - jury's out!

 

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.

 

Luce's Gluten Free Artisan Bread Mix

 

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.

 

Rude Health Sprouted Whole Buckwheat Flour

 

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.

 

Photo by Memphis CVB on Flickr

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Craft beer 101 with Beer52

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Time for beer

 

I think it’s fair to say I don’t write about beer very often on here, or at least not beer I’ve been tasting. I think the last beer tasting I did was with the ones from Tickety Brew, although that worked out pretty well.

But I have tried more recently, which is definitely MFL’s influence, not to mention the great variety kept at The Merchants Inn in Rugby. So when the team at Beer52 offered to send me one of their cases, I knew some connoisseurs I might have to hand to help with the tasting.

 

exciting box

 

That said, the arrival of the box caused excitement in the village, the postman told me they’d all had a taste. I did point out the box said “to be opened by addressee only”.

Beer52 was set up by James Brown (not the godfather of soul, much younger. And alive), after what sounds like one hell of a great road trip. Great start to a story, and it was a long trip from Edinburgh to Faro, which must be why this looks like lots of thought have gone into it.

If you receive a box, or send it to someone else as a very generous gift, then all the details will fascinate, surprise, delight…all of those things and that’s before you get to the beers. There’s the detailed pouring instructions on the box:

 

clear instructions

 

There’s all the guides in the box, from a welcome to the club, to a glossy book of a road trip around Britain that’ll have you wanting to tick more beers off (good to see Tickety Brew in here!), and then the tasting notes in tabloid format almost.

 

beer tasting notes

 

Oh yes, and there were the actual bottles! I would say you could access all of this whether beer geek or beer novice like me.

 

beer 52 beers

 

There was great variety in the box of 8, and something for every kind of taste. I love that the tasting notes also included a recipe, and some great articles too.

 

beer 52 recipe

 

If you have a beer lover that you need a gift for, or just someone difficult to buy for, then this could be brilliant idea. You can buy one, or even a generous six months worth of monthly deliveries, and options for more or less. A one off case is £24 for 8 beers, and they obviously get cheaper per box the longer you commit to.

The team have given me an exclusive code for £10 off your first box, with the code FOODIE, making it just £14 for 8 beers, with free delivery.  You’ll also get the free road trip book and a bottle opener. Well, it would be a shame to get all that beer and then find you couldn’t find the opener!

Love this as an idea, as it’s a small business supporting other small businesses, so definitely worth a look.

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Three more favourite sales underway

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Seems Lakeland was the first of my high temptation sales to start, but now three more absolute favourites are up and running.

House by John Lewis BakerJohn Lewis – good for good quality bakeware and pans, I also really like their House range. This dish looks like a good size for a lasagne or cannelloni, both popular dishes here. Could get organised for Christmas and buy a reduced price turkey basting set too.

 

Croquembouche

 

I am very tempted by the croquembouche set, now only £7. It’s one of those things I’ve never made, and always fancied trying. I daren’t look at the glass sale, although I did spot a beer tasting set at £12, possibly worth putting away for a last minute beer lover gift.

 

chocolate biscuits

 

Not on the High Street – I know, it’s dull how many times I’ve written about how much I love this site, but it’s the site that keeps on giving with so many great ideas. And even better at sale time for great ideas at less. The biscuit shaped chocolates I wrote about before are now only £9.60, along with lots of other sweet stuff like marshmallows also in the sale.

 

Begins with gin

 

For non calorific options, then it’s a great time to stock up on tea towels and shopping bags, always useful standby gifts (don’t forget that plastic bag ban coming in soon, everyone will need more shopping bags), not to mention there are lots of great mugs. Foodie or not, all three make great gifts for all kinds of occasions.

 

Emma Bridgewater – whilst not mad keen on the very floral stuff, I love Emma Bridgewater’s stuff, and there’s a lot of lovely stuff in the sale.

 

skyline mug

 

I really like the Skyline mug, would keep this for next time I was going to the US. As a great gift to keep to hand, then I like the gift set of two mini mugs that are candles to start with at least.

 

toast & marmalade mini filled mugs

Emma also has great tea towels, and some lovely glass too.

 

Storm Lantern

 

Whilst not completely food related, I love the large storm lantern, perfect for lighting al fresco dinners if we ever get some warm evenings!

So, some lovely things around at discounted prices to think about treating yourself with or keeping for the next time you need a great gift.

 

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The temptation of the Lakeland sale

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I’m a big fan of Lakeland, it’s got me out of more than one cooking equipment hole, and I admit it, I love a good mooch around their stores. Which is why it’s always very tempting when their sale comes around.

And it’s on now, and this is what I’m trying to restrain my credit card from purchasing:

 

Cordless blender

 

Cordless Blender – I think I’ve written about this before given how rubbish my current one is. I love the idea of it being cordless, and as it’s now down to £39.99 from £74.99 got to be worth a serious look.

Cherry stonerCherry & Olive Stoner – I always think these are a waste of space…until I need to stone a whole batch of cherries or olives. Given this is now only £2.99, I think I could be persuaded to find it space.

 

Store & Serve Cake tin

 

Store & Serve Cake Tin – on the basis that I always end up using my normal cake tins upside down to achieve this effect, and that you can never have too many cake tins, then I can see this being very useful. Not to mention well used.

 

Chiffon Cake Pan

 

Chiffon Cake Pan – ok, never baked one of these before in my life, but saw them being done on the Great British Bake Off last year and wanted to, but lacked the right pan. Could now put that right for half the original price. And have something to put in that cake tin.

 

Where there's tea

 

A new mug – because I love and agree with the sentiment, and have just dropped an old favourite mug so there’s space in the cupboard.

I must admit to generally staying away from the Home sale, as too easy to end up with things you never knew you needed, let alone know when you’re going to use them. Or maybe that’s just me! I’m also staying away from the Gift sale, as there is some beautiful glass in there, for which I have a real weakness, but no need.

Have fun, just remember if you don’t need it or won’t use it, then it’s not a bargain.

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Tea for 2 or more from T2

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T2 Tea - great shop to stop by for a food lover who likes great tea

 

I had to laugh at myself in Sydney, as I came across T2 Tea, which I really liked. And bought quite a few things.

Only to find that there are three stores in the UK!

 

More tea at T2 Tea - great store for tea lovers

 

It was a beautiful store, and it did make me think that perhaps this is what Whittards could have been if it had been a bit more single minded. The teas were great, and I really like their cups and teapots. I brought Sydney Breakfast tea back, as that’s where I was, but there are blends for the cities they operate in, as well as a London blend.

 

My new tumblers for tea from T2 Tea - great store to stop by for gifts for tea lovers

 

I bought some beautiful china tumblers back as well, which I haven’t tracked down on their website yet, but got waylaid by fabulous teapots. Very tempting!

 

Teapots & more from T2 Tea

 

There are three stores in the UK, all in the South East but you can order online. Definitely worth a look, I brought cubes of tea back as gifts which were well received, and I’m looking forward to making a Sydney brew this weekend.

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Getting good food ready to let the train take the strain

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British Rail Sandwich? Thankfully for food lovers there are many alternatives now.

 

I had two trips to London this week, which is always a good opportunity to try new things, or at least new to me things. Especially when I’m on the slower train back to Nottingham at lunchtime, which means an opportunity for a train picnic from Sourced Market at St Pancras.

I’m trying to eat a gluten free diet, because I feel better without it, so all the delicious bread and sandwiches were off the menu. But no loss, as I had these chicken teriyaki lettuce wraps from Tanpopo Japanese Food. It was fresh tasting, crunchy and I loved the peanut sauce.

 

Chicken Teriyaki Lettuce Wraps

 

It does feel like an endless journey, so needed something for snacking too, and so had Crispy Bacon & Maple Syrup popcorn from Portlebay Popcorn. I have to be honest, this left me underwhelmed on the flavour front (particularly given these are two of my favourite flavours). I wouldn’t be in a hurry to buy it again.

 

Portlebay Popcorn in Crispy Bacon & Maple Syrup

 

I had Elderflower Green Tea from Daymer Bay to wash it down. Can’t find much about these, inspired by a bay in Cornwall, but with a Kensington address. Hmm. Not much benefit to Cornwall as far as I can see, but happy to be put right.

I saved my last purchase till I got home and did share it over a couple of nights with MGG, and we’ll definitely be treating ourselves to Peanut Butter Chocolate from Nomnom again. As part Welsh, she was happy to discover a Welsh chocolate company, I was just happy to eat great sweet, salty, nutty chocolate. I would imagine we’d like the Salted Caramel version too.

 

Nomnom chocolate

 

So, it was a mixed picnic, some things will definitely be on my shopping list in the future, but even the less good ones were better than a British Rail sandwich!

Photo by Chris Sampson on Flickr.

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