Getting ready for Wimbledon

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Anyone for tennis? A good fortnight for a food lover

 

Apparently there’s been a bit of football on, but that’s passed us by here. But tomorrow Wimbledon kicks off, and that’s a fortnight I love.

Mainly because I love all the elements of Wimbledon, which in my book are champagne, Pimms, strawberries and afternoon tea. The tennis? Well, it’s quite a nice accompaniment to those things. And here’s a few things that might bring even more of a sense of occasion to the proceedings:

 

Strawberries and cream cake stand - great gift for a food lover

 

Ok, at some point there will need to be tea and cake. And as matches can go on for a bit (at least the good ones do) maybe stacking a few up on a cake stand is a good idea. I know it’s made for sharing, but it’s always best to be organised for the long haul! This Strawberries and Cream cake stand seems to sum up all the traditions of Wimbledon in a way that’s just calling out for scones, cream and cucumber sandwiches.

 

Wimbledon Tea Towel

 

If it all gets too much and you need a break from a tense match, then maybe go wash up the cake stand. Which you’ll then need to dry up, with an appropriate tea towel. Of course there are official tea towels from the official store, but I rather like this one from Ray Stanbrook Prints instead, encompassing the many aspects of the district.

 

Vintage Wimbledon Mugs

 

While you’re out there,  you may as well put the kettle on for a cup of tea. And you’ll need something appropriate to drink it out of. I love this set of four vintage designs from the London Transport Museum Shop, which is one of my favourite museum shops. Love the elegance of the game as it’s depicted on these.

 

Strawberry Tea Cosy

 

A pot of tea is probably appropriate, in case it’s a long match, and you’ll be needing a tea cosy to keep it warm. What could be more appropriate than a strawberry tea cosy?

 

Strawberry and Prosecco Personalised Jam

 

And on the strawberry theme, if you wanted either strawberry jam for tea time, or as a gift, then I love this personalised strawberry and prosecco jam from Auntie Mims. Just try not to get through it all before the end of the fortnight.

 

Sipsmith Original London Cup

 

By the end of the fortnight, let’s hope we are toasting at least one British success. You could do it with champagne, you could do it with Pimms, but I quite fancy something a little newer, but based on tradition. My choice would be the Sipsmith London Cup, just to ring the changes slightly. And if there’s no British success to toast, then I’ll make some anyway and toast the no doubt rightful champions.

Enjoy the Championships, it would be nice to think that it might be sunbathed rather than like the past couple of weeks. You know what rain means? That’s right, Cliff’s on standby!

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Scones for Connoisseurs

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Scones

 

I had a great Saturday afternoon trying a lovely box of scones from Sconnoisseur, probably my favourite new gift idea in a while.

I mean, a beautiful box containing delicious scones in a variety of flavours, complete with great jam and tea. Does it get any better? I mean ok, we had to make our own tea, and do the washing up, other than that it was afternoon tea in a box. And given that it’s one of my favourite meals or occasions, then it was always going to be positive if the taste lived up to billing.

Started by Sergei Strelet, who has worked as a pastry chef in top London restaurants as well as product development for artisan manufacturers, this really is a lovely surprise to receive for many occasions. We had four different flavours to try: traditional fruit, white chocolate and cranberry, spelt with cinnamon and date and then spelt walnut and dark chocolate.

We did gild the lily a bit and bought our own clotted cream, but did try to try each one with the jam as well. And I love that it was a jar each of raspberry and blackcurrant, by far my favourite flavours to go with cream tea. We all liked the fruit scone, the white chocolate got an ok and then the jury split over the spelt ones.

MFL wasn’t mad keen on the texture, but given I’ve been on gluten free for several weeks then it worried me less, although it is a little drier than a regular scone. I really loved the cinnamon and date, MFL wasn’t keen, too much like lebkuchen apparently. I thought it was really warm and homely, and something a bit different. But you can’t please all the people I guess.

Personally I think this is a great gift, and with Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day coming up then I think this could be great as something a bit different. You could add your own bottle of fizz to it, you could offer to make the tea, and do the washing up, and you could ring the changes with some of the very different flavours.

Prices start from £10.99.

 

 

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The essence of an English summer in a hamper

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There was a brief glance of summer last weekend, when most of the UK got to feel the sun on their face. It made me think of all those tastes of summer, like cucumber sandwiches, Pimms and elderflower.

 

English Essentials Hamper

 

And if I was having a treat for summer, then I’d feel myself lucky to be the recipient of a Fortnum’s English Essentials Hamper. There’s pickles and chutney to add to a ploughmans, or raspberry jam for your afternoon tea. Oh, and there’s good tea included as well.

So you could make yourself a good cup of tea, a sandwich or two and a scone, and settle down to read the copy of  Tea at Fortnum & Mason that comes with it. Hopefully all this under a tree in the dappled sunlight, as opposed to inside listening to the rain lashing against the windows!

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Buy the experience, not the thing

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I am sure it’s hard not to have thoughts turning towards the festive season, as it hurtles towards us. And this year has certainly felt no easier for many of us, meaning we will be hunting down the best value gifts.

I love to give people experiences, not just things, and that’s why I was attracted to the special offers running on Red Letter Days. There is something for everyone here (and not just on the food front) from meals out to classes and walking tours. Here’s a few that I’d be considering for different kinds of people:

 

Afternoon tea - a great experience for any kind of food lover of any age

 

If I still had grandparents, then I would say afternoon tea is probably a great option. This one for two people is now £24 and there’s a reasonably broad range of locations. If they could get to London, and you wanted something a bit more celebratory, then there is a Champagne Afternoon Tea at the Hilton Green Park, which is now just £48.

 

Mix it up with their own cocktail mixology experience

 

I imagine that afternoon tea might be a bit sedate for some, so for lively twenty somethings in the family, then I think a cocktail mixology experience might do the trick. In fact, this is not just about mixing them, this is a safari supper of cocktail making and drinking in four different locations. Not the cheapest option at £158 for two, but quite an experience.

 

Gastro walking tour of Portobello Market - great gift for a food lover who likes exploring

 

For a food lover like BFF, then I would look at something like the gastro tour of Portobello Market with Celia Brooks Brown. Drawing on her wealth of knowledge and experience, you get to taste your way around the market from Moroccan pastries to gourmet chocolates. The tour is now £90 for two people, reduced from £120. Celia has such great passion for food, that you would be bound to learn something new, not to mention taste some delicious things.

There are the drinkers amongt the friends, who might enjoy a vineyard tour and wine tasting at the Bolney Estate in West Sussex. A tour of the estate accompanied by one of their experts, and to finish up wtih tasting of three wines. Possibly not for everyone given the location, but seems good value at £18.

Of course you could organise everything yourself, which may save a few pounds. Equally, because of Red Letter Days buying power, then they may have got discounts that the rest of us may not be able to access. It’s also worth remembering that a gift like this really does go on giving: there’s the opening of the gift, the planning of when to do the event, the day itself and then the memories that go on much longer. That makes a great gift in my book.

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Gourmet experiences they won’t forget

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Afternoon tea: one of my favourite experiences to gift to a food lover and friend

 

I’ve written before about how much I enjoy giving food experiences rather than just food things, and I’ve given a few from different “experience” companies. I really like Red Letter Days, and they have some great experiences for food lovers and cooks. Have a look at these and see if there’s someone on your list to match them up with:

* Get the inside track on some of the hidden food delights of Portobello Market with Celia Brooks Brown. Eat and drink your way round the area, drawing on Celia’s experience and knowledge, and including things like tapas and seafood. I think it would be fascinating and tasty, and a great way for two of you to spend an afternoon. You can also do Covent Garden with Celia as well, or book both!

* I’m a big lover of afternoon tea. And I’m rather fond of gin. So surely a Hendricks Gin Afternoon Tea is a fabulous combination. This experience pays for two to go to afternoon tea at Hush, with a proper spread, plenty of cake and then cocktails. And then you get to mix your own cocktails. Just don’t book for dinner afterwards!

* Fascinated by all those dishes going round on the conveyor belt at Yo Sushi? Well, now you can book in for sushi lessons with them at a number of the branches around the country. Two of you can get to learn some of the intricacies, the ingredient selection and learn how to make three different types. Then demolish them!

* If you’re going for broke this year, then opening an envelope containing a break at Le Manoir would definitely add a certain something to Christmas morning. This would be on my bucket list, and this “experience” buys one nights accommodation in a junior suite, a truly memorable five course dinner, breakfast, the run of the gardens, the whole lot. Personally, I’d be hoping to run into Adam, and if Mr Blanc was spotted would have to declare “voilà!”

* A little less onerous on the bank balance, but certainly still tasty and memorable, would be the tour of the Penderyn Distillery, the only whisky distillery in Wales. Of course you have to get there, you might have to stay, but sure you’d still be onto a great value weekend. The tour also includes a tasting of the product, which continues to win awards in the whisky world.

These are experiences that I guess you might not think to head out and do yourself, but if someone gave you the opportunity then you’d enjoy those things. I always think these are great options for those people you have no idea what the heck to buy!

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The Friday Five – making time for tea

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What Sunday afternoons are made for, especially for food lovers

 

I adore a proper tea, whether it’s a posh afternoon cream tea or a proper Yorkshire tea from childhood. If you don’t have time for a full lunch or dinner, then nothing to beat getting friends around for tea. Here’s five choices in case you’re lacking tea time inspiration.

Tea with Mrs Simkins: Delicious Recipes for Making a Meal Out of Tea Time – covering everything from the savouries to the sweet stuff, you couldn’t fault the selection to really make tea time a real event. It has ideas for a picnic tea, a cream tea, even a cricket tea and a relaxed chatty tea. There are hiking biscuits and marmalade cake, cheese spread and fish paste, and Welsh rarebit, one of my teatime faves.

Taking Tea with Alice: Looking-Glass Tea Parties & Fanciful Victorian Teas – I work with someone that I think would love this book. Alongside great recipes you get poetry, table settings and ideas for games as well, something to burn off the delicious food. Whimsical and a little different.

The Vintage Tea Party Book – I guess this is a more up to date, yet still vintage version of the Alice book, based on the “trendy London vintage scene” according the blurb. Tasty, unique and eclectic, but I still think you’d turn out some brilliant teas from this. It’s also a very beautiful looking book, with stunning illustrations and photographs. Some great sounding recipes too, like cherry and dark chocolate trifle shots or crab choux.

Tea with Bea: Recipes from Bea’s of Bloomsbury – I think I’ve featured this before, but going to do so again, if only on the basis that the cakes look so truly delicious. I wouldn’t know where to start: vanilla coconut cake with lemon curd and cheesecake filling, gingerbread Guinness cake with poached pears and cream cheese icing, or even the amaretto cheesecake with caramelized peaches. What’s not to love?

Scones – well, the best teas to me are the ones that include scones, and this book has them all. From the savoury world of the cheese scone and beyond, through to more unusual sweet scones, like the Christmas Cake Scone. Still, for me, you can’t beat a perfect fruit scone, or for a real treat, a cherry scone.

Whether you throw a tea party in the garden to make the most of the gorgeous weather most of us are supposed to have this weekend, or its a few weeks time around a roaring log fire, then I guarantee that those taking part will think it an incredible treat.

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Something a bit naughty but nice for teatime

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Something a bit naughty but nice for teatime

 

As you may know from the radio silence, I’ve been away on holiday on recently. Which means there hasn’t been much writing and I’ve had plenty of catching up to do. Which is a good excuse to have a nose around some of my favourite sites to see what they’ve got going on.

And you can’t help but have your eye caught by this tea set at Dutch By Design. Designed by Esther Horchner, this will either raise smiles, interest or eyebrows, depending on who your teatime companions are. Probably not one for when the vicar comes to tea. Although rather depends on the vicar I guess! But if you need to dress them in a hurry then just put the spoon in and they adopt some form of decency.

Should you wish to complete the decadent set, then there is a matching tea pot. All you need then surely are some naughty cream cakes and a rather indulgent tea is ready to go! Or even a racy early morning cuppa!

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Precision Baking Time!

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Precision Baking Time for a Battenburg

I tweeted about this the other day, when I was catching up on the Hairy Bikers Mums Know Best. I’ve written about how much I have a soft spot for them before, and watching them bake continues to confirm why. Especially when they teach me new things.

Like the fact that there is a special baking tin for making a Battenburg in. I always thought it was down to precision slicing of cake after the event, but it appears not. You bake four perfect stripes, in a divided tin, and then sandwich together. Just in time for tea.

Headcook have one from Silverwood that looks very durable, that would last you a lifetime of Battenburg baking, and then some. Happy days and teatimes! (UPDATE, sadly no longer available from this website)

Great photo by Henry Cooksey on Flickr.

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Added fragrance with your afternoon tea

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One of my very early posts on here was about afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols with the theme being inspired by Laura Mercier’s fragrances. Now I hear of another good one, this time North of the border in Glasgow.

Blythswood Square, a beautiful looking historic building, has teamed up for the second year with Jo Malone fragrances to offer an afternoon devoted to beautiful fragrance and great tea. For one afternoon only, on Thursday 10 March, the tea highlights the latest cologne collection from Jo Malone, which is appropriately titled Limited Edition Tea Fragrance Blends. Hmm, not so catchy!

Tea and fragrance will be working in harmony by all accounts, and certainly last year’s event seems to have generated some good comments. Sounds a perfect combination to me, enjoying a great afternoon tea, and getting to learn a bit more about fragrance. I like the fact that they offer a fruit scone as well as plain, being slightly non-conformist in that way!

Tickets are £30 in advance, covering tea, fragrance sampling and all the knowledge. Fails to mention if there’s a goodie bag, but it would be a wasted marketing opportunity if there isn’t!

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Messing around around boats

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How to see the regatta?

 

The British summer calendar clicks on, and today sees the start of Henley Regatta. I’ve always thought Henley sounded splendidly civilised, a bit like the cricket at Lords, just with more water. The gentle splash of oars hitting water, an occasion made for Pimms and cucumber sandwiches, and no need to leave dry land at all in order to enjoy the proceedings.

Apparently, yes, there are things going on other than eating and drinking. How incredible!

If you are attending and are within the Steward’s Enclosure, then there are a heap of dress rules to obey, but some good eating to offest this mild inconvenience. According to the website, one can obtain luncheons and teas, and also partake of a seafood restaurant, as well as a licensed bar or too.

By the time you get to the Regatta enclosure then it becomes lunch and afternoon tea. And it had better be good, as you’re not allowed to take your own. Unless you’re the Hairy Bikers I seem to remember. If you want to self cater, then this is a good guide here, and it sounds like it’s a case of get there early, or pay out the cash.

Now you could get those nice people at Fortnum & Mason to do you a lovely hamper or perhaps pop into the Windsor Farm Shop for a more free form picnic still with royal approval. There is a Waitrose in town as a good fall back, but how about something different on your way in? Try the Chiltern Valley Winery, which would find you plenty of interesting wines, and also beers from Old Luxters Farm Brewery. If you wanted great patisserie and breads, then I would head to Marlow and try out Burgers.

And this is not the time for tatty glasses and plates, so have a look round for some good stuff! I thought John Lewis had upped their game this year and have some good stuff in. I rather like the Kingfisher acrylic stuff, for a more sophisticated choice, and could also be tempted by the Summer Dot range. If you wanted to give this as a gift (and it’s something no one thinks about but often needs) then have a look at the Bright Dot 4 person cooler set. If you’re uninspired by a wedding list, I think going off list for something like this would be acceptable.

If you’re going to do the eco route, then forget most paper plates and their one time usage. Try the Eco Picnic Set by Bob By Post, as this can be used several times over, and then can just go in the compost bin. Good call.

So, have fun around the water, try not to fall in, and just occasionally remember to watch the rowing!

Great shot by winkyintheuk over on Flickr.

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