What to drink on a Dry January Friday night

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Drinks for Dry January and beyond

 

Let’s be clear on something:

  1. I’m not doing Dry January.
  2. In spite of my love of gin…and wine…and champagne…I’m not actually a very big drinker.

So actually I spend quite a lot of time drinking non alcoholic stuff. Which has been dominated basically by elderflower anything. It’s a move on from lime and soda for sure.

But I think what’s really exciting is the development of lots more alternatives in the drinks department geared towards adults. So whether you’re doing Dry January (in which case please go and try these in your local pub, they still need you) or you choose not to drink alcohol all the time or just sometime, then these are worth a look:

Non alcoholic wines from Belvoir Fruit Farms

Belvoir Fruit Farms deliver a large amount of the cordial content of this house, mainly because they are just up the road. I am really excited by their alcohol free wines as something new to add to the table, particularly for a dinner. The white is from Chardonnay grape juice, blended with peach juice and elderflower, and the red is Shiraz with elderberry and blackcurrant juice. The rosé is a mix of grapes of all colours, but sounds delicious none the less. I can see me keeping stocks of all of these in.

 

Gunna Drinks

I quite often switch to a ginger beer, particularly if I’m eating something more meaty or spicy. Gunna say they are here to spice up the soft drinks market, and their original drink would seem to do that. A blend of spring water, natural gingers, lemon juice and aromatic spices, this sounds like a good winter version of a soft drink.  Great looking packaging too.

 

Seedlip Spirits. Which are not spirits.

 

Seedlip seem to be a very sophisticated offering in this field, and act as great alternatives to gin and vodka. Copper pot distilled, these are sugar and sweetener free, no artificial flavours and still calorie free, these are designed to work with tonic. I think Spice 94 would be my winter choice, moving to Garden 108 for the warmer weather. Not cheap at £27.99, and I think I’d want to try it before committing to a bottle so will be looking out for bars serving it.

 

Nix and Kix Two

 

Nix & Kix would also spice things up, as this one is delivering a hit of cayenne chilli in each drink. Mango & Ginger sounds like a ready made bedmate for chilli, Cucumber & Mint less so, but not tried it so I won’t knock it. Look, it’s a bit light on the benefits of cayenne, it references the 1000 years of benefits but not what it’s doing for you here. Which I imagine is not much. Buy it for the taste, not benefits.

Double Dutch Premium Mixers

Double Dutch’s products could be mixers, or could just be a great drink on their own. Pomegranate & Basil would be right up my street, but then Cucumber & Watermelon sounds great too. Just keep me away from adding the gin to them!

So whether it’s Dry January or Sober October, or all the months in between, then definitely worth checking out your options, whether in a bar, the pub or the supermarket. And if they’re not stocking anything interesting then ask for it, it’s the only way to get things changed.

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November in review – all about the Christmas prep

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An alternative to the caterpillar cake

 

Another month gone, and we’re getting so close to Christmas now. After last month’s obsession with unusual foodstuffs like the Gummi Bear, this month has swung into full on gift searching, but at a more general level. And then the usual array of odd searches that cause me amazement, bewilderment and the odd giggle or two.

So, the top 5 things everyone had on their mind this month were as follows:

1. Foodie gifts and presents – bit obvious with the title of the blog, but a big switch, which suggests everyone is looking for ideas for the foodies in their lives. Over the month my ideas have included where to buy a whole pig, gifts for the tea and coffee lovers, gifts on a budget and what to serve if David Tennant pops round for dinner. Always best to be prepared. And if anyone wants to know, David coming to dinner could be the best gift you could send this foodie!

2. Cupcakes – you weren’t so much making your own as looking for two fabulous suppliers, Bedazzled Cupcakes for if you’re up here in the East Midlands, and The Kent Cupcakery for those in Kent. I would think. Great choices, and I would be getting a move on to get my Christmas order in quick with both, or your local provider. Would make a fabulous alternative to mince pies, or to a Christmas cake. For the adults, have a look at what Sally at The Kent Cupcakery is doing with Limoncello cupcakes! Definitely not one for the kiddies!

3. Hampers – these were definitely beginning to creep up the presents chart, all ready for the festive season. I wrote a piece on hampers back in October, and there are some specific posts on hampers from M&S, Not On the High Street and Funky Hampers. A number of you were looking at hampers you could put together yourself, and I’ll be posting some ideas around this shortly.

4. Caterpillar Cake Tins – wow, this really is the cake of the moment!  Don’t get me wrong, I love a caterpillar cake as much as the next mum, but this month I will be attempting a stable with three horses heads, thanks to MGG and her flicking through of Debbie Brown’s 50 Easy Party Cakes. Photos and tales from the kitchen to follow before much longer. The cake tin is a great route though to a very quick and easy cake, so to be recommended for working parents everywhere who want to turn out a great homemade cake.

5. Alcohol free drinks – some of you are getting ready for Christmas, and providing interesting options for those who don’t, or can’t, drink. I’ve written a few times about how much I like the cordials from Belvoir Fruit Farms, and I will certainly be stocking up on Spiced Winter Berries cordial this weekend. I’ll also be testing my resolve with the Bottlegreen limited edition sparkling presses, which are very pretty, not to mention very tasty.

And for entertainment value, these are my choice searches of the month:

1. Lambrini gifts – stop asking me, I still loathe all of them. Please don’t send me one.

2. Turkey twizzlers – please, I’ve told you before, not on my watch!

3. Campbells condensed soup vol au vent filler – ah, retro food lives on for another month!

4. Asda Vin du Soleil – really, once in this lifetime was enough!

5. Comedy photo aprons – just picture your face on Christmas morning if this one is coming your way!

Looking forward to seeing what comes out top of the pops on the foodie present front come Christmas time. Here’s hoping it’s both tasty, and tasteful for all our sakes!

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Taking the pledge without losing the taste

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Belvoir Cordials - great gift for a food lover who likes a good non alcoholic drink

 

I realised when I had published yesterday’s post that there were other old foodie friends that we stopped by at the East Mids Food Festival, with one of them being Belvoir Fruit Farms. I know they are quite literally just up the road, but still we came back with 3 different bottles.

If you’ve not discovered Belvoir, which I am sure in most of the country is pronounced the French way but here is Beaver, then you really should, particularly if you want good cordials to provide adult alternatives to wine. Lets face it, Diet Coke is not a good accompaniment to most meals, and you can get bored of water.

As a great alternative to white wine then I’m very fond of the elderflower. Great with still water, even better with sparkling. There’s now a Elderflower, Gooseberry & Muscat Grape, which sounds a perfect alternative to a white wine on a summer’s day. They’re also really useful as bases for sorbets, when you need a little helping hand!

For something to accompany a beef casserole or similar, then it has to be Spiced Winter Berries. I stockpile this, as it is seasonal, but I love it. Works equally well as a hot drink or cold, you could also spice a warm mugful up a bit more with a grating of nutmeg or a swirl with a cinnamon stick. You can buy them directly from Belvoir, or most branches of Waitrose.

If you were after more traditional alcohol free versions of wine, then The Alcohol Free Shop is probably a good place to start. They have red, white, rose and sparkling wines, plus alcohol free beer and cider. They also stock the Fentimans traditional sodas, like ginger beer and dandelion & burdock. New to me earlier this year was Kingsdown Drinks, which has a great range of British drinks including not only Belvoir Cordials but also Luscombe and juices from Moors and Lawton Cross.

With the Christmas season coming up this is a good time to start thinking ahead to organise some interesting alternatives to any non drinkers you may be entertaining over the season. They’ll be grateful not to be greeted with diet coke or orange juice and lemonade. Or they can be there for those good intentions of your New Year’s resolutions!

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Looking for Bank Holiday food entertainment

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A nice cup of tea and a sit down. And cake.

 

Call it a hunch, but I reckon there’ll be traffic queues and toilet queues at the grand houses of the UK today. This must be peak viewing day for National Trust properties and other national treasures such as Chatsworth, which these days is less of a trial for children, thanks to kid’s trails and playgrounds, and for food lovers, as most places have caught on pretty quick.

We made a quick dash to Belton House yesterday, our nearest National Trust property. If only because it has an amazing adventure playground for a 7 year old to blow off some steam in. I’d not been before so was keen to see where the food level was pitched at. And I was pleasantly surprised! Local produce was well featured, from Lincolnshire sausages through to local veg. There were gluten free cakes from Crimbles, which is a nice touch for not excluding anyone from tea time treats.

And there were cakes. Glorious, homemade looking cakes. Of course there was Victoria Sponge and Lemon Drizzle cake, but was thrilled to see Chocolate Beetroot (MGG pronounced it delicious) and Parsnip and Caraway amongst others. Decent tea, Belvoir cordials and no sign of instant coffee anywhere. Perfect.

Of course, the grande dame of this sort of thing has to be Chatsworth though. Their farm shop is a thing of foodie beauty, and the coffee shop has the most idyllic view. And I’m not just talking about the cakes. I am thankful not to be there today, as I am sure it is hectically busy, but enjoyed an afternoon there a couple of Friday’s ago. Tea was delightful (and scarily, no more expensive for three drinks and three fabulous cakes than 2 mediocre coffees, a glass of water and 2 cakes at Starbucks) and the staff suitably charming. And the picture perfect scenery just added to the whole occasion.

 

The results of a farm shop dash at Chatsworth

 

The farmshop itself is upmarket, not exactly cheap, but very clearly focused on food values. Great selection that you could do your weekly shop from, or just choose some carefully edited highlights to add to the every day stuff you have. In my little haul there’s some great local salami,  slices of proper baked ham, a Lincolnshire plum loaf, Stout Porter from Tollgate Brewery, something from Peak Ales (we drank that already, so can’t check) and some Stichelton. The black pudding and oatcakes come from my earlier visit that day to the market in Hanley, which was responsible for this dish.

So, I would say planning a visit to a national treasure shouldn’t now mean compromising on your foodie values, even if you don’t take your own delightful picnic. Let me know if you think there’s a foodie treat hidden away at a national treasure near you, I’d love to notch up a few more. Although I’m going back to Chatsworth next week for the Country Fair, from 4th to 6th September. As you can imagine, it has a big food contingent. I’m pleased to see at least two very local suppliers in attendance: Belvoir Fruit Farms for great cordials and Brocklebys for the only organic Melton Mowbray pork pie around.

Advance tickets are still available, and there really will be something for all the family, whether they love their food or not. Just remember to pack a picnic for when you’re sitting in the traffic jam at the end of the day!

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