Doing Valentine’s Day with style

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Valentine's Day with taste

 

I’m not a great lover of Valentine’s Day, for its over-commercialised predominance of pink and red crap. And never mind the idea that romance is just for one day a year.

But there are some tasteful, not to mention tasty, options around, if you look now, and avoid the last minute trip to the supermarket!

 

The Modern Pantry Perfect Breakfast Hamper

 

For instance, I wrote last year about the lovely hampers from The Modern Pantry, and this year would be no exception. I love their collections, and sure any food lover would too. Also worth checking in on Ottolenghi as well.

 

 

For chocolate lovers, I would try Drop Dead Chocolates or Amelia Rope, as my favourites. Oh, but then there’s Rococo. Not to mention my last great find of The Chocolatier, who would definitely have lots of tasty choices.

 

Heart shaped box from Pong

The only cheesy gifts I’d think about giving on Valentine’s Day would be good cheese ones. Pong are still one of my favourite suppliers of interesting cheese, whether you choose a single cheese or a hamper.

 

Burleigh Pink Edition Gin

And then there’s fizz. Or not fizz. I love Adnams for something a bit different on the wine front, but it might also be a good time to give a pink gin. Burleighs have a limited edition pink edition if you can still get hold of it, or Edinburgh Gin have a very pretty looking rhubarb one.

So, as always from me, my recommendation is go for taste first and foremost, design second, and pre-made Valentine tat only in very ironic, last minute desperation!

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Back to school blues? Not with 45 Gin School

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The best school lessons ever: a night of gin at 45 Gin School - perfect gift for a food lover who loves their gin

 

Got the Sunday night back to school/work blues? Here’s a lesson that cheers a day up: head to 45 Gin School and brew your own bottle of gin. I promise, chemistry was never this much fun.

Let me start by saying that I think this is one of the best gift ideas I’ve come across in quite a while, and I think whether gin lover, food lover, science geek or just fun lover, this is a great thing to go and do.

 

Messy Bessy: the starting point of great gin - perfect gift for a food lover who loves their gin

 

You don’t expect tales of great gin, or a great few hours, to start with “we headed for a farm on the outskirts of Loughborough”. But this one does. The gin school happens at the home of Burleigh’s Gin, and it is on a farm. But once inside, you are transported away to the world of craft distilling. Possibly helped by a Tom Collins. Or two.

Jamie Baxter is the master distiller, and your guide. I love people who are enthusiastic about stuff, any stuff, and Jamie knows his stuff about gin and is most definitely enthusiastic. I could have listened to him for ages, the only person I know who has made an EU directive sound interesting.

 

Jamie and his still, making EU directives interesting - perfect gift for a food lover who loves their gin

 

You’ll get to know about the distilling process, the bottling process, the botanicals…everything you could ever wish to know, and then you get the history. All of which is fascinating, and then you get down to distilling your own bottle of gin.

 

Fabulous choice of botanicals to go in your gin - perfect gift for a food lover who loves their gin

 

Selecting your own botanicals is a little daunting (apart from juniper, which you will have heard several times for Jamie needs to be the dominant flavour for it be classified as gin), but Jamie is great at offering advice. There were gin and tonics flowing by this stage, and plenty of conversation between all of my fellow first time distillers.

We were all thrilled to go through the whole process, of watching our gin drip into beakers, blending it with water, measuring its strength…the whole lot was really exciting. Writing your name on your own bottle of gin was really exhilarating, and I just really enjoyed the whole evening.

 

Blending it with water - perfect gift for a food lover who loves their gin

 

From the still to the bottle: my gin - perfect gift for a food lover who loves their gin

 

Me and my gin - perfect gift for a food lover who loves their gin

 

In fact the only downside was waiting the suggested few days to try the gin! I waited 5, and it was a treat. Of course, everyone was biased, everyone thought theirs was marvellous, but why not? Can you imagine the bragging rights you get each time you get your own gin out to make a drink or two? This really is the gift that keeps on giving.

 

Got to wait for it... - perfect gift for a food lover who loves their gin

 

You can buy an experience voucher, at £90 for one, or £110 for one plus one spectator. You get the tour, something to drink, and your full size bottle of gin. The bragging rights are thrown in for free.

My thanks to the team at 45 Gin School for the invite to this particular event, it was an amazing evening, and lovely to meet some other local bloggers too. If you want to read other views of the evening, then try The Sticky Beak Blog or Midweek Cocktail Club as good starting points.

I’ll be in the kitchen mixing the best gin and tonic ever.

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