No vampire bats on the Isle of Wight this weekend

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Garlic of every shape & size possible, as there's definitely more than one type

 

Garlic lovers will be there, and haters will be well across the water, as The Isle of Wight Garlic Festival takes place today and tomorrow. Sounds like you need to arrive hungry as there is a huge variety of local produce with a garlic twist to choose from.

As founders of the festival, The Garlic Farm lead the way. I’d be looking out for their oak-smoked garlic and the garlic and onion marmalade. It also says Hamilton Fine Foods and Isle of Wight Cheese Co will be in attendance, but other than that I’m afraid it’s hard to track down a proper listing for who is exhibiting. But there’s food and drink, music and entertainment, and arts and crafts exhibitors, so plenty to keep you occupied. If you need somewhere to stay, then check out the Island Breaks website for last minute bookings.

Want to send a garlic gift? How about Sticky Garlicky Nuts from Fortnum & Mason? These are sweet, sticky and intensely garlicky, and a little bit different and indulgent. Jamie Oliver does a Vintage cheddar, rosemary and garlic fingers, which sound like one of those things that will just be moreishly delicious. And disappear in seconds! Not on the High Street has a Salt Box from The Fine Oil & Spice Co, which includes a garlic salt, as well as three others.

And if you want a gadget for a garlic lover, then check out the Garlic Zoom. Good chopping, slightly gimmicky, but not too useless! Kids, big and small, will want to take over this job!

In the meantime, I imagine it’ll be a fragrant trip back on the ferries this weekend from the Isle of Wight!

Fabulous garlic mosaic by Robyn Jay on Flickr.

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Knowing your audience

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Know your audience - whatever your business is, you need to know who is interested!

 

In a completely different context, we were talking about knowing your audience the other day, which led onto a conversation about the blog. Now, I never think of having an audience, but I guess from looking at the search terms that land people here, you can work out a thing or two about the casual reader.

So, for the first 6 months of the year, the most popular searches to land here have been

1) Foodie gifts, and various derivatives thereof. Which, given the title, is really no surprise at all, and would be rather worrying if it wasn’t that popular! Hopefully there is plenty of scope to find what you were looking for, or even for things you hadn’t even thought of looking for.

2) Bedazzled Cupcakes. Great local cupcake company, who obviously have a lot of fans out there. I’ve written about them a couple of times, as I see them regularly at local food events, and MGG tends to make a beeline for them.

3) What is the difference between a mini Melton Mowbray pork pie and a mini pork pie? Say hello to my readers from Morrisons, who have ended up here with every combination of the question, which apparently forms part of one of their NVQs. Given our proximity to Melton Mowbray, we are well versed in the way of the pie and they feature fairly regularly on the blog.

4) SW4 Gin, which I think I’ve only written about once or twice. I still owe them a review, as they kindly sent me a bottle to try, and I’m going to to do a testing with this, Gordons and another of the new London gins. Only problem has been I seem to have a lack of gin loving friends, as BFF is a gin hater and not even prepared to have a sip.

5) Cobb Barbecue – a cooking system I’ve mentioned a few times but not tried yet, but obviously quite a few people are thinking about it. Lakeland seem to be the best source.

6) Three Chimneys Cookbook – I’ve featured many, many cookbooks, but this is the one that I obviously have decent rankings for! Great cookbook, great restaurant, amazing location.

7) Marmite XO – cannot abide the stuff, can’t imagine why you would want an XO version, but it would seem many do.

8) Save Water Drink Wine Framed Print – my sentiments exactly, and one of my favourite gifts this year. Available from Not On the High Street, and available as a print or useful shopping bag.

9) Bread making kits – not sure I’ve written about kits but I’ve featured the Panasonic Breadmaker a few times as well as great books on bread, not to mention breadmaking courses with Richard Bertinet.

10) Innocent bee friendly seeds – I talked about these when talking about some of the initiatives to support British honey bees. In case you’re interested, the seeds were a mix of snapdragons, poppies and cornflowers. Now you know!

An interesting mix, and interesting to look at the variations year on year. Last July was all about Delia Smith, red velvet cake and blood oranges. Ah, the fickle finger of foodie fate, in one year, out the next!

Audience photo by jot.punkt on Flickr.

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What are you doing this weekend?

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All steps lead to...tasty treats in Regents Park

 

Me, I shall be exhibiting some very bad dance moves under the influence of half a shandy at Party in the Park. Which is a serious dent in my foodie credentials (not to mention cool rating) as I guess I should have been heading to Taste of London. And having read Niamh’s review of her preview of the food over on Eat Like a Girl then I’m quite sad that I won’t be there.

From Niamh’s post, I would be making a beeline for Salt Yard’s stuffed courgette flowers, and Bentley’s fish and chips. If you head over to their Facebook page you can see all the menus, and I’d have to add The Modern Pantry’s chermoula baked sea bass, Odette’s whipped goat’s cheese and pickled beetroot, and the fois gras parfait from Tom’s Kitchen. Quite how many dishes you can fit into one visit I’m not sure, love to know what anyone’s record is!

And then there’s the shopping as well. I’d have a few tins of Nudo extra virgin olive oils in my bag, some Munchy Seeds for the journey home and then a tasting selection from Paul A Young’s gorgeous chocolate. None of which would do my waistline much good, but what the heck? You could go the whole hog and go for the whole weekend. Even stay within stumbling distance and still have great food at your beck and call with a night at York & Albany.

There is still time to book and buy your crowns, which is a great system I think, as you get to set your budget in advance. I would allow a little leeway though, you just know you are going to get tempted by something additional on your way round!

I loved this photo of the event from another year by acme over on Flickr. Enjoy if you are going!

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Derbyshire Food Fair in photos…kind of

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Choices, choices...

 

We had a great time yesterday at the Derbyshire Food & Drink Fair, although slightly relieved we did go yesterday, which was warm enough, as I imagine today will be a real scorcher. Here’s a few thoughts and photos, in case you are wondering either whether to go, or what you missed!

 

Glorious day for a food festival

 

This was about 11, with a reasonably quick queue. It got very hectic!

 

Good food and sunshine...perfection

 

As you can see, perfect summer’s day, perfect location and surrounded by great food and drink. See, you can keep Earl’s Court, this is a food festival. Yes, you’re right, one day I must stop being bitter about not going…!

 

Queue for Brian? Not when I can sit here in the shade, thanks.

 

Every show had them queueing round the grounds. I like Brian Turner, but I like shade on sunny days more.

 

But he still pulled a crowd, and onlookers

 

Not to mention the sensible lot that sat at the back of the tent in the shade!

 

The empty spaces tell their own story!

 

It was fantastic to meet Wendy and her husband from Quirky Cookies, and great to hear what a busy day they were having. There’s a digger missing as that went home with us.

 

The spoils we bore triumphantly home!

 

Loved everything on here, except Yumberry, which wasn’t my taste and I really don’t need a juice packed in China. I loved the ice creams from Yee Kwan, and found Yee really engaging and knowledgeable. My prize for sheer enthusiasm, though, goes to The Chilli Jam Man. Knowledge, passion, enthusiasm and great tasting products, even for a wimp like me on the chilli front. And expect reviews of the Spicentice packs as I work my way through them.

But all good things have to come to an end…

 

What our feet needed to do by the end of the day!

 

Love to know if you went and how you found it. What did you get?

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The Friday Five – Bring on the Veggies

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Vegetable sunset

Next week is National Vegetarian Week, so I thought it would be good to look at interesting cookbooks that are not about the meat. Even if you’re not a full time veggie, there is a school of thought that says it’s a good thing to have less meat, and therefore you might want some inspiration around some new dishes. Here’s a few to wet your appetite.

1. Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian– this is a classic, and has just been fully updated, and will give you lots to go at, whether you have been a veggie for years, or it’s just a passing fancy for a Thursday night. Rose Elliot really is seen as the queen of vegetarian cooking, so this really should make it onto your cookbook shelves.

2. Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon– in my veggie phase, this was my bible. A prolific writer, and I think this caught my tastebuds as it seemed to be slightly lighter approach than many European writers. Charmaine has gone on to write many books on Asian cuisines, and I’ve gone on to revert back to bacon sandwiches. But I did love the cheese souffle stuffed red peppers.

3. Tender: Volume I, A cook and his vegetable patch by Nigel Slater – I love Nigel Slater, Real Fast Food is the first cookbook I bought myself. And if this had been around when I was doing veggie, maybe I’d still be veggie, as the recipes are delicious. I may still have been tempted by a bacon sandwich. This is not a vegetarian cookbook, but vegetables are the dominant ingredient, so perhaps a good one for households of mixed eating habits.

4. Mediterranean Harvest: Delicious Vegetarian Recipes from the World’s Healthiest Cuisine by Martha Rose Shulman – this is probably my favourite kind of veggie food, and a Greek vegetarian meze is my idea of heaven. This book covers great recipes from Spain, France, Italy, the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa, so giving you a huge variety of recipes and flavours to work from. It makes me think of sunny afternoons, even if it’s going to be grey outside.

5. The Vegetarian Option by Simon Hopkinson – another of my favourite food writers, this is as good as Simon’s other books in my view. I’ve only browsed through this in the bookshop, so not yet made it onto the shelf here (I’m supposed to be economising) but it’s on my wishlist. Perfect for veggies, or just foodies, or veggie foodies.

So these are great books to show how fantastically tasty vegetables can be. And this beautiful shot shows how stunning they can look as well, taken by Thomas Euler over on Flickr.

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Selfridges available anytime, anywhere

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Selfridges, now everywhere

I love Selfridges, could spend hours in there, and eat my way through a great many foodstuffs. So I’m thrilled to find that, finally, their website has gone transactional. Welcome to the 21st century. But the good news is that it gives a whole crop of interesting food possibilities, either to stock up your own cupboard or treat the foodie in your life with.

Having a quick look around the site, there are interesting sounding things from Easy Tasty Magic. Need to bling your dinner? Have a look at the Food Bling Mixed Metals Box. Up for some mischief? Try the White Mischief Rub. Hoping there is some substance behind these, not just gimmickry, but they look good and would raise a smile.

If you want some fabulous Easter treats, or for any other time of the year, then there is a small but select range from Artisan du Chocolat available online, as well as Godiva. Should you be craving a bit of Americana, then there’s a good selection of American “goodies”, from Marshmallow Fluff to Lucky Charms. To wash it down, there’s tea from Tea Palace and Artisan du Chocolat’s hot chocolate.

For something stronger, there’s of course a good selection of champagne, wine and spirits. They even offer a case discount with 12 bottles. It’s almost like Tesco. But with nicer bags.

So, if you’re feeling a bit flush, or got someone difficult to buy a gift for, it’s worth bookmarking the site and heading back from time to time to see what they’ve got that’s new. I’ll just be trying to keep away from the fragrance pages, as all the Tom Ford Private Collection fragrances are available online. There’s a bottle of Tobacco Vanille calling my name!

Great shot of the Birmingham store by ell brown over on Flickr.


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Quick recommendation for Riverford Porchetta

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This will have to be a quick post, as I am in the haze of a glorious Sunday dinner, that had the porchetta roast on the bone at its centre. This came ready to roast with a fabulous salt and fennel seed rub all over, and was fantastically easy to cook. Bung it in the oven for 3 hours with a bit of basting and a fabulous meal emerged.

I’d love to show you the photo of it on the table, but 5 of us fell on it in great delight. It may not look cheap at £14.95 but 5 of us have had more than sufficient to eat tonight, I will have a sandwich from it tomorrow, and I’ll probably make Faux Pastor with the rest on Tuesday. Which makes it just over £1.86 a portion. Still not cheap, but worth every penny in my book.

I don’t think there are many places Riverford don’t deliver to now, and now they’ve reduced the minimum meat order to £25, definitely worth doing.

Off to lie down with the papers now, full.

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What will you swap this Fairtrade Fortnight?

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What will you swap? Fairtrade Fortnight Food Swaps for every kind of food lover

 

The annual Fairtrade Fortnight started yesterday, and I like this year’s theme around asking people to swap just one thing they regularly purchase for the Fairtrade version. Small steps to change always seem much more manageable somehow!

So, bananas and coffee feel a bit old hat, and many will already be buying fairtrade (or did 5 years at The Body Shop do too much brainwashing on me?) Anyway, what else could you swap?

* Swap your vodka for Fair Vodka, the first Fairtrade certified vodka, and the first quinoa based in the world. At last, a decent use for the stuff! And apparently it does it very well as it was voted best tasting vodka 2009 at the New York Spirits award. Does good and tastes good then!

* Swap your regular basmati rice for Suma’s organic & Fairtrade brown basmati. That’s such an easy swap of such a basic item that it almost doesn’t need thinking about.

* Swap a morning brew for a morning brew from Make Us a Brew. Strong, full on, English breakfast tea that is both organic and fair traded. Not to mention it has very cute illustrations!

* Swap your regular beer for something quite different from Mongozo. Fruit based, you could try something like the Coconut Beer, and still keep to your fair trade principles.

* Swap your spice rack to fairly traded spices. I love Steenbergs anyway, but even more so for the fact that there is a large range of fair trade options available from them, as well as being organic. Even if you only switch one spice, it’s a start. I’m starting with cinnamon sticks.

So, take one small step and make one small change. But equally, I want to make another plea, and that is not to forget our own farmers and small producers, that they equally deserve a fair deal. Please get out there and support those working hard, delivering great animal welfare standards and great tasting produce. Small producers making products the traditional way, or inventing new ways, to really delivery high quality products. Fair trade for all!

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MGG does The Field Kitchen – take two

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If you were quick, you may briefly have read my vicarious review of MGG’s lunch at The Field Kitchen at Riverford. Sadly, there was a glitch on the blog and I had to restore to the previous day’s version. Which wiped it out.

I could try and rewrite it, but the original is always the best! Just to say she had an amazingly wonderful lunch that she hasn’t stopped talking about to anyone who will listen. I take it on her recommendation that if you are near the area, or can make the detour, it is worth booking for! If not, then order up the cookbook and invite everyone round for some communal dining.

What can you expect? Well, without being able to taste it, then perhaps it’s best to let some photos do the talking. These are all MGG’s, so a little leeway on the focus is allowed! See if these stimulate your appetite!

 

The menu (if you squint)

 

Where a lot of lunch came from

 

Ploughing through

 

Plates looking clean

 

Anyone for seconds?

 

The only one they didn’t want
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What’s new for Spring?

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Just having a quick virtual browse round to see what’s new for Spring for the foodies, and here’s just a few of the things that have caught my eye:

 

Gluten Free Fishcakes. Only free from gluten, not great taste

 

* From The Fish Society, a tasty treat for those needing a gluten free diet. Norcakes are fishcakes from Norway that have seen neither potato (so you get more fish) or a breadcrumb (so you get no gluten). Great sounding flavours, either Pollock & Lemongrass or Salmon & Dill. Perfect standby comfort food for me.

* I love TheDrinkShop.com, it’s such a great source of such a huge variety of different drinks, the stuff you don’t necessarily see in the supermarket. They’ve just listed SW4 Dry Gin, which I have yet to see on sale round here, or make it into my glass, but it sounds great. And I’m intrigued by the Bitter Truth Pimento Dram, which is pimento and rum. Could make for an interesting evening!

Light my Fire, with chocolate, from Jamie Oliver

* Always a sucker for chocolate, I like the cheeky bars that Jamie Oliver is doing, which include Light My Fire (dark chocolate with mandarin and ginger) and Get Fresh (dark chocolate with a hint of mint). The flavours are nothing new, but the chocolate is 72% cocoa solids, as well as organic and fairtrade, so on top of that to have great looking packaging is a real positive. Cheer someone’s day up, any day, with one of these.

* I know this won’t tick the local box, but it is seasonal. Natoora have Wild Pink Radicchio in from Verona, which they say is very nice grilled, and I would be tempted to try it in risotto, having made one before with “normal” radicchio. I am expecting this to be slightly less bitter than the red version.

* The Eden Project is one of my favourite places, but it’s a bit of a drive from here in the East Midlands. Pleased to see their online shop suddenly looking really snazzy and interesting with some great things on it. For the foodies, then there is the Olive Lovers Gift, which has an olive sapling, and a jar of their own marinated olives. This is going to be one of those taste good, do good gifts, going to support the ongoing work at the Project. They’ve got some great chicken houses too, if keeping your own is on your to do list this year.

So just a few new things that have caught my eye, that I’ll be storing away as ideas for great gift ideas for someone, at some stage, this Spring. What’s caught your eye? I’d love to know.

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