Valentine’s Day with taste

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Those who know me will know I’m not going to be big on Valentine’s Day and, unless I have a very deep cover secret admirer, then it’s a two way thing with neither giving or receiving going on. But if I was going to be on either end of this equation, then these are things that would make it seem tasteful, tasty and not tacky for me!

 

Pale Sea Salt Collection from Amelia Rope

 

* Forget heart shaped, red foil covered, if it’s about chocolate, then I’d choose Amelia Rope every time. Restrained design, but bursting with colour and taste on the inside, it’s like a beautiful hidden surprise. Which is quite romantic even in my slightly cynical book. And it’s unexpected and shows thought, so more ticks in the right boxes. I really like the Pale Sea Salt Collection, unusual colours and unusual flavour.

Heart Shaped Box of fabulous cheese from Pong

* Ok, it’s about as twee as I’m going to get, but the only reason for including the Heart-Shaped Cheese Box from Pong is that they are actually good cheeses, in spite of the shape. If your Valentine is a savoury lover, then this may be just the thing.

 

Nyetimber - for a patriotic fizz for the British food lover

 

* If there’s going to be fizz, and I rather feel there should be, then break with the monopoly of the French stuff and support the homegrown version. To me, Nyetimber is up there with the best champagne I’ve drunk, and is far ahead of many of them. I’d be happy with the Classic Cuvee or the Rosé. One of each would be really pushing the boat out.

 

Smoked Scallops from the Hebridean Smokehouse

 

* Smoked salmon might be lovely, but also a bit, well, normal. I would love to have something like the Smoked Scallops from the Hebridean Smokehouse. Different but gorgeous, and something that is just ready for a simple but special meal. Would go really well with a glass of the Nyetimber too.

So, these are not wildly unusual, more like interesting twists on a theme. It’s about indulgence, and quality. No bad things in my book, at any time of year. What will you spoil your loved one with?

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Cry “God for Hops, Eating and St George”

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Celebrating on St George's Day - England expects great gifts for food lovers

Apologies to Will, particularly as it’s the anniversary of his birth and death on the same day, but St George’s Day really should be a call for celebrating what’s great in English food. Let the French scoff, but the renaissance, revival and reinvention of British food hasn’t left a corner of this sceptred isle untouched. But without a brewery with a black beer to push the day, celebrating St George’s Day has never really taken off to the same extent.

So here’s a few things I think you could get in to create your own St George’s Day feast.

* What to toast the day with? Well, if you fancy beer, then what about ordering in the Champion Beer Box from Adnams? I can’t think of a more English environment than Southwold, so this mix of their best beers would seem like a great way to get things started. Or what about a G&T, with something like SW4 gin, part of the vanguard of new London gins. There again if it has to be fizz, then I would say it has to be Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2003, not long since pronounced best in the world in blind tastings.

* What would you pick for a starter? Some might say pork pie, but then they might have given the same answer if I had asked about dessert. They could pick Mrs King’s above , but my personal vote would always go to Brays Cottage. Then you could try something like London Cure Smoked Salmon, from Forman & Field, which has a long history. Or you could go for Cromer crab, or Lindisfarne Oysters. Anything except tomato soup really.

* Main course? Well, perhaps we  have to go with stereotypes, as what can top a really fabulous plate of roast beef? But of course you have to get great English beef to start with. For me, I would go local and buy from Northfield Farm, well renowned for their beef. Their beef is hung for 3 to 4 weeks and comes from either Dexters or White Park Cattle, and the flavours and textures have always been incredible. They are a welcome sight at any country or food fair in our area, and are often at Borough Market I understand.

* There are so many choices for dessert, but it feels like it should be a proper pudding. MGG would choose Sticky Toffee Pudding, and she is very fond of the Cartmel one. I’d also be tempted to buy a Bakewell Pudding, as opposed to a tart, for something very English but slightly different.

* Cheese. You know what? Just go mad! So much good stuff to choose from. Get to your local farmer’s market, or try Paxton & Whitfield or Neal’s Yard for mail order for a huge variety of English cheeses, new and old.

To be honest, if you can’t be bothered to go mad with 4 courses, then I would say a few really good sausages, some great black pudding and some great bread, and you’re ready to go. A great English sausage and black pudding sandwich with a glass of Vimto and I defy you not to toast St George’s health!

Love this St George’s Day photo by Jonathan Beard Photography over on Flickr.

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