What’s the ultimate pong in cheese?

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The Ultimate Pong Box - not a gift to leave somewhere warm

 

I’ve always liked Pong, their selections are always great quality, and they take cheese seriously but not themselves.  So I love the new Ultimate Pong Box, which is definitely an interesting and surprising one to send someone!

They describe them as their most revered and feared, as the strongest, smelliest and most oozy cheeses. You’ve got Epoisses, which is banned on the Paris Metro. Hummingbark, which I’ve never heard of, is made to the same recipe as Vacherin D’Or and tastes lovely but stinks something dreadful.

Finn with double cream sounds indulgent beyond belief, though strong in both taste and smell, and then finish off the box with Royal Bassett Blue. So, a box of deliciousness but my word, you’re going to want to know the recipient is going to be home when this is delivered. If it’s sat in the sorting office for a few days, especially in the summer, well, everyone is going to know about it!

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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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Go late, but not naff

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Panic! Someone made Christmas 25th December!

 

Ok, it’s getting really close to the wire now, and panic may be setting in. But that is no excuse for poor choices. Here’s a few places that will still take your order and guarantee a physical gift to be with you before the big day. But be warned, it’s probably going to cost you more in delivery. Although for some, it will be a small price to pay compared to either facing the high street, or getting the cold shoulder on Christmas Day.

Selfridges – still time to order a hamper, deliveries are being made up till the 21st. So you’ve probably got 24 hours to get yourself sorted, as it’ll come down to next day delivery. But these are a lovely gift that will be well remembered.

Chocolate Trading Co – fantastic selection of all kinds of chocolate, from kid’s stocking fillers to really good stuff that real connoisseurs will love. You can order up until 3.59pm on Monday 23rd December for next day delivery. Better than a quarter pound box from the garage!

Bouf – I always think that this should be said with a Gallic shrug, but I really like Bouf for unusual kitchenwares. You’ve got till 12noon on Friday to get your order in to guarantee it’s with you for Christmas. I’ve had a few cake disasters in my time, so I rather like the Bake A Brick.

Pong – if you need something cheesy but tasty, then you need to head to Pong. You’ve got till midnight on Friday 20th to pick a tasty selection, and let them deliver not only the cheese but the crackers as well.

Lakeland – if you’re reading this after 12 noon today, then you’ve missed it! Otherwise it’s a great place to stock up on kitchen kit, weird, wonderful or otherwise.

The Whisky Exchange – for most of the UK mainland, then you’ve got until Sunday 22nd to order, which means there is a whole breadth of fabulous spirit gifts you could send. They’re also brilliant at miniatures, which make brilliant stocking fillers for adults. That said, I’d like a full size bottle of Portobello Road No 171 please!

So hopefully that half dozen would give you a half decent chance of still landing a half decent gift without the nightmare of finding a parking space and facing the crowds. Just make sure you’re in when the delivery men call…!

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Cheese for Christmas and beyond

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I had a request for some help with a cheese gift for Christmas, I like people who are organised and thinking early! So whilst it might be too early to buy the cheese, these are some of the ones I’d be looking at.

 

Pong Explorer Box - great gift for a cheese loving food lover

 

I really like Pong for cheese gifts, and I really like the Explorer Box, which works its way around some interesting cheese across hard, soft and blue. I love the Cropwell Bishop Shropshire Blue, but then I’m biased as that’s local to me. You can add in some lovely crackers too, and the recipient may not surface until almost New Year!

 

The Big Softy - great gift for a cheese loving food lover

 

The Cheese Shed is award winning, and rightly so. Amazing selection of artisanal cheeses, with a particular West Country bias. Plenty to choose from, I like the idea of The Big Softy, partly for delivering quite dramatic looking cheeses! Or you could put your own selection together, just with choices this good may be paralysed by the choices!

 

The Cheshire Cheese Gift Box - great gift for a cheese loving food lover

 

I often see The Cheshire Cheese Company at shows, and their cheese is certainly tasty, particularly if you like unusual combinations! I can’t say I would love the Sticky Toffee Heaven Cheddar, but some might, and I would suggest skipping the Old Hag if friendly relations are to be maintained. But the Best Sellers Cheese & Chutneys Gift Box would seem a safe and tasty bet.

 

Delilah - perfect for browsing & shopping

 

Now as the Nails who made this request could easily pop into Nottingham, she has two great choices for shopping for cheese. The Cheese Shop in Flying Horse Walk are definite specialists in this area, and would be able to provide everything from great cheese to crackers and chutney. And not far away is Delilah, where you could ponder the choices whilst enjoying a good lunch or just coffee.

 

Peter's Yard crispbreads

 

For some seriously good crackers then for me it has to be Peter’s Yard crispbreads. I love these, and have to hide them from MGG when she’s here as she is rather fond of them too. Perfect with every cheese I’ve paired with them yet, they look great as a gift, but could start an ongoing addiction.

To be honest, the Nails is also spoilt for choice around here with some great farm shops so could have a trip out and track down some tasty treats at the same time. Top of my list would be Welbeck, Gonalston and Harkers, or for the full day out then Chatsworth is not a million miles away.

Who said Christmas shopping isn’t fun? Probably Mr Nails.

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Thinking ahead to Christmas cheese with Pong

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I’ve written a few times about Pong, who I think continue to offer great selections of cheese, for all tastes and pockets. Of course, in an ideal world, we’d all spend December wandering the nearest farmer’s market and choosing the very best of local dairy products and assembling them lovingly into beautiful hampers to be hand delivered, by sledge, on a snowy Christmas Eve.

And back in the real world…we need someone else to take some of the strain!

 

Christmas Explorere Box from Pong - fabulous cheese Christmas gift for a food lover who loves their cheese

 

I like the Christmas Explorer Box, which has something for everyone, from a Westcombe Cheddar through to the unpasteurised delights of the Ragstone Log, which is a creamy organic goat’s cheese. The odd looking one is a Langres, which I can imagine the kids poking at.

 

Pong Deluxe Cheese Hamper - fabulous cheese Christmas gift for a food lover who loves their cheese

 

If you’ve got someone who really loves cheese, or someone who has been very good this year, then the Deluxe Hamper has to be where it’s at. Although I would hope the Stinking Bishop is well wrapped, otherwise this may not be the popular gift you were hoping for. But with a whole truckle of Quickes Cheddar, Dorset Blue Vinny and Vacherin Mont D’Or included, as well as crackers and chutney, they could have just cheese all through the Christmas period.

 

English Cheese Selection Box from Pong - fabulous cheese Christmas gift for a food lover who loves their cheese

 

And if you wanted to support the more local dairy industries, then there is always the English or Welsh Selection Box. I love these, although do have some disagreement with the English box, as this is strictly a Colston Bassett household when it comes to Stilton.

These are all great foodie gifts, for those that love their cheese, but also worth just stocking up for your own eating delight as well. Work on the one for them, one for you principle!

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Mark your diary for National Dairy Week!

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National Dairy week is upon us, time to get out and experience the best that our dairies have to offer. And they really need us, as the supermarkets continue to squeeze prices on milk, and the threat of superdairies looms. Which are not really all that super.

At the same time the number of artisanal manufacturers across the spectrum of dairy products seems to be growing. Here’s a few places to be tracking some down:

Pong – great one stop source for great cheese from smaller producers across the UK and Europe. I like the sound, and look, of the Bosworth Leaf Goats cheese, and the beautifully named Wyfe of Bath. Plenty to choose from, for every kind of cheese taste.

The Cheese Shed – another favourite, home to a great collection of West Country artisan cheeses. If you want something a bit unusual, try something like Pendragon made from buffalo milk.

Yee Kwan – I am not sure how you get ice cream delivered by online order, but if you can, I’d order from Yee Kwan. I met the team at the Derbyshire Food & Drink Festival, and loved what they’re creating. Made from locally sourced cream and milk, I highly recommend the Black Sesame Seed and Ginger ice creams, and would love to try the new Turkish Delight one. Really great people, and a great product.

Brown Cow Organics – this is how yoghurt should be to me: live, wholemilk, non homogenised from people who care about the cows and the product. And then you get a product that according to Bristol University is very high in Omega 3s. Which would be nothing without great taste! You can order online, or the River Cottage version (same people, same cows) is available from Ocado. Their handbags look pretty good too!

Dairy is something that I think we’re fantastic at here in the UK (ok, I know, the French think they’re pretty good too) and there is so much more to go at than just a block of mild Cheddar and a pint of milk, probably even on your own doorstep. Get out there this week and see what you can find!

Back end of a prize winning cow by Dave Hamster on Flickr.

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What are the foodie dads getting this Father’s Day?

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Celebrating our food lover dads

 

Nearly time for Father’s Day, which is always one of those events that catches even me by surprise. It needs something else just after it, like the way Mother’s Day works with Easter. And events involving chocolate always have my attention!

So, if I were shopping for a Father’s Day gift for a dad with a strong interest in food and drink, what would I be thinking of? Here’s a few thoughts:

For cheese loving Dads – If there’s not a decent cheese shop nearby, then I would try one of the gift boxes from Pong. The Best Dad in the World gift box includes Oxford Isis, Bath Blue, Swaledale Old Peculiar and Banon, plus great cheese biscuits from Fudges. Neal’s Yard are also offering a great selection, not biased by the inclusion of Colston Bassett Stilton. And for something even more artisanal, then try Sole Bay Cheese, who have about 70 different cheeses on offer at any one time. You can buy a selection, or a voucher to let Dad make his own choice. (UPDATE: sadly Sole Bay Cheese is no longer trading)

For meat loving Dads – how about sending Dad on a course to brush up his knife skills? The School of Artisan Food have a one day course dedicated to making carving the Sunday roast a breeze. And he gets a roast lunch thrown in too! Big Barn gives you access to all kinds of small producers around the UK, like Heritage Prime and Farrowby Farm. I’ve never tried Donald Russell but plenty of people rave about their beef in particular. And if he’s big into steaks for the BBQ, then how about a branding iron?

For bread loving Dads – surely the bread loving dad already has a Panasonic breadmaker? I would send him to a class at The Bertinet Kitchen, because this is fabulous for moving on your breadmaking skills and is also in the beautiful city of Bath. There are versions from one day to five, and would cover everything from regular bread through to French and Italian varieties. Or if it’s out of budget (3 days is £500, plus your other costs) then you could buy him Richard’s books instead, Crust or Dough.

For gadget loving Dads – so much choice. I love Divertimenti and Heals, but you can’t beat John Lewis for a backup. Or Lakeland. Or, if they don’t have to be too serious, then try Firebox. There’s the Garlic Zoom, the AeroPress Coffee Maker and BeepEgg, the singing egg timer, to name just three.

For sweet toothed Dads – so many possibilities again! I love Chocolate Trading Co for variety and bringing great houses within easy reach, many launching stuff with them first. I’m giving serious thought to the Best of the Best Dark Chocolate Bar gift for someone. Melt is very trendy, and I particularly like the Chef’s Chocolates, and have a certain weakness for the Olive Caramel Bonbon. And there would be William Curley’s sea salt caramel bar and pretty much anything from Artisan du Chocolat. But you know I think even the foodiest of Dads would enjoy a nostalgic moment or two with a box from A Quarter Of. Parma violets, sherbet fountains, cherry lips, gobstoppers…everyone deserves at least one day of sugary nostalgia!

So, what kind of foodie dad is yours? Love to know what you’re buying him. I know men have a reputation of being difficult to buy for, but I think food lovers are easy to buy for, as there are so many possibilities. I haven’t even got started on the travel possibilities! But if you want some food for thought, drop him a ticket to Paris and then check out Meeting  the French (read this entry on He Eats to get an idea on what he could get up to).

Photo by Eash Shamih.mv on Flickr.

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What do you get a foodie mum?

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I love being a mum, and I love my food. Which probably makes me easy to buy for on Mother’s Day. And it would mean it was easy with me to never fall into the trap of Olay and L’Oreal Mother’s Day advertising (trust me, she’s worth so much more, and no mum wants anti-wrinkle cream. Ever).

Here’s some ideas for gifts for the food and drink loving mum, to show her just how worth it she is!

* There’s got to be fizz, and make it interesting. TheDrinkShop has a great selection, in every shade and to suit every budget, and if you’re going to be super generous then check out Wine Hound. You have to buy a whole case, but could mix wine and champagne, and they have some from more unusual houses in Champagne. And even if mum doesn’t do alcohol, The Alcohol Free Shop offers some very good alternatives.

 

Fabulous chocolates from Rococo

 

* Of course chocolates are traditional, but they don’t have to be old-fashioned. I love the packaging and unusual flavour combinations from Rococo, like the dark chocolate and violet. I adore the fabulously vibrant packaging from Prestat, a long established house with anything but an old fashioned look and feel to it. Have a look at the Marc de Champagne Truffle Collection. Want to go swanky? Check out Melt, which I would say was perfect true foodie territory. How about salted feuillantines or olive caramel bon bons?

* Mum got a savoury tooth, not sweet? How about a cheese gift from Pong? There is a luxury gift box for her, which is the sort of thing I normally avoid, but this is a great collection. Mum can feast on St Eadburgha, Reblochon, organic Cotswold Blue Brie from Simon Weaver and Golden Cross. Add in some fabulous crackers and maybe even some good chutney, and that’s supper sorted out on Mother’s Day!

* For green fingered, grow your own mums, how about a fruit tree? Tree 2 My Door offer some great self-pollinating ones, from apples, to something more unusual like mulberry. Or maybe treat her to something to inspire her growing, like tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show.

So, break out a bit from the norm and make mum’s day!

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Say cheese! Get your Christmas order in with Pong

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Selected by Neals Yard to reflect some of the best in British Cheese
Cheese, glorious cheese

I love Pong, if only for the name, but also because they have a cracking selection of cheese. And right now you can indulge in a big selection of cheese with a discount, with a buy 3 and get 1 free offer running. I’m very keen to try the Blacksticks Blue, which is a fabulous colour and is apparently milder than Stilton, which would suit me.

I’d order Little Wallop, purely on the name, although it sounds delicious as well. Cider brandy washed, this is complex, nutty and lemony, which is appealing. I’d add in Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, local to us and fabulous. And what the heck, when I’ve got throught this much cheese, then I may as well add in a Vacherin Mont D’Or.

Christmas cheese is looking good!

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Would you buy a hamper?

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Fabulous chocolate hampers from Chocolate Trading Co

 

It’s getting to that time of year when I get inundated with emails about hampers, and I often wonder who buys them. There’s the big corporate buyers, and I would think that a good hamper would be well received by many people. Even if you didn’t get the whole hamper, everyone on a team could get a share. Which you couldn’t say about the linen bedsheets I got given one year by a supplier, but that’s a whole different story.

I think there are the hampers that supplement your Christmas eating, or stock up your cupboards for January. You see these quite often with people like Park, or Webb Ivory. I have to say that browsing the Park website I was horrified at the Kids Treat frozen food hamper. Put it this way, I don’t think they’d get Jamie Oliver to endorse it. But you could put something like this together yourself, and I can picture my mum doing this for my grandparents. You can do stuff someone loves, or something they might have been wanting to try, or any theme you can care to choose.

And then there’s the stuff that’s just a great foodie indulgence, and there’s just so much variety around now, of every theme and price tag. There are so many choices, and I’m not going to list the obvious ones (if you’ve got the money for Harrods, you don’t need to be reading this) but here’s some thoughts from me on where to go and what I’d be looking at:

Chocolate Trading Co – some serious hampers for the serious chocolate lover. You can create your own, or there are some good selections already there including dark chocolate and organic chocolate. Or, if it’s only the chocolate that needs to be seriously good, then you could try the Fun & Funky hamper.

FunkyHampers.com – kind of does what it says on the tin! I would say this is not so much for the foodie, but a gift for someone difficult to choose for! Not just for Christmas, as they do great new home and new baby hampers. They are quite chocolate based but are good quality choc and nice accessories, not tat.

Ethical Superstore – a good stop for green foodies, the hampers here cover fair trade, organic and eco-friendly options. I like the Taste Of options, which include Italian, Indian and African versions. For the party animals though, I might be tempted to choose the Beer’n’Nuts Party Pack!

The Fish Society – if I had to fill my freezer up, then I’d choose to do it with fish, and The Fish Society have some great options. There are everyday versions, but if it’s for Christmas than have a look at the luxury version, which includes turbot and Dover sole, or the smoked fish version with smoked tuna as well as the more usual smoked salmon.

London Fine Foods Group – this is real foodie’s territory! I would say this was ideal hunting ground for fabulous stuff to make up a hamper with a difference for a real gourmet. I also really love the Cheese Towers, perfect for a cheese lover. Mind you, I always wanted to send a whole Iberian Ham on the bone, just to see their faces as they tried to guess what it was!

Pong – this is a great place for cheese lovers and experimenters. Again, pick your own or choose from gift boxes such as the Ultimate Pong Box or the Chef’s Selection. Not a long lasting gift, but very tasty whilst it lasts!

Needless to say I would think all the high street and grocers will offer versions of hampers in the run up to Christmas, but these are just a few to allow you to find something a little bit different for your gift choices this year. And I think the answer these days is yes, I possibly would buy a hamper. Just not one that involved turkey twizzlers.

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