I’m off on a trip for the day job to China, which I’m really looking forward to. Love Chinese food and hoping to get some time out to try and get to eat some.
But there does come a point in a trip where I do suddenly crave a taste of home. On a trip to Japan, even though I’d been living on the most amazing sushi most of the week, I had a very memorable meal of chicken pie and chips washed down with half a pint of Guinness. And it was delicious.
So I do always tend to pack some tastes of home. But the one thing that is difficult to carry, but something I always end up wanting, is proper British cheese. I crave a proper piece of a decent Cheddar. If I could have it in a sandwich with some Branston I’d be even happier. Or a piece of Sparkenhoe Red Leicester with some crackers and butter.
I don’t think that the Chinese have a particularly long or big tradition of cheese making, so not sure there’ll be loads of local cheese tempting me. So if you fancy sending me an emergency parcel then let me know! Any of the great boxes from Pong would probably do the trick, thanks! And if you hear news of any unpleasantness at Shanghai airport involving impounding cheese…well, temptation is a strong thing!
I know, eating local is nothing new, it was all the rage last year. And, lets face it, 2008 and 2009 were incredibly tough years for everyone and just when we thought there was light at the end of the tunnel the snow came. We all wanted to hibernate. Nice and warm, but bad for business.
So now the snow and ice are leaving us, this is my plea for you to get out there and support your local food and drink businesses: everyone from the producers to the retailers, the farmer’s markets to the restaurants. Many will have had the best part of nearly 3 bad weeks, which is not the best start for the new year. Never mind food trends, they need you right now. Here’s my shameless plug for the local businesses that will be getting my cash over the next few weeks:
1. Red Lion Inn- these guys don’t really need the plug (they were on the Hairy Biker’s and Olive Magazine called the team in charge the dream team) but they deserve all the praise, and the rewards. Early doors dinner is just £16.50 for 3 courses, and this week included a spectacular smoked haddock risotto with poached egg, pan fried sea bream with chorizo and mash and braised blade of beef.
2. Caffe & Deli Italia– probably the best proper cappuccino going in Melton Mowbray, not to mention a great deli. This is a great independent business, a family business. Skip the chains, head here.
3. The Melton Cheeseboard– we’re blessed around here with great cheese makers, and also with a great cheese shop in Melton Mowbray. If you love cheese, you’ll love it in here. If you’re avoiding cheese, you will need to avoid here! With Stilton from Long Clawson and Quenby and Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, you can be busy supporting several local producers at once.
4. Brockleby’s Farm Shop – perfect for devotees of Melton Mowbray pork pies, Ian Jalland and the team produce the only organic pork pie produced in the borough of Melton, and mighty fine it is too. The farm shop also carries meat from their rare breeds, and a full range of everything that you’re going to need for some great dining at home.
5. The Malt House Deli– if I’m working at home during the week, then I tend to sneak out for breakfast at The Malt House. You can get a full English, but I tend to go for a sausage butty, made with good Lincolnshire sausages. A small but good selection of victuals, and a really good selection of breads, including a very good spelt one.
6. Crossroads Farm Shop- this is my nearest farm shop, and does fantastic pork. Have a look at the pigs in the farmyard, and then pop inside to see what they’ve got. We had a brilliant joint of pork from them to make porchetta at New Year, and Best Foodie Friend had an amazing gammon joint. Cracking bacon too!
7. Colston Bassett Dairy- talk about cutting food miles! During the week and on Saturday morning you can buy your Stilton direct from Colston Bassett Dairy, from the shop on site. Just don’t come at lunchtime, it’ll be closed. If that’s the case, then pop just down the road to Colston Bassett Store, as they carry it too. You might even be able to get into the coffee shop for lunch. Failing that, you could always head over to The Martin’s Arms. Not cheap, but will be one heck of a good lunch.
These are my local food haunts and whilst I’d love everyone to visit them, first and foremost get out and find the equivalents in your area. It’s not just a gift to you and your family, but to them and their families, their employees, their suppliers, their families….and so the circle goes on. Money spent locally continues to do good locally. This is not about being parochial, but thinking about how you spend your money. And maybe think about spending just a little less this week and sending it to the Haiti appeal.
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.