Archives for posts with tag: Anthropologie

It’s been a funny old week. Another rollercoaster ride through the trials and tribulations of life.

I find the best way to manage my temperament through it is to cook! and with lots of different people crossing my path this week it has been an opportunity to prepare some nice meals.

sourdough

First on the menu was the builders, or renderers to be specific. Now normally my builder repertoire is tea (taken with 2 sugars) and biscuits or a cake if I have the time. But somehow the latest team, who have just completed a really great job on the house, had other ideas. The week started with their specifications on coffee (as opposed to tea), milk and which biscuits they liked and progressed through the week until the final day. Did I have bacon in the fridge? they asked. In my usual overly helpful way I said no, but I have eggs. Oh – that would be fine, they replied! Er. Are you asking me to make you egg sandwiches? …yes! But I only have a really lovely brown sourdough loaf bought at Bread Ahead this week. That’s fine, they say. And what salt do you have? they ask. What salt? Maldon – is that OK with you? Yes, Maldon will be fine, they say. Hmmm. When did the building community get to be so demanding?

This is the official pic as I didn't take a pic of my efforts, but they were much more rustic!

This is the official pic as I didn’t take one of my efforts, but they were much more rustic!

Thankfully my next catering experience was for my friend C. She makes cakes for a living, award winning cakes at that. And she also caters for parties, and is able to tell good from bad, so I want to do something nice. I opted for a favourite dish inspired by Ben Tish, which he made on Saturday Kitchen some time ago: chorizo stuffed squid. Waitrose serve a really good baby squid on their fish counter which is just begging to be stuffed with chorizo. The only issue is that it needs to be cooking chorizo which is not so readily available, but I had been up in London earlier on in the week and had the ideal one from Brindisa. Once stuffed, you fry off with new potatoes, peas, sage, garlic, capers, lemon and I add onion before serving with a home-made aioli. Leftovers went to the builder, who proclaimed it marvellous and asked for the recipe so it must have been good.

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At the end of the week I had my Spanish friend over and was certainly not going down the tapas route with her. So I adapted a couple of recipes that I love and had a great excuse to work with some kitchen items I love too, including my favourite Anthropologie rolling pin which is rarely aired and my Nom Living fluted quiche mould.

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Crab and saffron tart was crossed with Rose Bakery’s quiche mixture to good conclusions. I used good quality tinned crabmeat (which is always worth having in the larder), and replaced the tomato sauce base with fresh Isle of Wight tomatoes as they are so wonderful at the moment. I also infused some of the cream in my favourite copper saucepan (thanks Mum and Dad) with loads more saffron than the recipe to get that incredible Summery yellow infusion that went in the egg & cream mixture. I had wanted to make the Rose Bakery quiches ever since I saw them featured on Russell Norman’s The Restaurant Man. The show is no longer available but this clip of Kate & Alex in Paris is the bit I was inspired by.

Lunch is served

Lunch is served

The outcome was an indulgent lunch but truly yummy served with a simple salad and Mum’s classic vinaigrette dressing. I made it with a dollop of the leftover aioli to add a bit of garlicky zing and it was just perfect.

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My friends are so wonderful that they come with presents for me as well. So now I am looking at the most wonderful bunch of flowers and a cluster of gifts from Barcelona. The oil pourer reminds me so much of the traditional Spain I went to as a kid and I am told I have to treat the outside base of the bowl by rubbing with garlic to seal it which is the tradition. Once done, I can discover new recipes from my Catalan cookbook, hopefully including these nuts.

Casa Gispert - a treasure trove to discover

Casa Gispert – a treasure trove to discover

They are from a tiny shop called Casa Gispert in El Born, Barcelona, which specialises in nuts and fruits. You see them come in, get roasted in the same wood oven they have used there since 1851 and then weighed and sold out the front. Such a fabulous shop that was recommended to me by my Spanish friend who is from Barcelona. These sorts of places are only known by locals so remember this one and look it up if you are ever there.

It has been a lovely food week and my house is now rendered to perfection. Bring on another week.

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I always think that the best retail experiences are created primarily through great visual merchandising. In the retail industry, there are many fashion and home stores that really can deliver that wow factor from the first window right through the store. The shop that immediately comes to mind as the best example of this is Anthropologie.

But in food, there is less style and it is very hard to maintain a sense of interest throughout the shop. Many would say that Eataly is the answer in food, but for me they capture it in places and not in others. It can be cold, in some of the Italian versions and cluttered in NYC. Yes, it is a great start but not one that can’t be bettered.

Biscuit displays the Rosendals Tradgard way

Biscuit displays the Rosendals Tradgard way

Food is simple with added touches for a unique look and feel

Food is simple with added touches for a unique look and feel

The place that did it for me was Rosendals Tradgard in Stockholm. This botanical garden had a unique style and elegance that translated into their small shop encapsulating the brand perfectly. Clever use of unusual items were there to display goods, food was kept simple yet different and the overall effect was one that had me going back and back. It really did gel the brand values with the customer experience. One to visit, for sure.

Now I am trying to create a food store that does the same for the company I am working for. No pressure! I can be as critical as I like but now I have to put my money where my mouth is and do it for real. So this week I ventured to a trade show that would fill in the visual merchandising gaps that were left from the food fair last week. Top Drawer is one of the best shows for me to find what I am looking for. It has a standard of trader that is at the right level and if you open your imagination, then all sorts of things are up for grabs.

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Nkuku is a great place to start. It is an eco friendly, fairtrade gift and home supplier sourcing primarily from Africa and India, although they tell me they are expanding into Morocco and the Far East more this year. I was drawn to it, not just because it is my natural taste, but also because it is organic, honest and simple, reflecting a lot of the brand values that exist on the farm. It will be essential to cherry pick, there is no doubt, and sometimes surprise, but I could really begin to piece things together standing there on that stand.

I bet your first thought was not perfect box for displaying biltong when you saw this?!

I bet your first thought was not perfect box for displaying biltong when you saw this?!

Hop-Peck-1Hop & Peck is a company I earmarked way back last Spring and it was lovely to be reminded again how great these guys are. Their hand made British homewares match traditional Oak with fun modern designs to being something just a little bit different to the home market. I can see us cross merchandising these into our different sections to add interest and novelty. It was great to see them win the Top Drawer best new gift product award at the show as well. Much deserved.

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I always thought I had an eye for the expensive, but apparently it is the award winners too as I had spotted the best new wellbeing product too, even thought I was only passing through the wellbeing section. Rewined Candles are American soy candles made in Charleston from recycled wine bottles. The fragrances nod to the notes of the individual wines. They really are something new and now available in the UK.

Lots of hares which had clearly been jugged!

Lots of hares which had clearly been jugged!

After all that VM speculation it was great to meet friends later on to pursue our quest to find a great Sunday lunch. We are working our way through a list of so called great places which normally underwhelm but our hopes were high when we arrived at the Jugged Hare. With my creative hat on, it was great to see somewhere embrace their theme without it appearing like DisneyWorld. Maybe it was the harsh reality of all those animal and bird heads on display, but we all agreed that we liked what they had done with the place.

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The food got off to a good start too as we shared kedgeree croquettes, breaded skate knobs with a fabulous tartar sauce and the very in season grouse legs which smelled (and tasted) of horse manure! Lovely. But sadly our journey continues as the mains didn’t come up to scratch. The meat was lovely, but veg woefully under-done. Shame. The lovely lady serving was a fine example of how to handle our disgruntled bunch but after so much promise I can’t see us rushing back.

So I leave you with a few birds that hopefully didn’t lose their lives in vain – displayed on the way to the loo. Let’s hope their dishes were more rewarding to whoever ate them.

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Christmas is almost upon us and this weekend consumer are predicted by the BRC to break sales records with a £5billion spend as last minute shoppers go in search of price deals on their perfect gift.

All your shopping needs taken care of by the magical elfridge

All your shopping needs taken care of by the magical elfridge

My search of London didn’t really excite too much with predictable gifts for a food lover like me. I trawled the big department stores in the hope that places like Liberty, Fortnums and Harrods would inspire but to be honest none are a patch on Selfridges, who just got it right. It may have been the brigade of Elfridges, complete with Vivienne Westwood red ballgowns and roller skates, or perhaps the many one off concessions, or even the samplings and demos, but the overall experience is just top class.

popcorn

I managed to find my whole popcorn shopping here at a better price than I was looking at online. I went for the more traditional stove top version with funky containers and obviously lots of interesting corns. You could also add a jar of Joe and Seph’s if you wanted something ready made. As in the US, popcorn, waffles, DIY sets and all things with coffee or chocolate were featured in abundance.

Alcohol is also excelling itself with cocktails, one off unique blends, fantastic packaging and lots more to entice, but I am not a big drinker so I focused on the food this year.

Love brownies

For my gift buying, there were a few people that I would like to recommend. Firstly Love Brownies. The wonderful Chantal is from my home county of Yorkshire and bakes superb award winning brownies, but the real treat is the packaging which is clever, contemporary and colourful. Easy to order, simply delivered and great value, these are perfect for all occasions.

Lauden

The other Yorkshire company that has been a personal favourite of mine is Lauden Chocolates. This husband and wife team make incredible one off chocolates with real fruit centres and different chocolate coatings to match the filling. I am not one for fruit and chocolate but these really make you re-evaluate all that. And there is a fantastic salted caramel version just in case you want something else. Of course, there are the usual chocolate shops such as Paul Young and Marc de Marquette, but I like to support Lauden and again their product is superb and their packaging  clean and contemporary.

Other shops on my list which have continued to excite this year are The Sampler in Islington for wonderful wines, Ottolenghi if only for their clementine jam, La Fromagerie for great, if very pricey cheese, Sally Clarkes for general yumminess and of course my lovely friends at Melrose and Morgan. They just make the most wonderful things and a trip to either of their shops in Hampstead or Primrose Hill will inspire you to leave with huge armfuls of their home made treats, plus the best sausage roll around as a treat for you to indulge in … well, you have been schlepping around all day. This year, M&M’s stollen has been the surprise treat which has been added to their catalogue of wonderful things including their light, tasty Christmas pudding made with Clay Barn Orchard quinces and the best mince pies with crumbly buttery pastry and a juicy tasty filling. I don’t even like mince pies!

At this point, I do have to mention Anthropologie which is great for kitchen and gift inspiration. A friend of mine went there today having been all over trying to find something for her 21 year old daughter and was amazed and delighted. And for online inspiration, I like Not on the High Street. Once again, they have one-off gifts and great things to personalise. For something different and spot on with the whole Scandinavian trend, have a look at Daniel’s website: Bageriet. These treats are all home made and he is a superb baker. If you really want to push the boat out ask him about his gingerbread houses. I know they are not shown on the website, but take my word for it, they are amazing.

nudoadoptionpackges

Finally, for something a little different, the big fashion this year is to give an experience rather than a product. Book a course to learn how to make bread, or honey, or all things fishy, or even a full on butchery course. And if you want to send something out there, you could do worse than repeat my Rent a Cherry Tree gift (even if the weather ruined the crop this year) or adopt an olive tree for a year which promises quarterly deliveries of oil made from your very own olives. I used Nudo last year and their packaging seemed to impress my friend over in New Zealand.

So Merry Christmas one and all. Let me know if there was anything that you were particularly impressed with this year and have a wonderful celebration. Here’s to 2013.

New-York-Christmas

As Christmas approaches, I am once again pondering the great gifts for this year. Inevitably I like all the food related gifts and now that I am in the US, I am indulging in their take on the ‘holiday season’ and the wonderful offerings over this side of the pond.

My parents went into a shop the other day and were greeted by a guy on the door who smiled, welcomed them and then added: “Don’t deny yourself anything”. Only in the US, I know you are saying, but I love the fact that our experience has been that everyone is engaging that way with us. There are a load of cynical Brits who automatically hate the US way, but personally I would rather have that man greet me in the shop than the majority of people I see in the UK. There is no doubt that the yanks do Christmas so well, combining sights, smells, colours and flavours in each and every shop adding in a huge dollop of great service plus incredible offers to tempt.

So in the spirit of no denial, here are a few ideas and places to inspire.

I tend to prefer small one off independents to shop in but when in the US, there are a few places that I frequent. For gifts, we are now blessed with Anthropologie here in the UK so that treat is available here now. Still to venture over here are my three other favourites: Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel and Williams Sonoma.

Pottery Barn has lost its sparkle in recent years and whilst Crate & Barrel do a great job, it is Williams Sonoma that really do excite me. Their merchandising skills are second to none telling great stories and bringing products together in an interesting and shop-able way.

gingerbread boy maple syrup

 

The first thing I saw on entering the shop was this gorgeous little boy. How cute is this? and of course, he wasn’t alone as he was standing amongst a whole waffle display with waffle mixes, waffle makers and stirrers and bowls. What a welcome at the front door.

Popcorn

One of the displays that struck a cord with me was the popcorn. This has to be the product of 2012 on both sides of the Atlantic. Whether it is a popcorn making machine, a stove top or microwaveable popping vessel, the corn itself or the many accessories to go with it, popcorn in all its guises makes a great family present. For interesting corns, try Zaramama. And if you are feeling adventurous, I can recommend Bill Granger’s caramel popcorn recipe which is a lovely home-made addition to any popcorn gift.

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The other range of products that interested me in Williams Sonoma was the many branded products coming from top chefs such as Tom Colicchio and Thomas Keller. It amazes me that chefs of this calibre feel the need to produce long life retail products. They follow in the footsteps of places like Sprinkles and their cupcake mix but I am just not sure that this is a route to take. For me it cheapens their brand but maybe the money is worth it.

williams sonoma mushroom logThe range of food gifts that most interest me sit under the banner DIY and Homemade Kits. Homemade is clearly a big fashion and this year there have been many books published to tell us how to do it along with a range of gift packs and Williams Sonoma showcases the best here. The butter and cheese sets are lovely, but the one that drew me were the mushroom logs which allow you to cultivate a range of different mushrooms. Delivered in chilled boxes, these are just wonderful. Go online and peruse the shop yourself. They do ship internationally even if Christmas is rushing towards us.

Ginvent-CalendarFinally, I need to make special mention of this Ginvent calendar which I first heard about on The Foodinista’s blog. She always has her finger on the food and wine fashion pulse so is worth looking into and invariably I will take her recommendations. When I looked into this calendar, I found that you can buy it, or a whisky version, here in the UK. I just love the fact that they chose gin as this is by far the trendiest spirit of 2012 and these samples cover tried and tested as well as interesting brands to try…and all in this lovely packaging. I will definitely earmark this for next year.