Archives for posts with tag: La Fromagerie

SONY DSCI was invited to have dinner this week at the home of Dutch Cheese Girl.

She and her husband are my next door neighbours at the moment as I am working on a new farm project in the country and sleeping there during the week. It was lovely to be embraced by two wonderful, warm hearted, entertaining people along with their beautiful dog. We had much to talk about, issues to debate and the world to put to rights.

Still, we didn’t really get to the nub of cheese. It is an interesting debate to agree the ultimate cheese board. Nowadays the fashion is much more towards having one large cheese rather than lots of small pieces that remind me of 1970’s eating. And then there’s the politics and opinions surrounding cheese making: raw milk vs pasteurised, mechanisation vs hand made, and then there’e the whole ageing process.

Dutch_Girl_Organic_Farmhouse_Herb_Infused_Gouda_cheese

Dutch Cheese Girl keeps things close to nature using the traditional hand made methods using a traditional vat and press. It is wonderful to hear someone so excited by her job talk about the making of cheese and see the master at work. Her signature cheese is Gouda which may not be known to you, but is definitely worth looking up. I am looking forward to hearing what else will grace her board and sharing it with you.

If you want to see the best array of cheeses then go to La Fromagerie in Marylebone High Street. I celebrated a birthday there a few years ago with Patricia Michelson hosting the evening. She waited til the actual day of my celebration to choose the freshest of the cheeses which really surprised me. Who knew cheese could be that fresh? The meal started with parmesan crisps to accompany bubbles, then progressed to a board complemented by white wine then a final one with red wine. Everyone had loads of fun and I would definitely recommend it.

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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.

London town

I have some friends staying with me who are visiting from New York and given the high standard of food over there I have been feeling the pressure of trying to showcase the best of London eating in my recommendations.

It is always difficult to suggest places as opinions differ but the truth is that cream always rises to the top and some things are just great whatever your personal preference. My friends arrived on Thursday whilst I was working away from home so fended for themselves in the most impressive way. I am not sure if it is their youth or their enthusiasm but jet lagged or not, they hit London full on from the moment they arrived.

Afternoon tea at Sketch

In terms of food, they wanted to embrace the best of British and really couldn’t have come at a better time with all the Jubilee and Olympic activities going on. So far, they have eaten fish & chips, authentic Indian, afternoon tea, Modern British, Borough market and casual street food at Pitt Cue with Heston’s Dinner coming tomorrow night before they get on the train to Paris. How good is that?

Today, I finally had a day to show them some of my happy places and as it was a Sunday, it was clear where to go. We started with the bacon sandwich at St John Bread & Wine which is a great value hefty breakfast made to fill you up all day. Gloucester Old Spot bacon chargrilled to perfection and sandwiched between two hunky slices of griddled and oiled sourdough bread. To be honest, this is a sandwich for sharing as it really is too much for one and it’s only £5.95. Brilliant. It demonstrates wholeheartedly why we can edit choice. Why offer anything else when there is something this perfect on the menu?

The best bacon sarnie … ever

Then we perused Spitalfields market before embarking on the long trek up Brick Lane. Once home to the Jewish population with Beigel shops lining the streets, it is now dominated by the Bangladeshi community and some of the best examples of Indian food. The colours and smells are fantastic. Not to mention the markets, vintage clothes and just great photo opportunities.

At the top we wended our way through Hackney homes to the bottom of Columbia Road and the flower market. This is a must on a Sunday morning for many reasons. It is vibrant, full of flowers, music, people and lined with unique retail shops. I love the stall holders yelling “two for a fiver…get your tulips ‘ere”…. could this be the nearest we now see to East End life?  It is definitely a battle to progress down the centre of the stalls but worth it for the armful of flowers you can walk away with.

Two for a fiver

After that we made our way back to Shoreditch and Leila’s, Pizza East, Albion, The Boundary (sadly the roof garden doesn’t open til August) and then onto Foxcroft and Ginger at Boxpark. We all agreed that the shopping there was more trendy male than anything else but the Nike ID is one to look out for. Such an incredible retail experience.

Then it was a bus trip through the city past the Gherkin (or Pickle as my US friends named it!) and the impressive St Paul’s then onto Regent Street and beyond. I took them through the calm of St Christophers Place and up into Marylebone High Street which so often gets overlooked by tourists – thankfully. That meant it was a calm escape from the bustle of Oxford Street and we could peruse La Fromagerie, Ginger Pig, The Natural Kitchen and Rococo chocolates without any issues at all. This has to be my favourite street in London.

By now, I was pooped so I left them to finish off in Selfridges before their Indian meal tonight.

They just got back and crashed to their beds. Knightsbridge/Kensington tomorrow before St Pancras and that magical train journey through the tunnel. London really is a great city.