Festive Foodie Highlights

Well, Christmas is over but we’re still in that cosy in-between bit where it’s perfectly acceptable to eat above average levels of chocolate and/or cheese each day until New Year. I love it really, it’s like a final chance to consume all the Christmas goodies as well as enjoy any foodie gifts.

I was blessed with some beautiful gifts…many of them centred on food and tea of course! From beautiful flowering green tea to cheese accessories, gorgeous glassware, a soup set, a huge panettone and a super stocking full of all my favourite foods, I was one lucky girl this Christmas!

A few of my food themed gifts this year!

A few of my food themed gifts this year!

I did something a little different this year and spent Christmas day at the lovely Lainston House Hotel in Sparsholt, which was a lot of fun and saw plenty of food and wine consumed! Here are some of the highlights…

Lainstone House looking beautiful on Christmas Day

The driveway of Lainston House looking beautiful on Christmas Day

Potted Turbot Terrine with Caviar Dressing

A starter of Potted Turbot Terrine with Caviar Dressing

Roast turkey with chestnut and apricot stuffing and all the traditional trimmings

Roast turkey with chestnut and apricot stuffing and all the traditional trimmings

Christmas Pudding with rum custard and brandy butter

Christmas Pudding with rum custard and brandy butter

A few festive tipples later

A few festive tipples later

There were five courses of festive food in total, and whilst nothing will ever quite compare to my dad’s good old roast dinner, I have to say that Lainston House did a pretty great job of everything! We were even lucky enough to get a visit from Santa Clause himself, who gave us all a little present…

My gift from Father Christmas! Nice to see Santa giving locally sourced gifts

My gift of Hampshire Chutneys from Father Christmas! Nice to see Santa giving locally sourced gifts

After a quick cocktail in the beautiful wood-panelled cocktail lounge at Lainston House we were off to join family and friends for more food and drink! Laughter, festive viewing, turkey sandwiches and bubbles filled the rest of the day.

Boxing Day saw me heading to my family home for our traditional post Christmas meal of cold meats, pickles and homemade chips. You can’t beat it! I indulged in my usual ‘everything sandwich’ – consisting of chips, cold meat, stuffing and other leftovers, accompanied by various chutneys and pickles.

Later that day there were more bubbles and a traditional boxing day get together to attend. We were certainly all a little slow to start but as usual we soon got into the festive spirit of things with peach bellinis, champagne and lots of nibbles!

Festive fun!

Festive fun!

Now I’m looking forward to New Year’s Eve (and fitting into my clothes again!).

Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas, wishing you all the best for the New Year! xXx

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Foodie Christmas Gift Guide

Well, with less than a month to go it’s time to start shopping! So, without further ado here’s some of my favourite foodie Christmas gift ideas this year…

Prestat Velvety Milk Chocolate Wafers with English Earl Grey Tea

Prestat

Earl Grey and chocolate wafers combined – what’s not to love? These delicate little treats are made by infusing Earl Grey tea in cocoa butter and adding bergamot oil. I love the beautiful packaging too, an indulgent stocking filler!

Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn – Glass Gift Jar

popcornThese guys make some fabulous varieties of popcorn including Mince Pie, Brandy Butter, Gin & Tonic, Gingerbread and lots more! A scrumptious treat for any foodie. What better accompaniment to a classic Christmas film than a jar filled with some festive flavoured popcorn?

Marmite Tea Pot

Marmite

I love all things Marmite and over the years have received some gorgeous Marmite gifts including Champagne infused Marmite, chocolate infused with Marmite (yes really) and some beautiful Marmite themed crockery and homewares. However I still can’t help finding this Marmite teapot rather lovely – perfect for those lazy weekend mornings with lots of tea and toast.

Char Teas

Char Teas

This wonderful shop in Winchester is filled with many wonderful varieties of loose leaf tea and you can spend quite a while choosing the perfect one. I think it’s always nice to give someone one of their classic Winchester blends such as Lady Winchester, Winchester Afternoon or Winchester Breakfast Tea. Of course there’s over 150 blends to choose from – so plenty of choice if you’re looking for something more unusual for a tea enthusiast.

Pair Of Mussel Eaters

Mussel EatersHow charming are these? These silver plated mussel eaters are a perfect gift for seafood lovers and a great buy for someone who has everything.  I think they’re quite simply adorable!

Plush Puffs Gourmet Marshmallows

Marshmallows

Another scrummy stocking filler, these posh marshmallows come in some delightful flavours including Mochaccino, Toasty Coconut and Luscious Lemony Meringue. Who could resist these little moorish fluffy bites?

Cath Kidston Mushroom Salt & Pepper Shakers

salt-and-pepper-shakerYou’ve got to admit these are pretty cute. There’s just something so magical and whimsical about mushrooms I think. These would surely be a lovely, quirky addition to anyone’s kitchen.

Personalised Christmas Pudding

pudding

A traditional Christmas pudding personalised with your own message makes a perfect gift for your Christmas day hosts, or for someone who you wish you were spending Christmas day with.

Manuka Honey

Honey

Manuka honey is sweet, tasty and healthy, helping to boost your immune system at this time of year. A lovely little stocking filler for someone who likes something sweet on their toast.

I Could Eat A Horse Spaghetti Measurer 

horse

A super stocking filler for someone who has everything, or just loves things for the kitchen! This clever little gadget will measure out how much spaghetti you need for 4 people (or less people if they are hungry horses). It also will measure out a typical man, woman or child portion – pretty useful really!

VOM FASS Blood Orange Vodka

Vodka

I’ve not actually tried this but I want to! Who wouldn’t want to find this under the tree on Christmas day? The beautiful bottle and the bright, citrus-flavoured contents are sure to go down well!

Well, I do hope this eclectic mix of gift ideas has provided some festive inspiration for the foodie in your life. What are your favourite foodie gifts? I’d love to know of any other fabulous food and drink related things for Christmas so tweet, email or leave a comment for me with your suggestions!

Feeling a bit like Santa…

This week has been so epically full of food…this must be how Santa feels on Christmas morning after gorging himself on a million mince pies the night before!

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It all started on Wednesday at an award ceremony in London’s The Grange St. Paul’s Hotel. After a nightmare journey and arriving 45 minutes late, the evening wasn’t off to a great start but somehow we were still able to consume all three courses of the meal on offer (oh the wonders of mass catering)…wait make that four courses if you count the lovely little Petit Fours at the end…

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I thought the Petit Fours might turn out to be the best bit of the evening, but no…Sue Perkins was hosting! She was witty and amusing as always and certainly made my evening – meeting her more than made up for not winning the award! A large wine afterwards helped too.

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The real tremendous day of eating came on Thursday when I enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner out. I began the day with a fabulous girly breakfast at Paul’s – a lovely french patisserie  in London and followed this with a ladies lunch also in London (I will add that I only ate a salad…), finally I rounded the day off with a dinner at Winchester’s Number 5 Bridge Street. Thankfully Number 5’s menu features a whole range of smaller dishes to enjoy, so I didn’t quite have to be rolled home!

And this weekend…well…I’ve shamefully had not one but two Subway sandwiches (dam it’s close proximity to my new home!), but also a lovely dinner at The Bugle Twyford and some hearty bread and mince pies from Winchester City Market.

I guess I’m just preparing my stomach for the indulgences of Christmas….? My tree’s up already, bring on the festivities!

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Season’s Eatings

Firstly I hope everyone has had a lovely Christmas with great food, fun, friends and family. I’ve certainly indulged to excessive levels as is traditional at this time of year.  From the festive build up, to the big day itself, to the stocking-fillers and treats under the tree have all provided me with some fabulous foodie moments, with new things to try as well as classic Christmas favourites. Here are my festive foodie highlights so far…

Ladies Christmas Drinks at the Black Bottle

People of Winchester and the surrounding areas, or anyone ever considering a visit to the historic capital of England, I cannot stress to you how much of a must-do the Black Bottle is – it’s quite simply unique and always a very good evening. My friends and I started our evening in the ever popular Black Boy, but it seemed everyone else in Winchester had the same idea! And so with many of  my best girl-friends now being deserters of Winchester (off making their fortunes in London) – I suggested a move to the Black Bottle – having realised most of them would have never experienced it. I have to say it was perfect as always, with its usual relaxed, but special atmosphere and of course some very interesting wines – my friends loved it (as I knew they would) and a splendid evening was had by all.

Team Christmas lunch at The Bush in  Ovington

I’d always heard good things about this pub and so was very pleased to be going there for a Christmas lunch. I chose a totally non-traditional main course (not wanting to spoil my desire for my Dad’s famous roast in the next few days) and opted for a Mature Cheddar and potato pie with cauliflower cream. As a serious cheese lover I was intrigued by this dish and it didn’t disappoint – in fact it was delicious and although it looked huge, I managed to demolish it all.

Perfect Pressies!

On to some of the great foodie gifts I got this year from friends and family…

As anyone who has ever accompanied me to the cinema knows, I absolutely adore popcorn, so I was delighted to receive  a box of Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn for Christmas. The box contained a whole variety of assorted flavours from Classic Caramel to the more interesting Cheddar, Sweet Topping and Savoury Seasoning (oddly more-ish!) – needless to say I am so looking forward to trying all of the flavours and purchasing a few new ones in the future. I’ve always harped on about how there should be cheesy popcorn and now there is!

I’m a Marmite lover no doubt about it and over the years have been bought and enjoyed quite a few of the foodie Marmite spin-offs, from Champagne Infused Marmite for Valentine’s Day to lovely little mini Marmite cheeses – but I wasn’t expecting to receive two bars of  Very Peculiar Milk Chocolate Infused with Marmite! It claims to be a ‘Perplexing Treat that Bewilders the taste buds’ and I don’t think there could actually be a better choice of words for this latest Marmite inspired invention…it’s very difficult to describe the experience. The chocolate bar has a Marmite aroma from the beginning which adds a strangeness before you even taste the chocolate, which is sweet and creamy with a savoury overtone – I instantly went in for a second mouthful, but then a Marmite after taste kicks in – truly peculiar, but recommended for Marmite fans.

I must also give a big shout out to my sister’s homemade cranberry and orange infused vodka – lovely with lemonade! Of course the top-spot goes to my Dad’s roast turkey on the big day itself – although I did play a major part ensuring the bird was cooked on time…here’s me taking orders from the Christmas cooking bible …

My family’s traditional Boxing Day meal of cold meats, pickles and homemade chips is also a big win – I look forward to that as much as the big Christmas roast itself!

…Well its safe to say after all that, even my elastic waste-banded items of clothing feel tight! The New Year will hopefully feature slightly healthier foodie moments…but I’m not quite there yet – with a special, several course meal booked in for New Year’s Eve and Tom’s Birthday, I feel there will be yet more indulgences to write about and enjoy.

Festive Eating Continued…

It was a four day weekend for me this week, with plenty of festive foodie moments to savour. It’s just a lovely time of year for friends, family and food – and I’m making the most of it!

My Friday evening may sound a little sad but actually it was a dream, although I was home alone while Tom braved his work Christmas party, I had my own little Christmas party. A few mugs on Winter Pimms and some favourite films saw me through the evening after wrapping a heap of presents. It was also time to do the ‘Christmas Shop’ – you know…the excessive,  wildly indulgent, you’ll-never-eat-that-much, heart attack in a trolley festive food shop? Well I did mine online  with Ocado in an effort to be a little more conservative (didn’t go so well) – suffice to say I’ve now got an assortment of alcohol that would put any cocktail bar to shame – including Baileys Biscotti, Ameretto (for my new favourite – Ameretto and Cranberry – you must try it!), fruity red wines for more mulled wine, St. Peter’s ales and Kopperberg Fruit Ciders. I tried to be a little less spend-happy with the food, preferring to pick a lot of it up at the local farm shop and farmers market.

Time to be merry...

Saturday afternoon saw me repeating the festive food shopping experience, this time in a real supermarket with my little sister. We’re both spending Christmas Day with my parents and decided that as grown ups – we’d do the ‘nibble shop’ for my mum and dad. The trolley was laden with cheese straws, mince pies, Yule log, Christmas cake, nuts and lots of miniature food favourites – Christmas Day is going to be good!  Loose fitting clothes advised.

Hello festive food

Saturday evening I met with some good friends for mulled wine and other drinks and thoroughly good catch-up. With one friend staying the night at mine, we enjoyed a bit of Baileys Biscotti as nice night-cap – a lovely way to end the evening.

Ultimate night cap

I spent the next day braving the busy streets of Winchester, buying gifts from the art and design market and enjoying yet more mulled wine and some sweet crepes with a dear friend at the Christmas markets. We wandered till it was dark and our fingers froze before wishing each other a Merry Christmas and retreating to the warmth of home.

I couldn’t have asked for a better Sunday evening than dinner at The Black Rat with Tom. We haven’t been there for ages, but it’s always been amazing…and it didn’t disappoint!  Every course was deliciously interesting. I couldn’t begin to tell you exactly what I had in as much eloquent detail as the menu itself, but I had a delightful crab starter and monk fish with curried leeks for a main course – and of course cheese to finish…although I could have been tempted by almost all of the desserts on the menu. Needless to say the Black Rat is the foodie highlight of the week for me!

Possibly the best Sunday evening ever at The Black Rat...

That about rounds up this extended weekend’s eating really…all that’s left is to cook up a curry for tonight’s tea.

Festive Food (part 1)

This week’s entry is all about the locally sourced festive treats I’ve enjoyed…I’ve really been getting into the festive spirit (well I’ve sort of  been in the spirit since November!)…but now my Christmas tree is up and the house is beautiful!

And what better accompaniment to Christmas decorating than mulled wine? I used Hambleden Herbs Organic Mulling Spices, with honey, sugar and dash or orange juice to make a lovely spicy cup-full (ok…whole bottle full) for the occasion. Truly delicious and soul-warming, certainly spirit lifting!

On the subject of winter warmers I also picked up some Whisky Toddy Spices as special little stocking filler from Suma Wholefoods – should go down very nicely with my dad!

It being a weekend in December, a few cheeky mince pies were of course consumed. My village stores stocks a pretty tempting range of locally produced mince pies which I’m slowly working my way through, in my own personal taste test (being the only mince-pie fan the house – it is a slow task – but one I take very seriously!). On test this week were some charming mince pies from Can Do Cakes – these were scrumptious, with lots of tasty filling and just the right texture and size…small and light enough to enjoy a few without feeling too greedy! Festive food heaven.

Other foodie highlights this weekend, include a fab dinner at my good friend Miss Penn’s house, a King Prawn Delight at Rimjhim – Contemporary Indian Restaurant , refreshing Rekorderlig Fruit Cider and Tyrell’s Lightly Salted Popcorn – which I cannot recommend highly enough, it is just too good.