Tuesday, 1 December 2015

M&S, The Orangery and Clementines [By Fey]

The Table presented by M&S in association with Robin Gill & Lee took on the challenge of creating an entire menu based solely around the very seasonal clementine.They certainly succeeded in this and created a wonderful dining experience.

The venue, The Orangery in West London’s Holland Park, fit the evening perfectly. The ambience was, whilst dark as intended, warm and quite cosy. All guests were led to an initial marquee where we were greeted with a cocktail. We were then given a special lollipop (orange of course) to infuse into the spirits, which made it a lot sweeter. We were then lead to the dining room by our energetic host, who explained our unique menu.

Each of the 6 courses, which arrived with a different drink to complement and a lighting change to shift the ambience, were very inventive. Seeing as they were all based around the same ingredient, the chefs did an excellent job of creating varied courses.

The first was the Crab and Clementine ‘Posh Noodle’. As we sat down we had to pick teabags from the special ‘Clementine’ tree. We then put the teabag into a pot to infuse, which we then poured over the noodles. This course was flavourful but also quite light, making it an exciting start.

Next was one of my favourites - Mushroom Brioche, Fermented Mushroom and Clementine. The warm brioche bread, shaped like a mushroom, was dipped into the rich fermented mushroom, complementing each other perfectly, and would be great at any Christmas party.

We then moved on to the Fresh Curd, Clementine, Star Anise and Squash Crisps. At this point we were encouraged to play with our food and mix everything together. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Star Anise so I found this course slightly too overbearing in flavour but I liked the textures and once again the presentation was beautiful.

The Scallops cooked over Juniper and Clementine Branches was again another favourite of mine. We could actually see the chefs barbecuing the scallops outside. They were fresh and light with a subtle flavour.

Then came the Roast Venison and Salt Baked Beetroot and Cabbage. This was served with Clementine Steamed Dumplings and Madeira Tea. This course may be my personal favourite of the night. The venison was delicious, however it may actually be the steamed dumplings that complimented it that made this the best course. It was one of the richest courses but the flavours were in no way overbearing.

To our amusement the Smashing Clementine came with a hammer, goggles and ear plugs. We had to literally use the hammer to smash through our course, with clementines underneath.

The last course was the Star Anise Marshmallows. Again, as Star Anise isn’t my favourite ingredient, I preferred the flavours of the desert in the course before, however the Clementine Mulled Wine was delicious and seemed to have a slight kick, which I really liked.

It was then time to toast the chefs! The evening was creative and certainly festive and the team did an incredible job in its execution. All ingredients are from Marks & Spencer, which I think gave everyone some inspiration for an original festive menu of their own.
By Fey

Monday, 30 November 2015

Chicken and Bacon Chow Mein (#Amoy) [By @Cinabar]

Im a big fan of quick and easy food, so when Amoy asked if we wanted to try out some of their sauces I couldn't resist. They sent some of their instant noodles too so it was time to get creating.
We decided to go for the Chow Mein to start with, and picked up some diced chicken, bacon lardons and a bag of stir fry veggies. Whats more we thought we'd make it as a quick but tasty dinner on a work night.
We had a recipe to follow, but altered it slightly for our own tastes. We added the chocken as an extra as I like the idea of mixing chicken and bacon, but I think it would work well with a number of meats, or indeed prawns.

We started off by frying the chicken and bacon lardons is a dash of oil until cooked. We added some onions, followed by a tables spoon of dark soy sauce and the rest of the veggies.

We added the Chow Mein sauce next, which smelt wonderful especially when combined with the aroma from the bacon and onions.

The noodles went in next, they started off as a block and soon broken down into fine noodles. The final touch was another tablespoon of soya sauce just to add a little saltiness to the final flavour.
The meal was very quick to prepare, even after a full day at work. I loved adding the noodles straight to the pan, so simple. The flavours were outstanding, far surpassing any ready meal or take-way. The Chow Mein sauce was the good balance of flavours, the soya sauce and ingredients balanced it off so very well, it was the perfect savoury flavour. It was meaty, tasty, slightly salty but fresh and moreish. We all cleared our plates and cant wait to try some of the other goodies we were sent.
By Cinabar

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Christmas At Cadbury World Shop [by @NLi10]

It's officially Christmas now that Cadbury's World has their tree up!

Also the factory shop is FULL of the future contents of kids stockings (and today oddly about 200 Brownies). I settled for picking up a few cheap things and those I'd not seen before.

But first - the cafe! Hot melty rocky road and freshly made Cadbury's Hot Choc and an extra slice of triple layer Victoria sponge for good measure. 

And then on to the Freddo Faces. These seem to be a fairly new addition to the Freddo family, and you only get three small bags of 7 in the box.

They look like ugly buttons.

They don't travel too well, shaking in the box means they aren't quite perfect froggies. In fact they look more similar to misshapes (which are seasonal and not usually available until next year)!

They taste like big buttons and are top quality chocolate. It's a little more adult and satisfying than a bag of buttons, but only just.

Also we picked up a box of these - 18 bars for £5.40 - result! Naturally I've given more away than I've eaten as it's the season of giving - and I'm still full of chocolate from super lunch!

Cadbury is well worth a visit at any time, but that goes even more so at Christmas and Easter.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Heston Toffee Apple Mulled Cider (Waitrose) [By @spectreUK]

This 5.5% volume Toffee Apple Mulled Cider was created by Heston Blumenthal especially for Waitrose. Served in a 750ml bottle this mulled cider has toffee and caramel added during its creation. It sounds to me like a rather sweet cider appley fix. I first couldn't decide whether I'd drink it warmed up in the microwave as a pick me up on a cold night or just for a chilled refreshing treat. Looking at the bottle it was clear that there was plenty of this cider to go around. So I opted for a pint of chilled mulled cider to start with. On pouring this still cider there was a very sweet toffee smell on top of the lightly spiced apple cider. This dry cider had a very mild spice to it and the toffee caramel sweetness came at the end of the flavour. Having said that, there wasn't a great deal of flavour. This Toffee Apple Mulled Cider was very easy to drink asides the dryness, which made me need to drink more. It also made me feel it wouldn't work warmed up, as it didn't quite work chilled! Not one for me I'm afraid. I prefer big on flavour; big on cider and big on spice to warm my cockles on a cold Winter's night.
By Spectre

Friday, 27 November 2015

Ribena Limited Edition Winter Spice (Sainsburys) [By @Cinabar]

I came into work this morning to a particularly sticky task to unpick. I won’t go into the boring work details but I will go into the fantastic drink I had to fuel me during the problem. One of the lovely ladies at work managed to find the new Ribena Winter Spice, something I had been keeping my eye out for but to no avail. She found it in a large branch of Sainsbury’s so I’ll have to have another look for a bottle for home for myself, but she riskily left this bottle in the staff room, mental note not to drink it all…
Unusually for Ribena this is a drink which it recommends to have hot as a Winter warmer. I poured some into the bottom of my mug and added some freshly boiled water. I absolutely love spices such a cinnamon and star anise and this drink had lots of those sorts of flavours added. Thankfully they didn’t overpower the underlying blackcurrant taste, so the drink didn’t loose its identity, they did however enhance it no end with a fab spicy edge.
What more could you want on a cold day than a hot fruity drink filled with seasonal spices that feels warming and christmasy. I thoroughly enjoyed my mug of drink so much, I snuck back to the kitchen and made myself another, here is hoping she doesn’t take the bottle home any time soon.
By Cinabar

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Aldi Deli Salads - Chicken & Mango, Chargrilled Chicken [by @NLi10]

Instead of making up my own lunch bowls using Tesco ready cut salads and nuts, while in Aldi I picked up a few ready made ones to check out.

It is a round bowl - I slid the package open just so you can see the variety.  There is lots going on in here.  As you can see there is a little tub of goo too. In this case it's a tangy mango sauce to go with the spicy chicken. The salad was all great, fresh and crispy. A bit of a cheaper selection than the Waitrose salad with your more typical peppers and lettuce, but very welcome at lunch time. The dissapointment in this one was the chicken, it just wasn't that exciting.  The spice wasn't that noticeable, and it lacked flavour. Overall though, with the sauce it worked well enough to have again.

Here we have the second version with tomatoes instead of peppers, and a little more variety in the greens. The star here is the thick balsamic dressing sauce, which sticks to everything and really brings it to life.

Even though this one had been in my fridge a day longer somehow the chicken in the sauce was much tastier. I usually pick the cucumber out of things, but I used the sauce to make even that edible. A lovely lunch and my favourite of the two - and at about half the price of the Waitrose salad I'd certainly eat either of these again. They were less impressively filling than that one though,

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Dark Chocolate With Sparkling Wine (Aldi) [By @Cinabar]

I shop regularly at Aldi anyway but after I saw their Christmas catalogue land on my doorstep I couldn’t resist having a nosey in store to see what was new. Yes, I purchased mince pies early, partially with the thought of reviewing them at some point but more likely just to scoff them well in advance of the big day.
I also found some new chocolate bars, and in amongst the range was this very curious sounding Dark Chocolate With Sparkling Wine. A quick glance at the back of the pack said that there was popping candy involved and that sealed deal, the bar was in the trolley, next to the mince pies, which were on top of the Christmas bows and wrapping paper pack…

The chocolate itself has some gold coloured decorations, albeit not very many and just enough to show through the window on the packaging. It opened in the style of an envelope, which was quite posh and made it quite gift worthy. The aroma from the chocolate was surprisingly sweet and fruity and not what I had been expecting.
I snapped a piece off and it did have a firm snap, despite being a thin bar. I liked the rich tone of the dark chocolate, but the main flavour here was the Sparking Wine. The flavour was rather sweet, and almost pear like. It made me think of Schloer. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was a very nice fruity combination. The sparkling element of the wine was from popping candy, and this had a bit of a mild crunch and lovely fizzy feel. I like popping candy, it always makes me smile.
I have a sweet tooth too so really liked the bar, but if you were expecting complex dark flavours this bar doesn’t delivery that. If you are after a fun fruity bar that looks quite posh, its perfect.
By Cinabar
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