Located on the Second Floor at Harvey Nichols, Manchester, the whole evening was dedicated to the best food and drink from a range of their independent suppliers. There were plenty of samples to try, live demonstrations from their restaurant chefs, mini cocktail sessions and special offers in their delicatessen. They also show cased some of their Christmas hampers – not that I’m ready to even think about that just yet. Shhh don’t mention the ‘C’ word.
I wandered around with a happy little grin sampling everything from dry cured ham to gin (several). It was great to discover new brands and hear stories of start-up to success straight from the owners!
There were so many great suppliers but here are my foodie highlights from the night:
Jellytots and Dolly mixtures – a cupcake company originating from Sale, Cheshire offering a great selection of cupcakes with flavours including Vanilla, Chocolate, Red Velvet, Lemon, Carrot & Pecan Nut , Cookies & Cream & Strawberry & White Chocolate along with seasonal specials throughout the year. I picked up a Carrot & Pecan Nut and Red Velvet both with buttercream icing – they were naughty but oh so nice!
MR BLACK – an Australian cold press coffee liqueur. I loved this at first sip! It has a strong espresso taste and aroma followed by a mellowing coffee/ toffee flavour. There was no synthetic aftertaste, just warming moreish coffee. This would be perfect to serve at the end of a dinner party or even add it to your coffees! You can make a whole variety of cocktails with it starting with my favourite the espresso martini or a white russian. It has 25% ABV and a hidden caffeine kick (apparently 4 x the caffeine of an espresso) and I can’t wait to get my hands on a bottle!
The Original Buxton Pudding Company – these chaps were lovely and gave us samples of their amazing spiced fat free tea loaf. Made with semi preserved fruits and dark sugar to give a hint of malt flavouring, I will definitely be stocking up on some – I could eat it all day long! They specialise in puddings ranging from traditional and sometimes long forgotten recipes to their own modern inventions and many of their products have won coveted stars in The Great Taste Awards.
The Wild Peanut – natural flavoured peanut butters with no preservatives or additives. I’m a bit of a nut butter addict and am always on the search for new brands that are also healthy and not packed with sugar. The Wild Peanut have gone one step further and have added other flavours that make them perfect for adding to sauces, stir frys, Thai currys and porridge. Flavours include original crunchy and original smooth, honey, cinnamon, banana, chili and chocolate. My favourite was definitely the chocolate peanut butter but the chili peanut butter would be great in savoury dishes.
Forest Gin – a beautiful hand-crafted gin incorporating wild Bilberries, Gorse Flowers, Raspberries, and Moss that are hand foraged from the from the Macclesfield forest combined with spring water. It’s produced in small batches and then bottled in a screen printed stoneware bottle featuring a papercut design to reflect the forest. Now I’m a huge gin fan and I’ve sampled many different brands, usually swaying to those with cucumbery undertones but this one really is something special. I can’t say that I could drink many gins neat but this had a lovely fresh flavour when sipped in its own. The makers recommend serving it neat in a wide glass with ice or a little longer with some grapefruit peel and a really good quality tonic water. I’m also curious to try it with a fresh mango! This is a strong contender for the coveted spot as my favourite gin!
Brew Tea Co – they make lovely loose tea and tea bags in a variety of flavours along with stylish tea pots that have a large brewing pot to help maximise the taste. I sampled some of their English breakfast tea which was a powerful blend of hand-picked rolled leaf Indian Assam and Sri Lankan UVA. I loved their modern fun branding and they also have a great website full of friendly anecdotes, recipes for iced tea and cocktails and offers to trade teabags for jokes and snaps of your daily brew.
Smith and Sinclair – grown up alcoholic sweets. We’ve all had those liqueur filled chocolates that often have a synthetic after taste but these are a different end of the spectrum. Classic cocktails have been infused into fruit pastilles with a technique that ensures there is a genuine alcohol kick and no loss of taste. Flavours include Gin & Tonic (violet infused gin with a lemon sherbet coating), Mixed Berry Daiquiri (summer berries, dark rum and a pink peppercorn infused coating), Whisky Sour (with a sour grapefruit coating), Cake Icing (whiskey and amaretto), Spiced Rum (dark rum and warm spices) and Spring Clean (gin, elderflower and thyme). My personal favourite was the gin and tonic with the sherbet lemon coating. A box of 6 pastilles packs in 2.6 units of alcohol with each sweet containing 6-8% ABV. Forgot taking a bottle of wine to your next party – take these!
Ohayo Tomorrow – a bed time drink shot – the last drink that you have after a big night to help you rehydrate and kick start the body’s natural detoxification. Containing spring water, natural flavourings and a blend of vitamins, minerals, and milk thistle extract to help you walk up a little fresher. I didn’t get to taste this one but I liked the concept a lot. Thought has gone into the ingredients and the packaging which has a removable glow in the dark sticker to help you remember to take the drink before you go to sleep. It won’t undo a night of heavy drinking but it claims to help promote a better night’s sleep and ward off the symptoms of a hangover. There’s also only 27 calories per 100ml). I’m keen to give this one a try!
Woodall’s Charcuterie – Cumbrian butchers producing some of the tastiest hams and meats around. My favourite by far was their Royale Ham which was a prosciutto style ham packed with a unique sweet, salty smoky flavour that was so moreish! The complex production process tired me out just thinking about it – first of all the meat is hand cured in salt using an old family recipe, then it’s marinated in a liquid pickle of pale ale, molasses, vinegar, brown sugar and spices for 8 days, then hung to dry for a further 7 days, then cold smoked in oak for 5 hours before finally more air drying for at least 6 months.
Burts Cheese – an award winning artisan blue cheese handmade in Cheshire in small flavours. There’s the original Burt a creamy blue cheese which is pierced during ripening to create blue veins. Then the Drunken Burt which is the Burts cheese but instead of piercing it’s washed in cider. Finally my favourite cheese the DiVine, which is the Drunken Burt’s blue cheese soaked in cider and wrapped in vine leaves to packs in extra flavour. We managed to get through a whole wheel in a weekend and were still craving more! It’s even better if its left to age a little and warmed up to room temperature it turns creamy and goooey in the centre.
You’ll find all of the above brands in the food market in the Manchester Harvey Nichols and they’re well worth checking out.