Monday, 31 October 2011

Hotel Chocolat Christmas Giveaway

Hotel Chocolat has been the bane of my life this week. You see, I've been on a bit of a pre-Christmas health kick and on Thursday, I received the Christmas Chocolate Goodie Bag which they had very kindly sent me. Since then, it has sat on my kitchen bench, mocking me and my attempts at weight loss. It's a hard life, isn't it?

I fell off the dieting wagon this morning though in spectacular fashion and enjoyed a bit of Hotel Chocolat for breakfast. And why the bloody hell not? The Goodie Bag, part of their extensive Christmas gifts range, includes six Billionaire Shortbread chocolates, a Christmas Gift Slab with milk chocolate and dark cookie pieces, a milk chocolate Pocket Reindeer and a Mini Festive Wreath. The latter was my favourite.. Milk and dark chocolate with cranberries, hazelnuts and biscuit. Very Christmassy and very, very lovely. Breakfasts should include Hotel Chocolat more often.

You can buy the Christmas Goodie Bag for £17 online or in any of their shops. For north eastern readers, pop into Metro Centre or Newcastle. The shops are modern, sophisticated, yet fun, and definitely fill a gap in the market. Where else can you buy great quality chocolate on the average Great British high street? Hotel Chocolat are also the only British chocolatier to have their own cocoa plantation. They mean business. There's no doubting that Hotel Chocolat ain't cheap, and will be wasted on certain people. Don't waste your money if the recipient is more of a £2.99 selection box sort of person. But for the more discerning chocolate lover, the Goodie Bag makes a lovely present.

And thanks to Hotel Chocolat, I have one of these Christmas Goodie Bags to give away to one reader.

To enter, just a leave a comment on this post before midnight on 14th November. The winner will be picked at random.

You can gain further entries by following any of the steps below. Please leave a separate comment for each, so all of your entries will be counted.
Good luck!

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks for your entries.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

What's on in November

The cold nights are drawing in, we have one less hour of daylight in the evenings, and we still have a long wait before the festive season. In short, we all need a little something to look forward to. Here's my list of top events happening in the region in November.

Latimer's Seafood Lunch Club

Latimer's are renowned for selling the best local fresh fish in Newcastle and Sunderland, and now they're hosting their first lunchtime event with north east pop-up chef Anthony Brown. Treat yourself to a leisurely 3 course lunch, based on the French notion of 'Plat de Jour' (that's 'dish of the day', if your French lets you down). Main course and dessert for £20 per person.

3rd November, 12.15pm
Latimer's Seafood Deli, Shell Hill, Bents Road, Whitburn, Sunderland, SR6 7NT
0191 5292200

Living North: The Essence of Christmas Fair

This is the largest event of its kind in the region, and a definite highlight of the north's foodie calendar. The four day event will showcase 250 stalls featuring food, drink, interiors, arts and gifts. Start your Christmas shopping early (well, I personally think that November is early for this sort of thing) and have a browse amongst the wares of local beauties such as Northumberland Cheese, Mr Vikkis, Wylam Brewery and Lottie McPhee's. What's perhaps most impressive though is the list of demonstrators featuring over the course of the event, which reads like a 'who's who' of the north east's culinary scene. Terry Laybourne of 21 Hospitality Group, Mark Percival of Eslington Villa, Bob Arora of Sachins and David Kennedy of NE2 Food Social make up just the tip of the iceberg, so plan in advance to avoid missing your favourites. Tickets are £6 in advance or £8 on the door.

3rd-6th November, 10am-4/5pm
Newcastle Racecourse, Gosforth Park, Newcastle, NE3 5HP

Christmas Food and Drink Festival

The Lewis and Cooper (my new favourite place) annual celebration of great food and drink. This is an opportunity to meet dozens of Lewis and Cooper's suppliers and producers, and take advantage of some extra special offers and discounts. Plus, it aims to raise thousands for their chosen charity, Help for Heroes. Tickets are now free.

Sunday 6th November, 10am-4pm
Lewis and Cooper, 92 High Street, Northallerton, DL7 8PT
01609 772880

Lumiere Festival

Not foodie, but still a must-visit for those in and around Durham. The dazzling festival returns to the city for four nights with installations and projections that will light up Durham's buildings, streets and bridges. The first Lumiere in 2009 attracted over 75,000 visitors to the city and it's getting bigger, and well, as you might imagine, brighter. Selected restaurants will also be running special deals for festival attendees, including Oldfields who are offering 25% food bills (print off the voucher from Lumiere's website).

17th-20th November, 6-11pm
Durham City Centre

Newcastle Continental Market

The Continental Market returns to Newcastle City Centre just before the run up to Christmas. There's nothing better than getting wrapped up and wandering around the hustle and bustle of the market with a mulled wine, picking up some Christmas presents and trying out the many food stands. Expect paella, currywurst, waffles, crepes, and more.

21st November - 3rd December
Grey's Monument, Grey Street and Grainger Street, Newcastle City Centre

Enjoy, and do let me know the verdict if you attend any of these events.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Bra and knickers cake

If you're looking to impress the man in your life on his birthday, you can't go far wrong with this ingenious pairing of cake and sexy underwear. And best of all, it's reasonably easy but will earn you a reputation as an amazing cake decorator for months to come.

You'll need:
8"x6" oval sponge cake
750g flesh coloured sugarpaste
250g buttercream
Small cup of royal icing, 1/2 coloured red, 1/2 coloured black
Oval cake board
Piping nozzle (round, #2 sized)
2 small red ribbon bows

Start by placing your oval sponge cake onto a cake board, and use a 2" round cutter to cut out semi circles from the side of the cake. Trim a little bit off the edge so it's perfectly flat, and place on top of the cake. This creates the waist and the boobs.

Next, cover the cake with a thin layer of buttercream. I added melted dark chocolate to mine, and you can vary the flavours according to your own tastes. Make sure you get this as smooth as possible so you have a good base for the sugarpaste to stick to. Put your cake in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up the buttercream, making it easier to cover.

The next bit is probably the most tricky, and will result in a kitchen tantrum and/or swearing if you don't get your head around it all in advance.

Grease your work surface with a very thin layer of vegetable fat. Sounds strange, but it stops your sugarpaste drying out or sticking to your bench, and it has no smell or taste.

Roll out your sugarpaste to about 5mm thick. Sugarpaste spacers are really useful for getting an even thickness and can be picked up for a few pounds from a cake decorating supplies shop. If you're in the north east, I'd recommend popping into Design a Cake in Washington for this sort of thing. Avoid handling your sugarpaste too much as you don't want it getting too hot and sticky.

Pick up your rolled out paste (I find it easiest to drape it over and between my forearms) and drape it over your cake. Starting with the boobs, make sure that your sugarpaste is sticking to the buttercream and gently ease it down, taking a lot of care to ensure you aren't stretching it.

Continue this for the rest of the cake, using the flat of your hand, paying particular attention to the edges of the cake. When smoothing the sides, always smooth in upwards movements. Otherwise, you'll be pulling down the paste from the top of the cake, which will lead to cracking or end up with the cake poking through the paste.

Trim off the excess paste from the sides with a knife, and use a smoother (again, a really useful piece of caking decorating equipment and dirt cheap) to perfect your covering.

Finally, use the end of a thin paintbrush to lightly press a belly button into the sugarpaste.

Ideally you should leave your covered cake overnight to let the sugarpaste set.
Then, use the black royal icing to pipe on the outline of the bra and knickers.

Next, fill in the outlines with the red royal icing. Don't worry about this bit too much, just pipe little squigles straight onto the cake to create a lacey effect.

Finally, go over the black piping again to make it really stand out. I did backwards-and-forwards squigles over the existing lines to make it more striking. Secure 2 bows with a little dot of royal icing to complete the cake.

Da-daaa! Done and dusted with a few hours work and hardly any stress . If this doesn't earn you a few brownie points, I don't know what will.

Monday, 10 October 2011

North East Foodies to Follow on Twitter

The world has gone Twitter mad. Celebrities from Stephen Fry to Russell Brand are regularly updating us with 140 characters or less, and hashtags, followers and tweets have become part of our everyday language. I've been a regular user of Twitter for just over a year now (you can follow me at @EatingUpNorth), and aside from using it to put off washing the dishes, it's a really useful tool for foodies. It's great for hearing about new restaurants, shops and events in your local area, as well as discovering new recipes, interesting articles, and interacting with people who share your love of food.

I've seen lists on who to follow for all manner of interests and niches, and so this is my list of suggestions for foodies in the north east. I try to follow those who are interesting, informative, and contribute to discussions and the local food scene as a whole. This is by no means a definitive list, so feel free to leave a comment if you think you should be included, or if you know a great north east foodie who you think I should be following.

Shops/local suppliers


Food bloggers/writers/enthusiasts




Be sure to also check out the #NEfollowers hashtag for news, views and events going on in the region.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Lewis and Cooper, Northallerton

On Monday I paid a visit to Lewis and Cooper, a food and drink outlet in Northallerton, following a suggestion from a friend that I might like the place. Like it? It was similar to suggesting that Gazza might enjoy a trip to the pub. I absolutely bloody loved it.

Trading since 1899 from Northallerton's High Street, this family run business is a food lover's paradise. Deceptively large, I could have happily spent the whole afternoon in here. There's literally thousands of lines available, from local honey, jams and chutneys to foie gras, impressive selections of supplies for Chinese and Indian cookery and sushi making essentials.

The delicatessen area is bursting with fresh produce including hams, highest quality sausages, cheeses and pates, some from European suppliers and others from right on their Yorkshire doorstep.

Cake decorating enthusiasts are well catered for too.

They brew and grind their own coffees on the premises, have endless Great Taste awards for their fruitcakes and puddings, and a well stocked wine and beer shop. You can also pick up a ready made hamper in-store from their huge selection, or put your own together to include all your Lewis and Cooper favourites. If you can whittle it down to just one basketful anyway.

A definite must-visit for food fans in the north east.

Note: the car parking situation in Northallerton is a bit of a funny one. You need to pick up a disc from a local shop or the Tourist Information Centre, but it's then free on the High Street. Or you could just cheekily park in Tesco, at the other end of the street to Lewis and Cooper.

Lewis and Cooper
92 High Street
North Yorkshire

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Town Wall, Newcastle

I think my boyfriend's flatmate may have actually taken up full-time residence in The Town Wall. That boy must be in there at least three times a week. His love for the place has even become a bit of an ongoing joke.. 'Where you off to today Jonny? The Town Wall for food, by any chance?' '..Well, yes actually. Bugger off'.

The newest addition to Pink Lane, an increasingly trendy quarter of the city, The Town Wall is housed in an impressive Grade II listed building which was once the living quarters and workplace of famous Northumbrian Thomas Bewick. It's a chilled out affair, spacious and airy yet still managing to feel quite cosy, exposed brickwork, vintage furniture, gastro-pub-esque.

The menu offers locally sourced traditional pub grub with a modern twist, and an impressive selection of beers and ales. It's simple food at decent prices. A good selection of starters and sharers, salads, sandwiches and larger mains. There's also a decent choice of gourmet burgers, handmade with 100% beef, and they're served pink. I like this. There aren't enough pink burgers being offered these days.

You see, the folks at the Food Standards Agency have been getting their knickers in a twist over this for some time now. Of course there is an extremely slight chance that such a burger could carry E.Coli. But look, I have a lottery ticket in my purse from last night that I haven't checked. This doesn't mean that I've told my boss to naff off and I'm currently purchasing the entire Chanel Autumn/Winter collection online, because the chances of me having won are probably fairly similar to being struck down by a horrible illness all because I like my burgers a bit pink in the middle. I'm confident of the meticulous standards in the British beef supply chain and in the kitchens of any eateries worth their salt. I applaud any restaurateur who is also confident of their own standards and are happy to take this entirely minuscule risk, in the name of serving the most enjoyable and highest quality food. Let us eat pink burgers, if we so wish.

So whilst I shall be returning very soon for a burger, on this occasion we went for less contentious fare, the sausage rolls with Heinz beans and chips, and a Greek salad. I know, I should have practiced what I preach. But the sausage rolls were meaty and succulent, the chips homemade and fluffy, and salad was fresh with good, salty cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Comfort food at its best.

The bill came to around £15, including two soft drinks. Bargain.

I'll be returning to The Town Wall, ideally on a Sunday. I'll be reading their papers, putting my feet up (metaphorically.. the furniture may be 'vintage', but let's not be taking liberties) and enjoying some good food and fine beers.

Go along, enjoy a burger of the best variety. And be sure to say hello to Jonny. He'll definitely be there.

Result: 9/10

The Town Wall
Pink Lane