The Spirit of Christmas at Kensington Olympia
Just a quick post about The Spirit of Christmas which is at Kensington Olympia this weekend, in case you are considering going. I went on Thursday and it was brilliant – very chilled out, massive range of food, home, jewellery, clothes, kids stalls and much more. However, I imagine it will be very busy over the weekend.
As you might imagine, I spent most of my time in the food section, so I thought I’d share some of my highlights with you and suggest some stalls you should visit. Bear in mind that these will all be positive reviews as I didn’t bother noting down the stalls I didn’t like. Sadly, my budget doesn’t stretch to buying much of it (though I did get a few treats), but I now have a little list for future special occasions.
All opinions are very much my own, and are in no particular order.
Based in West Dorset. I tried their smoked duck breast. It was delicious and not something I’ve had before – would be great on blinis or as part of a luxurious salad. I love the sound of the hot smoked venison loin (£5.50) and the smoked partridge (£8) but sadly I didn’t find out about that until I looked at their website. They also smoke all the old favourites – salmon, mackerel and gravadlax. They have a slew of Gold Great Taste 2012 awards, and from what I tasted they definitely deserve it.
I’m a sucker for some smoked goods but it was the lovely ladies behind the stand that made me want to find out more about this company. They are directly involved in slowly smoking the fish and had great tips on how to use their smoked salmon terrine from frozen for a sneaky-cheat starter over Christmas. As with Chesil smokery, they have plenty of well deserved Gold Great Taste 2012 awards. Their salmon is smoked very slowly to let the fat gently rise (I don’t understand the science!) and it was incredibly juicy. They also have a great range of trout and terrines, but I fancied trying the smoked eel.
Cureton’s specialise in game. I tried their pheasant sausages with apple and calvados. I love game anyway, but these were great sausages – really dense with flavours that stood up to the game. They also do sausages in pheasant with apricot and brandy and venison with crushed garlic. I didn’t try any of their potted game or pies but imagine they looked good in the display. Again, lovely guys behind the stand who really wanted to chat about their product. Thinking about it, I think I’ve had their potted meat at borough market and it was definitely up to the same standard
This website “delivers fine artisan food to your door”. I tried Gilly’s Blond Balsamic Dressing (£9.95), the 24 month matured Lancashire Bomb (£9.50) cheese and its christmas version Lancashire Bomb with spiced apple and port (£6.50). I’d never come across the white balsamic before, but as BFF suggested, it would work brilliantly with a fish or white meat in the same way that normal balsamic enhances dark meats. The cheese comes in a round (hence the name) and is a mature cheddar which keeps for ages when complete and for a good long time even when opened. A good present for some family members perhaps? They have lots of other goodies such as venison chorizo – their website is drool making.
I was lucky enough to try some Yuzu and Valharona Dulcey truffles which the gentleman at the stand had made the previous day. I am definitely a Dulcey (blonde chocolate – think grilled white chocolate if you’ve ever tasted that!) convert. They also had giant Dulcey buttons salted with salt flakes from somewhere in the UK (I forget where from -sorry). I can’t find them on their website but hopefully they will be for sale soon. I think they win the prize for best thing tasted all day, no, I know they do. The chocolate society sell most of their products online (truffles, bars etc) but they also have a brand called “Hokey Pokey” which is, unsurprisingly, honeycomb covered in Valharona chocolate. I have to admit that after chatting to the guy at the stall and buying some other products he game me a bag of milk chocolate Hokey Pokey for free. Aww. I’ll be reviewing it soon.
I met the at Battersea food fair and was taken by their Visciolata del Cardinale cherry wine. It’s deep, fruity and very warming. It would work brilliantly in cocktails or deserts or with perhaps goat’s cheese / game. I can’t justify buying any for myself (I’d be drinking on my own!) but I did by some of their cherry liqueur chocolates to give as a Christmas present. Well, if they make it that far…
Chocolate chai almonds £(8.50). Sugar almonds are to these and cheesy strings are to a good Stilton. You will never want to go back.
I didn’t try the nougat because their fruit rolls were what caught my eye. They were a nice change to the standard offerings at fairs like this. Prune, fig or date paired with walnut, mixed with sugar, honey and lemon juice – they are dense and very rich with a just enough texture from the nuts. I thought my favourite would be the fig, but actually the toffee notes of the date with the lemon and nut to lift it worked really well together and would be my top rated. Ideal either as a high energy health snack or, even better with a good strong cheese. Not cheap at £3.99 for a small roll but a lovely treat for your Christmas cheese board.
I got chatting to Sandra McLaren at her stall having tried her Christmas pudding (though that’s not all she makes). I was particularly impressed that she even bakes the bread to make the breadcrumbs to put in the mixture. Her puddings (from £13.50) look lighter than other Christmas puddings I have seen and were definitely less stodgy – much nicer after a large turkey dinner. Sandra explained that she achieves this by cutting the flour content right down. She only uses 160g flour per 33kg mix. wow. No wonder it fell to pieces when she cut it! They also use citrus rather than candied peel and soak the fruit in Guinness and brandy. Apparently Kirsty Allsop is a fan.