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My Favourite Place in St Andrews for the Munchies.
November 29, 2009, 9:00 am
Filed under: Food Week | Tags: , , , ,

LUCY BOLER

When I was told that the Sunday piece marking the finale of Food Week was to be a personal review of my favourite place in town, be it deli, restaurant, cafe, shop – anything, my first reaction was, of course, excitement, but closely followed by a rising sensation of fear; how could I possible single out one establishment above all the other fine harbourers of culinary delights in our dear Bubble? Between queuing eagerly for my Writer’s Block wrap at Butlers (with added blue cheese and avocado instead of mange-tout) and running into Fisher and Donaldson with just 2 minutes to spare before class in the quod to grab a cheeky sausage roll for breakfast, I had never stopped to consider which of these outlets for my appetite I actually considered my favourite.

With almost frantic fervour I scoured my memory for a place that really struck out and truly deserved such a title; the harbour house – THE only place in town serving the perfect chai latte (chai powder is the key – if you see your barrister pouring syrup in, my advice is to quickly flee), No.40 for its cocktails and charming staff (of whom I, as the bar tender, am undoubtedly the most charming – yet for fear of bias its probably best I eliminate No.40 from the running) or the Seafood restaurant (too obvious?)? Perhaps Bridges Butchers, for their fabulous fresh meats and tremendous banter? In my panic my consciousness began to approach utter madness: ‘maybe Empire?’ I even debated, ‘Maybe copious saturated fats and unidentifiable meats deep fried in lard are just misunderstood? Culinary triumphs in disguise? Maybe even Tesco’s has a benign side?’. Dark times indeed for a Fine Food and Dining Society co-president.

However, suddenly it struck me. The one place you are guaranteed to find me at least 4 times a week and the one place I pop into planning to buy just one item, yet consistently and utterly without fail come out with laden bags. One of the only places I dream about being accidently locked in over night to (…Marco Pierre White’s pantry is possibly the second….); I. J. Mellis Cheesemongers.

Oh the things I would do to that shop if locked in over night! Cue fantasy: The doors opening at 9am, revealing me to a surprised Cheese monger, lying green-faced and prostrate on the terracotta tile floor surrounded by countless hollowed out wheels of cheese: stilton, brie, cheddar – I am indiscriminate in my gorging of myself when it comes to this store. The selection of cheese available is truly breathtaking and the marble serving counter is dominated by towering mounds of cheesy goodness. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and there has not been even one occasion I can recall that I have been in and not sampled copious tasters of most of the cheeses there before buying (reason enough alone for a visit!). The first time me and my co-president, Katy Brill, visited the shop we left quite the impression on the cheesemongers there; having not listened to a word the cheesemonger was saying to us, engaged in stooping down in front of a particularly choice gorgonzola and literally drooling, we proceeded to request (quote) ‘the dirtiest, rottenest, smelliest, ooziest, most disgusting cheese in the shop’….I believe they thought us weird. Yet despite being really rather frightened of us the staff are still fantastically helpful and always recommend the best cheese for each personal palate.

For anyone who has not been in recently (or, god forbid, ever!) go there immediately and ask for the St Marcellin; a soft French cheese made from cow’s milk, creamy, flavoursome and deliciously odorous. This retails at only 4.04 gbp, even before the 10 % discount you get with your fine food and dining card…but shameless self promotion aside this really is my personal favourite cheese in the whole, wide world and I recommend you purchase it NOW. Or if you like your blue cheese, why not try Zak’s, one of the cheesemongers, favourite; Strathdon Blue. Slightly different to a stilton in its texture, salt content and creaminess, its ‘peppery savouriness’ is a great addition to any dinner party cheese board! Finn, another cheesemonger, rates the ‘Tomme au Marc de Raisin’ and, having sampled it, so do I! The cheese is fruity with sharp undertones and covered in must from the new season of wine-making giving it an added dimension of deep, ‘winey’ flavour. Retailing too at 3.14 GBP/100g you hardly notice the pennies slipping from your purse!

oozy, cheesy goodness that I would quite frankly stick my face in.

I.J. Mellis also supplies various chutneys, fabulous cured meats and antipasto items (as discussed in Tuesday’s article). Another claim to fame; the shop is one of, acclaimed celebrity chef, Rick Stein’s food heroes (http://www.rickstein.com/Cheese.html)!! Furthermore they have supplied such renowned chefs as Gordan Ramsey himself…and you know if Gordan says it’s good (or more likely, ‘f***ing good’), then it’s definitely worth a try!!

To conclude, my favourite place in the culinary world of St Andrews is I.J Mellis Cheesemonger. I love the variety of stock, I love that it’s the only place that brings the weird side of me out, I love the fruity whiff you get from it even down the street letting your stomach know that ‘yes…yes Lucy…cheese is on the way’ and I love love love the cheese itself. Pay a visit.

 

Courtesy of the Fine Food and Dining Society

We hope you have enjoyed Food Week and hope to see you at our Christmas run-up events!

If you’d like to hear more from the FIne Food and Dining Soc, get in contact by emailing them.

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Fine Dining in the Bubble
November 28, 2009, 9:00 am
Filed under: Food Week | Tags: , , , ,


The St Andrews student is a curious breed. A barber-toting, welly-wearing bizarre sort of species, the likes of which is extinct in such venerable Universities as Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham. We, like any common garden student, prowl the streets in search of food on a budget, yet snub the likes of the ‘McDonalds’ and ‘Wimpy’ that usually form the foundation of collegiate diets, in search of finer fare. A quick kebab for lunch? Nay – in the land of the bubble we opt for gourmet Lebanese Khobez flatbread wraps, shipped from London, filled with mounds of oozing brie, fragrant harissa and lovingly assembled by Butler and Co.! It is only in such a climate as this that such celebrated (and consequently not budget friendly) establishments as the Seafood Restaurant, Peat Inn and Russell’s hotel Supper Room (to name but a few) could flourish when supported almost solely by the student population. We may as well admit it; – the proof is in these restaurants survival – we at St Andrews have a taste for quality.

For those seeking to explore these establishments, to try somewhere new or simply to broaden their culinary horizons, we at the Fine Food and Dining Society have compiled a short list, with reviews, of our favourite (more…fine) places in and around our beloved town.

The Seafood Restaurant has long held the reputation as the best restaurant in St Andrews, but does it deserve such an illustrious title? With this question in mind I approached the almost other-worldly glass cube, perched over the sea with a stunning 360 degree coastline view, notebook and appetite at the ready and eager, quite frankly, to stuff myself! On this occasion I dined in the evening, but I would definitely advise people to go for lunch instead– since you can actually see the ocean without the cover of darkness – and the set menu itself is less pricey (although both are definitely worth the money!). The dinner menu has the options of both the £25 Winter Menu, and the £45 one. The £45 menu does have a lot more options on it, as well as amuse-bouches and pre-desserts, but I found the Winter Menu perfectly satisfactory, despite there only being 2 options per course.

The food, quite simply, is delicious. Dishes like honey and soy braised pork belly with pea puree and heady truffle oil and grilled cod fillet with sautéed langoustines dripping with garlic butter adorn the menu. The food is always seasonal, fresh and prepared beautifully. The deserts are average but this can more than be forgiven in the aftermath of perfectly moist, flaky seafood…and besides- who goes to the Seafood restaurant for dessert?

Beautiful location, beautiful food and pretty beautiful prices: little glass cube, best restaurant in St Andrews? Definitely up there!

Sangsters is about 20 minutes drive outside St Andrews in the picturesque town of Elie. I shall not dally too much on this restaurant, being outside the bubble, except to simply state: fantastic. One chef cooking alone in his kitchen (no commis chef, no pot wash…nothing), preparing food that has won him one Michelin Star and simply the most divine food I have sampled in a long time. Book now.

The Supper Room at the Russell’s Hotel is situated on the scores about 3 doors down from Ma Bells and contains without question one of the most skilled kitchens in St Andrews. Acclaimed particularly for its regional Scottish fare it sends out delicious steaming plates of haggis, seared highland venison and hearty game pies; all cooked with a critical eye to fine dining standards. This cosy restaurant, full of character in its design and ambience has already been awarded 1 AA Rosette and numerous other accolades and deservedly so. The wine selection is fantastic and there is a snug, separate bar area with an excellent whiskey selection for pre or post dinner drinks. The society rate this restaurant so highly that we are threw a ‘Taste of Scotland’ banquet there on Thursday 19th November and left so gorged with delicious food that we could hardly stumble home!!

The Glass House: Although this definitely more comes under the category of mid-range than fine dining and although this choice may be controversial to some food snobs- snubbing even the mention of the dreaded word ‘chain’, I cannot lie: I do love the Glasshouse. The lunch and early bird dinner deals at 5.95 and 11.95 (plus wine) are almost TOO reasonable and as long as you don’t go in there expecting ‘The Fat Duck’ you can expect fast, tasty food with the promise of rewards (free meals and alcohol) if you participate in their loyalty scheme.

And there you have it…our favourite restaurants around our dear town of St Andrews – each of them perfect for a dinner out with friends or family and a each definite trump card for a ‘hot date’.

Many thanks and enjoy dining,

Courtesy of the Fine Food and Dining Society

If you’d like to hear more from the FIne Food and Dining Soc, get in contact by emailing them.



Alcohol and Food
November 27, 2009, 9:00 am
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oh hey! drunk kids!

For most people, the closest link between food and alcohol is stumbling into Empire at 3am, incoherently mumbling for a while and then munching on cheesy chips as they wander home.

However, there are tonnes of better ways to incorporate alcohol into recipes: sometimes for depth of flavour, to increase textures of sauces, or else just to give that festive kick to your favourite puddings. I’m going to offer my favourite methods of using alcohol in food, and finally some tried-and-tested hang-over cures for those who’ve had a little too much the night before.

We all love a portion of fish and chips on a Friday night, and for those days when Anstruther is just is just a little too far away, why not make your very own beer-battered fish and chips? You can buy fantastic cuts of fresh fish from A. Keracher on South St, and for this recipe you’ll need: 50g plain flour, 50g corn flour, 1 tsp baking powder, some turmeric, a good sized can of lager and about 1 litre of oil, preferably sunflower. I love Peroni, but any good quality lager (or whatever you have lying in the back of the fridge) will suffice. Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl, season and then gradually incorporate the beer using a whisk until you a left with a smooth, lump free batter. Pat the fish dry and dredge it in a little bit of flour, then dip it into the batter and wipe off any excess on the side of the bowl. Carefully lower the fish into hot oil (check that a little bit of batter sizzles before you put the fish in) and fry for around 6-8 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve with plenty of salt, vinegar, tartare sauce and a heap of chips! Affordable, delicious and quick to make.

Fishy Chips

I love using Cointreau in my cooking, whether as a secret ingredient in a salad dressing or in my version of the classic Eton Mess. This recipe is a sure-fire hit at dinner parties and takes no time at all to prepare; you will need: icing sugar, cinnamon, double cream, fresh raspberries, and an orange. If you’re feeling particularly energetic you can make your own meringue, but I’m always happy just to buy some ready-made nests. Whip the cream with a little bit of cinnamon, a dash of Cointreau and some orange zest. Crush the raspberries in half and fold them into the whipped cream. To serve, simply layer a meringue nest with some of the whipped cream, another meringue on top, some more cream and then top off with some whole raspberries. I like to dust the top with a bit more icing sugar and cinnamon, and drizzle a bit of liquor around the plate for added affect. Enjoy!

For those of us who like to indulge a little too much from time-to-time, we all have our favourite hangover foods. I swear by a fried egg in between two soft pieces of thick white bread and plenty of ketchup. Depending on how much of a perfectionist you are, I think this is the perfect way to fry an egg. Crack the egg into a tea-cup and separate the white and the yoke. Heat up your best frying pan until a generous knob of butter foams in about a minute. As if you were caressing your first born child, gently lower the whites into the pan and using a spatula make sure they form a perfect circle the size of a cricket ball. After 2 minutes add the yoke to the top of the still-gelatinous whites and season with a little sea-salt and crushed white-peppercorns. Cover the pan for 3 further minutes, and meanwhile butter your bread and pour yourself a cup of scalding hot tea. Finally, place the egg on top of one of the pieces of bread, add ketchup (or, if you’re from the north, Brown Sauce) and top it off with another piece of bread. The crucial trick is to always eat this with a knife and fork, and to follow it with a single tin of beer at roughly 10.30 in the morning. Always works a treat.

Courtesy of the Fine Food and Dining Society

If you’d like to hear more from the FIne Food and Dining Soc, get in contact by emailing them.



Deals in the Bubble and…..Christmas
November 26, 2009, 9:11 am
Filed under: Food Week | Tags: , , ,

christmas

You know that when the middle-aged woman in the queue at Tesco’s, who had moments before been perfectly calm, shoves past you with a manic glint in her eye, that she has suddenly had THE revelation. No, not that Tesco’s is painfully bulging with idle students blocking the aisles in their quest for more vodka. But that, My God! Only 5 weeks to go until Christmas!

And because we all despise Tesco’s too, it seems a shame to waste our time there hunting for out-of-stock stuffing with the culinary delights of the festive season approaching. I mean, come on, with all the time saved you could be getting embarrassingly drunk under the mistletoe. Yes, Parties, Dinners and yet more parties are nigh upon us.  These are bound to involve some tempting treats, from festive nibbles all the way to whopping great big turkeys.

But if you are hosting these Christmas get togethers this season, it needn’t have to prove expensive. St Andrews is home to some of the most delightful and scrumptious delicatessens and local producers, that are offering Christmas deals so that your waistline can expand, but your overdraft need not!

If it is just finger food that you need to prepare, or you just want to buy ready made treats look no further than Butler and Company.  For mince pies, a jar of luxury mincemeat stands at just £2.75.  Similarly, a large 625g jar of Christmas chutney stands at just £5.95. Canapes are also available for purchase, and remember, as an esteemed member of the fine food and dining society you are entitled to 10% off all these goods.

For that all-important Christmas pudding, Butlers also offers this delectable festive sweet for just £7.95. Or for an even more mouth-watering experience they are selling hampers from just £15. In one of these you can expect pates, chestnuts, chocolates, and even panettone for the more Italian version of our seasonal favourite.  Not a bad pressie for the folks either!

No Christmas dinner would be complete without a turkey. Here Bridges Butchers can do you some fine deals. For a free range whole turkey the price stands at just £6.25 per kilo. And of course, chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon are a must at Christmas. At just over a pound for 100g of Ayrshire dry cured bacon, and only £8 for a whole kilo of chipolata sausages St Andrews resident butchers makes Christmas a lot more affordable. But if your purse strings tighten at even these conservative prices, fear not. With your fine food and dining society membership card you will receive a further 15% off everything.

With the meat sorted, vegetables can now take prime position on your Christmas shopping list. And love ‘em or hate ‘em sprouts are a traditional must. At the fruit and veg shop fresh sprouts can be bought for only £1.30 per/kilo, followed closely in value by the Christmas stalwart, the parsnip, at just £1.60 per/kg. Fully stocked with cranberries and maris piper potatoes too, this should be the only stop for you if you are seeking fresh and reasonably priced produce.

To complete this merry tour of St Andrews it seems fitting to end at my personal favourite, a cake shop. If you are going to indulge you may as well do it properly. Bearing this in mind, Fisher and Donaldson’s scrummy Christmas yule log is only £8.72. Not full? Try their gingerbread santa biscuits at £3.12…for 20!

No one is denying, my dear foodies, that you can probably go to Tescos or Morrisons and pick up some of these goods for similar prices. But when, fresh, locally sourced, and high quality products are standing right on our doorstep it seems pure madness to endure torture at Tesco’s. As much as I’m sure you all love to make forced conversation in the queue with “that person you don’t wanna speak to ,‘cos you were sh**faced, and got with them the other night”, alternatives, and bloody good ones at that, do exist.

So go out there and explore St Andrews this Christmas, you may not find Santa, but you may save yourselves time and money…

Courtesy of the Fine Food and Dining Society

If you’d like to hear more from the FIne Food and Dining Soc, get in contact by emailing them.



To Pub or Not to Pub….
November 25, 2009, 9:33 am
Filed under: Food Week | Tags: , , ,

generic pub

At this side of Raisin weekend, you might not want to see the inside of a
pub for a little while at least. However, our (sadly depleted) ranks of
public houses can offer succour to us in our hour of need with hearty,
simple food, done well.

Starting off, a good place to get reasonably cheap pub food is The Rule,
offering a 2-for-1 deal (ended on monday) on all pizzas all day Monday to Friday, with a
starting price of £3.95 for your basic pizza, and I know people who swear by
their breakfast deals. However, their mains tend to be a bit hit & miss,
although they do a decent Steak & Ale pie with Deuchars IPA for £6.95, the
accompanying vegetables were overcooked, and their pasta dishes
unfortunately under-seasoned, and unimpressive for the price.

For a classic beer n a burger, The Raisin does the best deal, coming in at
£3.95 between 3&9 P.M. They also do a great deal on mains, at 2 for £6.
However, you need to time it right, as The Raisin certainly gets crammed
once the evening gets in, and getting a table would certainly be a mission.
Good pub food, but not great for a proper pint.

If it’s sausages or pies you want, The Central is the place to be, with
their ‘sausage/pie of the day’ a tasty option at around £6.  Generally
really tasty, with a good onion gravy, although not fantastic mashed
potatoes, and a good selection of cask ales, it’s a nice place to kick back
and have a quiet chat over a pint of Ossian or Lia Fail, two lovely numbers
from Inveralmond Brewery. Their platters-to-share aren’t bad either, the
sausage one in particular comes with a good wholegrain mustard & chips.

If you want to get stuck in to some good grub with a great pint, The Whey
Pat is my preferred choice. A huge stack of cheesy nachos for £4 or a
massive bowl of chilli for £5 is ideal to share, or for one famished
student. Their pub sandwiches aren’t to be sneezed at either, at around £3,
which are a far cry from the limp affairs of pub food of old. And with the
best selection of guest real ales on rotation (including one of my
favourites from my home county of Yorkshire, Timothy Taylor’s *Landlord*),
it’s not somewhere to overlook.

Aikman’s always used to be good for food, and ridiculously cheap with it
too. This correspondent awaits any further news about its reopening, which
at present, isn’t looking too hopeful. It is sorely missed.

So there you have it – The Fine Food & Dining Society isn’t only about
swanky meals at hotels with AA Rosettes! The pub food at St Andrews is, unfortunately,
nothing amazing. But it’s generally at a reasonable price, and when accompanied
by a fine pint and good mates, it’s certainly worth it.

 

Courtesy of the Fine Food and Dining Society

If you’d like to hear more from the FIne Food and Dining Soc, get in contact by emailing them.



Big Chain vs. Independent
November 24, 2009, 9:00 am
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Some of my friends think I’m mad to shop independently in St Andrews- “you must spend a fortune”, they say.  Simply not true, and for this article I decided to prove it. I chose a traditional student meal, spaghetti bolognaise, and compared prices and quality of the main ingredients in Tesco, Market Street, with those in independent shops. Here’s what I found. As soon as I entered Tesco I was stressed. Queues going down every aisle, including at the tobacco counter. I battled through to the fruit and vegetable section and compared sourcing and prices with John Birrell Son, a lovely family run shop on South Street. So for my ‘spag bol’ I need one onion: 29p each in Tesco, 7p in Birrell’s- 1 point to the independent shop! Garlic:  only in available in multipacks of three in Tesco which works out at 33p for one bulb, 28p for a truly enormous individual bulb in Birrell’s. Carrots: 69p per kg in Tesco, 55p per kg in Birrell’s- or pay a little extra for some lovely local dirty carrots, dug fresh from the ground, 70p per kg- that’s 1p per kg more than the pre-packaged, chemical sprayed Tesco variety. One red pepper: a shocking 68p each in Tesco, 46p in Birrell’s. I also checked out the prices of some everyday pieces of fruit. Grapes in Tesco were £5.58 per kg compared with £4.40 per kg in Birrell’s; apples varied in price and there was not much difference between the two shops, but I could only find one variety of British grown apples  in Tesco, and Birrell’s had three.  Another top place for apples is, perhaps slightly surprisingly, the cheesemonger on South Street, I.J. Mellis. While apples are in season (which they are now, just about) they have crates outside containing some delicious and unusual local varieties, complete with information cards.

Next, mince. Tesco did have some Scottish mince, which I must say is much more acceptable than the Danish pork chop I spied on the next shelf. The pre-packaged mince worked out at £5.92 per kg. Now given the horror stories one hears about supermarkets and their sourcing of cheap substandard meat (injecting water to increase the weight of chicken breasts etc) I was expecting Bridges Butchers on South Street to be more expensive but for superior quality. However, not only was their mince sourced from a reputable farm and abattoir in Galasheils, contained only 4-6% fat compared to the average 20% found in supermarket varieties, it cost only £7.25/kg, only £1.38 more expensive per kg than the supermarket chain. Minus the 15% discount available with your Fine Food and Dining Society membership (hint hint) and it is only 29p more per kg. So that’s 29p for superior quality, lower fat, locally sourced meat, available from a friendly, independent butcher. I did not have to queue and I was served personally by the head butcher himself. Similar story with the bacon, about £2 more expensive per kg, but the quality is incomparable- sourced from Ayrshire, thick cut, and dry cured to reduce water content, it won’t shrink and shrivel during cooking like the supermarket varieties.

On past occasions I have gone in looking for a joint of meat lamb that would easily serve 12 for a dinner party- the butcher chatted with me about how I wished to cook and present the meat and in the end recommended a rolled leg of lamb, with the bone cut out but put loosely back in so that I could achieve maximum flavour during cooking and remove it just before slicing and serving- now you don’t get that sort of attention at the Tesco self-serve fridge! While I was in Bridges I also made a couple of other observations. Their sirloin steaks may be expensive, working out at just under £5 per steak, but are cut from beef hung for 3-4 weeks, again reducing water content and intensifying the flavour. I also noticed that a pre-packaged, processed steak pie, complete with high sugar, salt and E numbers costs £2.97 in Tesco, while the same sized pie in Bridges, home made by the butcher himself with delicious local beef and homemade gravy and pastry costs only £3.35, minus your discount and that’s cheaper than Tesco- Independent comes out on top once more!

Your butcher is also fantastic when it comes to learning more about different cuts of meat; slow cooking cheaper cuts in stews and casseroles is a fantastic way of enjoying delicious meaty meals on a student budget. Last month I bought cheap venison for stewing from Fletcher’s at the Saturday Farmers Market, £5 for diced meat which made enough stew to serve five people. Bridges is always more than happy to recommend a cheaper cut, depending on what you need, and will even give you unwanted bones for your stock for free. The same goes for Keracher fishmonger who will give away fish bones and off-cuts. Their selection of freshly caught Scottish fish is also unbeatable and although you can spend some pennies in there if you get carried away with monkfish or smoked Scottish salmon, you can also get cheaper fish, such as haddock, cod or mackerel at very competitive prices, as well as knowing when and where it was caught.

So back to the spag bol. I popped into the Little Italian Shop on Bell Street to look for the remainder of my ingredients. Tinned tomatoes in Tesco ranged from 35p for value to 99p per can for branded; the Little Italian shop had some lovely 100% Italian tomatoes for 75p per can, and puree for only 79p. Their stunning 18 month aged Parmigana Reggiano coming from Parma itself worked out as only 75p more expensive per 100g than the much less authentic Tesco ‘Grand Padano’. Authentic Italian spaghetti is also very reasonable, 99p per 500g, although you can get double the amount for that in Tesco if you are prepared to buy the cheapest brand. So when I calculated the total price for my spaghetti bolognaise it came to £1.98 per person with ingredients from Tesco, and £2.77 with ingredients sourced locally. Although fruit and vegetables from Birrell’s came out cheaper every time when compared to Tesco, the meat and cheese made shopping locally ever so slightly more expensive. Considering, however, that in every shop I visited I did not queue once, I was able to chat about the ingredients I was buying with artisan producers, and when I tuck into my spaghetti the combination of stunning quality mince, 18 month aged parmesan and juicy cherry tomatoes will result in a far tastier meal- I say it is worth the 79p! Also the fact that 40% of shopping trips in supermarkets involve impulse buys, means that I believe I save money by simply not entering the big chains.

Finally, fancy something sweet? Compare £1.28 for a small factory-made walnut cake in Tesco with £3 for one double the size in Butler & Co and handmade by Mrs Jeffrey from St Andrews yesterday- is there really a choice ?

 

Courtesy of the Fine Food and Dining Society

 

If you’d like to hear more from the FIne Food and Dining Soc, get in contact by emailing them.

 

 

 



Delis in the Bubble.
November 23, 2009, 9:00 am
Filed under: Food Week | Tags: , , ,



Blessed as we are with a multitude of independent delicatessens, the task of finding the best prices and the tastiest olives fell to me.

When you enter I. J. Mellis Cheesemonger on South Street you can always expect a warm welcome. Staff are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Although they have a vast collection of various types of cheese, if they don’t have what you’re looking for they will do their very best to recommend an alternative. Most of their cheese is competitively priced. For example, Keens Cheddar is just £1.66 per 100 grams. But Mellis caters for more than just your cheese needs. They have a range of larder ingredients from Scottish honey to the highest quality Aberfeldy flour. They also have selections of olives, sundried tomatoes and cold meats.

Butler & Company on Church Street is probably the busiest of the delis. Consequently, it is perhaps harder to get the personal attention you receive in Mellis or The Little Italian Shop. But it does have things that the others don’t. Butler’s wraps are the holy grail of the snack world. Ranging from £2.50 to £4.00, and using good quality natural ingredients, the queues are certainly justified. In terms of larder items, Butler’s has the biggest choice. Their Trackleman’s range is cheaper than Mellis and elsewhere in town, and their own range of jars is infinite. Items perhaps more foreign to our British sensibilities, such as Marshmallow Fluff, packet ‘Mac ‘n’ Cheese’ and Sushi ingredients can also be found on the shelves.

The Little Italian Shop on Bell Street is a treasure-trove of ingredients and inspiration for cooking. If you approach staff with a query, they will talk passionately, and often with stereotypical hand gestures, until you have to politely excuse yourself. Dried pasta is cheaper than Tesco and if you’re feeling adventurous they sell the flour mix so you can make it yourself. You can also buy home-made pasta sauces for 90p, or fresh gnocchi, both made on site. And if you really want to impress people, you can hire the chef for your dinner parties. With a huge range and quite competitive prices, it goes without saying that this is the best place to get your oils and vinegars. There is an oil press in the shop, so once you’ve bought your bottle you can come in and top it up. The Little Italian Shop prides itself on the quality of its ingredients and quite rightly – buffalo mozzarella is shipped in twice a week direct from Naples. You can’t get much fresher without having to go there yourself and at £1.85 per 100 grams, buying it on Bell Street is considerably cheaper.

Why stand in a notorious Tesco line for hours at 5 o’clock to buy your pasta, Dolmio and cheese when you can get better quality and often cheaper ingredients without the stress? Also, if you’re stuck for Christmas gifts, all these delis do beautifully presented hampers. You can choose the items yourself or order a readymade one.

 

Courtesy of the Fine Food and Dining Society