Have been busy, busy scouting out Christmas presents and stocking fillers.
1. For the cheese lover – a BEAUPLUS cheese board and knife set. Why? Because this is the cleverest cheese charcuterie board I have ever come across. The square bamboo board has 4 pull-out drawers of varying sizes – one has compartments for nuts, etc., another contains various implements like cheese knives, another holds 3 little dipping dishes and the last is for things like slices of cucumber, tomatoes, etc. There is also an additional circular board. To get a real idea of how well thought out and compact the cheeseboard is look at the demonstration video on Amazon which is where the board is available from.
2. For the frugal cook – the TOVOLO jar scraper. Why? Because this long handled, thin, and slightly flexible spatula can reach to the bottom of any jar that has almost, but not quite run out. Available on Amazon (US) and Lakeland (UK)
3.For the breakfast lover – SEVILLE MARMALADE. Why? Because this is the quintessential marmalade as far as marmalade connoisseurs are concerned www.cherrytreepreserves.co.uk (UK) www.britishessentials.com (US)
4. For the Christmas decorator – charming CHRISTMAS TEA TOWELS. Why? Because they add a Christmassy feel to the kitchen www.thebeesknees.com (US) www.victoriaeggs.com (UK)
5. For the chocolate lover – a bar of chocolate or a ‘library’ of chocolate (several bars together) from CHOCOLATE AND LOVE. Why? Because the chocolate is ethically produced, the flavors are interesting and the packaging is beautiful www.chocolateandlove.com (UK) www.britishessentials.com (US)
6. For the sandwich lover – THE SANDWICH SHOP: 50 GREAT SANDWICH RECIPES by Lucy Heaver and Aisling Coughlan. Why? Because the sandwich recipes come from all over the world and sound delicious – Peking Duck with Pickled Cucumber, Halloumi with Adjvar (a Balkan condiment). Available at Amazon.
7.For the foodie – a bottle LACONIKO olive oil. Why? Because it was awarded EVOO of the Year 2022 and it has eight times the anti-oxidants of regular olive oil. www.lakoniko.com.
8. For the jigsaw lover – a LE PUZZ jigsaw puzzle. Why? Because one of its 1,000 piece food related puzzles will provide a satisfying challenge and everyone can add a piece or two. www.lepuzz.com
9. For the little one in your life – PRETEND FRUIT AND VEG. Why? Because they provide hours of pretend imaginative fun. www.temu.com
10. For the cat lover -CANDY KITTENS. Why? Because this British candy aimed at adults is totally natural and also vegan (no gelatin) and comes in various delicious flavors in the form of a cat’s face. Amazon in the US www.candykittens.co.uk
CHRISTMAS HAMPERS – Instead of giving a pre-filled hamper, fill one yourself with items more personal to the recipient. FORTNUM & MASON allows you to do this as does ARTISAN DELI MARKET which has a large selection of quality savory, sweet and Christmas items to choose from. www.fortnumandmason.com and www.artisandelimarket.co.uk
BOARDS BY NAT are quite the best cheese and charcuterie boards I have ever seen – very inventive and beautifully presented. They come in all shapes and sizes from the individual to the 4 foot long board catering for up to 30 people. There is a ‘Lover Board’ in the shape of a heart or you can choose to have the cheeses, etc. presented in the shape of a letter(s) and numbers (great for a special birthday). They can be delivered anywhere in South Florida or shipped nationwide. www.boardsbynatcharcuterie.square.site
Canape season is nearly upon us. Here are some fresh ideas:
Anchovy, Red Pepper and Manchego (served on garlic rubbed baguette)
Tuna Pate – really good tuna in a glass jar whizzed up with cream cheese, little bit of lemon juice and spread on those little mini toasts with a caper on top
Devils on Horseback – bacon wrapped dates
Tapenade on a mini toast
Toasted baguette slices spread with cream cheese, topped with dill mustard sauce and then smoked salmon
Home made parmesan crisps
Rosemary mixed nuts
Garlic lime shrimp
I haven’t done this before but I am retracting my recommendation of CAFE FLORA. My experience prior to the season beginning in Palm Beach was excellent. My experience the other evening was far from satisfactory. The service was extremely slow and when you have to ask the maitre d’ to find your waiter you know things are bad (and the maitre d’ wasn’t too happy about it either). It is generally considered impolite to raise a hand to attract a waiter’s attention, better to try and make eye contact (in all honesty the server should be keeping an eye on the tables he serves). In this instance one had to practically stand up!
RESTAURANT OF THE MONTH – Flanigan’s
My local Flanigan’s has a winning formula – the staff are friendly and efficient and work as a team, customers are offered a drink right away and shown the special deals of the day – the $6.99 menu (where can you beat that?) or the Wing It Wednesdays (10 free wings with a pitcher of beer), the meals deals (all under $20.00 except for the legendary rack of ribs) include a choice of potato or rice, cesar salad, garlic rolls and a free drink (can you beat that?) and keep a good eye on the people they are serving. The food is unfussy and the portions substantial. The restaurant is always nice and full and you can barely find a space in the car park. Family friendly too. 330 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach, FL 33405.
BOOK OF THE MONTH – The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket – Benjamin Lorr
My eyes have been opened wide by this well-researched and informative book. Opened further than I wanted and a sad reflection on the grocery store world. As consumers, the moment we step inside a supermarket we are manipulated. Go further behind the scenes and the picture is worse – sometimes heartless, sometimes horrifying. You may not be interested in reading this book but it would provoke a good discussion at a Book Club.
RECIPE OF THE MONTH – Sweet Potato, Apple and Rosemary Soup (serves 4)
An unusual combination that works well – the onion and the fresh rosemary cut the sweetness. Dinner party worthy.
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium to large onion weighing 8 oz. – roughly chopped
1 large sweet potato weighing about 1 pound – cut into bite size pieces
8 oz. apples (I used honey crisp variety) – peeled, cored and cut into bite size pieces
3 cups of chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh rosemary – roughly chopped but not too fine
Heat oil in a Dutch oven and add onion when oil is sizzling. Let it soften and brown.
Tip in the sweet potato and apple pieces.
Pour over the broth.
Add the rosemary
Bring to a boil then turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Puree in a food processor.