How could I resist 'Picnic in the Palace', an evening event organised by event caterers The Food Show? Crossing the bridge to Westminster Pier, my umbrella blew inside out, but from then on, things improved.
On the boat trip to Putney, I met blogger and chocolatier Jessica Fagin of Niko B Organic Chocolates. She sets up pop-up dessert suppers in London and was on the lookout for the next new flavour.
Lime, thyme and sea salt, lemon ginger and cayenne pepper, jasmine green tea and orange, and grapefruit and pink peppercorn ganache are already on their menu.
“We did a chocolate mousse in a glass with a syringe of raspberry coulis for Halloween,” she laughed, introducing me to another chocolatier Dominic Ramsey.
Luckily, the sun came out by the time we had to walk through woodland to Fulham Palace, a beautiful venue tucked away in central London. The marquee housed 12 tempting tasting stands.
‘Icely Done’ was inspired by a Brazilian fresh fruit product sold as a street drink to quench thirst in hot climates. Created by Lefti Christodoulou, an internationally renowned bartender and drinks industry professional, these are fruity, iced cocktail lollies without sticks and sold using the slogan 'Adventures in Frozen Drinks'. We were asked to choose from grapefruit, vodka and pomegranate, lemon vodka and raspberry, gin and lemon rum & mango. I'm a grapefruit fan, so the choice was easy.
G'Nosh Gourmet Dips, without the fuss, in five varieties:
- Babaghanoush - smoky aubergine dip
- Muhumarra - spicy red pepper dip
- Beetroot and mint dip
- Sweet Black Bean
- Sundried tomato with basil. Yum.
Bonne Maman. Yes, we all know its jams, but now it's offering ‘Tranches d’Oranges’ – thick, jammy orange slices suitable for tarts, tortes or a sneaky treat, plus a mouthwatering caramel sauce in a jar and a delicious lemon marmalade.
Brighton vegetarian restaurant Terre a terre was sampling smoked tomatoes with quails eggs. My first smoked tomato and hopefully not my last.
Dickinson & Morris of Melton Mowbray showed how to make a decent pork pie, and the Black Mountain Smokery of Wales offered salmon and duck along with Thai and red pepper chilli jelly.
Tenuta Agricola dell’Uccellina had an unusual hard cheese with honey, and a mild cheese with chilli, along with sublime salami and olive oils from Italy. Other stands included African Volcano peri peri sauces, Farringtons farm-pressed rapeseed oils and mayonnaise and our long-time beloved Firefly Drinks, this time in striking silver bottles containing a blend of pomegranate and elderflower.
And so to the drinks.
All-natural Qcumber promises to break our passion for elderflower drinks, while Entropia was offering a new concept for wine refreshers using sweet dessert wines from Australia, but blending them with peach presse and guess what, elderflower!
So, plenty to think about, with stronger peppery tastes, smokey vegetables and deep fruity flavours giving us all an idea of where things might be heading.
Claire Phoenix is managing editor of Beverage Innovation magazine.
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