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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Harvey Nichols Food Hall: Utopia, Part Two

Obviously, most of the time my brain is occupied with meaningful, deeply cerebral matters; the nature of the universe, for example, or the influence of Proust on modern European literature. Actually, that's not true. I spend pretty much every waking moment thinking about food; indeed, I often lie in bed at night, happily planning the meals I will eat the next day (or indeed, week). Under these circumstances, the fact I have today spent six hours in the Harvey Nichols Foodmarket should be something of a cause for concern; I believe, in fact, that three school-leavers have been employed tonight specifically to restock the empty shelves that I have left in my wake.

My reasons for such gluttony are, of course, entirely selfless. New products need trying, and I am the brave person to - as Rio Ferdinand would say - step up to the mantelpiece. Here are just a few things that you might like to try:

1. Yee Kwan Handcrafted Ice Cream and Sorbets. Yee is a Sheffield-based lady who makes the most delicious ices using natural flavours and a base mix that is only 6.5% fat (although, frankly, when you read the whole sorry list of what I ate today, such concerns seem entirely superfluous). I liked ALL the flavours I tried (which, bless her, Yee patiently served up without a trace of a "for goodness sake, how much can one woman eat" expression on her face), including the award-winning Black Sesame Seed ice cream, but my very favourite - the Avocado & Chilli sorbet - is not stocked by HN: yet. I plan to wear the buyers down by simply going up to all staff in the food market and saying "AVOCADO AND CHILLI SORBET PLEASE" until my demands are met and this amazing savoury sorbet is safely on the shelves. Full details are available on Yee's website.

2. HN Panforte. Apparently, people only buy panforte - a traditional Tuscan cake - at Christmas, which seems to leave eleven and a half months of the year cruelly unaccounted for. I tried the Chocolate & Cherry, and then the Hazelnut & Fig; I was particularly taken with the latter, which would be perfect served in thin slivers with cheese (obviously tell your guests it was a terribly small panforte, to account for the slices that you will inevitably have eaten while carving it up). They look and taste beautiful, and don't be put off by the £7.95 price tag - one of these will go a long way (the HN lady estimated it would feed twelve, although I would privately reduce this a little for those with, ahem, substantial appetites). Lovely picture here.

3. Assorted Alcohol. By now it was gone 11.30, and therefore a perfectly respectable time to sidle over to the alcohol tables. I loved the HN Pinot Noir, and also spent a happy time with Caroline of Chase Distillery, a Herefordshire-based company whose vodka has been voted the best in the world. I can confirm that their Apple Gin and Rhubarb and Raspberry Liqueurs are just as good, although obviously I wouldn't normally touch such things before lunch *brave, selfless, I-do-it-all-for-you face*

4. Assorted Deli Items. The deli counter at Harvey Nicks is a thing of great beauty, a place I have often been tempted to sneak into at night, only to be discovered in a happy olive-based coma the following morning; honestly, this is where I would go if I was a teensy tiny Borrower. Anyway, the Cashel Blue cheese is immense, as are the fresh anchovies; both of which, sadly, were just too smelly to allow me to surreptitiously sweep the lot into my handbag.

We were also lucky enough to sample a cocktail masterclass, in which I made a frankly VERY good Mojito (although, to be honest, it's quite easy when someone has already made the sugar syrup and squeezed the limes for you - the hardest bit was getting on, and staying on, the bar stool), and then to have a meal in the Second Floor Restaurant cooked by Head Chef Stuart Thomson. Stuart has deservedly been nominated for Chef of the Year in the upcoming Manchester Food and Drink Awards, with the restaurant itself up for Restaurant of the Year; on the evidence of today's lunch it would be no surprise if either or both were to win. We feasted on smoked salmon, Goosnargh corn fed chicken breast with tomato cassoulet, selected cheeses (including the gorgeous - and aptly named - Smelly Apeth), Hibiscus & Champagne trifle, and - last but not least - a cute "I love HN" cake pop courtesy of Didsbury-based Lollicakes. I made the mistake of taking this home, where - after a hot bus journey - the words had melted into one chocolatey blend; note to self, NEVER put a melting cake pop in the freezer when Mr Liz is due home imminently.

So after all this glorious gluttony, at least I can have a quiet, modest day tomorrow to atone for today's sins; it's not, after all, as if I have a Cheese Festival followed by a six-course Gourmet Dinner at the Addy. Oh no, wait...

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