Friday, 10 December 2010

Christmas special #7: Suppliers

Can you remember the day when you found out that life was, occasionally, going to be really really disappointing?

I can't myself remember the exact day I realised that life was going to be disappointing. I've had so many disappointing days that they all merge into one and I can't remember which one came first.

Maybe it was the day I realised that...

- however hard I diet, my hands are always going to be a little bit fat

- clothes shops do a thing where they send all their best stuff to be photographed by newspapers and magazines and then immediately sell out of whatever it is so that when you go to the shops SPECIFICALLY for it, there's not hide nor hair but you buy something anyway, therefore falling for their ruse like an idiot

-  mouthwash is not a substitute for flossing

- popstars are now all younger than me

- I am never going to be "sporty"

- I am never going to be good at maths

- that really really really amazing pair of boots will never change my life. But  I will buy them anyway

- freelancing is much harder than it sounds

- Sex and the City 2 was a simple betrayal of my long-standing support of what is generally considered to be a ridiculous television programme

- you can't force people to dump boy/girlfriends you don't like, just by shouting

- tattoos don't come off that easily

- nail varnish doesn't really suit me

- neither do pastel colours

- or lipstick

- if you go to Art 4 Fun in West Hampstead on a Wednesday, because you want to make a mug for your friend Stefanie's birthday party on Saturday, you can't, because it takes 7 days to glaze and fire. And then you have to go home despite having put £4 in the parking meter

Those are some disappointments you can't do much about. But you can limit your disappointment at Christmas by ordering stuff in advance. Because even in this day and age of plenty, stuff runs out.

I used to be confused by ordering Christmas things in advance. Why would you do that? Why would you want a turkey or a cheese sitting around in your house for a whole month? But then I realised that the idea is to ring up or go online - like TODAY, yeah people? - and either order something to be delivered when you need it, or put your name down for something to be collected.

Then on the 23rd December you can smugly take delivery of your giant Ocado order, or on the 24th December you can sweep in to a butcher, barge to the head of the queue, greet the man behind the counter by his first name, take in both hands the last goose in North West London and then sweep out again and get in your car that you've double-parked outside with the hazard lights on.

So here are my recommendations for best suppliers. These are all except one, I'm afraid, London-based because I don't know any different, but if you don't live in London and know of a good supplier, let me know and I'll add it to the list. Or if you live in London and think I've missed something out, let me know.

All of these people are very nice. If you've never bought something from a specialised supplier and are a bit nervous about it, don't be. Just ring up and say "I've got 10 people coming for lunch on Christmas Day. Can you put aside a turkey that'll do all of them?"

And they'll say "Yes. That'll be £500 please."
Only joking!!!!!!

It'll be more like £750.

For all meat, but not poultry, get in touch with the one and only Ginger Pig in Marylebone:

For meat AND poultry, pay a visit to Frank Godfrey, in Highbury:

Straddling both Marylebone and Highbury is the mighty La Fromagerie, for all your cheesy needs. Although note that La Fromag specialises in French and world cheese, so if you're looking for a Cropwell Bishop they probably won't have it. Not cheap:

For smoked salmon, go to Panzers in St John's Wood. They do two sorts - wild and farmed. The wild smoked salmon is amazing but just, like, vomitingly expensive and none of your family will really appreciate it unless you are Jewish, so just go for the farmed stuff. Perfectly ethically sound, exquisite and half the price.

And now for my one out-of -town rec, my friend Becky B says that this year she's getting some spicy boar cocktail sausages from Sillfield Farm - - I haven't tasted them yet because her party isn't until tonight but she assures me that they're jolly nice.


  1. Hi Esther - great list, thankfully I am not doing any cooking this Christmas so can let other people stress about such things....Although am doing a small sunday lunch next weekend, but taking your excellent idea of toad in the hole and spent a fortune on cheese yesterday so all set.

    I have to say - I love your comment re SATC2, I was so disappointed...I know it's not ever going to be oscar worthy material but they did it all so poorly, it's all coming back to me now the DVD is coming out. Grrr

    Helen x

  2. What do you think about Neal's Yard for cheese? I'm not a Londoner, but my sister is. So, I always put in a cheese order for her to bring up. Is La Fromagerie a better bet?

  3. Love the blog. My sister in NZ is now hooked on it, after repeated nagging. Both making the chocolate cake this weekend. Then swapping photos. Very sad!

    A few other recommendations:

    Kelly Turkeys are excellent (if, expensive).

    Bleikers Smoked Salmon from Harrogate is very
    good too - especially their beetroot-cured Romanov.

    Fortune's from Whitby do the most amazing kippers. They now sell online too. Well worth checking out if you're ever in Whitby - you can smell the place long before you ever get near the shop. Lovely!

  4. Sarah - Neal's Yard cheese is absolutely great and if your sister is used to going there then stick with it.

    The one thing La Fromagerie does, which I don't think you can get at NY is a truffled brie, which is a brie split open and stuffed with chopped truffles in a cream cheese. It's absolutely AMAZING - had it at my wedding. Worth giving a go (if you like truffle...)

    E xxx

  5. If the truffled brie is the one I'm thinking of you can also get it from Une Normade a Londres at Borough Market. I'm slightly obsessed by it and now try to avoid buying it as somehow I end up eating the whole lot in one sitting.

  6. I love your recommendations E... but you're right, not good for me at the cottage... don't fret (I know you're fretting) ... I have just ordered my goose and ham from our lovely local and award winning butcher who will be delivering it, along with orders for other villagers and the landlandy, to our local pub on Christmas Eve... I then have to trott across 1 snow-covered field, get totally pissed... stumble home again with said goose and said ham and fall into bed dreaming of a good roasting (ooh er missus!)...genius or what?

  7. So hey.... we're going to france for xmas and it looks like I'm cooking. Do you reckon they're more goose and duck people for xmas day? I'm so going to do the prune dish - they love they're prunes!
    p.s Ginger Pig is AMAZING!! You been to Hawksmoor yet?

  8. p.s chicken curry has become the dish du annee in this household so thank you!! xx

  9. yes i'd definitely say they're more into goose and duck over there. have to say... i prefer it. the tradition of turkey comes from the fact that a turkey feeds more people, it's not that it's an especially nice thing. and prunes are a must, they're obsessed with their arses over there xx

  10. I just wanted to add two outside-london suppliers that I can vouch for.

    The first is Laverstoke Park Farm, just outside Basingstoke, Hants. Really excellent meat, including Buffalo. They deliver nationally by courier, or if you're within an hours' drive or so there is some really lovely countryside out there. The shop is not open on sunday, however. See for details.

    Also, Riverford Organic do an excellent vegbox scheme, to which I subscribe. I haven't tried their meat but they also deliver that. The eggs are lovely, and the vegetables taste like vegetables. See for details.

    Obviously these suppliers may not be in everyone's locality (although Riverford should as they have a franchise system), but I think it's great that you're posting about this, as not enough people use old fashioned butcher shops/old fashioned cuts.

  11. Hi Esther, another brilliant post. I love your self-deprecating but sharply funny writing, I really do.

    May I add some Glasgow recommendations?

    Corrigans of Byres Road

    For really fresh fish, poultry (and wonderful game). Have to ration my boyfriend's visits - he luurves them. He went unannounced last weekend and came back with rabbits, mallards and woodcocks.

    We've ordered a goose from them, which I'll be cooking for the first time. Probably with Nigella's mashed potato stuffing. But might investigate prunes too now.

    Cheese - two really gorgeous shops:

    I J Mellis, Great Western Road

    Great for goat's cheese and parmesan

    George Mewes Cheese, Byres Road

    Huge range of British and French cheeses. These stopped me sobbing about leaving North London and La Fromagerie for these frozen wastes.

    For fancy-dan comestibles and delicatessen Peckhams in Byres Road and Hyndland are pretty good.

    Absolutely agree re Sex and the City 2 - went for my birthday "treat". The absolute sodding pits, and SO overlong that we missed our dinner reservation afterwards. So went home grumpy and hungry.... (there are worse fates I know...)

  12. Thanks Lisa, those are very helpful and thoughtful recs.

    I just wanted to add to my previous comment about La Fromag vs Neal's Yard for Sarah, which is that Giles tells me thst the vital difference between them is thst Neal's Yard does exclusively British cheese and La Fromg is French and "world" cheese.

    Giles used to get a monthly delivery from Neal's Yard and says it was brilliant. So that's a long winded way of saying you're okay with them - unless you want some world cheese of course.

  13. Josiejo, I've occasionally had the meat part of the Riverford delivery scheme and it's a bit hit and miss, certainly nowhere near as good as their veg.
    For an exceptional butchers in the south, Uptons of Basset in Southampton is consistenly brilliant.
    Love the blog :-)

  14. I have a huge favourites folder on my computer containing 100s of food blogs. Recipe Rifle is one of the few I actually DO go to read. So thanks for keeping cooking and writing all so normal and not too frilly round the ages.

  15. For those who live in Cambridge I would recommend Andrew Northrop which has fantastic meat (locally supplied) and of course take order for almost any meat you want, pheasants, ducks, geese, turkeys, rabbits...anything!

    Have a good Christmas Esther!

  16. Thanks. I knew NY was British only. It sells my most favourite cheese - Strathdon Blue, so I'm rather glad that NYs has been given the thumbs up. I am somewhat star struck that Giles has given advise concerning my queation! I'm such a div round famous people. The aforementioned sister is married to a musician and she's so cool round all these famous people, and I am just not. Thanks Esther.

  17. he's not really famous. and it was an interesting question. if you wanted me to ask him for a fun place to go for your christmas party in stratford with a great atmosphere and a fun wine list for under £40 a head he'd have been less helpful xx

  18. Hello Esther. Just a quick hello from Edinburgh, thanks for your Christmas specials, feeling very festive just reading and WILL order from pages today. I have to mention three especially excellent suppliers here:

    George Bower's, the butcher, has or will get everything, specialises in game, knows everything about meat, is very patient and will not rip you off with an expensive cut when a cheaper one will taste the same or better, despite your fancy recipe demanding the former. Helpful tips and a very festive queue if you pre order for Christmas Eve collection. Do it. They also have quail eggs and oat cakes.

    G Armstrongs, fish monger, wonderful staff, amazing fish and seafood. Hot smoked salmon is incredible. They have a proper old fashioned window with twitching lobster, giant salmon, clams, gambas and occasionally sea urchins. Go there too.

    Herbies, the best brie I have ever tasted and fabulous baguettes ( you will have eaten at least half of one by the time you get home). Delicious two year old gouda and, as we recently discovered, they can order grade A fois gras at just a day or two's notice (order in advance for Christmas) - and who knew fois gras freezes too?

    That's all for now.