A new trade event for the UK's casual dining sector, which is worth £6.7bn, came to London last week. Casual Dining showcased some great products and the following round-up highlights a selection of these.
The UK has become a melting pot for small-scale high-quality alcohol-based enterprises – microbreweries, vineyards (generally small by world standards) and micro-distilleries. Sipsmith, the first distillery to open in London for 200 years, is undoubtedly one of the success stories. Their prized range of smooth, world-class gins and vodkas includes the sublime, rich, flavour-packed V.J.O.P., "Very Junipery Over Proof". Absolutely delicious!
Good to see Warner Edwards Distillery again. Since I first tried their gin last year (see my review of The Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2013), they have continued to garner universal praise, including winning a Silver Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Scotland's Thistle Cross produce a range of six farmhouse ciders, fermented with Champagne yeasts and matured for a minimum of six months. Two of their products that caught my eye were the Original Cider (7.2% ABV) and the Strawberry Cider (4% ABV) – both refreshing, fruity and easy to drink.
Haywood Drinks unveiled two interesting additions to the drinks market. The first was German company Shatler's mixologist-devised alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails, ready to pour over ice with no fuss or wastage. Packaged in environmentally-friendly cardboard cans, or "cartocans", these are ideal for theatres and event bars, in particular. I tried the Caipirinha, which was refreshingly tasty. The second product was "Liquor Whipped", a vodka-infused squirty cream topping, available in nine flavours, all at 14% ABV, for use on drinks and desserts.
Born out of a desire to create the first raw fruit and vegetable drinks on supermarket shelves, Vegesentials launched at The Taste of London Festival in June 2012. Vitamin and mineral-rich, made from 100% pure, raw and fresh ingredients, containing at least 50% vegetables, their juices are not supplemented with sugar, water, or any other additives and are produced using a technique of non-thermal high-pressure pasteurisation to retain as many nutrients as possible. The company also supports Diabetes UK through donating 5p of every 250ml bottle sold in the UK. I particularly liked the "Celery, Apple and Kale" juice, which was surprisingly light, thirst-quenching and naturally sweet. They also produce three specific child-targeted flavours, their "Fresh Kids On-the-Go" range, comprising "Cool Cucumber & Pineapple", "Groovy Beet & Strawberry" and "Cheeky Carrot & Peach", all a great lunchbox addition.
Karimix use a selection of family-based recipes to create a superb range of sauces, pastes and other condiments, based on the flavours of South-East Asia. Their "Teriyaki Orange Sauce", with added fresh ginger, garlic and orange juice, is a brilliant take on this Japanese classic and would be a wonderful match for salmon. The "Tamarind & Garlic Sauce" has a satisfying bite which could work with many dishes.
Award-winning company, DiSotto Foods, had plenty of delicious ice creams, including "Matcha Green Tea" and "Almond, Pistachio & Cardamom", two modern flavours made with quality ingredients.
The ever-wonderful Purbeck Ice Cream unveiled some new flavours at the show – "Salted Caramel", "Chocolate Sorbet" and "British Blueberry". Using local fresh milk, Dorset cream and all-natural ingredients, this multi award-winning company goes from strength to strength.