Thursday, October 03, 2013

Great Taste Awards Revisited

When I wrote my blog entry about the 2012 Great Taste Awards I intended to add a photo collage of all the winners we stock. I realised it might take me a while, so I published the post with the intention of returning to it later to add the photographs. Twelve months, and forty blog posts, later, and I've still not produced the collage. So I wrote a post about the 2013 award winners. And again I thought a nice collage would be a good idea. For a couple of weeks I really thought I would return to it and add photographs. I really did! But it gradually dawned on me that was not going to happen. I then had another idea. Pinterest! I could make a pinterest board of all our award winners. It still took ages to gather together the images, but I didn't have to worry about the sizes and layout. So here it is, our Great Taste Award Winners 2013!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Eton Roof-scape

The demolition of Eton Court may have generated a lot of crashing and banging, and taken away some of our parking spaces this summer. But it has opened up some previously hidden views of the wonderfully undulating roof line of Eton High Street. So before they are hidden again, I snapped a few photographs.

 Windsor Castle Peeking out above the roof tops of 88-94(ish) High Street

The former Eton Court demolished, revealing the back of the Town Council office, with Eton Travel to the left and Studio 101 to the right.

The roof line in the evening sun with Windsor Castle in the background.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Great Taste Awards 2013

It's that time of year again when my inbox fills with excited notes from award winning food producers! The winners of the Great Taste Awards 2013 have been announced. Of course our fantastic producers have done fantastically well!

 *** 3 stars

Nearly 10,000 products were entered this year and just 125 were awarded the highest accolade of three stars.

This included Salcombe Dairy's blackcurrant sorbet. Salcombe Dairy also won three stars for their fig and sherry frozen yoghurt which I didn't even know existed. I have, of course, added that to our next order!  They also won one star for our best selling ice cream; Madagascan vanilla.

Azada were awarded three stars for both their virgin hazelnut oil and their virgin almond oil (and one star for virgin walnut oil).

Teapigs won three stars for second year running for their liquorice and peppermint tea.

** 2 stars

Newcomer, Granny's Secret, was awarded two stars for their 100% apricot fruit spread and for their sour cherries. They also received one star for their apricot juice and one star for ayvar, a roasted red pepper dip/spread.

Oro Bailen extra virgin olive oil was again awarded two stars.

Wessex Mill achieved a lot of two star awards. For Wessex Cobber bread flour and mixed grain bread flour and pasta & pizza flour and sunflower bread flour and half & half bread flour (and if that wasn't enough, one star for strong white bread flour). Doves Farm were also awarded two stars for their gluten & wheat free plain white flour.

Once again Tracklements have a collection of two star award winning products. This year, that includes chilli jam, strong horseradish & cream, and new product a beetroot & horseradish relish. They were also awarded one star for each of their roasted cherry tomato relish (another new addition) and fig relish.

Teapigs' chamomile flowers tea was awarded two stars this year (one star last year and the year before) and pure lemongrass tea, was also awarded two stars (as last year). Teapigs' also received one star for their green tea with mint which we have added to our selection this year.

Bessant and Drury's Lemon Ice-Cream was awarded two stars as was Grumpy Mule Panama diamond mountain coffee.

Two of our favourite blue cheeses were also given two stars; the very traditional Colston Bassett Blue Stilton and the very new (and local to us) Rosethorn Blue.

* 1 star

Lots of stars went to relatively new producers this year. Including Artisan Malt Vinegar, Nim's Apple Crisps, Love pickle (Extra Hot), Avlaki's 'Agatherí Groves' oil and Olive Branch's Sun Dried Tomato Paste. Olive Branch were also awarded a gold star for their olive oil.

Bim's Kitchen (new in 2012) won again. This time their African Tomato & Cashew Nut Curry sauce picked up a gold star.  African Bean & Nut Curry Sauce, Baobab Chilli Jam and Spicy African Ketchup all received gold stars last year.

Peppersmith won their first award, for their delicious Lemon Peppermints last year and this year were awarded one star for their Tingz.

Luscombe have been winning awards for their Organic Sicilian Lemonade since I started following the winners back in 2007. They won another gold star this year.

Mike's Smokehouse (another perennial winner) won a hatrick of awards, for Manuka Salmon Pate, Manuka Smoked Duck and Manuka Smoked Chicken.

Pipers Crisps were awarded a gold star for both their Anglesey sea salt crisps (again!) and their  Burrow Hill cider vinegar & sea salt crisps.

Gold stars were also given to Navarrico's delicious giant chickpeas (Garbanzo), The Bay Tree's Marinated Miniature Figs, Brindisa's Tortas de Aceite, with almonds, We Are Tea's
Moroccan MintTea and Copas free range bronze turkeys. 

If you are really interested, you can read about who won awards in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 (part one and part two) in my previous blog posts.

Well done everyone! I knew your products were great and now I have proof!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Olive Farmers: A Screen Play

Yesterday morning I had an appointment with Natalie Wheen. She had some olive oil for me to try. We chatted, sampled and I decided to stock her olive oil. Before she left, Natalie spotted some customers browsing our selection of olive oils and suggested they try hers! When she had gone those customers came to me and asked "Is she really an olive farmer? Where does she farm?" So I told them the story, that only moments earlier Natalie had told me. A romantic tale of two women entering the unknown and shaking it up a bit, developing something they are intensely proud of and passionate about. A story that would probably make a great screenplay. So, lucky followers, you can read it here first. The Olive Farmer's Story in Five Acts:
It is 1996. Natalie Wheen is an established writer and broadcaster, covering music and the arts with the BBC. She, along with her friend, the painter Deborah MacMillan, who travels the world helping with the production of her late husband's ballets, decide they need a retreat. A place away from the deadlines, demands and pressures of life.
They fall in love with the beautiful island of Lesvos, Greece. And together they buy a picturesque ruin by the sea, on the south of the island.
As is often the case, it isn't plain sailing. The restoration isn't easy, and they have to buy further land in order to complete it. Costs spiral. But all good plots need a twist.
The land Natalie and Deborah own is packed with olive trees. Lots and lots of mature olive trees. So the plot shifts, and the two women find that instead of quietly writing and painting in their island home, they have become olive farmers. They research. They learn. They are frequently horrified. They study. They make the decision to go organic. They are strict. They ensure their team treat the olives with respect. They shun the approaches which favour quantity over quality. They persevere. They find there is only a three week window between their mountain olives being ripe and the snow making harvest impossible. They stick to their principles. They overcome obstacles. It takes time. But it works.
Natalie and Deborah create two single estate organic extra virgin olive oils. One from olives grown 500-600m above sea level on a rugged, romantic, limestone and marble mountainside, covered in wildflowers and watered by melting winter snow. The other from olives grown on the richer, sheltered soil at sea level. Each is unique. Both are delicious. By 2013 they are winning awards, and their oils are sold at fine food retailers such as Tastes Delicatessen. Surely that would make a fantastic final scene! ;) 
For those wanting to sample the oil do pop into Tastes. The olives are all hand picked in December when they are the perfect mix of green, pink and black. The olives are milled immediately upon picking and the resulting oil is bottled as soon as possible to preserve its unique characteristics. It is unfiltered and unadulterated. The oil has a light consistency and golden colour. Each bottle has the required best before date, but also the more informative harvest date. The oils are top quality "finishing oils" perfect for lightly steamed summer vegetables, salads, chilled soups, fish, dipping bread, pasta etc.

The oil from the mountainside Agatheri Grove is subtle, delicate and smooth with long and complex flavour. It is perfect for use with fine salads, steamed vegetables and baked fish dishes. The oil from the lower Avlaki Grove is more robust, with a grassy and fruity flavour and buttery finish. It is brilliant with Mediterranean foods such as sliced tomatoes, ratatouille, roasted vegetables or pasta and soups.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Another great day to be a shop keeper!

It may be a slow, wet, August day. But it has gotten off to a pretty good start here! An email from a customer to tell me he "Just enjoyed a nice Omelette with two of your lovely eggs.". Then a visit from another with the gift of a jar of fantastic salsa he'd made (using chillies I'd sold!). Another with photographs of the bread he made with the flour I sold him earlier in the week. Then another drove by, wound down her window to tell me the fruit she'd bought last week was "amazing".

I know I've said before that Eton has the best customers. Time to say it again though!

Thank you to all the lovely customers who make this such a great place to be a shop keeper every day!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Missing Our News?

I wrote a post on facebook today, which suggested some ways to make sure people who like Tastes Deli see my facebook posts in their news feed. The problem is the people who need the information are the very people who won't get to see the post in their news feed! So I have pasted it here as well. Just in case!

I've heard today from some customers who were disappointed to hear the Amex ‪#‎ShopSmall‬ offer was in July rather than November this year. They "Like" Tastes Delicatessen on facebook but didn't know about the offer. The problem is that facebook doesn't display all posts in all news feeds. So although I wrote four posts about the offer, some people didn't see any of them. Which is a shame.

You can increase the likelihood of seeing posts by asking facebook to "Show in News Feed" posts from pages you like*. It doesn't guarantee to show all posts though, even if you ask! If you interact with pages you like, by also "liking" posts, or commenting, then you also increase your likelihood of seeing similar posts in your news feed. Again it doesn't guarantee that you will see everything. But hopefully it might show a few more. Unfortunately, those who are missing my posts will probably miss this one as well!

If anyone has any more tips do let me know!

*To "Show in News Feed" go to the page you have liked and click on the "Liked" button just below the wide rectangular cover photograph, hopefully a list will appear. Make sure there is a tick next to "Show in News Feed" (as shown in the photograph).

I should probably also apologise for not posting much to the blog recently. I've been spending too long on facebook! Which may be a waste of time if no-one sees what I write!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Independents' Day

It's the 4th July, and while the USA celebrate their Independence, in the UK we're celebrating our Independents! Independent Retailers that is.

Across the country, the public are being encouraged to buy at least one item from their local, independent shop to celebrate Independents’ Day 2013. With so many independent retailers in Eton, it won't be difficult to find something wonderful to purchase.

The national campaign, organised by the National Skills Academy for Retail, was started three years ago, to champion the local retailers who make the UK’s villages, towns and cities so special.

With over 160,000 independent retailers making up 92% of all retail businesses in the UK, their importance to local economies as well as their contribution to a location's identity and community is unrivaled.

Jane Rexworthy, Head of the National Skills Academy for Retail said: “We are delighted to lead this campaign to celebrate diversity in retail. Independents’ Day aims to highlight the huge range of skills successful independent retailers need to make our towns and cities such interesting and varied places to visit and shop."

According to the National Skills Academy for Retail:

  • Shopping locally boosts your local economy, enabling local businesses to prosper and grow.
  • For every £1 you spend in your local independent business, between 50p-70p circulates back into your local economy.
  • Shopping locally also supports local traders, their suppliers and the people they depend on to run their business.
  • By choosing to shop locally this July, you will make your contribution to keeping your high street, town or village centre ‘open for business’.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Busy Weekend!

There is so much going on in Eton this weekend, I thought I'd put a little schedule together to make sure nothing is missed out. So how about this for a plan...

Start the weekend off with a stroll along Eton's Historic High Street. Delightful, unique shops await you. Browse the Duality exhibition at Jam and find plenty of gift and home inspiration in the numerous galleries and shops.

Buy a picnic lunch from Tastes Deli  and enjoy Eton's fantastic Thames side setting with views of Windsor Castle.

From 2pm the Eton College gardens will be open to the public. Take you time to admire areas not usually kept private (£4 admission charge applies).

Staying at Eton College, the fantastic Natural History Museum will be open until 6pm (free admission).

Choose one of Eton's fabulous restaurants, many with outside dining areas, for dinner, then head to The Henry VI, for live music from 9pm.

Sunday is Father's Day and time for the Toshiba Windsor Triathlon. Competitors will be swimming in the Thames, cycling through Windsor and running down Eton High Street.

At 11:30 David Dragon will be demonstrating the technique he uses to produce his monotypes, as well as talking about his inspiration and influences, at Jam (Note from Jam: please do let us know if you would like to attend so we can arrange chairs and so forth! tel. 01753 622333 or email A good activity for Father’s day!)

The river Thames will be home to the "Coronation 60th Anniversary" regatta all weekend.  Crews are racing between Prince Albert and Queen Victoria bridges, with spectators (who have pre-booked tickets at £8 per adult) allowed into the normally private grounds of Windsor Castle to watch the action.

If you didn't have time for  Natural History Museum on Saturday, it will be open again on Sunday afternoon (2:30-5pm).

And if you are still around on Monday, pop over the bridge to Windsor to see the knights of the garter.  Then you might as well stay until Royal Ascot starts on Tuesday (you can take another picnic as is National Picnic Week)! Then there is the World Rowing Championships at Dorney next weekend,  the Windsor Dog show the week after ...

There really is always something going on.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Baking with Dulce de Leche

For this week's home baking I followed a recipe I pinned to our Dulce de Leche pinterest board a while ago. A butter flapjack with a layer of rich Dulce de Leche caramel.  The recipe was from the Sweet Life Bake blog.

My top tip would be to use Dulce de Leche at room temperature (straight from the fridge it is hard to spread without damaging the flapjack base). Sadly, I scrimped on the caramel (there is A LOT of butter and sugar in the recipe and it scared me!). My caramel layer was a bit meager, and I'm sure these would be better with a thicker layer (like in the original recipe photograph). They are still delicious, next time I might try less sugar and more Dulce de Leche. There will be a next time!

But first I need to try one other recipe from our pin board before I devour the rest of the jar of Dulce de Leche!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Local bees making local honey

Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to observe a few hundred of my favourite fine food producers hard at work. Stephen, who supplies "Windsor honey" to Tastes Deli, was kind enough to take me on a tour of his hives, situated on the edge of Windsor Great Park. I'd been looking forward to the trip all winter, and it did not disappoint. I could quite happily have settled down on the grass and watched them work until sunset. It was fascinating.

As Stephen carefully removed the frames to inspect the bees and their activities, I didn't know what to look at first. Should I watch the bee colony as a group and their amazing comb construction, or focus on an individual bee and follow them and if so which one; the bee with the huge balls of pollen attached to her legs, the bee releasing scent and wafting it into the air, the bee on guard duty patrolling back and forth, the bee dancing on the hive to tell the other bees where to go for nectar, the Queen? I snapped away with my camera so I could inspect what I was seeing more thoroughly later. Here is what I saw (and what I learned from Stephen whilst I was there):

First we watched the worker bees coming in and out of the hive via the small entrance hole at the bottom. In the summer the entrance will be far larger than this to avoid congestion as thousands of bees move to and fro. We could see workers with baskets on their back legs filled with pollen; a very good sign. The pollen is collected to feed the brood. If there was no brood, the workers would not be collecting the pollen. So even before opening the hive Stephen new the colony was alive and growing.

Once the lid and crown board were removed I could see all the frames, into which the bees build their honeycomb, and a cluster of worker bees around the centre where the queen and brood were. Stephen pointed out some of the different workers. The bees start as cleaners and progress through the ranks including nursing the young, gathering pollen (for food), nectar (to turn into honey) or water (to cool the hive), producing wax, building the comb, attending the the queen, removing the dead, guarding the hive etc.

Stephen carefully removed the frames, one at a time, inspecting the bees and comb as he went. The bees are currently only occupying a spherical space at the centre of the hive. Right on the edge of this area some tiny ants had crept in to pilfer the honey. Guard bees were on duty to see them off.

As Stephen approached the centre of the hive the frames got heavier (with honey) and busier (with bees).

The photograph below shows many different stages in the bee life cycle. The adult bees are the female workers, working away looking after the brood and comb.

The bees start life as tiny eggs, one laid in each cell. You can see the eggs most clearly in the cell at the bottom right of the photograph, after three days these become lava, and you can see lava of various sizes in the cells in the middle and top left of the photo. They are fed by the worker (nurse) bees and grow rapidly. The biggest lava in the photo are on the right in the middle. Once they pupate the workers seal the cells with wax, as you can see at the bottom centre of the photograph. Two weeks later the new bees emerge from their cell and are set to work.

I spotted the Queen, right in the middle of the photograph on the left (marked with a circle by Stephen). She's the biggest bee, but you can't really see that in the photos as she is busy checking out the comb with her antennae. She will check it is clean and lay a different sized egg depending on the size of the chamber. Small chamber = worker bee, large chamber = drone bee. And who chooses how big the chambers are? The workers. Sounds to me like they are the ones in charge!

And just to prove I was there, Stephen's wife kindly took a photo of me, all protected and ready for my bee encounter. Honestly, I tucked my trousers into my socks for protection, not as a fashion statement! But I have to say the bees were pretty friendly. Stephen is very careful with them and they seem to trust him and weren't aggressive at all. Though it was nice to be covered up, just in case.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

There's Hummus and there's Houmous

I've never made a chickpea hummus that I've been happy with. Nowadays, if called upon to make hummus I follow Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe for Roasted Carrot Hummus (from Veg Everyday). It's delicious, and works every time. It does, however, require the carrots to be roasted with delicious honey and cumin seeds for 40 minutes. So it isn't a recipe which lends itself to dip emergencies.

Luckily for me Jay has been working on his hummus technique and can rustle up a delicious dip in a matter of minutes with store cupboard staples. It is quite a personal thing, everyone has their own way and like it just that way (except me!). But since my blog post about adding Sweet and Hot Sauce to hummus people have been asking for Jay's recipe. So here it is, this is how Jay makes hummus.

Put all of this into a blender:
A glug of olive oil,
1 clove garlic finely chopped,
Sprinkle of Cornish sea salt
1 can chick peas,
1 tablespoon Meridian light tahini,
100ml Water,
Juice half a lemon and add a bit at a time until you are happy with the result. 
It makes about 400 ml.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

New Scores on the Doors

Today the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead switch from the Scores on the Doors rating system (under which  Tastes was awarded five stars in 2010) to the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. As with the Scores on the Doors scheme, food outlets, such as restaurants, takeaways and pubs, are inspected by food safety officers to check that their hygiene standards meet legal requirements. The businesses are rated on a scale from zero (urgent improvement necessary) to five (very good) and the results of the inspection are visible on the Food Standards Agency web site.

Cllr Carwyn Cox, cabinet member for environmental services, said: Although we have run our own successful food hygiene scheme, we have opted to change to the national FHRS as we can see the benefits for local food businesses and the people that eat or shop in them.

Having a single scheme which is consistent nationwide means that the ratings have the same significance wherever people are buying food or eating out.

Residents and visitors will be able to use the information when deciding which food outlets to choose and we hope that food companies will recognise that displaying a
good hygiene rating is good for business.

We received our new sticker last week, and have it on display in the shop window. Now we a can add the new widget to our web site as well.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Caribbean Fish Coconut Curry

I haven't shared any recipes for a while. Here is something we eat quite often. The recipe is from the Seasoned Pioneers Poudre de Colombo curry powder and is very quick and simple.

Monday, April 29, 2013

New Postal Calculator

What a long day. Its been a long time since I have sat still for so long and I'm exhausted!

Today was the day I set aside to add the hundred or so new products we've taken on since I last added to our online shop. For months now our online shoppers have been missing out on some fabulous new lines. And today I planned to remedy that. But first things first, I needed to fix the postage costs. As a consumer I always resented the high postage charges incurred with relatively small online purchases. So when I set up the online deli I weighed every single item for sale so that the web site could estimate how much it really would cost to post something and charge the customers that price. It is not 100% accurate. Once packaged some combinations of products weigh less than expected, some more. The model I use to estimate the weight of the packaging is regularly tweaked and I keep a record of the packed and unpacked weight of every parcel I send so I can use the data to create better models in the future.

The postage calculator was working nicely, until this month, when Royal Mail dramatically changed their pricing structure.  Not only does weight effet the price, but size as well, and the standard parcel service no longer exists. Even the post office staff aren't quite sure how the new system works.  I sent the same item on two different days, one day it was a "Medium Parcel" another it was a "Small Parcel" (as even though it was too tall for the measuring slot it got a special exception!).  I carried on charging my old prices for a while whilst I worked it all out. But it needed to be changed. I was charging £2.20 for second class post for items which now cost me £5.20 to send! And so came about today's little project.

Sadly it wasn't so little. Involving weighing, and measuring, and a few formula. I felt like I was back at school attempting some huge homework project! Our online shop now offers ELEVEN different postage services (if you include "collect from shop").
  • Royal Mail First Class Standard "Small Parcel" (only available for small items costing less than £20) and Royal Mail First Class Confirmed "Small Parcel" (aka Signed For) (only available for small items costing more than £20)
  • Royal Mail First Class Standard "Medium Parcel" (only available for items costing less than £20) and Royal Mail First Class Confirmed "Medium Parcel" (aka Signed For) (only available for items costing more than £20)
  • Royal Mail Second Class Standard "Small Parcel" (only available for small items costing less than £20) and Royal Mail Second Class Confirmed "Small Parcel" (aka Signed For) (only available for small items costing more than £20)
  • Royal Mail Second Class Standard "Medium Parcel" (only available for items costing less than £20) and Royal Mail Second Class Confirmed "Medium Parcel" (aka Signed For) (only available for items costing more than £20)
  • Royal Mail Special Delivery next day.
I did add the Special Delivery 9am service as well, but removed that when I saw how many exceptions there were and how long my description would need to be to explain it all. We will still offer the service, but customers will need to contact us first to check their area is covered. I hope that is less off-putting than the list of postcodes where the service isn't available.

The Royal Mail services are now quite a lot more expensive for the sort of parcels we send a lot of. Our most commonly used service was the (less than 2kg) Standard Parcel at £5.30. The closest equivalent service is now £9.10. So I've also added an economical courier service, collect+. I anticipated this might be necessary and have been offering the service to those who ordered by telephone over the past few months. We've not experienced any problems.

Needless to say it has been a lengthy process. I'm already aware of products which won't be in the right shipping category.  Royal Mail will class up to six packs of spring roll wrappers as a "small parcel", but my model will class two or more as a "medium parcel" and some teabags which the model says are a "small parcel" but will actually be a "medium parcel".  I'll take a hit on the tea bags and am working on a discount code built into bulk purchases of spring roll wraps to compensate for the postage cost.

But seeing as I have spent an entire sunny day tapping away at my computer, have not added a single new product to the online deli , I think it might be time to call it a day. If anyone out there wants to buy any of the wonderful new products you've seen on our facebook page, but can't find in the online shop, please just email me!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bim's Kitchen Tasting

On Saturday 4th May, Bim will be venturing out of Bim's Kitchen and coming here, to Tastes Delicatessen in Eton with samples of his African inspired sauces and pickles for you to try. If you've never eaten anything with baobab fruit, alligator pepper, melon seeds or cubeb in, now is your chance.

A Story About Beans

Once upon a time (possibly this morning) a regular customer, lets call him Greg (because that's his name), fancied baked beans on toast. He visited his local delicatessen (lets call it Tastes Deli). But to Greg's dismay they don't sell baked beans at his local delicatessen.

They do sell plain haricot-type beans, alubia blanca, from El Navarrico in Spain. And they are pretty special beans: deliciously smooth and creamy. They also sell tinned cherry tomatoes from Mutti in Italy. And they are pretty special tomatoes: little bursts of sweetness.

Greg bought the beans, and the tomatoes, and a loaf of bread and took them home. He warmed some oil, fried some red onion and garlic, added a little dried chilli, a little ground celery seed, a pinch of herbes de provence, the tinned tomatoes (with their juice) and the drained beans. He made his own baked beans.

Greg liked them so much he took a portion (still warm) back to the deli for the shop keeper to try. The shop keeper liked them so much she almost ate them all before taking a photograph. Fresh, bright and creamy. Greg makes very good baked beans.

The end.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

The Three Rs

We're big fans of the three Rs - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. With the help of our suppliers we're doing pretty well. Top priority is reducing packaging waste. We work with suppliers who collect their packaging on subsequent deliveries (some even wait while we unpack and take it immediately). Others who send goods by courier allow us post packaging back to them. It requires a bit of storage space to hold empty boxes from one week to the next, but most of our packaging is given back to the supplier in this way, and so our packaging waste is significantly reduced.

When it comes to reuse, much of our packaging has plenty of life left in it. Small boxes are reused to send out orders from our online shop, plastic tubs which are used for olives, can also be used for scotch eggs etc. The vast majority of our large cardboard boxes are reused (often more than once) by people moving house. As is our bubble wrap, packing chips and air cushions. Our veg trays are much in demand in the autumn when they become apple stores, and in the spring they are used at car boot sales.

As for recycling what is left, we've been getting pretty inventive! I've been turning the mini wooden pallets which protect the brie in transit into stakes to label my vegetables, and the jars of pesto into lanterns and vases! One local brownie pack took 50 wooden brie boxes last year - I'd love to see what they made out of them!

If you want any free packaging materials, bubble wrap, boxes etc do contact me and I'll put aside whatever you want. If you want to make your own plant stakes all you need is a saw, sandpaper/file, woodfiller (optional) and two colours of exterior wood paint. And some Brie pallets, which I am more than happy to supply.

How to make plant stakes: 
  1. Pull staples out of brie box so you have small planks of rough sawn timber.
  2. Use a saw to cut one end of each plank into a point.
  3. (Optionally) fill the staple holes with wood filler to stop the rain getting in and rotting the stakes.
  4. Sand any rough edges.
  5. Paint with exterior wood paint.
  6. Add plant name. I painted these with more exterior wood paint, but you could write them on which would be much quicker.

    Tuesday, April 02, 2013

    Easter Egg-travaganza

    It's been a busy bank holiday weekend here in Eton. The Eton Traders got together to hold an Easter Egg Hunt (with lettered eggs hidden in shop windows which spelt out a secret phrase), the Easter Bunny was out and about giving out vouchers for a free chocolate treat and Ildiko's Chocolates were at Tastes Delicatessen offering samples of their amazing chocolates. The weather wasn't exactly on our side, but it only snowed a little bit, for a little while, and by Monday afternoon the sun was shining.

    Despite the bitter cold, everyone was in holiday spirit. The chocolate tasting was a huge success.  Delicious chocolate, beautifully hand decorated with fruits, nuts and flowers. What's not to like? Children were rushing up to the shop window all weekend shouting "B" (the letter on the egg I had hidden as part of the hunt). Adults also took part in the hunt, but were more restrained with their excitement! The Easter Bunny had children squealing in delight and adults clamouring for photographs.  In my role as Bunny's assistant on Monday I even got to see the changing of the guard at Windsor Castle for the first time! Now I know what the visitors see after I give them directions to the castle. My view was slightly obscured by the 6 foot white rabbit, but that made it even more memorable.

    I hope everyone who visited Eton this weekend, went home with some lovely memories (along with their free Easter treat!).

    Seasonal events are taking place in Eton throughout the year. For more information take a look at the Visit Eton facebook page.

    Thursday, March 21, 2013

    Chocolate Tasting

    On Saturday 30th March Ildiko, of the delicious Ildiko's Chocolates, will be coming here, to Tastes Delicatessen in Eton. She'll bring samples of her wonderful chocolate slabs for you to try (free of charge). Ildiko's chocolates (and her chocolate bunnies) make an ideal Easter treat! Hope to see you!

    Wednesday, March 20, 2013

    Easter in Eton

    Eton's very own Easter Bunny will be greeting people in and around the town on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It’s worth saying hello to him as he is handing out vouchers for a FREE Easter treat to be collected from participating shops (including JaM, Hush, Tastes Delicatessen, ReallyFabCards, roost, The Eton Fudge Shop & Zero 3 Cafe).

    Furthermore, an Easter Egg hunt will be running throughout the long weekend (from Good Friday until Bank Holiday Monday). Eggs with letters on them will be hidden in shop windows up and down Eton High Street. Wander the historic high street, spot the eggs and work out the words to enter the competition for a chance to win a £40 food voucher for The Henry VI pub and kitchen.

    Hop along to Eton for an egg-cellent weekend!

    For further information visit the Visit Eton facebook page.

    Tuesday, March 19, 2013

    Old Nick's Got a New Friend

    We've been selling St. John & Dolly Smith's "Old Nick" Scotch Bonnet Sauce for nearly two years. It's popular. People come back for it time and time again. It's hot, but with a really good flavour as well. Some time ago Chris (who makes the sauce) gave me a bottle of his new sweet and hot sauce to try. I'm not sure when it was, or what was going on, but I have to admit that I forgot all about it. Sorry Chris! I did however, find the bottle just before Christmas and took it home to try.

    We used it a lot. It seemed to work with everything. Made with Birds Eye chillies it is sweet, but with a serious kick. It made a fantastic dipping sauce and marinade. Stirred into Jay's homemade hummus gave an "unusual" flavour, which was surprisingly moorish. We always finished the spicy hummus before the plain. And so now Sweet and Hot has appeared on the shelves here at Tastes Delicatessen.

    Friday, March 15, 2013

    Irresistible Ildiko

    A week ago @IldikosChocolat started following me (@TastesDeli) on twitter.

    Ildiko had started her own chocolate company (Ildiko's Chocolate) in Walton-on-Thames just before Christmas and was looking for local outlets. This week, I met Ildiko and her husband Tamas. I saw, and sampled, their chocolates and was well and truly hooked.

    Ildiko makes slabs of the finest Belgium Chocolate, beautifully decorated with fruits, nuts and flowers. These really are stunning. No topping has been thrown or dolloped here. Each item is delicately positioned and the result is chocolate art! But not only do they look too pretty to eat, but the tastes are fantastic. Unusual flavour combinations which work really well; milk chocolate with coconut chips and crystallised violet petals; dark chocolate with raspberries, pistachios and pink peppercorns; white chocolate with freeze dried cherries and rose petals....

    It's two weeks before Easter, so the shop is not exactly short of chocolate, but these really were impossible to resist. I hope my customers feel the same! These mini bars are in stock now: £1.99 each.

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

    Why Didn't The Chicken Cross the Road?

    For the past few months, every time I have driven down the lanes behind Bloomfield Hatch Farm there have been Bloomfield Hatch chickens exhibiting their free-range status by meandering carelessly across the road. Apparently, this group of "ladies" are particularly adept at escapology. More so than any of their predecessors. They escaped from the fields so often that the farmers had given up on trying to keep them in. They seemed to be able to get home at night anyway.

    So this week, I was telling a customer about the habits of the chickens which lay our eggs, and she said I should post a picture on facebook. Always keen to find something to post about that might actually be interesting, the very next day I set off to collect our eggs and armed myself with a camera. And what did I find? Not a single chicken on the road anywhere. None. And no obvious reason why not. So I can't even tell you why the chicken did, and then didn't, cross the road. Sorry.

    I had to settle for snapping a picture of a chicken not crossing the road. Enjoy!

    Tuesday, February 05, 2013

    It's Official: we sell some of the best cheese in the world!

    The 2012 World Cheese Awards were apparently the closest contest ever, with judges needing to sample two cheeses again before deciding on the world champion (well that's what they said anyway!). Two thousand seven hundred cheeses were judged. A world champion was selected, along with 15 other cheeses to make up the list of the world's top 16 cheeses.

    In that list there were two British cheeses (along with 4 Swiss cheeses, 3 Spanish, 3 from the USA, 2 French, 1 Italian and 1 from the Netherlands). Incredibly BOTH of the British cheeses were made in Berkshire (and are obviously stocked by Tastes)! We couldn't be more proud to be stockists of Barkham Blue from Two Hoots Cheese near Wokingham and Spenwood from Village Maid Cheese nearer Reading. Well done cheese-makers!

    Saturday, January 19, 2013

    Windsor Honey & Windsor Bees

    As readers of this blog will no doubt be aware Tastes Delicatessen sells local honey from hives in and around Windsor. The honey is delicious, and our customers come back time and time again for more. I find the lives of the bees who produce the honey fascinating, and it seems I may have encouraged Stephen-the-beekeeper to start a blog!

    Whether it is my fault or not, I certainly find the blog interesting. So for those of you who want to know more about bee hives, bee predators large and small, bee-havior, bee-conomics, (I think I should stop now - you get the idea), you can follow the lives of the Windsor Bees at At the moment, I am anxiously awaiting news that the cautious West colony have survived the cold snap.