Flower arranging with M&S

February 20, 2009

A group of us headed over to M&S HQ yesterday for a flower arranging master class and to see the new spring/summer collections. The press show had a summer fayre theme, complete with a Lucky Dip and a coconut shy – fabulous! I spotted a fantastic floral pop-up tent, which assembles in seconds. It will be out in April for £39 – what a bargain.

tent

The flower arranging master class was good fun and we got to take our masterpieces (!) home with us afterwards. It was nice to get a sneak preview of the new flower collections from M&S, which are all grown in Britain. My favourites were the pretty pink peonies, shown here. This gorgeous image has inspired me to start collecting vintage bottles so I can recreate the look at home! – Ellie

peonies

 

Cheese tasting with M&S

February 11, 2009

This morning I braved the crowds at London’s newest shopping centre Westfield to make my way to the new M&S store for a cheese tasting master class. Cheese guru and founder of the British Cheese Awards, Juliet Harbutt, talked us through a delicious selection of cheeses – we sampled everything from Greek feta and Sardinian Pecorino Romano to creamy Lancashire and Beacon Blue Welsh goat’s cheese.

cheese2

As we tasted the various cheeses, Juliet explained the different techniques and processes that are used in cheese-making, and highlighted specific flavours for us to detect. It was a bit like wine tasting really – and there were some very unusual underlying flavours in the different cheeses once you knew to look out for them. Juliet drew our attention to the fruity pineapple taste in Piave Vecchio cheese, the mushroomy, earthy, grass notes in Kidderton Ash goat’s cheese and the meaty elements in a good Stilton. We tasted fresh cheeses first, such as Mozzarella and Ricotta, then moved on to soft cheeses such as Brie, then semi-soft cheese like Taleggio, followed by hard cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano and blue cheeses such as Roquefort. We finished with flavour-added cheeses, which people are often a bit snobby about, but I loved the new Cornish Cruncher cheese – a cheddar with roasted onions and balsamic vinegar crystals – delicious spread on bread! I had a great time tasting all these gorgeous cheeses, but by the time I got back to the office, I was a bit cheesed out – I don’t think I’ll need to eat anything else today! Ellie

cheese1

Let them eat cake

January 29, 2009

Emily and I have just sampled the new collection of retro cupcakes from M&S, so our New Year de-tox is officially over. The bakery team very kindly brought us some samples to taste and let us decorate cakes in a hands-on workshop. It all got a bit messy and I’m feeling slightly nauseous now!

The cakes were absolutely delicious, but they’re more like iced buns than real American-style cupcakes. The icing on them is made with fresh fruit, there are no artificial colourings used and all the cakes have a sinful gooey centre, too. With flavours like Lemon Meringue and Strawberries and Cream, I think they’ll be a hit – they’re perfect for weddings or birthday parties.

They’re due to be launched in M&S shops this April priced £2.99 for four. It seems M&S is planning to take on retro, independent bakeries such as Humming Bird and Treacle – let the cake war begin. Ellie

Percy Pigs combined with cake – heaven on a plate

Percy Pigs and cake combined – a dream come true