food & drink

The Taste Of Christmas Event 2011 – A review

Taste of Christmas part 1 by Emma Walker

Taste of Christmas part 1 by Emma Walker

For two girls who get their kicks from the bakery section in Asda the opportunity to bag free tickets to this year’s Taste of Christmas event seemed too good to ignore.

Taste of Christmas celebrates three days worth of festive gourmet inspiration- world class chefs, restaurants, cheese, wine, chocolate and a whole other load of Christmas nibbles.

So when Kettle decided to give us the tickets it seemed like all our Christmas wishes had come early- not to mention the crate of free cocktails promised.

Little did we know after setting out from Brighton to London’s Excel centre on our pilgrimage to Christmas freebie heaven that our day would be one to remember. Due to a train track related suicide attempt (not us, we wanted the food), a no-show DLR, further tube confusion and a malfunctioning Map App we found ourselves walking in circles around a grotty place called Beckton (sorry Beckton lovers).

Three hours later we rocked up at the Excel arena traumatised, with a rekindled hatred for London transport and unable to contact the man who had our tickets. After convincing the door man we were in the right place we entered the red carpeted, Christmas tree filled, festive arena determined to have a miserable time.

Over the next two hours we knocked back free cocktails, free shots and enough nibbles to feed a family for a month- and it was beyond fun. We were soon back to our excited selves (probably because of the posh pink gin) and our journey home, freebies in tow, was a happy drunken blur.

Sorry to all those on the tube we insisted on giving free shots of Activia too.

I’ll let Becky take over with the serious stuff…


Taste of Christmas part 2 by Becky Barnes

My only criticism of the Taste of Christmas event would be that they should have separated sweet, savoury and alcohol a bit better.  A mouthful of curry, followed by Christmas pudding ice cream, then a piece of smoked duck isn’t the best combo.

Oh and we were too late to meet Jamie Oliver.

But do you know what?  After a few free samples of cocktails, mulled wine, special edition cider, pink gin, vodka, tequila – you name it – it didn’t seem to matter as much anymore! We didn’t know what to expect from the Taste of Christmas event but when we finally managed to get in we were pleased to receive a wealth of pre-mixed cocktails from the lovely folk at Liquid Ignition.

We dropped the box off at the cloakroom then sauntered around, not being shy at all about sampling. We tried literally hundreds of bits and bobs but I’ve narrowed it down to a few categories for you.  I hope it will inspire you to try something new or maybe help with a Christmas gift idea.

THREE: Stylish snacks for students

These snacks were too scrummy not to share – could be used as a stocking filler!

1)    Boxerchips – these tasty crisps come in a 100% recyclable box instead of a bag which means you get more potato, less air – loved the veggie ones.

2)    Bear nibbles – a healthy snack doesn’t have to lose the taste-factor, the apple crumble granola nibbles were yummy.

3)    Nut Shot – loved all three tongue sizzling varieties of these nuts, you can pick from Cajun Spice peanuts, Wasabi macadamias or Pepper pistachios. Not for the faint hearted.

THREE: Luxury items

These are on the Xmas wish list and would be great gifts for a sophisticated someone.

1)    Smoked duck from the Black Mountains Smokery. This was the best stall as we love the Welsh and when you tell them that they give you more and more treats – cheeky.

2)    Snowdonia Cheese Sumptuous premium cheese that would fit nicely in a stocking toe (if you’re bored of satsumas.) Little Black Bomber and Pickle Power are not to be missed.

3)    Edgerton pink gin Makes a girlie drink extra girlie.

THREE: of something a little bit different

Sometimes the proof is in the pudding when a concept sounds a little out there.

1)    Rubis chocolate wine: I love chocolate and wine so I don’t know why I was surprised to be so taken with this delightful combo.

2)    Kejzar blueberry liqueur Apparently a popular Slovenian dessert – what could be better than something light after a heavy Christmas meal?

3)    Bloodshot vodka spirit If your hands a bit too shaky to make a Bloody Mary in the morning then this is the answer to your troubles.  The first ever recipe for spot on Bloody Mary’s infused with flavour.  Just add tomato juice.

THREE: highlights

1)    First and foremost the ready mixed cocktails provided by Liquid Ignition are a Christmas party essential as strong but perfectly cocktails are ready-made in all your classic flavours.

2)    Il gelato di Ariela: The best ice cream I’ve ever had.  They create flavours according to what is seasonal using a secret family recipe.  Rum and raisin was to die for.

3)    Dee’s Luxury Jamaican Rum Cakes Rum soaked cakes which taste like Christmas pudding.  I bought a cupcake to take home.

THREE things I learnt

1)    I never want to work in sales.

2)    Meat and cheese are my life.

3)    a) Just because I have been to India does not mean I can endure the hottest curry in a massive dollop.

                   b) Ice does not take away the pain, nor blueberry liqueur, nor bread.

As well as lovely stalls with lots of freebies and special offers, Taste of Christmas offered loads of workshops and demonstrations with TV chefs.  Gary Rhodes seemed to appear on the bill a lot.  Unfortunately by the time we got to the workshop area, we were a bit too Merry Taste of Christmas to be trusted with a sharp knife.

We want to go again next year!