Christmas in July anyone? Getting beautifully & deliciously festive at the M&S Christmas show…

IMG_9808 image7

Well hello dear readers! How are you on this vaguely sunny Sunday afternoon? For anyone who has set foot out of their door over the past few days, it will come as no surprise when I tell you that the temperatures in London town reached 34 degrees over the past week.

34 degrees. The Bakerloo line was a treat of which I cannot even bring myself to remember now that I’m free of it…

What 34 degrees is, my friends, is the weather of ice cream, ice pops & jugs of ice laden fruit drinks. What it does not automatically lend itself to are contemplations of Christmas and the festive season. Sampling dollops of glorious Christmas Cake Jam smeared onto on slivers of sourdough as a droplet of perspiration – because ladies don’t sweat of course – inches its way down your neck might sound an unusual pairing but that is exactly what last week brought us. Christmas in July courtesy of M&S and a sneaky preview of their fabulous festive offerings.

8 Northumberland Avenue is an absolute stunner of a central London location in which to create the magic of Christmas and from the moment you step inside, the sight of full green garlands, twinkly fairy-lights and enough heavenly food & drink to test even the sternest of summer dieters make you forget that outside the skies are blue, the sun is strong and the new balls of Wimbledon are in full serve just a few miles down the road.

image20 image21

Let’s get one thing clear from the outset – there are posts on this blog that extol the virtues of superfoods and vegetables, that praise the green smoothie and the salad and that put ingredients such as chickpeas and kale on a healthy eating pedestal.

This is no such post. For the duration of this post, you need to take yourself away from the sunshine and skip forward 5 months to the time of chunky knits & opaque tights, leather boots & ear muffs, log fires & mulled wine; allow yourself 10 minutes to read this and indulge in the glorious plates, dishes and platters of food that you’ll be craving and earmarking for purchase once the central heating goes on and the snow starts to fall…

a (2) IMG_9692

We’ll begin at the Bakery where giant discs of perfectly baked & festively stamped bread are just waiting to be slathered with that afore mentioned Christmas Cake jam, a spread so delightfully light & fragrant that it made me wish for just a moment that it was actually the time of year when I could eat it legitimately for breakfast, lunch & dinner.

I know, I know, ‘what madness is that you’re saying?’ I hear you cry and all I can say is I love Christmas big time. Big. Time. It therefore takes relatively little to get me back into that spirit of things and I defy you not to join me…

Chocolate drizzled, caramel yum yums are perfectly suggestive as a ‘3pm pick me up’ while shiny, cherry topped & holly leaf adorned iced buns tumble carefree onto a plate and trays of frosted carrot cake muffins make for a sea of sugary splendour…

a (1) a (3)

We might as well stay with the sweeter side of Christmas for the moment as we venture into the ultimate cake-stand for your 2015 choice of cakes, puddings & pies…

a (18)

It would be hard to imagine surpassing the 5 Gold Rings cake of last year – a golden, chocolate ganache dream of a dessert – but the Ice Shard cake immediately takes your breath away with its intricacy and beautiful attention to detail.

Snowy baubles & snowflakes sit atop a glistening cake that would certainly deliver the wow factor to your dining table around 4pm on December 25th, as would the other white iced option this year which pairs a frosty backdrop with creamy white chocolate logs and snow dusted holly leaves…

a (5) a (10)

For those seated at the kids table – and those who frankly wish they were – the secret centre Penguin Party cake pairs adorable icing penguins with a beautifully light cake complete with one extra, hidden penguin inside…

…and for those who prefer their fruit cakes without layers of sparkling royal icing, how about this shimmering gold fruit & nut cake? Blending tradition with modernity, this jewel toned beauty would be the perfect accompaniment to a cup of Christmas tea…

a (6) a (14)

If you’re anything like me, Christmas cannot be called that without a chocolate log. I realise this makes me sound about 5 years old and frankly, I don’t care. I know what I like and that, lovely reader, is a slab of chocolate log for breakfast on Boxing Day, preferably the end because we all know you get double the frosting then.

This chocolate woodland scene is somewhat fancier than my normal festive staple but it’s thick ‘wood carved’ buttercream, edible mushrooms & pearlescent claret coloured berries would tempt even the most fanatical fruit cake lovers of the world to try something different…

a (17)

We all know everything’s cuter in miniature form. Babies, cheese toasties, puppies, cupcakes, ponies, hamburgers – do you see how hard it is for me to ever get anything done?! – and these party food offerings do nothing to dispute that fact.

a (9) a (13)

Tiny Christmas puddings or gluten free chocolate popcorn bites anyone?

a (11) a (12)

Perhaps you can be tempted off the path of ‘I-can-only-eat-salad-for-lunch-because-my-holiday-is-approaching-at-a-scarily-fast-speed-of-knots’ with a baby red velvet cupcake, a wee millionaire’s shortbread to get lickably sticky fingers from or a tiny, glittery brownie bite?

a (8) a (16)

If you’re after something a little lighter, something more of the ‘gently-stretching-out-my-stomach-without-taking-up-too-much-room-because-it’ll-be-time-to-eat-again-soon’ variety, how about a mini Christmas pudding cookie?

A frosted snowflake biscuit?

image2 a (15)

A chocolate & cherry jaffa cake, one of an army of jovial penguins or a selection from the leaning tower of mince pies on offer?

 

b (15) b (5)

I know so many people who love Christmas and who love pudding but cannot ever happily put those two words together. If ‘bring us some figgy pudding’ makes you run for the cheeseboard, perhaps the addition of raspberry & champagne sauce oozing down the rivets of this one might change your mind? Or maybe a caramelizes orange, fig & hazelnut – this season’s must have flavour – works better for you?

Either way, these are some of the most glamourous festive puddings your table will ever have seen. Fact.

a (24) a (25)

Is there ever a time of the year when you snack more than December? It’s crazy how often I’ll just ‘try one of these’ or ‘sample one of those’; my name is Edible Angel and I’m a grazer. I should save time and just get one of those hard hats with curly straws, only instead of beer it drip-feeds me chocolate coated almonds or savoury crisps or sweet pieces of clementine ever 30 minutes…

Chocolate orange popcorn, Marc de Champagne jaffa cakes (is it just me or is everything made better with the addition of high brow bubbles?!) or luminescent maple & cinnamon dredged walnut-apricot mix are 3 products I could quite easily add to the inventory of my new ‘feeding hat’ although they’ll have to wait in line behind my new favourite thing ever…

a (19) a (22)

…I really do mean ever…

a (23)

…because oh dear lord, it’s only prosecco flavoured crisps.

I know. I needed a moment too when I first saw them and I swear to you on this morning’s super classy bacon & egg sandwich that they really, truly, honestly do taste like bubbles.

Don’t be scared people – I’m only saying that to a small percentage of the readership because I know many of you will no longer be reading, having already left your laptop & run for the door to go and buy these bad boys – it’s not weird and it’s not odd, it’s the lightest hint of fizz & sparkle and it’s the perfect combination of ridiculously stylish & overwhelmingly yum.

a (20) a (21)

Gleaming glass jars of fruit and nuts dwarfed mini boxes & Christmas tree shaped packages of the same and a ‘stuff your own dates’ bar gives the option to create a more traditional, edible gift that your grandma would love working her way through as she sits, paper crown askew, totally stuffed with turkey on Christmas day afternoon as the family snoozes, grazes or shrieks through Monopoly around her.

a (34)

Now that we’ve had a little nibble of savoury products, let’s take a wander into the dairy and see what we’ll be burying our crackers under this year…

a (33) a (32)

I heart cheese. I really do. It’s one of my desert island foods and I can’t imagine life without it. BTW, don’t you think that’s how you know the level of someone’s devotion to food? Whether or not they could live without certain ingredients or dishes? Well there are things that I could not live without and cheese – toasted on bread, sliced on biscuits, grated on pasta and served with a flagon of Pinot Noir – is one of them…

b (29) b (28)

…which is why I get confused when people say things like this whole brie with honey and nuts is for sharing? Really? Because unless it’s sharing with myself and all my other multiple cheese-lovin’ personalities, I just don’t get that at all.

The goats cheese truffles also pose a dilemma – how many is it acceptable to put on your plate at any one given time? And that white Stilton with cranberries? That is also a single person serving, yes? Let’s not even go near the caramelised orange cheddar bauble…no seriously, back off. That. Is . Mine.

b (27) b (30)

So if it’s not bad enough to have all that choice of cheese in a firm form, we then stumble across baked cheese.

BAKED CHEESE PEOPLE! I apologise here and now for the capital letters but holy mother of all things fromagerie, lobster & langoustine bake? I do believe what I’ll be asking for this Christmas is either a subscription to Weight Watchers or a very large stapler…

Blacksticks Blue is an amazing cheese and here, the lovely people in charge have already very kindly potted it with chutney for me. It’s literally my super lazy, cheese lovin’ dream come true. Pass me a spoon please. Oh you won’t? You think I need to step away from the dairy? Fine. Hands it is then and when that jar’s as clean as the day it was made, I’m going into the partridge pate and you better not try and stop me…

b (26) a (35)

Ahem.

I’d like to apologise for that unseemly outbreak of cheese fever. It just err, well it all got a bit much so I think I’ll leave you all to have a salivatory glance at the extra thick, caramelised orange & orange liqueur West Country cream and the liquid gold caramel sauce and I’ll meet you at something a little less emotionally draining for me, ok?

b (2) IMG_9748

Deli. We’re in the deli and we’re looking at salads. Ok good, we’re back on safe ground because enjoy salad as I might and adore it for its health benefits as I do, I’m never going to have the ‘overwhelmed-by-deliciousness’ meltdown that just occurred in the dairy over a bowl of green stuff.

Except these salads are not just ‘green stuff’. They’re giant shallow bowls of vibrant colours and textures…don’t be afraid, trust me now because I won’t steer you wrong, you are looking at a shredded Brussels sprout & cranberry studded salad that would be utterly gorgeous as a light & simple supper either on it’s own or paired with a slice of quiche…

…such as this Christmas beauty which puts all the flavours you love in one, unusual-but-perfect-for-December dish.

b (4) b (3)

A Christmas sausage roll garland and perfectly formed individual, star topped mini rolls would sit flawlessly on any Boxing Day buffet table…

b (1) b (33)

…as would every single line from the deli party food selection, including my favourite, the utterly chic mini lobster mac’n’cheese. Swooning now…

b (34) b (31)

The festively plump pork pie is a behemoth of golden pastry & succulent meat while the vegetarians are not forgotten with offerings like this traditionally French Camembert, chestnut & parsnip puff pastry pithivier. I quite happily often choose vegetarian options over meaty offerings and this would be no different as it looks completely, drool-inducingly splendid.

b (35) b (32)

One last look at something that even I admit could be shared – the tear’n’share garlic bread with Camembert centre – and at something that would prompt the perfect festive smile as you devour it for lunch – the turkey, bacon & cranberry sausage roll. I tell ya folks, wrap something – anything! – in flaky pastry and you are onto a winner…

image5 image32

We then open up our 4th stomach and, oh wait? We’re not cows? Humans? One stomach? Short straw there people, that’s all I’m saying…

Alright, we then wait for all that cakey-dairy-deli goodness to go down – so like 20 minutes – and we have a look at some of the table centrepieces on offer with which you can stun your guests and inspire all manner of suitable, full-of-goodwill envy…

image19

Enormous birds for a table of 20 or super cute tiny ones that come exactly as you see here. This is a show where what you see is what you get, none of this ‘dressing it for the occasion’ where the reality when you open it on December 24th looks as far away from what you once saw as the words ‘restraint’ and ‘just the one’ are when you open door one on the advent calendar.

image34 image35 image33

If one of the several DIY options available doesn’t float your festive boat, how about something where the most work you have to do is slice open the box? I’m sure you can manage that even if you have been ‘Christmas-Day-so-it’s-allowed’ drinking since 8am – hey, we all know that’s why mimosas were invented…

image36 image29

A rump of red wine & cherry sauced venison or a venison en croute tick the boxes of easy & scrumptious which let’s face it, are labels welcomed with open arms in the festive season…

…and let’s not forget the accompaniments, y’know, just in case you’re peckish. How do pork & sprout sausages sound? Purists like my sprout loving father may turn their nose up at them but they’re a great way to get the humble little green into your dinner without a bowlful of them laying cold & unloved on the table when everything else has been inhaled by your guests.

If pigs in blankets are the main reason you even think about having a roast dinner, these ultimate and definitely ‘fattened-for-the-festive-season’ version will be right up your street…

image31 image30

From the land to the sea, we now turn our attention to the stunning fish selection on offer…

image16 image18

…the freshest platters of seafood and the most divinely coloured, plaited salmon rings…

image14 image15

…smoked salmon mousse cones would make an elegant starter and this slab of beetroot stained fish a classically, updated centrepiece.

image6 image17

My absolute favourite of the entire show was these salmon & lemon mousse pearls. Completely edible and served on clam shells with samphire, my inner pearl addict had her breath fairly taken away with this ravishing dish. I’m not actually sure I could even eat it – I might just want to sit and look adoringly at them for a while.

Miniature glass bowls of salmon & watercress mousse also provided a nice revamp of something that in description alone, you may fear had lost its way en route to Abigail’s Party – creating something sumptuous from scratch is a challenge no doubt but re-creating something that people already have a firm idea in their head of takes just as much skill and these dishes achieved this in spades.

image11 image12

I think we’re ready for dessert to be served now, yes? Actually I’m always ready, I was just being polite by asking so here we go…

b (7) image1

If you’re after something with all the impact of a Michelin starred restaurant but none of the wallet-fearing price tags, I have to bring out the sad but appropriate cliche of being spoilt for choice here. Whether it’s a divine chocolate mousse…

b (10) b (13)

…or a giant chocolate bauble where the bottom half is filled with pudding while the top can be removed, broken and passed around as petites fours with coffee…

b (11) b (14)

…or a kick back to where the M&S dessert legacy began with this oversized melt in the middle pudding with molten salted caramel sauce, you will literally be planning dinner parties just to serve these stop-you-in-your-tracks beauties.

b (8) b (6)

For the ultimate Christmas party, salted caramel brownie bites, bitter chocolate & hazelnut acorns and jaffa orange or Tahitian vanilla cheesecakes provide the kind of dangerous choice that may make you turn the lights out, pretend no-one is home when guests arrive & eat them all yourself leaving face, hands and table unashamedly smeared with the sweet evidence of your crime.

b (9) b (16)

A cheery raspberry & chocolate Santa will put a smile on the faces of your younger family members while for those looking for something exclusive, the new & undeniably fabulous Designer Collection in chocolate is where you want to be shopping…

a (28) image4

Love shoes? Love chocolate? Think that you may have problems with both?*

*coughs as tries to shut closet door and the sounds of heels and flats and boots tumbling can be heard

Inspired by the chocolatiers of Barcelona, these remarkable creations will be limited in numbers and I guarantee, more sought after than anything else on the high street and beyond this Christmas.

a (30) a (29)

For those who have less of a shoe fetish and more of a ‘oh-it’s-little-so-it-must-be-lower-calorie-and-I-can-therefore-have-7-of-them’ way of looking at chocolate, you can choose from the shield sized ultimate collection platter or a cavalry of Christmas pudding truffles…

a (31) image3

…or perhaps the biggest ever giant Christmas whip is more your style? Gourmet marshmallows provide a coolly stylish sweet treat for those who want to float something festive in their hot chocolate…

a (26) a (27)

And talking of hot chocolate, let’s get onto the drinks because you must be gasping for one by now, dear reader.

Welcome to the bar where my beeline was for these additions to the ‘cream’ family – chocolate log (too much for the Boxing Day breakfast or an automatic accompaniment? Answers on a postcard please…) and sherry trifle are the 2 new flavours you’ll want to make room in your drinks cabinet for…

image7 image10

…while the Tom-Cruise channeling cocktail lovers among you will be putting one of each of the Spiced Clementine Gin and the White Christmas or Mince Pie Martini cocktail mixes in your trolley. This season’s festive drivers are also catered for with Sloeberry Sling and 2 new juices to choose from – Parsnip in a Pear Tree and Apple, Blackcurrant, Fig & Carrot.

image8 image9

The drinks on offer this year can also be found in the beautiful hamper selection or added to one you might like to create yourself…

image6 image5 image4

Over the past 10 years, M&S has raised nearly £2m for Shelter with its choice of Food On The Move products that arrive each Christmas and this year’s offerings look sure to boost that number even further…

image22 image25

Mini pigs in blankets…smoked salmon pate…apple & sloe juice…gluten free turkey feasts…veggie feasts with sweet potato…you should love everything you eat over Christmas and lunch needn’t be the sad relation.

image23 image24

Although I am all about the food, I wanted to share a small glance at some of the gifts on offer as well…

b (19) image26

…from beautiful leather diaries and vintage style writing kits to handbags that you’ll want to snap up as soon as you see them because you know you can never have too many…

b (20) b (21)

…then there’s party wear to dazzle, shoes, jewellery, make-up, candles…

b (23) b (24)

…a touch of David Gandy for the man in your life and enough gift options to get that list ticked off so promptly you’ll want to toast your utter shopping success with a White Christmas cocktail and some of that cheese…

…sorry, sorry, sorry. I just had a flashback to it is all…

b (22) image2

The little people in your life will be a breeze to shop for…and if you’re lucky, those shoes might come in adult sizes too…

image3 b (25)

image1 b (36)

And when you’ve finally got your fridge full, your presents wrapped & your tree up, make every room of the house look & smell as beautiful as every Martha Stewart pictorial you’ve ever glossed through and cried silent, yearning tears over over with these charming, whimsical and polished bouquets, table-pieces and foliage filled glass baubles.

b (18) b (17)

And so lovely readers, that draws to an end another Christmas in July session. Exhausted? Don’t be. Think of this less as ‘oh-dear-God-how-may-days-is-it-now?’ and more as ‘I-know-what-I-want-and-I-know-where-to-get-it-now’. Christmas can be stressful and it can be overwhelming and the desire to lock yourself away in the airing cupboard with a box of mince pies and a fresh bottle of sherry can engulf you…if you let it.

So you know what? Don’t let it. Know that the most important thing is being with those you love and actually if that’s happening, then it doesn’t really matter if you’ve got a feast that would make Nigella’s eyes widen or a turkey sandwich and a good bottle of wine. I hope though, that with this taster of just some of the stylish, creative, imaginative, traditional, ground-breaking and wallet friendly options available this year, your Christmas can and will be everything you dream of.

2 thoughts on “Christmas in July anyone? Getting beautifully & deliciously festive at the M&S Christmas show…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s