Food Adventures in Newcastle…

Food Journey: Mmm-Glug

 I took the #FoodAdventure to Newcastle following up on a lot of social media hype about what the guys at Mmm…Glug… are doing – I needed to know what all the fuss was about!

I’m not too familiar with Newcastle town centre but I passed some fantastic independent restaurants, bars and boutique-style shops en route to the delicatessen. Now call me a snob but I wouldn’t expect to find a purveyor of fine food in an indoor market, I associate these with knock-off football shirts, mobile phone-unlockers and general bric-a-tat! How wrong I was! The Grainger Market is full of fabulous artisanal stalls, bean to cup coffee houses and exciting little shops with a real atmosphere. Mmm..Glug… sits proudly at the heart of the market with a bright shop front with big windows ostensibly showcasing the Aladdin’s cave within.

It is a relatively small space, less than 1,000 sq ft, but is stocked from ceiling to floor with fantastic foods from the artisanal essentials such as Mr Vikki’s to the hard-to-find products such as Garlic Farm’s Pork Scratchings. The moment I walked through the door I was greeted by the staff and asked if I needed a hand or walking through their shop – this is essential for any good independent foodhall. People shop in such establishments because they want a different experience to when they go to Tesco or Aldi. You should be walked round and guided through anything new, anything exciting or anything that the proprietor believes matches exactly what you’re looking for. Spot on!

I was very impressed with the overall range and came across a lot of brands that I wasn’t aware of which, as someone who frequents foodhalls and delis at least twice a week, is a great thing to see. The shop was divided in two with a well-stocked larder taking two thirds of the space and the other side boasting a library of real ales, fine wines and non-alcoholic drinks.

I bought three products that I wanted to shout about as a sample of the delights you can find at Mmm…Glug…

 Northernmunkeebites.mmmglug2

 The Garlic Farm Pork Scratchings

For my sins, I am a fan of pork scratchings. They are a guilty pleasure…and I’m of the opinion that a scratching is a scratching is a scratching. If you’re a fan of the pub snack you’re not going to mind a stray hair or too right? Well, there has been an outcropping of ‘upmarket’ pork snacks so I had to pick up a bag when I was at Mmm…Glug… These are no ordrinary scratchings, you can tell that from the packaging alone. It’s in a thick grade of craft paper, carefully put together selected and forged on the farm. The delivery was fantastic too with a light pop and crunch that gave way to a thick creamy fat. The smoked garlic is introduced at the end of the bite and lingers on the tongue.

Funky Nut Company Crunchy Cashew Nut Butter

I am a nut butter nutter so I couldn’t walk out without a tub! Plus it’s good to see a Merseyside business taking on the #FoodAdventure up to the North East. This nut butter is fantastic! It starts by introducing soft coconut notes with a sweet and salty crunch. The finish is oaty and creamy. The texture isn’t oily like some nut butters but it’s not dry either. I enjoyed this product as a protein filling for a pancake and it gave a perfect paste that sticks to your ribs as it goes down! I am buying another jar of this for a full product review!

Little Turban Smoky Paprika Tikka Masala

I love a good curry sauce but I won’t settle for something like a Pataks – I want to recreate the restaurant with minimal time and effort. This came highly recommended by the team at Mmm…Glug… so I wasn’t going to ignore that! I used the sauce to make a simple curry with some chicken and onions and it was fantastic! The sauce gave cream initially with a tomato interruption which was chased by the smoky paprika which sat softly on the tongue. The sauce had a perfect consistency which filled the gaps in the dish well without leaving a puddle of superfluous sauce that needed to be mopped up by a family naan the size of a small hatchback. I loved it! Really tasty and easy to use!

I would urge anybody travelling around the North East to make a trip to Mmm…Glug… you won’t be disappointed!

Northern Munkee.

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Gimme s’more!

This post is an American-inspired Food Adventure.

American influences have always been prevalent in UK food and we are embracing it now more than ever as a nation. Large retailers like ASDA and Tesco dedicate a lot of fixture space to their ranges sourced from across the pond. So why do we think that is? The obvious answer is globalisation and the easy access of information to create desire and intrigue; whether we like it or not we are heavily influenced by the media that we consume. American-style burger restaurants serving giant meat patties on a sweet bun with a side of cheese and chilli loaded skin-on fries washed down with a thick milkshake are now commonplace; and I for one am all for it! In fact a new one has just opened up in my home town of St Helens that I intend to try, so: warm those fryers up Smokehouse!

The other reason for the growth in the American trend is the value that it adds back into its respective categories. Take Pop Tarts for example, these are on sale at most supermarkets for around £2.50 depending on promotions et cetera. Selfridge’s have been enjoying sales on the American version (GM included) of Pop Tarts for £5+ for a number of years now. Yes, I appreciate that there are tax implications and import costs to add on but, ultimately, American products allow retailers to get fat from the profits. Now, knowing the true value of the products, you may feel cheated by this but I think it’s great; it drives value back into UK retail to feed and sustain a starving economy.

I am not immune to the seduction of the Stateside surge so I thought I’d push myself and broaden my horizons by making s’mores and this is how it went…

S’mores, for those of you like me that aren’t completely up-to-speed, are a traditional campfire treat and an indulgent blend of marshmallows, chocolate and biscuit…think a DIY Wagon Wheel! You can buy the individual components from almost anywhere but I chose to buy a kit from Etsy consisting of: three Hershey’s bars (normally I’m very against Hershey’s chocolate but since I was pushing myself I felt I ought to do it properly), a bag of Naked marshmallows, some digestive-type biscuits and some wooden skewers.

Preparation is very simple: put some chocolate on a biscuit, melt your marshmallow atop a flame and squish it all together with another biscuit to make your sweet sweet sandwich!

How did it taste? Amazing! They are flavours are all very familiar with but the contrast between the cold creamy chocolate and the hot gooey marshmallow gives the treat a new dimension; I can see why this would go down a storm round a camp fire listening to a cringe-worthy rendition of Kumbayah.

So what’s all the fuss about? Well, I believe it’s the occasion that s’mores create that makes them special. There has been an explosion in the use of chocolate fondues and chocolate fountains over the last five years and any reason is a good reason for them. In the main, these are being enjoyed as a group and generate a real sense of comradery and togetherness. The s’more is the natural progression from the fondue. If you’re having friends round and you want to offer a different, interactive and low-cost dessert this is for you. There is a huge array of s’more flavoured products out there that can give you the taste for it but my advice would be: open a bottle of wine or a crate of beer, invite your friends round and gimme s’more!

Northern Munkee.

Notes from the other side of the desk…

Part 1: Get My Attention!
I have had the pleasure of being a Retail Food Buyer for two years in the Convenience sector in the UK. As a result of the global financial downturn I noticed a dramatic difference in the size of businesses that were coming to see me; the big boys got bigger, the small got smaller and more niche and the middle got squeezed out. This meant that I had the pleasure of meeting with and, in some cases, working with some very young businesses and I really felt like part of their journey. I must admit some of them did a great job, others…not so much! So I thought I’d pull together a short series of blogs based on my experience and, if you’re a young business wanting to crack mainstream retail, I hope this might be a useful read.
My first subject is all about engaging with the buyer, if you can crack this part you’re probably 50% of the way to getting a listing; but for that reason it’s not easy.
First thing’s first, do your research and find out who the right person is. Do a Google search, a LinkedIn search or ask around. Don’t just send it ‘FAO The Grocery Buyer’. I wouldn’t see anyone that couldn’t be bothered to do a little research. If you’re charming or persistent enough you might even get a receptionist or colleague to give away a name.
Buyers are all very busy, they don’t like having their time wasted. Grab their attention with your product. If you believe in what you’re selling then let it do the selling. Send in a smartly presented sample box with a one-pager on why I should give you 30mins of my time and a way to contact you.
Quickly follow this up with an email or a phone call but don’t leave it too long. My desk was always littered with samples and if it wasn’t important to me at the time I received it it was going to be less important when it goes out of date.
Finally: be appropriate. Understand what this buyer’s workload is like and how up their agenda you are likely to be. Once you make contact offer a wide range of dates to meet so they can be very selective.
Don’t give up the chase. It’s a fine line between being effective and bloody annoying but I remember one new supplier in particular would persistently call me each week and send more samples in every other week. I didn’t particularly want to see him but he wore me down and I agreed to meet him. When we met he was brilliant and I listed four lines there and then. So although I felt he was annoying he got the result he set out to achieve.
I can’t emphasize how difficult this part of the sales call is and therefore it’s really important to have a structured and well thought out approach. It’s really easy for a buyer to ignore an email, screen a phone call or just say no. Make them feel like their missing out and you’re going to make their decision a really easy one when you get there.
Northern Munkee