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Spilling beans

From championing successful client campaigns to sharing our latest foodie finds, here you’ll find out exactly what the Freshly Ground team get up to…


 

Fresh growth at Freshly Ground

Amy Brice

2017 is set to be a big year at Freshly Ground PR, so the time has come to grow our team.

We’re looking for a creative and driven individual, wishing to begin or develop a career in PR, to join us in Bath full time as a PR Account Executive.

Please see the Job Description below. To apply, send your CV to recruitment@freshlygroundpr.co.uk.

Closing date for applications: 5 February 2017

PR Account Executive Job Description

Responsibilities:

  • Day-to-day account management support
  • Liaising with journalists, handling information and image requests
  • Researching, writing and distributing press releases to targeted contacts
  • Copywriting – blogs, website copy, collateral
  • Proof reading
  • Managing press cuttings / portfolios
  • Building and maintaining press lists
  • Client evaluations
  • Attending meetings and events
  • Managing client coverage forecasts
  • Sampling activity
  • Website and social media – updates and analytics
  • Research
  • Design – posters, fliers, leaflets, etc.
  • Monitoring the media, staying up to date with local, regional and national news
  • Photography
  • General administration

Skills and experience:

Essential

  • Excellent written communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills, presentation skills and confidence
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Creative thinking
  • Flexibility, determination and enthusiasm
  • High level of computer literacy (Office programs in particular)
  • Strong knowledge of social media platforms
  • Analytical and problem solving skills, with ability to think strategically
  • Positive ‘can-do’ attitude, with ability to multi-task and use own initiative
  • Genuine interest in food and drink
  • Strong administrative and organisational skills

Desirable

  • Work experience in PR or marketing role
  • Qualifications in PR or marketing
  • Experience with website Content Management Systems
  • Knowledge of Google Analytics
  • Design and/or photography experience

Tears, trophies and a truckload of truckles

Amy Brice

As if a room full of the planet’s finest cheese wasn’t enough to get the pulses of curd nerds racing, this year’s World Cheese Awards turned out to be bigger, bolder and more dramatic than ever before.

Taking place at the Kursaal Congress Centre in San Sebastián, during day one of the inaugural International Cheese Festival, the scene for the 29th instalment of the awards was set against the crashing waves of the city’s rugged coastline, a fitting backdrop for the excitement that was to come.

A record-breaking 3,000 cheeses was an awe inspiring sight as we entered the hall, along with 266 judges from every corner of the world. They then set about rigorously judging each and every entry; prodding, nosing and tasting to assess those worthy of a Bronze, Silver or Gold award.

With each judging team then selecting a Super Gold from their table, the top 66 cheeses were presented to the Super Jury - very much the great and good of the global cheese community - who each picked one outstanding example of the cheese-making art to champion in the final round.

Hundreds watched on as the Super Jury sampled each of the 16 cheeses once more. Passionate protestations and poetic praise were to follow, as everything from a classic French Mont d’Or AOP to an Australian goat cheese encrusted with green ants was judged, but the final twist in the tale was saved for the very last moment. With two Spanish cheeses tied for the lead, Kraftkar, an aged blue produced by a small family-run farm in Norway, took to the stage. The judges heaped praise upon this crumbly and beautifully balanced blue, before awarding near perfect scores, to the delight of the crowd.

To cap it all off, Gunnar Waagen from winning cheesemaker Tingvollost, was sat just a few rows back, throwing his hands into the air before making his way to the stage. Emotions ran high among judges, presenters and the champ alike, completing a remarkable story that has since captured the imagination of press across the world, catapulting this tiny cheesemaker onto the global stage overnight.

All in all, quite a way to kick off our week in San Sebastián. Throw in a Champion of Champions event the following day (also won by Kraftkar!), events at the Museo San Telmo and Palacio de Miramar, the biggest G&Ts you’ve ever seen and a few pintxos crawls around the Old Town for good measure, and this was a visit to the Basque Country that will live long in the memory.

Sam

Tiffin Time shortlisted in Bristol Good Food Awards

Amy Brice

Having just celebrated three years of transporting nutritious and tasty lunchtime meals to the city’s workforce by bicycle, Tiffin Time has now been shortlisted in the Bristol Good Food Awards!

Taking its place among the city’s top culinary stars, Tiffin Time will be up for the express/takeaway award on 13 November, after landing a healthy haul of votes from the public for its pioneering and sustainable approach to boosting productivity and wellbeing at work.

Each nominee will now receive a visit from the judging team, who will sample the food for themselves and select the winners before the grand awards ceremony, to be held at Bristol’s Ashton Gate.

Best of luck to Katie and the team!

Sam

Growing, moving and celebrating

Amy Brice

There’s been no shortage of milestones at Freshly Ground PR recently, so we thought it was about time to bring you up to date!

Somehow, in the blur of all of the writing, client events, stacks of magazines and some Great Taste judging thrown in for good measure, we managed to relocate to Bath in June.

Having worked with some of the south west’s finest food and luxury lifestyle brands, we took the decision to move to Bath in order to collaborate more with other local creatives and support the growing community of artisan producers and independent businesses that continues to flourish in the area. From now on, you’ll find us at The Guild Hub, within the Guildhall in the heart of the city!

With a growing list of clients, the time also came to expand the team, so we were delighted to be able to bring Laura Parsons on board during the spring, as our new PR account executive. With a background in PR, events and marketing, she is the perfect fit for our team as we continue to support independent food and lifestyle businesses and drive Freshly Ground PR forward.

To cap it all off, we celebrated our second birthday on 1 July, which gave us a chance to reflect – briefly – on a fantastic couple of years working with our wonderful clients. With corks popped and glasses raised, we’re now looking ahead to another exciting six months ahead, full of rebrands, launches, Great Taste award announcements, Christmas chaos and a whirlwind trip to San Sebastián in November for the World Cheese Awards.

Sam

Shaking things up, with some cracking cocktails

Amy Brice

One of the underrated stars of the kitchen, the humble egg is an absolute belter at brunch, but brings so much to the rest of our diet, from dinner and desserts right back round to breakfast. Often playing a vital support role in the recipe book, eggs are quietly making a big comeback behind the bar too.

From the whisky sour to the gin fizz, egg white provides body to cocktails, giving them an aromatic froth and a velvety texture, taking out the high and the low notes to leave a smooth and consistent flavour. Luckily for us, we work with the finest in free-range, Blackacre Farm Eggs, so it seemed only right that we should put a few of their Great Taste award-winning Rambling Free eggs to good use in the cocktail shaker.

Our mixology skills, however, are still a work in progress, so that’s where Lloyd Brown came in, and our trip down to the Venner Bar in Bridport with Dan and Briony from Blackacre proved to be a very productive Tuesday morning’s work! Coming away with a cracking creation for each season, it was styling time, so our next stop was the beautiful All Hallows Cookery School in Wimborne St Giles, armed with a prop box and our fabulous photographic friend, Daniel Mills.

If you’re still slightly perplexed by the idea of eggs in cocktails, you might be surprised to know that they have a long history. We learned from Lloyd that eggs first appeared in cocktails in 14th century England, involving whole eggs, red hot pokers and plenty of froth, and there have been countless adaptions ever since.

Not only that, but eggs can also help you reclaim your Sundays and beat the hangover… the eggs bind to the alcohol in your stomach, helping it mop up those unwanted toxins, so they really are an eggcellent addition to your night out.

Look out on Facebook and Twitter for some #CrackingCocktails from Blackacre Farm Eggs, coming soon…

Sam

Cheese making at Lyburn

Amy Brice

Eating cheese is more or less my number one pastime, but despite having an abundance of enthusiasm for the subject and plenty of cheese tasting miles under my belt, there’s nothing quite like getting hands-on to better understand the art of the cheesemaker.

Naturally, we jumped at the chance to visit Lyburn Farmhouse Cheesemakers when invited down by head cheesemaker, James Brown, and the experience didn’t disappoint. Wandering around aisle after aisle of steadily maturing cheese certainly brought back that unmistakable ‘kid in a sweetshop’ feeling, but the real fun was getting involved in the cheese making itself.

Leaving autumn behind and entering a room with 90% humidity, we joined James who had been carefully controlling the temperature and acidity levels within the huge vat of milk that came fresh from the farm’s own 170 cows at 5am that morning.

From then on we were put to work, getting involved with all stages of the traditional cheese making process, beginning with the mid-morning cut, slicing and dicing the milk in the vat, which had taken on a blancmange-like consistency in just a few hours. Keeping the milk moving was then our focus, encouraging the curds and whey to separate further.

While James continued to nurture the makings of 50-odd truckles of cheese, we found ourselves briefly back in our comfort zones, tasting Lyburn’s full range of six cheeses with pack room manager, Andy. Aside from being a treat for the taste-buds, it was a wonderful demonstration of what can be achieved during the aging process, with everything from humidity and turning frequency to mould spores in the air coming into play to produce dramatically different results.

Beginning with the cheese that started it all, Lyburn Gold, a semi-hard washed curd cheese with a smooth and creamy texture, ripened for 10-14 weeks, we worked our way through the nine month aged Winchester to the Great Taste 2-star winning Old Winchester, aged for over 18 months to take on a dryer, nuttier and more crumbly character, in the same ballpark as Parmesan or Old Amsterdam. In contrast, the subtle flavours of Lyburn Lightly Oak Smoked (smoked over dry oak chips at Dorset Smokery) and Lyburn Garlic and Nettle were refreshingly restrained compared to many other flavoured cheeses, more light and delicate than one would expect.

Stoney Cross however is an altogether different beast and the star of the show for me – as it was for the Great Taste judges, who deemed the three to four month matured mould-ripened cheese worthy of a spot in the much revered Great Taste Top 50 in 2015, winning over the industry’s finest palates with its buttery texture and unmistakably earthy finish.

Now that we knew exactly what we were aiming for, it was back in with James to work off the tasting session with the remaining members of the four-strong team, Steve and Amy. Initially draining the whey from the curds by creating a channel through the middle of the vat, we then broke up the curds with some gentle turning and then placed them into moulds of different types and sizes, depending on the variety that they were destined to become.

As soon as the moulds were filled, it was time to flip the cheeses, balancing 7kg of barely formed curds on one hand, before placing them back into the mould upside down as neatly as possible… hot work in the humidity of the cheese making room, but I can’t think of a more fitting way to earn your evening’s cheeseboard.

A big thanks to the whole Lyburn team for giving us such a great insight into what goes into making an award-winning truckle. These cheesemakers certainly seem to be on fine form, so with the World Cheese Awards coming up later this month at the NEC in Birmingham, owners Mike and Judy Smales might just be running out of room in their awards cabinet before long.

Sam

While we’ve been away…

Amy Brice

You may have wondered why Spilling Beans has been a little quiet lately… well we’ve been eating delicious food, attending exciting events, meeting great people and visiting beautiful places, all in the name of a hard day’s work!

Our birthday was spent with the Great Taste team, dining at North Cadbury Court with some of the top palates in the country, including restaurant critic, Charles Campion and TV presenter and cook, Aggie MacKenzie, for the finale of this year’s Great Taste judging. After one last round of tasting, a spectacular feast was cooked by top Dorset chef, Brett Sutton from The White Post in Rimpton, using Great Taste 3-star award-winners, including a stunning Waddling Free duck egg to start, from our very own client Blackacre Farm #YumScrum.

Since then, it’s been a blur of Great Taste landmarks, with the Great Taste results and Top 50 Foods released in August and the Great Taste Supreme Champion - awarded to James Whelan Butchers for its beef dripping, yes beef dripping - announced on Monday 8 September during the Great Taste Golden Forks Dinner at the Royal Garden Hotel in London.

With an insatiable appetite for more, we squeezed in a Raymond Blanc banquet at Wilderness Festival, even meeting the man himself before sitting down for a truly inspiring and increasingly raucous feast! We were also given a sneak preview of a new cookbook coming out next spring by The Chiappa Sisters, who were holding a photo shoot in the Butterfly House at Castle Gardens.

With the World Cheese Awards coming up in November, an evening with Alan Titchmarsh in association with The Gardens Group and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and Chris Beardshaw speaking at Brimsmore Gardens as part of Yeovil Literary Festival, autumn is shaping up to be a busy and exciting season too.

Bring it on!

Amy

Grazing in Galicia

Amy Brice

I’m a big fan of small plates. Whether mezze, tapas or Thai, there’s something so appealing about the abundant variety on offer during one sitting… and I suppose the ‘all you can eat’ (for a price) aspect may have something to do with it too.

So I was in my element when we found ourselves in North Western Spain to attend a wedding, having decided to make a week of it with friends in order to soak up some sunshine and sample the local fare. Grazing seemed to be the order of the day, most days, and this was partly due to two of Galicia’s local staples – the buttery and tangy Tetilla cheese and the occasionally fiery Padrón peppers.

Between our relatively large household we managed to work our way through at least an entire Tetilla per day – its name, which translates into ‘small breast’ due to its conical shape, belying the true quantities we were consuming. Sacks of Padrón peppers had a similar fate, cooked up by the tray load and liberally scattered with salt before disappearing in the blink of an eye.

As I boldly declared on day one, I’d never had a hot Padrón before (which should apparently make up 10-25% of any batch), but no sooner had the words left my mouth a spicy little specimen had gone the other way, cutting my conversation short. According to locals, the peppers only pack a punch if they’re from Padrón itself, just a few miles from where we were staying. Makes sense, as they seemed to crop up every fourth or fifth bite from then on.

When it came to the wedding itself, I must admit the title here is a little misleading… Held at Pazo Do Tambre - truly the most breath-taking wedding venue I’ve ever seen - we were treated to a mountain of canapés before the 12 course feast commenced. Interspersed with speeches and an occasional singsong with the wonderfully hospitable local wedding guests, a whole lobster kicked things off, followed by a delicious blur of dishes dominated by the sensational local seafood. And the wine, oh the wine…

It wasn’t long before we found our way to a local market, in a lovely little town called Noia. Equipped with zero Spanish (let alone Galician), but a sizeable shopping list, it was our turn to cook and paella was on the menu. Thankfully the locals couldn’t have been more accommodating – no matter how long we took to communicate our need for saffron – and once we’d refuelled on some coffee and churros we took in the local produce, from the diverse and freshly caught seafood to the fruit and vegetables that are so abundant in this green corner of Spain.

I couldn’t think of a better way to shake off the sore heads from the night before and although we were later impressed by the much grander market in the stunning city of Santiago de Compostela, the fabulous food and friendly folk in Noia were a real highlight for us.

Sam

If music be the food of love…

Amy Brice

Overpriced burgers, flavourless pizzas and waking up to a sea of polystyrene boxes strewn across the fields… just a few of the less fond memories from my early music festival experiences. I’ll never forget the bleachy taste of the burnt noodles I had the pleasure of eating at Glastonbury some 15 years ago, forcing them down in the roasting midday sun as I’d just parted with my last fiver for the privilege.

Thankfully, festival food has come a very long way since then. Nowadays, you’ll find a bounty of culinary delights from around the globe at most decent festivals, although admittedly at larger events you may need to venture a little off the beaten track. For those willing to wander though, you’ll be rewarded with anything from freshly made paella to a punchy Lebanese meze, just as we were when we decided that Shangri-La might be a nice spot for lunch at Glastonbury a few years ago.

With passionate cooks arriving in their droves, the traders have all had to up their game and there’s now a huge range of innovative options to choose from. So expect to stumble across anything from a wind-powered vegetarian cafe to a Christmas themed cocktail bar, and if you’re very lucky the resplendent Strumpets with Crumpets, bringing a taste-bud tingling array of crumpets to the hungry hoards at festivals across the UK. Look out for the Bloody Mary crumpet, a personal breakfast favourite that never fails blow the cobwebs out.

It just keeps getting better for festival foodies and last year we were amazed at the quality of The Secret Garden Party’s Soulfire Restaurant, a tranquil escape in the heart of the Cambridgeshire festival site offering revellers the chance to refuel in style with refined Italian cuisine and lashings of ice cold Prosecco.

2015 looks set to raise the bar once more, with many music festivals unveiling a tasty line-up of food industry heavyweights, from Rick Stein and Thomasina Miers at Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall to River Cottage and Valentine Warner at Somersault Festival in Devon.

Our waistlines can only take one festival this summer though and it’s got to be Wilderness.  Bjork, Ben Howard and electro-swing legends Caravan Palace will be joined by chefs including Raymond Blanc, Angela Hartnett, Mark Hix and Nuno Mendes, who will host a series of feasts and long table banquets throughout the weekend.

Festivalgoers can try their hand at things like curing, bread making and Niklas Ekstedt’s cooking with fire class at the Wilderness Cookery School, with a smorgasbord of artisan food stalls also plying their trade in the Oxfordshire fields… we’ve come a long way from hot dogs and soggy chips.

Sam

From plot to plate at Chelsea Flower Show

Amy Brice

With so many summer events to look forward to, we’re entering a very exciting time of year here at Freshly Ground, but it doesn't get much better than the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Taking place next week from 19–23 May, Plankbridge is returning to Chelsea with a brand new shepherd’s hut that’s sure to whet the appetite of the thousands of visitors due to descend on the grounds of Chelsea Hospital in just a few days’ time.

The shepherd’s hut garden kitchen is designed for foragers and food lovers to create the freshest of feasts without even leaving the garden, celebrating all that’s edible at this year’s show. Equipped with a free standing galvanised trough-style sink, wood burner and electric hob, we couldn't resist filling this micro-kitchen’s shelves with some of the finest produce the UK has to offer.

For great taste, look no further than The Guild of Fine Food. With the Guild’s help we've amassed a mouth-watering medley of kitchen essentials, ranging from Wessex Mill’s flour and Hillfarm’s rapeseed oil to a crate of The Tomato Stall’s finest specimens. With further contributions from South West Garlic Farm, From Dorset with Love, TruffleHunter and many more, there’s simply too many Great Taste star winners to mention!

Our friends at The Gardens Group have been lovingly nurturing blueberry shrubs, borage and mint to add the finishing touches to Plankbridge’s culinary hideaway, with Castle Gardens’ resident baker, Liz, preparing some irresistible blueberry cake for visitors to the hut on Press Day.

We can’t wait to see Plankbridge’s shepherd’s hut garden kitchen burst into life at Chelsea next week… just hope we can resist all of that lovely produce on the journey up there…

Sam

Plans for a buzzing garden party

Amy Brice

Aside from one nasty encounter on my first day at school, resulting in a rather embarrassing sting square on my Adam's apple, I have nothing but good to say about our beloved bees. Having merrily buzzed their way through my childhood summers, I later learned that their honey is packed full of health benefits, they pollinate a huge proportion of the food I eat every day and they’re great dancers… what’s not to love?

That’s why this year’s Wildlife Friendly Garden competition is more exciting than ever, with judges giving extra credit to those entrants who go the extra mile for pollinating insects. The annual competition, organised by Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) and sponsored by The Gardens Group, has always championed Dorset gardeners who attract wildlife, but this year judges are keeping their eyes peeled for nectar-rich plants, bee houses and other special habitats, as well as records of the pollinators that have dropped by.

Surprisingly little is known about historic populations of pollinators in the UK, but evidence suggests that use of pesticides and intensive agriculture are contributing to a decrease in numbers. Following the release of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) National Pollinator Strategy, a 10 year plan designed to help pollinating insects survive and thrive, DWT is now mobilising an army of wildlife lovers across Dorset to come to the rescue of bees, beetles, butterflies and other pollinators visiting the county’s gardens.

Dorset’s gardeners have until Friday 22 May to enter this year’s Wildlife Friendly Garden competition and the awards ceremony will take place on Thursday 30 July at Castle Gardens in Sherborne.

To find out more, visit www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk.

Sam

Getting the kids ‘down’ with food

Amy Brice

Whether cooking, eating, writing or reading about it, I am really inspired by food, but this has not always been the case. As a child I remember being somewhat of a fussy eater, jam sandwiches all the way, Marmite if I was feeling adventurous. When it came to supper time, I would carefully dissect my plate, asking sceptically what everything was, what animal it had come from and pushing my greens from one side of the plate to the other, with my head slumped in my hand.

I am sure this has nothing to do with my parents’ cooking – in fact I can’t get enough of my dad’s roast potatoes and mum’s moussaka takes some beating – I think this is just a classic phase that many of us go through. Thankfully these things tend to pass and nowadays there isn’t much that I won’t try, with my travels mostly motivated by the promise of new flavours and cuisines.

I’m delighted to say that help is at hand. Back in February we met Joe and Zoe, who have created the Ingreedies, an insatiable bunch of animated culinary adventurers, on a mission to get children discovering new ingredients, trying new dishes and exploring new food cultures.
 
Inspired by their own experiences, faced with the challenge of cooking for those harsh little in-house critics, these characters are a great way to get children engaging with their food and making the whole experience of eating as enjoyable as it should be.
 
Another great thing about the Ingreedies is that the gang really appeals to adults as well as the average six-plus year old. I really enjoyed reading the latest MeBook, ‘Ingreedies and the Emperor’s Banquet’, which saw each character helping Chef gather ingredients for a Chinese feast, ending with a handy and delicious recipe for the reader to try. I am now eagerly anticipating the release of the first Ingreedies book, ‘Round the World Taste Adventure’, which will be full of fun food facts, activities and recipes to beat those meal time blues for good.
 
Amy

Excitement mounts for launch in Frome

Amy Brice

We love a good launch at Freshly Ground and right now we’ve got our sights firmly set on Sunday 1 March, when Mount will open its doors for the first time at the Silk Mill in Frome. Just up the road from the town’s bustling independent market, owners Jenny and Simon will be sharing their passion for the presentation, conservation and protection of artwork with all visitors.

Town mayor, Peter Macfayden, will kick off proceedings at 11am on market day, officially bringing the bespoke framing business into the fold of the town’s vibrant arts and culture scene.

Beyond the lure of the ribbon cutting itself (always hard to resist), there will be a programme of short talks, displays and demonstrations, as well as refreshments from Bruton’s acclaimed At the Chapel.

Offering specialist art services, high quality printing and graphic design, Mount is sure to enhance the arts and culture scene in Frome, which is already bristling with creative businesses.

We’ll look forward to seeing you there!

Sam

Have a tasteful 2015

Amy Brice

With an ever growing demand for the finest flavours and a passion for provenance among consumers up and down the country, Great Taste 2015 looks set to be as varied and exciting as ever.

From 2014’s Supreme Champion, Snowflake Luxury Gelato’s Raspberry Sorbetto, to the thousands of other products awarded the highly coveted Great Taste stars last year, fine food and drink producers across the UK were once again adorned with the unmistakable gold and black logo… giving foodies everywhere the chance to hunt down the distinctive delights bearing this instantly recognisable stamp of excellence.

With our taste buds still reeling from last year, Great Taste 2015 is already in full swing. ‘Members’ Fortnight’ closes at midnight tonight, with entry opening tomorrow morning to all other food producers who supply the independent retail sector, large and small. So if you’ve got some of the finest food and drink to share with the world, you have until Friday 27 February to submit your entry. Those lucky, lucky judges…

For more information visit greattasteawards.co.uk

Sam

A cheese a day...

Amy Brice

Christmas means different things to us all, but for me the festive period offers the perfect excuse to gorge relentlessly on cheese for weeks on end, with little or no thought for the consequences.

When committing to such levels of gluttony though I do like to ensure that it’s worth my body’s while, so quality and variety are absolutely paramount. With a busy Christmas calendar ahead, no doubt featuring a trio of familiar faces at every turn, I resolved to sample at least one of my favourite cheeses every day from the 25th right through to New Year’s Eve… so fresh from the cheesemongers, armed to the teeth with crackers and local chutneys, my inaugural week of cheese began…

Kicking off with a firm favourite, Long Clawson Dairy’s Aged Leicestershire Red got us off to a fine start, with its vibrant golden orange colour and caramelised, nutty flavours complementing the family festivities nicely, washed down with the mandatory dose of Christmas port.

This was closely followed by a pungent little treat from Burgundy on Boxing Day, with some well ripened and runny Epoisses providing an indulgently rich and creamy interlude, before Gorwydd Caerphilly from Trethowan’s Dairy took centre stage a day later, with its contrasting crumbly texture and fresh, mellow flavours.

The hazy days that followed featured dazzling cameos from the irresistible Gorgonzola Dolce, the dense and fruity 24 month Emmental and Sharpham’s fresh and creamy Cremet, all bringing their own distinct characters to bear on a very agreeable end to the year.

With New Year’s Eve coming around all too soon, what better way to celebrate than with the World Cheese Awards 2014 Champion, Bath Blue. This classic, perfectly balanced blue from The Bath Soft Cheese Co. provided a wonderfully moreish moment at midnight following the fireworks, seeing out the year in some style. 2015 has a lot to live up to…

Sam

Cupping at Colonna and Smalls

Ben Baker

As our name suggests, we’re rather partial to a cup of coffee and particularly enjoy discovering new roasts... but since meeting Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, 2012 & 2014 UK Barista Champion and 2012 & 2014 World Finalist from Colonna and Smalls in Bath, our eyes have been opened wide to the diverse, complex and downright fascinating world of speciality coffee. 

Seasonality, flavour, brewing time and aroma are all things that we learnt to look out for when cupping (tasting coffee). Maxwell began by unveiling his treasure chest of aromas – a quite unexpected treat for the senses, we were faced with the challenge of identifying the bewildering array of aromas by smelling the little scented pots within. Potato, rice, leather, berries, roasted hazelnuts and cooked beef were among the smells to look out for and suffice to say some were more pleasant than others.

With our noses still reeling from this steep learning curve, we then moved along a line of four different coffees, repeatedly slurping and spitooning as the flavours developed. We repeated this three times and discovered how the coffees’ flavour, aroma and character developed with each and every taste. Finally we were put to the ultimate taste-test to demonstrate what we had learnt, with our small group divided into teams to compete in a blind tasting to identify each of the four coffees that we had tasted, with the addition of two surprises to throw us off the scent.

Having sampled some great coffee and absorbed as much as possible from the infectiously passionate Maxwell, our palate has certainly become more discerning since our cupping escapades – and having spittooned all that delicious coffee, we made sure to squeeze in a piccolo latte in the coffee shop upstairs afterwards, just for good measure.

Amy

Festive biscuit baking at All Hallows Cookery School

Ben Baker

Freshly Ground PR’s first Christmas is fast approaching, giving us the perfect opportunity to show our appreciation for our clients, who have been extremely supportive since we launched earlier in the year. As an agency we champion all things home-made, artisan and local, so it seemed only right that our clients’ Christmas gifts be made with our own fair hands.

Although I am a confident cook, baking can leave me feeling a little flustered, so wanting to create something truly special I contacted Lisa Osman at All Hallows Cookery School in Wimborne Saint Giles, who devised this cookery class just for me. Set in a beautiful farm house surrounded by stunning rolling countryside views in every direction, this is the perfect place to immerse yourself in a cookery class and channel your inner Mary Berry for the morning.

Cup of coffee in hand as I stood before the rustic kitchen table, Lisa explained that we would be baking brandy snaps, ginger biscuits and sponge fingers. So with the table full of seasonal ingredients, weighed out ready, the Aga warming and gadgets for every baking eventuality on standby, all that was left to do was pop on an apron and get down to business.

Before I knew it I was preparing the mixture for the brandy snaps, not something I was accustomed to, listening intently to Lisa’s tips about not over cooking the sugar, butter and golden syrup and being careful not to add too much brandy… I added an extra dash of course, running the risk of the mixture becoming harder to roll into balls later, but it is Christmas after all! With the toffee-like mixture set to one side to cool and harden, the next challenge was to whisk some egg whites in to stiff peaks for the sponge fingers.

Absolutely delighted by the site of a KitchenAid, I took a moment to picture myself in the Great British Bake Off tent before pouring the egg whites in. There was plenty more to do, but I must admit it was hard to tear myself away from watching the frothy mixture transform into stiff peaks. Next up, my piping skills were put to the test and as I carefully guided with my left hand and squeezed with my right, my sponge fingers took shape.

As soon as the delicate sponge fingers hit the Aga, it was time to get the first batch of brandy snaps on. Rolling the mixture into small balls and placing them on a baking tray was the easy bit, getting them out of the oven and rolled into cylinders proved to be a sterner test of my dexterity and patience. The key, as I learned, was to get them out and rolled around a greased wooden spoon handle while they are still hot, before they cooled and solidified into whatever shape I had mustered by then! My first few weren’t exactly masterpieces, as the baking paper slid around comically on the tray, but Lisa’s top tip of taking the baking paper off the tray and rolling it on tea towels was really effective and the brandy snap cylinders looked more impressive with each attempt.

As the kitchen filled with festive aromas and the cooling rack piled up with my Christmassy creations, it was time for a quick tea break, with a well-earned slice of Lisa’s lemon tart and cream just for good measure. Replete and rosy-cheeked having removed batch after batch of brandy snaps and ginger biscuits from the Aga, I came away with some delicious gifts with that personal touch, ready to tantalise the taste buds of our clients… not to mention a few spares for the Freshly Ground team and some fab new skills, tips and inspiration to fill me with confidence next time I decide to bake. Suffice to say, I am already perusing the course list for my next cooking experience at All Hallows Cookery School.

Amy