I've longed for days before being able to sit down and tell you about the past few days.
It's started with a brilliant monday...
You may remember that last year, around Christmas time, I went to a bloggers event at Fortnum & Mason organized by Vanessa Kimbell. It was a gift swap where we brought homemade gifts such as cakes, biscuits, confectionnary, preserve and drinks.
It was a lovely afternoon where I had the pleasure to meet lots of new people. I was a bit shy, feeling like the new girl in the middle of bloggers who knew each others. I managed to keep in touch with some of them and a few are even coming now to my Baking Club now!
It's always nice to meet like-minded people, chat about great restaurants and coffee shops in London, exchange tips about recipes and have a cup of tea (yes, I'm definitely turning English and love my tea with milk in the middle of the afternoon!)
And this year, Vanessa organized a similar event again. But this time, she wanted to share with us her experience in Uganda, where she visited vanilla producers, working with the Fairtrade Foundation. She told us about how using fairtrade ingredients has a direct impact on producers and how it helps them to have a better life.
I was already using fairtrade chocolate, sugar and nuts in my cakes. Firstly, because I know that these kind of ingredients have a major economic role for the country they're produced in. Secondly, because as an artisan baker, I like to support small producers too. I know it's not easy to get a fair price for what you produce, so if I want people to pay me a fair price, I have to do it too.
It seems a bit simplistic but it's just that I don't know how to express this in english.
Anyhoo, back to this year event...
Vanessa asked us to produce goods made with a vanilla brand called Ndali Vanilla. It's fairtrade and organic, so what more to ask! She sent to everyone of us (40 bloggers!) a pack containing 2 vanilla pods and a pot of vanilla seeds. Using this gorgeous product, we had to make a cake, some biscuits, some confectionnary or a pot of jam (or all of the above!).
Then, the gifts were brought to Fortnum & Mason on Monday afternoon, and judged by a panel of guests judges : Lucas Hollweg ( food writer for magazines such as The Sunday Times Style Magazine, and also the author of "Good Things to Eat"), Chantal Coady (the woman behind Rococo Chocolates), and two of Fortnum & Mason buyers.
Here are the judges, Lucas, Vanessa and Chantal.
Each categorie had a winning prize (aka a fabulous Kenwood K-Mix stand mixer) and 2 runner-up prizes (aka a fantastic Kenwood hand mixer).
I entered two categories :
- Preserve, with my Strawberry & Vanilla Jam
- Biscuits, with my Vanilla & Olive Oil Macarons
After dropping them on their respective table, I had a look at all the others gifts... Wow, some people are really talented! Here's a selection of what was presented.
Again, I had the pleasure to meet bloggers with whom I usually talk via twitter or their blogs. It's always a bit awkward to introduce yourself for the first time to somebody that you already "know" virtually.
Once again, Fortnum & Mason welcomed us in their private salon, with tea, coffee and beautiful petits fours. But I was so busy talking that I didn't got the chance to taste a lot of these.
At the end of the afternoon, as I was already looking forward to take home some wonderful gifts, came the time of the results. I was busy chatting with my friend Claire when my name was called!! What ?! Yes, my Macarons and Olive Oil macarons were judged good enough to win a runner-up prize!!! Yeah!!!
I couldn't believe it as I had brought the very same macarons the day before to my family in France and they were a bit puzzled by them. Woohoo!
Still on cloud nine thinking of the lovely comments I received from Lucas, my name was called again, this time as runner-up in the preserve categorie!! Looks like my strawberry & vanilla jam was appreciated! :)
And a second Kenwood mixer for me (well, Vanessa told me she'll try to change it for a hand blender).
Can you believe it??? I still can't!
Later, I had a quick chat with Lucas who complimented me again on the jam and macarons, saying he was impressed by my piping skills and that my jam tasted really fresh & french! :)
Funny thing is he was one of the judges of last year's Chocolate week 's chocolate cake competition in which I was a finalist with my Dark chocolate and Orange Ganache cake. And he did remember me!!
And Chantal Coady was one of the judges too that day! Small world they say... Or maybe a sign?! :)
By the way, I took home some very tasty gifts :
- some wonderful viennese whirls with plum jam and vanilla buttercream from Claire
- a pot of pear and vanilla jam from Hannah
- a pot of fig and whisky jam from Angela
I know Fleur ended up with my macarons and @flyingteaparlor received my strawberry jam. I don't know who got the second jar but I hope they like it!
The recipes of the vanilla and olive oil ganache and the strawberry jam will be published on the blog this week.
Thanks again to Vanessa, Ndali Vanilla, the Fairtrade Foundation, Kenwood and Fortnum & Mason for organizing and hosting the event.
To Chantal Coady and Lucas Hollweg to have risked their glycemic levels by tasting/testing every single entry.
And to all the fabulous bloggers that took part!
Looking forward to the next challenge!!
I've got other things to tell you about, but you'll have to wait a bit. I need to go back in the kitchen now!