While I was up in Newcastle with the in-laws over the Christmas holidays I was let loose for an afternoon of child-free shopping in town.
Did I head for the sales? No, I actively avoided the sweaty scrum of the clothes shops and made a bee-line for artisan food shop mmm… who I’ve been following for a few months on twitter and itching to check out.
Nestled in the heart of the bustling and vibrant Grainger Market, mmm… is a treasure trove of jars of jams, pickles, every spice you can imagine, organic flours, crunchy and inviting granolas – instant foodie bliss!
I found all those Ottolenghi-tastic ingredients i’ve been wanting to get my hands on for ages. Pomegranate molasses, rosewater and preserved lemons were all greedily plucked off the shelves at first sight.
I then exhaled, and spent ages soaking up everything else in the shop in a slightly less frenzied manner. I tend to forget myself in places like this!
There’s an impressive array of oils and vinegars. You can buy beautifully bottled oils and once you’ve used them up you can simply take the empties back to be refilled. Apparently this is a really popular service – cuts down on costs and packaging which has to be a good thing.
mmm… has a really loyal local following that has been built up by owners Simone and Ian Clarkin.
I met Simone when I visited the store and she was really warm and helpful. She explained they’ve been open over two years now and have built their customer base largely by word of mouth. It’s a tight-knit community in the North East, so good news travels fast.
Their philosophy is to source products from local suppliers, and if not local then they favour smaller family companies who are making tasty food products with care and passion.
They sell a wide range of organic products, both the usual suspects and products that are a little more unusual, such as organic Garam Masala and juniper berries.
I spotted a balsamic vinegar infused with blueberries and was instantly curious.
Simone immediately poured some out for me to try. Velvety texture and fruity sweetness – brilliant for dressings but apparently also a knock-out poured over ice-cream! It’s produced at Wildon Grange in Teesdale.
I just love finding shops like this and it’s especially cheering that in these tricky financial times they still manage to thrive. The owners’ passion for wonderful ingredients is very clear from what they sell.
And now I’m armed with some fantastic ingredients I feel spurred on to try some recipes from my Ottolenghi cookbook that I’ve been putting off. It’s not really food my boys would enjoy but one of my new year’s resolutions for 2011 is to have more grown ups around for dinner so I can try and flex my cooking skills a bit more!
Thanks to Simone for welcoming me into her shop of delights – you can find mmm…
The shop at Unit 12/13, Grainger Arcade, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 5QF
on twitter @mmm_newcastle
on the web www.mmm-food.co.uk/