When it comes to “grazing”, a few things spring to mind that make me feel very happy and content: sitting at a Spanish beachside bar eating tapas in the mid afternoon whilst soaking up some much needed Mediterranean vitamin D; making my way to the buffet for a second (maybe third, don’t judge) plateful at a family wedding or friend’s birthday party; or quite simply, walking to my green tiled kitchen from the sofa multiple times because I’m having a lapse in self-control. Whichever scenario I find myself in, and let’s be honest, the Spanish beachside bar is very much a preference, they all have one thing in common; they are all picky/eat-with-your-hands/buffet style food situations. In other words, food grazing and it is one of my favourite ways to enjoy mouthfuls (and handfuls) of glorious treats. On a standard chilly February Thursday, I was lucky enough to have my grazing experience taken to a whole new level by local business owner, Hatty, of Graze Me Up and her brand new Afternoon Tea Box! I mean, who doesn’t want a lovingly prepared great British afternoon tea in a box that’s ready to be enjoyed whilst sitting on the sofa in your pyjamas? I know I do, because that is exactly what I did (what an attractive mental image for you all).
The Local Grazing Business
Based in the lovely Barnstaple just a short drive away, Hatty has grown and developed Graze Me Up from her unrivalled love of all things food; that’s my kind of person! With an immaculate eye for detail and design, Hatty creates the most eye-wateringly stunning grazes of all styles and sizes. From a graze box for two to share (unfortunately) and enjoy, to full spreads for large weddings, plus everything in between! Throw into that your own personal ideas and requests, whether that is sweet, savoury, both, vegan, all the cheese, etc, Hatty will astound you with her creation, along with just how lovely she is too!
Afternoon Tea in a Box
Many good things come in boxes; squeaky clean new trainers, chocolates, more trainers, the Ikea bed we are still yet to put together and are instead using as a TV stand, but the most exciting box is Hatty’s brand new (totally genius) creation of a full afternoon tea in a box. It couldn’t sound any more perfect, could it? Absolutely not, because it was absolutely perfect from first to last bite.
The first thing I noticed when Hatty passed the shining beacon from her hands to mine was how heavy it was, which was definitely a sign that it was full to the brim. Momentarily peering through the transparent viewing window of the recyclable box, my eyes were treated to an array of colours and shapes. The sun wasn’t shining at that moment outside Hatty’s home, but it was beaming out of this very first afternoon tea graze box. The fact the beacon made it home without my hands sneaking in for a taste demonstrates how well my self-control was behaving that day. You may think I’m over exaggerating here, but I had to wear my sunglasses on the way home. The Spanish beachside bar I mentioned at the start? It was basically in this box sat on the passenger’s seat.
Sweet, Savoury and Stunning
Arriving home with the box in one piece with all items still accounted for, it was time to fully submerge myself in the sights and smells of Hatty’s afternoon tea. Carefully sliding off the outer sleeve revealed what can only be described as the most beautiful spread I have ever seen. Colours popped from every inch of the platter from an array of fresh berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries), edible flower petals and the shoots of small greens, all amongst the main individual elements of the graze. As well as the spectrum of colours from the rainbow, my nose was graced with the comforting and familiar smells of an afternoon tea once my eyes had adjusted. The aroma of fresh bread, the buttery-ness of pastry, the richness of chocolate and varying levels of sweetness from the berries, bakes and edible flowers. It was amazing how opening this box made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It really was that happy, comforting feeling you get when you stand in the warmth of the spring sunshine. This box was the beaming ball of fire on this grey and overcast Thursday afternoon and I could not wait to tuck in! Especially as each item was either handmade by Hatty herself, or provided by one of her awesome local suppliers.
The unwritten rule of the afternoon tea is that you must start with the savoury selection first. If that is not an actual rule, it is now and you are so welcome and can thank me later! First up were the identically sized finger sandwiches. Fresh white and brown bread softly encasing three traditional fillings; smoked salmon and cream cheese, egg and cress mayonnaise and cheese and pickle. You’ll be pleased to know I put my big girl pants on and did have a bite of the cheese and pickle sandwich, which I have not done before (if you know me, you will not be surprised!) and I could taste that a proper cheese lover would, well, love it. Rob, my other half, is one of those (weird) cheese lovers and confirmed my thoughts! But me? I was all about the salmon and the egg which were both delicious and light, with just enough filling so that it didn’t overflow down our hands when chomping through. Plus, it always feels a little bit special when your sandwiches do not have crusts!
From super sandwiches to perfect pastries and who doesn’t love a pastry?! If you don’t, I’m not sure we can be friends, especially when the petite sausage rolls and sharing size quiche were the savoury stars of the show. Whilst warming through in the oven, the smells of the buttery pastry along with the herb filled pork of the sausage rolls and creaminess of the cheese and tomato quiche were released making them even more enticing. With no soggy bottoms in sight, both pastries were short and crumbly, just how pastry should be and they encased wonderful fillings. The sausage meat was full of pepper, herbs, and as much as I hate to use this word, moist (sorry about that). The quiche, however, was my favourite because of its creamy and delicate cheese filling, which was cut through by the sweet and vibrant tomatoes. Plus, warming the quiche through with the oven heat made the filling texture feel extra indulgent as it oozed ever so slightly. What a tease!
With the savoury selection fully enjoyed, it was time to delve into the main event, the sweet treats of the Afternoon Tea Box! And boy, it was filled with a bakes and berries to please every sweet tooth, which is lucky because my mouth is full of them! The first thing I noticed with each of the bakes was the attention to detail in the form of piping, use of rose petals, edible flowers and beautifully cut strawberries, as well as jewels of pomegranate. As much as I didn’t want to ruin the time and effort put into creating such a beautiful sight, I was already dribbling and could not wait to tuck in (a second very attractive mental image for you all).
It wouldn’t be a great British afternoon tea without scones and Hatty’s graze box provided us with two gorgeously crumbly fruit scones, along with the necessary pot of strawberry jam and an even bigger and more necessary pot of clotted cream. Is there a better combination? Despite being a North Devon girl born and raised, I am a jam first, cream second person (sorry, not sorry). Jam is a spread, therefore it must go first, that’s all I’m saying. Anyway, from buttery scones to crisp, immaculately round macarons. I first had macarons in Paris 8 years ago and I have loved them ever since! With three flavours of strawberry, almond and caramel (I believe), each French classic was crispy on the outside before becoming chewy as you gnawed through each delicate mouthful. Talking of French classics, I was super excited to notice two very plump profiteroles which were topped with a thick, chocolatey ganache. The light choux pastry was bursting with cloud like cream. An absolute joy that took me right back to one of the foodie capitals of the world, and they were probably my favourite of the sweet items in this box. Tres bien!
It was now time for cake and cookies and I am proud to say that I basically ate most of each of the following delights: white chocolate and blueberry loaf cake, rose cake and a Biscoff and Nutella cookie dough pie slice (more like slab!). I love the sharpness of blueberries and the little blue pearls paired perfectly with the sweet chunks of white chocolate that flowed throughout the loaf slice and all through the silky buttercream icing. I have not eaten many rose flavoured items before and admire anyone that plays with such a floral flavour, but this perfectly circular, pale pink sponge hinted just enough rose so you didn’t feel like you were eating a full bouquet. A light sponge, layered with lightly whipped buttercream, with an extra surprise of a sweet, jammy middle. If that wasn’t enough sugar to mildly induce type two diabetes, the final slab, and it was a SLAB, cemented it! A chewy, chocolate chip filled cookie dough top, sides and bottom rammed full of two of everyone’s favourite sweet spreads; Biscoff and Nutella. I don’t know if I need to say any more than that, do I?! With a thick layer of both spreads and their undeniable taste and smell, it was always going to be a hit! The slab was dense, but in that sticks to your mouth slightly and makes you grin with little bits of brown spread in between your teeth good way. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t awake later than normal on this particular evening. I cannot think why!
Grazing At Its Best
As much as I love (or would love to be) liaising over a few plates of tapas on a Spanish beach in 25 degree heat, I loved Hatty’s afternoon tea graze box so much, I would happily forgo that idea and sit happily in my pyjamas devouring the whole lot over and over again. The quality of each item was second to none and made every mouthful into its own little ray of Spanish sunshine. The detailing of the box arrangement, flowers, petals and berries did what every food and drink item should do; make you want to eat with your eyes as well as your stomach. With every single bite being absolutely delicious, the Graze Me Up Afternoon Tea Box makes for a very happy stomach and very happy eyes!
I would like to thank Hatty for gifting me her latest graze box and the opportunity to taste and review it.
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